Peter Archives - Florida Politics

Pulling back the curtain on “Families for Better Care”

Since the dawn of time, trial lawyers and medical groups have been at war, locked in a battle over legislation to give one an advantage over the other.

Nearly everyone in The Process knows this, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

What’s not widely known are the direct ties between certain so-called “patient advocacy groups” and trial lawyers with dollar signs in their eyes, looking to capitalize on potentially lucrative opportunities.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, all this has bubbled back to the surface. There are lots of conversations on what could have been done better — in fact, House Speaker Richard Corcoran created a select committee to investigate how the state and private sectors can be better prepared for the next major storm.

The poster child for what went wrong during Irma was the preventable tragedy of 14 elderly residents who died at the Hollywood Hills Nursing Center. Lawyers on both sides will thrash through what happened, but just about everyone can agree there were significant mistakes made.

One isolated catastrophe does not mean the state must step in and set up regulation after regulation that would affect each of the 600+ nursing homes in Florida — not when the tragedy was confined to one home.

Yet even before the hurricane debris is off the streets, attorneys and lawmakers were hard at work trying to ride the media wave to pass legislation that would change the dynamic between nursing homes and trial attorneys.

There are entire law firms that focus solely on nursing home-related cases. Some of those cases are absolutely warranted as the Hollywood Hills case appears to be. But oftentimes the cases are clearly attempting to reap a huge payday and rack up high-dollar legal fees.

One of the groups purporting to “advocate for quality nursing home care” goes by the upbeat name Families for Better Care. Brian Lee, who previously headed Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program, leads the group.

Lee’s seemingly independent organization is advocating for more regulations and restrictions on nursing homes — and possibly changes to tort law — to make it easier to sue these homes.

It turns out, he has a good reason. Law firms make up a very significant portion of the contributions to Lee’s group.

For instance, from 2011 to 2015, Tampa-based law firm Wilkes & McHugh — whose website touts its experience suing nursing homes — gave more than a half-million dollars to Families for Better Care. That number doesn’t even include contributions from the last couple years.

In an interview with Sunshine State News in 2014, Lee described his relationship with the law firm: “I have to admit, we wouldn’t be able to exist without Wilkes & McHugh.”

While the folks at Wilkes & McHugh might explain it away as simply supporting a good cause, the reality is that Families for Better Care will almost certainly be a vocal advocate for legislation benefiting trial attorneys — particularly firms making a living by suing nursing homes and assisted living facilities statewide.

From now through Sine die in (hopefully) March, lawmakers need to take a close look at nursing home regulations. Things like requiring generators — with a reasonable timeline for implementation — seem like a good idea. But legislative leaders need to use a scalpel to modify the laws we already have on the books, not a hatchet to wipe away years and years of well-reasoned policies.

Regardless, as this issue — with its limitless “proposed solutions” — makes its way through the legislative process, follow the money and keep an eye out for groups purporting to be on the side of the consumer.

It’s entirely possible they’re really just looking to score a big payday for a handful of law firms.


Last Call for 10.17.17 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

A Constitution Revision Commissioner now is raising questions on how “open” the panel is going to be when it comes to open meetings.

At the commission’s Rules Committee meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Bob Solari sought to clarify whether a CRC “meeting” that requires notice and be open to the public can be as few as two commissioners, or whether two commissioners can meet out of the “sunshine.”

The commission is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Any amendments it places directly on the 2018 statewide ballot still must be OK’d by 60 percent of voters to be added to the constitution.

“At this point, I don’t feel right talking too much about anything with any commissioner,” Solari said, adding a fellow member is proposing an amendment he believes is “fatally flawed.”

“I’d like to just to give (that person) a heads up,” added Solari, an Indian River County Commissioner. “But I believe that I can’t.”

Commission rule 1.23 on open meetings and records just says, “All proceedings and records … shall be open to the public.”

A coalition of progressive groups already has asked for clarification, urging the body to use the Sunshine Law standard that prohibits two or more commissioners from meeting privately.

Rules chair Tim Cerio has previously said his understanding is that the commission will use the Legislature’s standard, which allows no more than two members to meet privately.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Cerio told Solari to talk with general counsel William Spicola and “then we can discuss more widely publishing that advice.”

“There’s nothing wrong with getting transparency over what the rule is,” Cerio said. “I think we’re following exactly what was done 20 years ago,” when that commission followed the Legislative rule.

Evening Reads

How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA” via Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post

Still time for Senate to save Florida citrus” via Tom Rooney for The Hill

Jacksonville Jaguars apologize to military for protest during anthem in London” via Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports

In money race for governor, Democrats losing badly to Republicans via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO

Florida school districts file formal challenge to constitutionality of HB 7069” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist dropped by Saloman Melgen’s house, Melgen’s wife testifies” via Matt Friedman of POLITICO

Tom Lee may file constitutional amendment to ban dog racing” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Jason Fischer, Jeff Brandes introduce self-driving cars bill” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

PSC regulators say no to FPL nuclear fees without financial analysis” via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post

Manatee County homebuilder submits Amazon headquarters bid” via Mark Gordon of

Quote of the Day

“This fentanyl and heroin crisis is more than you can even comprehend now. We’ve got to help our addicts, but on the same hand, we’re not doing them a service if we’re not locking up the dealers. They’re murderers, in my opinion.” — Attorney General Pam Bondi, on the opioid addiction crisis, speaking after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights


Wake Up Early

The State Board of Education meets in Duval County at 9 a.m., Florida State College at Jacksonville, Advanced Technology Center, 401 West State St., Jacksonville.

The Broward County legislative delegation will elect leaders for the coming year and hold a public hearing as it prepares for the 2018 session. That’s at 9 a.m., Sunrise Civic Center, 10610 West Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise.

The Lee County legislative delegation will meet as it prepares for the 2018 session. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida SouthWestern State College, Nursing Building, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers.

The Able Trust will host a grant presentation at The Haven from its “Strategic Employment Placement Initiatives” fund to support the “Careers Without Limits” program. That’s at 11 a.m., 4405 DeSoto Road, Sarasota.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation will hold a hearing on a proposal by the National Council on Compensation Insurance to reduce workers’ compensation insurance rates in 2018. It’s at 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The General Provisions Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will meet at 1 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Clay County legislative delegation, made up of Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Travis Cummings, and Rep. Bobby Payne, will meet. It starts at 4 p.m., Clay County Administration Building, 477 Houston St., Green Cove Springs.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is expected to be honored for his work involving the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center during the center’s “See the Girl” awards dinner. It begins 6 p.m., The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 829 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will hold a community meeting about rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Herbert Hoover Dike. It begins at 6 p.m., Belle Glade Public Library, 725 N.W. Fourth St., Belle Glade.

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is expected to take part in a grand-opening event for new Republican Party of Palm Beach County headquarters. That’s at 6 p.m., 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500, West Palm Beach.

The Delegation for 10.17.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Editor’s note: The Delegation will now be published twice per week to capture the latest happenings from Capitol Hill to Florida.

Look for it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Trump throwing big issues back to Congress

Another week, another series of big moves from President Donald Trump. Like them or not, he is doing what he promised to do if elected, which was basically to undo several critical initiatives of former President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, he reversed an Obama executive order that gave subsidies to insurance companies participating in the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. On Friday, he refused to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama’s signature foreign policy agreement.

Republicans often talk about the Constitution and separation of powers between the branches of government. They have long said Obama had no authority to give insurance companies the subsidies; only Congress could appropriate those funds.

Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House.

His actions did not officially pull the U.S. out of the Iran agreement but put another agenda item on the to-do list Congress to join DACA and others. It also designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, which was just fine with Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis, Chairman of the House National Security Subcommittee.

“More work needs to be done to put Iran back in a box, but sanctioning the (Revolutionary Guard) as [a] terror group is a major step in the right direction,” DeSantis tweeted.

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said in his remarks announcing the move.

While Democrats offered a muted response to the president’s actions on Iran, his executive order on the insurance company subsidies was a far different matter.

Kathy Castor of Tampa called on Trump and his administration to “stand on the side of hardworking Americans and stop their cruel sabotage of our health care.” Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach referred to the president as a “one-man wrecking ball of the American health care system.”

Republicans would quarrel with St. Petersburg’s Charlie Crist’s description of the subsidies as “legally required payments under the Affordable Care Act.” Most would disagree with one of their own criticizing the president’s action.

“(Trump) promised more access, affordable coverage. This does opposite,” tweeted Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.”

Ros-Lehtinen, who supported Trump’s action on Iran, is correct. This puts Congress in the position of somehow, despite the rancor, finding some common ground on a health care solution. And Iran. And DACA. And Tax Reform.

And so on.

Trump’s NOAA pick faces storm of criticism

As AccuWeather CEO, Barry Myers has sought limits on what products the National Weather Service can offer the public, claiming it creates unfair competition for his business.

Now, as Trump’s pick to lead the parent agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Andrew Restuccia of POLITICO reports that Myers could be in a position to make those restrictions mandatory — to the benefit of his private, family-run forecasting company.

Myers’ nomination faces a storm of criticism by those who feel it will restrict the weather service, which caused an industry backlash a decade ago when it began offering hour-by-hour forecasts, cellphone alerts, and other online data. A dozen years ago, Myers supported a bill from then-Sen. Rick Santorum, that sought enhance cooperation with the agency, despite some misgivings by critics.

AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers faces a storm of criticism over his nomination as NOAA head.

“I fear that he’ll do irreparable harm to an agency whose primary mission is to save lives,” National Weather Service Employees Organization President Daniel Sobien, told POLITICO. “There seems to be a huge conflict of interest considering his business background and belief system.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, called Myers’ nomination “questionable.”

“As the CEO of AccuWeather, Barry Myers views NOAA as a direct competitor that provides high-quality forecasts for free,” Schatz said last week. “Mr. Myers will have to work very hard to persuade me that he will run NOAA for the public good.”

Myers’ supporters cite his long experience in the weather forecasting industry as an opportunity to modernize NOAA, which has become a vital tool for fisheries, marine sanctuaries, climate research and satellite data.

“In past decade, AccuWeather has embraced ‘Big Data’ and become an advertising & digital innovation behemoth under Myers’ leadership,” tweeted chief operating officer Ryan Maue. “I expect Myers to bring that same vision to NOAA and enhance collaboration with the private sector especially in the role of space-based remote sensing and satellites,” he told POLITICO.

Bill Nelson fundraises off Irma again; Republicans call it ‘disgusting’

After Republicans blasted a “tone deaf” email last month that sought to raise funds off Hurricane Irma, Florida’s senior U.S. Senator is at it again.

Nelson writes: “There’s been a lot going on in Washington recently, from finding ways to fund these massive hurricane recovery efforts to prevent the passage of yet another disastrous GOP health care bill.”

The senator then proclaims his focus on “one thing,” which is doing everything he can to fight for constituents, adding that it is his job to “make sure your voice is heard in the Senate.”

Republicans blast Bill Nelson for fundraising again off Hurricane Irma.

Since Hurricane Irma happened over a month ago (supposedly past its disaster expiration date), Nelson seems to think now would be the right time to “survey” Floridians on how he’s doing.

Along with a money pitch, of course. And once again, national Republicans are quick to this point out, saying it’s time he answers for his “disgusting” move.

“Bill Nelson needs to explain why he continues to fundraise off Hurricane Irma,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin in an email. “Floridians are still struggling to clean up from this devastating storm, yet all Bill Nelson cares about is filling his own campaign coffers.”

Politics can wait, says the GOP, calling for Nelson to resist the urge to raise money. There will always be time to fundraise later.

Five Floridians named to new House NASA Caucus

A newly appointed House NASA Caucus took off with five members of the Florida delegation.

U.S. Reps. Steve Knight, a California Republican, and Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur, launched the new group with over 25 members. Floridians on the caucus include Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey and Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, reports Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News.

California Republican Steve Knight launched the House NASA Caucus, with five Floridians on board.

According to Knight, the group was set up to “strengthen policymaker awareness of NASA’s many connections to our national security and economic interests, provide as a bipartisan forum to discuss the scientific and technological challenges to American flight and space exploration endeavors, and serve as a focal point for public and private sector air and space expertise that cover the full range of NASA’s initiatives.”

Knight explained why he helped start the new caucus.

“There has been a lack of representation in the educational activities on Capitol Hill for many of NASA’s most important programs,” Knight said. “Many of these programs that are critical to U.S. national interests, and there is an interest here to learn more and support them. But the current landscape does not yet support that level of interest.

Ross calls Disaster Relief Act a ‘down payment on reform’

The Lakeland Republican, who serves as Senior Deputy Majority Whip, issued a statement last week on the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act:

“Americans need a reformed flood insurance program, yet today’s vote reflects a strange political reality, where debt forgiveness takes priority. Floridians deserve certainty — both that the federal government will honor its debts, but also that it will manage the federal flood insurance program responsibly. We cannot do either of these things without reform. While I supported this supplemental aid package, I did so only because House leadership assured me that this will be a down payment on reform. I remain committed to ensuring that Congress institutes the reforms Americans expect and restoring fiscal sanity to the National Flood Insurance Program.”

Dennis Ross calls the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act a ‘down payment’ on reform of the National Flood Insurance Program.

The 353-69 vote approves $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund — including $4.9 billion for a disaster relief loan account — $16 billion to address National Flood Insurance Program debt and $576.5 for wildfire recovery efforts. The Act also has $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico.

Ross is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, where he introduced legislation to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which seeks to reduce taxpayer burden for disasters.

The calendar

Bilirakis speech to Pinellas GOP club — The Tarpon Springs Republican will speak to the North Pinellas Republican Club Thursday at 6 p.m., Leo’s Restaurant, 33286 U.S. 19 North in Palm Harbor.

Mast to appear at Palm Beach GOP HQ opening — The Treasure Coast Republican will appear at a grand opening event for the new Republican Party of Palm Beach County headquarters Wednesday, 6 p.m., 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500 in West Palm Beach.

F. Rooney speech to Republican Party women — The Naples Republican will speak to the Republican Women of Cape Coral, Federated Thursday, 6 p.m. at Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd. in Cape Coral.

Curbelo to hold West Palm Beach fundraiser — The Miami Republican will be in Palm Beach County Thursday for a 6 p.m. fundraiser at 303 Evernia St., Suite 300.

Ohio Democrat to keynote Miami-Dade Gala — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is the scheduled keynote speaker at the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party’s “Blue Gala,” Saturday, 7 p.m. At the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.

Personnel note

Longtime Mario Diaz-Balart staffer moves to Amazon — After 13 years, Miguel Mendoza, deputy chief of staff and legislative director to Rep. Diaz-Balart is moving to Amazon’s transportation policy team. Mendoza handled transportation and housing issues for the Miami congressman, who serves as Appropriations Subcommittee chair. Diaz-Balart has also named senior legislative assistant Chris Sweet as legislative director, and Gisselle Reynolds, from his district office, to become a legislative assistant.

Paulson’s Principles: Democrats, don’t hitch your horses to the wrong wagon

I have called the upcoming 2018 election the best chance for Democrats to win control of the U.S. House in decades. All the stars are aligning for the Democrats.

I have also mentioned at least a half-dozen political factors favoring the Democrats including President Trump’s low approval ratings, midterms which favor the party not controlling the White House, and the generic vote which now has Democrats up by 11 points.

Having discussed all the things favoring the Democrats, they need to be cautious because they have blown many opportunities in recent elections. Does anyone recall the 2016 presidential election?

Democrats can’t afford to hitch their horse to the wrong wagon, as they have done in the past. They can’t expect to win simply because Trump’s approval rating is terrible. Trump’s approval rating was terrible going into the 2016 Republican primaries and the general election, and he won both.

Democrats are split with respect to strategy, and that could be potentially disastrous. Should Democrats go after white voters who have abandoned the party in droves? One-quarter of white working-class Democrats who voted for President Obama in 2012 defected to Trump in 2016.

John Judis, one of the authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority in 2012, now contends he got things wrong. Instead of focusing on minorities, Judis now argues the party needs to focus on economic justice appeals that will attract both minorities and white voters. A focus on just minorities will allow Republicans to exploit that as a wedge issue.

Another segment of the Democratic Party is calling on the party to focus on voters of color. Steve Phillips, the author of “Brown is the New White,” argues that “progressive people of color” combined with “progressive whites” make up 51 percent of voting-age Americans.

Other observers see Democrats as potentially repeating some of the same mistakes in their past. In 1968, the Democrats selected a more moderate candidate, Hubert Humphrey, over the more liberal Robert Kennedy and Gene McCarthy. Humphrey narrowly lost.

After losing in 1968, the Democrats moved far to the left and reformed the nominating process by requiring delegates to reflect the makeup of each state. They also adopted the most left-wing platform and selected the most liberal nominee for 1972, George McGovern.

Richard Nixon was able to easily tag the Democrats as the party of “acid, amnesty and abortion.” The amnesty referred to support for allowing deserters from the Vietnam War to return to America. McGovern lost 49 of the 50 states and only won 39 percent of the vote.

Will Democrats move further left after nominating the more moderate Hillary Clinton over the leftist Bernie Sanders. Sanders had never been registered as a Democrat until running for president. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Fred Logevall: “If the Democrats move to the left on free tuition for college and single-payer health care, I do get 1972 popping into my head.”

Doug Sosnik, a Democratic strategist, wrote a recent op-ed in The New York Times called “Trump is on track to win re-election.” Sosnik argues that Trump’s conservative populism is beating the Democrats liberal populism. Also, Trump’s support is personal, not ideological.

Almost everything is working to the benefit of Democrats heading into 2016. Democrats just need to learn the lessons of 2016 and learn what is really important to voters. If not, the Democrats will continue to be on the outside looking in.

Leadership Pinellas’ 2018 class seems to be missing something — diversity

Pinellas County’s premier leadership development organization, designed to promote a “diverse group” of up-and-coming leaders, appears to be missing something in its Class of 2018 – diversity.

Leadership Pinellas is the regional tax-exempt organization that offers a 10-month leadership-development program every year to a select group of local business, nonprofit and government executives.

On its website, Leadership Pinellas says the goal is to “develop and enhance community leadership by providing a diverse group of emerging and existing leaders with the opportunity to increase their community knowledge, civic network, and perpetuate their service to the community.”

“Our community leaders grow to be more well-informed, committed and passionately engaged in our community,” it adds. More than 100 people have completed the program since 1977.

But in August, when the Tampa Bay Business Journal published photos of the 48 members of the group’s Class of 2018, there seems to be a distinct lack of racial diversity — few faces were clearly African-American, and only a handful of surnames could be commonly identified as Hispanic.

In some ways, however, the class can be considered “diverse.”

A spreadsheet analysis by the legal website Baylawsuits found that precisely half of the 48 members of the class are women; 24 of them work at for-profit businesses, six at police or fire departments, 13 at other levels of government, three at nonprofit organizations, and two as volunteers.

Despite the group’s stated mission, though, the Class of 2018 appears far from representing the racial makeup of Pinellas County. While it is possible some members could self-identify as African-American, none are dark-skinned.

In an announcement, Leadership Pinellas’ Georgie Menke described the group as “some of the brightest movers and shakers in the area.”

As an alum of the Class of 2009, Menke serves as president of the group’s board of directors, and is vice president of operations at Advantage Group, a Clearwater-based consulting and risk management firm.

“And with the tools Leadership Pinellas will be providing them this year,” Menke added, “they will continue to assist growth and opportunity in our area by honing in on our community needs for years to come.”

That said, one can ask if Leadership Pinellas can truly address the needs of a community when it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect its demographics. The addition of even a handful of people of color could go a long way toward its stated goal of “diversity.”

According to the group’s 2015 tax returns, Leadership Pinellas spent $165,483 that year — $57,090 more than it took in revenue.


Donald Trump’s drug czar pick drops out. Will Pam Bondi be back in?

What is old is new again, as rumors re-emerge that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could have a job in the Trump administration.

With a new twist in the nomination for the nation’s drug czar, Bondi returns to the spotlight, amid renewed speculation she could be headed to Washington.

And there is a good argument to be made for Donald Trump to put Bondi at the top of the list: Her record on fighting drugs in Florida, and her overwhelming success in shutting down the state’s pill mills.

After Trump’s nomination, many considered Bondi a sure winner to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly known as the drug czar. As a friend of the president, Bondi had a role on Trump’s transition team. Earlier this year, the president appointed her to a White House panel on drug abuse – one of Bondi’s passions as attorney general.

However, in a news conference Monday where Trump announced he would declare a national emergency on the nation’s opioid epidemic sometime next week, the president showed a distinct lack of confidence in Rep. Tom Marino, his current pick for drug czar.

This non-support comes after a joint Washington Post/60 Minutes report blasted the Pennsylvania Republican congressman for steering legislation to make it harder to act against big drug companies – which would add a degree of difficulty in the battle against opioids.

The Washington Post wrote: “The president … said he had not yet spoken with Marino about the … report, but if he determines that Marino’s work was detrimental to the administration’s goal of combating opioid addiction, ‘I will make a change.'”

As of Tuesday morning, Marino withdrew his name from consideration.

What apparently sealed Marino’s fate, Axios notes, was that the report “detailed how a targeted lobbying effort helped weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise.”

Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, herself seeking the Senate seat in one of the states hardest-hit by the opioid crisis, is also facing a backlash as “a lead sponsor of Marino’s bill.”

According to CBS Evening News, nearly 13 million people had watched the “60 Minutes” segment – an audience that included Trump, a known fan of the show. Trump confirmed Monday he “saw the report.”

Now that Marino’s nomination is dead, Bondi could be in contention for the job.

If she did accept a role in the Trump administration, Gov. Rick Scott will need to name a successor to fill Bondi’s remaining term through next year, adding a new wrinkle in the growing field of candidates to replace her in 2018.


Sunburn for 10.17.17 – More on the Weinsteins of Florida; State parties fined; Congressional candidate talks to aliens; New poll on gun control; Stone crab season underway

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

Did I hit a nerve?

My cellphone and email blew up Monday after a column in which I asked which “Florida politician(s) (will be) laid low by the kind of sexual assault and harassment scandal that dethroned one-time Hollywood king Harvey Weinstein?”

“Please don’t tell me there is no equivalent in Florida politics to Weinstein,” I wrote. “After all, politics is show business for ugly people.”

Can a Harvey Weinstein-type sexual scandal derail someone in Florida politics? Perhaps.

Well, I was reminded of (relatively) new language in the House Rules, rewritten after the ascent of Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Under the section titled “Obligations of a Lobbyist,” there’s this sentence:

“Each lobbyist shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes a professional environment in the House, exemplifies proper conduct in public meetings, promotes lawful conduct by all involved in the legislative process, and contributes to an environment free from harassment and discrimination (emphasis added).”

And this: “Each lobbyist shall respect and support the honorable conduct of the members of the House and discourage unlawful conduct.”

Let’s not overlook this, from the rule on grounds for impeachment: “Failure to maintain a professional environment in the administration of the office free of unlawful discrimination and free of harassment or abuse of employees or members of the public served by the office (emphasis added).”

Indeed, lest you forget, as I wrote, “One lawmaker ON THE VERY NIGHT I proposed to my wife (who worked in the Governor’s office), wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her because he wanted to ‘feel her breasts one last time.’ ”

Yes, I still throw up in my mouth every time I reread that.

The upshot: Maybe the Speaker was on to something? Stay tuned.


— @WFTSisabel: MASSIVE LINES outside the @RPFundingCenter in Lakeland as people wait to get food assistance following Hurricane Irma

— @LedgeKing: .@SecondLady Karen Pence to visit .@floridastate Wednesday for an announcement about her art therapy initiative. School runs a nationally acclaimed art-therapy graduate education program.

— @SchmitzMedia: Sen. President Joe Negron now up — references Hamilton, says he always wanted to be in “the room where it happens” to fight for his district.

— @BenDiamondFL: Proud to file the FL Competitive Workforce Act. Lets work to protect LGBT rights & make our state more competitive in the global economy.

***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. #NeverStopReaching***


Florida’s 2 main political parties could pay hefty fines” via The Associated Press — State officials this month levied a $110,000 fine against the Republican Party of Florida. The party turned in a campaign finance report dealing with a South Florida House race 11 days late. Republicans are appealing the fine … The Florida Democratic Party could also get hit with a large fine. The state Division of Elections notified the party Oct. 9 that Democrats had failed to turn in a report associated with a central Florida House race. Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the state Republican Party, said it was an “oversight” that the report wasn’t filed on time. But he contended state officials did not follow the law because they didn’t immediately notify party leaders. Ingoglia said the fines should be waived.

Bill Nelson wants Puerto Ricans newly arrived in Florida to register to vote” via Patricia Mazzei of the Tampa Bay Times — “If they will register to vote, which I’m certainly going to encourage, because I can tell you among the Puerto Rican community in the greater Orlando area, they have been very embracing of my public service,” he said at a San Juan news conference after Puerto Rican reporter asked him about the post-storm migration. “The question is how many will want to register, and how many will want to return.” Standing next to Gov. Ricardo RossellóNelson took pains to say he wasn’t encouraging Puerto Ricans to depart forever. Puerto Ricans worry an exodus of working professionals — on the heels of years of emigration during the island’s financial crisis — will only make it more difficult for the economy to get going again. “It could be a while coming before things get back,” Nelson said, referring in particular to the island’s destroyed power grid. “I will certainly encourage our fellow citizens to return home.”

Bill Nelson urges Puerto Rico evacuees from Hurricane Maria to register to vote.

The Caputo Primary – “In money race for governor, Democrats losing badly to Republicans” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida >>>What better way to justify Caputo’s preferred candidate – Phil Levine – entering the race than to dog the current candidates for their lackluster fundraising. Levine can self-fund, so he won’t have that issue.

Assignment editors — Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum will be speaking with South Dade Democrats at their monthly meeting, beginning 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, 7700 SW. 76th Ave. in Miami.

Adam Putnam delivered remarks at the annual “Stars of Freedom Dinner” in Trenton. The event is a fundraiser in support of the Gilchrist County Republicans. More than 150 Republicans were in attendance.

Ashely Moody to campaign in Sarasota — The Republican Attorney General candidate will give a speech to the NOVA Republican Club, beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Nokomis Community Center, 234 Nippino Trail in Nokomis.

Scott Sturgill raises $200K in CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, sits well behind Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in the early money race toward the 2018 election. Last week Murphy reported that her fundraising had topped $1 million toward her re-election bid. However, Sturgill leads state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park heading toward the 2018 Republican primary. Miller reported raising $156,000. Sturgill’s big showing came in part through his own wallet. The chief executive officer of Durable Safety Products contributed $100,250 through a personal loan to his campaign. His total came in at $206,395. After expenses, he reported having $177,499 going into October.

— “John Rutherford, Al Lawson continue to build re-election war chests

— “Darren Soto’s slow campaign fundraising still unchallenged

— “Charlie Crist adds $353K during Q3 to re-election fund

— “Vern Buchanan’s answers ‘unsafe’ seat rumors by banking $2 million for re-election

Miami politician says aliens took her on a spaceship. Now she’s running for Congress.” via Alex Daugherty and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera says she’s been aboard a spaceship too. But this one was crewed by aliens. As in extraterrestrials. Three blond, big-bodied beings — two females, one male — visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says. (Sen. Nelson served as payload officer aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. All seven people aboard were from Earth. As far as is known.) Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.

Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera said she was taken aboard an alien spaceship when she was 7.

Miami commissioner Ken Russell joins race to replace Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The current Miami city commissioner, who once traveled around the world to showcase his yo-yo skills, is officially joining the crowded Democratic primary to replace Ros-Lehtinen. “I love my job as city commissioner, and once Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement it started a new conversation,” Russell said. “It’s almost serendipity that [her retirement] is coinciding with what’s going on with the federal government. Instantly, I felt inside this is something I want to do.” Russell set up an exploratory committee in May to gauge his electoral prospects and begin fundraising. After conducting internal polling, Russell concluded that there was a path to victory, even though other Democrats jumped in the race.

Happening tonight — State Sens. Bill GalvanoWilton Simpson and Dana Young, along with former House Speaker Will Weatherford and others are hosting a fundraising reception for Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper in his bid for Senate District 16; VIP reception begins at 5:30 p.m., general reception at 6 p.m. at the University Club of Tampa Harbour Room, 201 N. Franklin St., Suite 3800 in Tampa.

Happening tonight:

Matt Nye announces run for HD 52 seat against Thad Altman” via Brevard Times — Nye organized the Brevard Tea Parties and currently serves as the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, the national parent organization of the local Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida, which he founded back in 2008. “The citizens of Florida deserve a state representative who will work to reduce, not expand, government, and who will not use the position as leverage for personal gain,” Nye said. “From his earliest days on the County Commission to his most recent position as a State Representative … Altman has a consistent record of placing the interests of lobbyists and special interests above those of his constituents. When one is drawing a $160K annual salary for a do-nothing position without qualifications one is obligated to carry water for other folks whose votes are needed to keep your own bread buttered.” Nye is a citizen watchdog and outspoken critic of government spending and waste.

Matt Spritz campaign kickoff — Spritz launches his 2018 bid in Palm Beach County’s HD 89 beginning 6:30 p.m. at Biergarten Boca Raton, 309 Via De Palmas, #90, in Boca Raton.

Click on the image for more information about this event.


Rick Scott calls for more funds to secure Jewish Day schools across Florida” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Scott announced that he would propose $1 million in funding to boost security for Jewish Day Schools across the Sunshine State. That’s up from last year when $654,000 was used for security at these schools. “Every Florida student deserves to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and comfortable setting,” Scott said. “After Florida’s Jewish community received hateful threats last year, we saw the need to provide additional security so the children that attend Jewish Day Schools can learn without having to worry about feeling threatened. While last year’s investment will make a huge difference, we must continue to do more. I look forward to working with the Legislature to provide this important funding and will continue to work with our federal partners and members of Florida’s Jewish community to ensure the safety of families and students.”

Gov. Rick Scott visited Boca Raton’s Katz Hillel Day School to announce his proposal for $1 million in security funding for Jewish Day Schools in his 2018-2019 recommended budget. The money would go toward video cameras, fences, bulletproof glass, alarm systems and other safety equipment.

Richard Corcoran says ‘enough is enough’ in new video” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Call it the House of Representatives’ Greatest Hits — so far. House Speaker Corcoran took to YouTube Monday to highlight his chamber’s work in last week’s first legislative committee week. An enthusiastic Corcoran, sporting a blue blazer-no tie look, sat in front of a bookcase stuffed with Florida Statute books, a miniature Liberty Bell, and an “It CAN Be Done” sign. “We hit the ground running,” he said, jabbing his finger in the air.

Click on the image below to watch the video.

Bob Cortes heads for Puerto Rico on relief mission organized through Speaker’s office” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Cortes went to Puerto Rico to oversee a disaster relief effort arranged by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and coordinated by him and other members of the Seminole County Legislative Caucus. Cortes is overseeing the delivery of about four tons of supplies headed for the hard-hit eastern part of the island commonwealth. Puerto Rico is his family home, where he still has numerous family members struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation … Cortes expressed hope to get supplies through to some of the 3.5 million people who lost so much, most still without power, many without running water, and all struggling. He also expects to meet with officials there, possibly including Gov. Ricardo Rossello, to talk about future cooperative efforts between Florida and Puerto Rico.

Danny Burgess announces veterans legislation” via Florida Politics — Burgess announced he filed a trio of veterans bills for the 2018 Legislative Session to address mental health and licensing issues. “I believe our most solemn responsibility as a state is to serve those who have served us,” said Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, in a statement. “Veterans are Florida’s VIPs, and these bills together constitute its own Veterans Improvement Package (VIP) that will drastically improve the lives of veterans all throughout Florida. I am eager to discuss these critical pieces of legislation and will work tirelessly to see them pass in the 2018 Session.”

Danny Burgess files three veterans bills for the 2018 Legislative Session to address mental health and licensing issues.

Ben Diamond files bill to ban LGBT discrimination” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — Diamond filed the Competitive Workforce Act to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Florida law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital status or disability. State Rep. Rene Plasencia will co-sponsor the bill. The Competitive Workforce Act is supported by Florida Competes, a coalition of nine Fortune 500 companies and more than 450 small businesses from across the state, Diamond said. “Florida businesses are strong supporters of this bill,” Diamond said. “Our businesses recognize that we must update our state’s civil rights laws so we can compete in recruiting top talent to our state. Most importantly, this bill affirms the basic human rights of our LGBT community. In Florida, it should be illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Look for Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, to file legislation today to allow “true self-driving vehicles in Florida by updating the sections of the motor vehicle laws that require or presume there is a human driver behind the wheel.”

“Don’t fear the debate” — In a commitment to openness and transparency, the House Democratic Caucus is providing a rundown of bills that have been placed on the agenda in House committees. As of Monday, October 16, 16 bills have been placed on committee agendas in the Florida House. Of those, 10 are sponsored by Republicans, 3 are sponsored by Democrats, and 3 bills have bipartisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 62.5% of the bills that have been considered are Republican bills, 18.75% are Democratic, and 18.75% are bipartisan.

Former House page director also facing embezzlement charge” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The former director of the Florida House page program was convicted in federal court last month of attempting to entice a minor. Now Michael Chmielewski is facing charges he embezzled money from the program … accused of using his state-issued debit card to pay for out-of-town trips, an membership, Comcast bills and other unauthorized purchases to bilk more than $5,300 out of the account. He was charged with organized scheme to defraud in April and has pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in the federal case in February. Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators identified 149 total charges and cash withdrawals made starting in June 2015 and ending in January, just before Chmielewski was nabbed in connection with a weeklong child sex sting.

Constitution Revision Commission, Rules Committee meets — The full Florida Constitution Revision Commission will meet after a meeting of its Rules and Administration Committee. Committee meets at 11 a.m., followed by the whole CRC meeting at 2 p.m. Committee meet in Room 401 Senate Office Building; Commission meets in the Senate Chambers.

***AGRiMED Industries is a leading medical cannabis company committed to improving the health and wellness of ailing patients. With state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities and over 200 years of collective experience in the agricultural and health care fields, AGRiMED produces high-quality agricultural medicine with tremendous health benefits. Learn more at***


Power in Puerto Rico: Only 30 percent will be restored this month, governor says” via CNN — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he plans to restore power to 95 percent of the island’s energy grid by December after Hurricane Maria devastated the infrastructure … As of Sunday, 85 percent of the island still had no electricity. Rosselló set a goal to restore power by Dec. 15. “This is an aggressive agenda, but we cannot be soft of passive in the face of Puerto Rico’s challenges,” Rosselló said. “We are going to need all hands on deck.” Rosselló said his goal is to have 30 percent of the island’s power restored by the end of the month. Then, the target would be to restore 50 percent by Nov. 15 and 80 percent by Dec. 1. Authorities had estimated it could take them between six months to a year to restore power.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he plans to restore power to 95 percent of the island’s energy grid by December.

50,000 line up outside Tropical Park seeking post-hurricane food assistance” via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald — “We’ve been dealing with about 10,000 people a day,” said Ofelia Martinez, the Miami site manager for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). “But when we opened the doors this morning, the police told us there were already 50,000 people waiting outside.” The Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program, as the program is formally known, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and operated by DCF, is designed for people in 48 counties across the state who aren’t ordinarily eligible for food stamps but suffered losses during Hurricane Irma last month. It opened up shop in Miami-Dade and Broward counties Wednesday and drew steadily bigger crowds through its Sunday finale. The throngs were so large and rowdy Saturday that five of the distribution points closed down early in the day — in some cases, before serving even a single client. DCF said Sunday they would be holding more in-person sign-ups in the future, but a spokeswoman would not specify when the agency would announce dates and locations.

Farmers may get loans to help with Irma damage via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida farmers in 44 counties may be eligible for federal loans to help cover damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced. Still, Florida might have to wait months for broader federal assistance to the agriculture industry, which sustained more than $2.5 billion in losses from the storm. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue notified Gov. Scott that the federal agency determined that Florida had sufficient production loss to warrant a “secretarial natural disaster designation” for most of the peninsula. The designation makes farmers eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency programs, including emergency loans, Perdue wrote in a letter to Scott. Farmers have eight months to apply for the loans.

3 appeals for hurricane aid pending in Florida since 2004” via The Associated Press — Dozens of requests for reimbursement from FEMA are still pending, including at least three cases in Florida pending for over a decade. The Escambia County School District and the Community Action Program Committee, a nonprofit organization in Pensacola offering utility and education assistance to low-income families, each have multiple projects that followed Hurricane Ivan in 2004 still being reviewed by FEMA. Also still under review: work completed by the Archdiocese of Miami after Hurricane Katrina hit the state in 2005 on its way to the Gulf Coast.

Hundreds of boats removed after Irma” via the News Service of Florida — More than 850 vessels impacted by Hurricane Irma have been removed from state waters, the U.S. Coast Guard announced. The majority of the 858 boats that have been removed were in the Florida Keys, where 637 vessels have been taken out of the water. The Coast Guard said the boat owners themselves had removed many of the boats … A total of 19 ships have been removed from Miami-area waters, while 160 have been taken out of waters from Collier County to north of St. Petersburg. In the Northeast, 42 boats have been removed, and Coast Guard crews were overseeing the removal of a 55-foot recreational fishing vessel at Fort George Island Marina in Jacksonville.

Thousands of boats in Florida were damaged during Hurricane Irma.

’She’s not breathing’: 911 calls capture chaos at Hollywood nursing home” via Megan O’Matz and Rafael Olmeda of the Orlando Sentinel — After a court hearing, the city immediately released nine calls regarding the incident. Some portions were redacted to protect the names of patients and callers. The times of the calls are not noted. They show the chaos that quickly engulfed the nursing home as patient after patient experienced difficulties. The nursing home’s staff seemed stressed and had difficulty relaying basic information, including the nursing home’s phone number, address and ages of the patients. “Oh my God, this is crazy,” a staffer says while trying to locate the age of a patient in respiratory failure. “I’m trying to load up the computer. The computer is slow. I’m downstairs, but the patient is upstairs with the nurse. So kind of bear with me.” At least one of the calls was made while paramedics were already in the building, tending to another resident.

How the Florida Keys are coming back to life” via Nick Madigan of The New York Times — Some of that resilience comes through in hand-painted signs posted along the Overseas Highway: “Can’t Drown a Conch,” says one in Key Largo, using the term by which some Keys residents are known. “After a Hurricane Comes a Rainbow,” says another sign nearby. The reality is infinitely harsher, even weeks after the storm. On both sides of the road that connects the Keys, which reopened to regular traffic Oct. 1, large piles of debris — palm trees, pieces of houses, vehicles and boats, soaked couches and mattresses, mangled refrigerators and kitchen cabinets — still await removal by the rumbling excavators, backhoes and trucks that have become ubiquitous in the area. In some marinas, lopsided, half-sunk cabin cruisers and sailboats stick out of the shallow water, their fate left to insurance adjusters and salvagers. On the positive side, electrical power is back in most places, while the Overseas Highway and its 42 bridges are open all the way to Key West, the island chain’s crown jewel and the primary draw for most of the people who visit the Keys — 3.8 million last year. Although pummeled by winds and left flooded in some parts, the town was largely spared the kind of damage seen only a few miles to the northeast, and all but three of its hotels — the Inn at Key West, the Bayside Inn & Suites and the Parrot Key Hotel & Resort — have reopened.


Rick Scott, Cabinet to meet — The agenda for Scott and his Cabinet includes a possible $5.7 million deal on more than 2,500 acres of land in Okeechobee County. Meeting begins 8 a.m. at the Cabinet meeting room in the Florida Capitol.

Some want to change Florida education — by amending the state constitution” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — One Floridian wants the Bible and prayer in the state’s public schools. Another seeks to prevent state funds from going to any institution that promotes religion. One resident calls for all school district superintendents to be appointed, while another says they should all be elected. A third would do away with the job altogether. These were among the more than 700 public proposals for changing Florida’s Constitution … dozens of them weighing in on how the education system should change. The input is part of the process for the Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to consider what amendments — if any — to send to voters. At least one person has proposed a state-level charter authorizer, an idea the state Supreme Court struck down in 2010. And the Florida Charter School Alliance has called for added protections to charters.

Just off embargo — Florida voters oppose banning sale of assault weapons, UNF poll finds — A new poll of registered voters in Duval County found 52 percent of registered voters oppose prohibiting the sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, with 42 percent supporting the prohibition. Registered Republicans were 55 percent opposed, with a little under half of registered Democrats opposing a prohibition of assault weapon sales (47 percent). The poll, by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory (PORL) at the University of North Florida of registered voters in the state of Florida, is similar to results of a PORL poll conducted earlier this spring. When asked about open carry for licensed permit holders, 54 percent oppose and only 40 percent support. Political parties are more divided on open carry as 69 percent of registered Democrats oppose, but registered Republicans who responded support open carry legislation at 57 percent. For concealed carry on college campuses, the opposition is high at 59 percent, with 37 percent in support. The overall resistance has decreased slightly since the spring results, in which 64 percent opposed and 35 percent supported concealed carry at colleges and universities. Large portions of registered Democrats (78 percent) oppose this policy, while a slight majority (54 percent) of registered Republicans support concealed carry at colleges and universities.

2010 oil spill funds remain elusive for coastal counties” via John Henderson of the Panama City News-Herald — Jim Muller’s typical day is full of details. Muller is one of the several players in a governmental waiting game. Seven years after the BP oil spill, Bay County — along with others on the Gulf Coast — has yet to receive millions of dollars promised to the Panhandle for projects to restore the region’s economy and environment. Bay County falls into two pots of money: that from the RESTORE Act, which includes all 23 Gulf Coast counties in Florida, and Triumph Gulf Coast, which includes only eight Panhandle counties most affected by the spill. The RESTORE Act provides about $308 million through the Gulf Consortium, with $231 million of that slated for the eight counties most affected. That includes Bay County, which anticipates $34.9 million (15 percent) over 15 years. The other 15 coastal counties will split about $77 million over 15 years via the consortium. Triumph Gulf Coast, a separate entity, is slated for $1.5 billion through 2033 for the eight disproportionately affected counties. Locally, county officials are frustrated, noting they have done everything in their power to bring the money here, but they can’t beat the ever-changing bureaucratic system full of red tape involving the federal government.

State of emergency declared for white nationalist speech via The Associated Press — Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech that white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida. Scott warned in an executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus this Thursday. Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August. Scott’s order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The governor said he is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed.

New Florida driver’s license, ID card expanding statewide” via Florida Politics — The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) said it was expanding its issuance of a new, more secure Florida driver’s license and ID card. Through December, DHSMV will add the more than 200 remaining service centers to the list of offices offering the new credential throughout Florida, according to a news release … The new design includes nearly double the fraud protection measures compared to the previous design, the department said, and provides the most secure over-the-counter credential on the market today. Security features on the new credential include redundant data, ultraviolet (UV) ink and optically variable features.

Florida driver’s licenses and ID cards are getting a new look.

Supreme Court sets arguments in red-light camera battle” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in February in a battle about a red-light camera program in the city of Aventura that could have broader implications across the state. The court issued an order that scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 7. The case, like others, focuses on whether Aventura gave too much authority to a private company that contracted to help run the red-light camera program. The 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld the Aventura program in a decision involving a motorist who received a ticket for improperly turning right at a red light. In challenging the ticket, motorist Luis Torres Jimenez contended the city had illegally given “unfettered discretion” to a red-light camera company to review images of potential violations and to print and send out citations.

Pre-reveal appeal lives on via Florida Politics — An appellate court has combined appeals in the case over a lower court’s decision that entertainment devices known as “pre-reveal” games are in fact illegal slot machines. The 1st District Court of Appeal consolidated appeals over the games, played in bars and taverns and resembling slots. Gator Coin II — the Jacksonville company that distributes the games — is pressing forward, dockets show. Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper had reversed his previous ruling, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.” That was after further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games — as its maker prefers to call them — actually play. The case got started, records show, when Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”

’Just a joke’: Students’ social media threats are disrupting schools” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News-Journal — There have been two threats in as many weeks at Navarre High School, and a third in Fort Walton Beach, as three different students made threats on social media that prompted their peers and peers’ parents to call the schools concerned. A student posted to Instagram referencing certain cliques, saying “I hope you all have fun in hell because I’m going to drag you down with me.” That student was suspended as a result of the post. “I think people take it more seriously now than ever, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, and it’s justly so,” said Jason Weeks, Santa Rosa County School District director of high schools. Weeks said threats over social media are increasing and they disrupt the education system. “Sometimes, not always, it escalates into a major disruption on campus,” Weeks said. “Students start checking out of school, parents call, it’s logical, but the parents are scared.”

Brightline derails, causing extensive damage; ‘definitive’ cause in question” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — A Brightline train derailed during testing earlier this year, causing more than $400,000 of damage, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The derailment occurred At  5 p.m. Feb. 11 as one of Brightline’s five passenger trains returned to the railroad’s West Palm Beach maintenance facility, according to the incident report … The train had just finished performing signal tests … As the train entered the yard, the locomotive truck — the part of the train that supports the locomotive and provides propulsion and braking — derailed, taking two axles off the track. Damages to the train were about $408,000; damage to the track was negligible, according to Brightline. In its report to the agency, Brightline said the February derailment was caused by irregular track alignment, but noted its assessment is not “definitive.” The railroad said it found a few “anomalies” that could have been contributing factors.

Featured in the film “The Florida Project,” the Magic Castle Inn and Suites are part of Kissimmee’s hidden homeless in the shadow of Walt Disney World.

In the shadow of Disney, living life on the margins” via Richard Luscombe of The Guardian — These days, Tommy Delgado barely notices the helicopter flights full of affluent tourists coming and going just across the street from the Magic Castle Inn and Suites. Delgado and his family are part of Kissimmee’s hidden homeless, those living paycheck to paycheck, or in many cases on no paycheck at all, in cramped and semi-permanent accommodation in cheap motels behind the neon-lit, tourist attraction-laden facade of Highway 192, the pathway to Disney. Most will never be able to afford the price of theme park tickets, far less a helicopter ride above it. It is a dark existence brought vividly into focus by director Sean Baker in his gritty movie The Florida Project, which tells of the day-to-day struggles of two residents of the Magic Castle, a six-year-old live wire named Moonee and her mom Halley, a single mother who turns to prostitution when waitressing falls through … the scenes of poverty, depression and deprivation it conveys, and the juxtaposition of living in the direct shadow of Disney World, the self-proclaimed happiest place on earth, are all too real to Delgado. He has been a stay-at-home dad to his toddler, Mason, since leaving his last job as a trucker three months ago. “Some of the stuff in the movie, this really does happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who live in these rooms with their kids; there’s a lot of drug addicts that need help, they don’t get that help here.”


Karen Pence to visit Tallahassee this week — Second Lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, will visit Tallahassee Wednesday to announce her art therapy initiative. Her first stop is the campus of Florida State University, which is home to a nationally acclaimed art-therapy graduate education program. After that, she will head to Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center on Mahan Drive. There, Mrs. Pence will meet with an art therapist and meet with clients who will share their experiences with art therapy.

Florida developer with ties to Jared Kushner’s family gives big to Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nicholas A. Mastroianni II gave Trump Victory $100,000 on Sept. 27 and $50,000 Aug. 31, reports show. Of that, the maximum $5,400 went to Trump’s re-election campaign, which raised $10 million from July through September. The rest goes to the Republican National Committee and an array of state parties. Another major donor to Trump victory was Thomas Peterffy, a billionaire from Palm Beach who is CEO of Interactive Brokers. He gave $250,000 on Sept. 11, FEC records show. Mastroianni is chairman and CEO of U.S. Immigration Fund, a significant player in the controversial EB-5 program, which has been a favorite of the super-rich in China, and offers visas for $500,000 in U.S. investment. (Nicholas Mastroianni III is president of U.S. Immigration Fund and has been linked to Jared Kushner.) According to reports, Mastroianni connected the Kushner family with a Beijing immigration company Qiaowai as it sought to finance various projects.

Bob Menendez faces critical moment in bribery trial” via John Bresnahan and Matt Friedman of POLITICO — U.S. District Judge William Walls stunned federal prosecutors last week when he expressed doubts over whether the Justice Department’s bribery charges against Menendez should move forward in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision throwing out the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. That ruling impacted the legal definition of bribery, including the “string of benefits” theory used by prosecutors to charge Menendez. Walls openly questioned whether Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen, had engaged in a bribery scheme in light of the McDonnell ruling. But Walls said he would allow the jury to decide whether Menendez made false statements when he failed to report gifts from Melgen on his annual financial disclosure form filed with the Senate. “I know the prosecution had a heyday before McDonnell, and now they have a doomsday after McDonnell,” Walls said.

Vern Buchanan glad to see DHS adopt his proposal to screen visa applicants’ social media” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Back in December 2015, U.S. Rep. Buchanan teamed up with U.S. Sen. John McCain to offer a bill ensuring the federal government screens the social media of everyone who applies for a visa to visit the United States. Pointing to reports noting the terrorists behind the San Bernardino attacks posted messages in support of Islamic jihad on Facebook, Buchanan urged the Obama White House to show more leadership in monitoring social media. Since that time, Buchanan has continued calling for the federal government to monitor the social media posts of foreigners visiting the U.S. Last September, Buchanan showcased his proposal in the aftermath of accused terrorist Ahmad Rahami whose social media posts included links to videos supporting Islamic terrorism and jihad. Rahami is accused of being responsible for bombs which injured more than 30 people. With DHS announcing it will start screening the social media posts of international visitors this week, Buchanan welcomed the news. “Checking social media is standard practice for thousands of employers.” Buchanan said Monday. “We need to make sure the individuals entering the U.S. are not here to harm Americans.”

Florida TV tax fight taken to U.S. Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Pointing to “protectionism,” a major satellite-television company is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a constitutional challenge to a Florida law that sets different tax rates for cable and satellite TV services. The long-running battle focuses on the state’s communications-services tax, which is 4.92 percent on the sale of cable services and 9.07 percent on the sale of satellite-TV services. Dish Network contends the different tax rates are a form of protectionism that violates the “dormant” Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars states from discriminating against interstate commerce. “In particular, it forbids a state from taxing or regulating differently on the basis of where a good is produced or a service is performed,” said the Dish Network petition … “That’s exactly what the unequal Florida tax does. It puts a heavier duty on pay-TV programming that is assembled and delivered without using massive infrastructure within the state.” But the Florida Supreme Court, which sided in April with the state Department of Revenue and the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, rejected the notion that cable was an “in state” interest that was being protected by the law.


Melissa Larkin-Skinner: State resources are needed to address the opioid epidemic” via Florida Politics — Our state legislature has an opportunity right now to enhance its response to this growing epidemic by increasing funding for prevention and treatment programs. This is an opportunity that we must take to ensure a healthy future for all of Florida for generations to come … No one is immune from this crisis. We have an opportunity in front of us to set a national example for the proper response to opioid addiction, and we must take it. The Florida legislature should allocate funds to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. This will help individuals on their personal paths to recovery and put our state on the path to economic recovery from funds that are now being allocated to additional spending in the wake of the epidemic.


Appointed — William SnyderA.J. “Tony” Smith and Robert Hicks to the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council; Rabbi Yosef Weinstock and Rabbi Pinchas Taylor to the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council.

Good read about Deirdre Macnab via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend — The 2010 election … marked the beginning of the league’s emergence as one of the most influential interest groups in Florida politics. Following the Fair Districts campaign and litigation, the league supported a campaign to pass a constitutional amendment funding land preservation and another to defeat an amendment giving the state’s big utilities more control over the future of solar power. It helped defeat legislation to expand gun rights in places such as college campuses. And it’s now pushing to prevent Scott from appointing three Supreme Court justices on his final day in office … The transformation is largely the work of one person: Macnab, a 61-year-old former marketing exec who occasionally shows up at public events dressed as Susan B. Anthony.

League of Women Voters of Florida president Deirdre Macnab. Photo credit:

Personnel note: Elizabeth Boyd named state’s Deputy CFO” via Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Monday announced that the Department of Financial Services’ longtime legislative affairs director, Elizabeth Boyd, has been promoted to Deputy Chief Financial Officer. In this new role, Elizabeth will oversee the Department’s legislative affairs, research and planning, cabinet and communications offices, as well as the Division of Consumer Services and the Division of Unclaimed Property, according to a news release. “For six years, Elizabeth has advanced the Department’s legislative priorities and secured great success on initiatives important to enhancing the lives of all Floridians,” Patronis said in a statement. “Her expansive knowledge on insurance, finance and regulatory matters, as well as a broad understanding of the legislative process, makes her well-suited to lead our Department in this capacity.”

Florida Capital Group announces new board members — The holding company for Florida Capital Bank announced that Ander Crenshaw and Buck Jones had joined the board of directors as of Sept. 27 … Crenshaw, a banker, attorney and politician, is a Jacksonville native who served as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 4th Congressional District from 2001 to 2017 … Jones serves as CFO of Financial Information Technologies (Fintech) in Tampa. His financial career spans more than 40 years in roles such as founder, partner-in-charge and vice president at several finance-focused companies across the country … He now serves as Chairman of the Audit Committee, and Crenshaw serves on the Credit Committee … “Both men mirror our ambitions and harbor the experience needed to continue growing Florida Capital Bank through responsive and comprehensive solutions designed to best serve our customers,” said W. Andrew Krusen Jr., Florida Capital Group’s chairman.

— ALOE — 

Gas prices falling across Florida in aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — On average, Floridians paid $2.47 per gallon Sunday, down from $2.54 a week before. While that average stood 22 cents higher than where it stood last year, in the aftermath of the hurricanes impacting Florida and oil production, last month, drivers in the Sunshine State paid, on average, more than $2.70 per gallon. Miami had the most expensive gas in the state with an average of $2.62 per gallon followed by Bacon Raton at $2.61 per gallon and Fort Lauderdale at $2.56 per gallon. The Tampa Bay market had the least expensive gas in the state with motorists paying $2.34 per gallon followed by Orlando at $2.37 per gallon and Fort Myers and Cape Coral at $2.40. The Tampa Bay and Orlando markets saw a drop of 10 cents per gallon over the past week. Drivers in Punta Gorda experienced a drop of 9 cents per gallon in the past week. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said he expected prices to continue to drop across the Sunshine State.

South Florida’s Stone Crab Season is off to a good start.

Stone crab season off to solid start in Southwest Florida” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News — “We didn’t set the world on fire, but we did all right,” said Patty Kirk, with Kirk’s Fish Co. Hurricane Irma had little effect on the amount of stone crabs hauled in, said Kelly Kirk, Patty’s daughter and fellow owner. “All the fishermen said the crabs looked healthy and were moving around,” she said. “It’s a very good thing.” Sunday marked the official opening of stone crab season, letting fishermen haul up their traps in hopes of a good catch. Some people worried that their local seafood favorite wouldn’t make it to their dinner plates after Irma plowed through Southwest Florida more than a month ago. Goodland, a small coastal town south of Marco Island, was hit hard by the storm but rebounded quickly, Kirk said. Several of the Kirk fishing boats were setting traps Oct. 5, the semi-official opening of stone crab season. If Kirk’s Fisheries is anything to go by, there shouldn’t be worry of immediate claw shortages.

Epcot announces narrators for candlelight processional” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Disney has announced this year’s celebrity narrators for the 2017 Candlelight Processional, which include Disney legend Kurt Russell, who has grown up in Disney films from the 1960s through this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Other big-time celebrities who agreed to read the Christmas story are gold- and silver-medal-winning gymnast Laurie Hernandez, daytime television host Pat Sajak and Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The processional is at 5, 6:45, and 8:15 p.m. nightly at the America Gardens Theatre. Dinner packages, available on select nights, include a meal and a guaranteed seat for one of the performances.

Happy birthday to Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mark Hollis, former Rep. Scott Randolph, and Ray Seaman.

Last Call for 10.16.17 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

There’s a (not so) new clerk in town.

Kristina Samuels has been named the fourth Clerk of Court for Tallahassee’s 1st District Court of Appeal, Chief Judge Brad Thomas announced on the court’s website.

Samuels, staff attorney for the Florida Supreme Court Clerk’s office, starts her new job Nov. 1.

“I am confident that Kristina Samuels brings the expertise, knowledge and ability to serve as an outstanding Clerk of Court and to build upon the successful innovations implemented by the Court to enhance the administration of justice and serve the citizens of the State of Florida,” Thomas said in a statement.

Samuels was admitted to the bar in 2006, after attending the University of Miami School of Law. She also serves on The Florida Bar’s Appellate Court Rules Committee.

She replaces the retiring Jon S. Wheeler, who served as clerk since 1990. His retirement ceremony is set for 3 p.m. Oct. 27 at the courthouse, 2000 Drayton Drive in Tallahassee.

The court was one of the original three state appellate courts created by the Legislature in 1957. Until then, the state Supreme Court handled all appeals.

Samuels has her work cut out.

The 1st DCA is “one of the largest appellate courts in the country both in terms of number of judges (15) and number of cases filed annually (6,011 in 2014-15),” and its “geographical jurisdiction (32 counties in north Florida) is the largest in the state,” its website says.

Evening Reads

The Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics are hiding in plain sight” via Florida Politics

Florida developer with ties to Jared Jushner’s family gives big to Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott declares emergency in Alachua before Richard Spencer’s speech” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s 2 main political parties could pay hefty fines” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press

Florida’s Senate race shaping up as a clash of titans” via Marc Caputo and Edward-Isaac Dovere of POLITICO

How the Florida Keys are coming back to life” via Nick Madigan of the New York Times

Miami politician says aliens took her on a spaceship. Now she’s running for Congress” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Former House Page director also facing embezzlement charges” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat

In the shadow of Disney, living life on the margins” via Richard Luscombe of The Guardian

Quote of the Day

“We need to make sure that no child gets left behind. It’s heartbreaking.” —Rep. Bruce Antone, on a bill requiring day care centers to install sensors in vehicles to alert workers if a child was still inside.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will take up several matters, including a proposed $5.7 million deal that would help protect more than 2,500 acres of land in Okeechobee County. The meeting starts at 8 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

The Palm Beach County legislative delegation is scheduled to meet in advance of the 2018 session. It’s at 9 a.m., Solid Waste Authority Administration Building, 7501 North Jog Road, West Palm Beach.

Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a Fort Myers Republican, is scheduled to hold an open house to discuss the legislative session. That’s 9 a.m., Fitzenhagen district office, 2120 Main St., Suite 208, Fort Myers.

The Florida Public Service Commission will host a roundtable discussion about issues related to electric vehicle charging. It’s at 1 p.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

Staff members for Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, will hold “mobile” office hours in Okeechobee and Glades counties. They are at 1 p.m., Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce, 55 South Parrott Ave., Okeechobee; and 3 p.m., Glades County Courthouse, 55 Avenue J S.W., Moore Haven.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission will meet at 2 p.m. in the Senate chamber, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, is expected to raise money during a reception in Sarasota County. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, 7051 Wireless Court, Sarasota.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is expected to speak to the Beaches Rotaract Club. Doors open at 6 p.m., Seachasers, 831 First St. North, Jacksonville Beach.

Ashley Moody, a Republican candidate for attorney general, is expected to speak to the NOVA Republican Club. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Nokomis Community Center, 234 Nippino Trail, Nokomis.

Republican Matt Spritz will hold a kickoff event for his 2018 campaign in Palm Beach County’s House District 89. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Biergarten Boca Raton, 309 Via De Palmas, #90, Boca Raton.

Rep. David Silvers, a Lake Clarke Shores Democrat, is expected to speak to the Rusty Gordon LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Palm Beach County. That’s at 6:45 p.m., Compass GLCC, 201 North Dixie Highway, Lake Worth.

The Harvey Weinsteins of Florida politics are hiding in plain sight

Who will it be?

Who will be the Florida politician(s) laid low by the kind of sexual assault and harassment scandal which has dethroned one-time Hollywood king Harvey Weinstein?

Please don’t tell me there is no equivalent in Florida politics to Weinstein. After all, politics is show business for ugly people.

The Process — my capitalized term for the ‘business that we’ve chosen’ and involves elected officials, staffers, lobbyists, fundraisers and donors, campaign consultants, and the media which scrambles to cover it all — is nothing if not a patriarchy.

State government is a massive system constructed, partially if not primarily, around a handful of men holding power over everyone else.

The number of women elected statewide can be counted on one hand. Just two women have held the title of Senate President; none have served as House Speaker.

Meanwhile, a lawmaker watches pornography while sitting in the Senate chamber. Another joins a website known for enabling extramarital affairs. A third hires a Hooters ‘calendar girl’ with no political experience as a consultant.

And the rest of us point and giggle while young women were ‘crowned’ Miss Rotunda, a title bestowed on the best-looking female intern each legislative session.

Right after the New York Times revealed the disgusting horrors about Weinstein, a prominent, well-regarded (those two terms are not interchangeable) state lobbyist urged me to examine “whether Tallahassee has a casting couch problem.” This veteran insider clearly believes there is,resigning that they “would not encourage either of my daughters to become lobbyists.”

Indeed, a cottage industry has long existed where some male lawmakers and some female lobbyists intersect. Many of us see it and have said/say nothing.

One lawmaker ON THE VERY NIGHT I proposed to my wife (who worked in the Governor’s office), wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her because he wanted to “feel her breasts one last time.”

And that’s a polite story. God only knows what other women have endured.

It’s just a matter of when, not if, someone will step forward and level a charge.

Yet, in some way, it’s almost ironic that Florida politics, as inept and corrupt as it is perceived, is not embroiled sex scandals more often. Perhaps the bogeymen I believe exist are just in my head?

The lobbyist referred to above tells me I’m not wrong. He sees a similarity between Florida politics and Hollywood, where it was once accepted that women give sexual favors in return for professional advancement.

“These women were young and naive and were simply trying to get their big break,” the lobbyist said. “Tallahassee is no different.”

Sunburn for 10.16.17 – Jack Latvala’s big get; Chris King’s policy roll-out; David Rivera dodges the feds; Prepping for Richard Spencer; Spotted at Bruno Mars!

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

It surprised very few people who follow state politics when the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Jack Latvala‘s bid for governor on Saturday.

Latvala officially launched his campaign in August at a fire station in South Florida. The FOP’s future endorsement was foreshadowed by the strong presence of first responders who attended Latvala’s campaign kickoff that day.

As a state Senator, Latvala has stood up for the retirement system as it pertains to first responders, as well as introduce legislation that helped create the Florida Law Enforcement Officer alert system, among several other initiatives.

“It’s been a constant battle to ensure that we don’t reduce the pensions that they work for, especially in the middle of the game, as others have proposed doing,” Latvala said. “It’s important they get compensated for putting their lives on the line every single day when they go to work.”

With 104 FOP lodges throughout the state, the official endorsement from the powerful police union brings with it more than 22,000 members whose votes may be cast in favor of Latvala come next year.

“This is a big boost to my campaign,” Latvala said. “This is the first endorsement in this race of a significant size membership organization and I am so appreciative of them honoring me with this endorsement.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, surrounded by firefighters and police officers, smiles during the announcement he is running for Florida governor on Aug. 16. in Hialeah. Photo credit: Alan Diaz.

Whether or not the FOP’s endorsement was a gimme for Latvala, Saturday’s announcement demonstrated:

— Latvala has earned the mantle of being the ‘law-and-order candidate.’ While crime is no longer the pressing issue it was twenty years ago, being ‘tough on crime’ has long been a hallmark of GOP policy. The police unions’ endorsements will provide Latvala with the inside track to voters who consider public safety their top concern.

— Latvala has the ability to command attention from the state’s political press corps, which, as we’ve joked, is one of Latvala’s most important constituencies. When the FOP’s endorsement came off embargo, several media outlets were ready with their stories — a sign that Latvala knows how to deal with competitive reporters hungry for a scoop. Despite his gruff exterior (or maybe because of it), the Pinellas Republican interacts with the media better than almost all of his opponents, Republican or Democrat.

— Latvala will likely garner the most endorsements of any Republican candidate; Associated Industries of Florida and the NRA will likely back Adam Putnam and Americans for Prosperity would almost certainly support Richard Corcoran, were he to run, but Latvala will undoubtedly be most editorial boards’ preferred choice, as he also will be of many mid-major statewide organizations, many with whom Latvala has built decades-long relationships. We’re not just talking about the unions, either.

Of course, Latvala needs to be careful about overplaying the endorsement card with the Republican primary voters who increasingly abhor any signal from a candidate that they are part of the establishment.

But Latvala can worry about that later. For now, he’s locked up the support of an important ally. With this kind of endorsement and with the amount of money he’s raising, Latvala’s building a campaign for the long-haul.


— @RepJanetCruz: As community leaders, we must use our positions to raise awareness & help others. Proud to help our Puerto Rican neighbors as they recover.

— @NewsofStJohn: St. John, an island in the US Virgin Islands, has been without power since September 6. Please keep loving & supporting us. Please retweet.

— @JimmyPatronis: Firefighters lay their life on the line when they report for duty. Today we honor the heroes who didn’t make it home

— @ShevrinJones: I am begging @FLGovScott and @richardcorcoran to PLEASE ask DCF to extend the days for the FL Disaster Assistance Program.

— @ArekSarkissian: @FLGovScott reiterated help to @UF @AlachuaSheriff as they prepare to maintain order @ Oct. 19 event w/ @RichardBSpencer and protesters.

— @AdamPutnam: The old truck has covered lots of miles this week. We’re just 30 mi from home & got a flat. Pulled out the jack & tire iron & got to work!

— @JoeReedy: Alabama vs. Miami in Atlanta on Jan. 8?

***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. #NeverStopReaching***


Putnam’s digital consultant also behind ‘Liberal Latvala’ campaign” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The brief digital ad campaign attempting to brand Latvala as “Liberal Latvala” was put together by a well-known digital media firm also doing work directly for the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. The committee that paid for the ads — United Conservatives for Florida — is run by Mac Stevenson, a longtime Putnam adviser … Putnam’s campaign said it knew nothing about the effort to brand Latvala, a Republican also running for governor, as a liberal. Along with the committee that paid for the ads being run by one of his consultants, the vendor who put together the campaign, Harris Media, also offers a clear link to Putnam’s team. September expenditure records show the committee paid Texas-based Harris Media nearly $5,000 for the digital media attack. That prominent Republican digital firm has also been paid nearly $230,000 for digital and advertising work directly from Putnam’s campaign, and another $152,188 from his political committee, Florida Grown PC.

— “Is Adam Putnam indirectly in bed with Germany’s far-right?” via Florida Politics

Mac Stevenson and Bill Galvano. Stevenson is supporting Adam Putnam in his bid for Florida governor.

Putnam to campaign in Gilchrist — Putnam will hold a campaign stop in his bid for governor at the Gilchrist County Republican Executive Committee’s annual “Stars of Freedom Dinner.” Event begins 6 p.m. at Seven Hills Farm, 3270 County Road 337 in Trenton.

Chris King to roll out jobs and economic policy this month” via Florida Politics — “Too many people are stuck in low-paying jobs, and they’re not moving up the ladder,” King said in a video. “So we’ve got to move fast to create a more fair and homegrown economy that creates the type of jobs that support Florida families.” King highlighted that half the jobs in the state pay less than $15 an hour, a figure many state and national Democrats have said is the minimum living wage for employees. “Our No. 1 priority as a state — my No. 1 priority as your next governor — is to do something about this,” he said. King added that the Sunshine State was at the “back of the pack in almost every economic and quality of life measurement” and said Florida is in last place among the 10 most populous states when it comes to wages, incomes and per capita GDP. The would-be governor’s policies include “investing in and lifting up and caring for” small businesses. King said he is confident helping grow small business will bring living wage jobs to the state due to his experience with his own business, Elevation, which provides affordable housing options to seniors in the southeastern United States.

— “Pam Keith gets backing from Florida NOW in bid for congressional seat” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Ed Hooper lands endorsement from Bill Galvano” via Florida Politics — “Having served the community most of his life, Ed Hooper understands the issues that face Senate District 16. Ed is known for being a champion of economic development, job creation, and quality education for our kids,” Galvano said in a news release. “The election of Ed Hooper to the Florida Senate will be beneficial to not just his constituents, but all residents of the great state of Florida.” Hooper is running for the seat currently held by Clearwater Republican Sen. Latvala, who is termed out of the Senate and running for Florida governor in 2018.

Bill Galvano is supporting Ed Hooper in his bid to return to Tallahassee. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Spotted at Saturday night’s Bruno Mars concert in Orlando: Sens. Galvano, Rob Bradley, David Simmons, and Kelli Stargel, Leticia Adams, Adam Babington, Kelly Cohen, Andrea Reilly, Stephanie Smith, and Kate Webb.

David Rivera proves elusive to U.S. Marshals” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The U.S. Marshals have attempted to serve the Miami Republican with a summons tied to a Federal Election Commission lawsuit since July, but have been unable to find him. He’s also running for an open 2018 Florida House seat. “The Commission’s diligent efforts to serve Rivera have been thwarted so far by Rivera’s apparent evasion of service,” wrote FEC attorney Greg Mueller in an Oct. 12 request for more time to serve Rivera. “Rivera is almost certainly aware of this lawsuit.” The FEC is suing him in Miami federal court over an alleged illegal campaign finance scheme that led to two people serving jail time. Under the allegations, Rivera was part of a scheme to funnel campaign contributions to Justin Lamar Sternad, a straw candidate running against Democrat Joe Garcia in the 2012 Democratic primary for the South Florida congressional seat Rivera then held. The move was designed to weaken Garcia, who would later beat Rivera in the general election. Both Sternad and Ana Alliegro, a GOP operative working with Rivera, did jail time. Rivera was not charged but is now being sued by the FEC over the issue. The target of multiple federal and state criminal and civil investigations, Rivera has remained a step ahead of the law for years.

Happening Tuesday:


Sweeping measure address prescription pills” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Doctors would be limited to prescribing seven days’ worth of opioids for patients with acute pain and would have to check a statewide database before ordering most prescription pain medications, under a proposal filed in the House. The 114-page bill, sponsored by House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd incorporates proposals put forward by Gov. Scott aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic that has engulfed the state. The proposal (HB 21) would limit doctors to writing prescriptions for three days’ worth of opioids, such as highly addictive oxycodone, unless the practitioner decides a seven-day prescription is “medically necessary to treat the patient’s pain as an acute medical condition.” For the weeklong supply, physicians would have to document the patient’s “acute medical condition and lack of alternative treatment options to justify deviation” from the three-day limit. Some doctors, especially those who work in emergency rooms, have balked at a three-day limit and the requirement for documentation, which they say would take away time from patients. Critics of a three-day limit also say that prescription-drug restrictions, while possibly stopping new patients from becoming addicted, won’t do anything to address the growing number of overdoses on heroin and fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid often mixed with heroin.

Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

State’s counsel accuses nursing home/ALF lobbyist of undermining emergency-generator rule” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — The state’s counsel accused the top lobbyist for one of Florida’s largest nursing home and assisted living facility trade organizations of undermining Gov. Scott‘s proposed emergency rules requiring generators at such facilities following the deaths last month of 14 elderly residents at a Hollywood nursing home. Steve Bahmer, president and chief financial officer of LeadingAge Florida, contends that his organization supports the spirit of Scott’s rules but simply cannot meet them by the Nov. 15 deadline imposed by the governor. The state’s counsel, Steve Ecenia, wasn’t buying the argument. “I’m not sure that I believe they’re giving full-throated support to what the governor wants to do here. We think there may be efforts to otherwise act,” Ecenia told POLITICO during the second day of hearings in administrative court, where the nursing home industry and others are challenging Scott’s emergency rules order. During a heated cross-examination, Ecenia laid out what he thought Bahmer’s ulterior motive was in litigating Scott’s action: to “relieve them of any obligation to move forward and establish safe air conditions for residents of ALFs or nursing homes.” Bahmer responded: “Well, obviously I’m not a lawyer. I think it would probably relieve them of that requirement under the emergency rule.”

Lawmakers eye student financial literacy requirement” via the News Service of Florida — Florida lawmakers will again consider a proposal that would require high-school students to pass a financial-literacy course before graduation. The Senate Education Committee this week unanimously passed a financial literacy bill (SB 88) spearheaded by committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill … Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen filed a House version (HB 323). The measures would require students entering ninth grade during the 2018-2019 school year to earn one-half credit in financial literacy and money management. The course would delve into issues such as types of bank accounts, managing debt and basic principles of insurance policies. The Senate passed a financial-literacy bill during the 2017 session, but the measure died in the House.

Daisy Baez to discuss ending child marriage — The Coral Gables Democrat will speak at an event that examines ending child marriage in Florida. Event begins 2:30 p.m. At Florida International University, GL 220, in Miami.

Kionne McGhee headlines march for better transit — The Miami Democrat will join leaders of groups such as the AFL-CIO and NAACP in a march calling for better mass transit options for Miami-Dade County. Event begins 4:30 p.m., and starts at Cutler Bay Town Center, 10720 Caribbean Blvd. in Cutler Bay.

Al Jacquet reprimanded for misusing position to get a parking ticket voided” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel — A Palm Beach County ethics panel reprimanded State Rep. Jacquet for misusing his position when he was vice mayor of Delray Beach to get a $35 parking ticket voided. Jacquet settled ethics charges the panel had brought against him and agreed to pay a $300 fine. The Commission on Ethics found the violations were unintentional, but Jacquet admitted in the settlement agreement that he misused his position. He faced ethics charges of misuse of official position and corrupt misuse of office. Before being elected to the state Legislature in August, Jacquet served four years on the Delray Beach City Commission.


Florida expects hundreds of displaced Puerto Rican students” via The Associated Press — Most of the island’s 1,112 public schools are closed due to hurricane damage, and schools throughout Florida are preparing for the possibility that thousands of new students will come … Volusia County public schools’ spokeswoman Nancy Wait says the county overestimated the number of students they would receive, so she expects that they’ll have plenty of space. In central Florida alone, 292 students have enrolled in Orange County, and 150 in two other area counties. “We know it’s traumatic … we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure they get in a classroom as soon as possible,” Wait said. The students from Puerto Rico will also be classified by Volusia County as homeless, meaning they won’t have to show birth certificates, immunization records and can qualify for free lunches and other programs.

Elionet Saez Martin, of Puerto Rico, is among the first of what is expected to be large numbers of Puerto Rican children enrolling in school districts on the U.S. mainland. Photo credit:Jessica Hill.

After Irma: Keys tourism push includes images of damage” via Jim Hayward of the Palm Beach Post — On the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in the Keys, the area’s tourism bureau posted a video showing the destruction caused by the storm. It was a unique way to draw visitors back to the resilient island chain at the southern tip of Florida. “This is a very unusual approach because I don’t think any tourism agency out there would show scenes of hurricane damage,” Andy Newman, spokesman for Monroe County’s Tourist Development Council, told the Miami Herald. “I think you need to be honest,” Newman said. “You have to show them where we started and how we are coming back out of the dark.”

State parks take financial hit from hurricane” via the News Service of Florida — Three Florida parks in the Keys opened to the public Friday for the first time since Hurricane Irma, as the state looks at overall storm damage to its parks topping $55 million. John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Curry Hammock and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic state parks in Monroe County were reopened for day-use … just five state parks are still closed: Bahia Honda, Indian Key Historic and Long Key all in Monroe County; Faver-Dykes State Park in St. Johns County; and Hontoon Island State Park in Volusia and Lake counties. David Clark, acting deputy secretary of land and recreation at the Department of Environmental Protection, said Wednesday that the costs could grow. “As we continue with the assessments, I foresee that number continuing to increase,” Clark told the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. “Hopefully it will not break $60 million. But right now, it’s approximately $55 million.” One positive for the state is that the financial hit may have been tempered because September is historically the lowest month for revenue, at about $4 million annually, Clark said. The average in most other months is $6 million to $7 million, he said.

Upset about remaining Irma debris? Have some patience, officials say” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Based on numbers tracked for the county’s Solid Waste Authority, just under half of the debris generated by Irma has been cleared. About 1.4 million cubic yards of vegetative debris had been removed through Wednesday, according to the most recent report on the SWA’s website … SWA spokesman Willie Puz said the authority expects to have completed the first pass of debris collection in unincorporated parts of the county by the end of the week. “Our emergency contractors will begin a second pass at this time,” Puz said. “To put this in context, Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne in 2004 generated approximately the same amount of debris and took 87 days for a first pass or pickup. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 again generated approximately the same amount of debris, and it took 68 days for a first pass. Hurricane Irma generated almost the same amount of debris, and we are only on Day 29 and estimate the first pass will be completed for nearly all residents by (this) weekend.”

Based on Palm Beach County estimates, about 1.4 million cubic yards of vegetative debris from Hurricane Irma had been removed through last week.

Florida gun laws fail to block sales to dangerously disturbed people” via Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida has repeatedly failed in its efforts to keep guns away from mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves or others, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found. The state’s strategy has been twofold. A decade ago, lawmakers banned gun sales to people who had been forcibly committed to mental hospitals. Four years ago, Florida broadened the ban to include those who voluntarily commit themselves for long-term psychiatric treatment. Florida court clerks have struggled with the initial law, taking up to three years to input thousands of names into the database used for gun-purchase background checks and entering incorrect information for hundreds of others, state audits concluded. Now doctors and hospitals are failing to flag the names of patients who should be prohibited from buying guns under the 2013 expansion of the law, the Sun Sentinel found. “If you’re a danger to yourself or others, you have no business getting out and being able to purchase firearms,” said Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “There is nothing wrong with the law. What is wrong is the system is not working, and people are not following the law.”

State tries to scuttle matching-gift case” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The state is asking a Leon County circuit judge to dismiss a case alleging the state has failed to match $460 million in private donations to universities and state colleges that were made under Florida’s matching-gift laws. University of Florida graduates and Florida State University donors filed separate class-action lawsuits, which were consolidated, seeking to force the state to come up with $600 million in matching funds for the gifts … lawyers for the state said the matching-gift laws are subject to annual budget decisions by the Legislature and it would violate the constitutional separation of powers if the judiciary ordered lawmakers to spend the money. Noting the “firm separation” of constitutional authority among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, the motion added: “Because plaintiffs’ requested relief would violate the separation of powers, it cannot be granted.” The state’s motion also attacked an alternate request for relief that asks the court to issue an order requiring the executive branch, including the governor, to make a request to the Legislature for the matching funds.

Hate comes to Gainesville but scale of threat unclear” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun — Expect more than 500 law enforcement officers outside the Phillips Center on the University of Florida campus … Expect white nationalist Richard Spencer, surrounded by young men in white shirts and khakis. And expect a crowd of protesters nearby to shout them down. But, beyond that, much remains unknown about the event that has residents across Gainesville anxious that the city could become the next clash between extremists on the right and on the left. “There’s a possibility of real violence,” UF President Kent Fuchs told The Sun. “We are prepared for a Charlottesville but hope it will not be that.” To keep the peace, UF is closing roads through the southwest corner of the campus around the Phillips Center, where Spencer is set to speak from 2:30-4:30 p.m. A long list of prohibited items — including sticks, bags, bikes, masks and even water bottles — has been posted. Police will try to keep Spencer’s supporters and protesters separated. It is not clear that white supremacists and protesters will be contained there. Also, part of his strategy is taking advantage of facilities at public universities that face a high legal hurdle in denying him, and where he is guaranteed controversy that gets him in front of TV cameras and onto the front pages of newspapers. Spencer is seeking to speak next at Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, and has threatened to sue if not permitted.

Expect young men in white shirts and khakis, protests and about 500 law enforcement officers when Richard Spencer comes to Gainesville. What happens beyond that is unknown.

A Gainesville brewery was trying to block hate with beer. Not so fast, Spencer says.” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Gainesville brewer Alligator Brewing offered a popular deal to its patrons: give it two tickets to the so-called “alt-right” leader’s speech at the University of Florida next week and it will give you a free draft beer. “We, unfortunately, can’t stop him from bringing his hate to Gainesville,” the message on Facebook read. “But we can empty the room so his disgusting message goes unheard.” The only problem with the much-lauded plan? Spencer knows about it. “We’re going to have a system in place to combat that,” said Spencer, who had seen the ubiquitous Facebook post himself.

Happening today — Jorge Labarga speaks on hurricanes at Harvard forum — Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Labarga joins Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht at a forum at Harvard Law School to talk how the legal system handled Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Forum begins 2 p.m. at Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


In a sudden flurry, Donald Trump looks to deliver for his voters” via James Oliphant of Reuters — Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall along the Mexican border. And on social media, the Republican president appeared to relish his feuds with the news media, senior Republicans in Congress, and National Football League players who have protested during the national anthem. In a sense, it was the vintage, freewheeling Trump: throwing red meat to his voter base, following his gut and haranguing his critics. But by the end of the week, he had made more progress in undoing the policy accomplishments of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, than he had in some time. At the same time, there is still chaos and uncertainty in the White House, so much so much so that Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, took the unusual step of telling reporters that he was not resigning. Meanwhile, the job status of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, appears to remain tenuous … Trump this week was also sending a clear message: that he plans on doing as much as he can without waiting for Congress to act.

Donald Trump threw red meat to the base this week by dramatically undercutting the Obamacare health system, sending notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moving to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanding a wall along the Mexican border.

Trump’s Obamacare order could roil Florida insurance markets” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — “It’s going to be devastating to the people that we work with,” said Anne Packham, marketing project director for Primary Care Access Network, a Central Florida-based group. The executive order removes $7 billion in subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, paid to health insurers offering plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges. The subsidies help consumers pay out-of-pocket expenses for care. About 1.7 million Floridians receive coverage through the exchanges. Many of them receive subsidies that lower their monthly premiums, but those are unaffected by Trump’s order. Still, Democrats and health-care-access advocates are warning the change could lead to higher deductibles, pricing many people out of the marketplace. Most worrying is the prospect of younger, healthier consumers leaving the exchanges, leading to a smaller, older, sicker and more expensive risk pool.

***AGRiMED Industries is a leading medical cannabis company committed to improving the health and wellness of ailing patients. With state-of-the-art greenhouse facilities and over 200 years of collective experience in the agricultural and health care fields, AGRiMED produces high-quality agricultural medicine with tremendous health benefits. Learn more at***


After Las Vegas, we must ban high-capacity magazines” via U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch for the Miami Herald — After the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, prognosticators had an unfair advantage. We’ve learned from our country’s recent history of gun violence what happens after. What we haven’t learned is how to stop repeating the cycle. This week, I joined Rep. Elizabeth Esty and several of my colleagues from the Nevada Congressional delegation — Reps. Dina TitusRuben Kihuen, and Jacky Rosen — to work toward interrupting the tragic cycle of inaction. We introduced the Keep Americans Safe Act to ban high-capacity magazines. Like bump fire stocks, high-capacity magazines are designed to make killing more efficient, and not much else. We admit that this legislation won’t fix everything and won’t end gun violence. It won’t address the majority of the 33,000 lives lost to gun violence every year in this country, half of which are suicides. But without 30-round magazines, mass killers would be forced to spend time reloading, precious time that could allow a victim to escape or law enforcement to intervene. If that time could help save at least one life, it would be worth it. Banning high-capacity magazines is not a bold new idea. These devices were illegal until 2004 when Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to lapse. That was a mistake, and it’s time to correct it by renewing restrictions on these devices which have no purpose other than highly efficient murder. It’s time for Congress to do something about gun violence.


Appointed — Kelley Sasso to the Deferred Compensation Advisory Council.

Good read about Marty Fiorentino via the Jacksonville Business Journal — In 2001, Fiorentino got his chance to leave his mark on Jacksonville. As chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, he oversaw the division of the agency into the Jacksonville Port Authority and the Jacksonville Airport Authority. He was appointed to the Port Authority and elected its first chairman. “That’s what I’m most proud of,” Fiorentino said. “There was a lot of debate in the community, but I think it’s been very successful. It happened a week after 9/11 when the world of aviation changed. It was important to have a board dedicated to the security and growth of the airport.” As president of The Fiorentino Group, one of the largest government affairs and business development firms in the state, he said his biggest challenge is to unplug from technology that allows instant communication 24/7. “When I started, a lawyer would send you a letter by mail, you would read, put it aside, think about it, draft a response and mail it back,” he said. “Today if you wait 24 hours to respond to a client, that’s too long.” Fiorentino said the future of his firm will be rooted in integrity and commitment to client service. “We have enjoyed incremental growth year after year. We don’t try to grow too fast. We are sensitive to service,” he said. “We want to over-service what we sell. We like to over-deliver on our promises, not over-promise on what we can deliver.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: American Clinical Solutions

Ron BookRana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Margate

Jose Diaz, Robert M. Levy & Associates: Military Family Connect

Michael Dobson, Dean Mead: Florida Ambulance Association

Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: MLU Services

Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting: Solidaridad Sin Fronteras

Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting: CannaRx

Phyllis Kalifeh: The Children’s Forum

Terry LewisNatalie KatoLori Killinger, Lewis Longman & Walker: Carlene Blunt

Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Quest Management Group, Inc

Ryan Matthews, Peebles & Smith: Ecology & Environment

Allen MorthamSandra Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: Sunstate Academy

Steven Palmer, Forbes Tate Partners: Adapt Pharma

Louis Rotundo, Louis C. Rotundo: CRESCOlabs

Gary RutledgeDiana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Center for Election Innovation and Research; US Iron

James Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA)

Steven UhlfelderToni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates: Sunfest Herbs

— ALOE —

New characters give ‘Thomas & Friends’ a jolt of girl power” via Joseph Pisani via The Associated Press — Mattel, the toy maker that owns the Thomas brand, will add two female main characters to the “Thomas & Friends” TV series next year. Nia and Rebecca will appear in each episode and help fix the gender imbalance at the shed where Thomas and the other main characters live: Three of the seven engines at Tidmouth Sheds will be female, up from just one. The gender shake-up is just one of the many changes coming to the 30-year-old show. Thomas visits real countries for the first time; the animation will move at a faster pace; there’s a new theme song; the characters will crack more jokes; and the narrator will be gone, replaced by the voice of Thomas. It’s all an effort to shake Thomas’ stodgy image, compete with flashier preschool shows and fight a drop in toy sales.

This photo from Mattel, Inc. shows the new Steam Team appearing in the 2018 series of “Thomas and Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!

Pluto no longer top dog at Disney” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The theme park will welcome dogs to four hotels for the first time ever beginning Sunday. Dog lovers will find plenty of Disney perks for their four-legged friends. At check-in, dog owners will receive Pluto’s Welcome Kit, which includes a mat, bowls, a pet ID tag, disposable bags, puppy pads and dog walking maps. The kit also includes a Pluto “Do Not Disturb” door hanger to let hotel staff know that a pet is in the room. Disney has partnered with Best Friends Pet Care, an on-property, full-service facility that can provide pet daycare and other pet services, for a fee. Guests will also be able to purchase pet merchandise at the pet-friendly resorts. Here are a list of the hotels and the per night/per room pet-cleaning rates: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50. Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75. Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50. A maximum of two dogs per room are allowed. Each guest room will have access to outdoor pet walkways for exercise and green spaces with pet relief areas.

Want to be Santa? Be ready for tough questions and heartbreaking requests” via Christopher Spata the Tampa Bay Times — In the hotel’s meeting room, two dozen older, naturally bearded men and one “Clark Kent,” the industry term for fake beard wearers, sat in reindeer bowling shirts and red leather cowboy boots. They read textbooks titled Behind the Red Suit and scrawled pages of notes. They had come in search of answers to unexpectedly hard questions lobbed their way in the jolly red suit. At a shopping mall, surrounded by snow made of cotton, a little girl could turn him into putty. It was years ago after he’d retired from the police force. The girl sat on his lap, explained all she wanted for Christmas was her mother to come home. The woman had died in a car crash on Thanksgiving … Why do they do it? Santa Jay Hancock from New Port Richey leaned on a candy cane that was also a literal cane and called it “addicting” and a “high.” He loves walking up to a group of unruly children in a restaurant and seeing them instantly start behaving. He gives the parents a wink and slips them a business card. Santa Steve Rowland from Lake Wales is headed into his first season. He imagines the joy of walking into a hospital on Christmas Day. “OK, but don’t make it sound like we don’t want to make money,” said his Mrs. Claus, Jo Ann Rowland. “That’s part of it too.” My phone off 100 right There are heartwarming moments. But of course, it’s the “war stories,” as John Deane puts it, that linger for years.

Happy birthday belatedly to one of our favorites, Edie Ousley of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating today is my wonderful mother-in-law, Robin Todd, as well as Rep. Loranne Ausley Beth Switzer, and Carrie Patrick.

— Material from First Coast News used in this post.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — The rise of Jose Oliva

From the “In Case You Missed It Department”: While you were focused on legislative committees this week, the House Republican Caucus quietly installed the next Speaker in a hotel basement.

Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, will lead the GOP-controlled chamber in 2018-20, following Richard Corcoran, assuming the Republicans hold a majority after the next election cycle. Republicans now hold 78 of the 120 seats.

In his day job, Oliva remains co-CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company in 2016 to a European concern.

Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes with House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero “nominated Oliva Tuesday at a meeting of the House Republican caucus in the basement of the Hotel Duval,” the Miami Herald reported.

Oliva held his designation ceremony “away from the House chambers in the state Capitol — for the first time in decades,” at the boutique hotel “where Republicans frequently conduct caucus meetings.”

How come? “In my six years in the Legislature, I never thought what we need more of is ceremonies,” he told the paper.

Indeed, he hopes to reduce “some of the pomp” of the Legislature, Oliva added.

Given the difference in hair between the current and future speakers, we expect more pompadour, less pomp.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim Rosica, Peter Schorsch, Michael Moline, Scott Powers and Andrew Wilson.

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

Irma hits state budget — Florida’s tax structure will produce only $52 million in gains on existing state spending during the coming fiscal year, and will leave lawmakers more than $1 billion in the hole during each of the two budget years after that. That doesn’t count what the state needs to spend to recover from Hurricane Irma. The news came as the Senate Appropriations Committee began sorting through the many demands on the government’s pocketbook. “It’s grim,” Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said.

Generator rule causes angst — Florida’s 683 licensed nursing homes and 3,109 assisted living facilities have just a few weeks to meet Gov. Rick Scott‘s new edict to install generators. But there are few generators available and most won’t make it, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services was told. Its first hearing dealt with nursing homes’ emergency plan safety in the wake of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills tragedy, in which 14 elderly residents appeared to have baked to death because the Hurricane Irma power outage pushed up indoor temperatures. Industry representatives said they support the concept, but argued nursing homes and assisted living facilities will struggle with costs and availability to meet the 60-day deadline for installation.

New fund raises concerns — Lawmakers asked lots of questions but didn’t get the answers they wanted as a Senate panel tried to get a handle on the state’s new $85 million jobs fund. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) head Cissy Proctor on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, created this year. Proctor said her department already has received 179 proposals, which include 96 infrastructure projects from local governments and 83 workforce projects, worth a combined $642 million in requested funding. But Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, added that because demand exceeds supply, “it sets the stage for so many projects to get left behind.”

Baez goes on trial — The House’s ethics panel set a Dec. 4 hearing on a charge that Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Daisy Baez doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent. The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee will conduct an evidentiary hearing “somewhat like a court trial,” said chair Larry Metz, a Yalaha Republican, who will preside. The hearing will be the first time in modern memory that the House tried a member on a conduct violation related to residency. A scheduling order for the proceeding was released this week. The committee’s verdict will go to the full House of Representatives, two-thirds of which would have to vote to expel her.

Tourism agency gears up — VISIT FLORIDA said it’s redoubling efforts to show visitors across the world that Florida is open for business. The state’s tourism marketing agency will start the second phase of its post-Irma marketing campaign to ensure visitors see for themselves that the state’s destinations are ready to welcome back visitors. The second phase will consist of TV broadcast, print, transit and digital billboard ads that will be seen in Florida’s top markets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Jimmy Patronis honors fallen firefighters

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis honored Florida firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty during the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala this week.

Patronis was joined by family members of the fallen and fire service personnel from across Florida to memorialize Joseph T. DeMarinis with the Clermont Fire Department and James F. Dorminy with the Reedy Creek Fire Department. Seven historical line of duty deaths were also recognized as part of the ceremony.

CFO Jimmy Patronis speaks at the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala. (Photo: CFO’s Office)

“Firefighters are deserving of our unending gratitude for laying their lives on the line each time they report to work,” Patronis said. “We honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others and lost their lives far too soon. By adding their names to Florida’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial, they will forever be remembered as the heroes that they are.” 

In total, 193 names are represented on Florida’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial.

Florida officials on the ground in PR

Florida Department of Financial Services personnel including Major Karl Morgan with the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations landed in San Juan this week to help out in the Puerto Rican recovery effort.

Employees from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement were on the plane as well, to pitch in following Hurricane Maria.

DFS Personnel head to Puerto Rico to help out coordinating law enforcement on the island.

Morgan joined up with an eight-member multiagency incident management team that is helping coordinate law enforcement personnel on the island.

The trip is part of CFO Jimmy Patronis’ pledge to assist Puerto Rico in its recovery efforts. More Florida resources remain on standby if the island needs them, his office said.

Exceptions to post-Irma insurance rate hike moratorium

As Hurricane Irma loomed, the Office of Insurance Regulation issued an emergency order blocking insurance companies from hiking premiums. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your rates won’t rise.

The order prevents carriers from applying the state’s “use and file” process to raise rates. In other words, boosting premiums subject to subsequent regulatory approval.

Any rate increases approved before the 90-day Irma moratorium would still take effect if the policy comes up for renewal, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told the Senate Committee on Banking & Insurance.

“For rate filings that we had previously approved, anywhere from a year to 15 months ago, they could potentially come online during that 90-day period of time,” Altmaier said.

Insurance adjusters wanted

Hurricane Irma had produced 703,601 insurance claims as of Oct. 6, worth nearly 4.6 trillion dollars. Finding enough warm bodies to adjust them might be a strain.

Florida is competing for qualified adjusters with Texas, where Hurricane Harvey produced catastrophic flooding, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee learned.

Insurance adjusters are needed for Hurricane Irma relief.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., with 70 percent of its exposure in the Florida Keys and Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, contracted ahead of time with 770 adjusters, supplementing 250 in-house employees, according to President and CEO Barry Gilway.

But not all the contract adjusters showed up. “The long-term, professional adjusters were not in the state of Florida. They were in Texas,” Gilway said.

Consider, too, the competition from other Florida insurers.

The company responded by offering bonuses and putting 250 people through a three-day training program. “It became very much a supply and demand issue,” he said.

Direct primary care clears Senate committee

Legislation approving “direct primary care” agreements cleared the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee on a unanimous vote.

SB 80 would allow patients to contract directly with doctors to receive basic medical care for a set monthly fee. The bill stresses that these arrangements would not constitute insurance, and therefore would not be subject to state regulation.

“The value proposition for the patient is that they have more immediate, predictable access to their physician for the primary care needs that they might have. For the physicians, the value proposition is that they don’t have to spend as much as 30 percent of their time and their staff’s time dealing with insurance companies,” sponsor Tom Lee said.

House Insurance & Banking committee chairman Danny Burgess has introduced similar legislation in the House, which has approved the concept for three years running.

Sen. Bill Galvano and Sen. Rob Bradley confer in the back of a Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo credit:Phil Sears.

Debbie Mayfield files “Good Samaritan” bill

People who take video and post it online of someone in “imminent danger” of grave physical harm, but do nothing to help, would face a third-degree felony under legislation filed this week.

The bill (SB 516), sponsored by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, is in response to a group of teens in Cocoa who on July 9 stood on the side of a pond, commenting and mocking while filming as a 31-year-old disabled man drowned.

Debbie Mayfield files a “good Samaritan” bill, punishing those who record videos of people needing help without offering aid.

Mayfield’s proposed “Good Samaritan” law would make it a first-degree misdemeanor for failing to provide assistance. The penalty would rise to a third-degree felony if a person who fails to offer assistance electronically records the incident and uploads the recording.

Mayfield said other states, such as Vermont and Minnesota, have similar laws.

Historically, there has been no common law “duty to rescue” another person in peril. Aside from “Good Samaritan” statutes, the law has, however, recognized situations where someone has a legal duty to help, such as in school-student or employer-employee relationships.

A pile-on for Aaron Bean

Sen. Bean and his family dutifully followed local government instructions to pile post-Irma debris in the front yard, against the curb but clear of the right of way. Sounds like a considerable pile — Bean said they’d lost “several large trees.”

Imagine his joy when his wife called to report that two guys had parked a big truck in front of the house. “They’re finally picking up our debris,” she told him.

“I said that’s great, honey,” Bean recounted during a committee hearing.

“She calls me back two minutes later and says, ‘They’re not picking up our debris. They’re dumping their trash,’ “ he said.

“A little lightheartedness at the Bean household,” he said.

Sen. Doug Broxson of Pensacola piped up. “We had Nate at my house, and it took two lawn chairs and several of the boards off my pier. In the spirit of equal time, I want you to know that we were impacted, too.”

Toward a gridless future

The Legislature has been looking into whether Florida’s utilities repaired the electric power grid quickly enough. What if the state could do without the grid entirely?

“This is long-term, but I think we’re eventually headed toward a gridless society,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth said recently.

“So continuing focusing on the grid is the right short-term thing to so. But long term, we’ve got to figure out as a state how we’re going to deal with sea-level rise, with storm surge, and with all of our infrastructure,” he added.

Clemens says he’d like to see state support for home and commercial solar conversions — perhaps via subsidies for inverters that allow solar arrays to seal themselves off from the grid. That would allow homeowners to power up during outages without feeding juice into the grid, risking electrocution of utility workers.

“The grid (is) going to be one of those things like taxicabs and hotels,” Clemens said. “There’s going to be disruption in the future as more and more people find generating their own power to be as efficient and as cheap.”

Bill would bring back elected Secretary of State

The Secretary of State would again be an elected Cabinet position under legislation for the 2018 Session.

Sen. Bean, the Fernandina Beach Republican, filed a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 506) that would undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members.

As a result of the 1998 ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002, and the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer were eliminated.

A new Cabinet position, chief financial officer, was created, while the attorney general and agriculture commissioner remained.

To get on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal would have to be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters.

“There’s Mommy”

Lobbyist Ron Book points to the front where his daughter, Sen. Lauren Book was attending a Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Lauren Book’s twins, Kennedy and Hudson, are now 7 1/2 months old. Photo credit: Phil Sears

David Richardson, Cynthia Stafford named to juvenile justice panel

Rep. Kionne McGhee, House Democratic Leader-Designate and Interim Chair of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation, this week appointed Rep. Richardson and Rep. Stafford to a new panel to investigate abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice program.

The panel was inspired by a Miami Herald series, “Fight Club,” that investigated abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice and detention system.

“Richardson’s own investigative work on abuses in the prison system made headlines earlier this year, while Stafford is an attorney and Democratic Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, where she has fought for and won reforms to Florida’s criminal justice system,” a news release said.

Rep. David Richardson, an advocate of prison reform, was named to a new panel to investigate abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice program.

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christy Daly said the series “failed to recognize the transformation of the juvenile justice system in recent years,” which she repeated to lawmakers this week.

“I will not deny or discredit or downplay some of the horrible incidents that have happened; we respond appropriately to those,” Daly told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. “If we need to change policies and procedures, we do so. But (the Herald series) is not representative of this system.”

Richardson, of Miami Beach, is a retired forensic auditor; Stafford, of Miami, is an attorney.

Jason Brodeur picks up leadership award

State Rep. Brodeur got some recognition this week from U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster and Healthy Families Florida, which named him the winner of the 2017 Daniel Webster Leadership Award.

“It is a privilege to accept the Daniel Webster Leadership Award from Healthy Families Florida,” the Sanford Republican said. “Through bolstering parenting skills, empowering families and creating avenues for additional education, Healthy Families helps families rise up from crisis to become self-sufficient and productive. It’s imperative we commit to programs that give families the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed.”

The parent coaching and child abuse prevention program was one of Webster’s priorities during his time as Speaker of the Florida House, and the award bearing the now-congressman’s name has been given out since 2009 to lawmakers, policymakers, law enforcement officials and community leaders who have demonstrated a passion for and commitment to effective child abuse prevention.

“It’s a distinct pleasure to welcome Representative Jason Brodeur to the roster of influential Floridians who see the value of Healthy Families and champion the success of the program through words and action. Thanks to his efforts, families can continue to get the resources and education they need to thrive,” Webster said.

Democratic lawmakers: Boost ACA enrollment

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez and Rep. Nick Duran, both Miami-Dade Democrats, this week said lawmakers need to step in and help their constituents get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

The pair cited changes pushed through by the Trump Administration that make signing up for coverage more difficult including a truncated open enrollment period, which this year will run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

“Actions by the Trump Administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act can only lead to rising costs and instability,” Rodriguez said. “We cannot stand by and let that happen, so we call on our colleagues to join us in helping promote enrollment to make sure Floridians have every opportunity to access health care.”

Duran directed Enroll America’s Florida branch before being elected, and was more pointed in attacking the Trump White House.

“These actions by the Trump administration are needlessly cruel and are aimed at undermining a law that has allowed more than 1.6 million Floridians to gain access to quality, affordable health insurance,” he said.

Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, chair of the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee, speaks meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

FRF backs Donald Trump tax plan

The Florida Retail Federation said this week that it supports the recent tax reform plan proposed by President Donald Trump but added that he and lawmakers need to set their sights on internet-only retailers

“FRF supports President Trump’s proposed tax plan which will both simplify the tax filing process and provide needed tax reform for Florida’s 270,000 retailers,” FRF CEO R. Scott Shalley said. “However, we ask the President and members of Congress to also include ‘Mainstreet Fairness’ into the plan by requiring Internet-only retailers to pay the required state and local sales taxes that their brick-and-mortar competitors have been doing for years.

The trade group, a branch of the National Retail Federation, mainly represents physical stores. When those brick and mortars make a sale online, they have to tack on sales tax if they have a location in the buyer’s state.

Amazon is the largest of those online-only retailers, and does charge sales tax in Florida due to having some warehouses in the state. Other companies without a presence — or “nexus” — can skirt collecting those tax dollars.

Shalley made clear his group isn’t looking for any new taxes, but “equal application of the law.” If that doesn’t happen, he warned brick and mortar stores will become an “endangered species.”

FRLA celebrates hurricane relief, industry stars

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association met in Orlando this week to decide on new board members, add a few names to its hall of fame and recognize top hotel and restaurant workers with awards.

Kevin Speidel, Vice President of Resort Operations for Hilton Grand Vacations was picked to chair FRLA’s board in 2018, which will consist of Alan Palmieri, Sheldon Suga, Jim Shirley, Olivia Hoblit, Cathie Koch and Don Fox.

The event also included a special tribute to the industry’s Hurricane Irma response, as well as a silent auction benefiting the Florida Disaster Fund.

Tallahassee’s Andrew Reiss, the founder of Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar and other restaurants, was named Restaurateur of the Year.

Andrew Reiss, the founder of Tallahassee’s Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar and other restaurants, was named Restaurateur of the Year.

Hotelier of the Year went to Don Seaton of Clearwater Beach; UnitedHealthcare was named Supplier of the Year, and Randy Spicer received the special honoree award for being a “friend to the industry.”

FRLA also recognized employees who had set themselves apart in 2017.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando manager Jonathan Miller was named Restaurant Manager of the Year; DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cocoa Beach Oceanfront line cook Kelita Williams took home the Restaurant Employee of the Year award; Jim McManemon was got the hotel manager award for his work at Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island; and Evelyn Wilson, a guest services agent at Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach was named Hotel Employee of the Year.

Leon County opens emergency detour

In coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Leon County opened a new emergency detour route on Highway 20 West to serve the Fort Braden community.

The emergency route ensures that citizens and first responders will have quick and secure area access if severe weather or other disasters close that section of road.

Located between Joe Thomas Road West and Silver Lake Road, the emergency detour provides a more direct alternate route that is 15 miles shorter than the previous detour route.

“This detour ensures the safety of the citizens of Highway 20,” Leon County District 2 Commissioner Jimbo Jackson said. “This project will drastically shorten the distance motorists and emergency services have to travel in the event of a road closure or emergency. And will also serve as an alternate emergency evacuation route during natural disasters.”

Known as the Forest Road 301 project, the improvements include stabilizing the roadway with a mix of sand-clay, pulling ditches to avoid flooding of the roadway, and installing cross-drains where to convey for stormwater.

“Leon County’s partnership with the U.S. Forest Service creates a new detour for area citizens during times of need,” Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long said. “Being regularly maintained allows this roadway to serve our County year round.”

Flags at half-staff for late Tallahassee mayor

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff for the late James Ford, Tallahassee’s first African-American mayor.

Flags will be lowered at the Tallahassee City Hall and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Monday. Ford died Wednesday. He was 91.  

Ford became Tallahassee’s first black mayor in 1972, serving three terms, according to a news release. At that time, the mayor’s position rotated among city commissioners; the city now separately elects a “leadership” mayor.

Former Tallahassee Mayor James Ford died this week. He was 91.

Ford was a Tallahassee native, earning an undergraduate and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University. He was a veteran of World War II and Korea, serving in the U.S.  Navy and Army.

Before his election to the Tallahassee City Commission, Ford spent 37 years as a schoolteacher, administrator, and principal in the Leon County Schools. He was later the first black elected to office in Leon County since Reconstruction.

“Ford was instrumental in helping progress Tallahassee’s government,” the release said. “His efforts helped establish the Minority Business Department, the Frenchtown Development Authority, the Affirmative Action Office and the first community center on the south side. Today, that community center bears his name — the Walker-Ford Community Center.

Good News Dep’t: Free school meals extended for counties

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has accepted the state’s request to extend access to free school meals, through Nov. 30, for all students in Monroe, Collier and Lee counties.

Those areas are still recovering from Hurricane Irma and are subject to a FEMA Major Disaster Declaration.

Collier, Lee and Monroe counties have 191 schools and 138,000 students.  

Parents or guardians looking for additional info can call the department at (800) 504-6609 or email 

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

The News Service of Florida contributed to this week’s edition, republished with permission.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons