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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Pulse killings bump up Florida’s murder stats

Couched in the latest crime statistics is a sobering reality: “The attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando helped drive up Florida’s murder rate in 2016 to its highest level since 2008.”

The Associated Press noted that fact as Gov. Rick Scott trumpeted this week that “Florida’s crime rate is now at a 46-year low,” according to a press release.

“Statewide there were 1,108 murders, including the 49 who were fatally shot last June at the Pulse nightclub,” the AP reported.

Scott did note the Pulse tragedy in his statement: “In 2016, Florida’s law enforcement was tested like never before…

“From the horrific terror attack at Pulse Nightclub to Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, Florida’s men and women in uniform have answered the call,” he said. “I want to thank all of our law enforcement for putting their lives on the line to keep Florida’s families safe. Our state’s continuously decreasing crime rate is a reminder of the dedication and hard work Florida’s law enforcement officers show every day.”

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and dozens others injured. The attack on the nightclub helped drive up Florida’s murder rate to the highest levels since 2008. (Photo via Scott Powers.)

He went on to note the “more than $4.9 billion in public safety in the Fighting for Florida’s Future budget.”

“This investment includes a pay increase to support Florida’s sworn law enforcement officers, a comprehensive pay plan for correctional officers that will make Florida’s prisons safer, re-entry program funding that will reduce recidivism and increased funding for prevention programs targeting at-risk youth,” the governor said.

But even without the Pulse shooting, the AP reported, “the number of murders would have been up slightly from 2015, when 1,040 people were murdered.”

Add this: “The number of murders caused by firearms was also up — even without the Pulse shootings. In 2015, firearms were used in 767 murders. That increased to 847 in 2016.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

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

“Victory is mine” — A few days after the end of a three-day Special Session, Gov. Scott hit the road, crisscrossing the state as part of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour.” Scott touted the Legislature’s decision to increase spending for K-12 public education, fully fund Visit Florida, and set aside $85 million for a newly created Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, his one-time legislative foe, at his side for several stops. “None of this would have happened without the support of the speaker who worked hard all session,” said Scott; while Corcoran said it was “great to partner with the governor.” Senate President Joe Negron didn’t tag along on the tour. A spokeswoman for the Stuart Republican said he had already departed for a prior commitment in California before the scheduled was finalized, but looked forward to “attending future events with the Governor and Speaker Corcoran to discuss the important accomplishments of the 2017 Session.”

Gov. Rick Scott touted his legislative victories, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran by his side, during a one-day, multi-city tour this week. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

You win some —  After weeks of saying he was reviewing a wide-sweeping education bill (HB 7069), Gov. Scott signed the measure just four days after the House sent it to him for his consideration. The controversial bill, among other things, steers more public money to privately run charter schools, requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and sets aside money for teacher and principal bonuses. The measure was a top priority for House Speaker Corcoran, who said the so-called “Schools of Hope” provision would transform the state’s schools. The legislation was sharply criticized, with school superintendents and other public school advocates calling on the governor to veto it. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed,” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee, in a statement.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a wide-sweeping education bill during a stop in Orlando this week. The controversial measure was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

You lose some — While a top priority for Speaker Corcoran got a thumbs up this week, Senate President Negron wasn’t so lucky. Gov. Scott vetoed a wide-sweeping higher education bill (SB 374) that he said “impedes the ability of state colleges to meet the needs of the communities and families they serve.” The bill, among other things, enhanced policy and funding options for state universities to “recruit and retain exemplary faculty, enhance the quality of professional and graduate schools, and upgrade facilities and research infrastructure.” It also restructured the governance of the Florida College System and modified “the mission of the system and its institutions.” Scott said the legislation, a top priority for Negron, impedes the State College System’s mission by capping the enrollment level of baccalaureate degrees and unnecessarily increasing red tape.” Negron said he fundamentally disagreed with the idea that the bill made “positive changes to our universities at the expense of Florida’s community colleges.”

Some the courts decide – The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause asked the state Supreme Court to issue a ‘writ of quo warranto’ against the governor, claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor. The lawsuit says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight. Later in the week, Scott was given till July 5 to file a response.

It’s a law — Gov. Scott signed a slew of bills into law this week, including a measure (SB 90) that implements the 2016 solar tax break constitutional amendment. Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, it expands the definition of renewable energy source devices and, among other things, exempts renewable energy devices from tangible personal property taxes. He also signed a bill (SB 494) championed by former Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner (and sponsored this year by Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Bobby DuBose) that would allow more people wrongfully convicted and imprisoned to be compensated by the state; a bill (SB 1018) to increase public notification of pollution incidents; a bill (HB 493) directing the Department of Transportation to study the viability and cost of creating a statewide system for the designation of safe school crossing locations;  and a bill (SB 398) capping fees and revising the requirements for issuing estoppel certificates. Scott also signed into law a measure (HB 477) aimed at combatting the state’s opioid crisis. The law, among other things, enhances penalties for fentanyl abuse and its derivatives. “This legislation was my top priority this session—because it gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools we need to combat the trafficking of fentanyl and save lives,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

SPF K-12

Parents of fair-skinned kiddos, rejoice! Sunscreen is now allowed at school.

Tucked into the wide-sweeping education bill signed into law by Gov. Scott this week was a provision that allowed students to “possess and use a topical sunscreen product while on school property or at a school-sponsored event without a physician’s note or prescription.” The sunscreen, according to the provision, must be regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use.

The Governor’s decision to sign the bill into law means Florida is now the fifth state to adopt similar measures that aim to make sure children are protected from sun exposure while in school. The proposal — which was similar to ones adopted by Alabama, Arizona, Utah and Washington — have been backed by the American Dermatologic Surgery Association and the Florida Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery.

“Creating a culture of sun-safe behavior in our youth is an important part of how we can reduce the risk of skin cancer,” said Dr. Thomas E. Rohrer, the president of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association, in a statement. “As dermatologic surgeons, we must help the public understand the real risks of excessive sun exposure and how to mitigate them.”

According to the ASDSA, the provision is needed because some schools across the nation require children to bring a prescription in order to bring and use sunscreen. The ASDSA worked with multiple agencies, including the American Medical Association, to show why the provision was needed.

“Increasing access to sunscreen in our schools is an important step in the uphill battle against skin cancer,” said Dr. Terrence Cronin, Jr., the president of the FSDDS and the state affairs chair for the ASDSA. We must continue to be proactive in our efforts to lessen the risks associated with harmful sun exposure.”

Skimmer crack down

You can breathe a sigh of relief next time you head to the gas pump.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (HB 343) into law recently that updates Florida statutes to enhance protections from new methods of credit card theft.

Sponsored by Rep. Robert Asencio, measure, which goes into effect Oct. 1, identifies the scanning and skimming devices used by criminals to steal consumer information and conduct credit card fraud. It also criminalizes fraudulent activities, and aims to protect Floridians who rely on the safe use of their credit cards.

“Credit card fraud and identity theft are too common in our state,” said the Miami Democrat in a statement. “This legislation will update our laws to keep up with the underhanded methods of criminals and ensure they are held accountable for their actions.”

By the numbers

Two thousand cupcakes. Sixty-six new members. One vote.

Those are just a few of the big numbers from the 2017 Legislative Session, at least according to Moore Communications Group. The statewide communications agency released its annual “other” session wrap-up, which looks at a few of the other capital city watchers might have missed while they were watching all the action the floor.

Take for instance the number of cupcakes handed out on Epilepsy Awareness Day. According to MCG, the folks behind Epilepsy Awareness Day handed out purple cupcakes on April 18.

(Graphic via Moore Consulting Group)

Feb. 23 was the busiest day in LobbyTools history, according to the MCG analysis, with 1,082 individual bill actions added to the system within 24 hours.

In the age of social media, it’s no surprise that Moore Communications has the lowdown on the number of tweets sent this session. According to MCG, there were 51,208 tweets sent about the 2017 Legislative Session.

Welcome to the board

There’s a few new members of the Board of Occupational Therapy Practice.

Gov. Scott announced this week that he appointed Dr. Daniel Calvo and Tameka German to the Board of Occupational Therapy Practice, which oversees the licensure and regulation of occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants.

Calvo, a 39-year-old from Lakeland, is the regional consultant of clinical services for Accelerate Care Plus. He fills a vacant post, and was appointed to a term ending Oct. 31, 2017.

German, a 39-year-old from Tallahassee, is the owner of Premier Therapy Services. She succeeds Tammy McKenzie, and was appointed to a term ending Oct. 31, 2020.

Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Congratulations, Mr. President (and Madame President-elect)

You might want to start calling Michael Higer “Mr. President.”

Higer, a partner on Berger Singerman’s dispute resolution team, will be sworn in as the 69th president of The Florida Bar when the bar holds its annual convention in Boca Raton next weekend.

Higher is a member of the Bar’s Board of Governors, and serves on its executive committee. He is a former chairman of the Bar’s Business Law Section, and served as the chair of Bar’s special committee on gender bias, which recently issued a 12-point plan to address bias and promote inclusion.

Born in Miami Beach, Higer got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law. He joined Berger Singerman in 2015, after stints at Jacobsen Schwartz Nash Block & England; Coll Davidson Carter Smith Salter & Bartkett; and striking out on his own to form Higer Lichter & Givner.

The Bar will also swear in Michelle Suskauer as the president-elect during its annual convention. Suskauer will take the reins in June 2018.

Money for an apprentice

Rep. Asencio is hoping he and Gov. Scott can find common ground in the governor’s favorite four letter word — J-O-B-S.

The Miami Democrat is asking Scott to set aside $12.75 million from the $85 million in the newly created Florida Jobs Growth Grant Fund for apprenticeship programs. The request is similar to an amendment proposed by Asencio during the three-day special session earlier this month, which would have set aside money for an apprenticeship program.

Rep. Robert Asencio is asking Gov. Rick Scott to set aside $12.75 million for apprenticeship programs. The request is similar to an amendment proposed by Asencio during the three-day special session. (Photo via the Associated Press)

“The Governor will soon have the final version of the bill on his desk and the ability to allocate funds to invest in our youth and our entire state’s future,” said Asencio in a statement. “From South Florida, to the Space Coast, to even the White House, everyone is laser-focused on the incredible benefits apprenticeship programs will have on our country’s working families. We cannot afford to let this opportunity pass us by.”

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that cut back the federal government’s role in creating and monitoring apprenticeship programs. The order also doubled the amount of money for apprenticeship grants to $200 million a year, up from about $90 million a year.

“I call on Governor Scott to allocate $12.75 million, the amount my amendment intended to provide for apprenticeship programs, from the $85 million in discretionary funds in Florida tax dollars,” said Asencio. “This will help not only hundreds of people in South Florida, but many more across the entire state through public-private partnerships. It’s time we invest in working Floridians and give them the opportunity to better themselves and our state.”

Celebrating a golden anniversary

The Florida Bar is raising a glass to more than 250 attorneys who have dedicated 50 years to the practice of law.

The Bar will honor 254 attorneys during luncheon at The Florida Bar Annual Convention at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. In order to be recognized, attorney need to be members in good standing of the Florida Bar, active or inactive, and attain their 50th anniversary of admittance to the practice of law in 2017.

Honorees include Baya Harrison III, Stewart Parsons, Peter Spriggs, and Barry Richard.

As our Jim Rosica once wrote about him for The Tampa Tribune, Richard “is one of the Greenberg Traurig law firm’s powerhouses, perhaps most notable for representing then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential-election challenge in Florida. But (he) also represented the defendant in a dispute over royalties lodged by funk-music legend George Clinton in Tallahassee federal court.”

Richard now represents the Seminole Tribe of Florida in its fight over blackjack with the state, and the Florida Lottery in its court battle against House Speaker Richard Corcoran over a $700 million contract for new equipment.

Richard is married to Allison Tant, the former head of the Florida Democratic Party.

High fives all around

Work it — You’d be hard pressed to call this millennial lazy.

Gov. Scott presented Joe Sleppy with the Young Entrepreneur Award during the Cabinet meeting this week. Scott honored the 21-year-old for his work to create Capacitech Energy, an Orlando-based technology company. Founded in 2016, Capacitech Energy is focused on helping power electronic manufacturing companies reduce the size and cost of their products.

“It’s exciting to see a young entrepreneur pursue his passion for technology and build a small business in Florida,” said Scott. “Joe’s hard work and dedication lands him on the path for continued growth and future success.”

Scott also presented Partners in Association Management with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award. Founded in 1998, the Tallahassee-based company provides management services to state, regional and national associations.

Creating a sanctuary — Kelly Kowall created a sanctuary for families in need.

Five years later, she’s being honored for the help she’s provided to so many others.

Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida CFO Chester Spellman presented Kowall with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award during the Cabinet meeting this week. Kowall, the founder and president of My Warrior’s Place in Ruskin, received the award for her work to help families who are mourning the loss of a veteran or first responder.

“Volunteer Florida is honored to recognize Kelly for her invaluable work to provide members of the military, veterans, and military families with a place to recover from traumatic events or the loss of a loved one,” said Spellman.

Kelly Kowall, the founder of My Warrior’s Place, was recognized for her work to “help those who are mourning the loss” of a veteran or first responder. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

My Warrior’s Place was founded in 2012 after Kowall’s son, Army Specialist Corey Kowall, died in Afghanistan in 2009. The Ruskin retreat is a sanctuary that provides reprieve and support services for veterans, active-duty military members, first responders, and Blue, Silver, and Gold Star families grieving over losses or recovering from PTSD. Trained instructors and assistants teach multiple grief and bereavement coping mechanisms, including referrals to resources for continued progress outside of the retreat. The retreat has provided service to more than 5,000 individuals.

“I’d like to thank Kelly for her selfless service to help those who are mourning the loss of our brave and courageous veterans and first responders,” said Scott. “I applaud her continued efforts to honor the lives of our veterans, and provide a place for families and friends to find peace through their grieving process.”

Thanks, teach — The school year has come to an end, but that didn’t stop Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet from tipping their hats to a group of educators this week.

Scott presented seven educators with the Governor’s Shine Award during the Cabinet meeting. The award is presented to teachers and administrators in Florida who make significant contributions to the field of education.

“The hard work and commitment of these outstanding educators has been recognized in their schools and districts and I’m proud to present them with the Governor’s Shine Award,” said Scott. “I applaud their dedication to ensuring students across Florida are prepared for success in college and a future career.”

All of the teachers honored this week were the 2017 District Teachers of the Year and the 2018 State Teacher of the Year finalists.

Scott recognized Latrece Brown of Duval County, Katelyn Fiori of Indian River County, Juan “Diego” Fuentes of Martin County, Janeen Gibson of Hardee County, Tammy Ross Jerkins of Lake County, Lyndita Saunders of Collier County, and Kristen White of Santa Rosa County.

Advocacy honored — For more than two decades Ben Ritter has worked on behalf of veterans with disabilities. And this week, Gov. Scott took a minute to give Ritter a round of applause for his service.

Scott presented Ritter, a former non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps., with the Governor’s Medal of Merit during the Cabinet meeting this week. Scott, a Navy veteran, thanked Ritter for his service and his “commitment to advocating for veterans and citizens with disabilities.”

“Ben’s dedication to improving the lives of those with disabilities is humbling,” said Scott. “I’m honored to present him with the Medal of Merit today for his service and positive impact on the lives of countless Floridians.”

Ben Ritter was honored by Gov. Rick Scott for his work on behalf of disabled veterans. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Ritter lost the use of his legs during an unsuccessful back operation in 1988. In 1997, be began working in Tampa representing veterans with disabilities, serving as the government relations director for the Florida Gulf Coast Paralyzed Veterans of America from 1997 until 2012 and as an American Disabilities Act Consultant to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

Ritter currently serves as on the Hillsborough County Veterans Council, is co-chairman of the Tampa Mayor’s Alliance for Persons with Disabilities, and is a member of the local Military Officers Association of America Chapter and Hillsborough County Alliance for Citizens with Disabilities.

“Ben’s passionate advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities is well known and respected in Florida’s veteran community,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, the executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “His tireless efforts to help drivers with disabilities resulted in Florida’s gasoline stations displaying their phone numbers on gas pumps for pumping assistance.”

Financial clarity

Students heading to college fall will have a little better understanding about their financial future, thanks to a new law signed into law this week.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (SB 396), sponsored by Sen. Dorothy Hukill and Sen. Aaron Bean, that requires colleges and universities to provide students with financial information about their student loan debt.

“An affordable education allowed me and my family to live the American dream, so ensuring that every Florida student understands the costs of higher education is very important to me,” said Scott in a statement. “This bill is another step in the right direction and builds on our college affordability bill enacted in last year and our fight to hold the line on tuition, making it possible for more students to get a great education in Florida.

Under the law, which goes into effect July 1, schools are required to annually provide students with an estimate of the total amount a student has borrowed in student loans; the student’s potential loan repayment amount; an estimate of the monthly loan payment amount; and the percentage of the borrowing limit the student has reached at the time the information was provided.

“Student loan debt is growing every second and every second students are putting themselves further into debt for their education,” said Hukill in a statement. “Our students need to be as informed about their debt and what it will cost over the life of the loan as they would be when they buy a car or a house.”


Working together — When it comes to a workforce development, it’s all about collaboration.

That’s the idea Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, wanted to get across during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Learners to Earners education summit this week. The annual conference aims to connect the state’s business community, workforce professionals and education leaders to talk about ways to prepare Florida students for the future.

Proctor said while it is important for students to continue their education, the “responsibility doesn’t fall on students alone.” She encouraged employers to make investments in training, have conversations about what degree programs are working for them, and what type of opportunities they can provide to meet the needs for the jobs of the future.

“We know there are many paths to prosperity,” she said. “Getting a great education is step one.”

The future is now — Mary O’Hara-Devereaux had a message for educators and business leaders this week: Stop talking about the future like it’s something that is still to come.

“I think it’s very important for leaders to remember the future is already here, it’s not just evenly distributed,” said O’Hara-Devereaux, the CEO of Global Foresight, a think tank and strategic consulting firm. “2030 is only 12 years away. The changes that are out there are huge. We will have more disruption in the next 12 years, more advances in the next 12 years than in the past 20 years.”

As one of the nation’s leading futurists, O’Hara-Devereaux has been featured on Bloomberg TV, Fox, and NPR. During her speech to the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Earners and Learners summit this week, O’Hara-Devereaux talked about the laws of the future she bases her ideas off of.

Those laws include if “something big is going to happen, it’s got to start some time,” and “how will you live.”

Extraordinary contributions honored —Education Commissioner Pam Stewart tipped her hat to more than three dozen Florida business this week for their contributions to public education in the Sunshine State.

Stewart presented 44 companies with the Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award during the Florida Chamber Foundation’s annual Learners to Earners Summit this week.

“I am pleased to present these businesses with the Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award as a token of our appreciation for their ongoing support,” said Stewart in a statement. “Strong partnerships between the education and business communities are essential to student success, and I hope more businesses will take advantage of this mutually beneficial opportunity.”

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart speaks during the Florida Chamber Foundation Learners to Earners Education Summit. (Photo by Colin Hackley/Florida Chamber Foundation)

Stewart highlighted several companies during her presentation, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, which has invested $6 million into its five-year “Build the Thunder Program.” Through the program, the Lightning donates hockey gear to underprivileged children and seeks to teach them critical life skills.

Stewart also highlighted The Green Bag Project, which is supported by Lowe’s and helps to ensure students in need in Osceola County have food when school is out, like during holiday breaks and on weekends.

She also applauded Ajax Building Corporation’s working in Pinellas County, which has dedicated more than $1 million in time, labor and resources to transform a vacant school building into The Starting Right Now facility, which serves homeless and unaccompanied youth.

Make it affordable

A new law could help promote affordable housing in Florida.

Gov. Scott signed a bill (HB 421) this week that extends the use of self-insurance funds to public housing entities with interest in public housing housing investments. The law, which goes into effect July 1, authorizes a variety of companies to join the same self-insurance fund as the authority that owns or governs them.

“Working to find solutions that will make more affordable housing opportunities available for Florida’s working families is imperative to strengthening our state’s economy and communities,” said Rep. Sean Shaw, who sponsored the legislation in the House. “This important piece of legislation will give Floridians a chance to begin planning a path to economic security. I’m proud to have been a part of building consensus across party lines to help strengthen families across our state and I thank the governor for signing it into law.”

One stop pick-up

Need to pick up a bunch of prescriptions? Have no fear, soon might be able to do it all in one stop.

Under a bill (SB 800) signed into law by Gov. Scott his week, health insurers would be prohibited from denying patients the ability to receive a partial refill of a prescription if they choose to enroll in a medical synchronization program through their pharmacy. The law, sponsored by Sen. Doug Broxson and House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, will allow more patients to synchronize their prescriptions.

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz talks with House Speaker Richard Corcoran during the 2017 Legislative Session. Cruz sponsored legislation, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott this week, that allows more patients to synchronize their prescriptions (Photo by Colin Hackley.)

The lack of synchronization in prescription fill dates has been identified as one of the major contributors to medication non-adherence. That can lead to poor health outcomes for patients, and an estimated $300 billion a year in avoidable costs to the U.S. health care system, according to Cruz’s office.

“This new law is an invaluable tool for elderly and chronically ill patients in Florida who find it burdensome to make multiple trips to the pharmacy each month,” said Cruz. “Medication synchronization will lead to better health outcomes and longer lives for thousands of Floridians who are in need of continuing care.”

Summer #SuitsForSession

Remember those suits you donated to during the 2017 Legislative Session? Volunteer Florida wants you to know what happened to them.

The statewide volunteer organization announced it plans to spend the summer highlighting the individuals who were impacted by the #SuitsForSession Capitol service project.

“By highlighting the stories of people across Florida who were personally impacted by #SuitsForSession, we hope to spark a discussion about ways in which the private sector, public sector, and volunteers can innovate to help job-seekers gain self-sufficiency,” said Volunteer Florida CFO Chester Spellman in a statement “Entering or re-entering the workforce can be overwhelming, especially for those experiencing homelessness, health issues, or other challenges. Our goal is to support job-seekers by providing not only professional attire, but a sense of self-confidence.”

The annual clothing drive collected more than 3,200 items of new or gently-used professional attire, which was then sorted and distributed to Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America, and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program.

Chairwoman of the board

Kudos, Carol Dover!

The Florida Agriculture Center & Horse Park’s Board of Directors announced this week that it unanimously selected Dover, the president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, to serve as its chair. Dover, who has served on the board since its inception, will serve the remainder of the current term, which ends Dec. 31.

“Every challenge presents an opportunity, and as I serve in this new role, I’m determined to reinvigorate our stakeholders, promote a positive workplace culture, and maintain fiscal responsibility and transparency,” said Dover in a statement. “As a passionate equestrian, I’m excited to work together with our local and state partners to effectively promote FHP as the premier venue for agricultural, equine, and community events.”

The 500-acre multi-purpose facility is located in Ocala-Marion County and provides a world class setting for equestrian events throughout the year. The center includes a 79,500-square-foot all weather arena, seven regulation dressage arenas, and over 100 obstacles and stabling.

Dover has served as the president and CEO of the FRLA since July 1995.

Art City, USA

Tallahassee residents love art — or at least they love shopping for it.

That’s according to a report from Artfinder, an online marketplace, which looked at the art buying habits across the United States. The recent report found Tallahassee was the No. 1 art buying city, with 1,303 pieces of art bought per million inhabitants in 2016.

“We are now seeing a new generation and a new kind of art buyer emerging,” said Artfinder CEO Jonas Almgren in a statement. “Our audience are typically younger than those who buy from galleries, and they don’t necessarily classify themselves as ‘collectors’ — they’re not buying for investment, they’re buying because they want something handmade by a real person on their wall, something no one else has got.”

New Haven, Conn. ranked No. 2 on the Artfinder list, followed by Anaheim, Calif. in the No. 3 spot. Tampa came in fourth with 789 pieces of art bought per million inhabitants in 2016; and and Raleigh, North Carolina rounded out the Top 5. Miami landed in the Top 10 with 620 pieces of art bought per million inhabitants in 2016, according to the Artfinder research.

Vacation state of mind

Floridians are ready for a vacation.

A new survey from AAA – The Auto Club showed 67 percent of Floridians are planning to take at least one vacation this summer. The survey found that a majority of travelers are planning at least on vacation ranging from three to eight days, and about 21 percent of Floridians are taking a vacation longer than 21 days.

“The summer travel season kicked off with the most Memorial Day travelers in 12 years,” said Vicky Evans, the assistant vice president of travel sales development for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “So far this year, AAA has also seen tremendous growth in travel bookings, compared to last year. This survey suggests that momentum will continue, creating the busiest summer travel season in more than a decade.”

About 30 percent of Floridians said they feel better about taking a vacation this year, compared to last. The report found 67 percent of Floridians said they’ll be heading to the lake or beach, 51 percent will be making their way to theme parks, and 41 percent are planning to go on ocean cruises.

Water world

Diver down — As scallop season approaches and more people hit the water, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to make sure Floridians stay safe diving this summer.

FWC officials are reminding Floridians to use a divers-down warning device whenever they are snorkeling or scuba diving.

A divers-down flag displayed on a boat must be at least 20-inches by 24-inches and displayed at a high point, where it can be observed from 360 degrees around the vessel. All divers must prominently display a divers-down devices in the area in which the diving occurs.

Diving? Make sure you use a dive flag to alert boaters. (Photo via FWC)

The FWC is also reminding boaters that vessels should make a reasonable effort to stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down device within a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, vessels need to make a reasonable effort to stay 300 feet away. Divers should stay within the same distance of their displayed vehicle.

“Divers share the responsibility of boating safety with the boat operators,” said Capt. Tom Shipp with FWC’s boating and waterways section. “Diving without the divers-down symbol displayed or using it for reasons other than to inform others of the presence of divers is unlawful.”

The 2017 recreational scallop season for Dixie and parts of Taylor counties opened Friday and remains open through Sept. 10.

More snapper please — Love snapper? You now have more time to snag yourself some fresh fish for dinner.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced an additional 39-day season for recreational snapper fishing in Gulf of Mexico federal waters. The extended season is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Monday, Sept. 4, and includes Monday, July 3 and Tuesday, July 4 and Monday, Sept. 4.

“This major expansion of the federal red snapper season is great news for every community along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The red snapper season helps drive our economy and this extension will allow families and visitors to take advantage of red snapper fishing opportunities during Father’s Day and Fourth of July weekends,” said Gov. Scott. “I encourage every Floridian and visitor to get out on the water to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing.”

A red snapper caught on a tagging trip off the waters of Panama City. (Photo via FWC)

This marks the longest Gulf federal red snapper season since 2013.

“An extended federal Gulf red snapper season will have a tremendous positive economic impact on Florida’s coastal communities, which depend on our state’s $9.6 billion sportfishing industry,” said Gary Jennings, director of Keep Florida Fishing, in a statement. “We appreciate efforts to expand access to our fisheries, and we will continue to push for improvements to federal management of recreational fishing.”

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

It’s unclear how Adam Smith decided Andrew Gillum is Florida Democrats’ ‘best hope’

Tampa Bay Times’ political editor Adam Smith just declared Andrew Gillum the Democratic frontrunner for Governor.

Based on what?

Before I go one inch further, let me say this. Gillum may be the frontrunner. He is a thoughtful progressive and charismatic speaker and if he can turn the ship of his campaign around, he could be the star many people already think he is.

However, as we sit here today, June 16, 2017, it is really hard to say that he is the “Democrats’ best hope.”

This claim is made without regard to any polling numbers and with, as the story notes, a series of out-of-the-gate problems; a “Mostly False” PolitiFact finding, an email scandal, an open criminal investigation and elections complaints.

Pause for a moment and consider the following three kind-of-important things Smith does not reference:

  1. The story ran on the same day Gillum’s hometown paper lead with the headline, “Leon has highest crime rate.” (This story follows the headline from a few weeks back about how Gillum’s city likewise has a serious crime problem.) That’s not good.
  2. Gillum has raised the least amount of money of the three Democrats currently running and one, Graham, has only been in the race for a little over six weeks.
  3. Gillum has spent more than his opponents and is currently spending more than he is raising (his soft account just posted that he spent over $100,000 already this month while raising only $10,000.) That is simply unsustainable.

So, by what metric does Smith make the frontrunner claim? Polling? No. Money? Um, NO! Press? Way no.

The claim is based on Smith’s opinion that Gillum is charming, charismatic and has more endorsements than his opponents.

But here’s where the Smith column truly confounds me. He references that Gillum got caught fudging numbers, is under investigation, used tax dollars to send political emails and hasn’t exactly managed the press effectively (well, except the Times apparently loves him.)

Yet, THAT series of negatives puts him at the front of the pack. How does this even make sense?

Look, I’m not saying Gillum is dead-man-walking. It’s too soon to tell. And I’m not picking any winners or even front-runners at this early stage.

But it’s really – REALLY – hard to say he is the “best” of the crew.

Tempers flaring as Speaker’s race barrels to conclusion

A group of House Republicans reacted strongly to a story about the House Speaker’s race, with one calling it “a shameful tool,” according to emails provided to the media organization.

The post in question, wrote state Rep. Mike Grant, “suggested Rep. (Cord) Byrd would be targeted for a primary challenge based on his vote for Speaker.”

First, here’s what the story actually said:

“We understand that there is one holdout: Rep. Cord Byrd, a regional anomaly in his support for Jamie Grant. One assumes the donor class is watching which way Byrd goes on this one. Even though he’s in the deepest of deep red seats, only one man is going to win what looks like a binary Speaker’s race. And for Northeast Florida, there is but one choice.”

In any case, Grant took it as a call to action.

“(W)hile Rep. Byrd knows, as do all of us, that (the) House Majority would willingly spend any amount of money to thwart these types of cowardly political ploys, I wanted to make unequivocally clear to each and every member of our great class, that should any one challenge, or threaten you with a challenge, know that I will spend whatever it takes personally to see you through the Primary,” he wrote.

Rep. Joe Gruters responded, “I hope everyone would be willing to join your efforts in trying to protect all of our classmates both now and after this election for speaker.”

He added that Byrd nor “anyone else is going to get targeted in a primary as a result of the upcoming vote and we will be united as a class moving forward no matter who wins.”

Rep. Paul Renner weighed in: “I agree with Mike that targeting any member of our class is unacceptable. I am certain we will do whatever is needed to support our classmates against any election challenge.”

He said, “Cord and I attended an event together in which we raised over 260K, dedicated resources to make sure that every member of our class returns. Next week our regional delegation is coming together again to raise money for House Campaigns, which will protect all of our incumbent members.”

“I will continue to raise the funds necessary to ensure the re-election of our entire class,” Renner concluded. “Together, I am confident we will have a successful 2018 election cycle.”

Rep. Ralph Massullo next weighed in, saying, “I couldn’t agree with you more and am honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with you and support our class and whatever member among us who may be the target of any special interest. We may not be family, but we certainly can be the next best thing…together.”

Rep. Bob Rommel finally said, “I agree we don’t need any outside threats that may want to influence the decision of any member. I will pledge to help any Republican who is threatened.

“On a side note,” he added, “someone has been leaking information about our private meetings and our private emails regarding this leadership race. If it is a House member or staff member, please stop.”

The Speaker’s race is barreling toward a vote later this month. Five members of the class —Grant, Renner, Byron Donalds, Randy Fine and Erin Grall — have all announced their candidacy.

A vote will likely take place in the Orlando area on June 30. Those who can attend the vote will be able to vote in person, while those who can’t are expected to be able to cast their vote through some type of direct communication to either Rep. Larry Metz or Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues.

The vote is expected to be conducted through secret ballot, not the traditional pledge card method.


Jacksonville Bold for 6.16.17 — Clique

Despite ideological differences, the people in a given legislative process tend to bond — and a vivid example was rendered this week when a gunman took shots at a Congressional baseball practice.

One Northeast Florida Republican, as you’ll see below, was close to being part of the wave of shots that led to the injury of Rep. Steve Scalise and others.

Despite the acrimonious tone in national politics, Republicans and Democrats both understand their shared reason for being in office: love of country, as all the public statements said.

Moments of a unity of purpose, however, are fleeting. Especially given how high the stakes are nationally right now, with a President prone to unexpected actions and upturning established precedents.

That said, we see other examples of unity — currently, Gov. Rick Scott is barnstorming the state for mutual admiration rallies with State Reps. Who called that a few months ago?

Ultimately, politics is a game of shared purpose. The means to achieve ends diverge, as do the donors. But the reality is that governmental bodies succeed or fail as much on the ability to coalesce internally as any external factor.

Close call for Ron DeSantis

Rep. DeSantis narrowly missed being part of Wednesday’s apparently targeted shooting of GOP congressmen, he related after the incident.

The Marineland Republican told FOX Business Network hours after the shooting that the “guy … walked up [to him and colleague Jeff Duncan] … Asking whether it was Republicans or Democrats out there.”

Ron DeSantis was a highly sought guest in the wake of Wednesday’s incident.

DeSantis continued: “we left about ten after 7. I think shots began you know within 3-5 minutes after that.

“We reported to police that there was a gentleman that confronted us when we were going to our car, and he wanted to know whether it was Republicans or Democrats that were out there. We said it was Republicans and he kind of started walking to the field.

“I don’t know if that was the guy, but I think it’s important to put that information out there and it was a little bit different than someone would do that. He was really interested in wanting to know who was out there.”

John Rutherford on House Judiciary Committee

Former Jacksonville Sheriff Rutherford, a Capitol Hill freshman, was appointed to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Rutherford is “excited” about the appointment “to a strong committee focused on upholding the Constitution,” per a statement from his office.

John Rutherford prioritizes the “rule of law” on Judiciary.

“As a former Sheriff, I have committed my life to strengthening the justice system in Northeast Florida, and I am grateful for this opportunity to support the rule of law across our nation,” Rutherford said.

Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte spoke favorably of his fellow Republican also.

“As a former law enforcement officer and sheriff of Duval County, Florida, Congressman Rutherford brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Committee. His expertise on our criminal justice system makes him particularly well suited to serve on the Judiciary Committee. I look forward to working with John to advance our pro-growth agenda, focused on growing the American economy and ensuring that our laws are efficient, fair and enforced,” Goodlatte said.

It is Rutherford’s third committee: he also is on Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

Divisions in D.C. ‘frustrating’ Rutherford

Rutherford, new to D.C., told Roll Call he was surprised by divisions in the GOP caucus itself this week.

“I think what’s probably surprised me most is the differences within the Republican caucus. You think that everybody comes from the same experience and background. In some places, I’d be a staunch conservative, and in other places of the country, I’d be a moderate. It’s interesting to see how that works in the family,” Rutherford said.

The family, said Rutherford, could be more unified: “to come from the executive side, or at least what feels like the executive side, to the legislative branch, is a little frustrating because I’m used to, as a sheriff, I say, ‘Take the hill’ and my team would come together and take the hill.”

A former House Speaker likened the job to ‘herding cats.’ John Rutherford would agree.

“Heck, they’d even take a bullet to take that hill because they believe in something bigger than themselves. Up here, the speaker says, ‘Take the hill,’ and somebody says, ‘We’ll take ‘that’ hill ‘[indicating a different hill].”

Speaker Paul Ryan, Rutherford noted, “said one time that being the speaker is like walking through a graveyard — you’re above a lot of people but they ain’t listening to you. That’s been an interesting situation.”

Al Lawson files bill to protect Social Security solvency

Rep. Lawson, along with Democratic co-sponsors, filed a bill this week to protect Social Security until 2049.

“Social Security plays a critical role in our economy as it provides for over two-thirds of our nation’s retirees, and provides financial security to millions of disabled workers and their children,” said Rep. Lawson.

For Al Lawson and Dems, protecting Social Security is a winning issue. Where’s the House GOP on this one?

“However, as the program is currently operating, the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted by 2034. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Social Security for Future Generations Act of 2017, along with 17 co-sponsors and support from six organizations, including Social Security Works and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare,” Lawson added.

Bad motion rising for Corrine Brown?

Count attorney Anthony Suarez — who represents former Brown co-defendant Ronnie Simmons — as skeptical of Brown’s motions for acquittal and a new trial.

“I’ve examined the motions and believe they’re not strong enough because they don’t cite a lot of case law,” said Suarez. “They’re not going to be successful.”

Anthony Suarez, like Corrine Brown’s lawyer James Smith, is better known in the 407 than the 904.

Simmons struck a plea deal with the feds in February, pleading guilty on two counts, with his sentencing contingent on substantial cooperation with the feds.

Predicating Brown’s motion for a new trial was a claim that the juror who got bounced because he was compelled in decision-making by the Holy Spirit was removed erroneously. And the motion for acquittal was predicated on essentially re-litigating the trial, to again make the case that Brown was Simmons’ patsy — a case that didn’t fly with the jury the last go-round.

Northeast Florida Fundraising Roundup

Though Rep. Paul Renner’s political committee was the clubhouse leader in Northeast Florida fundraising in May with $261,500, donors didn’t shy away from other committees and candidates.

Below are those who have reported thus far with May numbers.

Among committees of note: Lenny Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” brought in $27,000. Sen. Rob Bradley‘s “Working for Florida’s Families” brought in $20,000 (keeping it over $400,000 on hand). And “Pledge This Day,” Rep. Jay Fant‘s committee devoted now to his run for Attorney General, brought in just $9,000 in May.

On the hard money front, Fant did better, with $79,575 of new funding; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant and $3,000 from the committee.

The Fants appear delighted with their first month’s haul.

Sen. Aaron Bean brought in $3,500 of new money, bringing him to just over $20,000 on hand. Rep. Clay Yarborough‘s $6,100 of May money gives him over $14,000 on hand to defend a safe Republican seat in House District 12. on Jacksonville’s Southside.

In HD 17, St. Johns’ Rep. Cyndi Stevenson saw $750 of new money. In HD 24, Rep. Renner saw $2,500 in hard money, with all the action on the committee level.

State Reps make up with Rick Scott

Break up to make up? The joint appearance of three State Representatives hammered by Gov. Scott during the regular session in Jacksonville Beach Tuesday reveals that politics is a transitory business.

Reps. Jason Fischer, Cord Byrd, and Travis Cummings showed at the Governor’s rally, and all had glowing things to say.

ProTip: When appearing with Rallyin’ Rick Scott, make sure your blue shirts match.

Byrd discussed the transformational education bill. Fischer quipped that “the Governor signed most of the budget into law.” And Cummings?

“The Governor vetoed a project or two of mine, but that’s OK,” Cummings said, given the need for tourist funding via VISIT Florida — a remarkable shift in position.

One of those projects was big for Jacksonville: $15M in money for septic tank removal that didn’t make the cut.

We asked Cummings about the anomaly of being feted by a Governor who just months back aimed robocalls at him.

“Politics is a strange business,” Cummings said.

GrayRobinson talks Tallahassee

The Jax Daily Record offered a fascinating look into GrayRobinson’s state lobbying team, as it prepared for “extra innings,” via the Special Session.

This week, the lobbyists had a “panel wrap-up” of the regular Legislative Session, flush with interesting quotes.

GrayRobinson panelists served up real talk about the Legislative Session this week.

This from one panelist, shareholder Chris Carmody: “The House gets in line and takes orders from the top. The Senate is more a group of individuals.”

And this, regarding Rick Scott’s active veto pen, which seemed most targeted at legislators who bucked his call for economic incentives during the spring.

“There’s no doubt the governor didn’t hold back his frustration on certain House votes,” Carmody said.

As seen above, at least three of the legislators made their peace with the veto pen.

JaxPort, City Councilors talk dredging costs

There are knowns and known unknowns when it comes to dredging the St. Johns River, reported the Florida Times-Union this week.

“The city’s share of the cost for deepening the St. Johns River for cargo ships could be as high as $150.7 million or as low as $47 million, according to scenarios for how to pay for the $484 million project,” writes David Bauerlein.

As deepening approaches, cost projection ranges widen.

Hopes are that the city will see federal money defray much of the estimated $484M cost, and these hopes are bolstered by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who told us about his trip to DC last week.

Trump, Cabinet officials, and staffers were “soliciting ideas from states and cities on how to get things moving,” Curry said.

“Relationships are evolving,” Curry added.

Katrina Brown ‘no comment’ on default suit

Councilwoman Brown is title manager for two companies subject to a default motion from the city for incentive funds, a $210K clawback for creating zero jobs since grants and loans in 2011. What did she have to say about it this week?

Regarding a town hall this week, she wasn’t worried about questions: “They won’t be able to bring it up,” Brown said.

No, Katrina Brown isn’t ducking questions. She just has a microphone allergy.

She didn’t want media questions either.

“I continue to tell you no comment. You can ask me a thousand times and I would still say no comment,” Brown said.

Luckily for Brown, the companies are LLCs. And this is Jacksonville, where a certain amount of lagniappe goes into the sauce.

The Feds may feel differently about the SBA loan though.

Katrina Brown has a challenger

2019 is just around the corner in Jacksonville politics, as Diallo Sekous challenge to Katrina Brown indicates.

Sekou, a community activist, thinks Brown has flopped as a counselor.

“The people deserve better than what’s been ‘sitting and not sitting’ in that seat,” Sekou said.

Diallo Sekou and Lenny Curry size each other up, with Katrina Brown in between them.

“This district is in need of serious economic development and restructuring to help create a better situation than what’s been taking place for the last 50 years,” Sekou added.

Katrina Brown’s entropy, Sekou said, isn’t helping.

“There’s nothing being done that’s impactful or sustainable. Her first two years are things the last councilperson set in place, or the mayor has set forth. District 8 cannot be seen as just ‘some area.’ It is in serious need and requires a great deal of attention, and by missing half of the [City Council’s] meetings she’s showing the concern the council person has for her district.

Sekou faces challenges. Brown will have support from the public-sector unions and other sources, and Sekou will have to run a grassroots campaign.

Gaff Gaffe?

Katrina Brown’s BFF on Council, Reggie Gaffney, has some issues of his own.

Community Rehabilitation Center — best known for its cameo appearances in the Corrine Brown trial and a Medicaid overbilling scandal — is back in the news this week.

The subject this time: a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit, filed by an employee who alleges that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the nonprofit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC].

Reggie Gaffney took a council seat in 2015. His most interesting coverage has been nonlegislative though.

When she went to Gaffney for recourse, she was frustrated, and told by a superior that he would say anything “to get you out of his face.”

She was fired soon after that, and the case has been filed in Florida’s 4th Circuit.

Big rip-off Down Under

Despite the efforts of Florida politicians ranging from both Senators to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, it appears that an Australian bank may get away with stealing $44M from an energy company with Jacksonville ties: APR Energy — as an Aussie kangaroo court sided with the bank Down Under over the foreign property owner Thursday.

In early 2014 APR leased tens of millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-manufactured General Electric Co. turbines and other equipment to Forge Group, which went bankrupt weeks later.

APR still owned the equipment, and the lease stipulated the equipment would be returned. However, ANZ seized the equipment, exploiting bad Australian law.

APR can get the equipment back — after three years of depreciation — by posting a $44M line of credit to the bank.

Money lacks personhood, yes. But this is a hostage crisis, and a very real provocation to Jacksonville, Floridian and American interests.

Former Clay schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. cleared of ethics violation

The Florida Commission on Ethics cleared former Clay County Schools Superintendent Van Zant of accusations by a former high school principal. Former Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School Susan Sailor accused Van Zant of plagiarizing her research to get a professional certification resulting in a pay raise.

Charlie Van Zant, recently cleared of plagiarism by the Florida Ethics Commission.

Sailor accused Van Zant of taking her research to produce a paper without attribution to earn a leadership certification from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. That certification led to a pay raise for Van Zant, an elected official with a salary set by the state.

The Florida Times-Union reports that the ethics commission determined there was no probable cause to believe Van Zant violated state law by using public resources to receive the certification.

For Jacksonville, Donald Trump means White House access

Trump barely carried Duval County in 2016. Yet, for Jacksonville power brokers, the Trump era has meant access to the White House. The most recent manifestation of that, reports AG Gancarski, was just this week, as a JAX Chamber delegation was received by one of the more influential people in Trump’s orbit: Omarosa Manigault.

Manigault has a Jacksonville connection. She recently married Pastor John Newman, and she is spending many weekends here in Duval County. (Newman was also at the White House event).

Kellyanne Conway visits the JAX Chamber delegation.

Marty Fiorentino, of the Fiorentino Group, has done significant work already with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — a relationship worth its weight in gold as Jacksonville’s crumbling infrastructure may get a restorative reprieve from the Trumpian infrastructure plan.

Susie Wiles, as campaign chair during the stretch run, arguably won Florida for Trump, rescuing a Sunshine State operation that couldn’t get out of its own way. The president and his staff won’t forget that.

Fiorentino, Wiles, Manigault: no one would have predicted that troika as having a direct line to the executive branch in 2016, when Trump’s political obituary was written daily as he battled Hillary Clinton.

Legislative staffing merry-go-round 

Via Lobby ToolsOff: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

What’s Aaron Bean doing this week?

Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Bean will be the keynote speaker at the Jacksonville PACE Center for Girls graduation and receive PACE’s Believing in Girls award in recognition of his leadership in the Legislature. The event begins 10 a.m. at the JU Swisher Theatre, 2800 University Boulevard North in Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, June 20, Bean (will address participants of the 74th Session of the Florida American Legion Boys State leadership program. The event begins 1:40 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 W Pensacola Street in Tallahassee.

UF Health intensive care unit honored for nursing excellence

The UF Health Jacksonville medical intensive care received a Silver Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses for improved patient care for some of Jacksonville’s sickest patients.

“We care for adult patients with complex medical conditions requiring advanced treatment modalities, so we see some of the worst cases,” said Jackqulynne Stratton, RN, nurse manager of the MICU. “Patients admitted to our unit often require complex assessment, high-intensity therapies and interventions, and continuous supervision.”

With 28 beds in the MICU, patients are transferred there from the Emergency Department and Post Anesthesia Care Unit after surgery. The unit also regularly attends to patients transferred from other areas of the hospital.

“We typically work 12-hour shifts three days a week and an on-call shift once a month,” Stratton said. “also, we have to complete mandatory continuing education courses and rely heavily on our specialized knowledge, skills and experience. We also work hard to provide a nurturing and healing environment for our patients and their families.”

Jumbo Shrimp celebrates ‘You might be the Father’s Day’ by giving pregnancy tests

If being named the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp was not enough to garner attention, the minor league baseball team adds something special to its regular Thirsty Thursday promotion — You Might Be the Father’s Day.

“You’ll know if you need to return for Sunday’s Father’s Day game,” with “an evening filled with suspense, intrigue and manila envelopes.”

In honor of Father’s Day, the Florida Times-Union reports that the Jumbo will distribute free pregnancy tests at Thursday’s game.

“So you’ll know if you need to return for Sunday’s Father’s Day game,” the Shrimp website says. “It will be an evening filled with suspense, intrigue and manila envelopes.”

Unusual promotions like this, a staple of minor league baseball, has made its mark on the former Jacksonville Suns — so far this season, General Manager Harold Craw told the Times-Union, the team averages about 5,600 fans a game, an increase of 1,500 over last season. But Thirsty Thursdays are the team’s third most popular day, after Friday and Saturday.

Armada break historic losing streak with stunning 4-1 win in Indianapolis 

The Jacksonville Armada FC said goodbye to its winless history against Indy Eleven with a club record 4-1 win in Indianapolis Saturday, reports Kartik Krishnaiyer. The Armada’s win keeps them on the heels of Miami FC atop the NASL Spring Season table.

“Indy [is] a top team,” said Armada FC head coach Mark Lowry. “Even at 3-1 and 4-1, I couldn’t relax. They have a lot of weapons on the field and credit to those guys; they didn’t stop.”

Jack Blake opened the scoring for the Armada only four minutes into the game. Taking a penalty after Derek Gebhard was fouled, Blake’s initial shot was deflected off Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch, but Blake was quick to find the rebound and the back of the net.

“We have to keep our wits about us, staying aware to be disciplined and do our job.” — Armada Coach Mark Lowry

Indy Eleven was able to equalize six minutes later when 2016 NASL leading scorer Éamon Zayed headed the ball in past Caleb Patterson-Sewell following a corner.

Both sides then struggled to convert an opportunity until the 41st minute when Gebhard ran the ball down. After meeting fierce defense, he sent the ball to J.C. Banks, who found the space to get it in and put the Armada back into the lead.

An altercation in first half stoppage time led to a yellow card given to Blake and Indy’s Lovel Palmer being ejected from the match. The teams went into halftime with Armada FC leading by one goal and Indy being down to 10 men.

Banks kept the momentum going into the second half and netted his second goal in the 50th minute. Following a corner kick, he found himself in front of the net to tap in a shot fired by Jemal Johnson around the 18-yard line.

The final goal for the Armada FC came in the 60th minute by Gebhard. Johnson was there again with the assist and sent the ball toward the net. It then only took one touch by Gebhard to give Armada the fourth goal.

“They put us under a good bit of pressure but luckily we had a good lead before we lost our goalkeeper,” said Lowry.

Patterson-Sewell was ejected in the 68th minute from the match after a handball outside the penalty area. With both teams down to 10 men, Jemal Johnson was subbed out so Kyle Nasta could fill the goalkeeper position.

Nasta held strong right after taking the pitch in his NASL debut. He immediately faced a free kick but saved the ball by knocking it out. Five more shots were sent toward the goal, but he saved each one and kept Indy Eleven from notching another goal.

“[Nasta] went in and made some great saves,” said Lowry. “He showed the composure, and we believe in him. In terms of shot-stopping, he’s fantastic.”

The Armada victory was the first over Indy Eleven in Indianapolis, and the second loss Indy faced at home this season. The wins secured Jacksonville’s second place seat and set the stage for another top-of-the-table battle against the Miami FC Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Ricardo Silva Stadium in Miami. If the Armada win, they will jump to within two points of Miami FC atop the NASL standings.

Meanwhile, at Patton Park, the Armada’s U-23 team beat Boca Raton FC 4-0. The win allowed the Armada U-23 to leapfrog Boca Raton into fourth place in the NPSL Sunshine Conference Standings. In a game largely controlled by the home team, Boca Raton hung around until the dying minutes when a Ciaran McKenna brace, the second scored a floating finish of world-class quality sunk the hopes of the visitors.

Sunburn for 6.16.17 – POTUS to MIA; Donkey gathering; Landmark education bill signed; Tim Canova’s back; Happy Dad’s Day

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Stopping short of a complete turnabout, President Donald Trump is expected to announce a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country’s military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations and allowing U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to the island, reports the Associated Press.

In a speech Friday at a Miami theater associated with Cuban exiles, Trump will cast the policy moves as fulfillment of a promise he made during last year’s presidential campaign to reverse then-President Barack Obama’s diplomatic re-engagement with the island after decades of estrangement.

Senior White House officials who briefed reporters Thursday on the coming announcement said Obama’s overtures had enriched Cuba’s military while repression increased on the island. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy before Trump announces it, despite the president’s regular criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

President Trump traveling on Air Force One this week. Photo credit: AP.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen backs Donald trump Cuba policy but won’t attend Miami announcement” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldRos-Lehtinen, who is retiring next year, has been critical of Trump. But the White House invited her to attend Trump’s policy event in Miami’s Manuel Artime Theater. Ros-Lehtinen, however, said she has family plans that will keep her in Washington. Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, will join Trump, along with Florida Gov. Scott. Vice President Mike Pence, who was in town for a conference at Florida International University, might also attend. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is out of town, but the county will have the representation of Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Joe Martinez and Javier Souto.

Wait for Donald Trump’s decisions is personal for south Florida’s Cuban, Haitian immigrants” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News Trump is scheduled to announce new policies toward Cuba during a visit … returning to the city where he promised Cuban-Americans during the campaign that he would reverse President Barack Obama‘s actions. Trump is expected to tighten restrictions on travel and trade with the communist country, although many younger Cubans celebrated Obama’s move to open relations. Trump also is considering changes that could affect another significant immigrant group in South Florida. His administration has extended temporary protective status for Haitian refugees until January, although he has signaled a likely end to the policy is coming. Both South Florida groups are watching Trump closely, believing that the actions he takes affecting their communities will offer insight into his administration’s approach to broader issues affecting immigrants across the country.

Cuba power play with Colombia draws Marco Rubio’s ire” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In a final effort to stall a new U.S. trade and travel crackdown, Cuba pressured its ally Colombia to suggest it might boycott a Latin American security summit called by U.S. officials if Trump went forward with announcing his new policy targeting the Raul Castro government. The complicated international power play started to unfold following a national security principals meeting, according to congressional and senior government sources. Colombia began to express misgivings about how Trump’s Cuba announcement in Miami would coincide with the two-day U.S.-led Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, also in Miami, and suggested it might just skip out on the conference if Trump didn’t delay his announcement by a week, said an aide to Sen. Rubio. Rubio, who has spent months quietly helping Trump craft his plans to restrict trade and travel with Cuba, was “appalled” at the news — although he knew the White House wouldn’t succumb to any threats for a delay, his aide said.

Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Any effort by Trump to make good on his campaign promise to roll back former President Obama’s historic accord with Raul Castro would be delayed, Rubio cautioned—not just from the Castro government and from outside business interests, but from within. It would be studied to death by government analysts who favor more engagement with Cuba, not less. It would be leaked to the news media. Stillborn with a thousand excuses by the bureaucrats. So go it alone, Rubio told the president during their May 3 meeting. “What you’ve committed to do on Cuba, what you want to do on Cuba, is never going to come from career staff. It’s going to have to come from the top down. You’re going to have to tell them what to do,” Rubio recalled telling the president as his fellow Miami Republican member of Congress, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, nodded in agreement.

“Central America more important than Cuba – despite Trump’s Miami visit” via Tim Padgett of WLRN – “I don’t usually feel sorry for Central American heads of state. Too many of them, right-wing or left-wing, have done their damnedest to perpetuate the image of the corrupt, tin-pot strongman. If you needed any reminding: U.S. marshals arrested Panama’s former President Ricardo Martinelli in Coral Gables this week. The wealthy, authoritarian right-winger is wanted back in Panama for pilfering millions of dollars intended for the poor and using it to spy on opponents. (At his extradition hearing in Miami federal court, Martinelli denied the charge.) But I gotta admit I feel sympathy for the presidents who are in Miami for the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America.”

Assignment editors – U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and representatives of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, University of Tampa, Florida Aquarium, Florida Orchestra and Cuba One to talk about United States/Cuba relations. Event begins 3 p.m. At Tampa International Airport, Main Terminal, between Airsides A and C.

Meanwhile – “Trump taps Broward GOP leader for Costa Rica ambassadorship” via Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale, was re-elected as a Broward state Republican committeewoman in the party primary in August. Day has previously served three terms as co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, where she worked with Trump’s current Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Day first was elected to that role in 2011 and then re-elected in 2013 and 2015. She has also served as national party secretary.

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This weekend the Florida Democratic Party hosts its fourth annual Leadership Blue Gala (formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner) from the ultra swanky Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, with over 1,200 Democrats expected to event the event.

Saturday night’s speaking schedule kicks-off with comments from the new FDP regime: Chair Stephen Bittel and President Sally Boynton Brown. Party officials are touting the $800,000 they’ve raised this year for the event though ticket sales and sponsorships to fund the FDP’s new community engagement program, aimed at growing the party’s grassroots infrastructure in advance of the 2018 election cycle.

While Bittel has been traversing the state in getting himself acquainted with grassroots party members since his election in January, this will be the first time for many Dems to hear from Brown, the former Idaho Democratic Party executive director who elicited charges of elitism and being too focused on identity politics after a controversial speech she gave in Broward County last month.

Senator Bill Nelson, DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake and a handful of state legislators are on the agenda scheduled to speak, leading into the keynote address by former Joe Biden.

Some analysts say the former Vice President’s speech has taken on greater relevance after it was reported late last month that he has launched a new PAC called American Possibilities, a vehicle to provide him a way to support Democrats running for office while keeping his own options open for a potential 2020 presidential run.

Not listed as scheduled to speak is DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. A rumor that the she would address the Democrats on Saturday night led to her once and future congressional challenger, Tim Canova, to use the opportunity to attack her and the pasty, saying they were giving a platform “the most divisive Democrat in the country.”

As usual, there will be meetings by the various party caucuses throughout Saturday, as well as a panel featuring the three announced gubernatorial candidates, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King.


Miramar mayor backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has thrown his support behind Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his race to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. “As a Mayor who has fought hard to bring high-paying jobs, innovation, access to healthcare and a clean environment to my city, I have a full appreciation and respect for what Mayor Andrew Gillum brings as a candidate for governor,” said Messam in a statement. “I stood by Andrew when he fought the gun lobby and we stand together in support of the Paris Agreement to protect our environment. I ask every Floridian to join me and stand with Mayor Gillum for Governor.” 

In mulling gubernatorial run, Gwen Graham deleted two years of Twitter messages” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – At the end of her term in Congress and before launching her 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Graham took down her congressional Twitter account, which included more than two years of content. Though no longer publicly available, the tweets have now been archived by her campaign staff … She closed her Twitter account in January after leaving Congress. Past social media posts often serve as a treasure trove of opposition research for political rivals, but the campaign says that’s not the reason the tweets were taken down, which is not at odds with any congressional rules. “We took it down to avoid confusion between Gwen’s congressional account and her non-congressional account, which happened frequently — because she’s no longer a member of Congress,” said Matt Harringer, the campaign’s communications director.

Assignment editors: Chris King will speak to a meeting of the Florida Education Association at 9:30 a.m. at the Sawgrass Marriott, 1000 PGA Tour Blvd in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Hillsborough County Sheriff backs Ashley Moody for AG — Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee announced Thursday he was endorsing Ashley Moody in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Ashley Moody’s career is one of service to her community and the rule of law,” said Gee in a statement. “Her experience as a federal prosecutor and a circuit court judge have demonstrated an unyielding passion to keep our community safe and strengthen our criminal justice system. As our next Attorney General, I have no doubt she will serve with distinction and honor and be an Attorney General that keeps our state safe.” Gee joins Bondi and five Hillsborough County commissioners in endorsing Moody, a former federal prosecutor and circuit court judge, in the Attorney General’s race. “I’ve had the pleasure to work with the men and women of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for many years,” she said in a statement. “Their professionalism and commitment to public safety is embodied in their Sheriff who has made a career out of keeping our community safe. I am thankful for his endorsement of my campaign and for his friendship.”

Matt Caldwell kicks off #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour — The North Fort Myers is launching his #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour at Key Largo Fisheries on Friday, where he’ll spend the day working in their processing facilities. The tour, according to Caldwell’s campaign, is meant to highlight the industries Caldwell would oversee as Agriculture Commissioner, and will give him a chance to spend the day working at a Florida business that is vital to the state’s economy. “I am going to be highlighting the jobs across our state that may not be glamorous but are critical to moving Florida’s economy,” said Caldwell. “While processing seafood isn’t easy, and you’re certainly going to get yourself dirty, our great state wouldn’t be what it is today without the hard working men and women that are responsible for the wholesome and delicious food that is served on tables across America.”

Tim Canova announces rematch against Wasserman Schultz” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – “A year ago the eyes of the nation were on this race and the stakes were very high,” Canova said at a Broward Democratic progressive caucus meeting in Plantation Thursday night. “I say the stakes are still very high. We’ve got a president right now and a Congress, Republican dominated, that are pushing the most rabid inhumane radical type of agenda that I could have ever imagined.” In 2016, Canova tapped into Bernie Sanders’ small donors and anger at the political establishment to raise about $3.8 million in the race for South Florida’s 23rd congressional district. A Nova Southeastern University law professor, Canova ran to the left of Wasserman Schultz by bashing her for taking money from corporate donors and big Sugar.

Republican Chris Anderson, deputy sheriff, Army veteran, enters HD 28 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando-Rising — Anderson, 35, enters the race professing an unusual background for a house candidate in Seminole. As a child raised by a single father who abused drugs and died of AIDS, Anderson graduated high school, joined the U.S. Army, served in Afghanistan, and then came home to start a family and serve in the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. “There’s every reason why I should have been in the back seat of a police car, rather than as a deputy sheriff in the front seat today,” Anderson stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I attribute the difference to faith, hard work and the belief that we live in a country where anyone can achieve the American Dream if we set our minds to it and never give up.” He’s facing Winter Springs businessman David Smith for the Republican nomination. Lee Mangold, chief executive officer and co-founder of GoldSky Security, is running for the Democrats, for a seat being vacated by term-limited Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

Bobby Olszewski talks West Orange, future speaker’s race, teamwork, education” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – “This community is my home as everywhere I look I see a friend, memory, or story as I have already invested decades to serving my community. I was blessed to have been elected to two-terms as a Winter Garden Commissioner where I have been tested as a public servant. I worked with my constituents to ensure all voices were heard. I have walked and visited with every community within District 44 and know what makes each neighborhood uniquely special. I am running to serve a community that I have invested my blood, sweat and tears, as I have no other interests or motivations in becoming a state representative except to serve our hometown.”


Rick Scott signs HB 7069, shifting education from ‘traditional public schools’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – While the education omnibus bill offers changes for all kinds of schools in Florida, from requiring recess to reducing mandatory testing, it accelerates state tax dollar funding for-profit and nonprofit charter and private schools, expands parents’ abilities to choose schools, and tightens Tallahassee’s controls over what local school boards can and cannot do. Democrats almost universally opposed HB 7069, to the point of declaring it to be sabotage of Florida’s public-school system. Joined by public school teachers, parents, PTAs, administrators and many school board members, they had urged for weeks that Scott veto the bill. “What this legislation does today is it helps all students, which is important,” Scott declared … ending weeks of speculation of whether he would sign or veto the controversial measure since Corcoran and his team pushed through a dramatic rewrite on the last day of the Legislation Session.

Gov. Rick Scott signs HB 7069 which provides nearly $419 million to Florida’s K-12 education system, expands teacher bonuses, increases funding for the Gardiner Scholarship for students with unique abilities and ensures Florida’s students can get a great education at the school of their choice.

Was Gardiner scholarship a pawn or a principle in passage of HB 7069?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The setting chosen by Gov. Scott and House Speaker Corcoran to sign the controversial HB 7069 school reform bill is a telling example of how it doesn’t matter how you get there in Tallahassee if in the end you can claim credit. The media advisory announcing the event highlighted the fact that the bill will be signed at 3:45 p.m., at “Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, which serves many children who recieve the Gardiner Scholarship.” (We assume the misspelling of “receive” was a mistake.) But while Corcoran and Rep. Manny Diaz will be in attendance to take credit for including the program in the bill, expansion of the Gardiner Scholarship was not included in the House’s original version of HB 7069 or in its original budget. The Senate did include $100 million in its budget for the program. Opponents blasted the strategy as an attempt to use vulnerable children as “pawns” to gain support for the controversial legislation.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will announce jobs numbers at 9:45 a.m. at Dusobox Corporation, 2501 Investors Row, #900 in Orlando.

“Hearing set in lawsuit against Pam Bondi over unregistered charities” via Florida PoliticsA Leon County judge has set a hearing in a lawsuit against Attorney General Bondi that says she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ordered the hearing for July 10 in Tallahassee, court records show. The plaintiff, Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith, was investigated on a consumer fraud allegation by Bondi’s office in 2015. He invented Storm Stoppers plastic panels as a “plywood alternative” to protect windows during storms. Smith argues that some of the unregistered charities Bondi makes settling parties give money to is her own “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” award and various “scholarship funds designated by the Attorney General.”

Jimmy Patronis to be named CFO” via Florida Politics – Public Service Commissioner and former state Rep. Patronis will be named state Chief Financial Officer to replace the outgoing Jeff Atwater, sources close to the Governor’s Office tell An announcement is likely the week of June 26. “CFO successor has been identified and known since Atwater originally resigned,” a source familiar with the workings of the EOG told “Has only been one name the entire time, regardless what others have said, reported or assumed.”

– “Gov. Rick Scott said to consider Jimmy Patronis to be next CFO” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Cabinet votes to buy springs that were saved by love affair” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s Cabinet voted to acquire 407-acre Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County, a jewel of a spring that’s been privately owned since 1958 — thanks to a long-ago love affair involving a St. Petersburg business mogul and his faithful assistant. The Cabinet approved the purchase for $5.25 million … 10 percent below the owners’ asking price … The parcel includes a set of six springs and a mile of land along the Santa Fe River. In the 1950s, Blue Springs belonged to a St. Petersburg business mogul named Ed C. Wright, who owned some 20,000 acres in 20 counties. Wright made a fortune investing in municipal bonds, railroad stock and radio stations. Wright’s longtime secretary was a petite, reserved woman named Ruth Kirby … Kirby’s duties included listening in on all those calls and taking notes. Soon she was trading bonds and buying land too, and she proved to be as savvy an investor as her boss. When he died, unmarried and childless at age 77, his will named her executor of his $50 million estate. became one of the most powerful wheeler-dealers in the state, negotiating with U.S. Steel over land for condos on Sand Key and flying to Tallahassee to pressure the governor into buying Weedon Island.

“Don’t estoppel believing: Now it’s a law” via Florida PoliticsAfter years of unsuccessfully fighting its way through the Legislature, the estoppel bill is now law. Gov. Scott Tuesday signed the measure (SB 398), which overhauls the legal process of estoppel letters. It goes into effect July 1 … Estoppel letters, or estoppel certificates, are an obscure part of some real estate closings … Title agents and Realtors have wanted to shift the cost of preparing such letters from themselves back to (homeowners) associations … The measure allows an association “to charge a maximum fee of $250 for the preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate, if there are no delinquent amounts owed to the association (and) an additional maximum fee of $150, if there is a delinquent amount owed to the association.”

Assignment editors – House Speaker Corcoran is the featured guest at Café con Tampa’s breakfast meeting starting 8 a.m. upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd.

Assignment editors – Tampa Tiger Bay Club presents “Legislative Session Wrap Up” at noon at the Ferguson Law Center, 1610 N. Tampa St. Speakers include Sens. Tom Lee and Darryl Rouson and Reps. Shawn Harrison, Wengay “Newt” Newton and Dan Raulerson.


As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the five announced candidates — Byron Donalds, Randy Fine, Erin Grall, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — are trying to make the case why they are the best person for the job.

While three of those Speaker hopefuls have been in the running for a while now, two Speaker hopefuls — Grall and Donalds — are relatively recent entrants into the leadership race. In interviews this week with Florida Politics, both said they had been thinking about trying their hand at leadership, and credited the changes to the GOP conference rules as what spurred them to seriously give it a try.

“When the rules changed, I saw it as an opportunity to work really hard … and get to know my classmates and let them get to know me,” said Grall in an interview Wednesday.  “I feel like that’s the best approach to servant leadership.”

If elected, Grall would be the first female to serve in the position. That isn’t the only reason why she’s running, but she acknowledged that she would offer a “new and different perspective.”

“I very much believe that role models are important. To the extent that I could get other women involved in the process, I think it’s important (they are involved,)” said the 39-year-old Vero Beach attorney. “Our perspective is a little different. I think that it is lost in the process. It is important. I believe I was successful, but I think some women don’t feel there is going to be support.”

Neither Grall nor Donalds, a 38-year-old Naples resident, were eager to handicap their chances. But both indicated the move to a secret ballot, instead of the traditional method of collecting pledge cards, would allow their classmates to vote for who they feel is best for the job.

Donalds said he thinks he has been warmly received, and plans to keep talking to his classmates about his vision for the House. Like Grall, he said he thinks he can offer a different perspective on some of the issues facing Florida’s future.

“In our political world, the messenger matters, it just does,” he said. “I’m a little different. I’m not the prototypical Republican. It shows the depth of our party and it shows the depth of our Legislature.”

— “Could Erin Grall become ‘Madam Speaker?’” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— “Rules changes sparked Byron Donalds to seek Speakership” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics


USF’s path to ‘preeminence’ is restored after Rick Scott vetoes higher education bill” via Claire McNeill, Kristen Clark and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The University of South Florida’s quest to become “pre-eminent,” an official status that could elevate the school’s prestige and send millions of extra dollars its way, received a positive jolt as Gov. Scott lifted a key barrier. Scott vetoed a sweeping higher education reform bill that was one of Senate President Joe Negron‘s top priorities … saying that the measure “impedes” the ability of state colleges to provide access to low-cost, quality education. USF had been focused on other language buried deep within the bill’s text that dramatically affected its fortunes. Becoming a pre-eminent university requires that a school meet several requirements, and SB 374 had moved the goalposts on one of them — the graduation rate.

FSU Zika expert awarded $1.8 million as part of NIH study” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat – Leading some of that research is Florida State University professor Hengli Tang, who is in line to receive $1.8 million to conduct further study. The money is part of a $7.7 million National Institutes of Health grant to conduct Zika and West Nile research in conjunction with University of Pennsylvania, Georgia State and Emory University, FSU announced … The grant money will be used to determine how fast the Zika and West Nile viruses target human brain cells and how the brain reacts to infection at different stages of development. “This work will provide a direct impact on the mission to understand Zika disease mechanisms and to develop effective countermeasures to curb Zika virus infection,” said Tang, a professor of biological science.

“Commentary: As Disney reports drop in guests, is Orlando’s post-Pulse embrace of LGBT too tight?” via C. Britt Beemer in the Orlando Sentinel – Reports say that attendance at Disney World is down. Well, as the late Paul Harvey used to intone on his radio broadcasts, here’s ‘the rest of the story’: For 30 years, as a consumer trends and research expert, I have surveyed more than 12 million Americans. I’ve helped more than a thousand businesses achieve their goals and overcome financial challenges. … Since the Pulse nightclub shootings a year ago in Orlando, I’ve observed a significant number of evangelical Christians shift their vacations plans: They will see the Ark instead of visiting Disney in their own backyard. After the Pulse tragedy, some in the news media speculated that Orlando could see a drop in tourists because of personal-safety concerns. Nothing in my research uncovers any concerns. As I survey these future visitors to the Ark, however, what I do find is genuine concern about how children might be influenced by the pro-gay/lesbian movement in Orlando.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James’ topic is “Congressman Steve Scalis, Congresswoman Gabby Gilford – Are you a Republican or Democrat? Your answer might get you killed,” with political analyst Dr Lawrence Miller.

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

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include attorney Jessica Ehrlich, political consultant/columnist Chris Ingram, Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno and freelance journalist Brendan McLaughlin.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: The topic — “Where do we stand right now when it comes to cyber security?” Guests include St. Cloud Republican State Rep. Mike La Rosa and professor Gary Leavens from the University of Central Florida Computer Science, Cyber Security and Privacy Department.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Al Ruechel talks with Chris King, Democratic candidate for Governor. Caitlyn Jones talks with Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, backer of the 2016 medical marijuana Amendment 2, about the current state of medical marijuana legislation in Florida and how he is moving forward with that, as well as his thoughts on considering a run for governor in 2018. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about voter registration and whether the Department of Homeland Security compared data with voter registration information.

Political Connections’ Al Ruechel talks with Chris King, Democratic candidate for Governor and newcomer to statewide politics.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman and Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week Justice will speak with State Rep. Travis Cummings on budget, working with leadership and Gov. Scott, HB 7069 protests and more. Other guests include Rick Mullaney, Director, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa Rinaman talking dredging/expansion at JAXPORT and environmental concerns and Nancy Rubin, Senior Director of Communications for JAXPORT on new plans to shorten distance of dredging, reduce costs and increase volume, business and jobs.

— ALOE —

Florida retailers expect record Father’s Day spending” via Florida Politics – The Florida Retail Federation … predicts consumers will spend an average $134.75 for the holiday, up almost $10 from last year’s $125.92. Spending nationwide is also expected to reach $15.5 billion, the highest in the survey’s 15-year history – nearly a billion more than 2016. In the annual survey from the National Retail Federation … consumers will spend $3.3 billion in 2017; 48 percent say they will take dads to outings such as dinner, brunch or other “fun activity/experiences,” clothing (46 percent) and gift cards (43 percent), making up $2.2 billion. Next most popular is consumer electronics (21 percent) at $1.8 billion.

SeaWorld unveils virtual reality version of Kraken Unleashed” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – SeaWorld Orlando launches a new version of its 17-year-old roller coaster with a new name and the option to use virtual reality headgear or ride old school. Kraken Unleashed begins at a mythological seabase and rises up 149 feet as riders experience near misses with giant sea creatures. Orlando’s only floorless roller coaster is themed after a massive, mythological underwater beast unleashed from the depths of the sea. Riders strap on headsets that cover their eyes and ears to see and hear the bioluminescent-colored creatures with tentacles that seem to reach out and grab them.

SeaWorld Orlando introduces an updated version of its 17-year-old Kraken roller coaster, which gives riders an option to use virtual reality headgear.

Twitter unveils new look, which users quickly mock” via The Associated Press – The San Francisco company says the new design emphasizes simplicity, making it faster and easier to use, with bolder headlines and more intuitive icons. It also changed users’ profile images from square-shaped to round. Twitter users immediately responded by tweeting jokes and memes critical of the changes. There were almost 30,000 tweets about the new user interface, or UI, within hours of the change, the vast majority of them either complaining about the new look or mocking it. A popular image was a suddenly round SpongeBob SquarePants.

Happy birthday to Omar Khan, campaign manager to Chris King and the voice-over talent for Christian Bale in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.”

The Delegation for 6.15.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Pulse remembrance was poignant pause from politics; capital shooting jolts silence

While Capitol Hill is still engulfed in Russia investigations, life on Main Street America goes on, especially in Orlando. This week, Orlando and fellow Floridians remembered 49 individuals whose lives did not go on past the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.

For a while on Monday, what James Comey said, or what President Donald Trump tweeted, or who leaked what was on the back burner – at least in Orlando. It was a day to come together.

“While 49 voices were forever silenced here one year ago, hope, as Harvey Milk once said, hope will never be silent,” said Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy at the remembrance event. “We must honor the lives and legacies of the Pulse victims by putting aside that which divides us and rededicating ourselves to treating one another with love and respect.”

A runner wearing a gay pride rainbow flag pauses in front of the Pulse nightclub during the CommUNITYRainbowRun 4.9K road race in Orlando, Fla. The race was one of many events commemorating the one-year anniversary massacre at the Pulse nightclub, which left 49 people dead. (Photo via the Associated Press)

Orlando’s other representatives in Congress, Democrats Val Demings and Darren Soto, joined with Murphy to introduce a resolution in Congress honoring those lost. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio did the same in the Senate.

“We will not forget the 49 men and women who were killed on June 12, 2016,” said Demings, whose district includes the Pulse nightclub. “Our community is still healing, family and friends are still mourning the lives of their loved ones, and survivors are still recovering from tragedy.”

Some have noticed the absence of major GOP elected officials at the public events. Whether or not they were invited, several Republicans did issue statements or tweeted messages recognizing the anniversary, including President Trump.

Rubio delivered his personal recollections on the Senate floor. He recalled immediately driving to Orlando from Miami when first learning of the attack last year.

“There’s no doubt this was a community that was heartbroken, but it was also a community that was unbroken that I believe woke up stronger and more united than when it went to sleep the night before,” said Rubio. “And I think ultimately, the man who committed this attack, and the people who inspired him to do so, would have been horrified at what they saw. I think they would’ve been horrified to see First Baptist Church in Orlando, a pillar of the Christian evangelical community, opening its doors to the LGBT community and welcoming in them and their families and holding services there.”

Just two days after remembering the Pulse victims, a nut job tried to kill members of the Republican Congressional baseball team and managed to shoot Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise. Without the professionalism of the Capitol Police, we would be witnessing a memorial for murder victims a year from now.

Will the shouting resume shortly, or will these two events have any effect on the atmosphere surrounding political discourse? For a few hours on Monday, some took the time to remember the lives of those taken away by hate. For a few minutes on Wednesday, a gunman apparently believed people needed to die because they were Republicans.

If this doesn’t elicit a pause in the hostilities, what will?

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Delegation reacts to Scalise shooting

Wednesday’s shooting on a Virginia baseball field of House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and three others shocked Capitol Hill and the nation. Scalise, practicing for Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game with some of his GOP teammates, was playing second base when he was shot. Members of the Florida delegation were present.

Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney had just left practice as had Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis. The alleged shooter asked DeSantis if the team on the field was the Republicans or the Democrats.

After such an emotional incident, the delegation offered comments via a statement or through Twitter. Panama City Republican Matt Gaetz, a member of the GOP team, was not at Wednesday’s practice, but tweeted “praying for my friend @SteveScalise.”

“I am praying for friends, colleagues, congressional staff, and Capitol Police, as well as any others who were injured or in danger this morning,” said Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor in a statement.

“Today is a sad day for our country,” read a statement from Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. “Leah’s and my thoughts are with Congressman Steve Scalise, the Capitol Police and staff involved in this morning’s tragic shooting.”

Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, center, and other members of the Republican Congressional softball team, stand behind police tape of the scene of a multiple shooting in Alexandria, Va., where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot, on Wednesday. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

“My thoughts are with Congressman Scalise and all those injured in today’s ballpark shooting,” said Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy in a statement. “This type of senseless violence against any American is unacceptable.”

“We are all Americans first, regardless of party. We are all on the same team. And we’re praying for those injured in this heinous attack,” tweeted Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted “My prayers to @SteveScalise, staff and @CapitolPolice.”

“Joining @RepRutherfordFL to stand strong together for #NorthFlorida as we wish a swift recovery to @SteveScalise & @CapitolPolice & others,” tweeted Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan tweeted “My staff and I are safe. Praying for @SteveScalise, congressional staff and @CapitolPolice officers involved.”

“Praying for @SteveScalise and others shot @ baseball practice. There are too many damn guns in America!” tweeted Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson.

“Sending thoughts & prayers to @Steve Scalise @CapitolPolice & others shot this morning. We must stand together in face of this terrible news, tweeted Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch.

The Congressional Baseball Game will be played as scheduled Thursday night.

Magazine: Trump hotel Washington’s newest “bog”

Time Magazine is using this week’s cover story to present the opinion President Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” is a failure with the recently-opened Trump National Hotel in Washington serving as Exhibit A. The magazine describes the hotel’s opulence in great detail, including prices for amenities such as cocktails and a “couples massage.”

The cover includes a view of the hotel’s atrium with “THE SWAMP HOTEL” emblazoned in all-caps.

According to the story, “People pay these prices for more than just booze, caviar and back rubs. That’s partly because a president who once promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of influence peddling now owns the city’s newest bog.”

Photo via Time Magazine

Foreign dignitaries and diplomats, lobbyists and some administration insiders are frequent patrons, prompting a claim from the story that “the potential conflicts of interest are dizzying.” The story quoted law professor Kathleen Clark of Washington University of St. Louis.

“Of course, it’s a scandal,” she said.

Upon his inauguration, Trump turned over his business interests to his adult children, but the billionaire is still dogged with stories like this. He has pledged to turn over any profits from foreign governments – hotel or otherwise – to the U.S. Treasury.

“This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people,” said Sheri Dillon, his lawyer.

Nelson: Zika vaccine needs to be “affordable to all who need it”

As federal officials consider granting a French drug maker the right to sell a Zika virus vaccine, Sen. Bill Nelson wants to make sure the vaccine is affordable and accessible to those who need it.

In a letter to U.S. Army Acting Secretary Robert Speer this week, Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on the U.S. Arm to address the issue of affordability before granting Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to sell the Zika vaccine. The request comes after reports that the company has refused the Army’s request to set an affordable price for the vaccine.

“If the Army chooses to move forward with its plan to provide Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to sell this vaccine, it must first obtain assurances that the vaccine will be affordable to sell to all who need it,” said Nelson in his letter. “Providing a single drugmaker exclusive control over a desperately-needed vaccine could create an environment in which the vaccine is unaffordable to those who need it most.”

Nelson said given the “considerable federal investment and the need for the vaccine,” he believes it is critical that the vaccine be “available and accessible to the taxpayers who already invested in the research and development of the vaccine.”

There were 1,122 cases of travel-related Zika virus and 285 locally acquired cases of Zika reported in Florida in 2016. So far this year, there have been 75 cases of Zika reported — 59 of which are travel-related, while 4 are locally acquired cases.

“Until we have a vaccine, the Zika virus will continue to threaten families and babies in Florida and across the nation,” said Nelson in his letter. “I urge you to consider the impact that an exclusive license could have on the affordability of the Zika vaccine. Failure to limit the vaccine’s market price could make it inaccessible to thousands of Floridians who need it.”

Rubio joins bipartisan coalition to combat human trafficking

The second-term Republican joined several of his colleagues from both parties to address the crime of human trafficking and helping the victims of that crime. A bipartisan coalition has come together to introduce two bills which concentrate on the issue.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act would reauthorize important programs designed to prevent trafficking plus promote justice for survivors, provide services for victims and increase and enhance the federal government’s response to the crisis.

Those joining Rubio in sponsoring the bill include Republicans John Cornyn of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Democratic co-sponsors are Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Diane Feinstein of California.

The Abolish Human Trafficking Act would reauthorize federal programs that provide support and resources for the victims of this form of modern day slavery.

Nevada’s Dean Heller and Utah’s Orrin Hatch joined their GOP colleagues from the previous bill as co-sponsors. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Delaware’s Chris Coons and Oregon’s Ron Wyden also joined their colleagues from the other bill.

“Victims of human trafficking need help from their communities as they reclaim their lives,” Rubio said in a release. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in fighting against traffickers and doing everything we can to protect and support their victims.”

Rubio, Diaz-Balart helping craft Trump Cuba policy

Florida’s Republican senator and the Republican congressman from Miami will welcome President Trump to their hometown as the president delivers remarks concerning Cuba, the birthplace of their parents.  USA Today reports Trump will “announce a rollback from relations with the communist island nation 90 miles from Key West.”

Reports suggest it will not be a wholesale rollback from the policies of former President Obama. Experts are confident Trump will neither close the U.S. Embassy nor break diplomatic relations restored in 2016. It will include things important to Rubio and Diaz-Balart.

“I am confident that I will be very pleased with what the president will announce Friday,” Rubio told USA Today. “I want to support the Cuban people and their aspirations for economic and political freedom and I always have been.”

Edwardo Clark, a Cuban-American, holds an American flag and a Cuban flag as he celebrates outside the new Cuban embassy in Washington on  July 20, 2015. President Donald Trump is expected to announce a rollback of relations with Cuba during an event in Miami later this week. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

The Floridians are most interested in ensuring additional resources going into Cuba reach the Cuban people. One of the strategies proposed by Rubio in 2015 calls for a prohibition of financial deals with Cuba’s military and security forces.

“It is not in the interest of the United States or the people of Cuba for the U.S. to become a financier of the Cuban regime’s brutality,” Rubio said at the time he introduced a 2015 bill, some of which is expected to be contained in the Trump policy.

Rubio faces criticism for growing “too cozy with the White House.” They believe Trump’s outreach to his former presidential rival has something to do with Rubio’s place on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who is investigating the Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections.

Gaetz announces USDOT grants for Panhandle airports

Rep. Matt Gaetz is telling constituents he is not just bringing home the bacon, it will be flying in. More than $2.6 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation is coming to the 1st District to fund needs at local airports.

The bulk of the grant – more than $2.1 million – is targeted to the Eglin Air Force Base/Destin-Ft. Walton Beach Airport to “rehabilitate” 2,000 feet of combined taxiway.

The Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview and the Destin Executive Airport will share almost $500,000 to address rehabilitation of aprons. Pensacola International Airport receives $43,000 to clear obstructions from land acquired for further airport development.

“Northwest Florida has always been a popular destination for tourism, business, and government travel,” said the Fort Walton Beach Republican. “The $2.6 million in grants from the Department of Transportation will allow Northwest Florida’s popularity as a travel destination to continue to grow now and in the years to come.”

The funding is expected to be received before September.

Rutherford tapped for Judiciary Committee

Rep. John Rutherford received a new committee assignment this week when he was appointed to the House Judiciary Committee. Rutherford, the former Duval County Sheriff and a Jacksonville Republican, brings years of relevant experience.

“As a former Sheriff, I have committed my life to strengthening the justice system in Northeast Florida, and I am grateful for this opportunity to reestablish constitutional order across our nation,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Chairman (Bob) Goodlatte and thank him for appointing me to a strong committee focused on upholding the constitution.”

Among the issues the committee undertakes is criminal justice, patents and copyrights, the law regulating foreign surveillance, and immigration law, among others.

“I am pleased to welcome John Rutherford to the House Judiciary Committee,” said Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. “His expertise on our criminal justice system makes him particularly well-suited to serve on the Judiciary Committee.”

Three other members of the delegation currently serve on the Judiciary Committee. They include Ponte Vedra Beach Republican Ron DeSantis, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch.

With the appointment, Rutherford will now serve on three committees. He currently serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.

Bilirakis: VA accountability bill holds ‘the bad actors accountable’

A bill to reform the Department of Veterans of Affairs is heading to President Donald Trump, after the U.S. House of Representatives approved it this week.

The House voted 368-55 on Tuesday to approve the the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Democrats Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Frederica Wilson were the only members of Florida’s congressional delegation who voted against the bill.

The bill, backed by Sens. Rubio and Nelson, gives the VA secretary the authority to fire and demote employees. It also adds protections for whistleblowers, by prohibiting the secretary from using his or her authority to fire employees who filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.

“If a VA employee is involved in misconduct, they should be demoted, suspended, or fired. Certainly not promoted or given a bonus. If a VA employee sees misconduct and wants to report it, they should not fear repercussions,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican during a floor speech this week. “Of course, the vast majority of VA employees are hardworking and dedicated professionals. At the end of the day, this bill is about holding the bad actors accountable, protecting the whistleblowers, and refocusing the VA on its missions to serve our nation’s heroes.”

Bilirakis said the country is “turning the page to a fresh start for the VA” with the passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.

Soto publicly neutral before Puerto Rico vote, strong advocate for statehood afterward

The Orlando Democrat had far more than a passing interest in last weekend’s plebiscite in Puerto Rico gauging the island’s interest in becoming the 51st state. He is not only the first Floridian of Puerto Rican heritage in Congress, many of his constituents trace their roots to there as well.

Going into the vote, Soto was careful not to take sides. He and Alaska Republican Don Young led a delegation of election observers.

“The decision on Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status has to come from the people, and it’s not my place to try to tell them how to vote,” Soto said before polls opened.

Sen. Marco Rubio urged a good turnout to “communicate the will of the people to local and national leaders.” Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo urged “all citizens to participate in this plebiscite” while Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also urged “the good people of Puerto Rico to make their voices heard.”

Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy openly advocated for a statehood vote, saying “I believe Puerto Rico should discard its territory status and become a state or sovereign nation.” Her remarks are in line with House Democratic Whip, and the House’s second-ranking Democrat, Steny Hoyer who said “I hope they will vote for statehood and remain part of our country as a full and equal member of our union.”

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello celebrates the results of a referendum on the status of the island at the New Progressive Party headquarters in San Juan on Sunday. The governor announced the territory overwhelmingly chose statehood in a non-binding referendum held amid a deep economic crisis. (Photo via the Associated Press)

When the votes were counted, there was good news for statehood supporters mixed with disappointing results. The good news was 97 percent of those voting went for statehood. A major disappointment was only 23 percent of the electorate bothered to turn out.

With the results in, Soto was unhindered to become an advocate for Puerto Rican statehood.

“The people of Puerto Rico have spoken,” Soto said in a statement. “By an overwhelming margin, they have voted for statehood. I said I would respect – and fight for – their wishes and that’s exactly what I intend to do. This is now a matter of civil rights and equality.”

On Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rossello will be in Washington to deliver the results to Congress. He will take part in an event at the National Press Club to discuss the plebiscite. Joining him will be Young and Soto.

Soto is well aware that the Republican-controlled House and Senate may be reluctant to approve statehood, but he will strongly urge his colleagues to respect the wishes of Puerto Rican voters as well as those of many of his constituents.

War of Words erupts over Dodd-Frank rollbacks

Battle lines are developing on yet another issue on Capitol Hill. This one involves the Republican version of financial regulation, known as the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, which passed the House late last week, 233-186 along party lines. It now moves to the Senate.

The legislation takes aim at one of the signature bills enacted during the Obama Administration. Congress passed, and then-President Barack Obama signed, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which brought sweeping reform and more regulation of the financial and banking industry following the financial crisis of 2008.

Republicans such as Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart spoke for Florida Republicans who feel Dodd-Frank has done more harm than good. That is why they are promoting the Republican plan.

“By making it easier for entrepreneurs to gain access to capital and removing bureaucratic red tape that hinders innovation, the Financial CHOICE Act encourages and incentivizes job growth,” said Diaz-Balart in a message to constituents.

“Without the hindrance of the Obama administration, the Financial CHOICE Act will immediately improve the economy, which has long since been plagued by restricted access to capital and regulatory burdens that make it impossible for small businesses to compete,” Orlando Republican Daniel Webster wrote to his constituents.

Florida Democrats, of course, have a far different take, using Main Street as a launch point. One believes the bill should be renamed.

“Today, we could be working on nonpartisan improvements to Dodd-Frank, making it work for better for Main Street,” St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist said on the House floor prior to voting against the bill. “But instead, we have the Wrong CHOICE Act.”

“Now is not the time to adopt Donald Trump’s dodgy Wall Street de-regulation schemes,” said Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. “Main Street simply cannot afford them.”

Soon, it will be the Senate’s turn.

Delegation goings-on

Save the date:

Spotted: Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat, attended the premiere part for season four of the Starz show “Power,” according to POLITICO. The network hosted the premiere part at the Newseum, and Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke, Lacy Clay, Brenda Lawrence, Lisa Rochester Blunt, Tony Cadenas, Andre Carson and Donald Payne Jr. also attended.

Pace named AP Washington bureau chief

The Associated Press has tapped Julie Pace to serve as its new Washington, D.C. bureau chief, the wire service announced this week.

Pace, who formerly served as the AP’s White House correspondent, is the “right person to lead this team as the Trump administration rocks the nation and the world,” said Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

“Throughout the 2016 campaign and into the early days of the Trump administration, the depth of Julie’s reporting and the clarity of her analysis has enriched our report,” Buzbee said in memo this week.

As bureau chief, Pace will continue to write and report, and guide the overall news bureau with a focus on the presidency – leading a team of four deputy bureau chiefs. Two deputies will focus on newsgathering: one on the White House, Congress and politics, and the second overseeing other beats such as national security and education. A third deputy will handle visual and digital presentation efforts.

The fourth deputy will focus on video newsgathering, working with Head of U.S. Video and Radio News Denise Vance and her team at the BNC during the transition later this year and into 2018, to a cross-format operation in D.C.

Former Trump advisor offers insight into capital priorities

A former member of President Trump’s transition team is set to delve into a wide range of priorities facing lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee.

Scott Mason, a senior policy advisor with Holland & Knight and a former member of Trump’s transition team, is scheduled to speak at a cocktail reception hosted by Holland & Knight at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The reception, according to the invitation, is meant to give attendees insight into “early days of the Trump campaign, the transition process and President Trump’s agenda.” Mason is also expected to provide perspective on how Trump’s priorities will fare in D.C., as well as the politics surrounding the administration in general.

Those interested in attended the reception should register by Tuesday.

Take a bow

Members of Congress, media personalities, and consultants took to the stage this week to participate in “Will on the Hill,” an annual tradition where notable Washingtonians take the stage and act out Shakespeare’s greatest hits with a twist, reports Will Costello with the Hill.

The annual event is hosted by the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Now in its 15th year, the bipartisan event supports the company’s education, artistic and community engagement programs, including in-school workshops and online learning resources.

The Hill reported the cast — which included Ian Kahn, who plays George Washington on AMC’s spy series “Turn,” Maulik Pancholy, who played Alec Baldwin’s assistant on NBC’s “30 Rock,” and Florida Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Darren Soto — poked fun at themselves in a production of “Met by Moonlight,” a riff on Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Rep. Ted Deutch (left) dressed up for the annual “Will on the Hill” performance. (Photo via Rep. Ted Deutch’s Twitter.)

In the “Will on the Hill” performance, Oberon, played by Kahn” and Puck, played by Pancholy, encounter two park rangers, and then the four “try to stem the flow of people fleeing the heat of D.C. in the summer.” The show ended, The Hill reported, when the two park rangers “realized that Oberon and Puck were the real tourists and sent them away.”

The event, according to The Hill, raised $510,000 for the Shakespeare Theatre.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 6.15.17

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

While seemingly half of the Legislature and lobbying corps was rocking to a U2 concert in Tampa, Gov. Rick Scott lowered the boom on Senate President Joe Negron’s priority higher ed. legislation.

The question is now, what will the Governor do with Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s education reform legislative package. We’ve predicted the Governor will sign it today and in Orlando, but it remains to be seen if we are right.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is coming to Miami tomorrow and the race to be Speaker of the Florida House in 2022 is speeding towards a conclusion.


Push to bolster college aid vetoed” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott vetoed a far-reaching bill that would have boosted financial aid for high school students heading to college while attempting to lift Sunshine State schools into the ranks of elite counterparts. The legislation required the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a state university or college. Florida used to pay 100 percent of tuition for those eligible for the top level of the state’s Bright Futures scholarship, but that was scaled back when the economy soured.

— Scott in his veto letter pointed out that students heading to school this fall will still be eligible for a higher Bright Futures award since that was included in the state budget he signed. But the change is only a one year fix and isn’t permanent because of Scott’s veto.

— Negron disagreed with Scott’s position and contended the bill would have required colleges to focus on their core missions. He also said that the governor’s veto would make it harder for families to save for college.

Governor approves pay raise bill for state workers” via the Associated Press – State employees will get a pay raise this October under a bill signed into law by Gov. Scott. Rank-and-file employees who currently earn $40,000 a year or less will get a $1,400 pay raise, and those earning more than $40,000 will receive a $1,000 raise. The legislation also authorizes 5 percent pay raises to state law-enforcement officers that will kick in on July 1. Judges, state attorneys and public defenders will get a 10 percent raise in October.

Tweet, tweet:

Scott signs tough new mandatory minimums for fentanyl into law” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The measure (HB 477), which passed in the final days of the legislative session, is meant to target drug traffickers and curb the opioid epidemic that is sweeping through parts of the state. … Beginning this October, judges will be bound to sentence people posessing 4 grams of fentanyl to three years in prison, 14 grams to 15 years in prison and 28 grams to 25 years in prison. These minimum sentences are meant to criminalize traffickers of fentanyl, which in recent years has grown to be one of the most prominent opioid killers in Florida.

— “This legislation was my top priority this session — because it gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools we need to combat the trafficking of fentanyl and save lives,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.

“Scott: No hard feelings between him and Richard Corcoran” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott, speaking to reporters after a bill signing, explained away the open tension between him and House Speaker Corcoran after the House this year tried to gut VISIT FLORIDA and do away with economic development organization Enterprise Florida, his two favored state agencies. By the end of the recent Special Session, however, lawmakers agreed to the creation of an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to be controlled by Scott, full funding for tourism marketing, and $50 million to help kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. That deal is said to be in return for Scott’s approval of a controversial education funding policy bill (HB 7069) … “What’s great is that people have passion for what they believe in,” he said. “I know the Speaker has passion for what he believes in; I have passion for what I believe in. Both of us went out there and tried to explain to others (our positions) … but we came together for what is a win for our state.”

— “The lobbyist who got Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran talking” (a great read about Bill Rubin) via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

“Gary Farmer to Scott: Veto ‘dreadful’ HB 7069” via Florida Politics – A new state senator who is also a prominent trial attorney is telling Gov. Scott to veto a contentious education policy bill, saying it’s a brew of “bad policy” and “a textbook example of a failure in government transparency.” Sen. Gary Farmer, a Parkland Democrat, wrote a 2-page letter to Scott on HB 7069, which critics have said will benefit charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools. “This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources toward improving our public education,” Farmer wrote.

“Scott signs pollution notification bill into law” via Florida Politics — The so-called spill bill (SB 1018) requires companies to submit a notice of a reportable pollution release to the Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours of the release. That notice must contain a detailed description of the installation, substance and circumstance of the spill. “I am proud to sign this legislation today to strengthen Florida’s pollution notification laws. The sewage spill in Pinellas County and pollution incident at Mosaic last year demonstrated the importance of a 24-hour public notification requirement following pollution incidents,” said Scott in a statement. “Floridians deserve to know about these types of events and every Florida resident should enjoy clean water and a healthy environment. I appreciate the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for their work on this legislation.” The state agency is then required to publish the notification to the Internet within 24 hours of receiving it. It must also create a system that allows parties to subscribe and receive emails of notices received by the DEP.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with the final 63 bills that were passed during the 2017 regular legislative session. All are House measures. He has until June 29, to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his action. They include HB 689, a wide-ranging alcohol bill that would ease regulations on “caterers licensed to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits,” cuts the “annual license fee for a craft distillery from $4,000 to $1,000,” defines the Japanese fermented-rice beverage known as sake as “wine” under state law, and expressly allows minors to work in stores selling beer, wine or liquor so long as someone over 18 is supervising them. As of Wednesday afternoon, 114 bills were on the governor’s desk.

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Florida newborn screening bill signed into Law: What does it mean for babies?” via Jocelyn Beever of WFSU – Florida pediatricians will be able to test babies for more diseases under a new law signed by Governor Scott. Senator Lauren Book sponsored the legislation, and says this law will improve family health. “Newborns and newborn families will have an opportunity to be healthy and safe, which is wonderful,” she says. Following birth, Florida pediatricians will take a blood sample with a simple heel prick and test for several diseases.

Fresh off special session, state reps now competing for social media ‘likes’” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – House Speaker Corcoran, debuted a new “friendly competition” between state lawmakers to see which one was the most popular on social media. “The FL HOUSE believes in competition,” Corcoran wrote. State representatives were ranked based on the number of likes on their Facebook pages and the number of Twitter followers each one had. Some legislators, like state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, boast over 35,000 likes on their Facebook pages. Other state lawmakers, like Rep. Jim Boyd, who has nearly 20,000 Facebook likes, simply ask constituents to like posts related to President Donald Trump, welcoming discussion on important issues through Facebook.


Andrew Gillum‘s nascent campaign grossly overstated the number of donors who have contributed to the Tallahassee mayor’s bid to be Florida governor, a review of campaign finance documents by Florida Politics found.

On Friday, Gillum’s campaign bragged that it was “excited to have more than 7,000 contributors,” according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

However, after Florida Politics reviewed the most recent campaign finance reports and asked the Gillum campaign why its numbers showed a significantly different number than what it was touting, Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, admitted that the campaign had “slightly misstated the total in our press release.”

Slightly, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Both Florida Politics’ review and Gillum’s campaign agree that the campaign and his “Forward Florida” committee has received a combined 6,933 total contributions, according to the most campaign finance reports.

However, when duplicates are removed from the list of contributions, Gillum received donations from approximately 5,300 people. Florida Politics’ count has Gillum with 5,586 donors.

The claim of 7,000 donors was also rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact Florida, a fact-checking website. PolitiFact noted it found “5,383 unique names on individual contributions and 70 on Florida Forward PAC for a combined total of 5,453 donors.” The total number includes a few donors who gave “in-kind contributions as well for food and beverage.”

— “Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum overcounts campaign donors” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact Florida


Alcee Hastings backs Gillum — The South Florida Democrat announced Wednesday he was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. “Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education,” said Hastings in a statement. “He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.” Hastings said his support for Gillum should not be “construed as being against others.” His endorsement marks Gillum’s first congressional endorsement. 

Assignment editors: Gillum and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam will hold a press conference about the state of gubernatorial race at 3 p.m. at 3Z Telecom, 31500 SW 145th Street in Miramar.

Assignment editors: Chris King’s gubernatorial campaign will co-sponsor a phone bank for Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at SEIU 32BJ 14 NE 1st Ave. Suite 905 in Miami. The phone bank will be held in conjunction with the Miami Downtown Dems.

Happening tonight – “John Morgan to raise funds for Richard Corcoran as both consider run for governor” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – At the Orlando home of one of his firm’s lawyers, Morgan will be on hand to raise money for Watchdog PAC, a new committee that Corcoran founded last month. The men are friends, as they’ve reminded people in the past. Still, the fundraiser is unusual on two counts. For one thing, Morgan has threatened to sue the state — including Corcoran — over a ban on smoking marijuana, which lawmakers wrote into their legislation. There’s a second wrinkle: Both Morgan and Corcoran are considering running for governor in 2018. Corcoran is a steadfast Republican, and Morgan hasn’t yet said whether he would run as a Democrat or without a party affiliation.


Florida Blue will sell Obamacare plans statewide in 2018” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald – The future of the Affordable Care Act may be uncertain, but Florida’s largest health insurer, Florida Blue, announced this week that the company intends to stay in the individual market and sell coverage in all 67 counties next year. Florida Blue executives said they expect the Trump Administration will continue to fund cost sharing reduction subsidies that help low-income consumers pay for out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments and deductibles. But the insurer will raise premiums about 20 percent on average if those subsidies are discontinued, said Penny Shaffer, market president for South Florida.

“Progressive groups sue over Scott’s judicial appointment power” via Florida Politics – The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause sued Scott, saying he doesn’t have power to name three new Supreme Court justices on his last day in office — only the governor elected after Scott does. Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis are all set to retire the same day his term ends. “A prompt, final decision on this pure question of constitutional law … would pre-empt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations,” the writ says. To sum up: “The Florida Constitution prohibits a governor from making a prospective appointment of an appellate judge to an existing seat before that seat becomes vacant.”

Audit finds understaffing and lax control of medication at state mental hospitals” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s state-run mental hospitals are understaffed, some are unlicensed and they are failing to keep track of pharmaceuticals and seized contraband, according to a new state audit. At one North Florida hospital, more than 2,800 antipsychotic drugs and 350 HIV antiviral drugs were misplaced, the report states. Hospital directors were not always told about suicide attempts or, in one case, that a patient had escaped, auditors found.

Conservative group forms to oppose Florida’s death penalty” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – … yet tried hard to distance themselves from controversial and progressive anti-death penalty State Attorney Aramis Ayala. The group Florida Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is an offshoot of a national group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty which is seeking to get death penalty laws repealed state-by-state. “We believe the death penalty is inconsistent with our core conservative values,” said Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator with the group. They argued that Florida’s death penalty law is on the verge of being overwhelmed as the Florida Supreme Court is remanding as many as 200 cases back for new sentencing phases, after the laws were struck down twice in the past two years.

Medical marijuana advisory board may be formed in Broward” via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel  – As Florida increases access to medical marijuana, Broward County commissioners plan to create their own advisory board on the subject. The board approved Commissioner Mark Bogen‘s request to start the process of creating an 11-member committee that would follow the impact of medical marijuana in the county and make policy recommendations to commissioners.

Pulse gunman’s wife asks for count to be dropped” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Noor Salman is arguing that an obstruction charge against her was filed in the wrong venue. The motion requesting the charge to be dropped was filed as people in Florida and beyond honored the 49 victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, exactly one year after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Salman’s husband, Omar Mateen, declared his allegiance to the Islamic State group during a three-hour standoff with police before SWAT team members killed him in a shootout. Salman was charged with aiding her husband, and obstruction for allegedly misleading investigators. The obstruction charge was filed in a federal district that covers Orlando, but she’s accused of misleading investigators during an interview in Fort Pierce, which is in the Southern District of Florida.

What Richard Corcoran is reading –Ruling against Indian River School District could mean $2 million windfall for charters” via Andrew Atterbury of TCPalm – The School District must pay a group of five charter schools for withholding their fair share of a local tax for education, a Circuit Court judge ruled … The amount each school would receive is yet to be determined, but the ruling could cost the district more than $2 million. Judge Paul Kanarek‘s ruling is a major milestone in a two-year battle between the district and charter schools — Indian River Charter High School, Imagine Schools at South Vero, North County Charter School, Sebastian Charter Junior High and St. Peter’s Academy.

Tampa Electric may join state power pool” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger – Tampa Electric, which has about 75,000 customers in south and eastern Polk County, may join the state’s power pool. Mark McCain, a spokesman with the Florida Municipal Power Agency, said the utility that serves about 670,000 customers in Central Florida may join a pilot project in the coming months. Tampa Electric would be the 16th utility to join the Florida Municipal Power Pool. Cherie Jacobs, a spokeswoman with Tampa Electric, confirmed the utility is exploring the option. She said it could help save customers money. Tampa Electric would add an additional 4,800 megawatts from 17 generators.


Spotted: Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Sen. Anitere Flores, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sen. Rob Bradley at the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee golf getaway at Torrey Pines. Also in attendance were Chris Clark, Chris Flack, John Holley, Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Frank and Tracy Mayernick, and Kyle Ulrich.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Eli Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Inc. d/b/a  FACCPA

Happy birthday to my old friend, Travis Moore.

Sunburn for 6.14.17 – Don Gaetz for the win; Bruce Ritchie is everywhere; Ron DeSantis’ big check; Disney pushes back

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


In a column in the Pensacola News-Journal recently, former Senate President Don Gaetz took on the issue of civics education, calling on Floridians to help teach the next generation about civics and calling out Gov. Rick Scott for vetoing funding for the Graham-Frey initiative.

The column highlights the work former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, has done to make sure children don’t graduate from high school without knowing how their government works and their obligations and rights as citizens.

“He thinks our children shouldn’t graduate from high school without knowing the basics of how their government works and their obligations and rights as citizens. He believes that can’t happen unless their teachers know enough, themselves, to teach civics,” he writes. “Graham knows citizenship is not passed along genetically, it has to be acquired and practiced to be real.

Former Senate President Don Gaetz, who in a recent op-ed asks, ‘Why don’t these damn kids know anything?’

Gaetz writes that several years ago Graham and Republican Congressman Lou Frey teamed up to create a way to teach teachers how to teach “rudiments of citizenship, not just the memorization of factoids but how to get kids engaged, excited and skilled in affecting what happens in their home communities and then their state and nation.”

They were able to get some money together and distribute an interactive curriculum The program was housed at the University of Central Florida, but the impact, Gaetz wrote “is felt in every part of the state, including Northwest Florida, where teachers explained to me how useful the instruction is and the difference it makes for students.”

Every year, the Legislature sets aside about $40,000 for the Graham-Frey initiative, but this year Scott, Gaetz writes, “line-item vetoed the funds for civics instruction, diverting the money to one of his own projects.”

“Governor Graham won’t get this job done during one of his famous workdays, or even in a thousand workdays,” wrote Gaetz. “Teaching, preaching and promoting the education of good citizens is a lifetime mission for a life already highly distinguished. But he could use some help.”

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Truce: Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran take ‘victory tour’ ripe with political meaning” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The two Republicans fought bitterly for months, but became fast friends in recent days as their political agendas finally converged. Each man traded support for the other’s priorities and both declared victory after a round of dealing in private. Scott‘s “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour” began at Miami’s Jungle Island tourist attraction and included stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville, as the governor took full advantage of his ability to cover lots of ground quickly on his personal jet, at his own expense.

“None of this would have happened without the support of the Speaker who worked hard all session,” Scott said of Corcoran, the same person he spent months calling a career politician and a job killer for his relentless criticism of Enterprise Florida. Scott’s vocal criticism of Corcoran’s secret dealing has vanished, now that Scott himself is a beneficiary of Corcoran’s compromises.

Governor Rick Scott, with state rep. Manny Diaz standing behind him, appears in Miami as part of his “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” Tour.

Scott’s $1M investment impacted by ‘water wars’ lawsuit he oversees” via Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO FloridaScott invested more than $1 million in Atlanta municipal bonds at the same time his administration was waging a costly “water wars” legal fight with Georgia … Scott ultimately made just $6,000 from the bonds, which he held for six months in 2012, but the investment underscores the ways in which Scott’s vast wealth sometimes overlaps with state business. And questions of conflict-of-interest have repeatedly arisen during his two terms in office because of the secrecy of his blind trust and the fact that longtime friend — New York-based Alan Bazaar — is the trustee who oversees the portfolio.

With the Governor’s signature of HB 7069 expected, is a legal challenge coming?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – In a letter to the governor, Sen. Gary Farmer urged the Governor to veto the bill because it would “dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources toward improving our public education” as well as allowing private management companies to profit off taxpayer dollars, and local communities to be cut out of zoning decisions relating to schools. But Farmer, a lawyer, also outlined his case — for why he believes it could be challenged on the grounds that it passed illegally — and in violation of the Senate rules and may be ripe for a legal challenge. “I do intend to look into it,” Farmer told the Herald/Times. “Process is supposed to matter. There are supposed to be boundaries and limitations so everybody is on equal footing. When we don’t follow the rules, it erodes and denigrates the process.”

“Coalition urges Governor to approve solar amendment implementation” via Florida Politics – In a letter released Tuesday, a group of business and environmental interests asked the Governor to sign SB 90, which implements a solar-power amendment approved by voters in 2016. The amendment, among other things, gives tax breaks to companies that buy and install solar devices and equipment. It also removes the state’s tangible personal property tax, which taxes solar equipment installed. The ballot initiative passed with 73 percent support. Among the groups signing on to the letter are Florida Conservation Voters, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Floridians for Solar Choice, Sierra Club Florida and The Nature Conservancy.

Scott has till Wednesday to sign drug trafficking measure” via Florida Politics – That’s the Governor’s deadline to act on a bill (HB 477) passed this year that would create minimum mandatory sentences for dealing in fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug. People convicted with a minimum of four grams of fentanyl or other opioids would face three years in prison; 14 grams or more, 14 years; and 28 grams or more, 25 years. Greg Newburn, state policy director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has criticized the measure, saying being in possession with as few as seven pills could make someone a “trafficker.” “The premise that underlies the case for mandatory minimum drug laws—that they deter drug trafficking—is demonstrably, irrefutably false,” he has tweeted. Lawmakers behind the measure counter that it’s needed to help prevent the state’s thousands of opioid deaths.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was sent another six bills on Tuesday morning, including the controversial HB 7069 that benefits charter schools. He has until June 27 to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his action. As of Tuesday morning, 52 bills were on the Governor’s desk.

Legislative staffing merry-go-round via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

Off: Parker Aziz is no longer Special Master and attorney for the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee.

Off: Nikolas Pascual has stepped down as legislative assistant for the vacant House District 116 seat.

Off: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off: Zachary McCulley is no longer legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican State Rep. Clay Ingram.

Off: Juanita Olvera is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic State Rep. Kionne McGhee.


Amid gubernatorial buzz, Ron DeSantis donor gives $500K to new political committee” via Matt Dixon of Politico Florida — The check was given to Fund for Florida’s Future by Frederick Sontag, who founded the Spring Bay Companies, a Ponte Vedra Beach private equity firm that focuses on technology-based investments. When DeSantis ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, Fighting for Florida Fund — a super PAC backing the Ponte Vedra Beach Republican — received a $500,000 contribution from Spring Bay Capital, also owned by Sontag and associated with Spring Bay Companies. Because DeSantis is a current federal office-holder, he cannot be officially associated with or raise money for a state political committee.

— DeSantis consultant Brad Herold declined to comment when asked about the new committee, which was founded in April and started raising money the same month. It has so far raised a total of $535,000.

“Andrew Gillum takes a swipe at Scott’s ‘victory tour’ ” via Florida PoliticsTallahassee Mayor Gillum is slamming Gov. Scott’s and House Speaker Corcoran’s “victory tour.” Saying he’s standing up for public schools, Gillum released a statement Tuesday in the wake of Scott’s announcement of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” tour to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during last week’s legislative Special Session” … “The only person less deserving of a ‘victory tour’ than Gov. Scott and Speaker Corcoran is Donald Trump’s lawyer,” he said. Scott’s and Corcoran’s “backroom deals will destroy our public schools’ futures, and they ought to be ashamed of what they’ve done to our state over the past week.”

If elected governor, Gwen Graham says Florida would stick with Paris climate accord” via Bruce Ritchie of Poltico Florida — Graham announced her climate plan on Tuesday following President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord on climate change. If elected, she said she will have Florida would join other states upholding the accord. Graham said Florida already is suffering the threats of climate change, including rising sea levels, droughts and forest fires. “Yet, despite all the science and even plain old common sense, President Donald Trump is embracing disaster by withdrawing our country from the Paris agreement,” Graham said. “Let me be blunt: Ignoring climate change will drown Florida’s future.” … Graham said she will implement a renewable energy standard for utilities but didn’t say whether she would do so without authorization from the Legislature. 

Least surprising news of the day – “Former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin endorses Chris King for Governor” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political ObserverChapin is featured in a new web video … discussing issues like education, a living wage and the environment, along with rolling shots of Orlando and the Florida coast, as King meets with supporters to discuss his vision. “It’s time to have someone who can inspire a whole new generation to think about public service” says Chapin.

Jack Latvala courting gay Republicans” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala, exploring a run for Governor, will headline a reception in Orlando next week with gay Republicans. ” This is a meet and greet opportunity for Republicans in the LGBT community to hear from the Senator, ask questions and get to know him. This is not a fundraiser,” says the invite for the June 21 Citrus Club event hosted by Rusty Roberts, a longtime Latvala friend, former Pinellas resident and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep John Mica; Republican consultant and former Christian Coalition leader John Dowless; and business consultant Nayte Carrick. Latvala said he did not draft the invite, but he and Roberts go back nearly four decades.

Jay Fant tops $79K raised for Attorney General bid” via Florida Politics — Fant emerged with $79,575 of new money; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May. A number of familiar names in Northeast Florida showed up on the contributor list: Tom Petway, John Rood, J.B. Coxwell, and the Fiorentino Group were among them. Fant also enjoyed PAC support, with the Beer Distributors Committee, PETROPAC, and the Florida Bankers Association contributing. Contributions mostly came from Northeast Florida.

All 5 Republican members of Hillsborough Commission are backing Ashley Moody for AG” via Florida Politics — Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody announced that all five Republican members of the Hillsborough County Commission – Stacy White, Sandy Murman, Al Higginbotham, Ken Hagan and Victor Crist – are backing her campaign. “As a native of Hillsborough County it is incredibly humbling to have such overwhelming support from our County Commissioners,” Moody said of the joint endorsement. “These County Commissioners have spent their time in public service advancing fiscally conservative principles that prioritize spending on local government priorities, including public safety and our Sheriffs Office – giving our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to keep us safe and crackdown on crime.”

Tim Canova to announce 2018 political plans Thursday” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and Hollywood resident, confirmed that he will announce his plans at a progressive caucus event at the Broward AFL-CIO office in Plantation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday: Canova wrote on Facebook  that he will speak at the event where he will be “making a big announcement on our plans for 2018, which will be live streamed on this page. You won’t want to miss out!” In September, Canova filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so he could start fundraising in case he decided to run against Debbie Wasserman Schultz who represents a Broward/Miami-Dade district. But through April he hasn’t fundraised.

Democrat Bernie Fensterwald taking second shot at going to Tallahassee” via Florida PoliticsFensterwald, a Dunedin retiree who lost a challenge to Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race in North Pinellas County last November by more than 30 percentage points, has filed once again to run for the Legislature. This time Fensterwald is gunning for the state Senate District 16 seat in north Pinellas being vacated by a term-limited Jack Latvala. The only other candidate to file so far for the open seat is former GOP state representative and Clearwater City Commissioner Ed Hooper.

John Newstreet raises $30,000 in early days of HD 44 special election race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican candidate John Newstreet‘s campaign is reporting that it has raised more than $30,000 in the first 11 days since he announced his run for the open seat in Florida House District 44.

— Newstreet is reporting a total of $30,576 through the end of May in a news release, though neither he nor the other candidates in that race have to file anything with the state until July 6, more than a week after ballots are sent to military and overseas voters, because of the timetables assigned to the special election. 

Save the date – House Majority 2018, Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be José Oliva and Chris Sprowls host a fundraiser for Rep. Erin Grall in her House District 54 re-election bid. Event begins 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 26, at the Quail Valley River Club, 2345 Highway A1A in Vero Beach.

Shawn Harrison kicks off HD 63 re-election bid at Tampa Theater June 29” via Florida Politics – The event, hosted by House Majority 2016 and featuring special guest Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, is Thursday, June 29, beginning 5 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theater, 711 N. Franklin St. Included on the extensive list of local GOP leaders making the host committee are House Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls … state Sens. Dana Young and Tom Lee; state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia; former House Speakers Will Weatherford and Dean Cannon; former state Rep. Seth McKeel; former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Victor Crist, Stacy White and Sandy Murman; and Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, among others.

David Rivera floats another $50K to Florida House campaign” – Former one-term Congressman Rivera gave his campaign another $50,000 in May, making $250,000 in loans for his bid to return to the Florida Legislature. Raising $10,550, Rivera gave $150,000 in loans and dropped another $100,000 check into his war chest. According to Florida Division of Elections records, the Miami Republican received $271,300 in contributions and loans for the House District 105 race. His primary opponent, Doral Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez also raised $46,875 in May, for $98,300 total. Rivera, a former state House budget chair, it is looking to succeed term-limited Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

More legislative hopefuls announce 2018 bids — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates have filed to run in 2018. Jeff Cynamon has become the first Democrat to file to run in House District 113 after Rep. David Richardson announced he was running for Congress in 2018 instead of running for re-election. Cynamon is a private property rights attorney in Miami Beach. He received his engineering degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from St. Thomas University. He previously worked as a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Transportation. Rhonda Rebman-Lopez becomes the fourth Republican to file to run in House District 115. Rebman-Lopez is a University of Alabama graduate and works as a legislative liasion for KinderVision, a foundation aimed at preventing the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of youths.


Democrats Trash ‘broke’ FDP for picking scandal-ridden Debbie Wasserman Schultz to open Leadership Blue Gala” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – FDP staffers recently announced Wasserman Schultz would be opening up the annual gathering of party faithful, which is scheduled to take place Saturday in Hollywood. By Tuesday, Wasserman Schultz was out of the program entirely. Not everybody was happy about Wasserman Schultz rolling through the gala after bulldozing the party’s reputation last summer. Wasserman Schultz’s former congressional primary opponent and Democratic activist Tim Canova took to Facebook to criticize the FDP for its “huge problem” in selecting the South Florida congresswoman to give the opening remarks. … Canova took a no-holds-barred approach in criticizing party leadership for its “grave mistake” …“This at a time when the party is reportedly broke, having trouble meeting its payroll, begging for a loan, just months after Bittel promised to raise millions and millions of dirty corporate dollars for the party,” he said.

Democrats seek ties between Brian Mast and businessman accused of scam” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida Democrats filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain records that, they hope, show a link between Mast and the owner of a marketing company under federal investigation for fraud. “The depth of Congressman Mast’s involvement in the alleged fraud is currently unknown by Mast’s voters,” the Florida Democratic Party said in a release. “Despite being named as a member of World Patent Marketing’s board, being featured in World Patent Marketing’s promotional materials, and appearing in multiple photographs with World Patent Marketing’s embattled founder, Congressman Mast has denied any knowledge of or involvement with World Patent Marketing.” The FOIA seeks any emails between Mast and World Patent Marketing owner Scott Cooper, financial records and details about a $5,400 political contribution Mast received from Cooper. (Mast has returned the donation.)

Florida counties, still vulnerable to storms, scramble to match state dollars” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – What’s happening along North Florida’s Atlantic coast is part of a larger statewide issue: Year after year, the Florida Legislature has allocated less funding than is requested by coastal areas, which struggle to come up with required matching dollars that still do not cover the high cost of beach erosion. The state has 825 miles of sandy coastline, and about half of it is rated by the state as critically eroded. But funding for beach projects has averaged $28.6 million per year since 2007, even as local governments have requested $87.2 million. Local governments say closing the funding gap is critical to paying for beach sand replacement projects called beach “renourishment.” And legislative analysts in 2015 reported that the economic return from spending on beach restoration is more than five times the investment. The funding for coastal communities was one of several sticking points between legislators in the Florida Senate and House this year.

Disney sues over property assessments for Magic Kingdom, other properties” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel –Disney filed nearly a dozen lawsuits at the end of last month in Orange Circuit Court, arguing the assessments by Orange County Appraiser Rick Singh exceeded their properties’ fair market value and incorrectly “included the value of certain intangible property in the assessments.” … “The increases in the assessments of our property are unreasonable and unjustified,” a Disney spokesperson said … “Similar to other property owners in Orange County, we have no choice but to take action to dispute these errors by the property appraiser. We look forward to presenting our case in court.” It’s not the first time the theme parks have sought to reduce their land values. In October, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando and Disney sued Singh, arguing their properties’ taxes were too high. Singh vowed to fight them in court At   the time, saying, “We hold their feet to the fire.”

“State files misdemeanor charges against Lisa Edgar” via Florida PoliticsProsecutors are moving forward with a criminal case against Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run. Earlier this month, State Attorney Jack Campbell’s office filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident … She is charged with one count of driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and one count of leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show.


Scoop – “Personnel note: Kent Perez departing Attorney General’s Office” via Florida PoliticsPerez, acting chief of staff to Attorney General Pam Bondi and a veteran of the office, Tuesday said he’s accepted an offer to become the State Board of Administration’s deputy executive director. Perez told he expects to start the new job by the end of the month. He’ll report to SBA chief Ash Williams. Perez said he and Williams are still “working out” his precise job responsibilities. The agency acts as the state’s investment manager.

Personnel note: “Max Goodman headed back to work for Vern Buchanan” via Mitch Perry of Florida PoliticsGoodman, the well-regarded communications pro who worked for Buchanan for nearly a decade before helping David Jolly’s campaign(s) in 2015 and 2016, is returning to work for Buchanan as Chief Communications Adviser. Goodman will be based out of Washington D.C. Goodman joined Jolly’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in the fall of 2015 as his political director and was later named his campaign manager. After Buchanan narrowly defeated Democrat Christine Jennings in 2006, Goodman began working for Buchanan, ultimately becoming his full-time communications director in 2010, and was later promoted to senior aide in 2012.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: South Swell Development Group, LLC.; Thomas Panza, Panza Mauer Maynard: Shands Teaching Hospitals and Clinics Inc.

– “Lobbying, Donald trump and what Jacksonville needs to do to succeed” via Timothy Gibbons of the Jacksonville Business Journal

— ALOE —

AAA: Gas prices falling fast in Florida, U.S.” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel – The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Florida Monday was $2.33 — four cents less than a week ago. Nationally, gas was $2.34, also down four cents. AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said motorists “could very easily see prices fall another five cents” over the next couple of weeks, barring a sudden increase in crude oil prices. Gasoline prices were also driven lower by increased production by Gulf Coast refineries — 3 percent above a year ago — and a 5.4 percent drop in consumer demand from the record high set the previous week. Average gasoline prices fell in South Florida as well, but not by as much as the overall state and nation.

Disney plans to remember toddler killed by alligator one year ago with lighthouse sculpture” via Christal Hayes and Dewayne of the Orlando Sentinel – It was one year ago Wednesday that a 2-year-old boy playing near a shoreline at a Disney resort was killed by an alligator. Now, Walt Disney World is planning to honor Lane Graves, who was visiting with his family from Nebraska June 14, 2016. The company will add a sculpture of a lighthouse — the symbol of the Lane Thomas Foundation — at an undisclosed site on its property. “To provide continued awareness of the foundation and its mission, we’ve commissioned an original sculpture of the lighthouse the foundation uses as a symbol of love and hope, to be installed on our property this summer,” George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement. No ceremony is planned for Wednesday, a Disney World spokeswoman said.

“Hard Rock coming to Daytona Beach” via Florida PoliticsSeminole Tribe of Florida-controlled Hard Rock International says it’s opening a fourth location in Florida later this year with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach … The new beachfront hotel also will feature “all-day dining, 24-hour in-room dining, a grab-and-go coffee shop and a poolside bar and grill.” Gambling will not be offered. Tuesday’s news follows Hard Rock’s recent purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada … Hard Rock-themed properties [in Florida] are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Insiders speculate on Epcot’s upcoming transformation” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Back in November, Disney officials hinted at a major transformation for Epcot … Now the rumor mill is filled with what the makeover will mean to the park that opened in 1982 as an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. “It will be even more relevant than it is today. …” Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts announced. “And, at the same time, it will stay true to our original vision. Disney, of course, remains mum on its plans but local bloggers speculate the renovation will include new infrastructure, an updated entrance and new rides and attractions. Robert Niles, author of the Theme Park Insider blog, reported that Disney has plans for new franchise-themed attractions to both Future World and World Showcase. The Universe of Energy is up for major renovations. At World Showcase, Niles’ reports that insiders claim Disney’s plans call for the installation of a Ratatouille-themed ride in the France pavilion.

Happy birthday to Josh AubuchonFoyt Ralston, and Drew Piers.

Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay politics – the “look who’s running for what” edition

The $20 Million Dollar Man, Bernie Fensterwald, filed Friday to run in Senate District 16, the seat currently held by term-limited Jack Latvala. The Dunedin Democrat created a buzz in Florida political circles last year when, in a campaign against state Rep. Chris Sprowls, listed that he’s worth nearly $20 million in his financial disclosure forms.

Despite his fortune, Fensterwald never materialized as a serious threat to Sprowls. who thumped his opponent by more than thirty points.

The only other candidate in the SD 16 race is former Rep. Ed Hooper, who is widely seen as the establishment favorite to succeed Latvala.

Hooper had a solid, but not spectacular, month of fundraising. The Pinellas Republican added $13,372 to his campaign coffers, including a $1,000 check from state Sen. Travis Hutson‘s political committee. Almost all of the other legislative races saw little fundraising activity as lawmakers are prohibited from raising money during the legislative session.

One legislative candidate who was able to raise money during May was Republican Berny Jacques. After raising more than $40,000 during his first two months on the campaign trail, the former state prosecutor’s fundraising slowed, with Jacques raising $6,383 last month.

Ray Blacklidge became the first candidate to enter the race for House District 69. Read our profile of Blacklidge here.

First-term state Rep. Wengay Newton will introduce his legislative staff at a Sarasota town hall meeting at the North Sarasota Library, 2801 Newtown Blvd. 5:30 p.m. The St. Petersburg Democrat, whose HD 70 reaches into Sarasota County, will offer the public “firsthand knowledge” on how the “sausage is made in Tallahassee.

Anyone who knows political activist Barb Haselden knows she’s no push over. The Tea Partier is running in an ultra-competitive three-way Republican primary (versus Reps. Larry Ahern and Kathleen Peters) and, going by the May fundraising reports, she’s in it to win it. She kick-started her campaign with a $20,000 loan. Sure, Ahern and Peters should be able to raise much more than that, but if Haselden uses that $20K to build a smart campaign apparatus, she’ll be able to raise a good deal of money, too.

Did anyone else know that former state Rep. Carl Zimmermann is a candidate for Pinellas County School Board?

Gov. Rick Scott announced the appointment of Gregory Groger to the 6th Judicial Circuit Court (Pinellas and Pasco counties). Groger has served as an assistant state attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit since 2003. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Groger fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Walter L. Schafer, Jr.

Old news: “Janet Cruz considering a run for Hillsborough Commission” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times on June 12. Florida Politics’ Mitch Perry first reported May 31 that Cruz was thinking about running for the Commission.

Southern Strategy Group is hosting a fundraiser tomorrow for Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagen’s re-election effort. Event begins 5 p.m. at the SSG Tampa office, 201 E. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 1450. Host committee includes former state Rep. Seth McKeel, Mike and Melanie Griffin, and attorneys Ron Christaldi, Steve Bernstein and Drew Jenkins.

Speaking of SSG – SSG lobbyists Laura Boehmer and Sydney Ridley have registered for the American Craftsman Museum, a Palm Harbor-based nonprofit that serves as the repository (along with St. Pete’s upcoming 110,000-square-foot Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement) for the Two Red Roses Foundation collection, with more than 1,600 works from the Arts and Crafts movement, 1890 to 1930.

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce host the Tampa Bay Rays Outing Tuesday, June 20, at Tropicana Field. Chamber members from Clearwater, St. Pete and Tampa Chambers are invited to watch the Rays face the Cincinnati Reds at 7 p.m. Discounted Press Level seating tickets are $30 and includes a special Rays cap.

Tiger Bay Club of Tampa hosts its 2017 Legislative Wrap Up during a luncheon meeting Friday, June 16. Speakers include state Sen. Tom Lee, and state Reps. Darryl Rouson, Shawn Harrison, Wengay Newton and Dan Raulerson. Registration is 11:30 a.m., meeting starts noon at the Ferguson Law Center, 1610 N. Tampa St.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson visited the construction site of the new Florida Hospital SunRail transit station to highlight the significant economic impact that investments in public transportation can create in Central Florida and in cities and towns across the nation, on Friday, February 22, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.

Sunburn for 6.13.17 – AFP targets Bill Nelson; Rick Scott goes Johnny Drama; Jeff Atwater leaving June 30; Greg Black heads to Gunster

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Americans for Prosperity-Florida is launching a digital ad campaign urging Floridians to contact Sen. Nelson and ask him to support efforts to fix the country’s broken and intrusive tax code. The campaign is part of a nationwide effort to tap into taxpayers’ frustrations with tax laws into a grassroots movement supporting broad, pro-growth tax reform. 

“Floridians deserve a tax system that treats everyone fairly and helps grow the economy,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-FL, in a statement. “The last thing Americans want is a system that continues to raise taxes. Senator Nelson has spoken out in favor of tax reform, but he has also advocated for raising taxes. Now is the time for him to use his leadership position on the Senate Finance Committee to un-rig the system for Florida taxpayers.”


Gov. Rick Scott is kicking off what his office is calling his “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour” this morning. The five-city swing has been billed as a way to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students” during the three-day special session, which ended last Friday.

The day-long tour, according to Scott’s office, will increased K-12 per-student funding, the creation of the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, full funding for Visit Florida, and $50 million to help kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Expect it to be significantly different than the “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour the Governor embarked on one month ago. Scott used that three-day, 10-city swing to slam “politicians in Tallahassee” for not backing his priorities, hint at vetoes and bristle about the lack transparency in the budget process.

This swing will have a much more “kumbaya” tone. He’ll be joined by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who played his foil during the regular session, on several stops throughout the trip. And don’t be surprised if Corcoran, who led the charge to end funding for Enterprise Florida, talks about the benefits of the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, which he has called a “model for economic development moving forward.”

“My hat’s off to the Governor and the Senate for all that they have accomplished for the people of the state,” said Corcoran during a press conference Friday. “I think what we’re doing is going home and telling parents, we’re telling business owners, we’re telling the state that we’re going to continue on that great road of prosperity, that great road, and that great road of excellent education.”

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott kicks off his five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour” at 9 a.m. at Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail in Miami. From there, he’ll head to the South Florida Water Management District, 3301 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach for an event at 11 a.m. He’ll then head to Fort Myers for an event at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway at 1:15 p.m. At 3:30 p.m., Scott is scheduled to attend an event at Creative Sign Designs, 12801 Commodity Place in Tampa. The governor will end his day at 6 p.m. at Angie’s Subs, 1436 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville Beach.

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Gary Fineout, the always in-the-know Associated Press reporter, took a look at what appears to be a post-session truce between Gov. Scott, Senate President Negron, and House Speaker  Corcoran and what it could mean for the Republican Party on his blog, The Fine Print, this week.

In the post, Fineout wonders whether “the simmering feud that exploded dramatically into public view the last few months finally end.” As Fineout notes, the three-day special session ended after a deal was crafted that boosted per-student funding, fully funded for Visit Florida, set aside money for a new economic development program and money for repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike. The deal also included money for university projects that were vetoed by Scott days earlier, a priority for Negron.

As for Corcoran, many have speculated that Scott and the Land O’Lakes Republican struck a deal that included Scott signing a wide-sweeping and contentious education bill (HB 7069) in return for getting his priorities passed.

Fineout writes if Scott “does in fact sign the education bill and the governor does in fact sign another high profile bill, SB 374 that is a top priority for Negron, it would theoretically put the relationship between all sides on a better foundation than it has been.”

“Remember, this GOP feud has been going on _ and building in intensity _ essentially since Scott got re-elected. Shortly after he was sworn into office for a second term Republicans blocked his pick to lead the Republican Party of Florida. Since then Scott for the most part stopped raising money for the party – which is controlled by Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, an ally of Corcoran,” writes Fineout.

“The House and Senate had several meltdowns in 2015 as they bickered over Medicaid expansion and a way to end redistricting battles that were being fought in the courts. In 2016, led by Corcoran, the Legislature shredded much of Scott’s agenda for that year,” he continued. “They rejected his ambitious deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Flash forward and Scott got a much better outcome during the special session than it appeared he was going to get this year. The governor talked about how he couldn’t wait to go out across the state and “brag” about what happened. But is there any longevity to it?”

But Fineout points out there are several things that could cause relations to “fall apart.” Those include Scott deciding to veto the higher education overhaul pushed by Negron, or if Corcoran pursues items that Scott doesn’t want to be involved with during an election year.”

Taking a page from Corcoran, who over the weekend took a page from Taylor Swift in explaining the House’s relationship with the Senate to his children, Fineout asks this in closing: “Are we out of the woods yet, are we out of the woods, are we in the clear yet?”

>>>An informed legislative source tells FloridaPolitics that Gov. Scott will sign HB 7069 Thursday in Orlando.


“Scott’s office ‘no comment’s on abandonment of ‘docs vs. glocks’ appeal” via Florida Politics – The Governor’s Office wouldn’t say why it let pass a recent deadline to challenge the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling on the 2011 law. The legislation—the only one of its kind in the nation—sought to prevent doctors from asking patients whether they own guns, on pain of professional discipline including possible loss of their licenses to practice. The appellate court in February said Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring the state law a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech. The law was supported by the National Rifle Association. “As a strong supporter of (the) Second Amendment, Gov. Scott is glad that a vast majority of this law was never challenged and upheld in court,” Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.  

Jeff Atwater says he will leave June 30” via The Associated Press – CFO Atwater turned in his formal resignation letter to Gov. Scott. Atwater announced back in February that he planned to step down from his elected post to take a position at Florida Atlantic University. Scott will be responsible for picking someone to replace Atwater for the next 18 months. Voters in 2018 will pick a new chief financial officer.

– “Jack Latvala doesn’t want to be appointed CFO, isn’t running for CFO; thinks Joe Gruters is right for the job” via Florida Politics

>>>Even with Latvala’s endorsement, we believe former Rep. Jimmy Patronis is the favorite for the CFO job. 


Democracy for America backs Andrew Gillum — Democracy for America, a national progressive organization, has endorsed Gillum in his 2018 gubernatorial bid. “Now more than ever, Floridians need a Governor who is committed to making the state a place where success is not limited to the most wealthy or well-connected, and where all people can fairly pursue opportunities without fear,” said Jim Dean, the chairman of Democracy for America, in a statement. “As the Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum has stood up to the NRA and made it clear that he will protect immigrants against the Trump administration. He has a vision for the state that includes progressive policies like a $15 minimum wage and ending discrimination against those who have been incarcerated.” Since 2004, Democracy for America members have raised and contributed more than $40 million and more than 11.1 million volunteer calls to help elect 917 progressive candidates across the nation. 

“Adam Putnam’s political committee racks up another cool million in May” via Florida Politics – Florida Grown hadn’t posted its information with the state as of Monday morning, but has rolling contribution and expenditure information on its website. May contributions totaled more than $1.01 million, while monthly expenditures were just over $244,000. Big contributors early in the month included the A. Duda & Sons agricultural and land development company of Oviedo at $100,000, and Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Mutual of Maitland at listed at $60,000.

Baxter Troutman files to run for Agriculture Commissioner via Florida Politics — As Florida Politics first forecast, the Winter Haven Republican filed to run for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday, joining an already crowded field vying to replace Putnam in 2018. Troutman filed the necessary paperwork Monday, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million, according to his campaign. “For two decades, I’ve been building a business and continuing my work in Florida agriculture. Real experience and success in the private sector is what we need more than ever,” said Troutman in a statement. “Working side by side with folks who send their hard earned money to Tallahassee, I know why it is so important to keep taxes low, balance our budgets and grow Florida’s economy.”

Alex Diaz de la Portilla labeled ‘not a conservative’ in new mailer via Florida Politics — A new mailer landing in South Florida mailboxes has labeled Alex Diaz de la Portilla “not a conservative.” The mailer is the second from Making a Better Tomorrow, a Venice-based political committee, targeting Diaz de la Portilla in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “Alex Diax de la Portilla claims to be a conservative, but his record tells a different story,” reads the mailer. Much like an earlier mailer from Making a Better Tomorrow, the mailer says the Miami Republican raised taxes, increased the size of government, and hurt business and job growth. The ad also slams Diaz de la Portilla for having a “disregard for the law” and “living recklessly.” Here is a look at the second mailer:

Jose Felix Diaz raises about $450K for SD 40 race” via Florida Politics — The Miami Republican said his campaign raised about $450,000 — about $280,000 for his official campaign and another $167,000 for Rebuild Florida, his political committee — between May 10 and June 8. “Our goal was to talk to as many people as possible, to reach out to old friends, to see what the momentum was like,” said Diaz. “I was amazed to get as much support as I did.” Records show top donors to his political committee include the Conservative and Principled Leadership Committee, a political committee affiliated with Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Free Markets Florida, a political committee associated with Rep. Travis Cummings, Rep. Manny Diaz, and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues; and Friends of Matt Caldwell, the political committee associated with Rep. Matt Caldwell, who recently announced he was running for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018. Diaz de la Portilla raised $22,500 during the fundraising period. Records show he loaned his campaign $50,000 during the same time period. State records show Palomares reported raising $9,000 during the fundraising period. Palomares, according to state records, also loaned his campaign $15,000.

“Jose Oliva’s political committee spreads the (financial) love” via Florida PoliticsIn advance of his 2018-20 House Speakership, state Rep. Oliva‘s political committee this year has been sharing the wealth with his friends and allies, campaign finance records accessed Monday show. Most recently, the Miami Lakes Republican’s committee, called Conservative Principles for Florida, gave $1,000 on May 19 to fellow House Republican Jose Felix Diaz’s state Senate run. 

“Northeast Florida delivers $260K in May to Paul Renner committee” via Florida Politics — State records show Florida Foundation for Liberty, the political committee associated with Rep. Paul Renner, raised $261,500 in May. Top donors during the fundraising period were local gambling concern Best Bet at $25,000; Working for Florida’s Families, the political committee associated with Sen. Rob Bradley, at $10,000; and Sunshine State Conservatives, a political committee associated with Sen. Travis Hutson, at $10,000. Other top donors included Summit Contracting, Vestcor, Florida Blue, Rayonier, Gate Petroleum, and Florida East Coast Industries. Renner is one of several candidates vying to be Speaker of the House beginning in 2022.  

Ray Blacklidge becomes first to file to run in battleground House District 69” via Florida Politics – The race to replace Kathleen Peters is officially underway. Blacklidge, a Madeira Beach resident and self-described entrepreneur and consumer advocate, became the first candidate to file for the seat since Peters announced she would not seek re-election to run for the Pinellas County Commission. In a press release Blacklidge put the word “conservative” front-and-center and said that he has a strong belief in the rule of law. “Whether it’s banning sanctuary cities or fighting fraud, elected officials have a duty to uphold the rule of law, and voters should expect no less.” In 2016, Blacklidge was one of four finalists for state Insurance Commissioner, but saw his bid stymied when it was disclosed that he filed for personal bankruptcy in 2005 with $6 cash on hand.

Money moves in HD 116 GOP special primary” – In the past month, Republicans Jose Mallea and Daniel Anthony Perez took in thousands of dollars in the Miami-Dade House District 116 special primary. Florida Division of Elections records show Mallea raked in $50,640 from May 1 through Thursday for $140,156, with almost $88,500 on hand. At the same time, Perez picked up another $33,660 for $83,450, with $35,000 on hand. Winner of the July 25primary faces Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the special election Sept. 26. Entering the race June 5, Mayaudon raised only $1,800 as of Thursday. The HD 116 seat opened when Miami-Dade Republican Jose Felix Diaz stepped down to mount a campaign for an open Senate seat.


After Rick Scott vetoes funding, Florida Health Choices insurance exchange may close” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – The Florida Health Choices insurance exchange never quite lived up to [then-Speaker Marco] Rubio’s vision as it competed with a rival marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. Now, the state-based exchange may fold after Gov. Scott vetoed funding intended to keep it afloat another year. Without the $250,000 allocation, there is little money to pay Chief Executive Officer Rose Naff and keep the website maintained. “We will have to close our doors and go to some sort of virtual office or contract it out to another entity,” Naff said. The Florida Health Choices board of directors has to decide what to do with the three-year-old exchange that has about 712 existing customers, far fewer than the 3,000 to 4,000 customers needed for the exchange to be self-sufficient.

“Lottery gets more time to file brief in appeal” via Florida Politics – The 1st District Court of Appeal last week OK’d the Florida Lottery’s request for more time to file its initial brief in the case. The agency now has till “on or before July 7,” according to an online docket. The Lottery appealed after Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in March invalidated its $700 million contract for new equipment. She essentially agreed with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year. Because then-Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie “lacked the legal authority to enter into the IGT (International Game Technology) contract, (it) must, therefore, be found to be void and unenforceable,” Gievers said.

“Pre-reveal game makers bemoan state’s ‘heavy-handed tactics’ ” via Florida PoliticsThe companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games say they’re “losing money every day” even after a Tallahassee judge ruled the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines. Gator Coin II and Blue Sky Games are asking Circuit Judge John Cooper to lift an automatic stay of his March decision. Cooper, however, already has agreed to reconsider the ruling, setting a hearing next Monday in the Leon County Courthouse. The devices—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser. Still, the companies say the continuing insistence of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) that the games are illegal is killing their bottom line.

Trulieve opens The Villages dispensary” via Florida Politics – The Villages Trulieve will be at 13940 US Highway 441, #601 in the Oakland Hills Professional Center. “We’re excited to have a location in The Villages. Many of our patients are seniors, which makes this location key,” said Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers. “Our goal is to serve as many patients as we can and we will continue to open more locations throughout the rest of the year.” In addition to The Villages, Trulieve now delivers medical marijuana products statewide and through dispensaries in Clearwater, Edgewater, Miami, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Tampa.


“Personnel note: Greg Black joins Gunster” via Florida Politics – Greg Black is joining Gunster’s statewide government affairs law and lobbying practice, the firm announced in a press release. Black joins the firm with an extensive background advocating for a wide range of clients in the financial services, insurance, health care, biomedical research, pharmaceutical, and technology industries. He previously represented the Florida Bankers Association where he advised financial institutions of all sizes. Black’s experience also includes procurement matters at the state and local levels.

Happy birthday to Sen. David Simmons and to one of my favorites, Allison Carvajal.

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