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Staff Reports

Committee to oppose greyhound-racing ban announces formation

Above: Greyhounds race at a Naples/Fort Myers track. Photo courtesy Van Abernathy.

The Committee to Support Greyhounds has been formed for the “purpose of promoting greyhound welfare, racing, and adoption, as well as educating the public regarding the life of racing greyhounds,” the group announced in a Monday release.

“The members of this committee are a group of passionate supporters of the greyhound breed, spearheading a grassroots campaign to boldly go into the heart of greyhound racing in Florida, sharing real life events of happy, healthy, loving greyhounds in ALL stages of life – from young puppies to life at the track to retirement,” it said.

The committee’s announcement comes the same day that advocates for a ballot initiative to put an end to greyhound racing launched their “Protect Dogs – Yes on 13” campaign.

Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw the racing of dogs and wagering on such races. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

The proposal also would allow other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

“The ex-racing greyhounds you may meet personally or see from a distance did not just ‘happen’; their demeanor and their willingness to adapt to different situations come first from careful breeding over generations, then from being raised with attention and love, and most of all, from being allowed to do what they love to do: Run, chase, and race,” said Committee to Support Greyhounds chairman Jennifer Newcome in a statement.

“If you take any one of those out of the equation, the greyhound you will see in the future will be a very poor imitation of the amazing, athletic, adaptable and loving animals you see now,” she added.

“Greyhound racing has been a proud Florida tradition for decades, as well as an integral part of the Florida economy, creating thousands of jobs, contributing to the tax base and supporting local charities,” Newcome said. “This grassroots committee will work to educate and inspire voters to vote FOR Greyhounds by voting NO on Amendment 13.”

The committee’s website is here.


Updated 3 p.m. — The “Protect Dogs – Yes on 13” campaign issued a statement in response to this post:

“This afternoon, greyhound breeders filed a political committee cynically called the Committee to Support Greyhounds. This is an obvious attempt to confuse voters, and proof that they don’t have a real message.

“It’s worth noting that the chair of this deceptively-named committee lives in Texas, while the Treasurer lives in North Carolina. We will not be distracted by this out-of-state group.

“While greyhou​​n​​d breeders try to sow confusion, we will continue informing our neighbors about greyhound confinement and racetrack deaths. We are confident that once voters have the facts, they will vote Yes on 13.”

Statewide job fairs attract big-name employers

Floridians looking for a job in construction and manufacturing, take note: CareerSource Florida is teaming up with some of the state’s largest employers for job fairs to be held across the state in the coming weeks.

Among the strategic partners for the job fairs is Lennar Homes, which will have a presence at each of the nearly 20 events.

The first job fairs in the series will be held June 12 by Career Source Brevard, CareerSource Okaloosa Walton, CareerSource Palm Beach and CareerSource Suncoast. A flyer for the Jacksonville edition of the job fair, scheduled for June 14, shows a couple dozen employers looking to hire in the construction industry.

Companies listed in that sample flyer include Lennar subcontractors Quality by Design, Construction Specialties of North Florida and Outdoor Site Solutions, among dozens of other employers. The Jax event will include several contractors looking to staff up to help build the new state-of-the-art solar manufacturing facility announced earlier this year by JinkoSolar and Florida Power & Light parent company NextEra Energy.

Other strategic partners in the job fair series include Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which is looking to help displaced Puerto Ricans land work in the Sunshine State, as well as Uber and Walmart.

Uber is hoping to make attending the fairs a little easier for job seekers by offering discounted rates to and from each event. Those needing a ride can receive 20 percent off their door-to-door fare, both ways, by using the code “CAREERSOURCEFL.”

The full list of the job fairs, sorted by date, is below.

—Bradenton: 10 am to 2 pm June 12 at Manatee Technical College, 6305 State Road 70 East.

—Rockledge: 10 am to 1 pm June 12 at Rockledge Career Center, 295 Barnes Blvd.

—West Palm Beach: 10 am to 1 pm June 12 at CareerSource Palm Beach County Central Career Center – Board Room, 3400 Belvedere Rd.

—Crestview: 11 am to 2 pm June 12 at the Crestview Public Library, 1445 Commerce Drive.

—Fort Myers: 9 am to 1 pm June 14 at CareerSource Southwest Florida, Ft. Myers Center 4150 Ford St. Extension.

—New Port Richey: 9 am to 2 pm June 14 at CareerSource Pasco Hernando, 4440 Grand Blvd.

—Stuart: 9 am to 11 am June 14 at CareerSource Research Coast Career Center, 710 SE Central Pkwy.

—Vero Beach: 9 am to 11 am June 14 at CareerSource Research Coast Career Center, 1180 82nd Avenue, Suite 103.

—Clearwater: 10 am to 1 pm June 14 at the St. Petersburg College EpiCenter Campus, 13805 58th St N.

—Fort Pierce: 10 am to 1 pm June 14 at CareerSource Research Coast Career Center, 2102 Avenue Q, Room 18.

—Jacksonville: 10 am to 1 pm June 14 at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Deerwood Center, 9911 Old Baymeadows Rd.

—Ocala: 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm on June 14 at College of Central Florida, 3001 SW College Road.

—Lake City: 9 am to 1 pm June 15 at the American Legion Post 57, 2602 SW Main Blvd.

—Madison: 9 am to 1 pm June 15 at the CareerSource North Florida Office, 705 E Base St.

—Kissimmee: 10 am to 1 pm June 15 at CareerSource Central Florida, 1392 East Vine St.

—Orange City: 10 am to 2 pm on June 15 at CareerSource Flagler/Volusia’s Orange City Office, 846 Saxon Blvd.

—Milton: 10 am to 2 pm on June 21 at the Pensacola State College Milton Campus (Bldg.400), 5988 Highway 90.

—Lauderdale Lakes: 10 am to 1 pm July 11 Broward County Library Lauderdale Lakes Library/Educational and Cultural Center 3580 W Oakland Park Blvd.

Campaign will officially kick off to promote dog-racing ban

Advocates for a ballot initiative to put an end to greyhound racing say they’ll launch their “Protect Dogs – Yes on 13” campaign Monday, with a press conference at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

State Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican and “steadfast advocate of greyhound protection issues,” is slated to attend with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, campaign volunteers and rescued greyhounds, according to a news release.

“I have worked on the greyhound racing issue since my very first year in the Legislature and I am thrilled that the voters of Florida will finally get a chance to decide the fate of dog racing in our state,” Young told Florida Politics.

“I believe that, finally, common sense will prevail and these gentle dogs will no longer be forced to run around a track,” she added.

Amendment 13, placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw the racing of dogs and wagering on such races. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

The proposal also would allow other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

“Greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane,” said campaign co-chair Kate MacFall in a statement. “Thousands of dogs endure lives of confinement and substandard treatment at Florida dog tracks, and every three days a greyhound dies.”

But greyhound owners and breeders, who oppose the ban, deny accusations of cruelty and have challenged the proposed amendment in court.

Undaunted, the campaign chose to kick off at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which it called “one of the leading animal welfare organizations in the state.”

“We are proud to host this historic announcement,” said Sherry Silk, the organization’s CEO. “Dogs play such an important role in our lives, we consider them family, and they deserve to be protected.”

The Protect Dogs – Yes on 13 campaign will next hold 13 grassroots meetings across the state. It recently launched a digital campaign to inform voters through a dedicated website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account.

“This will be a true grassroots campaign,” said Joyce Carta, another campaign co-chair. “We are confident that when Floridians see the way greyhounds suffer in this industry, they will vote ‘yes’ for the dogs.”

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Casting call

There’s no catch: Floridians and tourists without fishing licenses can bait the Sunshine State’s salt waters today and tomorrow, allowing novice to expert anglers to grab their poles and try their luck without the usual cost.

For folks in Tallahassee, that could mean a few free casts into waters near the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Apalachee Bay.

Floridians can enjoy license-free fishing this weekend.

The weekend marks two of just four days out of the year when citizens can fish salt waters for free, according to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (two freshwater days will take place next weekend).

Fitting, then, that it also marks the start of National Fishing and Boating Week. According to advocacy group Keep Florida Fishing, the weeklong celebration is an annual reminder of how critical fishing and boating industries are to Florida and the nation as a whole.

“We thank Gov. [RickScott and the FWC for supporting license-free fishing days as well as their ongoing support for Florida’s fishing and boating communities,” said Gary Jennings, Director of Keep Florida Fishing.

Keep Florida Fishing is affiliated with the American Sportfishing Association. That group’s Florida fisheries policy director, Kellie Ralston, works out of the capital and encouraged citizens to take advantage of the license-free days.

“With opportunities to fish even if you don’t have a license, National Fishing and Boating Week is the perfect opportunity for anglers of all skill levels to invite family and friends to join them on the water and share their love for fishing, boating and Florida’s natural resources.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew WilsonDanny McAuliffeJim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

Alberto touches down in Florida — Accompanied by bands of rain across the state, Subtropical Storm Alberto made a Memorial Day afternoon landfall near Laguna Beach, according to The Weather Channel. The Saturday prior, before the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season even came close to the Panhandle, Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency, issuing mandatory evacuations for barrier islands in Franklin County and a few voluntary evacuations nearby. The Weather Channel estimates Alberto brought 8.69 inches near Okeechobee; 4.37 inches in Key West; 3.71 inches in Miami and Fort Lauderdale; and 3.61 inches in Destin/Ft. Walton Beach. The storm prefaced the 2018 hurricane season, which officially began Friday, and served as a reminder for Floridians to partake in the disaster preparedness sales-tax holiday, set for Friday through Thursday.

State financial regulator resigns — The head of the state Office of Financial Regulation, Drew Breakspear, resigned amid pressure from his superior, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. POLITICO Florida reported Thursday that a review of public records indicated the turmoil “came amid fights with scorned companies and high-profile securities traders who lobbied Patronis after disagreements with Breakspear’s office.” As well, an internal sexual harassment investigation reportedly led Patronis to write a public letter to Breakspear telling him he “no longer has confidence in [Breakspear’s] ability to lead” earlier this month, sources said. According to public records released this week, OFR conducted an investigation into an incident involving a male worker inappropriately touching a female co-worker’s breast, but could not substantiate sexual harassment had occurred. The results of the investigation were given to OFR Deputy Commissioner Pamela Epting, who reports to Breakspear.

Fight over smokable pot continues — Jon Mills, a lawyer representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the state’s medical marijuana smoking ban, which was struck down more than a week ago by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, has asked Gievers to lift the automatic delay of her ruling. In other words, Mills wants patients to have the right to smoke now. Gievers had ruled the ban “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016. The state immediately responded with an appeal. John Morgan, the ubiquitous trial attorney from Orlando, held a high-profile news conference Tuesday calling on Gov. Scott to drop the appeal. Morgan told reporters: “ … I really believe that Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something that he does not have to do.”

Date set for felon rights appeal — Oral arguments over whether Florida’s clemency process is constitutional will be heard July 25 by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker declared unconstitutional the state’s method of restoring voting rights to convicted felons who have completed their sentences. The state appealed the decision in April. Meanwhile, a related amendment awaits voters on the November ballot. If approved by at least 60 percent, voting rights would automatically be restored to felons who’ve completed their sentences, barring murderers and sex offenders.

Teachers union ranks legislators — The Florida Education Association unveiled this week a two-year composite grade (A to F) for lawmakers in the Legislature. Most Republicans received F’s and most Democrats received grades higher than a C. Both Richard Corcoran, the House Speaker and Joe Negron, the Senate President, received F grades. Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat, surprisingly was given a C+ rating. “Nobody could get higher than a C if they voted for 7055,” Joanne McCall, the FEA’s president, told the Tallahassee Democrat. HB 7055 was a controversial education package that included union decertification measures. Montford, a former superintendent and ally of FEA, defended his actions and said he had to support the package because other measures he supported were logrolled into it.

Scott doles out $10 million in job-related awards

As he approaches his last few months as governor, Scott is following through with one of his pet projects: The Job Growth Grant Fund.

Spawned in 2017 by the Legislature and Scott, the fund provides $85 million for improving public infrastructure and enhancing workforce training in the state. The governor this week announced an award batch worth $10 million, bringing the grand total to $70 million distributed since the incentive program’s creation. The project has for two years now been appropriated $85 million in state funding.

Rick Scott doles out millions in cash for Florida businesses.

According to the Governor’s Office, awards of varying amounts will be given to Eastern Florida State College for “training and certificate programs;” Baker County for “an access road to the Woodstock Industrial Park;” St. Johns River State College “to expand an advanced manufacturing and robotics training program;” Florida Gateway College “to enhance current workforce training programs;” Charlotte County “for Piper Road Extension and infrastructure improvements;” and Florida State College at Jacksonville “to enhance the Northeast Florida Advanced Manufacturing & Logistic Job Growth program.”

Administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity, more than 246 proposals were reviewed by the agency alongside Enterprise Florida. Ultimately, however, Scott chose the proposals based on expected return on investment and ability to meet the demand for workforce needs.

“Florida’s economic growth is continuing to outpace the nation because of our nonstop focus on creating jobs in every corner of our state,” Scott said in a statement. “When we created Florida’s Job Growth Grant Fund, we knew that this targeted and transparent approach would pay huge dividends for local communities.”

Scott heralds Wyndham Destinations relocation

Scott also announced this week that publicly traded timeshare company Wyndham Destinations is moving its HQ to Orlando and bringing along 200 jobs.

Scott, running for U.S. Senate, said that “by cutting taxes and creating an environment where our private sector can grow, we have made it easier for major businesses to move their operations to Florida. Wyndham Destinations made a great choice by picking Orlando for their headquarters.”

Rick Scott celebrates Wyndham Destinations relocation to Orlando.

The governor’s release said the move came about through “strong partnerships” with Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and others, including the city of Orlando, Orange County and the state, which greased the wheel with economic incentives.

Along with the “200 new high wage jobs,” Wyndham has committed to making $7.5 million in capital investments in the Orlando area.

Putnam: Floridians should begin hurricane prep now

Following predictions of an active hurricane season for the Sunshine State and early cyclone activity as shown by Subtropical Storm Alberto, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam reminded Floridians this week to prepare for the storm season that began Friday.

“As Floridians, we understand the threat of hurricane season all too well,” Putnam said. “It’s imperative that Floridians have a plan in place to protect their families, homes and businesses this hurricane season.”

Adam Putnam: The time for hurricane prep is now.

Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor, gave three big tips: Have a plan, prepare a kit and stay informed.

A news release from his office says, “Supplies should also include: cash, blankets and sleeping bags, first-aid kits, battery-powered radios, flashlights and extra batteries, clothing, necessary medications, pet care, a list of important phone numbers and important documents stored in waterproof containers.”

His department in times of emergency provides necessary food and water to affected areas and helps protect animals and pets. Putnam also oversees the Florida Forest Service, which is responsible for incident management and helps in debris removal.

Added Putnam: “Floridians should take advantage of the hurricane preparedness sales tax holiday that begins June 1.”

PIFF Counts Down Insurance Tips for Hurricane Season

3, 2, 1 … Hurricane Season is upon us. As Floridians think about evacuation routes and supplies, the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF) is reminding consumers to think about insurance as well. The group recently counted down steps to help protect assets when disaster strikes.

PIFF’s Top 10 for hurricane season.

“Always start with a plan to protect your loved ones,” said Samantha Sexton, VP of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for PIFF. “Also think about your insurance. It’s important to understand what coverage you have, and whether it’s enough for your assets. Know what your windstorm deductible is, so you are prepared in case you have to cover that out-of-pocket cost.” More on PIFF’s top 10 at

The Week in Appointments

Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida

Tampa Bay businessman and civic leader Paul E. Avery was appointed to a three-year term on the board of directors of the nonprofit Foundation, dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). He brings a long history of volunteer nonprofit service, including chair of the board of directors of the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance and past chair of Take Stock in Children, Inc. Other organizations he’s been involved with include The Great Outdoors Conservancy, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Hillsborough Education Foundation, Tampa Bay Watch and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Avery is president and CEO of World of Beer Franchising, Inc. and has been CEO and principal of Avery Management Group since February 2010.

State boards

Stephen Douglas, 36, of Lake City, was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Lake Shore Hospital Authority for a term ending July 20, 2020.

Patrick Labrada, 65, of Key West and Aaron Castillo, 55, of Key West, were appointed to the Monroe County Housing Authority for terms ending Oct. 30, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2021, respectively.

Eric Schreck, 51, of Winter Springs and Charles Hart, 43, of Sanford, were appointed to the Seminole County Housing Authority. Schreck will serve Sept. 7, 2021. Hart will serve until Sept. 7, 2019.

Alvaro Hernandez, 46, of Odessa and John Finnerty, 71, of Dade City, were appointed to the Pasco County Housing Authority. Hernandez will serve until Sept. 12, 2019. Finnerty will serve to Aug. 30, 2018.

Mark Anderson, 47, of Tallahassee, was appointed to the Northwest Florida Regional Housing Authority for a term ending May 8, 2021.

Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Charlotte Flynt, 72, of Miramar Beach and Lori Kelley, 51, of Fort Walton Beach, were reappointed to terms ending May 31, 2022. Reynolds Henderson, 41, of Santa Rosa Beach, was appointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Susan Amat, 44, of Miami, succeeds Daniel Diaz-Leyva for a term ending May 31, 2022. Ben Leon, 50, of Coral Gables, was reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board

Charles Keith and Al Alexander were reappointed this week to the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board. Both will serve terms beginning June 1, 2018, and ending March 1, 2022. Keith, 65, of Lake City, is the president of American Pawn Brokers. Alexander, 68, of Madison, is a part-time contractor for the Forestry Company.

Instagram of the week

Revenue clarifies tax-free disaster preparedness holidays

Friday marked the beginning of a weeklong sales-tax holiday on qualifying items related to disaster preparedness.

The state’s tax-overseeing agency, however, is reminding Floridians that there are stipulations to the break period. A DOR spokeswoman noted in an email that “the sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of (certain) items.

Florida’s tax-free hurricane preparation holiday begins.

“Additionally, the sales tax holiday does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment or airport.”

Revenue also provided literature laying out what items will be exempt during the tax break. They range from ice ($10 or less) to portable generators ($750 or less). Individuals and businesses wanting to share information on the tax holiday can visit Revenue’s website for pre-made, shareable materials.

This year’s disaster prep period was crafted by the Legislature as the state was still reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Lawmakers extended the 2018 break to more than twice as long as last year’s.

Everglades National Park, FWC expand python removal efforts

Everglades National Park and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are partnering to expand efforts to remove Burmese pythons from within the park.

The partnership will expand the park’s Python Removal Authorized Agent Program by allowing paid FWC contractors to remove pythons in Everglades National Park. The expansion will triple the maximum allowed number of participants in the park from 40 to 120, allow FWC contractors to use firearms or other humane methods to euthanize pythons in the wild and qualify additional trained personnel to live capture and turn in pythons.

Florida FWC continues its campaign to rid the Everglades of Burmese pythons.

The terms of the agreement could allow FWC contractors to engage in python removals in the park, potentially as early as July 2018.

Burmese pythons pose a significant threat to the Everglades ecosystem. Along with State, Federal, Tribal and local partners, Everglades National Park and the FWC have invested millions of dollars and countless hours in developing and testing ways to remove pythons from the Everglades.

“While hunting remains prohibited by law in Everglades National Park,” said Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, “we believe the expansion of the program to include allowing FWC contractors to remove pythons in the park will be welcomed by concerned citizens that want to play a role in helping with this significant problem.”

James Madison Institute lauds ‘Right to Try’ legislation

The Trump administration drew support this week from a free-market think tank nestled in the capital for signing legislation making experimental medicines and treatment options available to terminally ill patients.

“On this historic occasion, we would like to thank President Donald Trump, the leadership in Congress, and the thousands of stakeholders who have labored for years to make ‘Right to Try’ a reality,” James Madison Institute (JMI) CEO and President Bob McClure said in a statement.

Donald Trump receives kudos for signing the Right to Try Act.

According to the White House, the bill specifically “amends Federal law to allow certain unapproved, experimental drugs to be administered to terminally ill patients who have exhausted all approved treatment options and are unable to participate in clinical drug trials.”

McClure said JMI worked diligently with those involved in the process to get the bill to the president’s desk.

“As a result of this groundbreaking legislation, Americans will now have the opportunity and freedom to choose medical options that they otherwise would not have,” McClure continued. “It is a testament to the commitment of the president and the Congress that we can count this as a win for free-market health care.”

AAA study: More Floridians prepping for hurricane season

Back-to-back active hurricane seasons in 2016 and 2017 seem to have been a wake-up call for Florida residents, according to a recent AAA Consumer Pulse™ survey. It shows 81 percent of residents are making advanced preparations for hurricane season. That’s a 23 percent increase from 2016.

Based on AAA findings, if a named storm were to cause an evacuation, the majority of Floridians would heed the official warning and leave their homes.

However, of those who would evacuate, more than half (62 percent) say they would only leave for a category three hurricane or greater.

“Major hurricanes like Harvey and Irma seem to be making residents more aware of the dangers of hurricane season and the need to make advanced preparations,” said Bobby Futch, vice president of Insurance Claims for AAA-The Auto Club Group.

“Storm preparations should include having a storm kit, evacuation plan and proper insurance coverage, which includes flood insurance,” he added.

Hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30 and experts are forecasting a very active year, with 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and as many as three major hurricanes (i.e., category 3 or higher).

ExcelinEd promotes Khan Academy Teacher Training

An education think tank founded by Jeb Bush is spreading the word about online training platform Khan Academy.

ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque touted a free 60-minute lesson for teachers and their students that serves as a primer for how they can get the most out of the educational resources available on the vast video lesson repository.

Khan Academy founder Salman Kahn.

“It’s exciting to see opportunities for course access continue to expand and strengthen. Please join me in sharing this new resource with your networks,” Levesque said.

Khan Academy Teacher Training covers how to use the platform for in-class practice, homework, review and test prep. It includes a suite of teacher-focused features.

Educators who complete the training also have a chance to win a trip to Khan Academy HQ.

Plaintiffs seek quick end to Amendment 1 lawsuit

A Tallahassee judge will hear argument later this month for a motion in a three-year-old lawsuit over how the state funds environmental conservation.

Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Charles Dodson will hear a motion for “partial summary judgment” June 15, court dockets show. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial. Partial summary judgments resolve one or more issues, but not the whole case.

The motion was filed by David Guest, attorney for the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and other plaintiffs on 2014’s Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change, passed by nearly 75 percent of voters, mandates state spending for land and water conservation.

But environmental advocacy groups filed suit in Leon County in 2015. The plaintiffs say lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

For example, Guest’s motion says “the primary function of the (Florida Forest Service) is to fight and prevent fires on private lands and to promote forestry and prescribed burning on private lands. However, the Legislature appropriated $57.6 million of funds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the FFS for salaries, expenses and operating costs,” three times as much as what it reported in expenditures.

Dodson previously set a weeklong bench trial in Tallahassee for July 23-27, records show.

Cate scores appearance on Fox talking Roseanne

Kevin Cate, the Tallahassee-based ‘communications savant,’ had been booked on Fox News this past week to talk about health care, he said in his occasional newsletter.

“Then something else — then something else — and finally, five minutes before airtime — Roseanne,” he wrote.

Kevin Cate gets blindsided by Rosanne on Fox News.

As ABC News explained: Roseanne “came under fire shortly after she posted an offensive tweet early Tuesday morning targeting Valerie Jarrett, a former top adviser in the administration of President Barack Obama. In the tweet, Barr wrote that Jarrett, an African-American born in Iran, was the product of the Muslim Brotherhood and ‘Planet of the Apes.’ “

ABC, owned by Disney, quickly canceled her rebooted sitcom even though she had apologized for the tweet, which they called “abhorrent” and “repugnant.”

Cate appeared on “The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino,” and was billed as “a former Obama Florida campaign spokesman.”

“You have to give credit to ABC,” Cate told Perino. “This was a show that was making them money and a lot of people watched it.”

Cate said later in his newsletter: “It’s high-stakes (on FNC the president is watching!?!) and kinda weird. And it’s fun to hear from old friends who randomly see you on TV and send you pictures from gyms … I can’t believe how many of my friends work out at 2 p.m. Or at all.”

There are some downsides, though: “Like RIP my Twitter timeline.”

Food banks prep for hurricanes

Feeding Florida and its statewide network of food banks are gearing up for the 2018 hurricane season.

Just last week, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida assembled 1,000 disaster relief packs with the help of 100 volunteers ahead of what’s expected to be an active storm season. Each pack can meet a family’s nutritional needs for three days — even without power.

Citing the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, a source affiliated with Feeding Florida said the “need to prepare in advance has never been more critical.”

The Second Harvest of the Big Bend, which would cater to Leon County and surrounding areas in the event of an emergency, has 41,000 square feet of storage space, making it the largest warehouse overseen by Feeding Florida north of Orlando.

In total, the Big Bend group has distributed more than 250,000 pounds of emergency food and water to folks in 11 North Florida counties.

A food packaging event for the group will take place today at Godby High School in Leon County. For more information, visit the Second Harvest of the Big Bend’s website.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Delegation for 6.1.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Supreme Court looms large in June as well as November

As June unfolds, news hounds will track the latest breaking news. That news will include whether the Donald Trump/Kim Jong Un summit actually happens, whether immigration or DACA moves forward, or whether the soon-to-be-released inspector general report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe is worthy of the hype coming from Republicans.

Or there may be breathless coverage on par with that offered following the idiotic tweets from Roseanne Barr. As the frivolous matters quickly fade, real news and important headlines will come throughout June from the hallowed halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court looms large in June — and November. 

A handful of monster cases are yet to be decided, including one that both Florida Senators and the North Florida delegation are anxiously awaiting. Others, which will have a significant national impact, will also be decided before the Court’s term ends on June 30.

Florida vs. Georgia involves the allocation of water from the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint river basin into North Florida. This dispute, lasting more than two decades and directly affecting the economy of the region, was argued on January 8 and is now only days away from a final resolution.

Gil v. Whitford, argued during the first week of the current term in October, puts the entire practice of partisan gerrymandering into question. Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission will determine if a small business has the right to refuse certain services, such as baking a wedding cake for gay couples, to customers based upon religious beliefs.

A decision expected during the final week is Trump v. Hawaii. This case involves the constitutionality of Trump’s “travel ban” covering 8 majority Muslim countries.

Once the cases are decided, both parties will head into the summer months with a message for voters. Judges, whether they are one of 9 on the Supreme Court, or the hundreds sitting on federal benches around the country, matter.

When partisans of both sides say “elections have consequences,” putting like-minded people under black robes is a prime example. Putting bureaucrats in federal agencies doesn’t come close.

Democrats may well retake the House, though the ballyhooed “blue wave” is diminishing. If they are to truly curb Trump’s effectiveness and prevent him from placing young, conservatives on the bench for years to come, they must take the Senate.

That is a major reason why the race between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott is important to both sides. With Democrats needing twice the number of seats this year, a Scott victory in November makes an upper chamber takeover almost impossible to fathom.

This explains the concern of national Democrats, who financed television ads for Nelson after Scott came out of the starting gate with $8 million worth of ads during the first few weeks of his campaign.

Senate candidates often spend little time on the stump or in their advertisements talking about their rule in shaping the judiciary. But for whatever current issue he or she promises to fix, the winner will help set the long-term direction of the country for years to come.

Nelson releases first ad of campaign 

The Nelson campaign has produced its first statewide ad that uses himself as the narrator. “Stars” briefly looks back on Nelson’s mission on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986, but mainly focuses on a positive message of working together.

The narrative transitions as the video transitions from a boy playing with a toy rocket to a real rocket, and then to Nelson onboard the space shuttle Columbia, and then a contemporary Nelson in campaign mode.

Narrated by Nelson, the 47-second ad will serve as a tool to reacquaint him with Floridians he has served for 18 years, as well as those who have moved to the state or come of voting age during that span. It is a positive ad that begins with a call for inspiration.

To watch the full ad, click the image below:

“Bill Nelson has worked his entire career to put the people of Florida first,” Nelson campaign manager Marley Wilkes said in a statement. “He stands up for the values that make Florida great, and in the U.S. Senate he puts politics aside and focuses on doing what’s right for the people of our state because that is who he cares about.”

Republicans responded with a taunt.

“After just about 8 weeks of silence, Bill Nelson’s lagging campaign has finally decided to get in the game and release its first digital ad,” said Camille Gallo, regional press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in a Tuesday email. “In case you forgot, Governor Rick Scott has already run 6 TV ads and has announced a new ad buy today.”

The Nelson campaign is yet to fund any television ads, but last week the Democratic Senate Majority PAC committed $2.2 million to get him on the air for the first time. Scott has released 8 ads costing more than $13 million.

Rubio talks election security with supervisors

Florida’s junior Senator has consistently held the opinion that Russia did interfere with American elections to a limited extent in 2016. Rubio is among many on Capitol Hill who believe the Russians are looking for ways to cause more problems in 2018.

Rubio is not convinced local elections officials are ready to deal with what might be coming their way.

“Most of our election officials in Florida, I believe, with all due respect, are overconfident,” he recently said to the Florida Association of Counties. “I don’t think they fully understand the nature of the threat.”

Some of those local officials did not appreciate the two-term Republican’s comments. On Wednesday, he was in Orlando meeting with 7 supervisors of elections discussing cyber threats and hearing their assurances they are hard at work thwart tampering in their county.

Rubio described the encounter as “productive and timely” and also sought to soften his original comment.

“While I have confidence in the competence and commitment of Florida’s election officials, cyber threats sponsored by a nation state are sophisticated and constantly evolving,” he said following the meeting. “Federal funds are already available to states, including Florida, to improve election security. However, in order to effectively confront this threat to our democracy I will be pushing for federal officials to share more information with Florida and other states regarding Russian sponsored attacks during the 2016 elections.”

Pasco Supervisor Brian Corley described the meeting as “timely and productive,” adding they “were able to convey to Senator Rubio the tremendous efforts we’re undertaking to secure the vote.”

While Rubio mentioned the available federal funds, Florida is still working on its application for $19.2 million to harden systems.

Trump signs Right to Try Act; delegation splits

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed the Right to Try Act, which allows terminally ill patients to bypass the Food and Drug Administration and try experimental drugs to treat their conditions. Just one day later, Trump signed the measure into law.

“As I proudly sign this bill, thousands of terminally ill Americans will have the help, the hope and the fighting chance — and I think it’s going to be better than chance — that they will be cured, that they will be helped, that they will be able to be with their families for a long time, or maybe just for a longer time,” Trump said.

Al Lawson was among the Democratic crossovers on the ‘Right to Try’ Act.

After the Senate passed the measure late last year on a voice vote, the House approved the bill by a 250-169 count. All Republicans voted in favor, with 22 Democrats crossing over, including Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

Several Democrats opposing the bill said going outside the FDA would give false hope to patients and open the door to those peddling ineffective medications in the name of making a profit.

Republicans like Tom Rooney of Okeechobee said keeping hope alive made the bill worthwhile.

“Terminally ill patients are people just like the rest of us — they are our neighbors, friends and loved ones who are just looking for a way to survive,” Rooney said. “This law sends a message loud and clear that they won’t be forced to give up their fight. The Right to Try Act gives them the opportunity to keep trying and to keep that hope alive.”

 Delegation provides near-unanimous support for military spending bill

Last week the House passed the $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act. Several delegation members had the opportunity to include specific provisions within the bill.

Central Florida Republican Daniel Webster celebrated the salary increases for military members and restoring an aging military infrastructure.

Frederica Wilson was the only member of the Florida Delegation not to vote for military spending.

“The NDAA provides our troops a pay raise for the second year in a row, the largest raise in 9 years,” Webster said in a message to constituents. “It increases funding for training and for rebuilding and replacing worn-out equipment throughout all branches of the Armed Forces.”

The bill passed by an overwhelming majority of 351-66. Every delegation member voted for it with the exception of Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson.

“Over the last year, we have begun to correct (the funding) problem by rebuilding our military and investing in our service members,” said Dr. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Gaetz embraces Trump trade actions toward China

With talk of tariffs and trade wars, some economists and business pundits have roundly criticized Trump’s imposition of tariffs and tough actions pointed at China. According to Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz, a vocal Trump backer, it’s about time.

Matt Gaetz (unsurprisingly) goes all in for Donald Trump on China tariffs.

“I commend President Trump for taking action against China’s ruthless and unfair trade practices, as well as its state-sponsored theft of American innovators’ intellectual property,” Gaetz said in a news release. “For too many years, China has pursued trade practices and business policies that make it impossible for foreign companies to compete on a level playing field with Chinese companies.”

Gaetz has been a vocal critic of Chinese trade policies since his election to Congress in 2016. Last year, he co-hosted a field hearing with Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City, where attendees learned about the many ways in which China consistently and deliberately steals American technology, then profits from it.

He pointed out that intellectual property theft costs the US economy over 225 billion dollars each year. Speaking as a member of the Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Gaetz applauded “the bold steps President Trump is taking to address this troubling issue.”

Jacksonville police union backs Lawson

On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Al Lawson announced a major endorsement when the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police gave their backing. Though Lawson’s opponent, Alvin Brown, is the former Mayor of Jacksonville, the announcement did not provide a major surprise.

Brown did not even sit for an interview with the union and considering Lawson’s history of support for and from law enforcement, an interview may not have mattered anyway. Lawson’s first FOP endorsement came in 1982.

Al Lawson gets the nod from Jacksonville law enforcement.

FOP head Steve Zona had strong words of praise for Lawson, noting that “public safety in Jacksonville is your turf.” Lawson, meanwhile, told the officers on hand that “you don’t have to worry about where I stand. I stand with you.”

The state FOP endorsed Lawson in his race against former U.S. Corrine Brown in 2016.

DeSantis disagrees with Gowdy, Rubio on FBI spy claim

On Wednesday, the media was abuzz over comments made by South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy that the FBI acted properly and doing what Americans “would want them to be doing” when it came to the investigation into the Trump campaign. On Thursday, Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis begged to differ with his colleague from the House Judiciary Committee.

Gowdy said there was no “spy” in the Trump campaign, but instead an informant was engaging certain staffers to find out about Russia, not Trump. DeSantis believes that is a distinction without a difference and believes the FBI was out to get candidate Trump.

Ron DeSantis and Trey Gowdy don’t see eye to eye on FBI actions toward the Trump campaign. (Image via Getty)

“If you had a problem with somebody on the periphery of the campaign, the obvious thing to do is to go brief the campaign and brief Donald Trump,” DeSantis said Thursday morning on Fox and Friends. ““When you are deploying surveillance powers, counterintelligence powers, against an opposition party’s campaign, that is not normal, and I think that is not what Americans want the FBI to be doing.”

Gowdy was not the only one throwing some cold water on the “spy” angle. On ABC’s This Week, Rubio also claimed there was “no evidence” to support the claim the FBI was using informants to target the Trump campaign.

DeSantis is running for governor with the full support of Trump.

After recent school bus crashes, Crist touts seat belt bill

Over the past two weeks alone, incidents involving school buses have killed or injured students and adults. The tragedy in New Jersey, along with other crashes in Idaho, Maryland and Massachusetts are recent examples.

Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg has some experience in the area of school bus safety and has come out again urging seat belts be provided on buses. Last year, he introduced the Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act, that would require all new buses be equipped with lap and shoulder belts.

Charlie Crist is pushing increased school bus safety.

While serving as a state Senator, Crist led the effort to require seat belts in Florida. He is now trying to make it a national requirement.

Following recommendations from the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB), Crist is again urging federal action.

“Our responsibility to keep students safe goes beyond the classroom — we must also provide for safe transportation to and from school,” said Crist. “I am thankful that the National Transportation Safety Board is joining our call to require seat belts for our children on school buses. We made progress in Florida. Now we need to enhance protections nationwide.”

The National Safety Council fully supports Crist’s bill.

“Children are provided the protection of three-point belts when they ride in a car. The same protection should be offered to them in school buses. This legislation would enable this to happen,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, the council’s President and CEO.

Buchanan drug plan endorsed by Manatee County

Congressman Vern Buchanan announced strong local support for his seven-point plan to fight the prescription drug epidemic. The Manatee County Commission voted unanimously to adopt a resolution in support of the Opioid Emergency Response Act.

Buchanan’s bill would create a new and innovative program to incentivize the use of alternatives to addictive prescription opioids. The bill also incorporates ideas already-introduced in Congress, including increased research and prevention efforts, expanded access to treatment for those in recovery, and better screening to catch illegal drugs before they enter the country.

Manatee County endorses Vern Buchanan’s drug plan.

“Manatee County wishes to support the continued efforts of Congressman Vern Buchanan, who has been a champion of raising awareness to the opioid epidemic and has confronted it head-on by sponsoring legislation that addressed child abuse and child neglect due to substance abuse and he also helped secure millions in federal dollars for anti-drug efforts in 2017,” the resolution said.

Buchanan’s bill has also been endorsed by Centerstone, Drug Free Manatee, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the National Board for Certified Counselors, the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the Manatee, Sarasota and Hillsborough County Sheriffs, Manatee Memorial Hospital, Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

“Drugs are destroying lives and families not only in our backyard here in Southwest Florida but everywhere throughout the country,” said Buchanan in a news release. “We need to work together at the federal, state, and local level to address the epidemic.”

Curbelo talks hurricanes, immigration with DHS Secretary

Friday marks the first day of the hurricane season. Floridians are hoping 2018 is much calmer than the destructive storms that hit the state, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands last year.

Carlos Curbelo speaks with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo prepared for the season by visiting the National Hurricane Center headquarters on the Florida International University’s Main Campus. He was joined by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Last week forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which extends to November 30.

While she was in the neighborhood, Curbelo did not miss the opportunity to sit with Nielsen to discuss an issue where Curbelo has assumed national leadership. He is close to having the votes necessary to force a vote on DACA and immigration reform in the House.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with Secretary Nielsen in South Florida today to discuss efforts to move the immigration reform debate forward in Congress, as well as the federal government’s preparations for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season,” Curbelo said. “While part of South Florida may still be recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma last year, local, state and federal governments need to be prepared for the new season.

NRCC touts Salazar in CD 27

While most of the GOP establishment has written off Congressional District 27, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is impressed with a latecomer to the primary. The NRCC has added Miami journalist Maria Elvira Salazar to its Young Guns “On the Radar” phase for the fall elections.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is the current front-runner with $420,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Salazar entered the race on March 1 and raised slightly more than $300,000 during that first month.

National Republicans have named CD 27 candidate María Elvira Salazar a ‘young gun.’

“Congratulations to Maria Elvira Salazar for being named ‘On the Radar’ in the NRCC’s Young Guns program,” said NRCC Executive Director John Rogers. “Her compelling personal story, deep Miami roots, and fundraising prowess have served her campaign well,” said NRCC Executive Director John Rogers.

Salazar, a television journalist who has worked with Univision and Telemundo, did not enter the race as an unknown. The current officeholder is not ready to concede the seat to Democrats.

“The district is totally winnable for the right candidate,” Ros-Lehtinen said late last year. “She could be the right candidate.”

Rogers pledged the NRCC will closely monitor her efforts.

“Salazar is a lifelong resident of Miami who has what it takes to keep this seat red,” Rogers added. “The NRCC looks forward to watching Salazar’s campaign continue to progress.”

On this day in the headlines

June 1, 2005 — Deep Throat, the secret source whose insider guidance was vital to The Washington Post’s groundbreaking coverage of the Watergate scandal, was a pillar of the FBI named W. Mark Felt, the Post confirmed. The identity of Felt, who was the FBI’s No. 2 man at the time, was kept secret until now through an agreement between him and reporter Bob Woodward.

Felt’s role was announced in an article published in Vanity Fair, which used his attorney as the source. In response, Woodward said he was sticking by the arrangement, but shortly afterward the newspaper confirmed the story.

June 1, 2010 — As BP officials begin new efforts to stem the flow of oil from their blown-out rig, the latest forecast for the for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows it coming nearer to the Northwest Florida shores. The possible area of the spill extends to the barrier islands of Mississippi and Alabama.

The trajectory map has Florida’s coastline still hovering just outside the line of uncertainty by Wednesday. Meanwhile, an accelerated advertising campaign designed to inform the beaches of Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are still open. Gov. Charlie Crist has approved emergency funds totaling $1.45 million.

Bigger roster won’t necessarily lead to GOP win in Congressional Baseball Game 

It has been nearly one year since the shooting of Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise while his team was practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game. Thankfully, Scalise is improving, but his team still needs some help.

Bigger may not be better in the Congressional Baseball Game.

Last year, Democrats routed Republicans 11-2 and analysts believe they will win again when the teams square off on June 14 in Nationals Park. This year’s Republican roster shows 37 signed up to play, but most are there for emotional support. Democrats will have 24 players in the dugout.

Unfortunately for Republicans, one of those Democrats is Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who baffled GOP batters during last year’s game. Among Republicans in uniforms are two Floridians who will be playing in their last game. Both Tom Rooney of Okeechobee and Dennis Ross of Lakeland are retiring from Congress after their terms expire.

Business coalition meets hurricane season with consumer warning against AOB abuse and fraud

A business group has issued an alert, tied to the start of hurricane season Friday, warning insurance policyholders against jumping into assignment of benefits agreements with any contractors they might call to make storm repairs.

And never mind Subtropical Storm Alberto, which arrived unfashionably early over the Memorial Day weekend.

Such AOB agreements aren’t necessary before repairs begin, the Consumer Protection Coalition said, and homeowners shouldn’t feel pressured into signing them. Better, the group said, to call their insurance companies first.

“This hurricane season, Floridians need to be aware of AOB abuse and not become a victim,’’ said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the coalition’s main driver.

“As we saw last year with Hurricane Irma, major storms attract scam artists seeking to make money off hardworking Floridians. With this hurricane season expected to be an active one, anyone who sustains damage should call their insurance company first before signing an AOB.”

The group plans to roll out a series of digital ads to spread its message.

The warning extends to auto glass repair operations that go door-to-door following big storms to drum up business.

Insurance companies and business allies blame AOB agreements with dodgy contractors for inflating claims and driving up premiums for homeowner — and, increasingly, auto — policies. The agreements allow the contractors to enforce the policies and possibly even file lawsuits without the homeowner’s knowledge.

Business organizations have pressed the Legislature to crack down, but for two years the House and Senate have been unable to agree upon an approach. The coalition said it would try again in 2019.

The coalition offered this advice:

— Call your insurance company first to report losses.

— Hire only licensed, reputable companies and be wary of strangers who call or knock on your door asking for personal information.

— Review all documents before signing and ask questions so you know exactly what you are signing. Ask who is responsible for paying the vendor — you or your insurance company.

If you suspect fraud, call the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services, Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-693-5236.

Flags at half-staff for John Morroni

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor the late John Morroni, a former House member from Pinellas County. Morroni died Sunday.

He represented House District 50, which covered parts of Pinellas County, from 1992 to 2000.

Morroni spent the last 18 years on the Pinellas County Commission, serving as chairman in 2005, 2012, and 2015.

“As a symbol of respect for the memory of former state Rep. Morroni, and his service to Florida, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at the Pinellas County Courthouse and County Administration Building in Clearwater, the City Hall of Treasure Island, and at the State Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset (on) Friday, June 1,” Scott said in a statement. 

Greyhound racing-ban supporters launch digital campaign

Supporters of the proposed constitutional ban on greyhound racing have launched a digital campaign to inform voters about the amendment, the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 group announced Wednesday.

“The campaign will communicate to voters via a dedicated website, Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram account,” a news release said.

The campaign’s website is, the Twitter handle is @VoteYesOn13, and a Facebook page and Instagram account will both be at VoteYesOn13.

There’s also an official campaign logo: A greyhound jumping through the number 13.

“We will take our humane message directly to the voters,” campaign co-chair Sonia Stratemann said in a statement. “For the first time, they will have the opportunity to see direct evidence of greyhound confinement and racetrack deaths, and decide for themselves if this cruelty should end.”

Ban opponents, including greyhound owners and breeders who deny accusations of cruelty, have already challenged the proposed amendment in court.

Their suit says the ballot summary “fail(s) to inform voters that passage would essentially expand gambling by allowing pari-mutuel facilities in Florida to convert to mini-casinos.”

The amendment would allow other gambling at tracks, such as card games, to continue even after dog racing ends.

The campaign previously announced 13 “grassroots meetings” across the state, enlisted the support of Republican political consultant and lobbyist Marc Reichelderfer to serve as a senior advisor, and hired the firm of Trippi Norton Rossmeissl, a Democratic-aligned team that worked on Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory in Alabama.

The state constitutional amendment, placed on the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would outlaw the racing of dogs and wagering on such races. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Seminole Tribe announces $700M expansion at Hard Rock Tampa

The first line of the press release says it all: “Florida’s biggest casino is getting even bigger.”

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa on Wednesday announced “a nearly $700 million expansion … with 5,000 slot machines and almost 200 gaming tables,” the release said. Work should be completed by mid-2019.

“The expanded casino will offer one of the largest varieties of slot machines in the nation and will offer guests approximately 200,000 square feet of entertainment and gaming,” it added.

The rest of the press release is below:

Expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa is part of a record $2.4 billion economic investment by the Seminole Tribe of Florida in its two flagship destination casino complexes in Tampa and Hollywood. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is undergoing a simultaneous expansion and renovation.

In Tampa, the Tribe’s economic investment means there will be close to an additional 1,000 part time and full time jobs, which are in addition to the over 2,000 construction jobs on-site during the two-year building project. Economic analysts point to another 1,022 indirect permanent jobs generated by the casino expansion, plus another 2,268 indirect construction jobs, for a grand total of more than 6,000 additional jobs.

“Major expansion of the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa is further evidence of the Seminole Tribe’s commitment to the people of Florida that it will continue to increase the economic impact of its Seminole Gaming facilities,” said Jim Allen, CEO of Seminole Gaming.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is one of the largest employers in Tampa Bay with more than 3,500 team members and the property will continue to grow as a destination resort with the ongoing expansion.

“Our team members are the backbone of our operation, and we value their attention to detail and focus on guest care,” said Joe Lupo, President of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa. “In addition to enhancing our guest experience and offering a premiere resort entertainment destination, this expansion will offer more growth opportunities for our team members.”

The centerpiece of the expansion is a new 15-story hotel tower with an additional 564 hotel rooms and suites.  In total, the expanded Seminole Hard Rock Hotel will offer approximately 800 guest rooms, including 79 new hotel suites for a new total of 88 suites. For the ultimate VIP experience, the top floor of the new hotel tower will feature a private gaming parlor for VIP guests, with an exclusive check in and private elevators to rock star suites.

Hotel guests will have access to three ultra-lavish new outdoor swimming pools adjacent to the second level of the new hotel tower that will feature a trendy 120-seat Pool Grille restaurant and bar. Measuring the size of a football field, the expanded pool and deck area will be a hot spot for frequent special events for casino guests with the inclusion of day and night life activations. The outdoor pool area is designed by the renowned landscape architecture firm, EDSA.

A new 25,000 square foot Rock Spa & Salon will also open on the second level of the hotel tower and will offer pool-side services for the ultimate resort experience. The new spa will replace the existing spa and salon.

Seminole Hard Rock Tampa will continue to expand and refresh their culinary amenities with the addition of a new 200-seat Italian restaurant slated to open next fall, making the restaurant the third fine dining restaurant the property will offer. The property is known for their award-winning restaurants Council Oak Steaks & Seafood and The Rez Grill.

Additional renovations and updates are planned for the existing Hard Rock Cafe, Fresh Harvest Buffet, Plum VIP Lounge and Food Court. Rise Kitchen & Bakery will be redesigned and relocated as part of the casino expansion project.

The property will also continue to elevate their music and entertainment programming with a 30,000-square foot Seminole Hard Rock Event Center that is under construction on the second level of the casino complex. Included is a 17,000-square foot grand ballroom for concerts, conventions, trade shows, private events, and large-scale poker tournaments.

Six additional retail shops will join the existing two retail outlets to more than triple the casino complex’ current shopping options. An additional 700 parking spaces will increase the total number of available parking spaces to approximately 6,000.

Architects for the expansion are Klai Juba Wald Architects of Las Vegas. Interior designs are by Wimberly Interiors, Coral Gables, Laurence Lee Associates, Los Angeles, and Klai Juba Wald Interiors, Las Vegas.

‘New ideas’ spot launches with $2.2M ad buy from Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott is continuing his aerial onslaught against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, with a $2.2 million budget for “New Ideas,” a spot launched Tuesday.

The segment, on both television and digital formats, spotlights the “lack of enthusiasm” Florida voters have with Nelson, whose career in politics and slender volume of legislative achievements has been a major talking point for Scott’s team this spring.

The ad features various “Floridians” marveling at Nelson’s tenure, with lines like “He started in politics in 1972. That’s just a little bit less than I am old … and I’m no spring chicken.”

The rollout comes on the same day that Nelson’s team released its first digital spot.

Stars,” narrated by Nelson, focuses on what his campaign calls “his fight for Florida values in the U.S. Senate.”

“Bill Nelson has worked his entire career to put the people of Florida first,” Nelson campaign manager Marley Wilkes said in a statement. “He stands up for the values that make Florida great, and in the U.S. Senate he puts politics aside and focuses on doing what’s right for the people of our state because that is who he cares about. That’s why Floridians know Bill has their back and that he’ll keep fighting every single day to help create a future that works for every family and every child.”

Despite this buy, and a $2.2 million buy from Chuck Schumer‘s Senate Majority PAC, reports are that Nelson’s campaign will stay mostly dark until the fall.

Meanwhile, it’s clear that Gov. Scott will fill the void until Nelson goes on TV, as he continues a robust series of ad buys.

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