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Last Call for 9.18.18 — 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

The city of Pensacola is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve a cross, erected in a city park on the eve of World War II, that a federal appeals court has ruled must come down.

“Religious symbols aren’t like graffiti that the government has to erase as soon as someone complains,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, representing the city.

“The Constitution lets the government recognize the important role of religion in our history and culture,” he added.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Sept. 7 that the city must remove the 34-foot wooden Latin cross that has stood in Bayview Park since 1941.

The American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation had challenged the structure on behalf of private citizens who considered it an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The city asked the Supreme Court to consolidate its case with an appeal involving a similar cross in Bladensburg, Maryland, that was erected as a World War I memorial.

Although agreeing that Supreme Court precedents demanded the Pensacola cross’s removal, two members of the three-judge 11th Circuit panel complained the result was “wrong” and called the high court’s jurisprudence a “hot mess.”

Evening Reads

Conservative publication to Marco Rubio: Don’t harass constituents on Twitter” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott: Brett Kavanaugh accuser ‘must receive a fair hearing’” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Scott accused of flouting Florida’s public records law” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

A bumpy campaign bus tour comes to a close for Scott” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Trump rails on top Florida ally over Hurricane Maria flap” via Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis quarrel over Israel to secure Jewish voters” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

DeSantis camp tries to point environmental spotlight at Gillum’s record” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

In Tampa stop, Gillum running mate Chris King touts plan for billion-dollar schools investment” via Paul Guzzo of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s economy is booming, but not for everybody. How will that affect the Governor’s race?” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Bill Galvano, NRA clash over political contribution” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Adam Putnam hired a donor’s 27-year-old son to a $91,000 job. There’s a Publix connection.” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Legal fight over Miami Beach minimum wage could have far-reaching impacts” via Gina Jordan of WFSU

SEC fines SeaWorld, ex-CEO $5 million over investor fraud allegations” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“I will make no apologies for the responsible steps we took in a bipartisan manner in the wake of the worst school shooting in our state’s history.” — Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, responding to the NRA’s Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer, who criticized his political committee’s acceptance of a $200,000 contribution from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Citrus Commission will meet in Polk County and consider a proposed $17 million budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Department of Citrus, 605 East Main St., Bartow.

Republican Ben Albritton and Democrat Catherine Price, running in Senate District 26, are slated to appear at the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Bartow Civic Center, 2250 South Floral Ave., Bartow.

The Claims Committee of the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors will hold a conference call. That’s at 1 p.m. Call-in number: 1-866-361-7525. Code: 5219676193.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.18.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Look for lobbying behemoth Ballard Partners to announce today that it has hired Christina Daly, who oversaw the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice as it dramatically expanded its effort to divert nonviolent youth away from brick-and-mortar facilities and into treatment and community services. Hailed by Gov. Rick Scott as “a national leader in reform of a comprehensive juvenile justice system,” Daly stepped down from the agency in July.

Christina Daly is joining Ballard Partners.

Six months ago, Florida Democrats said they were looking to shake up the makeup of the state Senate. Seven weeks out from Election Day, the chances of that happening are dwindling.

A trio of new polls commissioned by Florida Politics shows Republican Sens. Dana Young and Kelli Stargel leading in their re-election bids, while former Republican Rep. Ed Hooper has pulled ahead of former Democratic Rep. Amanda Murphy in the race to succeed Jack Latvala.

The leads aren’t big, but if a “blue wave” is coming there’s little evidence of it in these polls.

Young, the most endangered of incumbent Senators, leads Janet Cruz, the most accomplished of the Democratic Party’s recruits, by three points in the race for Tampa’s Senate District 18. In Lakeland-based Senate District 22, Stargel holds a 7-point lead over retired circuit court judge Bob Doyel a month after his camp was pushing internal poll numbers showing him on top in the Republican-leaning district.

In Pasco- and Pinellas-based Senate District 16, Hooper now holds a slim lead over Murphy. Polls showed the inverse no less than a month ago, and the district has perhaps the best chance of flipping out of the bunch. After all, there’s no incumbent and Murphy does have a track record of overcoming the odds in red districts.

Fundraising only compounds the results. In each of the three districts measured, the Republican holds a massive fundraising lead — Young has more than $1.8 million banked to Cruz’ $150K; Stargel’s got Doyel beat $455K to $124K, and Hooper is walloping Murphy with $515K on hand to her $102K.

Barring a miracle, Florida Democrats are in the same position they find themselves in every off-year election: Outmatched and holding on to hope for a win at the top of the ticket.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MissMayn: It would be nice if a Supreme Court nominee were scrutinized as hard a guy who was shot in his own apartment.

—@SBG1: Seems worth noting there is not a single Republican woman on the Senate Judiciary Committee as it figures out how to deal with this Kavanaugh situation. Not a single one. In 2018. Seems like not too much has changed since Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings.

—@SenBillNelson: I’m still waiting for a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh I’ve requested four times. I have a number of questions for him. Meantime, I agree there should be an investigation of the new allegations against him. I believe the people involved should appear before the Judiciary committee.

@DavidJollyFL: The allegations are serious. Ford first raised them 6 years ago to a counselor who took written notes. There are other conservative jurists whose confirmation would not be questioned for decades. For the good of the court, Kavanaugh should do the right thing and withdraw.

—@RepLoisFrankel: Slashing the number of #refugees we take in during the worst refugee crisis in modern history won’t make us safer, and shutting the door to thousands of displaced people — many of them women and children fleeing war, famine, & violence — is cruel and simply un-American.

—@Fineout: So does @RonDeSantisFL have access to a jet now? His campaign says he will be in Valparaiso and Tampa tomorrow — at events that are only about 4 hours apart.

@Fineout: Gillum, FWIW, has said that @FLGovScott should not appoint the outgoing 3 Supreme Court justices who are scheduled to leave in January. When asked today, he said that is different because their positions are not vacant while the city manager job is

@TravisPillow: At a minimum (assuming no incumbents lose), we’re looking at 17 new governors after November’s elections. That’s a lot of opportunities for education policy shake-ups

@ArekSarkissian: Quote highlight from today’s @HealthyFla meeting on dosing: “CBD and THC are two totally different things. People aren’t going to take CBD and run kids over … but THC is different. It just is.” Said Dr. Mark Moore, a Tallahassee physician prescribing medical cannabis.

—@Rob_Bradley: Looks like @Jaguars are on their way to being America’s Team.

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 4; First day of fall — 4; Future of Florida Forum — 8; Government shutdown — 12; FSU vs. UM football game — 18; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 21; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 35; MLB World Series begins — 35; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 35; Early voting begins — 39; Halloween — 43; General Election Day — 49; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 63; Thanksgiving — 65; Black Friday — 66; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 70; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 147; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 168; 2020 General Election — 777.— TOP STORY —

Down it goes: Florida bar exam pass rate plummets again” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The number of first-time Florida bar exam takers who pass has slipped 4 percent from last year to 67.2 percent from 71.3 percent, according to the state’s Board of Bar Examiners. Results for the July 24-25 examination were released Monday. Overall, 3,249 people sat for the bar exam, of which 2,228 were taking it for the first time. The latest pass rate has actually lost ground from two years ago, going a whole percent lower than the 68.2 percent from July 2016, records show. Florida International University College of Law again retained the No. 1 spot regarding highest pass rate, with 88.1 percent, bumping up from 87.8 percent last July. Nova Southeastern University College of Law saw the biggest decrease year-over-year, dropping a little more than 27 percentage points, to 42.9 percent from 70.2 percent.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson calls for investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh; no response yet from Marco Rubio, Rick Scott” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson tweeted that Kavanaugh and alleged victim Christine Blasey Ford should testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Through her attorney, Ford has agreed to do just that, according to reports. Ford told The Washington Post over the weekend that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when the two were high school students in suburban Maryland. She described a sexual assault encounter in detail, alleging that an intoxicated Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to pull off her swimsuit.

Rick Scott campaign stop proceed by red tide protesters” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Protesters jammed the sidewalk and spilled into the street around Mojo’s Real Cuban, forcing Scott to enter the restaurant through the back door and leave the same way after just 10 minutes as members of the crowd shouted “coward.” Scott didn’t take any media questions during the brief, tumultuous event and did not give a speech to the group of a few dozen supporters gathered inside the restaurant.

To watch video of the encounter, click on the image below:

Tweet, tweet:

Meanwhile … what Nancy Watkins is reading — E-Filing for Senate campaign finance reports is close to becoming a reality” via Zach Montellaro of POLITICO — The final conference agreement for the first minibus appropriations package, HR 5895, includes a provision that would require Senate candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically, according to Sen. Steve Daines, chairman of the Legislative Branch appropriations panel, who pushed it over the finish line. “I fought to include language to increase transparency and access for U.S. Senate campaign finances, and after today’s announcement, we’re one step closer,” Daines, a Montana Republican, said in a statement. “I look forward to getting this through the House, the Senate, and on to the president’s desk for signature.”

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

The politics of debates: Ron DeSantis agrees to face off with Andrew Gillum” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat DeSantis … said Monday he will debate Democrat Gillum “whenever possible.” The Tallahassee mayor had pushed DeSantis over the weekend to appear on the same stage with him and talk policy. Gillum had accepted invitations from Univision, Leadership Florida and CNN. Sunday, he chastised DeSantis on Twitter for having yet to accept any of the invitations. DeSantis responded Monday. And when he did, he upped the ante and agreed to five debates.

Ron DeSantis agrees to as many as five debates with his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum.

Hurricane politics: When Andrew Gillum and Rick Scott clashed” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Despite its relatively weak wind strength, Hurricane Hermine packed enough punch to knock out power for several days to most of the capital city Tallahassee, then governed by a little-known Mayor named Gillum. But the slow process of picking up after the storm was quickly mired in criticism of how long it took to turn the power back on. Gillum struggled to weather allegations that the city rejected help from power companies and the state to score political points, and the delays led to a publicized spat between Gillum and Gov. Scott … Now two years later, Gillum’s experience stands out. The storm’s aftermath pitted the young, rising Mayor against the state’s top politician in a clash that, though it simmered down, left bruises. “There’s been a false narrative created about that incident that’s extremely unfortunate,” said Barry Moline, then the executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, who helped manage the city’s power recovery after the storm. “I’ve been involved in a lot of hurricane restorations … I had never seen politics enter any hurricane restoration until that moment.”

Gillum campaign says attacks casting him as anti-Israel are ‘irresponsible’” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times Painted by conservative outlets and his Republican foe as anti-Israel, Gillum … is stressing his opposition to a movement to financially punish the state of Israel and explaining his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while on the stump. Gillum … says that he’s been against the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement during the entirety of his gubernatorial run, despite what he calls inaccurate reports of a shifting stance. A campaign spokesman … also explained that Gillum’s association with organizations that back the BDS movement or oppose anti-boycott legislation shouldn’t be construed as support for those positions.

Gillum beefs up campaign staff” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Gillum unveiled a 19-person leadership team on Monday night. Familiar names — like staffers from failed primary campaigns and from other Democratic politicians and groups — fill out the squad. There are also carry-overs from Gillum’s primary team. At the helm of operations is Brandon Davis, the newly named campaign manager. Davis fills the vacancy created by the firing of Brendan McPhillips, who was let go shortly after Gillum’s upset primary victory. Davis is a decorated Democratic strategist.

DeSantis spoke to group whose founder says devout Muslims can’t be loyal Americans” via Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting — DeSantis spoke in October 2017 at a conference of an anti-Muslim group that critics call extremist and whose founder argues devout Muslims cannot be loyal Americans. DeSantis’ address to ACT for America is evidence of another meeting with groups known for controversial views, including a conference last year featuring speakers who have defended a candidate accused of child molestation, suggested killing Muslims and argued that women are less likely to be in leadership roles because of “biological causes.” Founded in 2007, ACT for America promotes itself as the “largest national security grassroots organization.” ACT refers to the organization’s former name, American Congress for Truth. The group has built a reputation for lobbying state legislators to ban Sharia law and has referred to Islam as “Islamofascism.” Brigitte Gabriel, the Lebanese-American Christian who founded ACT for America, has used the organization to lobby for intolerance of Muslims in the United States, criticizing cities with large Muslim populations for serving halal meals at schools and advocating for strict policies that limit the number of Muslim immigrants. During a 2007 lecture, Gabriel said a devout Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”

Brigitte Gabriel (left) is the founder and president of the anti-Muslim grassroots group ACT for America.

DeSantis touts $12M he says campaign, Florida GOP raised since primary night” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Leading the way is $7.6 million raised by the RPOF, according to the DeSantis campaign. RPOF has not had to post a campaign finance report since election night. A political committee run by DeSantis has raised $3.4 million, and his campaign has raised $1 million, his campaign said … For RPOF, the $7.6 million in nearly three weeks would be one of its most prolific fundraising periods in years … RPOF has struggled to raise money and has been a marginal part of the overall Republican playbook in Florida. DeSantis’ campaign is engaged with the party, underscoring the fundraising boost that comes when a gubernatorial candidate or governor engages in fundraising. Gillum’s campaign got credit immediately after the primary, including $1 million from the Democratic Governors Association and a huge chunk from state trial lawyers. Last week, DGA announced it was giving a second $1 million check to Gillum’s campaign.

DeSantis, Gillum pile up matching funds” via the News Service of Florida — DeSantis and Gillum continue to be the biggest beneficiaries of Florida’s matching-funds program, which has doled out $5.36 million to statewide candidates this year. DeSantis received $96,938 from the program Friday, while Gillum got $62,390, according to figures posted online by the state Division of Elections. DeSantis has received an overall total of more than $1.152 million from the program, which matches individual contributions of $250 or less. Since winning the Aug. 28 Republican primary, DeSantis has received $176,426 from the state. Among the nearly 2,000 separate contributions that came into DeSantis’ campaign from across the country during the first week in September, about 1,800 were of $250 or less. Gillum has now received $620,631 through the matching-funds program, including $125,567 since the Aug. 28 primary. In September’s first seven days, Gillum received 13,661 contributions of $250 or less.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will visit the Okaloosa STEMM Academy in Valparaiso and the Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa: 8 a.m. Central time, Okaloosa STEMM Academy, 379 Edge Avenue, Valparaiso; 2 p.m. Eastern time, Franklin Middle Magnet School, 3915 21st Avenue, Tampa.

— ‘REACH’ RACE —

The Florida Democratic Party says it’s knocked on 2 million doors in the 2018 election cycle. 

That’s a bit more than the Republican Party of Florida and Republican National Committee, which claim to have together knocked on 1.7 million doors. The GOP ground troops touted a weekend of action yesterday that resulted in more than 80,000 voters contacted. 

But the Democrats, who hold the intangible doors-knocked lead, say they’ve held similar action-focused weekends consecutively. 

More numbers: In total, the state Democratic Party claims to have reached more than 8 million voters this cycle. That includes doors knocked, calls (3.8 million) and text conversations (2.2 million).

Dem perspective: “Our candidates are offering a bold vision for Florida’s future, and we are taking that message to voters in every corner of Florida,” said FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo.

GOP perspective: “The Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Florida are organized, energized and ready to send Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum packing this November,” said RNC spox Joe Jackson.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Republican ‘Victory Dinner’ to take place in Orlando” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — On Saturday, Sept. 29, Republicans from across the state will come together at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for the 2018 Victory Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida announced …“Donors and influential grassroots operatives” are expected to attend, according to the party. It’s considered the Florida GOP’s largest fundraising event. RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement he is excited and ready to ride a “red wave” to victory.

‘Bundled’ amendments prevent ballot fatigue, state saysvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Florida’s solicitor general Monday asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow three proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. Solicitor General Amit Agarwal, who filed an initial brief, appealed a lower court’s decision blocking the ballot measures. Agarwal reports to Attorney General Pam Bondi. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers had found that the three proposals — including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces — improperly “bundled” unrelated issues. Why not, Agarwal suggested, since the Framers did the same thing. “Our constitutional history is replete with examples of situations in which voters have been asked to vote up or down on bundled provisions addressing distinct rights and issues — including the ratification of the Constitution and the First Amendment,” he said.

Happening today:

Matt Caldwell pulls in $165K in early September” via the News Service of Florida — The one-week haul included contributions of $25,000 from Atlanta-based fuel and convenience-store company RaceTrac, $25,000 from the Florida Phosphate Political Committee and $10,000 from Tampa-based TECO Energy … Caldwell, who spent nearly all of the $2.6 million he raised before winning a four-way primary on Aug. 28, had a combined $198,981 on hand as of Sept. 7 in his campaign account and the committee Friends of Matt Caldwell. Caldwell’s fundraising helped bring him more in line with Democratic candidate Nikki Fried, who ended the first week of September with about $227,000 on hand in her campaign account and the political committee Florida Consumers First.

New CD 12 ad says Gus Bilirakis ‘is addressing the real issues’” via Florida Politics — The ad, titled “Fighting for Warriors,” features a veteran, Bryan A., speaking about the lawmaker’s efforts and features clips of Bilirakis walking alongside Bryan and shaking hands with a number of military veterans, young and old. “I served in the Army for 14 years. I was both a print photojournalist and then a Green Beret. Now I run a nonprofit called the Veterans Alternative,” Bryan A. says in the ad. “These alternative treatment options are saving warriors’ lives. I’m thankful that we have Gus. He is addressing the real issues that we’re facing.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Florida Politics — Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell … Lake Clarke Shores Democratic Rep. David Silvers and Wellington Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite. Among the non-electeds … House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca. Other candidates getting the nod … HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan … HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois … HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory. The remaining endorsements went to HD 32 Republican Anthony Sabatini, HD 103 Republican Frank Mingo, HD 28 Republican David Smith, HD 71 Republican Will Robinson, HD 105 Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, HD 62 Democratic Dianne Hart and HD 119 Republican Juan Alfonso Fernandez-Barquin.

Jeff Brandes says he will hold politicians accountable in new SD 24 ad” via Florida Politics — The 30-second ad features shots of Brandes walking with and talking to employees of a lumber yard and touts the values instilled in him when he worked for his family’s business. “My grandfather started our family lumber business nearly 70 years ago. He taught me to work hard, to stand up for what’s right and to never give up,” Brandes says in the ad. “Today, I’m holding bureaucrats and politicians accountable, so we can create better jobs, provide safe, 21st-century schools and protect families and seniors. And if the politicians don’t wake up, I’m taking ‘em to the woodshed.” The ad disclosure indicates the spot was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, a PAC chaired by incoming Senate President Bill Galvano which supports GOP state Senate campaigns.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today:

Happening today — Democrat Jennifer Webb kicks off her general election campaign for House District 69, 6 p.m., Iberian Rooster, 475 Central Ave. N., St. Petersburg.

— STATEWIDE —

NRA blasts Bill Galvano over donation from gun-control group: ‘Our Second Amendment rights were sold’” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Incoming Senate President Galvano is getting hit from the right over a donation to his political committee from the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund. The pro-gun control organization gave $200,000 to Galvano’s Innovate Florida committee, according to state filings dated Sept. 4. Galvano, a moderate, voted for SB 7026, the 2018 law that raised the minimum age a person is allowed to buy a gun, created a three-day waiting period to buy any firearm, banned bump-stock sales and allowed armed staff in public schools. The National Rifle Association blasted Galvano, writing that he “calls himself a Republican.” “B-7026 contained three major gun control provisions and was rammed down the throats of Senate and House Republican legislators,” the email from Marion Hammer read. “Looks like our Second Amendment Rights were sold for a large contribution from anti-gun former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” Galvano told the Times he stands by the donation.

Tweet, tweet:

Report details charter school closures” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — A new report from a Tallahassee-based research group raises questions about the growing role of charter schools in Florida, including citing the closure of 373 charter schools since 1998. Ben Wilcox, research director for the group Integrity Florida, said the closure of charter schools has averaged nearly 20 a year “and that comes with a cost to taxpayers.” “When a charter school closes, it is often difficult to get taxpayer funds back,” Wilcox said. “A closure can cause severe problems for a school district which must absorb the displaced students.” As of the 2016-2017 academic year, some 284,000 students, or about 10 percent of Florida’s 2.8 million students enrolled in the pre-kindergarten-through-high school-system, attended charter schools. The 654 charter schools receive public funding but can act more independently than traditional public schools. The report showed 160 charter schools failed between 2012 and 2017, with 35 closing in 2015-2016.

State looks to bolster redfish amid red tide fight” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is directing $1.2 million for research and production of redfish at a facility at Port Manatee … the money will help the commission address the effects of red tide on redfish in coastal areas. Red tide recently has led to widespread fish kills in Southwest Florida. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission facility at Port Manatee spawns and raises hatchery fish.

St. Petersburg ranks best in Florida for immigrant inclusivity” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times A new study singles out St. Petersburg as the top-ranked city in Florida for promoting the economic well-being of immigrants, but Mayor Rick Kriseman thinks more can be done. Kriseman on Monday celebrated the city’s No. 13 ranking nationwide but called for additional policies to help immigrants launch businesses and encourage international students to stay and work locally after graduation. The Mayor’s comments came as he released the results of a first-year study from the New American Economy that found immigrants have a “substantial impact” on St. Petersburg’s economy, owning more than 2,100 businesses and paying about $550 million annually in taxes.

Jim DeFede, CBS4 management accused of bullying and harassing veteran reporter” via Brittany Shammas and Jerry Iannelli of Miami New Times After working as a TV reporter in Los Angeles, Michele Gillen joined WFOR, Miami’s CBS affiliate in 1997. Since then, she’s been nominated for 46 regional Emmys and won 25. But she says her career as an investigative reporter suffered due to a culture of sexism, bullying, and harassment at the network. … In the lawsuit, Gillen singles out local CBS anchor and investigative reporter DeFede for allegedly routinely bullying her. DeFede, who joined CBS Miami after working at Miami New Times and the Miami Herald, began as Gillen’s junior colleague in the station’s investigative unit.

— OPINIONS —

American democracy is in crisis” via Hillary Clinton for the Atlantic — Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back … Trump doesn’t even try to pretend he’s a president for all Americans. It’s hard to ignore the racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says. Often, it’s not even subtext. When he says that Haitian and African immigrants are from ‘s***hole countries,’ that’s impossible to misunderstand. Same when he says that an American judge can’t be trusted because of his Mexican heritage. None of this is a mark of authenticity or a refreshing break from political correctness. Hate speech isn’t “telling it like it is.” It’s just hate.

Will Donald Trump regret endorsing DeSantis?” via Carl Jackson of TownHall.com — DeSantis relied far too heavily on Trump’s endorsement, as well as his national television appearances on Fox News with conservative giants Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. At times, it has felt like he’s been running for a safe seat in Congress, rather than for Florida’s top job. Many Republican voters here in Orlando I’ve spoken to have asked me “Where is DeSantis? Is he holding any events? Is he even on the campaign trail?” DeSantis has a lot of ground to cover, and he’s behind the eight ball. DeSantis has been a great conservative congressman, but outside of garnering Trump’s endorsement, he hasn’t run a very good campaign. Regardless, he has my vote for Florida’s next governor because I know what’s at stake. However, given the razor-thin margins by which Scott’s races for Florida’s top job were decided, DeSantis can’t afford to leave any vote on the table. So far, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency within his campaign, and that needs to change today.

Joe Henderson: Candidates should let it rip at Governor’s debate” via Florida Politics — You can’t have a major political campaign unless candidates debate, right? Usually, they are over-scripted, overhyped and underperforming, but a Florida Governor’s debate between Gillum and DeSantis should be memorable. You would assume someone will be trying to convince Gillum it is his chance to show voters he is not, as DeSantis has painted him, a tax-loving far-left wacko … he should go for it. And for DeSantis, it’s a chance to show voters he can be his own man if he is put in charge of the state and not just a Trump Mini-Me … That’s why I believe sparks should and will fly when these two. They offer completely different visions for the state, and it could (cross your fingers) get testy. But that’s what we all should want. Game on, gentlemen. You want to be Governor? No holding back.

Patricia Brigham: League of Women Voters makes no apologies for exposing deception” via Florida Politics — Erika Donalds, a sponsor of the now-defunct Amendment 8, was right when she recently wrote that the League of Women Voters of Florida “cheered the end” of the bundled education amendment. Amendment 8 was written to confuse. It was “log-rolled” with three separate issues — civics classes for middle school students, term limits for school board members, and the giveaway of local control to an unknown legislative-created entity for the purposes of creating new charter schools. Voters would not have known that sticking third point because the language was misleading and didn’t spell out just what the CRC was trying to do. The Florida Supreme Court saw right through it and struck it from the Nov. 6 ballot. Yet Donalds claimed the League was “disenfranchising” voters, a laughable accusation. The League of Women Voters has a long and proud tradition of sticking up for voting rights and transparency in government. Our primary mission is to encourage the informed and active participation of citizens in government. We achieve that mission by holding those in authority accountable to the voters. The process of the CRC was a sham — skirting Sunshine laws and ignoring repeated warnings from a whole host of organizations who raised concerns about their process and product.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Meredith Beatrice lands at Florida GOP” via Florida Politics Beatrice, 30, is now Communications Director for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), Chairman Ingoglia announced Monday. Beatrice, who most recently handled media for GOP Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s unsuccessful run for governor, “will be focused on Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign,” Ingoglia said. “Understanding the importance of this election cycle, Meredith will be a great asset to our success, especially in retaining the Governor’s Mansion,” he added in a news release. “We welcome her to the RPOF and look forward to the integral role she will have in media strategy.”

Congratulations to Meredith Beatrice.

Mike Weinstein retiring after high-impact career at Jacksonville City Hall” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union — Weinstein, whose long career at City Hall put him in the thick of historic initiatives such as the Better Jacksonville Plan and pension reform, is retiring as chief financial officer. Most recently, Weinstein came up with the idea for using future revenue from a half-cent sales tax to help pay for the city’s pension obligation, a concept that Mayor Lenny Curry embraced and carried to a successful outcome by winning support from voters in a referendum. Curry said Monday that Weinstein has been “both trusted adviser and friend” since 2015, when the two bonded after Curry won election and was preparing to take office. “His expertise and depth of knowledge helped me prepare balanced budgets that met our city’s priorities, create a solution to the pension crisis, and set Jacksonville on a sound financial path,” Curry said in a statement.

— ALOE —

Epcot’s IllumiNations is ending in 2019, Disney says” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel Epcot’s IllumiNations — the longtime fireworks show has entertained millions of visitors since 1999 — will end in the second half of 2019, Disney announced. The laser and fireworks show featuring a 350,000-pound Earth Globe and torches will be replaced by a new fireworks show, although Disney did not offer many details about what the replacement will be. Disney made the official announcement Monday on its park blog. But the news was not unexpected. There has been speculation that IllumiNations was going to be phased out among theme park followers.

Epcot IllumiNations is nearing the end of its run.

There’s one black Trans Am left from ‘Smokey and The Bandit.’ It’s retired in Miami” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — Many hard-core fans of Burt Reynolds’ most iconic movie, 1977’s “Smokey and The Bandit,” know that none of those cool black Pontiac Trans Ams with gold trim survived the stunts in the film. Luck, and a mother who is a big Reynolds fan, brought Fort Lauderdale resident Dave Martino together with the 1976 Trans Am that Pontiac retrofitted as a 1977 Trans Am for its annual brochure. That’s where Reynolds and director Hal Needham saw the car and decided that a Trans Am had to be the car running blocker for the semi-truck carrying bootleg Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta. Martino has paperwork from Pontiac proving the car’s lineage, as well as the best endorsement of all: Reynolds himself.

Happy birthday to state Rep. Bob CortesReggie Garcia, Brock’s better half, Jennifer Mikosky, and Corinne Mixon of lobbying firm Ecenia Rutledge.

Last Call for 9.17.18 — 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

Since 1998, more than 373 charter schools have closed their doors in Florida, “causing problems for some school districts,” according to a new Integrity Florida report released Monday.

The number of for-profit charter schools continues to grow at a rapid pace each year and now makes up nearly half of all charter schools in the state, the group said Monday.

“Florida is averaging almost 20 charter school closures per year and that comes with a cost to taxpayers,” said Ben Wilcox, Integrity Florida’s research director, in a news release.

Added Alan Stonecipher, the organization’s research associate: “Floridians and their elected officials need to think about where this is heading, and whether we’ll end up with a parallel, duplicative education system, or a unified system as the (state) constitution requires.”

Key findings include:

— The charter school concept has evolved into “a competitive relationship between charters and traditional schools, rather than a cooperative one.”

— “Lax regulation of charter schools has created opportunities for financial mismanagement and criminal corruption.”

— “Local school boards have seen reduced ability to manage charter schools in their districts.”

School choice advocate John Kirtley, a venture capitalist long involved in education reform efforts, was mentioned in the report on his fundraising for the cause.

“The Florida teachers union is one of the largest spenders in state political races — they spent over $2.5 million in 2016 alone, more than double what FFC spent,” referring to his “Florida Federation for Children,” Kirtley told Last Call in an email.

He also is founder and chairman for Step Up for Students, a school choice scholarship program initiated by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

“Parents who want choices, particularly low-income parents, have no means to counter that spending,” Kirtley added. “That’s the role of The Florida Federation for Children. We invest in the process on behalf of those parents.”

Added Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member and charter school founder, “This report tries to use a few bad apples to define all charter schools.

“The truth is, the majority of charter schools are great examples of student success and school resourcefulness,” she said. “Charters are achieving results for students with fewer dollars — that’s not debatable …

“And charter schools are in fact the most accountable type of public school in Florida, because parents can remove their children at any time, and if they fail two years in a row, they close.”

For the full Integrity Florida report, click here.

Evening Reads

Bill Nelson calls for investigation into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh; no response from top Republicans” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Citizens rising up against the Florida Legislature, Rick Scott, and private property zealots” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Scott campaign stop in Venice besieged by protesters slamming governor over red tide” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Ron DeSantis spoke to group whose founder says devout Muslims can’t be loyal Americans” via Trevor Aaronson of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

DeSantis says he won’t accept sugar money. He was endorsed by a group fueled by it” via Emily Mahoney and Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times

DeSantis, Andrew Gillum pile up matching funds” via The News Service of Florida

Scott Israel helping Gillum raise money” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Race for Governor could have a big financial impact on companies in the education market” via Sean Cavanagh of Education Week

Two debates planned between DeSantis, Gillum” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell criticized for taking PAC money linked to politician accused of molesting teen” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Florida Democrats get schooled on how to be winning candidates” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

Florida Republican Party says it raised $7.6M in two weeks” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Florida workers comp rates going down again, but future challenges remain” via Amy O’Connor of the Insurance Journal

Mike Weinstein retiring after high-impact career at Jacksonville City Hall” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union

Down it goes: Florida bar exam pass rate plummets again” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“Socialism is a dead-end street. While I don’t think that Andrew Gillum would like to see empty store shelves and people starve in the street, that is ultimately what it comes to … Every time we’ve seen it tried, it failed.” — GOP Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell asked about the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Children and Families will hold another in a series of meetings across the state about infant and early childhood mental health. That’s at 9 a.m., Valencia College, School of Public Safety, 8600 Valencia College Lane, Orlando.

The St. Petersburg College Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet in Clearwater at 9 a.m., St. Petersburg College, Clearwater Campus, 2465 Drew St., Clearwater.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Duval and Pinellas counties. That’s at 10 a.m., Lane Wiley Senior Center, 6710 Wiley Road, Jacksonville. Also, 1 p.m., Clearwater Countryside Library, 2642 Sabal Springs Dr., Clearwater.

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, will raise money during an event in Tallahassee. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Governors Club, 202 South Adams St., Tallahassee.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.17.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all 2-0, while the Florida State Seminoles are 1-2 after losing to lowly Syracuse.

What more proof do you need that this will be a wave election in November?

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@BrianStelter: It sounds like Christine Blasey Ford agonized over what to do. Whether to speak out on the record. With rumors spreading and reporters knocking, she decided to speak publicly: “I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation.”

@MDixon55: Lots of @ScottforFlorida ads during @BadgerFootball game. I’d just like to say I’m honored the campaign was thinking of me

@SteveSchale: DeSantis only has two demands: he gets to participate by remote from a Fox News studio, and no gotcha Florida questions, like “how would you improve Florida schools?”

@BradHerold: Um, didn’t we just do a 30 min sit down with @bsfarrington? We also did three open press events TODAY, while rolling out our first policy paper this week. I think we’ve shown an eagerness to talk about our positions and look forward to debating @AndrewGillum

—@JimmyPatronis: We placed our 1st TV commercial during college football this year, I’m glad we placed it in the 1st half of the @FSUFootball instead of the 2nd half.

—@Scott_Maxwell: I’m not a reporter. I’m an opinion columnist. You’re going to find opinions in opinion columns. It’s like complaining about groceries in a grocery store.

@Finebaum: This Florida State football program is officially on life support. Willie Taggart has been an abject disaster.

@WayneMcGaheeIII: State of the #FSU program right now: We have had 2,000 people look up Willie Taggart‘s contract today from our story from December of last year. Apparently, a lot of people have been looking that up today.

@BrodyLogan: Miami vs. FSU is going to be broadcast on those screens at gas station pumps

— DAYS UNTIL — 

First general election mail ballots go out — 5; First day of fall — 5; Future of Florida Forum — 9; Government shutdown — 13; FSU vs. UM football game — 19; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 22; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 36; MLB World Series begins — 36; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 37; Early voting begins — 40; Halloween — 44; General Election Day — 50; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 64; Thanksgiving — 66; Black Friday — 67; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 71; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 148; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 169; 2020 General Election — 778.

— TOP STORY —

The economy is humming, but Donald Trump is tweeting. Republicans are worried” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times — Republican leaders do agree on one surprising element in the battle for Congress: They cannot rely on the booming economy to win over undecided voters. To the dismay of party leaders, the healthy economy and Trump have become countervailing forces. The decline in unemployment and soaring gross domestic product, along with the tax overhaul Republicans argue is fueling the growth, have been obscured by the president’s inflammatory moves on immigration, Vladimir Putin and other fronts, party leaders say. These self-inflicted wounds since early summer have helped push Mr. Trump’s approval ratings below 40 percent and the fortunes of his party down with them. “This is very much a referendum on the president,” Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said of the November election. “If we had to fight this campaign on what we accomplished in Congress and on the state of the economy, I think we’d almost certainly keep our majority.”

— DESANTIS VS. GILLUM —

Andrew Gillum demands three debates; Ron DeSantis wants ‘probably more’” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — “Florida voters deserve the chance to hear from Mayor Gillum and Congressman DeSantis about the critical issues facing our state,” senior Gillum adviser Scott Arceneaux said. “Mayor Gillum looks forward to sharing his vision for Florida that lifts people up, with higher wages, more money for schools, and affordable health care. We hope that Congressman DeSantis will join us, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be able to answer a single question about his nonexistent campaign platform.” Asked about this, DeSantis said he is “hellbent” on debating Gillum and would probably agree to more than three debates. The more they debate, DeSantis said, the better for him. “I definitely want to do debates. It’s very, very important, particularly for a candidate like Andrew who nobody thought could win the primary. He did not face scrutiny of his record. He didn’t face a single dollar in negative advertising, I don’t think,” DeSantis said after a picnic with Republican veterans. “I had $17 million between U.S. Sugar and Putnam. So, I think it’s very important that Floridians have a clear sense of our visions for Florida, our leadership.”

Ron DeSantis rallied with supporters at the Seminole County Victory HQ.

DeSantis veers into the absurd in bid to raise fear and doubt on Gillum” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis suggested that a Gov. Gillum would usher in a state income tax and be soft on child molesters. Gillum does call for raising Florida’s corporate tax rate two percentage points to 7.5 percent to boost education funding, including raising minimum teacher salaries to $50,000 per year. He has said nothing about a state income tax, which would be virtually impossible to enact even if he wanted to. DeSantis said that if Gillum refused to work with immigration authorities — something the mayor never said — a convicted child molester could be released onto Florida’s streets after completing his sentence rather than being sent back to his home country. In making preposterous, hypothetical allegations about Gillum freeing child molesters, DeSantis made it easier for Gillum to push back.

DeSantis dodges question about Trump’s Hurricane Maria death toll tweet” via Amanda Castro of ClickOrlando.com — Saturday marked the first time the public has heard from the Republican gubernatorial candidate following Trump’s tweet this week in which he denied the death count of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans from Hurricane Maria. DeSantis dodged News 6’s questions about the tweet. “I think it was a devastating storm. I think there was a lot of loss of life. I think I made my point clear. I also think the Democrats tried to politicize all of this stuff,” DeSantis said. DeSantis also refused to respond to the report that Louis Marin, the vice chairman of Orange County’s Republican Executive Committee, posted social media conspiracy theories, saying he shared them as a way to have an open discussion and debate online. “I’m not going to get sidetracked into focusing on somebody who put something stupid. Half of the crap on Facebook is crap. Give me a break. We got to stop doing that, and I’m not going to let people try to impute things to me that I didn’t say or do. I’m going to focus on these issues that are important,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis blocks fundraiser over ‘hurtful and disgusting racial slurs’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — DeSantis’ decision to block former state Rep. Ralph Arza from the post underscored the sensitivity the Republican’s campaign has to racial issues after Democrats blasted the candidate as a “racist” for using the phrase “monkey this up” in relation to his opponent. “Ralph Arza’s name was removed because of hurtful and disgusting racial slurs that he has used in the past. He is not affiliated with our campaign,” the DeSantis campaign said in a written statement. In 2006, Arza was accused of calling Miami-Dade County’s first black schools chief a “black piece of s—” in Spanish. Arza was then criminally charged with witness tampering and intimidation, but he struck a plea deal just before the 2006 November by agreeing to retire from office and not run for reelection. His name appeared on the ballot, but the votes counted for another stand-in candidate.

Running mate: GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate Jeanette Nuñez takes a pic with supporters at a Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff event in Orlando.

’The primary is behind us’: Richard Corcoran now backing DeSantis” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Corcoran’s endorsement did not help Adam Putnam in the primary. However, despite the rhetoric of the summer, Corcoran found his way toward backing DeSantis (“chihuahua a**“ notwithstanding). On Sept. 12, Corcoran’s Watchdog PAC ponied up a relatively modest $22,625 to Friends of Ron DeSantis. That’s technically more than the $20,000 the PAC gave to Putnam’s Florida Grown committee earlier this year.

Jackie Pons got the all clear. Could that happen for Gillum in FBI probe?” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — Gillum has called on the FBI to publicly state he is not a focus of its investigation into local public corruption. But that’s not likely to happen soon, if ever. Gillum’s situation in some ways parallels that of former Leon County Schools Superintendent Pons, who ran for re-election in 2016 amid a long-running FBI investigation. Pons earlier this year met with Acting U.S. Attorney Chris Canova, who later called him to say the investigation was over and no charges would be filed. Canova never confirmed that publicly. And the FBI has said nothing about the Pons probe. But news about the FBI ending its investigation into Pons surfaced over the summer nevertheless.

Republicans pan Gillum’s plan to raise corporate tax” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — Gillum has called for a stunning 40 percent increase in Florida’s corporate income tax — which he wants to use to raise $1 billion more for education, including $50,000 minimum starting salaries for teachers. The Republican Governors Association is now seizing on the idea, ridiculing it in a new TV spot as a “disaster for the economy.” Florida’s biggest business groups also have begun sharpening their attacks. “National headquarters of companies in this state are focused on this like a laser beam,” said Tom Feeney, a former Republican Florida House speaker and president of Associated Industries of Florida, whose members include some of the state’s biggest companies. He said Gillum’s proposal has spawned “terror” in boardrooms and is fueling business support for Republican DeSantis, who has said little about his economic plans, other than embracing most of the tax-and-regulation-cutting policies advanced by Scott over the past eight years. “Punishing corporations by taking money out of the pockets of job-creators is going to have a chilling effect on this state’s economy,” Feeney added.

—“Gillum video promises opportunity campaign pushes back at tax critics” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics

— SCOTT VS. NELSON —

Rick Scott launches new Spanish-language ad distancing from Trump” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In the new ad, “Commitment,” Scott says in Spanish, “When I don’t agree with what President Trump does or says, I’ve said it. My only commitment is with you … For me, what’s important is that your families have the best opportunities,” he said. “I ask for your vote so that together we can make Washington work for our families. I’m Rick Scott, and I approve this message because I know that with your help, we’ll keep on working.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Déjà vu all over again: Scott says Bill Nelson has done ‘nothing’ for ‘Lake O’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The Scott spot throws back to a 1990 Nelson ad, in which the Senator vowed to “fight to stop the poisoning of lakes and streams across this state. Lake Okeechobee is dying because of the massive dumping of pollutants.” Alas, contends the ad, Nelson “failed … couldn’t get anything done” and is “all talk, no action.” The Scott campaign has been messaging on Nelson’s lack of efficacy on this issue for the better part of the summer. Days after the Scott ad dropped, Nelson responded with his own buy, pinning the blame on the “man-made crisis” on Gov. Scott.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Jeb Bush: Nelson ‘will always vote for more taxes’” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Bush stumped Saturday on behalf of one of his successors, Gov. Scott … And while Bush’s governorship overlapped with Nelson’s first term, he did not express much nostalgia from the podium. “With all due respect to the incumbent, the United States Senator, what has he done?” Bush asked. “I’ve been waiting. I can’t think of anything. He must have done something.” Then he answered his own question. “Yes, he has,” Bush said. “He has voted for every liberal idea that has made it harder for us to progress as a nation.”

Fred Guttenberg endorses Nelson for Senatevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was killed seven months ago in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, endorsed Nelson at an event Friday afternoon. The event was held at the Marriott Coral Springs. Guttenberg followed the announcement with a Twitter post reiterating the endorsement, noting several other Parkland families were also in attendance. U.S. Rep Ted Deutch, who serves the 22nd Congressional District, which covers Parkland, also spoke to the crowd gathered at the Marriott. “Don’t let people tell you the issue of gun violence has fallen by the wayside,” Deutch said, according to Kara Voght of Mother Jones. “It’s not what I see; it’s not what I hear.”

— EYE OF THE BEHOLDER —

When Scott touts his economic successes, some data points go unmentioned. 

“Jackson County, an hour west of Tallahassee, is one of three dozen counties that had fewer jobs in 2017 than it had in 2007,” reports Steve Bousquet for the Tampa Bay Times.

In Jackson, there are fewer jobs than were a decade ago. And the small population has a higher rate of poverty than the state as a whole.

Response: Scott, when asked about how his job-growth narrative didn’t fit rural counties, dismissed the idea as a “Democratic talking point.” 

Politics: Jackson is solidly conservative. Scott’s won the county twice, and Trump got nearly 70 percent of the vote there in 2016. 

Pending matters: The county’s requested $5.9 million through the $85 million job growth grant fund. Scott has discretionary power over the fund.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Gambling industry ponies up to fight amendment” via the News Service of Florida — Faced with a proposed constitutional amendment that could make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, the gambling industry early this month put another $1.25 million into a political committee fighting the November ballot measure, according to a newly filed finance report. The money was contributed from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7 to a committee known as Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, Inc. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Inc. each contributed $500,000, while the South Florida Racing Association added $250,000. The committee, which started in July, had raised $3.52 million as of Sept. 7 and had spent $91,868, the report shows. The committee opposes a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 3, that has been heavily backed by Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Adam Smith’s Winner of the Week in Florida politics: Amendment 4The ballot initiative to automatically restore the voting rights of ex-felons who have completed their sentences (not murderers or sex offenders) has produced a virtual miracle in today’s political climate: Consensus support from both left and right wings. The conservative, billionaire Koch brothers formally joined the likes of Ben and Jerry and the ACLU in supporting the amendment. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction — one of only four states with a lifetime ban. If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens,” said the Koch-funded group, Freedom Partners.”

Lauren Book says ‘it’s time for equal rights’ in new Marsy’s Law ad” via Florida Politics — In the 30-second ad, Book describes the court system from her perspective as a sexual assault survivor and asks viewers to vote for the measure, also known as “Marsy’s Law.” “I’m a survivor of childhood sexual assault from the time I was 10 until I was 16. Every. Single. Day,” Book says. “The court process was difficult and painful. It can completely destroy a victim. You’re not informed of court dates, denied the chance to tell your story, and the person that did this to you has stronger rights than you … The scales of justice in Florida are not balanced. It’s time for equal rights. Please, vote yes on Amendment 6.” The ad was paid for by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the main political committee backing the amendment. Recent filings posted on the Federal Communications Commission website show the committee has made multiple TV buys in Florida this week and the committee said the ad is part of its statewide advertising campaign.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today — Democratic Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring will speak at a meeting of the Duval County Democratic Party meeting, 6 p.m., IBEW union hall, 966 North Liberty St., Jacksonville.

Outside groups spent $1.2 million to help Darren Soto defeat Alan Grayson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Apparently highlighting the outside help for Soto was the George Soros — backed Latino Victory Fund, which claimed on primary day that it had pumped more than $500,000 into media buys to support Soto on Spanish-language media. FEC records also show Latino Victory Fund also was not alone in spending to either support Soto or oppose Grayson, and perhaps not even the most generous toward Soto’s candidacy. FEC records show Latino Victory Fund spending $415,000 through the primary, while Progress Tomorrow Inc. spent $544,000. The total for outside spending to support Soto or oppose Grayson was $1.18 million, potentially more than Soto might have spent through his own primary campaign fund, though the final numbers are not yet in for his official campaign’s account.

Shock poll: Kristen Carlson leads Ross Spano in first poll of CD 15 battle” via Florida Politics — A new internal poll released by Democrat Carlson shows her with a 1-point lead over Dover state Rep. Spano among voters living in CD 15, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk and Lake counties. The poll, released by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, conducted live interviews with 400 CD 15 voters with a sample that was 36 percent Democrat, 42 percent Republican and 22 percent with no party affiliation. When asked how they would vote generically, respondents favored Republicans 42-36 percent. However, that margin tightened to 48-47 percent in favor of the GOP when respondents were asked how they would vote in a generic congressional race. When the names of the two candidates were revealed, respondents said they preferred Carlson by a point, 48-47 percent with 5 percent undecided. Also noted by the Carlson campaign was her 10-point lead among unaffiliated voters, who favored the former prosecutor and General Counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus over Spano, a third term state lawmaker, 54-44 percent.

DCCC and David Shapiro drop $900K on ad blitz in CD 16via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is joining with Shapiro on a $900,000 ad campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. Both Shapiro and the DCCC will put $450,000 toward the new ad campaign. The 30-second spot, titled “Rig,” focuses on Buchanan’s purchase of a yacht on the same day House Republicans passed the first version of their tax cuts bill last year. It was later reported that Buchanan received a loan for that purchase from a company who was also lobbying in support of the bill.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

In heavily weighted live polling, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell leads Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District” via The New York Times — Be cautious with these results. They are heavily weighted compared with most of our polls, which makes them less reliable. Mucarsel-Powell leads 48 percent compared to 45 percent for Curbelo with 7 percent undecided. Given expectations, our poll may be a good result for Democrats so far. But remember: It’s just one poll, and we’ve talked to only 334 people. Each candidate’s total could easily be seven points different if we polled everyone in the district. And having a small sample is only one possible source of error. As we reach more people, our poll will become more stable, and the margin of sampling error will shrink. The margin of sampling error on the overall lead is 13 points, roughly twice as large as the margin for a single candidate’s vote share. One reason we’re doing these surveys live is so you can see the uncertainty for yourself. Even if we got turnout exactly right, the margin of error wouldn’t capture all of the error in a poll. The simplest version assumes we have a perfect random sample of the voting population. We do not.

Janet Cruz mailers blame school lead, A/C woes on Senate opponent Dana Young” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — In two campaign mailers, Democrat Cruz blames Republican Young for air conditioning failures and lead in drinking water in Hillsborough public schools, saying Young’s past votes to cut school budgets are responsible. Cruz says education funding is the central issue in her campaign to take Young’s District 18 state Senate seat … The mailers say Young “slashed Hillsborough schools funding (and) teacher pay” and “forced our kids into schools with no A/C and lead in the water.” The mailers cite Young’s 2011 vote on a state budget that, according to PolitiFact, included $1.3 billion in K-12 funding cuts.

Happening tonight:FRSCC fundraiser invitation

Meanwhile … a campaign note from a galaxy far, far away: “NJ vote-by-mail law confuses voters, election staffvia The Asbury Park Press — Letters sent out to explain a new law that automatically signs up some voters for vote-by-mail ballots are causing confusion across New Jersey. Some voters say they don’t understand how they were signed up for vote-by-mail ballots, while others say the messages county clerks sent out may end up discouraging people from voting. “With all of the accusations of voter suppression, we should be making it easier not harder,” said Jane Kleinman, a Red Bank voter who received one of the letters. “It’s creating confusion rather than clearing up confusion.”

— STATEWIDE —

Deal on local property tax rates helped stabilize Florida’s budget” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — A leading Senate budget writer claimed vindication Friday in a lingering dispute with House leaders over whether to allow local school boards to capture all of the value of rising property values when setting local tax rates. Rob Bradley, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, underscored the point during a presentation on the state’s three-year fiscal outlook by Office of Economic and Demographic Research director Amy Baker. Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, expects state revenues to grow by 3.3 percent or so through each of the next three fiscal years. That works out to about $1 billion per year, suggesting a stable budget picture through the near future.

Education board backs $673 million boost for schools” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Board of Education advanced a $21.8 billion request for public school funding in the next budget year, including a $200 boost in per-student funds and increased funding for school safety initiatives. Highlights of the 2019-20 budget proposal include: An overall $673 million, or 3.5 percent, increase, compared to the current budget for the 67 school districts; an increase in per-student funding from $7,407 to $7,607; $101 million increase to pay for an additional 13,680 new students expected in classrooms next fall. In total, there will be nearly 2.9 million students in the K-12 system next year; $100 million increase in the “safe schools” initiative, boosting total funding to $262 million. The funding allows districts to hire sworn law enforcement officers to protect school campuses.

Jose Oliva to lead investigation of misspent state money at UCF” via Florida Politics — Incoming House Speaker Oliva will take over chairmanship of the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee “to investigate the misuse of funds by the University of Central Florida,” term-limited Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Friday. The university’s chief financial officer, William Merck, stepped down Thursday after an audit revealed the school improperly used $38 million in state funding to construct a campus building. UCF President Dale Whittaker told the state university system’s Board of Governors on Thursday that the school has replenished the state money, while taking steps to investigate the problem and to prevent similar occurrences in the future. The use of state operating funds to build the 137,000-square-foot Trevor Colbourn Hall, which opened this semester at UCF, was in violation of state policy that restricts that money to activities like instruction, research, libraries, student services or maintenance.

Jose Oliva will head the House investigation into funding UCF’s Trevor Colbourn Hall (Image via Nick Leyva ’15)

Chris Latvala to propose child-welfare reform ‘Jordan’s Law’ in slain toddler’s memory” via WTSP News — Latvala said he plans to file “Jordan’s Law” in December. The proposed law is named after 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, who was killed last month, allegedly by his birth mother, after being taken away from the foster family he had lived with most of his life. Latvala said the bill would provide more caseworkers for the Department of Children and Families and higher pay. He said each caseworker handles on average about 24 cases. The optimal number for each worker is 10, Latvala said experts told him. Latvala said the bill came about after a meeting with a 20-year-old mother who started a petition to reform child welfare laws in the state. The petition has garnered more than 20,000 signatures.

Customers say Marlin Financial’s auto loans are deceptive. Now the state is investigating” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — Marlin Financial has saddled desperate consumers with much more debt than expected, apparently breaking the law in the process, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found. The Times spoke with 20 Marlin customers, interviewed former employees and reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, from the company and public records from three states. Marlin has approved loans that are larger than it is licensed to make. Its debt cancellation policy … can push its interest rates over state limits. It has failed to give customers an opportunity to take belongings from repossessed cars … For more than a year, the company has largely slipped the notice of state regulators. Marlin is now the subject of a consumer protection investigation by the Florida Attorney General’s office. Based on customer accounts, according to experts, Marlin would be in clear violation of state law. Lenders are required to tell people where their cars are being held and give them an opportunity to take their belongings.

Marijuana smoking ban case smolders in appellate courtvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The state constitution “creates a procedural right to seek treatment with smokable marijuana,” according to a new filing in an appeal by patients seeking to light up medicinal cannabis. Attorney Jon Mills filed a 48-page answer brief, in response to the state’s 57-page brief last month arguing that the smoking of medical marijuana should remain outlawed. The 1st District Court of Appeal case followed a May ruling by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the smoking ban violates the 2016 constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

Judge dismisses horse group’s challenge of Calder gambling permit via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Tallahassee administrative law judge has booted a Florida horsemen’s group challenge of a South Florida track’s gambling permit. The reason: “Jurisdiction over the issuance of the summer jai alai permit being” contested in appellate court, not the Division of Administrative Hearings, Judge E. Gary Early wrote. “Thus, there is nothing for (the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association) to attack.” The case was against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling, and regarded Calder Casino’s summer jai alai permit. The pari-mutuel previously went by the name Calder Race Course.

Rays tickets could lead to disbarment of former Bradenton judge” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Florida Bar now is seeking to disbar a former judge who accepted baseball tickets from a law firm representing a woman whose personal injury case he was presiding over. Circuit Judge John F. Lakin, elected in 2012, quit the bench in March 2016 … He’s a former legal analyst for Court TV and MSNBC and a past “Florida Super Lawyer.” Lakin’s resignation ended a judicial conduct inquiry, but The Bar filed its own discipline case against him. A referee recommended a 90-day suspension, followed by one year of probation. The Bar called that “too lenient.” Lakin “committed serious misconduct, which undermined the integrity of the judicial system,” its initial brief said. The “appropriate sanction … is disbarment.”

The Florida Bar is seeking stronger sanctions on Circuit Judge John Lakin, a past ‘Florida Super Lawyer,’ for improperly accepting baseball tickets. (Image via Bradenton.com)

Florida prisoner kills cellmate, gouges out eyes, wears ear on necklace, sources say” via the Miami Herald — An inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution’s annex was able to strangle and mutilate his cellmate, gouge out his eyeballs, wrap his blood-soaked body in a sheet and walk into the prison’s chow hall wearing the dead inmate’s ear strung around his neck before officers learned anything was amiss … The murder happened Thursday morning, hours before an apparently unrelated gang melee erupted in another building on the compound, located in Lake City, 50 miles west of Jacksonville. In that disturbance, two gangs — the Bloods and the Cutthroats — began stabbing each other with knives in a clash over smuggled contraband, a source said. Only one officer was in the control room — responsible for supervising scores of inmates at the time it happened in G Dorm of the main building, one of the sources said.

Did gunman open fire on Lake Worth transformer, blacking out city?” via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post — Did a gunman try to sabotage the city’s electrical grid? Could the outage have been domestic terrorism? Knowing that gunmen had attacked electrical equipment in California and Arkansas in recent years, city utility officials said the unusual circumstances around the explosion gave them no choice but to consider foul play. The FBI was called. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation. The damaged transformer was sent to a forensic lab for analysis. Then, it happened again. On the night of June 20, another fireball lit the sky over the same substation: A second transformer had catastrophically failed, causing a citywide power outage for nearly seven hours. No suspicious holes were found on the second damaged device, which was directly next to the one that failed April 9. But that offered city officials little comfort … the other troubling reality is that attacks on power stations in North America are not unheard of.

— HISTORY LESSON —

There are centuries of history packed into a new piece for The Bitter Southerner.

The First Floridians” retells the origins of Fort Mose, once a Spanish slave sanctuary. But also recounts the more modern history of the man who unearthed the St. Augustine site: Jack Williams.

“In the story … one gathers a sense of St. Augustine as what it appears to have always been, at least since statehood: a city in deep turmoil, full of squabbling historians, with so much to be proud of and to preserve, so much that has been invented for effect, other parts it might like to bury, and an ultimately loose grip on the controls,” writes Jordan Blumetti.

Discovery: Williams purchased the tract believing that something significant lay within. He recruited the University of Florida to help him unearth the fort later.

Conflict: The state soon sought to purchase the site from Williams, though it consistently low-balled him. He refused to sell the property, and the state took him to court and won.

Character: Williams’ reputation was damaged by the high profile conflict with the state. Because of the nature of the property  a slave sanctuary he was pegged a racist.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio: Phil Bredesen tries to ‘pull a fast one’ in Dem Senate bid” via Jonathan Mattise of The Associated Press — Rubio said Democratic former Tennessee Gov. Bredesen is “trying to pull a fast one” on voters by promising to be moderate if he’s elected to the Senate in a critical race. He made the comments to reporters after attending a Tennessee campaign roundtable with Hispanic community members for Bredesen’s opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Rubio praised the congresswoman as having the right background to contribute to what Republicans are doing in the Senate. Bredesen and Blackburn are locked in a tight contest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

Marco Rubio says former Gov. Phil Bredesen is trying to pull ‘a fast one’ on Tennessee voters.

Charlie Crist’s proposal adding seat belts the school buses takes on new life” via the Sunshine State News — Back in April 2017, Crist introduced the “Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act” which would mandate that all new school buses have seat belts. Crist worked on the issue when he served in the Florida Senate. This week, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee brought out legislation to strengthen safety requirements on school buses, including provisions from the Best to Use Safety (BUS) Belts Act including Crist’s proposal that busses be “equipped with three-point belts and providing grants to upgrade existing buses with safety belts.” Crist pointed to recent bus crashes across the nation as to why his bill was needed.

Happening today — Republican operative Roger Stone will appear at the Palm Beach County Trump Club, 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.

— OPINIONS —

Scott must answer for environmental malpractice” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — Scott is trying to fool voters into thinking that Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat whom Scott is trying to unseat on Nov. 6, is to blame for the algae blooms. A Scott ad contends Nelson has done “nothing” for “Lake O.” It’s supposedly Nelson’s fault that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hasn’t limited water discharges or fixed the Herbert Hoover Dike. This is nonsensical double-talk. The dike’s condition and the rate of discharges have nothing to do with the pollutants in the water in Lake Okeechobee. Letting all that phosphorus and nitrogen into the water, to begin with — that’s the problem. And that’s on Scott. The same Scott, by the way, who didn’t buy an available 153,200 acres of U.S. Sugar land, which would have given that water someplace else to go. Backing off that deal, in 2015, was a blow to Everglades restoration. The list goes on.

Reggie Garcia: Amendment 4 will save taxpayers money, give felons a second chance” via Florida Politics — Called the “Voting Restoration Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendment will grant most of the 1.7 million convicted felons the right to vote and help select their leaders for local, state and federal offices. Amendment 4 is good public policy and smart justice. Here’s why: Data from the Florida Commission on Offender Review proves that the vast majority of felons who get their voting and other civil rights back do not commit new crimes. They have learned their lesson and are trying to earn the second chance they have been given. The reduction in the number of reoffending felons will have a positive $365 million economic impact … How? By leading to fewer prisons and more jobs and positive economic activity. Reduced prison construction and staffing costs will save $223 million. Many of the affected individuals are our family members, neighbors, co-workers, high school classmates, church friends and mutual acquaintances of people we know. Except for their status as felons, they are regular Floridians who pay taxes, own homes and businesses, have kids, and contribute to our schools and communities.

Erika Donalds: Roadblocks re-energize reformers via Florida Politics — I cringed as the League of Women Voters cheered the end of Amendment 8 and their success in disenfranchising Floridians. Voters deserved to have a say in whether to allow the school district monopoly over schools to continue, but activist judges decided otherwise. The LWV patted themselves on the back while blocking mothers from voting on something most precious to them: the education of their children. Schools can look different and be a perfect fit for an individual child. Please stop fearing change. Schools of choice are real schools too, with real students and loving teachers. That is all that matters. Families want choices. Choices are working for students. We will find a way to give them the choices they deserve. You can be sure this is not the end. If anything, roadblocks re-energize reformers. And we have thick skin.

— MOVEMENTS —

Interim leader remains at helm of Financial Regulation” via the News Service of Florida — Florida appears likely to end the year with an interim commissioner at the Office of Financial Regulation, leaving the future leadership of the agency to the next governor and state Cabinet. Gov. Scott and the Cabinet in June appointed Deputy Commissioner Pam Epting to serve as interim commissioner. That move came after former Commissioner Drew Breakspear resigned under pressure from state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. The Cabinet drew 58 applications for the commissioner’s job, and interviews were conducted with five applicants. But Scott and the Cabinet have not named a commissioner.

Seems like interim Commissioner Pam Epting will be leading the Office of Financial Regulation just a bit longer.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Kaitlyn Bailey, Edward Briggs, Natalie King, Ronald Pierce, RSA Consulting Group: Family Health Source

Kendall Moore, Moore Law Group: Waste Management of Florida

Louis Rotundo: Celebration Pointe Holdings

William Scherer, Michael Dutko, Jordana Jarjura, Conrad & Scherer: NUCO CITRUS

Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe: Vendita

— ALOE —

Hurricane Florence evacuees flee to Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — With the threat of Hurricane Florence, some East Coast residents have evacuated to the Orlando area, making trip reservations within a day or two, the kind of planning that normally takes months. Nine Orlando-area Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties will offer reduced rates for people affected by Hurricane Florence, the company announced. The “distress rate” also includes free lodging for pets with guests. “Friends and Family in the Carolinas,” wrote travel agent Meredith Maki, who runs Inspirely Travel in Charleston, South Carolina, that specializes in Disney vacations, on her Facebook page. “Why not evacuate to DISNEY?!?”

Who wouldn’t want to evacuate to here?

Vanilla could spice up Florida’s agriculture” via Ryan Ballogg of The Associated Press — Products like vanilla extract and beans that flavor ice creams and lace perfumes come from plants in the genus Vanilla, part of the orchid family. Florida’s farmers might want to look into the plant’s tasty potential as a valuable secondary crop. The spice could be nice for Florida’s agriculture and may help solve a budding global dilemma. Consumers take the world’s second most-prized spice (after saffron) for granted, but the vanilla industry is facing major challenges: Vanilla prices have skyrocketed in recent years as major food brands attempt to go all-natural, dumping the artificial flavor vanillin. Vanilla is now more valuable than silver, selling for around $600 a kilogram; climate change and geopolitical challenges are impacting world vanilla suppliers like Madagascar and Mexico, contributing to price rise and global supply instability.

Email away message of the day via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press: “Hello. So, unless Hurricane Florence zips over to Atlanta Saturday morning and parks itself there, I will be out of the office until Thursday, Sept. 20. But hopefully, we can get in and out of there without any problems and get up to the great state of Massachusetts, home of the Red Sox, some pretty amazing lobster rolls, scenic Cape Cod, the Berkshire Mountains, and the five-time Super Bowl champion Patriots. Not that we’re doing or seeing any of those things. We’re pretty much going to plant our butts in Wilbraham, the corporate headquarters of Friendly Ice Cream. I probably won’t be checking my email much, but if you really, really need me, call or text 850-591-5805. But remember, my parents might be napping, so try not to wake them up.”

Happy birthday to St. Petersburg City Councilman Charlie Gerdes, reporters Charlie Frago and Jeff Schweers, and the incredibly talented Mary Beth Tyson.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Ice, ice, ‘Action!’

Vanilla Ice was the guest of honor at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism Wednesday evening.

There, the group bestowed the famed hip-hop artist with the 2018 Film Florida Legends Tourism Ambassador award, which is presented annually to entertainment legends who keep the Sunshine State on their mind and involved in their work.

“Vanilla Ice has been a recognizable artist for nearly 30 years, all the while being a wonderful ambassador for Florida,” Film Florida President Bonnie King said.

In honoring Ice (born Robert Matthew Van Winkle) King cited the artist’s record-breaking and successful hip-hop career — hit song “Ice, Ice Baby” was the first hip-hop song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts — and his devotion to Florida, which includes hosting an annual block party in Wellington and starring in his own Florida-based home improvement reality show, “The Vanilla Ice Project,” now in its eighth season on the DIY channel.

Ice also annually presents the music video award, now named after him, at The Palm Beaches Student Showcase of Films.

Added King: “Vanilla Ice continues to help others and accomplish so much, while representing the state of Florida in such a positive way.”

In receiving the award, Ice now joins the ranks of prior recipients Burt Reynolds, Sharon Gless, Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

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

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

Take 5

Florida chips in ahead of Florence — Private and public utilities sent aid to the Carolinas this week, anticipating additional cleanup and restoration efforts would be needed following Hurricane Florence, which made landfall on the North Carolina coast Friday morning. More than 200 crew members from 18 public power companies made the trip, according to the Florida Municipal Electric Association. As well, Tampa Electric Co., Florida Power & Light Co. and Gulf Power Co. sent line workers to help restore power. Gov. Rick Scott prepared the Florida National Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law-enforcement officers to deploy for affected areas if needed. He also waived weight requirements for emergency vehicles heading to the storm.

Lawmakers pass on revisiting security funding — A panel of state lawmakers this week ultimately rejected a request from Gov. Scott to reconsider funding appropriated to a program that arms non-teacher faculty in schools. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission convened on Friday, and despite repeated urges from Scott to unlock leftover funds trapped in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, the item was not listed on the meeting agenda. Both House Speaker-designate Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano had pushed back against Scott’s request. Scott had pointed out that just $9 million of the $67.5 available for the Guardian Program had been used. He suggested the remaining $58 million could be used to help offset the cost of staffing safe-school officers or law enforcement personnel at every school.

UCF misspending prompts resignation, investigation — University of Central Florida Chief Financial Officer William Merck stepped down this week after it was discovered the school improperly used $38 million to construct a campus building. On Thursday, UCF President Dale Whittaker told the state university system’s Board of Governors that the school has replenished the state money, while taking steps to investigate the problem and to prevent similar occurrences in the future, reports the News Service of Florida. That action, however, didn’t keep House Speaker Richard Corcoran from launching an investigation into the misuse of funds. In a Friday letter, Corcoran announced that Incoming Speaker Jose Oliva would chair the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee “to investigate the misuse of funds by the University of Central Florida.”

Justice application period begins — The Florida Supreme Court Nominating Commission began accepting applications this week to fill three upcoming vacancies at the high court. Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement next year on the same day Gov. Scott will turn over the governorship to whoever is elected in November. The nine-member panel has 60 days to forward three to six names for each vacancy. Scott, who has argued that he has the authority to nominate new justices during his final day in office, announced this week that he intends to cooperate with the next Governor to pick new justices. That didn’t sit well with Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum. His campaign’s spokesperson said, “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Justices to consider sweeping ‘bundling’ challenge — The state Supreme Court will examine challenges to three amendments proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. Former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead filed the lawsuit, which claims each of the amendments improperly lumps issues together or ‘bundles’ the amendments. The three amendments at stake include a proposal that would ban vaping in the workplace and offshore drilling; a proposal that deals with governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members; and a measure that would remove constitutional language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property and would revise language to make clear the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.

Scott, Putnam welcome tree recovery money

When the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced it had received more than $340 million in federal Citrus Tree Recovery Program funding this week, Gov. Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were happy.

To them, it was the culmination of their hard work paying off for Florida farmers.

Adam Putnam welcomes $340 million in federal aid for citrus tree recovery.

“Since October, I have been fighting for Florida’s citrus growers to get the relief they deserve to replant and rebuild their livelihoods,” Scott said. “This includes, traveling to Washington to advocate for relief and activating a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program last year.”

“We’ve worked tirelessly with Florida’s agriculture industry, elected leaders and government agencies to help our citrus industry recover from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage,” Putnam said. “Thanks to the hard work of so many, this much-needed piece of disaster assistance is finally on the way and will go a long way to help Florida’s citrus industry rebuild.”

In total, $343,331,216 is now at the ready to offset tree replacement, grove rehabilitation, system repairs and future economic losses incurred by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Southwest Florida a little more than a year ago.

State expands Blackwater River forest

The Blackwater River State Forest is extending to another 800 acres, state officials announced this week.

The expansion was made possible through a partnership between the Florida Forest Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Santa Rosa County, the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, and the Trust for Public Land. The land was acquired through the Forest Legacy Program.

The Blackwater River State Forest, located in the Panhandle, is expanding by 800 acres.

“Florida’s state forests are vital ecological and economic resources for our state, and we must continue to prioritize the protection of Florida’s unique natural spaces,” said Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. “This addition to Blackwater River State Forest will enhance natural resources and provide more recreational activities for Floridians.”

The land is expected to benefit endangered species in the area while also acting as a buffer space between NAS Whiting Field and the community.

Since 1990, the Forest Legacy Program has protected more than 2.6 million acres of land in the U.S., according to the Department of Agriculture.

Instagram of the Week

State leaders convene to highlight missing children

Alongside hundreds of law enforcement personnel, public officials and citizens, First Lady Ann Scott and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen remembered Florida’s missing children this week in Tallahassee.

The annual event, Florida Missing Children’s Day, also serves to recognize the state’s child protection efforts.

On Florida Missing Children’s Day, Seminole County K-9 handler Deputy John Locklin and Panzer received the Jimmy Ryce K-9 Trailing Team of the Year Award.

In 2017, according to FDLE, there were more than 32,000 missing children incidents reported to law enforcement.

“As a parent and grandparent, Missing Children’s Day is a solemn reminder that no family should have to endure the heartache of a missing child,” First Lady Scott said. “I pray for continued strength and healing for the families, and the safe return of the loved ones still separated from their families.”

Added Swearingen: “The safety and security of Florida’s children continues to be a major priority for FDLE, as is the successful recovery of those who are missing.”

First-generation students to receive scholarships

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart presented more than $1 million to Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega this week during the State Board of Education meeting.

The funding, made possible by the Florida College System Foundation, will help first-generation students who wish to pursue careers in health care.

“These scholarships will open doors for students that otherwise might not have existed,” Stewart said.

Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega received more than $1 million in scholarship money for first-generation students. 

With the help of the Helios Education Foundation, Florida Blue and Bank of America, the scholarships seek annually to relieve the national nursing shortage while also incentivizing college attendance.

The Florida College System boasts 28 institutions. More than 60 percent of the students attending these colleges work part-time while enrolled.

‘BearWise’ money doled out

A total of $500,000 has been awarded to 10 Florida communities to help them reduce bear-human conflicts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission announced this week.

The money, known as BearWise funding, will be used to help offset the cost of bear-resistant trash containers and other equipment.

BearWise funding helps provide bear-resistant trash cans, reduce the number of bear-human conflicts.

BearWise funding was prioritized for communities that had passed ordinances requiring trash be kept secure from black bears. Among those communities: The City of Apopka, Lake County, Santa Rosa and Seminole County.

The remaining funding went to the City of Mount Dora and Collier, Marion, Okaloosa, Volusia and Walton counties.

According to FWC, $2.1 million worth of BearWise funding has been provided to local governments since 2007.

Alexander concerned over university funding model

State Rep. Ramon Alexander asked the State University System Board of Governors to reconsider and reform parts of the performance-based funding model used to dole out additional money to institutions.

Alexander’s letter to the board preceded its Wednesday and Thursday meetings.

Because the current system does not provide any funding to the bottom three universities, Alexander argues in his letter, those institutions are “disproportionately” harmed.

State Rep. Ramon Alexander has questions on how Florida funds its university system.

“Last year, many institutions showed growth and improvement, nonetheless, despite all efforts, they received no additional state funding,” Alexander said in a statement accompanying his letter. “These funding disparities take a serious toll on the lower performing colleges and universities.”

He added that the current model “fosters a system of competition” between the much larger universities in the state, which have different missions. In other words, it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all awarding opportunity.

Alexander highlighted how both the University of North Florida and Florida A&M University have improved their performance scores. But, since the schools are still rank among the bottom three institutions, they weren’t awarded performance-based money.

Davis helping host HBCU College Fair

State Rep. Tracie Davis will be collaborating on Saturday with The Center, One Foundation and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis to host the second-annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities College Fair.

All nearby parents and students are welcome to attend the event, which will last from 10 a.m. — 2 p.m. today at Kingdom Plaza in Jacksonville.

The Center, One Foundation hosts the Second HBCU College Fair on Saturday.

Noting the “long and rich history” of HBCU’s, Davis said she was excited to help host the event.

“HBCU’s accept and provide scholarships to help more low-income and first-generation college students to ensure that all students get a fair chance at a good education,” she added.

Davis’ office also claims the demand for HBCU attendance is growing. It is expecting more than 1,000 people to attend the Saturday fair.

Lawmakers honored for ‘conservative’ clean energy work

Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes along with Republican state Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Holly Raschein were honored this week as Conservative Clean Energy Champions.

They were joined by 41 other conservatives across the U.S. that were recognized by Conservatives for a Clean Energy Future, a nonprofit advocacy group seeking to promote pragmatic renewable energy.

Conservatives for a Clean Energy Future President Mark Pischea named Jeff Brandes, Ray Rodrigues and Holly Raschein as Conservative Clean Energy Champions.

“I want to thank you for all you do to help support the development of favorable clean energy policies in state capitols across America,” wrote CCEF President Mark Pischea in a letter to the honorees. “We look forward to continuing to work with you — and our Champions — to continue making a difference for our clean energy future.”

Champions, Pischea added, “are fighters for our nation’s transition to clean energy.”

National Lifeline Awareness Week

The Public Service Commission wants Floridians to know that struggling financially shouldn’t block Floridians from quick access to emergency services — or even to family and friends.

The commission is participating in National Lifeline Awareness Week, an effort to promote awareness of a discount on landline, cellphone or internet services for low-income families.

One discount of $9.25 cents per month is available per household.

Lifeline helps low-income Americans stay connected in the modern world.

Recipients must have an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Alternatively, at least one member of the household must receive benefits through Medicaid, supplemental security income, federal public housing assistance, veterans’ pension and survivors’ benefits, or tribal benefits.

Learn more on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

“In this day and age, it’s very difficult to function without a phone,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said.

“We want consumers to know that if they already participate in an approved federal assistance program, they probably qualify for Lifeline and can easily apply for their discount.”

Kuryla elected Florida Ports Council chair

At the recent Florida Ports Council annual board meeting in St. Petersburg, PortMiami Director and CEO Juan Kuryla was elected chairman. Kuryla replaces Port Everglades Chief Executive/Port Director Steve Cernak.

“Florida has 14 dynamic seaports that specialize in diverse business sectors from cargo to cruise. These ports, with their access to the third largest population in the U.S., serve as vital economic engines creating thousands of new jobs over the past five years,” Kuryla said.

Newly elected Florida Ports Council Chair Juan Kuryla, director and CEO of PortMiami.

“I am honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to lead the Florida Ports Council and I look forward to continuing the work of my predecessors in growing jobs and commerce for the great state of Florida.”

Port of Palm Beach Executive Director Manuel Almira was elected vice chairman and Port Panama City Executive Director Wayne Stubbs was elected secretary/treasurer. All positions are one-year terms.

The Florida Ports Council is the professional association of Florida’s 14 public seaports, providing advocacy, leadership and research on seaport-related issues at the state and federal level.

Base rate reduction coming for Peoples Gas customers

Customers of TECO Peoples Gas System can look forward to lower bills under an agreement approved by the Public Service Commission.

The PSC signed off on a settlement between the company and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers before the commission.

The commission attributed the estimated $11.6 million deal to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the GOP bill that directed most of its savings to corporations. Peoples is Florida’s largest natural gas utility, serving 370,000 customers in the state.

Good news for TECO People’s Gas customers.

The base rate reduction per customer heating the average house will amount to $1 per month, beginning in January.

“We want to ensure that customers directly benefit from recent changes to the federal tax law through lower bills,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “This agreement ensures that these savings for Peoples’ customers will continue beyond 2019, and we found it to be in the public interest.”

 ‘AOB’ issue still in the fore

Following Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ lead, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier again condemned the practice of assignment of benefits, or AOB, abuse.

Patronis recently called on reforms to curb the fraudulent practice.

Per Altmaier, “Now, more than ever, is the time for a solution to the abuse and fraud that continues to threaten the affordability of insurance in Florida.”

Once again, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier is blasting assignment of benefits abuse.

Altmaier said AOB reform is a “top priority” for his office. AOB agreements allow contractors and repair personnel to essentially “stand in the shoes” of an insured person, according to Altmaier’s office.

“The excessive litigation fueled by bad actors who abuse AOBs will only result in higher premiums for our consumers,” he explained.

FSU surges in national rankings

Florida State University jumped seven spots to the No. 26 rank among national public universities in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2019” guide.

“Florida State University is one of the best universities in the nation, and we are excited that U.S. News & World Report recognizes our academic excellence,” said President John Thrasher. “Student success is at the heart of our mission at Florida State, and these rankings are a reflection of that commitment.”

FSU Provost Sally McRorie says the ‘drive to 25’ may come sooner than expected.

The latest ranking continues a rising trend for FSU. The school ranked No. 43 on the same list three years ago and has since steadily increased its status among public universities. The 2019 rankings mark the biggest single-year jump in university history, according to FSU officials.

Internally, FSU leadership has committed to becoming a ‘Top 25’ public university. Provost Sally McRorie said that goal could be achieved sooner than expected.

“Our ‘drive to 25’ is almost finished and a little earlier than I think any of us expected,” McRorie said. “That’s a testament to the very hard work of everybody across campus.

“We’re planning for what comes next!”

Hurricane happily ever after

Florida’s capital city played a small but significant role as Hurricane Florence churned toward land.

For a local couple intending to wed in North Carolina, Tallahassee was the next-best thing.

A slight change of plan for Sam Hajjar and Hayley Watts. (Image via theknot.com)

According to the Tallahassee Democrat’s Nada Hassanein, who reported the story, Sam Hajjar and Hayley Watts moved their wedding to Tallahassee ahead of the storm’s landfall Friday morning.

Watts, who had to re-plan everything with short notice, told the Democrat it’s “the wildest thing I’ve ever done.” But she’s thankful there’s a “sunny” forecast for the wedding now.

The couple, who grew up in Tallahassee, will now wed at the Red Hills plantation.

Capitol Directions

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott need a real statewide debate. Leadership Florida forum fits perfectly.

In the tight race for U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — for the sake of millions of Floridians — need to take part in a statewide, televised face-to-face debate.

Few can disagree that debates can be critical; they not only give candidates the best shot at making their respective cases, but voters also get an unfiltered opportunity to compare and contrast the two before heading to the polls.

And one forum that fits the profile perfectly (and is already planned) is “Decision 2018: Before You Vote,” the latest variant of the successful series from the nonpartisan nonprofit Leadership Florida, partnering with the Florida Press Association.

“Before You Vote” is currently set for about a month from now, Oct. 23 at Broward College, beginning 7 p.m.

Both Nelson and Scott need to commit to this debate — prearranged since March — as the best and only statewide televised forum in a crucial race that has attracted national attention.

Here’s why: A statewide consortium of 10 major network affiliates is dedicated to picking up the event, blanketing every Florida market. It is the same partnership that produced the highly acclaimed 2016 U.S. Senate debate (held at the same venue) pitting incumbent Marco Rubio against challenger Patrick Murphy.

Observers praised that forum as a serious, substantive and modern model for such events — which is precisely why Nelson and Scott need to take part.

Right now, the only so-called “debate” currently under consideration is from Telemundo, with coverage in select markets limited to Miami, Ft. Myers, Tampa, West Palm and Orlando. It will not be a statewide consortium.

Another event, this one from CNN, is being referred to as a “debate” by the Scott campaign, but Nelson’s campaign acknowledged it will review other possibilities, including the one to be hosted by CNN.

However, CNN.com has no mention of any Florida debate or forum. Also, while CNN has a national reach, it is only available for those with paid cable. People watching via antenna will not see it.

On its website, News4Jax does refer to the CNN event as a “debate,” offering tweets from both campaigns admitting such. They say Scott agreed to the forum — going as far as calling it a “debate” on Twitter — but no mention of it from Nelson.

Again, the News4Jax event (even if it does happen) will offer limited TV reach.

Leadership Florida, their partners FPA/WPBF and Broward College, bring both a history and a stellar reputation for producing professional and highly regarded debates.

Moderators and panelists for the LF debates are all Florida-based journalists, who offered the most in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of the race and critical issues. As for timing, the LF/FPA debates are strategically scheduled to serve as the last word before Election Day.

Also, both Florida-based and national journalists have sought credentials for the Oct. 23 event and C-SPAN, as in the past, has expressed keen interest in carrying the debate.

Along with an extensive reach and prestige, the event will also have high-quality talent behind the camera.

Executive Producer Phil Alongi, a 25-year veteran of the NBC network, is producing this show — as he did the Rubio/Murphy debate in 2016. Alongi is also a technical producer for the Republican National Convention, as well as coordinating all media covering it.

The bottom line — and it cannot be stressed enough — is that Scott and Nelson need to DO THIS DEBATE.

Simply stated, it’s a solution where both campaigns (and voters) will benefit.

Hey RGA, ‘don’t … be an American idiot’—oh wait, too late

First, understand how I’m not angry, but laughing at the ham-handedness of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) media team.

You remember these fellas, the ones who attacked veteran Tallahassee and South Florida lobbyist Ron Book in an email blast?

And then had to withdraw said attack with their collective tails between their legs?

They used the FBI investigation angle to go after Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, which is understandable. What’s not is dragging in Book in the same email.

Why bring up Gillum’s vote “to extend a $90,000 lobbying contract” with Book?

Why mention that Book is a “major Gillum campaign donor”?

Worse, and I chuckle some more here at the inanity, why try to smear Book by calling him “a well-known ‘influence peddler,’ ” then bring up long-settled accusations from the – I kid you not – 1990s?

Can’t say I didn’t tell them.

Hey, maybe somebody finally listened to me and pulled the Book-themed attack.

If so, that was the smartest thing the RGA’s “Rapid Response” geniuses did this week.

Polling: GOP candidates on wrong side of medical marijuana smoking ban

As Florida Politics was preparing to release the results of our final post-primary, statewide survey focusing on the nexus of 2018 elections and medical marijuana, POLITICO Florida published a story putting Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Matt Caldwell squarely on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to Florida’s popular medical marijuana law.

The three top-of-ticket Republicans each offered varying degrees of incoherence as they staked out positions in support of Tallahasee’s quixotic crusade against allowing Florida patients to smoke medical marijuana.

DeSantis: “I want to see what happens with [the appeal].”

Moody: “…the litigation to clarify the amendment’s scope is reasonable…”

Caldwell: “…smoking is not a medicinal delivery system…[the smoking lawsuit] is just a fig leaf for full recreational use…”

Meanwhile, in the real world, voters believe — by a whopping 66-24 margin — that medical marijuana patients be allowed to smoke marijuana under the law.

These numbers come from Florida Politics’ polling partnership with medical marijuana advocacy org Empowering Wellness. What began as Wellness Week has now stretched over almost two weeks, and we’ve released results from four surveys over the last 10 days. In tomorrow morning’s SunBurn we’ll roll out the fifth and final poll, looking at the race for Attorney General.

ICYM the Sean Shaw-Moody horse race numbers,I’ll give you some hints:

—It’s tiggggght (duh);

—Medical marijuana is a winner for Shaw, and a loser for Moody.

Just like the three previous St. Pete Polls statewide surveys that we commissioned as part of Wellness Week(s), Floridians strongly support the state’s medical marijuana law, in numbers consistent with the 71 percent it received on the 2016 ballot. Also in line with the previous surveys, people aren’t happy with the Tallahasee status quo when it comes to the application of that law.

By a 42-23 margin, respondents disapproved of the way outgoing AG Pam Bondi has handled medical marijuana during her tenure. Those figures are squarely aligned with the prior results, where we asked if folks approved of Gov. Rick Scott’s handling (nope, by 45-30), and the Legislature’s handling (uh uh, by 48-29) of medical marijuana implementation.

Even in the survey we conducted among Republican primary voters in the uber-conservative 1st Congressional District (held by medical marijuana-supporting Republican, Matt Gaetz), Panhandle Republicans would rather keep the Florida medical marijuana law in place, versus repealing it, by a 53-34 margin.

DeSantis, Moody and Caldwell are simply out of step with the electorate on this issue, and all indications are that Democrats are going to continue weaponizing it to their electoral advantage.

We had Bill Nelson over Scott by 0.1 percent, Andrew Gillum over DeSantis by 0.3 percent, and Nikki Fried over Caldwell by 1.8 percent — and the AG race is looking to be another close one.

With a slate of statewide contests this tight, medical marijuana could easily make the difference in any one of them.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.14.18

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

ICYMI: Talk of porn, ‘sex toys and science’ spur lawsuit against Florida State’s medical school

Jokes by a med school professor about porn, sex toys and the Zika virus led to a lawsuit against Florida State University, according to a complaint filed in Leon County this week.

Christina R. Goswick-Childers, formerly an academic program specialist at the school’s College of Medicine in Tallahassee, filed sexual harassment and retaliation claims after she reported incidents and was let go last February, her suit says.

But the university on Thursday denied any discrimination or retaliation against her, countering with a 60-page dossier.

It says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated her case and was “unable” to find any “violations” of federal discrimination law.

It also says she was terminated for “multiple egregious performance issues” and notes that the professor she complained about — Dr. Gregg Stanwood — was never her direct supervisor.

Goswick-Childers said her troubles began in February 2016, when Stanwood — a developmental neuropharmacologist and behavioral neuroscientist — joked in front of two other co-workers he couldn’t give Goswick-Childers his credit card information.

That was because he feared “she may use the card to purchase porn or online sex toys and his wife may find out,” according to the complaint.

After she reported the remark about two months later, “the (work) environment became hostile and extremely stressful” as Goswick-Childers “believed she would face retaliation.”

She said she did the following January, after a guest speaker “made reference to sex toys in (a) presentation (on the) Zika virus,” the suit said.

Stanwood told her in front of four others that “he had made a bucket list item of being able to introduce a speaker that incorporated sex toys and science.”

The rest of the story is here.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

@ScottforFlorida: I disagree with @POTUS — an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart-wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR

@AndrewGillum: No death is partisan, and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better from @realDonaldTrump before, during, and after the hurricane.

@CHeathWFTV: “Every morning there is something new that the president tweets,” says @CortesBob “I have no reason to doubt the number of 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico”

@MahoneysTheName: In a statement, @RonDeSantisFL disagrees with Trump: “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”

@FrancesRobles: On the Oct. 3 day Mr. Trump threw paper towels at a crowd in Puerto Rico, 121 people died in Puerto Rico, compared to 82 who died on that day the year before. That’s an increase of 39 people, or 47 percent.

@BiancaJoanie: Written statement from @ricardorossello: “I ask the president to acknowledge the magnitude of Hurricane Maria … we cannot allow for the response efforts to be politicized.

@StephenLawsonFL: Former FBI agent on AndrewGillum NYC boat trip with undercover agents: “We’re not going to let anybody on that boat that we don’t think is worthy of a criminal investigation, if we can help it.”

@KevinsiDonohoe: FDP just got back all our Adam Putnam records requests. Interesting timing — I wonder why they waited?

@DeFede: I’m glad @FLGovScott and @SenBillNelson will debate. Debates are good. But it bothers me that they go to @CNN and @wolfblitzer — it feels disrespectful to folks in Florida and to Florida journalists. I hope the debates between @AndrewGillum and @RonDeSantisFL will be different.
— @MDixon55: State of Florida’s public pension fund boosted by 300% its stake in New Media, better known as @GateHouse_Media. Company has been gobbling up newspapers and gutting them, or shutting them down. That includes several papers in Jacksonville, just ask @TimesUnionGuild 

— DAYS UNTIL —

First general election mail ballots go out — 8; First day of fall — 8; Future of Florida Forum — 12; Government shutdown — 17; FSU vs. UM football game — 22; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 25; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 39; MLB World Series begins — 39; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 40; Halloween — 47; General Election Day — 53; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 67; Thanksgiving — 69; Black Friday — 70; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 74; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 151; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 173; 2020 General Election — 781.

— TOP STORY —

Rejecting Puerto Rican death toll, Donald Trump accuses Democrats of inflating it” via Eileen Sullivan, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, rejecting that government’s assessment that the storm had claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Trump said that the toll was only six to 18 dead after his visit following the storm, but that was at a time when the estimate of fatalities was changing. It rose to 34 in the hours after the president left the island. Trump said Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age “in order to make me look as bad as possible.” The National Hurricane Center, a federal agency, called the death toll “highly uncertain” in an April report and logged the official number at 65. The report noted: “Hundreds of additional indirect deaths in Puerto Rico may eventually be attributed to Maria’s aftermath pending the results of an official government review.” In August, after a thorough review, Puerto Rican officials accepted a revised estimate of the dead as 2,975. And lawmakers — Republican and Democrat — have accepted those findings.

Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that Democrats inflated the Puerto Rican death toll to make him look bad. Sad!

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Florida Republicans are angered by Trump’s advancement of a conspiracy theory casting doubt on Hurricane Maria’s estimated death toll in Puerto Rico. They fear his comments will undo GOP inroads in the growing and increasingly influential Boricua community less than two months before Election Day. … “Mr. President. SHUT UP,” Alan Levine, a Republican appointed by Gov. Scott — a top Trump ally — to Florida’s university governing board, replied on Twitter. “Any death, whether one or 3,000 is a tragedy. That doesn’t mean you caused it, and it’s not about you. Show compassion for the families,” Levine wrote. “Learn what we can, so future response can improve. Honestly …”

Fact-checking the death toll estimates from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact — Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health relied on interviewing people and asking them about causes of death in their households. Researchers selected 3,300 randomly chosen households and found 38 deaths after the hurricane, including three from direct causes and 12 from interruption of necessary medical services. The Harvard researchers extrapolated based on that data about the number of “excess deaths” (the number of deaths compared with the same period during the previous year) and found a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate. The researchers concluded that there was a range of 793 to 8,498 deaths with a confidence interval of 95 percent. But it was that midpoint number of 4,645 “excess deaths” that drew most of the media attention. Since this story posted, another study attempting to approximate the death toll was commissioned by the government in Puerto Rico and published by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. The study released in August 2018 analyzed death certificates and other mortality data and found an estimated 2,975 excess deaths between September 2017 through the end of February 2018. The team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns and found that the number was 22 percent higher than would have been expected.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott ads go at it over Scott’s ties to Trump, Nelson’s time in Washington” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In a Spanish language ad released Wednesday, “Amigos,” Nelson’s campaign ties Scott to Trump and calls them “muy buenos amigos.” Scott was one of Trump’s earliest supporters but has noticeably distanced himself from Trump in past months, including not appearing at a Trump rally for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Tampa in July. Scott did not mention Trump in his speech at a luncheon for Vice President Mike Pence last week, though Pence said a Scott victory would help the Trump administration in Congress. The Scott campaign released a new ad, “Give ‘Em Hell,” designed to show Nelson as “a career politician.”

To view “Amigos,” click on the image below:

To view “Give ‘Em Hell,” click on the image below:

Lawsuit says Scott’s office won’t fulfill public records request” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A lawyer who recently won a public records lawsuit against Gov. Scott sued his office again Thursday, accusing his administration of ignoring a separate request for public records needed in a pending legal case. “You must acknowledge the request and respond to the request in good faith,” Ryan Andrews said in a letter to Scott’s office included in a complained filed in circuit court. “Time is of the essence.” Scott’s office said its Office of Open Government did acknowledge the request. Andrews represents the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which recently lost a bid to renew a state health care contract. AHF protested the contract award, its case is pending before an administrative panel, and the case is set to conclude in less than three weeks. As part of its case, AHF wants records of communications between Scott’s office and dozens of health care lobbyists who represented rival vendors. The list of lobbyists includes Dean CannonAl CardenasMike CorcoranHayden DempseyNick IarossiFred KarlinskyLarry OvertonBill Rubin and Gerald Wester, among many others.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott makes another stop on his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way, Clearwater.

— GILLUM VS. DESANTIS —

What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Evidence shows that undercover agents organized the boat trip and other events in New York. Indeed, two agents were on the boat, unbeknown to Gillum. And if FBI agents organized the outing, it implies that their interest in Gillum had evolved into a “predicated” investigation, former agents told the Times/Herald. It would require the agents working the case to show their bosses that they have allegations or facts about criminal wrongdoing that would justify having Gillum aboard.

Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gillum is out with his first TV ad of the general election titled, “My Grandmother’s Voice.” Gillum begins the minute-long ad recounting advice given to him by his grandmother. He then explains how those messages motivate his run to be the state’s next Governor. “I can still hear my grandmother’s voice,” Gillum begins. “She’d say, ‘Go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lesson. And one day, bring that education home. Bring it home for your little brother and your little sister who don’t know what an education is yet.’”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

GOP launches first DeSantis TV ad in general, references Dunedin baseball years” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — When DeSantis was 12 years old, he and the Dunedin Nationals baseball team went to the 1991 Little League World Series. The ad opens with a TV news report from the time, showing the young baseball players in a celebratory dog-pile. “We were only 12, but we learned to dream big, work hard and swing away,” DeSantis says in the ad, while standing in a room full of old baseball memorabilia (including a Tampa Tribune article from the time). “And that’s my plan as governor.” The closing line? “From Dunedin to Tallahassee, I’ll always to go to bat for Florida,” he says.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

DeSantis resignation ends dormant ethics complaint that raised questions about donors’ ties” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — The complaint, which alleged DeSantis rented out a Palm Coast beachfront condo at a “well below fair market value,” did not advance to the U.S. House Committee on Ethics, which reviews claims against congressional members if warranted. But it raised questions about the three-term congressman’s close ties to two campaign donors, who work as top executives at Total Military Management, a Jacksonville-based defense contractor that has spent more than $700,000 since 2012 lobbying the federal government. With DeSantis out of Congress, those entities have now lost jurisdiction over the complaint.

’You might be a racist if your name is Ron DeSantis,’ asserts American Bridge” via Florida Politics — Liberal activist group American Bridge slammed DeSantis with a provocative new video. The title: “You might be a racist … if your name is Ron DeSantis.” DeSantis, whose campaign began with a warning that electing Democrat Gillum would “monkey this up,” has struggled to deflect Democratic criticism on the grounds of racial insensitivity. The American Bridge video opens with that quote, calling it an example of using “racial bullhorns” (a quote from Gillum as the controversy broke). From there, the group reminds voters of DeSantis being an administrator of a “racist Facebook page,” then splices in reportage of DeSantis speaking at four different conferences organized by conservative provocateur David Horowitz. “David’s done such great work, and I’ve been an admirer of an organization that shoots straight and tells people the truth,” DeSantis said.

To view the ad, click on the image below

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Latest poll: Ashley Moody leading Sean Shaw 46-44 for Attorney General” via Florida Politics — Republican candidate Moody is leading her Democratic counterpart Shaw in the 2018 race for Attorney General, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls. When asked, “If the election for Attorney General were held today, who would you vote for: Republican Ashley Moody or Democrat Sean Shaw,” 46 percent said Moody and 44 percent said Shaw, with roughly nine percent undecided. The poll was commissioned as part of “Wellness Week,” a collaboration between Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls and Empowering Wellness. The takeaway: Moody seems to be the one Republican leading in these polls; all of the others had Democrats ahead.

Koch-backed Freedom Partners endorses voting restoration amendment” via Florida Politics — The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Koch Industries VP Mark Holden, said that it was behind a 2018 ballot amendment that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. “We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote,” Holden said in a news release. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction — one of only four states with a lifetime ban. “If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens. We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full. This will make our society safer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens,” he concluded.

Florida Dem slammed U.S. weeks after 9/11 attacks” via Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon — Less than a month had passed from September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Lauren Baer, then a student at Harvard University, was calling the American response to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 a “moment of hypocrisy,” attacking its “shameful history,” and hoping for a “more humble and humane” America to emerge. Baer, who went on to work in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the State Department under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and is currently running for Congress, wrote a column every two weeks for the Harvard Crimson. Her October 10, 2001, column, “From Hypocrisy to Humanity,” was highly critical of the United States, criticizing some of those who responded to the attacks. “Some people speak of wanting an America to emerge from these events that is stronger and more proud,” Baer wrote. “I wish to see an America emerge that is humbler and more humane.” She also wrote that America had a “shameful history” of standing up for its values.

— DOWN BALLOT —

Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Drew Wilson of Florida PoliticsThe Florida Chamber of Commerce has put out its third wave of endorsements for state legislative seats … A handful of the Florida Chamber’s new endorsements are revisions reflecting a handful of surprise victories in the Aug. 28 primary election. “As we saw during the primary election, election outcomes can be unpredictable, but it’s our job to make sure that voters stay informed about the best possible candidates to move Florida forward,” said Marian Johnson. … Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is running for SD 25 as well as incumbent Democratic Reps. David Silvers and Matt Willhite … Among the non-electeds earning the Chamber’s support were a pair of candidates who face tough battles in the fall: House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca … Candidates getting the nod after their Chamber-backed rivals lost in the primary include HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan, HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois, and HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory, who cruised in the primary after the Chamber’s first pick, Melissa Howardwithdrew from the contest after revelations she had faked a diploma from Miami University.

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad” via Florida Politics — The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients. “For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials. Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pam Dirschka calls out Rene Plasencia over skipping HD 50 forum” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Dirschka is calling out Plasencia for not committing to a candidates’ forum Monday and charging that he’s been avoiding face-to-face encounters with her, while Plasencia insisted he’s ready but that appropriate forums haven’t happened yet. “He’s a no-show,” Dirschka said. “I want a forum that is inside our district, where people who actually have an opportunity to vote for us can attend,” Plasencia responded. The Monday forum was set for Cocoa, outside of House District 50. Plasencia said he told organizers he would be willing to participate if the forum moved to a location inside HD 50. Hosting the forum is the League of Women Voters, Florida Today, and Eastern Florida State College. It is set for 7 p.m. at Eastern Florida State College’s Simpkins Center in Cocoa.

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63” via Florida Politics — Tampa City Councilors are chosen in nonpartisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three nonconsecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell. “I have known and worked alongside Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf, and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

Jennifer Webb passes Ray Blacklidge in total fundraising, cash on hand” via Florida Politics — The small-business woman raised about $7,900 from Aug. 24 through the end of the month, bringing her fundraising total to about $181,500 since she entered the race to succeed Peters late last year. That puts her ahead of her opponent by about $3,500 in campaign fundraising. “It’s clear that voters are attracted to our community-centered campaign, and they understand what’s at stake with this election,” Webb said in a news release. Thanks to one-time Democratic candidate Javier Centonzio stepping aside, Webb was able to make it through primary season without facing a challenger. Blacklidge wasn’t as fortunate.

Ben Diamond, Alex Andrade plan 2020 re-election bids” via the News Service of Florida — Diamond, who was first elected to the House in 2016, did not draw an opponent this year in Pinellas County’s House District 68. Andrade won an Aug. 28 primary over Republican Greg Merk and does not face a general-election opponent for an open seat in House District 2, which is made up of parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Also this week, Republican Zane Christian Matter opened a campaign account to run in 2020 in House District 50, which is made up of parts of Orange and Brevard counties. Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, currently holds the seat.

Bill Carlson cracks $50K raised for Tampa City Council bid” via Florida Politics — Carlson posted another five-figure finance report for August, putting him far in the lead in the three-way race to succeed exiting City Councilman Harry Cohen, who is running in the crowded race for Tampa Mayor. Carlson started his campaign for the District 4 seat with a bang in June, bringing in more than $31,000 for his bid and followed it up with a healthy $8,145 in July and another $10,640 in his most recent report. The new money included a $500 check from Southern Strategy Group of Tampa, $500 from Tampa banker Henry Gonzalez and $150 from Orlando-based architect CT Hsu of CT Hsu + Associates as well as numerous individual donors.

Melissa Howard expected to serve probation over fake diploma” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — An investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has concluded that Howard “intended to defraud” when she touted a fake diploma from Miami University while running for the District 73 state House seat. Howard is expected to sign a deferred prosecution agreement that involves probation and community service. “The defendant Melissa Howard, intended to defraud and misrepresent her association and academic standing with Miami University,” wrote a Sheriff’s Office investigator. “Furthermore, the defendant produced the fictitious diploma and uttered it as being awarded to her as true, while knowing it to be false.” The deferred prosecution agreement allows Howard to avoid being formally charged with a crime if she does 25 hours of community service, pays certain costs and completes the terms of her probation.

— BLUE … SPIKE —

Whether a Democratic ‘blue wave’ will come in November is unknown.

But what’s certain is that more Democratic candidates are running for federal office this year than any party has put forth since 1980, reports Harry Stevens of Axios.

“The last time either party drew these many candidates was in 2010, when Tea Party rallies and grassroots opposition to President Obama brought a new generation of conservative Republicans to Congress,” writes Stevens.

Numbers: 1,706 Democratic candidates have been active this midterm cycle. The previous record since 1980 was in 2010, which saw 1,688 Republican congressional candidates registered with the FEC, according to Stevens.

Recent past: In 2016, there were more Republicans running than Democrats. That’s been the case since 2008, when the Democratic Party fielded 1,168 candidates, compared to the GOP’s 1,105.

Context: “The number of candidates in itself doesn’t guarantee election victories,” writes Stevens. “But it’s one more sign of how motivated Democrats are this year.”

— STATEWIDE —

Additional Florida utility crews head north to help with Florence recovery” via Florida Politics — “As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, Florida public power has prepared to respond by engaging our network of mutual aid,” said Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association. “More than 200 crew members and equipment from 18 Florida public power communities are standing by to assist with power restoration efforts in North Carolina and South Carolina following the impacts of dangerous Hurricane Florence, which is expected to cause widespread power outages and massive property damage.” Also, Gov. Scott lifted weight limits on emergency vehicles headed north and placed Florida National Guard and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers on standby to assist with the recovery.

Adam Putnam to ‘work hard’ until the end” via the News Service of Florida — Asked for the second time in a week what is next for him, Putnam, a longtime elected official despite being only 44, maintained his goal is to “work hard” in his current job “to the very end.” “I went back to work the next morning,” Putnam said, referring to the day after the primary. “There’s a lot to be done.” Asked about remaining in public service, he said he’s “focused on being Commissioner of Agriculture.”

Enterprise Florida seeks ‘back channels’ to DeSantis, Gillum” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — “Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the Governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency. Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest. “I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the Governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s executive committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next Governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”

Enterprise Florida knows one of its strongest advocates is term-limited and hoping to ascend to the U.S. Senate.

Superintendents: School security transfer ‘not yet ripe’” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter addressed to Scott, the Florida Association of District Superintendents President Richard Shirley writes: “We believe that all of the funds for school safety should be used in the year in which they were appropriated. “The funds remaining in the Guardian Program should not revert to the state General Revenue Fund.” Scott has repeatedly urged the Legislature in recent weeks to revisit the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a fund for school districts that opt to arm non-teacher faculty. According to the Department of Education, just $9 million of the $67.5 million appropriations has been used by schools. Scott wants lawmakers to convene a special panel to unlock the remaining $58 million. However, both House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano have pushed back against Scott’s request.

Red tide is weaker, but still hanging around Anna Maria Island. Is the worst behind us?” via Samantha Putterman of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee beaches were reported to have medium to very low levels of the algae, according to Wednesday’s red tide report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The numbers followed a similar report from the previous week. While the bloom appears to be weaker locally, it still extends from Pinellas County to northern Collier County along 120 miles of coastline, the FWC says. “Persistent surface currents — before, during and after the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon — likely played a role in transporting cells of K. brevis to the Northwest,” the FWC report says.

Legal battles mount over marijuana licenses” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Five wannabe operators who got shut out of the state’s first round of medical-marijuana licenses three years ago and recently were shot down a second time are asking a judge for help. But first, Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall has to settle an even more basic argument: How many licenses are up for grabs? Florida Department of Health officials maintain only two licenses are available under a 2017 law aimed at implementing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The 2017 law was also intended to curb litigation related to the highly sought-after licenses. But the rejected applicants contend that, if they meet eligibility requirements under the law, they should get licenses, no matter what the number. The five applicants have filed administrative challenges seeking to overturn health officials’ decisions to deny them licenses.

Brightline charges on despite efforts to stop the train” via Mike Synan of FloridaDaily.com — Brightline is already up and running from West Palm Beach to Miami. The eventual plan is to run a train from downtown Miami to the Orlando International Airport. The train will not be a true high-speed rail system like what is found in China. However, the train will make the trip from Orlando to Miami in around three hours. To accomplish this, the train will have to reach speeds of 110 miles per hour in some parts of the stretch between West Palm and Cocoa and as fast as 125 miles per hour as it approaches Orlando on new tracks that will be built beside the Beachline. Opponents of the train told the FDFC that taxpayers should not have to pay for maintaining these crossroads. Several counties and cities along the route have a federal lawsuit against the train which is still working its way through the courts. St. Lucie, Martin and Brevard counties are all considering whether or not to try and get Brightline stopped in the courts. The problem remains to balance the need for a faster trip from Miami to Orlando with the time it would take to add a stop for the train at one or more of those cities along the coast.

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield argues for scrutiny of those higher speeds.

David Beckham, Trump — and the push to make Miami-Dade parks profitable” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Budget pressures are nothing new for municipal parks, but Beckham helped bring the issue into sharper focus this year in the Miami area. The retired soccer star and his partners are promising millions of dollars of revenue to Miami in exchange for converting a city golf course into a one-million-square-foot commercial complex and professional soccer stadium surrounding 58 acres of traditional parkland. Melreese Golf Course, a privately run 131-acre course, is one of the largest properties in the city’s parks system and cost Miami’s budget an average of $88,000 annually over the last five years, according to a breakdown released this week by the city manager’s office. Months before he joined the 2016 presidential race, Trump was hoping similar concerns would give his resort company control of the county’s premiere 18 holes: the Crandon Park golf course on Key Biscayne. His company offered to spend $10 million fixing up the course and pledged at least $100,000 a year to the county for running a course that was losing money. “I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT GREAT!” Trump wrote in a March 2015 letter to Gimenez. That deal fizzled, weeks before Trump announced for president in June 2015. But there’s still interest in a possible private-sector boost for public golf courses.

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — Commissioners voted to criminalize operating a business without a license after the second offense. The violation is currently punishable by a $1,000 civil fine, but if the new proposal passes a final vote in October, violators could face up to 60 days in jail for a third strike. Each day operating without a license is considered a separate offense, so unlicensed short-term rental hosts could be arrested for renting a property for three days or more. Miami Beach prohibits rentals of six months or less in most residential areas. Mayor Dan Gelber, who proposed the measure, said that criminalizing a third violation would give the city an extra tool to go after the operators of any type of unlicensed business. The city’s existing ordinance criminalizes unlicensed operations only for continued violations of 30 days or more, which can be difficult to enforce.

State challenged over Pasco hospice approval” via the News Service of Florida — The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which approved Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Pasco County, received challenges from The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and Compassionate Care Hospice of Pasco. The companies are challenging the preliminary decision to authorize Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care’s proposed $719,500 project and the state’s decisions to deny their license applications. Florida uses what is known as the “certificate of need” process to regulate new health care services and programs such as hospice. AHCA on March 30 published a need for one new hospice program in Pasco County beginning in July 2019. Ultimately, eight companies filed CON applications to provide the services.

Some of St. Cloud’s water is brown, but city says it’s safe to drink” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The discoloring has been present in some St. Cloud homes since early last year. City officials blame it on a diminished polisher — which helps clean the water — at one of the city’s treatment plants, as well as issues with the resin used to filter out organic materials. Despite the water’s dingy tint, it’s safe to drink and use, officials said. “We recognize it’s inconvenient, but it’s safe,” public services director DiAnna Rawleigh said. The Osceola County city is moving forward with contracting repairs to the treatment plant to clean up the water and also is working with an engineering firm to ensure the facility is operating at peak efficiency, St. Cloud spokeswoman Krystal Diaz said.

UCF acknowledges misusing $38M in state funds for new building” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The money was used to build Trevor Colbourn Hall, an academic building that opened last month. The matter came to the Board of Governors at a meeting in Sarasota. The state funds can be used for expenses like instruction and maintenance, but not new construction. The university says it has replaced the money with funds from other sources. School leaders are also reviewing all other projects to make sure no others relied on misspent money. The UCF Board of Trustees approved the new building in May 2014 but didn’t know the source of the money used for construction, according to the university.

UCF’s now-controversial Trevor Colbourn Hall.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Matt Gaetz hobnobs with an alleged Holocaust denier. Again.” via David Corn of Mother Jones — In January, Rep. Gaetz, a conservative Republican firebrand from Florida, invited right-wing troll Charles C. Johnson to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Johnson, a notorious social media figure accused of being a white nationalist, had been permanently banned from Twitter for declaring that he wanted to “take out” a leader of Black Lives Matter. And in early 2017, Johnson had come under fire for denying the Holocaust. Eventually, the controversy over Johnson attending the State of the Union passed. But two months ago, Gaetz and Johnson were together again — this time on a yacht in Newport Beach, California. The occasion was a July 20 fundraiser for Gaetz’s re-election campaign.

Matt Gaetz is hobnobbing (again) with noted white supremacist Charles Johnson.

— OPINIONS —

Pam Bondi: Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via the Washington Examiner — It is disappointing that Florida’s Democratic Senator, Nelson, has not made any good faith efforts to give a brilliant jurist the fair consideration he deserves from the U.S. Senate. Judge Kavanaugh is undeniably qualified for the Supreme Court bench. His professionalism has been commended by legal scholars, colleagues, and observers from both sides of the aisle. He has spent more than two decades in service to the American people, including in White House roles under former President George W. Bush. At first, Nelson said he would oppose the nominee before he even knew who it was. He later said he would hold off on deciding on Kavanaugh until actually meeting him. Yet he has even called Judge Kavanaugh a “right-wing extremist” in fundraising emails. Nelson and Senate Democrats have embarked on a senseless campaign to discredit Kavanaugh, despite finding nothing with which to discredit him.

Karen Halperin Cyphers: Does #MeToo reduce demand for a Bill Clinton endorsement?” via Florida Politics — I wanted to know how Floridians across the political spectrum would react to the question: Would an endorsement from the former president positively or negatively impact views toward the candidate he supports — with, and without, specific reference to #MeToo? It turns out that #MeToo matters — but not the same way for everyone. We found that a reference to the #MeToo movement: Dramatically increases negative views and decreases positive views among voters with no party affiliation (NPA). Has NO impact on the portion of Republicans who view a Clinton endorsement positively or negatively — not unexpected, given the low regard for Clinton among Republicans. Has NO impact on the portion of Democrats who would view a Clinton endorsement negatively. However, a large portion of Democrats do shift from positive feelings to “neutral” when the #MeToo movement is referenced. Interestingly, Democratic women have an even less negative response to the #MeToo reference than Democratic men. To me, these results suggest that Democrats are either in denial about the degree to which Clinton has “#MeToo-d” women, or it simply doesn’t matter to them.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: U.S. Hemp Roundtable

Jim DeBeaugrine, RFJ Governmental Consultants: Servium Group

Eired Eddy, St. Petersburg College

Marti Coley Eubanks, PinPoint Results: David H. Melvin

Brian Jogerst, BH & Associates: Kadel Torres-Oliver

Rebecca Kapusta, Department of Children and Families

Mark Minck: National Center for Life and Liberty

Travis Moore, Travis Moore Relations: Qualified Reporting Services

Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Hilton

Foyt Tipton Ralston, Capitol Advocates: AgLogic

— WEEKEND TV —

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Republican lawyer Danny Alvarez, former Democratic CFO Alex Sink, Tampa Bay Times editorial writer Molly Moorhead, and commentator Barry Edwards.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Joining Walker-Torres are Florida State Senator Linda Stewart, Florida State Representative Mike LaRosa, and John Sowinski of Voters in Charge. They will discuss Amendment 3 on the future of casino gambling throughout Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: state Representative Ross Spano will discuss his campaign to represent U.S. House District 15; The latest from Tallahassee with Spectrum News Capitol Reporter Troy Kinsey; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim by Ron DeSantis about Andrew Gillum.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida and political consultant Beth Matuga.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams; Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; Matt Carlucci, former Jacksonville City Council President; and Earl Johnson Jr.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the midterm elections and ballot; the powerhouse roundtable will take on the week’s news.

— ALOE —

Hurricane Florence evacuees flee to Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — With the threat of Hurricane Florence, some East Coast residents have evacuated to the Orlando area, making trip reservations within a day or two, the kind of planning that normally takes months. Nine Orlando-area Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties will offer reduced rates for people affected by Hurricane Florence, the company announced. The “distress rate” also includes free lodging for pets with guests. “Friends and Family in the Carolinas,” wrote travel agent Meredith Maki, who runs Inspirely Travel in Charleston, South Carolina, that specializes in Disney vacations, on her Facebook page. “Why not evacuate to DISNEY?!?”

What Joe York is reading — “AT&T boss writes script for HBO: more data, more money” via Drew Fitzgerald and Shalini Ramachandran of The Wall Street Journal —AT&T Inc.’s boss said the company may shift resources to HBO from other parts of its newly acquired Time Warner business to step up programming investments and use data on its customers’ tastes and habits to inform its content bets, part of a plan to compete with streaming giant Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also said the reams of data the telecom and television giant has — from the viewing preferences of its DirecTV subscribers to where customers take their phones — will help build up an advertising analytics business that could benefit the television industry more broadly, helping media companies compete with Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. “We think we have a couple of years window to stand this up and really make inroads,” Stephenson said in a wide-ranging interview. “I have yet to speak to a [chief marketing officer] or an advertiser who says, ‘I wish I could spend more money with Google and Facebook.’ That human being doesn’t exist.”

AT&T honcho Randall Stephenson.

Tamorrion Terry emerging into receiving threat Florida State needs” via Bob Ferrante of The Associated Press — “He’s a talented football player for us, a kid that can go up and attack the ball on one-on-one,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “And a kid that can stretch the field for you as well. He had a great week of practice. And I think that’s why he had the game that he had, just his mentality where he went about practicing, and it paid off for him in the game. And hopefully a lot of our other guys learn from his example, come and locked into practice and you get the same results on the football field.” While the Seminoles (1-1) have struggled, generating just a field goal in the season-opening loss to Virginia Tech and needing a fourth-quarter rally to hold off Samford, the emergence of Terry is encouraging for a young receiving group that is still finding its way in Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense. Florida State needs more performances like that from Terry and the rest of the receivers as the Seminoles look to jump-start the offense, beginning Saturday at Syracuse (2-0).

Happy birthday to Danny Martinez and the one and only Brian Pitts. Early birthday wishes to three good dudes, Brewster BevisChris Hudson, and Paul Seago.

Last Call for 9.13.18 – 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

Hearsay is generally inadmissible in a court of law. But it can be juicy.

Take this extended morsel, tucked into a filing at the Division of Administrative Hearings in a case lodged by The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) against the state over Calder Casino’s gambling permit.

The horse industry is in a battle for its life as track owners seek to get rid of live racing but hold on to lucrative games like slots and poker.

Here’s the thing: Dog and horse tracks in Florida generally are required to keep running live races to have slots and card games that usually make facilities more money. Calder, a Hallandale Beach facility that holds a limited schedule, is trying to ditch horse racing entirely to switch to jai alai.

It’s not alone, the FHBPA says.

“The FHBPA has heard that two other permitholders that operate slot machines in Broward County, i.e., the Mardi Gras greyhound track (now called “The Big Easy Casino”) and The Isle harness horse track (a.k.a “Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park”), either are considering or are intending to seek summer jai alai permits with the further intent to effectuate a permit swap to summer jai alai without impacting their respective slot machine licenses.

“If those permitholders are also able to swap their longstanding permits for a summer jai alai permit, then of the seven permitholders in Miami-Dade and Broward that are authorized to conduct slot machine gaming under … the Florida Constitution, six of the seven permitholders will become either jai alai permitholders or summer jai alai permitholders.

“Obviously, the switch to jai alai is not because of the popularity or profitability of jai alai; wagering records … demonstrate how extremely unpopular betting on jai alai games has become.

“Instead, it is the FHBPA’s position that the permitholders’ desire to switch to summer jai alai is caused exclusively by the fact that summer jai alai operations require the least amount of infrastructure and the least amount of dedicated real property and employ the cheapest form of labor—all of which results in the least amount of slot machine profits being spent by the permitholder to achieve the minimum pari-mutuel gaming activity necessary to satisfy the ‘live racing or games’ requirement for slot machine licensure.”

We called spokespeople for both The Big Easy and the Isle Casino — and got no response.

Evening Reads

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Donald Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via Pam Bondi for the Washington Examiner

Morning Joe mocks Ron DeSantis for ducking tough questions on Florida issues” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

Andrew Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nichol of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis fundraising in Coral Gables next week with Jeb Bush” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Republican group condemns Mike Hill’s primary campaign calling it ‘deceitful’ and ‘sexist’” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal

SEIU Florida announces $5M spend on November election campaigns” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

David Hogg, Emma González to headline voter registration rally in Tampa Saturday” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

State finance problems loom as next Governor comes into office” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix

Florida trade mission to Dominican Republic organizing” via the staff of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Brightline charges on despite effort to stop the train” via Mike Sinan of Florida Daily

Soaring stock makes Darden Orlando’s first $15 billion company” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“I went back to work the next morning. There’s lots to be done.” —Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost this year’s Republican primary for Governor.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Statewide candidates and political committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Sept. 7.

The State Board of Education will meet in Collier County and take up numerous issues, including a 2019-2020 budget request for the education system. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Collier County School Board, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples.

A symposium will be held in Hillsborough County about sex trafficking in schools. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus, Auditorium, 4001 West Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, made up of House and Senate leaders, will receive a presentation about the state’s new “Long Range Financial Outlook.” The annual document analyzes past spending and future needs. That’s at 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

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