Peter Schorsch, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 214

Peter Schorsch

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

Sunburn for 02.03.17 – A trio of summits before Super Sunday

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

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


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.


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.


***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 “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 – 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.

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

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.


 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 HunterBrooke Lewis, Hopping Green & Sams: Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group, Inc

Ron Pierce, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, RSA Solutions: The SEED Foundation

Glenn KirklandJonathan 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.

MADD, sheriffs and emergency air medical campaign urge safety on Super Bowl weekend

When a drunken driver nearly killed Robin Powell during Tampa’s Super Bowl XXXV weekend in 2001, an air ambulance saved her life.

On Thursday, Powell, along with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and the Save Our Air Medical Resources (SOAR) Campaign, urge Tampa Bay citizens to avoid drinking and driving this Super Bowl weekend.

 “If there weren’t an air ambulance available to me on that awful day in 2001, I wouldn’t be here today as proof of what can happen when people mix drinking with driving,” said Powell, who is now a longtime MADD supporter. “It’s difficult to articulate the pain drunk driving caused me and my family, but also our gratitude that the medical helicopter was there to save me.”

Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that Super Bowl Sunday has become one of the most dangerous days of the year for traffic fatalities, increasing by as much as 50 percent. Forty percent of those deaths are connected to drunk driving.

“Our deputies will be out in full force this weekend to make sure Hillsborough County roads remain safe while people watch the big game,” said Colonel J.R. Burton, HCSO Commander of Patrol Services. “It pains us to dispatch to the scene of a crash where a drunken driver has forever changed lives. Everyone needs to make the smart decision this weekend and leave the keys behind if they plan on drinking.”

Emergency air medical services are often the only way to get crash victims in critical condition quickly to an available trauma center. More than 3,000 such air transports take place in Florida every year. SOAR is a national campaign to ensure Americans nationwide have access to this lifesaving emergency service.

“While we’re grateful air medical services are able to help people like Robin, our goal is that we never need to deploy air ambulances to car crashes thanks to safe roads,” said Scott Fetterman, flight paramedic at Bayflite at St. Josephs’ Hospital and a member of the SOAR Campaign. “However, we’ve seen time and time again how important it is for these life-saving services to be available when people need them the most.”

To reduce the potential of drunk drivers, the HCSO recommends Super Bowl partygoers choose a designated driver or plan some other type of transportation before the party begins.

“Emergency air medical services play such an important role in quickly transporting patients from the scene of a crash to a trauma center, so they can get the quality of care they desperately need when every second counts,” said Amanda Thayer, national representative for the SOAR Campaign. “Our mission is to ensure that these services remain available for people like Robin, whose life depended on it.”


Meet the new Nokia, supplier of Florida’s law enforcement communications network

When most people hear the name Nokia, they think mobile phones. But Nokia is and always has been about much more than that.

Today, Nokia is one of the world’s premier providers of communications networking technology, a transformation that has been underway since 2012. This process included the integration of the carrier networking businesses of Motorola, Siemens and most recently the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent, the French-American global telecommunications equipment company. Through this acquisition, Nokia also acquired Bell Labs, the renowned innovation powerhouse. As a result of these moves, Nokia now holds a leading or dominant position in nearly all aspects of the market for communications networks.

According to the Dell’Oro Group, Nokia ranks worldwide No. 2 in 4G/LTE, No. 1 in packet microwave radio systems, No. 2 in IP Edge Routing, No. 1 in copper broadband access and No. 2 in fiber access.

Nokia also has unparalleled R&D track record, currently holding more than 30,000 patent families and having been home to researchers that won eight Nobel Prizes. More than 40,000 research and development professionals are driving innovation in the newest technological domain — the internet of things (IoT) – and are making advances in the cloud, virtualization and 5G connectivity, each of which will profoundly impact our day-to-day lives in the digital world.

For example, to fully realize just one of the more exciting advancements — autonomous vehicles — requires a network powerful enough to react instantaneously to what’s happening on the road, and can operate at a massive scale.

More important, this technology will also give first responders – including those in Florida – with tools that will enable them to do their jobs more safely and efficiently. For example, emergency crews could be equipped with body-worn state-of-the-art high-definition cameras, drones, and other technologies that will enable a command and control center to fully visualize a crisis scene in real time. These upgrades will be a vast improvement over present-day two-way radio systems and 3G/4G based in-car mobile data, currently the primary means of communication for emergency and public safety professionals.

While Nokia maintains a global presence, some of the company’s deepest roots remain here in the United States — the world’s most innovative market that is constantly driving emerging trends.

Between its significant U.S. operations, its Bell Labs research and innovation arm its IP/Optical networks and Applications & Analytics business groups, the new Nokia employs tens of thousands nationwide.

As a major presence in the U.S. communications market, Nokia is far from a new player. In fact, Nokia has played a leading role in the introduction of very high-speed wireless connectivity in the U.S., supplying 4G LTE networks to the 4 major national mobile operators — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — as well as many regional service providers.

In 2016, Nokia announced partnerships with major U.S. operators to develop the next generation of wireless connectivity, 5G. This service upgrade will give unparalleled wireless connection speeds and truly enable the ‘Internet of Things.’ Such lightning-fast connections will open the floodgates for a range of new services including autonomous cars and long-range drone flights.

These same innovations will also drive the digital transformation of a variety of industries, which will benefit from the modernization of their mission-critical systems. This transformation is already underway, and Nokia is at the heart of this transformation, providing mission-critical networks for energy and transportation concerns, governments and large enterprises such as banks and health care providers.

In the public safety arena, Nokia collaborates with many state agencies, including in Florida, where – for more than two decades – Florida’s Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) has relied on Nokia backhaul technology.

In 2017, as Florida begins to modernize SLERS, Nokia will be there to provide the industry-leading IP backhaul and networking technology for P25 digital radio technology — the standard in digital radio communications for public safety organizations in North America.

This backhaul network will play a crucial role in maintaining a baseline service available 24/7, secure from hacking and cyber-attacks. Since Florida’s new backhaul network will be in place for at least a decade, it is set to be a foundation for numerous future uses beyond simple voice communications, and will be at the heart of the digital transformation of Florida’s public safety as well as potentially many other state agencies.

To best safeguard the health and security of its citizens, Florida needs a partner with financial resources, technological strength and unmatched innovation capability to support and scale these services for the long run. Nokia is uniquely qualified to take on just such a role.

Florida’s law enforcement community requires the best technology to protect and save lives; the new Nokia will be there, ready to help.

Sachs, Ron

Sachs Media Group surges to record year in 2016

Sachs Media Group, Florida’s powerhouse public affairs communications firm, reported its best year ever in 2016, with revenues surging by 20 percent.

In a crowded space of small and large firms that support legislative causes with messages and media, Sachs Media Group is among the largest and longest standing, with a deep bench, comprehensive suite of services, and steady string of successes. 

While only 1 in 8 of the bills that were filed last year passed, the Sachs team scored an 80 percent success rate.

Public affairs is the Sachs firm’s most in-demand specialty, accounting for one-third of all billings, followed closely by public relations. Corporate accounts constitute the majority of the firm’s client roster, followed by nonprofits and select public sector work.

Unlike some firms, Sachs Media Group doesn’t lobby, but supports the work of lobbyists with strategy, research, third-party support, digital and advertising. 

And the firm has recognized and promoted dynamic talent in the public affairs arena, last year naming Herbie Thiele as Vice President/Director of Public Affairs and ‘rising starDrew Piers as Deputy Director of Public Affairs.

Sachs Media’s public affairs bench also includes veteran communicators Ron Sachs and Michelle Ubben, and digital strategist Ryan Cohn.

This week, the firm announced promotions for six staff members in the areas of public relations, digital/social media, and web development, including Ashley Perkins to Director of Digital Content; Rob Orr to Director of Web Design and Development; Zoe Linafelt, Emily Allman, and Jenna Sarkissian to Account Managers; and Shelby Hobbs to Senior Account Executive.

Based in Tallahassee, the firm has offices in Orlando, Boca Raton, and Washington, D.C. It also is expecting to open a Tampa office this year.

Sunburn for 02.02.17 – Scott’s jobs summit, Chamber’s insurance confab kick-off; Ag. Commish candidates galore; Major Latvala fundraiser

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

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

Get ready, Florida: Gov. Rick Scott wants to talk J-O-B-S.

OK, we get it. That’s not really surprising. It’s clearly his favorite topic. He’s been singularly focused on bringing more of them to the state since he ran for office back in 2010. His speeches are peppered with jobs numbers; and at least once a week you can find him at a small business somewhere in the state applauding job growth (no matter how small) and handing out his “Governor’s Business Ambassador Award.”

But Scott is taking his devotion to jobs to the next level, hosting a two-day summit at the Caribe Royale in Orlando this week to bring together “business, education, economic development and community leaders to discuss how to keep bringing new jobs to Florida.”

“A job is the most important thing to a family, and we must fight to make sure our children and grandchildren have every opportunity to succeed in the Sunshine State,” Scott said in a statement announcing the summit last week.

The event is expected to be similar to Scott’s successful 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit. While that focused largely on preparing Florida’s students for the workforce, the 2017 event appears to focus on economic development development.

And why wouldn’t it? The summit directly follows theEnterprise Florida meeting, also taking place at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, where economic incentives will surely be discussed.

It also comes just days after Scott officially rolled out his fiscal 2017-18 budget, which included $85 million in economic incentive dollars and $76 million in marketing money for Visit Florida. Both organizations have come under fire in recent months, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said there is no chance either will be funded in the his chamber’s budget.

That doesn’t mean the need for cash won’t come up, especially since the agenda appears tailor made for discussions about the benefits of Scott’s ask.

There’s a panel discussion dubbed “Florida Economic Development: Past, Present, and Future;” one called “International Trade: Florida is a Gateway to the World;” and one called “Tourism: Florida’s Jobs Generator.”

Eric Silagy, the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light, is expected to talk about marketing Florida; while Jonathan Grella, with the U.S. Travel Association, is set to discuss why tourism matters. Ken Lawson, the newly named president and CEO of Visit Florida, is expected to speak, as is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Scott will take part in a panel discussion about disaster response, as well as give the keynote address today.

The fun doesn’t end when Scott gives his closing remarks this afternoon. There’s a networking reception immediately after the first day’s festivities, and Scott is expected to be in attendance. He’ll be introduced by CFO Jeff Atwater.

Don’t even think about skipping out early. On Friday, there are panel discussions scheduled on how talent drives business and entrepreneurship. Chris Hart IV, the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, is also expected to take the stage.

The 2017 Jobs Summit kicks off at 1 p.m. today at the Caribe Royale, 8101 World Center Drive in Orlando.

ALSO HAPPENING TODAY – FLORIDA CHAMBER KICKS OFF INSURANCE SUMMIT IN MIAMI —The Florida Chamber’s 2017 Insurance Summit kicks off today at the JW Marriott in Miami. The two-day event is meant to bring together industry leaders to discuss ways the state can build a “safer, stronger future for Florida’s consumers.”

The event kicks off with welcome remarks a “state of Florida’s Future” speech at 8:30 a.m. by David Hart, the executive vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. Bryon Ehrhart, the global head of strategic growth & development at Aon, is expected to take the stage around 8:50 a.m. to give a speech titled “Insurance Reality Check: How Are We Doing.” The event also features a panel discussion with members of the media on ways to educate consumers, and a discussion called “Preparing for the Storm: Hurricane Forecasting, Modeling and Aftermath.” Lorilee Medders, the director of the Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center, will moderate that panel, which features Richard Knabb, the director of the National Hurricane Center, and Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

CFO Jeff Atwater is slated to give the keynote address during lunch; while Robert McClure, the president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, will discuss insurance reforms needed now. The afternoon is expected to be full of panels discussing assignment of benefits, including a panel on who profits from fraud and abuse, and steps to fix the problems. The summit runs through Friday.

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DONALD TRUMP RAISED $15 MILLION IN DECEMBER via Ken Vogel of POLITICO – Trump’s re-election efforts are off to a strong start financially, according to campaign finance reports showing that Trump’s three committees brought in a combined $15 million last month and finished the year with $16 million in the bank. The committees – Trump’s campaign and two joint fundraising vehicles created by the campaign and various Republican Party committees – disbursed nearly $32 million from Nov. 29 through Dec. 31.

TRUMP LOSES LEGAL FIGHT OVER GOLF CLUB MEMBERSHIPS via Andy Reid of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – A federal judge ruled that Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter should pay $5.8 million to people who argued that while waiting for membership deposit refunds, they were charged annual dues and fees – even though they were barred from using the golf course, restaurant, spa and other amenities. Barring people still paying fees from using the club “revoked or canceled their memberships” and entitled them to refunds within 30 days, according to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra’s ruling. The judge also wiped out any fees and other club charges that had accrued since Dec. 31, 2012, for those who were part of the lawsuit.

BUDWEISER WADES INTO IMMIGRATION DEBATE WITH NEW SUPER BOWL AD via Amar Toor of The Verge – Budweiser has injected itself into the debate surrounding Trump’s controversial immigration orders with a new Super Bowl ad about the company’s origins. The one-minute ad, titled “Born the Hard Way,” tells the story of how Adolphus Busch immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the 1800s, which led to the creation of the Anheuser-Busch brewing company (now AB InBev, the world’s largest beer company). The dramatized origin story shows Busch on a long, arduous voyage to St. Louis, where he meets Ebert Anheuser, fittingly, over a beer.

CRITICS DON’T EVEN WANT ANIMATRONIC TRUMP TO SPEAK via The Associated Press – An online petition was started last week, asking Walt Disney World to keep an animatronic Trump silent in its Hall of Presidents attraction. The attraction has animatronic figures of all U.S. presidents … The petition says Trump ran a campaign filled with hateful speech and he doesn’t deserve to have a voice at a place like Disney World in Florida. The Hall of Presidents temporarily closed earlier this month so the new animatronic president could be installed. It reopens in June.

BEYONCÉ, TIM TEBOW FOR PREZ? INVALID VOTES SPIKED IN FLORIDA via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – A report released by state officials showed more than 161,000 Florida voters who took part in the elections either at the polls or by mail didn’t cast a valid vote for president. The “non-valid votes” include those who wrote in such names as Mickey Mouse or Bernie Sanders and others who simply left the ballot blank … invalid ballots outnumbered Trump‘s margin of victory over Democrat Clinton of nearly 113,000 votes to clinch Florida’s 29 electoral votes. And the rate of invalid votes for president in 2016 — 1.69 percent overall — was more than double the rate it was in 2012 and 2008 when President Barack Obama won the state each time. “There were some people who were very disgruntled,” said Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles, giving the read of some fellow election officials on the report.

WOMEN’S MARCH ACTIVISTS TO HOLD MEETINGS THROUGHOUT FLORIDA THIS WEEKEND via Florida Politics – Activists who traveled to D.C. for the historic Women’s March, or participated in one of the several protests … will be holding meetings up and down the Sunshine State this Saturday to strategize on what happens next … In Tampa, that meeting will take place at 4 p.m. at the Jimmy Keel Regional Library, 2902 W. Bearss Ave. In St. Petersburg, interested members will be meeting at 4: 00 p.m. at Nova 535, 535 Mlk Jr. … In Tallahassee, the meeting will take place at 4 p.m. at the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 2015 Fleischmann Road. In Gainesville, the meeting will take place at 1 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, 4225 NW 34th St.

DENISE GRIMSLEY RUNS FOR AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER IN 2018 via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – State Sen. Grimsley played up her background in agriculture, ranching, nursing, business and politics as she threw her hat in the ring. “I offer my candidacy to serve as Florida’s agriculture commissioner as a continuation of the public service that has meant so much in my life … I began my working life with a passion for nursing and helping people in difficult situations. I continue that today as a hospital administrator. I’ve operated our family businesses and know treating the customer well and with respect is key to any success.” Grimsley current chairs the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee and is the vice chair on the Ethics and Elections Committee. She also serves on the Agriculture Committee.

>>>Look for Trey McCarley and Kris Money to handle fundraising for Grimsely’s campaign.

EX-SEN. LISA CARLTON CONSIDERING RUN FOR STATE AG COMMISSIONER via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Hours after Sen. Grimsley announced she was running for Florida Agriculture commissioner, Carlton confirmed she is weighing getting into the contest as well. Orlando Republican Paul Paulson has also filed for the seat. Carlton, a Sarasota County Republican and rancher, was in the Florida Senate from 1998 to 2008. She said since then she has stepped completely away from politics to focus on raising her family and her family’s citrus and cattle ranch businesses.

>>>Sources close to Rep. Matt Caldwell say he continues to strongly consider running for Ag. Commish and is receiving “massive” encouragement to do so.

MATT GAETZ DRAFTS BILL TO ‘COMPLETELY ABOLISH’ THE EPA via Alexandra Kaufman of the Huffington Post – Matt Gaetz … sent the email to lawmakers who might co-sponsor the legislation, which would shutter the EPA by the end of next year. “Our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans,” Gaetz wrote. “It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently” … he cited a statistic from the American Action Forum, a conservative policy group launched in 2010 by Republican heavyweights, stating that “it would take more than 94,200 employees working full time to complete one year of EPA paperwork.”

CHARLIE CRIST NAMED TO THREE KEY FINANCIAL SERVICES SUBCOMMITTEES via Florida Politics – Crist, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was tapped to serve on three of its principal subcommittees. Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, which covers all matters relating to banking, including oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, mortgages, and federal regulators of financial institutions; Monetary Policy and Trade, which has jurisdiction over the Export-Import Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy, which impacts access to capital and interest rates; and Oversight and Investigation, which is tasked with overseeing administration actions relating to financial services to promote good governance in this sector.

CRIST PUTS HIS WIFE ON THE PAYROLL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Carole Crist … Is now on his campaign’s payroll. Campaign reports show the wealthy former New Yorker received two payroll payments in December totaling $6,500, and another $417 payment. “She’s a great woman, my best friend, smart, loyal and driven and plays an integral part in this campaign,” said Crist, describing his wife as the “campaign director” who also plays a big role in raising money. Anti-nepotism rules bar members of the U.S. House from hiring family members for official staff positions, nothing prevents them from using political committees to hire relatives.

CHLOE CONEY RETIRING AS U.S. REP. KATHY CASTOR’S DISTRICT DIRECTOR via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – Starting in 2007, Coney helped launch Castor‘s district office in Tampa and worked on constituent service and outreach as a wave of foreclosures and business losses hit Tampa during the Great Recession. Coney grew up in Tampa, and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Florida A&M University. She received a master’s in biblical counseling from Florida Beacon Bible College in Largo. In 1992, she founded the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa … she oversaw job training and home ownership counseling for thousands of people, construction of affordable homes in East Tampa, an infusion of new businesses and the opening of a youth center in place of an abandoned bar. With Coney’s retirement, Marcia Mejia, Castor’s communications director, will become district director.

VAL DEMINGS WANTS HER COMMITTEE IN CONGRESS TO OVERSEE ‘THE WALL’ via Florida Politics – As Trump moves forward on his plans to build a massive, potentially $25 billion wall along the Mexico border, Demings wants assurance that Congress will have some oversight of the project … Demings introduced an amendment to the oversight plan of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that could give that committee some control, regardless of how the president wants to do the wall. Demings, an Orlando Democrat, is a member of that committee. She is also a ranking member on that committee’s Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs. Her amendment would give the committee control to examine costs associated with construction, maintenance, increased surveillance, environmental effects, and compensation for affected property owners as well as look at the effectiveness and source of funding for the wall.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at***

DAYS UNTIL: The Batman Lego Movie opens – 8; Pitchers & catchers report for Spring Training – 10; Valentine’s Day – 12; Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 33; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 40; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 92; FSU vs. Alabama – 212; Election Day 2017 – 277; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 315.


SCOTT, STATE CABINET OK RYAN MATTHEWS AS INTERIM DEP SECRETARY via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet on Wednesday formally approved Ryan Matthews as interim Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Matthews will serve until Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam decide on a permanent replacement for outgoing Secretary Jon Steverson … Matthews, named deputy secretary last year, had been in charge of the department’s air, water, and waste pollution programs and for overseeing the agency’s regulatory districts.

MICHELLE DENNARD IN LINE FOR CAREERSOURCE FLORIDA PRESIDENCY via Florida Politics – Current CareerSource Florida Vice President of Policy Dennard was the top-scoring candidate for CareerSource’s president and chief executive officer job following interviews of three finalists conducted Jan. 20 by the agency board’s search committee. She scored highest on all three interview scorecards forwarded to Gov. Scott … The CareerSource Florida board will officially select its new president at a Feb. 8 meeting.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Sachs Media Group, Florida’s dominant public affairs communications firm. Sachs Media thrives on high-stakes challenges in the relentless pursuit of excellent outcomes. To help you win in the corridors of power, let us score for you in the court of public opinion. Visit to learn more.***

JOE NEGRON: LAKE OKEECHOBEE LAND-BUY BILL WON’T PUT SUGAR MILL OUT OF BUSINESS via Isadora Rangel and Tyler Treadway of – Negron … believes his proposal to build a reservoir on about 60,000 acres south of the lake wouldn’t put a Belle Glade sugar mill out of business, as opponents have claimed. He’s not looking to buy land that’s heavily farmed, and “we can work with landowners” to minimize potential impacts to jobs and production … “I think there’s a way we can structure this in a way that will have minimum impact on production and not to the extent you would be shutting down a factory or any kind of production” … Negron tried to allay concerns from residents of Pahokee, Belle Glade, Clewiston and other rural communities that rely heavily on the sugar industry, the largest owner of acreage south of the lake. Those communities have organized groups to condemn a bill filed last week as a jobs killer.

AS FIRST PREVIEWED IN SUNBURN – JEFF BRANDES FILES COMPETING MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Brandes‘ proposal (SB 614) completely upends the small medical cannabis program already functioning in the state in favor of more competition. His bill would allow businesses to be licensed as growers, distributors or processers who make pills and oils that can be sold to patients. It would do away with existing caps in state law that allow just seven companies to be in the marijuana business and require them all to grow, process and sell their own products. A competing proposal (SB 406) filed by Sen. Rob Bradley largely keeps that system intact but allows additional licenses to be granted when the number of patients grows.

GREG STEUBE STARTS FILING INDIVIDUAL BILLS TO BREAK UP HIS MAJOR GUNS PROPOSAL via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Steube is following through on plans he announced last week to break up a controversial and sweeping gun measure he had initially proposed (SB 140) into as many as 10 individual bills. Six such bills had surfaced by 4 p.m. … SB 618 lifts the ban on concealed weapons in airport passenger terminals, mirroring a measure already filed in the Florida House. Other individual measures would allow concealed weapons also at legislative meetings (SB 620) and other government meetings (SB 626), in career centers (SB 640), on public college and university campuses (SB 622) and in courthouses so they can be temporarily surrendered at security (SB 616).

RICHARD CORCORAN OUTLINES PATH FOR TRIUMPH GULF COAST BILL via Rick Outzen of Rick’s Blog – Corcoran outlined the path for funding projects with the $300 million settlement from BP oil spill earmarked for Northwest Florida. “I think we figured that part out … I think the question is doing it in a manner that comports with the (Florida) constitution and protecting the rights and the interests of the people in the Panhandle.” He said that House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast has an upcoming workshop on the Proposed Committee Bill (PCB) … “I think that that PCB, and talking with them, will make sure that the money goes to the Panhandle, first and foremost, permanently and indefinitely,” said Corcoran.

HOUSE MEMBER PROJECTS CURRENTLY TOP $200 MILLION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Members of the Florida House have filed 103 appropriations projects bills … and the total currently exceeds $200 million. According to House Rule 5.14, in order for a project to be included in the House budget, it must be filed as a standalone bill, favorably considered in committee, and made with non-recurring appropriations. So far, 9 bills request appropriations that were vetoed in previous budgets, including HB 2073 requesting $3.4 million for the Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative. The largest appropriation project filed to date is the $15 million requested in HB 2109 by Rep. Joe Gruters for The Legacy Trail Extension.

TAMPA BAY LEGISLATIVE DELEGATION ATTEMPTS TO FIND ANSWERS FOR REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION FIX via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Tampa Bay’s Legislative Delegation … representing the area’s eight counties, spent two hours in Clearwater discussing how to begin addressing the region’s myriad transportation issues. According to a new white paper prepared by the D.C.-based Enos Center for Transportation for the Tampa Bay Partnership, a regional structure for transportation planning, operations and decision-making is paramount to the development of a regional transport network. That conclusion might make an interested observer ask — isn’t that what TBARTA was supposed to be? “They are operating on a shoestring budget, cobbled together on donations from local governments,” said Shawn Harrison, who served on the TBARTA board after its creation. “If we can take that vision and expand, I really do think we do have at our disposal a vehicle that can plan and put assets on the road.”


WHAT STEPHANIE SMITH IS READING – FLA. COURT SAYS UBER DRIVERS ARE INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS, NOT EMPLOYEES via Florida Politics – A Florida appellate court has ruled that a former Uber driver isn’t entitled to unemployment benefits because he was an independent contractor, not an employee. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami ruled Wednesday for the Department of Economic Opportunity, the state’s jobs agency, against Darrin E. McGillis. The ruling is another win for the San Francisco-based ridebooking service, which is fighting a multi-state legal battle not to be considered an employer so it doesn’t have to pay certain benefits under state labor laws.

HAPPENING TODAY – CAMPAIGN TO DEFEND LOCAL SOLUTIONS, OTHERS TO HOST PANEL DISCUSSION ON GUN VIOLENCE — The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions, started by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, will host a filming of the documentary of Newtown and a panel discussion on gun violence at Florida A&M University Rattler’s Den, 1628 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Tallahassee. The documentary chronicles the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Gillum is expected to give opening remarks, followed by the documentary and a panel discussion featuring FAMU Police Chief Terence Calloway, FAMU SGA Vice President Paris Ellis, FAMU SGA Senate President Brandon Johnson, and Jordan Sealey with the FAMU Campus Activities Board. The event begins at 6 p.m., and doors open at 5:30 p.m. The panel discussion is expected to begin around 7:45 p.m. Media is asked to RSVP to

PRIVATE INSURER CLEARED TO ASSUME 15,000 CITIZENS INSURANCE POLICIES via Florida Politics – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has cleared Southern Oak Insurance Co. to take over as many as 15,000 home policies from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Southern Oak is eligible to assume the policies effective April 18 under the “takeout” process — a way for Citizens to shift policies to private insurers. The process is sometimes referred to as “depopulation,” and Citizens’ goal is to let private companies assume as many policies as they can responsibly handle. But the depopulation rate has been slowing. During the first two months of 2016, the Office of Insurance Regulation approved depopulation of 200,000 polices, according to Citizens.

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

PERSONNEL NOTE: ACLU-FL STAFFS UP FOR TRUMP ERA via Florida Politics – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida announced a bevy of new staff “in preparation for the upcoming fights in the Florida legislature, in the courts, and in cities and counties across the state of Florida,” according to a Wednesday news release. Deputy Director Melba Pearson was an Assistant State Attorney in Miami-Dade County for 16 years … Political Director Kirk Bailey will lead direct lobbying, organizing and campaign initiatives … Staff Attorney Jackie Azis will focus on criminal justice issues … Legislative Counsel Kara Gross, based in Tallahassee, was … Senior Assistant General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) … Raymer Maguire IV will coordinating criminal justice reform efforts.


George Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: American Traffic Solutions; The Gasparilla Inn & Club

Joanna Lee Clary Bonfanti, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart PA: Lakeland Electric

Ron Book, Ronald L. Book PA: Renovate America, Inc.; Woolpert, Inc.

Rana Brown, Ronald L. Book PA: Renovate America, Inc.

Chip Case, Jefferson Monroe Consulting: City of Anna Maria

Angela DempseyFred DickinsonErik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Yum! Brands, Inc.

David Griffin, GrayRobinson: Florida Distillers Guild

Christopher Hagan, Akerman LLP: Association of Public Safety Communications Officials

Mike Haridopolos, Mike Haridopolos: Pharmacists Who Care

Lauren Claire Hendeson, Cynergy Consulting LLC: Ascend Learning c/o MultiState Associates Inc.

Lila Jaber, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Broward College Foundation

Jon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton: Florida Voices for Choices

Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husban & Daughton PA: American Chemistry Council

James McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Walton County Sheriffs Office

Edward Pozzuoli, Tripp Scott PA: Charter Schools USA; Life Insurance Settlement Association, Inc.

Alex Setzer, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials

***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***

WHAT JEFF BRANDES IS READING: SELF-DRIVING CAR PROTOTYPES NEED LESS HUMAN HELP, DATA SHOW via Justin Prichard of The Associated Press – Self-driving car prototypes appear to be getting better at negotiating California streets and highways without a human backup driver intervening, according to data by California transportation regulators … The data reflect safety-related incidents reported by 11 companies that have been testing more than 100 vehicles on public roads … Waymo, as Google’s self-driving car project was recently rebranded, did far more testing than the other 10 companies combined … reported that its fleet drove itself more than 635,000 miles with 124 safety-related “disengagements,” which must be reported when the technology fails or the backup driver takes control out of concern the car is malfunctioning. Cruise Automation, a startup acquired last year by General Motors, reported driving the second most test miles. Cruise said its prototypes had 181 disengagements over 9,776 miles (185 per 10,000 miles) and that it was “pleased with our progress” during testing on the complex streets of San Francisco.

MARDI GRAS BEGINS SATURDAY AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Mardi Gras celebration continues for 50 consecutive days. The annual event includes a nightly parade featuring Mardi Gras floats, New Orleans-inspired music, colorful dancers and stilt performers. In a new twist this year, Universal Orlando’s annual passholders can sign up to throw more than a million beads from the parade floats. Float riders are chosen at random and the spots are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is the first year the parade will roll through the park every night. The parades only ran on concert nights during previous Mardi Gras celebrations. Also debuting this year, guests that arrive after 6 p.m. can park for free.

SUPER BOWL SPENDING TO REACH $14.1B IN 2017 — The average cost of a Super Bowl party is down slightly in 2017, but the Florida Retail Federation doesn’t think that will stop Floridians from going all out this weekend. Florida families are expected to spend an average of $75 per person to watch Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots on Feb. 5. While the average per person cost is down slightly from last year, total spending across the country is expected to reach $14.1 billion. “Floridians love their football more than just about any other state, and with the Super Bowl being the final game of the year, we expect fans to celebrate the end to great seasons in both professional and college football,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of Florida Retail Federation, in a statement. “The Super Bowl is truly a must-see event for Floridians whether they follow the sport closely or not, and we expect local consumers to load up on food, drinks and decorations for their game watching parties.” In 2015, people spent an average of $82 per person on a Super Bowl party and total spending reached about $15.5 billion.

HAPPIEST OF BIRTHDAY WISHES to one of the best, Katie Webb.

Saying voter intent ‘ignored’ on medical marijuana, Tampa Bay Times is just plain wrong

The Tampa Bay Times is just plain wrong about something, and it has stuck in my craw for nearly a week now.

Last Thursday, a Times headline read: “Voter intent on medical marijuana ignored.” Two days later, columnist John Romano followed suit with virtually the same narrative.


The clear inference of the editorial – notably, the word “ignored” – utterly fails to acknowledge reality.

“Ignored” clearly and purposefully claims the will of those who voted for the constitutional amendment has been intentionally disregarded or not considered. Whether you agree or disagree with the direction things are headed, clear evidence suggests Amendment 2 is NOT being ignored.

If the amendment were indeed being ignored, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) would have done nothing. Nada.

Instead, the DOH – absent legislative guidance and before rule hearings or public testimony – took a fairly dramatic stance expanding access to medical cannabis. The Department publicly stated physicians can now order medical marijuana for those patient conditions identified in the amendment.

That’s not ignoring. That’s the Department of Health taking a pretty bold step forward. (Applause?)

Typically, state agencies have limited authority to make such a determination. But in this case, the DOH action – taken within days of Amendment 2’s enactment – allows for the expansion of conditions precisely as directed under the newly passed amendment.

One could make the argument that this is the exact opposite of “ignored.”

Further, DOH did not (and does not) have authority to simply wipe away statutes put in place explicitly to handle an array of issues that deal with a substance that is (may I remind everyone) STILL illegal at the federal level.

The agency could not have, for example, issued an edict allowing anyone to grow marijuana or to sell it as that person saw fit. And they cannot just wipe away licensure requirements or legislatively mandated training requirements for physicians that are currently still on the books. Instead, they let the current statutory framework for growing, distributing and selling to stand – concepts that are clearly articulated under the law as it stands now – taking the bold step of allowing physicians to immediately begin ordering medical cannabis for a new group of patients.

Seriously, what more do the good folks at TBT want?

Second, and equally bizarre: they roundly criticize lawmakers.

This accusation – plainly false – simply makes no sense.

Lawmakers are, right now, in the business of meeting, taking public testimony and considering various viewpoints. They drafted bills, weighing different options and are moving forward with great speed, even though the start of the legislative session is still weeks away.

There have been three public hearings and, as of this writing, two separate Senate bills are being floated, and we can expect one from the House any moment now.

Again, what more do they want?  Session hasn’t even started.

Let us keep in mind that 70 percent of voters did NOT vote for recreational marijuana usage. Voters said “yes” to the PHYSICIAN-directed use of MEDICAL marijuana for patients with extreme conditions. The proponents repeatedly and steadfastly maintained that we would not have widespread use of marijuana but that it would ONLY be available for the severely ill.

One must presume that the critically ill are under the treatment and care of a licensed and, hopefully, fully trained physician.

The paper’s position that the Board of Medicine should have no role in the administration of medicine is not only misguided, but entirely inconsistent with the promise made by those who supported this amendment.

As a father and a citizen of this state, I am genuinely terrified that Florida could become the next California – or worse. We have seen what happens when imperfect, but well-intended, laws are exploited.

Once that genie is out of the bottle, it’s almost impossible to put it back in.

I don’t want to live in a state where anybody with a smartphone can feign virtually any illness and have pot delivered to their front door. I am fairly confident that most who voted in support of Amendment 2 will agree.

Of course, we will never know exactly what anyone who voted for (or against) it was thinking.

But here is what we do know.

You may not like the way things are headed. You may prefer Sen. Brandes’ approach over the one from Sen. Bradley. You may think DOH moved too quickly or was too narrow in their interpretation. Fine. Fair enough.

But saying the Department of Health has “ignored” Amendment 2, or imply that lawmakers have done likewise, is simply – and demonstrably – wrong.

Personnel note: Kate Wallace to Florida Cable Telecommunications Ass’n

Kate Wallace is the new director of public affairs for The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association (FCTA), based in Tallahassee.

“Our industry’s technologies are transforming from cable telecommunications providers to deliverers of streaming television, communications, connected home management and integrated security solutions,” said Brad Swanson, president of FCTA. “Wallace is joining the association at a time of rapid innovation and transformation in the internet and television industries.

“As we continue to share success stories of our industry’s innovations in Florida and beyond, I’m excited to have Kate on board to further these efforts,” he added.

The association represents the franchised internet, communications, television and home security companies of Florida.

“On behalf of the FCTA, I am pleased to welcome Kate to our team,” said Derek Cooper, chairman of the board of FCTA and vice president, government and regulatory affairs for Comcast. “Kate is a dynamic communications pro who will add tremendous value to our organization and its members.”

Wallace comes to the FCTA from the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), where she served on the communications staff as community engagement director and contributed stories to the foundation’s national blog. Before that, she served as advocacy director for nine southeastern states at the foundation.

After graduating with a degree in public relations from the University of Florida, Wallace held a variety of key roles in the government and public affairs arenas.

In Washington, D.C., she served with Wal-mart’s federal government relations office, Arizona-based Triadvocates, in Congress and the White House.

Upon returning to Florida, she joined The Fiorentino Group, serving on staff in both its Jacksonville and Tallahassee offices, before moving to ExcelinEd.

Sunburn for 02.01.17 – Donald Trump rolls out SCOTUS pick; Rick Scott rolls out a budget

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

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


If confirmed by the Senate to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch would fill the seat of the man he seeks to emulate as a judge.

He would be the first justice to serve alongside a colleague for whom he worked. Gorsuch described his former boss, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Tuesday as one of the judges who brought him up in the law.

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died nearly a year ago. Trump said he was delivering on his pledge to choose someone in Scalia’s mold.

Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Denver for the past 11 years, said he adheres to Scalia’s approach to the law, evaluating the Constitution and laws by how they were understood when they written. He also shares with Scalia a flair for writing.

But unlike the sometimes irascible Scalia, Gorsuch approaches his work with a courtly manner more reminiscent of Kennedy.

Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the bipartisan National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, has known Gorsuch since they worked as clerks on the federal appeals court in Washington, though for different judges.

“His opinions stand out for his prose and analysis and he gets along really well with both sides,” Rosen said.

While abortion rights groups immediately criticized the nomination, Rosen said Gorsuch’s record on the issue is sparse.

In a book Gorsuch wrote laying out the case against assisted suicide and euthanasia, Rosen said, Gorsuch was careful to avoid making a religious case for his views, focusing instead on philosophy.

“He has been careful not to say what he thinks about abortion or marriage equality,” Rosen said.

In any event, with Kennedy remaining on the court, there are five votes to preserve abortion rights and gay rights, no matter Gorsuch’s views. Should Kennedy, 80, or liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, or Stephen Breyer, 78, leave the court in the next four years, Trump then would have a chance to appoint a justice whose vote could perhaps flip the court on abortion, gay rights and a range of hot-button issues.

It’s unclear how quickly majority Republicans might be able to move Gorsuch’s nomination through the Senate or whether Democrats will try to block him. Gorsuch could join the court in time for the last arguments of the term in the spring.

TWEET, TWEET: @AlexConant: Very impressed w/ @PressSec strategy tonight. Great reveal event, followed by making East Room a spin room for ecstatic senators on live TV

BILL NELSON REACTION: “I will base my decision on a full examination of Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators’ questions.”

MARCO RUBIO REACTION: “Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream jurist, which is why he was unanimously confirmed to the circuit court by the Senate in 2006. By all accounts he has the right temperament and experience for the job, and I’m pleased to see him nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written.”

TWEET, TWEET: @GBennettPost: .@FLGovScott offers bilingual praise for @realDonaldTrump pick of @JusticeGorsuch


Thumbs up from Gus Bilirakis: “Judge Neil Gorsuch is a steadfast conservative who has dedicated much of his life to upholding the Constitution. I applaud President Trump’s decision to nominate him to the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the seat of the great constitutional scholar, Antonin Scalia. Judge Gorsuch will serve the court and the American people well. I hope my colleagues in the U.S. Senate confirm him quickly so the court can carry on its work with a full bench.”

Thumbs down from Lois Frankel: “The Republicans hijacked President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court and now, sadly, President Trump is bowing to his more extreme supporters. Based on his judicial record, Neil Gorsuch will tip a narrowly divided court in a dangerous direction. This nomination puts serious issues at stake, like a woman’s constitutional right to make her own personal health care choices, getting money out of our politics, and ending political gerrymandering. We need a Supreme Court Justice whose record reflects mainstream values and respect for the fundamental rights of all Americans.”

Thumbs up from Pam Bondi: “I’m thrilled with Gorsuch — will base decisions on law and Constitution-not own policy preferences or personal feelings.”

Thumbs up from Richard Corcoran: “@realDonaldTrump – true to his word – nominated a judge worthy of the Scalia legacy & committed to the separation of powers. #HomeRun”

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Several Florida leaders and elected officials will hold a press call at 10 a.m. to call on Sens. Nelson and Rubio to reject President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Rep. Daisy BaezTony Lima, the executive director of SAVE; and Damien Flier, the spokesman for Why Courts Matter Coalition are expected to be on the call. To RSVP and receive dial-in information, email

DCCC PUTS 2018 TARGETS ON FOUR FLORIDA REPUBLICAN CONGRESS MEMBERS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Brian MastMario Diaz-BalartCarlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The DCCC listed those four among 59 targeted nationally in a midterm memo circulated to various Democratic allies. The DCCC’s rival, the National Republican Congressional Committee, scoffed.

POLL SHOWS CHARLIE CRIST WOULD BEAT DAVID JOLLY IF A REMATCH IS IN THE CARDS via Florida Politics– In a new StPetePolls survey of CD 13 voters, Crist would edge out Jolly by about eight points if such a rematch were held today. Crist would get nearly 49 percent, compared to Jolly, who gets just under 41 percent. Nearly 11 percent of respondents were undecided … Crist received the support of almost 72 percent of Democrats, along with nearly 24 percent of Republicans. Those numbers are significantly better than his Republican predecessor; Jolly wins only 69 percent support from voters of his own party, while getting 18 percent of Democrats.

SHOT: @SLRoss528: Spotted on Adams Street @SaintPetersblog and Gwen Graham. Hmmm.

CHASER: @SaintPetersBlog: Just helping @GwenGrahamFL celebrate her birthday. Nothing to see here.

***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***

RICK ROLLS (GET THAT?) OUT HIS BUDGET – Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday released a nearly $83.5 billion proposed budget for 2016-17 that is more than 1 percent larger than this year’s budget. Here’s a few key items you should know about:

– Education: Scott wants to increase spending on public schools by $815 million, which translates into a 4 percent increase for each student. Scott is also proposing the elimination of the contentious “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program. Instead, Scott wants to spend $58 million on several recruitment and retention programs, including one that gives scholarships to teachers who teach in rural districts.

– Property taxes: The governor’s increased money for public schools relies on a rise in property values that is expected to generate nearly $558 million in additional local property taxes. Schools in Florida are paid through a combination of state and local money. House leaders say they will oppose Scott’s proposal.

 – Pay raises: Scott is not recommending any across-the-board pay raises for state workers, but he is recommending performance bonuses that could be worth up to $1,500 for each employee. He is also recommending a five percent pay raise for the state’s highway patrol troopers, wildlife officers and state law enforcement agents. Scott also is recommending pay raises and bonuses to correctional officers and probation officers.

– Prisons: The budget proposal calls for a nearly $127 million increase for the Department of Corrections. The money would be used for pay raises, the hiring of additional of correctional officers, as well as money to create a special mental health unit at a prison in Wakulla County.

– Tuition: The governor wants to keep college and university tuition at its current levels.

SCOTT’S $83.5 BILLION STATE BUDGET GOES HEAVY ON TAX HOLIDAYS via Florida Politics  Scott’s budget would include cuts to business taxes and rents; a one-year sales tax exemption for college textbooks; and a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday. Back-to-school fairs would enjoy a tax exemption. There would be a nine-day disaster-preparedness tax holiday; a three-day veterans’ sales tax holiday; and a one-day camping and fishing sales tax holiday.

SCOTT SPENDING PLAN SETS DEO BUDGET AT NEARLY $1.3B via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools– Scott is recommending a $163 million increase in funding for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in his proposed 2017-18 budget … the boost will bring the DEO budget to nearly $1.27 billion. Scott’s ask includes $85 million in economic incentives – a contentious issue with some lawmakers. Scott’s budget will also give DEO $300 million from settlement money for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BUDGET PROPOSES MORE SCIENTISTS, RESEARCH TO FIGHT ZIKA VIRUS via the Miami Herald – Scott is recommending the state spend $2.9 billion to support the health department in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1 — an increase of $54.6 million over the current year. And though Scott has recommended that the number of employees at the health department remain at the current level of 14,065, he is calling for new funding for the agency to hire 21 epidemiologists and to invest more in infectious disease research to help fight Zika and other public health threats. … Scott’s budget proposal recommends the agency spend $1.9 million for epidemiology, disease surveillance and outbreak control measures. His budget, too, recommends spending an additional $2.2 million to establish a recurring source of funds to make Florida more competitive for peer-reviewed federal grants through the National Institutes of Health.

SCOTT BUDGET PROPOSING CUTTING $156 MILLION FROM TRI-RAIL OVER CONTRACT via Florida Politics – Scott is proposing cutting $156 million in state funding for Tri-Rail development unless the South Florida Regional Transit Authority reverses its decision to award a controversial half-billion contract to a lone qualified bidder … The proposed 2017 state budget now includes an item calling for “no funding” until the authority withdraws, cancels or otherwise terminates the authority’s Notice of Intent for awarding its operating contract to Herzog Transit Services. On the line is $156 million the state had programmed for Tri-Rail’s capital outlay from the Florida Transportation Trust Fund.

RICHARD CORCORAN: ‘NO INCENTIVES’ IN HOUSE BUDGET via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Corcoran hasn’t backed down from his stance that incentives, favored by Gov. Scott, are little more than “corporate welfare” that he won’t allow in the state’s yearly blueprint for spending … there is “no chance” VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private tourism organization, will be funded at previous levels. It got $76 million for the current budget year, and is asking for the same amount for 2017-18.

TWEET, TWEET@Fineout: .@MyFLHouse has canceled most of its meetings planned for next Tues save 1 – presentation of @FLGovScott budget Ready to rumble?

KUDOS to the POLITICO Florida team for its coverage yesterday of Scott’s budget. Its team of reporters sliced and diced Scott’s proposed budget into a a dozen pieces and served up about that many stories about the Governor’s very political document. As Matt Dixon likes to say, “Go Pro.”

HOW SCOTT’S BUDGET ROLL OUT PLAYED – Miami Herald, Teachers get a top focus in Florida governor’s budget – “Scott wants the state to spend $58 million in the next budget year on a handful of initiatives — and those don’t include a controversial teacher bonus plan that lawmakers, with Scott’s support, have advanced in recent years.” Tampa Bay Times, Scott’s vanilla budget – “With two years left in his second term and an expected U.S. Senate campaign looming, the governor is becoming more irrelevant in Tallahassee as strong-willed legislative leaders pursue their competing priorities.” Miami Herald, Scott puts provision in proposed budget to block trade with Cuba – “Port directors put plans to sign any MOU with Cuba on hold … that didn’t prevent Scott from putting wording in his new budget that says no money can be ‘allocated to infrastructure projects that result in the expansion of trade with the Cuban dictatorship because of their continued human rights abuses.’” Tampa Bay Times, Scott proposes $83.5 billion state budget – “The  tax cut plans and his quest revive the state’s program to give tax breaks to private businesses has already been coolly received by state lawmakers who say tough budget conditions will make both ideas difficult to agree to.” Orlando Sentinel, Scott pushes tax cuts, jobs programs in budget proposal – “… a spending recipe with familiar ingredients: big tax cuts for businesses, millions for jobs programs, more money for schools and spending cuts for hospitals and health-care programs.” NBC Miami, Scott Proposes Nearly $83.5 Billion Budget – “Sending out a direct shot to some of his critics in the GOP-controlled Legislature, [Scott] framed his budget as way to maintain Florida’s economy and to grow jobs.” WPTV, Scott outlines $83 billion budget, wants to cut taxes & boost schools this year– “He may have trouble convincing legislative leaders to go along with his plan.” Naples Daily News, Scott doubles beach spending to $50 million in proposed budget – “General revenue would supply $40 million, with $10 million coming from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund … ‘We’re going in the right direction,’ said state Sen. Jack Latvala.”


“The Governor is wrong in expecting Florida taxpayers to give away their tax dollars to businesses that want to come and compete against them in the market. We believe that his broad based tax cuts should be matched with common sense spending cuts, and that the legislature should work to give as much money back to the Florida families and entrepreneurs that are the real keys to economic development.” — Chris Hudson, state director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida

“AIF applauds Governor Scott’s proposed budget that fights for the future of employers and employees in our Sunshine State. His proposed spending plan, which includes $618 million in tax cuts and $85 million for economic incentives to businesses, will go a long way in continuing to help our state achieve the prosperity and growth our Florida families deserve.” – Tom Feeney, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida

“Providing women the opportunity to detect cancer early when it is most survivable is something that everyone deserves, no matter who they are or where they live. The state has supported this program in the past and it’s critically important that House and Senate leadership step up to ensure more women have access to it, not less. This program has been a lifesaver for hundreds of women in Florida because it provides access to evidenced-based screenings, which are the most important tools for detecting breast and cervical cancer early and improving survival rates.” — Heather Youmans, senior government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

“Thanks to the strategic investments Governor Scott has made in Florida’s airport system, we continue to be prepared to handle record volumes in traffic and operations while at the same time making critical improvements to keep our workers and passengers safe.” — Lisa Lyle Waters, president and CEO of the Florida Airports Council

“Florida Health Care Association is grateful  to Governor Scott for his continued support of quality care and services for Florida’s frailest elders. We appreciate him fully funding Medicaid for nursing center services and for initiating the dialogue on the creation of a Prospective Payment System. In addition, his ‘Fighting for Florida’s Future’ Budget will help to further streamline the background screening process, allowing qualified employees applying at our centers to enter the long term care workforce faster so they can more quickly begin caring for nursing center residents.” — Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida Health Care Association

“The conservative estimate that Florida could be paying nearly $45 million a year in claims for ineligible dependents receiving benefits is astonishing. Florida Tax Watch commends Governor Scott’s commitment to reducing the burden on Florida taxpayers and for seeking innovative solutions to increase efficiencies throughout state government.” — Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch

“There has never been a more important time to focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in our state’s schools. Throughout the world, there is a growing demand for employees who can seamlessly fill positions in STEM fields, and Governor Scott’s investments will help ensure Florida students are prepared to compete in this global economy.” — Andy Tuck, vice chair of the State Board of Education

“On behalf of vulnerable girls in our state, we appreciate Governor Scott’s investment in prevention services in Florida. Under his leadership, more girls and young woman have access to education, counseling, and trauma informed services so that they can reach their full potential and successfully transition to adulthood.” — Mary Marx, president and CEO of the Pace Center for Girls

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight his proposed fee cuts during a press conference at 10 a.m. at BCIndustries, Inc., 5008 Tampa West Blvd. in Tampa.

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ADAM PUTNAM AGREES: BUSINESS EXPERIENCE ESSENTIAL FOR GOVERNOR’S JOB via Florida Politics – “I think someone having business experience that they bring to public life is very helpful,” said Putnam… after a speech at The Associated Press annual Legislative Session planning session at the Capitol. “As a guy who is part of a small business, I get it,” he said. “You have a better feel for what regulations mean, what the paperwork translates to, and things that often sound like a good idea in Tallahassee, by the time they get to Main Street businesses, they’re a hot mess. It’s helpful to know what it means to create jobs in this state.”

MAYBE WE SHOULD SPEND SOME MORE MONEY ON DCF – CHILD WELFARE WORKERS IN FACEBOOK LIVE HANGING THREATENED WITH CONTEMPT via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia had scheduled a hearing to examine the suicide last week of Naika Venant, a troubled teenager who had been in and out of foster care since 2009. Sampedro-Iglesia opened her hearing by noting that child welfare administrators entrusted with Naika’s well-being had failed to show up. Naika was assigned to the foster home by the Center for Family and Child Enrichment, a case-management agency under subcontract with the Department of Children & Families … Sampedro-Iglesia said she was issuing an “order to show cause,” which requires child welfare workers to appear before her and explain why they should not be held in contempt. The order was not immediately signed.

PRESS ORGANIZATIONS FILE BRIEF IN WORKERS’ COMPENSATION RATE HIKE APPEAL via Florida Politics – The Associated Press, Florida Press Association, and Florida First Amendment Foundation have entered the legal battle over whether the state’s Sunshine Law covered the organization behind the state’s workers’ compensation premium increase. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the three accused the National Council on Compensation Insurance, or NCCI, of employing “an evasive device” to get around its legal obligation to calculate premiums in the sunshine. They pointed to a section of the insurance code requiring organizations like NCCI, which proposed rates to the Office of Insurance Regulation, to open deliberations and documents to the public.

LAND PURCHASE SOUTH OF LAKE O REMAINS TOP PRIORITY FOR JOE NEGRON via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Securing funding to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee remains a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron. But Negron could face a tough road ahead. Gov. Scott did not include money for a proposed Everglades reservoir in his 2017-18 budget, and House Speaker Corcoran has dismissed the idea of bonding to pay for Negron’s project. The Stuart Republican appears unfazed, saying it is his obligation to convince people the project is appropriate. “I’m going to use the time I’m here to say enough is enough. We’ve been talking about southern storage for 20 years,” he said during the annual legislative planning session hosted by the Associated Press in Tallahassee on Tuesday. “It’s not a new idea. It’s not a radical idea. The time for talking is over. The time for action is now.”

JANET CRUZ READY TO SUPPORT CORCORAN ON ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Cruz … pledged that Democrats would continue to fight for increasing funding for public education, particularly for teachers, health care coverage for low-income Floridians and support for public hospitals. Afterward, pressed for where that money might come from, she offered to do away with corporate development incentives provided by Enterprise Florida, incentives that were vigorously defended by Gov. Scott, but targeted by Speaker Corcoran for major reform, at the same conference. “I understand the importance of attracting business, but in a good economy, do we really need to spend that money to attract businesses? Won’t they come to Florida?” Cruz challenged. “I think in a good economy these corporations find their way to Tampa without incentives.”

CRUZ SAYS DEMOCRATS HAVEN’T DONE ENOUGH TO CONVINCE VOTERS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – “I don’t think as Democrats we’ve done a good enough job at articulating how our core values have a direct impact on ensuring Florida families can continue to climb the economic ladder of success,” Cruz told reporters … More funding for public education, better access to health care and a focus on clean water will help the state’s economy grow, Cruz said, and help avoid budget shortfalls such as the projected one this year. “Our state doesn’t have a revenue problem or a spending problem,” she said. “What we have is a problem in priorities.”

FIRST IN SUNBURN – JEFF BRANDES TO FILE MEDICAL MARIJUANA LEGISLATION — Sen. Brandes is expected to filed legislation today that would repeal current state law dealing with low-THC cannabis, and replace it with a proposal designed to encourage competition in the medical marijuana industry while safeguarding patients and making sure medical marijuana is available as provided in the Florida Constitution. Under the proposal, vertical integration, which is currently outlined in state law, is not required. Instead, medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs) can obtain any combination of four function licenses — cultivation, which allow for the growth and harvesting of marijuana; processing, which allows for the conversion of marijuana into medical marijuana products; transportation, which allows for the delivery between licensed MMTCs and direct delivery to qualified patients; and retail. Retail facilities would be restricted by population, and under Brandes’ proposal, local governments would retain the authority to regulate zoning and other safety standards.

TRAVIS HUTSON TELECOM BILL WOULD PRE-EMPT RIGHT OF WAY REGULATION via Florida Politics – Hutson, chairman of the Senate Regulated Industries committee, filed the “Advanced Wireless Infrastructure Deployment Act” (SB 596) … The bill, among other things, would prohibit the Department of Transportation and certain local governments from prohibiting, regulating or charging for placing small wireless facilities in rights of way. Under Hutson’s bill, local governments can’t require applicants to perform services unrelated to the approval that’s being sought, like reserving fiber or pole space for the governmental agency. It also can’t ask the applicant to “provide more information to obtain a permit than is required of electric service providers and other communications service providers that are not wire les providers.” The bill also prohibits agencies from limiting “the placement of small wireless facilities by minimum separation distances or a maximum height limitation.” However, agencies can limit the height of a small wireless facility to no more than 10 feet above the tallest existing utility pole.

HAPPENING TODAY – PALM BEACH DELEGATION, SCHOOL BOARD MEET — The Palm Beach County legislative delegation is scheduled to hold a workshop with the county school board at 2 p.m. at Fulton-Holland Educational Services Center, 3300 Forest Hill Blvd. in West Palm Beach.

HAPPENING TODAY — SOUTHWEST FLORIDA LAWMAKERS TALK SESSION — The Chamber of Southwest Florida will host a panel discussion about the 2017 Legislative Session at 11:30 a.m. at The Crowne Plaza at Bell Tower Shops, 13051 Bell Tower Drive in Fort Myers. Participants are expected to include Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Kathleen Passidomo, and Reps. Matt CaldwellByron DonaldsDane EagleHeather Fitzenhagen, and Bob Rommel.

The bill will also eliminate barriers to entry participants looking to operate in the state by eliminating existing requirements, like how long cultivators has been in business or the capacity of product that can be grown. Additionally, the bill would add paraplegia, quadriplegia and terminal conditions to the current constitutional list of debilitating conditions; restrict patients and caregivers from cultivating their own marijuana; establishes criteria for caregivers and requires background screening of caregivers; establishes criteria for the transportation and delivery of marijuana and medical marijuana products to patients; grandfathers in existing dispensing organizations as MMTCs; and applies a sales tax to sales of marijuana and medical marijuana products.


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FORMER ABA HEAD WARNS OF POSSIBLE DANGER TO JUDICIARY FROM CONSTITUTIONAL PANEL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The upcoming Constitution Revision Commission will likely take on the state’s judicial branch, and “the focus will not be on strengthening it,” the former president of the American Bar Association said …  retired Florida lawyer Martha Barnett, who was a Holland & Knight senior partner, said she expects an effort to “restrict, narrow and weaken the judicial branch … And if that happens, it is to the peril of the life and liberty of the people of this state,” she said during a panel discussion at The Associated Press’ annual Legislative Session planning meeting.

SUPREME COURT: ATTORNEYS CAN COLLECT FEES FOR CLAIM BILL WORK via Florida Politics– The Legislature can’t limit the amount of attorney fees to be paid out of money it OKs for a claim bill, a narrowly divided Florida Supreme Court decided. The 4-3 opinion was one of nine in an unusual out-of-calendar release from the court. In the claim bill opinion, the majority sided with the Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart & Shipley law firm, which represented Aaron Edwards, a brain-damaged man who received a $15 million claim bill from the Legislature. The “contingency fee contract” between the firm and Edwards’ mother called for attorney fees of 25 percent … The majority said lawmakers may approve or deny a claim bill but they can’t “impair an pre-existing contract” between an attorney and a client.

WATCHDOG GROUP TRYING TO OBTAIN DELETED MESSAGES FROM FORMER HEAD OF PTC via Jeff Patterson of WFLA-TV – Kyle Cockream was … at the center of an investigation into the PTC’s relationship with the heads of companies he was charged with regulating. Cockream resigned, but his actions before he left the job are now the subject of a new investigation. The Sunshine Group made a public records request to find out about his relationship with the cab companies. In court an attorney for Hillsborough County revealed Cockream wiped his phones clean of data, including his company phone, his personal phone and the phones of six PTC employees. Records show Cockream frequently called phones belonging to lobbyists and the heads of local cab companies. “So, what we conclude from that is there are definitely hundreds of missing public records,” said attorney Andrea Flynn Mogensen, with the Sunshine Group.

FORMER STATE LAWMAKER DAN GELBER WILL RUN FOR MIAMI BEACH MAYOR via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald – Gelber filed paperwork to run for mayor. He went to City Hall with his family, including his father, former Beach mayor Seymour Gelber. The filing puts Gelber, a former federal prosecutor, into contention with Michael Grieco, a former state prosecutor. So far, the two are the only mayoral candidates in the November election, but candidates can file until early September. Gelber, 56, spent nearly a decade as a federal prosecutor and a decade in the Florida Legislature before running for Florida Attorney General in 2010. He has since founded Gelber Schachter & Greenberg, a boutique law firm based in Brickell.

SECOND ON FLA. POLITICS (BECAUSE MARC CAPUTO PISSED ON THE EMBARGO) –BALLARD PARTNERS GOING NATIONAL, OPENS D.C. OFFICE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics— Brian Ballard, the firm’s president, announced this week Ballard Partners has opened an office in the nation’s capital. The announcement comes just weeks after President Donald Trump, who Ballard supported, took the oath of office. “There is great enthusiasm with President Trump’s new administration in Washington. We are thrilled to be part of this excitement with the opening of our new Ballard Partners office in our nation’s capital,” said Ballard in a statement. “We have assembled a first class team to lead our office in Washington, and we look forward to representing our clients on a path to success at the federal level.” That top-notch team includes Susie Wiles, who ran Trump’s successful Florida campaign. She’ll split her time between Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville. … Sylvester “Syl” Lukis has been tapped to lead the D.C. office. Lukis, a senior partner in Ballard Partners, brings more than 40 years of experience in government and representing clients Florida and Washington, D.C. to the position. … Dan McFaul has also joined Ballard Partners, bringing with him 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill. McFaul served as the chief of staff for newly U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, was a staffer on Trump’s transition team, and was the chief of staff and communications director for former Rep. Jeff Miller. He also served as former Rep. Joe Scarborough’s legislative director and deputy press secretary.


Stacy Arias, Southern Strategy Group: RELX, Inc.

Brad Ashwell, Brad Ashwell: Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Ygrene Energy Fund Florida

Ron Pierce, Edward BriggsNatalie King, RSA Consulting: Environmental Professionals of Florida

Angela Dempsey, PooleMcKinley: Magic Leap

Carole Duncanson, CLD & Associates: Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida

Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Modern Health Concepts; Renovate America, Inc.

Jon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton: Marquis Software Development

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida; March of Dimes

Michael Kesti, Government Relations Group: Sea Vee Boats

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Argentum

Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners

Eli NortelusDavid Roberts, Akerman: AltaSci, LLC.

Jerald Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Associated Industries of Florida

Louis Rotundo, Louis Rotundo: CBSync, LLC.

Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: George Hackney, Inc., d/b/a Trulieve

Nancy Black Stewart, Nancy Black Stewart PA: City of Westlake

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to OB, Senator Oscar Braynon and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner.

Barclay Harless starts off strong in St. Pete City Council bid

Barclay Harless is enjoying a strong start to his bid for St. Petersburg City Council.

In the first week since announcing, the local banker and community leader has received more than 100 individual contributors to his campaign for District 2, which represents most of northern St. Pete and the Gandy area.

“We are running a grassroots campaign powered by small businesses, St. Pete residents, and community members who want a fresh perspective to get things done in city hall,” Harless said in a statement Tuesday. “The challenges that face our city may seem daunting, but they are man-made, so we have the power to solve them.”

“We will not find solutions in finger-pointing or empty political rhetoric. Rather, our problems require bold, decisive action to get things done.”

Thanking his early supporters, Harless listed his top priorities, which include a renewed focus on the Pier, Tropicana Field, wastewater, small business growth and engagement with the people of St. Pete, to give them a larger voice in City Hall.

A fifth-generation Floridian, Harless has played significant roles in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. After graduating from the University of South Florida in 2010, he went to work for then-state Rep. Darryl Rouson. Harless also served on the board of R’Club Childcare, Inc., as well as the Louise Graham Center for Regeneration for three and half years. He served as state policy chair in the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as on grant boards for the Suncoast United Way. In 2015, Harless was appointed to the Pinellas Charter Review Commission where he sponsored a county amendment stipulating citizen-sponsored redistricting for the county commission.

Harless will face Brandi Gabbard, a former president of the Pinellas Realtor Organization, who filed Monday for the District 2 seat.

Poll shows Charlie Crist would beat David Jolly if a rematch is in the cards

Even though there are more than 20 months before Election Day 2018, a week does not go by without a mention — or several — in the media about a possible rematch between Charlie Crist and David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

In a new StPetePolls survey of CD 13 voters, Crist would edge out Jolly by about eight points if such a rematch were held today. Crist would get nearly 49 percent, compared to Jolly, who gets just under 41 percent. Nearly 11 percent of respondents were undecided.

As the incumbent, Crist received the support of almost 72 percent of Democrats, along with nearly 24 percent of Republicans. Those numbers are significantly better than his Republican predecessor; Jolly wins only 69 percent support from voters of his own party, while getting 18 percent of Democrats. Chris also has better numbers with independents (49 percent to 34 percent for Jolly).

Crist also does slightly better among white voters (46 percent to 45 percent for Jolly) and considerably better with black voters (66 percent to 20 percent for Jolly). The former Republican governor also fares well in every age bracket – except with voters over the age of 70, who prefer Jolly 48 percent to Crist’s 42 percent.

The poll was conducted Jan. 30 for using an automated phone call system with a sample size of 1,289. Results were weighted to account for proportional differences in demographics and that of the active voter population of CD13 as of Dec. 6, 2016. Demographics included political party, race, age and gender. The results have a 2.7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

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