Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
In the brutal economy of journalism, that’s no small feat. Sunshine State News has been around longer than Florida Politics or POLITICO Florida. And it’s maintained a presence in Tallahassee when other legacy media outlets, such as the Palm Beach Post, have abandoned their capital outposts.
SSN’s longevity is due in no small part to it being in the right place at the right time.
“When our first Sunshine State News team arrived wide-eyed in Tallahassee in 2010, all hell was about to break loose, and we didn’t know it,” editor Nancy Smithwrote in a post marking the site’s anniversary on March 3. “Gov. Charlie Crist believed he had a lock on a U.S. Senate seat, Attorney General Bill McCollum was riding comfortably toward the governorship, and nobody I know had ever heard of multimillionaire hospital executive Rick Scott.”
“But, oh, how the rise of the tea party in Florida shattered those expectations. And SSN fit right in with the surprises.”
In fact, more than one critic suspected that SSN was/is being secretly financed by Scott, or at least forces aligned with him.
SSN says it has an editorial board; on a page dubbed “The Sunshine Way,” the site contends, “We are the only news organization in Florida with an editorial board that believes free-market, less-government solutions will prove successful in addressing the problems challenging our state.” However, it’s never been revealed who is a member of Sunshine State News’ editorial board, nor does the site publish unsigned editorials as other legacy media organizations do.
As much as one can be, I’m something of an expert on the cost of maintaining a digital-only news website in Florida. Once you do the math, it’s pretty amazing that SSN is still standing.
Assuming that Smith earns at least $60,000 a year, that SSN’s capital reporter (it had been Allison Nielsen until she took a job with Congressman Tom Rooney) makes approximately $45,000 per annum, as does federal writer Kevin Derby and a copy/web editor, you’re close to $200,000 a year just in salaries. Those are conservative figures, and they don’t account for benefits, if there are any. Then again, maybe Derby does double-duty as the copy/web editor. Also, the size of the staff has fluctuated throughout SSN’s eight-year run.
Still, with expenses like a subscription to the News Service of Florida’s feed, it’s easy to get to SSN costing at least a quarter-million dollars a year to operate.
On the revenue side, the site does have limited display advertising, but its mostly slots reserved for the Google Ad Choices program. Occasionally, if not rarely, SSN displays ads about an event or issue linked to the legislative session, but, again, those ads seem to run few and far between. If SSN hauls in $50K per year in advertising, I would be greatly surprised.
Bottom line: one or more people or companies are expending, by my math, at least $200K to keep SSN afloat. That’s real money. That’s much more money than any single advertiser is spending at my shop.
It’s difficult to understand why anyone would spend that kind of money on a political news website covering Florida politics.
If the purpose, as some suspected, was to defeat Crist and elect Scott, well, first of all, you have to really not like Crist (there are certainly folks out there who fall into this category) and you have to really like Scott (there are not many politicos who do not already donate heavily to his political committee.)
Besides, Crist vs. Scott was settled in 2014, so if putting Scott in the Governor’s Mansion was the ultimate objective, why keep spending $200K a year on a pet journalism project?
If the sugar industry is footing the SSN bill — a concept I highly doubt — that would be surprising because the operatives who make the decisions for Big Sugar are smart enough to know there are better ways to spend their money than having Smith write the occasional piece about the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Perhaps it’s a consortium of interests, lobbyists and politicos who each kick in, say, $10K a year to keep SSN going. It makes more sense than Scott or sugar being behind the website, but you’d think that after eight years, some part of the secret arrangement would get out. I know many of the folks who would pay $10,000 to support business-friendly, right-leaning online journalism in Florida and I haven’t heard a peep in eight years. And I’ve asked and investigated.
The hard truth is we really don’t know who pays the bills at Sunshine State News, but it’s someone or a handful of people who is/are willing to have parted with more than a million dollars to keep Smith, Derby, et al. going. That’s an extraordinary investment in Florida politics.
And, according to Smith, Sunshine State News plans on sticking around for a while. During a recent conversation, she said she was actively looking for a replacement for Nielsen.
So much for the idea that SSN wouldn’t be around when Scott leaves Tallahassee, either for Naples or Washington D.C.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
It may not compare to March Madness but Capitol observers have some side bets on the 2018 Legislative Session. The biggest one: “When will the hankie drop?”
Enter the annual #CateSineDie.
“This Florida Legislative Session has been cray, no matter your politics,” said CateComm founder Kevin Cate in a Monday email. #CateSineDie is about “having a tiny bit of fun” in the final few days of Session.
Predict when lawmakers adjourn and CateComm will contribute $300 to the charity of your choosing. To enter, just tweet an entry — date and time — AND use the hashtag #CateSineDie (so CateComm can keep track) — closest without going over wins.
Entries for the #CateSineDie are due no later than 3 p.m.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @CarlosGSmith: Why is it that @FLGovScott issued a proclamation asking for an ANNUAL moment of silence + ANNUAL lowering of state flags at 1/2 staff to remember the 17 lives taken at MSD, but no such ANNUAL order for the 49 taken at Pulse? Why the disparity?
— @MarcACaputo: FL Sen Dem Jose Javier Rodriguez wants “River of Grass” author Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ name stripped from gun bill If that happens, she’ll be the only woman who twice had that happened. She asked for her name 2B be stripped in the early aughts from a Big Sugar Everglades bill
— @ChipLaMarca: So, this is not about protecting our kids in school? Where were these so-called advocates when we lost 5 lives at FLL? This must be about protecting our kids in school. Protecting everyone-everywhere is a priority, but the lives lost on Feb 14th were not at a beach, park or mall.
— @JKennedyReports: .@FLGovScott spox says school marshal plan change “right direction,” but still has problems w/three-day waiting period for all gun buys.
— @Fineout: By the way, on a completely different matter. If reading of proposed tax amendment is correct, if passed by voters, then it would require a 2/3 vote of Fl. Leg. to remove an existing tax credit. So that would suggest it would take a 2/3 vote to remove credits used for vouchers
— @MDixon55: The term “free speech” was given many different definitions today in the Florida Legislature
— @DDucassi: Hey, @richardcorcoran I requested public records from the FL House regarding HB 7055 the 1st day it was heard in cmte, more than a month ago. It’s grown substantially, Senate about to vote on it, but I haven’t received a single document. Where are the records? What’s the delay?
— @Crupicrupicrupi: Overnight ratings for Sunday night’s Academy Awards fell to an all-time low, as the primetime portion of the broadcast drew an 18.8 HH/30 share. That marked a 14% drop vs last year’s 21.9/35; in final live-same-day ratings, 2017 Oscars drew 32.9M viewers & record low 18.4HH.
— DAYS UNTIL —
2018 Winter Paralympics begins – 2; Sine Die (maybe) — 3; St. Patrick’s Day – 11; March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest – 18; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 23; Easter – 26; NFL Draft begins – 51; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 58; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 78; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 108; Primary Election Day — 175; College Football opening weekend – 179; General Election Day — 245; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 343.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***
— THE POLITICS OF PARKLAND —
“Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson bill seeks crackdown on people who fail gun background checks” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – The NICS Denial Notification Act, which had previously been introduced in the House, requires federal authorities to alert state law enforcement within 24 hours when individuals “lie and try” to purchase firearms … State officials could then decide to prosecute or “keep an eye on these denied individuals for signs of future criminal activity.” The Justice Department would have to publish an annual report about prosecutions. Only 13 states that use NCIS get notified when someone fails a background check, according to Rubio‘s office.
“Senate narrowly passes watered-down school safety proposal” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – In a bipartisan effort, the chamber narrowly passed a watered-down school safety proposal with a $400 million price tag that will provide students with more access to mental health services and allow school districts to participate in a program that arms school staff. “This bill will make a difference, and when it becomes law, things will start changing,” Sen. Bill Galvano said. SB 7026 passed on a 20-18 vote with the help of Democratic Sens. Lauren Book and Kevin Rader. Republicans who voted against the measure, most notably Sens. Greg Steube and Dennis Baxley, were against provisions with gun restrictions such as a ban on bump stock and raising the age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21. Before the final vote, senators debated the bill for more than two hours and approved an amendment that scaled back a controversial program that would have allowed teachers to carry concealed weapons on campus to fight off active shooters. The change better aligns the Senate’s proposal to what Parkland students and Gov. Rick Scott want: Not arming teachers.
“Senate move to exempt ‘classroom teachers’ from gun bill disappoints House leaders” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva said he did not like the Senate change, even though it may have been needed to secure passage in that chamber. The version headed to the House quells consternation from arming teachers, but it also diverts the focus on rigorous training and makes the program voluntary versus compulsory, Oliva said. “I don’t think that the bill needed it,” Oliva said. “We’re certainly willing to consider it as a matter of trying to get something done.” Oliva said he and House leaders will review how to respond, but rejecting the bill may be too risky. “We promised a lot of parents and students we would get something done and the precarious nature of the bill we just saw in the Senate probably could be endangered as a result of that,” Oliva warned.
“The Oscars are over, but liberals are still putting up provocative billboards” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s not as catchy as the Oscar-winning “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Still, Florida liberals are taking a cue from Hollywood. Progressive groups have bought ad space all over the state in an effort to put pressure on politicians to address gun violence … the Democratic Party of Florida publicized two billboards they erected recently in Orlando and Tallahassee. The messages cite the Sun Sentinel slamming Gov. Scott for doing “nothing” between the Pulse nightclub shooting that claimed 49 lives and the recent Parkland school shooting. The Democrats’ billboards struck a relatively quiet note compared to some other progressive messages. Mad Dog PAC put up an incendiary message near Pensacola. “The NRA is a terrorist organization,” screams the billboard.
Meanwhile … “After Parkland, even idle school threats get tough response” via Steve Karnowski of The Associated Press – Fifteen students in one Florida school district are facing felony charges and prison time for making alleged threats since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. Meanwhile, an autistic Minnesota high school student whose alleged threat led to a six-hour lockdown is in juvenile court and has received an outpouring of sympathy. The Feb. 14 killings of 17 people in Parkland have ignited a wave of copycat threats, as happens after nearly every high-profile school shooting. The Volusia County Schools system in east-central Florida isn’t taking chances. Sheriff Michael Chitwood made it clear he had a zero-tolerance policy as threats began after Parkland … he went further, saying students or their families would have to pay the costs of the investigations – at least $1,000 and sometimes much more. District spokeswoman Nancy Wait said the message is clear: We’re not joking around.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Legislative leaders try to hammer out budget” via the News Service of Florida – Lawmakers late Monday had not publicly resolved differences over the biggest areas of the budget, including health care and education spending. But Galvano said a key to ending the session on time happened Monday, when the House and Senate passed legislation important to Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Negron said budget negotiations “are going at a very successful and productive pace.” And he said he was “optimistic” about a timely finish. He said some of the issues involved in the final negotiations include the massive health-care budget, which includes Medicaid spending and funding for hospitals, and a list of construction projects for state universities, colleges and public schools.
“Lawmakers advance sweeping education bills” via John Kennedy of Gatehouse Media – Lawmakers advanced two sweeping education bills in a trade-off between House and Senate leaders that sets the stage for boosting Bright Futures college scholarships, creating two new de facto school vouchers and making it harder for teachers to maintain unions. President Negron is pushing a higher education bill centered around increasing the Bright Futures scholarships that help Florida students pay for tuition to state universities. Speaker Corcoran wants a K-12 bill that pays for children who are bullied to attend private schools and requires teachers’ unions to petition the state for recertification if their membership falls below 50 percent of eligible employees. The Senate advanced Corcoran’s K-12 bill by a vote of 20-17, while the House advanced the higher education bill by a vote of 84-28. Both bills now head to Gov. Scott’s desk for approval.
“Tax supermajority measure heads to voters for approval” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – Despite concerns raised by Senate Democrats that it would “tie the hands” of future legislators facing emergencies, the Florida Senate passed a measure Monday that would make it harder for the Legislature to increase taxes and fees in the future. “This can tie the hands of future legislators in difficult times,” said Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez in reference to the costs that climate change and rising sea levels could bring in the coming years. The legislation would mandate a two-thirds vote in both chambers before any tax and fee hike can be imposed on Floridians. Because the change would amend the Florida Constitution, it will need 60-percent voter-approval to take effect. They will vote on it in November. “It’s the people’s money, not ours. Yes, two-thirds is hard to get. It should be hard to raise taxes because it is the people’s money, not ours,” Senate Budget Chair Rob Bradley said. Upon passage of the bill, Scott praised the Legislature.
— MORE CAPITOL INSIGHT —
House passes tax cut package – The House passed its annual tax package 75-35 on Monday, despite Democratic concerns that general revenue dollars would be diverted to private-school scholarships. Aventura Democrat JoeGeller, calling it an “otherwise good” bill, said, “I wish I could vote for this, but there is a provision in here for private school vouchers.” Ways & Means Committee chair PaulRenner, a Palm Coast Republican, said tjhe measure would allow parents and children to continue to decide on “an education that best suits their needs.” Meantime, the tax cut package “promotes prosperity, expands opportunity and preserves our quality of life,” Renner added.
“Senate, House reach compromise on controversial child marriage bill” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – The Florida Senate gave initial approval Monday to a compromise with the House on the controversial child marriage bill, which would allow 17-year-old to wed in the state. The Republican-controlled House initially wanted to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to marry in cases where there is a pregnancy and the older partner is no more than two years older than the minor. A new amendment that would get rid of the pregnancy sought by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, the sponsor of SB 140, was adopted on a voice vote. With that the Senate moved from an outright ban on minor marriage, to allow minors who are 17 to wed if there is parental consent and the partner is no more than two years older. The bill is expected to be voted on by the House Tuesday.
“House, Senate sign off on nursing home generators” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – Nursing homes will be required to have generators and 72-hour fuel supplies on-site by July 1, under a rule issued by Gov. Scott’s administration and approved by the Legislature. The House unanimously approved a measure (HB 7099) that ratified the rule, and the Senate followed suit later in the day. The chambers still differ, though, on whether to impose similar backup power mandates on assisted living facilities, which were included in a different rule. Ratifying the pair of rules has been a top priority for Scott’s administration during the 2018 legislative session. The rule requires nursing homes to have backup power capability and adequate fuel supplies to maintain safety systems and equipment needed to maintain indoor air temperatures for 96 hours after a loss of electricity. According to the state, the rule will increase costs by more than $121 million in the next five years.
“Bill to help first responders heads to Rick Scott” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A measure to expand workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who suffer job-related post-traumatic stress disorder has passed the Legislature unanimously and now heads to Gov. Scott. A spokesman on Monday said the governor will “review the legislation” when received, but would not commit to Scott’s approval. The House passed the Senate’s version of measure (SB 376) on a 114-0 vote earlier in the day, sending the legislation to his desk. The Senate on Saturday had unanimously passed its bill … The legislation is a priority of Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis, also the state’s Fire Marshal.
“With little ado, House passes gaming bill” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – With only one member commenting, the House swiftly passed its omnibus gambling bill for 2018, setting up a possible conference of the two chambers. The bill (HB 7067) was OK’d on a 70-40 vote, with Republican HalseyBeshears of Monticello and TomGoodson of Rockledge joining the Democrats in voting ‘no.’ Bill sponsor Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, has said he expects both chambers to go to conference on the legislation. A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot; if approved, it would give statewide voters power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida. If they don’t get something done now, lawmakers may well be frozen out of influencing gambling.
House would ban pre-reveal games – The House on Monday approved a measure to ban video game consoles found in bars that look and play like slot machines. The bill (HB 1367), passed by 73-41, now goes to the Senate. A companion measure there did not get a hearing this Session. But language banning the games is in the House’s big gambling bill for 2018 (HB 7067) that was also passed off the floor Monday and is in the Senate’s comprehensive gaming legislation (SB 840). Longwood Republican ScottPlakon‘s standalone bill expressly makes the games illegal under state gambling law. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida, is attempting to shut down the games because it believes they violate that exclusivity. A court decision that they are illegal slot machines is under appeal. The games “preview” certain outcomes as to their winning or losing status. Northeast Florida is largely the home of the pre-reveal games, also called ‘no chance’ games.
House OKs local bill on Seminole County cardroom – The House, by a vote of 84-30, Monday approved a bill (HB 1017) that gives local control over the opening of a cardroom at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club. The bill allows only the Seminole County Commission to decide whether state gambling regulators can issue a license to offer card games at the pari-mutuel. Currently Florida law allows the state to issue licenses to pari-mutuels if they get approvals from their city commissions, unless the locations are in unincorporated areas, when the law requires approvals from the county commissions. But the dog track in question has been pushing for years to open a cardroom, but has been rebuffed by the Longwood City Commission.
“House passes Water Street Tampa development measure” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – With no debate, the House on Monday approved a proposal to create a special district to fund some features of a proposed $3 billion development in the city’s Channelside neighborhood. The vote was 113-1, sending it to the Senate. There is no companion measure there, House records show. The lone ‘no’ vote in the House Monday was Patrick Henry, a Daytona Beach Democrat. The bill (HB 1393), sponsored by Tampa Republican JamieGrant, creates a Water Street Tampa Improvement District. The proposal is backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment, and billionaire developer Jeff Vinik. Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa.
“Bill to cut college tuition fees for military clears Legislature” via Florida Politics – The Legislature unanimously passed a House bill to help cut college tuition fees for students who are active duty service members. HB 75, sponsored by Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder, would give Florida College System institutions the option of waiving all or part of their fees for active duty students who are also receiving Military Tuition Assistance. Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer shepherded HB 75’s companion bill, SB 460,in the Senate. “I am optimistic about the opportunity this bill provides for institutions in the Florida College System to have a presence on military installations in Florida,” Ponder said. “It also promotes the use of our excellent Florida colleges by active duty service members using Military Tuition Assistance to advance their education.” The lawmakers said the bill was designed to adhere to new MTA rules that disallowed the payment of such fees and barred institutions that charge them from offering courses on military installations. Northwest Florida State College President Devin Stephenson lauded Ponder and Gainer for carrying the bill and said its passage marked a “historic day for military students in Florida.”
Governors Club Tuesday lunch buffet menu – It’s Italian Day at the Governors Club with mixed green salad with assorted dressings; avocado, tomato, cilantro dressing; crispy coleslaw; spinach artichoke soup; fried chicken; grilled salmon Puttanaesca; Risi Bisi Rice; Tuscan white beans; Italian squash; Panna Cotta flan for dessert.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) today launched a video calling on Floridians to tell their state lawmakers to support important distracted driving legislation in the final days of the 2018 Legislative Session.
“The fact that Florida is one of many states experiencing double-digit spikes in distracted driving-related crashes and is only one of four states that hasn’t already made texting while driving a primary enforcement law is mind-boggling,” said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for PCI.
In the video, PCI shows the victims of distracted driving, highlighting how real people are impacted by this careless behavior each and every day. “Florida lawmakers have the chance to help save lives by passing legislation to make texting while driving a primary offense and follow the other 46 states that have already put this life-saving measure in statute. In the final days of session, PCI encourages Florida lawmakers to protect Florida families before it is too late and more lives are lost.”
SB 90 by Gainesville Republican Keith Perry has stalled in its final committee of reference in the Senate, having passed its other three favorably. A companion bill, HB 33 by Tampa Republican Jackie Toledo, has passed the full Florida House and is in messages.
Click on the image below to watch the video:
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“A new poll shows how younger women could help drive a Democratic wave in 2018” via Melissa Deckman of the Washington Post – Historically, women have expressed far less interest in public affairs than men. In 2016, this was still true. According to the American National Election Study (ANES), men were more likely than women to say they pay attention to politics all or most of the time. This was true in every generation. … But this pattern could be changing among millennials and the next cohort of young Americans, defined as those individuals born after 2000. A new poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and MTV interviewed more than 2,000 Americans ages 15-24. It found that young women expressed higher levels of political and civic engagement than young men.
Assignment editors – Former Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will host a living room conversation at the home of Haitian-American business person Mary Estimé-Irvin in North Miami beginning 11:30 AM, 55 NE. 131st St. in North Miami.
First on #FlaPol – Patrick Murphy backs Jeremy Ring for CFO – Former Treasure Coast Democratic Congressman Murphy is endorsing former state Sen. Ring in his bid for chief financial officer. “While most politicians in Tallahassee lack the vision to address the very real problems facing our state, I have been tremendously impressed by Jeremy’s acuity,” Murphy said in a statement. “From Yahoo to the Florida Senate, there is no other candidate with the extensive background and innovative ideas he brings to the table. That’s why I’m proud to support him. After 20 years of Republican rule, Floridians are hungry for a fresh approach and I can think of no one better than Jeremy Ring to steer us forward.”
“Donna Shalala files for CD 27” via Tim Swift of Local 10 – Former University of Miami President Donna Shalala is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission. Shalala, a Democrat, served as Health and Human Services secretary under President Bill Clinton. Well-known in the region, Shalala, 77, is considered a top choice for the Democratic nomination. With access to the Clinton family’s big-pocketed donors, Shalala has the potential to be a formidable fundraiser. But some of her strengths could be also be weaknesses. Another Democrat in the race, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, told POLITICO earlier this year said that Shalala represented the “elite” of the party.
“After Dana Young misses key gun votes, her Senate opponent pounces” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Over the weekend, Young’s Democratic opponent, Bob Buesing, blasted her for missing votes on three key amendments during the Senate’s unusual Saturday session to debate legislation responding to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Young responded that Buesing is “attempting to score political brownie points from a non-issue,” and that she wasn’t trying to dodge any votes. Instead, she said, she had to step off the Senate floor briefly during the eight-hour session, and recorded positions afterward on the votes she missed – all in the majority, so they wouldn’t have affected the outcome. Young voted in favor of the final bill as it passed the Senate Monday. But the flap over her Saturday whereabouts is an early indication of the likely tone of the fight over the Senate seat.
“Katie Edwards-Walpole won’t run for the House again” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News – She said she isn’t running for her final term because she’s a newlywed with a ready-made family and wants time to phase into her new life. … “I was so blessed to marry the love of my life in December, and my commitment and priority is spending more time with my family,” she said Monday. “Public service requires extensive time away from family and work, and I know I will truly enjoy being a fully present wife, stepmother and aunt while continuing to be active in my community.”
“Kubs Lalchandani raises $70K in first month of HD 113 campaign”via Florida Politics — Democrat Kubs Lalchandani has raised nearly $70,000 since entering the House District 113 race on Feb. 1, his campaign said Monday. “I’m honored by the tremendous outpouring of support from so many who believe in my path to change Tallahassee. The Republican leadership in the Florida House continue to leave families behind and their efforts to undermine our public schools and environment must be challenged,” he said in a press release. … The campaign also poked at Democratic Primary opponent Deede Weithorn, who had not yet hit the $70,000 milestone despite having a seven-month head start in the race. … Lalchandani and Weithorn are currently the only candidates vying for HD 113, a Democratic stronghold … opening up in 2018 due to Democratic Rep. David Richardson’s decision to run for Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which is currently held by retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
“Roy Moore accuser running for Florida House as a Democrat” via Leada Gore of AL.com – Deborah Gibson, one of the women who said failed Senate candidate Moore pursued her romantically as a teenager, has signaled her intention to run for the Florida Legislature … she will seek the 89th District Seat in the Florida House as a Democrat. Republican Bill Hager currently holds the seat. “Coming off the sidelines for the first time politically seems a natural response to realizing that too many of us, particularly women, have felt that some special mysterious qualification was needed to participate in our democratic process as a candidate,” Gibson said in a statement … “The past five months have crystallized what’s been coming to me for a decade more gradually – the Republican Party is no longer the right fit for me; I am proudly running as a Democrat.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Constitutional review panel readies for its own Session” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is considering a March 19-May 10 Session, according to a draft schedule sent to commissioners. The proposed dates, which was to be considered by the body’s Rules Committee later Monday, would mean the CRC’s Session will begin just 10 days after the Legislature ‘sine die’s this Friday. The commission’s Regular Session would begin on Monday, March 19, with the commission meeting in full through the following Tuesday. Only the Style and Drafting Committee would then meet each day till April 16, the draft calendar shows. At that point, the full commission meets again through May 4. No events are scheduled May 7-10, but the calendar notes that the commission must wrap up its work by the 10th, with its report due to Secretary of State KenDetzner.
“Reservoir project plan to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges gets DEP’s approval” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – In a 12-page order, DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said the project submitted by the South Florida Water Management District will meet criteria for “water supply, water quality, flood protection, threatened and endangered species and other natural system and habitat needs.” In particular, the order said the district’s plan for a 10,100-acre, 23-foot-deep reservoir and a 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area will sufficiently clean excess Lake O water before sending an estimated average of 120 billion gallons a year south to the Everglades and Florida Bay. Several environmental groups, including the Everglades Foundation, have said the stormwater treatment area is too small to clean water to federally mandated standards.
“Judge sets trial for medical marijuana ‘no smoke’ case” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Tallahassee judge has set a 1-day trial for May 16 in the legal effort to overturn the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. But in her order, Circuit Judge KarenGievers said she will first hear the state’s motion for summary judgment at 10 o’clock that morning; summary judgments allows parties to win a case without a trial. If it does proceed to trial, Gievers will hear the case without a jury. Her order was filed last Friday. The suit is backed by John Morgan, the Orlando attorney and entrepreneur known for his ubiquitous Morgan & Morgan law firm advertisements. He championed passage of the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by voters in 2016.
“America’s flood insurance chief has a message for all Floridians: You’re at risk” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – If you’re a homeowner in Florida relying on flood zone maps to decide whether to buy insurance, you may want to check your drivers license instead. “If it says Florida, you need flood insurance,” said Roy Wright, who oversees the … National Flood Insurance Program, which covers more policies in Florida than any other state. “It may be more helpful than trying to find the right map.” Hurricane Irma is only the latest case in point, said Wright … The national flood insurance program is now $20 billion in debt, largely because of Irma and other catastrophic storms like Harvey. … In the lead-up to Irma, an Associated Press analysis found that the number of Florida homes covered in high-risk areas had dropped by 15 percent in the previous five years. Fewer than half in hazard zones were protected from flood damage. … Wright blamed the problem partly on flood maps that, like hurricane tracking maps, can mislead homeowners on actual risks. “We really gotta help people move beyond and quit focusing just on the lines,” he said. “Because nature, the day it rains, pays no attention to the lines.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
Be sure to read Bloomberg’s profile of Brian Ballard – “Trump’s Florida fundraiser flourishes as new Washington lobbyist” – Disclosures now show just how lucrative those services can be: by the end of 2017, Ballard Partners LP had racked up $9.8 million in federal lobbying fees, the most of any new K Street arrival in the two decades such records have been available.
What Nancy Watkins is reading – “Hurricanes left behind mountains of trash in the Virgin Islands — and there’s nowhere to put it” via Tim Craig of the Washington Post – Over the past 4½ months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local contractors have collected more than 736,000 cubic yards of debris — the equivalent of 61,000 truckloads — as they rush to clean up St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, the territory’s three major islands. As the mountains of wreckage continue to grow, crowding landfills and littering roadsides, debate has raged over how to get rid of the detritus tarnishing the islands’ famous Caribbean landscapes. A plan to burn the waste was squashed after residents protested over the potential health and environmental effects. Shipping the waste to the U.S. mainland is complicated by the threat of invasive species. Other Caribbean nations don’t want it, either. Meanwhile, Gov. Kenneth Mapp fears that the heaps of debris are not only an eyesore but also a major fire hazard on these islands with limited firefighting resources.— OPINIONS —
“The jury is still out on the fairness, accuracy and impartiality of Florida’s death penalty process” via Mark Schlakman, Raoul Cantero and Roberto Martinez of the Tampa Bay Times – By a vote of 11-1 the Senate Rules Committee passed SB 870, Sen. Randolph Bracy’s capital felonies bill, without a House companion. Bracy chairs the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, where his bill passed 3-2 last month, demonstrating bipartisan support, given the strong Republican majorities on these committees. The bill addresses what some characterize as a fundamental fairness issue. The concern arises out of a Florida Supreme Court opinion that determined the extent to which prior death sentences are subject to review after the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Hurst vs. Florida, holding that Florida’s capital case sentencing process violated “the Sixth Amendment (which) requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death,” in light of its opinion in Ring vs. Arizona. Bracy’s bill provides legislative intent that all similarly situated death sentences involving less than a unanimous penalty phase jury recommendation — not just those that became final after Ring — should be reviewed. Sen. Jeff Brandes a member of both committees of reference, twice emphasized, when speaking in favor of the bill, that consistent standards should apply, so that “A equals A.”
“Florida flyers don’t need higher airport fees” via Charlie Leocha – Air travelers who made resolutions to travel more in 2018 may not be in for a happy new year. That’s because Congress is considering an 89 percent increase to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), one of the many taxes and fees airline passengers pay every time they fly. If approved, travelers flying out of Florida will pay up to $318.4 million more in air traveler fees this coming year alone. The PFC or Airport Tax is one of 14 different fees tacked on to the cost of every plane ticket we buy. The current law allows airports to charge up to $4.50. The measure introduced by Sen. Susan Collins would raise that to $8.50 on the first leg of each flight. That may not sound like a lot, but a family of four purchasing round trip tickets could pay up to $104 in Airport Taxes alone. Passengers are asking why? Raising the PFC is nothing more than a greedy and easy way for airports to raise more revenue without asking their own municipalities for more funding. If Congress truly wants to ease the tax burden on the middle-class, their first New Year’s resolution should be to scrap the proposed Airport Tax increase.
— MOVEMENTS —
Remember him – “EPA appointee gets approval to consult for outside clients” via the Associated Press – A key aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator ScottPruitt has been granted permission to make extra money consulting for private clients. But the agency is keeping their identities secret. Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday released a letter approving outside employment contracts for JohnKonkus, who also was chief of staff to former Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Pruitt named the Republican political consultant as EPA’s deputy associate administrator for public affairs. His duties have included signing off on who receives millions in federal grants. An EPA ethics lawyer in August signed the letter giving Konkus approval to work for at least two clients. The agency blacked out their names. Konkus hasn’t responded to requests for comment; his taxpayer-funded salary is about $145,000 annually.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Brian Ballard, Brad Burleson, Ballard Partners: Alfred Benesch and Company, WeatherSTEM
David Browning, Kevin Marino Cabrera, Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Q Link Wireless
Robert Hawken, Leath Consulting: Staffing Locator
Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: The Nemours Foundation
Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe: Alation, Smartronix
Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: South Broward Hospital District
Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Capital One Services
— ALOE —
“House of Cards season six will focus on Claire Underwood’s rule” via Shannan Lia of The Verge – During the Academy Awards, Netflix aired a teaser for the sixth and final season of House of Cards. It’s going to be the first season since lead actor Kevin Spacey, who played conniving politician Frank Underwood, got booted from the show by Netflix following sexual harassment allegations. In the teaser, Robin Wright’s character Claire Underwood is the one in command, sitting behind the desk her husband once occupied in the Oval Office. With a confident smile, she says, “We’re just getting started.” Netflix’s tagline reads, “Hail to the Chief.”
Click on the image below to watch the trailer:
Happy birthday to the man who is everywhere, Stephen Gately.
Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Monday evening. Committees have stopped meeting in both the House and Senate, meaning a bevy of bills were passed off both floors today. And now, with all budget conflicts “bumped,” it’s left to leadership to bang out the 2018-19 state budget. Sixty Days is not behind any local projects, for the record. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Trimming teachers: The Senate watered down a controversial school safety proposal to exclude most teachers from participating in a program that would allow them to carry guns on campus to fight off active shooters.
Going with gambling: With only one member commenting, the House swiftly passed its omnibus gambling bill for 2018, setting up a possible conference of the two chambers.
Up to the voters: The Legislature has sent a proposal to the November ballot that would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers to raise taxes and fees in the future.
Cool runnings: The Senate unanimously OK’d a bill to ratify a rule requiring assisted living facilities to have backup electrical generators that can help keep buildings cool.
‘Water’ win: The House approved a proposal to create a special district to fund some features of a proposed $3 billion development in Tampa’s Channelside neighborhood.
Gun gab: The Florida Senate is debating a bill imposing restrictions on gun sales ahead of a vote, the first such restrictions in decades.
Military students: The Senate last week unanimously passed a House bill to help cut fees tacked on to college tuition for students who are active duty service members.
Consolidationconundrum: The three independent campuses affiliated with the University of South Florida network could be consolidated if legislation passed by the House becomes law.
Norest: The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is considering a March 19-May 10 Session, according to a draft schedule sent to commissioners.
Quote of the Day
“We do a lousy job — in my personal opinion — representing working class people, and we should be ashamed of ourselves.” — Tom Lee, a Republican state senator from Hillsborough County and former Senate President (2004-06), during debate on an education proposal he says is unfair to the teachers’ union.
Bill Day’s Latest
In a Monday news release, Americans for Prosperity-Florida hailed the Senate’s vote on HB 7055 “as a win for Florida students and teachers.” The group says the bill “creates more accountability and transparency requirements for government unions and establishes the Hope Scholarship, which allows alternative education options for victims of bullying and harassment across Florida.” AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson explained why his group is involved.
Q: What makes this bill an issue for you?
Hudson: It stands up for the rights of teachers who don’t want their money going to a union they don’t support and provides Florida’s kids with better education options. We commend the Senate for passing this bill, and hope the House send it to the Governor for his signature as soon as possible.
Q: What work did you do to get the bill passed?
Hudson: Our activists have worked tirelessly to engage with citizens and lawmakers about the importance of passing these measures into law. Their hard work every session continues to inspire positive outcomes throughout our legislative process.
Q: What else does that include?
Hudson: Last week, AFP-FL launched a direct mail effort aimed at thanking members of the legislature for supporting (the bill) throughout the committee process. The mailers called on citizens to thank their lawmakers for expanding education freedom options and transparency requirements for government unions.
Also, AFP-FL will score votes on HB 7055 in its current form in their annual Economic Freedom Scorecard. If the bill is amended, the group will adjust scoring accordingly.
As lawmakers seem headed to conference on a gaming bill this Session, an interest behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games added another lobbyist, registration records show.
David J. Roberts joined Scott Dick and Eliakim Nortelus to lobby for AMOAF, also known as the Amusement Machine Owners Association of Florida.
Language is in play, as is a stand-alone bill by House Republican ScottPlakon, to ban pre-reveal, the slot-machine style entertainment consoles found in bars and taverns, many in northeast Florida.
The games work by “previewing” outcomes as to their winning or losing status. The games pay out on winning plays, although pre-reveal backers say they are for entertainment only and are not gambling.
A Tallahassee-based circuit judge’s decision that they’re illegal slots is under appeal. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida, is attempting to shut down the games because it believes they violate that exclusivity.
The Next 24
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by a man who claims he suffered mesothelioma due to asbestos in cigarette filters and other products. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.
The Senate will hold a floor session and consider dozens of bills, including SB 1256, which would require law enforcement to have probable cause to search a person’s phone-location records as well as data from microphone-enabled household devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. That’s at 10 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.
The House will hold a floor session and is expected to bring up the Senate’s “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Act.” That’s at 10:30 a.m., House Chamber, The Capitol.
The Florida State University President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions will hold its final scheduled town hall. The panel is charged with reviewing statue and building namings. That’s at 2 p.m., Florida State University, Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center, Tallahassee.
The Senate will place bills on Special Order. That’s 15 minutes after the floor session, 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.
Florida Democratic Party Chair TerrieRizzo is set to speak to the Western Communities of West Palm Beach Democratic Club. That’s at 7 p.m., Vista Center, 2300 North Jog Road, West Palm Beach.
The House and Senate face a Tuesday budget deadline. The Legislature will then enter a 72-hour cooling off period ahead of each chamber’s budget vote Friday.
Flowers picked up nods from Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church Pastor Dr. G. Gregg Murray.
“Students from all over the county are in need of a strong advocate who can adamantly and assertively address concerns related to education and propose solid solutions,” Welch said. “Solutions such as pairing students with mentors, assuring that there is a nurse in every school, recruiting early for the best and brightest teachers, and reducing the suspension rates by embracing Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices into the school system.
“For these reasons and many more, it is my honor to endorse Rene Flowers for the Pinellas County School Board District 7 seat — doing so assures our community that they will have a voice at the table.”
Wheeler-Bowman added she has found Flowers to be “a strong advocate for the community she represents, especially for the students of Pinellas County Schools.”
“As a grandparent of a student attending Melrose Elementary School, I can attest first hand to the forward movement of the district. The partnerships with the City of St. Petersburg for after school programs in the Campbell Park Community, increase in family support services, and the decrease in juvenile arrests are examples of the success of her tenure,” she said.
Murray said Flowers was “a tireless champion in her District 7, the city of St. Petersburg, and throughout Pinellas County.”
“Rene very deservedly presently serves our county as Chairwoman of the School Board. Some may not know this fact, but Rene has volunteered for over the past 13 years to speak to youth in the school system about health education and making positive choices. She has positively impacted our youth far beyond the expectations of a School Board member,” Murray said.
Flowers is running for her second full term on the school board.
She was first elected in 2012 to serve out the remainder of deceased School Board Member Lew Williams’ term.
She won that election with 77 percent of the vote over Glenton Gilzean, and in 2014 she took 96 percent of the vote against a write-in opponent.
School board elections are nonpartisan and will be on the Aug. 28 primary election ballot.
As the deadline to qualify for the statewide ballot comes into focus, former state Senator Jeremy Ring has picked up the endorsement of a fellow Democrat occasionally mentioned as a possible primary opponent.
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy signaled his support for Ring’s bid to be Chief Financial Officer, citing the former Yahoo executive’s “acuity.”
“From Yahoo to the Florida Senate, there is no other candidate with the extensive background and innovative hides he brings to the table,” Murphy said in a release. “That’s why I’m proud to support him.”
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
It was going to be THE defining issue of the 2018 Legislative Session.
The Florida Senate would ultimately lose two of its most prominent members as a result of sex scandals. It was bad. It dominated headlines. And something just had to be done about it.
Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Kristin Jacobs announced they were sponsoring legislation to address some of the issues. Both Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran offered their support. That doesn’t happen every day, but it was a clear sign that this legislation had “priority” written all over it.
And the crowd cheered.
Last week, the House passed a modified version of the legislation with Rep. Jennifer Sullivan as sponsor and Jacobs as prime-co. But that’s hardly a detail worth noting as the bill passed without a dissenting vote (114-0) and only a smattering of headlines.
And it must be noted that with only a handful of days left in Session, there seems to be no movement on the Senate side.
It would be a tremendous failure if the very body that witnessed the loss of two of its leaders were to let Sine Die come and go without addressing what was supposed to be a defining moment of the 2018 Session.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @LMower3: Last week, 5,000 people were in Tallahassee demanding gun reform after the #Parkland shooting. Today, when the Senate debates the gun bill on a rare Saturday session? Less than 100.
— @MaryEllenKlas: As a gauntlet of students and parents say “no marshal plan,” @gregsteube all but runs past in Senate corridor.
— @MarcACaputo: Show me the money! During the marathon 7-hours of gun debate in the FL Senate, the building was devoid of lobbyists. But 100 show up to budget conference with special interest proviso & hometown spending (e.g. $100k for the Miami Intl Horse and Cattle Show) on the line
— @RichardCorcoran: President [Donald] Trump is right, it’s time we arm our teachers. Our Marshal Program is just common sense.
— @JKennedyReport: .@FLGovScott has told Legislative Black Caucus chief @PerryThurstonJr that he may be calling Legislature back. Still not a fan of marshal program that could arm teachers.
— @MDixon55: Florida House is likely not taking the gun bill up until Tuesday or Wednesday next week. In what I’m sure is a coincidence, that’s after the state budget is finalized.
— @CarlosGSmith: My question to our Orlando roundtable of students, teachers, parents + Pulse survivors — by show of hands how many would vote for HB 7101, incl. Marshal Plan to arm teachers? No one raised their hand. NOT. ONE. HAND.
— @DavidHogg11: You must treat every election like it’s the last because if you don’t, it could be. #VoteThemOut
— @Ryan_N_Wiggins: Was just handed a Bloody Mary with a paper straw. I know of only one person who really understands the depth of my disappointment. @Rob_Bradley
— @AP: Roger Bannister, first to run sub 4-minute mile, dies at 88
— DAYS UNTIL —
2018 Winter Paralympics begins — 3; Sine Die (maybe) — 4; St. Patrick’s Day — 12; March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest — 19; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 24; Easter — 27; NFL Draft begins — 52; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 59; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 79; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 109; Primary Election Day — 176; College Football opening weekend — 180; General Election Day — 246; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 344.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching**
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“After marathon Saturday session, Senate readies gun reform bill for final passage” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The sweeping bill, SB 7026 (18R), would pump millions of dollars into expanding mental health programs and bolstering school safety, but gun reform measures have gotten much of the attention and blowback. The proposal was drawn up following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland … In a rare Saturday floor session that lasted eight hours, much of the time was spent on Republicans swatting a long list of Democratic amendments that would gut or weaken the proposal’s key features. A debate over an amendment to remove the plan to arm school staff, known as the Marshal Program, proved the most controversial. Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon made an impassioned plea for GOP leaders to remove it from the package. Braynon, who is African-American, says the program makes classrooms more dangerous, especially for African-American children. The plan also puts the Legislature at odds with the Governor, who has said on numerous occasions he opposes a plan that includes arming teachers. Braynon’s amendment failed on an 18-20 vote.
“Gun debate shapes up as decisive issue in Florida elections” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Democrats say Republican resistance to banning military-style weapons and high-capacity gun magazines us energizing voters. But many GOP lawmakers say they will proudly campaign on their defense of gun rights. Along with congressional races, three Cabinet seats are up for grabs, and Democrats see gun-control as driving voters in dozens of campaigns for the state Legislature, where the party has been a minority for more than two decades. Republican leaders in Tallahassee have repeatedly rejected bids by Democrats to consider an assault-style weapons ban and fueled more divisions by promoting a “school marshal” program that would allow specially trained teachers to carry weapons on campus voluntarily. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s black caucus, which rarely sides with the Republican governor, have voiced opposition to the idea of arming teachers.
“Lawmakers punish NRA’s corporate foes” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO — Gun-rights Republicans in the Florida House are starting to punish Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Delta Air Lines after the corporations severed ties with the National Rifle Association. Over the past 24 hours, Florida lawmakers, borrowing from counterparts in Georgia, have targeted an aviation fuel tax reduction benefiting Delta and proposed late-night budget language to rebid a state rental car contract held by Enterprise. “We would do this to any company that wants to engage against political speech, whether it’s against the NRA or Planned Parenthood,” said state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia … “Anyone can engage in political speech. But we have a duty to watch and make sure government money doesn’t underwrite it.” … NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said she was not involved in the matter, but said she backed it. “Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used to benefit businesses who discriminate against a segment of the taxpayers,” she said. … Privately, one Republican familiar with the budget maneuvers described them as a minor gift to the NRA, which opposes a new bill with gun control proposed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla.
“Tom Lee slams ‘third-world’ GOP Senate leaders over House education bill” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida — And Lee made clear to reporters afterward that his frustrations run far deeper than the bill. He said he’s “fed up” and he’s not gonna take it anymore. Lee’s stand rankled Senate leadership. “It was entertaining political theater,” Senate budget chairman Rob Bradley told POLITICO after the floor spat. “It was totally devoid of facts and detached from reality, but it was entertaining.” … The flash point centered around a controversial provision tucked into the House priority K-12 omnibus bill, FL HB 7055 (18R). It’s a provision that’s a top priority for House Speaker Corcoran, who had pushed for an even broader bill affecting most non-police public sector unions — and one that has the state’s largest teachers union up in arms. … One part of the process that has angered the bill’s critics was the fact that the union provision was actually taken out of the bill during a committee, with Lee joining Democrats in the vote to amend it, only for the provision to be tacked on again at the next committee stop. He said he’d had “several members” call him asking for advice on the bill, “and one by one, one project in the budget by one project in the budget, they were convinced to just vote for it.”
— MORE CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Governor would have sole discretion over FDOT head appointment under proposal” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — A quiet change proposed Thursday under a wide-ranging commercial motor vehicle bill would strip the power of a transportation panel and give the governor sole discretion over the appointment of the state’s top transportation official. State law tasks the Florida Transportation Commission to recommend three names to the governor when it comes to choosing the next Secretary of Transportation. The governor then decides from that short-list. But a “strike-all” amendment filed under SB 1104 by the bill sponsor, Sen. Jeff Brandes, would delete the role of the FTC … If the language moves on to become law, the governor’s choice would still be subject to confirmation by the Senate.
“Hurricane housing programs axed from budget” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Budget leaders Sen. RobBradley and Rep. CarlosTrujillo told Florida Politics on Saturday evening that the Legislature’s budget will not fund the Hurricane Housing Recovery Program (HHRP) and the Rental Recovery Loan Program (RRLP). Instead, dollars dedicated to affordable housing will go to the State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) and the State Apartment Incentive Loan Program (SAIL). “We have limited funds,” Bradley said. “Post-Parkland, everybody is taking a haircut. We agreed that SHIP and SAIL are going to be our focus when it comes to affordable housing.”
“Lawmakers approve post-hurricane KidCare aid” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Legislators agreed to spend $20,339 in state general revenue for Florida KidCare premiums to cover monthly copayment requirements. Justin Senior, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, said the money will draw down $522,034 in federal matching funds and will cover the costs of about 6,000 children in the 48 counties who were disenrolled from the program for not paying premiums. Following the hurricane, Gov. Scott agreed to extend for 30 days the time frame to pay premiums for October coverage. The monthly premiums range from $15 to $20 based on family size and income. House and Senate Democrats, as well as child health advocates, called on the Scott administration to cover the required premiums with tax dollars. But Beth Kidder, a deputy secretary at the Agency for Health Care Administration, said in October that “tens of thousands” of families in the Florida Healthy Kids program paid their premiums on time and that waiving the requirements could reward people who dragged their heels. “Why would you give a freebie to those who did not act responsibly in the beginning?” she said at the time.
“Trauma center drama could be coming to an end” via The News Service of Florida — The House and Senate on Friday took up trauma bills — HB 1165 and SB 1876, respectively — and prepared them for possible votes early next week. The bills, sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull and Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young would end years of litigation surrounding state decisions about whether to allow trauma centers to open. The bills would settle disputes across the state and set up a methodology to prevent future disputes, Young said. … Under the bills, the Department of Health would be required by Oct. 1 to create an 11-member Florida Trauma System Advisory Council.
“Bills to let treated sewage get pumped into aquifer close to approval” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times — A pair of bills quietly moving through the Florida House and Senate have the potential to change the quality of the state’s water supply. The bills — HB 1149 and SB 1308 — encourage replenishing the fresh drinking water in the underground aquifer with treated sewage. Clean Water Network of Florida director Linda Young calls the pair of bills, which are similar in language, “the Dirty Water Bill of 2018.” … To inject it into the aquifer, though, would require cleaning the effluent to the point that it would meet federal drinking water standards … Those standards don’t require screening out antibiotics, antidepressants and other drugs … During a January committee hearing on the Senate bill, Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen warned legislators that if the bills pass it could harm the aquifer, “and once the aquifer is contaminated, it’s broken.” … So far both bills have passed all their committee stops and are awaiting a floor vote.
Blaise Ingoglia withdraws septic tank amendment — Ingoglia withdrew his amendment to HB 1149 that would have delayed state restrictions on septic tanks installed near springs from going into effect for four years, but before doing so he warned lawmakers that constituents would come calling once they saw higher bills. “Your constituents may not know what’s going to hit them right now,” he said. “But I promise you in six or seven months they will be knocking down your door asking, ‘What happened?'” Ingoglia said nitrogen-reducing septic tanks, which run between $16,000 and $19,000, are three times as expensive as normal units and the cost of complying with septic regulations would run $1.5 billion in Hernando County alone. Ingoglia said the delay would give septic tank manufacturers more time to develop less costly tanks that comply with the regulations, but environmental groups said the delay would be damaging to Florida springs.
“Senate backs changes in payday loans, workers’ comp” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Senate approved revamping regulations for payday loans … Senators voted 31-5 to pass a measure (SB 920) that would allow payday lenders to make larger loans for longer periods of time. … The bill would allow the businesses to make “installment” loans up to $1,000, with repayment over 60 to 90 days. Current law limits the high-interest loans to $500 for periods of seven to 31 days. Supporters say the proposal was prompted by potential changes in federal regulations that could affect the types of smaller-dollar, shorter-term loans made by payday lenders in Florida. Also, supporters contend that payday loans play a key role for many low-income people who don’t have access to other types of credit. … But some consumer and religious groups have fought the proposal, arguing that payday loans can put borrowers in a “debt trap.”
Assignment editors — The Capitol Rotunda will house more than 1,000 shoes decorated and submitted by sexual assault survivors from across the state. The event, hosted by Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV), aims to remove the stigma sexual assault survivors experience and bring an end to the violence. Slated to speak at the noon news conference is state Sen. Lauren Book; state Rep. Kristen Jacobs; Jennifer Dritt, Executive Director of the FCASV and advocates with Florida State University’s Victim Advocate Program.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) has hit the airwaves to encourage Floridians to contact their lawmakers to vote yes on SB 90, which would make texting while driving a primary offense.
“Unfortunately, not even the most sophisticated automobile safety features can protect us from some of the biggest hazards on Florida roads today, including the ubiquitous use of smartphones while behind the wheel,” said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for PCI. “That is why we are encouraging the Florida Senate to advance this public policy and bring Florida in line with the other 47 states who have passed similar legislation. It is imperative that we institute policy changes needed to prevent hand-held technology from putting Florida families in more danger.”
In the radio spot, PCI talks about how in Florida, there were over 45,000 distracted driving crashes in 2015, resulting in over 39,000 injuries and over 200 deaths. “PCI warns these numbers are only climbing higher every day. Don’t let someone you love be the next victim of distracted driving. This proactive, life-changing measure is a necessary step to creating safer roads and reducing insurance costs,” said McFaddin.
SB 90 by Gainesville Republican Keith Perry has stalled in its final committee of reference in the Senate, having passed its other three favorably. A companion bill, HB 33 by Tampa Republican Jackie Toledo, has passed the full House and is in messages.
Click on the image below to listen to radio spot.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Scott to put in face time with GOP donors ahead of possible Senate run” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Scott plans to spend some time with influential Republican donors, ahead of a possible Senate campaign launch that could shake up the battle for the majority in the midterm elections … he was scheduled to be one of the speakers at the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in Palm Beach … He spoke at the same event last year. After addressing the RNC, Scott was to head across the peninsula to Naples, where his home is, for dinner with donors to a super PAC he is chairing called “New Republican.” A Scott associate in contact with the governor predicted Scott could launch a Senate bid soon after the scheduled end of the Florida Legislative Session … Separately, a Republican frequently in touch with top GOP senators and officials said they were privately anticipating the same potential timeline.
“Chris King releases video ad on Parkland, Pulse, seeking ‘transformation’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The 90-second video “This is the Year” includes footage of vigils held for the mass shootings and King giving a speech in which he talks about attending the vigils, and believes that the last two weeks must spark a transformation. The ad is being targeted to Democratic voters on Facebook across the state. “The next Governor of the State of Florida in my view has to be committed to transformation when it comes to gun safety,” King says. “So, let me make it very clear to you what this governor would do: I would not take money from the NRA. I would work hard to pass an assault weapons ban, as I said for my very first speech as (a candidate for) governor. I would stand up for universal background checks. I would work to pass Medicaid expansion because there is no bigger idea for caring for the needs of the mentally ill in this state.”
“Philip Levine no longer eager to talk about his Bill Clinton bromance” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — “I don’t really need anybody campaigning for me. I’m campaigning for myself,” Levine said at the Tampa Jewish Federation’s annual President’s Dinner. “I want the people of Florida to campaign for me.” Sexual misconduct and men abusing their authority is no longer tolerated in the way it was when Clinton stepped onto the national stage nearly three decades ago. Asked about Clinton in the context of #MeToo, Levine clearly wanted to talk about something else. “I have lots of friends, from all walks of life, and I’m very, very proud of my friends,” he said. Is he still very, very proud of his friendship with Clinton? “I’ve always been honored in the past for his support, but I think right now in this election I’m running solo,” he said.
“Julio Gonzalez will run for Congress” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Gonzalez will seek the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, setting up a GOP primary fight with another conservative Sarasota County lawmaker. “It’s been a long time coming, but the day has finally arrived for me to take our fight for conservative principles and American exceptionalism to Washington, D.C.,” Gonzalez wrote in the email. “Bring your family, friends, and neighbors as I kick off OUR congressional campaign!” Gonzalez will face off in the GOP primary for the District 17 congressional seat against Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube, another staunch conservative.
“Journalist Maria Elvira Salazar joins race for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Alex Daugherty of The Miami Herald — Miami broadcast journalist Maria Elvira Salazar is jumping into the Republican race for retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen‘s seat. “We all want a better country for our children, so we need to rise above the political rhetoric and divisions that are tearing our communities apart, and have the courage to respect and listen to others, even if we don’t agree,” Salazar said in a statement. “That is democracy at its best.” … “The district is totally winnable for the right candidate,” Ros-Lehtinen said late last year. “She could be the right candidate.” Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the only announced GOP candidate who has so far raised enough money for a viable campaign operation … Democrats are favored to flip Ros-Lehtinen’s seat after Hillary Clinton trouncedTrump in the district that encompasses most of coastal Miami-Dade County in 2016.
“Democratic candidate Tina Polsky switches House districts to run for Joe Abruzzo’s seat” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Polsky is one of four Democrats and two Republicans who had filed to run in House District 89 in northern Palm Beach County, seeking to succeed term-limited Republican state Rep. Bill Hager. Now she’ll be the first-in to seek to take HD 81 in western Palm Beach County. Polsky is a lawyer, a mediator and longtime civic activist. A wife and mother of two, Polsky holds volunteer leadership positions with the Anti-Defamation League and the Mitzvah Club, a local women’s organization with over 100 members which has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local and national charities in the past three years.
— STATEWIDE —
“Silencing Brightline: One-fourth of crossings to get no improvements” via Jennifer Sorentrue and Mahima Singh of the Palm Beach Post — At 20 of 80 railroad crossings in Palm Beach County no upgrades will be made to keep motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians from maneuvering around lowered warning gates despite plans to silence train horns along the rail line now hosting the high-speed Brightline passenger service. Less than half the crossings will have the most restrictive safety barrier, known as quad gates, to cover all lanes of traffic on both sides of the tracks. The gates, at big intersections, create a fully closed barrier to block people from entering the crossing when a train is approaching. Another 20 crossings will have curbed-concrete medians, a safety feature that makes it more difficult for cars to maneuver around gates — even if they are not quad gates. Twelve will have both medians and quad gates. The quiet zone must meet a higher safety standard because trains don’t blow their horns at rail crossings. But federal guidelines don’t require that every crossing gets a safety makeover, officials said.
“The new plan for a David Beckham soccer stadium may not fit on the Overtown site” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — New Beckham partner Jorge Mas boasts of a bold, high-tech vision for a Miami soccer stadium. And that could get complicated. Mas also says the nine-acre site in Overtown that the Beckham group secured for the venue two years ago just isn’t large enough to match his ambitions. The comments from the new local face of Beckham’s five-year quest to build a Major League Soccer stadium in Miami are the most concrete evidence yet that the long-standing plan to play in Overtown may be changing. Mas and brother José, leaders of Miami-based infrastructure firm Mastec, joined the Beckham partnership late last year as the soccer star’s first local investors. In private meetings, they’ve been entertaining the possibility of the future MLS franchise playing somewhere other than on the current Overtown site. “They’re looking everywhere,” said Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County, whose administration negotiated the pending sale of 3 acres of county land in Overtown for the current stadium site. “They’re looking at all different options.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Charlie Crist’s Beach Drive condo sells for $1.35 million” via Susan Taylor Martin — Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have sold their Beach Drive condo for … $313,100 more than they paid for it three years ago. The Crists, who married in 2008 while he was governor and a Republican, announced their split shortly after he took his congressional seat as a Democrat early last year. There has been no activity in their divorce case since May, according to Pinellas County court records.
“Gus Bilirakis legislation would help veterans sickened by exposure to wartime burn pits” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — For years, tens of thousands of veterans suffering from their exposure to the burning of toxins in military trash pits across Afghanistan and Iraq sought official acknowledgment of a connection between the smoke and their health issues. … Bilirakis, the Tarpon Springs Republican, is developing legislation requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to assume that certain diseases arise from burn pit exposure when it makes decisions on compensating veterans. The legislation mirrors connections formally established to the defoliant Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War. A spokeswoman for Bilirakis … said efforts to pass the legislation could be bolstered by a recent ruling from a federal administrative court judge. … “We are hopeful that the recent court ruling will help strengthen the Congressman’s position that this is an issue that warrants immediate attention,” said Bilirakis spokeswoman Summer Robertson. “Veterans cannot afford to wait.”
— ALOE —
“Disney pushes ‘Mulan’ to 2020, moves ‘Avengers’ up a week” via The Associated Press — Disney … is shifting some film releases around including moving “Avengers: Infinity War” up one week and pushing the live-action “Mulan” back almost a year and a half. … “Avengers: Infinity War” will now hit theaters on April 27, 2018. “Mulan” is set for March 27, 2020. The “Mulan” update recently found its lead in Chinese actress Liu Yifei after a yearlong search.
“Publix giving pay raise to workers, boosts stock price” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel — Publix will raise wages for its hourly employees and some managers, a move that could help it compete with chains such as Target and Walmart that have made public announcements of pay increases. The Lakeland-based supermarket chain also boosted its stock price by nearly 13 percent to $41.40 ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings announcement scheduled for Thursday. Publix would not disclose how much the raises will be or what current wage ranges are. “We want to continue to invest in our most valuable asset — our associates,” said Dwaine Stevens, a company spokesman in an email. “So with this investment, we will increase the retail pay range for non-management positions as well as assistant department managers and department manager positions.” Publix has about 188,000 workers at 1,172 stores nationwide, according to its website.
“Uber and Lyft think they can solve one of medicine’s biggest problems” via Carolyn Y. Johnson of The Washington Post — Ride-sharing companies have plunged into the health care business, seeing a big opportunity in ferrying the 3.6 million people who miss medical appointments each year to their doctors’ offices. On Thursday, Uber announced the public launch of Uber Health, a dashboard that will allow health care providers to schedule rides for patients. Lyft has crafted a number of partnerships … with health insurers, hospital systems and medical transport services … A study of nearly 800 Medicaid patients in West Philadelphia found that offering to schedule free Lyft rides to and from primary care appointments didn’t decrease the number of missed appointments compared to a group of people not offered the service. … Individual companies have reported benefits. … American Medical Response, a leading medical transportation company, has reduced complaints by 50 percent since partnering with Lyft. … Uber has been piloting its health service since last summer. One lesson learned from the experience is that many of the patients who use the service haven’t used Uber before and may not even have a smartphone.
What Paul Bradshaw is reading — “The Silicon Valley elite’s latest status symbol: Chickens” via Peter Holley of The Washington Post — In America’s rural and working-class areas, keeping chickens has long been a thrifty way to provide fresh eggs. In recent years, the practice has emerged as an unlikely badge of urban modishness. But in the Bay Area — where the nation’s pre-eminent local food movement overlaps with the nation’s tech elite — egg-laying chickens are now a trendy, eco-conscious humblebrag on par with driving a Tesla. In true Silicon Valley fashion, chicken owners approach their birds as any savvy venture capitalist might: By throwing lots of money at a promising flock (spending as much as $20,000 for high-tech coops). By charting their productivity (number and color of eggs). And by finding new ways to optimize their birds’ happiness — as well as their own. Like any successful startup, broods aren’t built so much as reverse engineered. Decisions about breed selection are resolved by using engineering matrices and spreadsheets that capture “YoY growth.” Some chicken owners talk about their increasingly extravagant birds like software updates, referring to them as “Gen 1,” “Gen 2,” “Gen 3” and so on. They keep the chicken brokers of the region busy finding ever more novel birds.
Happy birthday belatedly to Edward Briggs of RSA Consulting. Celebrating today is David Lawrence of The Children’s Movement of Florida and Melissa McKinlay.
Former Republican Rep. Bryan Nelson has shifted positions on red-light cameras now that he’s running for Apopka mayor, but it’s starting to look like the change wasn’t so much an evolution as it was a total 180.
Nelson was an outspoken champion of red-light cameras when he was in the Legislature, often promoting the controversial devices for improving the “safety” of Florida roads in the face of criticism labeling them as money grabs for local governments.
“Folks that’s safety,” Nelson said in 2010. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
While there wasn’t much research on whether red-light cameras tangibly improved road safety back then, a 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a heaping helping of vindication for Nelson and the other lawmakers who cast votes in favor of the devices.
That study found cities with the cameras had a 21 percent lower rate of red-light running fatalities than cities without the cameras.
Fast forward to 2018 and Nelson, the one-time staunch backer of red-light cameras, is putting out ads promising to take down every camera in the city if he gets elected.
He makes a couple points. Apopka is a bit out of control when it comes to red-light cameras. From 2012 through 2013 Apopka raked in over $3.6 million from red-light cameras – $200,000 more than the much larger City of Orlando.
And boy does it sting when that $158 ticket shows up in the mail. Maybe that explains why Nelson changed his mind.
So, one red-light camera enough to flip Bryan Nelson’s mind on cameras. A single $158 dollar ticket made him backflip on years of saying red-light cameras were the price to pay for road safety.
There’s also that study — the same one that vindicated Nelson’s 2010 “safety” claim — which shows cities that have cameras but choose to remove them see their red-light running fatalities spike by a third. Is $158 worth more to him than Apopka lives?
Nelson is running against incumbent Mayor Joe Kilsheimer.
Three Central Florida Democrats will continue their efforts to curb gun violence on Saturday as lawmakers continue to grapple with the post-Parkland political environment.
Linda Stewart will renew her push of an assault weapons ban during a rare Saturday floor session of the Florida Senate, while state Reps. Amy Mercado and Carlos Smith will host a gun safety roundtable with survivors of the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.
On Friday, Stewart reaffirmed her pledge to push for legislation that bans civilian versions of military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
Stewart was the senate sponsor for bills filed before session that would ban semi-automatic assault rifles (SB 196) and bump stocks (SB 456). Smith filed the House version of the assault weapons ban, while Miami Beach Democrat David Richardson filed the bump stock ban in the House.
None of the bills were heard in committee.
“Floridians overwhelmingly support an assault weapons ban and they want action,” said Stewart. “Our kids have said #NeverAgain. The path to reduce gun violence and prevent these massacres has to include restrictions on assault weapons that only serve the purpose of killing people.”
Stewart will take up the issue when her colleagues debate the Senate’s gun legislation (SB 7026) which establishes the Florida Sheriff’s Marshal Program to arm teachers and faculty.
While the Senate takes up that issue, Mercado and Smith will sit down with survivors and families of victims of the Pulse tragedy, along with parents, students, teachers and advocates to discuss current gun safety proposals introduced by the Legislature.
The roundtable will take place at Acacia Banquet Hall in Orlando. The event begins at 10:00 a.m.
Negotiations over a new state budget moved Friday to the top House and Senate budget chairmen, with lawmakers predicting a timely resolution.
“As we move forward and narrow the differences, if you look at where we are now, the amount of things that we’re arguing over now are very modest,” Senate President Joe Negron said. “I see a very clear path to resolution.”
The remaining differences in an $87 billion-plus spending plan for 2018-2019 will now be negotiated by Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley and House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo. Conference committees spent part of the week settling issues in the various areas of the budget.
Bradley and Trujillo were scheduled to meet late Friday to continue talks.
Any issues left unresolved by the end of the weekend will be decided by Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Lawmakers face a Tuesday deadline to finish the budget. That would allow a required 72-hour “cooling off period” before a vote next Friday, the last scheduled day of the legislative session.
Health care funding remains one of the biggest differences between the chambers. The Senate wants to increase the amount the state pays nursing homes to care for seniors by $130 million, but the House has not embraced that move.
Additionally, the Senate wants to revamp how the state directs Medicaid funds to hospitals. But that move would result in a big cut to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Health System, which could lose upward of $58 million under the Senate’s proposed changes.
Another unresolved issue is funding for the Florida Forever land-buying program, with the Senate pushing for a $100 million program in the new budget year, while the House had started at $57 million.
Negron said Friday that the House was moving closer to the Senate’s position on the land-buying program.
Another unresolved issue is funding for Vivitrol and other medication-assisted treatment options for drug addicts.
Negron downplayed the notion that the House eliminated the funding in its budget as a tactical move aimed at him.
“I’m unapologetic in my support for medication-assisted treatment to treat people with a substance-abuse problem like they are patients, like they have a medical issue that needs to be treated and making sure they have the tools there,” Negron said when asked about Vivitrol funding in the budget.
The House eliminated $7 million for extended-release Naltrexone programs in the budgets of the Office of State Courts Administrator, the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Corrections.
Extended-release Naltrexone, sold as Vivitrol, is a once-a-month injectable non-addictive, non-narcotic medication designed to help prevent drug relapses. The medication blocks receptors in the brain, preventing opioids from creating a high and helping reduce cravings.
The drug is manufactured by Dublin-based Alkermes, which during the 2016 election cycle made $156,500 in campaign contributions, including contributing $50,000 to Negron and political committees he controlled or was affiliated with.
There is “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment in the Legislature, leaders say, but an ethics reform package that would create new rules and penalties for sexual harassment may not become law this year.
The Florida House unanimously passed the proposal this week, but Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley is blocking the bill in the Senate because he wants to discuss the issue in more detail.
“I think we need more time and contemplation of what to do with this issue because it is so sensitive,” Baxley said. “I don’t want to rush on something that serious.”
The proposals were filed with the Legislature right before the start of the 2018 legislative session after back-to-back sex scandals rocked the state Capitol — the most prominent ones in the Senate.
The bills filed in the Legislature had the early backing of Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who said the legislation passed in the House is “the strongest in the nation.”
If approved, HB 7007 would require Florida government agencies to set new policies preventing, prohibiting and punishing sexual harassment, which includes language that would keep the identities of accusers confidential to protect them from retaliation.
Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat leading the effort in the Senate, added language to her bill that incorporates any type of sexual contact — whether engaging in it or directing others to do it — into the state’s gift ban.
Baxley said he is concerned the bill would affect too many people in the state and that there is too little time to discuss the consequences.
“When you address all employees in the state, that is a lot of people you are affecting, and I wanted to be more cautious when dealing with that,” Baxley said.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Senate calls rare Saturday Session — In a rare move, the Senate will meet Saturday to consider school safety legislation. With the Session clock ticking down, Senate President Negron announced the weekend sitting Friday morning in a memo to fellow senators. The 2018 Legislative Session is scheduled to end Friday. A floor session is planned for 10 a.m.-1 p.m. to hear the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
Budget conference kicks off— The House and Senate formally kicked off final budget negotiations this week and on Friday all unresolved issues were bumped to Budget Chairs Rob Bradley and Carlos Trujillo. If they don’t resolve the issues in question before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, those items will go to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to decide. Still in question is how to fully fund the school safety initiatives. Other lingering issues include a $172 million difference over Florida Forever funding and $4 million over private prison operations.
Gaming bills brought back to life — With a week left in session, the House and the Senate heard their gambling proposals on Friday. A strike-all amendment has been OK’d on the Senate’s legislation (SB 840) which is ready for the floor. Later Friday and the House bill (HB 7067) was discussed and rolled to third reading. Senate President-designate BillGalvano has said he hopes to get the bills into conference next week.The two chambers—as is usually the case in gambling—are still far apart on policy. That includes differences on one provision that authorizes slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties where voters previously OK’d them in local referendums. That was added to the Senate bill Friday; it’s not in the House’s bill.
Scott makes rare plea to Legislature — In a rare political move, Gov. Scott and the father of a 14-year-old Parkland shooting victim jointly addressed the House and Senate floors Thursday and asked legislators to set aside differences and ensure schools are safe sans armed teachers. “I want to make sure there is law enforcement in our schools,” Scott told reporters upon exiting the chambers. “I don’t believe in arming teachers.” While talking to each chamber, Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was gunned down on Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told legislators he is in support of the governor’s proposal, which does not include arming teachers. Petty said he supports Scott’s proposal without the assault weapon ban because he wants action now.
Omnibus education bill gets bigger — The Florida Senate sent House Speaker Richard Corcoran back his priority education bill with a bunch more language added into it on Friday. The Senate included a provision that would make financial literacy courses a high school graduation requirement and increase the amount someone can give to the Hope Scholarship program meant to give vouchers to bullied students. Negotiations happened behind closed doors, according to the Times/Herald. HB 7055 will now go back to the Florida House for final approval before it can go to Gov. Scott.
Scott urged to veto crisis pregnancy center bill
More than a dozen organizations including Planned Parenthood signed on to a letter this week urging Gov. Scott to veto HB 41, which was passed by the Legislature in early February.
The bill, sponsored by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo, would require the Department of Health to work with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network to up the availability of pregnancy and wellness care by subcontracting out to centers that “solely promote and support childbirth.”
“This bill attempts to establish Pregnancy Support Services (also referred to as Crisis Pregnancy Centers or CPC’s) as legitimate wellness centers and codify permanent taxpayer funding for what are in reality, fake women’s health centers,” the letter says.
“These anti-abortion, often faith-based centers are not required to be staffed by licensed, qualified medical personnel. Furthermore, CPCs have a documented history of imitating legitimate women’s health clinics, falsely posing as medical providers, and purposely leading women away from accessing the full range of reproductive health care services.”
The following organizations signed onto the letter: Broward County National Organization for Women, Broward Women’s Emergency Fund, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health, Florida NOW, League of Women Voters of Florida, National Abortion Federation, National Council of Jewish Women, Organize Florida, Pro-Choice Coalition of Broward County, Progress Florida and the Space Coast Progressive Alliance.
Cabinet considering $660K conservation plan for Spanish mission site
Gov. Scott and the Cabinet will decide next week whether to shell out $660,060 to conserve a Madison County site that is home to a 15th-century Spanish mission.
The plan would have the state purchase a conservation easement on the property, owned by R.N. and Charlene Koblegard, which allows the land to continue being used for certain activities, such as agriculture, but blocks new development.
The Koblegard project is part of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Rural & Family Lands Protection Program. According to the meeting agenda, the project’s approval would mark 42,276 acres preserved under the RFLPP.
The 772-acre site is situated on the south of Interstate 10 on the southern edge of Sampala Lake. The Spanish mission, San Pedro y San Pablo de Protohiriba, is one five missions established by the Spanish in the 1600s.
The week in appointments
Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board — Dawn Warren is a property manager for Altamonte Heights Condos and Lake Tyler Condos and will succeed Tamara McKee.
He will serve a term ending Oct. 31, 2020, and is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority — Toni Appell of Marathon, is a retired paraprofessional for the Monroe County School District, is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.
David Ritz, of Key Largo, is the president of Ocean Reef Community Association and is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.
Robert Dean, of Key West, is the owner of Dean Lopez Funeral Home and is reappointed for a term ending Dec. 30, 2020.
All three appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
DOH doles out $16 million to research smoking-related diseases
The Florida Department of Health announced this week that it is handing out $16.2 million to fund 20 research projects focused on developing treatments and cures for cancer and other smoking-related diseases.
The money was awarded through the Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program and the James and Esther King Biomedical Research Program. DOH said the selections were made based on “rigorous peer review” and the application process included 224 researchers seeking funding.
“Florida is at the forefront of cancer research and innovation, and I am proud to announce the recipients of more than $16.2 million for cancer research grants,” Gov. Scott said. “These 20 new projects will assist Florida’s world-class researchers in discovering more about how to prevent and treat these terrible diseases. Cancer impacts so many lives, and I am proud of the work of our incredible research institutes as we fight to find a cure.”
The University of Miami topped the list with $5.5 million in grants for seven projects plus another $57,000 for a joint project with the Miami Veterans Affairs. The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute followed with $4.5 million for five projects. UF will receive $3 million for three projects; UCF, USF and the Mayo Clinic will each get a single project funded at $815,000; and FAU will receive $708,000 for one project.
FWC law enforcement division reaccredited
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said this week that its Division of Law Enforcement was reaccredited.
“The FWC Division of Law Enforcement continues to maintain the highest standards of credibility, effectiveness and professionalism,” FWC director Eric Sutton said. “Our staff worked diligently to uphold these important standards each and every day. Reaccreditation by the Commission validates the hard work they do, and provides a strong vote of confidence in their ability to protect the public and conserve Florida’s natural resources.”
The division has held accreditation through the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation since 2009 and has now gone through the reaccreditation process four times.
Accredited law enforcement agencies must consistently meet or exceed 240 prescribed standards over a three-year period to maintain their status.
“Accreditation is a voluntary but important process intended to hold an agency to a higher level of accountability by an external source,” said Col. Curtis Brown, who heads up the division. “We are very pleased with the CFA’s determination that reaccreditation of the Division was earned.”
Florida Lottery celebrates 30 years
It’s been 30 years since the Florida Lottery began and it’s celebrating the milestone with a heap of new scratch-off games.
At the $30 level is “FLORIDA 100X THE CASH,” which features eight top prizes of $15 million. The Florida Lottery said 100X was only the second $30 game it’s put out.
The $5 game, “MONEY MACHINE,” features 16 top prizes of $250,000 and over $58 million in total cash prizes; the $2 game, “$30,000 LUCKY WIN,” has a total prize pool of $32 million; and for a buck, players can pick up “TRIPLE PAYOUT” which features 84 $3,000 prizes and a total prize pool of $12 million.
The lotto said the new games would start hitting retailers by the end of the week.
Voters approved the constitutional amendment creating the lottery in November 1986 by a 2-to-1 margin. The Florida Lottery started operating a little over a year later in January 1988.
Reinsurance surcharge repeal advances in Senate
Legislation to repeal a reinsurance surcharge on consumers is advancing in the Florida Senate. St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes’ SB 1454 has cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee and is headed for the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government.
“This is a welcomed development for Florida’s insurance consumers,” said Jay Neal, President and CEO of FAIR, The Florida Association for Insurance Reform. “This bill would offer a significant 8 percent to 10 percent rate reduction for homeowner’s insurance consumers.”
The surtax was designed to replenish the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund following bad storm seasons in 2004 and 2005, but the account now has enough money to cover similar losses twice over.
Senate celebrates Military Appreciation and National Guard Day
The Florida Senate considered a string of bills helping active duty military, veterans and their families this week in honor of Military Appreciation and National Guard Day at the Capitol.
“My Senate colleagues and I are committed to enacting policies that keep Florida the No. 1 state for active duty members of our armed forces, veterans and their families,” said Senate PresidentNegron. “The legislation we discussed today sends a clear message that Florida is truly the Welcome Home State.”
Among the bills heard by the chamber were SB 100, which waves driver’s license fees for veterans; SB 460, which allows Florida colleges to waive fees for students who are active duty military and using military tuition assistance; SB 440, which would establish the Florida Veterans Care Program, an alternative to Veterans Affairs; and SB 330, which would rename a portion of State Road 10 in Walton County as the “Lieutenant Ewart T. Sconiers Highway.”
Also on the docket was a resolution by Jacksonville Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson to honor the Florida National Guard for their service during the 2017 hurricane season.
“When Floridians are facing some of the most challenging times, the Florida National Guard is at its best springing into action at a moment’s notice to help Floridians in need,” she said. “We are so grateful for their courageous service to our state during the recent hurricane season.”
Coastal management bill clears Senate
A bill aimed at helping preserve and maintain Florida coasts cleared the Senate this week with a unanimous vote.
SB 174, by Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill, revises the criteria used to help the Florida Department of Environmental Protection prioritize coastal restoration projects based on need and importance.
“This is a bill for all Floridians, and the millions of visitors to our state annually, to preserve and maintain our state’s most unique, natural assets — our beaches,” Hukill said. “Coastal management is beneficial for conservation, recreation and tourism.
“I would like to thank my Senate colleagues and all of the support we’ve received from around the state. This legislation will ensure that our beautiful state and its unique natural resources are properly maintained and protected.”
SB 174 now moves to the House where a similar bill, HB 7063, is also prepped for a floor vote.
Loomis named FTC member of the year
The Florida Technology Council this week presented ISF CEO Cyndy Loomis with its “2018 FTC Member of the Year” award.
“I’m honored to receive the FTC Member of the Year Award, and I’m proud to advance FTC’s mission to champion the priorities of the technology industry in the State of Florida to our state government leaders,” Loomis said.
In addition to running the Jacksonville-based software company, Loomis has served as the FTC board chair since 2016.
The award was presented by James Taylor, the executive director of the tech company trade association, at the FTC Legislative Reception in Tallahassee.
FTC said Loomis was “recognized specifically for her outstanding service in driving the effectiveness, reach, and membership growth of the Council.” A half-dozen others were presented with awards at the event.
Applications open for AmeriCorps funding
Volunteer Florida this week announced the 2018-19 criteria for getting proposals funded through AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps funding is granted to address critical community needs including education, disaster services, economic opportunity, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families.
Sample activities include tutoring and mentoring youth, response to local disasters, restoring natural habitats and job training/placement. AmeriCorps members also mobilize community volunteers and strengthen the capacity of the organizations where they serve.
Funding requests can be sent in through April 5. Those who have a proposal but don’t know the ins and outs of the application process can log in to the “AmeriCorps Budget 101 Webinar” March 15. Technical assistance conference calls are also available for new and continuing applicants.
To register for a call or the webinar, fill out the RSVP form online. More information on the formula funding rules is available through the Volunteer Florida website.
Detzner announces March of Museums round two
Secretary of State Ken Detzner kicked off the new month by announcing the second annual “March of Museums,” a celebration of the variety and versatility of Florida’s museums.
“As Florida’s Chief Cultural Officer, I am proud of the success of last year’s ‘March of Museums’ and I am excited to expand this initiative statewide Detzner said. “From art to animals, from sports to science, and from history to horticulture, Florida has an incredible array of museums that encourage exploration and learning.”
The Department of State encouraged Floridians — and visitors — to use “March of Museums” as an opportunity to spend some time at a Florida museum, whether nearby or off the beaten path.
To help facilitate, the department is hosting a website that lists museums by region and highlights the mission and collections of the institutions, as well the events each is holding this month.
Volunteer Florida, Uber collect 3,540 items for #SuitsForSession
Volunteer Florida and Uber said the third annual #SuitsForSession at the Capitol collected 3,540 donations of professional attire for job-seekers statewide. Also, Uber drivers picked up items across Leon County for free this past Tuesday.
Here are the highlights:
— Number of suits collected: 373 (237 women’s, 136 men’s).
— Number of women’s items collected: 2,270.
— Number of men’s items collected: 743.
— Other items (shoes, belts, etc.) collected: 527.
— Number of bags of clothing donated through the Uber app: 27.
— Number of participating organizations that collected clothing: 26.
Volunteer Florida CEO VivianMyrtetus said in a statement, “The people of Tallahassee matched these donations by bringing and sending in their own business apparel. Uber has been a tremendous partner to Volunteer Florida and we are so thankful for their participation in another successful year of #SuitsForSession.”
Added Senate Republican Leader Wilton Simpson, “It was great participating in another #SuitsForSession clothing drive. My staff and I are always proud to support this service project that helps job seekers throughout our state.”
Donated items will be delivered to Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America (statewide locations), and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program in Tallahassee throughout the coming days.
Capitol halls lined with Florida student art
The lower level of the Florida Capitol got a bit of a makeover this week as it began hosting the second annual Art in the Capitol Competition.
The competition, hosted jointly by the Department of Management Services and Department of Education, is aimed at encouraging middle school students to try their hand at art. The only rules are the art has to be 2D and original.
“As the custodian of the Capitol complex, DMS is proud to host this event and share these inspiring works with Capitol visitors,” said DMS Secretary Erin Rock. “These are our future leaders, and that is what makes it such a joy to be able to get a glimpse at the soul and spirit of these kids through their art.”
Education Commissioner Pam Stewart added that the competition wonderful way to recognize Florida students’ creativity.
Making it to the walls this year were 35 middle schoolers, each of whom was paired up with a lawmaker to sponsor the artwork. The artwork is viewable online via the Art in the Capital webpage.
Tallahassee airport aces FAA inspection
Tallahassee International Airport said it landed a perfect score during its annual Federal Aviation Administration airport certification and safety inspection.
“The Airport is extremely proud of this accomplishment and remains committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety and security for our patrons, visitors and tenants,” said David Pollard, interim director of aviation at TLH.
All airports that offer commercial service go through the test yearly. The multiday inspection covers everything from airport safety to firefighting to the markings on the tarmac.
TLH said acing the FAA inspection is icing on the cake after a string of victories over the past month, including the maiden flight of between TLH and Reagan Washington Airport in D.C. and the successful opening of a Transportation Security Administration pre-check enrollment center.