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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.16.18

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

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

Another week, another House member wants to be Florida’s chief legal officer.

Today at 11 a.m., state Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, “will hold a news conference outside the Florida Supreme Court to make an announcement,” he said in a Friday.

Shaw didn’t say what the “announcement” was about, but it’s a sure bet he too is running for Attorney General.

Sean Shaw could make it official today.

That will bring to six the number of candidates, and add to the three state representatives already running: Pensacola Republican Frank White, Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant and Dover Republican Ross Spano.

Shaw, son of the late Florida Supreme Court Justice Leander J. Shaw, Jr., is the first Democrat in the House to declare an AG candidacy and the second Democrat: Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens filed last May.

He will also be the first African-American in the race. Former Hillsborough circuit judge Ashley Moody is arguably the leading Republican in the field.

Sean’s entry in the race is not happening in a vacuum, coming after months of courting by high-profile donors and politicos, including a recent (very positive) encounter with Orlando attorney John Morgan, a longtime Democratic donor.

In addition, Shaw’s candidacy should provide a boost to the other statewide Democratic candidates, particularly Bill Nelson, Gwen Graham and Phil Levine (sure to generate a sigh of relief at the DSCC and DGA) and Jeremy Ring, who will now have a young, charismatic, African-American candidate to campaign with this fall.

Not only can Shaw help with African-American turnout in a gubernatorial cycle, he’s extraordinarily well-suited to capture the energy and excitement of the Democratic electorate.

Another key factor in Shaw’s entry in the A.G. race is his relationships with the donor community. He a former member of the Florida Justice Association board, and close with the South Florida federal donors who rarely get involved in state-level races.

For Shaw to be successful, both groups need to be fully engaged in the race.

In an election cycle in which both parties are fractured — and the Florida Democratic Party is in a tough situation, struggling to find its footing — Shaw presents a real opportunity to offer a unifying campaign across all factions of donors, elected officials, and activists.

When Shaw jumps in the race, he would also be able to bring about $41,000 with him from his HD 61 re-election campaign.

He’s a lawyer and former state insurance consumer advocate, who ran for and lost the House District 61 seat in 2014 to fellow Democrat Ed Narain. Narain later left the House to run for a Senate seat, which he lost, and Shaw took his seat in 2016.

Amid speculation that Shaw would declare, another Democrat — Byron Keith Henry — has opened a campaign account to run in Shaw’s House district.

Tuesday’s announcement is on the Duval street side of the Court in Tallahassee.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @Salon: Pope Francis warns that nuclear war is on the horizon

— @FrankLuntz: In 1966, just 33% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Martin Luther King. Today, more than 90% do.

— @RealDonaldTrump: Senator Dicky [Dick] Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.

— @JebBush: Mitt would make a phenomenal addition to the U.S. Senate. I hope he runs.

— @VernBuchanan: Florida is not out of the woods yet when it comes to preventing another catastrophic oil spill. We need to pass my bipartisan bill extending the current offshore drilling moratorium.

— @AGlorios: The Florida Senate simply gives zero Fs this week. No committee meetings? No problem.

— @Fineout: So after seeing the news about Times-Union, that means in about last 2 years 4 news organizations in Fla have gotten rid of full-time reporting positions in Tallahassee. 1 of those organizations is no longer in existence. 1 has decided to have a reporter during Session.

— @FLDEO: Florida was selected to be a part of the #ApprenticeshipUSA initiative which aims to close the talent gap. Apprenticeships are ideal for teaching workers the skills they need to succeed.

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Days until: Florida Capitol Press Corps Skits — 6; Super Bowl LII — 19; Pyeongchang Winter Olympics — 23; Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training — 27; Valentine’s Day — 28; Sine Die (maybe) — 51; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 71; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 128; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 156; Primary Election Day — 223; NFL Draft — 259; General Election Day — 293.

— DAY OF A THOUSAND PRESS CONFERENCES —

Assignment editors — For National Religious Freedom Day, legislators in at least 30 state capitols and many congressional leaders will be gathering throughout the day to stand in a unified voice declaring we must “Keep Faith in America.” News conferences and gatherings will be aired on Facebook: /Keep Faith in America from Noon — 8 p.m. ET. Rep. Mel Ponder and Sen. Dennis Baxley, joined by other legislators for a news conference on why we must stand for religious freedom beginning 9 a.m. at the Florida State Capitol on the 4th Floor Rotunda.

Assignment editors — GOP Reps. Tom Leek and Katie Edwards-Walpole will be joined by industry associations for a news conference to roll out an educational campaign on ‘drive-by lawsuits,’ which critics call “an abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act by law firms.” The presser will take place at 10:30 a.m., in the House Media Room (333 The Capitol).

Tom Leek is behind a campaign on ‘drive-by ADA lawsuits.’

Assignment editors — Right on Crime and the Charles Koch Institute will host a news conference in front of the Florida Senate Chamber on the fourth floor of The Capitol. The conference will highlight the recent release of the Reforming Criminal Justice report by the Academy for Justice, a consortium of more than 100 top criminal justice scholars in the country. Among those expected to attend are Chelsea Murphy, Florida State Director of Right on Crime; Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican; and Greg Newburn, State Policy Director for Families Against Mandatory Minimum.  Right on Crime is a national campaign to promote successful, conservative solutions on American criminal justice policy — reforming the system to ensure public safety, shrink government and save taxpayers money, a news release said. The Charles Koch Institute is an educational organization focused on the importance of free societies and how they increase well-being for the overwhelming majority of people. The presser begins at 11:00 a.m.

Assignment editors — Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and Rep. Mike La Rosa, a St. Cloud Republican, will hold a news conference today at 11 a.m. on the west side of the Capitol (think ‘dolphin fountain’) to discuss SB 1400 and HB 773.  “The bills’ intent is to protect private property rights of vacation rental owners who have been unfairly targeted—and often illegally—by a growing number of local regulations,” a news release said. Members of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association, the Airbnb host community and HomeAway and their owners also expect to be present.

Assignment editors — Democratic Sen. Lauren Book and GOP Sen. Dana Young will hold a news conference to discuss their bill related to workers’ compensation benefits for first responders who suffer from PTSD as a result of the trauma they experienced in their jobs. That’s at noon, Senate Media Room, 304 The Capitol.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT  —

Jack Latvala’s latest accuser: ‘He unbuttoned my jacket and he felt me up.” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The woman whose testimony led to the resignation of one of Florida’s most powerful politicians did not plan to speak out. Even after McLeod read the Nov. 3 Politico account of the six anonymous women who accused Latvala, 66, of sexual harassment — and noted that the claims were strikingly similar to her own experiences — the long-time lobbyist and now legislative aide remained quiet. … Latvala was re-elected to the Senate for his second eight-year tenure in 2010, but it wasn’t until he chaired Senate committees that held power over McLeod’s clients, from January 2015 to April of last year, that he pursued her for sex, she said. Feeling trapped, she agreed. McLeod recalled having sex two times in 2015 and once in 2016, and said he groped her dozens of times more. Now their complicated relationship, and Latvala’s treatment of a woman he considered “one of my best friends,” may have become the kill shot in the Senate investigation into sexual harassment allegations against him. “I knew it was true,” she recalled in an exclusive interview with the Times/Herald. “It was like, yeah, yeah and oh, yeah. I hated when we were in an elevator by ourselves.”

Jimmy Patronis backs expanding PTSD benefits for first responders” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Patronis, the head of the state agency that ensures businesses have workers’ compensation coverage for employees, is backing a bill that would give first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder workers’ compensation benefits even if they don’t have physical injuries. The proposed legislation would benefit first responded who suffer from PTSD due to a work-related event. “I’m putting the full weight of my office to increase benefits this legislative session,” Patronis said. The bill’s sponsors and supporters will hold a news conference on Tuesday to advocate for the proposal.

Danny Burgess falls in the Americans For Prosperity ‘support’ column.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida releases priority list for 2018 Legislative Session” via Florida Politics — A sampling of the “support” column of the 97-bill priority list: Rep. Danny Burgess and Sen. Tom Lee’s plan to stop direct primary care agreements from being regulated as insurance (HB 37/SB 80); another of Lee’s bills, sponsored by Rep. Bryan Avila in the House, that would ban pro sports teams from building stadiums on public land (HB 13/SB 352); and a proposal from Rep. Manny Diaz and Sen. Keith Perry that would add a “one-in, one-out” rule when it comes to new rules in the Florida Administrative Code (HB 791/SB 1268). And a handful from the “oppose” list: Rep. David Silvers’ and Sen. Annette Taddeo’s bills to create a new film incentives program (HB 341/SB 1606); A measure by Sen. Lauren Book that would require 75 percent of the students in a “School of Hope” to come in from a low-performing school (SB 216); and Sen. Kevin Rader’s “Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act,” which would bump the minimum salary for teachers up to $50,000 a year (SB 586).

Tobacco bond cap bill clears House panel—but is it fair? — A bill to repeal the state’s tobacco bond cap is moving in the Florida House. Whether it’s fair is another story. The measure (HB 6017), carried by GOP Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach, cleared its first committee last week by a unanimous 14-0 vote and moves to Appropriations. A companion bill (SB 124) is in the Senate. The aim is to do away with the limit in state law on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds after trial-jury verdicts. Tobacco companies have opposed a repeal; the state’s trial lawyers back it. An attempt last year died during the committee weeks leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session.

Senate panel to consider juvenile ‘Fight Club’ reforms” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Two measures that would provide more oversight to the state’s juvenile justice system, which is under scrutiny for its widespread use of unnecessary and excessive force on youth detainees. Sen. Brandes, the Pinellas County Republican, is sponsoring both bills. One that would expand responsibilities of the Florida Correctional Operations Oversight Council to include monitoring daily operations of correctional and juvenile facilities, and another one that would give lawmakers the power to the visit any of the 21 state youth detention centers “at their pleasure.” The proposals come in the wake of the Miami Herald “Fight Club” series that found systemic problems over a 10 year period.

Key committees to watch:

House considers hurricane report — The House Select Committee on Hurricane Response and Preparedness will consider the final 12-page report with dozens of recommendations. Meeting begins 9 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

Senate debates disaster preparation tax holiday — The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee will take up a proposal for a sales tax holiday in early June for disaster preparedness purchases (SB 620), filed by Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo. Meeting begins 10 a.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office building.

Senate eyes offshore drilling moratorium — On the agenda for the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is SR 550, from Gulf Breeze Republican Doug Broxson, which extends the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, areas the military uses for air and sea training. Meeting starts 10 a.m. in Room 37 of the Senate Office Building.

House targets human trafficking — a bill in front of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee (PCB CRJ 18-03) seeks to set minimum mandatory sentences for human-trafficking crimes. Meeting begins 11:30 a.m. in Room 404 of the House Office Building.

House considers expanding pharmacist powers — The House Health Quality Subcommittee will discuss HB 431, filed by Naples Republican Byron Donalds an Orlando Republican Rene Plasencia to allow pharmacists the ability to test and treat patients for influenza and Streptococcus. Meeting starts 11:30 a.m. in Room 306 of the House Office Building.

Senate committee talks workers’ comp expansion — The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss SB 376, from Plantation Democrat Book to expand workers’ compensation insurance benefits for first responders, addressing issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Meeting begins 1:30 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

Lawmakers look to close fireworks loophole — The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will consider closing a long-standing loophole in Florida fireworks sales HB 6037, from Tampa Republican James Grant, would end the prohibition on fireworks sales. Consumers have circumvented the ban through a loophole that allows the purchase of fireworks for agricultural purposes and frightening birds. Meeting starts Tuesday, 3 p.m. In Room 216 of the Capitol.

House considers changing laws on commercial vehicles — The House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee will consider HB 1189, from Palatka Republican Bobby Payne, to make several changes to laws regulating commercial motor vehicles. Meeting begins 3 p.m. in Reed Hall of the House Office Building.

Senate talks windshield damage rules — The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will consider a proposal (SB 396) from Port Orange Republican Dorothy Hukill that seeks to require required inspections before damaged auto windshields are repaired or replaced. The bill is one element of “assignment of benefits” insurance reform. Meeting starts 4 p.m. in Room 110 of the Senate Office Building.

Senate seeks to ban Venezuela investments — A bill (SB 538) scheduled for the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee from Hialeah Republican Rene Garcia would ban state investments in companies doing business with Venezuela’s govenrment. Meeting begins 4 p.m. in Room 401 of the Senate Office Building.

Senate committee debates opioid epidemic — The Senate Health Policy Committee will debate a bill (SB 8) from Fort Myers Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto which tries to curb the state’s worsening opioid crisis. Meeting starts 4 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

Governors Club Tuesday buffet menuTuesday’s lunch menu includes mixed green salad with assorted dressings, grilled vegetable salad, cucumber lime and cilantro salad, tomato basil soup, wild mushroom ravioli with Bolognese sauce, fried chicken, rosemary pork loin, grilled salmon Puttanesca, “Risi Bisi” rice, Tuscan white beans, Italian squash and Panna Cotta flan for dessert.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Poll: GOP satisfaction with U.S. direction highest in 10 years” via Khorri Atkinson of Axios — 61 percent of Republicans are satisfied with the direction of the country, the highest level of satisfaction in a decade, according to a new Gallup Poll … 1 in 4 Republicans are “very satisfied” with how things are going. Overall, 29 percent of Americans are satisfied, including 9 percent “very satisfied” and almost 7 in 10 Americans (or 69 percent) dissatisfied. 7 percent of Democrats are satisfied; less than 1 percent “very satisfied.” 7 percent of Independents are “very satisfied” while 38 percent “very dissatisfied.” The poll was conducted between Jan. 2 and 7 among 1,024 adults. Gallup noted that it was done after the passage of the GOP’s sweeping tax overall bill, which it says appeased the Donald Trump base.

Bill Nelson is raking it in, to the tune of $8M, for his re-election bid.

Bill Nelson raises $2.4 million in fourth quarter 2017; $8 million on hand — The $2.4 million fourth-quarter haul means the state’s senior senator now has more than $8 million in the bank heading into the election year. Nelson received more than 30,600 contributions from more than 21,500 donors during the last three months of 2017 alone. Nelson’s campaign also picked up another key endorsement earlier this month when the League of Conservation Voters announced its endorsement of the Florida Democrat for re-election … In announcing its endorsement of Nelson, LCV noted Nelson’s long-standing opposition to offshore drilling near Florida’s coast and his effort to ensure clean air and water for all.

— “Nelson believes Trump administration trying to help propel Rick Scott toward Senate run” via John Rogers of WFLA-TV

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King will take part in a Broward County Democratic Executive Committee meeting and townhall event. Meeting begins 1 p.m. at the Edwin F. Deicke Auditorium, 5701 Cypress Road in Plantation. Townhall begins 2 p.m. at the Wynmoor Village, 1310 Avenue of the Stars in Coconut Creek.

— “Val Demings picks up Democratic primary challenger in CD 10” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Elected officials and local leaders endorse Lauren Baer for Congress Baer was endorsed by state Sen. Kevin Rader, state Rep. Matt Willhite, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon, and former Congressional Candidate Jonathan Chane. “True leaders find solutions, work with people from all backgrounds to get things done, and fight for what they believe in. Lauren Baer is a true leader. I trust that she will take her experience and fight every day for the residents of Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.” Rader said. “I trust that Lauren is the best candidate to represent this District’s values in Washington. She has spent her career fighting for others and not only does she have the experience, but she has the passion to advocate for the residents of CD 18 in Congress. I look forward to working closely with her to best serve our constituents,” Willhite added.

Jason Brodeur continues to lead Central Florida state Senate candidates in fundraising” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brodeur raised more than $21,000 in December for his official, 2020 campaign for the Florida Senate, and another $59,000 for his unofficial Friends of Jason Brodeur political committee. Brodeur’s hauls bring his official fund to about $217,000 raised, with $141,000 left in the bank at the end of December; and Friends of Jason Brodeur to nearly $1.20 million raised and about $353,500 in the bank. He does have an opponent, Frederick Ashby, an Oviedo Democrat who did not report any campaign finance activity in December. Ashby’s state senate campaign had about $300 in it at the end of the year.

— “Bernie Fensterwald: Democrat wants to be true ‘citizen legislator’” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— STATEWIDE —

Mario Diaz-Balart won’t say if Trump disparaged immigrants in White House meeting” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald —  A high-stakes White House immigration meeting has devolved into a debate on whether Trump used the terms “shithole” or “shithouse” to refer to immigrants, and Rep. Diaz-Balart isn’t offering his version of the meeting, even though he was in the room. Diaz-Balart hasn’t said whether he sides with Sens. Durbin and Lindsey Graham, who say Trump used disparaging language, or Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who said they didn’t hear it. The Miami Republican has not confirmed or denied either of the accounts.

Mario Diaz-Balart remains tight-lipped about Donald Trump.

Airbnb touts El Salvador, Haiti, Africa; speaks out against discrimination” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “2.7M guests from Airbnb decided that countries in Africa, El Salvador, and Haiti were beautiful enough to visit. When we embrace the world, we see its beauty,” tweeted Brian Chesky, co-founder and chief executive officer of Airbnb. “We want to empower the Airbnb hosts who call these communities home and encourage more travelers to visit these special and beautiful places,” the company stated in a news release. “At Airbnb, we believe in an open society and the power of connecting people from different communities and cultures,” the company stated. “We have opposed discriminatory policies that would limit travel and have urged Congress to protect Dreamers. Going forward, we will continue to advocate for policies that open the world and bring us all together.”

Rick Scott announces funding to help Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria refugees find work in Florida” via Drew Dixon of the Florida Times-Union —  Scott said a $1 million “investment” has been established for 12 state workforce development organizations to help some of the nearly 300,000 Puerto Ricans enter the Florida workforce after they relocated to the state following Maria … Much of the money is distributed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and will go to CareerSource Florida, which is a job development agency. Multiple CareerSource bureaus in the state will receive the funds to assist Puerto Rican refugees, including CareerSource in Flagler County.

Anti-smoking campaign could be trimmed” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — By a 3-2 vote, the Finance and Tax Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission backed a proposal that would cut from the state constitution a requirement that 15 percent of the funds from a landmark tobacco settlement be used for Tobacco Free Florida. The proposal would instead direct money toward cancer research. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association testified against the proposal, offered by state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican who serves on the Constitution Revision Commission. Chris Smith, a Constitution Revision Commission member and former state lawmaker … said he didn’t think it was appropriate to place spending requirements for an advertising and education campaigns in the state constitution. Smith said he considers each proposed constitutional amendment by asking himself the question: “Can this be done legislatively?”

An anti-smoking proposal from Jeanette Nunez could be trimmed by the CRC.

Controversial CRC environmental proposal is dead” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — After drawing widespread opposition from business and agriculture groups, a proposal to redefine legal standing for Floridians on environmental issues won’t go before voters in November. The Judicial Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission unanimously rejected the proposal (P 23), filed by commission member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, with opponents saying it was too broad. Thurlow-Lippisch, a former mayor of Sewall’s Point, acknowledged after the meeting that while the proposal may be “a little extreme,” she will continue to work on improving it as a citizens’ initiative. Under the proposal, “any person” would have a right to clean air and water, which includes the ability to “enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations, as provided by law.” The “any person” language is what raised hackles of critics.

Assignment editors — A Florida Economic Estimating Conference will analyze the state’s economic issues starting 11:30 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building of The Capitol.

Lee County sees alarming increase in opioid overdoses” via The Associated Press — Lee County saw 955 overdose cases in 2017, eight times more than the 171 overdoses reported in 2013, according to medical provider Lee Health … heroin and fentanyl deaths accounted for 61 deaths in 2016 in the Fort Myers area, while in Naples, they accounted for 27 deaths. Nearby Port Charlotte had eight deaths. Throughout Florida, the opioid epidemic claimed 5,725 lives in 2016, a 35 percent increase from the 4,242 Florida deaths in 2015, according to a Florida Medical Examiners report.

Red tide reemerges along Florida’s southwest coast” via The Associated Press — Medium counts of red tide organism were recorded in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota counties last week. Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation’s Rick Bartleson says he found 700,000 cells per liter near a preserve west of Fort Myers although he said he hasn’t heard of any fish kills there … scientists have counted high levels of the algae linked to red tide in recent weeks along southwest Florida beaches.

— IN THE CABINET — 

With two term-limited members looking to leave legacies and one up for reelection, the state Cabinet will be active in pushing a few priorities this Legislative Session.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Patronis are tackling some tough problems, too, according to recent Associated Press interviews.

Opioids, wildfires and PTSD are among the issues prioritized by the Cabinet. Though the body cannot craft legislation themselves, their leadership in state government makes them a powerful and pragmatic voice, helping to guide legislators through the 60-day lawmaking process.

The Florida Cabinet has a number of irons in the fire this Session.

Here are some bits of each member’s agenda:

Bondi: The state’s top cop wants to make sexual misconduct, intimidation and harassment by state officials an ethical violation — a provision absent from current statutes. She’ll also continue her fight against the opioid crisis by supporting legislation that slaps more regulations on opioid prescriptions.

Putnam: The ag commissioner has a hot take — literally. Putnam believes Hurricane Irma’s wreckage could lead to more wildfires in the upcoming dry season. He says the leftover brush will be dried out and vulnerable to blazes. He’ll champion wage increases for firefighters this Session, along with equipment upgrades and money for preserving agricultural lands. He’s also asking for funds to research citrus-greening and taking steps to foil credit card skimmers.

Patronis: Also the state’s fire marshal, Patronis wants to expand workers’ compensation benefits to cover PTSD for firefighters and police officers. He also wants to help veterans with firefighting experience transition to related careers post-military service.

Dream team: Patronis and Putnam are working together to prevent companies from charging credit-freezing fees.

— OPINIONS —

Kasha Bornstein, Austin Coye: Expand syringe exchange; all Florida deserves Miami miracle” via Florida Politics — The 2016 IDEA bill allowed for only a single pilot program in Miami-Dade County … Nevertheless, in this short time, we’ve seen veritable miracles occur at the IDEA Syringe Exchange. Each case of HIV we prevent saves the state and taxpayers more than the cost of running a single syringe exchange in one year; and saves another family from untold anguish. However, the opioid crisis is not limited to Miami-Dade. Families throughout the state have lost parents, children, siblings and spouses to this scourge. Our results at the Miami IDEA Exchange reflect a basic tenet of public health policy: harm reduction saves lives. The rest of Florida deserves the results we’ve seen work in Miami. We need our legislators in Tallahassee to do the right thing and make syringe exchange available for the people of Florida.

— MOVEMENTS —

Marine Le Pen worked with Trump’s campaign pollster in the closing days of the French election” via Jules Darmanin of BuzzFeed — Le Pen hired Tony Fabrizio, a renowned pollster who worked on famously poll-obsessed Trump’s presidential run … Fabrizio exchanged ideas with Damien Philippot and Philippe Vardon, two members of Le Pen’s official campaign staff, as well as Frédéric Chatillon and Paul-Alexandre Martin, two other campaign aides. Vincent Harris, a U.S. campaign strategist that Le Pen had also brought onboard, also took part in the emails. One thread Fabrizio participated in took place in April 2017, just after a terrorist attack on the Champs-Elysées killed a police officer, days before the first round of voting opened. “Was he an immigrant?” Fabrizio asked in the email. “If he was an immigrant and committed crimes, had he been deported he couldn’t have attacked last night.” The day before, Fabrizio and Harris discussed conservative François Fillon‘s end-of-campaign strategy and the appropriate Le Pen response.

— ALOE —

FSU sold fewer bowl tickets than USF” via Noah Pransky of Shadow of the Stadium — A post-bowl report by Florida State University reveals the Seminoles’ disappointing football season resulted in the school having to “buy out” the overwhelming majority of tickets it was tasked with selling ahead of its Independence Bowl appearance. According to the FSU report, the school sold just 1,132 of the 6,000-plus tickets it was required to sell to the Dec. 27 game in Shreveport, La. — fewer than the disappointing number of tickets the University of South Florida sold to the Birmingham Bowl, held four days earlier. FSU’s total allotment for the game was 6,064 tickets, so the school gave 2,126 tickets away to local charities and members of the armed forces; 2,438 tickets went unused, and the remaining 400 or so were used by the university … poor showings at a bowl box office, where ticket guarantees can sometimes climb north of 10,000 tickets, can still eat away at hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue a school would have otherwise been able to put back into its programs.

Happy birthday to a great leader who is sure to have a second act, Jose Felix Diaz.

Tobacco bond cap bill clears House panel—but is it fair?

A bill to repeal the state’s tobacco bond cap is moving in the Florida House. Whether it’s fair is another story.

The measure (HB 6017), carried by GOP Rep. Cord Byrd of Neptune Beach, cleared its first committee last week by a unanimous 14-0 vote and moves to Appropriations.

A companion bill (SB 124) is in the Senate. The aim is to do away with the limit in state law on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds after trial-jury verdicts. 

Tobacco companies have opposed a repeal; the state’s trial lawyers back it. An attempt last year died during the committee weeks leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session.

Here’s how it works: Tobacco companies are required to put up bonds before they appeal unfavorable damages awarded to former smokers, but the state places limits on how much those bonds are.

The tobacco companies have said a repeal would be unfair because, in part, bonds would fall under the “150 percent of judgment” rule without a cap. And with some verdicts in the billions of dollars, bonds could be unreasonably large under that standard, they say.

The state’s trial lawyers, however, have supported a bond cap repeal. They say it will force settlements and end decades-long litigation over plaintiffs’ claims of irreversible illness or early death from smoking.

But again, the repeal seems to be a “solution in search of a problem” since no settling tobacco company has ever failed to pay a judgment.

One argument made was that these bond cap protections don’t benefit any other Florida business. And while that’s technically true, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

When it comes to the thousands of Engle progeny cases, the tobacco companies don’t get the benefit of a punitive damages caps on these lawsuits that any other company sued today would be protected by.

That means there can be awards in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. And there have been. The bond cap legislation was implemented to keep the companies from having to post these huge bond numbers, which can be 100 percent of the verdict plus interest.

In 2014, these same companies came to the Legislature and pointed out there was an unlevel playing field because every other group that did business in the state was under one punitive damage statute and tobacco was under another.

The trial bar didn’t seem to think that was unfair.

Here’s the good news: The Senate version, filed in August by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube, hasn’t yet been scheduled for a hearing, suggesting the House bill – should it pass – will die on indifferent ears in the other chamber.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 1.15.18

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

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

Florida lawmakers will address two of the year’s most pressing issues in the second week of the annual 60-day Legislative Session.

A House committee to improve the state’s hurricane preparedness, set up in the wake of Hurricane Irma, will pore over 12 pages of recommendations. Proposals include extending a Tampa Bay area toll road to the Georgia border, creating gas reserves, and mandating all health care and assisted living facilities to have emergency power sources. Another suggestion is for gas stations to charge the same amount for all grades of gas during emergencies.

Among the suggestions a Florida House committee will consider on future hurricane preparedness is extending a Tampa Bay-area toll road to the Georgia border.

Florida’s worsening opioid crisis is on a Senate committee agenda. The Senate Health Policy Committee will hear SB 8, which requires physicians to prescribe only a three-day supply of opioid-based medications, which can be increased to seven days cases of acute pain. All opioid prescriptions of more than three days would be marked “medically necessary,” and doctors would be required to take additional training for dispensing potentially addictive medicines.

Other bills on the schedule this week include:

— The House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee will hear a bill Wednesday revamping Florida’s higher education system. Among other changes, (HB 423) would increase state financial for highest-performing Florida students attending state colleges or universities.

— Also Wednesday, the Senate Regulated Industries Committee will consider SB 840, which would legalize fantasy sports in Florida. The legislation would allow “decoupling” — dog tracks can keep poker rooms without the requirement of having live racing.

— A ban on fundraising during Session will be heard by the House Oversight, Transparency and Administration subcommittee Wednesday. Currently, only legislators are banned from raising money during Session. HB 707 would extend that to the governor and other statewide elected officials.

— The same day, the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will hear a proposed constitutional amendment that sets term limits for School board members.

— On Thursday, a pair of gun bills is on the schedule of the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 1048 would allow guns on a private school campus if the school is run and operated by a church or religious institution.

— Also, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education will consider SB 540 this week, a bill affecting all Florida’s 28 colleges. Among the changes are setting up a new statewide regulatory board and putting enrollment limits on four-year degrees.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @StapletonPBPost#Trump Corp helicopter noticeably absent at #MarALago this weekend after #PalmBeach sends reminder that helipad only for presidential business — which needs to be defined

— @LearyReports: Rep. Frederica Wilson says she will boycott Trump’s first SOTU: “I have no doubt that instead of delivering a message of inclusivity and an agenda that benefits all Americans, President Trump’s address will be full of innuendo, empty promises, and lies.”

— @SenBillNelson: Florida is stronger because of our Haitian community. The president needs to understand that and he needs to start treating others with the respect and dignity they deserve.

— @DeFede: Three days after the Trump Oval Office meeting we are still waiting to hear from the only member of Congress from South Florida in that meeting @MarioDB What did Mario Diaz-Balart hear? And how did he respond? This is now more important than ever because Sunday morning … Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who previously said they don’t recall if President made racist and derogatory comments about Africans and Haitians, now deny he said them. It is incumbent on @MarioDB to come forward and say what he heard.

— @JThalji#Florida Emergency Alert buttons: Temperatures could drop into the 50s. The Publix deli is out of sub rolls. The #Bucs are attempting a field goal. The manatees have armed themselves and they’re sick of our shit. The Legislature is in session.

— @BiancaJoanie: The Florida DEO sent letters to local housing authorities to analyze the impact of evacuees in the area and find long-term solutions, per @FLGovScott. Housing remains an urgent issue for thousands of families whose temporary vouchers from FEMA weren’t extended.

— @RepStephMurphy: A privilege to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King tonight in #Sanford at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 31st Annual Commemorative Banquet. Thank you to the Sanford MLK Celebration Committee for the invitation to speak. A great event!

— @Unclegrambo: Blake Bortles has now won more playoff games than the entire Detroit Lions franchise has won during my entire lifetime.

— @Rob_Bradley: To understand the mindset of #JagNation, you must understand the disrespect to our region, fans and team that we have collectively endured for more than a decade. But we kept grinding. Now this. Understand that, then you appreciate the joy and swagger of this team and its fans.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— NOTES FROM THE TRAIL —

Lawmakers to attend Miami MLK Scholarship Breakfast — U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, joined by U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will appear at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast held by Wilson’s 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. Event begins 8:30 a.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport and Conference Center, 711 NW. 72nd Ave. in Miami.

Assignment editors — Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum will appear at civic events honoring the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. At 8:30 a.m., he will visit Congresswoman Wilson’s 5000 Role Models event at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport and Convention Center, 711 NW. 72nd Ave. in Miami. At noon, Gillum will attend the Miramar MLK Day Parade and Celebration at Lakeshore Park, 8501 S. Sherman Cir. in Miramar.

Much of Florida, including many candidates, politicos, and civic leaders, will honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King during various events on Monday.

Chris King campaigns in Broward — Orlando businessman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate King will attend the MLK Day Parade in Pompano Beach beginning 7:30 a.m. at the Mitchell Moore recreation center, 901 NW. 10th St. in Pompano Beach. Later, King will visit a civil-rights restoration event beginning 1 p.m. at Broward College, 1930 SW. 145th Ave. in Miramar.

Assignment editors – Former Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will attend the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast for Congresswoman Frederica Wilson’s 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project. The event will begin 10 a.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport and Conference Center, East Hall, 711 NW. 72nd Ave. in Miami.

Adam Putnam’s bid for governor complicated by citrus industry woes” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam‘s candidacy must gain critical momentum at a time when citrus is being hammered by the double whammy of disease and disaster. Its fiercely independent growers are desperate for financial help from the Legislature and Congress that so far isn’t forthcoming. Ravaged by an insect that carries the devastating disease of greening, Florida’s citrus crop had fallen by 70 percent in two decades, and began long before Putnam took office … Then came Hurricane Irma in September … “The citrus industry is facing unprecedented challenges,” Putnam said in an interview. “We will live to face challenges again in the future. I’m not at all writing this industry’s obituary. The citrus industry is here to stay.” Not everyone is convinced. “If it happens on your watch, it’s your problem. The citrus industry has declined on Adam’s watch,” says Jan Barrow, a business executive and president of the Democratic Women’s Club of Lakeland, a political club.

Sean Shaw expected to announce for AG” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Shaw has been considering the race for months. According to sources close to Shaw, he plans to announce his decision in Tallahassee the day after Martin Luther King Day. There are strong clues what decision he’ll announce. Last month, Shaw, who has said financial support from the state’s trial lawyers would be crucial to any Democrat in the race, met with John Morgan. Morgan then tweeted a photo of himself and Shaw, saying, “Sean Shaw is a future national superstar. His father was a legend. @SShawFL is a future legend. National money will pour into this guy.” In addition, a political staffer is now returning reporters’ calls to Shaw, who in the past has routinely returned his own press calls.

>>>Florida Politics first raised the prospect of Shaw running for AG on October 25, had him on record on January 3 saying a decision was coming soon and reported in December about the candidates who were filing for Shaw’s House seat because they expected him to run. In other words, Shaw’s running is far from a surprise.

— SENTIMENTAL —

Two congressional stints could shape the gubernatorial primary for Putnam and Ron DeSantis.

Zach Cohen, who covers governor’s races for the National Journal, argues former Congressman Putnam’s and current U.S. Rep. DeSantis’ history in Congress will help “define this battleground-state primary” in a recent article.

Putnam lashed out early on DeSantis for being a D.C. insider and not being in tune with the state he wishes to lead, something he’ll likely continue to argue the contrasts between him and DeSantis, a member of what Cohen called the “rabble-rousing House Freedom Caucus.” The two’s voting history, policy points and resumes could make the difference in the soon-to-be costly primary.

Ron DeSantis’s congressional record could shape his Florida gubernatorial campaign.

The Putnam way: “Putnam took a number of moderate votes while in Congress,” writes Cohen. “He supported taxpayer-funded bailouts after the recession, Cash for Clunkers, and aid to undocumented immigrants.” Putnam told Cohen that there are people who work on policy solutions in Congress (likely a nod to himself) and there “are others who I think are content and even drawn to the cable-news food fight,” (likely a nod to DeSantis, who announced his bid on Fox News).

The DeSantis way: DeSantis has aligned himself with President Donald Trump, and has made a name for himself by helping lead a charge that points to a systemic bias against the president.

Congressional cameos: Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has aligned himself with Putnam, along with Florida Reps. Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Tom Rooney. Members of the House Freedom Caucus — including Florida Rep. Ted Yoho — will make a decision soon on who to support, though the Freedom Caucus chairman wants that to be DeSantis. Rep. Matt Gaetz is critical of Putnam’s lifelong career in politics and hinted he’s split between DeSantis and Richard Corcoran, who has yet to announce.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Assignment editors — Reps. Tom Leek and Katie Edwards-Walpole will be joined by industry associations for a news conference to roll out an educational campaign relating to ‘drive-by lawsuits,’ which critics call “an abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act by law firms.” The presser will take place Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., in the House Media Room (333 The Capitol).

Americans for Prosperity mailer urges support for worker rights — Americans for Prosperity-Florida (AFP-FL) launched a new direct mail piece with calls to support House Bill 25 (HB 25), from Republicans Dennis Baxley and Scott Plakon, which expands union accountability and worker freedom. The legislation requires unions to hold regular elections and obtain 50 percent of their actively paying dues members to be certified by the state. AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson said: “Unions need to be accountable and represent the views of their current members. With over 90 percent of workers represented by a union they never voted for, this legislation ensures unions operating in Florida are more transparent and better serve its members. We thank Rep. Plakon for sponsoring this bill and now call on the Florida Senate to pass this bill. AFP-FL will continue to educate citizens on the benefits of empowering workers with more freedom.” The mailer is one of four hitting mailboxes over the first two weeks of 2018.

Here’s the mailer:

— BOTTLENECK —

As Hurricane Irma approached the state, Gov. Scott told nursing home administrators to give him a call if they encountered problems.

The friendly gesture proved to be ill-thought in a recent Associated Press story, showing 120 emergency calls went straight to Scott’s voicemail. Records showed three of those calls came from the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center, where 12 patients died of overheating following a power outage after the storm. Local police now are investigating the deaths as homicides.

“Even with the best of intentions, when you give a single number, you automatically create a potential bottleneck, and it’s almost a guaranteed bottleneck if it’s the governor’s number,” said Richard Olson, executive director of Florida International University’s Extreme Events Institute, via AP.

One out of 29: Of the 29 callers contacted by the AP, only one reported speaking with Scott. Some of Scott’s aides were able to deliver a generator in one case. The one answered call by Scott resulted in another generator for a nursing home from the state. On calls handled by aides, “About a third interviewed said they were satisfied with the help they got from Scott’s office, a third were unsatisfied, and the rest were neutral.”

The blame game: With criticism of the governor brewing over the Hollywood Hills nursing home incident, “Scott, a former hospital executive, says their negligence caused the deaths.” Scott Spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said, “No amount of finger pointing … will hide the fact that this health care facility failed to do their basic duty to protect life.”

A lesson: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. “Those critical of Scott said the governor shouldn’t have implied that he could provide help he couldn’t deliver. Some may have had unrealistic expectations, such as the administrator who called the day before Irma hit seeking scarce plywood to protect his nursing home’s windows.”

— STATEWIDE —

Donald Trump’s visits increase terrorism risk, Palm Beach County says” via the Tribune News Service — The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is pushing for the federal government to boost its funding for terrorism prevention by designating Mar-a-Lago — Trump’s private club — a “high-risk critical asset” … “Having the president governing from our county in an area bordered on water on each side in a facility never built to offer the level of protection the president requires is a challenge,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner said. “We have to continue to supplement our local response.” When the federal government awards anti-terrorism funds, one factor officials examine is the presence of symbolic targets and landmarks. The money is distributed through the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative. Homeland Security gave $580 million in Urban Area Security Initiative funds in the 2017 budget year, including about $5.2 million for South Florida. New York City received the largest grant at $178 million.

Mar-A-Lago poses an increased security risk, says Palm Beach County officials.

If Florida’s offshore oil rush ever happens, only one side of the state is likely to see it” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald — Proven and profitable productivity is why the energy industry has pushed for decades to open vast Gulf waters off Florida’s West Coast to exploration and drilling. But it’s far less likely for rigs to rise off Miami Beach, Islamorada, or anywhere else along Florida’s heavily populated Atlantic coast. That was the case even before the Trump administration last week pulled state waters “off the table” after a Tallahassee meeting that seemed intended to boost Gov. Scott’s rumored run for U.S. Senate. There is one big reason why: Money. Even industry experts see little chance of making much of it plumbing the depths of the Florida Straits and Atlantic coast, at least barring the discovery of some unexpected mother lode or a skyrocketing upturn in oil and gas prices.

Panel approves changes to judicial appointments” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The Constitution Revision Commission is considering a measure that could settle future disputes over the appointment of Florida Supreme Court justices, but the proposal will do nothing to resolve a constitutional crisis looming early next year. At question is whether Gov. Scott or his successor, the winner of the 2018 governor’s race, will pick the replacements for three justices — Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince — whose terms end as Scott’s tenure comes to a close in early January 2019. Scott has asserted the right to appoint the new justices, which could change the ideological balance of the court. The Supreme Court last month dismissed a challenge focused on who has the power to appoint the justices, deciding that it was too early to rule on the issue. A proposal unanimously approved by the commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee would resolve that issue for future appointments by changing the mandatory retirement date for members of the Supreme Court, the five state appellate courts and for circuit and county judges. The measure (Proposal 41), sponsored by Commissioner Bill Schifino of Tampa, would require justices and judges to retire on their birthdays once they reach the age of 75.

Anti-smoking campaign could be trimmed” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — By a 3-2 vote, the Finance and Tax Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission backed a proposal that would eliminate from the state constitution a requirement that 15 percent of the funds from a landmark tobacco settlement be used for Tobacco Free Florida. The proposal would instead direct money toward cancer research. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association testified against the proposal, offered by state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami Republican who serves on the Constitution Revision Commission. Chris Smith, a Constitution Revision Commission member and former state lawmaker … said he didn’t think it was appropriate to place spending requirements for an advertising and education campaigns in the state constitution. Smith said he considers each proposed constitutional amendment by asking himself the question: “Can this be done legislatively?”

Help us get more clicks than Jim Saunders — Peter Schorsch breaks down first-week Session activity and recent scandals in the Legislature during a video interview with Brad Swanson of Florida Internet & Television. Shot outside of Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar, we discuss upcoming elections, candidate dynamics, and how important this Session is for lawmakers seeking a higher office in 2018.

— OPINIONS —

Gary Yordon: If you want the Capitol in Orlando, I want Sea World” via the Tallahassee Democrat — In case you haven’t heard, State Rep. Bill Hager, a travel-challenged Republican from Delray Beach, who apparently thinks he was elected to propose failure, has filed a bill in the Legislature to move the state capital from Tallahassee to someplace more convenient for him. It seems the 75 minutes he spends on a plane is wreaking havoc on his personal life … The flaw in Hager’s plan is he seems to think it’s a one-way street. He just wants to take the capital and leave us to re-market our city as Tallahassee, the Bradley’s Sausage Capital of the World … First things first: Do we get to keep the capital building? Because if we can get that, then I’m thinking finally a Costco on the south part of town. The 22nd floor would be a great spot to enjoy the Costco $1.50 hot dog-soda combo. Put a gas station in the Senate wing (even swap) and a liquor store in the House wing (upgrade), and we have the basis for a deal. Now assuming we keep the building let’s start horse trading … I want Sea World. Sea World would clearly jump-start our local tourism industry. We could replace the environmentally challenged Orcas with a couple of trained Wakulla Springs manatees, flapping their tales to the FSU fight song. We just plop Sea World right down in the middle of Cascades Park, convert the Edison into a sushi bar and call it a day.

— MOVEMENTS —

He’s a Marine, a renegade, a vanquisher of corrupt pols. And now: First Amendment icon.” via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald — Perpetual South Florida political gadfly Fane Lozman has an odd effect on people. When he appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court five years ago, the justices were so intrigued by his arguments that his houseboat was a house and not a boat that they ended up arguing about whether the poor wooden puppet-boy Pinocchio was really a boat while he was traveling the ocean after being strategically swallowed by a hungry whale. (Definitive ruling: No! Lozman won, too.) Chief Justice John Roberts later said Lozman’s lawsuit was “my favorite case from the past term.” On the other hand, there’s former Riviera Beach City Commissioner Elizabeth Wade, who when she was in office threatened “to put my foot so far up his behind that he would think my toe is his tonsil.” The Supreme Court will get a second opportunity to offer an opinion next month when it considers another case brought by Lozman: a lawsuit alleging that when Riviera Beach officials had him kicked out of a city commission meeting and arrested 11 years ago, they were using the criminal justice system for payback against a critic who annoyed them … But Fane Lozman v. The City of Riviera Beach, Florida is likely to do much more than establish Lozman as an asterisk in Supreme Court history. More than 30 civil rights and media organizations, including the National Press Photographers Association, have filed briefs in support of Lozman, arguing that local officials routinely use arrests for petty offenses — anything from wearing saggy pants to barbecuing in the front yard — to punish their critics.

First Amendment hero Fane Lozman will have an unprecedented second case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former lawmakers, others, vie for PSC seat” via News Service of Florida — Three former state lawmakers and a University of Central Florida trustee are among the applicants vying to fill a Public Service Commission seat, according to the News Service of Florida. The position went vacant when Gov. Rick Scott’s appointee, Ritch Workman, withdrew last month following a sexual misconduct allegation. Also applying is the longtime adviser to the last occupant of the $132,000-a-year post. The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council is scheduled to discuss the applications on Jan. 18 in the Senate Office Building before inviting finalists for interviews a week later. The council then will submit several names to Scott. Last Friday was the application deadline.

Appointed — Steve JerniganTimothy NolanDylan Rivers and Jonathan Toppe to the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design; Les Muma and Charlie Tokarz to the University of South Florida board of trustees; Robert Spottswood (reappointed) and Gary Lester to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Marva Johnson and Andy Tuck (reappointed), and Joe York to the State Board of Education; Kathryn Ballard (reappointed) and Jorge Gonzalez to the Florida State University board of trustees.

— ALOE —

The $451 million reason this 20-year-old just retired” via Eli Rosenberg of The Washington Post — 20-year-old Shane Missler from Port Richey, a suburb of Tampa, is the winner of the whopping $451 million Mega Millions prize … He has since retired from his job at a local background screening company … Missler bought the quick-pick ticket at a 7-Eleven in town last week; the retailer received a $100,000 bonus, the Florida Lottery said. But it was Missler who went home with the big haul, which was the fourth-biggest in the multistate lottery’s 15-year history. According to the Lottery, Missler elected to receive his payment as a one-time lump sum, which amounted to just over $280 million. That’s about the net worth of Taylor Swift, according to a Forbes article from 2017, but a touch under Judge Judy’s. “If there is one thing I have learned thus far in my short time on this earth it is that those who maintain a positive mindset and stay true to themselves get rewarded,” Missler said, in a statement quoted by the Times. “I look forward to the future.”

Newly minted Florida millionaire Shane Missler.

’What a wake-up call’ for FSU tennis team in Hawaii” via Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat — Senior Gabby Castaneda had just waked up and was getting ready for the Seminoles’ team breakfast at the Waikiki Beach Marriott. Minutes later, just after 8 a.m. Saturday, Hawaiian residents and tourists received an emergency alert on their cell phones. It warned them of an imminent ballistic missile attack. Castaneda tried to comprehend the message: “EMERGENCY ALERT: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” “It was very scary, and it took me a moment to process it,” Castaneda said during a telephone interview. “We got on our group chat and everyone was asking is this for real?” In Hawaii for a three-day tournament to open their spring season, the Seminoles are thankful the emergency alert – sent by the Hawaii Emergency Agency – was a false alarm. “It was pretty hectic in the hotel; everyone was kind of in a panic,” said Castaneda, who credited Hyde for keeping the team safe and away from the “panic and rush” in the hotel lobby. “It was scary; it was a weird experience. We came here to play tennis, in Hawaii. You would never imagine this could happen. I was worried for my life and the lives of my teammates. “It was a very bad moment.”

Maybe it was a drill, after all.

What Gary Fineout is reading via Mark Arsenault of the Boston Globe — GateHouse Media, the country’s largest newspaper chain, is one of two bidders seeking to acquire the Boston Herald, the feisty tabloid that declared bankruptcy in December. GateHouse … must first beat out Revolution Capital Group, a Tampa investment firm, and any other would-be buyers that may jump into an auction for the paper scheduled for next month … GateHouse is known for running its papers “pretty lean,” said Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at the Poynter Institute. “They’re trying to get savings and economies of scale and make a big enough profit so they can pay a pretty generous dividend to their shareholders,” he said. The sale of the Herald could affect the Globe financially, as well, because the Globe is paid to print the Herald at the Globe’s Taunton printing plant. A company such as GateHouse, which owns printing presses in New England, could conceivably print the paper itself. Beyond shrinking the staff, it is hard to gauge GateHouse’s plans for the Herald, which is not a typical GateHouse property. “It doesn’t seem to fit their model,” said Dan Kennedy, a media critic and Northeastern University journalism professor. “The idea of buying a distant No. 2 paper in a big city doesn’t match up with what they’ve done.” GateHouse is more widely known for buying dominant papers in smaller markets, he said.

Happy birthday belatedly to Speaker-to-be Chris Sprowls, to our dear friend and a lady who lunches, Erin Ballas of Public Affairs Consultants, Steve Hurm and Claire VanSusteren. Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, state Rep. Jake Raburn and Daniel Davis.

Not Just A Body Of Water — 1.14.18

— Optimistic Floridians show love for Bob Buckhorn —

Floridians, feeling good for the future, are also showing love for Buckhorn, naming him second most popular Democrat in the state, according to a new survey from the Florida Chamber Political Institute.

In the first statewide poll of the New Year, conducted Jan. 2-5, Voter Opinions asked 600 likely and newly registered voters their opinions on a variety of topics — including the overall direction of the state and the 2018 Governor’s race.

Tampa’s Democratic mayor received 15 percent approval overall, putting him in second place, with only 4 percent disapproving.

A new statewide poll gives Bob Buckhorn some love as the second-most favorite Democrat in Florida.

Those numbers give Buckhorn the edge over announced Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham (12 percent), Philip Levine (12 percent), Andrew Gillum (10 percent) and Chris King (1 percent).

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat — tops the list with a 47 percent job approval rate, with 25 percent disapproving.

— Sean Shaw expected to announce AG bid —

State Rep. Shaw will hold a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 16, for an unspecified announcement.

The event begins 11 a.m. at the Duval Street side of the Florida Supreme Court, 500 S. Duval St. in Tallahassee.

Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, is widely expected to launch a campaign for Florida Attorney General in 2018.

Sean Shaw is expected to make his AG campaign official.

Discouraged by what has been happening in Washington, D.C., Democratic Party leaders have urged Shaw, an attorney and former state insurance commissioner advocate, to run for the AG post, he told the Tampa Bay Times in October.

“The president is not only inept, he’s pre-judiced, he’s a narcissist, he’s angry, he’s not fit to be president,” Shaw told reporter William March. “State attorney generals are a line of defense.”

— Wengay Newton rebuked as local Democratic leaders flock to Vito Sheeley — 

In a rebuke of the House District 70 incumbent, several high-profile St. Petersburg Democrats are flocking to support Shelley, the well-regarded political operative challenging Newton in the overwhelmingly Democratic district in 2018.

Backing Sheeley’s bid is Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers, Pinellas County Commission Chair Ken Welch, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman.

Wengay Newton gets a slapdown as supporters line up behind Democratic opponent Vito Shelley.

A former aide to both U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, Sheeley, a Democrat, spent a brief time last year in an unusual alliance with former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican who lost to Crist in November.

Kriseman’s endorsement of Sheeley is far from surprising. Newton alienated several in St. Pete’s Democratic community when he endorsed Republican Rick Baker over Kriseman in the hyper-partisan nonpartisan mayoral race.

“Vito’s track record speaks for itself,” Kriseman said in a statement. “I’ve known Vito for years, and know his heart and how hard he will work on behalf of the people of his District and this community. We need Vito’s leadership in District 70.”

“I went to Kriseman for support in my House race. He told me to pound sand,” Newton said earlier about supporting Baker. Backing the former two-term mayor had nothing to do with that snub, he continued, adding that Baker was the “best man to lead St. Petersburg in the future.”

— Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty backs Jeremy Bailie for HD 69 —

“There are few candidates with the passion, knowledge, conservative principles and decision-making skills of Jeremy,” Twitty said in a statement. “Bailie is the kind of public servant that we will be proud to have in Tallahassee representing Pinellas County.”

Republican Jeremy Bailie wins another key Pinellas endorsement in his bid for House District 69.

Bailie, a Republican, is seeking the House District 69 seat, which South Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters vacates later this year. Republican Raymond Blacklidge and Democrats Jennifer Webb and Javier Centonzio are also in the race.

A Florida native, Bailie is a graduate of Stetson University College of Law and an attorney with the St. Petersburg-based law firm, Abbey, Adams, Byelick & Mueller. He has also earned endorsements from Pinellas County Clerk of Court Ken Burke; former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield; the Pinellas County Young Republicans; and the Young Floridians for Opportunity.

— Doreen Caudell hosting meet & greet in Pinellas County Commission bid — 

Later this month, Clearwater City Councilmember Caudell will hold a Palm Harbor fundraiser in her campaign for Pinellas County Commission District 2.

The meet-and-greet reception, which will also benefit the Leadership for Pinellas committee, will be held 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22 at the home of Joe and Carolyn Rettig, 1505 Via Verdi Dr. in Palm Harbor.

Doreen Caudell (left) is holding a meet and greet in her bid to unseat Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard (right).

Caudell, who served on the Council for six years, is running as a Republican for the at-large seat against incumbent Democrat Pat Gerard. She is president and founder of a woman-owned small business in Clearwater, D-Mar General Contracting & Development.

In addition to a career in city government, Caudell has been a member of Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority representing Forward Pinellas and as the Coordinating Committee chair of the Metropolitan Planning Council Advisory Council since 2012.

RSVP at Doreen@DoreenCaudell.com.

— Realtors endorse Hoyt Hamilton for Clearwater Council seat —

The Pinellas Realtor Organization is supporting Hamilton for Seat 5 on the Clearwater City Council.

“Based on the interview and various other criteria, I am pleased to report that our board of directors has voted officially to support your re-election campaign,” PRO President and CEO David B. Bennett said in supporting Hamilton, a lifelong Clearwater resident whose family has owned the Palm Pavilion since 1964 and the Palm Pavilion in since 1988.

“We appreciate your commitment to the community, understanding of economic issues, and your advocacy for property owners and the real estate industry.”

Hamilton faces John Funk in the nonpartisan March 13 municipal elections.

— Council hopeful Tom Keller: All Clearwater neighborhoods need ‘love, respect’ —

Keller, running for Seat 4 on the Clearwater City Council, tells the Tampa Bay Reporter that all Clearwater neighborhoods deserve “love, respect and attention.”

Clearwater City Council hopeful Tom Keller says all neighborhoods deserve love and respect.

It is the first run for public office for the Florida native and Men’s National Barefoot Water Ski Champion of 1997.

— “Clearwater Beach and the downtown Clearwater district are important to our economy and identity as a city,” he said. “In the same way, our communities in all of Clearwater deserve a lot of love, respect and attention.”

 — “I’m not influenced by any special interests or cliques going in,” Keller added. “We need that independence and fresh perspective on the city council, and I pledge to stay that way for as long as I serve.”

— Keller says he looks forward to putting out a platform on ways that all city residents can “help make a better Clearwater for all of Clearwater.”

Term-limited Bill Jonson currently holds Seat 4. Keller is facing David Albritton in the race; the nonpartisan municipal election is March 13.

— St. Pete Chamber makes noise over ordinance, chats with Brandi Gabbard —

Newly elected St. Pete City Council member Gabbard is the featured “Coffee Chat” guest of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, Jan. 17. The event begins 8 a.m. at the web designing firm Symphony Agency, 10901 Roosevelt Blvd., Building A, Suite 100 in St. Petersburg.

Later that week, as part of its “Now Trending” series, the Chamber will take on potential changes to the city’s noise ordinance, which has had more than its share of controversy.

Guest speakers will discuss the next step for the city and businesses affected by the proposed changes.

The event, sponsored by Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, begins 11 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, at the Staybridge Suites St. Petersburg Downtown, 940 5th Avenue S.; registration is at here.

— Pic of the Week —

This spectacular photo of Ft. DeSoto was captured Daniel Kahn, who took over the City of St. Petersburg’s Instagram account this week.

— Sellers of St. Pete’s Priatek Plaza sue over cut of $66M price tag —

Sellers in a disputed multimillion-dollar deal of a St. Petersburg high-rise are now heading to court.

Priatek Plaza is a 28-story office building at 200 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Built in 1990, it is 386 feet high and considered one of the tallest office buildings in Pinellas County.

In 2002, a partnership called One Progress Plaza II bought the high-rise, then called Bank of America tower, for $41-million. Dean Kucera of Kucera Properties is One Progress’ president and managing member.

Priatek Plaza in downtown St. Petersburg.

Owning a 20 percent stake in the One Progress partnership is Battleview Properties, led by former Strayer University majority owner Ronald Kenneth “Ron” Bailey. Bailey is reported to have made more than $70-million from the education company’s sale in 2000.

In June 2017, One Progress sold the two properties for $65.8-million to an entity controlled by the Wanek family, owners of the Ashley Furniture chain.

After selling Priatek Plaza, One Progress President Kucera divvied up the proceeds, giving $6.8-million to minority owner Battleview Properties.

Battleview disputed the amount, claiming One Progress’ calculations were incorrect.

Now, in an action filed Jan. 8 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, One Progress is suing Battleview for breach of contract.

The One Progress lawsuit claims Battleview should be happy with its return on investment. Combined with the roughly $7.5-million the Tampa company had previously received in distributions since 2002, Battleview more than doubled its original $7-million investment.

— Lealman Fire Chief sues feds over student loan wage garnishment —

Richard Graham, longtime chief of the Lealman Fire District, has been fighting the U.S. Department of Education over a wage garnishment order stemming from an allegedly defaulted student loan.

In 1993, Graham obtained a federal student loan consolidation. By 2014, the loan was in default, leading the Department of Education to assume responsibility for collecting the balance.

Lealman Fire Chief Richard Graham shown here with former Buccaneers star Mike Alstott.

In 2015, the Department ordered the Lealman Fire District to garnish Graham’s wages — setting aside 15 percent of the chief’s disposable pay toward a balance estimated at $13,000.

Since then Graham has been fighting the move, claiming he had already paid off the loan. But the Department ruled against him.

Now, in an action filed January 4 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Graham is seeking a court order declaring the debt paid in full — or (failing that) an order declaring part of his wages exempt from garnishment.

— Excitement emanates from Bay Area leaders —

It’s unanimous: 2018 will be a good year.

A recent compilation of interviews with leaders in the Bay area shows consistent optimism about the year ahead.

It’s more than just an echo chamber of excitement, too. Featuring leaders from legal, business, health, government, and art, the group is united only by location, and each interviewee shared promising messages about their respective sector.

Here are a few highlights:

Growing diversity: “… various business and political leaders worked collaboratively to protect this region’s brand as one that does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or any other category … this sort of forward-thinking, inclusive environment … helps us maintain a competitive edge …” — Fentrice Driskell, a partner at Carlton Fields.

Getting healthy: “I hear ‘health’ issues discussed in nearly every conversation I have now, giving me hope that we might finally be in a position to make the Tampa Bay region the healthiest community in the country.” — Donna J. Petersen, dean of USF College of Public Health.

Commission ambition: “The major initiatives in the county for 2018 are simple: Transportation and Economic Development … implementing the $800 million that the commission approved into transportation … introducing the Premium Transit Plan … develop the I-4 corridor which is a goldmine of prime opportunity for economic development, and we should see our public transportation system … transform as an innovative transit agency … ” — Hillsborough County Commission Chair Sandy Murman.

Projects taking shape: According to James T. Nozar of Strategic Property Partners and Christina Burdick of Tampa Downtown Partnership, several projects should come to fruition this year. Among those projects is Water Street Tampa, Hyde Park Village renovations, and Amarture Works, along with large-scale buildings like ONE in St. Pete, which bolsters the urban core.

— Credit to Mike Griffin —

Over 130 years, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce has become far removed from its early days as an organization focused solely on networking — a “coffee club,” as Tampa Mayor Buckhorn recently described.

In the past decade or so, the Chamber has transformed into a policy-driven association, looking for a more extensive footprint in the Tampa Bay area, taking a stand on issues such as regional transit, business growth and the possibility of a new baseball stadium in Tampa.

“We’re very interested in continuing to grow our voice for businesses, including small business,” said Stephen Bernstein, who in December began a one-year term as the Chamber’s new chair.

Mike Griffin, former chair of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, is largely responsible for the Chamber’s transformation to a more policy-driven organization.

Bernstein noted that last year’s controversy over a Confederate monument prove the chamber could “stretch our wings.”

“I’m really proud of the way we responded there,” Bernstein told the Tampa Bay Business Journal, referring to the $180,000 the chamber helped raised to move the 106-year-old statue to a private cemetery in Brandon.

Much of the Chamber’s recent evolution is thanks to the bottom-line no-nonsense vision of former chair Mike Griffin, the 37-year-old real estate executive who had served as the organization’s youngest leader ever.

“When you look at a lot of the issues that we took on (in 2017), a lot of them were unexpected, but our organization, through our Vision 2026 plan, created readiness and really ensured the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce would serve as a catalyst for positive change in our community,” Griffin explained to the Tampa Bay Times last month. “As a Chamber, I think you’ll also see us look toward stakeholders and partners on this side and on the other side of the bay to see where we can find some areas of common ground.”

— Making the most of Tampa Bay with Tampa Downtown Partnership —

Tampa Downtown Partnership released its weekly update of insider information on the developments, transportation, special opportunities and other useful information for residents and visitors to make the most of Tampa’s vibrant downtown.

Among new Partnership updates and events include:

Save the date — TDP is holding its “Downtown Debriefing” Tuesday, Jan. 23, at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel will discuss attainable and micro-housing in the Tampa Bay area with representatives of the City of Tampa, Urban Core Holdings and Carlton Fields Jorden Bert. Registration and networking begin 7:30 a.m., continental breakfast is at 8 a.m.

Tampa ranked wallet-friendly vacation — Travel site Kayak issued a list of the 10 most wallet-friendly destinations for 2018 — looking at the 100 most-searched vacation spots and identifying those with the lowest overall median trip cost (about $900 for a flight and a three-night hotel stay, Kayak notes). Tampa ranked No. 7 for having it all — great beaches, hopping nightlife and cool activities — for a low price.

Need help, ask a guide — The Partnership’s Downtown Guides offer a safe, accessible environment for people in downtown Tampa. Guides serving as the eyes and ears for the downtown community in a “goodwill ambassador” role, part of the Downtown Security Network, working closely with the Tampa Police Department to observe and report suspicious activity. They also offer directions, bicycle repair, assist stranded motorists with flat tires and dead car batteries, provide restaurant suggestions and even suggest parking options. Services are free. Call a Guide at (813) 267-2220 for help.

Tampa Bay Wave names Director of Development — Tampa Bay Wave named Avril Stinson, a veteran investor relations manager, as new Director of Development. Stinson is expected to add powerful community support in addition to strategic leadership on the Start Here, Stay Here, and Grow Here goals to attract tech talent and capital to Tampa Bay. To learn more about Tampa Bay Wave and its sponsors, visit tampabaywave.org/sponsors.

— Jay Beyrouti renamed to Enterprise Florida board —

Gov. Rick Scott reappointed Beyrouti this week to the Enterprise Florida, Inc. board of directors.

The 65-year-old former mayor of Redington Shores is president of Monicarla LTD.

Beyrouti new term is through Sept. 30, 2021. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Tampa executives named to board of Federal Reserve Jacksonville branch —

Two local executives have joined the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Jacksonville branch.

The appointments of Troy Taylor, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Beverages Florida in Tampa, and William West, president and CEO of The Bank of Tampa, were effective as of Jan. 1. Their terms continue through Dec. 31, 2020.

Mike Jackson, CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation Inc., also became chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta board of directors.

Branch directors report economic information to the bank president and head office directors for studying monetary policy options and making discount rate recommendations.

According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, Taylor previously worked as an investment banker with JPMorgan Chase, operating within the Coca-Cola system for several years. He helped organize Coca-Cola Florida as an independent bottler, which later became the third-largest independently owned and operated Coca-Cola bottler in the United States.

— Bradley Arant Boult Cummings adds two Tampa partners —

Alabama-based national law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings is expanding its government enforcement practice with the addition of two new Florida partners.

Former U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Mehta are joining Bradley’s Tampa office as partners in the Government Enforcement and Investigations Practice Group. Both served the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, based in Tampa and Jacksonville, respectively.

Bradley Arant Boult Cummings expands its Florida presence with two new Tampa partners.

Bradley Chairman and Managing Partner Beau Grenier said the new additions add “significant depth to several key industries of interest for our clients: health care, government-contract defense, financial services, higher education and cybersecurity.”

Ty Howard, chair of the firm’s Government Enforcement and Investigations Practice Group, added: “The strengths of Lee and Jason, along with the recent addition of former Assistant United States Attorney Scarlett Singleton Nokes in our Nashville office, expand our already robust capabilities. We have a truly premier group of government enforcement attorneys, which enables us to provide unparalleled service to clients dealing with compliance issues, corporate investigations and regulatory, civil and criminal enforcement matters.”

— Pasco Assistant Tax Collector named to PSC Nominating Council —

House Speaker Richard Corcoran named Pasco County Assistant Tax Collector Greg Giordano to the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council.

Effective immediately, Giordano will serve a four-year term through 2022, according to a statement from Pasco Tax Collector Mike Fasano’s office.

“I believe that Greg is an excellent choice for this important role,” Fasano said. “During our 19 years working together in Tallahassee, much of his time was spent on utility-related issues. Combined with our nearly five additional years working in the Pasco Tax Collector’s Office, putting the needs of the customer first has always been his top priority.”

Assistant Pasco Tax Collector Greg Giordano (second from left) is the newest member of the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council.

The Council’s responsibility is to review all applicants for openings on the PSC, narrowing the list down to at least three qualified candidates. The list is sent to the Governor for final selection, which is then confirmed by the Florida Senate.

“I am excited about the opportunity Speaker Corcoran has given me,” Giordano responded. “Utility-issues were one of my main areas of responsibility during my years working in the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives.  I have seen firsthand the importance of having qualified individuals making decisions on rate cases, quality of service and other issues that pertain to utilities.”

The Public Service Commission Nominating Council will have its next meeting later this month as the current vacancy on the five-member Public Service Commission must be filled as soon as possible.

— Tampa Bay Rowdies celebrate annual Suncoast Invitational —

Many of Major League Soccer’s biggest stars will visit St. Petersburg to help the Rowdies prepare for the 2018 season. The Rowdies Suncoast Invitational is one of the premier preseason tournaments in the country, returning to Al Lang Stadium for the third year in a row.

The Suncoast Invitational, with doubleheaders held Feb. 17 and 24, will give the Rowdies a chance to gear up for the USL season alongside Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, D.C. United, Montreal Impact and New York City FC. Fans will be able to see international superstars like David Villa, who won the 2010 FIFA World Cup with Spain, and U.S. Men’s National team stars such as Paul Arriola and Alejandro Bedoya.

“This is the perfect opportunity for fans to show Major League Soccer teams that St. Petersburg is a Major League city,” said Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards. “Playing against some of the best clubs in North America is a great way for the Rowdies to prepare for another record-breaking season. It’s clear the Tampa Bay area is becoming a hotbed for professional soccer.”

The general public can purchase tickets for each doubleheader by calling (727) 222-2000 or clicking here. Tickets start at $15, while the best seats — right behind the team benches — are just $30. Existing 2018 season ticket holders can get free tickets for both matches on game day, redeemed by contacting the Al Lang Stadium box office at (727) 308-5203 or at boxoffice@rowdiessoccer.com. Seats not redeemed by Friday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. will be released to the general public.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Help for ‘disposable’ workers

It looks like Sen. Gary Farmer has been keeping up with the news.

ProPublica and the Naples Daily News both published in-depth investigations last year that highlighted a state law used by businesses and insurers to profit from undocumented workers and then dump them after they’re injured.

One of the reports found that nearly 800 undocumented workers in the state have been charged with workers’ comp fraud for using illicit Social Security numbers to either get their jobs, file for workers’ compensation benefits, or both.

Gary Farmer is ahead of the curve with a bill giving workers’ comp protections to undocumented workers. 

A week before Session started, Farmer — a Lighthouse Point Democrat — filed a bill (SB 1568) that would address this issue by clarifying in statute that undocumented workers are not to be excluded from workers’ compensation benefits once they are entered into the system.

Rich Templin, the director for the Florida AFL-CIO who has worked on the issue with Farmer, said the intent of the bill is not to change immigration law.

Florida provides workers’ comp benefits to undocumented workers despite their legal status. Tremplin says the bill intends to make it clear that being undocumented does not constitute fraud.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana CeballosJim RosicaDanny McAuliffeAndrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, a note to our “Sixty Days” readers: That evening newsletter is taking a day off Monday in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

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

Rick Scott’s Trumpian win — The Trump administration gave Gov. Scott a significant political victory this week by citing him as the reason why Florida was off the table for offshore oil drilling. Scott, who is likely to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate, was quick to oppose the president’s plan to expand offshore drilling in the state. The policy announcement was widely opposed by Florida Democrats and Republicans alike, but Scott got all the credit for convincing the president the practice shouldn’t be done in the Sunshine State. His win, however, has sparked criticism from governors across the country, environmentalists and Democrats in the state convinced the decision was a political ploy.

Bright Futures on horizon — Senate President Joe Negron unanimously voted to bring significant changes to the state’s higher education system by slashing tuition bills of thousands of top students in Florida. If the House passes the bill, the Bright Futures Scholarship Program would invest $124 million in students and could bring back full tuition rides for students in public colleges and universities. A companion bill in the House was referred to three committees. Last year, the measure was vetoed by Gov. Scott.

Don’t seek ‘sanctuary’ here — The Republican-controlled Florida House passed its first bill of the 2018 Session Friday: a proposal that bans so-called “sanctuary cities” in the state and threatened local officials with fines and removal from office if they don’t fully comply with federal immigration authorities. This is the third year in a row the measure is proposed, which has received support from House members in the past, but has not gotten much backing in the Senate. This year, there are no signs that things will be different. Sen. Aaron Bean, who is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate, said the issue would be a “nail-biter” this year. He said he hopes his bill will be heard in committee next week.

Make citrus great again — Recent Florida citrus estimates are steady for the first time since Hurricane Irma struck Florida, but forecasts for the orange production are still dismal compared to past years. The USDA in October projects 54 million boxes of oranges produced for 2017-18. In November, that prediction dropped to 50 million and then decreased again in December to 46 million. The January estimate remains at 46 million boxes. Citrus industry production is at the lowest it’s been in more than 75 years, according to Florida Department of Citrus Executive Director Shannon Shepp. The industry is facing challenges after it was hit by both Hurricane Irma and the citrus greening epidemic.

On affairs and admissions — Miami Sens. Oscar Braynon and Anitere Flores admitted to having an affair on the first day of the 2018 Session after political spies published footage that allegedly showed one of them leaving the other’s apartment in Tallahassee. In a joint statement, both lawmakers confirmed their relationship and apologized to their families and constituents, saying they didn’t want “gossip and rumors to distract from the important business of the people.” The news comes as the Senate tries to improve its “culture” in the wake of two senators resigning because of sexual misconduct with people in the legislative process. A day later, The Associated Press reported House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he “personally confronted former state legislators who sexually harassed others.” Corcoran, who has criticized the Senate sex scandals, did not name names, but said none of the legislators who engaged in misconduct are in office.

Florida Job Growth Fund cuts first check

The Florida Job Growth Fund, an $85 million pot of money Gov. Scott fought hard for last year, cut its first check this week.

The School Board of Manatee County voted to accept $201,500 in funding from the fund to buy high-tech equipment needed to expand a training program that helps prep students for jobs in manufacturing and production technology.

“I am proud to announce that Manatee Technical College has been selected as the first recipient of the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. This program was designed to support economic development projects that enhance workforce training programs, such as the Manatee Technical College manufacturing program, so Florida can continue to compete in this global economy,” Scott said. “Ensuring a well-trained workforce is vital to bringing new job opportunities to families in our state, and I look forward to announcing additional Florida Job Growth Grant Fund recipients in the near future.”

Manatee County Schools get the first big check from Gov. Scott’s Florida Job Growth Fund.

The Governor’s office said the Manatee program was picked because it promised a healthy return on investment for the state.

“Our agency has worked diligently to evaluate more than 200 Florida Job Growth Grant Fund proposals to ensure that these funds are spent wisely. Manufacturing skills are needed throughout our state, but specifically in Manatee County where there are hundreds of manufacturers,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Director Cissy Proctor. “Manatee Technical College has a successful existing program that will be enhanced by these funds. We look forward to the opportunities this funding will bring to the families of Manatee County.”

Scott announces 2018 Black History Month contests

Gov. Scott and First Lady Ann Scott this week announced a trio of contests for Black History Month, which takes place in February.

“Ann and I are proud to join Florida families in celebrating Black History Month this February and encourage every Florida student to participate in the 2018 Black History Month contests and nominate one of our state’s great educators for the Excellence in Education Award,” Scott said.

The theme of the 2018 contests is “A Celebration of Innovative African-American Leaders.” Kindergartners through third-graders can participate in an art contest, while fourth-graders through high school seniors may participate in an essay contest.

Rick Scott chats with a Black History Month contest winner in 2015.

“I hope every student takes advantage of this opportunity to learn about our state’s history and potentially earn a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship,” said Ann Scott. “We are also honored to recognize this year’s featured artist, Thomas H. Lewis, whose beautiful one-of-a-kind stained glass art is displayed around the country.”

Two winners will be selected for the art contest; three will be chosen for the essay contest. Additionally, three teachers will earn the Excellence in Education Award. One elementary school, one middle school and one high school winner will be selected for the essay contest and education awards.

Graduation rate hit new high in 2017

Florida’s statewide graduation rate hit 82.3 percent in the 2016-17 school year, marking its highest point since Gov. Scott took office in 2011.

“I am proud to announce that Florida’s high school graduation rate has reached a 14-year high. We want every Florida student to have access to a world-class education so they can succeed in the classroom and their future careers, and that is why my recommended Securing Florida’s Future budget includes historic funding for education for the sixth consecutive year, including significant investments for teachers and students in our K-12 system,” Scott said.

Pam Stewart is celebrating Florida’s record-setting graduation rates.

“I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to make sure our students have the resources they need to continue to build on this accomplishment for years to come.”

The newly released numbers are an improvement of 1.6 percentage points over the 2015-16 graduation rate and represent a gradual, 23.1 percentage point increase over the 2003-04 school year.

Students who are disabled saw the largest jump in graduation rates over the past five years with a 13.7 percentage point increase, followed by black students who saw a 10.2 percent increase and Hispanic students who saw a 6.4 percent increase. Poor students also saw a nearly 10-point bump last school year over the 2012-13 rate.

“I am thrilled to celebrate our state’s students and educators on this monumental accomplishment,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “Excelling in high school opens doors to opportunities that provide students long-term benefits, and Florida’s steady increase is promising for our state’s and students’ futures.”

State continues work with FEMA to aid Puerto Rico

Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria remains a “top priority” for the Gov. Scott administration which continues to work with FEMA to make sure federal resources are available for transitional housing.

In a call with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long this week, Scott was told the federal Transitional Sheltering Assistance program will be limited to individuals whose homes in Puerto Rico have not yet been determined by FEMA to be restored to safe and livable conditions and have power.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long.

“During my call with Administrator Long, we discussed the importance of ongoing federal, state and local support in the delivery of services to Puerto Rican families,” Scott said.

Scott said he wants to make sure “all families from Puerto Rico in Florida know exactly what federal resources are available to them” and can do so by visiting Disaster Recovery Centers in the state for information and assistance.

“We have worked nonstop to ensure families from Puerto Rico coming to Florida are offered every available state resource and the assistance they need to get back on their feet following Hurricane Maria,” Scott said.

Instagram of the week

The week in appointments

Gov. Scott this week announced the following appointments and reappointments:

— Ron Howse to the Florida Transportation Commission

Howse was reappointed to the Commission. The 57-year-old, of Cocoa, is a self-employed investor, licensed civil engineer and land surveyor.

He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 11 and ending Sept. 30, 2021. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

— Jay Beyrouti to Enterprise Florida, Inc. Board of directors

He also was reappointed. Beyrouti, 65, of Redington Shores, is the president of Monicarla L.T.D. He is reappointed for a term beginning Jan. 11 and ending Sept. 30, 2021. This appointment also is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

CRC panel tosses electricity provider proposal

A Constitutional Revision Commission panel rejected a proposal (P51) that would have granted Floridians freedom to choose their electricity provider.

The move angered the Florida Energy Freedom coalition, which vowed to push for legislative action on the issue.

“It’s clear that there is growing public interest and demand for electricity freedom so Florida consumers can choose their own electricity providers,” the coalition said in a statement. “We are near a tipping point on this issue and will continue to make the case to the public, business community and Florida Legislature.”

The proposal would have allowed customers to choose from third-party power suppliers and would have exempted some municipalities, which would have allowed them to continue collecting utility fees.

Volunteer Florida announces $1.21M in disaster grants

Florida’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service announced this week that 42 organizations working to help Hurricane Irma survivors will be awarded a combined $1.21 million in round two of Florida Disaster Fund disbursements.

“Volunteer Florida is proud to award this second round of funding through the Florida Disaster Fund so we can continue to serve individuals and families across the State of Florida. We are grateful for the work of these great organizations,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Vivian Myrtetus.

The organizations getting money from the Florida Disaster Fund this go-around range from local groups such as food banks and HandsOn offices to statewide operations including Goodwill, Farm Share and the Catholic Charities of Florida.

Volunteer Florida said it raised more than $15 million to date for Irma victims.

Those funds are paid out to groups that can give immediate assistance to Floridians in need, whether they provide food for the hungry, shelter for the displaced, or cash assistance for people who can’t make ends meet due to the storm affecting their work.

Three announced for ‘Florida Folk Heritage Awards’

Secretary of State Ken Detzner this week announced the picks for this year’s Florida Folk Heritage Awards, which are given to folk artists and advocates who have made long-standing contributions to Florida’s folk culture.

Taking home the awards this year are Cuban-born musician and arranger Pedro Bullaudy, African Heritage Cultural Arts Center Director Marshall Davis, and author and former Tampa Bay Times “Real Florida” columnist Jeff Klinkenberg.

Former Tampa Bay Times ‘Real Florida’ columnist Jeff Klinkenberg is one of three artists named for the 2018 Florida Folk Heritage Awards. Photo courtesy JeffKlinkenberg.com.

“We are honored to recognize these individuals for their commitment to fostering Florida’s folk arts and cultural heritage,” Detzner said. “Their contributions have led to a greater appreciation and recognition of the importance of traditional arts and artists in our state.”

The Folk Heritage Awards have been given out since 1985 and winners are chosen based on public nominations and recommendations from the council of the Florida Folklife Program, a component of the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources aimed at documenting and presenting Florida’s folklife, folklore and folk arts.

Florida CHIP funding will soon run out

Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program will likely run out by the end of February, according to a new report from Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.

Money is likely to run out in the next weeks due to inaction by Congress. In Florida, more than 370,000 children depend on CHIP for their health care.

American Bridge spokesperson Joshua Karp blamed Florida Republicans and Gov. Scott for their “silence and inaction.”

The report says that Florida is one of 11 states that will likely burn through their share of short-term CHIP funding before the end of the month.

FAHP lists legislative priorities for 2018

The Florida Association of Health Plans put out a list of its priorities for the 2018 Legislative Session this week, and topping that list is a reform to protect patients transported by air ambulance from price gouging.

FAHP President Audrey Brown said the group had championed a ban on balance billing to help save Floridians from shockingly high bills after medical emergencies, and making sure life flights are priced right is the next step in ensuring care is both affordable and accessible to consumers.

“It is unacceptable that when someone’s life is in danger and they must be transported by air, that they will face crippling bills when they recover,” Brown said. “We look forward to leading the discussion on how to end this practice during the upcoming session.”

FAHP will work against legislation that would change up prior authorization and step therapy, which Brown said “ensure the highest standard of safety and effectiveness in a number of ways” such as helping prevent preventing drug abuse and fraud. The health plan trade also plans to oppose any bill to add more carve-outs to the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program.

“Coordinated, comprehensive care is the hallmark of the SMMC program, and we do not want to turn back the clock on the progress made and return the state to a fragmented system of care that failed to provide reliable, critical services to Floridians in the past,” Brown said.

AIF puts out its 2018 wishlist

The Associated Industries of Florida’s plans for the 2018 Legislative Session is to push policies that lower the cost of health care for businesses and fight back against bills backed by the Trial Bar.

“AIF is proud to always be involved in a multitude of industries that fuel our economy from the Panhandle to the Keys. This year is no different. AIF plans to continue our fight to protect Florida’s job creators in our state Capitol,” said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney.

Associated Industries of Florida is all-in for the final $87.4 billion state budget from term-limited Gov. Rick Scott.

The pro-business group said it wants prior authorization and the retroactive denial of claims on the chopping block when it comes to health care, while it plans to fight against the removal of step-therapy protocols. When it comes to slashing litigation costs, AIF said prejudgment interest is its top priority.

The group is also backing the Gov. Scott’s final budget, which clocks in at $87.4 billion.

“The Governor’s spending plan, which includes $180 million in tax cuts, will go a long way in continuing to help our state achieve prosperity and growth Florida’s families deserve,” Feeney said. “We are optimistic our state leaders share this goal and will adopt a budget that includes a pro-growth, pro-jobs tax-cut agenda.”

Insurers say put consumers first in ‘no-fault’ repeal

The Florida Senate is weighing a bill to end Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance system in the 2018 Legislative Session, and as they do, the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida said they need to keep the impact it’ll have on consumers’ wallets top of mind.

The proposal (SB 150) by Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee, would replace the no-fault/PIP system in 2019 with a fault-based system requiring all motorists to carry bodily injury coverage of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per occurrence as well as mandatory medical payments coverage of $5,000. Those coverage levels ratchet up to $30,000 per person and $60,000 per incident after three years.

Tom Lee is looking to replace Florida’s no-fault PIP auto insurance system with a fault-based system requiring bodily injury coverage.

“If the Senate’s intent is to manage the cost of auto insurance for Florida drivers, high mandatory minimum levels of coverage, mandatory medical-payments and a new system without a third-party bad faith fix is not the solution,” said PIFF President Michael Carlson. “If we move from No-Fault to a tort-based system, we urge lawmakers to protect consumers’ freedom of choice by allowing the market to determine the right mix of coverage limits and price.”

PIFF, which represents 45 percent of the private passenger automobile insurance market, said high bodily injury limits, mandatory medical payments coverage and the failure to address third-party bad faith litigation could all drive up costs for premium payers.

“As the debate on repealing PIP unfolds, PIFF is committed to working closely with legislators to ensure that Florida’s motorists receive the best coverage at the best prices possible while avoiding unnecessary mandated coverages and litigation costs that drive up the price of auto insurance for everyone,” Carlson said.

FRLA wears blue in support of DHS campaign

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association this week that showed that it was on board with the Department of Homeland Security’s “Blue Campaign” to raise awareness and help combat human trafficking.

FRLA encouraged their membership to be vigilant when it comes to combating human trafficking in Florida, and said its employees and members would participate in “Wear Blue Day.”

The day is a component of the DHS campaign that helps raise awareness through participants wearing blue clothing, snapping a picture and posting it on social media with the hashtags #WearBlueDay and #WeWearBlueBecause.

“With 113 million visitors coming to our state each year, Florida’s hospitality industry must serve as a leader in the fight to combat human trafficking. We strongly encourage our 10,000 members to join us in this important fight and to #JoinFRLA #WearBlueDay January 11,” said FRLA President Carol Dover.

“Our entire industry must work diligently to raise public awareness and provide the necessary tools to protect victims from this atrocious crime.”

Hundreds of Floridians join ‘Dear Florida’ campaign

Hundreds of Floridians have sent elected officials emails and social media message about policy issues over the past several weeks as part of a campaign done in collaboration with SEIU Florida and local unions.

“It is not surprising that Floridians are more outspoken in 2018,” said Monica Russo, President of SEIU Florida.

Monica Russo (center), the current president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida.

Russo, a Democrat who failed in her bid to be the next leader of the Florida Democratic Party last year, said Republicans legislators’ “willingness to listen to their constituents is nonexistent.”

“Even though their plan is to work without listening to those they represent,” she said, “we will continue to speak up against the horrendous policies they are ramming through to break a part our community.”

According to a statement sent by SEIU Florida, the most common issues discussed during the campaign were related to education, protections for the immigrant community and workers’ rights issues.

GLAAD, Equality Florida release LGBTQ reporting guide

LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD teamed up with Equality Florida to release a guide this week for journalists and media organizations to use when reporting on the LGBTQ community and the issues affecting them.

“How the media covers, or fails to cover, LGBTQ lives defines how people understand who we are, the triumphs we achieve, and the struggles we face,” said Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith. “Accurate and inclusive reporting from the media of our diverse community has the ability to educate the nation, elected officials, and community leaders on a wide array of issues that affect not just the LGBTQ community but all marginalized communities. That’s why Equality Florida and GLAAD continue to invest in media education and provide go-to resources such as this Florida guidebook.”

Southern Stories: A Guide for Reporting on LGBTQ People in Florida clocks in at 36 pages and includes story leads, a glossary of frequently used terms and definitions, as well as outdated or offensive terms to avoid and common pitfalls faced by media.

“As we enter an important year that will impact LGBTQ Floridians, this guide will ensure fair and accurate coverage of our community in the Sunshine State,” said Alexandra Bolles, Associate Director of Campaigns at GLAAD. “This marks the latest co-venture between Equality Florida and GLAAD — a long-standing relationship that will continue into 2018 and beyond.”

Florida Bar to recognize 21 lawyers for pro bono work

The Florida Bar will celebrate 21 lawyers from around the Sunshine State for their work on behalf of poor and indigent clients during a Jan. 25 ceremony at the Supreme Court of Florida.

Florida Bar President Michael J. Higer will present the 2018 Pro Bono Service Awards, which have been given annually since 1981 as part of an effort by the bar to recognize Florida encourage public service commitments among attorneys and to raise public awareness of the many volunteer hours logged by lawyers every year.

Florida Bar President Michael Higer will honor nearly two dozen outstanding attorneys for their pro bono work.

One attorney from each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits will receive the award, as will one Florida lawyer practicing outside of the Sunshine State.

Here are the 2018 honorees in order of judicial circuit: Antonio BruniDan HendricksonJohn KendronAndrea ReyesDanialle RigginsErica SmithPamela MastersRaymond BradyJohn DierkingSteven SennDavid AlschulerRobert YoungJo Ann PalchakJennifer Wintrode ShulerLouis Marc SilberAshley SybesmaHillary CrearyTimothy MoranJeffrey Paul Battista and Colette Kellerhouse.

Anayansi Rodriguez, who practices in Washington D.C., will receive the award for an out-of-state Florida lawyer.

Registration opens for Tallahassee rec sports leagues

Those who like to keep active and be part of a team, or at least coming up with a fun name, might enjoy starting up a softball or flag football team Tallahassee.

The city offers men’s, women’s and coed leagues for each sport, so long as enough teams register for there to be a league.

Those looking to play on the diamonds at Tom Brown Park or the James Messer Sports Complex will need to get their team together and paperwork in before Feb. 7. The season lasts ten games and opening day is March 5. Each team will need to pony up $365, while men’s teams can opt for a 15-game season with a fee of $510 per team.

The flag football season will kick off Feb. 25 and games will be played weekly at the Messer South Complex. Prospective teams have until Feb. 13 to register for the 12-game doubleheader season and the fee is $390 per team.

To register a team for either sport, visit Talgov.com/parks or drop by during business hours at the Tallahassee Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs central office at 912 Myers Park Drive.

Those who want to blow the whistle during games can apply to be a softball ump or flag football ref, but you’ll have to make it through a rules clinic before the seasons begin.

Garbage men (and women) get MLK off, too

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is Monday and while the holiday means many different things to many different people, the city of Tallahassee wants to make sure residents know it means a day off for most city workers.

That means if you usually put your trash cans on the curb for Monday pickup, you’ll want to wait an extra day. Ditto on the time shift for other customers — Tuesday customers will get a Wednesday pickup and on down the line to Friday customers, who will get their trash hauled away Saturday.

Garbage men (and women) across Florida will have MLK day off, too.

Community centers operated by the Parks and Recreation Department will shut down for the day while the StarMetro will treat MLK Day as if it was a Saturday.

The city also made clear that the Animal Service Center, which is always closed on Mondays, will indeed be closed Monday. It’ll open back up at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday as normal.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

The Delegation for 1.12.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

The politics of offshore oil drilling now on full display

Last week, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the Trump Administration would put in motion a process that would ultimately expand offshore oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts. The move would end an existing moratorium in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Bipartisan criticism from the Florida delegation quickly followed. GOP Sen. Marco Rubio urged Zinke “to recognize the Florida Congressional delegation’s bipartisan efforts to maintain and extend the moratorium and remove (the Eastern Gulf) from future planning purposes.”

Bipartisan condemnation of offshore oil drilling prompted the Trump administration to scale back plans for exploration off the Florida coast.

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan described the plan as “reckless, misguided and potentially catastrophic to Florida.” Palm City Republican Brian Mast said drilling “puts our economy, environment and marine life at risk.”

These are just a few examples of statements coming from Republicans. All delegation Democrats opposed the plan, but Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who is running for a fourth term in November, immediately elevated his opposition into a crusade.

Press releases, tweets, Senate floor comments followed the announcement. Nelson said, “I can tell you as long as I’m in office, that’s not going to happen.”

One other key player weighed in. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to run against Nelson in November, said he had “already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration.”

Scott got his meeting with Zinke almost immediately. On Wednesday, Zinke flew into Tallahassee for a meeting and a photo op. Afterward, Zinke told the media “Florida is obviously unique. For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed it’s important.”

With the politics there for all to see, Nelson expressed his displeasure with the manner in which he got what he wanted for Florida. He made it clear it’s all about politics and Scott, whom he accused of supporting drilling in the past.

“I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts,” he tweeted. “This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career. We shouldn’t be playing politics with the future of FL.”

Other coastal states have, of course, cried “foul.” They point to also having scenic coastlines and governors who wish to keep drilling away.

Nelson wrote to Zinke on Wednesday demanding answers to pointed questions centering on what taking Florida “off the table” really means. He also questioned why Florida was singled out. He also took to the Senate floor to announce he had filed legislation permanently banning offshore drilling.

How much did politics play into all of this? When politicians win on policy yet still feel the need to complain, that is all we need to know.

 

Rubio holds first hearing on cyberattacks against diplomats in Cuba

The two-term Republican held the first hearings on Capitol Hill looking into the mysterious illnesses suffered by 24 American diplomats while serving in Cuba. Going into the hearing, Rubio said he found it hard to believe the sonic attacks occurred without the government’s knowledge.

“If you’re an American government official, you’re so closely monitored when you are in Havana that the idea that someone could attack you in a sophisticated way, or in any way for that matter, and the Cubans not at least know about it, is absurd,” Rubio said on Fox News.

Marco Rubio held the first Capitol Hill hearings on the cyberattacks against diplomats in Cuba.

The hearing, held Tuesday, was billed as “Attacks on US Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight.” Rubio chaired the hearing through his role as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and transnational crime.

“We can say that we don’t know how it happened,” he said. “We can even say we can’t know for sure who did it. But two things we know for sure: people were hurt and the Cuban government knows who did it.”

The hearing focused not only on who might have committed the attacks, but also the response of the State Department to those attacks. Rubio had some criticism for the department for not setting up prescribed reviews of the attack in a timely manner.

Nelson urges FDA to help address IV fluid shortages

Florida’s senior senator is expressing concern about a shortage in Florida that is a direct result of the devastating impact Hurricane Maria unleashed on Puerto Rico. Florida hospitals are facing a shortage of intravenous (IV) saline liquids that come in bags manufactured in Puerto Rico.

In a letter to U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Nelson said the storm and “the federal government’s sluggish response” in Puerto Rico have created additional problems in the U.S.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Storm debris and damaged roads throughout the island make it extraordinarily difficult to transport these bags from the island to the port,” he wrote. This forces “some hospitals in Florida and across the country to make tough decisions regarding patient care.”

While understanding the remaining problems in Puerto Rico, “many of which are outside FDA’s jurisdiction, I strongly urge your agency to continue to make this one of your top priorities.”

Nelson, Rubio seek extension of unemployment benefits for Puerto Ricans

With a looming deadline for Puerto Ricans to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) following Hurricane Maria, both Florida Senators are seeking an extension. On Thursday, they sent a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta asking for his intervention.

“The storm caused extensive damage in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans are still in the beginning stages of recovery,” they wrote. “The current deadline is set for January 11, 2018, but an extension is necessary to allow individuals sufficient time to apply for this much-needed assistance.”

The senators pointed to the continuing struggles of business in Puerto Rico to recover, thereby forcing workers to search for new employment opportunities. The DUA is the temporary lifeline for many.

“We urge your department to extend the deadline to apply for DUA and to provide necessary assistance to Puerto Ricans to ensure they have access to this program,” they added.

Gaetz praises new work requirement for Medicaid recipients

On Thursday, the Trump administration took the significant step of allowing states to establish work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued the new policy to all state Medicaid directors.

States implementing the work requirements could require able-bodied, working-age Medicaid enrollees to obtain employment or participate in job-training or related activity for at least 20 hours per week in order to maintain benefits.

Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz was among the first to weigh in on the new policy.

Matt Gaetz is the first to applaud new work-for-Medicaid requirements.

“I am glad that the Trump administration is encouraging states to implement work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults who receive Medicaid,” Gaetz said in a statement. “This common-sense policy, supported by a majority of Americans, will lift people out of poverty and dependence into the dignity and fulfillment of work. With millions of jobs unfilled in our country, and a booming economy that is creating new jobs daily, America needs workers.”

Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have promised a lawsuit once the first state imposes a work requirement. They maintain Medicaid is a health care program may undermine it.

“Throughout my time in Congress, I have fought for work requirements for welfare, and was successful in my efforts to have this policy included in the House FY 18 budget,” Gaetz said.

Rutherford’s counterterrorism bill passes House

The first-term Republican Representative from Jacksonville saw one of his bills pass the House Tuesday. The DHS Interagency Counterterrorism Task Force Act of 2017, introduced by Rutherford in December, was approved without a dissenting vote.

The bill authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to assign personnel to overseas interagency counterterrorism task forces. A major goal is to facilitate counterterrorism information sharing and combat threats stemming from overseas sources of conflict or terrorism.

John Rutherford saw one of his early counterterrorism bills pass the House this week.

“As terrorists and foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria seek to return home or travel to other regions in the wake of the defeat of ISIS on the battlefield, cooperation among U.S. military, national security, and law enforcement agencies is vital,” Rutherford said in a news release. “This bill will ensure DHS personnel overseas are better able to combat threats in the fight against terrorism.”

For example, assigning DHS personnel to Department of Defense locations would facilitate better collection and sharing of information, recovered from conflict zones, which significantly improves our ability to interdict terrorists before they seek to enter the country.

Rutherford is a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. The bill, which was co-sponsored by 6 fellow Republicans, now goes to the Senate.

Demings bill addressing cops’ mental health becomes law

On Wednesday, Trump signed into law the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017, a bill pushed in part by Demings to help address issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by law enforcement officers.

Demings, a Democrat who formerly served as Orlando police chief, introduced the bipartisan measure last spring along with Republican U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Doug Collins of Georgia, and David Reichert of Washington, and Democrat Bill Pascrell of New Jersey.

Val Demings, a former Orlando police chief, is behind a new law addressing police mental health.

The bill, House Resolution 2228, offers resources to law enforcement agencies to deal with mental health issues faced by officers, and make grants available for peer mentoring, training and support programs such as crisis hotlines and annual mental health checks. It does not address insurance or workers’ compensation issues, matters that have come to the forefront in the Florida Legislature this year in bills seeking to provide comprehensive mental health coverage for first-responders.

“As a former Chief of Police with 27 years in law enforcement, I did everything I could to protect my officers from dangerous situations. But the reality is that this is a dangerous job. Our law enforcement officers are at risk of physical and mental trauma every time they put on the uniform,” Demings stated in a news release from her office.

“We cannot ask our officers to do this work while failing to cope with the consequences. We must take care of them so they can take care of us. This important piece of legislation will ensure that agencies are better equipped and officers have any mental health support they need.”

Webster takes self-imposed pay cut

Clermont Republican Webster delivered a check to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service at the Department of the Treasury, something that he has done every year since being elected — rolling back his salary to 2008 levels.

“For too long Washington has operated under the mindset that if money is collected, it should be spent,” Webster said. “As an advocate of reducing spending, every year I return money from my salary back to the American taxpayers.”

Daniel Webster gives back part of his congressional paycheck.

If all government spending was rolled back to the 2008 amounts, Webster’s office said the country would have a balanced federal budget. In coming days, the congressman plans to announce the return of taxpayer dollars saved from his office budget in 2017.  Webster said he has been committed to evaluating his purchases, discovering areas of waste, and carefully handling the funds that he has been allotted.

Castor’s bill promoting caregivers headed for president’s desk

The Democrat from Tampa celebrated the Senate’s passages of a bipartisan bill designed to assist the efforts of those who serve as caregivers. The RAISE Family Caregivers Act will develop a national strategy for caregivers with input from professionals in areas such as training, workplace policies, and others to offer better support.

“I was proud to work with my colleague, (Mississippi Republican) Rep. Gregg Harper and the AARP to bring attention to the importance of family caregivers,” Castor said in an email to constituents. “We have made much progress in recent years in elevating the role of caregivers, but as the complexity and intensity of family caregiving increase, a nationwide blueprint will help boost families and be smart and efficient with our resources.”

The strategy includes identifying recommended actions from the federal, state and local governments as well as communities, health care providers, and long-term provider services. A focus on family-provided health and long-term care is a major goal for patient well-being as well as minimizing the fiscal impact on federal, state and local budgets.

In addition to Castor, among the 113 co-sponsors were Democrats Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton. Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall also signed on.

Mast opens district office inside VA facility

The Republican from Palm City this week announced he is opening a new district office. Mast, a wounded warrior veteran, will soon have a new office at the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“This is going to be a better path forward to advocate for all of our veterans,” Mast said on Fox News. He said he has been working on the idea for more than a year and thanked Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.

Brian Mast, a veteran himself, is opening a district office at the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“This idea came to fruition because this is the biggest stack of casework I get,” he explained.

Mast will also share the space with some of his colleagues in Congress. Democrats Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel, who also represent portions of the region, will use the office.

According to Mast, this is the first time members of Congress will hold office hours in a VA facility. He tweeted “If you want to understand a problem, you’ve got to be present for it.”

South Florida duo teams up to protect veterans from pension poachers

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the Preventing Crimes Against Veterans Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Democrat Deutch of Boca Raton and Republican Tom Rooney of Okeechobee that would protect veterans from scam artists who target them for profit.

In recent years, financial predators have increasingly targeted veterans, particularly elderly veterans in low-income housing or Assisted Living Facilities, in an effort to defraud them out of their Veteran’s Affairs (VA) benefits. Currently, it is illegal for unauthorized individuals to charge veterans a fee for aid in receiving their benefits, like VA pensions.

Ted Deutch is one of the sponsors of the bipartisan Preventing Crimes Against Veteran Act, which unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee.

However there are no legal or financial repercussions for those who choose to blatantly violate this law, and these scammers often get away with charging veterans exorbitant fees while the veteran has no guarantee that they’ll receive any help with their VA benefits.

“Pension poaching is not only illegal, it’s a despicable and immoral practice,” said Deutch. “These scammers are getting more and more sophisticated in how they identify and deceive vulnerable veterans with lofty promises to help them with their pensions while charging outrageous fees.

If enacted, the bill would close existing loopholes by levying heavy fines, imprisonment of up to five years, or both, on any individual who blatantly engages in schemes to defraud veterans (or their spouses) of their benefits.

“Anyone who seeks to financially exploit the men and women who have served our country and cheat them out of their hard-earned VA benefits should have to face a harsh punishment for their criminal actions,” Rooney said. “This common-sense legislation will help give prosecutors the tools they need to protect our veterans and go after these criminals.”

In addition to Rooney and Deutch, the bill had 20 additional co-sponsors including Orlando Democrat Darren Soto, Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo and Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio is sponsoring the companion legislation in the Senate.

Diaz-Balart: Trump’s handling of immigration meeting was ‘masterful’

According to the Republican from Miami, the Donald Trump people saw at the bipartisan immigration meeting on Tuesday was the Trump he has come to know. Diaz-Balart was the only Floridian among the 25 invited lawmakers and said afterward those critics who question Trump’s mental capacity have it all wrong.

“The American people got to see the person I’ve dealt with,” Diaz-Balart said Wednesday morning on The Laura Ingraham Show. “There’s been all this innuendo and statements that the president is not stable,” he told guest host Raymond Arroyo. “He’s not real … He doesn’t know anything … He’s stupid.”

“Well, you know something? That’s just not true.”

Donald Trump held a ‘masterful’ meeting on immigration, says Mario Diaz-Balart.

Some analysts speculate that Trump’s decision to let the television cameras stay in the room Tuesday — for 55 fascinating minutes — was a direct rebuke to the uproar in the past week over passages from  “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff.

He said he was extremely impressed by the manner in which conducted the meeting, which lasted 90 minutes. Expecting a “dog and pony show,” Diaz-Balart claimed Trump handled the meeting “masterfully.”

While the media was giving him generally good marks for his performance, some conservatives criticized his willingness to bargain on areas involving illegal immigration.

“I think people underestimate the president,” Diaz-Balart continued. “I don’t think the press underestimates him — they want to destroy him. But I think that a lot of folks who support him underestimate him a lot.”

National Democrats name CD 26 hopeful  Mucarsel-Powell to ‘Red to Blue’ program

National Democrats named Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which highlights Democratic recruits meeting certain campaign goals.

Mucarsel-Powell is running in Florida’s 26th Congressional District race against GOP incumbent Curbelo. She was one of seven Democrats added to the program, bringing the list to 18 candidates nationwide who stand to benefit from DCCC guidance and staff resources.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell named one of 18 on the DCCC ‘Red to Blue’ program.

“As a working mom, a Latina and an immigrant to the United States, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will fight every day to ensure that the American dream — which she’s lived — exists for her kids and the kids of so many others in South Florida,” said DCCC Chair Ben Ray Luján in a statement. “And it’s clear what’s at stake for South Florida families — Debbie has centered her candidacy from day one on protecting access to high quality, affordable health care for the families she will represent. Debbie is running a people-driven, grassroots campaign built on earning voters’ trust and their votes this November.”

For months, the DCCC has been targeting Curbelo. Although Curbelo defeated Democrat Joe Garcia by 12 points in 2016, Hillary Clinton also won CD 26 by double digits over Donald Trump that year.

Also competing against Mucarsel-Powell in the Democratic primary are Steve Smith and Steven Machat, a Miami Beach music producer and attorney who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2016. The DCCC says that her inclusion into the Red to Blue program does not constitute an endorsement in the Democratic primary.

Help on the way for endangered Florida Republicans

The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a Super PAC backed by House leadership has reported record-breaking fundraising in 2017. Going into the 2018 elections, the group reports $15 million cash on hand.

That is good news for Mast and Curbelo. Mast is seeking re-election to his seat in F’orida’s 18th Congressional District while Curbelo is running for a third term in the 26th District.

CLF is operating two field offices in each district. No such presence exists in the 27th District held by the retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, providing evidence the GOP believes it will lose the seat.

The American Action Network (AAN), in conjunction with CLF, reported raising $66 million in 2017, the best off-year total in the organization’s history. AAN has regularly run ads supporting Mast and Curbelo, along with other Republicans in marginal districts, throughout 2017.

Mast and Curbelo are among the fundraising leaders within the delegation through the third quarter. Mast had $921,000 cash on hand through October 30 while Curbelo had $1.35 million.

“CLF’s record-setting off-year fundraising is a testament to Speaker [PaulRyan’s leadership and House Republicans’ conservative agenda,” said CLF and AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss. “Knowing history is against us, CLF’s field program has laid the groundwork to protect the Republican House majority well ahead of Election Day, opening 27 field offices and making over 5 million voter contacts to date.”

Campaign finance reports for the fourth quarter are due this month.

Curbelo’s opponent, Mucarsel-Powell, raised $161,000 in October while Mast’s leading opponent, Lauren Baer, announced she had raised $575,000 by the end of 2017.

The Cook Political Report lists Mast’s seat as “Likely Republican” and Curbelo’s race a “Tossup.” Ros-Lehtinen’s district is listed as “Leans Democratic.”

House Speaker’s ‘rape’ comment went too far

It’s hard to think of a male Florida lawmaker other than House Speaker Richard Corcoran who has been more outspoken about the horrible behavior that has led to the Florida Senate being engulfed in a series of tawdry sex scandals.

Last October, he denounced an extramarital affair between Sen. Jeff Clemens and a lobbyist. Clemens resigned after POLITICO Florida first reported the story. At the time, Corcoran said, he was “greatly disturbed” by Clemens’ behavior and he maintained that because a lobbyist is dependent on legislators, “the facts here raise a very real question of sexual harassment.”

A week after Clemens resigned, Senate budget chairman Jack Latvala, was accused by six women in the Florida Capitol of sexual harassment. Corcoran was the first prominent Republican to call on Latvala to resign.

Yet, some recent comments by Corcoran — which came when he was asked for an opinion about the admission that two state Senators admitted to engaging in an extramarital affair — went too far.

That situation is a “helluva lot different than being a sexual predator … it’s a helluva lot different than raping someone … ” Corcoran said Tuesday.

As is made clear in subsequent comments, Corcoran was referring to his vanquished enemy, Latvala, who quit the Senate last month after an investigation found credible evidence of sexual misconduct by the Republican.

(You can watch the video of Corcoran’s comments from Tuesday here.)

There is no longer any doubt — except in Latvala’s mind — that the former lawmaker did some truly terrible things. And he will have to wear many scarlet letters for the rest of his life.

But how does Corcoran get to the r-word?

The Rape Crisis Center explains that rape is defined as unwanted penetration, whether that is oral, anal, or vaginal. Sexual assault refers to any unwanted sexual contact, including fondling and molestation.

These are serious times for the Florida Legislature. The Senate has been paralyzed by these scandals. So words matter.

The Speaker, who deserves considerable credit for his fierce criticism of lawmakers accused of sexual misconduct, should have chosen his words more carefully.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 1.12.18

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

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

A new statewide poll conducted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Florida Chamber Political Institute finds Floridians comfortable that the state is headed in the right direction and gives Gov. Rick Scott some of his highest approval ratings, with usual splits on those opinions between Republicans and Democrats.

The poll finds Republican Adam Putnam and Democrat Gwen Graham are leading their parties’ gubernatorial races, though half or more of the likely voters surveyed in each party have not made up their minds.

— 56 percent of likely voters believe Florida is headed in the right direction. Republicans are especially optimistic at 76 percent, while more than half of voters with no party affiliations [56 percent] believe Florida is moving in the right direction. Less than half of Democrats [34 percent] believe Florida is headed in the right direction.

— 57 percent of all registered voters approve of Scott’s job performance. Republicans approve by 82 percent, while 30 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of NPA voters approve.

— Among Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Graham leads with 14 percent. However, 64 percent of voters remain undecided. Philip Levine garners 7 percent; Andrew Gillum, 6 percent; and Chris King, just 1 percent.

— On the Republican side, Putnam gets 23 percent and Ron DeSantis 18 percent, with 50 percent undecided.

Among issues that matter most to voters, education ahead with 17 percent; jobs and economy drew 13 percent; health care, 12 percent; immigration, 5 percent; and global warming, 5 percent. Guns, terrorism and marijuana barely registered, the institute reported.

Amendment 1, calling for increasing the homestead exemption, got 61 percent overall, with the spread from Democrats, NPA voters and Republicans fairly tight, from 52 to 69 percent. Amendment 2, making permanent a cap annual non-homestead property tax increases, has 54 percent overall support, with the party spread ranging from 60 to 58 percent.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @DKElections: Generic congressional ballot in new QuinnipiacPoll is +17 Dems: 52 D, 35 R

— @MarcoRubio: Since his murder in 2015, I’ve worked to honor #BorisNemtsov by renaming the street outside the Russian Embassy in his name to remind Putin & his cronies they cannot use violence to silence dissent. Thanks to the DC City Council for making this a reality.

— @RepTedDeutch: Today, on #HumanTraffickingAwarenessDay, I introduced bipartisan bill to prevent human trafficking. The Visa Transparency Anti-Trafficking Act will stop traffickers from exploiting major gaps in our visa program. With so many different government agencies processing visas, our immigration system is failing to detect human traffickers who are abusing the system. By sharing the data, we can crack down on human trafficking and save trafficking victims from this modern form of slavery.

— @RepLoisFrankel: We’re wearing black at #SOTU to say #timesup. We stand with working people across this country who are demanding that men and women be able to work side-by-side, in dignity, in safety, and free of harassment

— @LedgeKing: At WH briefing, @PressSec Sarah Sanders denied politics played part in admin’s sudden decision to exempt FL from offshore oil-drilling plan after @POTUS ally @FLGovScott logged objections with @SecretaryZinke. Sanders: “I’m not aware of any political favor.”

— @MarcACaputo: DeSantis is 5 points behind Putnam now (18-23%) in FL gov GOP primary DeSantis was 23 points behind Putnam (6-29%) in September. So DeSantis, who has spent little, has gained 18 points through free media (mainly FOX hits).

— @TheDaraKam: Senate President @joenegronfl says he hopes anti-sanctuary cities bill gets a hearing the Senate this year. For 2 years, Senate refused to take up the measure, passed by House last year & poised to pass tomorrow. priority of @richardcorcoran.

— @KionneMcGhee: I’m officially calling on Miami Dade @MayorGimenez to declare a county emergency due to gun-violence epidemic in County.

— @Daniel_Sweeney: .@FarmerForFLSen with the first of what will likely be many references to “national champion” @UCF_Football this #flleg session.

— @JimRosicaFL: Only the first week of Session and I’ve already turned to dumping the coffee grounds into a bowl, pouring in milk, and eating it like cereal.

— @BuzzFeed: “Black Panther” sold more advance tickets in 24 hours than any other Marvel movie

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— TOP STORY —

Rick Scott denounces Trump’s ‘shithole’ Haiti comments as Democrats see opportunity” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Gov. Scott distanced himself Thursday from President Donald Trump‘s undisputed comments calling Haiti and some African nations “shithole” countries — remarks that Democrats say could cost him if he runs for U.S. Senate. Scott … stopped just short of a blanket denouncement of the president’s comments by saying he condemned them “if” the media reports about them were true. Neither the White House nor a fellow Florida Republican who was in the room during an immigration reform meeting disputed the president’s racial remarks. … Trump’s remarks provoked a visceral response from Haitian-Americans. “The President’s ongoing war against immigrants appears to be solely directed toward those immigrants of color,” state Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat and the only Haitian-American member of the Florida Legislature said in a written statement. “I am appalled and disgusted that the man who stands as the symbol of a nation once offering refuge and sanctuary to all immigrants is doing his best to say: ‘nonwhites need not apply.'” … Former Gov. Jeb Bush … said on Twitter that “for every one step forward @POTUS takes when it comes to judgment and good, coherent policy decisions, he Inexplicably and without fail takes ten steps back. I hope today’s comments were just a crass and flippant mistake, and do not reflect the hateful racism they imply.”

Lil’ Marco — “Rubio’s reaction to Trump’s ‘s-hole’ remark avoids direct condemnation” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Instead of issuing a traditional response to questions about Donald Trump‘s “shithole” remark, Rubio issued a seven-part missive on Twitter that did not directly address the rhetoric … (and) … made an argument for merit-based immigration, vs. the family system his parents used, but also said people from “troubled” countries should be allowed in.

>>>Gubernatorial candidate Chris King posted a video Thursday in response to President Trump’s attack on immigrants. The video was taken during his speech before the members of Rise Up Florida in Coral GablesClick here to view the video.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Why Rick Scott’s budget grew by $21 billion over eight years” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — For Scott’s first six years in office, he called for leaner budgets than he ended up signing. Since 2011, his proposals have grown by more than $21 billion, or 33 percent. So what’s going on? Well, state budgets across the country have increased during this same period. But Florida is near the top of the pack in terms of growth. According to the National Association of State Budget Offices, between 2012 and 2017 (the most recent national estimates available), the state’s total spending increased about 31 percent, making it the state with the eighth-fastest growing yearly budget. In that time, the median state spending increase was about 18 percent. If Scott ends up signing an appropriations bill similar to what he proposed, the state will spend almost as much as it did in 2006-2007, the height of the state’s spending under Jeb Bush, after adjusting for inflation.

Richard Corcoran to cities: Drop dead” via Steve Bousquet and Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Corcoran‘s election-year strategy is coming into sharp focus as the full House scheduled action on more than a dozen issues in the first week of the 60-day session. They include a ban on so-called sanctuary cities, limits on public subsidies to sports teams, new barriers to local tax increases and higher ethical standards for local elected officials — all bills that restrict municipal power. Corcoran says his crusade will bring “transformational change.” Democrats say it’s an extreme ideologically-driven agenda that punishes minorities and immigrants and micromanages local government. It’s mostly for show. Most of the proposals are not new, and the state Senate is not likely to pass them. So they will never reach Gov. Scott‘s desk for his needed signature. Corcoran is primed to fault senators for inaction.

Corcoran expects to get through Session without losing budget chair” via the News Service of Florida — Corcoran, overseeing his final Session, said the pace of congressional confirmation should allow House Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo to remain in his seat into March. “I was with him last night, I talked to him this morning, and it looks very favorable that he’ll be with us the entire session,” Corcoran said. “His nomination is with four others, and one of them is a sticking point, and they’re going as a package. It’s all about gamesmanship.” Trujillo was appointed in October by President Trump as U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States. At the time, Trujillo said upon confirmation he would resign his House District 105 seat … Trujillo, 34, who had a Nov. 30 confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee, awaits full U.S. Senate approval.

House moves fast to approve subpoena against VISIT FLORIDA Emeril show producer” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — Acting quickly on House Speaker Corcoran’s demand, the House approved a subpoena for the financial records of a Tallahassee firm hired by VISIT FLORIDA to produce a cooking show starring chef Emeril Lagasse. The House’s unprecedented action followed a unanimous vote earlier by the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee to force Tallahassee-based MAT Media and its owner Pat Roberts to provide the House with financial documents related to $11.6 million in taxpayer dollars he received to produce six seasons of the show. After the voice vote by the full House, Corcoran immediately signed the subpoena and handed it to chamber staff. A process server waiting in Corcoran’s office rushed it to Roberts’ office a few blocks away from the Capitol.

Tweet, tweet:

Senate passes permanent expansion of Bright Futures scholarship program” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News — SB 4, spearheaded by Sen. Bill Galvano would expand the amount of financial aid and scholarship money Florida students could receive under the program, which began in 1997 and is expected to serve nearly 100,000 students this year. The measure passed by a unanimous vote, with all 34 senators voting in favor of the bill. As Galvano appealed to his fellow lawmakers to pass the bill, he emphasized Florida’s potential to rank among the best colleges and universities in the nation if lawmakers would only give students the opportunity to achieve that success. Galvano’s proposal would secure full funding for the Academic Scholar award, the top tier of scholarships in the program. Receiving the top award for the scholarship requires students to have at least a 3.5 GPA as well as a score of 1290 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT.

Immigrant rights advocates protest as House takes up sanctuary cities bill” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — The bill, HB 9, which would prohibit communities from adopting sanctuary policies protecting undocumented immigrants at the risk of incurring penalties, would also compel Florida cities to comply with detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “They’re tired of seeing, year after year, anti-immigrant bills being introduced,” said Julio Calderon, a campaign manager for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, as he stood in front of demonstrators hailing largely from South and Central Florida. “We need to stop dehumanizing our communities.” The bill, a legislative priority of House Speaker Corcoran, is primed to pass the House, though unlikely to pass the Senate.

Florida poised to honor famed educator with statue in DC” via The Associated Press — Florida appears poised to replace the statue of a Confederate general with famed educator Mary McLeod Bethune. A Senate panel voted to place a statute of Bethune in the U.S. Capitol. The legislation (SB 472) heads next to the full Senate, and a similar bill is moving through the Florida House. Florida legislators two years ago voted to remove the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith but did not at the time decide who should replace him.

What Jose Javier Rodriguez is reading — “Resign-to-run change goes to full Senate” via Lobby Tools — The Senate Rules Committee passed a change to the resign-to-run law (SB 186) requiring state and local politicians to submit their resignations before seeking federal office. A similar law exists for politicians who seek another state or local seat. It now heads to the chamber floor. An identical House bill (HB 105) has one more committee stop.

Panel rejects elected Secretary of State” via the News Service of Florida — A proposal to return Florida’s secretary of state to a statewide elected position was defeated by a Florida Constitution Revision Commission panel. Without debate, the commission’s Executive Committee voted 4-2 against the measure (Proposal 14), which was sponsored by former Senate President Don Gaetz. Gaetz said he filed the proposal, which would take effect in the 2022 election, to bring Florida in line with the majority of states that let voters pick the state’s top elections official. Florida had an elected secretary of state until 2003, when the elected position was eliminated as part of a constitutional amendment that shrank the state Cabinet from six to three members. The governor currently appoints the secretary of state.

Senate committee passes bill banning child marriages” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News — Florida law currently allows people as young as 16 to get married, but a new measure, SB 140, would prohibit anyone under the age of 18 from tying the knot. An amendment to the measure would whack violators of the bill with a misdemeanor if they issued marriage licenses to underage children. Bill sponsor Lizbeth Benacquisto said marriage license “loopholes” had been used and abused to cover up sexual abuse of young women. The Senate Rules Committee unanimously passed the measure by a vote of 11-0.

Public record lawsuit bill heads to House floor” via Lobby Tools — The House Government Accountability Committee unanimously passed legislation (HB 273) barring state agencies from initiating civil lawsuits against individuals that make a public records request. Having passed its final committee stop, it now heads to the chamber floor. Normally, a resident makes a request and may choose to bring a suit if an agency denies it. If the individual wins, the agency covers the court costs and hands over the public record. But if the agency initiates, the individual is stuck with the court costs even if they win the case. An identical bill (SB 750) has started to move in the Senate.

Transmission line legislation heads to full House” via Lobby Tools — The Public Service Commission would have “exclusive jurisdiction” to decide whether underground transmission lines are required for power plant projects under a bill now headed to the House floor. HB 405 passed the House Commerce Committee. Miami-Dade said they opposed the bill, which pre-empts local regulations to the state level but noted they’d still have a “seat at the table.” The identical Senate version (SB 494) has one more stop.

Bill would help parents adjust funding for Florida special needs scholarships” via Travis Pillow of redefinED — Florida lawmakers are advancing bills that would make it easier for parents of special needs children who use vouchers to attend private schools to update their evaluations. Funding for students who receive McKay Scholarships is tied to the evaluations students can receive from school districts every three years. But state Sen. Dana Young said sometimes students who use the scholarships need to update their evaluations more often. It’s a minor tweak. It’s simple and uncontroversial. But it could hint at a larger, more complicated issue. Last month, when the bill cleared the Senate Education Committee, state Sen. Lauren Book said some school districts are concerned about the costs of evaluating children who don’t attend public schools — and therefore don’t generate funding for districts.

— PROGRESS FLORIDA THROWS AN ELBOW —

State legislation requiring public dollars be used for crisis pregnancy clinics has drawn the ire of activists.
A recent Progress Florida-funded ad campaign seeks to encourage lawmakers to vote against the legislation while educating voters on the dangers of what the group describes as “fake” abortion clinics.
The legislation would fund the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, a crisis pregnancy network with clinics that offer free pregnancy tests, peer counseling, referrals, classes on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting, and life skills — but do not refer or provide for abortion.
The bills: HB 41, filed by Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo and, SB 44, submitted by Jacksonville Republican Aaron Bean, make up the crisis pregnancy clinic-funding legislation.
The problem: Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo said, “By funding these anti-abortion fake clinics, Florida would put a stamp of approval on denying women the ability to make decisions about their own bodies and futures.”
The ads: One ad reads: “Florida’s Senate Bill 444 would send your tax dollars to fake, anti-abortion clinics that masquerade as ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ and harm Florida women.” Another reads: “Florida’s Senate Bill 444 will let so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ use YOUR tax dollars to deceive Florida women about abortion.”

***Don’t clutter the Florida Constitution with things that don’t belong there! Trial lawyers want more flexibility to sue nursing homes and drive up the costs of long-term care for our state’s seniors. State and federal laws already ensure residents’ rights, and hundreds of thousands of hardworking professionals dedicate their lives to serving those in their care. Urge the Constitution Revision Commission to vote NO on misleading Proposal 88 here.***

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

— “Shock poll: Trump trounces Oprah Winfrey” via Jacob Engels of the Central Florida Post

So that’s that:

Targeting Florida Republicans in 2018 will be tricky for Puerto Rican leaders” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló intends to throw his political weight around in the 2018 elections, mobilizing Puerto Ricans who recently moved to the mainland to vote against lawmakers he says “turned their back” on the U.S. territory in its time of need. Rosselló’s threats are ostensibly aimed at Republicans in Congress tasked with doling out billions in disaster aid and in charge of an overhaul of the nation’s tax system, where Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory creates rules that don’t exist on the mainland. He called out Sen. Rubio by name in December, saying he was “disappointed” in his tax bill vote, though Rosselló stopped short of offering any specific political retribution against the Florida Republican. But carrying out political advocacy in swing state Florida, where Puerto Ricans who are Democrats and Republicans hold elected office, is a tricky balancing act for Rosselló, a Democrat. Puerto Ricans in Florida could form a large enough voting bloc to affect statewide elections for governor and U.S. Senate in 2018. But Florida Republicans like Rubio and Gov. Scott enjoy widespread support among many members of Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party, in contrast to heavily Democratic states with many Puerto Ricans, like New York, Illinois and Connecticut.

Betty Castor endorses Gwen Graham, takes shot at rival Philip Levine’s comments on work” via Amy Hollyfield of the Tampa Bay Times — Castor, the former president of USF, a former state senator, the former Florida education commissioner and really, a Florida icon, threw her support behind the former congresswoman and addressed comments Levine made this week on his statewide bus tour … the Tallahassee Democrat quoted him talking about what sets him apart in the Democratic field, saying, “The fact that I’ve had that weird thing in my background called a job, the fact that I’ve actually done something with my life outside the public sector is probably a big differentiator.” Here’s the statement from Castor: “Philip Levine can lecture women on what it means to have a job and ‘do something’ with your life after he raises three children while volunteering at their schools and working 50 hours a week. Not only does Levine not have the facts straight, his view that motherhood is anything less than a full-time job is exactly the kind of tone-deaf attitude we already see out of too many politicians in DC and Tallahassee.”

Check this out — “Podcast: Phil Levine says his campaign is different” via Rick Outzen of Rick’s Blog

Tom Lee continues planning challenge to Jimmy Patronis” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Lee, who is prohibited from raising money during the ongoing legislative session, said he’s got a campaign team in place for a bid to replace Patronis. “I’m continuing to work in that direction,” Lee, a former Senate president, said. “I’ve got a campaign team. I’ve got a communications director. I built a team, a fundraising staff, I’ve got a team ready to move forward post-session.” Lee’s comments came as his political committee, known as The Conservative, was dwarfed in December fundraising by Patronis, a former state lawmaker and Panama City restaurateur who pulled in more than $350,000 during the month. Patronis … raised $120,288 for his campaign account and another $245,400 for his political committee, known as Treasure Florida.

ACLU sinks $400,000 into felons’ rights amendment” via the News Service of Florida — The political committee Floridians for a Fair Democracy, which is trying to get the measure on the November ballot, has raised about $4.6 million and spent nearly $4.3 million since being formed in 2014. The committee needs to submit 766,200 valid petition signatures to the state by a Feb. 1 deadline to get on the ballot. As of Thursday afternoon, it had submitted 692,134 signatures … The proposal, if approved in November, would automatically restore voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Felons convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, would not be eligible.

Angie Chirino, daughter of Cuban pop icon Willy Chirino, running for Congress in Miami” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — For one brief moment, it appeared the congressional race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in her Central-Miami district would be boring. Enter Angie Chirino, an accomplished songwriter and the daughter of Cuban pop sensation Willy Chirino. She quietly filed federal paperwork Jan. 3 to run for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat as a Republican. She also bought the website chirinoforcongress.com, which currently displays a blank page. It seems the Chrino family has been trying to keep this under wraps for a bit, but two Twitter bots designed to scrape campaign filings caught the news a few days ago. Angie Chirino is a successful songwriter. She’s won a Latin Grammy and worked with Jennifer LopezGloria EstefanCelia Cruz and Marc Anthony, perhaps most notably on his megahit “I Need to Know.”

DLCC highlights Margaret Good as ‘woman to watch’ in early 2018 — The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is kicking off 2018 by highlighting six women candidates running in upcoming special elections around the country. These “women to watch” are running in some critical states like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Florida where the DLCC will be focusing on flipping chambers in the midterm elections: “Good, Florida HD 72 — As the daughter of a priest and a nurse, Margaret found her commitment to serving her community at an early age. She’s spent her career fulfilling those values as an attorney and community leader, championing environmental protection, advocating for women’s health care rights, and fighting for equality and LGBTQ+ rights. She’s ready to flip this seat from red to blue and take her experience to the Florida House.”

— STATEWIDE —

Senator: Drilling plan carve-out for Florida may be illegal” via Matthew Daly of The Associated Press — Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision to give Florida a last-minute exemption while ignoring at least 10 other states that made similar requests may violate requirements of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which governs drilling in U.S. coastal waters. Zinke’s action is especially outrageous because Florida — unlike California, Washington and other states — did not expressly oppose the drilling proposal in written comments submitted to the Interior Department, Cantwell said. By exempting Florida but not other states, Zinke showed he is “more concerned with politics than proper process when it comes to making key decisions that affect our coastal communities,” said Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee.

— “California Republicans don’t embrace Florida counterparts’ fury over drilling plan” via Anthony Adragna and Ben Lefebvre of POLITICO Florida

Puerto Rico governor to host town-hall meeting Friday in Kissimmee” via Jennifer Marcial Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel — Ricardo Rosselló will hold a town-hall meeting with the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida to urge them to get involved in Florida politics. The event, which will be live streamed by El Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, will be at the Kissimmee Civic Center, 201 E. Dakin Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon. Afterward, Rosselló will hold a news conference … the purpose of the meeting will be to raise awareness of the importance of political involvement and working toward fairer treatment of Puerto Ricans. Rosselló traveled to Washington, D.C., to continue his push for a supplemental disaster-aid package in the wake of Hurricane Maria and relief from the federal tax-reform bill. He has denounced what he considers unjust treatment of Puerto Rico by Congress and considers the island a colonial territory.

State board to take up ‘schools of Hope’ rule next week” via Travis Pillow of redefinED — The  Florida Board of Education is set to take up much-anticipated rules rolling out the welcome mat for prospective Schools of Hope. The goal is to attract more proven national charter school organizations into disadvantaged neighborhoods with low-performing schools. The draft rule would offer three ways for charter school organizations to qualify as “Hope Operators.” A charter organization could become a Hope Operator if it: Received a federal grant for the expansion of high-quality charters; received financial backing from the national Charter School Growth Fund; has been chosen by a local school board to turn around a low-performing district-run public school. Eventually, the state Department of Education is supposed to hammer out performance criteria that would allow charter school organizations to qualify as Hope Operators based on their academic track records and the characteristics of students they typically serve.

What Evan Power is reading — “Data shows Hurricane Hermine major driver of Tallahassee GDP growth, not local development” via TallahasseeReports.com — Based on research by Tallahassee Reports and lengthy discussions with Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) officials, information indicates that the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Hermine, financed by millions of dollars in insurance payments, was the main driver of the 4.3 percent growth in GDP during 2016. From 2012 to 2015 the Tallahassee GDP growth was basically flat. In a previous article, Tallahassee Reports, with help from BEA officials, determined the main driver of the 2016 growth in GDP was the “Insurance carriers and related activities” category. This finding is in contrast to the comments of local officials who quickly pointed to local development projects as the reason for the jump in GDP. A simple review of the components of the GDP numbers, provided by BEA, showed growth in the construction category in the Tallahassee MSA actually ranked 17 out of the 22 Florida MSA’s in 2016. However, the BEA data showed the Finance and Insurance category jumped approximately 32 percent, which was ranked No. 2 among the 22 Florida MSA’s in 2016.

Reappointed — Ron Howse to the Florida Transportation Commission.

— FLORIDA GETS SAFER —

Rest easy, folks.

Florida, followed quickly by California, joined FirstNet last month. Now all 50 states are a part of the nationwide public-safety broadband network, created through a public-private partnership between FirstNet and telecommunications giant AT&T.

Inclusion in FirstNet gives Florida agencies currently running on Motorola Solutions Project 25 (P25) radio networks an immediate benefit by their addition to this high-speed broadband system.

A quantum leap for public safety: When Florida communities face disaster, as in the case of September’s Hurricane Irma, seconds matter. Milliseconds can be the difference between life and death. By sharing a common commercial communication network, first responders will no longer have to fret about systems becoming congested.

Can you hear me now?: Not being able to communicate in an emergency is devastating, and emergencies in Florida are, well, common. But the Sunshine State has joined America’s first interconnected network exclusively designed for first responders — that means no more lost calls when it really matters.

Countywide comms: Twenty-eight counties work under the P25 System. Motorola Solutions serves 25 of those counties as a vendor of choice for public safety radio communications, including Broward, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Orange, Leon and Columbia.

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “The Black woman’s role in the social revolution. Then and now.” Guests include attorney Shelli Freeland Eddie of the Freeland Eddie Law Group.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists will discuss the opening of Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on the benefits and disadvantages school choice. Joining Walker-Torres are Orange County School Board Chair Bill Sublette; Dr. Jodi Marshall, Florida Virtual School; Adam Miller, executive director, Independent Education and Parental Choice Department, Florida Department of Education.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A breakdown of Gov. Scott’s State of the State address, which kicks off the 2018 Florida Legislative Session. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter will fact check Scott.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore and Bob McClure from The James Madison Institute.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg speak with Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum, a debate between candidates for Fort Lauderdale Mayor. Also, panelists will hold the weekly news Roundtable.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, Justice broadcasts from the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee with guests House Speaker Corcoran, Florida State University President John Thrasher and Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch.

— ALOE —

Facebook to show more content from friends, less from publishers and brands” via Seth Fiegerman and Laurie Segall of CNN — Facebook is changing the News Feed to prioritize posts from friends, family members and groups over posts from publishers and brands. The company will elevate posts that ignite conversations and meaningful interactions between friends while demoting the many videos, news stories and business posts that users consume passively — without commenting and sharing.

Naughty, explicit, racist: 2017’s rejected Florida license plates” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — You’ll never get DAMNED. Same with BAD ASS, KILL and LOL GTFO. Those were among the personalized license plates that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles rejected in 2017. And don’t even think about submitting tags with more sexually explicit and overtly racist messages, the ones that can’t be published on a family-friendly website. The state has a form for those who see their tags as creative outlets. It warns: “Requests with obscene or objectionable words will be rejected.” Most don’t test the rule. A few ignore it. In all, department officials nixed 51 plates last year. Some of the drivers whose requests were rejected seem preoccupied with the human anatomy. More than 10 made references to male or female genitalia.

Orlando Sentinel launching national soccer news website” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Sentinel reported that its new site, ProSoccerUSA, will tap into the coverage the newspaper’s sports staff has provided of the league and Orlando City Soccer, and build upon that for national coverage, hoping to attract a national audience of fans looking for news on the Columbus Crew, the Orlando City Lions, the San Jose Earthquakes, and the rest of Major League Soccer. The paper’s former Orlando City beat reporter, Alicia DeGallo, has been named website editor. “No one really does what we do at the moment,” she said. “With the growth of Major League Soccer in the last decade and its projected growth for the future, there is no better time for a sports news site like ProSoccerUSA.com.”

Congratulations to Southern Strategy Group’s Brian Bautista engagement to Savanna Sherman.

Happy birthday to Rep. Charlie Stone and the First Amendment Foundation’s Barbara Petersen. Celebrating tomorrow are our friends Francisco Gonzalez and Chester Spellman, as well as Tony Glover.

Jacksonville Bold for 1.12.18 — Smells like teal spirit

Here we are now. Entertain us.

EverBank Field was lit Sunday, as the Jacksonville Jaguars laid a smackdown on the Buffalo Bills, in a 10-3 defensive struggle that was best watched live and in the stands.

Jacksonville hadn’t hosted a playoff game this century; the crowd was hyped. And mostly Jaguar fans.

The media derided the win — but for those who saw the end, when Jalen Ramsey picked off the Bills’ QB, it was a moment of triumph.

Jalen Ramsey gives the Jags a moment of triumph.

People stayed in the stadium — a few Bills fans aside — until it was over.

It was Jacksonville’s moment.

As we enter what will be a bruising political year, it’s useful to remember that community is what brings us together.

It’s the teal, yes. But it’s more than that.

It’s the realization that it’s Duval against the world.

There are those who bet on the world.

But Sunday showed that it feels better to bet on Duval.

Especially when the Jags go over.

Doctor, heal thyself

Problems with your marriage?

Is it unhealthy?

The Florida Legislature is willing to help future couples avoid such troubles as they traipse into connubial bliss.

Do as we say … not as we do.

The solution: a “guide to a healthy marriage.”

The version filed in the House is a guide that would contain resources addressing “conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities and management, domestic violence resources and parenting responsibilities.”

Monday saw Jacksonville Republican state Rep. Clay Yarborough file the House version of the legislation (HB 1323).

The Legislature wouldn’t write this guide on its own (probably for the best given that philandering ended the careers of two Senators in recent months, with another former Senator and current state Representative going through a prolonged high-profile and messy divorce).

Instead, the guide would be written by the Marriage Education Committee: a panel of six marriage education and family advocates, two picked by the Governor, two by the Senate President, and two more by the House Speaker.

In other words, the same formula that has led to a smooth-running Constitutional Revision Commission could be brought to bear on Florida marriages.

Private funds would pay for the guide w, and reading it would be a prerequisite for a marriage license.

Jay Fant files monument protection bill

Rep. Fant, a Jacksonville Republican running for Attorney General, presented the latest in a series of base-pleasing bills for the 2018 Legislative Session Monday.

Fant’s HB 1359 (the “Soldiers’ and Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act”) contends that any wartime monument erected after 1822 on public property may only be moved for its repair or the repair of the property containing it.

Desecration of monuments would be a felony if passed.

The bill’s primary imports: forestalling removal of Confederate monuments, as happened most recently in Memphis. And establishing criminal penalties for tampering — penalties that would supersede the ordinance code or enforcement inclinations of rogue municipalities.

Fant’s hometown Jacksonville dealt with a Confederate monument removal debate in 2017; Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche took a position in favor of moving monuments to museums, as they divided the community

Fant’s legislative docket is serving up more red meat than the butcher at Avondale’s renowned Pinegrove market.

If enacted, his “Free Enterprise Protection Act” will “ensure that Florida business owners are protected from government sanctions and penalties when they are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

Fant was inspired to file FEPA by the case of a Colorado baker who balked at making a wedding cake for a gay couple, as said baker saw the act of baking as lending sanction to their choice to marry. FEPA would protect the free speech rights of businesses.

Fant also is carrying the House version of a Senate bill that would allow people to carry guns to, from, and during events in Florida’s great outdoors; if it clears the governor’s desk, everyone from crabbers to dog-walkers will be protected while packing heat.

Aaron Bean talks Rob Bradley, sanctuary cities

Sen. Bean spent some time giving his thoughts on the Legislative Session — including the benefits of an appropriations chair from Northeast Florida (Fleming Island Republican Sen. Bradley), and potential pitfalls for a bill he is carrying.

Aaron Bean was typically enthusiastic about 2018.

Bean was voluble on what Bradley means, both for the Senate and the region.

“I have known Sen. Bradley for almost 30 years,” Bean asserted, “and he is going to be outstanding as Appropriations Chair. He makes it look easy, but he is always the most prepared member in the room from his constant reading and research.

“As a sub-chair for the criminal justice and environmental appropriations committees,” Bean added, “members could be sure that Senator Bradley was going to know why funds were being spent, and he would be sure it was a good use of taxpayer dollars.”

“He is going to be great for Florida. It is a bonus that he is from North Florida. North Florida Legislators are still going to have to work for any requests, because Bradley is not going to give anyone a pass just because they are from our area, but he is going to deliver a budget we can all be proud of,” Bean said.

Bean is carrying 23 bills — but the most high-profile measure (a ban on sanctuary cities that should clear the House easily) may not get through the Senate.

“Our Sanctuary City bill faces a tough opening as it has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We don’t have the votes to get it passed — yet — so we are working hard to get that done,” Bean said.

Big month for Bradley committee

Fleming Island Republican Sen. Bradley saw his political committee raise more money in November than in any other single month.

Rob Bradley is becoming a major power broker in NE Florida.

And in December, Bradley’s Working for Florida’s Families exceeded that sum, setting an internal record level of fundraising for the second straight month.

The committee hauled in $173,000, with significant buy-in from U.S. Sugar, Walmart, Florida Blue, Associated Industries of Florida and the associated Florida Prosperity Fund.

All told, the committee has over $720,000 on hand.

Bradley became the Appropriations Chair after the removal of now-resigned Sen. Jack Latvala, his predecessor in the role.

Northeast Florida legislators expect that he will be in a position to ensure that the oft-neglected region gets its fair share in the budget process.

Bradley backs Wyman Duggan

A key endorsement in the House District 15 race, as Sen. Bradley backs Duggan — thus far, the sole Republican candidate.

Bradley described Duggan as “a respected community leader who will serve with honor, integrity, and commitment to our shared conservative values.”

Wyman Duggan has all the endorsements he could want … and no primary opponents.

Duggan, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Sen. Bradley who has served as a conservative leader in the Florida Senate. I look forward to working with Sen. Bradley throughout my campaign and in the Florida legislature fighting for a more prosperous and brighter future for Florida.”

Duggan has scored a swath of endorsements from Republican electeds, setting up the “Your leaders trust Duggan … shouldn’t you?” mailpieces.

Jacksonville City Councilmen Danny Becton, Matt Schellenberg, Greg Anderson, Aaron Bowman, Scott Wilson, Doyle Carter, Jim Love and Sam Newby are on board. So are former Councilmen Jim Overton and Kevin Hyde. And Rep. John Rutherford, State Sen. Aaron Bean, State Rep. Jason Fischer, Duval Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell, Duval Tax Collector Michael Corrigan also back Duggan.

$142K haul for Lenny Curry committee

It was a December to remember for Build Something That Lasts, the political committee of Jacksonville Mayor Curry.

Lenny Curry’s fundraising is so strong that gravity has stopped applying to him.

The Curry committee cleaned up to end the year, raking in $142,000, pushing the committee up to $603,000 on hand.

The strong month comes at a pivotal time for the Mayor’s policy and political operations. The Mayor’s Office aligns with a proposal to privatize JEA, a pitch which has floated periodically over the years but returned at the end of last year, via a proposal from a key political supporter and outgoing board member Tom Petway.

Additionally, Curry likely will face at least a nominal opponent for re-election. Whether he does or not, however, his committee likely will play in Jacksonville City Council races — supporting candidates who align with his vision, and working against less cooperative Council incumbents.

Danny Becton, Sam Newby launch Jax Council VP runs

An annual tradition in Jacksonville City Council is beginning anew: the race for Jacksonville City Council VP.

Often — but not always — the VP slot is a springboard to the presidency the next year.

Two Republican Councilmen — Becton and Newby — are in the race already.

Sam Newby may be the early front-runner for Council VP.

Two more — Republican Scott Wilson and Democrat Tommy Hazouri — are giving the race a close look.

All are first-termers.

Wilson finished second in the VP race in 2017; Hazouri, meanwhile, is a former mayor and the only Democrat in the mix.

Read the whole story here.

Reggie Gaffney runs hard for re-election

One Jacksonville City Council member who doesn’t need to wonder about Curry targeting him in 2019: Gaffney.

Democrat Gaffney is a strong supporter of Jacksonville’s Republican Mayor, standing by Curry even when many other Council members cast aspersions, and the Councilman hopes that a record of tangible achievements in his district outweighs negative press.

Corrine Brown is out of the game, but Reggie Gaffney wants 4 more years.

A recent video, cut with an unseen interviewer, reveals more about Gaffney’s platform.

“District 7 is a very large district,” Gaffney said. “I like to think of District 7 as three different communities all with different needs.”

While there are many “priority projects” he could cite, Gaffney says that Amazon — “because it’s about jobs” — is No. 1.

Meanwhile, Gaffney takes credit for fixing the collapsed Liberty Street Bridge, calling it his “first project.”

Gaffney also takes credit for compelling Curry to address drainage issues in the flood-prone Lower Eastside.

Gaffney then asserted his key role in getting money for the stadium improvement projects (amphitheater, covered practice field and club seat renovations) approved in his term.

“The mayor said, ‘I need your help,’” Gaffney said, and he was willing to — as it meant “jobs” for his district.

“I said ‘let’s make it happen,’” Gaffney related.

Honors for HRO sponsors, as theocons challenge bill

Last February, Jacksonville expanded its Human Rights Ordinance, giving protections to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the workplace, public accommodations and housing markets.

It is Feb. 3 at the Florida Yacht Club; Equality Florida will honor the three sponsors of the legislation: City Council VP Aaron Bowman and Councilman Jim Love (two Republicans), and Councilman Tommy Hazouri (a Democrat).

Tommy Hazouri is one of the HRO co-sponsors set to be honored.

Unsurprisingly, Equality Florida gives itself credit for passage.

“After a nearly 10-year campaign, Jacksonville ended its reign as the only major city in Florida without an LGBT-inclusive Human Rights Ordinance. In February 2017, we saw unprecedented leadership and investment in this battle by Equality Florida, the citizens of Jacksonville, and these three elected leaders — resulting in the updated HRO on Valentine’s Day.”

Props for FPL, JEA from environmental groups

St. Johns River Power Park, the largest operating coal power plant in Florida, has been shut down, co-owners Florida Power & Light and JEA announced Tuesday.

Coal may not be the future after all …

The utilities said the historic Jacksonville plant was aging and no longer economical as one of the highest-cost facilities among both FPL’s and JEA’s generating systems.

At nearly the same time, FPL lit up four new solar power plants — some of the largest ever built — and says it is nearing completion on four more new solar farms in a matter of weeks.

The ambitious moves earned kudos from leading environmental groups.

“FPL has a forward-looking strategy of making smart, innovative, long-term investments, including solar, to reduce emissions while providing affordable, clean energy for its customers,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s interim executive director.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical to addressing climate change,” said Greg Knecht, deputy executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “Anytime we can replace less-efficient sources of energy with cleaner fuels or solar it’s a benefit for people and nature. Investments such as FPL’s in clean-energy technologies are key to Florida’s future health and prosperity.”

JAXPORT adds direct New Zealand, Australia service

Beginning March, JAXPORT will offer direct service to New Zealand and Australia for roll-on/roll-off (Ro/Ro) cargo through Höegh Autoliners’ new U.S. to Oceania direct express Ro/Ro service.

JAXPORT’s Blount Island Marine Terminal will serve as the last East Coast port of call in the rotation.

JAXPORT will offer direct service to New Zealand and Australia for roll-on/roll-off (Ro/Ro) cargo through Höegh Autoliners. Photo credit: Lucien van Horn

The monthly service will start with the first vessel, the 6,500-CEU (car capacity) Höegh Jeddah, sailing out of Jacksonville. Vessel rotation will include Auckland in New Zealand as well as Brisbane, Port Kembla, Melbourne and Fremantle in Australia.

Horizon Terminal Services, Höegh Autoliners’ fully owned terminal owning and operating company headquartered in Jacksonville, will provide fumigation and wash down services at Blount Island.

Additional information on Höegh’s trade route to Oceania is available at icptrack.com.

UNF tops in U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Online’ bachelor’s programs

The University of North Florida earned a top spot in U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 Best Online Programs rankings.

Released this week, UNF is among the Top 40 colleges and universities in the country for “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs,” ranking included data from nearly 1,500 distance-education degree programs nationwide.

UNF tops in U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Online’ bachelor’s programs.

At No. 31, UNF jumped 17 spots from last year’s ranking, and is the only higher education institution from the Jacksonville area listed among the rankings in this category. The University also landed on the “Best Online Education Programs” list, a graduate-level ranking. Only degree-granting programs offering classes entirely online were considered.

“It’s very rewarding to have U.S. News & World Report rank our bachelor’s and our graduate education online programs among the best in the nation,” said UNF President John Delaney. “Faculty in our online programs are committed to this form of program delivery and have developed course materials and teaching methods that are second to none.”

More information on the “Best Online Programs” rankings is at usnews.com/online.

Sixty Days for 1.11.18 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

Sixty Days  — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session.

The Last 24

Good Thursday evening. An immigration rally roiled the Capitol rotunda, and the House issued subpoenas in a dispute with a video producer that did work for VISIT FLORIDA. It’s already been that kind of week.

Seeking sanctuary: Five amendments filed by Democrats were killed by the Republican-controlled House as the chamber prepared the controversial ‘sanctuary city’ ban bill for final passage.

Shot fired: Kathleen Peters seemingly got in a dig at Richard Corcoran by filing a bill to ban sitting lawmakers and their family members — including “siblings” — from working for lobbying firms. (Corc’s brother Michael is a lobbyist, duh.)

Rebel yell: Legislation to replace a statue of a Confederate general standing for Florida in the U.S. Capitol is heading to the Senate floor.

Optimistic much? A team of House Democrats Thursday rolled out a legislative package to combat the state’s opioid abuse epidemic.

Home rule: Tally mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum complained that lawmakers were overreaching into local governance in a news conference.

Training, sir!Florida senators could soon be required to complete mandatory sexual harassment training every year.

Low boil: The House voted to subpoena the financial records from the media company that produced “Emeril’s Florida” for VISIT FLORIDA.

Quote of the Day

“Optimism may not pass bills, but it’s a great start.” — House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee of Miami at a Capitol news conference, speaking on the Democratic legislative package on opioid abuse.

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

State Rep. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, is finishing his fourth term in the Florida House and running for the Florida Senate seat that will be vacated by state Sen. David Simmons in 2020. The president of the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce talked about his legislative priorities in 2018.

FP: Health Care Appropriations has a ton of items on its agenda. What should be the top priorities?

JB: From a budget standpoint, we will first look to make sure eligible individuals are receiving services. Hurricanes Irma and Maria put a bit of a strain on our budget — from the explicit costs of providing more health and human services to a larger than anticipated population to the implicit costs of things like the overtime paid to our DCF workers who are in charge of registering and providing SNAP Cards to all those new enrollees. All of those costs must be paid for before we can start looking at new programs.

We will look to convert to our Prospective Payment System (PPS) in nursing homes. As we have standardized costs in hospitals with Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs) and Enhanced Ambulatory Patient Grouping (EAPGs), I believe this is our next step in efficiency.

Additionally, I believe House health approps had 206 individual member projects filed, which is the exact opposite of “small government.” Member projects should serve a need not met by government agencies, should serve a large number of people from a larger region, and ideally would have some kind of local matching component to it. I don’t view it as the job of the taxpayers in Escambia County to have to pay for a new roof for a facility in Broward — that’s Broward’s job.

FP: After hearing Mike Carroll talk about the challenges faced by Florida’s Department of Children and Families’ child protective investigators, what do you think should be done?

JB: I think we should have more CPIs. It’s one of the hardest jobs in human services and our tenure isn’t great. These are not very high-paying jobs and the hours are long and difficult. I think we need to take some of the strain out of that system.

FP: From the perspective of your seats on the ethics and rules committee, do you expect the Legislature to address issues relating to sexual misconduct?

JB: We already had a policy on sexual misconduct.  And we expanded it when we adopted our Rules in Org Session. And we’ll probably have some new proposals this Session, but I haven’t seen any come forward yet.

Lobby Up

Some random notes: Alex Villalobos, a Republican who served in the Legislature 1993-2010, has registered to lobby for Cuban Museum, Inc.

The facility, based in Miami, aims to “document, showcase and interpret the art, culture, and history of Cuban-Americans and Cubans around the world — in other words, the Cuban diaspora,” its website says.

Also, Tallahassee lobbyist Reggie Garcia registered to represent Brisk Coffee Roasters USA, “one of the largest independent roasters in the Southeastern United States, with offices in Tampa, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami and Atlanta,” its website says.

It also bills itself as “100 percent” woman and Hispanic owned.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

There’ll be a floor Session to follow your morning cereal. And some other stuff:

A Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) committee will hear a controversial proposal that provides more legal standing for Floridians when environmental problems happen. That’s at 8 a.m., 37 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.

The Joint Committee on Collective Bargaining meets. That’s also at 8 a.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.

The House will hold a floor Session. Both chambers convene at 10:30 a.m.

A CRC committee will discuss scheduling ahead of their second statewide tour. That’s at 12:15 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.

Another CRC panel will consider a proposal that ends the use of public financing for statewide candidates. That’s at 1 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building, The Capitol.

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