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Sunburn for 10.16.17 – Jack Latvala’s big get; Chris King’s policy roll-out; David Rivera dodges the feds; Prepping for Richard Spencer; Spotted at Bruno Mars!

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

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

It surprised very few people who follow state politics when the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Jack Latvala‘s bid for governor on Saturday.

Latvala officially launched his campaign in August at a fire station in South Florida. The FOP’s future endorsement was foreshadowed by the strong presence of first responders who attended Latvala’s campaign kickoff that day.

As a state Senator, Latvala has stood up for the retirement system as it pertains to first responders, as well as introduce legislation that helped create the Florida Law Enforcement Officer alert system, among several other initiatives.

“It’s been a constant battle to ensure that we don’t reduce the pensions that they work for, especially in the middle of the game, as others have proposed doing,” Latvala said. “It’s important they get compensated for putting their lives on the line every single day when they go to work.”

With 104 FOP lodges throughout the state, the official endorsement from the powerful police union brings with it more than 22,000 members whose votes may be cast in favor of Latvala come next year.

“This is a big boost to my campaign,” Latvala said. “This is the first endorsement in this race of a significant size membership organization and I am so appreciative of them honoring me with this endorsement.”

Sen. Jack Latvala, surrounded by firefighters and police officers, smiles during the announcement he is running for Florida governor on Aug. 16. in Hialeah. Photo credit: Alan Diaz.

Whether or not the FOP’s endorsement was a gimme for Latvala, Saturday’s announcement demonstrated:

— Latvala has earned the mantle of being the ‘law-and-order candidate.’ While crime is no longer the pressing issue it was twenty years ago, being ‘tough on crime’ has long been a hallmark of GOP policy. The police unions’ endorsements will provide Latvala with the inside track to voters who consider public safety their top concern.

— Latvala has the ability to command attention from the state’s political press corps, which, as we’ve joked, is one of Latvala’s most important constituencies. When the FOP’s endorsement came off embargo, several media outlets were ready with their stories — a sign that Latvala knows how to deal with competitive reporters hungry for a scoop. Despite his gruff exterior (or maybe because of it), the Pinellas Republican interacts with the media better than almost all of his opponents, Republican or Democrat.

— Latvala will likely garner the most endorsements of any Republican candidate; Associated Industries of Florida and the NRA will likely back Adam Putnam and Americans for Prosperity would almost certainly support Richard Corcoran, were he to run, but Latvala will undoubtedly be most editorial boards’ preferred choice, as he also will be of many mid-major statewide organizations, many with whom Latvala has built decades-long relationships. We’re not just talking about the unions, either.

Of course, Latvala needs to be careful about overplaying the endorsement card with the Republican primary voters who increasingly abhor any signal from a candidate that they are part of the establishment.

But Latvala can worry about that later. For now, he’s locked up the support of an important ally. With this kind of endorsement and with the amount of money he’s raising, Latvala’s building a campaign for the long-haul.


— @RepJanetCruz: As community leaders, we must use our positions to raise awareness & help others. Proud to help our Puerto Rican neighbors as they recover.

— @NewsofStJohn: St. John, an island in the US Virgin Islands, has been without power since September 6. Please keep loving & supporting us. Please retweet.

— @JimmyPatronis: Firefighters lay their life on the line when they report for duty. Today we honor the heroes who didn’t make it home

— @ShevrinJones: I am begging @FLGovScott and @richardcorcoran to PLEASE ask DCF to extend the days for the FL Disaster Assistance Program.

— @ArekSarkissian: @FLGovScott reiterated help to @UF @AlachuaSheriff as they prepare to maintain order @ Oct. 19 event w/ @RichardBSpencer and protesters.

— @AdamPutnam: The old truck has covered lots of miles this week. We’re just 30 mi from home & got a flat. Pulled out the jack & tire iron & got to work!

— @JoeReedy: Alabama vs. Miami in Atlanta on Jan. 8?

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Putnam’s digital consultant also behind ‘Liberal Latvala’ campaign” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The brief digital ad campaign attempting to brand Latvala as “Liberal Latvala” was put together by a well-known digital media firm also doing work directly for the gubernatorial campaign of Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. The committee that paid for the ads — United Conservatives for Florida — is run by Mac Stevenson, a longtime Putnam adviser … Putnam’s campaign said it knew nothing about the effort to brand Latvala, a Republican also running for governor, as a liberal. Along with the committee that paid for the ads being run by one of his consultants, the vendor who put together the campaign, Harris Media, also offers a clear link to Putnam’s team. September expenditure records show the committee paid Texas-based Harris Media nearly $5,000 for the digital media attack. That prominent Republican digital firm has also been paid nearly $230,000 for digital and advertising work directly from Putnam’s campaign, and another $152,188 from his political committee, Florida Grown PC.

— “Is Adam Putnam indirectly in bed with Germany’s far-right?” via Florida Politics

Mac Stevenson and Bill Galvano. Stevenson is supporting Adam Putnam in his bid for Florida governor.

Putnam to campaign in Gilchrist — Putnam will hold a campaign stop in his bid for governor at the Gilchrist County Republican Executive Committee’s annual “Stars of Freedom Dinner.” Event begins 6 p.m. at Seven Hills Farm, 3270 County Road 337 in Trenton.

Chris King to roll out jobs and economic policy this month” via Florida Politics — “Too many people are stuck in low-paying jobs, and they’re not moving up the ladder,” King said in a video. “So we’ve got to move fast to create a more fair and homegrown economy that creates the type of jobs that support Florida families.” King highlighted that half the jobs in the state pay less than $15 an hour, a figure many state and national Democrats have said is the minimum living wage for employees. “Our No. 1 priority as a state — my No. 1 priority as your next governor — is to do something about this,” he said. King added that the Sunshine State was at the “back of the pack in almost every economic and quality of life measurement” and said Florida is in last place among the 10 most populous states when it comes to wages, incomes and per capita GDP. The would-be governor’s policies include “investing in and lifting up and caring for” small businesses. King said he is confident helping grow small business will bring living wage jobs to the state due to his experience with his own business, Elevation, which provides affordable housing options to seniors in the southeastern United States.

— “Pam Keith gets backing from Florida NOW in bid for congressional seat” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Ed Hooper lands endorsement from Bill Galvano” via Florida Politics — “Having served the community most of his life, Ed Hooper understands the issues that face Senate District 16. Ed is known for being a champion of economic development, job creation, and quality education for our kids,” Galvano said in a news release. “The election of Ed Hooper to the Florida Senate will be beneficial to not just his constituents, but all residents of the great state of Florida.” Hooper is running for the seat currently held by Clearwater Republican Sen. Latvala, who is termed out of the Senate and running for Florida governor in 2018.

Bill Galvano is supporting Ed Hooper in his bid to return to Tallahassee. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Spotted at Saturday night’s Bruno Mars concert in Orlando: Sens. Galvano, Rob Bradley, David Simmons, and Kelli Stargel, Leticia Adams, Adam Babington, Kelly Cohen, Andrea Reilly, Stephanie Smith, and Kate Webb.

David Rivera proves elusive to U.S. Marshals” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The U.S. Marshals have attempted to serve the Miami Republican with a summons tied to a Federal Election Commission lawsuit since July, but have been unable to find him. He’s also running for an open 2018 Florida House seat. “The Commission’s diligent efforts to serve Rivera have been thwarted so far by Rivera’s apparent evasion of service,” wrote FEC attorney Greg Mueller in an Oct. 12 request for more time to serve Rivera. “Rivera is almost certainly aware of this lawsuit.” The FEC is suing him in Miami federal court over an alleged illegal campaign finance scheme that led to two people serving jail time. Under the allegations, Rivera was part of a scheme to funnel campaign contributions to Justin Lamar Sternad, a straw candidate running against Democrat Joe Garcia in the 2012 Democratic primary for the South Florida congressional seat Rivera then held. The move was designed to weaken Garcia, who would later beat Rivera in the general election. Both Sternad and Ana Alliegro, a GOP operative working with Rivera, did jail time. Rivera was not charged but is now being sued by the FEC over the issue. The target of multiple federal and state criminal and civil investigations, Rivera has remained a step ahead of the law for years.

Happening Tuesday:


Sweeping measure address prescription pills” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Doctors would be limited to prescribing seven days’ worth of opioids for patients with acute pain and would have to check a statewide database before ordering most prescription pain medications, under a proposal filed in the House. The 114-page bill, sponsored by House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd incorporates proposals put forward by Gov. Scott aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic that has engulfed the state. The proposal (HB 21) would limit doctors to writing prescriptions for three days’ worth of opioids, such as highly addictive oxycodone, unless the practitioner decides a seven-day prescription is “medically necessary to treat the patient’s pain as an acute medical condition.” For the weeklong supply, physicians would have to document the patient’s “acute medical condition and lack of alternative treatment options to justify deviation” from the three-day limit. Some doctors, especially those who work in emergency rooms, have balked at a three-day limit and the requirement for documentation, which they say would take away time from patients. Critics of a three-day limit also say that prescription-drug restrictions, while possibly stopping new patients from becoming addicted, won’t do anything to address the growing number of overdoses on heroin and fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid often mixed with heroin.

Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

State’s counsel accuses nursing home/ALF lobbyist of undermining emergency-generator rule” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — The state’s counsel accused the top lobbyist for one of Florida’s largest nursing home and assisted living facility trade organizations of undermining Gov. Scott‘s proposed emergency rules requiring generators at such facilities following the deaths last month of 14 elderly residents at a Hollywood nursing home. Steve Bahmer, president and chief financial officer of LeadingAge Florida, contends that his organization supports the spirit of Scott’s rules but simply cannot meet them by the Nov. 15 deadline imposed by the governor. The state’s counsel, Steve Ecenia, wasn’t buying the argument. “I’m not sure that I believe they’re giving full-throated support to what the governor wants to do here. We think there may be efforts to otherwise act,” Ecenia told POLITICO during the second day of hearings in administrative court, where the nursing home industry and others are challenging Scott’s emergency rules order. During a heated cross-examination, Ecenia laid out what he thought Bahmer’s ulterior motive was in litigating Scott’s action: to “relieve them of any obligation to move forward and establish safe air conditions for residents of ALFs or nursing homes.” Bahmer responded: “Well, obviously I’m not a lawyer. I think it would probably relieve them of that requirement under the emergency rule.”

Lawmakers eye student financial literacy requirement” via the News Service of Florida — Florida lawmakers will again consider a proposal that would require high-school students to pass a financial-literacy course before graduation. The Senate Education Committee this week unanimously passed a financial literacy bill (SB 88) spearheaded by committee Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill … Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen filed a House version (HB 323). The measures would require students entering ninth grade during the 2018-2019 school year to earn one-half credit in financial literacy and money management. The course would delve into issues such as types of bank accounts, managing debt and basic principles of insurance policies. The Senate passed a financial-literacy bill during the 2017 session, but the measure died in the House.

Daisy Baez to discuss ending child marriage — The Coral Gables Democrat will speak at an event that examines ending child marriage in Florida. Event begins 2:30 p.m. At Florida International University, GL 220, in Miami.

Kionne McGhee headlines march for better transit — The Miami Democrat will join leaders of groups such as the AFL-CIO and NAACP in a march calling for better mass transit options for Miami-Dade County. Event begins 4:30 p.m., and starts at Cutler Bay Town Center, 10720 Caribbean Blvd. in Cutler Bay.

Al Jacquet reprimanded for misusing position to get a parking ticket voided” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel — A Palm Beach County ethics panel reprimanded State Rep. Jacquet for misusing his position when he was vice mayor of Delray Beach to get a $35 parking ticket voided. Jacquet settled ethics charges the panel had brought against him and agreed to pay a $300 fine. The Commission on Ethics found the violations were unintentional, but Jacquet admitted in the settlement agreement that he misused his position. He faced ethics charges of misuse of official position and corrupt misuse of office. Before being elected to the state Legislature in August, Jacquet served four years on the Delray Beach City Commission.


Florida expects hundreds of displaced Puerto Rican students” via The Associated Press — Most of the island’s 1,112 public schools are closed due to hurricane damage, and schools throughout Florida are preparing for the possibility that thousands of new students will come … Volusia County public schools’ spokeswoman Nancy Wait says the county overestimated the number of students they would receive, so she expects that they’ll have plenty of space. In central Florida alone, 292 students have enrolled in Orange County, and 150 in two other area counties. “We know it’s traumatic … we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure they get in a classroom as soon as possible,” Wait said. The students from Puerto Rico will also be classified by Volusia County as homeless, meaning they won’t have to show birth certificates, immunization records and can qualify for free lunches and other programs.

Elionet Saez Martin, of Puerto Rico, is among the first of what is expected to be large numbers of Puerto Rican children enrolling in school districts on the U.S. mainland. Photo credit:Jessica Hill.

After Irma: Keys tourism push includes images of damage” via Jim Hayward of the Palm Beach Post — On the one-month anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in the Keys, the area’s tourism bureau posted a video showing the destruction caused by the storm. It was a unique way to draw visitors back to the resilient island chain at the southern tip of Florida. “This is a very unusual approach because I don’t think any tourism agency out there would show scenes of hurricane damage,” Andy Newman, spokesman for Monroe County’s Tourist Development Council, told the Miami Herald. “I think you need to be honest,” Newman said. “You have to show them where we started and how we are coming back out of the dark.”

State parks take financial hit from hurricane” via the News Service of Florida — Three Florida parks in the Keys opened to the public Friday for the first time since Hurricane Irma, as the state looks at overall storm damage to its parks topping $55 million. John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Curry Hammock and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic state parks in Monroe County were reopened for day-use … just five state parks are still closed: Bahia Honda, Indian Key Historic and Long Key all in Monroe County; Faver-Dykes State Park in St. Johns County; and Hontoon Island State Park in Volusia and Lake counties. David Clark, acting deputy secretary of land and recreation at the Department of Environmental Protection, said Wednesday that the costs could grow. “As we continue with the assessments, I foresee that number continuing to increase,” Clark told the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. “Hopefully it will not break $60 million. But right now, it’s approximately $55 million.” One positive for the state is that the financial hit may have been tempered because September is historically the lowest month for revenue, at about $4 million annually, Clark said. The average in most other months is $6 million to $7 million, he said.

Upset about remaining Irma debris? Have some patience, officials say” via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post — Based on numbers tracked for the county’s Solid Waste Authority, just under half of the debris generated by Irma has been cleared. About 1.4 million cubic yards of vegetative debris had been removed through Wednesday, according to the most recent report on the SWA’s website … SWA spokesman Willie Puz said the authority expects to have completed the first pass of debris collection in unincorporated parts of the county by the end of the week. “Our emergency contractors will begin a second pass at this time,” Puz said. “To put this in context, Hurricanes Francis and Jeanne in 2004 generated approximately the same amount of debris and took 87 days for a first pass or pickup. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 again generated approximately the same amount of debris, and it took 68 days for a first pass. Hurricane Irma generated almost the same amount of debris, and we are only on Day 29 and estimate the first pass will be completed for nearly all residents by (this) weekend.”

Based on Palm Beach County estimates, about 1.4 million cubic yards of vegetative debris from Hurricane Irma had been removed through last week.

Florida gun laws fail to block sales to dangerously disturbed people” via Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida has repeatedly failed in its efforts to keep guns away from mentally ill people who are a danger to themselves or others, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found. The state’s strategy has been twofold. A decade ago, lawmakers banned gun sales to people who had been forcibly committed to mental hospitals. Four years ago, Florida broadened the ban to include those who voluntarily commit themselves for long-term psychiatric treatment. Florida court clerks have struggled with the initial law, taking up to three years to input thousands of names into the database used for gun-purchase background checks and entering incorrect information for hundreds of others, state audits concluded. Now doctors and hospitals are failing to flag the names of patients who should be prohibited from buying guns under the 2013 expansion of the law, the Sun Sentinel found. “If you’re a danger to yourself or others, you have no business getting out and being able to purchase firearms,” said Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. “There is nothing wrong with the law. What is wrong is the system is not working, and people are not following the law.”

State tries to scuttle matching-gift case” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The state is asking a Leon County circuit judge to dismiss a case alleging the state has failed to match $460 million in private donations to universities and state colleges that were made under Florida’s matching-gift laws. University of Florida graduates and Florida State University donors filed separate class-action lawsuits, which were consolidated, seeking to force the state to come up with $600 million in matching funds for the gifts … lawyers for the state said the matching-gift laws are subject to annual budget decisions by the Legislature and it would violate the constitutional separation of powers if the judiciary ordered lawmakers to spend the money. Noting the “firm separation” of constitutional authority among the legislative, executive and judicial branches, the motion added: “Because plaintiffs’ requested relief would violate the separation of powers, it cannot be granted.” The state’s motion also attacked an alternate request for relief that asks the court to issue an order requiring the executive branch, including the governor, to make a request to the Legislature for the matching funds.

Hate comes to Gainesville but scale of threat unclear” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun — Expect more than 500 law enforcement officers outside the Phillips Center on the University of Florida campus … Expect white nationalist Richard Spencer, surrounded by young men in white shirts and khakis. And expect a crowd of protesters nearby to shout them down. But, beyond that, much remains unknown about the event that has residents across Gainesville anxious that the city could become the next clash between extremists on the right and on the left. “There’s a possibility of real violence,” UF President Kent Fuchs told The Sun. “We are prepared for a Charlottesville but hope it will not be that.” To keep the peace, UF is closing roads through the southwest corner of the campus around the Phillips Center, where Spencer is set to speak from 2:30-4:30 p.m. A long list of prohibited items — including sticks, bags, bikes, masks and even water bottles — has been posted. Police will try to keep Spencer’s supporters and protesters separated. It is not clear that white supremacists and protesters will be contained there. Also, part of his strategy is taking advantage of facilities at public universities that face a high legal hurdle in denying him, and where he is guaranteed controversy that gets him in front of TV cameras and onto the front pages of newspapers. Spencer is seeking to speak next at Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati, and has threatened to sue if not permitted.

Expect young men in white shirts and khakis, protests and about 500 law enforcement officers when Richard Spencer comes to Gainesville. What happens beyond that is unknown.

A Gainesville brewery was trying to block hate with beer. Not so fast, Spencer says.” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald — Gainesville brewer Alligator Brewing offered a popular deal to its patrons: give it two tickets to the so-called “alt-right” leader’s speech at the University of Florida next week and it will give you a free draft beer. “We, unfortunately, can’t stop him from bringing his hate to Gainesville,” the message on Facebook read. “But we can empty the room so his disgusting message goes unheard.” The only problem with the much-lauded plan? Spencer knows about it. “We’re going to have a system in place to combat that,” said Spencer, who had seen the ubiquitous Facebook post himself.

Happening today — Jorge Labarga speaks on hurricanes at Harvard forum — Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Labarga joins Texas Chief Justice Nathan Hecht at a forum at Harvard Law School to talk how the legal system handled Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Forum begins 2 p.m. at Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


In a sudden flurry, Donald Trump looks to deliver for his voters” via James Oliphant of Reuters — Trump took steps to dramatically undercut the Obamacare health system, sent notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moved to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanded a wall along the Mexican border. And on social media, the Republican president appeared to relish his feuds with the news media, senior Republicans in Congress, and National Football League players who have protested during the national anthem. In a sense, it was the vintage, freewheeling Trump: throwing red meat to his voter base, following his gut and haranguing his critics. But by the end of the week, he had made more progress in undoing the policy accomplishments of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, than he had in some time. At the same time, there is still chaos and uncertainty in the White House, so much so much so that Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, took the unusual step of telling reporters that he was not resigning. Meanwhile, the job status of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, appears to remain tenuous … Trump this week was also sending a clear message: that he plans on doing as much as he can without waiting for Congress to act.

Donald Trump threw red meat to the base this week by dramatically undercutting the Obamacare health system, sending notice he was willing to scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, moving to roll back coal-plant limits, and again demanding a wall along the Mexican border.

Trump’s Obamacare order could roil Florida insurance markets” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — “It’s going to be devastating to the people that we work with,” said Anne Packham, marketing project director for Primary Care Access Network, a Central Florida-based group. The executive order removes $7 billion in subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, paid to health insurers offering plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges. The subsidies help consumers pay out-of-pocket expenses for care. About 1.7 million Floridians receive coverage through the exchanges. Many of them receive subsidies that lower their monthly premiums, but those are unaffected by Trump’s order. Still, Democrats and health-care-access advocates are warning the change could lead to higher deductibles, pricing many people out of the marketplace. Most worrying is the prospect of younger, healthier consumers leaving the exchanges, leading to a smaller, older, sicker and more expensive risk pool.

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After Las Vegas, we must ban high-capacity magazines” via U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch for the Miami Herald — After the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, prognosticators had an unfair advantage. We’ve learned from our country’s recent history of gun violence what happens after. What we haven’t learned is how to stop repeating the cycle. This week, I joined Rep. Elizabeth Esty and several of my colleagues from the Nevada Congressional delegation — Reps. Dina TitusRuben Kihuen, and Jacky Rosen — to work toward interrupting the tragic cycle of inaction. We introduced the Keep Americans Safe Act to ban high-capacity magazines. Like bump fire stocks, high-capacity magazines are designed to make killing more efficient, and not much else. We admit that this legislation won’t fix everything and won’t end gun violence. It won’t address the majority of the 33,000 lives lost to gun violence every year in this country, half of which are suicides. But without 30-round magazines, mass killers would be forced to spend time reloading, precious time that could allow a victim to escape or law enforcement to intervene. If that time could help save at least one life, it would be worth it. Banning high-capacity magazines is not a bold new idea. These devices were illegal until 2004 when Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to lapse. That was a mistake, and it’s time to correct it by renewing restrictions on these devices which have no purpose other than highly efficient murder. It’s time for Congress to do something about gun violence.


Appointed — Kelley Sasso to the Deferred Compensation Advisory Council.

Good read about Marty Fiorentino via the Jacksonville Business Journal — In 2001, Fiorentino got his chance to leave his mark on Jacksonville. As chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, he oversaw the division of the agency into the Jacksonville Port Authority and the Jacksonville Airport Authority. He was appointed to the Port Authority and elected its first chairman. “That’s what I’m most proud of,” Fiorentino said. “There was a lot of debate in the community, but I think it’s been very successful. It happened a week after 9/11 when the world of aviation changed. It was important to have a board dedicated to the security and growth of the airport.” As president of The Fiorentino Group, one of the largest government affairs and business development firms in the state, he said his biggest challenge is to unplug from technology that allows instant communication 24/7. “When I started, a lawyer would send you a letter by mail, you would read, put it aside, think about it, draft a response and mail it back,” he said. “Today if you wait 24 hours to respond to a client, that’s too long.” Fiorentino said the future of his firm will be rooted in integrity and commitment to client service. “We have enjoyed incremental growth year after year. We don’t try to grow too fast. We are sensitive to service,” he said. “We want to over-service what we sell. We like to over-deliver on our promises, not over-promise on what we can deliver.”

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: American Clinical Solutions

Ron BookRana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Margate

Jose Diaz, Robert M. Levy & Associates: Military Family Connect

Michael Dobson, Dean Mead: Florida Ambulance Association

Leslie Dughi, Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: MLU Services

Andreina Figueroa, ADF Consulting: Solidaridad Sin Fronteras

Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting: CannaRx

Phyllis Kalifeh: The Children’s Forum

Terry LewisNatalie KatoLori Killinger, Lewis Longman & Walker: Carlene Blunt

Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Quest Management Group, Inc

Ryan Matthews, Peebles & Smith: Ecology & Environment

Allen MorthamSandra Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: Sunstate Academy

Steven Palmer, Forbes Tate Partners: Adapt Pharma

Louis Rotundo, Louis C. Rotundo: CRESCOlabs

Gary RutledgeDiana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Center for Election Innovation and Research; US Iron

James Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Auto Club Group (AAA)

Steven UhlfelderToni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates: Sunfest Herbs

— ALOE —

New characters give ‘Thomas & Friends’ a jolt of girl power” via Joseph Pisani via The Associated Press — Mattel, the toy maker that owns the Thomas brand, will add two female main characters to the “Thomas & Friends” TV series next year. Nia and Rebecca will appear in each episode and help fix the gender imbalance at the shed where Thomas and the other main characters live: Three of the seven engines at Tidmouth Sheds will be female, up from just one. The gender shake-up is just one of the many changes coming to the 30-year-old show. Thomas visits real countries for the first time; the animation will move at a faster pace; there’s a new theme song; the characters will crack more jokes; and the narrator will be gone, replaced by the voice of Thomas. It’s all an effort to shake Thomas’ stodgy image, compete with flashier preschool shows and fight a drop in toy sales.

This photo from Mattel, Inc. shows the new Steam Team appearing in the 2018 series of “Thomas and Friends: Big World! Big Adventures!

Pluto no longer top dog at Disney” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The theme park will welcome dogs to four hotels for the first time ever beginning Sunday. Dog lovers will find plenty of Disney perks for their four-legged friends. At check-in, dog owners will receive Pluto’s Welcome Kit, which includes a mat, bowls, a pet ID tag, disposable bags, puppy pads and dog walking maps. The kit also includes a Pluto “Do Not Disturb” door hanger to let hotel staff know that a pet is in the room. Disney has partnered with Best Friends Pet Care, an on-property, full-service facility that can provide pet daycare and other pet services, for a fee. Guests will also be able to purchase pet merchandise at the pet-friendly resorts. Here are a list of the hotels and the per night/per room pet-cleaning rates: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort $50. Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort $50. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort $75. Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort $50. A maximum of two dogs per room are allowed. Each guest room will have access to outdoor pet walkways for exercise and green spaces with pet relief areas.

Want to be Santa? Be ready for tough questions and heartbreaking requests” via Christopher Spata the Tampa Bay Times — In the hotel’s meeting room, two dozen older, naturally bearded men and one “Clark Kent,” the industry term for fake beard wearers, sat in reindeer bowling shirts and red leather cowboy boots. They read textbooks titled Behind the Red Suit and scrawled pages of notes. They had come in search of answers to unexpectedly hard questions lobbed their way in the jolly red suit. At a shopping mall, surrounded by snow made of cotton, a little girl could turn him into putty. It was years ago after he’d retired from the police force. The girl sat on his lap, explained all she wanted for Christmas was her mother to come home. The woman had died in a car crash on Thanksgiving … Why do they do it? Santa Jay Hancock from New Port Richey leaned on a candy cane that was also a literal cane and called it “addicting” and a “high.” He loves walking up to a group of unruly children in a restaurant and seeing them instantly start behaving. He gives the parents a wink and slips them a business card. Santa Steve Rowland from Lake Wales is headed into his first season. He imagines the joy of walking into a hospital on Christmas Day. “OK, but don’t make it sound like we don’t want to make money,” said his Mrs. Claus, Jo Ann Rowland. “That’s part of it too.” My phone off 100 right There are heartwarming moments. But of course, it’s the “war stories,” as John Deane puts it, that linger for years.

Happy birthday belatedly to one of our favorites, Edie Ousley of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating today is my wonderful mother-in-law, Robin Todd, as well as Rep. Loranne Ausley Beth Switzer, and Carrie Patrick.

— Material from First Coast News used in this post.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — The rise of Jose Oliva

From the “In Case You Missed It Department”: While you were focused on legislative committees this week, the House Republican Caucus quietly installed the next Speaker in a hotel basement.

Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, will lead the GOP-controlled chamber in 2018-20, following Richard Corcoran, assuming the Republicans hold a majority after the next election cycle. Republicans now hold 78 of the 120 seats.

In his day job, Oliva remains co-CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company in 2016 to a European concern.

Jose Oliva of Miami Lakes with House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero “nominated Oliva Tuesday at a meeting of the House Republican caucus in the basement of the Hotel Duval,” the Miami Herald reported.

Oliva held his designation ceremony “away from the House chambers in the state Capitol — for the first time in decades,” at the boutique hotel “where Republicans frequently conduct caucus meetings.”

How come? “In my six years in the Legislature, I never thought what we need more of is ceremonies,” he told the paper.

Indeed, he hopes to reduce “some of the pomp” of the Legislature, Oliva added.

Given the difference in hair between the current and future speakers, we expect more pompadour, less pomp.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim Rosica, Peter Schorsch, Michael Moline, Scott Powers and Andrew Wilson.

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

Irma hits state budget — Florida’s tax structure will produce only $52 million in gains on existing state spending during the coming fiscal year, and will leave lawmakers more than $1 billion in the hole during each of the two budget years after that. That doesn’t count what the state needs to spend to recover from Hurricane Irma. The news came as the Senate Appropriations Committee began sorting through the many demands on the government’s pocketbook. “It’s grim,” Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said.

Generator rule causes angst — Florida’s 683 licensed nursing homes and 3,109 assisted living facilities have just a few weeks to meet Gov. Rick Scott‘s new edict to install generators. But there are few generators available and most won’t make it, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services was told. Its first hearing dealt with nursing homes’ emergency plan safety in the wake of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills tragedy, in which 14 elderly residents appeared to have baked to death because the Hurricane Irma power outage pushed up indoor temperatures. Industry representatives said they support the concept, but argued nursing homes and assisted living facilities will struggle with costs and availability to meet the 60-day deadline for installation.

New fund raises concerns — Lawmakers asked lots of questions but didn’t get the answers they wanted as a Senate panel tried to get a handle on the state’s new $85 million jobs fund. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) head Cissy Proctor on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, created this year. Proctor said her department already has received 179 proposals, which include 96 infrastructure projects from local governments and 83 workforce projects, worth a combined $642 million in requested funding. But Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, added that because demand exceeds supply, “it sets the stage for so many projects to get left behind.”

Baez goes on trial — The House’s ethics panel set a Dec. 4 hearing on a charge that Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Daisy Baez doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent. The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee will conduct an evidentiary hearing “somewhat like a court trial,” said chair Larry Metz, a Yalaha Republican, who will preside. The hearing will be the first time in modern memory that the House tried a member on a conduct violation related to residency. A scheduling order for the proceeding was released this week. The committee’s verdict will go to the full House of Representatives, two-thirds of which would have to vote to expel her.

Tourism agency gears up — VISIT FLORIDA said it’s redoubling efforts to show visitors across the world that Florida is open for business. The state’s tourism marketing agency will start the second phase of its post-Irma marketing campaign to ensure visitors see for themselves that the state’s destinations are ready to welcome back visitors. The second phase will consist of TV broadcast, print, transit and digital billboard ads that will be seen in Florida’s top markets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Jimmy Patronis honors fallen firefighters

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis honored Florida firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty during the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala this week.

Patronis was joined by family members of the fallen and fire service personnel from across Florida to memorialize Joseph T. DeMarinis with the Clermont Fire Department and James F. Dorminy with the Reedy Creek Fire Department. Seven historical line of duty deaths were also recognized as part of the ceremony.

CFO Jimmy Patronis speaks at the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony at the Florida State Fire College in Ocala. (Photo: CFO’s Office)

“Firefighters are deserving of our unending gratitude for laying their lives on the line each time they report to work,” Patronis said. “We honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others and lost their lives far too soon. By adding their names to Florida’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial, they will forever be remembered as the heroes that they are.” 

In total, 193 names are represented on Florida’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial.

Florida officials on the ground in PR

Florida Department of Financial Services personnel including Major Karl Morgan with the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations landed in San Juan this week to help out in the Puerto Rican recovery effort.

Employees from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement were on the plane as well, to pitch in following Hurricane Maria.

DFS Personnel head to Puerto Rico to help out coordinating law enforcement on the island.

Morgan joined up with an eight-member multiagency incident management team that is helping coordinate law enforcement personnel on the island.

The trip is part of CFO Jimmy Patronis’ pledge to assist Puerto Rico in its recovery efforts. More Florida resources remain on standby if the island needs them, his office said.

Exceptions to post-Irma insurance rate hike moratorium

As Hurricane Irma loomed, the Office of Insurance Regulation issued an emergency order blocking insurance companies from hiking premiums. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your rates won’t rise.

The order prevents carriers from applying the state’s “use and file” process to raise rates. In other words, boosting premiums subject to subsequent regulatory approval.

Any rate increases approved before the 90-day Irma moratorium would still take effect if the policy comes up for renewal, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told the Senate Committee on Banking & Insurance.

“For rate filings that we had previously approved, anywhere from a year to 15 months ago, they could potentially come online during that 90-day period of time,” Altmaier said.

Insurance adjusters wanted

Hurricane Irma had produced 703,601 insurance claims as of Oct. 6, worth nearly 4.6 trillion dollars. Finding enough warm bodies to adjust them might be a strain.

Florida is competing for qualified adjusters with Texas, where Hurricane Harvey produced catastrophic flooding, the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee learned.

Insurance adjusters are needed for Hurricane Irma relief.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp., with 70 percent of its exposure in the Florida Keys and Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, contracted ahead of time with 770 adjusters, supplementing 250 in-house employees, according to President and CEO Barry Gilway.

But not all the contract adjusters showed up. “The long-term, professional adjusters were not in the state of Florida. They were in Texas,” Gilway said.

Consider, too, the competition from other Florida insurers.

The company responded by offering bonuses and putting 250 people through a three-day training program. “It became very much a supply and demand issue,” he said.

Direct primary care clears Senate committee

Legislation approving “direct primary care” agreements cleared the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee on a unanimous vote.

SB 80 would allow patients to contract directly with doctors to receive basic medical care for a set monthly fee. The bill stresses that these arrangements would not constitute insurance, and therefore would not be subject to state regulation.

“The value proposition for the patient is that they have more immediate, predictable access to their physician for the primary care needs that they might have. For the physicians, the value proposition is that they don’t have to spend as much as 30 percent of their time and their staff’s time dealing with insurance companies,” sponsor Tom Lee said.

House Insurance & Banking committee chairman Danny Burgess has introduced similar legislation in the House, which has approved the concept for three years running.

Sen. Bill Galvano and Sen. Rob Bradley confer in the back of a Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo credit:Phil Sears.

Debbie Mayfield files “Good Samaritan” bill

People who take video and post it online of someone in “imminent danger” of grave physical harm, but do nothing to help, would face a third-degree felony under legislation filed this week.

The bill (SB 516), sponsored by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Rockledge Republican, is in response to a group of teens in Cocoa who on July 9 stood on the side of a pond, commenting and mocking while filming as a 31-year-old disabled man drowned.

Debbie Mayfield files a “good Samaritan” bill, punishing those who record videos of people needing help without offering aid.

Mayfield’s proposed “Good Samaritan” law would make it a first-degree misdemeanor for failing to provide assistance. The penalty would rise to a third-degree felony if a person who fails to offer assistance electronically records the incident and uploads the recording.

Mayfield said other states, such as Vermont and Minnesota, have similar laws.

Historically, there has been no common law “duty to rescue” another person in peril. Aside from “Good Samaritan” statutes, the law has, however, recognized situations where someone has a legal duty to help, such as in school-student or employer-employee relationships.

A pile-on for Aaron Bean

Sen. Bean and his family dutifully followed local government instructions to pile post-Irma debris in the front yard, against the curb but clear of the right of way. Sounds like a considerable pile — Bean said they’d lost “several large trees.”

Imagine his joy when his wife called to report that two guys had parked a big truck in front of the house. “They’re finally picking up our debris,” she told him.

“I said that’s great, honey,” Bean recounted during a committee hearing.

“She calls me back two minutes later and says, ‘They’re not picking up our debris. They’re dumping their trash,’ “ he said.

“A little lightheartedness at the Bean household,” he said.

Sen. Doug Broxson of Pensacola piped up. “We had Nate at my house, and it took two lawn chairs and several of the boards off my pier. In the spirit of equal time, I want you to know that we were impacted, too.”

Toward a gridless future

The Legislature has been looking into whether Florida’s utilities repaired the electric power grid quickly enough. What if the state could do without the grid entirely?

“This is long-term, but I think we’re eventually headed toward a gridless society,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth said recently.

“So continuing focusing on the grid is the right short-term thing to so. But long term, we’ve got to figure out as a state how we’re going to deal with sea-level rise, with storm surge, and with all of our infrastructure,” he added.

Clemens says he’d like to see state support for home and commercial solar conversions — perhaps via subsidies for inverters that allow solar arrays to seal themselves off from the grid. That would allow homeowners to power up during outages without feeding juice into the grid, risking electrocution of utility workers.

“The grid (is) going to be one of those things like taxicabs and hotels,” Clemens said. “There’s going to be disruption in the future as more and more people find generating their own power to be as efficient and as cheap.”

Bill would bring back elected Secretary of State

The Secretary of State would again be an elected Cabinet position under legislation for the 2018 Session.

Sen. Bean, the Fernandina Beach Republican, filed a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 506) that would undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members.

As a result of the 1998 ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002, and the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer were eliminated.

A new Cabinet position, chief financial officer, was created, while the attorney general and agriculture commissioner remained.

To get on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal would have to be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters.

“There’s Mommy”

Lobbyist Ron Book points to the front where his daughter, Sen. Lauren Book was attending a Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Lauren Book’s twins, Kennedy and Hudson, are now 7 1/2 months old. Photo credit: Phil Sears

David Richardson, Cynthia Stafford named to juvenile justice panel

Rep. Kionne McGhee, House Democratic Leader-Designate and Interim Chair of the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation, this week appointed Rep. Richardson and Rep. Stafford to a new panel to investigate abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice program.

The panel was inspired by a Miami Herald series, “Fight Club,” that investigated abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice and detention system.

“Richardson’s own investigative work on abuses in the prison system made headlines earlier this year, while Stafford is an attorney and Democratic Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, where she has fought for and won reforms to Florida’s criminal justice system,” a news release said.

Rep. David Richardson, an advocate of prison reform, was named to a new panel to investigate abuses in Florida’s juvenile justice program.

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Christy Daly said the series “failed to recognize the transformation of the juvenile justice system in recent years,” which she repeated to lawmakers this week.

“I will not deny or discredit or downplay some of the horrible incidents that have happened; we respond appropriately to those,” Daly told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice. “If we need to change policies and procedures, we do so. But (the Herald series) is not representative of this system.”

Richardson, of Miami Beach, is a retired forensic auditor; Stafford, of Miami, is an attorney.

Jason Brodeur picks up leadership award

State Rep. Brodeur got some recognition this week from U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster and Healthy Families Florida, which named him the winner of the 2017 Daniel Webster Leadership Award.

“It is a privilege to accept the Daniel Webster Leadership Award from Healthy Families Florida,” the Sanford Republican said. “Through bolstering parenting skills, empowering families and creating avenues for additional education, Healthy Families helps families rise up from crisis to become self-sufficient and productive. It’s imperative we commit to programs that give families the skills, tools and resources they need to succeed.”

The parent coaching and child abuse prevention program was one of Webster’s priorities during his time as Speaker of the Florida House, and the award bearing the now-congressman’s name has been given out since 2009 to lawmakers, policymakers, law enforcement officials and community leaders who have demonstrated a passion for and commitment to effective child abuse prevention.

“It’s a distinct pleasure to welcome Representative Jason Brodeur to the roster of influential Floridians who see the value of Healthy Families and champion the success of the program through words and action. Thanks to his efforts, families can continue to get the resources and education they need to thrive,” Webster said.

Democratic lawmakers: Boost ACA enrollment

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez and Rep. Nick Duran, both Miami-Dade Democrats, this week said lawmakers need to step in and help their constituents get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

The pair cited changes pushed through by the Trump Administration that make signing up for coverage more difficult including a truncated open enrollment period, which this year will run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

“Actions by the Trump Administration to sabotage the Affordable Care Act can only lead to rising costs and instability,” Rodriguez said. “We cannot stand by and let that happen, so we call on our colleagues to join us in helping promote enrollment to make sure Floridians have every opportunity to access health care.”

Duran directed Enroll America’s Florida branch before being elected, and was more pointed in attacking the Trump White House.

“These actions by the Trump administration are needlessly cruel and are aimed at undermining a law that has allowed more than 1.6 million Floridians to gain access to quality, affordable health insurance,” he said.

Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, chair of the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee, speaks meeting Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

FRF backs Donald Trump tax plan

The Florida Retail Federation said this week that it supports the recent tax reform plan proposed by President Donald Trump but added that he and lawmakers need to set their sights on internet-only retailers

“FRF supports President Trump’s proposed tax plan which will both simplify the tax filing process and provide needed tax reform for Florida’s 270,000 retailers,” FRF CEO R. Scott Shalley said. “However, we ask the President and members of Congress to also include ‘Mainstreet Fairness’ into the plan by requiring Internet-only retailers to pay the required state and local sales taxes that their brick-and-mortar competitors have been doing for years.

The trade group, a branch of the National Retail Federation, mainly represents physical stores. When those brick and mortars make a sale online, they have to tack on sales tax if they have a location in the buyer’s state.

Amazon is the largest of those online-only retailers, and does charge sales tax in Florida due to having some warehouses in the state. Other companies without a presence — or “nexus” — can skirt collecting those tax dollars.

Shalley made clear his group isn’t looking for any new taxes, but “equal application of the law.” If that doesn’t happen, he warned brick and mortar stores will become an “endangered species.”

FRLA celebrates hurricane relief, industry stars

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association met in Orlando this week to decide on new board members, add a few names to its hall of fame and recognize top hotel and restaurant workers with awards.

Kevin Speidel, Vice President of Resort Operations for Hilton Grand Vacations was picked to chair FRLA’s board in 2018, which will consist of Alan Palmieri, Sheldon Suga, Jim Shirley, Olivia Hoblit, Cathie Koch and Don Fox.

The event also included a special tribute to the industry’s Hurricane Irma response, as well as a silent auction benefiting the Florida Disaster Fund.

Tallahassee’s Andrew Reiss, the founder of Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar and other restaurants, was named Restaurateur of the Year.

Andrew Reiss, the founder of Tallahassee’s Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar and other restaurants, was named Restaurateur of the Year.

Hotelier of the Year went to Don Seaton of Clearwater Beach; UnitedHealthcare was named Supplier of the Year, and Randy Spicer received the special honoree award for being a “friend to the industry.”

FRLA also recognized employees who had set themselves apart in 2017.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando manager Jonathan Miller was named Restaurant Manager of the Year; DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cocoa Beach Oceanfront line cook Kelita Williams took home the Restaurant Employee of the Year award; Jim McManemon was got the hotel manager award for his work at Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island; and Evelyn Wilson, a guest services agent at Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach was named Hotel Employee of the Year.

Leon County opens emergency detour

In coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Leon County opened a new emergency detour route on Highway 20 West to serve the Fort Braden community.

The emergency route ensures that citizens and first responders will have quick and secure area access if severe weather or other disasters close that section of road.

Located between Joe Thomas Road West and Silver Lake Road, the emergency detour provides a more direct alternate route that is 15 miles shorter than the previous detour route.

“This detour ensures the safety of the citizens of Highway 20,” Leon County District 2 Commissioner Jimbo Jackson said. “This project will drastically shorten the distance motorists and emergency services have to travel in the event of a road closure or emergency. And will also serve as an alternate emergency evacuation route during natural disasters.”

Known as the Forest Road 301 project, the improvements include stabilizing the roadway with a mix of sand-clay, pulling ditches to avoid flooding of the roadway, and installing cross-drains where to convey for stormwater.

“Leon County’s partnership with the U.S. Forest Service creates a new detour for area citizens during times of need,” Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long said. “Being regularly maintained allows this roadway to serve our County year round.”

Flags at half-staff for late Tallahassee mayor

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff for the late James Ford, Tallahassee’s first African-American mayor.

Flags will be lowered at the Tallahassee City Hall and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Monday. Ford died Wednesday. He was 91.  

Ford became Tallahassee’s first black mayor in 1972, serving three terms, according to a news release. At that time, the mayor’s position rotated among city commissioners; the city now separately elects a “leadership” mayor.

Former Tallahassee Mayor James Ford died this week. He was 91.

Ford was a Tallahassee native, earning an undergraduate and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University. He was a veteran of World War II and Korea, serving in the U.S.  Navy and Army.

Before his election to the Tallahassee City Commission, Ford spent 37 years as a schoolteacher, administrator, and principal in the Leon County Schools. He was later the first black elected to office in Leon County since Reconstruction.

“Ford was instrumental in helping progress Tallahassee’s government,” the release said. “His efforts helped establish the Minority Business Department, the Frenchtown Development Authority, the Affirmative Action Office and the first community center on the south side. Today, that community center bears his name — the Walker-Ford Community Center.

Good News Dep’t: Free school meals extended for counties

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has accepted the state’s request to extend access to free school meals, through Nov. 30, for all students in Monroe, Collier and Lee counties.

Those areas are still recovering from Hurricane Irma and are subject to a FEMA Major Disaster Declaration.

Collier, Lee and Monroe counties have 191 schools and 138,000 students.  

Parents or guardians looking for additional info can call the department at (800) 504-6609 or email 

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

The News Service of Florida contributed to this week’s edition, republished with permission.

Sunburn for 10.13.17 — Mike Pence to keynote RPOF event; House subpoenas VF show $; Debris removal politics; Tom Lee raises serious coin; Happy b’day, Cesar F.

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

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

First on #FlaPol –Mike Pence to keynote Republicans’ conference in Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics –Pence – with “special guest” U.S. Sen. Rubio –  is to highlight the dinner set for Thursday, Nov. 2, at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, kicking off the two-day conference. Also billed for the kickoff dinner to the quarterly party meeting are three of the four members of the Florida Cabinet, though not Gov. Scott. The other advertised guests include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi, chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. General tickets are $200 for the dinner, with executive committee members and College Republicans getting discounts.

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Fraud concerns prompt House subpoena of VISIT FLORIDA show finances” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – House investigators said Tallahassee-based MAT Media did not respond to repeated requests for information during their investigation into the television contracts, which produced a cooking show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Members of the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee voted unanimously to demand documents from the producer detailing how it spent the money on the VISIT FLORIDA contracts. “During the course of the House investigation, we uncovered these contracts that raised questions about whether the state has been the victim of possible fraud,” Fred Piccolo, House spokesman, said … “Although this was not the subject of our original investigation, the Florida House will chase down any fact and follow every lead in order to protect the taxpayers’ money.” House General Counsel Adam Tanenbaum told committee members he asked Pat Roberts, owner of MAT Media, for information over the phone and in writing. “What we got was silence,” Tanenbaum said. “We made phone calls and sent letters. Nothing.”

“Leery senators say Rick Scott is stepping on their budget turf” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – (Rob) Bradley is among a group of Senate leaders who this week, during the first committee week of the 2018 legislative session, took shots at some of the Scott administration’s spending decisions in the wake of Hurricane Irma and through a yet untapped $85 million spending pot for infrastructure approved by lawmakers as part of a last-minute budget deal last session. … Senate leaders discussed the issue of sending a strong early budget message after last session, when they were largely cut out of final negotiations that helped finish a contentious 2017 legislative session. “There have been discussions to that regard,” said state Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), the incoming Senate president, of discussions in his chamber about sending a stronger message on the budget.

Irma confounds already straightened state budget prospects, committee learns” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Florida’s tax structure will produce only $52 million in gains on existing state spending during the coming fiscal year, and will leave lawmakers more than $1 billion in the hole during each of the two budget years after that. That doesn’t count what the state needs to spend to recover from Hurricane Irma. The news came as the Senate Appropriations Committee began sorting through the many demands on the government’s pocketbook. It’s grim,” Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala said. “We don’t really have any extra money. We’ve had some money spent on our behalf lately that’s even making it a little tighter … There’ll probably have to be a cut exercise, just like always.”

House ethics panel sets trial in Daisy Baez residency case” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The House’s ethics panel on Thursday scheduled a Dec. 4 hearing on a charge that Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Baez doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent. The Public Integrity and Ethics Committee will conduct an evidentiary hearing “somewhat like a court trial,” said chair Larry Metz, a Yalaha Republican. “You’re trying to find what the facts are and make a conclusion.” The hearing will be the first time in modern memory that the House tried a member on a conduct violation related to residency. The committee’s verdict will then go to the full House of Representatives, two-thirds of which would have to vote to expel her.

House insurance chairman hopes to take up AOB, workers’ comp reform again” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Hurricane Irma recovery clearly will dominate the 2018 Legislative Session, but the chairman of the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee hopes to find time to address a few of the state’s other problems. Like assignment of benefits abuse, for example. “I fully expect that to be a policy discussion,” Rep. Danny Burgess said following an extended briefing on Irma response. At last count, Irma had generated 703,671 claims with an estimated value of nearly $4.6 billion — and both numbers will increase in the months ahead, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Burgess’ committee. With that many claims, and legions of repair contractors in the field, the potential for AOB abuse seems clear. “We’re still waiting to get a lot of the numbers in relation to Hurricane Irma, and seeing if the AOB issue has increased, as some of us maybe expect it will,” Burgess said. He foresees moving an AOB bill off the floor in 2018, as the House did during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Proposal calls for elected Secretary of State” via the News Service of Florida – A proposal to make the secretary of state an elected Cabinet position, eliminating the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official, has returned in the Senate. Sen. Aaron Bean filed a proposed constitutional amendment (SJR 506) that would undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members. As a result of the 1998 ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002, and the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer were eliminated. To get on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal would have to be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters.

Joe Negron: ‘Nothing nefarious’ in Gary Farmer’s reassignment” via Florida Politics – Farmer was taken off the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Negron told Florida Politics there was “nothing nefarious” about the removal. Capitol insiders buzzed that Senate leadership was looking to exact revenge on the trial bar because of its financial support of Annette Taddeo, the Democratic opponent of popular Republican Jose Felix Diaz, in a special election. Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is a trial lawyer. Negron says that’s not the case. Indeed, newly elected Sen. Taddeo made a “compelling” case that she should be added to the committee, Negron said.

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Dennis Baxley apologizes for nursing home death comments” via the News Service of Florida – State Sen. Baxley issued an apology for questioning whether the deaths of residents of a Broward County nursing home were related to Hurricane Irma or were an inevitability given their advancing ages. “As a funeral director and ordained elder of my church, I have spent my entire adult life working with families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to my faith, working in this field has shown me day in and day out that the life of each and every member of our society is special and worthy of respect. Many of the funeral services we coordinate involve elder members of our community, and I take great pride in the opportunity to ensure their lives are honored and celebrated. No family member should have to fear that their loved one is suffering in a nursing home, particularly during a natural disaster,” Baxley, an Ocala Republican, said.  But Jeff Nova, whose 71-year-old mother, Gail Nova, died Sept. 13, isn’t comforted by the prepared apology from the senator. “His first comments were the real comments. That’s what he thought of, and naturally that’s what you’re going to take to heart,” Nova said in a telephone interview. “You can say you are sorry, but it doesn’t take back what you actually said because it’s committed to memory now and it’s in print.”

Marco Rubio calls for congressional investigation of nursing home” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rubio wants a congressional investigation into a troubled Florida nursing home where 14 residents died after Hurricane Irma knocked out power last month and shut off the facility’s air conditioning. “This has shocked the state of Florida, and rightfully raised questions about the oversight of nursing homes, particularly the enforcement of existing emergency preparedness requirements,” Rubio wrote in his letter … The letter calls for an investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid, and by extension nursing home funding. Rubio said the committee should examine what happened in nursing homes across Florida as well as Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. But the thrust and substance of his letter revolve around the events at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma hit Florida … “While this terrible tragedy is currently under investigation, it has been widely reported that these individuals were left in sweltering conditions,” Rubio wrote.

Adam Putnam warns agriculture loss is ‘still unfolding ” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said he worried that the feds’ citrus forecast wouldn’t accurately reflect the devastation to the state’s citrus crop after Hurricane Irma. “I am concerned about what that forecast may be, given that so many of the circumstances that are fundamental to having an accurate forecast have changed,” Putnam said in a news conference. Groves are still underwater and fruit is falling to the ground weeks after Irma plowed up the peninsula.

Victor Torres blasts federal response, Donald Trump tweets on Puerto Rico” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Torres, an Orlando Democrat who’s been active in the Florida-side of the relief efforts since Hurricane Maria devastated the island three weeks ago, also criticized Trump‘s tweet that had declared federal relief agencies cannot stay in Puerto Rico forever. Torres, a former Marine who is Puerto Rican, blamed a lack of coordination between the U.S. Military, working with FEMA and government officials in Puerto Rico in transporting and delivering the relief supplies, and called the preparation and response to the disaster by the federal government “inadequate” … “Americans are dying as we speak,” Torres said. “While fellow Americans have generously rallied to donate relief supplies and money to support recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, the federal government has been too slow to respond to this disaster and there is a total failure of coordinated relief efforts to provide supplies and support to the island.”

Robert Asencio to head Miami-Dade committee for Maria relief” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation announced the formation of the Puerto Rico/Caribbean Hurricane Relief and transition committee to help coordinate relief efforts for the islands which were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last month. Rep. Asencio, a Miami Democrat, will serve as chairman of the committee. “As a legislator of Puerto Rican descent, I am honored to be given the opportunity to help my fellow Boricua and our fellow Americans in the USVI in their time of need as they make the transition to the mainland,” said Asencio … Miami-Dade County is expected to see an influx of thousands of evacuees fleeing Puerto Rico in the coming months due to its geographical proximity to the island.


CBS Miami’s Jim Defede is reporting that Gov. Scott awarded major contracts for debris removal in the Florida Keys to firms that charged exorbitantly more than other firms with pre-negotiated contracts. Under the governor’s emergency contracts, taxpayers are paying anywhere from three to ten times more to remove debris in the Florida Keys.
This revelation comes after Scott repeatedly emphasized the importance of fair contracts and said, I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers, not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster.
Democrats are pouncing: “This is corruption plain and simple, and Florida taxpayers shouldn’t be fronting the cost of Rick Scott’s corruption. These actions demand an immediate investigation into the governor’s office and his department of transportation.” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Johanna Cervone.
Scott’s office is pushing back, saying the claim that the state misused tax dollars to remove debris “false.” More: “Following a request for assistance from Monroe County, and because it was absolutely critical to clear roadways in the Florida Keys so families could begin to rebuild their lives, the Governor directed the Department of Transportation to immediately begin debris removal in Monroe County and activated 400 National Guard members for the same purpose. Through this process, FDOT entered into emergency debris removal contracts, which they must do to have the personnel and equipment to clear roads. Although not required to do so due to the state of emergency, FDOT went above and beyond emergency procurement requirements to competitively solicit multiple bids from pre-qualified vendors that could safely and efficiently respond to Monroe County’s immediate debris removal needs.”


A year after Hurricane Matthew, counties ask Rick Scott: Where’s our money?” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – As the costs of Irma’s Category 4 fury are still being calculated, North Florida cities and counties hammered by Hurricane Matthew a year ago are still waiting to be paid for the cost of debris removal, road repair and police overtime. Strangled in red tape, counties fault the state for persistent delays, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has authorized tens of millions in reimbursement dollars that Scott’s administration still has not yet distributed. “It’s a bottleneck,” said Larry Harvey, chairman of the Putnam County Commission in Palatka. “We don’t have the resources to float these types of losses.” It will get worse. The county now projects unplanned costs of $1.4 million more for Hurricane Irma recovery, and $300,000 from another storm, a nor’easter that blew through the county two weeks later. Like other cash-strapped counties awaiting payment, out-of-the-way Putnam has a very slim property tax base, scarce rainy-day cash reserves and few new jobs on the way.

After traffic headaches during Irma evacuation, Scott orders FDOT to review I-75” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – A month after Irma blew through, Scott is now asking state transportation officials to explore ways to better expedite the outbound traffic next time … he wants the Florida Department of Transportation to specifically look at ways the state could speed up the section of northbound I-75 from the interchange in Wildwood — where the Turnpike merges with the interstate — to the Florida-Georgia line. The 144-mile stretch takes about two hours to drive under normal circumstances, but during the Irma evacuation, motorists reported being stuck for hours in gridlock.

Assignment editors: Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will join firefighters from across Florida to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty. The yearly “Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service” will be 9:30 a.m., Florida State Fire College, 11655 NW Gainesville Road, Ocala.

Supreme Court won’t reconsider indigent care fight” via the News Service of Florida – A divided Florida Supreme Court declined to reconsider a decision in a dispute about paying for indigent health care in Sarasota County. Justices, in a 5-2 ruling, rejected a request by Sarasota County for a rehearing in the case, which could involve hundreds of millions of dollars. The ruling kept intact a July decision upholding a state law that directed Sarasota County to reimburse private hospitals for providing care to indigent patients. In the July decision, justices overturned an appeals-court ruling that said part of a 2003 law was unconstitutional because it singled out private hospitals in Sarasota County. The 2003 measure was passed as what is known as a “special law,” dealing only with Sarasota County, rather than a general law that would apply to hospitals throughout the state. The Supreme Court agreed with arguments by private hospitals that the 2003 law did not violate the Florida Constitution because it also applied to reimbursements to a Sarasota County public hospital district.

University of Florida, Gainesville brace for Richard Spencer speech” via Susan Washington of Florida Politics – “This is our moment to rise up and show the rest of the world who we are as a community,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe, brows furrowed, said in a 3-minute-long video titled, “Responding to Hatred in a Welcoming City,” posted on Facebook. “Free speech stops when it becomes dangerous conduct,” Poe said in the video. “We have an obligation to protect our residents’ health and safety and to protect property.” During Spencer’s address on the UF campus … local law enforcement will “stand ready to safeguard that Gainesville does not become another Charlottesville,” Poe said in the video, referring to violent demonstrations that erupted in another college town, Charlottesville, Virginia, home to the University of Virginia, when Spencer spoke there in August … the university’s largest performing arts hall, which seats more than 1,700, has been made available to Spencer and the National Policy Institute that he directs. The fee for the rental is what the university … describes as “the allowable costs of $10,564 to rent the facility and for security within the venue.”

Aramis Ayala moving on after losing death penalty battle” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Speaking with a gathering of journalists … the controversial, still-new state attorney for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties, said she was settling in to pursue her judicial reform agenda, she was pursuing justice, and she was happy. “I enjoy my office. I enjoy life. Generally, I’m just a happy person. I don’t say that lightly. I enjoy doing what is right,” Ayala said. If she had any regrets about the consternation her previous position or her six-month battle with Gov. Scott and others had caused for anyone, including the families of murder victims, she wasn’t sharing them. “I had an interesting start,” she said. “The day I took office we were dealing with the death penalty. And unfortunately, a lot of people only know me for that. But there certainly is more to me as a person, as a lawyer, as prosecutor that deals with that.”

Man charged with illegal deer hunting” via Ryan Callihan of the Bradenton Herald – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers in Manatee County arrested a man who they say entered private property with two firearms in his possession while trying to hunt deer during closed season Oct. 1. Terry Gibson, 43, was spotted by three officers who had set a robotic deer replica in the field as bait. When they tried to apprehend him, Gibson attempted to hide his firearms in a field, according to an arrest report. Gibson admitted that he was going to kill the deer for its meat, according to the affidavit.

Florida reports first local Zika case for 2017” via The Associated Press – Florida’s Department of Health said a Manatee County couple traveled to Cuba. One of them contracted Zika while on the Caribbean island and was bitten by a mosquito after returning home. That mosquito then bit and transmitted the virus to the other partner. Officials wouldn’t identify the sex of the couple, citing privacy laws. Officials say there’s no evidence of ongoing, active transmission along Florida’s Gulf coast, or anywhere in the state. Florida reported 296 locally acquired Zika infections last year, mostly in South Florida where a Zika alert was issued.


The latest from the Caputo Primary –Free Lolita! Killer whale politics and Levine’s possible bid for governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Likely gubernatorial candidate and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine wants his city commission to pass a resolution next Tuesday calling on the Miami Seaquarium to release the orca “Lolita” — and the Democrat says he doesn’t care if he’s accused of figuratively riding the killer whale to the governor’s mansion. “People are going to say what they say, but this is the right thing to do,” Levine told POLITICO Florida when asked about the inevitable charges that he’ll be accused of political opportunism.

Voting restoration amendment clears 200,000 signatures” via Florida Politics – And while that’s just the number of confirmed petitions, Desmond Meade, president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, says 600,000 signed petitions have been gathered and that he expects the organization to have all the petitions it needs by December. The Voting Restoration Amendment wouldn’t apply in the case of murder convictions or sex crimes, but all other Florida felons would be eligible once they exit state custody and finish out parole or probation and pay any restitution owed. To make the ballot, initiatives need to have 766,200 confirmed signatures. Rules require those signatures be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election. Former state Senate Democratic leaders Arthenia Joyner and Chris Smith have also filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it on the ballot.

As he weighs CFO bid, Tom Lee raised $253K in September” via Florida Politics – Lee has been somewhat open about his intent to run for chief financial officer next year and his committee, The Conservative, just posted its first big fundraising report since the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. The new report, covering September, saw the former Senate President bring in $253,250 in committee cash while only spending $8,500. The Conservative opened up in 2013 and through the end of the month had raised more than $3 million in its lifetime. It currently has about $2.1 million on hand. By far the biggest donor in September was Pepin Distributing Company, a Tampa-based Anheuser-Busch-Inbev distributor, which chipped in an even $100,000.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods adds name to growing support for Ashley Moody – “Over his tenure in law enforcement, Sheriff Woods has been on the front-line of public safety and is a respected leader within his community. I’m proud to have the endorsement of such a beloved and decorated Sheriff and I will continue to work hard to deserve this great honor,” Moody said.

John Ward jumps into race to replace Ron DeSantis” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – With DeSantis expected to run for governor, businessman and Navy veteran Ward jumped in the race to replace him. “I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican and I’m running for Congress because I believe that Washington needs more ‘Get-It-Done Outsiders’ who will fight for individual liberties and protect our freedoms, so that this generation and future generations can live in peace, prosperity and liberty,” Ward said as he kicked his campaign off. “If we want to make America great again we need to send leaders to congress who have a better vision, a better plan and a better way forward. I want to end the do nothing, business as usual ways of Washington so that Florida’s forgotten families can win again.” The new candidate also unveiled a web video as he begins his campaign. Sources close to Ward insisted he will have $1 million raised by the end of the year and noted he would support President Trump on the issues, including on tax reform.

Nancy Soderberg touts raising $336K in Q3 for CD 6 bid” via Florida Politics – “I’m honored by the outpouring of support our campaign has received. That energy is a vivid testament to how ready people are for a change from Washington’s broken politics and toward real results from their representative in Congress,” Soderberg said. Soderberg was an ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, and is the founder and director of the University of North Florida‘s Public Service Leadership Program. She filed to run in CD 6 in July. The seat covers St. Johns, Flagler, and Volusia counties and is a solidly Republican district, producing a double-digit win for President Donald Trump in July.

Cliff Stearns uses campaign account to pay personal expenses — five years after leaving Congress” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Former Rep. Stearns‘ congressional campaign committee has evolved into an investment account that he uses to fund a host of personal expenses that may raise legal questions … Since losing his seat in 2012, the 12-term congressman has kept his campaign committee open and used it to make investments that have netted nearly $300,000. That money has stayed in the committee, which still has $1.5 million cash on hand. The committee has funded contributions to other members, a monthly cellphone bill, trips to the annual conservative conference Awakening, membership dues at the Capitol Hill Club and payments to his wife, Joan, among other expenditures. The Capitol Hill Club was a longtime favorite fundraising locale for Stearns and many other congressional Republicans, “That to me seems flat out illegal,” said Adav Noti, a former attorney with the Federal Election Commission, in reference to the Capitol Hill Club membership expense. “I’m racking my brain to think of a legal use here.”


Ballard Partners brings in more clients: report” via Florida Politics – New adds: Advanced Roofing, Inc., Crowley Maritime Corporation and Hawkers USA. Ballard, which opened a Washington DC office after President Donald Trump won the election, has been busy — signing 47 new clients … Ballard’s next move seems to be into the global sphere; the government-affairs firm has formed a “strategic alliance” with Alber & Geiger, one of the most significant lobbying firms in the European Union.

Nicole Stookey Albers: Florida Municipal Electric Association

George Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Airbnb, Boyd Development

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Margate

Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, Robert Shave, GrayRobinson: Hendry County Board of County Commissioners

Kenneth Granger, Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Tallahassee Retail Ventures

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: MLU Serivces

Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Florida Fuel Connection

James Smith, Southern Strategy Group: International Speedway Corporation

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Optimum Software Solutions; QlikTech; Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association

Mike Yaworsky: Office of Insurance Regulation


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “Tax Cuts and the Federal Budget” with political analyst Dr. Lawrence A. Miller.

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

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on the contributions and celebrations of Hispanic culture during National Hispanic Heritage Month; addressing the Puerto Rico crisis due to Hurricane Maria. Guests include Rep. Darren Soto, state Reps. Amy Mercado and Bob Cortes; National VP Southeast, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Lydia Medrano; Immigration attorney and Stetson Law professor Art Rios; and President/CEO, National Puerto Rican Leadership Council Education Fund Carlos Guzman.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: A discussion about new online voter registration procedures and the threat of voter fraud with Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel. Also, there will be a discussion of the Wisconsin gerrymandering case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court with UCF associate professor of Political Science Dr. Aubrey Jewett; PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim regarding Florida’s infrastructure and its storm-readiness.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Sen. Latvala and Dr. Michael Binder of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory.

— ALOE —

Airbnb, developer partner on home-sharing apartments” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel – Developer Harvey Hernandez wouldn’t reveal exactly where the 324-unit building is but said it’s a few minutes from the theme parks in the Kissimmee area. He said he expects it to open in the first quarter of 2018. Osceola officials said they didn’t know about the project, called “Niido Powered by Airbnb.” “Niido is a community where we embrace home sharing for the benefit of our tenants,” said Hernadez, CEO of Newgard Development … Niido would allow renters to make income by leasing out their unit on Airbnb for up to 180 days per year. Any money earned would be shared between the renter and Niido, said Jaja Jackson, an official with Airbnb.

What Alan Suskey is reading – Tricked out: pickup trucks get more luxurious” via Dee-Ann Durbin of The Associated Press – At the State Fair of Texas this month, Ford Motor Co. is displaying its most expensive pickup yet: The F-Series Super Duty Limited, a luxury heavy-duty truck with a starting price of $80,835. It has custom two-tone leather seats, a heated steering wheel wrapped in hand-stitched leather and high-tech features like a 360-degree camera system that guides drivers when they’re hitching up a trailer. A fully-loaded F-450 — the biggest version of the Super Duty — will top out at $94,455. It’s capable of towing an Air Force F-35 fighter plane, but it also has massaging seats. Fiat Chrysler’s Ram brand is also showing luxury pickups at the fair. The 2018 Laramie Longhorn Southfork edition has a walnut-trimmed steering wheel and 4G Wi-Fi capability. The Heavy Duty Lone Star Silver — sold only in Texas — has a luxurious bright chrome grille. Both start around $50,000 and will be available later this fall. On a recent visit to the fair, some visitors balked at the prices. One said he’s rather buy a Mercedes S-Class if he had $80,000 to spare. But others took the high prices in stride.

Happy birthday to my protege, Cesar Fernandez.

Jacksonville Bold for 10.13.17 — Power, money and timing

Jacksonville Bold is intended to appeal to a discerning audience, particularly to those who see politics for what it truly is — a confluence of money, power and timing.

We see evidence of that in every Bold — and this week is no different, as Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Kids Hope Alliance reform bill advanced through the City Council by an 18-1 vote.

Its success comes as no small feat, given Council President Anna Brosche attempted to forestall both discussion of the bill and the vote itself, even going so far as to accuse an administration member and a city lawyer of working to keep the bill from the public.

And Brosche was the sole vote against discharging the bill to the Council floor — a nearly unheard of repudiation of a legislative body’s presiding officer.

In the end, though, Brosche overcame those qualms and voted for the bill — but not before Curry issued a statement condemning her accusations. Of course, there have been schisms between Council presidents and mayors in the past; but this one is different.

That’s because politics in this region are different.

Stakes are higher. Money is bigger. Operatives work 27/6. Nowadays, the way to win a political argument is not through churches and town halls. It’s all targeting and microtargeting, persuasion of the “velvet glove, iron fist” variety, and an understanding that when a bluff is called, most people will cave.

As we move toward the 2018 election cycle — and the 2019 local derby — file those insights; they may end up being predictive.

Fundraising roundup

September was not a record-breaking month for campaign finance reports in Northeast Florida. Blame Hurricane Irma.

State Senate incumbents, however, did well in amassing money for re-election bids — Aaron Bean brought in $33K, and Audrey Gibson brought in $12K.

In state House races, HD 15 Republican hopeful Wyman Duggan topped $10K for the month. And his Democratic opponent, Tracye Polson, brought in $51K in September. Otherwise, no one topped $7,500.

There was, however, marginally more exciting committee action: Palm Coast Speaker-of-the-future Paul Renner saw his committee give $20K to Speaker-of-the-present Richard Corcoran — who just may be running for Governor as soon as next year’s Legislative Session ends.

Lenny Curry’s political committee cleared $38K in September — and $25K of that came from Shad Khan. And Sheriff Mike Williams finally paid for a controversial August poll through his committee; price tag was almost $9,000 … more than he brought in.

Lenny Curry reaches up for high-fives with Jags’ owner Shad Khan.

The big play of the month came from Attorney General candidate Jay Fant, who loaned his campaign $750,000 — just the kind of thing a candidate that’s not part of the “establishment” does because all the cool kids have three-quarters of a million bucks sitting around. Fant had faced questions about his fundraising, but with one stroke of the pen, he established resource parity with Ashley Moody.

Will that bring Downtown Jacksonville around?

One candidate who won’t be loaning herself $750,000 — Jacksonville City Council hopeful Randy DeFoor. DeFoor, in his first month in the District 14 race, brought in $51,000 — more money, by far, than every other active local 2019 candidate combined brought in during September.

Her political committee brought in an extra $25,000.

Rob Bradley: Senate sentencing bill a ‘win-win’

Florida’s prison industry has endured scrutiny in recent years, and a new bill from Sen. Bradley may offer some relief for the sector.

SB 484 will authorize a court to sentence prisoners to county jail for up to 24 months if that county has a DOC contract.

The bill would also require prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Those prisoners will have sentences that don’t run longer than 24 months, and most felony convictions are exempt from this proposal.

State prison overcrowding could mean stable revenue for counties with room in jails.

On Wednesday, Bradley told Florida Politics that this is not a new idea.

“This is an idea that I’ve discussed with Senate and House colleagues for a couple of years now,” Bradley asserted.

Part of the problem is that the state has more prisoners than its facilities can handle, Bradley said.

“Right now,” Bradley said, “the state incarcerates 100,000 inmates. After dealing with this issue for years, I’ve come to the conclusion that our infrastructure and personnel is simply not equipped to handle that number. We need to reduce the state population. This is a strategy to accomplish this goal.”

Good news/bad news as Bradley bill clears committee

WGCU reports a good news/bad news scenario for a Bradley bill to put more money into the St. Johns River and North Florida springs.

St. Johns River money, a priority of Rob Bradley, may not be the Senate’s priority in the end.

Latvala chairs the Appropriations Committee.

“At some point in time — probably [on] the Appropriations Committee — we’ll have to put all those bills that we have this year, and the bills that we’ve passed over the last couple cycles on one sheet and figure out how we divide it up,” Latvala said.

With budget pressures mounting for Florida on several fronts, Bradley’s attempt to bring more Amendment 1 money to North Florida will be worth watching. It might be a heavier lift than locals hope.

Aaron Bean backs Jay Fant

One favorable augury for Fant: An endorsement this week from Republican state Sen. Bean.

Jay-mentum continues as Aaron Bean support sprouts for the AG hopeful.

“Senator Bean has been a longtime voice for conservative politics in Northeast Florida,” Fant said. “His endorsement is one to be very proud of. We look forward to working with Senator Bean on our conservative platform for years to come.”

Fant still has his last year to serve in the Florida House; since he is not running for re-election, candidates have filed already on the Democratic and Republican lines both in his House District 15.

Fant has gotten roughly a dozen House colleagues to endorse him; his strategy seems to be as the regional candidate who can roll up his sleeves and talk to the grassroots.

Rory Diamond launches Jax Council run

It was no surprise that Neptune Beach City Councilor Rory Diamond started a campaign to succeed Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council.

Rory Diamond is a candidate to watch for 2019, and likely beyond.

What will be a surprise: If anyone can mount a serious challenge to the Republican alum of the George W. Bush White House and Arnold Schwarzenegger Governor’s Mansion.

A broad cross-section of the city’s power elite supports Diamond and is very comfortable with policy discussions — including those affecting the broader expanse of Duval County, as well as the more granular issues relative to Jacksonville Beach.

Expect him to message heavily on public safety — and, bearing the gravitas of a former federal prosecutor — meaningfully. One of his recurrent theorems: that a lot of the Beaches’ crime problem is coming over from the other side of the ditch.

Censure for Councilors?

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche raised the possibility of censure for two legislators who supported her run for the Council presidency.

The subject: A confrontation between Councilors Reggie Gaffney and Katrina Brown and police officers after a Council meeting last month.

Gaffney has issued the expected mea culpa statements for attempting to leverage his power as a Councilman to check the officers who pulled him over. However, Brown — who accused officers of racial profiling — has yet to apologize.

That point was not lost on the Fraternal Order of Police, which saw its national and state presidents in Jacksonville Tuesday night to condemn Councilwoman Brown’s accusations and unwillingness to walk them back.

“The ultimate repercussion is going to be leveled by their districts … if there is any,” Brosche said.

Brosche has requested “options” from the General Counsel, including what authority Council has, and expects them at the next Council meeting.

“The question is around censure — is it an option for Council,” Brosche said.

Did Irma kill crops?

It’s a race against time for Northeast Florida farmers, per the Florida Times-Union. Hurricane Irma devastated crops last month, and yields — and farms themselves — hang in the balance.

Irma created a big problem for large — and small — farms throughout the state.

Per a Florida Farm Bureau representative: “Many of the losses will be calculated in coming weeks. It’s very difficult for folks to make a total estimate if they’re still struggling to get to their fields, their pastures, round up animals, to repair buildings.”

Among the potential culinary casualties: Christmas coleslaw from St. Johns County.

Clay County, hit hard by Irma, may have suffered more grievously had it not been for delayed planting … as heavy rains had already pushed back planting schedules.

Turn around, don’t drown

The Tampa Bay Times published a long-form, damning article laying out Jacksonville’s vulnerability to flooding during a hurricane.

“The city is dangerously flood-prone,” the TBT attested, as Irma was merely a tropical storm by the time it affected Jacksonville … and the storm could have been worse.

Floods from Irma were unprecedented … yet could be the future in Jacksonville, per TBT.

Of course, some caveats led to the epic flooding: a full moon drove the storm surge, the rain was another factor. But where the TBT article makes its point is a twofold contention.

— Jacksonville has not put money into drainage in older neighborhoods, especially those close to the water.

— Jacksonville officials have no real plan to deal with the matter.

The city’s finances are stretched: millage rates are low, there is no political appetite to raise them. Pension reform offered some fiscal relief, but the recurrent investment of that aid is in human resources — public-sector unions, legacy costs.

John Thrasher enters Confederate monument debate

Florida State University President Thrasher set up a 15-person committee to review Confederate markers and monuments, reports the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I expect them to be deliberate, to be thoughtful and to seek input from the entire Florida State community as they do their work,” Thrasher said about the new  President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions.

John Thrasher is involved in a monument controversy, but not the local Jacksonville one.

The Democrat reports that “the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society has sought the removal of the statue of Francis Eppes near the Westcott Building. Eppes, the grandson of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, is a former Tallahassee mayor who helped found West Florida Seminary, the forerunner of today’s FSU.”

JTA CEO elected chair of national org

JTA CEO Nat Ford this weekend was elected as Chair of the American Public Transportation Association and calls the election “one of the greatest honors” he’s received in his career.

JTA CEO Nat Ford has been named Chair of the American Public Transportation Association.

Ford expects his chairmanship to bring “national attention” to Jacksonville, a city that is currently involved in attempts to modernize its approach to mass transit through various infrastructural investments — including a regional transportation center under construction.

Among his focuses in the APTA chair: “leveraging big data,” “enterprise risk management,” and the “new mobility paradigm” — which, we hear, will also double as the name for Ford’s indie rock group.

Jax loves Shad; Republicans cool to Jags

University of North Florida polls shows high approval ratings for both the owner and coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While Shad Khan and Doug Marrone sit at 65 and 58 percent approval, there nonetheless is still some grievance from Republicans toward the home team’s anthem protest in London.

Republicans are less likely to watch games on television or attend, per the survey; almost 63 percent indicated they were less likely to watch NFL games and 57 percent said they were less likely to attend games.

Democrats are unmoved; while 14 and 11 percent respectively said they were less likely to watch or go to games, a full 18 percent of Dems are more likely to watch and attend.

Pollsters conducted the live-dial survey with 512 registered Duval County voters between Oct. 2 and Oct. 4.

The first-place Jacksonville Jaguars take on the Los Angeles Rams at home, Sunday at 1 p.m.

Bean calls for elected Secretary of State

This week, the Fernandina Beach Republican filed a proposal to ask Florida voters to make the secretary of state an elected Cabinet position, removing the governor’s power to appoint Florida’s highest elections official. The News Service of Florida reports that SJR 506 seeks to undo a change approved by voters in 1998 that reduced the size of the Cabinet to three members.

Under that ballot measure, the positions of secretary of state and education commissioner became appointed in 2002 and dropped the Cabinet posts of comptroller and treasurer. It also created a new Cabinet position, chief financial officer, while keeping the attorney general and agriculture commissioner.

For inclusion on the 2018 ballot, Bean’s proposal must be approved by three-fifths of both legislative chambers and would ultimately need approval from 60 percent of voters. Bean sponsored similar legislation in the 2017 session, with the Senate approving it in a 33-2 vote, but failed to advance in the House.

Able Trust lauds Bean

“Senator of the Year” — that’s the designation the Able Trust put on Sen. Bean Monday.

“I look forward to continuing to work with The Able Trust to ensure that Floridians with disabilities are never left behind and are given the opportunities they so rightly deserve,” Bean added.

Sen. Aaron Bean gets plaudits from the Able Trust.

This has been Bean’s third award from the Able Trust. He has historically fought to ensure the nonprofit received funding that was on the chopping block.

Meredith Charbula to Duval County Court

Eric Roberson’s vacancy, left when the former Duval judge moved to the 4th Circuit Court, has now been filled.

Meredith Charbula counted Lenny Curry as an ally.

Meredith Charbula, 59, of Jacksonville, will leave her role as Director of the Legal Division for the Office of the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit to fill the slot.

Charbula, an alumna of FSU’s law school, was recommended four times by commissions … and passed over four times in the past, reported the Florida Times-Union.

“Some people call me stubborn. I call it tenacious,” she said when asked why she kept trying.

Leadership moves for KIPP Jacksonville

After more than eight years with KIPP Jacksonville Public Charter Schools, Executive Director Tom Majdanics has passed the leadership torch to Dr. Jennifer Brown, who will move from her role as Chief Academic Officer.

Zach Rossley, formerly Chief Operating Officer, will now serve as president and COO, taking on new and added responsibilities.

New Executive Director, Dr. Jennifer Brown, with students at KIPP Jacksonville Elementary.

Brown joined the KIPP Jacksonville team in 2015, with more than 15 years of experience as an educator and leader in large urban, rural, and nonprofit settings. She earned both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Winthrop University and an Ed.D. in Education Leadership and Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Brown is also a proud U.S. Army Veteran who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

KIPP Jacksonville Schools are part of the KIPP non-profit network of college-preparatory, public charter schools.

Sixty Days for 10.12.17 — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session

Sixty Days — A prime-time read of what’s going down for Florida’s 2018 Legislative Session.

The Last 24

Gov. Rick Scott is asking state transportation officials to figure out how to better get traffic out of areas under hurricane evacuation orders.

Sen. Jeff Brandes called on his fellow lawmakers to do a ‘deep dive’ into the juvenile justice system.

Trying to figure out which students left or arrived because of hurricanes may put state officials in a bind as they estimate how many students will be in Florida’s public schools.

VISIT FLORIDA said it would redouble its tourism marketing efforts to show visitors around the world that Florida is open for business after Irma.

The House’s ethics panel voted to subpoena a television production house for details on exactly how it spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a fishing show and a cooking show with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

A priority bill to require more fiscal transparency by local governments is on the move in the House.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial lawyer, was taken off his chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Joe Negron said there was “nothing nefarious” about his removal.

The House decided to put Democratic Miami-Dade Rep. Daisy Baez on trial this Dec. 4 for a  charge she doesn’t live in the district she was elected to represent.

Quote of the Day

“I apologize if my comments yesterday did not properly convey the deep respect I have for elder members of our communities and the concern I share regarding the preventable tragedy that occurred in Hollywood.” —Funeral home director and GOP Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, a day after remarking on the South Florida nursing home deaths that “…eventually everyone who was in that nursing home will die. OK? We don’t need to attribute all those to the storm.”

Bill Day’s Latest

3 Questions

Larry Metz, the Yalaha Republican who chairs the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, is following up on House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s mandate to ‘keep ‘em honest.’ His committee OK’d subpoenas to get information from a vendor who got millions of tax dollars to produce TV shows promoting the state. One featured celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. Corcoran wants the producer to stand and deliver on exactly how the money was spent. Metz talked to reporters after a Thursday hearing; the questions and responses have been edited for clarity and brevity:

Q: VISIT FLORIDA is funded by taxpayers. Why wouldn’t all the information you could possibly seek be available as public records?

Metz: We’re seeking information from a vendor of VISIT FLORIDA, which was completely cooperative with our request for information. It’s the vendor we’re looking to get information from. We’re simply going the formal route. If we were in court on a civil case, you’d ask for the documents first. Then you start taking depositions of witnesses. Then you fill in the gaps with questions of witnesses. We’ll see what the documents show.

Q: What if the vendor refuses to produce documents because they’re protected trade secrets?

Metz: I think that’s too speculative. We’ll have to wait and see. If it comes back that way, we’ll address that at that time. The first step is to see what’s going on. Then we can hold those accountable for past wrongs or at least make things better going forward. The committee has the charge to get answers. We need to make sure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, and in accordance with the intent of the Legislature.

Q: Why is the committee pursuing this particular vendor?

Metz: We had information to act on and that’s what we’re doing. In an ideal world, you’d be able to do oversight on every single dollar every single day, but that’s not the world we live in. We have to pick our battles. And there are millions of dollars at issue here. I know people think 10 or 20 million dollars is a rounding error in a budget that’s $83 billion. But from my perspective, I look at every dollar as being important. If we’re not sure what value was returned to the taxpayer, we have an obligation to pursue that.

Lobby Up

Several new principals with techy sounding names have started picking up lobbyists ahead of session, including signing with the team at Meenan and TmaxSoft pulling in Alan Suskey earlier this week. has been in business for 20 years and provides online continuing education courses for several professions, including accounts and financial planners, and it’s not unheard of for lawmakers to slap more stringent continuing education requirements on some professions.

This year, however, a couple lawmakers have toyed with going in the other direction and relaxing requirements, especially for lower-income licensed professionals.

TmaxSoft is a South Korean enterprise software company that believes, according to their mantra, that “there is always a better way.”

Given the long list of web and software bungles in Florida’s recent history, even at the hands of big multinationals like Deloitte, there are more than a few lawmakers who have probably looked at state technology bills and their rollouts and thought pretty much anybody could have done a better job.

Given the company’s diverse business – from web servers to banking frameworks – they are likely eying at least a couple state contracts.

Breakthrough Insights

The Next 24

Republican Sen. Aaron Bean of Fernandina Beach is slated to speak about the upcoming legislative session during a meeting of the Florida Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus. That’s at 9 a.m., The Ritz-Carlton, 4750 Amelia Island Parkway, Fernandina Beach.

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will join firefighters from across Florida to honor those who lost their lives in the line of duty. The yearly “Florida Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service” will be 9:30 a.m., Florida State Fire College, 11655 NW Gainesville Road, Ocala.

Also Friday, independent bodies, Cabinet departments, and executive-branch agencies under Gov. Scott will review their Legislative Budget Requests in the Capitol.

9-11:30 a.m.

— Agency for Health Care Administration, Agency for Persons with Disabilities,  Department of Children and Families, Department of Elder Affairs, Department of Health, Department of Veterans Affairs, in 110 Senate Office Building.

— Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management, in 401 Senate Office Building.

12-1:30 p.m.

— Department of Education, Office of Early Learning, State University System Board of Governors, in 401 Senate Office Building.

— Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Citrus, Department of Environmental Protection, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Public Service Commission, in 110 Senate Office Building.

2-4:30 p.m.

—  Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Department of Financial Services, Office of Financial Regulation, Office of Insurance Regulation, Department of Lottery, Department of Management Services, Division of Administrative Hearings, Agency for State Technology, Department of Military Affairs, Department of Revenue, Commission on Human Relations, Public Employees Relations Commission, in 110 Senate Office Building.

— Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Legal Affairs, Justice Administrative Commission, Florida Commission on Offender Review, in 401 Senate Office Building.

Joe Negron: ‘Nothing nefarious’ in Gary Farmer’s reassignment

State Sen. Gary Farmer was taken off the chamber’s Banking and Insurance Committee, but Senate President Joe Negron told Florida Politics there was “nothing nefarious” about the removal.

Capitol insiders buzzed that Senate leadership was looking to exact revenge on the trial bar because of its financial support of Annette Taddeo, the Democratic opponent of popular Republican Jose Felix Diaz, in a special election. Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, is  a trial lawyer.

Negron says that’s not the case.

Indeed, newly elected Sen. Taddeo made a “compelling” case that she should be added to the committee, Negron said.

Committee chair Anitere Flores, also the Senate President pro tempore, said B&I “is one of the top committees in the Senate.”

“Sen. Taddeo’s district has a history of being hard hit by hurricanes and other insurance issues in her community,” said Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican. “I understand she made a compelling case (but) when a new senator joins the Senate, some of the committee have to be shuffled.”

Bill Nelson fundraises off Irma again, Republicans say it’s ‘disgusting’

Bill Nelson just cannot help himself.

After Republicans blasted a “tone deaf” email last month that sought to raise funds off Hurricane Irma, Florida’s senior U.S. Senator is at it again.

Nelson writes: “There’s been a lot going on in Washington recently, from finding ways to fund these massive hurricane recovery efforts to prevent the passage of yet another disastrous GOP health care bill.”

The senator then proclaims his focus on “one thing,” which is doing everything he can to fight for constituents, adding that it is his job to “make sure your voice is heard in the Senate.”

Since Hurricane Irma happened over a month ago (supposedly past its disaster expiration date), Nelson seems to think now would be the right time to “survey” Floridians on how he’s doing.

Along with a money pitch, of course.

And once again, national Republicans are quick to this point out, saying it’s time he answers for his “disgusting” move.

Memories of Irma are still fresh in the minds of many Floridians, and Hurricane Maria continues to be an active disaster for the people of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and their families and loved ones in Florida. Republicans feel any extra money and resources should be used to help those suffering, not for a campaign more than a year away.

“Bill Nelson needs to explain why he continues to fundraise off Hurricane Irma,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin in an email Thursday. “Floridians are still struggling to clean up from this devastating storm, yet all Bill Nelson cares about is filling his own campaign coffers.”

Politics can wait, says the GOP, calling for Nelson to resist the urge to raise money. There will always be time to fundraise later.

Joe Negron’s class act: ‘Here, Dorothy Hukill, take my spot’

Session hasn’t even started, and we already have a winner for “Legislative Nice Guy of 2018″—Senate President Joe Negron.

Negron, who we’ve already reported as having found a new gear as he enters his last year in leadership, gave up his primo parking spot in the Capitol garage so that his colleague, Dorothy Hukill, can use it.

Hukill missed the entire 2017 Legislative Session due to cancer treatments. But she returned this week to a round of applause from her colleagues during roll call in the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

The Port Orange Republican spent the 2017 Session watching the session on a pair of screens — a home computer and an iPad — at her home while recovering from cervical cancer. Radiation treatments ended just as the 2017 Session was coming to a close.

“It’s very exciting to be in the (committee) room,” Hukill told Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida. “It’s lovely to watch it on the wonderful Florida Channel, which I was very, very happy to have. But I’d rather be here.”

Undoubtedly, Hukill still is recovering from her treatments. And because every extra step walked can be a chore, a few hundred feet saved by having the Senate President’s parking spot has to be a relief.

Still, Hukill told reporters she expects the welcome-backs and hugs from her colleagues to quickly give way to legislative normalcy.

“It’s exciting to be back,” she said. “People are giving give me a breather for a day or two.”

The Delegation for 10.12.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation at the forefront of gun control debate

Members of the Florida delegation are taking a lead role in the most recent discussion on gun control following the tragedy in Las Vegas. While pleas for “reasonable” gun control measures are always part of the discussion, the specific targeting of devices such as “bump stocks,” which turn semi-automatic weapons basically into automatic rifles, is gaining steam.

Bill Nelson joined fellow Democrat Dianne Feinstein from California and others, to launch a Senate bill that would make it unlawful to add devices which “functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic rifle, but not convert the semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.”

The bill has a military and National Guard carve-out.

Republican Carlos Curbelo joined Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton to introduce a bill banning “Bump Stocks.”

“I’m a hunter and have owned guns my whole life,” Nelson said in a news release. “But these automatic weapons are not for hunting; they’re for killing.”

Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo is teaming with Massachusetts Democrat Seth Moulton to craft a House bill, but with a twist. While developing the proposal, the duo is seeking co-sponsors to make it a “perfectly bipartisan effort.”

To join this bill, co-sponsors must sign on in tandem with a member of the other party. Curbelo and Moulton describe this as the “Noah’s Ark” approach.

“For the first time, there is growing bipartisan consensus for firearm reform, a polarizing issue that has deeply divided Republicans and Democrats,” Curbelo said in a news release. “Common sense legislation that does not restrict Second Amendment rights is an important step in addressing gun violence in our country.”

“It’s time for Members of Congress to find the courage to come together and finally do something to help stop the epidemic of mass shootings,” Moulton said. “As Members of Congress, it is our responsibility to protect the American people.”

This action appears to be an idea whose time has come. President Trump essentially gave his thumbs-up, while the National Rifle Association (NRA) said: “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

It will be sometime in 2018, at the earliest, before any action would take effect. Even if the legislation somehow quickly moves through Congress, the Nelson/Feinstein bill states that the ban on any outlawed device takes place “180 days after the date of enactment.” The Curbelo/Moulton bill would likely have the same provision.

In other words, perhaps the time has almost come.

Rubio, commission to Trump: Engage China on human rights

With President Donald Trump set to go to Beijing in November, North Korea will undoubtedly be a significant topic of discussion between the president and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. The second-term Republican Senator wants to add human rights to the agenda.

Last week the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which Rubio chairs along with GOP Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, released its 2017 annual report. Among the detailed report’s recommendations (the executive summary alone is 65 pages), is for the Trump administration to embark on a policy “that challenges China to abide by its international commitments, adhere to universal standards and embrace the rule of law.”

Marco Rubio is calling for the Trump administration to embark on a policy “that challenges China to abide by its international commitments, adhere to universal standards and embrace the rule of law.”

Rubio, Smith and the committee detailed a regression on freedom of expression in China, as well as infringements on religious liberties. In an op-ed, they cited Xi’s continuing efforts to consolidate his power.

“Over the past year, Chinese authorities targeted labor and environmental activists; demanded loyalty from scholars and intellectuals; and clamped down on foreign nongovernmental organizations, media outlets, think tanks and internet companies,” they wrote.

They also offered a reminder to Trump.

“President Trump would do well to remember, even in the midst of heightened diplomacy on North Korea, that governments which trample the basic rights of their own citizens are unreliable international partners.”

Comprising the bipartisan Commission is nine senators and seven representatives. Also, five executive branch commissioners are provided, which have not yet been appointed.

Nelson proposes gasoline supply reserve in Florida

The three-term Democrat, who has seen numerous hurricanes come through Florida during his 17 years in the Senate, is calling on the federal government to make it easier for residents to evacuate. He is proposing a “Florida Gasoline Supply Reserve” that would store at least 1 million barrels of gasoline for distribution when disaster-related evacuations are required.

Stories of Florida residents remaining in place as Hurricane Irma approached due to limited fuel access, prompted the call for the reserve. He filed a bill last week that would require the U.S. Department of Energy to create the reserve.

“When a major storm is heading toward our state, we have to make sure people have access to the gas they need to get out of harm’s way, Nelson said. “A Florida gas reserve would not only help prevent some of the gas shortages we saw ahead of Hurricane Irma but would also help ensure that our first responders have the fuel they need to help people during and after the storm.”

Nelson will likely gain bipartisan support for his bill, especially within the delegation. Republican Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the Florida House, had recently made a similar suggestion.

Rubio: Told you so

As the U.S. military took over the Puerto Rico relief efforts, Florida’s junior senator pointed out that the federal government was doing what he called for almost two weeks ago. As some of the smaller-town mayors “stumble on the job” of getting relief to their constituents, the military is now charged with ensuring lifesaving supplies are distributed to those in need in the island’s more remote areas.

Soon after his visit to the island shortly after Hurricane Maria had left, Rubio pledged the federal government would not forget them. Militarizing the relief effort was one of his recommendations.

“We need to push it directly to the barrio to ensure that everyone’s getting it,” Brig. Gen. Jose J. Reyes told the Miami Herald.

After visiting Puerto Rico shortly after Hurricane Maria, Marco Rubio pledged the federal government would not forget them.

Between 10-20 soldiers will be placed in the communities with the responsibility of delivering supplies.

“They will have some vehicles. They will have radio communications, as well as logistics support … they are going to be living there,” said Reyes. “They are going to be operating 24/7.”

On Sunday, Rubio tweeted “12 days ago said @DeptofDefense must take over @PuertoRicoRelief appears they have finally reached same conclusion.”

Delegation calls for $27 billion in additional hurricane recovery funding

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, both U.S. Senators from Florida, along with 26 delegation members from the House, submitted Friday a line-item list of budget requests totaling $26.945 billion worth of federal hurricane recovery funding.

In a letter penned to members of the House Committee on Appropriations, nearly the entire Florida delegation outlined specific recovery funding requests in addition to the $29 billion requested this week from the White House.

“Three hurricanes have hit U.S. soil in a short time, stretching our federal agencies, first responders and community resources thin,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “With more than a month left in the 2017 hurricane season and another storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans need to know that the federal government is ready to respond.”

Daniel Webster’s name is noticeably absent in a letter from the Florida delegation urging $27 billion in additional hurricane recovery funding.

The letter stresses that additional funding will likely be needed once a more thorough damage assessment is complete and the funding sought will probably cover only part of the state’s overall recovery costs.

The largest of the requests include $10 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers to help repair and sustain port and river functionality, along with repairing any damage to ongoing projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike. There is also $7 billion for the Community Development Block Grant to fund any unmet needs, including seawall restoration in South Florida; and $5 billion for the Department of Agriculture to assist with crop and livestock losses from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Congressman Daniel Webster, a Republican from Florida’s 11th District, was the only Florida delegation signature absent from the letter Friday.

Good news/bad news on GOP passing 2018 budget resolution

The good news, depending on one’s point of view, is the House passed a budget for the next fiscal year. The bad news, depending on one’s point of view, is the House passed a budget for the next fiscal year.

The vote of 219-206 represents complete unity against the resolution by Democrats with 18 Republicans crossing over to vote with them. Delegation members were only too happy to provide the good news and bad news for constituents and the media.

“It’s time to put Washington on a responsible fiscal path, and this budget is a step in the right direction,” said Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. Dunn pointed to estimates the budget would achieve $6.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years and produce a budget surplus of $9 billion in fiscal year 2027.

“Budgeting is about setting priorities, and the FY 2018 budget does just that,” said Lakeland Republican Dennis Ross. “From funding America’s defense to balancing the budget in 10 years, and rolling back regulations that hinder our economy, we are getting American back on track.”

Democrats had a different, but familiar reaction.

Al Lawson blasted the Republican 2018 budget resolution that includes $5.4 trillion in spending cuts to programs “critically important” to his constituents.

“I voted against the Republican budget resolution that includes $5.4 trillion in spending cuts to programs critically important to my constituents,” said Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee. “This devastating budget included cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and education assistance, all while cutting taxes for the wealthy.”

For those expecting a fiery response from Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, he did not disappoint.

“The House Republican budget is a callous proposal to shut down essential programs like Medicare, steal billions of dollars from middle-class Americans’ wallets and funnel it to billionaires, and undermine key national priorities by cutting infrastructure funding and wreaking havoc on our health care system,” he said.

In September, the national debt topped $20 trillion. At that time, Congress approved stopgap funding until Dec. 8, when the debt ceiling will again need to be raised.

Water Wars headed for U.S. Supreme Court

The legal fight between Florida and Georgia over water flow into the Apalachicola River (aka “Water Wars”) will move before the full U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court announced Tuesday that it will set a date for oral arguments in the case during its current term, which runs through June.

“The exceptions to the special master’s report are set for oral argument in due course,” the court said in a one-sentence announcement.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court granted oral argument and look forward to presenting our arguments in court,” said Kylie Mason, the press secretary for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Neal Dunn weighs in on Florida’s water wars, saying the state has “suffered harm from low water flows upriver and that stopping implementation of the revised water manual is necessary to right this wrong.”

Florida filed a lawsuit in 2013, alleging Georgia diverts too much water from the river system and that the diversions have damaged Apalachicola Bay and Franklin County’s seafood industry. Earlier this year, a special master appointed by the Court recommended that Georgia’s position prevail.

“The key finding in the special master’s decision is that Florida has suffered harm from low water flows upriver and that stopping implementation of the revised water manual is necessary to right this wrong,” Panama City Republican Neal Dunn said in a news release.

Dunn, “with support from several of my Florida colleagues in Congress,” sought to halt “implementation of the water control practices” laid out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Both Florida senators and Congressmen representing the Panhandle area have been fighting the uphill battle. Earlier this year, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson filed a bill in the Senate that would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers send more freshwater into Florida.

“The oystermen whose livelihood depends on having enough fresh water in the bay are relying on us to get this fixed,” he said.

Speaker appoints Gaetz to debt ceiling group

The first-term Republican from Fort Walton Beach will now be watching the nation’s debt ceiling much more closely. Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan appointed Gaetz to the House Debt Ceiling Working Group.

He brings a history of fiscal conservatism with him to the post. In a release announcing his appointment, his office reminded those watching the issue that Gaetz “has never voted to raise the debt ceiling.”

That includes last month, when he was among 90 House Republicans voting against both raising the debt ceiling until December and emergency Federal Emergency Management Agency funding to deal with hurricanes. Gaetz later stood by that vote.

“I am honored to have been chosen by the Speaker to work in the debt ceiling group,” Gaetz said. “In the past month, our government debt finally exceeded 20 trillion dollars. This is not only generational theft, but morally repugnant.”

Though they were on the opposite sides of the September debt ceiling increase, Ryan praised Gaetz for his fiscal responsibility.

“This is exactly why we wanted Matt Gaetz on the Budget Committee; because of how serious he is about getting our fiscal house in order,” said Ryan in a statement. “He brings to this working group the kind of fresh approach and long-term thinking taxpayers deserve right now. I appreciate his willingness to take on this responsibility at this critical time.”

The group’s first meeting was Tuesday.

Murphy, Demings, Soto announce transportation grant

The three Central Florida Democrats announced the Federal Highway Administration will provide the region with a $12 million grant to develop “intelligent transportation technologies.” Recipients are the Florida Department of Transportation, MetroPlan Orlando, and the University of Central Florida.

The specific purpose is to use technology to make transportation safer and more accessible for drivers, transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists in the Orlando area. Generally, it is intended to help central Florida ease traffic congestion and promote traffic safety.

In March, the three Members of Congress wrote to White House Budget Director Nick Mulvaney, with a copy to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, providing a list of more than a dozen projects that would benefit from the funds. The letter respectfully reminded Mulvaney of President Trump’s repeated pledge to invest in infrastructure.

Murphy said the grant “will help make Orlando’s roads safer and less congested, and give residents a wider range of transportation options.” Soto called it “great news for Central Florida! We all know firsthand the problems of traffic congestion and lack of cyclist safety in the Orlando area.”

“This grant will help residents and our 68 million annual visitors get from place to place quicker, faster, safer and with less fuel usage and air pollution,” Demings said.

Soto: Congress has come to terms with Puerto Rico, USVI devastation

The Orlando Democrat spent the early part of the week touring Puerto Rico and then Thursday met with the House Natural Resources Committee, leaving convinced that the island is in desperate straits, that the Trump administration still has not come to terms, but that Congress has.

“We’ve had much better success in getting Congress to understand the devastation than we have in getting the Trump administration to do so,” Soto told Florida Politics.

Darren Soto says there is some good news in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria … Congress has finally come to terms with the massive devastation in Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands.

“That’s the good news in all this,” Soto said, noting that he expects Congress to pass an emergency $29 billion Federal Emergency Management Agency package for hurricane relief to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with Puerto Rico getting $10 billion of that.

Soto also called attention to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which he did not visit, but about which, he said, has been briefed on numerous times. Soto said the Virgin Islands were in as bad of shape, with no schools or hospitals standing, and, he said, the additional burden of a local government that was not responding well.

“One of the big things we [on the Natural Resources Committee] all agreed to do is we need to stand united for both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on this because we’re worried that the Virgin Islands will be left out. But everything needs to be rebuilt,” Soto said.

Orlando Republican Daniel Webster is also a member of the Committee.

Het he said he remains convinced that the Trump administration does not understand the “damage or the heightened sense of the urgency of the need.”

“If President Trump said today, ‘Bring down 500 helicopters and get them out to all these towns immediately,’ it will happen,” Soto added. “But to the best of my knowledge, unless something has changed over the last day or so, it still hasn’t.”

Upon his return from Puerto Rico, Soto filed a report of his findings.

Agents from the Department of Financial Services’ Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico with personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assist with recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria.

Bilirakis bill clears committee

The Republican from Palm Harbor is working his legislation, named the Community CARE Act, through the House of Representatives. The bill, co-sponsored by New York Republican Elise Stefanik, reauthorizes funding for community health centers for the next two years.

Bilirakis announced the bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The centers provided health and dental care for underserved populations.

“This important bill reauthorizes funding for community health centers for the next two years at a level of $3.6 billion per year,” Bilirakis said in a newsletter to constituents. “Community health centers provide high quality, comprehensive health care to over 25 million Americans, including 7 million children and 300,000 veterans.”

Democrat Kathy Castor of Tampa also serves on the committee with Bilirakis.

Buchanan calls out California “Governor Moonbeam”

It is safe to say the Sarasota Republican is not a fan of California in general, and their governor, in particular. In an email message titled “Governor Moonbeam Strikes Again,” Buchanan lamented to his district that California is now a “sanctuary state.”

“There’s a reason I’m leading the fight in Congress to crack down on sanctuary cities,” Buchanan wrote. “It’s because of people like (Gov.) Jerry Brown.

Brown was given that moniker in the 1970s by Chicago columnist Mike Royko.

Buchanan was responding to Brown signing a bill which will “vastly limit local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.” The U.S. Department of Justice agrees with Buchanan.

In a new email, Vern Buchanan calls out “Governor Moonbeam,” Jerry Brown of California.

“The state of California has now codified a commitment to returning criminal aliens back onto our streets, which undermines public safety, national security and law enforcement,” said department spokesman Devin O’Malley.

In response, California Senate President Kevin de León said the bill “will not provide full sanctuary,” but would prevent local police from being “commandeered” into doing immigration enforcement.

Buchanan called on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate to approve two bills Congressional Republicans support, Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, immediately. Both bills, co-sponsored by Buchanan and GOP colleague Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, passed the House in July.

Deutch leads 180+ Democrats asking Trump not to nix Iran deal

The Democrat from Boca Raton has joined with his Democratic colleague from North Carolina, David Price, in writing to President Trump asking him not to decertify the nuclear materials agreement with Iran negotiated by the Obama administration. Reports are circulating Trump may do just that as early as Thursday or Friday.

“The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act requires the president to provide to Congress credible evidence of Iranian noncompliance should violations of (the agreement) occur,” they wrote. “We have received no such information to date.”

Decertifying the agreement would not come as a total surprise. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Trump pledged to “get rid” of it or “tear it up.” According to POLITICO, he may decertify it, but not reimpose sanctions on Iran, thereby preserving the opportunity to “save” it.

“If President Trump decertifies Iranian compliance without clear evidence of Iranian violations, it will jeopardize this united front against Iran,” Deutch said in a news release. “The (agreement) is an imperfect agreement, but to address the problematic provisions, including the sunset clauses, we will need to stay in lockstep with our global partners.”

Joining the U.S. in negotiating the agreement was China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany.

According to the list provided by Deutch, all Florida Democrats signed on to the letter except Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

DCCC launches Spanish-language ads targeting “vulnerable” Republicans

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is stepping up its attacks in three South Florida congressional districts. Digital advertisements, focusing on Medicare, targets Mario Diaz-Balart from the 25th District and Carlos Curbelo in the 26th. They will also run in the 27th District, currently held by the retiring Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The boogeyman in these ads is House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans for their attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. Democrats say the GOP legislation would take $500 billion from Medicare.

“Ryan and the Republicans in Washington,” the ad says. “Medicare is yours, not theirs.”

“Medicare has allowed millions of hardworking Latino families across the country to receive quality and affordable health care coverage,” said DCCC spokesman Javier Gamboa. “House Republicans will stop at nothing to rip away affordable health care coverage from their constituents, and we are all at risk as long as they’re in office.”

The ad, “No Pueden Parar,” (They Can’t Stop), is the first Spanish-language digital ad of the 2018 election cycle from the DCCC. The 15-second advertisement is targeted through Facebook and Google to those living in the three districts that have set their computer and phone settings to Spanish.

In addition to the three districts in Florida, another 16 heavily Latino areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas will see the ads. No dollar figure on the cost of the ad buy was provided.

Floridians honored in Washington for work on mental illness

This week, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) recognized two Florida advocates for their work. Judge Steven Leifman and Peggy Symons of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Orlando were presented with two of PhRMA’s 2017 Research & Hope Awards.

Leifman is a Miami-Dade County judge who spends considerable time outside the courtroom working on the issue of mental health. For more than seven years he has chaired the Florida Supreme Court Task Force on Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues in the Court.

He tirelessly works to improve the broken system and has developed groundbreaking resources within the 11th Judicial Circuit.

Symons is a diagnosed schizophrenic with bipolar disorder. After failing for more than 30 years to find the right medication to control her disease, she discovered two that worked. After enduring the struggle dealing with insurance companies, she found herself on the right path and committed herself to work on behalf of others similarly afflicted.

“The award recipients are inspirational leaders in mental health research, support and advocacy,” said PhRMA President and CEO Stephen J. Ubl. “We are grateful for their extraordinary commitment to helping patients build better and healthier lives.”

Award recipients were honored at a Tuesday ceremony in Washington that featured keynote speaker Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in U.S. history.

Paulson’s Principles: The more things change, the more they stay the same

We are nine months into President Donald Trump’s first term, and many Republicans and Democrats are anxiously looking forward to the 2018 midterm elections.

As is often the case, both parties see a reason for optimism.

Republicans are optimistic because they hold the White House, they control 35 of the 50 governorships, 67 of the 98 partisan state legislative bodies, and they gained almost 1,000 new state legislators during the eight years of the Obama administration.

Democratic optimism is based on Trump’s abysmal approval ratings which they believe will help drag down Republican candidates. Democrats also believe that the special election victory of Democrat Annette Taddeo in a state senate race will help Democrats attract better candidates, raise more money and boost enthusiasm.

Democrats believe they have nowhere to go but up. After Republican control of the Florida congressional delegation since 1990, Democrats and believe they have the opportunity to flip three additional seats and take control of the congressional delegation for the first time in almost three decades.

Democratic optimism is based on Trump’s low approval ratings, the electorates desire for political change after three decades of Republican dominance in Florida, and based on demographic changes occurring in Florida.

Two hundred thousand Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida since 2012 and most reside in the Orlando metropolitan area. Because of hurricane Maria and its devastation of Puerto Rico, another 100,000 island residents could migrate to Florida. They would bring with them their strong ties to the Democratic Party. Orlando-area Hispanics are now 54 percent Democrat and only 14 percent Republican.

But, as Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times has recently noted, not all demographic changes favor the Democrats. The Villages, an area northwest of Orlando, has been the fastest growing metro area for the past four years. Its residents are overwhelmingly Republican and pro-Trump. Just as the in-migration of Puerto Ricans has benefited Democrats, the growth of the 98 percent white Villages will help Republican candidates.

The cleansing of voter rolls is another factor benefiting Republicans. Hillsborough County, which moved 46,264 voters to the inactive roll, more than twice the number of any other county, resulted in 18,514 Democrats and 9,140 Republicans being moved to inactive status.

Statewide, 114,000 voters were moved to the inactive status. 27,000 were Republicans, but 82,000 were Democrats.

As Tim Russert said on election night 2000, everything came down to “Florida, Florida, Florida.” As we know, it is almost impossible to predict anything in Florida other than close elections.

Statewide, Democrats now make up 37.6 percent of the electorate, Republicans are 35 percent and No Party Affiliation is 27 percent. This gives Democrats a lead of 275,330 voters out of 13 million registered voters.

As political guru Steve Schale has noted, since 1992, over 50 votes have been cast in Florida presidential elections and Republicans lead by 12,000 votes or 0.02 percent. It can’t get closer than that.

Who wins in Florida in 2018 will come down to candidate quality, money and political organization.

Double duty for Scalise?

Recently, Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise returned to Capitol Hill to resume his duties as he still recovers from his near-fatal shooting. In addition to representing his state’s 1st Congressional District, he also serves as the House Majority Whip; otherwise known as the guy responsible for rounding up votes on the side desired by leadership.

By most accounts, Scalise has been successful in his Whip post. With all of the division among House Republicans, that chamber was able to at least get a “repeal and replace” Obamacare bill across the finish line.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 1 of the NLDS between the Cubs and Nationals.

The Senate is a different story, where a GOP majority experienced multiple failures. This prompted first-term Republican Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach to joke about expanding Scalise’s duties.

“Maybe we’ll send him over to the Senate to whip them into shape,” he quipped.

While the Constitution does not permit that, a Senate run may be a part of Scalise’s future.

Sunburn for 10.12.17 — Richard Corcoran warming up; State budget already being crunched; Rick Scott criticized; Janet Cruz delivers PR aid; SpaceX goes 3-for-3

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

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

Richard Corcoran has “planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway.”

Yes, he does it his way.

The House Speaker is on a tear this week, going Sinatra on Visit Orlando after it disclosed, among other things, that it spent over $76,000 “to advertise on a traffic and weather camera,” the Sentinel reported.

Moreover, a House committee could decide on Thursday “whether to subpoena a TV producer who declined to detail how he spent $14.4 million he received from VISIT FLORIDA,” according to the Naples Daily News.

Pat Roberts, owner of Tallahassee-based MAT Media, refused to cooperate in a House investigation into his cooking show starring celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and a fishing show,” the paper said.

Corcoran, whom we’ll bet will announce a run for governor after the 2018 Legislative Session, vilified VISIT FLORIDA earlier this year, seeking to defund it and Enterprise Florida because they were dispensers of “corporate welfare.”

Corcoran later agreed with Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott to fund the tourism marketing agency with $76 million. Also created was an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

In return, Corcoran got Scott’s signature on a still-controversial education bill creating “Schools of Hope” that will benefit charter schools.

To think he did all that—and may we say, not in a shy way—yep, he does it his way.

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— @MarcoRubio: Richard Spencer craves publicity.Desperate to incite outrage b/c terrified of @UF speech no one shows up for.

— @TiffanaySalameh: Racially disturbing video allegedly features a UNF student mocking those who attended a BLM rally.

— @MaryEllenKlas: Ophelia becomes a hurricane, tying century-old record

— @Scott_Maxwell: Rick Scott says Congress should make citrus/Ag whole for $2.5B in losses – while also saying farmers don’t want “government handouts.”

— @VentureTampaBay: Yes, grandkids, I remember when oranges grew by the millions in Florida… Quit pulling our legs, grandpa.

— @MDixon55: Sen. Gibson does not sugar coat it. Says Senate got “sucker punched” when house tied Scott’s funding pot to Visit Florida money

@Fineout: City of Tallahassee says it handed 150,000 electronic records to FBI today & 1.500 more will be turned over in coming weeks


‘LIP’ money falls short of initial estimates” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – At the height of a budget showdown earlier this year, Gov. Scott boasted that his friendship with President Trump‘s administration would result in Florida getting $1.5 billion to help the state’s hospitals. But months later, the final amount will be considerably smaller, a top state Medicaid official said. Instead the state will have about $790.4 million in supplemental Medicaid funds to spend this year. Beth Kidder, a deputy secretary at the state Agency for Health Care Administration, told the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee that the agency has $303 million in funding commitments from counties to help fund the Low-Income Pool. The money will be used to draw down $487 million in federal Medicaid dollars bringing the total available to just more than $790 million for the supplemental program widely known as LIP. “The $1.5 billion is not $1.5 billion,” Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairwoman Anitere Flores said. Kidder told the panel that the size of the Low-Income Pool has always been contingent on the receipt of matching local dollars to fund it.

Senate may tap reserves to plug $1.6 billion budget hole” via Arek Sarkissian of the USA Today Network-Florida – With Medicaid costs rising and tax revenue socked by Hurricane Irma, Senate President Joe Negron says next year’s legislative session may include tapping into the state’s $3.8 billion in cash reserves … “It’s called the rainy day fund and it’s raining,” he said in a one-on-one interview. “I think we will also let the appropriations process look into some of the issues in that base budget so we’re not continuing to fund the priorities of lawmakers from the past.” State economic reports show lawmakers need to trim the budget or face a $1.6 billion hole created by the state’s $26.2 billion Medicaid program and an increase in student enrollment.

Senators sound skeptical of new state jobs fund” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Lawmakers asked lots of questions but didn’t get the answers they wanted Wednesday as a Senate panel tried to get a handle on the state’s new $85 million jobs fund. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee heard from Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) head Cissy Proctor on the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund … Senators soon started peppering Proctor with questions: “It’s a lot of money … we want to understand what the parameters are,” said subcommittee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.

Jeff Brandes calls for juvenile justice review in wake of Herald series” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The lawmaker who oversees a powerful criminal justice committee said he will spearhead a much-needed reform of the state’s juvenile justice system in the wake of a Miami Herald series that detailed the existence of a mercenary system in which detainees are given honey buns and other treats as a reward for pounding other youths. Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who is the new chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, said he believes the state is ripe for reform. “It gives me pause. There is a lot of work that can be done,” Brandes said at a meeting of the committee Wednesday. “There are going to be many tough questions that we’re going to be going through in the next committee weeks.”

Fireworks bill clears first Senate panel” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The latest attempt to end a decades-old prohibition on fireworks sales in Florida received its first hearing in the state Senate Wednesday, and it was a bit bumpy. The bill cleared the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on a 8-2 vote, but bill sponsor Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, admits it still needs some work. For more than half a century, Florida law on fireworks has been banned, but there is a loophole that allows fireworks to be used “solely and exclusively in frightening birds from agricultural works and fish hatcheries.” Floridians who buy fireworks from roadside stands sign a form that they fall under one of the exemptions. Like, yes, scaring birds.

Bullied students could get state scholarships to private schools” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Speaker Corcoran said he’ll push legislation to give scholarships to children abused at school, allowing them to attend another public school or a private school of their choice, if their parents opt to remove them. “Children who are subjected to violence and abuse at school deserve hope, dignity, and a real opportunity to succeed,” Corcoran said. “No child should ever be afraid to go to school and no child should have to continually suffer abuse. They deserve a way out.” Corcoran said total funding for the scholarships was yet to be determined, but would likely be structured similarly to the state’s other three voucher programs for low-income and disabled students, which are funded with tax credits. He said the money would not come out of the Florida Education Finance Program, the main funding source for public schools. About 47,000 incidents of bullying, abuse, physical and sexual assault and hazing reported by schools during the 2015-2016 year, Corcoran said.

Robert Olszewski gets committee assignmentsOlszewski, also known as “Bobby O,” a Winter Garden Republican elected to the House this week in a special election, has been assigned to the following panels, according to the House website: Careers & Competition Subcommittee, Government Accountability Committee, Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. Olszewski now represents House District 44, replacing former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, a Republican who stepped down to become an appellate judge. Olszewski won by a 56-44 margin over Democratic businessman Eddy Dominguez of Dr. Phillips.

Great read –I got rejected from Harvard. then I won a state election” by Rep. Amber Mariano via Cosmopolitan – “I worked really hard in high school because it was my dream to go to Harvard. I remember when I got the Harvard email. I was at Chili’s, which is my favorite restaurant. I had a friend with me who also really, really wanted to go to Harvard. She opened hers and she started crying, and then I opened mine and I started crying. We didn’t get in and it just felt like disaster. I decided to go to UCF [University of Central Florida] in Orlando.” Regarding her election last year: “People were encouraged and excited because, obviously, with Trump’s election, they wanted something new and different than what they’re used to seeing, so for them, I fit that bill.”

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Frustrations boil over in D.C. as Rick Scott meets with Florida representatives” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz pointedly challenged the Republican governor over debris removal and alleged he was unresponsive to her personal calls and requests for help. “I have tried to reach you and I have gotten no response from you,” Wasserman Schultz said, charging that Scott’s administration has hindered cities from paying contractors more than pre-negotiated rates, by refusing to submit contracts to FEMA. “If you’ve contacted me, I don’t have any evidence that you contacted me,” Scott said. “I have your cellphone number, governor, and I’ve called you on it. And I’ve also contacted your office,” Wasserman Schultz replied. Scott said that existing contracts must be honored. “I’m always going to stand on the side of taxpayers and consumers, not on the side of somebody who wants to make extra money after a disaster.” Finally, Rep. Vern Buchanan, co-chair of the delegation, broke it up. “Let’s work all that out a little later,” he said.

Lawmaker questions cause of nursing home deaths” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “We keep getting new deaths attributed to the storm, because they came from the nursing home, when in fact, look at the population you’re dealing with: they’re 90-somethings,” Baxley said. “Some of these deaths would have naturally occurred, storm or no storm. So to automatically pushing these over to the medical examiner as part of this case that they’re are studying, I think could be a bit unfair on the other side of the equation “There need to be some evaluation of are these natural deaths or storm deaths, because, that makes a difference in policy, what kind of policy we set. I think we can face the reality that some of these are naturally occurring deaths,” Baxley said. “The more the time clicks off, the more of them there will be, until eventually everyone who was in that nursing home will die. OK? We don’t need to attribute all those to the storm, or we’re in bad policy.”

Republicans see Irma as an opportunity to review energy regulations” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The issue came up during hearings before the Energy & Utilities Subcommittee. “Are there any regulations, whether laws that we’ve passed or administrative procedures the PSC might have put in place, that might be slowing down the recovery time or restoration time?” Republican Jason Fischer asked Florida Power & Light’s Bryan Olnick. “And if there are, could you identify what some of those might be? I’d be willing to work with you to pull some of those back.” Olnick thought not. “Right now, I really don’t think that there are necessarily any rules or regulations I would say are a major hindrance when it comes to restoration strategy, restoration philosophy, prioritizing how we restore. I wouldn’t really say there are any major roadblocks,” Olnick said.

Citrus industry feels squeeze from Irma, waits for help” via Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News – The massive storm walloped citrus crops in Florida’s five top-producing citrus counties: DeSoto, Polk, Hendry, Highlands and Hardee. Groves in Hendry and Collier were especially hard hit. Before Irma, the citrus industry’s impact on the state’s economy was estimated at $8.6 billion a year. Last season, nearly 437,000 acres of citrus were grown in Florida, generating roughly 45,000 full-time and part-time jobs, according to Florida Citrus Mutual. A preliminary damage estimates Hurricane Irma’s toll on the state’s agricultural industry at more than $2.5 billion. Florida’s orange crop suffered the most, taking a more than $760 million hit. The damage from Irma — estimated to have taken out as much as 70 percent of Florida’s orange crop this year — will have a ripple effect. Less work for farmers means less work for pickers, processors and others — from the caretakers who fertilize their trees to the accountants who keep their books. With less money in their pockets, farmers will tighten their belts in other ways, spending less at local stores and restaurants.

Debris hauler touts post-Irma prices as potential savings for taxpayers” via Lisa Huriash of the Sun-Sentinel – Randy Perkins, the founder and chairman of AshBritt Environmental Inc., said his Deerfield Beach-based company won’t collect extra fees from eight South Florida cities after all. The cities had agreed to pay higher amounts in taxpayer money for cleanup service from AshBritt, concerned they were left with debris-strewn streets after Irma left a mess. Perkins said he was forced to increase the fees to keep his subcontractors from leaving town for more lucrative jobs. Those higher costs remain, but Perkins said he’ll eat the difference. He declined to say what that will be, only saying, “It is what it is.”

Long lines greet those seeking disaster food aid” via Ashley Harding of News 4 Jax – The line at the Food for Florida disaster benefits center at Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville formed well before opened at 7 a.m. By 10 a.m., officials with the Florida Department of Children and Families announced that the event had reached capacity for the day and no one else should come out … The Regency location, which is for residents of Duval and Nassau counties, will be open for six days, and each day is prioritized by the first letter of the applicant’s last name. Wednesday was for people with last names beginning with letters A through D. Residents with those names who didn’t make it out Wednesday can attend a makeup day Tuesday. People were strongly encouraged to pre-register online at least one day in advance to allow for faster processing of applications on-site.

Mark Zuckerberg sorry for virtual tour of devastated Puerto Rico” via The Associated Press –Zuckerberg has apologized for showcasing Facebook’s virtual reality capability with a tour of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico. The Facebook founder and another executive discussed the platform’s virtual reality project through avatars in a video recorded live Monday. The video begins with the avatars pictured on the roof of Facebook’s Mountain View, California, headquarters before heading to Puerto Rico by using a 360-degree video recorded by National Public Radio as a backdrop. Zuckerberg later responded to critics, writing that his goal of showing “how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world” wasn’t clear. He says he’s sorry to anyone who was offended.

— “Puerto Rico’s health care is in dire condition, three weeks after Maria” via Frances Robles of the New York Times

Janet Cruz heads to Puerto Rico on aid trip” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa traveled to Puerto Rico Wednesday “to deliver 30,000 pounds of much-needed relief supplies, including food, water, and medical necessities,” her spokesman said. Cruz is working with “Major League Baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Moffitt Cancer Center,” according to Anders Croy, communications director for the House Democratic Office. “Additionally, the group will also be bringing back tissue samples currently on the verge of spoiling that represent years of critical medical research, cancer patients seeking care on the mainland here in Florida, and a group of nuns displaced by the storm,” he added.

Janet Cruz with Evelio Otero, on Oct. 4. Otero collected more than 2 million pounds of goods for Puerto Ricans. Photo credit: NSF.


Florida trims Medicaid HMO payments” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – Florida has reduced by 3.7 percent the rates it pays HMOs and provider-sponsored networks in the biggest part of the Medicaid managed-care system but has given a 2.4 percent hike to plans that offer managed long-term care.  The net result: The state is projected to spend $16 billion-plus on premiums to Medicaid HMOs to care for the poor, elderly and disabled between October 2017 and October 2018. That’s about a $300 million premium reduction from what they were paid last year, according to Milliman, an accounting firm that helps state Medicaid officials establish actuarially sound HMO rates. The hospital cuts accounted for 94 percent of the reduction in rates. Meanwhile, the Legislature’s decision to add nearly 14,300 people to the Medicaid managed long-term care program in the coming months helped lower a potential rate increase from 3.3 percent to 2.4 percent.

Appeals court upholds major tobacco verdict” via the News Service of Florida – Though it raised concerns about a jury instruction, a state appeals court upheld a nearly $35 million verdict against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the death of a longtime smoker. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Colette O’Hara, who filed the lawsuit in Escambia County after the death of her husband, Garry O’Hara. A jury awarded $14.7 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages. R.J. Reynolds appealed on a series of grounds, but the ruling focused heavily on the propriety of a jury instruction sought by Colette O’Hara’s attorneys. The instruction involved an issue about whether Garry O’Hara relied on tobacco-company advertisements. The appeals court found problems with the instruction but concluded it couldn’t determine whether the instruction affected the jury’s decision … Garry O’Hara was a 30-year Air Force veteran who started smoking at age 14 and was diagnosed with fatal lung cancer at age 49.

Regulators shoot down medical marijuana payment proposalvia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – State regulators have rejected a California bank’s proposal to operate in Florida as a financial middleman for medical marijuana-related transactions. The Office of Financial Regulation denied a request from PayQwick for a declaratory statement so it could operate here. Christian Bax, director of the Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, gave a presentation Wednesday to the House Health Quality Subcommittee on the state’s regulation of medicinal cannabis. Though he did not mention the PayQwick case, decided in late August, Bax did say there has been “reticence” on the part of the banking industry to get involved with marijuana sales. Florida has more or less legalized medical marijuana, through statute and constitutional amendment, but selling marijuana still is a federal crime. And banking, by its nature as “interstate commerce,” falls under federal law.

Poll finds Floridian’s want ‘Marsy’s Law’” via Florida Politics – The survey found 85 percent of the 700 likely voters polled agreed with the proposed ballot language being tossed around by Marsy’s Law for Florida, the major backer of the measure which also commissioned the poll. The ballot language played well with voters from both major parties, with 83 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Independents saying they would vote for the amendment. Marsy’s Law establishes a “Victim Bill of Rights” which would require victims to be told about their rights as well as services available to them, and would add updates on criminal proceedings, meetings with state attorneys before plea deals are handed out, and the ability to be attend and speak during court proceedings to the list of rights crime victims have. The proposal is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983

FDLE seeking $29M for new Pensacola regional office” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is asking for an additional $29.3 million in the 2018-19 state budget to build a local office in Pensacola. An FDLE representative told a meeting of the Florida Cabinet Aides on Wednesday that the budget request was being moved from the Department of Management Services (DMS), the state’s real estate manager. “The total estimated cost is $32.3 million for design and construction,” according to a Cabinet meeting agenda item. “An additional $4.8 million will be required for fixtures, furniture and equipment in (fiscal year 2019-20).” If the agency doesn’t get the building money, it says it “will be forced to re-sign a new lease agreement with the same owner despite the building condition,” the agenda says.

Polluted stormwater pouring into St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon, Florida beaches” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – The water is a combination of rainfall runoff from western Martin and St. Lucie counties and Lake Okeechobee discharges since Hurricane Irma struck in September. Farther north, about 20 billion gallons of post-Irma rainwater runoff has poured out the C-54 Canal along the Indian River-Brevard county line and into the lagoon. In between, a plume of brown water from western farmland extends into the lagoon from the mouth of Taylor Creek north of Fort Pierce. “What’s worse than the color of the water is what’s in the water,” said Grant Gilmore, a marine biologist who’s studied life in the lagoon for more than 40 years … with the silt-laden brown water comes “all the chemicals we put on our crops and our lawns,” Gilmore said. “The chemicals kill the plankton in the river and lagoon that all the fish depend on for food.”

UF security costs top $500,000 for Richard Spencer’s talk on white ‘separation’” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – UF will be the first school to host the notorious white nationalist since his “Unite the Right” rally brought torches, Nazi chants and bloodshed to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Still, his speech will center on his primary concern: what he calls the necessity of white identity, and a white homeland, in a multiracial era … Yet the university, bound by the First Amendment, has found itself playing host to his contentious talk with an estimated security price tag for UF, and taxpayers, of more than $500,000. Spencer and his National Policy Institute, which advocates for European heritage, know well that targeting large, public universities like UF is a win-win. They get free speech protections and a built-in audience. Whether students cheer or protest, headlines follow. And for the most part, universities pay the bill. That’s because the Supreme Court has ruled that speakers can’t be made to pay the costs for whatever hostile audience may appear, just like a university can’t ban a speaker in anticipation of protesters.

Tweet, tweet:


South Florida leaders endorse Gwen Graham – The Graham campaign on Wednesday said she had received the support of four more local South Florida Democratic leaders: West Palm Beach Commissioner Shanon L. Materio, Pompano Beach Commissioner Barry Moss, former Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson, and state Rep. Matt Willhite. “After 20 years of one-party rule in Tallahassee, our state is out of time. I’m honored to have the support of these South Florida leaders and look forward to fighting with them to renew our promise to public schools, protect our clean land and water, and to build an economy that works for every Floridian,” Graham said.

Another state attorney endorses Ashley Moody for AG – State Attorney Phil Archer of Florida’s 18th Judicial Circuit is the latest to endorse Moody to succeed Attorney General Pam Bondi. “As a career prosecutor and the top attorney for my circuit, I can say without reservation Ashley Moody is the kind of leader Florida needs right now. Her extensive legal background, temperament, and energy will help us make headway on some of Florida’s most critical issues such as mental health in our court system and elder abuse,” Archer said in a statement.

U.S. Sugar drops $1.5 million into legislative committees; biggest check goes to Jose Oliva” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Oliva was designated as the Republican’s choice to be their next speaker if the GOP retains the majority in the Florida House. On Aug. 18, his political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, received a single $100,000 check from U.S. Sugar — more money than any single contributor had ever given Oliva’s PC. It far exceeded the $5,000 the company had given the committee previously in 2015. What does U.S. Sugar expect in return for this investment? Sugar has aggressively fought Senate President Joe Negron‘s push to force agricultural interests to relinquish some of their land to build a water-storage reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area. It relied on the House and the governor to weaken the proposal last session, and succeeded.

Bill Galvano leads Senate campaign arm to record-breaking Q3 haul” via Florida Politics – The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more than $3.2 million from July through the end of September. Those numbers are way up from the April to June reporting period, when FRSCC took in $720,000. Over the same three-month stretch in 2011, FRSCC brought in a little over $2.1 million. Two years later, the committee had a $1.85 million third quarter, while Q3 2015 saw a little more than $2 million head to the committee’s coffers. The special election in Miami-Dade’s SD 40 can claim credit for the some of that boost, same as the 2015 special in SD 6 and the 2011 contest for the old SD 1, but those quarters still fall short of Q3 2017. The only other difference maker is Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano, who took over fundraising duties for the committee in the summer.

Rebekah Bydlak adds $14K for HD 1 bid, as Mike Hill struggles out of the gate” via Florida Politics –Former Rep. Hill opened a campaign account to return to the House last month, but his first three weeks on the trail haven’t put much of a dent into Bydlak’s lead in Escambia County-based HD 1, where current Rep. Clay Ingram faces term limits in 2018. Hill’s effort brought in just $5,900, including $1,000 from a committee tied to Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala, $1,000 a piece from Pensacola flight instructor Mark Freymiller and his wife, Mia, and another $1,000 from Gulf Breeze chiropractor John Newlin. Bydlak, for her part, piled on another $14,272 for her campaign account in September, a respectable follow up to her banner opening month, which saw her pull in $50,000 for her campaign and another $10,000 for her political committee.

Spotted: Hill in a story out of the McClatchy D.C. Bureau on “The Steve Bannon primary.” Hill, a “Trump backer who is running again in 2018, displays a picture of himself with Bannon on his campaign website.”

Berny Jacques fundraising slows as Nick DiCeglie enters race” via Florida Politics – DiCeglie has been in the race for House District 66 for a month and his first campaign finance report signals a momentum shift in the GOP primary between him and Jacques. Jacques filed March 3 and was the first-in candidate for the Pinellas County-based seat. Since showing $30,000 raised in his initial report, his contributions have slowed. April brought him about $11,000 in campaign cash, and after the dog days of summer, he posted another five-figure report in August. His September report, though, brought about a new low: just $1,875 in new money came in, while about $5,500 went out the door. His lone $1,000 check for the month came in from Sarasota attorney Patrick McCardle, while the remainder came from a smattering of small-dollar donors most of whom gave $50 or less. In all, Jacques has raised $67,344 over the past six months and has about $52,000 in the bank.

Happening tonight – A kickoff fundraiser for DiCeglie’s bid for House District 66 will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Belleair Country Club, 1 Country Club Lane.

Fmr Rep. Jim Waldman “actively looking” at county commission race” via Buddy Nevins of – If Waldman runs, the contest for the seat now held by Commissioner Chip LaMarca could become a freewheeling donnybrook. There are two candidates already running: Pompano Beach Mayor Lamar Fisher, a Democrat. Former Oakland Park Commissioner Shari McCartney, a Republican. Both campaigns expect to be well funded. A well-to-do lawyer and real estate investor, Waldman’s entrance would shake up the race. He pledges to kick-start his campaign with $250,000 from his own pocket. A House member from 2006 to 2014, Waldman was the Democratic floor leader in 2006-2008. LaMarca’s Commission District 4 overlays the northern part of the district that Waldman lost in an expensive, three-way scorch-and-burn race for state Senate last year.


Matt Kiessling: Florida needs commonsense short-term rental policies” via Florida Politics – Short-term rentals have been available across the nation for decades, but have become more popular as technology has helped make them more accessible and affordable. Technology innovators have helped to create a vibrant marketplace for travelers and property owners, expanding the travel landscape by making it easier for travelers to find and book short-term rental accommodations and providing economic benefits to communities around the world. It is important for public policy to reflect the changing travel dynamics brought on by the popularity of short-term rentals, allowing both travelers and residents the ability to benefit from the options and flexibility that short-term rentals provide. Destructive short-term rental regulations being pushed by the hotel lobby can have the unintended consequence of limiting those benefits for both the residents and economy in Florida. Whether the hotel lobby likes it or not, the sharing economy is here to stay. For everyone’s benefit, it is critical for local municipalities in Florida to develop reasonable, efficient policy frameworks that ensure short-term rentals continue to thrive, protect property rights, and promotes economic growth throughout the state.


Personnel note: Joe Garcia to join global strategy firm Mercury” via Florida Politics – Mercury, a leading global, bipartisan public strategy firm, is adding former U.S. Congressman Garcia to expand its Miami team and capabilities both in Florida and across the firm’s national offices. Garcia, who served Florida’s 26th Congressional District, joins the team at Mercury as co-chairman based in the Miami office. “We are excited to welcome Joe Garcia to the Mercury family. His extensive policy experience will be invaluable as we expand our footprint in Miami, and across the Sunshine State,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker.

Reappointed Bob Davis and Mary Ann Haas to the District Board of Trustees of Daytona State College.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Robert Beck, Bryan Cherry, Tanya Jackson, PinPoint Results: Broward County

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Coral Gables

Jim Boxold, Ron LaFace, Jr., Capital City Consulting: Florida Fuel Connection, LLC

David Browning, Mercer Fearington, Jim Smith, Southern Strategy Group: MMI Development

Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: City Year, Inc.

Candice Ericks, Lauren Jackson, Ericks Advocacy Group: Town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

Griffin Finan: DraftKings, Inc.

Allison Flanagan: Department of Education

Nicole Graganella, Colodny Fass: Broward Teachers Union

Timothy Meenan, Meenan:

Joe Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Mattamy Homes

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: TmaxSoft, WeatherSTEM

— ALOE —

SpaceX launches communications satellite, lands booster” via Marcia Dunn of the Associated Press – SpaceX has launched and landed its second rocket in three days, this time from the U.S. East Coast. The unmanned Falcon – recycled following a February flight – blasted off with a communications satellite Wednesday evening from Kennedy Space Center. Minutes later, the leftover booster landed on an offshore barge. The booster launched Wednesday was previously used to deliver supplies to the International Space Station for NASA. It’s only the third time SpaceX has reflown a rocket on an orbital mission.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from pad 39A at the Florida spaceport at 6:53 p.m.

Halloween haunts Disney Springs” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Four Halloween-themed backdrops are scattered through the shopping district including the iconic Mickey pumpkin and a “Shopped ‘Til I Dropped” photo location. PhotoPass photographers will also roam the property with fall-themed props. Once the sun goes down, Halloween music haunts the Disney Springs promenade. A family-friendly DJ Dance Party occurs nightly near Once Upon a Toy. Stilt walkers will join the festivities with daily appearances from Oct. 20-31. The area’s restaurants and shops will also offer seasonal indulgences, like the Pumpkin at Midnight Cocktail with smoked rum and pumpkin liqueur at Paddlefish and caramel apple, black velvet and pumpkin cupcakes at Sprinkles Cupcakes.

Two new attractions to open next year at Legoland” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The Ninjago action continues with the Jan. 20 opening of the 4D theatrical attraction starring the cast of TV’s “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu.” Lego Ninjago: Master of the 4th Dimension combines 3D computer animation with 4D effects in the Wells Fargo Fun Town Theater. Lego Ninjago Days will let kids become ninjas and battle against famous Lego foes on three consecutive weekends: Jan. 20-21, Jan. 27-28 and Feb. 3-4. The Winter Haven theme park announced its new virtual-reality roller coaster, The Great Lego Race, will open next spring. The new attraction that will transform the existing Project X ride into a virtual adventure starring a wacky cast of LEGO minifigures. In May, the park will unveil the newest addition to LEGO Star Wars MINILAND Model Display.

Happy birthday to future Governor Lauren Book, former Rep. Jimmie Smith, Allyce Heflin of Southern Strategy Group, and Doug Kaplan of Gravis Marketing.

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