Peter Archives - Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Praying for DACA?

Some send letters to Congress, others pray. When it comes to DACA, some Floridians do both.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is the “government program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation,” as NBC News explains it.

In Florida, the effort to push Congress to pass a replacement for the Obama-era program was bolstered last week by prayer.

Demonstrators protest in front of the White House after the Donald Trump administration scrapped DACA.

About 100 people gathered in collective prayer at the state Capitol, asking God to guide members of Congress to pass a resolution that will protect hundreds of thousands who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

They’re also known as “Dreamers” after the “Development Relief And Education For Alien Minors” bills filed several times by pro-immigration members of Congress in recent years.

“We pray that you will protect approximately 800,000 Dreamers — including 33,000 in Florida — who are currently living and working in the United States but face the imminent threat of deportation,” 60 proponents of the program wrote in a letter Friday to seven U.S. representatives from Florida.

The letter to U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, Ron DeSantis, Brian Mast, Bill Posey, Francis Rooney, Dennis Ross and John Rutherford was signed by members of the League of Women Voters, Spanish American League Against Discrimination, and Faith in Florida, as well as students, business owners and workers.

“We have enjoyed working with you over the many prior months, but now is the time for a permanent solution that can’t be taken away,” the letter says.

In September, the Trump administration opted to end DACA and put the burden on Congress to pass a permanent replacement. If that doesn’t happen, the protections granted to Dreamers under the two-year permit will start to wither away starting in March.

U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Miami Republican whose district has thousands of Dreamers, joined congressional Democrats this week in saying he will not support any funding bill without a resolution for DACA.

If the program is repealed, advocates estimate his district would be hit with a $9.5 million loss to the gross domestic product.

Curbelo wants to have a replacement by the end of the year. Democratic U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson and Ted Deutch also have backed Curbelo.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.

But first, a program note: This is the final edition of Takeaways for 2017. We wish you and yours a healthy, happy Holiday Season. We’ll return Jan. 6.

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

Harassment settlements under Scott — Sexual harassment has become a pervasive issue in Tallahassee after back-to-back sex scandals rock the Capitol. But while the Rick Scott administration has escaped recent headlines, court records obtained by Florida Politics show that it has not been immune to harassment claims that were investigated and ended without the dismissal of the accused, or settlement payout, which have totaled $413,750. The cases involve women who were sexually harassed by co-workers or supervisors, with abuse that included their vaginas being grabbed, being photographed naked and even beaten. On Wednesday, Scott signed an executive order that would strengthen the reporting and investigating of sexual harassment complaints.

Gubernatorial appointment power unchallenged — The state’s highest court dismissed a challenge to Gov. Scott’s power to appoint three new justices on his last day in office in 2019. The case was tossed in a 6-1 decision with the reason being the issue wasn’t ready for judicial review. The Florida Supreme Court said it couldn’t step into the controversy because the governor hasn’t taken any action yet. The three justices who are retiring and will be replaced, however, took issue with the decision. In the end two of them agreed with the result, but one called Scott’s intentions “blatantly unconstitutional.”

Campaign finance reform tossed — A proposal to repeal Florida’s system of public financing for statewide campaigns won’t make it into the state constitution, at least for now. Frank Kruppenbacher, who was sponsoring the proposed amendment, withdrew his measure from consideration, but he said he intends to press lawmakers to think about reforming the system this year. Kruppenbacher was appointed by Scott, who has supported abolishing public financing for campaigns. In the 2014 election cycle, the state spent over $4.3 million to finance campaigns. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has also been a big proponent of the change.

Marijuana lawsuits pile on — A 238-page lawsuit filed by Joe Redner‘s Florigrown company — replete with references to Encyclopaedia Britannica, ancient Roman medical texts and the Nixon White House tapes — alleges that the state is failing its responsibility to carry out the people’s will when it comes to medical marijuana. The complaint was filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court against the Department of Health, its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, Gov. Rick Scott and others. This latest action adds to the growing amount of litigation over medical marijuana, which has state lawmakers concerned it’s interfering with the department’s ability to process vendor licenses and patient ID cards, among other things.

Citrus industry squeezed — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said no “plan B” is available for the citrus industry if Congress does not add funding to the latest disaster relief package. A day after the U.S. Department of Agriculture further reduced a forecast of the post-Hurricane Irma orange harvest, Putnam said there is a need for federal assistance to help the industry. He said the damage from the storm tops $1 billion.

Scott recognizes ‘outstanding’ educators

Scott and the Cabinet recognized seven educators with the governor’s Shine Award, meant for teachers and administrators in the state who make significant contributions to the field of education.

“The educators honored today represent the thousands of great teachers around the state who are dedicated to preparing students for college and a future career,” Scott said.

Rick Scott honors seven outstanding Florida educators. (Courtesy: The Office of Gov. Rick Scott.)

The educators that received the award are the following: Rudy Diaz, a TV Production Media teacher at South Miami Senior High School; Lisa Gault, a veteran educator teaching Adult Special Needs Transition at the Bradford-Union Technical Center; Felecia King, a fourth-grade English teacher at Lockhart Elementary Magnet School; Anne Jones, an Instructional/Reading Coach at Ruth Raines Middle School; Nardi Routten, a fourth-grade teacher at Chester A. Moore Elementary School; Timothy Stevens, a fifth-grade English and social studies teacher at Ochwilla Elementary School; and Dr. Karen P. Welch, an Intensive Reading and Intensive Language Arts teacher at Bell High School in Gilchrist County.

State re-employment tax rate will stay at $7

For the third year in a row, Florida businesses will continue to pay $7 per employee as their re-employment tax rate next year.

The Scott administration said that as a result of the thriving economy, more than 60 percent of Florida employers will pay the minimum tax rate, which is at the lowest it’s been since 2004.

“By keeping the re-employment tax law, we are putting more money back into the hands of job creators, so they can invest in their businesses. This continued low rate is another example of the steps we are taking to make Florida No. 1 in the nation for job growth and opportunities.” Scott said.

The $7 per employee minimum tax rate for 2018 is down from a high $120.80 per employee in 2012, a 94-percent tax reduction that has resulted in savings of more than $4.9 billion.

State business pay the re-employment tax as a percentage of the first $7,000 in wages for each employee.

Instagram of the week

‘Oregon’ is state’s newest canine detective

Scott and the Cabinet held a swearing-in ceremony for the newest member of the Department of Financial Services: Oregon, an 18-month-old German Shepard.

Oregon will be working as an explosive-detecting canine for the DFS’s Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit. His handler, Detective Monty Taylor, has more than 15 years of experience with K-9 dogs and has served for that specific unit for nine years.

‘Oregon’ is Florida’s newest investigator. (Photo: Florida Department of Financial Services.)

Oregon will be taking over for Bella, who recently retired as an explosive-detection canine after more than eight years of service and hundreds of requests for assistance.

The bureau in which Oregon will be working has a 41 percent arson clearance rate. The average national rate is 20 percent.

The week in appointments

Curley moves to circuit court — Scott appointed Gerard Joseph Curley Jr. to the 15th Judicial Circuit Court.

Curley, 57, of West Palm Beach, is a shareholder at the Gunster law firm and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and has a law degree from Stetson University College of Law.

He will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge James T. Ferrara.

Nutt promoted to circuit court — Scott appointed James Nutt to the 15th Judicial Circuit Court to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Richard Oftedal.

Nutt is a 55-year-old Palm Beach Gardens resident and currently serves as Litigation Practice Group Leader of the South Florida Water Management District’s Office of General Counsel.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Oglethorpe University, and his master’s and law degree from Nova Southeastern University.

Albers moves to Correctional Medical Authority — Scott appointed Kris-Tena Albers to be the program director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.

She was appointed for a term beginning Dec. 8 and ending July 1, 2020, and will succeed Joyce Phelps.

Holidays bring more DUI enforcement

The Florida Highway Patrol will join thousands of other law enforcement and highway safety agencies across the nation in the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

“In an effort to get drunk and drugged drivers off Florida roads, FHP troopers will aggressively enforce impaired driving laws to ensure motorists and their families arrive to their destination safety,” said Colonel Gene Spaulding, the FHP director.

The department is offering some tips to ensure motorists “arrive alive” to their holiday destination that include finding a designated driver or call a ride-hailing service, adjust speed accordingly and to buckle up. Drivers are also advised to not text, talk on the phone, eat, or adjust the stereo while driving.

Motorists are asked to call FHP at 347 if they see an impaired or aggressive driver on the road.

Dep’t of Education says industry certifications rise

Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart said this week that industry certification completions among Florida high schoolers have jumped by about from 81,970 in the 2015-16 school year to 102,044 through the 2016-17 school year.

The Florida Department of Education said Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs give students a “school-to-career connection,” and more than 400,000 Florida students are currently enrolled in secondary technical education programs.

Florida Department of Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says industry certifications are on the rise. 

Career and Adult Education Chancellor Rod Duckworth said the “Industry Certification component of CTE provides students with a business and industry-recognized credential that is another tool in their educational toolbox. We are fortunate in Florida that all 67 school districts in the state have CTE programs as part of their educational system.”

Stewart said such certifications “open the door to high-skill, high-demand career opportunities,” while Scott added that the “great news shows that more of our students are getting prepared for future success.”

Joe Negron named ‘Champion of the Everglades’

Environmental group Audubon Florida presented Senate President Joe Negron with an award this week recognizing his “steadfast leadership” in Everglades restoration.

Negron earned the “Champion of the Everglades” award for a bill he ushered through the legislature earlier this past session that mandated the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and prevent a repeat of the historic and harmful algal blooms that wreaked havoc on Florida waters in 2016.

Senate President Joe Negron accepting Audubon Florida’s Champion of the Everglades Award. Left to right: Audubon Florida Deputy Director Julie Hill-Gabriel, Senate President Joe Negron, and Audubon Florida Everglades Policy Associate Celeste De Palma.

“President Negron helped secure a much-needed restoration project for America’s Everglades. His tireless efforts responded to an ecological crisis by garnering support for one of the most important wins for Florida’s environment in a decade,” said Audubon Florida deputy director Julie Hill-Gabriel.

Audubon said the award is reserved for “individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty to protect Florida’s water and wildlife in the River of Grass.” Past winners of the award include Nathaniel Reed and former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Lori Berman marks Sandy Hook anniversary

Five years after children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed by a gunman, State Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, said legislators “must do more to prevent these senseless tragedies.”

“One way to do so is to address the crucial need for stronger and better mental health resources,” Berman said. “There is so much to be done and I will not stop advocating for more.”

Rep. Lori Berman memorialized the five-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Berman, who is running in the special election for Senate District 31, said she is introducing legislation (HB 231) that would allow a family member or law enforcement officer to seek a risk protection order to prevent a person who is at high risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms.

Every year that she has served, Berman said she has “filed legislation to strengthen gun violence protection and prevention and bring attention to mental health issues that need to be addressed more effectively.”

“Unfortunately, many of these bills have yet to be heard in a committee,” she added.

Evan Jenne wants to curtail fundraising

Dania Beach Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne filed a bill this week that would force the governor and Cabinet to play by the same fundraising rules as lawmakers while the legislature is in Session.

Jenne’s bill (HB 707) would put the kibosh on executive branch members soliciting or accepting contributions during the Legislative Session, either for one’s own campaign, one’s own political party, a political committee or an aligned candidate.

Evan Jenne
Evan Jenne seeks to scale back fundraising during Session.

“The Governor and members of the cabinet all have their own legislative agendas each Session and it’s time they abide by the same rules as legislators,” Jenne said.

“It’s in complete conflict with common sense and fairness that those with influence on the legislative process can raise money from special interests and pad their campaign war chests during Session while being bills are being vetted, voted on, and making their way toward becoming law.”

During each Legislative Session from 2011 to 2017, the Governor and members of the Cabinet have collectively raised $16,163,474.87, which averages out to a $2,309,067.84 haul during each sixty-day session.

How many bills are being heard in the House?

Less than a month before Session starts, Florida House members have filed 136 bills on committee agendas for consideration.

According to data provided by the House Democratic Caucus, 94 of those bills are sponsored by Republicans and 21 of those measures are being pushed by Democrats. In addition to those, 21 bills have bipartisan co-sponsors.

CRC announces second statewide tour

The Constitution Revision Commission this week announced its second round of public hearings to be held statewide in 2018.

Carlos Beruff, the CRC chairman, said commissioners will be hitting the road again in 2018 to hear what the public wants to see changed in the state constitution.

Carlos Beruff and the CRC are going on the road.

“This is a public driven process and upcoming public hearing will allow Floridians the opportunity to shape proposed constitutional revisions before they are placed on the ballot,” Beruff said.

The dates, times and locations for confirmed public hearings are below:

South Florida: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 1-7 p.m., Nova Southeastern University, Rick Case Arena at the Don Taft University Center (UC), 3301 College Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

Central Florida: Monday, Feb. 19, 1-7 p.m., Eastern Florida State College, King Center, 3865 North Wickham Road, Melbourne.

Northeast Florida: Tuesday, Feb. 20, 1-7 p.m., University of North Florida, Herbert University Center, 12000 Alumni Drive, Jacksonville.

Northwest Florida: Tuesday, Feb. 27, 1-7 p.m. (Central time), University of West Florida, Conference Center & Ballroom, 11000 University Parkway, Building 22, Pensacola.

Tampa Bay Area: Tuesday, March 13, 1-7 p.m., University of South Florida — St. Petersburg, University Student Center, 6th Avenue S., St. Petersburg.

A venue for Southwest Florida is yet to be determined.

JMI report lauds UF free speech promotion efforts

A report released and conducted by the conservative-leaning James Madison Institute has found the state higher education system is “very well positioned to meet the growing demand for intellectually-serious academic study at an affordable cost.”

But citing room for improvement, JMI President and CEO Dr. Bob McClure said all Florida university leaders should “abolish all ‘speech codes,’ and ‘speech zones.’”

James Madison Institute CEO Bob McClure takes a selfie with leaders fellows in Orlando.

“It would be a mistake to think that Florida’s public universities are in no way threatened by the rise of speech-bullying nationwide,” said William Mattox, the report author and director of JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options.

The report, “Free Expression and Intellectual Diversity: How Florida Universities Currently Measure Up,” compiled measures that examined how universities protect free speech, promote a campus culture open to different viewpoints and respond to speech-bullying by those seeking to drown out viewpoints they oppose.

Florida Horse Park gets new director

Jason Reynolds will become the next Executive Director of the Florida Agricultural Center and Horse Park. Reynolds won a unanimous vote of its Executive Committee.

“It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome Jason to this vibrant equestrian community,” said Carol B. Dover, Chair and President, and also CEO of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA).

“We are extremely excited with this selection and I am confident Jason’s strong ethics and diligent work will significantly elevate our efforts,” she added. “Reynolds offers a fresh perspective and possesses the experience necessary to take FHP in the right direction as we enter 2018.”

Reynolds said, “I’m thrilled for the opportunity to cultivate this world-class facility and proud to have been selected to lead this fantastic organization.” He will relocate from Tallahassee to Ocala and start in January 2018.

Reynolds was Director of Public Policy at FRLA for 12 years. He’s been a horse owner for over 15 years and volunteers his time at several horse show facilities in the Tallahassee area.

He has also served on the Florida Agricultural Center & Horse Park Building Subcommittee. Reynolds is a proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a member of the Air Expeditionary Force and deployed twice to the Middle East.

To learn more about FHP, visit flhorsepark.com. A full list of events may be found here. For event booking, contact (352) 307-6699 or email events@flhorsepark.com.

FSU maintains ‘most efficient’ streak

Florida State University is once again among U.S. News & World Reports’ list of most efficient universities.

FSU has placed first or second every year since 2013, taking the No. 2 spot this year behind Miami University in Ohio.

FSU named one of the ‘most efficient ‘ universities.

The list is based on the operating efficiency of schools in the top half of U.S. News’ Best College rankings, in which FSU ranked 81st in 2018.

University faculty said the ranking stems from the school’s active effort to streamline operations, reduce costs and review processes. FSU has two committees in place that aim to reduce overall costs.

“We pride ourselves on being careful with every dollar and investing any savings into areas that benefit academic programs for students,” said FSU President John Thrasher. “This has been an enormous campuswide effort that we take very seriously.”

Leon County Commission considers ‘resilience’

The Leon County Board of County Commissioners held its annual retreat earlier this week and considered “ongoing efforts to build disaster and community resilience,” according to a news release.

Commissioners also “reviewed and amended Leon County’s five-year strategic plan through the addition of 15 specific strategic initiatives that direct and align organizational action to advance the County’s strategic priorities related to Economy, Environment, Quality of Life and Governance.”

The board also heard a presentation from Leslie Chapman Henderson, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), reviewed tourism efforts, upgrading or eliminating septic tank systems, and securing Veterans Affairs benefits for local County veterans, among other things.

The strategic priorities and initiatives discussed today will come back before the Board for final approval and ratification in January.

Time for Soul Santa, Elf Night in Tallahassee

There is nothing quite like Santa in a helicopter.

The Tallahassee tradition of “Soul Santa” will touch down Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Walker-Ford Community Center, 2301 Pasco St. Each child up to age 10 will receive a special gift. A parent should accompany children to get registered for a present upon arrival.

After Soul Santa, the jolly man himself will stay in town to make an appearance at Dorothy B. Oven Park, 3205 Thomasville Road, during the 18th annual “Elf Night” Thursday, Dec. 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Santa’s little helpers will provide hot cocoa and cookies while supplies last. Over 250,000 lights will twinkle against the night sky. Visitors are invited to stroll the decorated grounds.

Take note: Vehicles will not be allowed to drive through Oven Park during the event. Public parking will be available next to the park at Thomasville Road Baptist Church, 3131 Thomasville Road.

All events are free. For information, call the city’s holiday hotline at (850) 891-3115.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

 

The Delegation for 12.15.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Floridians helping fuel Capitol Hill’s biggest controversies

As Congress tries to get out of town for the Christmas recess, two major items — both with plenty of intrigue — remain. Floridians are in the middle of both.

With the news that House and Senate negotiators had reached an agreement in principle on a tax reform bill, optimism reigned that a bill could reach President Donald Trump’s desk before Congress leaves for the holidays. On Thursday, GOP Sen. Marco Rubio threatened to blow up the agreement — and the bill — unless his issue of increasing the Child Tax Credit is addressed.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election was accused of bias by Republicans. House Judiciary Committee Republicans Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, and John Rutherford of Jacksonville, as well as Democrat Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, are playing prominent roles in the controversy.

Members of the Florida Delegation are adding fuel to the controversy surrounding special counsel Robert Mueller.

Within 24 hours of the tax reform tentative agreement, problems arose. Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, after voting for the first bill earlier this month, now says he cannot support adding more to the deficit.

With the status of fellow Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who are both ailing, things appear more dire. But it was Rubio who sent shock waves through the Capitol by announcing he would not be voting for the bill unless the Child Tax Credit for lower-income Americans is made more generous.

Rubio was unhappy that the corporate tax rate was set at 21 percent, something he proposed earlier, instead of 20. His idea was to have the extra percentage point designed to pay for the CTC benefits, but the agreement uses the funds to lower the top tax rate by two percent.

“Sen. Rubio has consistently communicated to the Senate tax negotiators that his vote on final passage would depend on whether the refundability of the Child Tax Credit was increased in a meaningful way,” said a spokesperson.

In the end, Trump believes Rubio will vote in favor of the bill.

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker is already a “no,” which means the horse trading is far from over if the bill has any chance of passing. If it is delayed past Christmas, the GOP will have one less Senator as Senator-elect Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat, will be sworn into office.

Meanwhile, as the Russia probe led by Mueller enters a crucial phase, an explosive oversight hearing in the House Judiciary Committee focused as much on investigators as those under investigation. DeSantis grilled Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about text messages from FBI agent Peter Strzok, which gave “the appearance” of bias.

According to Politico, while traveling on Friday to Pensacola on Air Force One, Gaetz told Trump directly that Mueller’s team was “infected with bias” and the country was at risk of a figurative “coup d’etat.” Rutherford questioned Rosenstein about some of the more sensational text messages from Strzok.

On the other side, Deutch has regularly warned his committee colleagues of the consequences should Trump take the drastic step of firing Mueller. With each release of Strzok’s text message by the Department of Justice, Deutch and the Democrats are being forced to work harder to carry the message of an impartial investigation.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Deutch took the opportunity to ask Rosenstein about the “coup d’etat” comment and led him to respond that Mueller is accountable and has Rosenstein’s confidence.

Although only 16 days remain in 2017, plenty of opportunities exist for yuletide fireworks. Such as, the latest deadline for the government running out of money arrives next Friday.

Nelson warns of Trump plans to increase offshore drilling

The prospect of drilling for oil and natural gas off Florida’s East Coast or in the Gulf of Mexico is again a possibility and elected officials from both parties are concerned. The three-term Democrat is speaking loudly against reports President Trump will open the door to energy exploration in the mid and South Atlantic by 2019.

That is three years earlier than the law currently allows. In April, Trump issued an executive order called the America First Offshore Energy Strategy, which laid the groundwork for the change in policy.

Bill Nelson is pushing back against offshore drilling.

“Why is the Department of Interior in such a rush,” Nelson said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “The answer is because the oil industry wants to start drilling in these areas now, and the Trump Administration is going to let them do it.”

The new plan would replace the plan created by former President Barack Obama that provides protection through 2022. New sales of leases for offshore exploration would run from 2019 through 2024.

“It’s not only a threat to the environment, but it’s a threat to the multibillion-dollar, tourism-driven economy,” Nelson said. “The stakes are exceptionally high. We simply can’t risk it.”

Nelson is one of 23 Democratic Senators to co-sponsor a bill offered by Ed Markey of Massachusetts in April that would prevent drilling near the Atlantic coast. It has yet to receive a hearing.

The concern among Floridians is bipartisan. Republican Congressman Francis Rooney of Naples also sounded the alarm in a recent op-ed.

“Lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf would be a bad deal for the people and ecosystems of Florida and a bad deal for the United States military,” Rooney said. “I will continue to fight on behalf my constituents to keep the moratorium.”

Rubio promotes greater cooperation between U.S. and Asian nations

Whether or not China can be helpful in reining in North Korea, Florida’s junior senator believes the U.S. should still be wary of the Asian superpower. He says we should work together with key allies to keep the Chinese from establishing dominance not only in Asia, but other continents as well.

In an op-ed published on CNN.com, Rubio describes China’s efforts to gain the upper hand by investing in infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. They also established a naval base to establish a presence in the Indian Oceans.

Marco Rubio says the U.S. should work together with key allies to keep the Chinese from establishing dominance not only in Asia, but other continents.

Military expansion is also part of China’s strategy.

“Under President Xi Jinping, China is attempting to author its own version of the Indo-Pacific region’s history,” Rubio wrote. “The People’s Liberation Army is expanding and modernizing its military conventional and unconventional capabilities, including its vast arsenal of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. It is also forcefully asserting Beijing’s claims in territorial disputes with neighbors, including in the South China Sea and in the Doklam plateau at the Indo-Chinese border.”

The U.S. strategy should be to work more closely than ever with allies such as India and Japan. Both of those nations are cooperating on common goals.

“To ensure the Indo-Pacific remains free and open, the U.S. and regional democracies will have to increase communication,” he added. “What’s becoming clear is how much they can accomplish for the common good when they work together.”

Rubio is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Rubio, Nelson team up on Disaster Assistance Simplification Act

Florida’s senators teamed up on a bill Thursday that could ensure that Florida and other hurricane-hit areas get their fair share from the federal government by cleaning up a process that Rubio describes as “unsynchronized and burdensome.”

The Disaster Assistance Simplification Act, also sponsored by Texas Republican John Cornyn, would stop the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development from penalizing natural disaster victims who ultimately decline Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

Those who apply for but decline SBA disaster loans — as part of a consideration of recovery options — are penalized when applying for Community Development Block Grant disaster grants; each dollar awarded as a loan is zeroed-out of potential CDBG grants.

“The current disaster assistance process is unsynchronized and burdensome for victims of natural disasters. By penalizing victims who don’t take assistance, “Rubio said, “our laws discourage victims from applying for SBA disaster loans.”

Rubio added that “removing bureaucratic hurdles is imperative to ensuring that no victim is penalized for weighing their hurricane recovery option.”

“When people are struggling to recover in the wake of a massive storm, time is of the essence,” said Nelson. “This bill will make it easier for people to get the help they need, when they need it — without having to worry about government red tape.”

Inaction squeezing Florida’s citrus industry

Things are getting worse for Florida’s citrus industry and agriculture in general. The damage caused by Hurricane Irma was devastating and to this point, the proposed relief package from the Trump Administration is insufficient to cover what is needed in not only Florida, but Texas, California and Puerto Rico as well.

If Congress does not come through, the state has a big problem on its hands.

“There is no plan B,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. “While I know the legislature is very interested in attempting to find some type of state-based help, that’s just not an option on the same scale as what is being discussed in Washington.”

The Florida delegation is working to attach funding to a $44 billion disaster relief package proposed by the administration.

There is no ‘Plan B’ for the Florida citrus industry, says Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

“Citrus growers are facing their lowest production since Franklin Roosevelt was president,” said Sarasota Republican and delegation co-chairman Vern Buchanan. “Congress needs to act quickly and pass significant disaster relief for growers battered by Hurricane Irma and citrus greening.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture has estimated Irma was responsible for $2.5 billion in damages to state agriculture, including $761 million to the citrus industry.

On Wednesday, several members of the Florida and Texas delegations wrote to the leadership of the appropriations committees of both chambers urging more assistance.

“We have spent considerable time assessing the staggering losses that have been incurred and listening to farm and ranch families to tell us what exactly they need to get back on their feet,” they wrote. “We are offering carefully thought out solutions in a direct response to needs on the ground, and we are doing so in a fiscally responsible manner.”

They concluded the letter by expressing the need “to address these critical needs before Congress breaks for Christmas.”

Both Florida senators and 23 representatives signed the letter.

Murphy provisions added to military spending bill

The first-term Democrat from Winter Park was pleased to tout provisions she inserted into the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

Trump signed the measure into law this week.

The FY2018 NDAA includes a Murphy-authored amendment to help small businesses obtain federal contracts and grants to engage in research and development that is in the national interest and that has the potential to be commercialized. It also contains the text of a bill Murphy introduced with Virginia Republican Dave Brat to help ensure that small businesses receive their fair and legally-required share of federal government contracts.

Stephanie Murphy joined with Republican Dave Brat on an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to help small businesses get their fair share.

Additionally, the bill includes several provisions written by Murphy to support Florida’s $5 billion modeling, simulation, and training industry, which employs around 30,000 Floridians.

“Our nation faces an unprecedented number of global threats, and the National Defense Authorization Act will provide our military with the resources it needs to take on those challenges and succeed in its vital mission,” said Murphy. “I’m proud that two of my provisions to help central Florida and the country were signed into law by the President today. I will continue supporting our military and the brave service members who keep our nation safe.”

Murphy is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Demings bill seeks overtime pay for FEMA responders

The first-term Democrat from Orlando is seeking to restore overtime pay for FEMA personnel working on the national disasters confronting the country. This week she introduced the Disaster Response Workforce Flexibility Act of 2017 to address the issue.

Demings mentioned the multitude of Hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters that occurred this year and in the recent past. Despite the many hours spent helping their fellow Americans recover, FEMA is legally restricted from paying overtime wages.

Val Demings is seeking to restore overtime pay for FEMA personnel working on national disasters.

“Unpaid overtime is unacceptable in any job, but doubly-so for the men and women who are helping communities recover in the wake of disaster,” Demings said in a release. “Congress has a responsibility to ensure that FEMA personnel are able to stay to finish the job. The Disaster Response Workforce Flexibility Act of 2017 is a key component to rebuilding devastated communities and I am proud to sponsor this much-needed legislation.”

If enacted, Demings’ legislation would lift the annual cap for disaster response employees, allowing FEMA to better compensate emergency response personnel for their work on this year’s disasters.

Crist launches National Civility Caucus

The first-term Democrat from St. Petersburg and Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson have established a new bipartisan Honor and Civility Caucus to uphold and promote the ideals of civility and statesmanship and to restore trust and confidence in America’s political institutions. The caucus will work to foster more productive dialogue in Congress and to advance specific initiatives to improve the tone of the nation’s politics and public discourse.

Crist and Johnson sent an official caucus membership invitation this week, and many leaders on both sides of the aisle have already expressed an interest in joining. Earlier this year, more than 120 members signed on to the “Commitment to Civility,” which was authored by Johnson and has been attributed to making a significant impact on Capitol Hill.

Charlie Crist has become a member of the inaugural National Civility Caucus.

“As the nation’s leaders, members of Congress should aspire to the highest standards and set an example of personal integrity, decency and mutual respect for the generations of Americans that will follow,” they said in a release. “We can be stalwarts of our respective policy positions without tearing one another down. Although the members of this caucus will represent both political parties and a wide range of individual views across the political spectrum, our belief is that we can disagree in an agreeable manner and maintain collegiality and the honor of our office.”

The 7th annual report on Civility in America was released earlier this year, finding that incivility has reached “crisis levels” in our country. Nine out of 10 Americans agree that incivility leads to intimidation, threats, harassment, discrimination, violence and cyberbullying.

A majority of Americans believe that incivility in our politics encourages general incivility in society and deters citizens from engaging in public service.

Diaz-Balart praises House vote on exposing wealth of Iranian leadership

The Republican from Miami gave kudos to the House for taking action to expose the vast wealth held by Iran’s religious and political leadership. The committee passed the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act this week by a 289-135 vote.

The law requires the U.S. Department of Treasury to provide an extensive report disclosing the assets of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, along with legal, government and military leaders. The figures are to be placed on the Treasury website in ways the people of Iran and those of other nations can understand them.

Mario Diaz-Balart gave kudos for the U.S. going after Iranian wealth.

“Businesses around the world have been unknowingly fueling Iran’s regime of terror and aggression through deals that benefit the mullahs,” said Diaz-Balart in a statement. “The United States has made it clear it will not support acts of violence and terrorism. This bill provides transparency to help ensure American dollars are not propping up the regime and its illicit activities.”

Nearly the entire Florida delegation voted in favor of the bill. Democrats Kathy Castor of Tampa, Val Demings of Orlando and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens were the only “no” votes.

Trump wants to relaunch U.S. space program

The Kennedy Space Center will likely never be as busy as it was when launches were almost routine four decades ago. If President Trump has his way, things will be picking up in the coming years.

This week he signed a directive to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to resume sending American astronauts to the moon and beyond. His order, Space Policy Directive-1, intends to restore U.S. leadership in space exploration.

The long-term goal is not only a return to the moon, but an eventual landing on Mars.

“This is very exciting and important for our country,” Trump said at a signing ceremony. “It also happens to mean jobs.”

That would certainly include Florida’s space coast.

The last landing on the moon came 45 years ago — to the day — of Monday’s announcement. The last human on the moon, Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, attended the signing ceremony along with former Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Donald Trump, announcing a relaunch of the U.S. space program. (Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who flew on the shuttle Columbia in 1986, also attended.

The first crew flight is targeted for 2023.

“It marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term exploration and use,” Trump said. “We’re dreaming big.”

Brogan tapped for top Education post; joins other Bush vets

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan was appointed by Trump as the new Assistant Secretary of Education for Elementary and Secondary Education. He will be Secretary Betsy DeVos’ top adviser on K-12 policy.

After serving as a teacher, principal and superintendent in Martin County, Brogan was elected as Florida’s Commissioner of Education in 1994. He was Jeb Bush’s Lt. Gov. until 2003 and would later serve as President of Florida Atlantic University and then as Chancellor of Florida’s university system.

Former Florida Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan will now serve as a top adviser to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. 

He was picked to serve in the Trump Administration after a stint as head of Pennsylvania’s university system. Brogan will be reunited with two other Floridians with ties to Bush.

Former Deputy General Counsel (and former Deputy Attorney General) Carlos Muñiz, was nominated as DeVos’ general counsel, while Chief of Staff Josh Venable is a veteran of Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future.

Survey says: big majorities want ex-Congressmen to wait longer before lobbying

Republicans and Democrats may disagree on most issues, but there is one where they come down on the same side. If the public had its way, elected Members of Congress, the Senate and staff would be required to wait longer than current law provides before they begin lucrative lobbying careers.

In a study by the University of Maryland, the one-year wait by House members is not sufficient, according to respondents, nor is the two-year ban on the Senate. Staff in both chambers must wait only one year.

The study found that nearly 80 percent favor extending the cooling off period to at least five years. Around 30 percent feel former members should never be permitted to lobby their former colleagues.

Even the current rules are fudged. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, former members or staff are hired as a “strategic adviser” to get around requirements.

Several pieces of legislation are introduced to address this concern expressed by the public. For example, on July 27, Republican Congressman Bill Posey of Rockledge introduced a bill that would mandate a five-year waiting period.

Rep. Bill Posey (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)

Neither Posey’s, nor any other, has received a hearing.

Survey respondents also are against lobbying for a foreign government. An overwhelming 81 percent of Republicans support that ban and 70 percent of Democrats.

Despite these numbers, making changes will be difficult.

“Is public pressure alone going to do it? No,” said Steve Kull, director of the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation. “But there is an active effort in numerous bills in Congress. Clearly, members of Congress know that this is the kind of thing that the public is very unhappy about and they would get some credit. At the same time, it does have a pretty significant impact on their future earning potential, so they probably feel ambivalent about it.”

 

 

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 12.15.17

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

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

“I haven’t made a decision about my (political) future,” Gov. Rick Scott told reporters after this week’s Cabinet meeting in the Capitol.

That was in response to a question about whether he took “any lessons” from Democrat Doug Jones’ win against Republican Roy Moore in deep-red Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat.

Tuesday was the special election to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions, who became U.S. Attorney General under President Donald Trump.

Jones, a federal prosecutor, bested Moore, a former judge accused of trying to date teens when he was in his 30s, by 1.5 percent of the vote.

Scott, term-limited as governor next year, is widely expected to challenge Democrat Bill Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat.

Did he think, he was asked, the majority of Alabama voters were swayed by the accusations of bad behavior against Moore, or was there something else at work?

Scott answered with his characteristic bob-and-weave move: “You can talk to pundits about what they think about it,” he said.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@LedgeKing: .@POTUS on @marcorubio threat to vote no on tax bill because child tax credit too meager: “I think he’ll get there. He’s really been a great guy, very supportive,” POTUS said. “I think that Sen. Rubio will be there, very shortly.”

@PeterBakerNYT: After leaving White House, Omarosa Manigault Newman tells @abcnews: “I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.”

@Netflix: We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order.

@MayorLevine: This shameful decision today by the @FCC and @AjitPaiFCC only serves to take power away from people all around the world, and place it in the hands of a few broadband providers.

@Fineout: For the record @FLGovScott said yesterday that he had not yet made up his mind on a run for U.S. Senate. … and it seems there was one reporter in the last few months who kept saying Scott running was not a done deal. … That said – Scott’s decision to not seek the chairmanship of @The_RGA was a signal that he was serious about mounting a bid. In other words, he could be too busy in 2018 to help get others elected

@MattGaetz: (on running for U.S. Senate if Scott doesn’t run): Absolutely not. I’d be begging @RepBrianMast to run. He’s one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.

@Jay_FantAshley Moody’s record must make her Clinton mentors proud. I bet they get together at fundraisers and giggle about her suit against @TheRealDonalTrump. The liberal force is strong with this one.

@PeterSchorschFL: Want to know when @FLSenate special master will release his findings in @JackLatvala case? Well, @politicofl’s holiday party is Friday night. And most of the @Fla_Pol team will be headed out of town on holiday excursions. So bank on Friday at 4:59 p.m.

***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 —

Marco Rubio to vote against GOP tax bill unless tax credit for working poor is expanded” via Jeff Stein of The Washington Post — “I understand that this is a process of give and take, especially when there’s only a couple of us fighting for it, the leverage is lessened,” Rubio said in the Senate. “But given all the other changes made in the tax code leading into it, I can’t in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase [the child tax credit], and there’s ways to do it, and we’ll be very reasonable about it.” Sen. Mike Lee, Rubio’s partner in pushing for the expanded child tax credit, is undecided on whether to support the Republicans’ final tax bill, according to a Lee spokesman. Rubio and Lee want to allow millions of families who pay payroll taxes but do not earn enough to pay income taxes to claim the expanded credit. The change they are now pushing would expand the credit by $80 billion over 10 years, a smaller change than they proposed for the Senate bill.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

The Florida House Speaker who bashes special interests spends their money lavishly — and won’t apologize” via Adam C. Smith of The Tampa Bay Times — (A) big part of the cigar-loving House speaker’s war against special interests has involved taking and then spending their money to fly on private planes, dine at pricey restaurants and buy thousands of dollars worth of cigars. He makes no apologies, saying it’s all part of the fundraising process that ensures true, blue conservative Republicans control the Florida House of Representatives. “If you waste money in politics, chances are you don’t win campaigns, especially the tough ones,” the Land O’Lakes Republican said, brushing off questions about political spending that sometimes seem more in line with the Kardashians than with a champion of fiscal conservatism.

Jeff Brandes wants privacy despite Echo’s, Google Home’s listening” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — It’s time to deal with privacy in the age of Alexa, Sen. Brandes says. The St. Petersburg Republican has filed legislation to protect the expectation of privacy in the use of cellphones and other microphone-enabled household devices. The surge in sales of “smart speakers” like Amazon’s Echo, with its “Alexa” cloud-based voice service, and Google Home has caused some civil libertarians to express privacy concerns. Brandes’ measure requires law enforcement to get a warrant before searching communications and location data contained in such devices.

Dana Young, Jamie Grant seek high-tech transit options” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Sen. Young and Rep. Grant, Tampa Republicans, have filed legislation to divert $60 million from the Orlando-area Sunrail project and use it to foster high-tech transit projects in the Tampa Bay area and Miami. The money, to be matched by private or local government money, would be used to spur use of “emerging technology-driven solutions” which “will revolutionize transportation in ways unforeseen just a few years ago,” said a statement from Young. Those could include hyperloop trains, autonomous “rail buses” guided by roadway sensors, ride-sharing networks and autonomous vehicles — but not traditional bus or rail mass transit. “That’s where the future is headed,” Young said. The money won’t come until 2021, to avoid harming Sunrail, she said — $25 million each for Miami and the Tampa Bay Regional Transportation Authority, and $10 million elsewhere.

‘Alternatively transporting’ to a location near you: From left, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, Rep. Jamie Grant and Sen. Dana Young announce filing legislation to create a “Statewide Alternative Transportation Authority.”

Offshore drilling ban clears constitutional review panel” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Offshore drilling for gas and oil would be banned under a proposal that cleared a Constitution Revision Commission committee on Thursday. The General Provisions Committee OK’d the proposal (P 91) on a 5-2 vote, though not after opposition from — unsurprisingly — petroleum industry interests. That piqued the ire of committee chair Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, who filed the proposed constitutional amendment … “I am not going to ask to TP this,” she said, referring to a temporary postponement, a procedure often used when a sponsor gauges a loss in support. “My job is to speak for the citizens of Florida … Let them have (offshore drilling) in New Orleans, let them have it in Mobile. We don’t need it here.”

School board term-limit proposal heads to full CRC” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — The proposed change to the state constitution would limit school board members to eight consecutive years in office — the same as Florida legislators. Commissioner Erika Donalds, who is sponsoring the proposal, said the change to the state constitution would better represent the “will of the people.” Those opposing the change, however, called it an unnecessary and unfair proposal that would “deploy a tool to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.” Ruth Melton, the director for the Florida School Board Association, said the measure is not necessary because school board elections are “nonpartisan” and only have “real people with real ideas” running for a seat.

Voters could decide tobacco, ‘certificate of need’ issues” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — A panel of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission approved separate proposed constitutional amendments that would alter how much money is set aside for anti-smoking programs and eliminate long-standing state regulations about the construction of hospitals and nursing homes. Florida receives money each year as part of a landmark 1997 multibillion-dollar settlement with tobacco companies. Part of that money is dedicated to anti-smoking programs, including an advertising and marketing campaign that currently receives $23 million a year. This requirement was put in the state constitution at the urging of anti-smoking and health groups in 2006 after legislators cut funding to the program … the commission’s General Provisions Committee also backed a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate “certificate of need” regulations for health care facilities. The proposal would prohibit the state from limiting the number of hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, or intermediate care facilities for individuals with disabilities.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Corcoran committee continues raking in cash” via The News Service of Florida — After raising more than $750,000 in November, House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s political committee continued pulling in cash during the first week of December. Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC raised at least $113,000 from Dec. 3 to Dec. 5, according to a list of contributions posted on its website. Large contributions in early December included $40,000 from MHM Services, Inc., a Virginia-based health care company; $20,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund, a political committee linked to Associated Industries of Florida; and $15,000 from the brewing giant Anheuser-Busch Companies, according to the website. Watchdog PAC raised $753,700 in November and had nearly $4.69 million in cash on hand as of the end of the month, a finance report filed with the state Division of Elections shows.

Jeremy Ring gets nods from mayors Buddy Dyer, Jack Seiler in CFO race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “With Jeremy, Floridians have a real opportunity to transform the way our State does business,” Dyer said in a news release. “His unique business background and his innovative approach combined with a real record of delivering higher paying jobs are exactly what Tallahassee needs right now.” Both Dyer and Seiler are, like Ring, Democrats. Ring faces Republican incumbent Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis heading toward the 2018 election. Patronis has over $1.15 million cash on hand. Ring has $113,000 cash on hand.

Gus Bilirakis backs Ed Hooper for Florida Senate” via Florida Politics — “I am excited to have a partner to work with in Ed Hooper. I know of few better prepared to work on the issues important to Tampa Bay area citizens. Ed has dedicated his career to public service, especially helping our first responders and heroic military servicemen and women,” Bilirakis said. “I look forward to working with Ed to ensure that our communities are the best places to work, live and play. I am proud to support him as the next Senator for Florida District 16.” Hooper touted the endorsement from Bilirakis as well as his fundraising numbers for November, which showed him with $60,000 in new money between his campaign and committee accounts.

Jason Brodeur continues to rake in cash for 2020 Senate bid via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brodeur continues to rake in campaign finance money for his 2020 bid, raising $19,229 for his official campaign and another $35,000 for his independent political committee in November. Brodeur leads all Central Florida state Senate candidates even though the election he’s shooting for is three years away. He now has raised more than $196,354 in his campaign fund, with $123,352 left after expenses, and another $1.3 million raised in Friends of Jason Brodeur Political Committee, with about $300,000 in that bank account Dec. 1. He is aiming for the seat being vacated by Republican state Sen. David Simmons in Seminole County.

— STATEWIDE —

Health insurance sign-up deadline extended in Florida” via The Associated Press — Floridians have two extra weeks to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration shortened the enrollment period this year by six weeks. It was supposed to end Friday, but federal authorities granted Florida an extension due to the busy hurricane season. Florida has led the way in the number of sign-ups for years. Federal health officials say more than 1 million people in the Sunshine State have signed up so far this year. More than 4.6 million people have enrolled this year nationwide.

‘We decline’: Court tosses challenge to Rick Scott’s appointment power” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Saying the issue wasn’t ready for judicial review, the state’s highest court Thursday dismissed a challenge to Gov. Scott‘s power to appoint three new justices on his last day in office in 2019. In a 6-1 decision, the Florida Supreme Court said it couldn’t step into the controversy because the governor hasn’t taken any action yet. The three justices who are retiring and will be replaced took issue with the decision, though two of them agreed with the result. The third called Scott’s intentions “blatantly unconstitutional.” The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed the case in June. Their unstated concern was that Scott, a Naples Republican, would pack the court with more conservatives.

Pam Bondi’s Rod Rosenstein defense gets pushback during Sean Hannity interview” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — “I know Rod. I’ve dealt with Rod, and I’ve only had completely ethical dealings with Rod,” Bondi said. The Hannity interview came the same day Rosenstein testified before the House Judiciary Committee following the release of text messages uncovered as part of the probe that showed FBI agents — now removed from the investigation — making negative comments about Trump. Bondi initially said that anyone who made critical comments of Trump should be “wiped off the case,” but at the outset of the interview did not call for an end to the Mueller investigation. Sebastian Gorka pounced on those comments, directly refuting Bondi. “I have to disagree with Pam,” he said. “It’s not about replacing individuals; it’s about dissolving the team,” he said. Bondi tried to strengthen her answer, calling for the dismantling of Mueller’s team. “Sebastian, you used much better words than I — that team needs to be dissolved,” she said. “I guess I’m holding out hope that Rod Rosenstein, after listening to him testify, that he is having that entire team investigated,” Bondi said.

Gambling regulators dealt blow in license dispute” via the News Service of Florida — Gambling regulators were wrong to try to take back a South Florida jai alai license they claimed was issued by mistake, an administrative law judge ruled this week. The issue surrounds what is known as a summer jai alai permit … Summer Jai-Alai Partnership, known as “Summer Partners,” decided to move its operations … Transferring from one county to another isn’t allowed, the regulators argued. But siding with Summer Partners attorney John Lockwood, Administrative Law Judge Robert Meale ruled Tuesday that nothing in law bans licenses from being relocated across county lines, so long as the operations stay within 35 miles of the original location of the permit. “A government agency cannot just take away a license because they changed their mind,” Lockwood said. The decision was the latest in a series of setbacks for gambling regulators.

Joe Redner’s Florigrown files mammoth medical marijuana lawsuit” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — An epic 238-page lawsuit filed by Joe Redner‘s Florigrown company — replete with references to Encyclopedia Britannica, ancient Roman medical texts and the Nixon White House tapes — alleges that the state is failing its responsibility to carry out the people’s will when it comes to medical marijuana. The complaint was filed Wednesday in Leon County Circuit Civil court … The latest action adds to the growing amount of litigation over medical marijuana, which has state lawmakers concerned it’s interfering with the department’s ability to process vendor licenses and patient ID cards, among other things … Florigrown, which had been denied the ability to be a medical marijuana treatment center, says the state is shirking its duties under the constitutional amendment passed last year that authorizes medical marijuana, and in regulating the drug under state law.

Fish, gunfire, blood and laughter: Details revealed in shark-dragging case” via Carlos Munoz and Tim Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — As the blacktip shark was caught and dragged toward the 22-foot Aquasport center console vessel anchored near Egmont Key in Hillsborough County, one of the four fishermen pulled out his phone to record a Snapchat video. The captain of the boat pulled out his .38 revolver and fired a round into the left side of the shark’s head, near the gills. Blood oozed into the water, and the shark tried to flee. All the fishermen could be heard on video celebrating and laughing. This video and many others obtained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission during a four-month investigation into a viral video of a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed during the summer resulted in third-degree felony animal cruelty charges against three men — two from Palmetto and one from Bradenton. The charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

FSU head: No timetable to resume Greek life after frat death” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press — John Thrasher says he will evaluate the suggestions of many groups and hopes to have more definitive ideas on how to proceed by the end of January. Thrasher suspended all Greek activities on campus Nov. 6, three days after the death of Andrew Coffey, a 20-year old junior who was a pledge at Pi Kappa Phi. Since Florida State’s announcement, Texas State, Ohio State and Michigan also have issued suspensions of Greek activities either due to a student’s death or incidents involving fraternities and sororities. Florida State’s fall semester concludes this week.

SpaceX finally sets maiden launch of Falcon Heavy: January” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Falcon Heavy, essentially three Falcon 9 rocket boosters together, is designed to be the most powerful rocket the world has seen since NASA retired the Saturn V in 1973. The Falcon Heavy is designed for both heavy-payload Earth orbit missions and deep-space missions, capable of reaching the farthest depths of the solar system. And like the Falcon 9 rocket, the Falcon Heavy was conceived as taking astronauts into space at one point. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has proposed using it for the company’s privately-run mission to get astronauts to Mars. SpaceX has not announced a specific date yet for the debut launch, which is being called a demonstration mission. But the company announced the blastoff is being targeted for January. Should weather permit, the rocket’s ascent should be visible through most of the Florida peninsula.

— VICE —

Times are changing, according to a recent Florida Trend report.

There are nuances in gambling, strip clubs, prostitution and bootlegging. With some of those nuances, perhaps there is a change in the collective attitude toward vices.

The four-part report also gives an interesting glimpse of black market activities in the state. But take note: While modern bootlegging might not hold a candle to what it was in the early 20th century, it’s still just as illegal.

— By the numbers: Arrests for prostitution in Florida dropped 82 percent between 2000 -2016. Between 1990 and 2016, gambling arrests fell 90 percent. Arrests for liquor law violations fell from 40,791 in 1990 to 7,829 in 2016.

— Florida Trend claims legal gambling has “all but driven out illegal gambling.” It also claims law enforcement agencies “tend to agree that the focus needs to be ongoing after pimps and human traffickers while getting prostitutes drug, job or other counseling.

— Racinos — facilities that allow betting on races and casino-type games — netted $545.95 million in 2016.

— CAPTURING PUERTO RICO —

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek feature story is one of the most detailed journalistic accounts of Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria. It’s a must-read, especially as it’s being discovered that the crisis in Puerto Rico has not been reported to its fullest, deserving extent.

The writer had made two trips to Puerto Rico since the storm, traveling there a week after the hurricane made landfall, “when the sole focus of the relief effort was triage, and when everyone was trying to grade the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response in distributing food and water, tending to the wounded, and helping restore electricity,” and in November, when nearly everyone “agreed that the future of Puerto Rico depends on more than simply mending what Maria destroyed.”

The story jumps between spotlighting Orlando Gonzalez, a young featherweight boxer, and highlighting the unique rebuilding efforts taking place on the island. It also points out the contrast between natives and those who lived on the island because of Act 20/22, which aimed to turn the island into a tax haven for financial-services companies.

— An excerpt: “Puerto Rico’s isolation, the fragility of its infrastructure, its status as a dependent child of the U.S., its dire financial outlook — all of it would combine to make the island’s prospects for recovery far more challenging than those of places like Texas, or Florida, or even New Orleans.”

— Nearly three months after the storm, more than half the island is still without power. “Normality sporadically peeks out from it all — on a street with a string of working stoplights, in an air-conditioned hotel lobby — then quickly retreats, as if ungraspable.”

— Small-business advocacy group Centro Unido de Detallistas estimated around two-thirds of Puerto Rico’s small businesses have been closed since Maria, and up to 40 percent of them might never reopen.

— Following the storm, Gonzalez took daily trips to fill water jugs at the Ojo de Agua, a natural spring that was a principal water source for conquistadors in the 15th century.

— Gonzalez on what Puerto Rico needs: “Someone who’s educated and experienced and interested in making sure the people who live there get a fair deal.”

***Nursing home care is better in states with a Certificate of Need process, because it ensures seniors have access to the right type of care where in the areas they need it most. The best way to ensure a high-quality long-term care sector that balances the need for nursing home care and home and community-based services is to preserve Florida’s Certificate of Need process. That’s why everyone who cares about Florida’s elders should reject the Constitution Revision Commission proposal to eliminate Certificate of Need in Florida.***

— MOVEMENTS —

Ethics commission: Greg Steube had no conflict sponsoring bill written by his law firm” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The Florida Commission on Ethics ruled earlier this month that there is “no probable cause” that Steube had a conflict when sponsoring 2013 legislation that was written by a member of his law firm because the bill was not specially crafted to benefit the firm. A report outlining the commission’s investigation appears to contain statements that are directly at odds with other publicly available comments, and show there was concern that Steube’s firm could benefit from the bill. But the commission decided there was no conflict and tossed a complaint filed against Steube. The proposal, which Steube sponsored as a member of the Florida House, set up a legal framework so that local governments could contract with private companies to help build infrastructure, a relationship known as a “Public-Private Partnership” — P3 for short.

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: “How the Alabama African-American vote made Doug Jones a U.S. Senator” with political analyst Dr. Lawrence A. Miller.

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 this week include PolitiFact Deputy Editor Katie Sanders, legislative assistant Jason Holloway, independent journalist Joe Brown, a Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission members discuss which revisions to Florida’s constitution the public and lawmakers would like to see. Joining Walker-Torres are Carlos Beruff, CRC chair; commissioners Frank Kruppenbacher and Patricia Levesque; Dr. Aubrey Jewett, UCF Political Science professor.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Mayor Buddy Dyer discusses the development plan for Orlando through the next several years and into the coming decades, including whether the infrastructure can handle the projected growth; PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mayor Andrew Gillum from Tallahassee about the city’s carbon footprint under his leadership.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with Rabbi Jack Romberg.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean of Jacksonville, Kevin Doyle of Wexford Strategies and Dr. Michael Binder of the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a weekly roundtable with newsmakers. Guests include Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch.

— ALOE —

Happening today: State Rep. Al Jacquet, state Sen. Bobby Powell and boxing promoter Don King are holding a turkey drive to members of the community in need. The drive starts 9 a.m. at Don King’s Jai Alai Fronton in Mangonia Park, West Palm Beach. The event is open to all members of the community and turkeys will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Don King’s Jai Alai Fronton in Mangonia Park is at 1415 45th Street, In West Palm Beach.

Happening today: Farm Share Biscayne Park food giveaway — State Sen. Daphne Campbell, Farm Share and U.S. Sugar are sponsoring a holiday food distribution from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 11400 NE 9th Court in Biscayne Park. The event, free and open to the public, is first come, first served. For more info, call (305) 493-6009.

Astronauts onboard the ISS will watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi, confirms NASA” via James Vincent of The Verge — Astronauts will be able to watch the new Star Wars in orbit a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth using one of the laptops or projector onboard the space station. Space reporter Robin Seemangal tweeted the news last night, with a representative for NASA confirming the plans to Inverse. “[I] can confirm the crew will be able to watch it on orbit,” NASA Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot told Inverse. “Don’t have a definitive timeline yet. They typically get movies as digital files and can play them back on a laptop or a standard projector that is currently aboard.”

Mystery donor again drops gold pesos into Salvation Army’s red kettle” via Doug Phillips of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — For the fourth consecutive year, the so-called “Coin Crusader” has dropped gold 1947 Mexican 50-peso coins into a Salvation Army Red Kettle outside of a store in Pompano Beach. The donations were made at the Walmart Neighborhood Market, 1199 S. Federal Hwy. Two of the gold coins were discovered Wednesday, and another one was found Nov. 27, The Salvation Army of Broward County announced. In both cases, as in earlier years, the coins were wrapped inside a dollar bill.

Happy birthday to our friend, Ken Lawson.

Jacksonville Bold for 12.15.17 — #Duuuuval: The year that was

In the year-end edition of Bold, we look at the stories that shaped 2017.

A pension problem — with a solution that seemed impossible at the end of 2015.

A legendary politician sentenced to prison.

Northeast Florida politicians are moving toward leadership in the state Legislature.

Rights for the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community — finally guaranteed in an ordinance.

A “stimulus budget.”

Reform of children’s programs.

A Council President the Mayor didn’t pick.

Last, but not least — the Jaguars return to relevance.

Happy holidays, and see you in 2018.

Buy now, pay later

Pension Reform: The biggest Jacksonville story of the year — by far.

The real work began soon after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry took office. There was the “heavy lift” in Tallahassee, one that required Curry and allies to make the sale to the Senate and the House.

Lenny Curry got pension reform through, accomplishing what previous mayors didn’t.

From there, a referendum in 2016 — passed with 65 percent of the vote.

After that, the unions had to agree to terms — that was done, more or less, before winter 2017 ended.

Then, council approval — a fait accompli … after all, it wasn’t like those deals were going to be sent back to the table.

As CFO Mike Weinstein said, the savings add up to “$1.4B less out of the general fund over the next 15 years,” and “without that revenue” from the half-cent sales tax, the city would have “difficulty matching revenue to expenses.”

So that’s the reality.

Worth watching: how the city handles the out years, as savings from the pension reform are consumed by workforce raises.

Corrine Brown goes down

Former Rep. Brown had the worst year of her life. She was convicted on 18 counts related to the One Door for Education scheme. And then she received five years in prison — though she is fighting that sentence.

Judge Timothy Corrigan’s heart: Two sizes too small for leniency for Corrine Brown.

The sentencing essentially gave voice to the jury’s verdict, with Judge Timothy Corrigan noting that Brown’s comments were “reprehensible” at times, such as when she said the Pulse massacre happened because the FBI was too busy investigating her.

Brown got a sentence that reflected a spirit of “general deterrence,” a sentence “in the mainstream” of public corruption cases in recent years. In other words, the judge did not go easy on her.

“A sentence of probation for a member of Congress convicted of 18 counts would not be sufficient,” Corrigan said.

“The public had a right to expect,” Judge Corrigan said, that Brown would not “abuse public trust and responsibility … this was a crime borne of entitlement and greed … bad business.”

We shall see where the appeal leads, but the odds are good Brown will be in orange in a matter of weeks.

Audrey Gibson ascendant

In November, State Sen. Gibson won a narrow 8-7 vote of Senate Democrats to become Senate Democratic Leader Designate for the 2018-2020 legislative term.

Gibson will succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II when his term ends next November.

Sen. Audrey Gibson is one Duval legislator to watch, as she amasses power.

“I look forward to working with Caucus members on their priorities and ensuring their voices are heard on legislation impacting all Floridians.  I am also excited about bringing in new Democrat Senators to the Florida Senate to create a legislative balance in the Chamber,” said Gibson.

Gibson, meanwhile, may face a primary challenge from Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

We asked Brown what the case would be for running against a caucus leader, assuming Gibson doesn’t run against Lawson. And how he would match her fundraising and endorsements.

“All actions will be taken under consideration,” Brown said.

Time will tell if this challenge happens.

Rob Bradley helms appropriations

November also saw state Sen. Bradley move into the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The buck stops with Rob Bradley — at least regarding those coming through the Senate.

“I’m just focused on getting the job done with as little drama as possible. There’s been enough drama in politics lately. It’s time to just roll up our sleeves and get the job done,” Bradley said, noting that he’s not new to the appropriations game.

“I’ve spent a lot of my Senate career working in the Appropriations arena,” Bradley noted, “having chaired three different budget subcommittees.”

Bradley is already reaping specific benefits of his role; his political committee raised $124,000 in November — a record high for him.

As well, the region is poised to reap benefits this session, via priority environmental bills headed to Appropriations.

SB 204 approves spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region.

SB 370 would mandate a $100 million minimum spend from Amendment One funds on the Florida Forever program. That number doubles the budget ask from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Paul Renner on path to Speaker

Along with Sens. Bradley and Gibson, Northeast Florida has hope in the House in the form of state Rep. Renner.

Paul Renner is still another NE Florida legislator to watch on the leadership track.

For the Palm Coast Republican, the path to winning June’s 2022 Florida House Speaker election in Orlando — with 16 votes in the first round — was not a sure thing.

But it’s a good thing.

State Rep. Clay Yarborough, the former Jacksonville City Council President who was one of those 16 Renner votes, noted that the outcome lined up with his count.

Yarborough saw “tremendous positives” for the region and the city both — positives that will be seen before 2022, as in the years leading up to Renner’s Speakership, he will be in “conversations with leadership,” and his “place at the table” will help him advocate for regional priorities.

The region, Yarborough said, can be “lining stuff up” that takes years to realize — a generational opportunity for Northeast Florida.

Considering state Sen. Travis Hutson — whose territory overlaps with part of Renner’s House district — is also in the leadership discussion, the region may be positioned to score wins, necessary as legacy costs and infrastructure burdens pile up.

HRO, at last

Valentine’s Day was especially happy for Jacksonville’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, for that was the day the Jacksonville City Council passed the Human Rights Ordinance.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri was among those leading the fight for LGBT rights.

The expansion would add sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected categories under the ordinance, which ensures that people aren’t discriminated against in the workplace, the housing market, or public accommodations (restrooms, locker rooms, and so on).

Curry returned the bill to the city council without his signature; the bill is now law.

“As your Mayor, I promised to convene community conversations about discrimination. At the conclusion of those conversations, I exercised an executive action to implement a clear policy for City of Jacksonville employees and contractors. I said then and continue to believe additional legislation was unnecessary. But this evening, a supermajority of the City Council decided otherwise. This supermajority, representatives of the people from both parties and every corner of the city, made their will clear,” Curry said in a statement.

Despite all the drama leading up to it, there have been just two claims — housing discrimination — made since it passed.

There is, meanwhile, a movement toward a citizen referendum to repeal it. Time will tell if that goes anywhere.

Budget bonanza

The Florida Times-Union called Curry’s third budget, passed by the Jacksonville City Council in September, a “stimulus budget.”

It was, indeed, an infusion of capital into perpetually shorted departments — and the kind of political triumph Council could share.

A rising tide lifts all boats … and glasses.

A unanimous vote was cast for the city’s $1.27 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, one with $131M in capital improvements, and 100 new police positions.

There was a certain irony in the unanimous vote, given the fractiousness of the Finance Committee during August budget hearings — when members said they felt “targeted” by a poll from Sheriff Mike Williams’ political committee that said people wanted more cops on the street.

Curry built a political machine to get into office, and he did so even with many GOP officeholders backing his Democratic opponent’s re-election effort.

In the office are some of the best operators working the room — and he has become increasingly adept at giving Council members photo opportunities, the kind that allows them to take credit for something tangible happening in their districts.

And it is by no means clear that he will even face a challenge in 2019 — not bad, especially given the Democratic registration advantage in Dirty Duval.

Kids Hope, not Kids Hype

Jacksonville Children’s programs were reformed this year, with the Jacksonville Journey and Jacksonville Children’s Commission being rolled up into a new board — Kids Hope Alliance.

City Council was nearly united in support of Curry’s children’s program reforms.

The City Council debate was fractious, of course, with objections from Council President Anna Brosche and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis to the pace of pushing the legislation through and the need for a new organization at all.

Six of the seven board picks sailed through Council this week, with Brosche and Dennis voting against one who violated the in-county residency requirement that was part of the ordinance.

However, look for Brosche to be a factor going forward — she is slated to become the Council liaison to the board.

Brosche vs. Curry

The most interesting power play of the year has been the battle between Council President Brosche and Mayor Curry.

Lenny Curry and Anna Brosche have had a rivalry since she took the Council presidency.

Recall that Brosche beat administration ally, John Crescimbeni, in a pitched battle for the presidency in the spring.

Much of the noise from Crescimbeni supporters came back to the Council veteran being more “ready to lead” than third-year member Brosche, given his experience on the Council and in the VP role.

One interesting wrinkle in the race: what seemed to be a certain commonality among many of Crescimbeni’s supporters — primarily older, white males.

Did issues of youth, gender, and other demographic demarcations sway their positions?

“I certainly picked up on what you said … I had not picked up on it until you pointed it out,” Brosche added. “You pointed it out well in terms of the picture that was made. I didn’t necessarily reach that conclusion … at the outset.”

Brosche and Curry have clashed, both on her insufficiently optimistic read on pension reform, and her skepticism on the Kids Hope Alliance.

Expect that friction to be constant as long as both are in City Hall.

JAXPORT Puerto Rico relief update

A new message from JAXPORT Executive Vice President Roy Schleicher gives a December update on Puerto Rico relief efforts.

Thanks to the generous Northeast Florida donors, Schleicher says JAXPORT relief partners distributed 500,000 pounds of goods to more than 20 towns and municipalities throughout the island territory devastated by Hurricane Maria.

JAXPORT’s relief partners have distributed 500,000 pounds of goods to more than 20 towns and municipalities throughout Puerto Rico.

With roads and bridges still washed out or in disrepair, making moving large trucks difficult, many of these goods needed to be moved inland by small trucks and cars, going directly to those in need.

Donations also helped with transportation costs to send 13 full-sized shipping containers full of basics such as food, water, batteries and hygiene items from Jacksonville to San Juan. The JAXPORT shipment was over and above those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies, and did not include other relief containers organized and transported by groups outside of the JAXPORT-related network.

Residents of Northeast Florida and other areas gathered supplies in the containers, which were then sent to JAXPORT for shipment to Puerto Rico. All the supplies collected traveled to Puerto Rico via the Port of Jacksonville, the No. 1 commercial trade partner with the island.

Going forward, JAXPORT has begun discussions on the best way to continue Puerto Rican hurricane relief during the next stages of their recovery, seeing a need for support remains as the island rebuilds.

Again, Schleicher gives thanks for the donations, which put Jacksonville’s “unrivaled transportation and logistics know-how to work, quickly and efficiently,” to provide emergency aid when it was needed most.

“Along with my heartfelt thanks to all of you,” he says “I would like to specifically send my deep appreciation to [Haskell Co. CEO] Steve Halverson, who did not hesitate for a moment when asked if he could organize help for those suffering after the hurricane … Aqua Gulf Transport, Inc., Todos con Puerto Rico, TOTE Maritime and Trailer Bridge worked together to deliver hurricane relief supplies to Comerio, Puerto Rico. The town’s Mayor, Josian Santiago, and his wife received the container.”

Political preview Jacksonville: Media’s view of the 2018 Session

Members of the Jacksonville and Capitol Press Corps will offer a special preview of the upcoming 2018 Florida Legislative Session hosted by the Fiorentino Group, Tucker/Hall, and Rogers Towers.

Scheduled Friday, January 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr., the exclusive, invitation-only luncheon will provide an opportunity to hear top Florida political journalists on what they see on the legislative horizon, with a chance for the audience to ‘turn the table’ and ask questions.

Panelists include Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times; Mike Clark of the Florida Times-Union; Matt Dixon of POLITICO; our own A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics and Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Attendees will join Jacksonville business and community leaders for a complimentary lunch and insightful preview of the upcoming Legislative Session. Complimentary parking is available. Registration is at events.r20.constantcontact.com.

Jaguars matter

To close, some good news …

The Jacksonville Jaguars are a] guaranteed a winning season and b] are playoff bound.

No one doubts Blake Bortles now.

As someone who covered the team on game day for close to a decade of futility, it’s incredible to see one of the best defenses ever assembled in teal and black.

And Blake Bortles — who has taken his share of static — conquered the learning curve and has excelled, even with his top two wideouts on the shelf.

And Leonard Fournette — a little bit Jerome Bettis, a little bit Todd Gurley. The kind of sledgehammer that breaks opposing defenses’ wills.

This year, for the first time in too long, the Jaguars matter in December. And beyond.

To quote the great Jackie Gleason … “How sweet it is!”

Last Call for 12.14.17 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

A mysterious “memorandum of agreement” could end a lawsuit between the Florida Lottery and the House of Representatives over the agency’s $700 million contract for new equipment.

But that document, between the vendor and the Lottery, is still undergoing review and isn’t final, sources told Florida Politics.

Last month, lawyers filed a status report with the 1st District Court, saying the opposing sides “reached an understanding” but the “resolution may involve some final budget action by the Legislature and Governor for the next fiscal year.”

On Thursday, Lottery spokeswoman Connie Barnes declined to comment on the substance of the agreement, saying the agency’s “Division of Security is still reviewing and redacting information,” which then must be reviewed again by the Lottery’s legal department.

“This is a process in which they must be diligent and methodical in their review and redaction of any and all confidential information,” she said.

A spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran had no comment.

The case is on appeal after Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in March invalidated the Lottery’s 15-year deal with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets.

Corcoran had sued, essentially saying the agency went on a spending spree without legislative authority when it inked the contract last year.

Evening Reads

How a former sharecropper in an SUV helped drive Doug Jones to victory in Alabama’s Black Belt” via Connor Sheets of AL.com

Rick Scott wins fight over filling Florida Supreme Court vacancies” via The Associated Press

Pam Bondi’s Rod Rosenstein defense gets pushback during Sean Hannity interview” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Gambling regulators dealt blow in license dispute” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

Report points to physician shortages in Florida” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida

Mas brothers join David Beckham bid in shake-up that sees top partner exit Miami MLS venture” via Michelle Kaufman and Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald

Joe Negron to SFWMD: Lake Okeechobee reservoir should spread off state land if necessary” via Tyler Tredway of TCPalm

California poised to usurp Florida as the king of U.S. oranges via Marvin Perez of Bloomberg

Quote of the Day

“My job is to speak for the citizens of Florida … Let them have (offshore drilling) in New Orleans, let them have it in Mobile. We don’t need it here.” — Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, speaking for her proposal to ban gas and oil drilling off the state’s coasts.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights


Wake Up Early?

Rep. Al Jacquet of Lantana, Sen. Bobby Powell of Riviera Beach, both Democrats, and Don King are holding a turkey drive to help provide holiday meals for the needy. The event is open to all and turkeys will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s at 9 a.m., Don King’s Jai Alai Fronton in Mangonia Park, 1415 45th St., West Palm Beach.

The Revenue Estimating Impact Conference meets to discuss a variety of taxes and fees and their contribution to money for the state’s budget. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Board of Accountancy will meet to consider enforcement proceedings including consideration of investigation officers’ reports, rules and other general business. That’s at 9 a.m., Best Western Gateway Grand Hotel & Conference Center, 4200 N.W. 97th Boulevard, Gainesville.

The Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council will hold a regular meeting. That’s at 9 a.m., 100 Festival Park Ave., Jacksonville.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum will address the Rural Economic Development Summit in St. Augustine. That’s at 9:45 a.m., World Golf Village Resort, First Floor, Room C, St. Augustine.

The Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, which was created by Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, continues to look at ways to help fund civil legal help for the poor and working poor. It will meet at 1 p.m., Hotel Duval, 415 North Monroe St., Tallahassee.

The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, a state interdepartmental collaboration and planning group, meets to discuss Children’s Week and Cabinet activities. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 201 East Park Ave., Tallahassee.

Candidates in a Dec. 19 special election in Hillsborough County’s House District 58 face a Friday deadline for filing updated campaign-finance information. The seat became open when former Rep. Dan Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, resigned. The candidates are Republican Lawrence McClure, Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and no-party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin.

GOP primary for Governor likely to be conservative vs. establishment matchup

While the Democratic field for Governor continues to swell, we’re seeing just the opposite happen on the Republican side. What was once a large crop of prospective candidates, has now boiled down to the classic “establishment” versus “conservative” matchup.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has long been the GOP favorite for 2018. He has put together exactly the kind of campaign that we all expected, raising impressive sums of money each month and putting together a veteran team of DC-based consultants.

Putnam, who announced his campaign nearly 18 months before the election, is leaning on his extensive political experience and disciplined campaigning to outlast and outwork any potential opponents.

On the other side of this coin are the conservatives: House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Both potential candidates share a principled-conservative philosophy, and they both would bring a background that would resonate with today’s conservative grassroots.

Now, if you watch Fox News, you’ve probably seen DeSantis — he has become a frequent guest. However, you’d think several weekly appearances on the most-watched channel of Republican primary voters would put DeSantis on their radar. It hasn’t. A recent poll from St. Leo University shows DeSantis bunched up with Corcoran in the low single digits. And if he were to get in the race, he would not be able to benefit from additional free media attention.

For either candidate to gain ground on Putnam, they’ll need to put together a serious statewide operation and raise real money. And while Corcoran has raised $5.5 million in six months, DeSantis has only been able to pocket $1.8, coming mostly from a small handful of six-figure donors.

So, when it comes to fundraising, DeSantis has yet to show any signs that he can put together a viable statewide campaign. For those whom may have forgotten, DeSantis ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2016, but like what’s unfolding today, he struggled to raise money, and his campaign never got off the ground.

Now, maybe it’s possible that President Donald Trump will get into a contested primary six (or seven) months before the election, backing an unproven candidate. Maybe that endorsement will bring in a few more big checks.

And then, maybe, DeSantis will be able to put together a serious campaign.

But after four or five postponed announcements for Governor, those “maybes” keep getting less and less likely. It’s hard to see a scenario where DeSantis pulls the trigger — and even if he did, it’s hard to see it ending up much differently than his failed 2016 Senate campaign. Of course, he may call an audible and jump instead into the Attorney General race, where he would be much more competitive.

Corcoran, on the other hand, has quietly built a formidable political operation. He is widely regarded as Tallahassee’s most disruptive legislator and one of the most consequential Republican Speakers of the House.

Of course, in some circles that’s praise; in others — mainly inside the Tallahassee bubble — he is an enemy of the state. He has picked a fight with every political heavyweight and special interest, ruffling a lot of feathers of the Republican donor class.

And even though he says he won’t decide until after the 2018 Legislative Session, which ends in March, his political committee, Watchdog PAC, has all the makings of a serious statewide campaign.

On top of the overall fundraising, Corcoran pulled in $752,000 in November. A number that outpaced Putnam’s PC’s $616,000, and was double that of DeSantis’ $380,000.

Finally, Corcoran’s political committee has attracted top political consultants, including Trump and Gov. Rick Scott’s pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s media consultants, Jamestown Associates, and has also begun staffing the organization with high caliber campaign operatives.

Right now, all signs point to a classic Republican primary duel brewing between the polished and well-established campaign of Putnam versus the disruptive, conservative insurgent in Corcoran. And while DeSantis may still get mentioned as a potential candidate, it’s merely a formality — because that duck won’t be quacking.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.14.17

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

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

While the Democratic field for Governor continues to swell, we’re seeing just the opposite happen on the Republican side. What was once a large crop of prospective candidates, has now boiled down to the classic “establishment” versus “conservative” matchup.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has long been the GOP favorite for 2018. He has put together exactly the kind of campaign that we all expected, raising impressive sums of money each month and putting together a veteran team of DC-based consultants.

Putnam, who announced his campaign nearly 18 months before the election, is leaning on his extensive political experience and disciplined campaigning to outlast and outwork any potential opponents.

On the other side of this coin are the conservatives: House Speaker Richard Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. Both potential candidates share a principled-conservative philosophy, and they both would bring a background that would resonate with today’s conservative grassroots.

Now, if you watch Fox News, you’ve probably seen DeSantis — he has become a frequent guest. However, you’d think several weekly appearances on the most-watched channel of Republican primary voters would put DeSantis on their radar. It hasn’t. A recent poll from St. Leo University shows DeSantis bunched up with Corcoran in the low single digits. And if he were to get in the race, he would not be able to benefit from additional free media attention.

For either candidate to gain ground on Putnam, they’ll need to put together a serious statewide operation and raise real money. And while Corcoran has raised $5.5 million in six months, DeSantis has only been able to pocket $1.8, coming mostly from a small handful of six-figure donors.

So, when it comes to fundraising, DeSantis has yet to show any signs that he can put together a viable statewide campaign. For those whom may have forgotten, DeSantis ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2016, but like what’s unfolding today, he struggled to raise money, and his campaign never got off the ground.

Now, maybe it’s possible that President Donald Trump will get into a contested primary six (or seven) months before the election, backing an unproven candidate. Maybe that endorsement will bring in a few more big checks.

And then, maybe, DeSantis will be able to put together a serious campaign.

Continue reading an extended version of this op-ed by clicking here on Florida Politics.

***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 CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Philip Levine committee launches new bilingual television ads – Former Miami Beach Mayor Levine’s political committee, All About Florida, is launching two new televisions ads in his bid for Florida governor – “Mom” and “Familia” – in English and Spanish respectively, featuring his mother Diane, his fiancé Carolina, his two step-kids, Mica and Beno, and their son Henry. In “Mom,” Levine’s mother expresses how Philip has made her proud by living a life guided by the values of hard work, empathy, and selflessness that she instilled in him as a child. In “Familia,” his fiancé speaks about Philip’s devotion to their family, and his drive to do the right thing for others. The two ads will air for several weeks in a vast majority of the state’s media markets.

Click on the image below to watch the ads:

Citrus Sheriff Mike Prendergast endorses Ashley Moody for Attorney General – “When the security of our community hangs in the balance, we want leaders with a proven track record of keeping our state safe. Ashley Moody has spent her career protecting Floridians and the rule of law. As a federal prosecutor, she fought alongside law enforcement to put criminals behind bars. Her strong commitment to ensuring justice is served is exactly what we need in our next Attorney General, and I proudly support and endorse Ashley Moody,” Prendergast said.

Jay Fant wants RPOF to disavow Moody in attorney general race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – State Rep. Fant wants the Republican Party of Florida to cut support for Moody, because her family once sued President Donald Trump and her father was a President Bill Clinton nominee for a federal judgeship. “During the first week of January, Florida Republicans will gather in Orlando for our annual meeting. I believe that it is in the party’s best interest that Ashley Moody, a closet liberal and Clinton ally who has sued Trump, be denied access to our meeting,” Fant wrote in a letter to RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia … Fant also asked Ingoglia to “discontinue RPOF’s indirect support of her campaign,” including in-kind support of the type she received in November when the party provided $23,000 worth of support staff and services. Ingoglia said he needed time to review Fant’s request.

>>>Ingoglia responds: “All Republicans running for statewide office are welcome to attend RPOF meetings. We will not, and should not, interject ourselves in the middle of primaries. Nor, should the RPOF become the arbiter of a candidates conservative credentials. If Rep. Fant thinks this will resonate with the electorate, then take it directly to the primary voters.”

>>>Christina Johnson, the spokeswoman for the Moody campaign, responds: “It is laughable that a candidate running to be Florida’s Chief Legal Officer would offer up such erroneous and egregious attacks on the proven record of a former and well respected federal prosecutor and circuit court judge. Ashley Moody is pro-Second Amendment and the only candidate who has supported Second Amendment priorities like Stand Your Ground in the courtroom. These are real world distinctions that matter to voters, and issues which Ashley Moody has shared with Republican activists across the state these last months and throughout her career. Not only is Ashley Moody a staunch supporter of our President, but she has secured the endorsements of those who worked tirelessly on behalf of the President’s campaign, including law enforcement officials and elected leaders across the state. We look forward to highlighting these conservative values at the January RPOF meeting.”

Reggie Brown considering primary challenge to Audrey Gibson” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – As first floated by Chris Hong of the Florida Times-Union via Twitter, Jacksonville City Councilman Brownis mulling a run for Senate … that was contingent on Gibson running for Congress — though a challenge to Rep. Al Lawson would seem to directly conflict with Gibson leading the Democratic Caucus this year. Florida Politics asked Brown about “possibly running against Sen. Gibson.” He didn’t shoot down that possibility. “All options are being considered,” Brown texted. “I’m reviewing the possibilities and will make a decision early January.”

Dana Young has now raised more than $1M for re-election bid” via Florida Politics – A broad range of supporters helped Young raise over $1 million between her state Senate campaign and committee accounts — with more than $100,000 in just the last month — according to new reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections. The Tampa Republican has now amassed a million-dollar war chest — of which $800,000 remains in on-hand cash — for her 2018 re-election bid, a robust fundraising prowess that is helping Young remain unopposed. She has served Florida Senate District 18 since 2016. Through her committee, Friends of Dana Young, Young added $75,500 in November, with another $21,000 going to her campaign. Among last month’s top donors to the committee include $12,500 from the GOPAC Election Fund — a nationwide group that seeks to support a “healthy roster of prepared and tested Republican leaders.” Heading into December, Young enjoys a significant cash advantage, with $658,579 on-hand for the committee and another $145,183 for her campaign account — $803,762 between the two.

HD 2 Republican Alex Andrade tops $50K in first finance report” via Florida Politics – Republican Andrade brought in more than $50,000 in his first month campaigning to replace Rep. Frank White in House District 2. Andrade took in $42,626 in contributions and put $10,000 of his own money into his campaign last month. After spending a little under $2,000 on fundraising, event expenses and travel reimbursements, he finished the month with $50,678 in the bank. Making the inaugural donor roll were a few other Andrades, each pitching in $1,000, as well as lobby shop Suskey Consulting, Orlando attorney Chris Dawson, Pensacola physician Sidney Clements and wife Katherine Clements and a handful of real estate and construction firms. Andrade filed to run for the Pensacola-based district early last month after White announced he would leave the House next year to take a crack at succeeding termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi.

First in Sunburn – Endorsements, money flow to Deede Weithorn in HD 113 race – Former Miami Beach Commissioner Weithorn earned the backing of Mayor Dan Gelber along with Commissioners Michael Gongora, Mark Samuelian, and Micky Steinberg in the race to replace outgoing Rep. David Richardson in HD 113. She has also unveiled endorsements from Cuban-American businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Paul Cejas, current North Bay Village Commissioner Andreana Jackson, and Former Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin. Weithorn, who has been running for the seat since July, is expected to close the year with approximately $60,000 raised into her campaign account.

Vance Aloupis has $200K banked for HD 115 bid” via Florida Politics – The leading Republican running to replace termed-out Rep. Michael Bileca hit the $200,000 mark in cash on hand last month … Aloupisadded $27,678 to his campaign account last month and spent just $1,360, putting his fundraising total at 220,312 and his cash on hand just $42 shy of $200K. “With contributions from more than 640 individual donors, the endorsement of incumbent Rep. Michael Bileca, and the continued dialogue with residents about the future of our community, our campaign is in a very strong position moving forward,” Aloupis said …  Aloupis, the CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida, faces Carlos Gobel, Rhonda Rebman-Lopez and Carmen Sotomayor in the Republican Primary.

— CRC IN FOCUS —

Pam Bondi explains why she won’t endorse dog racing ban” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The attorney general finally explained why she won’t publicly support a proposed ban on greyhound racing in Florida or any other constitutional amendment. Bondi sits on the 37-member Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which convenes every 20 years to review and propose changes to the state’s governing document. But, as the state’s chief legal officer, she’s also “the one who has to review all of these (amendments) for constitutionality … before they go on the ballot,” Bondi told reporters after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

‘Certificates of need’ could land on ballot” via Christine Sexton of News Service of Florida – Free-market advocates for years have tried unsuccessfully to convince the Florida Legislature to eliminate requirements for the state to approve the construction of new nursing homes and hospitals and the provision of new services such as organ transplants or pediatric open-heart surgery. Unable to get lawmakers to go along, supporters of eliminating the requirements now hope to accomplish their goal by convincing the 37 members of the Constitution Revision Commission that Florida voters should decide next year whether to repeal the so-called “certificate of need” requirements. The commission’s General Provisions Committee on Thursday will discuss a proposed constitutional amendment, filed by Commissioner Frank Kruppenbacher, that would eliminate CON requirements. The proposal would prohibit the state from limiting the number of hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, or intermediate care facilities for individuals with disabilities. As filed, the proposal wouldn’t limit the state’s ability to require certificates of need for services provided at the facilities, but Commissioner Brecht Heuchan has offered a potential change that would broaden the proposal to also include services.

Show ’em the money? Campaign financing repeal yanked by sponsor” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A proposal to repeal Florida’s system of public financing for statewide campaigns won’t make it into the state constitution, at least for now. Frank Kruppenbacher, the proposed amendment’s sponsor, withdrew it from consideration at Wednesday’s meeting of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s Ethics and Election committee. That was after representatives of progressive groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, uniformly opposed the idea (P 56). But Kruppenbacher, a CRC appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, said he instead will press lawmakers to think about reforming the system this year. The state spent over $4.3 million in the 2014 election cycle financing campaigns, according to records.

— STATEWIDE —

What the Governor’s Office is reading – “Florida lost 7,400 private sector jobs in November – The State of Florida lost 7,400 private sector jobs during the month of November, according to the ADP Regional Employment Report … Broken down by sector, Florida lost 4,200 jobs in the service industries and 3,100 jobs in goods producing industries … The select industry breakdown shows “Natural Resources/Mining and Construction” lost 4,600 jobs while “Professional and Business Services” lost 800 jobs … The report wasn’t all bad news: “Trade, Transportation and Utilities” saw a net gain of 2,100 jobs and the manufacturing industry added 1,500 … the ADP report, released monthly, uses in-house data to measure the change in regional and state nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally adjusted basis.

Rick Scott orders new policies for state workers on reporting, investigating sexual harassment complaints via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – Scott issued an executive order that he says will protect state employees from sexual harassment by improving the reporting and investigation of complaints, and by training all new employees on dealing with the issue in the workplace. “Everyone deserves to work in an environment that is safe and free from any form of harassment,” Scott said in a statement with the executive order. “We cannot tolerate sexual harassment at all in Florida.” … “In Florida, we stand with victims and against those who mistreat others,” he said. His executive order and remarks about not tolerating sexual harassment prompted reporters to pepper Scott — following the regular Cabinet meeting — with questions about his actions in dealing with a state senator’s recent complaints against Ritch Workman, a former state legislator and Scott’s nominee for the Florida Public Service Commission. State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto accused Workman of making “vulgar and inappropriate comments and gestures” at a charity event last year.

Scott mum on misconduct questions about appointee” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – “Workman did the right thing for his family,” said Scott, but when asked about his meeting said “I’m not going to comment on conversations I have with members of the Legislature.” Gwen Graham, a top Democratic nominee for governor, said “it’s outrageous and inexcusable if Governor Rick Scott knew his handpicked appointee sexually harassed a senator, yet did nothing about it. “Scott’s refusal to simply answer yes or no only compounds the outrage,” said Graham, who last week called for an overhaul of sexual harassment policies in Florida government. “On sexual harassment in any state government office, we need full transparency and zero tolerance.”

Court records shed light on Scott administration sexual harassment settlements” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – In one case a female Florida Department of Transportation worker was grabbed by the throat and beaten by her male supervisor. He was not fired. In another, a Department of Corrections worker was photographed fully nude by an inspector who erroneously told her photos of her naked body parts were needed to investigate an inmate complaint against her. In a third case, a female Department of Health worker was sexually harassed and later put on administrative leave. She was relocated after reporting the incident. These are snapshots of seven harassment settlements, mostly related to sexual misconduct, agreed to by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration since he took office in 2011, according to court documents obtained by Florida Politics.

Appeals court dismisses Florida school-funding lawsuit” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – For eight years, education groups and parents from two counties have pursued a lawsuit that contends a lack of funding for Florida’s schools has been damaging to minorities and students from poor families. The lawsuit has maintained that state legislators were flouting a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1998. But in its ruling, the 1st District Court of Appeal maintained that the state constitution did not contain a way for judges to determine if Florida had violated its “paramount duty” to provide for a “high quality system of free public schools.”

Seminole Tribe now going after Jax ‘gambling parlors’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Tribe has filed suit against 25 operators of what’s called “electronic gambling parlors” in the Jacksonville area. The suit says they violate its deal with the state to exclusively offer Vegas-style games … The gambling parlors “infringe upon the Tribe’s right to substantial exclusivity in the operation of casino-style gambling,” says the complaint, filed by the Tribe’s outside counsel, Barry Richard of Greenberg Traurig’s Tallahassee office … “Most of these places don’t even offer internet access,” he said in a phone interview. “The games they offer are resident on an in-house server. We’re talking (electronic) blackjack, all other kinds of games. It’s just straight-up gambling. People are betting money to win.” The Seminoles seek a court order shutting down the parlors.

State backs land buy for Central Florida trail” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – Gov. Scott and the state Cabinet agreed to spend $1.08 million for land that will help link to an ambitious bicycle and pedestrian trail planned to stretch across Central Florida, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. The deal to acquire 35.2 acres to help complete the Shingle Creek Regional Trail – which includes areas in Kissimmee, Osceola County, Orange County and Orlando – was approved with little comment. Money to buy the land from Billie Yates, Cecil Todd Yates, Jody Ketchum-Koger, and the Derrick Koger Trust is slated to come from the state’s Florida Forever land acquisition program. The trail will serve as a north-south link to larger existing regional trails in Central Florida, including the West Orange Trail and the Pine Hills Trail Corridor, which are being put together as part of a 250-mile Coast-to-Coast Connector, envisioned as a winding course from St. Petersburg to the Canaveral National Seashore. The Department of Environmental Protection has targeted the completion of the connector for 2021, according to its website.

During Wednesday’s meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet Members celebrated Hanukkah.

Hearing postponed in black farmer marijuana case via the News Service of Florida – A Leon County circuit judge has moved to Dec. 28 a hearing in a legal dispute about part of a new state law that calls for issuing a medical-marijuana license to a black farmer. Judge Charles Dodson was scheduled to hear arguments on a request for a temporary injunction. But an online court docket said the hearing has been rescheduled to Dec. 28. Attorneys for Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City, filed a lawsuit in September challenging the law and are seeking an injunction. Smith alleges that the law is what is known as an unconstitutional “special law” because it is so narrowly drawn that only a handful of black farmers could qualify for the highly coveted license … the black farmer who receives a license would have to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter. The lawsuit said Smith meets the qualification of being part of the litigation about discrimination against black farmers. But it said he has not been allowed to join the black farmers association, effectively preventing him from receiving a license.

Happening today – State Sen. Dennis Baxley, state Rep. Stan McClain, Marion County Sheriff Chief Deputy Robert Douglas and Ocala Mayor Kent Gwinn will appear at Community Coming Together Day, hosted by the Florida Department of Corrections, Farm Share and the Florida Police Benevolent Association. The event will have free food, health care checks and employment aid from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Probation & Parole Office, 5640 SW. 6th Place, Suite 100, in Ocala.

It’s beginning to look a lot like … oh, you know: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with Sigrid and Franco Camacho, owners of Bavarian Christmas Tree Farm, during Wednesday’s Capitol Christmas Tree Presentation Ceremony.

Sexual harassment is common, Miami Beach hotel workers say. Would panic buttons help?” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – The tourism town, where the majority of Miami-Dade’s estimated 11,500 housekeepers and other hotel workers are employed, may soon be the nation’s next city to enact laws aimed at protecting hotel workers from assault or improper advances by hotel guests. The Miami Beach proposal is modeled after mandatory practices in other cities, including Chicago and Seattle, that arm staff with panic buttons in case there is an incident. The portable panic buttons would be connected to hotel security or management, allowing them to act quickly if a worker is harassed or assaulted. The laws also create a framework for reporting incidents, including allowing workers to contact police, prohibiting hotels from firing workers who speak out and monitoring guests who act improperly toward staff.

— ASSIGNMENT EDITORS —

“Get Ready, Florida!” conference call to examine hurricane preparedness, future readiness –  Former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate, former state Sen. W. Lockwood (Locke) Burt, and others will take part in a media conference call as part of a new comprehensive, multifaceted campaign called “Get Ready, Florida!” Experts will discuss the “new normal” of the hurricane season that just ended, what was learned from it, and what to expect moving forward. The call, hosted by Sachs Media Group, will also announce results of a statewide poll and unveil a website that seeks to fill gaps in knowledge about hurricane preparation, as well as offer critical, life-saving information for all Floridians. Conference call begins 2 p.m. at (888) 392-4560; Access Code: 6629239.

***Nursing home care is better in states with a Certificate of Need process, because it ensures seniors have access to the right type of care where in the areas they need it most. The best way to ensure a high-quality long-term care sector that balances the need for nursing home care and home and community-based services is to preserve Florida’s Certificate of Need process. That’s why everyone who cares about Florida’s elders should reject the Constitution Revision Commission proposal to eliminate Certificate of Need in Florida.***

— OPINION —

Chikara Parks: finding a safe school is better than waiting for one” via Florida Politics – I considered myself Campbell Park Elementary family. Not only did four of my children attend this school, but I was so actively involved in mentoring students, volunteering and attending PTA meetings that I was often mistaken for staff. So, it was a surprise to me that my daughter Tanijah was bullied as long as she was. The adults, I promised her, would keep her safe. But they hadn’t. My kids have each had great teachers at Campbell Park, so I’m not sure why they or the principals weren’t able to put a stop to the bullying after several years. I recognize that students in this community come with their own set of baggage, but good teachers and a zero-tolerance policy couldn’t end the bullying. Thankfully, I qualified for the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and enrolled Tanijah at Academy Prep of St. Petersburg. Academy Prep handles bullying issues immediately. Not only do I feel like I’m finally being heard, but I also know I’ve found a place where Tanijah will be safe. I think the Hope Scholarship is an awesome idea and I hope that parents take advantage of it.

— MOVEMENTS —

Ethics Commission dings Matt Shirk for pushing ‘Sober 101’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Former 4th Circuit Public Defender Shirk took a hit from the Florida Ethics Commission last week in a closed session. But despite the finding of probable cause, it won’t matter much. “The Commission accepted the recommendation of its Advocate, finding probable cause,” read a press release … the commission “also decided to take no further action on the matter, unless he requests a hearing, due to the circumstances including Mr. Shirk losing his bid for re-election.” The complaint, filed by Jacksonville’s Thomas Duffy, asserted that Shirk contacted judges and court administrators on behalf of “Sober 101,” a company offering “substance abuse services.” Sober 101 reps also attempted a pitch — in a parking garage, at Shirk’s behest — to current PD Charles Cofer, who was a judge at the time. A grand jury judged Shirk as having indulged in “reckless behavior” in office, including asking female employees to shower with him. That same grand jury recommended Shirk’s resignation.

Appointed Chandra Hosler (reappointed), Andrea Cichon and Tiffany Bell to the Hillsborough County Civil Service Board.

News and renewed lobbying registrations:

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: The Paxen Group

Nicholas Iarossi, Ashley Kalifeh, Ronald LaFace, Gerald Wester, Capital City Consulting: Applied Underwriters

Jenna Paladino, Paladino Public Affairs: Lodak Properties

David Ramba, Allison Carvajal, Sue Mullins, Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Northwest Florida State College Foundation

Steve Rumsey: Pioneer Technology Group

Nancy Black Stewart: The Paxen Group

— ALOE —

Google top searches for 2017” via YouTube – For the United States, the “2017 Year in Search” is: Hurricane Irma, Matt Lauer, Tom Petty, Super Bowl, Las Vegas Shooting, Mayweather vs. McGregor Fight, Solar Eclipse, Hurricane Harvey, Aaron Hernandez and Fidget Spinner.

Where have the stone crabs gone? Shortage of Florida delicacy drives up prices” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – Less than halfway through Florida’s lucrative stone crab season, traps are drying up, dealing another blow to a fishing industry still recovering from a beating delivered by a brutal Hurricane Irma. “Everybody’s feeling it,” said Walter Flores, owner of the Golden Rule Seafood in Palmetto Bay, which has been selling and serving stone crabs since 1943. Normally Flores starts taking orders for holiday crabs about now. But this year, he said, it’s first come, first serve. “We have them,” he said, “but you have to offer more money to get them. It’s almost a bidding war.” Medium claws that sold for about $19 a pound last year are now going for $26.99, he said. Large claws are pulling in $45 a pound.

Happy birthday belatedly to Dick Batchelor, Roger Chapin, Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig, and Nikki Fried. Celebrating today are Rep. David Santiago, Julie Ingoglia, Kyra Jennings, and Judge Terry Lewis.

Last Call for 12.13.17 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Term limits for school boards? The Florida Constitutional Revision Commission is eyeing the possibility of adding that to the state constitution.

On Thursday, a review panel will take up a proposal that would change the state constitution to say school board members who serve two terms — a total of eight years — are not eligible to run again.

Currently, there are about 330 school board members across 67 school districts in the state. Under the state constitution or current state law, there is no provision limiting the term of any of these members.

School board members are tasked with supervising public schools within the school district and determining the rate of school district taxes.

Commissioner Erika Donalds, appointed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, is sponsoring the proposal (P 43), which has similar language to the term-limit set for legislators, the governor, Cabinet members and U.S. representatives and senators.

Donalds is a school board member herself. She was elected to the Collier County School Board in 2014, and currently serves as the board’s vice chair.

Her proposal was unanimously supported by the CRC Education Committee, and now it heads to the Local Government Committee. If approved, it will head to the full CRC for a vote.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held at 1 p.m., in 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

Evening Reads

How is Florida’s health? Not so great, report says” via Thomas Tobin of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott orders new policies for state workers on reporting, investigating sexual harassment complaints via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida

Latest forecast shows more misery ahead for ailing citrus industry” via the News Service of Florida

Appeals court dismisses Florida school-funding lawsuit” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

Insurer Citizens expects to get bigger after Irma” via the Palm Beach Post

7,500 complaints of price gouging during Irma. Just 1 business fined so far.” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

State backs land buy for Central Florida trail” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Details of shark-dragging case revealed in criminal report” via Carlos Munoz and Tim Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Where have the stone crabs gone? Shortage of Florida delicacy drives up prices” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald

FPL opens $6 million Cat 5 storm center in Jupiter, one of 12 planned” via Marcia Heroux Pounds of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“Look at Washington, look at Congress, and how broken it is. But everybody keeps getting re-elected.” — Frank Kruppenbacher, member of the Constitution Revision Commission, in an interview after he withdrew his proposal to repeal public financing for statewide candidates.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The General Provisions Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will consider a proposal that would ban oil drilling in Florida’s coastal waters. That’s at 8 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Education Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will receive a series of presentations about education issues such as school start dates, high-performing schools and financial aid. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release its weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is expected to speak during a Greater Nassau County Chamber of Commerce lunch event. That’s at noon, The Pig Bar-B-Q, 450102 Florida 200, Callahan.

The Local Government Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will take up a series of issues, including a proposal that would lead to term limits for school board members. That’s at 1 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a hearing about a potential project to widen Interstate 10 from Interstate 295 to Interstate 95 in Duval County. That’s at 4:30 p.m., Florida Department of Transportation, Jacksonville Urban Office, 2198 Edison Ave., Jacksonville.

Andrew Gillum continues to lie, err, exaggerate about campaign size

Will Andrew Gillum ever learn?

Despite a PolitiFact ruling six months ago that showed the Tallahassee Mayor’s campaign lied about the number of its supporters, Gillum and his staff are continuing to mislead voters and the press about the size of this fledgling operation.

On June 9, the Gillum for Governor campaign said: “We’re excited to have more than 7,000 contributors, the most in the race, and we’re raising the resources to compete in all 67 counties.”

“Mostly false,” PolitiFact ruled the following week.

Yet, last week, speaking at Cafe Con Tampa, Gillum reportedly said: “I want you to know that we’ve got over 11 thousand — last I counted — individual contributors.”

And last month, Gillum campaign representative Geoff Burgan told a reporter, “We’ve got more than 11,000 online donors …”

Neither claim is true.

According to the latest public fundraising reports, posted yesterday, Gillum actually has less than 8,500 unique donors between his campaign account and political committee — placing him well behind Adam Putnam and Gwen Graham, who each have more than 10,000 supporters.

The once-rising star Gillum exaggerated the number of supporters while speaking to the audience about the viability of his campaign. The campaign has been in the red for the past seventh months — and had its worst month ever in November, raising only $52,475 and spending more than $100,000.

In addition to having more supporters, Graham — with significant name recognition — also enjoys a seven-point lead over Gillum, as shown by the latest polling from Associated Industries of Florida: Graham with 24 percent, Gillum at 17 percent.

And now Gillum has less than $500,000 between his campaign and political committee; if the current trend continues, it’s difficult to see how the candidate survives until Election Day.

And it’s even harder to see how he wins, especially with made up supporters on the campaign trail.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 12.13.17

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

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

Forget all those other end-of-year news story wrap-ups — what everyone really wants is a review of the wackiness that is Florida Man (and his lovely companion, Florida Woman). Our friends at Sachs Media Group know zany when they see it, and they didn’t let us down.

As they have done for several years, the sharp minds at Sachs teamed up with brilliant cartoonist Bill Day to highlight a list of the year’s top 10 news articles detailing crazy misadventures of Florida Man and Florida Woman.

From the guy who couldn’t live without his emotional support squirrel to the woman arrested for shoplifting while dressed as a turkey to the wife who chomped down on her husband after he changed the computer password, 2017 certainly had its share of goofy for Florida Man and Woman.

In the spirit of Florida’s never-ending election cycle, you’re even invited to vote on the best of the weird. Click here to see the gallery and cast your vote. Last year’s winning entry was the article headlined, “Florida man arrested for tossing live alligator into Wendy’s.” What will this year’s winner be? It’s in your hands.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @CarlosCurbelo: The people of #Alabama put country first tonight by rejecting the disgusting Roy Moore. Congratulations to the Bannon wing of the @GOP for gifting a seat to @SenateDems in one of the reddest states. You have no future in our country’s politics. #AlabamaElection

— @FLMolly: I know “victory has many fathers” but @TheRickWilson played a primary role in crafting the powerful messages that were seen on tv and digital media in the last days of this campaign…and he deserves a great deal of credit for the near- impossible outcome of this election.

— @TonyFabrizioGOP: It is clear that @realDonaldTrump needs to get better political advisers. This disaster could have been avoided.

— @SenReneGarcia: To say that Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand “will do anything” for a donation is completely disrespectful as a Senator and more important a lady. If the President wanted to take a shot at her, he could [have] done it differently. This comment has no place in our political discourse.

— @RepDennisRoss: An open dialogue about how we can help children is good. But as an entertainer, @jimmykimmel ignores details & opts for emotional arguments, while ignoring valid points from those who may even share his concerns. It’s too bad. The public misses an opportunity to learn.

— @Jay_Fant: Another reason why we can’t count on progressives to make our cities safe. This only makes me more determined to ensure that we END sanctuary cities in Florida.

— @Daniel_Sweeney: Fire drill in the middle of @FarmerForFLSen presentation on nursing home bill at @BrowardLegDel. “This is the FHCA at work!” he jokes

— @DPRK_News: US computer company Twitter launches “threads,” new feature allowing computer people to bombard one another with ever more useless drivel of no concern, as well as vicious slanders;

— @MomsDemand: Hanukkah is a celebration of the victory of the underdog, and the triumph of light over darkness. This holiday season, we keep these principles in mind as part of our fight to end gun violence. Happy Hanukkah!

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

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Senate President Joe Negron accepting Audubon Florida’s Champion of the Everglades Award. Left to right: Audubon Florida Deputy Director Julie Hill-Gabriel, Senate President Joe Negron, and Audubon Florida Everglades Policy Associate Celeste De Palma.

Denise Grimsley proposes generator tax exemption via the News Service of Florida — The proposal (SB 1246) is similar to a measure (HB 803) filed last month by Rep. Rick Roth, a Loxahatchee Republican. Both bills would create a sales-tax exemption for emergency-electrical equipment at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, with the exemption capped at $30,000. Scott’s administration moved forward with regulations after eight residents of a sweltering Broward County nursing home died Sept. 13, three days after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning system. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, however, have repeatedly raised concerns about the costs of installing generators and adding fuel supplies to meet the requirements.

Jason Fischer proposes changes to current Florida law on autonomous vehicles” via Lobby Tools — HB 353, filed by Fischer, would change the current Florida law to no longer require a physical operator in some autonomous vehicles. The bill would also remove the current requirement for a person operating an autonomous vehicle to hold a driver’s license, and defines that the “autonomous technology,” not the person, is the operator of an autonomous vehicle that is in autonomous mode. The bill also provides that whether a human operator is physically present in the vehicle or not the vehicle is still required to have a system to safely alert a human operator in the vehicle if there is detection of a technology failure. This safety system must either allow the human operator to take control of the vehicle or, if there is no human operator present, be capable of bringing the vehicle to a complete stop. HB 353 must still be heard by two more committees before it can be taken up on the House floor.

House legislation would bar agency-initiated public records lawsuits” via Lobby Tools — Legislation (HB 273) barring state agencies from initiating civil lawsuits against individuals that make public records requests passed its first committee unanimously in the final interim committee week before the start of the 2018 session. Under normal circumstances, a resident would make a request and may choose to bring a suit if an agency denies it. If the individual wins, the agency would cover the court costs and hand over the public record. But if the agency initiates, the individual is stuck with the costs even if they win the case. House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues said, “What we’re seeing is special districts, school districts and local governments in other states are using a response of filing a lawsuit as a tool to either not provide the public record or to intimidate people into not asking for public records for fear that they will be sued and get stuck with thousands of dollars of court costs.” Rodrigues told members of the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee Florida would be the first to prevent that action, just as it was the first to pass the Sunshine Law giving access to public records.

ACLU promoting criminal justice reforms for upcoming Legislative Session” via Roberto Roldan of WUSF — Florida is one of only three states that allow prosecutors to have the only say if a juvenile suspect is tried as an adult. The American Civil Liberties Union, a part of the “No Place for a Child” coalition, is holding town halls about this practice and other juvenile justice reforms being considered in the 2018 Florida Legislative session that starts next month. Under current Florida law, even judges are unable to send a case to juvenile court once a child or teenager has been charged as an adult, said Michelle Morton, the juvenile justice policy coordinator with ACLU Florida. Supporters of the current system say that putting the decision in the prosecutor’s hands is efficient and is tough on crime. Morton told residents at a town hall Saturday in Tampa that more minors are sent to adult jail in Florida than anywhere else in the United States. She said doing so can restrict access to education and rehabilitation children would otherwise get in a juvenile facility.

Meanwhile … State OKs ‘Prince of Peace’ cross for Capitol – A second display for the 2017 holiday season has been approved for the plaza-level rotunda, says a spokeswoman for the Department of Management Services, the state’s real estate manager. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization, will put up a wooden “Prince of Peace” cross Dec. 15-22, according to the group’s application that was released Tuesday. A picture of the cross, which has been previously displayed in the Capitol, is here. A “brief ceremony” will be held at the cross at noon on Dec. 20, the application adds. The cross joins a winter solstice poster also approved for the same dates. Aside from traditional Hanukkah menorahs and Christian Nativity scenes, other displays in recent years have included two variations of a six-foot “Festivus” pole: One was made of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans; another was a rainbow-colored “Gay Pride” version topped with a disco ball.

— L’ AFFAIRE LATVALA —

Senate sexual harassment legal wars mount amid calls for ‘ethical walls’” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times — Lillian Tysinger, the Senate aide who filed a whistleblower complaint against her former co-worker Rachel Perrin Rogers last week, filed a defamation lawsuit in circuit court against Perrin Rogers. her attorney, Tiffany Cruz, said: “We will absolutely file a counterclaim.” In a Dec. 6 letter to Senate President Joe Negron, Cruz also asked that he place an “ethical wall” around Negron’s chief of staff Cheri Vancura, whom Cruz accused of having a close personal relationship with Tysinger and Latvala and was afraid she would share information with them. Cruz said that Vancura asked Perrin Rogers to “befriend, mentor and assist Ms. Tysinger throughout the past year.” She also said that Vancura has “a close personal relationship with Missy Timmins, Senator Latvala’s former aide of many years who continues to be a close confidant of Latvala, and who has made statements with the intent to smear the reputation of any victim who does come forward.” Those letters and the call for security triggered Tysinger’s defamation complaint, said Marie Mattox, Tysinger’s lawyer.

Senate spends $25K on outside attorneys for Latvala probe via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — In mid-November, Senate President Joe Negron hired a trio of attorneys from the GrayRobinson law firm to help him navigate the investigation into sexual harassment and groping allegations against Latvala, one of the chamber’s most powerful senators. Negron sought the help from the Orlando-based firm after the Senate general counsel, Dawn Roberts, recused herself from any involvement in the case, citing a potential conflict of interest because of her close association with Latvala over the years. Since the contract was signed Nov. 9George Meros, who has represented embattled high-profile Republicans in the past, attorney Brian Bieber and attorney Allison Mawhinney have worked 46.8 hours. The attorneys charge an hourly fee, and according to the contract, their rates are $600 for Bieber, $550 for Meros and $345 for Mawhinney.

The single best column yet about L’Affaire Latvala — “I want answers before calling for Sen. Jack Latvala’s scalp” via Rosemary O’Hara of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — During his 16 years in the Florida Legislature, Latvala has struck me as gruff, dismissive and full of himself. He’s an old-school guy whose influence comes not only from knowing the history of the issues and the players, but from helping other politicians get elected — making money for his direct-mail marketing business along the way. I have appreciated that in a Republican-dominated legislature, he’s been a moderating force on some bad education and environmental proposals. But then he goes and votes for things like that terrible charter school bill last year. That said, I wonder if Latvala isn’t roadkill in the nasty business of Tallahassee politics. What Latvala is alleged to have done makes my blood boil, but I’m bothered by the drumbeat of calls for him to resign before he has had a chance to defend himself. My sense of fair play says it’s wrong to #BelieveWomen without even considering the other side. And I fear today’s course correction for how women are treated in the workplace will lose its legs if we try, convict and sentence someone without a fair hearing.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Ron DeSantis-aligned state committee signs retainers with high-dollar fundraiser, consultants — North Florida Republican Congressman DeSantis seems closer to a run for Governor, as a political committee that could be used for a statewide campaign raised about $400,000 and signed retainer agreements with both consultants and fundraisers. While “Fund for Florida’s Future” cannot directly coordinate with DeSantis as a federal officeholder, several movements give a possible insight into DeSantis’ future. Chaired by Jacksonville attorney Erika Alba, the committee has attracted several high-dollar donors that have supported DeSantis’ in the past, as well as aligning with fundraising and political consultants from earlier federal races. In December, the committee retained Macadamia Strategies, a Washington-based consulting and strategy firm that DeSantis used in 2016. The committee has used the firm recently, but the $10,000 retainer is the first sign of a long-term relationship. The committee also spent $10,000 on a “initial fee and monthly retainer” with HMB Strategies, a Tallahassee-based fundraising firm used in the past by Senate President Negron. In November, Fund for Florida’s Future received $250,000 from Bernard Marcus, the Home Depot founder who endorsed Donald Trump in 2016, the most significant nonfederal contribution the Boca Raton resident has given in Florida. Another $500,000 check came from Frederick Sontag, founder of Spring Bay Companies, a private equity firm in Ponte Vedra Beach, DeSantis’ hometown. Sontag was also a $500,000 donor to a super PAC supporting DeSantis’ unsuccessful Senate bid in 2016.

Ron DeSantis seems to be moving closer to a run for Florida Governor. 

Felons’ rights initiative tops $1.1 million in November” via the News Service of Florida — The political committee Floridians for a Fair Democracy brought in $1,158,703 during the month and had raised an overall total of $4,073,395 … Last month’s total included $800,000 in contributions from Laurie Michaels, a Fort Worth, Texas, psychologist. Floridians for a Fair Democracy is proposing a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. The committee needs to submit 766,200 valid petition signatures to get the measure on the 2018 ballot and had presented 495,455 as of Tuesday morning, according to the Division of Elections.

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First in Sunburn — Lori Berman joins lengthy list of elected, community leaders endorsing Joe Casello for HD 90 — Boynton Beach Commissioner Casello announced endorsements from an extensive list of high-profile labor and civic organizations as well as 16 current and former community leaders in Palm Beach County. Casello, the only candidate in the HD 90 race, is touting support from the AFL-CIO, the Florida Professional Firefighters, the Palm Beach County Firefighters Local 2928, the Boynton Beach Firefighters Local 1891, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council along with State Attorney Dave Aronberg; State Reps. Joseph AbruzzoDavid Silvers and Matt Wilhite; Palm Beach County Commissioners Mack Bernard, Mary Lou BergerDavid Kerner and Melissa MacKinlay; Vice-Mayors Justin Katz of Boynton Beach and John McGovern of Wellington; Commissioners Mitch Katz of Delray Beach and Shanon Materio of West Palm Beach; Palm Beach County School Board member Erica Whitfield; former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson; and former Greenacres Mayor Sam FerreriBerman, who is vacating the south-central Palm Beach County seat to run for the Florida Senate, said: “I have known Joe for several years and I have been tremendously impressed by his work on the City Commission in Boynton Beach. I know that he’ll be an effective legislator in Tallahassee and I look forward to working with him on the issues important to the people of Palm Beach County. I’m excited to endorse him in this race.”

Rep. Lori Berman gives the nod to Joe Casello as her replacement in HD 90.

First in Sunburn — Emma Collum unrolls new endorsements in HD 93 race — Collum unveiled a new wave of endorsements: State Sen. Gary Farmer, state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, and former Broward County Mayor Ken Keechl. “Emma has the passion and the right experience to be a strong and effective voice for Broward County,” said Jacobs, who represents House District 96. “I know that Emma Collum can best represent the values of our district, and will work to stop the radical agenda of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Tallahassee,” said Farmer, a longtime activist in Broward before his election to Senate District 34. “Emma Collum will be a great advocate for the residents of District 93, and I am proud to endorse her,” added Keechl. “She has the knowledge, the temperament and compassion to fight for our friends and neighbors in South Florida and around the state.”

Brooke Renney to run Rob Panepinto’s Orange County mayoral campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Renney has led field operations for several campaigns, including Gov. Rick Scott‘s re-election campaign in 2014, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera‘s U.S. Senate campaign in 2016, and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry‘s campaign. She’s also worked for the Republican Party of Florida and the Republican National Committee and on the state of Republican state Sen. Tom Lee. “I am excited to have Brooke on the team leading our day-to-day campaign efforts. Brooke has a demonstrated record of success working on campaigns all over Florida,” Panepinto, a Winter Park businessman, stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I am confident Brooke will build a top-notch organization that will carry us to victory in 2018.”

International elections award winners: Australia, Ecuador, Ireland, Seminole County” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Office has won an international award for elections, winning a first-place honor for reaching first-time voters, from the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies’ International Electoral Awards. The award put the Seminole County office on the same stage as elections’ honorees from Australia, Ecuador, Ireland, Canada and Mexico, among other countries. The only other American elections’ office to win one of the awards was from Los Angeles. Seminole County won in the category of the First Time Voter Award, with honorable mentions being given to the Permanent Electoral Authority of Romania, and The League of Young Voters of the United Kingdom.

Epilogue — “FEC dismisses latest legal arguments of David Rivera in lawsuit” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The Federal Election Commission blasted the latest legal arguments of former GOP Rep. Rivera, who’s asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit that alleges he illegally made tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a 2012 House congressional candidate. The FEC says that, during the 2012 congressional primary election, Rivera funneled nearly $70,000 to Justin Lamar Sternad, a candidate working with Rivera and an accomplice to weaken his opponent, Democrat Joe Garcia. As part of the scheme, GOP operative Ana Alliegro worked as a go-between, helping coordinate with Sternad. The FEC says Rivera violated the Federal Election Campaign Act’s ban on making contributions in the names of others. In a motion to dismiss the FEC lawsuit, Rivera argued last month that the donations to Sternad were simply legal in-kind contributions. Rivera’s attorneys argued Sternad did not report Rivera as the donor, which could run afoul of election law, but that his client personally did nothing wrong. Rivera’s motion to dismiss the suit also contends that the FEC is not alleging that Rivera “either reimbursed third parties or provided funds to third parties” that went on to pay vendors that helped Sternad’s campaign. In its response, the FEC rejected Rivera’s arguments as irrelevant to the allegations raised in the lawsuit.

— DASH FOR CASH —

Relatively new Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis has amassed nearly $650,000 — in one month — for his bid for a full term.

In doing so, the Gov. Scott appointee led the November fundraising pack for the three 2018 Cabinet races, as reported by the News Service of Florida.

Patronis’ only announced candidate, former Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring, raised just $24,700 last month, leaving him with a combined $305,190 on hand — $100,000 of which came from a loan.

— Patronis’ big ones: Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance, $100,000; an Associated Industries of Florida PAC, $50,000; Windhaven Insurance Co., $30,000; United States Sugar Corp., $25,000; The Lewis Bear Company, a Pensacola beverage distributor, $25,000; and a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC, $25,000.

— The race for top cop: Pensacola Republican state Rep. Frank White banked nearly $195,000. Former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody came in with about $116,000. Jacksonville Republican state Rep. Jay Fant grabbed just under $37,000. Dover Republican state Rep. Ross Spano entered mid-November and raised just under $9,000 in his campaign and over $12,000 in his PAC. Lone Democrat Ryan Torrens picked up just $9,158.

— Harvesting the cash crop: In the race for Agriculture Commissioner, former state Rep. Baxter Troutman leads with $2.54 million on hand ($2.5 million came from him). Troutman raised just $5,500 last month. Sebring Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley trails North Fort Myers Rep. Matt Caldwell, with Grimsley at just over $932,000 banked and Caldwell at more than $1 million. Caldwell brought in around $140,000 between his committee and campaign in Nov. Grimsley banked over $117,000. Democrat David Walker had raised just $5,230.

— STATEWIDE —

Assignment editors — Continuing a long-standing holiday tradition, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will present Florida-grown Christmas trees to Gov. Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis beginning 8:30 a.m. outside of the Executive Office of the Governor, Plaza Level of the Florida Capitol. Every year, Florida growers harvest approximately 16,000 trees from more than 100 Christmas tree farms across the state.

’Marsy’s Law’ push seeks equal rights for crime victims” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Tim Cerio, a commissioner on Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, is pushing a proposal that would equate rights of victims and their family members with those of defendants and convicted criminals — provisions commonly known as Marsy’s Law. “The United States Constitution enumerates 20 distinct rights that are afforded to those accused or convicted of crimes,” Cerio said at a news conference on the proposal. “The victims themselves, family members they leave behind when a tragic loss occurs have absolutely no rights in our great document … Those who are thrust into the criminal justice system by the actions of others have (no rights).” Part of Marsy’s Law stipulates the welfare of a victim’s family and the victim must be considered when setting bail for the accused. There are other unique provisions in Cerio’s proposal, including protection of the victim’s dignity.

Supermajority for tax hikes proposal clears sole CRC committee” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — A committee of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission approved a proposal to require House and Senate supermajorities before increasing state taxes or fees. The Finance and Taxation Committee was the only committee stop for the measure, presented by Chair Fred Karlinsky. Karlinsky, the co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Insurance Regulatory and Transactions Practice Group, was a Scott CRC pick — and his remarks were straight out of the governor’s hymnal. Karlinsky cited “seven years of unprecedented growth” concomitant with tax cuts, before cautioning that a governor and legislature in the future may be less inclined to tax cuts. With that in mind, the supermajority proposal — as a bulwark against tax hikes.

A CRC proposal from Fred Karlinsky, shown here with Gov. Rick Scott, sailed through its sole committee stop.

State exhausts special needs scholarship funding” via Travis Pillow of redefinED — Roughly 10,150 students are receiving Gardiner Scholarships this school year … the program has exhausted all the available funding for scholarships for the first time since its creation in 2014. An additional 1,270 students have been approved for funding, but have not been able to receive it. That’s according to figures from Step Up For Students, the largest nonprofit organization that helps administer the program. “We have definitely exhausted every last dollar, every last penny,” said Gina Lynch, Step Up’s vice president of operations. “There is healthy demand for the program.” The program allows families to pay for a wide range of education-related expenses, from therapy and homeschool curriculum to public school courses and private school tuition, for qualifying children with special needs. Families on this year’s waiting list will be next in line for funding for the 2018-19 school year, after the families who currently receive scholarships and want them renewed.

Opening prayer dropped from county commission meetings after court ruling” via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY — Brevard County commissioners have dropped religious invocations from the start of their meeting agendas after a federal judge issued an injunction banning the county from continuing its long-standing practice. U.S. District Judge John Antoon II said the county’s invocation system violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Florida Constitution. As a result, county commissioners last week began asking for a moment of silence at the start of their meetings, instead of an invocation by a clergyman. Three organizations and five individuals sued the county over the invocation practice in 2015 after the County Commission declined to allow atheists, agnostics and other “non-theists” to be part of the invocation rotation.

Florida’s orange production forecast to hit 73-year low after Hurricane Irma” via Kevin Derby and Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News — The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) released its latest projections for the 2017-2018 orange crop and downgraded Florida’s orange forecasts for December … 46 million boxes of Florida oranges will be produced this season, down 8 percent from November’s projections and 33 percent lower than last year. The December forecast numbers are the lowest since the 1944-1945 citrus production season of 42.2 million boxes. Early, midseason and Navel varieties in Florida are also in bad shape, as NASS projects 19 million boxes of those oranges this season — a drop of 10 percent from what was expected last month and a decrease of 42 percent from last year. Florida Valencia oranges are also down with the latest projections forecasting 27 million boxes, down 7 percent from what was projected last month and a decrease of 24 percent from last year.

De Soto County Citrus after Hurricane Irma. Photo: FL Farm Bureau

After Irma, what happened to all those complaints about scams?” — via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — In the weeks after Hurricane Irma forced the largest mass evacuation in U.S. history, thousands of angry consumers swamped Attorney General Pam Bondi with complaints of price gouging by hotels, gas stations, retailers and restaurants. Of 7,500 complaints, one has been settled for $25,000. Bondi’s office said it has 10 more open price gouging investigations, most involving gas stations and hotels. Bill Newton, deputy director of the Florida Consumer Action Network in St. Petersburg, said her bark is worse than her bite when it comes to tracking down scam artists.“Like everyone, we were bombarded with AG Bondi’s many ads before, during, and after the storms. We could not help question whether the ads were to mention her name or actually go after price gougers… It does seem like there should be more than one case.” The Miami Princess Hotel agreed to a restitution payment of $17,259, plus an additional $7,500 in civil penalties for a total of nearly $25,000. Bondi’s office said it received more than 14,000 calls and complaints

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

With Florida’s population expected to gain another 5.5 million residents by 2030 — 4-5 million of them new drivers — the Florida Chamber Foundation Transportation Summit examines how the state can prepare its infrastructure.

The daylong summit, held in Port Canaveral, included a new employer-to-employee education video produced by the Chamber Foundation that tells a tale of two Floridas: One of a state that does not invest in innovation and talented workers, and another where increased diversification strengthens Florida’s economy.

Why it matters:

— Florida has approximately 287,000 trade, transportation and utility jobs combined,

— 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S., and

— The global economy is expected to double in size over the next two decades.

“Preparing for Florida’s future is critical,” Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Dew told attendees. “2030 will be here before we know it. Florida’s projected to add 5.4 million new residents by 2030, and it’s important we continue to prepare and build the infrastructure that Florida will need to be successful.”

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— D.C. MATTERS —

Corrine Brown asks to stay out of prison until appeal complete” via Lynnsey Gardner and Francine Frazier of News4Jax — Attorney James Smith, who represents Brown, has requested a bond, pending appeal, which would allow Brown to stay out of prison until she exhausts her appeals. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan allowed Brown, 71, to go home after imposing the five-year sentence and told her she would receive a letter in the mail specifying when and where she must report. He said that date would not be before Jan. 8. As part of the conditions of her release, Brown surrendered her passport last week. She was spotted dining out over the weekend at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Jacksonville. She has been free on bond since then and is hoping her good behavior will keep her out of prison as she fights for a new trial.

Corrine Brown is seeking to stay out of prison, presumably to eat steaks.

Florida Dem accused of sexual harassment gets support from Congress” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The phrase “I believe the women” has become a motto for lawmakers in the wake of career-ending sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Al Franken. But when sexual harassment allegations against South Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings from 2011 resurfaced last week, the reaction was different. “I believe him,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat. The 81-year-old Hastings denies the allegations and said he had no previous knowledge that taxpayer funds were paid out to Winsome Packer, a congressional staffer who worked for a commission that studies security and cooperation in Europe. Court documents show that he was removed from the sexual harassment lawsuit in 2012. Packer continued the lawsuit against the commission after Hastings was removed, and the payment was made in 2014, according to Roll Call … “If there is someone in the United States House of Representatives who can survive this, it’s Alcee Hastings,” said Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “My goodness, he’s been impeached by this body. Alcee Hastings, God bless him, he doesn’t care about … news cycles.”

Carlos Curbelo calls on Congress to find a Dreamer solution this week” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Congress has less than three days to find a solution for Dreamers in order for it to become law by the end of the year, Miami Republican U.S. Rep. Curbelo said on Tuesday. He is hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can find a compromise for the 800,000 young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents who face uncertainly after President Donald Trump said he will cancel an Obama-era executive order known as DACA that allowed Dreamers to be protected from deportation. “We had very good meetings last night, three meetings,” Curbelo said. “… a lot of the like-minded Republicans and Democrats… There’s an obvious compromise out there, DACA fix and border security, but no one has proffered that compromise.”If congressional leaders fail to find a compromise in an end of the year spending bill, Curbelo said he will vote against the legislation that keeps the government running. Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she will do the same.

South Florida prosecutors tell Congress how to help amid opioid crisis” via Ryan Van Velzer of the Sun Sentinel — Palm Beach County’s crackdown on abuse and fraud in the drug treatment industry caught the attention of Congress on Tuesday. Two top prosecutors linked to more than 40 arrests in South Florida testified before a House subcommittee. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg described illicit practices some businesses use to cash in on the influx of people coming to South Florida for drug treatment. Aronberg joined Palm Beach County Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson. Lawmakers asked witnesses about how to identify rogue operators and the role insurance companies play in paying for unnecessary care. They also asked for recommendations on what the federal government can do to better protect patients with substance-use disorders.“Patient-brokering abuses, regardless of whether the insurance is public or private, hurts patients and increases the cost of health care to everyone,” Johnson said. There were 5,725 opioid-related deaths in Florida last year.

— OPINIONS —

Deborah Franklin: Protect Florida elders by keeping nursing home certificate-of-need process via Florida Politics The proposed amendment to our State Constitution would eliminate the Certificate of Need (CON) process for nursing homes, among others, and change that would disrupt the mission of continuing quality care in skilled nursing care centers. The CON process requires Florida’s Health Planning Councils to identify areas which have a need for additional beds. Facilities must document how they will meet those needs, either through new development or adding on to an existing center. Beds are awarded based on several factors, including a center’s quality outcomes and financial stability. The intent is to prevent an oversaturation of care facilities, so the taxpayers don’t end up subsidizing unused beds. If the CON repeal is enacted, it seems unavoidable that more seniors will be moved from home settings and into skilled nursing centers — a setting that is necessary for our most frail elders, but certainly not for everyone currently living in the less restrictive environment offered by home and community-based care. If it was your mother or grandmother, would you want her living in even the best nursing home before it was really necessary? Every Florida resident should take a significant interest in this issue, for the sake of their elderly relatives — and, someday, for themselves.

— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —

Pete Buigas, Buigas and Associates: United Home Care

Rosanna Manuela CatalanoJerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: City of Key Colony Beach

Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: State Voices

Stephanie Owens, Dolphin Strategies: League of Women Voters of Florida

Karl Rasmussen, Meenan: AHIP — America’s Health Insurance Plans, Asurion Insurance Services, MetLife

— ALOE —

Best meteor shower of the year starts tonight” via David Fleshler of the Orlando Sentinel — The most spectacular meteor shower of the year will take place as Earth passes through the dust cloud of an asteroid and experiences a bombardment of debris traveling faster than any spacecraft. Clear skies are forecast for South Florida. The best viewing may be from the beach, since the meteors will appear to be coming from the northeast, and a dark sky, which is hard to find amid South Florida’s city lights, will make the meteors easier to see. The asteroid, a three-mile-wide rock called 3200 Phaethon, will remain a comfortable 6.4 million miles away. But its enormous debris cloud will create the annual event called the Geminid meteor shower, named for the apparent center of the shower in the constellation Gemini. “The Geminids offer slow, brighter than average meteors with some having hints of color, reds and yellows,” said Eric Vandernoot, astronomy and physics lab coordinator at Florida Atlantic University. “As for the best of the year, well, that often depends on the lunar phase at the time. This year’s Geminids are very favorable for viewing.”

A good time to see the Geminid meteoroid shower in South Florida.

Sprint sells phone grips made from South Florida trees uprooted by Hurricane Irma to benefit storm victims” via Doreen Christensen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Crafted from South Florida trees uprooted by Hurricane Irma, the circular wooden disks, known as pop sockets, went on sale Tuesday at select Miami-Dade County Sprint stores for $5 to support the nonprofit The Miami Foundation hurricane relief fund … The grips, emblazoned with the words “Florida Strong,” attach to the back of any smartphone.

Twitter makes tweetstorms and long threads an official part of its app” via Karissa Bell of Mashable — In yet another admission that 140 characters (or 280 characters) just isn’t enough for some people, today Twitter is introducing a feature that makes the so-called tweetstorm an official part of its service. The new feature is rolling out now (though it may take a few weeks to get to everyone) and it allows users to compose a thread of multiple tweets almost as easily as a single tweet, with a new “+” menu that allows you to link more than one tweet at a time. While tweetstorms have long been popular among power users, Twitter hasn’t always made composing threads easy on its end, despite efforts to make it simpler over the years. Now, not only will Twitter allow you to create tweetstorms right from its app and website, it will make it much easier to view lengthy threads with four or more tweets via a new “show this thread” option that will “unfurl” linked tweets.

Email I didn’t open: “Christmas Candy: Interactive map & WORST holiday candy” via Clair Robins, Content Strategist, CandyStore.com

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