Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
Ban Assault Weapons NOW on Monday announced the first wave of members for its steering committee as it ramps up efforts to put an amendment banning assault weapons on the 2020 ballot.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell will serve as campaign co-chairs, while nine individuals – four with ties to those slain at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool – will serve on the steering committee.
“I am proud to join Mayor Campbell and our leadership committee at the outset of this incredibly necessary effort. Our mission became unfortunately clearer last week when yet another mass shooting took place in Tennessee. Like Parkland, like Pulse, the murderer there was armed with a military-style assault weapon,” Deutch said.
“We know these weapons of war are uniquely capable of causing death and devastation. We know that Congress and the Florida legislature have refused to act to get them off store shelves and out of civilian hands. But I also know the people of Florida want these weapons banned—and together, we will act where our elected leaders have failed us.”
Debbie Hixon, the widow of slain MSD athletic director Chris Hixon, was one of the members announced Monday.
“My husband served in the Persian Gulf, and saw what weapons of war look like. These weapons are designed to do one thing: kill. There is simply no place for them in civilian life,” she said.
Also on the committee: Florida League of Women Voters President Patricia Brigham; former Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery; Fred Guttenberg, father of Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg; Robert Kelley, Founding Partner at Kelley/Uustal; Christine Leinonen, mother of Pulse victim Drew Leinonen; Gail Schwartz, aunt of Alex Schachter, who was killed at MSD; Philip Schentrup, father of Parkland victim Carmen Schentrup; and Philip Shailer, former Republican State Attorney for Broward County.
BAWN said the committee is still being formed and more names will be added to the list at a later date.
The group announced last month that it is working with University of Florida law professor and 1998 Constitution Revision Commission member Jon L. Mills to draft a proposed amendment for the 2020 ballot. It plans to begin collecting petitions this summer.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday that he’d raised more than $3 million in the first three weeks of his campaign to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
“It is clear that Americans are ready to see a change in Washington,” Scott said. “I appreciate the support of everyone who has helped us reach this incredible announcement today, but this is just the start. I look forward to continuing to tell Floridians why we need to get rid of the career politicians and make Washington work for us.”
That sum matches what Nelson was able to bring in during the first quarter of the year, and Scott’s Florida Finance chairwoman, Darlene Jordan, said it’s “only the beginning.”
“Every dollar raised gets us closer to electing a results-driven leader who will shake up Washington, D.C. We are thankful to everyone who has helped kick off this campaign, and we look forward to continuing to build on this momentum and accomplishment,” she said.
The campaign said the $3.2 million it reported came in through individual contributions and did not include any money from Scott – a necessary clarification considering his gubernatorial campaigns.
If Scott has boosted the campaign with some of his own cash, as many believe, the campaign’s war chest could be even higher.
“This fundraising triumph makes it clear that the excitement of sending a leader like Governor Rick Scott to D.C. can be felt all across the country,” said National Finance chair Thomas Hicks. “We are grateful to all those who have contributed so far, and we will continue to fight each day to keep this momentum going and get Governor Scott to the U.S. Senate.”
Scott, who faces term limits as governor, ended more than a year of speculation on his next move when he announced his bid for U.S. Senate three weeks ago.
Nelson is running for his fourth term in the Senate, and through March had about $10.5 million banked for his re-election bid.
Florida’s U.S. Senate race has national implications. Nelson is one of 10 Senators up for re-election in 2018 in a state that voted for Trump in 2016, and defending his seat is a near requirement for Democrats to have a shot at retaking the chamber.
A recent poll of the contest, conducted after Scott filed, showed Nelson with a six-point lead in the race. The poll assumes registered Democrats will outnumber Republicans at the polls by a point.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
While the D.C. political crowd spent the weekend navel-gazing, Florida’s political aficionados did what they do best — live life to the fullest. There are several highlights from the weekend worth sharing:
— Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine tied the knot, marrying his “best friend” Carolina. Spotted at the intimate ceremony was political consultant Christian Ulvert and his husband, Carlos Andrade.
— Also getting hitched this weekend was the incredibly talented Sarah Proctor of Bascom Communications and Consulting. She’s pictured here with her husband and her colleagues, Lyndsey Brzozowski, Kristin Bridges, Sarah Bascom, Rebekah Stamps, and Kelsey Swithers.
— Amanda and Brewster Bevis, she of the Adam Putnam campaign and he of Associated Industries of Florida, welcomed their third child to world, Crawford James Bevis. Dad tells us everyone is happy and healthy.
— Soon to be making a move from man-defense to zone coverage is state Rep. Danny Burgess and his wife, who announced they are expecting their third child:
For the record, the Schorsch family spent much of the weekend in the water, whether it be on the boat or in the swimming pool.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @MaggieNYT: That @PressSec sat and absorbed intense criticism of her physical appearance, her job performance, and so forth, instead of walking out, on national television, was impressive.
— @MegKinnardAP: If the #WHCD dinner did anything tonight, it made the chasm between journalists and those who don’t trust us, even wider. And those of us based in the red states who work hard every day to prove our objectivity will have to deal with it.
— @NeilTyson: When did it become okay to be more offended by what someone with no power says than by what someone with power does?
— @SenBillNelson: Beautiful day at the Puerto Rican Parade and Festival in Orlando! It’s an honor to march alongside local community leaders and war heroes in celebration of Puerto Rican culture, which help makes Florida the strong and diverse state it is today.
— @DrNealDunnFL2: It’s Small Business Week. I’ve heard from optimistic small businesses owners in the Second District who are now able to invest more into their people, increase benefits, buy and update new equipment, and create more jobs — all thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
— @Fineout: .@adamputnam sends out fundraising pitch that asks “what kind of pinko communist” would be critical of BBQ
— @ArekSarkissian: Today I celebrate 5 years clean. If you’re struggling, know this — if I can do it, anyone can do it. One second, hour, day, month, year …
— DAYS UNTIL —
Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 4; Mother’s Day — 13; Deadpool 2 release — 18; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 25; Memorial Day — 28; Father’s Day — 48; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 53; Deadline for filing claim bills — 93; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 93; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 94; Start of the U.S. Open — 119; Primary Election Day — 120; College Football opening weekend — 122; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 176; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 177; General Election Day — 190; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 290; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 309.
— TOP STORY —
First in Sunburn – ‘Ban Assault Weapons Now’ names steering committee for 2020 assault weapons ban via – Ban Assault Weapons NOW announced the first wave of members for its steering committee as it ramps up efforts to put an amendment banning assault weapons on the 2020 ballot. U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch and Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell will serve as campaign co-chairs, while nine individuals – four with ties to those slain at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool – will serve on the steering committee. … “I am proud to join Mayor Campbell and our leadership committee at the outset of this incredibly necessary effort. Our mission became unfortunately clearer last week when yet another mass shooting took place in Tennessee. Like Parkland, like Pulse, the murderer there was armed with a military-style assault weapon.” … On the committee: Florida League of Women Voters President Patricia Brigham; former Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery; Fred Guttenberg, father of Parkland victim Jaime Guttenberg; Debbie Hixon, widow of slain MSD athletic director Chris Hixon; Robert Kelley, Founding Partner at Kelley/Uustal; Christine Leinonen, mother of Pulse victim Drew Leinonen; Gail Schwartz, aunt of Alex Schachter, who was killed at MSD; Philip Schentrup, father of Parkland victim Carmen Schentrup; and Philip Shailer, former Republican State Attorney for Broward County. … BAWN is currently working with attorney and Florida constitutional expert Jon L. Mills to draft a proposed amendment for the 2020 ballot. It plans to begin collecting petitions by mid-summer.
— SCOTT SHUNS TRUMP —
History says support from a Republican U.S. President should benefit a smaller campaign within the party — but times have changed.
As the Tampa Bay Times’ Alex Leary notes, Gov. Rick Scott likely will avoid most things Donald Trump during his bid for the U.S. Senate.
“The stream of controversy threatens to turn off the women and independent voters Scott will need to overcome Sen. [Bill] Nelson, a three-term Democrat who’s counting on anti-Trump feelings to help in what is expected to be a close election,” explained Leary.
Scott has what he needs: Former Scott aide and conservative publisher Brian Burgess told Leary that voters “know Scott is an ally … he’s got all the mileage he needs from the relationship. He doesn’t need to keep ringing the Trump bell. He’s going to run on his jobs record.”
Love and war: Scott has a history of a close, working relationship with Trump. They’ve both helped each other raise funds, and Scott endorsed him in his quest for the Oval Office. Scott had also criticized the President, though, including after the Access Hollywood incident and when Trump disrespected the Muslim father of a slain serviceman.
High hopes: Sarasota Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters, whose relationship with Trump is no secret, told Leary, “I think Rick Scott probably wants to be the president and would not be surprised if he tried to follow in those footsteps once that opportunity became available.”
Meanwhile … “Trump’s role in midterms elections roils Republicans” via Jonathan Martin, Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — Congressional and party leaders and even some Trump aides are concerned that the president’s boundless self-assurance about politics will cause him to ignore or undermine their midterm strategy. In battleground states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, Trump’s proclivity to be a loose cannon could endanger the Republican incumbents and challengers who are already facing ferocious Democratic headwinds. Republicans in Washington and Trump aides have largely given up assuming the president will ever stick to a teleprompter, but they have joined together to impress upon him just how bruising this November could be for Republicans — and how high the stakes are for Trump personally, given that a Democratic-controlled Congress could pursue aggressive investigations and even impeachment.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Scott’s Senate campaign nets $3.2M in first three weeks – The first three weeks of fundraising brought in about the same amount as Democratic Senate opponent Bill Nelson raised in the entire first quarter of 2018, Scott’s campaign announced. Leading the fundraising is Florida Finance Chairwoman Darlene Jordan and National Finance Chairman Thomas Hicks. “It is clear that Americans are ready to see a change in Washington,” Scott said in a statement. “I appreciate the support of everyone who has helped us reach this incredible announcement … but this is just the start.” Over $3 million of this total came from individual contributions, the campaign said.
“Scott seeks extension to disclose personal finances” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Scott requested an extension of time for filing the annual Public Financial Disclosure Report. The report was originally due on May 15, 2018,” reads a page on the Senate financial disclosure website. “Pursuant to section 101(g) of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended, a 75-day extension was granted and the new due date for the report is no later than July 29, 2018.” Scott spokesman Ryan Patmintra said: “As always, we’re complying with all of the necessary rules and deadlines. We will keep you posted on when it’s filed.” Assets in the name of First Lady Ann Scott are not required to be disclosed under Florida’s blind trust law, but would be for a U.S. Senate candidate or senator. Likewise, Scott no longer would be allowed to use a longtime business associate and partner to manage his blind trust because the Senate requires a “completely independent” trustee.
“Poll: Majority of voters in Vern Buchanan’s district disapprove of Trump’s performance” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The poll, taken April 16 and 17, found that more people in Buchanan’s District 16 disapprove of Trump’s job performance than approve, although the gap is within the poll’s margin of error. The automated telephone survey of 655 likely voters was commissioned by Patriot Majority USA, a political action committee that supports Democrats, and conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm … The survey indicates Trump could be a drag on Buchanan’s campaign. Buchanan starts out with a significant advantage over David Shapiro based on poll results … Buchanan leads Shapiro by 12 percentage points in the poll, according to the memo. The survey also found that significantly more people in Buchanan’s district approve of his job performance than disapprove. Buchanan’s advantage over Shapiro narrowed to five points after survey respondents were given negative information about Buchanan’s record on health care and taxes. That’s a sign Buchanan could be vulnerable if Shapiro raises enough money to put pressure on the six-term incumbent.
“David Richardson raises money with fear-inducing emails” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — For Richardson‘s congressional campaign, every day is doomsday, at least if you read his fundraising emails. Here’s a recent sampling of email subject lines from the Miami Beach state representative who is running as a Democrat to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: “We cannot afford this again” … “we just REALLY SCREWED UP!” … “REALLY REALLYYY BAD for Democrats!” The emails, sent twice a day, eventually ask the recipient to give money to Richardson’s campaign, and though the strategy has led to thousands of small-dollar contributions in a competitive Democratic primary, some Democrats question the ethics and long-term viability of sending dire emails every few hours.
“Kristen Rosen Gonzalez told her rivals she ‘can’t win.’ She’s still running” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Give the Miami Beach Commissioner credit for being bold: She’s resigning her seat to run a congressional race that even she recently said she can’t win … In text messages and emails, Rosen Gonzalez urged other Democrats to get out of the race to replace U.S. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. Claiming that front-runner University of Miami president Donna Shalala was a “monster” candidate who could not be beaten… “None of us can beat Shalala,” she texted Rep. Richardson April 5, noting that she, herself, was considering her options. “Statistically you can’t win. Me either, unless Shalala gets out.” Despite that, Rosen Gonzalez announced she intends to resign from her city commission position to comply with Florida’s resign-to-run law, which she unsuccessfully sued to block. She’s said she’ll turn in her resignation at 3 p.m., although it’s not clear yet when she’ll make the resignation effective.
Happening today — Former state Rep. Fred Costello, an Ormond Beach Republican seeking Florida’s 6th Congressional District, hosts a campaign event 5 p.m., Breakaway Trails clubhouse, 16 Breakaway Trail, Ormond Beach.
“Tom Lee frees up PAC money for Congress run, but could he use it?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Lee, who’s considering running for the same congressional seat, may be seeking to use some $2.4 million in his political committee, called The Conservative. Lee filed papers Thursday disbanding the committee, without saying where the money will go. That could be the first step in converting it into a super PAC to conduct independent expenditures for a congressional race. That would make Lee the heavyweight in the race, but there could also be legal hurdles. Federal law doesn’t allow coordination between a campaign and a super PAC, and the timing of the conversion could be considered in deciding whether there was coordination, said Jessica Furst Johnson, a campaign finance lawyer.
Happening today — North Port Republicans Linda Yates and Nicholas Trolli are each holding campaign kickoff events in their bid for House District 74, which opened when state Rep. Julio Gonzalez announced a run for Congress. Yates’ event begins 5:30 p.m., Historic Venice Train Depot, 303 East Venice Ave., Venice. Trolli’s is at 6:30 p.m., Olde World Restaurant, 14415 South Tamiami Trail, North Port.
“Andrew Vargas says he’s standing up for homeowners, but critics say he’s raising insurance rates” via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Vargas is campaigning to stop “abuse and frivolous lawsuits that lead to rate increases” from insurers, but state records show his South Florida law firm is a leader in a cottage industry of trial lawyers blamed by experts for higher homeowner premiums. Vargas’ law firm has been the top litigator against Citizens Property Insurance Corp. for a relatively new and controversial type of lawsuit linked to “Assignment of Benefits” contract cases, filing 644 of them from 2014 until 2018 … Vargas personally signed the complaints in at least 298 of his firm’s AOB suits against Citizens, in which customers hand over the rights to their insurance benefits to a contractor who does repairs on the damaged property. The AOB cases can lead to higher rates because they give contractors an added incentive to make costlier-than-needed repairs that can be too challenging for insurers to fight in court, thereby inflating costs, according to insurance companies and the state’s insurance commissioner. Critics say it’s riddled with fraud and abuse.
“Javier Fernandez has slim cash lead in HD 114” via Florida Politics — In the final reporting period, Fernandez raised and spent substantially more than Vargas, and entered the final leg of the race with a slim lead in cash on hand. Vargas, however, still leads in overall fundraising by tens of thousands of dollars. Fernandez raised $126,197 during the special reporting period, which covered March 23 through April 26 … with $19,218 in the bank five days before the May 1 special election. He’s raised $267,721 since he filed for the race Nov. 17. Vargas, a Republican, brought in $16,550 across 21 contributions in his final report, including nine max checks. He also received more than $37,000 worth of “in-kind” support from the Republican Party of Florida. His total fundraising is now just shy of $354,000, including the loans, with $18,289 remaining in his account at for the final days of the campaign.
Sunburn exclusive – Inside the HD 114 numbers via Matt Isbell – “HD 114 was solidly for Clinton, 55-41, but is much more divided further down-ballot. Rubio won the district by 5 points that same day while former-state Rep. Daisy Baez won the district by 2. The district’s Cuban population, located in the western Miami communities, keep the district in play for the Republicans. This block becomes even more important in special elections thanks to older Cuban’s having stronger absentee request and return rates. Right now, the GOP absentee ballot return rate sits at 53 percent compared to Democrat’s 40 percent return rate. The result is that of ballots cast, the GOP leads Democrats 45-36. This dynamic was actually similar in SD 40 last year, where the GOP had a 9 point absentee edge. However, in SD 40, Democrats had a solid early voting margin and had a 12 point election day turnout advantage. This time, early voting hasn’t been as high a share of the vote and Democratic edge there hasn’t been as strong. Democrats will need strong Election Day turnout to make up their deficit and it is not clear their ground game, which is not nearly as robust as the SD 40 special, can cover that gap. Democratic enthusiasm, which we have seen across the state and nation, may aid Democrats. As cliché as it sounds, it will come down to election day. If Democrats don’t turn up on election day, they are likely to lose the seat, baring strong independent margins and GOP crossover.
“David Straz is now a Democrat. Is a mayoral run one step closer?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — The philanthropist took another step toward a potential mayoral run week, changing his voter registration from no-party to Democratic. However, Straz didn’t confirm a report by a political adviser that he plans to announce his candidacy next month. “My decision is based on the fact that my core political philosophy, fiscal conservatism coupled with more progressive views on social issues, was more in line with the Democratic Party,” Straz said in a statement announcing he switched his registration.
— STATEWIDE —
“Gov. Scott selects three for Civil Rights Hall of Fame” via Florida Politics — Marvin Davies, Dr. Rev. Willie Oliver Wells Sr., and John Dorsey Due Jr. wereselected for addition to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame, Gov. Scott announced Friday. Scott chose the three from a list of 10 distinguished nominees selected by the Florida Commission on Human Relations “for making significant contributions to the improvement of life for minorities and all citizens” of Florida.
“Legislature raised funding by 47 cents per student. Here’s how Florida schools are coping.” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — As officials across the state crunch the numbers, the impact is becoming real, with reductions as high as $54 million in one district. Among the proposals to make ends meet, school boards are considering: Allowing larger class sizes (Polk); ending courtesy bus rides (Duval); eliminating teaching and support positions (Levy); cutting gifted programs (Santa Rosa). Several districts have discussed asking voters to increase sales and property taxes to help cover revenue gaps. Teacher and staff raises appear out of the question for even the least affected school systems. “It has become increasingly difficult to provide the level of service with the dwindling resources and unfunded mandates,” such as required security enhancements, said Martin County superintendent Laurie Gaylord.
“Construction on Capitol grounds, underground nears completion” via Florida Politics — Work on the grounds of the Florida Capitol and its underground parking garages is nearing an end after the Senate garage was first closed in May 2016 … “Structural work inside the Senate parking garage was completed last year, and crews are finishing the installation of lights and fire suppression equipment,” said NinaAshley, spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, the state’s real estate manager … Crews are now working on … installing the “hardscape” and landscape features that will be included in the park above and outside the garage. The hardscape will consist of benches with trellises, and the landscaping on the garage will have light grasses.
ICYMI from last week: “Health Department sends ‘warning’ to Joe Redner’s marijuana doc” via Florida Politics — The head of the clinic where Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner‘s doctor works says he’s concerned whether medical marijuana regulators are “trying to go after Dr. BarryGordon because of his involvement in the Redner case.” Redner is a lung cancer survivor who is in remission, and Gordon recommended juiced marijuana as the best way to keep his cancer in check. Redner later sued and won a recent ruling from Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge KarenGievers to grow his own marijuana for juicing; that decision is being appealed by the state’s Department of Health, which includes the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU). PatrickDeLuca, CEO of the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic in Venice, confirmed the content of emails independently obtained this week by Florida Politics between Gordon and the OMMU. “You should know that … for the first time in 18 months, the OMMU sent a ‘warning’ email to Dr. Gordon,” DeLuca said.
“State investigating problems at All Children’s Heart Institute” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — Hospital leaders said the mortality rate among pediatric heart surgery patients had increased and that a top surgeon had stopped operating. They also said their surgeons had left needles in two children since 2016. The Agency for Health Care Administration … is reviewing each of those issues. In a statement … All Children’s said that AHCA had arrived at the hospital Thursday morning for a “routine, unannounced review” that the hospital “had been anticipating.” AHCA characterized the visit as part of an investigation. The inspectors will issue a report and could recommend sanctions, including fines, if they find violations. Medical experts consider accidentally leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient a “never event” — an error so egregious, it should never happen. “If it happened once, you can say the process didn’t work,” said Alan Levine, AHCA’s top administrator from 2004 to 2006 and now CEO of Ballad Health in Tennessee. “But if it happened twice, somebody would need to say stop and figure out what was wrong with the process.”
“Seconds mattered: How BSO’s response at Parkland went wrong in 11 minutes” via Nicholas Nehamas, Martin Vassolo, David Smiley, Chabeli and James LaPorta of the Miami Herald — Much went wrong between the time NikolasCruz started shooting at Stoneman Douglas and the moment 11 minutes later when law enforcement officers first entered the building through the same door Aaron Feis used: Broward County’s long-troubled emergency communication system broke down. Some deputies appear not to have followed active shooter training — which they hadn’t received since 2016. And agencies didn’t share crucial information that could have led to a faster response. “It was a cluster you-know-what of errors and mistakes,” said Fred Guttenberg, the father of student Jaime Guttenberg, who died in the rampage. Even though at least three BSO deputies arrived in time to hear Cruz’s gunfire, neither they nor Scot Peterson went into the building immediately to stop him — unlike the unarmed Feis. The first BSO deputies on scene said they could not pinpoint the shooting to Building 12, although Cruz was firing bullets through exterior windows — leaving visible holes — and students were running from the building screaming. Some deputies were said to have taken cover behind their cars as lives leaked onto Stoneman Douglas’ floors.
“After Parkland, numbers of children hospitalized for mental health care jumped” via Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On Feb. 27, about two weeks after the Valentine’s Day massacre, 195 children across Florida were taken for psychiatric observation under the state’s Baker Act. The number is the highest single daily total in nearly five years … The data suggest that not only were children upset and fearful after the highly publicized shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, but schools and other professionals were more vigilant in hospitalizing children who might pose a threat to others — like school shooter Cruz, experts said. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of children hospitalized under the act rose by nearly 50 percent, far higher than the growth in the state’s population.
“VW has to pay Florida $166M after emissions scandal. How should we spend the money?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — Up to 15 percent of it, or $25 million, can be used for electric vehicle charging stations and infrastructure, and the rest of the money can be provided to state and local governments to replace aging diesel equipment. “It is a lot of money until you see the scope of the mitigation projects and the cost,” said Preston McLane, assistant director of the Division of Air Resource Management, at a public webinar. The primary purpose is to “achieve real environmental benefits through diesel reduction.” Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to installing cheating computer systems in nearly 500,000 vehicles made between 2009 and 2016. In Florida, 33,160 vehicles were affected by the diesel scam, and they emitted more than 500 tons of excess nitrogen oxide, McLane said.
“With 76 train deaths in three years, Florida East Coast railroad is more dangerous than reported” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — The Federal Railroad Administration in a 2015 report described trespassing on the Florida East Coast tracks in South Florida as an “epidemic,” and since then trespassing fatalities have continued to grow, with 2018 on track to be even deadlier than last year … there have been at least 76 deaths by Brightline passenger trains and Florida East Coast Railway freight trains on the Florida East Coast tracks, between Miami and Jacksonville, since 2015, according to an analysis of news stories, police reports and Federal Railroad Administration data … Railroad Administration data, on the other hand, shows 55 fatalities since 2015. The 76 deaths include eight in the first four months of this year, 23 in 2017, 26 in 2016 and 19 in 2015. The vast majority were pedestrian trespassers struck and killed by trains, according to the federal data and news and police reports.
“State closes midtown Miami school tied to NXIVM ‘sex cult’ leader” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — In 2015, Raquel Perera, wife of 17-time Latin Grammy winner Alejandro Sanz, debuted a school called the Rainbow Cultural Garden in posh midtown Miami. Speaking to Univision, Perera bragged that by immersing toddlers in as many as seven languages at once, the school would revolutionize teaching. Univision credited a New York guru named Keith Raniere with developing the unusual plan. Fast-forward nearly three years, and Raniere has now been outed as the leader of an alleged sex cult called NXIVM, which is accused of blackmailing women and branding them with flaming-hot irons. Last month, Raniere was arrested by the FBI on sex-trafficking charges; an Albany home tied to the Rainbow Cultural Garden has been raided by the feds, while British authorities are investigating a Rainbow-affiliated school in London. Now the State of Florida has ordered the midtown Miami school to shut down … officials say the school was not currently licensed to operate.
“Florida moving forward with plan to protect estuaries, some groups wary” via Chad Gillis of News-Press.com — An old technology is making its way to the forefront of Everglades restoration as the state moves forward with plans to pump stormwater 3,000 feet below ground during large hurricanes and other heavy rain events. Called deep injection wells, the idea is to send essentially rainwater beneath the surface instead of allowing it to flow to Lake Okeechobee and eventually the west and east coasts. Proponents say the wells will help spare the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries from devastating releases like those received after El Nino rains in January 2016, when coastal waters were chocolate brown here, and in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Critics, however, say the wells stray from Everglades restoration plans and will waste water that’s needed in other areas of the state, such as Florida Bay. The South Florida Management District is in the process of final approval and design for two test wells.
Assignment editors — The Florida Sheriffs Association holds its annual memorial ceremony to honor those who have given their lives the line of duty. New names on the granite Memorial Wall: Orange County Sheriff’s Office Deputy First Class Norman Lewis — End of watch: Jan. 9, 2017. Cause of death: Motorcycle crash; Hardee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Julie Bridges — End of watch: Sept. 10, 2017. Cause of death: Vehicle crash; St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Captain Charlie Scavuzzo — End of watch: Sept. 15, 2017. Cause of death: Heart attack; Broward County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Ryan — End of watch: Dec. 31, 2017. Cause of Death: Heart attack. The ceremony begins 1:30 p.m., 2617 Mahan Drive, Tallahassee.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the buzz was reduced to a snore — until Michelle Wolf showed up” via Paul Farhi of The Washington Post — The sedate and earnest nature of the event was disrupted by comedian Michelle Wolf, the evening’s entertainer, who predictably went after Trump in a routine that swerved from raunchy to downright nasty. She began by saying, “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, let’s get this over with.” Wolf vowed to get under Trump’s skin by questioning his wealth, issuing a call and response with the audience (“How broke is he?”). Her punchline included such quips as “He’s so broke … he has to fly failed business class” and “he looked for foreign oil in Don Jr.’s hair.” She was particularly harsh on the women associated with Trump. At one point, she compared Ivanka Trump to a diaper pail, and said Kellyanne Conway has “the perfect last name” because “all she does is lie.” Several cracks about Sarah Huckabee Sanders landed poorly, such as her alleged confusion over how to refer to Sanders’s full name: “Is it Sarah Sanders? Is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders? … What’s ‘Uncle Tom’ but for white women who disappoint other white women? Oh, I know: ‘Aunt Coulter.’” Groans and cold silence followed.
“Sluggish recovery from Hurricane Maria reignites calls for Puerto Rico’s statehood, independence” via Arelis R. Hernández of The Washington Post — Talk of independence feels distant to Puerto Ricans still recovering seven months after Hurricane Maria, the worst natural disaster to strike their tropical island. But what Puerto Rico is to the United States has everything to do with why power restoration has been slow, why millions in federal dollars for reconstruction have yet to be disbursed and why so many felt disrespected when President Trump shot paper towels like three-pointers into a crowd of storm survivors. Gov. RicardoRosselló and his New Progressive Party advocate statehood as the solution to Puerto Rico’s second-class status. His opponents call for greater autonomy from the United States and, for some, eventual independence. Raising the stakes, Rosselló has refused to implement pension cuts and other austerity measures that a federal oversight board imposed on the bankrupt territory, challenging the panel’s authority over Puerto Rico’s finances.
Happening today — Representatives from the administrations ofTrump, Barack Obama and George W. Bush will speak at the 2018 Hemispheric Security Conference, hosted by Florida International University and the U.S. Army War College. Among the issues to be addressed are U.S. security policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean and issues in Venezuela. Event begins 8:30 a.m., Florida International University, Graham Center Ballroom, 11200 S.W. Eighth St., Miami.
Happening today — Charlie Crist and business leaders join Lockheed Martin for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of a new assembly facility in Pinellas County. Event begins 10:30 a.m., Lockheed Martin, 300 28th St. N. in Pinellas Park.
“T-Mobile, Sprint to merge in new test for corporate mega-deals under Trump” via Margaret Harding McGill of POLITICO — The agreement to combine the nation’s third-and fourth-largest wireless carriers comes after several false starts over the years, including discussions last year that failed to produce a deal. If approved by federal regulators, the merged company would have about 127 million customers, making it competitive with market leaders Verizon and AT&T. It’s unclear how the deal will fare at President Trump’s Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission. Under the Obama administration, top officials at both agencies expressed resistance to a merger of the two companies in 2014 due to competition concerns, because it would have eliminated one of the top four U.S. wireless carriers. The DOJ under Trump’s hand-picked antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, has taken a hard line against another major telecom-media merger, suing to block AT&T’s $85 billion deal for Time Warner. Closing arguments in that trial are due to take place today (Monday).
— SURVEY SAYS —
… Americans agree on the ideals of democracy, but the nation is falling short on realizing those ideals.
That’s the gist of a recent Pew Research Center studyof public views of the U.S. political system and American democracy.
The survey complements Pew’s yearlong effort to study “Facts, Trust and Democracy,” which was “launched in light of current debates about the state of the democratic process and the importance of truth,” according to Pew.
Here are some more interesting findings:
— The majority surveyed said Trumplacks respect for democratic institutions. Most Americans surveyed also claim it would be too “risky” to give a President more power.
— Both parties believe they’re losing. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed, in fact. Despite control, more Republicans felt like they were “losing” rather than “winning.”
— Most survey takers indicated cynicism about money in politics, and plenty of Americans support new laws and limits on campaign finance and issue advocacy spending.
— OPINIONS —
“For the sake of journalism, stop the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” via Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post — Trust in the mainstream media is low, a new populism has caught fire all over the Western world, and Trump constantly pounds the news media as a bunch of out-of-touch elites who don’t represent the interests of real Americans. The annual dinner — or at least the optics of the dinner — seem to back him up. Journalists — whose purported mission is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” — were partying with their sources at the Washington Hilton … Journalists do not present false stories. When they get something wrong, they correct it. They do their best to be impartial, and — contrary to what the president told his supporters — they aren’t out to get him but to merely cover him. They are not the opposition party. But far from highlighting that hard work, this annual event sends the opposite message. And it encourages an unfortunate, false impression that the president loves to cultivate … this event sure doesn’t look like truth to power.
“Second chances? Not in Rick Scott’s Florida” via the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board — The notion of a second chance is almost antithetical to the policy on restoring voters’ rights that Gov. Scott imposed shortly after taking office in 2011. Under that policy, ex-felons must wait at least five years after completing the terms of their sentences before even applying to the governor and three Cabinet members to get their rights restored. The governor must personally approve every restoration … Statewide, 1.5 million ex-felons have completed their sentences but are still barred from voting. That total includes about one in five African-Americans of voting age in Florida … Giving second chances to ex-felons who have paid their debts to society can reduce crime and enhance public safety. If Scott won’t heed his political ally in Washington, here’s hoping Florida voters will in November.
“BSO union misfires with self-serving vote against Sheriff Scott Israel” via the via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board — On the surface, the dangerous divide between Broward Sheriff Israel and the union representing deputies on road patrol appears to be all about money, which it is. This week, the tug-of-war culminated in a “vote of no confidence” in the sheriff, affirmed by 534 of 628 deputies participating. The vote was an unsettling, unprecedented moment in Broward’s history. It means that about 40 percent of the union’s 1,300 members don’t trust their leader and want Gov. Scott to get rid of him. But it’s not that simple. Neither is it appropriate. For despite his flaws, in this fight with the union, Sheriff Israel is on the side of right. By contrast, Deputy Jeff Bell, president of the International Union of Police Associations Local 6020, miscalculated by scheduling a no-confidence vote before awaiting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigation of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Before aiming for someone’s head, shouldn’t deputies first know exactly what happened?
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Mark Pafford named co-chair of gun violence prevention group” via Florida Politics — Former House Democratic Leader MarkPafford is taking over as co-chair of The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, the organization announced Friday. Pafford, 52, originally a West Palm Beach Democrat, served in the House 2008-16 until he was term-limited. He rose to Leader for the 2015 and 2016 Legislative Sessions after being Deputy Whip and Democratic Policy Chair. The group’s “talented members … will help us guide our state to common-sense solutions on firearms and deadly weapons in Florida,” he said in a statement. “I am grateful to be on the team.”
Appointed — Dr. Robert Reed, Malcolm Kemp, David Summers, Donna York, Dr. Darwin Ang, Dr. Glenn Summers, Dr. Nicholas Namias, Zeff Ross, Lisa DiNova, Dr. Brad Elias and Dr. Joseph Ibrahim to the Florida Trauma System Advisory Council.
— LEGO LABOR —
Believe it or not, there are folks in Polk County interlocking Legos from nine to five.
A recent Orlando Sentinel feature by Gabrielle Russonspotlightsthe operation. Located just 10 miles from Legoland, Merlin Magic Making is responsible for Lego projects around the globe. (The political angle? Merlin’s replacing the U.S. Capitol structure at the nearby theme park.)
Russon writes, “For an outsider, it seems almost unimaginable to spend an entire day — let alone a whole month or longer on some pieces — in the repetition of laying down Legos piece by piece.”
No easy feat: A small building takes 40 hours, a skyscraper needs 300 hours.
Polk’s ‘Silicon Valley’: According to Russon, “it feels less like an assembly plant and more like a hip startup company since employees play video games at lunch and occasionally shoot Nerf guns to relax. A giant moose — made of Legos, of course — is the main art hanging over a stone fireplace.”
— ALOE —
“Gerald Ensley’s legacy will live on in book project” via Amanda Karioth Thompson of the Tallahassee Democrat — My dad belonged to this city as much as he belonged to his family. For more than 30 years we shared him with this community, and the terrible aching loss felt by those closest to him is a loss for all of us. Our grief is your grief because he was part of your life, he told your stories and served as a repository for our collective memory. He was a chronicler of Tallahassee history like no other. Over the next several months we will select examples of his writing on our community’s history and compile them into a book. We are proud and honored to have Ron Hartung lead that charge. In his 2015 retirement column, my father wrote that Ron, his former editor, deserved special mention. We want to know your favorite works by Ensley. Feel free to suggest specific pieces we shouldn’t overlook. We won’t be able to include as many as we’d like in the book, but we want to hear your thoughts regarding his greatest hits.
“Shaquem Griffin finally hears his name at NFL draft” via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press — Players in attendance not selected in the first two days of the NFL draft usually head out of town before the fourth through seventh rounds. Griffin, who sat through 100 names called in the first three rounds, wasn’t in AT&T Stadium on Saturday. Then he was after Seattle spent the 141st overall selection on the Central Florida linebacker who has no left hand. That fifth-round choice, announced in Seattle, drew loud cheers from fans at Jerry’s World. Griffin, whose left hand was amputated when he was young, has become the feel-good story this year and one of the most popular players in this draft because of his perseverance, outgoing personality and, of course, his talent. Griffin helped UCF go undefeated last season, then blew through the NFL combine with a 4.38 in the 40, sensational lifting work with his prosthetic, and a can-do attitude. Exactly the sort of player the Seahawks seem to find; they drafted his twin brother, Shaquill, out of UCF last year.
“Where Spring Breaks eternal” via Jen Doll of Topic.com — It’s only 20 miles from Southwest Florida International Airport to the Lani Kai Island Resort on Fort Myers Beach, but on the last Tuesday in March it takes more than an hour to get there. Beach traffic is already thick at noon, and we slow to a crawl as we approach the bridge to Estero Island. Of course, most people come to the beach to slow down — but spring break is more about speeding up in a new direction, abandoning daily life in favor of having as much fun as possible … Since the Lani Kai’s opening, both spring break and college students have changed dramatically … In the 45 days between late February and early April each year, at least 100,000 of them pass through the resort’s property. Perhaps it’s the vacation equivalent of fast food: tasty but ultimately something you need to recover from or quit altogether. Maybe it’s a manifestation of our obsession with youth, our fear of aging and death. An opportunity to behave badly without repercussions. Or is spring break a valuable, fleeting moment during which you might be who you really are, or who you really want to be?
Happy birthday belatedly to Rob Fields of Suskey Consulting, state Sen. Gary Farmer, Gary Stein, and photographer extraordinaire Mark Wallheiser. Celebrating today are top-notch lobbyist Lori Killinger and political consultant April Schiff.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be in West Palm Beach Monday to participate in a Republican gubernatorial candidate forum, but his only opponent in the primary isn’t making the trip.
The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, which is hosting the event, said both candidates agreed to show up for the April 30 event but Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis later backed out, citing an “unexpected change in his schedule.”
“This is obviously not an ideal scenario and not what we had intended when we scheduled this event. However, we must defer to the campaign’s decision,” event organizers said.
Still, the show will go on.
Putnam, who has a commanding fundraising lead in race, will address the crowd at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts’ Cohen Pavillion, 701 Okeechobee Boulevard, and then participate in a question and answer session.
The organization will also recognize former West Palm Beach Mayor Joel Daves with its Exemplary Elected Official Award during the event.
Doors open at 11 am, and the event is scheduled to start at 11:45 am. The forum is open to the public, though tickets are required to attend.
Tickets for Forum Club members are set at $40, while guest tickets purchased by members are $60. Tickets available to the general public are $85.
Putnam was the first Republican to enter the race to replace termed out Gov. Rick Scott. DeSantis entered the race in January and House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to file in the coming weeks.
Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring has been blasting out emails repping his CFO campaign for a while, as candidates are wont to do in an election year, but anyone seeking a reprieve from those messages may see something rather odd.
Clicking the unsubscribe link included at the bottom of each email directs recipients to a page where they can end their subscriptions to three mailing lists maintained by the campaign.
The first, titled “General,” appears ordinary enough on the surface. The second, “FDP List,” is likely something the campaign bought or borrowed from the Florida Democratic Party. But the third, “General (without Putnam and Atwater),” is a real head-scratcher.
Why are Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and former CFO Jeff Atwater, both Republicans, named in the title of a mailing list being used by Ring, a Democrat?
That’s just the first of many questions that title elicits without even touching on the technical issues that led to it being publicly viewable — from the campaign of a former tech company executive, no less.
Is Ring’s campaign using email lists obtained from Republican candidates? If so, how did he get them? If everything is aboveboard, what Republican campaign or political operative greenlit the handoff?
And the kicker: What emails do those on the “General (without Putnam and Atwater)” list receive that users in the “General” list do not?
Ring spent a decade in the Florida Senate and his record is that of a moderate Democrat, making it entirely unclear what positions he could take or what he might say that would be considered unfit for Republican eyes.
Florida’s newest public university will graduate more than 200 students who’ve been at the university since it opened its doors in a commencement ceremony next week.
Florida Polytechnic University, or Florida Poly, shed its old status as the Lakeland campus of the University of South Florida back in 2012 after the Legislature approved a plan for the school to be spun off as its own institution.
Among the students receiving their degrees Saturday are those who enrolled when the new campus opened for classes in the fall of 2014 and stuck with the traditional 4-year track for earning a bachelor’s degree.
The university’s first graduates, a class of 18, were awarded their degrees in early 2017.
Delivering the commencement address for the inaugural class is Jeffrey Wadsworth, who recently retired as CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization. The student speaker will be mechanical engineering major Chris Dowdy.
State University System Chancellor Marshall Criser is also slated speak.
The commencement ceremony is scheduled for May 4 at 3:30 PM in the RP Funding Center, 701 W Lime St. Doors will open for ticketholders an hour ahead of the start time.
Florida Poly’s student body has nearly tripled in size since the school welcomed its first 550 students in 2014. That class, now on the brink of graduation, has witnessed many ‘firsts’ for Florida Poly since it became the Sunshine State’s twelfth public university.
In its brief history, the university has partnered with numerous tech corporations to help deliver career ready graduates in the private sector, and in 2016 it entered into a long-term partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation to research and test autonomous vehicles.
Last month, the university announced it had pulled in its first grant from the prestigious National Science Foundation to fund a project studying the coverage of crowd-sensing systems in isolated areas.
Just last week, Florida Poly honored nearly a dozen employees in its first ever faculty and staff awards ceremony, which it’s branding as “Ablaze” – a play on the university’s phoenix mascot.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Last week, I decided that SUNBURN, the state’s premier AM political newsletter (if I do say so myself), and our weekend “Takeaways from Tallahassee” newsletter, were “going dark.”
That was a message to the four leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor after their debate last week.
Three of the four admitted they get their morning news first from The New York Times, which, I noted, was “a newspaper produced roughly 1,000 miles away from the Florida state line.” Not one said they read SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source.
Since then, I’ve been asked what’s on my morning reading list. It’s a rather voluminous spread, but then again, so is my appetite for political and other news from Florida and beyond.
Feel free to respond to this email with any morning emails, newsletters, tout sheets you consider worthwhile.
— Above the Fold Florida. Produced by Kevin Cate. Sign up here.
— Axios has a full suite of emails, including the essential Axios AM from Mike Allen. Jonathan Swan‘s Sneak Peak, with its look at the week ahead for Capitol Hill and the White House, is very scoop-y. But my favorite is Axios China via Bill Bishop, provides weekly commentary and analysis on the stories impacting U.S.-China relations. Sign up here.
— CNN Money’s (that’s where the cable news company umbrellas many of its newsletters) Reliable Sources. Sign up here.
— CNN’s gorgeously crafted PACIFIC by Dylan Byers “covers the business, culture and politics of innovation, and the people and companies changing the world” with a West Coast vibe. Sign up here.
— The Daily Skimm — A creatively formatted, um, skim of current events. Six million subscribers (mostly female) can’t be wrong. Sign up here.
— FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news. Sign up here.
— Florida Trend’s Daily Pulse hits the high point, usually has two or three interesting business or regional stories, and is well-produced. Sign up here.
— The Daily 202 — James Hohmann’s “must-read morning briefing for decision-makers” is the best, most comprehensive email newsletter in politics. If you need nothing else, read The Daily 202. Sign up here.
— Per your interests, check out the rest of The Washington Post’s 202 series — The Energy 202, The Finance 202, and The Health 202. Sign up here.
— More from The Washington Post: Morning Mix, Must Reads, Politics AM, Acts of Faith, Federal Insider, The Monkey Cage, The Optimist, and The Switch. Sign up here.
— These are nondaily WaPo newsletters worth checking out: Act Four, a twice-weekly digest from the intersection of culture and politics by one of my favorite writers, A twice-weekly digest from the intersection of culture and politics by Alyssa Rosenberg; Reliable Source, to keep up with personalities inside and outside the Beltway; On Leadership, which provides weekly conversations about leadership and management. Sign up here.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @HallieJackson: Via our White House producer @elysepg: Ronny Jackson is at least the 24th unsuccessful pick named to a Senate-confirmable job.
— @MichaelAvenatti: Thank you @foxandfriends for having Mr. Trump on this morning to discuss Michael Cohen and our case. Very informative.
— @JakeTapper: Asked about GOP Senate candidate Don Blankenship calling his father-in-law ‘a wealthy Chinaperson,’ @SenateMajLdr tells FNC: “My father-in-law is an American who lives in New York. I don’t have any comment about ridiculous observations like that.”
— @TedDeutch: Last week, a non-Jew wore a kippah in Berlin to test the level of anti-Semitism. He was physically attacked by a belt. Last night, 2,000+ Germans — Jews and non-Jews — led a Kippah March to stand in solidarity with the threatened Jewish community. European Jews are experiencing increased anti-Semitic harassment, according to the Kantor Center for Study of Contemporary European Jewry. Pres. Trump must appoint a Special Envoy to Combat anti-Semitism immediately.
— @LearyReports: Person in know says Michael Cohen, pre-legal woes, had been telling folks at RNC that Rick Scott would lose Senate race. “Michael,” the person replied, “you don’t know a f—– thing about Florida.”
— @TroyKinsey: As Rev. RB Holmes’ phone rings during his felon voting rights rally remarks, he has a message for @FLGovScott: “The lord is calling, governor!”
— @Fineout: .@JebBush and Mayor Buddy Dyer will be commencement speakers at @UCF graduation ceremonies in May … (in an alternate universe — could have been a preview of a governor’s race …)
— @Scott_Maxwell: The @OrlandoSentinel continues to force the state to look out for children’s welfare … because state officials have absolutely no intention of doing it on their own.
— @DeFede: So the span of Bill Cosby’s life went from: “Hey! Hey! Hey!” To: “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”
— DAYS UNTIL —
Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 7; Mother’s Day — 15; Deadpool 2 release — 21; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 28; Memorial Day — 31; Father’s Day — 51; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 56; Deadline for filing claim bills — 96; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 96; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 97; Start of the U.S. Open — 122; Primary Election Day — 123; College Football opening weekend — 125; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 179; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 180; General Election Day — 193; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 293; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 312.
— TOP STORY —
First in Sunburn – Florida Democratic Party announces Democratic gubernatorial debate schedule – The FDP announced an official primary-election debate schedule for the four Democratic Gubernatorial candidates: Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine. In addition to two candidate forums held in 2017 and the televised Tampa debate on April 18th, the four Democratic candidates have agreed to four more debates before the August primary election: St. Pete, June 9th; Miramar, June 11th; Ft. Myers, July 18th; Miami, August 2nd. More details about the upcoming debates will be available in the coming weeks. The announcement of 4 additional debates comes after the Democratic candidates have debated once and participated in two forums over the course of the last 12 months, most recently on April 18, in a televised debate on Fox 13 Tampa , and the forums were held in 2017 at the Florida Democratic Party State Convention and Lead Blue Gala.
— BARBECUE BEAT —
Adam Putnam’s campaign-cookout appearances at obscure locales across the state could make the difference in the Agriculture Commissioner’s race to the Governor’s Mansion.
As the Tampa Bay Times’ Steve Bousquetnotes, “no town is too small for Putnam,” a virtue illustrated by the candidate’s Monday BBQ stop in Port St. Joe, situated in a county with fewer than 10,000 voters.
Putnam’s grassroots activity sets up a stark contrast with primary opponent Ron DeSantis’ strategy, which appears to prioritize earned media hits on outlets like Fox News, rather than face-to-face or local media interaction.
The pitch: According to Bousquet, Putnam’s talk was largely biographical and Florida-focused, but avoided mention of President Donald Trump and the Ag Comish’s congressional tenure.
DeSantis’ spin: Contacted for the story, the camp gave an interesting response. “All the special interest money in the world can’t buy enough overproduced political rallies or focus-group-tested Columbia shirts to hide his record as a career politician.” Ouch.
Analysis: Bousquet asks whether Putnam’s strategy will be effective. Marco Rubio employed similar tactics in 2010 to grab the U.S. Senate seat, but Gov.Scottwent the TV route for his back-to-back statewide victories.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Business groups back Scott in Senate run” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with state and local affiliates officially endorsed Scott in his bid for U.S. Senate. The move is unsurprising. The U.S. Chamber began running an ad against Scott’s opponent, incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, earlier this week. Scott, who kicked off his campaign by promoting his idea for 12-year term limits for Congress and bashing Washington, has not always had the support of the large business lobby. During his first run for governor in 2010, the Florida Chamber of Commerce backed his GOP primary opponent, Bill McCollum.
“Scott pledges to fix ‘unfair’ taxes for Puerto Rico” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Scott pledged in Orlando that if elected to the U.S. Senate he’d seek to change ‘unfair’ tax measures for the island. “I’m for reduced taxes, but we’ve got to be fair,” Scott said. The statement is in part a criticism of details of the recently approved federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Trump pushed through Congress in December, and which Scott supported then and said he still supports. “I’m glad they passed the tax reductions,” he said. That law, though, includes tax measures that hit Puerto Rico hard, notably with a 12.5 percent intellectual properties excise tax on profits derived from patents and trademarks held by Puerto Rican companies, seen as a sharp blow particularly to the fledgling health and pharmaceutical industry that has been blooming there. Nelsonalready was a strong critic of the intellectual property tax, and of another measure that denied Puerto Rico island residents from being able to use a new $2,000 child tax credit. Nelson called the tax bill “a knife in the neck” of Puerto Rico.
“First South Florida debate set for Democratic candidates for governor” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The four Democrats running to become Florida’s next governor will get together in South Florida for the first time in June for a debate hosted by the Service Employees International Union’s state council and several left-leaning nonprofits. The two-hour event will take place June 11 at the Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Pl. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets will be distributed to local community members through the host organizations: SEIU Florida State Council, Dream Defenders Action Fund, Florida Immigration Coalition Votes, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, and Florida Planned Parenthood PAC. The debate, which has been dubbed the Florida Freedom Forum, will be live-streamed.
“Richard Corcoran is trying to get Trump’s attention on Twitter” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The Republican and presumptive gubernatorial candidate tweeted at or about Trump in 19 of his 51 posts this month, often to compliment the president or favorably compare records. The tweets mimic the president’s lingo, use his favorite hashtags like #MAGA and sometimes include slick pro-Trump graphics. A single retweet from @RealDonaldTrump can instantly boost someone’s profile (like, say, a Republican governor hopeful) before his army of followers, of which Trump can claim more than 50 million (though independent analysis has found millions are likely fake or bot accounts). As often as Corcoran tweets at Trump, the president so far hasn’t graced the Pasco County Republican with that kind of exposure.
Happening Sunday — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is hosting a “Working for You” fundraiser 4 p.m. at the home of Nancy and Charles Parrish, 3139 Bayshore Road in Sarasota. RSVP to Lark Herron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Andrew Learned reaches fundraising goal in congressional race” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — Learned’s congressional race for Florida’s 15th District reached its goal of raising $50,000 in the two weeks since U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross announced his retirement. The campaign garnered new interest after Ross announced April 11 that he would not run for re-election. Learned said he had already surpassed the total number of donations and the total number of individual donations toward any candidate in CD 15 in at least the last decade. “This is why I am proud that the bulk of my contributions have come from small-dollar donors — people can see that I am not bought and paid for.”
“Amanda Murphy decides against state Senate run” via Florida Politics – If the Florida Democratic Party did, in fact, try to convince former state Rep. Murphy to run for Senate District 16, they weren’t persuasive. Multiple sources told us that Murphy will not run for the seat, formerly held by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala … Currently, former state Rep. Ed Hooper is running for the Pinellas-based district against a long shot Democratic opponent, Bernie Fensterwald, and fellow Republican Ilir Karruli. Murphy, a New Port Richey Democrat and financial adviser, served three years in the House, first winning a special election to replace the outgoing Mike Fasano, a Republican, in House District 36.
“With Facebook page, Becca Tieder inches toward challenging Chris Latvala” via Florida Politics — Tieder took another step toward challenging Clearwater Republican state Rep. Latvala in House District 67. Tieder, a Clearwater native and third-generation Floridian, has set up a Facebook political candidate page — @BeccaforFlorida — slated to “start May 1.” According to DNS records, the domain name Becca4Florida.com has also been registered since March 28.
“Dane Eagle draws challenger in Lee House district” via The News Service of Florida – State Rep. Dane Eagle has drawn a Democratic challenger as he runs this fall for a final term in the Florida House. Cape Coral Democrat Michael David Garcia opened a campaign account Thursday to run against Eagle in Lee County’s House District 77, according to the state Division of Elections website. Eagle was elected to the House in 2012 and can serve two more years before facing term limits. As of March 31, Eagle had raised $114,675 for this year’s campaign, a finance report shows.
“His clients botched butt lifts. Now he wants you to send him to the Legislature” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — An attorney seeking a seat in the Florida Legislature represents plastic surgery centers where patients have been maimed and killed as a result of botched cosmetic procedures. Kubs Lalchandani, a Democrat running to represent the state’s 113th House district, is a co-founder and partner of Lalchandani Simon PL, a law firm specializing in the representation of health care professionals, tech startups and the hospitality industry. Among its clients, the firm represents cosmetic surgery centers, some of which have been in the news for procedures gone wrong.
“Circuit judges face little opposition in elections” via the News Service of Florida — With qualifying for judicial races starting Monday, only a handful of incumbent circuit judges across the state appear likely to draw opponents … three races involving incumbent circuit judges were contested … In all, 251 candidates for circuit judgeships had filed with the state, with most incumbents running unopposed and multiple candidates often crowded into races for open seats on the bench. Also, 13 judges on district courts of appeals are seeking additional terms through the merit-retention process. Qualifying for judicial races starts at noonMonday and will last until noonMay 4.
Correction — Call us goofy: We mistakenly referred to state Rep. ScottPlakon in yesterday’s edition as a “Longwood Democrat.” He is, of course, a Republican.
— STATEWIDE —
Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will honor veterans with the Governor’s Veteran Service Metal with a 9 a.m. ceremony at the Ronald O. Harrison Readiness Center, 5001 Flamingo Road in Miramar. Later, the Governor will also honor veterans currently serving in the Collier County Sheriff’s Office with the Service Medal at 3:30 p.m., Collier County Sheriff’s Office Professional Development Center, 615 Third Ave. S. in Naples.
“State workers hand over papers for health coverage” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — More than 1,800 people have been removed from the state-employee health insurance program after Gov. Scott’s administration started requiring workers to fork over tax documents and their children’s birth certificates to verify that family members qualify for coverage. Nina Ashley, a spokeswoman for the state agency that oversees the health-insurance program, said decisions to terminate coverage have been made by people who were enrolled. “No one at this point has been dismissed by us,’’ said Ashley, who works for the Department of Management Services. Florida’s push to require employees to hand over personal information is part of an audit that was authorized by lawmakers after being suggested by the Scott administration.
“Health Department sends ‘warning’ to Joe Redner’s marijuana doc” via Florida Politics — The head of the clinic where Tampa strip club mogul Redner‘s doctor works says he’s concerned whether medical marijuana regulators are “trying to go after Dr. BarryGordon because of his involvement in the Redner case.” Redner is a lung cancer survivor who is in remission, and Gordon recommended juiced marijuana as the best way to keep his cancer in check. Redner later sued and won a recent ruling from Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge KarenGievers to grow his own marijuana for juicing; that decision is being appealed by the state’s Department of Health, which includes the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU). Patrick DeLuca, CEO of the Compassionate Cannabis Clinic in Venice, confirmed the content of emails independently obtained this week by Florida Politics between Gordon and the OMMU. “You should know that … for the first time in 18 months, the OMMU sent a ‘warning’ email to Dr. Gordon which contained protected private patient information (unredacted) alleging mistakes made in entering patients” into the state’s medical marijuana use registry, DeLuca told Florida Politics Wednesday.
“Judge hammers state over methadone center applications” via the News Service of Florida — Judge R. Bruce McKibben, in a 44-page order, hammered a process in which the Department of Children and Families accepted applications for the licenses on a first-come, first-served basis. The process led to only a handful of providers getting applications accepted, while others were shut out — resulting in the legal challenge. “The system for accepting applications on a first-come, first-served basis is arbitrary,” McKibben wrote. “It is illogical to assume that the first applications filed, containing scant information, are equal or superior to later filed applications. This scheme contravenes the basic expectation of law for reasoned agency decision making.” In all, the department on Oct. 2 accepted 49 applications for clinics in 48 counties, with the successful applicants then able to seek licensure, according to McKibben’s order. But 20 of the applications were approved for one provider, Psychological Addiction Services, LLC, while another 19 were approved for Colonial Management Group, L.P., and eight were approved for Relax Mental Health Care. Two other applicants each received one approval.
“Beset by rapes, rats, scalding, Florida home for disabled could lose license” via Carol Marbin Miller and Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — Since at least 2013, when a severely disabled Broward County girl died in slow agony from an untreated illness, the Carlton Palms Educational Center has been under an administrative microscope as state regulators sought vainly to shut it down. But even under intense scrutiny, the Central Florida institution continued to be racked by spasms of casual, horrifying violence. Many of the incidents are documented in a disturbing administrative complaint that seeks to revoke Carlton Palms’ license, citing a yearslong culture of abuse and neglect that was “either fostered, condoned or negligently overlooked” by administrators. “Protecting the health and safety of APD customers is the top priority of the agency,” said Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer. “We are actively working to close Carlton Palms as soon as possible, and we have taken multiple actions in the past to hold [operator] Bellwether Behavioral Health accountable, including an agreed moratorium on new residents, extensive video monitoring in all homes, an outside monitoring and transition team, along with other administrative sanctions and … fines.”
Worst story you’ll read today — “Mom accused of stabbing kids ‘was known’ to DCF; infants expected to recover” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Two weeks before Carolyn Denise Brown stabbed and badly injured her two infant sons, her family called state child welfare authorities to complain about her erratic behavior. Brown, who has a history of mental illness, violent outbursts and battery arrests, was destroying chicken eggs at her home on Havana Highway in rural Gadsden County, a family member who lived with her told the Tallahassee Democrat. Investigators with the Florida Department of Children and Families came to the house and interviewed Brown and family members but didn’t take the children away, he said. The family member, who asked not to be identified, said he told DCF at the time that Brown was “unfit to be a mother.” He said she had gone off her medication for some time and couldn’t keep the house up. But he never imagined she could hurt her own children.
“Deputy union says it has ‘no confidence’ in Broward Sheriff Scott Israel” via Tonya Alanez of the Sun Sentinel — “A deputies’ union said Thursday afternoon that it has “no confidence” in Israel. The union revealed the results of a vote, which indicated 534 out of 628 who voted said they had no confidence in the sheriff. Jeff Bell, the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, said the union’s ‘members have displayed great courage to come out and vote under threat of retaliation and reprisal from the sheriff.’”
Spotted: Former Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch in The New Yorker – … Finch won the election on his second try, in 2012, just after his fiftieth birthday. Before taking office, he went online to research his new position. Finch is conservative, and the sites he visited argued that the sheriff, in his county, is more powerful than the President. That argument was consistent with the beliefs of Finch’s law-enforcement hero, JoeArpaio, the former Arizona sheriff who last year was convicted of defying a court order to stop the racial profiling of Latinos. “I like Joe, because Joe’s a lot like me,” Finch told me. “He doesn’t take sh-t from nobody. He knows what his role is, and come hell or high water, he was going to do what he thought was right.”
“Statue of Stephen Foster, who wrote Florida’s state song, removed from park” via The Associated Press — A 118-year-old statue of the Oh! Susanna songwriter was removed from a Pittsburgh park Thursday after criticism that the work is demeaning because it includes a slave sitting at his feet, plucking a banjo. In October, the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to take the Stephen Foster sculpture out of Schenley Plaza and find it a new home. For now, it will remain in a storage lot, out of the public view. Foster is also known for writing The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home) in 1851, which became the state song of Florida in 1935, even though Foster had misspelled Suwannee and never set foot in Florida.
“Brightline may add Miami to high-speed train service” via Wayne Roustan of the Orlando Sentinel — Brightline higher-speed passenger trains will depart Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach stations at new times beginning Saturday. The schedule change is to accommodate the pending addition of Miami to the service in coming weeks. For now, Brightline is doing simulated runs between Fort Lauderdale and Miami without passengers aboard. Currently, 11 daily southbound trains depart West Palm Beach at the top of the hour between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. The northbound trains leave Fort Lauderdale hourly between 6:55 a.m. and 7:55 p.m. during the week. There are no midmorning or midafternoon trains.
“Ride-sharing Safr coming to Orlando, focuses on women’s safety” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel — A ride-sharing company with the stated mission of offering safer rides and work environments for women has expanded into Orlando. Officials with Boston-based Safr said the company would “improve the lives of women everywhere through safe transportation, job creation and financial security.” The company’s decision to target women and children as passengers was a reason it expanded to Orlando, where families visit theme parks year-round, President and CEO Syed Gilani said in an interview. The mobile app is available to download, but background checks and personal interviews with potential drivers in Orlando mean the service likely will not be on the streets until late May.
— AIRBNB & THE AARP CROWD —
According to an Airbnb-backed study, home sharing has a significant impact on Florida’s senior community.
The report found that, hosting through Airbnb alone, Sunshine State seniors racked up $150 million in 2017. The older demographic also represents 45 percent of Airbnb’s more than 40,000 hosts in Florida. State leaders are happy about this trend, as it’s a healthy economic indicator for senior citizens.
“We’re happy to see seniors throughout our state utilizing technology to take full economic advantage of their properties and sustain their retirements,” said Jeffrey S. Bragg, Secretary of the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.
More data: Seniors are the best-reviewed, fastest-growing and most-prevalent host demographic in Florida. The average elder host hauls $6,400 yearly.
Hotbeds: Florida cities where a majority of the host populations are over 55 years old include Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs Saint Augustine, Cape Coral, Marco Island, Naples, Fort Myers, Panama City Beach, and Daytona Beach.
From AARP: Home sharing doesn’t just ease financial burdens on seniors, according to AARP State Director Jeff Johnson, it also “provides benefits like preventing isolation, which itself is a significant risk to physical and mental health, while offering the opportunity to continue to learn and grow by encountering new ideas and cultures that come from interaction with other people.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Trump calls DeSantis, Matt Gaetz, ‘absolute warriors’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Speaking by phone to Fox & Friends, Trump lauded DeSantis … as well as Republican U.S. Rep. Gaetz, plus two other congressmen and his former campaign manager. “Look: we have some absolute warriors. We have, I just watched your show, Jim Jordan [of Ohio,] and Mark Meadows [of North Carolina,] and Matt Gaetz and DeSantis, and so many. Corey Lewandowski. These are all warriors. We have great people in the Republican Party.” DeSantis and Gaetz both have been front-line warriors for Trump, battling against Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, the media, and others critical of Trump.
“Trump team signs Miami defense lawyers ‘good to get you out of trouble’” via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — They are the Raskins, as in Marty and Jane, who got married in 1990 and soon after formed their own law firm in Miami … Trump hopes the couple — along with his confidant, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — will defend his presidency as special counsel Mueller drills deeper into the muck of allegations that the Trump campaign collaborated with Russian meddlers in the 2016 U.S. election … the Raskins, at least to political types, are unknowns. The couple’s colleagues in Miami say they are just what Trump might need to keep him out of trouble, not only in the Russian probe but also in a new spinoff investigation of the president’s personal lawyer in New York, Michael Cohen. Former federal prosecutor Michael “Pat” Sullivan, who retired last year after a near-half century in the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami, praised the Raskins as a “dynamic duo.”
“Well before Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen came to Miami chasing a Trump movie studio” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — It was the summer of 2012 when the future president’s self-described “fixer” donned a dark suit and a purple tie to pitch county commissioners on converting county land outside Homestead into an 800-acre production facility called “Trump Studio City.” … “I’m the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump,” Cohen said from the well of the nearly empty commission chambers June 5, 2012, as he launched into a presentation on a production hub designed to rival Hollywood. “This facility, along with Mr. Trump’s relationships in the industry, would drive film and television production to Miami,” Cohen said in his now-signature Long Island accent. “Taxes will be collected. And land values in that area will certainly improve.” … “Is that right?! I didn’t even remember the man,” said Commissioner Dennis Moss, who represents Homestead and spoke to Cohen from the dais during that 2012 meeting. “I didn’t realize Cohen — the fixer — was trying to put a fix on us.”
“Florida delegation wants 500 more customs and border protection officers across state” via the Sunshine State News — Democrat Nelson and Republican Rubio led the letter to U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on that subcommittee, asking for 500 more CBP officers across the state. They also wrote U.S. Rep. John Carter of Texas, the chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, and U.S. Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, the ranking Democrat, on the matter. “The Joint Economic Committee has found that while the volume of commerce crossing our borders has more than tripled in the past 25 years, CBP staffing has not kept pace with demand,” the members of the Florida delegation wrote. “Long wait times and delayed processing of goods discourage travel and create unnecessary barriers to trade, undermining economic activity in the United States. CBP estimates show that hiring an additional 500 CBP officers at ports of entry would increase annual economic activity by $1 billion and result in an additional 16,600 jobs per year.”
“FEC plans crackdown on zombie campaigns” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — The Federal Election Commission will start scrutinizing the spending of what it called “dormant” campaigns — those maintained by former lawmakers who took advantage of a loophole that allowed them to hoard unspent campaign donations for years. It comes after a Tampa Bay Times/10News investigation found that the agency ignored campaign finance reports that showed more than 100 former politicians carried on spending donations even though they were no longer campaigning. In some cases, these zombie campaigns remained open for more than a decade. “I think this is great, a really positive step the FEC is taking,” said Adav Noti, a former FEC attorney who is now a senior director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C. watchdog group. “For them to do this in the middle of an election cycle is highly unusual.” The extra scrutiny of former lawmakers spending will begin in July.
Spotted — North Florida Congressman Gaetz on Bloomberg to talk about his bill on medical cannabis research, co-sponsored by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte. The measure increases the number of federally approved manufacturers of cannabis for research purposes and creates a “safe harbor” for researchers and patients in clinical trials protecting institutions such as universities from losing federal funding.
“Joy Reid will stay on air at MSNBC amid outcry over alleged anti-gay posts” via Jason Schwartz and Cristiano Lima of POLITICO — Reid will remain on the air amid controversy over what appear to be old posts expressing anti-gay views on her now-defunct personal blog … Reid says her blog was hacked to include the posts, which are dated in the mid- to late-2000s and resurfaced last week when Twitter user @Jamie_Maz and Mediaite highlighted them. The NBC spokesperson said Reid had referred the matter to law enforcement and that the network would wait for that process to play out before taking any action. The alleged blog posts include language critical of gay marriage and claims that homosexual men prey on “impressionable teens” — messages at odds with Reid’s reputation as a progressive media leader. The posts also take aim at Rachel Maddow, now MSNBC’s star prime-time host, for having views on gay rights “at the left-most end of the political spectrum.”
— OPINIONS —
“Scott shuts the spigot on ‘toilets to tap’” via the St. Augustine Record editorial board — The title means different things in different areas, but basically it is a strategy to make hay while the sun shines, in terms of hydrology. It’s taking water when it becomes plentiful and pumping it into the aquifer for later use … the bill, thankfully vetoed by Gov. Scott, would have set the stage for injection of treated wastewater into our aquifer, which in reality is much more than ours. In places where the process is up and running, the intent is that water is held in case of a drought, so people living there have a backup. It’s an underground retention pond. While proponents will argue this point, opponents contend that storage in Florida would be nothing more than a means of providing more water to slake the thirst of new development. It’s apples to oranges. And no one’s certain who would pay for this aquifer injection, but it does seem clear who would profit from it. The Floridan Aquifer has been doing its thing for between 17,000 and 26,000 years. It’s only natural predator has been man. It takes all the natural runoff and cleanses it, then dispenses it as it should. It’s not a process with which to meddle.
“Primary solution was left on table” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — To the Florida Department of Elections, I am known by the acronym “NPA” — no party affiliation. That means I have not registered as a Democrat or Republican … it comes with consequences. NPA’s will be treated as non-people in the August primaries. We can’t cast a ballot for candidates from either of the two major parties, even though the primary determines who appears on the ballot in the general election. The Constitutional Revision Commission took a stab at addressing that issue with Provision 62 … The plan passed the Ethics and Elections Committee 6-3, but it was skunked 7-0 in the General Provisions Committee. It was laid on the table. Voters don’t get to choose. The problem is, most people live somewhere in the middle. That brings us back to the NPA choice a lot of us make. Right now, there are two choices: stay the same, or swallow hard and pick a party. Neither one helps solve the problem.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Calvina Fay to retire from Drug Free America Foundation” via Florida Politics – Fay, executive director of the Drug-Free America Foundation announced at the Annual Lifetime Achievement Awards Gala that she will be retiring at the end of the month. “Under Calvina Fay’s leadership, Drug-Free America has had a profound impact in Florida, in the United States and throughout the world,” said Betty Sembler, founder of Drug-Free America Foundation, in a statement. In remarks, Fay thanked everyone for their support throughout the years and encouraged them to continue the fight.
“Personnel note: Ashley Ross joins DeSantis campaign” via Florida Politics — Ross is leaving the Senate President’s Office to become “senior finance consultant” for Republican Congressman DeSantis’ campaign for governor. Ross has been Deputy Chief of Staff for Stuart Republican JoeNegron, advising him on commerce, tourism and veterans’ affairs, among other issues. Before that, however, she had been a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida, joining the organization in 2009 to work primarily on Senate campaigns.
All together the president nominated five federal judgeships in Fla. today inc. 3 in the Southern District in Miami and 1 in the Middle District. 2 of the 5 nominees were put on bench by @RepCharlieCrist & 2 by @FLGovScott
Brian Bautista, Rachel Cone, Southern Strategy Group: Salesforce.com
Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: Estate of Dr. Sherrill Lynn Aversa
Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Data Recognition Corporation
Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: U.S. Ecogen
“Ballard Partners dumps client with suspected ties to Assad regime” via Florida Politics – Brian Ballard announced that the lobbying firm is dropping a client accused of having connections to brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Ballard Partners added Dubai-based trading company ASM International General Trading LLC to its client roster March 15 and an analysis of the company published by The Daily Beast indicated it was affiliated with Samer Foz, who is an ally of Assad. The analysis used several news reports, files leaked in the Panama Papers and website registration information as evidence showing Foz was a part owner of ASM. When The Daily Beast reached out to Ballard, he said he wasn’t aware of the link, but said he would cut ties if there was one. “We’re not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company,” he said, adding that his firm represents anti-Assad regime client Citizens for a Safe and Secure America. On Thursday he did just that, adding that the firm will take steps to better vet prospective clients in the future.
— WEEKEND TV —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFedeon CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei host a roundtable with guests Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno; Republican attorney Danny Alvarez; former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy; and PolitiFact Florida reporter Allison Graves.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on how the 2018 Legislative Session affects your wallet. Joining Walker-Torres are House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz and state Rep. Robert Olszewski. Florida TaxWatch President & CEO Dominic Calabro will break down the budget and tax cuts, and take an in-depth look at sales tax holidays, the Omnibus Education Bill, and the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will discuss his campaign run and why he is willing to spend whatever it takes to win. PolitiFact will rate a claim about election fraud and why Trump still believes millions of people may have voted in 2016 more than once.
The Usual Suspectson WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore speak with Bob McClure and Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Jacksonville City Council member Garrett Dennis; Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels; Amy Pope-Wells, owner of LINK Staffing and Tire Diva; and Rick Mullaney, director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, which met for the first time this week.
— ALOE —
“Amazon Alexa to reward kids who say: ‘please’” via BBC News — Amazon’s smart assistant can now be made to encourage children to say: “Please,” and: “Thank you,” when issuing it voice commands. The new function addresses some parents’ concerns that use of the technology was teaching their offspring to sound officious or even rude. Also, parents can now set time limits on when requests are responded to and can block some services … In January, the research company ChildWise published a report warning that youngsters that grew up accustomed to barking orders at Alexa, Google Assistant or some other virtual personality might become aggressive in later dealings with humans. “This is a very positive development,” research director Simon Leggett told the BBC.
“George R.R. Martin announces release date for new book that’s not The winds of f*cking Winter” via William Hughes of the AV Club — Martin announced that fans will be getting Fire & Blood — a history of the series’ Targaryen dynasty, which the author was extremely clear was “not a novel” — as this year’s book instead. (It’s out November 20.) And that is “this year’s book,” singular; Martin confirmed this week that The Winds Of Winter won’t be out until at least 2019, driving many of us to distraction, and ensuring that the series’ TV adaptation, Game Of Thrones, will be fully completed by the time the sixth book (of a planned seven) even arrives. The last main-series ASOIAF book, A Dance with Dragons, arrived back in July 2011. The series’ final installment, A Dream of Spring, is expected to arrive sometime after the heat-death of the sun.
“Gordon Ramsay showers Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood with praise after visit” via Michael Mayo of SouthFlorida.com — Ramsay, paid a visit last weekend with a camera crew in tow to shoot footage for the upcoming season of his Fox reality cooking competition, “MasterChef.” The Brit known for his foul-mouthed kitchen outbursts was as nice as could be, vendors and market officials say, and Ramsay showered the weekend-only market with praise after the April 21 visit. “Had an amazing time … congratulations on a wonderful market,” Ramsay wrote on the Yellow Green Farmers Market Instagram page. “Great people, great product, great food! Bloody well done. I’ll [be] coming back!”
Happy birthday to my incredible father-in-law, Benjamin Todd, as well as ace TV guy David Millner, and The Fiorentino Group’s Mark Pinto.
Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
A bipartisan group of Florida members of Congress has called for funding “to hire an additional 500 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers next year to help address staffing shortages at many of Florida’s airports and seaports.”
The lawmakers’ request came in a letter – also signed by U.S. Sens. BillNelson, a Democrat, and MarcoRubio, a Republican – and sent to the Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittees.
In addition to Nelson and Rubio, the letter was signed by U.S. Reps. CharlieCrist (D), CarlosCurbelo (R), Val Demings (D), Ted Deutch (D), Lois Frankel (D), Alcee Hastings (D), AlLawson (D), Stephanie Murphy (D), Tom Rooney (R), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R), Dennis Ross (R), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D) and Frederica Wilson (D), all of Florida.
“Long wait times and delayed processing of goods discourage travel and create unnecessary barriers to trade, undermining economic activity in the United States,” the letter says. “Estimates show that hiring an additional 500 CBP officers at ports of entry would increase annual economic activity by $1 billion and result in an additional 16,600 jobs per year.”
Officials at many of Florida’s airports and seaports have, for years, raised concerns over the shortage of CBP officers in Florida, which they say often causes frustratingly long wait times for international travelers arriving in the state, discouraging some from ever returning.
The agency says it needs to hire an additional 2,516 officers to operate at full capacity. Congress approved $7.6 million for the agency to hire an additional 328 officers earlier this year. The lawmakers want the agency to hire another 500 next year.
CBP officers are charged with enforcing U.S. customs, immigration and agriculture laws at air, land and seaports across the country. (They are separate from CBP Border Patrol agents who patrol the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to prevent illegal entry into the country.)
“Look, we have some absolute warriors … Jim Jordan [of Ohio] and Mark Meadows [of North Carolina] and MattGaetz and [Ron] DeSantis and so many … These are all warriors. We have great people in the Republican Party.” — President DonaldTrump, via phone on “Fox & Friends.”
Bill Day’s Latest
Wake Up Early?
Candidates in special elections in state House District 39 and House District 114 face a Friday deadline for filing campaign-finance reports. Republican JosieTomkow and Democrat RickyShirah are running in the May 1 election in District 39, which includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties. Democrat JavierFernandez, Republican AndrewVargas and unaffiliated candidate Liz de las Cuevas are running in Miami-Dade County’s District 114.
The Florida Board of Podiatric Medicine is scheduled to hold a conference call at 8 a.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the code is 5134896685.
The board of Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., which helps oversee money stemming from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will meet in Northwest Florida. That’s at 10:30 a.m. Central time, Northwest Florida State College, Student Services Center, 100 College Blvd., Niceville.
Staff members for U.S. Sen. Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Osceola County. That’s at 1 p.m., Advance Senior Center, 2260 East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee.
Sen. DorothyHukill, a Port Orange Republican, will take part in an event to dedicate a veterans’ plaza in Volusia County. That’s Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Whisperwood Community, 3070 Whisper Blvd., DeLand.
Brian Ballard announced Thursday that the lobbying firm is dropping a client accused of having connections to brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Ballard Partners added Dubai-based trading company ASM International General Trading LLC to its client roster on March 15 and an analysis of the company published Wednesday by the The Daily Beast indicated it was affiliated with Samer Foz, who is an ally of Assad.
The analysis used several news reports, files leaked in the Panama Papers and website registration information as evidence showing Foz was a part owner of ASM. When The Daily Beast reached out to Ballard, he said he wasn’t aware of the link, but said he would cut ties if there was one.
“We’re not the CIA, but if it were to turn out that there was any connection at all, we would withdraw from our representation of the Dubai trading company,” he said Wednesday, adding that his firm represents anti-Assad regime client Citizens for a Safe and Secure America.
On Thursday he did just that, adding that the firm will take steps to better vet prospective clients in the future.
“Yesterday a news report questioned our firm’s representation of ASM International General Trading LLC (“ASM”), based upon allegations regarding a minority owner of ASM. The news report also noted that our firm represents Citizens for a Safe and Secure America, whose objective is to promote America’s national security interests through support of policies that lead to a free and democratic Syria,” Ballard said Thursday.
“Our firm is fully dedicated to helping Citizens for a Safe and Secure America achieve this important objective, and will not allow this recent news report to distract attention and focus away from that mission. For that reason, we have decided to terminate our representation of ASM, effective today. As our firm’s Washington presence continues to grow in size, we will intensify our review of prospective clients to minimize the possibility of distractions in the future.”
The release also included a statement from Citizens for a Safe and Secure America President Rim Albezem, who was complimentary of the both the firm’s services and its decision to drop ASM.
“I am more than fully confident in the firm’s efforts to help secure America’s safety and security through promotion of free and fully democratic elections in Syria,” Albezem said. “Furthermore, I am very pleased that they will continue to fight on behalf of our organization’s sacrosanct mission, and have terminated their representation with ASM in order to eliminate any distraction from our shared goals for both America and Syria.”
The Daily Beast reported on Ballard Partners jettisoning ASM shortly after the statement was released.
Ballardchaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign and is seen as one of the few lobbyists close to President Donald Trump. Earlier this month, Trump ordered U.S. forces to join French and British allies in bombing chemical weapons facilities controlled by the Assad regime after chemical weapons were used on Syrian civilians.
Ballard’s ties to Trump led him to expand his lobbying firm to Washington shortly after Trump’s inauguration, and it has quickly found success. Since the expansion, Ballard Partners has added several major clients, including the governments of Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Qatar and the Maldives.
Ballard Partners topped all Florida firms in lobbying compensation last year, bringing in an average of $4 million in fees each quarter for its legislative and executive work at the state level.