Peter – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Last Call for 4.10.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Citrus news is getting to be a broken record: The latest report by U.S. Department of Agriculture holds Florida orange production “steady” with a slight decrease in grapefruit production, according to a Tuesday news release.

The USDA’s March report estimates Florida orange production for 2017-18 to remain at 45 million boxes, a 35 percent decrease over last season and the lowest crop size in more than 75 years.

Before Hurricane Irma, Florida was expected to produce about 75 million boxes of oranges this season, according to private estimates.

Florida grapefruit production went down 650,000 boxes to 4 million boxes, a decrease of 49 percent over last season. There was a small increase in Florida specialty fruit, which includes tangerines and tangelos.

“After a season of crisis, our industry finds hope in a new bloom, a new crop, disaster relief on the horizon and the opportunity a new season brings,” said Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus.

After Irma, Congress passed federal disaster recovery relief as part of a larger spending bill in February. In April, the USDA announced it will begin implementing disaster payments of up to $2.36 billion in response to 2017 hurricanes and wildfires.

Evening Reads

Rick Scott mostly fulfills promise to create 700,000 jobs in 7 years” via Allison Graves of PolitiFact

Federal complaint alleges Scott’s PAC illegally skirted fundraising restrictions” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Trump-endorsed Ron DeSantis says he’d have vetoed gun law, removed Sheriff Scott Israel” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Betsy DeVos calls Florida a ‘bright spot’ in test results via Caitlin Emma of POLITICO

Donald Trump nominates two for U.S. District Court in Florida” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

FEMA faulted for failed hurricane-aid contracts, including some with St. Cloud company” via The Associated Press

Steny Hoyer sought to clear Florida primary field” via Marc Caputo and Heather Caygle of POLITICO

That driver is jamming traffic — he’s probably filming a campaign ad” via Reid Epstein of The Wall Street Journal

Airbnb announces 40th county tax agreement with Charlotte” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

How developers discovered Tampa’s ‘best-kept secret’” via Nick Madigan of The New York Times

Quote of the Day

“Time and time again, they went to his house — how many times? Twenty, thirty times? — and chose to do nothing. Because the policy was, ‘we don’t want to get this individual in the justice system, it’s not good for statistics.’” — Republican congressman and candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis, on Broward law enforcement officials’ response to Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz before February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in Central Florida. That’s at 9 a.m., Sheraton Orlando North, 600 North Lake Destiny Dr., Maitland.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Osceola and Clay counties. That’s at 9 a.m., Advance Senior Center, 2260 East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee and 10 a.m., Penney Farms Town Hall, 4100 Clark Ave., Green Cove Springs.

Attorney General Pam Bondi will hold a National Crime Victims’ Rights Week ceremony “to recognize outstanding individuals who have assisted crime victims in Florida.” That’s at 10 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, The Capitol, Tallahassee.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, will take part in a Building Homes for Heroes “Hero’s Home Celebration.” That’s at 11 a.m., address available from Hukill’s office.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, will address the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville and discuss the 2018 legislative session. That’s at 12:30 p.m., Florida Yacht Club, 5210 Yacht Club Road, Jacksonville.

Members of the Lake County legislative delegation will take part in a town-hall meeting about the 2018 legislative session. Expected to take part are four Republicans: Sens. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland and Dennis Baxley of Ocala; and Reps. Larry Metz of Yalaha and Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora. That’s at 6 p.m., Tavares Civic Center, 100 East Caroline St., Tavares.

Lantana Democrat Lori Berman

By the way, there’s an election today in Palm Beach County, folks

Voters are going to the polls as we speak in Palm Beach County to determine a replacement for disgraced former state Sen. Jeff Clemens.

The Lake Worth Democrat resigned last year after news of an affair between him and a lobbyist came out.

Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, dominated fundraising for today’s special election for Senate District 31, and she’ll likely take the seat.

The longtime HD 90 lawmaker is running against Lake Worth Republican Tami Donnally, vice-chair of the county’s GOP.

Berman raised $33,120 from March 3 through Thursday, bringing her campaign’s overall total to $299,222, according to a newly filed finance report. Another $175,000 has come in for her supporting PAC, Friends of Lori Berman, since she declared for the SD 31 special.

She also loaned $100,000 to her campaign and had spent $210,677 as of Thursday.

Donnally, meanwhile, raised $13,480 from March 3 through Thursday, bringing her overall total to $25,731. She had spent $20,743.

“The district includes most of the area east of Florida’s Turnpike between Lake Worth and Delray Beach,” according to The Palm Beach Post. ” … Democrats have a 46.6 to 24.1 percent registration advantage in the district, and the GOP did not field a candidate there against Clemens in 2016.”

The district voted plus-25 for Hillary Clinton two years ago — one of her best margins among the 19 senate districts she carried.

SD 31 is one of eight special elections to be scheduled since the 2016 general election. Unlike the pending contests for House Districts 39 and 114, whoever wins the contest won’t have to file for re-election the next day. The term Clemens won in 2016 runs through Election Day 2020.

Assuming Berman wins the contest, the Senate will have 23 Republicans and 16 Democrats. The SD 16 seat vacated by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala will remain empty until Election Day.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. 

Last Call for 4.9.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Jeri Bustamante

Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera offered condolences upon news of the death of their former press secretary, 33-year-old Jeri Bustamante, who died Sunday night in a boating accident.

“It is with true sadness that we learned today of (Jeri’s) passing … (She) faithfully served in our administration for many years,” the Scotts said in a statement.

“Anyone who ever spent time with Jeri knows what a terrific and selfless person she was. Her personality filled rooms and hearts. We grieve with her family today.”

Bustamante died after a boat she was riding in “crashed into mangrove branches lining a narrow channel in Islamorada,” flkeysnews.com reported Monday.

She worked for Lopez-Cantera when he was Miami-Dade’s Property Appraiser. She later joined Scott’s press office when Lopez-Cantera became lieutenant governor in 2014.

Lopez-Cantera added, “Jeri … was a joy to work with and cared tremendously about her family, her career and the Floridians she served … My family and I are grieving with Jeri’s family and those closest to her.”

Evening Reads

Bill Nelson meets with Mark Zuckerberg” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Nelson has never been tested list this. But neither has Rick Scott.” via David Smiley and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Scott: I don’t intend to fit in” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Why Scott’s Senate candidacy is very, very good news for Republicans” via Chris Cillizza of CNN

Scott draws environmentalists’ aim in Senate bid” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

Miami woman (Scott spokesperson Jeri Bustamante) dies in Florida Keys boat crash” via David Goodie of the Miami Herald

Enterprise Florida plans Qatar mission to explore investment” via Gulf Times

Pay gap: Florida women make 87 cents for every $1 men make, report says” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times

We’re not ready for hurricane season, and it’s 8 weeks away” via Eric Holthaus of Grist

Cleveland publisher buys Tampa alternative weekly Creative Loafing” via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“Washington is full of old thinking. Washington is tired. And the truth is, both political parties share some of the blame. They’ve tried a lot of things — it just didn’t work. But I will not accept the idea that we can’t change Washington.” — Gov. Rick Scott, in prepared remarks released ahead of his U.S. Senate run announcement.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Voters in Palm Beach County’s Senate District 31 will go to the polls in a special election. Democrat Lori Berman and Republican Tami Donnally are running for the seat, which became open when former Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth resigned after disclosures about an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Miami-Dade and Duval counties. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 N.W. First St., Miami, and 10 a.m., Webb Wesconnett Library, 6887 103rd St., Jacksonville.

Committees of the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors will meet in advance of a full board meeting Wednesday. Meetings start at 1 p.m., Sheraton Orlando North, 600 North Lake Destiny Dr., Maitland.

The state Three-Member Panel, which works on workers’ compensation insurance issues, will discuss maximum reimbursement allowances for physicians, hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. That’s at 1 p.m., Larson Building, 200 East Gaines St., Tallahassee.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will host a roundtable discussion about the opioid epidemic, which has led to overdose deaths across the state. That’s at 2:15 p.m., Sarasota County Jail, 2020 Main St., Sarasota.

A campaign kickoff event is scheduled for Democrat Fentrice Driskell, who is challenging GOP state Rep. Shawn Harrison in Hillsborough County’s House District 63. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Vizcaya Restaurante & Tapas Bar, 10905 North Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.

Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat, will hold a town hall to provide a 2018 Legislative Session wrap-up and address community concerns. That’s at 6 p.m., Sun Coast Technical College Conference Center, 4748 Beneva Rd., Sarasota.

Sen. Bobby Powell, a West Palm Beach Democrat, and Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat, are expected to discuss the 2018 legislative session during a meeting of the Western Communities of West Palm Beach Democratic Club. That’s at 7 p.m., Vista Center, 2300 North Jog Road, West Palm Beach.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will join supporters in Hillsborough County at a Joint Republican Club Meeting. That’s at 7 p.m., Carrollwood Country Club, 13903 Clubhouse Drive, Tampa.

State candidates, political committees and parties face a Tuesday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through March 31.

POLITICO Florida scoops the Rick Scott Senate launch

There was never any real doubt that Gov. Rick Scott would challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this fall.

Instead, the question was/is how would Scott and Co. lift the curtain.

Scott will make a “big” announcement on his political future today in Orlando, followed-up by another press conference in Ft. Myers. He’ll also broadcast his announcement via Facebook Live.

As for which media outlet landed the first acknowledgement of the worst kept secret in Tallahassee, the scoreboard shows that POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo won that exclusive.

“I’m going to campaign for this job. I know there are going to be people that like what I’m saying. There are going to be people who don’t like what I’m saying,” Scott told POLITICO Florida. “Let’s go back to 2010. No one, I don’t believe hardly anybody, endorsed me in 2010. Did that phase me? No. Whether they do or whether they don’t, I’m doing what I believe in.”

It’s a sign of the times that Scott granted POLITICO Florida the exclusive rather than the Tampa Bay Times or one of the state’s larger television stations. The decision reflects, in part, PF’s deep, dual reach into both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. Also, Scott’s chief campaign adviser, Curt Anderson of On Message, routinely dishes to Caputo. It just makes sense that POLITICO Florida break this news.

The idea of the Tampa Bay Times, the state’s largest newspaper, NOT being the launch pad for a statewide campaign would have been unthinkable eight years ago. Now its a rarity when the Times breaks the news about any candidate making their plans official.

I almost expected the Associated Press’ Gary Fineout to get the first bite at the apple. The AP has been Scott World’s go-to outlet for several years now, especially because the venerated news organization tends to avoid putting any mustard on the hot dog, so to speak.

I knew there was zero chance that this outlet would break the news about Scott’s 2018 plans, although it was not for a lack of trying. We had a few of the details first, but there will always be lingering bad feelings between some of Scott’s people and myself because of my attacks on him, which began in 2011 with the first organized protest of Scott as governor and continued through the 2014 Charlie Crist campaign to unseat Scott. I understand and respect why Rick Scott won’t sit down with me.

Fortunately or unfortunately, this lack of access to Scott forces me into the role of the “loyal opposition.” Hence Florida Politics is loaded up with scoops and stories about the Democrats – the Florida Democratic Party, Senate Majority PAC, American Bridge, etc. – bracketing of Scott.

Of course, the big news out of Tallahassee is not about Scott running for the U.S. Senate, it’s this (if I know my audience, that will be our most-read story today).

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.9.18

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

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

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s Rick Scott Day. And we’ll get to that in a moment.

But first, a reminder for politicos in the Tampa Bay area that there is a Quorum — the not-too-political happy hour — tonight at Cassis American Brasserie on Beach Drive. It is a special occasion, as we are celebrating the engagement of Sarah Busk and Alan Suskey.

Please join us at 5:30 p.m.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @JonathanVSwan: We can’t overstate the severity of President [DonaldTrump’s buyer’s remorse from signing last month’s spending bill. It could even be a turning point in his presidency, on the issue of immigration and his level of cooperation with Republican leaders.

— @CBSMiamiRoger Stone accuses @DeFede of playing gotcha w/him when Jim points out a letter he sent to US Sen. Judiciary Cmte offered a non-denial denial abt allegations he discussed [James] Comey’s firing w/Trump

— @SenBillNelson: Glad to see that the FBI shut down the Backpage website today — though it took far too long to happen. That website promoted the modern day slavery of women and children, including in Florida.

— @RepCurbelo: As another U.S. election approaches, it’s important to keep the pressure on Vladimir Putin and his thugs. New sanctions from @USTreasury send a clear message to #Russia their efforts to undermine Western democracies and their malicious cyberattacks will not be tolerated.

— @RepTedDeuch: Deerfield, Illinois’ assault weapon ban is the latest victory in our movement to end gun violence. Local leaders across the country are recognizing that the safety of their communities is too important and are compelled to get weapons of war off their streets.

— @Fineout: A teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas said during town hall that there was supposed to be FHP and other security at school — but this past week he arrived at 6:30 a.m. and no one was there.

— @AdamSmithTimes: .@adamputnam made big tax announcement today in Tampa: He won’t raise taxezzzzzzzzzz

— @FLChamber: DYK: Data from the Florida Chamber Legislative Report Card shows the average GPA for both legislative chambers was 78 percent, compared to 73 percent in 2017.

— @Mike_Miller_FL: Really enjoyed seeing @marcorubio stump for me yesterday. His message was compelling and inspirational for the times we are living in

— @OAS_official: New Permanent Representative of #USA, @AmbCTrujillo, presented credentials to the #OAS Secretary-General

— DAYS UNTIL —

Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 6; NFL Draft begins — 17; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 18; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 24; Mother’s Day — 34; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 46; Memorial Day — 49; Father’s Day — 69; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 74; Deadline for filing claim bills — 114; Start of the U.S. Open — 140; Primary Election Day — 141; College Football opening weekend — 145; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 197; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 198; General Election Day — 211; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 311; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 330.

— TOP STORY —

After months of speculation, Gov. Scott is expected to announce today that he will run for the U.S. Senate.

Scott running for U.S. Senate in epic showdown with Nelson, test of Trump’s popularity via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Gov. Rick Scott makes his long-awaited U.S. Senate candidacy official today, setting up an epic battle against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and testing the limits of whether a close alliance with President Donald Trump is political poison or a pathway to success in the nation’s biggest swing state. Scott has never shied away from his friendship with Trump – who repeatedly urged him to run against Nelson, Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat. And regardless of the constant string of White House controversies, Scott has only distanced himself from the president to the mildest of degrees. But the self-made Scott, who was born poor, raised in public housing and then won the Florida governor’s mansion as a political novice, wants everyone to know that he’s his own man. “I consider myself Rick Scott. I don’t consider myself any type of anything,” the governor told POLITICO in an exclusive interview Sunday when asked if he considers himself a “Donald Trump Republican.” “I run on what I believe in. I’ve been very clear,” he said. “People ask me that a bunch of times, about ‘are you this or are you that?’ No. I’m Rick Scott. I grew up poor. I believe in jobs.”

— Here is a link for watching Scott’s Facebook Live announcement.

— Scott will make his “major announcement” at a 10:00 a.m. press conference at ODC Construction in Orlando, followed by a 2:30 p.m. press conference at Sun Harvest Citrus in Ft. Myers.

Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Scott will be ending Monday at a $10,000 per person fundraiser at the St. Petersburg residence of Ambassador Mel and Betty Sembler.

— The Miami Dade GOP, per Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times, is inviting Republicans to a “major announcement” on Tuesday afternoon in Hialeah.

And just like that, Scott cuts ties to Let’s Get To Work” via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – So a funny thing happened on Sunday. Scott’s image and his name and videos disappeared from the Let’s Get to Work website. (The problem with the committee for Scott is that it relied on large corporate donations, taking checks in from various groups whose business can be affected by Scott and the Legislature. Private prison providers, health care providers, utilities, business associations are among the long list of those who gave money.) So in order to remain complaint under federal election law while he runs for U.S. Senate, Scott needed to distance himself from his creation. Hence the makeover of the website this weekend. While Scott’s name and image have vanished from the website, it now states that “Let’s Get to Work is supported by Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Its chair, Abby Dupree, is also associated with this organization.

Scott expected in Washington to raise money for Senate run” via San Sullivan of the Washington Post – Scott is expected to travel to Washington next week to raise money for the Senate campaign he is poised to begin Monday, said three Republicans familiar with his plans. Party power brokers have been in contact in recent days to make arrangements for the Republican governor to raise money in Washington. The Republicans said Scott is expected to be in the nation’s capital on April 19.

— “Rick Scott’s third career act” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “And now, the main event: Nelson vs. Scott” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat

— “Florida’s governor, eyeing Senate run, offers hope to an unsteady GOP” via Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times

— “The Great Scott of Florida” via John Fund of National Review

— “Improbable journey of Scott leads to a ‘big announcement’ on Facebook Monday” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

— “Florida’s suddenly competitive 2018 Senate race, explained” via Dylan Scott of Vox

— “Scott’s bid will give Florida Senate race marquee status” via Caitlin Huey-Burns of Real Clear Politics

— BRACKETING —

Democrats lining up to speak against Scott’s expected Senate run – The Florida Democratic Party began blasting in-boxes Sunday night, in advance of Gov. Scott‘s “big announcement,” including a message that “local leaders, state lawmakers and a survivor of the Pulse tragedy (would) be available to speak about how Scott has prioritized his self-serving politics at Floridians’ expense.” It also touted an oppo website, SelfServingScott.com. Those making themselves available to talk smack about the Naples Republican include former​ Florida Democratic Party Chair and​ state Sen. Rod Smith, incoming Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, former Florida Democratic Party Executive Director ​Ana Cruz, and Pulse survivor and ‘No NRA Money’ advocate Brandon Wolf. 

Hours before campaign launch, Senate Democratic PAC blasts ‘self-serving’ Rick Scott” via Florida Politics – Part of a six-figure digital campaign throughout the state, Senate Majority PAC produced a 30-second spot — “Won’t Look out for You” — outlining Scott’s track record, which began as a CEO of Columbia/HCA, a hospital company where he made millions while committing “Medicare fraud.” The ad then discusses touches on Scott’s seven years as Governor, where he “raised Floridians property taxes and/education funding while giving massive tax breaks to corporations and multimillionaires like himself.”

First in Sunburn – the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s Executive Director Mindy Myers has written her first memo in response to a candidate announcement this cycle. In it, she offers what the DSCC is describing as “Fast Facts About Rick Scott & The Florida Senate Race.” It offers a lot of the same these the DSCC pushed last week when it started pre-butting Scott’s announcement. The three key points per Myers are “Self-serving and dishonest, Scott’s looking out for himself at Floridians’ expense”; “Scott’s record as governor is a liability for his campaign”; and “In two of the best GOP years in modern political history, Scott never won by more than a point.”

Democrats aim new website at Scott” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee launched a new website “SelfServingScott.com.” The site lays out several attacks on Scott, claiming he will say and do anything to help himself at Floridians’ expense. Among the Democrats’ allegations: That he personally made lots of money on investments as wages remained low in Florida; his business holdings make him a walking conflict of interest; his offer for nursing home directors to call his cellphone in a crisis, combined with his alleged failure to respond to such calls, may put some blame on him for the tragic deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma in September. Scott supported drilling near shores and beaches even as he has claimed to oppose it in more recent times, and he let 612 days pass between the Pulse and Parkland mass murders without taking any action regarding gun violence.

American Bridge lays out weaknesses for Democrats to aim at in Scott’s U.S. Senate bid” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — American Bridge contends that public opinion on current hot issues, the anticipated Democratic political wave, Scott’s tendency to underperform compared with other Republicans, the dramatic increase in Puerto Rican voters in Florida, and personal financial disclosure laws all are going to make it far more difficult for Scott to beat Nelson in November than it was for him to win two Governor’s elections. “Rick Scott’s decision to run for U.S. Senate will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in recent Florida political history,” American Bridge 21st Century predicted in a campaign strategy memorandum which argues in detail that Scott’s 2010 and 2014 victories came in years of Republican waves, while a Democratic wave is being projected this year. Even within those GOP waves, the group states Scott underperformed other Republicans on the ballot.

Assignment editors — Community organizations — including Organize Florida, Center for American Islamic Relations, Service Employees International Union of Florida, among others — will hold a rally to speak out against Scott’s announcement for U.S. Senate. The event begins 4:30 p.m. at Curtis Hixon Park near Ashley Dr. in Tampa.

Tensions between Scott and Marco Rubio strain GOP relations” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post — Rubio will not appear at the kickoff. He also has said he does not plan to “campaign against” Nelson, whom he has praised as a partner. Rubio’s stance, which could burnish Nelson’s bipartisan credentials, has struck a nerve with some Scott allies. They say the Republican senator is still nursing grudges from the 2016 campaign. “Rubio should tread carefully regarding his budding friendship with Nelson … because Rubio and Scott share a donor base and a voter base,” said Dan Eberhart, an oil industry executive and top Scott fundraiser. “If Rubio refuses to endorse and Scott were to narrowly lose, Rubio’s detente with Nelson might backfire.” Rubio said in a written statement that he is supporting Scott, but strategists and donors wonder how enthusiastically.

The rift between Marco Rubio and Rick Scott could have ramifications in the U.S. Senate race.

Meanwhile … “Court fight continues on Scott’s blind trust. Tallahassee lawyer argues for disclosure.” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald — The lawyer who has sued Scott alleging that he is violating state law by using his wife to shield his financial assets from public disclosure asked a court to throw out the governor’s appeal, arguing that he should stop fighting the case because he will have to disclose his assets if he announces he is running for U.S. Senate … “Procedurally and substantively his petition is unfounded, it is a delaying tactic as he seeks to run out the clock on having to disclose how much money he has made being governor of Florida,” wrote Don Hinkle, a Tallahassee lawyer and major Democratic fundraiser in a response to an appeal filed by the governor with the First District Court of Appeal. Scott spokesman John Tupps dismissed Hinkle’s lawsuit as “nothing more than a publicity stunt.” He noted that a court and the Florida Commission on Ethics rejected a previous complaint.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Nelson, in campaign mode, talks guns at St. Pete town hall” via Josh Solomon of the Tampa Bay Times — He told the crowd of roughly 75 at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority headquarters not to hold their breath waiting for Washington to pass tough gun reform. “Not much more is going to be done because the votes are not there to address the issue of massacres,” he said. The senator also tried to distinguish himself and … Scott … Last month, Scott signed a guns and school safety package that has garnered him some praise among those who support gun control for bucking the powerful pro-gun lobby, the National Rifle Association. But Nelson characterized the bill, which implements some gun control measures but also allows schools to arm teachers and staff, as a gift for the NRA. “They wanted to sell more guns by arming teachers,” Nelson told reporters after the meeting.

Adam Putnam rally at Manatee County ranch draws hundreds” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — A few hundred people came out to eat BBQ and swamp cabbage, listen to country music and hear Putnam speak … Gathered under an open-air chickee hut with expansive views of cow pastures and woodlands, the crowd applauded as Putnam talked about “putting Florida first.” … He took a subtle jab at (Ron) DeSantis, who has made infrequent public appearances, in talking up his busy campaign schedule. “What you see here, this is the foundation of my campaign,” Putnam told the crowd. “Everybody talks about grassroots. We live it.”

— “Putnam committee adds $1.77M in March” via Florida Politics

Adam Putnam was joined by 500 supporters Friday for a Florida Feast at Blackbeard’s Ranch in Myakka City.

Assignment editors — Putnam will join supporters in Charlotte County for an 11:30 a.m. luncheon at the Laishley Crab House, 150 Laishley Court in Punta Gorda.

Assignment editors — Republican gubernatorial candidate DeSantis and Attorney-General candidate Jay Fant will appear at a meeting of the Palm Beach County Trump Club beginning 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave. in West Palm Beach.

First in Sunburn — “Chris King adds $610K in March to his gubernatorial campaign account” via Florida Politics — The total puts King at $4.1 million in total fundraising between his campaign and political committee since he entered the race in March 2017. An announcement said the two accounts combined to more than $2.1 million on hand heading into April. “Democrats want a real progressive who rejects conventional politics and Chris continues to impress voters across Florida as he introduces himself to the electorate,” said Omar Khan, senior adviser to King’s campaign. “As other candidates from the political establishment struggle to break through to the voters, Chris is amassing the resources that any candidate will need to compete in this wide-open race.”

Happening Tuesday — King will open a new Orlando headquarters in his bid for Governor; ceremony begins 5:30 p.m. at 1612 E. Colonial Dr., Second Floor, in Orlando.

Chris King met with students at the Florida College Democrats’ Spring 2018 Conference in Gainesville.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will host a meet-and-greet with Broward Democrats beginning 7 p.m. at the Deicke Auditorium at Hoffman Park, 5701 Cypress Road in Plantation.

So … will Tom Lee or won’t he run for CFO?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times — Lee has announced he intends to run for chief financial officer in a primary against appointed incumbent Jimmy Patronis, but hasn’t yet filed, and also hasn’t yet restarted fundraising after having to shut down for the legislative session. That has allowed Patronis to edge ahead of Lee in fundraising. Patronis has announced raising $463,000 during March — $178,585 in his campaign and $285,200 in his political committee, Treasure Florida. That gives him a total of roughly $2.5 million cash on hand in both funds. Lee, meanwhile, reported raising no money for the month for either his committee, The Conservative, or his campaign — he’s still technically filed for re-election to his Senate seat. He already had about $2.3 million cash in his accounts before he stopped fundraising during the legislative session.

— “Jeremy Ring adds $60K for CFO bid in March” via Florida Politics

Navy veteran leads in fundraising race to challenge Dennis Ross” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger — Andrew Learned, of Valrico, will compete in a primary on Aug. 28. Through Dec. 31, 2017, Learned had raised $64,065 and spent $41,526. Learned said the most recent figures from the end of March would show that he’s raised more than $100,000 since filing to run in May 2017. He’s contributed $2,000 to his campaign. Learned’s nearest primary competitor in the financial race is Greg Pilkington, of Indian Lake Estates. Through Dec. 31, Pilkington has raised $46,709 but contributed $42,590 to his own campaign. Also running from the Democrat side are Phil Hornback of Brandon, Cameron Magnuson of Brandon, and Ray Pena of Lakeland. Ross had raised $662,388 through December 31.

Spotted at a Thursday fundraiser for CD 17 candidate Greg Steube held at Pepin Distributing in Tampa: Tom Pepin, Kent Bailey, Steve Cona, Randy GarciaAndy GrahamShawn Harrison, and Joe Wicker, as well as the team from RSA Consulting, Ron Pierce, Natalie King, Ed BriggsKaitlyn Bailey, and Kaitlyn Gardner.

Spotted last week in Nashville as part of a two-day fundraising trip for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee: Sens. Bill Galvano, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, and Jeff Brandes, Robert CokerBrady BenfordGreg Black, Gaston Cantens, Jorge Dominicis, Jeff and Sonya Dean Hartley. The itinerary included a private concert with Phil Vassar.

Happening tonight – State Sen. Kelli Stargel kicks off her re-election campaign with an event beginning 5:30 p.m. at Sunny Acres Lodge, 7290 Hacienda Trail in Polk City. Host committee includes Attorney General Pam Bondi, Senate President Joe Negron, President-Designate Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Democrat Katie Tripp to challenge Tom Leek for House District 25 seat” via Mark Harper of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — For months, no one had filed on the Democratic side for Leek’s Florida House District 25 seat. That changed dramatically last week when not one, but two Democrats turned in paperwork to challenge. But then the suddenly complicated picture became clearer when Brandon Schwedes said he intends to step aside, leaving Tripp as the lone Democrat in the race and allowing her to concentrate efforts on defeating Leek and Libertarian Joseph Hannoush in November. She has a doctorate in veterinary medical sciences from the University of Florida and has worked as a biologist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Tripp is a supervisor with the Volusia County Soil & Water Conservation District and is an appointee to the Indian River Lagoon Citizens’ Advisory Committee.

Katie Tripp is running in HD 25 as an advocate for Florida’s environment and public schools.

First on #FlaPol — “Field clears for Jennifer Webb in HD 69 Dem. Primary” via Florida Politics — Javier Centonzio is dropping out of the race for House District 69 and endorsing fellow Democrat Webb for the open seat. The St. Petersburg attorney filed for HD 69 at the beginning of the year, and after his first campaign finance report, it seemed a contentious Democratic Primary could be on the horizon. Webb has added bulk endorsements from local leaders, a nod from St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and the endorsement of the LGBTQ Victory Fund — if elected Webb would be the fourth openly LGBTQ member of the Florida Legislature, and the first LGBTQ woman. Her fundraising operation has also remained competitive with the two Republicans in the race, Jeremy Bailie and Raymond Blacklidge. In the face of this, Centonzio is living to fight another day.

— “Jerry Demings pulls in $237K in Orange County mayor’s race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Florida GOP says it can fend off ‘blue wave’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida Republican leaders who gathered in Tampa believe they can hold back a Democratic wave in November to keep the “Trump agenda alive.” But to retain congressional and legislative majorities and to unseat Nelson, that means ramping up messaging about economic growth, boosting turnout, particularly among voters who request absentee ballots, and countering what the GOP describes as “mainstream media” narratives of looming Democratic victories. “It’s going to be very hard for them to keep that energy up,” Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said during a quarterly party meeting at a DoubleTree hotel. Ingoglia also said Democrats would have to spread resources to campaigns across the country, unlike during their recent special-election victories for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama and a congressional seat in Pennsylvania. “They’re very good at winning one race at a time,” Ingoglia said.

— STATEWIDE —

Scott vetoes ‘toilet to tap’ bill” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Gov. Scott sided with environmentalists by vetoing a bill that would have allowed treated wastewater to be pumped back into the state’s groundwater. With that pen stroke, Scott avoided the epithet “Governor Poopy Water,” something environmentalists had vowed to call him if he let the bill become law. “Protecting Florida’s environment has been a top priority during my time as governor,” Scott said in the veto letter. “Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way.” Scott hasn’t always been popular with environmental groups, and the decision will head off criticism as he prepares a run for U.S. Senate. A group calling itself Citizens Against Contaminated Aquifer Water, or CACA Water for short, canceled a news conference in a last-minute effort to persuade Scott to veto the bill.

No Casinos won’t fold ‘em: Letter skirmish with lobbyist continues” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The war of words between gaming industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar and No Casinos head John Sowinski continues … Sowinski released an “open letter” admonishing Dunbar that he won’t “fool Florida voters” about a gambling-related constitutional amendment on November’s ballot. Sowinski also chairs Voters In Charge, the political committee behind the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3.” Its aim is to give statewide voters sole authority to approve future expansions of gambling in the state. Dunbar started it with his own “open letter” to Sowinski, saying he had “declared war on (the gambling) industry,” was a “bully,” and “lack(ed) candor.” At issue was a legal opinion that, if passed, the amendment would retroactively undo, or “de-authorize,” any gambling expansion approved by state lawmakers between now and then. Lawmakers recently considered — but are now silent — on a Special Session on gambling after they failed to pass any related legislation this past Regular Session.

Parkland hero blames sheriff, superintendent” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press — An attorney for 15-year-old Anthony Borges read a statement from him during a news conference criticizing Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent Robert Runcie for the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland … Borges was shot five times, suffering wounds to the lungs, abdomen and legs. He was released from a Fort Lauderdale hospital Wednesday morning, the last of the 17 wounded to go home. Borges, too weak to talk, sat silently in a wheelchair with his right leg propped up. His statement specifically attacked the Promise program, a school district and sheriff office initiative that allows students who commit minor crimes on campus to avoid arrest if they complete rehabilitation. Runcie and Israel “failed us students, teachers and parents alike on so many levels,” Arreaza read for Borges, who sat next to his father, Roger. “I want all of us to move forward to end the environment that allowed people like Nikolas Cruz to fall through the cracks. You knew he was a problem years ago and you did nothing. He should have never been in school with us.”

Anthony Borges, a student who shielded his classmates during the Parkland shooting, criticized the school superintendent and county sheriff for failing victims of the attack.

— “The close-to-home reason why I support the new gun laws passed by the Florida Legislature” via Peter Schorsch

Cops, lawyers say questions remain about how to use Florida’s ‘red flag’ gun law” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel — Law enforcement agencies and legal professionals are still scrambling to address the challenges of the so-called “red flag” law — developing consistent protocols and procedures to serve the orders, getting appropriate training and interpreting terms not explicitly defined in the law. “There’s still issues,” said Leonard Dietzen, an attorney who represents the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “It was put together very fast because the [Parkland] incident happened on Valentine’s Day and a couple of weeks later we have a new law. That’s never happened in Tallahassee.” Under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, law enforcement officials can obtain a temporary risk protection order by showing evidence that people are a danger to themselves or others in the near future. Authorities also can seek a longer-term order, which lasts 12 months. Dietzen said he developed a 10-page “tutorial” document to help police departments train their staff, but there are still concerns among police officers about liability, and the potential danger of serving the injunctions to people with mental illnesses and access to weapons.

Parents, lawmakers fear arming school staff puts black students at risk” via J.D. Gallop and Caroline Glenn of FLORIDA TODAY — Though popular among many people, Florida’s school marshal problem is proving to be a source of high anxiety for families of color. Minority families have struggled for years to draw attention to the disproportionate discipline of minority students, and the high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers across the country. Now, the growing concern among some black parents, students, and activists is that in the best-case scenario, more guns in schools are only going to add to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation many minority teens already feel. And, in the worst case, they fear their children could become potential victims of undercover, armed school staff. Many of the large school districts in Florida have already taken a hard stance against the program. But the Brevard school board has not rejected it outright, and Sheriff Wayne Ivey is making a hard sell, pushing it as a critical component to better protect schools.

As Parkland victims get national attention, a black community wonders, ‘what about our children?’” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — In a different context, Shevrin Jones might have sounded like a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. Just two days after hundreds of Parkland families cheered on Florida’s new gun restrictions, the West Park Democrat stood in front of nodding parents and children in a rec center and called the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act deeply flawed. After all, what good are extended waiting periods to South Florida’s minority communities when the shooters who terrorize their neighborhoods are often stealing weapons and buying them on the street? “Our communities don’t care about whether you do a background check,” said Jones, a state Representative. “Because we’re not going to the store to buy a gun. We’re going to buy them illegally.” As South Florida lawmakers hosted a series of town hall events coordinated across the country this week in the hopes of furthering a renewed gun control movement, the tenor and tone of the gatherings — much like their relationship with guns — has varied from community to community. Less than 30 miles and 48 hours apart, events near Parkland and in Miami Gardens illustrated just how complex the problem of gun violence is, and why answers have been so elusive even among communities supporting the same party.

Man killed by Brightline train in Delray Beach – and it’s the fifth death this year” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald – A man died after being hit by a Brightline train Sunday in Delray Beach, according to police. The crash happened at 12:47 p.m. on the northbound tracks, about 100 feet south of the Southeast Fourth Street crossing, Delray Beach police confirmed. The pedestrian died immediately from the impact, police said.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump in Palm Beach: FAA notice hints at April 15-22 Mar-a-Lago visit” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — The FAA notice says there will be “VIP Temporary Flight Restrictions” in the Palm Beach area from April 15 to April 22. Such notices, while subject to change, are usually the first indicator of a presidential visit. Trump is scheduled to attend the April 13-14 Summit of the Americas in Peru — his first visit to Latin America as president. The White House has also announced Trump will host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on April 17-18.

Tweet of the Weekend:

Irma agriculture aid slated to start in summer” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A program to distribute federal disaster aid to Florida farmers hit by Hurricane Irma will be set up within the next 100 days, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced … “USDA (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) is working as quickly as possible to develop procedures and a system by which affected producers can access disaster assistance,” Perdue said in a prepared statement. The announcement added that “sign-up for the new program, authorized by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, will begin no later than July 16,” about 100 days from now. It remains unknown how claims can be filed or how money will be distributed.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: Guns and Trump form backdrop of Rick Scott” via Florida Politics — Let’s just cut to what figures to be the essence of a showdown between Nelson and Scott for a Florida U.S. Senate seat. Scott’s entry into the race, long a foregone conclusion, signals the start of what could the most expensive and nasty race in the country … two things that matter most in this campaign: Guns and Trump. Scott has been joined at the hip to Trump, which Nelson’s camp will exploit to the max. It may not matter as much as Democrats would like, though. While Trump’s approval is hovering around 40 percent, and perhaps a little higher in Florida, his people will turn out and vote no matter what. In a midterm election, turnout is the key and Democrats have fallen short there in the past. The X Factor is whether the slaughter of innocents at Parkland brings out thousands of new voters. If so, it could turn the election in Nelson’s favor. Scott likely will be a tougher opponent, but by how much? He won both his gubernatorial races by about 1 percentage point. A win is a win, but wins like that are hardly an overwhelming mandate.

Don’t gamble on special session” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — The main reason legislators have struggled to pass legislation on gambling is that multiple players with competing interests always seem to get involved. That group includes not only the Seminole [Tribe of Florida] but also the pari-mutuel operators of the state’s horse and dog tracks and jai-alai frontons. While the Seminoles want to maintain or expand their exclusive right to offer games at their casinos, the pari-mutuels’ wish list includes adding slot machines in counties where voters have approved them and reducing the taxes they owe the state. Legislators tend to dig in on competing sides and run out of time to settle their differences. Here’s where the unsavory part comes in: The players in the gambling debate — the rivals in the industry, and the opponents of any expanded wagering in the state — have deep pockets, and don’t hesitate to seek influence with legislators through hefty campaign contributions. Legislators can’t collect those contributions when they’re in session, but the prospect of a special session on gambling could generate a flood of cash for them in weeks leading up to it. That’s a boon in an election year — especially for legislators who are ramping up statewide campaigns. But it’s an utterly self-serving and irresponsible way to make public policy.

A vote for Marsy’s Law helps protect vulnerable victims of crime” via Chip LaMarca for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A proposal before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) called Marsy’s Law would amend our state constitution to give equal rights to crime victims. Quite simply, Proposal 96 is good public policy and I am proud to offer my support. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, commemorated this year April 8-14, is the perfect time to reflect on how our state treats innocent victims of crime and their families. Until a violent crime happens to us or someone we love, we can only imagine how it feels to be victimized — and, how scary it is to seek justice. Marsy’s Law would not take away any of the rights of the accused. Instead, it would ensure crime victims and their families are no longer silenced in the criminal justice process.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Justin Day heads to Capital City Consulting” via Florida Politics — Day now will open a new office in the Tampa Bay area with CCC partner Dan Newman. It’s the first satellite office for INFLUENCE Magazine’s 2016 Lobbying Firm of the Year, which is looking to have a greater statewide presence and will continue to grow in other local markets. “With CCC’s strong growth over the few years, a local office in Tampa is a natural progression,” said Nick Iarossi, the firm’s founding partner. “In fact, we have an eye toward future offices in key local markets to expand the services we can provide clients.” Added Ron LaFace Jr., another founding partner: “Local market expansion has always been a goal to enhance our client services, but finding the right people is paramount.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Silvia Alderman, Akerman: Florida Crystals Corporation

Rheb Harbison, GrayRobinson: Quaker Foods & Beverages

Ken Pruitt, The P5 Group: N. Vision Communities

Jonathan Paul Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Dewberry Engineers

Appointed — Alissa Ellison to the Hillsborough County Court.

Reappointed — Eduardo AlmeydaRobert DietzIliana ForteDavid LanghamNeal Pitts and Margaret Sojourner as Judges of Compensation Claims.

— ALOE —

The mystery behind why a beautiful movie theater in the town created by Disney World has been closed for almost a decade” via Jason Guerrasio of Business Insider — The two-screen movie theater in Celebration is one of the crown jewels of the Town Center downtown area. Like the entire downtown, it was built in 1994 to entice people to buy the condos above storefronts or the surrounding farmland that would soon be transformed into quaint homes. But in 2004, Disney sold its stake in the Town Center to the private-equity firm Lexin Capital. The theater, operated by the AMC theater chain, closed its doors in 2010, but AMC still owns its lease … after years of public outcry, AMC began turning on the lights in the evenings. When AMC started work on a massive 24-screen multiplex at Walt Disney World Resort’s Pleasure Island in 1997 — now renamed Disney Springs — the park had one stipulation: If AMC wanted the 24 screens, it also had to take on the existing two-screen theater in Celebration … AMC has kept the Celebration theater empty for close to a decade because it’s cheaper to take the loss on the theater than to pay staff and operate it.

Sarasota Film Festival: 20 years of stars, screenings and parties” via Jimmy Geurts of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The 10-day event remains a popular destination for anyone interested in seeing Oscar-winning and nominated actors, directors and movies at downtown venues such as Regal Hollywood, Florida Studio Theatre and the Sarasota Opera House. The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary when it returns April 13-22. Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen and actor Steve Guttenberg, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, will be in Sarasota to receive career achievement awards, as Sophia Loren and Richard Dreyfuss have in the past. Other scheduled guests this year include actor and director Eric Stoltz, Oscar-nominated documentarian Rory Kennedy and comedian Bo Burnham, attending with his acclaimed directorial debut “Eighth Grade.” There will be nearly 100 features and more than 100 short films playing, with parties, talks and other events, compared with just eight films in its first year.

The Sarasota Film Festival turns 20 in 2018.

Happy birthday from the weekend to the St. Louis Cardinals #1 fan, Jeff Atwater, as well as Lori Costantino-Brown, Jesse Phillips, and Chris Turner. Celebrating today are Emily Duda Buckley, Matt Carlucci, and Alli Liby-Schoonover (ciao!).

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Weather affects ‘Springtime’

Predictions of bad weather are befouling plans for the annual Springtime Tallahassee festivities in the capital.

Organizers on Friday canceled the Jubilee in the Park, which usually features arts and crafts booths from hundreds of vendors, and rescheduled the parade for 10 a.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported late Friday.

The National Weather Service was forecasting “showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m.,” adding that “some of the storms could be severe.”

Before the bad weather reports, city officials had been expecting a crowd of more than 150,000 to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.

It’s Springtime Tallahassee again.

The celebration will affect traffic, a news release said. Below are the planned road closures for Saturday:

6:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Staging Area

— First Avenue eastbound at Duval Street.

— Thomasville Road between Monroe Street and Seventh Avenue.

— Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues between Adams Street and Thomasville Road.

6:30-10:30 a.m. for Springtime Tallahassee 10K (if it still goes on as planned)

— Monroe Street between Apalachee Parkway and Seventh Avenue.

— Call Street, Franklin Boulevard, Lafayette Street and various roads surrounding the Capital City Country Club and within the Myers Park and Woodland Drive neighborhoods will have staggered closures during the race.

9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Route

— Monroe Street between Gaines Street and Seventh Avenue.

— Jefferson Street, College Avenue, Park Avenue, Call Street, Virginia Street, Carolina Street, Georgia Street, Brevard Street and Tennessee Street between Adams Street and Calhoun Street.

— Madison Street between Macomb Street and Monroe Street.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew WilsonDanny McAuliffeJim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

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

State appeals ex-felon order — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are appealing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling that the state must devise a new system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Attorney General Pam Bondi has promised to continue to appeal Walker’s order to the highest court. Walker permanently blocked the state’s clemency system in March calling it “fatally flawed.” He then gave Scott and the Cabinet a monthlong deadline to revamp the system. Scott’s office contends that felon voting rights restoration should be determined by elected officials. Florida is one of few states that disenfranchise felons after they’ve completed their sentences and is home to roughly 1.5 million ex-cons whose voting rights are pending.

CRC ‘style’ committee wraps — The influential Style & Drafting Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission has drafted and approved 12 ballot items for consideration of the full commission. To appear on the ballot in November, each proposed amendment must win the approval of 22 members of the 37-person panel. The 12 items are a consolidation of 24 proposals that met the initial approval of the CRC. Six proposals were not combined with others, including four that did not meet the 22-vote threshold in the preliminary approval phase. Five other amendments already have reached the ballot, meaning Floridians could potentially consider 17 amendments in the general election. Sixty-percent voter approval is required for each to pass.

Leaders pressure feds for farm aid — Gov. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have recently ramped up efforts to get much-needed funding distributed to Florida farmers affected by Hurricane Irma. Tailing off Scott’s and Putnam’s talks with the federal government, Rubio and Nelson joined other senators in penning a letter this week to encourage timely distribution of a $2.3 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s office announced this week that sign-up and eligibility information should be available to affected farmers in the coming weeks. In total, it’s estimated that Hurricane Irma caused a $2.5 billion loss to Florida agriculture.

Gaming special session uncertain — Legislative leaders this week began zeroing in on a possible date for a special session to iron out gambling issues left unresolved during the 2018 Legislative Session — but the overtime might not be necessary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran alerted the possible need to reconvene legislators because of the potential loss of gambling revenue from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. However, the Tribe this week said it will continue paying its share to the state, which totaled a little more than $290 million last year. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, is asserting that the Tribe’s commitment should end further talks of a special session.

Scott ramps up exposure — Ahead of his widely expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Scott is appearing across the state for public bill signings. Scott this week visited Ponce Inlet to ceremoniously sign Ponce’s Law. The bill was crafted following the death of a nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, in Ponce Inlet last year. The dog’s owner, Travis Archer, allegedly beat the animal to death, but under Florida’s current animal cruelty laws, Archer does not face a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Ponce’s Law bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time. The Governor also signed a bill in Orlando that prohibits the state from doing business with Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime and a bill at Fort Walton-based software company Bit-Wizards that is expected to benefit military, veterans, and their families.

Scott touts Florida building codes

Florida took the top spot in a recent report ranking the residential building codes of hurricane-prone states, much to the delight of Gov. Scott.

“In Florida, we know how important it is to be prepared for hurricanes while doing everything possible to keep families safe. Florida’s building codes have consistently ranked among the strongest in the nation and I’m proud that we have now been ranked first for building code strength by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,” Scott said.

DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem.

Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Jonathan Zachem also praised the ranking, adding that “the importance of effective, well-enforced building codes was demonstrated in our state during the 2017 hurricane season. I’m extremely pleased that the state of Florida was ranked first in this landmark report.”

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report gave Florida’s codes a score of 95 out of 100, an improvement of one point over its score in the last iteration of the report, released in 2015. The bump was enough to move Florida past Virginia, which topped the rankings three years ago.

Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’

Clearing the final batch of bills off his desk this week, Gov. Scott vetoed a measure that would have, in part, encouraged the use of purified reclaimed water to replenish the aquifer — a provision that has led environmental groups to dub the measure the “toilet-to-tap” bill.

Citing potential creation of “confusion in our water quality and aquifer protection regulatory structure,” Scott said the “worthwhile provisions” in the bill do not outweigh his concerns of “protecting Florida’s aquifer.”

Rick Scott flushed Bobby Payne’s ‘toilet-to-tap’ proposal.

“Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

The bill, HB 1149, was ushered by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who along with WateReuse argued that critics of the legislation overlooked that there is no such thing as “new water.”

Those against the measure, which included the lobbying force of the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, claimed it was tailored to benefit development interests.

The bill cleared the House with an 86-21 vote and the Senate with a 27-10 vote in the final week of the 2018 Legislative Session.

The week in appointments

Board of Optometry — Dr. David Rouse, of Cooper City, is an optometrist with Rouse Family Eyecare. He succeeds Dr. Tamara Mule and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2021. Dr. Katie Spear, of Pensacola, is a practicing optometrist. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2018. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — Darcy Davis, of Palm Beach Gardens, is the chief executive officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and her master’s degree from Troy State University. Davis succeeds Charles Cross Jr. and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors — Marc Dunbar, of Tallahassee, is a partner at national law firm Jones Walker. He was appointed by CFO Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Scott also appointed Dunbar to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, where he served from 2015 to 2018. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law. Dunbar succeeds Don Glisson and his term begins immediately, expiring on July 31, 2019.

Graham welcomes ‘overdue’ opioid suit

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham offered some tepid praise for Attorney General Bondi’s decision to go after pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.

“After months of inaction and years of sticking her head in the sand — I am glad that Pam Bondi is finally heeding my call to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” the former congresswoman said Friday.

Gwen Graham gives weak praise to Pam Bondi for her opioid lawsuit.

“As governor, I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic. I will ensure that this case gets the proper support and resources — building a legal dream team like Governor Lawton Chiles and Bob Butterworth did to take down tobacco.”

Bondi announced the decision this week, saying it was important Florida file its own case rather than join another. She did not give a timetable for filing the suit.

League lauds lawmakers

The Florida League of Cities this week gave awards to 20 lawmakers in recognition of their “tireless efforts” to protect home rule.

“On behalf of Florida’s 412 cities and thousands of municipal officials, both elected and appointed, the Florida League of Cities and its advocacy team are proud to recognize these Home Rule advocates for their continued support,” said Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley.

Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley pumps up for legislative wins.

“We believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life of the citizens they have been elected to represent. These hardworking legislators continually supported that ideal, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.”

Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder were named “defenders of home rule,” while the remaining lawmakers received appreciation awards.

The following lawmakers received Legislative Appreciation Awards: Sens. Daphne CampbellGeorge GainerBobby PowellJose Javier RodriguezDarryl RousonWilton SimpsonLinda Stewart, and Perry Thurston as well as Reps. Joe GellerKristin JacobsEvan JenneSam KillebrewLarry LeeRobert “Bobby O” OlszewskiPaul RennerRichard Stark, and Wengay “Newt” Newton.

Shaw highlights failing grade from Florida Chamber

With an ironic spin and almost certainly in jest, Democratic state House Rep. Sean Shaw via Twitter touted an F grade on his Legislative Report Card from the Florida Chamber.

Over an image of his poor mark, Shaw tweeted, “Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!”

Sean Shaw is all smiles over his ‘F’ grade from the Florida Chamber.

The Chamber released its annual rankings on Thursday. Each year the pro-business group arrives at scores for lawmakers after tabulating their votes on measures expected to make Florida a more competitive marketplace.

Shaw, who’s vying for the Attorney General seat this year, interpreted his grade as meaning he’s on the side of consumers and workers, rather than job creators.

Republican state legislators performed well in the eyes of the Chamber. Of the 15 “Distinguished Advocates,” recognized this Session, just one is a Democrat: St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond. He was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment — but he earned a C overall.

Pharmacy panel suggests unifying legislative efforts

A panel charged with overseeing pharmacy professionals went a bit off script this week when its chair suggested that there should be more of a “concerted effort” for pharmacist-backed legislative initiatives.

“If we’re really interested in moving things through the Legislature, I honestly think that there has to be a better process to achieve a consensus,” said Jeenu Philip, chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy. He said it seems like legislators hear one thing from a pharmacist or association, and the opposite from a different pharmacist.

Jeenu Philip (left) is chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy.

In recapping pharmacy-related bills, Philip spoke a bit about legislation that would’ve provided patients more access to flu remedies. Sponsored this year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, the bills (SB 524 and HB 431) would have let some pharmacies, under the guidance of a physician, test for and treat influenza.

Both pieces of legislation died in committee, something Philip questioned given the severity and uptick of recent influenza cases.

“In light of the past flu season, if there was any year that this bill should’ve passed, this was the year,” Philip said.

Volunteers spotlighted during April

The start of April may bring pranks for some, but for the state, it marks the start of Volunteer Month — and this year, it’s no joke.

Volunteer Florida, the lead service agency in the Sunshine State, is highlighting a Floridian volunteer every day this month as part of its newly launched #VF30in30 initiative.

In announcing the outreach campaign, Gov. Scott pointed to the public’s altruistic efforts to help the state bounce back from Hurricane Irma.

“I’m glad to recognize the service of volunteers across Florida who dedicate their time to make a difference in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians dedicated millions of hours during last year’s devastating hurricane season, and we are proud to honor them in April.”

Each day a new volunteer is spotlighted by Volunteer Florida. Kicking off the month was Steve O’Brien, a legendary history teacher in Miami who founded Castaways Against Cancer. The organization raises money each month by kayaking 160 miles from Miami to Key West.

Florida Council of 100 releases educational ‘beacons’

In an ongoing education-focused project tailored to “light the way” for America’s future, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a research-backed set of values for grades 4-8 over the next 25 years.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan group comprised of business, civic, and academic leaders is throwing its weight behind four pivotal topics, or ‘beacons’: nurturing adolescents’ academic growth, personalizing education to meet the unique needs of each adolescent student; minimizing the disruption caused by school transitions; and making the school like a second family.

Miami’s Kingdom Academy is a model for value-based education.

“Adolescent students are unique — physically, intellectually, morally, psychologically, and especially social-emotionally,” said David Dyer, project leader and former chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee. “It takes a special kind of teacher to successfully reach these kids.”

The value-based approach intended for schools to model is the result of a culmination of studies, which included touring successful schools such as Miami’s inner-city Kingdom Academy, where fourth-grade students are learning how to budget, apply for jobs and maintain a bank account.

John Kirtley, chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee, noted that student success often declines in middle grades. “To reverse this, it is vital that we tailor instruction to the special needs of each adolescent, providing them with a portfolio of educational options,” Kirtley said.

Desloge tours areas still recovering from Irma, Maria

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge was among a small delegation of National Association of Counties (NACo) leaders who recently toured parts of Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history.

The delegation visited communities in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico that experienced loss of life, property and critical infrastructure as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge.

“It’s important that we learn from one another and strengthen our capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” said Desloge, also Immediate Past President of NACo. “There is no higher priority than keeping our residents safe, especially in the face of devastating natural disasters.”

As communities across the country continue recovering from the historic 2017 hurricane season, NACo continues to work with local governments to ensure critical funding and assistance to help communities rebuild. As immediate past President, Desloge serves on the NACo Executive Committee and represents more than 3,000 countries across the nation.

NSF re-ups MagLab grant

The National Science Foundation is renewing its support for the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — the world’s most powerful magnet lab — with a $184 million grant.

The funding will head to National MagLab facilities over the next five years, bringing NSF’s total investment in the project to $867 million. In addition to the lab HQ at FSU, satellite facilities at the UF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will also get some support.

National Science Foundation Director France Córdova tours the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, just before it re-upped with a new $184M grant.

“This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s pre-eminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world,” said Gary Ostrander, FSU VP of research.

Anne Kinney, an NSF assistant director, added that the foundation “is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology.”

MagLab’s unique instruments include the world’s strongest continuous high-field magnet, which produces a magnetic field 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. More than 1,700 researchers a year use MagLab to advance their research.

FSU Great Give sets records

The Great Give, Florida State University’s 36-hour online giving campaign, recorded its most successful campaign to date, raising $413,147 for academic programs, student activities and scholarships, the school said this week.

The 7th annual event, which took place March 22-23, drew support from 3,376 donors, including 1,791 Florida State alumni.

FSU sets records with the 7th annual Great Give.

“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support that was displayed during this year’s Great Give,” said Robyn Bertram, donor engagement officer for the Florida State University Foundation Office of Annual Giving. “This event has grown consistently since its inception, and the incredible response we received demonstrates a shared dedication toward advancing our university.”

Throughout the campaign, 12 incentive challenges totaling more than $23,000 fostered a friendly competition among FSU’s donors to give back and boost their chosen project’s chances to receive cash prizes. Departments and units could win incentives for meeting specific criteria such as most donors during a certain time period.

The FSU Marching Chiefs took the $7,500 grand prize with the most alumni donors (299) during the 36-hour campaign. The Student Veterans Center, Home Stretch Microgrants and the colleges of Music, Education and Communication & Information also claimed incentive wins.

Donors may still make a gift to Florida State by visiting give.fsu.edu or calling (850) 644-6000.

Tallahassee dubbed ‘Solar Star’

A new national report shows that the Sunshine State’s capital city is making good use of one its most prevalent resources.

Environment Florida released this week a new report, “Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” that highlights Tallahassee as a leading “Solar Star” for its commitment to harnessing the sun’s energy.

Tallahassee is becoming a ‘solar star.’

In terms of megawatts of solar energy per capita, the capital city edged ahead of Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando.

“Tallahassee stands out as an example for other cities to follow in Florida and throughout the South. The city is listening to local customers like me who want solar energy in their homes and their communities, and it’s giving different types of solar room to grow,” said Scott Thomasson, the southeast director with Vote Solar.

The ranking stems in large part from the 28-megawatt solar farm contracted by the city. The Tallahassee Solar program provided 20,000 slots for businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.

“Cities like Tallahassee are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.

Tallahassee Earth Day plans

Tallahassee announced a list of planned activities this week to celebrate “Earth Month,” most of which will be held when Earth Day hits on April 22.

“As we observe Earth Month in the City of Tallahassee, I encourage everyone in our community to make the commitment to reduce our negative impacts on the environment,” Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “If we are all more environmentally-conscious, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a clean, healthy community to grow up in.”

Tallahassee Earth Day celebrations include the ‘In-Home Longest Table,’ a series of simultaneous events hosting 6 to 8 people each.

Planned events include “Cash for Trash,” where those with bulky items, electronic waste, paint, or batteries can drop it off at the Solid Waste Services facility, located at 2727 Municipal Way for a $5 credit on their utility bill.

The docket also includes the city’s Earth Day celebration to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, and the “In-Home Edition of Longest Table,” where at 6 p.m. over 100 dinners, each including six to eight guests, will take place simultaneously in homes, restaurants and public spaces throughout the community.

RSVP to the Longest Table by calling 891-8728 or visiting www.longesttable.com.

Old Capitol to go purple for Victims’ Rights Week

In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14, Marsy’s Law for Florida will light Florida’s Historic Capitol in purple lights all week “as a reminder that victims should be entitled to equal rights and protections under the law.”

Florida’s old Capitol building goes purple for victims rights.

Marsy’s Law for Florida is “an effort to place clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in Florida’s constitution,” the group said.

The old Capitol is at 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

The close-to-home reason why I support the new gun laws passed by the Florida Legislature

I subscribe to a service called “Baylawsuits,” which provides tip sheets on the most newsworthy lawsuits coming out of the Pinellas and Hillsborough county courthouses.

Last week, a tip came in that read “Police seized guns from two men last month.” Because of all the attention surrounding the gun-control debate after the massacre in Parkland, this particular tip caught my interest.

A new, statewide “risk prevention” policy allows courts and law enforcement officers to seize weapons from certain individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness.

The statute was one of the many safety laws rolled into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, albeit one that was largely overshadowed by more controversial policies such as those allowing some school personnel to carry guns and raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.

The statute creates a process for law enforcement officers or agencies to petition a court for a “risk protection order” to temporarily prevent people who are at high risk of harming themselves or others from accessing firearms.

Under this heading, St. Petersburg Police responded to two perceived threats, including those of a 36-year-old St. Petersburg resident who had told police:

— His parents were responsible for the 9/11 attacks;

— His neighbor was a Nazi trying to break into his house;

— He was under surveillance by Russian authorities;

— He had murdered people in St. Petersburg;

— He wanted officers to kill him.

In March, the police sought a court order requiring this St. Petersburg man to surrender all firearms and ammunition or else face charges of a third-degree felony. Judge Anthony Rondolino approved the request via a final risk protection order.

The SPPD recovered a 12-gauge shotgun and a semi-automatic handgun.

Normally, I don’t even read these kinds of stories, much less write about them. I try my best to block out the evils of the outside world while fooling myself into thinking that nothing bad will ever happen to my family or me.

But this time I happened to notice where this St. Petersburg man lived.

Google Maps says he’s just three minutes away by car.

That’s right … someone who believes he has a Nazi for a neighbor and is under surveillance by Russian authorities lives along the path I travel when driving my daughter to school in our golf cart (you’ll notice this man is just minutes away from her school, too).

I understand that many other people live in environments much, much worse than mine. But this privilege provides little comfort when someone so unstable lives so close to you.

Thank God the police have seized his guns.

Thank God the Florida Legislature passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

Material from USA Today — Florida network was used in this post.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.6.18

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

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

Welcome to your Friday oppo dump, provided by a Democratic source:

“At the Polo Republican Club in Delray Beach on Monday, Ron DeSantis got a question about restoring voting rights for felons and answered it.

“It’s a question he has continually avoided – saying nothing when asked at his campaign kick off and avoiding comment to the Tampa Bay Times.

He stakes a pretty clear position: He’s flatly against automatic restoration. That position even puts him slightly to the right of (Adam) Putnam, who has said he would consider automatic restoration for non-violent criminals.”

In a seemingly surreptitiously-recorded video of the event, a woman asks DeSantis: “…As our governor, what will you do for the multitude of felons, who have served their time … who are waiting to become active participants in our state again?”

DeSantis responds, “Well, in terms of felonies, my priority is not going to be on convicted felons, it’s going to be on law-abiding citizens. [Applause.] Now, I’m not opposed to a felon who shows that they can reintegrate into society and have turned over a new leaf.

“I think there should be a pathway that you can restore, but I don’t support automatic restoration for felons … If you look at the number of people who get convicted of a felony, there’s a high percentage of those folks who within three or four years are back into the system having committed another offense.

“So if you leave the jail and they say, ‘OK you get restored,’ well you haven’t proven that you can reintegrate yet into society. So I do think there should be a pathway, but it should be case by case, and it should be based on certain benchmarks being met.”

Here’s a link to the video.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@AP: BREAKING: The number of women running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives sets a record with 309 women filing candidacy papers, AP review finds.

— @RepDeSantis: When Congress reconvenes, I will chair a Nat’l Security subcommittee hearing on the “caravan” of foreign nationals currently heading to our southern border. We must enforce our sovereignty & that means a secure border & supporting efforts of POTUS to protect the American people.

— @RepWilson: @JaredEMoskowitz said, “What’s changed since Pulse? It’s the parents who came up one by one, two by two. And the kids who came up like an army. They are the difference makers. They started a movement.” #Enough

— @FCN2go: Fla. Congressman’s son arrested, accused of trying to run clerk over after asking about chicken

@VoteSeminole: The longer the ballot, the longer the lines. Plan ahead now & avoid waiting in line while others read/vote on potentially 17 state constitutional amendments in November.

— @SShawFL: Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!

@DuvalDEC: For those who think we not unified, think again. Tonight we met for 4 hours and developed a Grievance policy because we are committed to healing and reconciliation.

— @Torch437: In attempting to adapt to his departure, I take a page from @StevePersall, who reacts with humor and heart. The effort only reminds me I am not him, that there is only one. Someone else’s readers will benefit.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Days until: Gov. Scott’s ‘big announcement’ — 3; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 9; NFL Draft begins — 20; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 21; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 27; Mother’s Day — 37; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 49; Memorial Day — 52; Father’s Day — 72; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 77; Deadline for filing claim bills — 117; Start of the U.S. Open — 143; Primary Election Day — 144; College Football opening weekend — 148; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 200; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 201; General Election Day — 214; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 314; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 333.

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

— TOP STORY —

Pam Bondi vows to go to ‘highest court’ in clemency fight” via the News Service of Florida — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker last month gave Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet until April 26 to revamp the process, which Walker ruled violates First Amendment and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution. Bondi’s office filed a notice of appeal at the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked for a stay of the order requiring a new process by April 26. But Walker, in a sharply worded decision, quickly rejected the request for a stay, though he said the state can also take that issue to the appeals court. Bondi criticized Walker’s rulings and defended the state’s authority to decide how to handle restoration of rights. “We have been following the law,” she said. “We firmly believe that it is the law in the state of Florida. We plan on enforcing the laws. That’s what I do as the chief legal officer of the state of Florida. So, yes, we are appealing it. We will appeal it to the highest court.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer targets Florida millennials with $3.5 million voter outreach” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — “This is a fight for the soul of America,” he declares from a booth at a luxury hotel down the street from the White House. “Really.” A billionaire former hedge fund executive from San Francisco, Steyer isn’t talking about Trump but the great untapped resource of American politics: millennials. The group now matches baby boomers for the largest slice of the electorate but has woefully underperformed at the polls. Steyer, 60, is pouring $30 million into what he calls the largest youth organizing program in American history ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Florida is a primary focus, with dozens of people already working on college campuses to register voters and maintain their interest. Steyer’s NextGen America will spend at least $3.5 million in the state and has plans to double the current 50 staffers to cover 40 college campuses, including 10 community colleges and four historically black colleges.

In post-Trump GOP, Florida’s governor hopefuls veer far right on immigration – and away from bygone era” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times – A given in this year’s Republican primary for governor is that the probable frontrunners need to emphasize how tough they are on immigration to lock up the nomination in August. But the voting records of all three likely candidates — Richard Corcoran, Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam — reveal exceptions to their current hardline stances, a reminder of how Florida’s Republicans have been transformed by the “BUILD THE WALL!” orthodoxy of President Donald Trump’s nationalist movement. One Republican who has witnessed this metamorphosis over the past few years, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, said the lurch to the right on immigration is troubling. While Republicans have always been conservative on immigration issues, the messaging has changed, he said.

Andrew Gillum raises $336K in March” via Florida Politics – The campaign brought in $125,366 of the new money while the committee, Forward Florida, raised $210,750. The total beats February’s haul by more than $90,000 and goes down as one of his best fundraising months since he entered the race early last year. The fundraising announcement didn’t include spending for the month or the ending cash on hand for either account, though Gillum had about $800,000 between the two accounts at the end of last month. Despite the solid month, Gillum still lags behind his primary challengers with about $2.6 million in total fundraising.

Gwen Graham adds more than $600K in March” via Florida Politics — Graham’s campaign didn’t give exact figures, though it said the March haul brings her total fundraising past the $6.4 million mark with about $3.9 million in the bank. The campaign account and political committee, Gwen Graham for Florida, brought in over $300,000 each during the reporting period. The former congresswoman also pointed out a $50,000 contribution she received from progressive women’s group EMILY’s List in the announcement.

Philip Levine expands outreach in Central Florida with billboards – “Central Florida is a key region in our state and as we build our campaign and expand our outreach, bringing our message to the voters of Orlando is a top priority,” shared Christian Ulvert, Senior Advisor to the campaign. “With just 144 days left until Floridians go to the polls and vote in the primary, the Levine campaign is committed to continue taking our message directly to the people.”

The Levine campaign announced it launched a series of billboard advertisements in prominent Orlando locations near downtown along Colonial Drive and another major intersection

Adam Putnam suggests Ron DeSantis doesn’t know the state” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Putnam is turning his “I know Florida” message into a bit of a stick, suggesting that his opponent for the Republican gubernatorial primary U.S. Rep. DeSantis knows Florida not-so-much. “Floridians want a governor who knows Florida best, who’s always going to put Florida first and is running a grassroots campaign,” Putnam told reporters, responding to a question about what he thinks of DeSantis getting President Trump’s endorsement. “I do see a lot of MAGA hats at my rallies,” Putnam added, referencing Trump’s themed hats, “Make America Great Again.”

Assignment editors Putnam will speak at the weekly Café con Tampa meeting beginning 8 a.m. upstairs at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd. Cost is $12, breakfast buffet included. He will make a tax-related announcement at 10 a.m., Kimmins Contractors, 1501 E. Second St. in Tampa.

Another GOP candidate for Attorney General. Another mysterious windfall in campaign cash.” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – State Rep. Jay Fant won’t say where he got $750,000 he loaned his campaign last fall. Financial disclosures the Jacksonville Republican has been required to file through 2016 don’t appear to show where that much cash could have come from. Nonetheless, Fant has declined through a campaign spokeswoman to say where he obtained the money, saying only that it was “a personal loan.” Fant’s assets, particularly his home, could have grown in value since his last financial disclosure, which covered 2016, possibly providing more equity he could have borrowed against to obtain the money he loaned his campaign. However, there is no record on the Duval County Clerk of Court’s website of Fant having borrowed recently against any real estate he owns, and the campaign said he hasn’t done so. Fant’s financial disclosures don’t show many large, liquid assets other than an IRA.

Sean Shaw announces communications director, South Florida finance directorShaw, a Tampa House Democrat running for attorney general, on Thursday named Anders Croy as Communications Director and Makeda McLune as his South Florida finance director. Croy previously was spokesman for the Florida House Democratic Caucus and worked on Al Lawson’s 2012 campaign for Congress. McLune has an “extensive background as an organizer and finance professional for progressive campaigns and causes throughout the country.” During the 2016 election cycle, she served as Deputy Finance Director for the Annette Taddeo for Congress Campaign. “Anders and Makeda are the right people to ensure we achieve our goals and add to the incredible momentum that’s been building as I’ve traveled the state,” Shaw said.

Milton Democrat hopes to run against Matt Gaetz” via Jennie McKeon of NWFDailyNews.com – Dr. Jennifer Zimmerman, a pediatrician based in Milton, has been campaigning across Northwest Florida since February. While she may have fallen short of collecting the 5,303 signatures needed to appear on the Aug. 28 primary ballot, she is not discouraged. Plan B is to raise $10,440 by May 4. Zimmerman — or Dr. Z as she is known to her patients — was born in the Philippines. Her father, James, was a Filipino guerilla fighter against the Japanese occupation during World War II before becoming a POW. Her mother, Corazon, was not allowed to go to school but managed to complete high school and then college while caring for six children. Zimmerman arrived in the United States in 1993 and later moved to Northwest Florida. She practiced medicine in Crestview before starting her own practice in Milton.

Abortion rights group backs Stephanie Murphy in CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “Congresswoman Murphy is a fighter for Florida women and families, and we are proud to endorse her re-election to Congress,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, stated in a news release. “We need members of Congress like Congresswoman Murphy who will stand up to the extreme anti-choice agenda of the Trump Administration.” The endorsement allows Murphy to get her abortion rights credentials established heading into the primary, in a purple district that includes Seminole County and north-central Orange County. NARAL is the oldest abortion rights advocacy group in the United States and claims 1.2 million “member activists.”

Rene Garcia running for Miami-Dade County Commission in 2020” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald – Garcia, a Republican former member of the Hialeah City Council is forced to retire from the Senate this year due to term-limit rules, has filed for the 2020 election to replace Esteban “Steve” Bovo in the county district representing Hialeah. Bovo is forced to leave his District 13 seat in 2020 through Miami-Dade’s own set of term-limit rules.

— STATEWIDE —

‘Paving’ a path to progress: Gov. Scott announced another $763 million in funding for the First Coast Expressway project, including replacement of the Shands Bridge and extension of the expressway to I-95 in St. Johns County.

New law Scott signed makes public access to beaches harder to establish” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill, HB 163, blocks local governments from adopting ordinances to allow public access to beaches above the mean high-water line. Instead, any city or county that wants to do that has to get a judge’s approval first — by suing any private landowners claiming beach property as their own. “This is very bad for local governments,” said Alison Fluornoy, a University of Florida law professor. “Suing coastal landowners as the only avenue to establish access is not an attractive option.” She also pointed out that this adds to the workload of the state’s courts without providing additional funding. All such beach access ordinances are based on a legal principle called “customary use,” which is generally defined as the traditional use of dry beach sand for recreation by the public, even if it’s supposed to be private property. Sometimes beach property owners become upset about the behavior of visitors and try to block access to their land.

Assignment editors — Florida Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Wilson will join Chamber Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish and other thought leaders for the ‘Lay of the Land/Florida Land Conference’ beginning 8 a.m. at the Omni Orlando Resort, 1500 Masters Blvd. in ChampionsGate.

Justices toss out death sentence in Carlie Brucia murder” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — A divided Florida Supreme Court ordered resentencing for a Death Row inmate who was convicted in the 2004 sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Brucia — a Sarasota County case that drew national attention. The 4-3 decision vacating the death sentence of Joseph P. Smith came in one of dozens of appeals filed by Death Row inmates after a January 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found Florida’s death-penalty process was unconstitutional because it gave too much authority to judges, instead of juries. That U.S. Supreme Court decision and subsequent Florida Supreme Court rulings have led to requirements that juries must unanimously agree on critical findings before judges can impose death sentences and must unanimously recommend the death penalty. A jury recommended in a 10-2 vote that Smith be sentenced to death.

Constitutional review panel’s ‘style’ committee wraps up work” via Florida Politics – Barring any last minute turbulence, get ready for a long ballot in November. The Constitution Revision Commission’s Style and Drafting Committee on Thursday OK’d 12 proposed amendments to the state’s governing document. They would be in addition to five amendments, either from the Legislature or citizen initiatives, already set for the November statewide ballot. The committee’s work now goes to the full CRC for consideration. It’s slated to meet again starting April 1

Gambling lobbyist to No Casinos head: You’re a ‘bully’ ” via Florida Politics – Gambling lobbyist Marc Dunbar is telling anti-gambling activist John Sowinski to lay his cards on the table. In an open letter released Thursday, Dunbar says Sowinski – president of No Casinos – has “declared war on (the gambling) industry, and in turn our economy, with a proposed constitutional amendment which you now have finally and publicly disclosed is intended to ban retroactively many forms of legal gambling in the state.” Sowinski also chairs Voters In Charge, the political committee behind the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3,” on the November ballot … “It is clearly time to meet in the public square and have a candid and truthful dialogue about Amendment 3 and your group’s desired impacts,” Dunbar wrote.

Assignment editors — Democratic state Rep. Kionne McGhee will host a town hall on gun violence and the need for improved school safety. The town hall begins 7 p.m. at the Cutler Bay Town Center Council Chambers, 10720 Caribbean Blvd. in Cutler Bay.

Black farmer drops lawsuit over pot license” via the News Service of Florida – After Gov. Scott signed a bill last week that resolved the case, a Panama City farmer has dropped a constitutional challenge to a 2017 law that included criteria for awarding a potentially lucrative medical-marijuana license to a black farmer. Attorneys for Columbus Smith filed a notice in Leon County circuit court that they were dismissing the lawsuit. The 2017 law required one medical-marijuana license to go to a black farmer who had been part of settled lawsuits, known as “Pigford” cases, about discrimination against black farmers by the federal government. The measure also required the black farmer who received a license to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association-Florida Chapter. Smith met the qualification of being part of the Pigford litigation, but he was not allowed to join the black farmers association, effectively preventing him from receiving a license. The Florida Constitution bars “special” laws, in part, that relate to “grant of privilege to a private corporation.”

Leon County judge rules against school districts’ challenge of HB 7069” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – After a nearly five-hour hearing, Leon County Judge John Cooper wasted little time throwing out several school districts’ challenge of HB 7069, the controversial 2017 education legislation that created a new class of charter schools, among several other measures. Cooper found the law constitutional. He issued his ruling of summary judgment for the defendants — the Florida Board of Education, Department of Education, and intervening parents and charter schools — from the bench without boiling it down to writing. Lawyers for the two sides will submit suggestions for a written order within a week.

Scott Maddox campaign contributors OK with covering legal bills” via Florida Politics – Are Scott Maddox’s financial supporters mad that he spent $125,000 in political donations on legal fees arising from the federal investigation into Tallahassee’s City Hall? Not especially, judging from conversations with some of those supporters. “I don’t blame him for using it for that. It doesn’t bother me,” said Kevin Collins, a Tallahassee real estate agent who contributed $500. Added Karen Koelemij, president of Orange State Construction Inc., “Whenever you give money to a politician, you don’t know how they’re going to spend it.”

First Brightline train arrives at Miami station during final stage of construction” via  Jennifer Sorentrue of the Palm Beach Post – Brightline said it plans to launch service to downtown Miami in “the coming weeks.” The company’s fleet of trains will soon begin testing on the stretch of rail that runs between Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, officials said. “BrightPink climbed the newly constructed viaduct and pulled into the 50’ elevated station, overlooking downtown Miami and the expansive multimodal hub,” the company said. “Soon, Brightline trains will begin testing between downtown Fort Lauderdale and Miami in anticipation of extending service in the coming weeks. The start of testing will coincide with additional safety outreach throughout the South Florida region.” Since starting service in January, Brightline has run as many as 22 trains a day between downtown West Palm Beach and downtown Fort Lauderdale.

— STORM OF CONTROVERSY? —

How does Florida go from the gold standard in disaster response to creating a man-made disaster when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of major storms?

– First, the state Division of Emergency Management (DEM) was revealed to be changing the rules in a way that makes storm-ravaged cities across Florida wait … and wait … and wait for (already approved) federal reimbursement for damages suffered in Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.

– DEM’s interpretation of the rules forced projects to go through a lengthy (and questionable) federal review before any funds were delivered, which eventually caused a $3.6 billion backlog.

– Now, a different state agency issued an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for recovery services related to Hurricane Irma, causing concerns of favoritism for winning contracts.

– Curious language within the ITN suggest the winning bidder must have held a similar contract for a minimum of five consecutive years, a longer than usual period for such an agreement.

– These recent issues raise questions of transparency and confidence in the DEM, an agency that set a benchmark for public safety and disaster response during relentless hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Putnam backs Donald Trump on revamping NAFTA” via the News Service of Florida – Putnam sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer that backed President Donald Trump’s push for a “more equitable North American Free Trade Agreement” with Canada and Mexico. “As you are aware, producers of perishable and seasonal agricultural products in Florida and other regions have been decimated by unfair trading practices resulting in a strong and unprecedented growth in imports from Mexico,” Putnam wrote. “Family farms in Florida and other states have found no relief from these unfair practices in our current trade laws or the current NAFTA agreement.”

Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor target ‘zombie campaigns’ loophole with new restrictions” via Christopher O’Donnell and Noah Pransky for the Tampa Bay Times — Bilirakis and Castor are co-sponsoring the “Honest Elections and Campaign, No Gain Act.” The bipartisan bill requires outgoing lawmakers to close their campaign accounts within two years and also bans payments to family members once they leave office. The veteran lawmakers said the bill is in direct response to an investigation that turned up about 100 so-called zombie campaigns, kept open by former politicians to finance their lifestyles, advance new careers and pay family members. Bilirakis said Castor and he will advocate support for the bill with their respective parties. But he expects some opposition. “You’re going to get some resistance,” Bilirakis said. “Probably some former members of Congress will lobby against this bill.”

— MOVEMENTS —

José Oliva named to national GOP panel” via the News Service of Florida — Oliva will serve on the executive committee of the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Future Majority Project initiative … “We started the Future Majority Project in 2011 to support Republican candidates who better reflect the growing diversity of the American electorate,” Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said in a prepared statement. Oliva was one of 22 officials from 18 states named to the Future Majority Project executive committee and the only one from Florida.

Personnel note: Josh Weierbach leaving Senate Victory for Emily’s List” via Florida Politics – Weierbach has been on the ground for the Florida Democrats for a while. His most recent was the special election in Senate District 40 last fall, which saw Annette Taddeo flip the seat against Jose Felix Diaz. The victory helped elevate him to the executive political director spot in October. He’d played a prominent role in prior elections, too, and Emily’s List has no shortage of Florida campaigns it’s looking to boost in the 2018 cycle. The organization, dedicated to electing pro-choice Democratic women to office, is backing Lori Berman in her surefire bid to move from the House to the Senate in a special election next week.

Personnel note: Hard Rock names Todd Hricko as Sr. VP, head of Global Hotel Development – The casino and hotel group, controlled by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, tapped Hricko to “oversee the development of hotels for the entire brand,” according to a Thursday press release. He joined Hard Rock in 2014, first serving as vice president of business development for Hard Rock Hotels, where he “spearheaded the development of the Hard Rock Hotels portfolio throughout the United States and Canada.”  Before that, Hricko was vice president of development for Wyndham Hotel Group. The brand is currently pursuing expansions in the Maldives, New Orleans, London, and China.

— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakof: City of Cape Coral

Lawrence Curtin, Holland & Knight: Helena Agri-Enterprises

Jessica Janasiewicz, Corinne Mixon, Rutledge Ecenia: S.A.F.E. Consulting

Ron Silver, Ron Silver and Associates: International College of Health Sciences

— WEEKEND TV —

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 include political reporter William March, Tampa Bay Times reporter Caitlin Johnson, Gee-Abate Strategic Partners founder Connie Gee-Abate, and political commentator/consultant Barry Edwards.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the legislation designed to combat and minimize the growing opioid epidemic. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sen. Darryl Rouson; state Rep. Mike Miller; Dr. Jay Faulk, chief academic medical officer, Orlando Health; Dr. Mike Lozano, EMS medical director, Hillsborough County; and Natalie Kelly, Florida Association of Managing Entities.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham.

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

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Attorney General candidate Frank White.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg talk current events and host a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.

— ALOE —

Above normal hurricane season forecast” via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post – A leading hurricane forecast is calling for a slightly above average storm season with 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. The prediction from Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project was released this morning at the National Tropical Weather Conference in San Antonio. It follows at least two other forecasts made this month calling for a near average to above average hurricane season. An average season has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. The hyperactive 2017 hurricane season had 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes.

Gap closes between Grapefruit and Cactus Spring Training leagues” via Sam Newlon of WUSF –Arizona’s Cactus League offers a clear advantage in the proximity of all the baseball stadiums. The ballparks are within an hour of each other. Conversely, Florida’s 15-team Grapefruit League is spread out from Dunedin to West Palm Beach. Fans would have to drive over four-and-a-half hours to watch a game at every venue. Despite this disadvantage, Florida holds a trump card over Arizona – the state offers more to do. Figures show that people are taking advantage of that variety. When it comes to spring training, online travel community Airbnb reported 23,000 guests made reservations between Feb. 21 and March 27 in Tampa alone. That’s a 92 percent increase over the number of reservations in the five weeks before Feb. 21.

Homebuilder Lennar’s stock jumps after company posts better first-quarter profits than expected” via David Lyons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Lennar Corp. of Miami beat Wall Street’s expectations by reporting better-than-expected first quarter profits and revenues after selling more homes at higher prices and gaining a boost from its purchase of onetime rival CalAtlantic. The company’s stock price jumped the $60 mark on the New York Stock Exchange, recording a 10 percent gain of $5.73 to $62.82. Lennar CEO Stuart Miller issued an upbeat forecast for the immediate future, saying “we remain enthusiastic about both our current results as well as our future projections under the Lennar platform.” He said that in the first quarter of 2018, new home orders and deliveries were 10,910 and 9,994, respectively, “which exceeded the expectations” of both Lennar and CalAtlantic. The acquisition of CalAtlantic was completed on Feb. 12.

Happy birthday to two wonderful women in The Process, Carolyn Johnson and Chelsea Murphy. Celebrating this weekend is Sen. Annette Taddeo.

Last Call for 4.5.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

A celebration of life and memorial service for the late Walter Dartland will be held this Friday, April 6, at 11 a.m., at the FSU Alumni Center, 1030 W. Tennessee St., Tallahassee.

He died March 1 after a battle against lymphoma.

Tributes to the man known as ‘Florida’s superhero consumer advocate and champion’ will be shared by Dartland’s family and friends. More recently, Dartland, a Democrat, ran unsuccessfully for Florida’s 2nd Congressional District against Republican Neal Dunn.

Dartland “made life better for millions of Floridians and Americans with a lifetime of service in taking on corporate giants and others whenever the public interest was being subverted,” said his longtime friend and Tallahassee PR guru, Ron Sachs.

“From fighting and beating Ford for early-rust defects in many of their models back in the 1980s and authoring Florida’s landmark ‘Lemon Law,’ to protecting consumers from faulty vehicles and championing the case for black residents in Port St. Joe whose homes were falling apart from shoddy construction, Walt Dartland never backed down from a consumer challenge,” Sachs added.

Evening Reads

Above normal hurricane season forecast” via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post

Will disaster contracting issue raise a story of controversy” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Leon County judge rules against school districts’ challenge of HB 7069” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times

New law Scott signed makes public access to beaches harder to establish” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

Calls increase for Irma aid to flow to farmers” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Constitutional review panel’s ‘style’ committee wraps up work” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Another GOP candidate for Attorney General. Another mysterious windfall in campaign cash.” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

Gus Bilirakis, Kathy Castor target Zombie Campaigns loophole with new restrictions” via Chris O’Donnell and Noah Pransky of the Tampa Bay Times/WTSP

Milton Democrat hopes to run against Matt Gaetz” via Jennie McKeon of Northwest Florida Daily News

Donna Shalala reports $1.17 million haul in 3 weeks” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Workers run for their lives as crane topples over in St. Petersburg” via The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“Ultimately the thing that drives long-term debt is the structure of very important programs that I support, Medicare and Social Security. I want to save those programs. They need to be reformed for future generations.” — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, in Jacksonville.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Campaign finance reports are due Friday in an April 10 special election in Palm Beach County’s Senate District 31. Democrat Lori Berman and Republican Tami Donnally are running for the seat, which became open when former Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, resigned after disclosures about an affair with a lobbyist.

The Republican Party of Florida will start its two-day spring quarterly meeting, with the events including an evening “chairman’s caucus” meeting. That’s at 9 a.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tampa Airport-Westshore, 4500 West Cypress St., Tampa.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will make a “tax-related announcement” in Tampa. That’s at 10 a.m., Kimmins Contractors, 1501 E. Second Ave., Tampa.

Grace Nelson, whose husband, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, is running for re-election this year, is scheduled to take part in a “meet and eat” event with the Greater Tarpon Springs Democratic Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Mama Maria’s 503 North Pinellas Ave., Tarpon Springs.

The Forum Club of the Palm Beaches will host a discussion about school safety after the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. That’s at 11:45 a.m., Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, Cohen Pavilion, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.

Staff members for GOP U.S. Sen. Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Osceola County. That’s at 1 p.m., Advance Senior Center, 2260 East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee.

Ed Moore, president of Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, and Rudy Fernandez, a former White House staff member for President George W. Bush, are scheduled to take part in a media conference call to discuss results of a poll on immigration issues by New American Economy and TargetPoint Consulting. That’s at 2:30 p.m. Media call-in number: 1-877-876-9177. Conference ID: NAEPoll.

Nelson will host a roundtable discussion with local elected officials to discuss issues important to the community, including the recently passed government spending bill and the latest efforts in Congress to address school safety and gun violence. That’s at 3:45 p.m., Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, 3201 Scherer Drive North, Clearwater.

Putnam also will host a “Florida Feast” for supporters. That’s at 6 p.m., Blackbeard’s Ranch at the Seminole Wind Chickee, 15800 Coker Gully Road, Myakka City.

House Democratic Leader-designate Kionne McGhee will host a ‘town hall’ panel discussion on gun violence and the need for improved school safety. That’s at 7 p.m., Cutler Bay Town Center Council Chambers, 10720 Caribbean Blvd., Cutler Bay.

Will disaster contracting issue raise a storm of controversy?

How does Florida go from the gold standard in disaster response to creating a man-made disaster when it comes to dealing with the aftermath of major storms?

First, the state Division of Emergency Management (DEM) — the disaster response people — got caught changing the rules in a way that makes storm-ravaged cities across Florida wait … and wait … and wait to receive federal reimbursement for damages suffered in Hurricanes Hermine in 2016 and Matthew in 2017. The feds already approved the money, almost $118 million, but DEM reinterpreted some rules to force projects to go through a lengthy and questionable federal review before the funds are delivered. Media reports said this has resulted in a $3.6 billion backlog, at a time when some communities and their residents are still really hurting.

Then the agency set off a firestorm when POLITICO reported Tuesday that it refused to allow reporters into a meeting in which it tried to explain its approach to county emergency officials. What happened to transparency? It can’t be just a convenient option, particularly when there are real doubts about the efficacy of what the state is doing and how it is doing it.

And now a different state agency has issued an Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for recovery services related to Hurricane Irma — which has raised some serious questions about whether an insider that helped draft the ITN put its thumb on the scale to apparently help a couple of its friends possibly have an unfair advantage and win the contract.

The ITN is to provide the state with program and contract administration services, to make sure disaster recovery funds are being used properly. The ITN was issued by the Department of Economic Opportunity, which oversees Florida’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.

Those who have reviewed the procurement have wondered about curious language on a form attached to the ITN that suggests the winning vendor must have had a similar contract for at least 5 continuous years — a longer requirement than most contracts, which seems to limit the field of who could qualify. It seems the ITN also uses a specific term used by only one or two vendors in describing a particular inspection requirement — again making you wonder whether they had someone already in mind when writing the ITN.

Where’s the level playing field in this important contract process?

When it comes to these huge piles of tax dollars, the government must be transparent if it hopes to instill confidence in the public. When it changes the rules in relative obscurity to make life harder for local governments, when it slams the door on media trying to keep the taxpayers informed, and when it issues high-dollar contract proposals filled with ambiguity and doubt — this is a formula for favoritism, not for fostering public confidence.

Florida’s relentless 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, when no fewer than eight named storms pummeled the state, made a hero out of the Division of Emergency Management for doing so much so right.

Government’s first responsibility is to protect public safety. Properly handling disaster preparation and response can make or break a governor’s or agency’s profile and legacy. It’s why Gov. Jeb Bush is fondly remembered as the “Master of Disaster.”

But mishandling the aftermath — including recovery and contracting related to it — is the preventable disaster after the disaster. Ignoring the need to address this dubious contracting issue is a Category 4-5 storm of controversy.

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