Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
THERE’S NO REST FOR THE (CONFERENCE) WEARY
Florida politicos hoping to kick off Super Bowl weekend early are out of luck with dueling conferences — nay, a trio of summits — happening across the state this weekend.
Interested in economic development? There’s a summit for that. Insurance industry have you scratching your head? There’s a confab in SoFla. Perplexed by the medical pot industry? Don’t worry, the Florida Association of Counties has you covered.
Here’s what to expect if, like us, you’ll be attending one of the several summits around the state, instead of snacking on “Fresh from Florida” corn, tomato and avocado salsa (thanks for the tip, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam).
— More jobs: The final day of Gov. Rick Scott’s 2017 Jobs Summit kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Caribe Royale, 8101 World Center Drive in Orlando. The governor is expected to get the day started, when he hands out business awards.
While Thursday’s event gave presenters a chance to make a pitch for Scott’s $85 million request for economic incentives or stress the importance of spending for tourism marketing, Friday’s agenda looks to give attendees a chance to hear from experts about entrepreneurship.
Speakers include Travis Brown, the author of How Money Walks, and Chris Hart IV, the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida.
— Insurance woes: The Florida Chamber’s Insurance Summit is also entering its final day, but it has far from a light agenda planned for conference-goers. The summit kicks off with a panel discussion about flood insurance moderated by Sen. Jeff Brandes and featuring Maria Wells, the 2017 president of the Florida Realtors, Bill Fleischhacker, the executive managing director of Aon Benfield, and John Dickson, the president and CEO of NFS Edge Insurance Agency.
Attendees will also hear from Belinda Miller, the chief of staff at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation about PIP (personal injury protection) reform, and members of the House and Senate on what they’re thinking as they enter a session where insurance is expected to be a hot topic.
The final day of Florida Chamber Insurance Summit starts at 8:45 a.m. at the JW Marriott, 1109 Brickell Ave. in Miami.
— Pot talk: Implementing the medical marijuana constitutional amendment is clearly going to be a hot topic this legislative session. There’s already two competing bills in the Florida Senate, and the Department of Health has begun the process rule-making as mandated by the constitutional amendment.
So the Florida Association of Counties is hoping to help members navigate the rough waters with a medical marijuana summit at the Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista on Saturday. The event is a chance for local government officials across the state to discuss issues surrounding the implementation of the constitutional amendment.
The conference kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with a presentation from Christian Bax, the director of Florida’s Office of Compassionate Use. Panelists throughout the day include Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve; Bruce Knox; the COO of Cansortium & president of Knox Medical; and Dr. Carlos Smith, the medical director for Modern Health Concepts.
Sen. Rob Bradley and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues are also scheduled to speak. Bradley filed a Senate implementing bill; while Rodrigues is expected to carry the bill in the House.
RICK SCOTT: ‘IF WE WANT JOBS IN THIS STATE, OUR TAXES HAVE TO BE LOWER’ via Florida Politics— Gov. Scott made the pitch for an aggressive tax cut plan, saying Florida leaders need to run the state like a business to continue to attract jobs — and job seekers — to the Sunshine State. The Naples Republican kicked off his 2017 Jobs Summit in Orlando on Thursday. Similar to his 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit, the two-day event is meant to bring together business and community leaders to discuss economic and business development. “If we want jobs in this state, our taxes have to be lower; we have to have to have less regulation; we have to have government at the city, county and state government level that says ‘I want to solve your problems,’” said Scott.
BILL WOULD KILL VISIT FLORIDA AND ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Less than 36 hours after Scott chastised legislators for threatening to pull back funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the House leadership has rolled out a bill set for its first hearing that would kill both agencies. The bill comes to light as Scott was in Orlando making some of his strongest comments yet about how the Legislature’s actions have cost the state jobs with some of the biggest corporations in America. Specifically, Scott blamed the Legislature’s retreat from job incentives as one of the reasons why General Electric refused to move its company headquarters from Connecticut to Florida two years ago. Scott said negotiations with GE were going on, but then the Legislature cut back job incentive money that could have helped GE.
ADAM PUTNAM TO BUSINESS LEADERS: ‘FLORIDA HAS COME TOO FAR TO TURN BACK NOW’ via Florida Politics – Each month, Putnam looks at the list of top job openings the governor gives him. And each month, the top jobs remains same. “If you look at all the job vacancies, frequently those vacancies don’t necessarily require a four-year degree,” said Putnam, after brief remarks at Scott’s 2017 Jobs Summit. “If we want to have manufacturing in the state, that’s industry certifications and trades and training that does not require a university experience. They’re both important, but universities get all the glory.” While much of the day focused on tax cuts, economic incentives and the need for tourism marketing dollars, Putnam’s remarks focused largely on the importance of keeping talent in Florida.
JEFF ATWATER DELIVERS FRANK ADVICE AT CHAMBER’S INSURANCE SUMMIT via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – He warned insurers they need to present hard facts to the Legislature before they can expect help in solving problems with the workers’ compensation system and other priorities. Speaking at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Insurance Summit in Miami, the state’s Chief Financial Officer called for “honesty and transparency with an abundance of data that makes the case that a legislator, when weighing the evidence, can make a solid choice between what is out there today and where we go forward.” He told insurance representatives that their industry has not always helped itself — as when, two years ago, it resisted his Homeowner Claims Bill of Rights. “I’m not crying crocodile tears for anybody in here.”
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DONALD TRUMP HEADS TO HIS ‘WINTER WHITE HOUSE’ IN FLORIDA THIS WEEKEND via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – The White House did not release details about Trump’s schedule, including if he will attend the International Red Cross Ball Saturday evening. Protesters are organizing a “March to Mar-a-Lago for Humanity” to coincide with the ball, which is often held at the estate. But holding the gala at Trump’s estate has created a thorny situation this year for the Red Cross, which has offered aid to refugees affected by Trump’s moratorium on the refugee program. “The Red Cross is dedicated to alleviating human suffering,” protest organizers wrote on Facebook. “If Obamacare is repealed, it will be a disaster; 30 million Americans will be left suffering without health insurance. The Muslim ban, moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees, immigrant deportation policy, stance on reproductive rights, etc. will cause AVOIDABLE suffering around the world.”
ANTI-TRUMP MARCH BACK ON IN FLORIDA AFTER BRIEF CANCELLATION via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press – Alex Newell Taylor of Women’s March Florida said that her group and South Florida Activism have taken over the march from Stephen Milo. He had issued a statement saying Saturday’s March to Mar-a-Lago was being canceled because of safety concerns. Newell Taylor says the groups have more experience than Milo in organizing demonstrations and believe they have the expertise to keep it peaceful. She said there will be trained marshals and legal assistants to keep the march orderly. More than 2,000 people have registered on Facebook to attend the protest.
JOE GRUTERS UPDATE – HE SERVED AS DONALD TRUMP’S FLORIDA CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR. HE DOESN’T KNOW WHETHER A CAREER IN D.C. IS IN HIS FUTURE. via Claire Aronson of the Bradenton Herald – Should an opportunity present itself in Washington, D.C., Rep. Joe Gruters said he did not know whether he would leave his post in the Florida Legislature to go work for Trump. “There may be some opportunities available,” Gruters, said. “Right now, I am focused in serving the Legislature.” When asked whether he was headed to go work for Trump, the man for whom he served as Florida campaign co-chair, Gruters said, “You never know,” adding that he hasn’t made a decision but there could be opportunities.
PROGRESSIVE GROUP LAUNCHES AD IN FLORIDA SLAMMING SUPREME COURT PICK — People For the American Way launched a TV ad encouraging senators to oppose President Donald Trump’s selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. The spot — which is set to air in a dozen states, including Florida, for one week — is meant to explain why Gorsuch would be unfit to sit on the high court. We’re releasing this ad to shine a spotlight on the threat Judge Gorsuch poses to the America Way,” said Michael Keegan, president of PFAW, in a statement. “We urge Americans across the country to call their senators and make clear that they expect their senators to stand up against Gorsuch, a Supreme Court nominee who prioritizes corporate interests over the constitutional rights that Americans rely on.” Click on the image below to watch the ad.
ENVIRONMENT FLORIDA WANTS BILL NELSON TO REJECT SCOTT PRUITT AS EPA HEAD via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-0 to confirm Pruitt, who serves as Oklahoma Attorney General. Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote … advocacy group Environment Florida is calling on the Sunshine State’s two senators to reject his nomination. Marco Rubio already declared his support. Nelson is getting lobbied from both sides to either support or oppose Pruitt. The Florida Democrat pleased liberals by announcing his opposition to Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.
IN MIAMI BEACH MINIMUM WAGE FIGHT, PHILIP LEVINE TELLS RICK SCOTT ‘I’LL SEE YOU COURT’ via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – After Miami Beach approved a measure last year raising its minimum wage ordinance, Mayor Levine predicted the state would challenge the proposal in court. Levine said the ordinance violates a state law signed by Scott that forbids such measures … On Wednesday, the state did just that, by signing on to a suit filed in December by three of the state’s largest trade groups challenging Miami Beach on the ordinance. The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit in December challenging the ordinance. They claim it’s a direct violation of a 2013 law signed by the governor forbidding municipalities from assigning their own minimum wage. But attorneys for Miami Beach argue the state law is unconstitutional since voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that allows local governments to set higher minimum wage. As to what Levine is saying to the governor today? “So, to the state, I say, see you in court.”
SCOTT HEADING TO ARGENTINA FOR TRADE MISSION via The Associated Press – Scott is scheduled to take a five-day trip in late April to Buenos Aires. This is Scott’s 13th trip abroad since he became governor in January 2011. Former Gov. Jeb Bush took 16 trade missions during his eight years in office. Scott has defended the trips as a way to open doors for Florida-based companies seeking business abroad.
WHAT THE GOV’S OFFICE IS WATCHING – GOV. SCOTT PROPOSES PAY RAISE FOR OFFICERS via WFOX (Click on the image below to watch)
FROM THE “WHERE ARE THEY NOW” FILES: TONY BENNETT RETURNS TO POLITICS via The Associated Press – The former Florida education commissioner is now “a member of a southern Indiana county council,” the AP reports. He was appointed this week to a vacant slot by Republican precinct committee members, however, not elected. Bennett told a local paper he “sees the position as a chance to serve.” Bennett, who once was Indiana’s elected schools chief, quit in Florida after the AP published emails showing he changed Indiana’s school-grading system to benefit a top Republican donor’s charter school.
JOHN MORGAN HAD A DIFFERENT KIND OF STUMP SPEECH FOR TALLAHASSEE via Florida Politics – Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer and possible gubernatorial candidate, was a study in highs and lows Thursday as he spoke to Tallahassee’s Capital Tiger Bay Club. In wide-ranging remarks, Morgan – who said he still hasn’t decided on a 2018 run – pinballed between self-deprecating fat jokes and curse-word spiked anecdotes, and more serious musings about social good and the nature of God. “There is more right about America than wrong,” he said at one point. “And there is more right about you than wrong. And there is more good about all of you, when we get to know each other, than bad.”
JACK LATVALA SETS SIGHTS ON 2018 GOVERNOR’S RACE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Latvala, who has been low-key about any plans, confirmed he’s serious about running, but he said he won’t make any decisions until at least May, when the next legislative session is over. “I have as good a grasp of where the state is, where the state has come from, and the things we need to do as anybody in public office,” he said … “I love this state. Why shouldn’t I think about running for something else?”
SPOTTED at a fundraiser in St. Petersburg for Latvala’s political committee: Sen. Denise Grimsley, Rep. Kathleen Peters, Hayden Dempsey, Laura and David Jolly, David Rancourt, Betty and Mel Sembler, Jeff Vinik.
NOT SPOTTED: Me.
***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: State Sen. Dana Young will be featured at the next meeting of Café Cohen Tampa, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. beginning 8 a.m. upstairs at the Oxford exchange
DOROTHY HUKILL EXTENDS LEGISLATIVE ABSENCE AS SHE FIGHTS CANCER via Florida Politics – The state senator will be absent from the upcoming committee week as she continues her battle against cervical cancer, a Senate spokeswoman said Thursday. “We expect her to return within a few weeks,” Katie Betta told FloridaPolitics.com. “Until then, she will remain engaged in the legislative process by working remotely as she continues her treatment and recovery.” The Port Orange Republican disclosed her condition last November in a letter to Senate President Joe Negron.
LORANNE AUSLEY BILL WOULD PREVENT FOR-PROFIT COMPANIES FROM OVERSEEING STATE CHARITY CAMPAIGN via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Florida’s beleaguered state agency charity campaign could no longer be managed by a for-profit company under a bill filed by Rep. Ausley … The bill would require a statewide, nonprofit charitable group that already participates in the FSECC to serve as the campaign’s fiscal agent. Under the measure, the state would be precluded from hiring another for-profit company like Solix to process pledges. Ausley said under the proposed legislation, the campaign would go back to being run by a statewide charitable group with a vested interest in running a robust campaign. The United Way oversaw the campaign from its inception in 1980 until 2012, when the state brought Solix on board.
PAUL RENNER FILES OCCUPATIONAL OPPORTUNITY ACT IN HOUSE via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Also known as the “Occupational Opportunity Act,” HB 615 would compel Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation to license military members, spouses, and surviving spouses in occupations they have licenses for in other states. The bill would also extend the amount of time after discharge that such license reciprocity would be granted, from six months to two years. Renner’s bill also waives license fees for military, spouses, and what a press release from his office calls “low-income individuals.”
‘SANCTUARY CITIES’ BILL IS IN THE WORKS FOR 2017 SESSION via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – State Sen. Aaron Bean told the Herald/Times that he and Rep. Larry Metz are drafting legislation that will seek to impose “consequences” on cities and counties “who say there are only select, certain federal laws they’re going to abide by” … “We’re looking at financial penalties, yes,” Bean said when asked if the consequences potentially included withholding state funding from cities and counties deemed “sanctuaries” for immigrants who are in the country illegally. “We’re also looking at removing the umbrella of your sovereign immunity for elected individuals, boards and constitutional officers.”
FLORIDA BUSINESSES THAT BAN GUNS COULD BE HELD LIABLE IN MASS SHOOTINGS via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Under an NRA-backed measure proposed this week in the Florida Legislature, victims who had permits to carry concealed weapons could sue the theater for damages if they could show the weapons ban left them disarmed when they might have been able to use their gun to thwart or stop the attack. The new proposal (SB 610) from Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube — a conservative Sarasota Republican who has proposed a slew of controversial gun-rights measures this year — says the “Legislature intends to find a balance” between gun-owners’ rights and private property rights. And Steube’s plan to do that means businesses would be held responsible — and put at risk of being sued — for decisions to ban guns.
FLORIDA AGENCY HEAD WON’T SUPPORT FEES FOR KAYAKS, CANOES via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel – Efforts by Florida’s boating officials to consider adopting a fee and registration for kayaks, canoes and other motorless craft appeared uncertain with an announcement from the head of the state’s wildlife agency. Nick Wiley, director of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, noted in a statement the work of a panel of citizens to consider “expanding vessel registration to nonmotorized boats in Florida.” “The FWC appreciates the work of this advisory group, but we are not supportive of increasing fees on Floridians or visitors who participate in nonmotorized boating.”
SMALL DAIRY FARMER SEEKS FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTION FROM STATE REGULATORS via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – Five years ago, the Florida Department of Agriculture turned its regulatory power on a small third-generation dairy farm in the Panhandle’s Calhoun County, population 14,462. Mary Lou Wesselhoeft, owner, was selling all-natural pasteurized skim milk – whole milk with the cream skimmed off – and labeling it exactly what it was: skim milk. But in a strange twist with First Amendment implications, the state said Wesselhoeft was misrepresenting her product. After a decade without complaints or confusion, newly enforced regulations required artificially injected additives — something Ocheese Creamery had never done and wasn’t about to start doing … the department issued an ultimatum: either stop selling skim milk or label it “imitation milk.” Wesselhoeft … opted to stop selling her locally popular item rather than comply with a condition she believes is dishonest. But not without a fight. In March 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida ruled in favor of the Department of Agriculture.
THOUSANDS OF TOBACCO LAWSUITS IN THE PIPELINE via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Wade Halvorson died in 2008 … but his lawsuit against Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and Liggett lives on through his widow, Sandra. The lawsuit she filed in Leon County Circuit Court is among at least a dozen filed by local residents, and one of thousands statewide that have resulted in judgments totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Many of those plaintiffs have died waiting for the cigarette manufacturers to pay up, thanks to an obscure statute exclusive to tobacco companies that says they don’t have to put up a bond or pay out until every last appeal has been exhausted. Twin bills filed by Sen. Greg Steube and Rep. Danny Burgess for the upcoming legislative session would change that by repealing the statute that gives tobacco companies this exclusive advantage.
MIKE FASANO GETS RESULTS — PASCO TAX COLLECTOR QUESTIONS $82 OIL CHANGE BILL via Mark Douglas of WFLA-TV – Mike Fasano is furious about an $82 oil change bill handed to his Chief Deputy Billy Poulos … by a Jiffy Lube worker at 21345 State Road 54 in Lutz … Poulos was driving a fleet car owned by the Tax Collector’s Office. “It strikes a nerve, because its someone else’s money, it’s not my money, it’s not your money, it’s the people of Pasco County’s money that we’re trying to do our best and spending it wisely,” Fasano said. Jiffy Lube manager Bobby Fatzinger said he wasn’t at the store on State Road 54 in Lutz when Poulos was charged $82 … but insists that’s the standard rate for synthetic oil at Jiffy Lube.
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CRAIG FUGATE JOINS BLUEDOT STRATEGIES via Florida Politics – Fugate, who was President Barack Obama‘s FEMA director after serving as Florida’s emergency management director under Jeb Bush, has joined other Obama appointees at this new firm. BlueDot specializes in strategic communications and research. “Fugate will advise BlueDot’s clients on emergency management implementation strategies and crisis communications,” a press release said. Other principals include Obama veterans Lars Anderson and Moira Whelan.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Joshua Aubuchon, Holland & Knight: Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance
Keith Bell, Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond & Stackhouse: Northwest Florida Professional Baseball, LLC
Matt Blair, Corcoran & Johnston: Florida Optometric Association; Florida Optometry Eye Health Fund, Inc.
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Quest Management Group, Inc
Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Florida Academic Cancer Center Alliance; Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.
Cory Guzzo, Floridian Partners: Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc
Brittany Dover, Gary Hunter, Brooke Lewis, Hopping Green & Sams: Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group, Inc
Ron Pierce, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Solutions: The SEED Foundation
Glenn Kirkland, Jonathan Menedez, Kaleo Partners: EMC/State Partners, LLC.
Jessica Love, GrayRobinson: College of Central Florida
David Sigerson, Capital Hills Consultants: Arise Gaming Florida LLC
Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: American Marine Univeristy:
Screven Watson, Screven Watson & Associates: Florida Power & Light Company
A DIFFERENT SUPER BOWL MATCHUP: POLITICS VS. THE NFL via Ken Belson of The New York Times – This week … two cultural phenomena — politics and football — are coming together again in an extraordinary, and for the league, uncomfortable way on the country’s biggest sports stage. The Super Bowl, scheduled for Sunday night in Houston, is infused with national politics like never before. Fox’s pregame telecast will include an interview of President Trump by Bill O’Reilly. The owner, coach and star player of one team, the highly successful New England Patriots, are friends of the president’s. The political overlay made the league so uneasy, apparently, that it omitted any references to the president from the dozens of official transcripts of interviews with players Monday.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Tom Gallagher and Carolyn Pardue. Celebrating this Super Sunday are Christina Diamond and Clay Ingram.