Peter – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Patriotism in the Sunshine State

Patriotism in the Sunshine State 

While the president may have a ‘Winter White House’ in Mar-a-Lago, Florida doesn’t quite make the cut as one of the most patriotic states in the union.

According to a new WalletHub study that compiled the “Most Patriotic States in America,” the Sunshine State could use a bit more of Uncle Sam’s spirit. Florida didn’t become a state until 1845, which perhaps explains its relatively low ‘Patriotic’ ranking (30) among the other 49 states.

The rankings, of course, were somewhat arbitrarily arrived at by assessing “Military Engagement” and “Civic Engagement.”

Unlike this part-time Floridian, not everyone in the Sunshine State hugs the flag this hard. (Image via Getty)

The armed forces metric used weighted, average scores for military enlistees per 1,000 civilian adults (25 points); veterans per 1,000 civilian adults (~8.33 Points); active-duty military personnel per 100,000 civilian adults (~8.33 Points); and the share of civilian adult population in the reserves (~8.33 Points).

The civic metric looked at the share of adults who voted in the 2016 Presidential Election (~10.26 Points) and the share of adults who voted in the primary (~5.13 Points). It also had lower weights attributed to volunteerism, including activity in the AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. As well, it looked at juror participation and the “frequency of Google searches for American flags.”

The most powerful weighted item for “Civic Engagement” was the civic education requirement in the state (~10.26 Points).

Virginia topped the list overall, and WalletHub found that Republican-voting, or ‘red,’ states fared better in the rankings than blue states. Florida ranked the worst for volunteerism.

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

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

Take 5

Florida gets minor win in ‘water war’ — The U.S. Supreme Court this week overturned a 2017 special master recommendation that claimed Florida did not adequately demonstrate that putting a cap on Georgia water consumption would benefit the Apalachicola Bay in Florida. In effect, SCOTUS is giving the state another chance to make its case before Ralph Lancaster, the court-appointed special master who issued the recommendation last year. Reports Lloyd Dunkelberger for the News Service of Florida, “Among the key questions Lancaster will have to settle is whether an ‘equity-based cap’ on Georgia’s water consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint system would increase the water flow into the Apalachicola River and whether the amount of that extra water would ‘significantly redress the economic and ecological harm that Florida has suffered.’” Leaders in state government hailed the decision as a victory. Dubbed the ‘water war,’ Florida has for decades been embattled in a series of litigation addressing water use in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.

Wildfire sparked by controlled burn — Shortly after a wildfire scorched the Franklin County town of Eastpoint, destroying 36 homes and damaging four more, state officials linked the mishap to a controlled burn overseen by a company that inked a land-management deal with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Wednesday that Wildlands Service, Inc., caused the fire on FWC land. The blaze, which broke out Sunday, burned more than 800 acres of land. After a brief investigation, the state linked the fire directly to Wildlands Service, Inc., ruling out other possible causes, such as lightning, arson and fire accidentally caused by man. Controlled burns are used to clear brush from the forest floor and manage forest growth.

More trouble at Department of Agriculture — Inspector general reports dating back to incidents that began in 2015 documented three Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees’ admissions to sexual harassment and watching pornography on an agency computer. The inspector general reports were obtained and brought to light by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon. One staff member of the agency’s Jacksonville Division of Fruit and Vegetables office had viewed pornographic material more than 1,000 times on a work computer. He was suspended for five days and is no longer with the department. The other two agency inspectors were found to have sexually harassed grocery store workers in separate occasions. Both still work at the agency.

Discharges temporarily halted at Lake Okeechobee — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week it will stop discharging water from the Lake Okeechobee reservoir into the St. Lucie River for nine consecutive days beginning Saturday. The announcement followed reports of toxic algae in the area, along with pressure from Gov. Rick Scott last week to redirect the flow of water south. After July 8, the Corps will begin discharging water in pulses. Stopping discharges, the Corps hopes, will allow areas like the St. Lucie River to regain salinity. “Water levels in the lake remain high for this time of year,” Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, Jacksonville district deputy commander for South Florida, told Ed Killer of TCPalm.com. “The water conservation areas south of the lake are also above their preferred ranges. We continue to work with the South Florida Water Management District to move water through multiple canals to create storage throughout the region to handle the near daily rainfall events we expect during wet season.”

Force could form behind legal pot — John Morgan, the Orlando trial attorney who backed a 2016 amendment legalizing medical marijuana, is considering a push to place an amendment legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2020. “Maybe it’s just time for full legalization,” Morgan tweeted this week. “It would pass with flying colors!” He added: “I’m going to look at starting a fund where we all can donate to get full marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2020. When you mess with the will of the people there are unintended consequences!!” Reports Jim Rosica for Florida Politics, Morgan organized a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. It’s currently making its way through the judicial system. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled the ban unconstitutional, but the state immediately appealed that decision.

Scott highlights affordable housing options

FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance Program, currently providing hotel vouchers for Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, is set to expire Saturday.

Fearing some families will have a continued need for resources, Gov. Scott this week highlighted other state-backed options currently available for those seeking aid. First and foremost, according to the Governor’s office, those needing help should contact the local emergency management office in their county. As well, Scott suggested those in search of housing use a wide array of sources available through the federal HUD and floridahousingsearch.org, or consult a FEMA disaster agent, if available.

Puerto Ricans living in temporary Florida housing face their benefits running out. (Image via Getty)

“Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Florida has done everything possible to help our neighbors both on the island and here in our state,” Scott said in a prepared statement. “After multiple extensions, FEMA’s TSA program is ending this week and Florida does not have the authority to extend this federal program; it is a decision that must be made by the government of Puerto Rico. We are committed to taking every possible action to ensure every family displaced by Maria in Florida receives the best possible care.”

Additionally, Scott announced this week that federal grants are ready to “repair damaged homes, build new affordable housing and provide grants to impacted businesses.” The grants total $616 million and will be administered by the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Through this program, we can continue to move forward with long-term affordable housing solutions for displaced families as well as provide grants to businesses who were impacted by the storm,” Scott said. “We won’t stop working until all of Florida’s communities have fully recovered.”

Scott’s net worth soars

The governor’s worth ballooned to nearly $232.6 million as of the end of 2017, up more than $83 million from a year earlier, according to a financial-disclosure report filed Friday with the state Commission on Ethics.

Scott, who made a fortune in the health care industry and other businesses before entering politics, has put his investments in a blind trust while serving as governor. As a result, the new financial-disclosure report did not detail the reasons that his net worth increased substantially in 2017.

Rick Scott has a reason to smile.

But the report showed the value of the blind trust at $215 million as of the end of 2017, up from $130.5 million at the end of 2016. Overall, Scott reported a net worth of about $149.3 million as of Dec. 31, 2016.

The new disclosure listed a home in Naples valued at slightly less than $14.1 million as of the end of 2017, down nearly $1 million from the previous year. Scott, who is running for the U.S. Senate this year, also listed a $1.5 million residence in Montana, with the value unchanged.

Scott’s campaign issued a news release Friday evening that said he will file a federal disclosure report next month that is required for Senate candidates. The campaign said that report will make available additional details about Scott’s investments.

Patronis aids wildfire victims

Quick remedy came from the state for the 36 victims who lost their homes in Eastpoint, the area that was partially consumed by a recent Franklin County wildfire.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis this week dispatched an insurance team he oversees to Eastpoint to assist victims in filing partial settlement claims. Each emergency filing can request up to $5,000 for household and living expenses such as temporary housing, food, clothing or pet care.

Jimmy Patronis, shown at the Florida Association of Broadcasters annual convention, is offering aid to victims of the Eastpoint wildfires.

“Residents who lost everything shouldn’t have to wait for government bureaucracy,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. “I’ve directed my staff to get boots on the ground to help those impacted to have an expedited track back to normalcy.”

Patronis’ Division of Risk Management will be sending adjusters to the area. The CFO’s Division of Investigative and Forensic Services also have helped assess the initial damage.

“We will continue working to find ways to help Franklin County recover from this tragedy,” added Patronis.

Four other Floridians suffered damage to their homes as a result of the fire. Those who missed the adjusters this week are asked to call the Division of Risk Management at 850.413.3122 for assistance.

State targets cryptocurrency

With the increasing prevalence of digital currencies like bitcoin, CFO Patronis wants the Sunshine State to create a ‘statewide cryptocurrency chief’ to regulate the nuanced legal tender.

“Florida can no longer remain on the sidelines when it comes to cryptocurrency,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. He’s directed his agency to develop a position for a person that “will oversee how current securities and insurance laws apply to Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies as well as shape the future of these regulations in our state.”

Bill Galvano praises Jimmy Patronis’ effort to create a statewide ‘cryptocurrency chief.’

The CFO acknowledged the validity of cryptocurrency but said he cannot let it grow “unfettered and unchecked.” He assured: “My goal is to keep pace with demand and not deter innovation while monitoring for fraudulent behavior and scams.”

Patronis’ concept for a new regulatory position already has the backing of a powerful member of the state Legislature.

“As technology continues to develop, our state needs to be both on the forefront of emerging trends and ahead of the game when it comes to protecting consumers from those who want to scam our residents,” state Senate President-designate Bill Galvano said. “I applaud CFO Patronis for putting innovative proposals forward and will work with him on any forthcoming policy changes.”

‘Framers’ allowed to enter education case

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday allowed 10 members of the 1998 state Constitution Revision Commission to file a brief in a legal battle about whether Florida is meeting its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality system of public schools.

Describing themselves as the “framers” of a 1998 ballot measure that put the duty in the Constitution, the former Constitution Revision Commission members filed a motion in May asking for approval to file a friend-of-the-court brief at the Florida Supreme Court. But attorneys for the state objected.

The 10 former commissioners who sought to file the brief included former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Supreme Court Justice Gerald Kogan and former House Speaker Jon Mills.

The Supreme Court issued a one-paragraph order Friday allowing the group to file a brief but also appeared to leave open the possibility that the state could object to parts of the brief, known formally as an amicus brief.

The order said the approval was granted “without prejudice to the subsequent presentation of objections by respondents to specific content of the amicus brief filed.”

The brief stems from a long-running lawsuit led by the group Citizens for Strong Schools, which argues that the state has failed to comply with the 1998 voter-approved amendment.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Hendry County Property Appraiser

Dena Pittman fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Phillip Pelletie. Pittman, 49, resides in Clewiston and served as the Chief Deputy Hendry County Property Appraiser before June 25, when she took over the top spot. Her term will end Nov. 13.

Franklin County School Board

Kristy Branch Banks fills the District 3 vacancy created by the resignation of Teresa Ann Martin. Banks, 47, of Apalachicola is a lawyer and will serve a brief stint on the Board until Nov. 13. Banks did not qualify for the District 3 post and cannot be elected for another term in the upcoming election.

Children’s Services Council of Martin County

Stuart men James Campo and Joshua Ferraro fill two vacancies on the Council. Their terms will end Dec. 31, 2020. Campo, 54, is the former mayor of Sewall’s Point and a CFP by trade. Ferraro, 38, is an attorney and the current president of the Martin County Police Athletic League.

Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council

Pam Olsen was reappointed for a term that will end July 18, 2021. She is the current Executive Director of the Hilltop House of Prayer.

Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees

Major General Don Litke, U. S. Air Force, Ret., was appointed to fill a vacant seat for a term that will end May 31, 2019. His appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation.

Geller, aide recognized for ‘home rule’ efforts

Aventura Democratic state Rep. Joseph Geller and his Legislative Aide Bryan Vallejo were recently honored by the Florida League of Cities for their work protecting local governments.

In accepting an award from the League, Geller pointed to his fight for home rule, the phrase coined for the concept that many governing decisions are best determined at the local level.

Joe Geller was among those lawmakers honored by the Florida League of Cities for protecting home rule.

“In Tallahassee, sometimes our colleagues need a reminder of the importance of Home Rule powers and that the governments closest to the people govern best,” said Geller. “They are on the front lines of what matters most to local citizens and therefore should be protected to ensure their priorities are safeguarded. Every day, I proudly fight for the cities and municipalities that continue to strive to advance our local communities.”

When the Legislature pre-empts powers to the state or passes expensive, unfunded mandates, it is typically regarded as an affront on local governments. The League represents several municipalities as an active voice in the Legislature to fight against these actions.

Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley said Geller and Vallejo’s “dedication to and support of Home Rule is incredible, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.” Vallejo is the first aide to receive the distinction from the League.

Florida think tank supportive of Supreme Court decisions

It was a good week at the high court for the James Madison Institute.

The free market think tank lauded two U.S. Supreme Court rulings: NIFLA v. Beccera, in which the court ruled unconstitutional a California law requiring crisis-pregnancy centers to advertise state-backed abortion services, and Janus v. AFSCME, in which the court ruled public employees could no longer be required to pay dues to government unions.

JMI hailed NIFLA v. Beccera as a First Amendment win. Saying that “liberty was defended” in the ruling, JMI President Dr. Robert McClure pointed to now-retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurring opinion.

The James Madison Institute salutes Justice Anthony Kennedy. (Image via Bloomberg)

“Justice Kennedy, in his concurring opinion, put it perfectly when he wrote that, ‘Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties,’” McClure said.

In Janus v. AFSCME, JMI had actually filed a ‘Friend of the Court’ brief with SCOTUS and dubbed the ruling a victory for workers’ rights.

“JMI has been supporting the cause of worker freedom for years and congratulates Mark Janus on standing for what he believes in, for being a superb representative for 5 million employees across the country, and for the character he displayed throughout the process that led to today’s historic decision,” JIM Vice President of Policy Sal Nuzzo said.

New laws taking effect

To violently paraphrase the theme from David Letterman’s old CBS Mailbag feature, “We got laws, we got sacks and sacks of new laws.”

Yes, more than 100 bills that Gov. Scott signed into law from the 2018 Legislative Session will go into effect Sunday, including a new state budget that tops $88 billion.

Among laws taking effect:

— HB 21: With Florida still facing an opioid epidemic, the measure will place limits on prescriptions that doctors can write for treatment of acute pain. Doctors in many cases would be limited to writing prescriptions for three-day supplies, but they could prescribe up to seven-day supplies of controlled substances if “medically necessary.”

— SB 140: The bill will largely block minors from getting married in Florida. Marriage will generally be barred for people under age 18, though an exception will be in place for 17-year-olds who have written consent from their parents or guardians. Also, the 17-year-olds will not be able to marry people who are more than two years older than them.

— SB 472: Lawmakers approved placing a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of what became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

— SB 1013: The measure seeks to place Florida on year-round daylight saving time. The change, promoted as a way to help Florida tourism, still needs congressional approval.

— HB 7055: The measure expands the use of voucherlike scholarships to send more public-school students to private schools. One program in the bill will let students who face bullying or harassment in public schools transfer to private schools.

National parks recognize Florida city for historic merit

The City of Arcadia this week was accepted into the Certified Local Government program following certification from the National Park Service.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the news, declaring the Southwest Florida city as Florida’s 75th Certified Local Government.

Arcadia is Florida’s 75th Certified Local Government, eligible for historic preservation resources.

“As a Certified Local Government, Arcadia will now have access to training, technical support and special matching grants to support local historic preservation efforts,” explained Detzner.

Detzner said the 58-block district “passed a local historic preservation ordinance in 2016 and assembled a qualified historic preservation commission with seven members.”

Established in 1980 by the National Park Service, the Certified Local Government program links local, state and federal efforts to preserve areas deemed worthy of the designation. CLGs have exclusive access to some historic preservation grants.

Progressives to protest at Capitol

A coalition of progressive groups announced they would be “speaking out” on Saturday evening “against Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy that separates immigrant children from their families.”

The action starts at 5 p.m. on the steps of the old Capitol in Tallahassee.

“We will also be calling out Gov. Rick Scott and Mayor Andrew Gillum to keep Tallahassee and Florida’s immigrant communities safe and promote safe pro-immigrant sanctuary cities,” the groups said in a joint news release.

“President Trump’s current border separation and deportation policies are horrendous and unacceptable and must be stopped,” they said.

“We call on the President, the Governor and the legislature to protect immigrants in Florida and keep families together by abolishing ICE and ending harsh immigration policies that attack and separate primarily black and brown immigrants.”

The event is hosted by Students for a Democratic Society, the Florida State University NAACP chapter, and Faith in Public Life, and includes members of several local faith institutions, such as from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Islamic Center of Tallahassee, and Temple Israel.

New grants aim to attract skills-based volunteers

A grant fund totaling $360,000 is expected to help nonprofits in the Sunshine State looking to recruit and retain skills-based volunteers.

Volunteer Florida, the Governor’s lead service agency, announced this week that the Volunteer Generation Fund will dole out grants worth $15,000 to 24 recipients in the 2018-19 fiscal year. In total, the grants are expected to help nonprofits manage and support approximately 9,600 skills-based volunteers, who will through their service contribute $1,679,760 to the state.

“As Florida’s lead agency for volunteerism, we are excited to announce this grant funding that will strengthen the operations of nonprofits in the state,” Volunteer Florida National Service Programs Director Cat Keen said. “Our investment will put volunteers to work in diverse and high-impact positions, such as teaching financial literacy, providing disaster recovery and helping job-seekers find employment.”

Volunteer Florida National Service Programs Director Cat Keen. (Image via Tallahassee Democrat)

The grants will help nonprofits needing specialized volunteers like teachers, IT consultants, accountants and attorneys. Volunteer Florida, which will administer the grants, said “special consideration” will be given to groups who specialize in disaster management or preventing drug abuse and addiction.

Nonprofits will match the funding through local investments. A technical assistance call is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 10, via GoToMeeting.

New association represents local government communicators

A new group of Florida professionals formed this week, providing leadership and support for communicators working in Florida’s cities, towns and villages.

Dubbed the Florida Municipal Communicators Association, or FMCA, the group seeks to offer “communications professionals opportunities to learn, share and develop innovative solutions for the municipalities they serve,” according to a news release announcing the association’s formation.

FMCA President Todd DeAngelis (center).

“Regardless of the size of your city or staff, this association can be a valuable resource to your daily operations,” said City of Parkland Public Information Officer and FMCA President Todd DeAngelis. “On behalf of the founding Board, we are confident that FMCA will provide valuable and substantive resources for communications professionals at city halls throughout the state.”

FMCA is affiliated with the Florida League of Cities, which will provide contractual support services to the association.

“The Florida League of Cities has built its reputation on identifying the needs of our member cities and providing the support and resources necessary to meet those needs,” said Florida League of Cities Communication and Education Director and FMCA Executive Director Jenna Tala. “We are thrilled to be part of such a dedicated group of professionals who play an instrumental role in our cities.”

According to FMCA, “membership is open to any person employed by a Florida municipal government who performs communications functions in the regular course of his or her official duties.”

FSU leads schools in graduation rate

With latest data showing 68.4 percent of students grabbing degrees in four years at Florida State University, the school ranks ahead of every other public university’s graduation rate.

The State University System’s 2018 Accountability Plan reported that FSU’s graduation rate is nearly three points higher than the previous year’s cohort — making it the highest graduation rate since SUS began tracking the metric.

Sally McRorie, FSU provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, is celebrating higher graduation rates.

“That’s a very big deal,” said Sally McRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “That’s among the Top 15 public universities nationally.”

McRorie said the school has been deliberately working to make sure students are educated in a timely manner.

“We made the decision that student success was our primary goal and the key fulfillment of our mission,” McRorie said. “This success is a return on those investments, which have been major for a university that has the second-lowest state tuition in the country.”

The newest rating tracked the Class of 2013 at FSU and other universities. In a news release, the university noted that its 2005 rate paled in comparison at just 49.3 percent.

FSU President John Thrasher attributed the success to his staff, which he claimed is “putting students on a path toward earning a degree while providing them with a strong undergraduate experience that prepares them to be successful after graduation.”

Tallahassee gets free electric-car charging

Leon County has begun installing electric-vehicle (EV) charging stations for public use, with the first one ready to go at the Leon County LeRoy Collins Main Library, 200 W. Park St., Tallahassee.

“The electric vehicle charging station can charge all new generation electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles,” the county said in a news release. “They are safe, easy and reliable, and as simple to use as just plugging in a cord.”

The station is free and open to the public. By the end of the summer, Leon County also will install another electric-vehicle charging station at the Leon County Eastside Branch Library, 1583 Pedrick Road.

Leon County closures, changes for July 4

The following holiday closures and service changes will occur in observance of the Fourth of July Holiday.

Closed Wednesday, July 4: Leon County offices, Leon County libraries, Leon County community centers, Leon County Animal Control, Leon County Solid Waste and Rural Waste Service Centers and Household Hazardous Waste Center.

Remaining Open: Leon County parks and recreation facilities (parks and boat landings).

The LeRoy Collins Leon County Branch Libraries will close Tuesday, July 3, at 8 p.m. The LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library will close at 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 3. The LeRoy Collins Leon County Main Library will resume normal operating hours Thursday, July 5, at 10 a.m. and branch libraries will resume normal operating hours Thursday, July 5, at 11 a.m.

Also, the Leon County Solid Waste Facility and the Household Hazardous Waste Center will close Tuesday, July 3, at 5 p.m. and will resume normal hours Thursday, July 5, at 8 a.m.

In the event of an animal-related emergency, service is available by calling the Consolidated Dispatch Agency at (850) 606-5800. Leon County Animal Control encourages residents to only use this service to report dangerous or aggressive dogs, sick or injured domestic animals and animal cruelty. Injured wildlife calls will be forwarded to the St. Francis Wildlife Association at (850) 627-4151.

It’s scallopin’ time

The coastal waters near the capital city will soon be open for business to eager snorkelers looking to fill their mesh bags with a Gulf of Mexico delicacy.

Beginning Sunday, waters bordering Franklin through northwest Taylor counties will be open to bay scallop harvest. Levy, Citrus and Hernando counties also begin the season July 1. Each county will remain open to harvest through Sept. 24.

FWC chairman Bo Rivard is hailing the start of scalloping season.

“Scalloping is a great way to enjoy Florida’s incredible waters and pristine beaches,” Gov. Scott said in a prepared statement. “I encourage all Floridians to get outside and enjoy our world-class scallop season with family and friends.”

The scallop fishery is overseen by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Added FWC chairman Bo Rivard: “The season brings people and an economic boost to these coastal areas, all the while encouraging conservation and connecting residents and visitors to the wonders of Florida’s outdoors.”

As with any controlled fish or game, Floridians must observe the rules and regulations set forth for the season. Per FWC: “Bag and vessel limits in open bay scallop harvest zones are 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person, with a maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell or 1/2 gallon of bay scallop meat per vessel.”

Some content this week provided by The News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission.

Capitol Directions

Malled to death

And here we go again.

Another ill-fated plan to save a failed development with taxpayer dollars.

This story from the Tallahassee Democrat has two agencies (Department of Children and Families and the Department of State) moving into another failed shopping center.

Let’s not forget what happened just a few years ago when state agencies were forced out of the slipshod Northwood Mall because of … wait for it … bat poop.

I remember reading headlines from the Tallahassee Democrat at the time that made me wonder whether I had mistakenly clicked on The Onion. One of my personal favorites was 10 Pounds of Bat Feces Found Above Secretary’s Desk which at a minimum makes me wonder how someone didn’t catch that problem when it hit, say, the five-pound mark.

But I digress.

What was more amazing to me (at the time) was the realization that someone had the bright idea to shove public servants into failing malls in the first place.

By the time I was attending college in Tallahassee, Northwood Mall had already slid into commercial oblivion under the competitive onslaught of larger, more ambitious malls like nearby Tallahassee Mall and the upscale Governor’s Square Mall. But, I remember Northwood Mall held a special place in the hearts of Tallahasseans.

Opened in 1969, it was Tallahassee’s first indoor mall, then anchored by the city’s first Publix. Northwood also had the distinction of housing the first Eckerd’s pharmacy.

Time, tastes, and a shifting population center had overtaken Northwood Mall; soon it was hollowed out from fleeing tenants and shuttered stores.

One of the legendary tales of Tallahassee involved a lobbyist renting those large unwanted spaces in Northwood Mall to his well-placed friend in state government, allegedly generating the first million-dollar-plus lobbying fee in the capital.

It’s a good story (and could even be true), but it wasn’t a particularly good outcome for the state employees who were forced to work in the abandoned mall.

In 1989, the mall changed its name to the Northwood Centre, and over the decades it began a slow decline overseen by out-of-state owners that ultimately resulted in 1,500 state employees fleeing its half-million square feet, citing black mold and bat guano as creating a hazardous environment.

If you head just a few blocks north from the decrepit Northwood Centre, you’ll find what used to be its nemesis, the Tallahassee Mall. Well, actually, the Tallahassee Mall recently went through what may be the most ill-considered rebranding ever when it was transformed into the Centre of Tallahassee. (Is “Centre” the ancient Latin word for “dead mall?”)

But, despite a series of new out-of-state owners, renovations and increasingly desperate relaunches of the Tallahassee Mall, it is slowly succumbing to the fate of the Northwood, a victim of Amazon and the general sense that the mall moment in America is entirely, irrevocably over.

(How dead is the Tallahassee Mall? It’s so dead, in fact, that there’s a picture of the Tallahassee Mall under the “dead mall” entry in Wikipedia. That’s about as dead as a mall gets.)

So, if you’re an out-of-state owner and you have an official Wikipedia death certificate for your mall in Tallahassee, what do you do? You default to the strategy of last resort: Try to fill it with state workers.

It isn’t surprising this would be the mall owner’s response. But what is astounding is that the State of Florida would still consider this a viable option. And yet, here we are.

Unbelievably, the state is actually considering putting state employees in the Centre of Tallahassee. It may not be good enough for Smoothie King, but somehow it’s good enough for state workers.

The location is inconvenient for the workers and the public they serve, the cavernous physical space is poorly suited to act as offices, and the constant demoralizing signal it sends to the state workers and all who visit them is that they are an afterthought, useful for little more than propping up a bad real estate deal.

It would be nice to think our government could learn from its recent mistakes. Can state officials in Tallahassee not see the folly of this approach?

Maybe it’s time we treat our public servants as professionals rather than pawns, and we afford them a common dignity of real offices rather than makeshift cubicles located in housewares at Dillard’s.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.29.18

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

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

We have to lead Sunburn with a major development, first reported by Florida Politics, that could change the dynamics of the Democratic primary for Florida Governor: NextGen America, the civic action group founded by billionaire Tom Steyer, is endorsing Andrew Gillum. Coming on the heels of progressive activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s upset victory in a New York congressional race, Gillum will head into Independence Day with a trainload of momentum. Read more about this possible game-changer here.

Big get: Noted anti-Trumper Tom Steyer is endorsing Andrew Gillum for Governor.

The Florida Democratic Party has already sold out the 2018 Leadership Blue Gala this weekend, so if you didn’t get a ticket, here’s who you’ll be missing:

— Keynote speaker Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, the Democratic Governors Association chairman.

— House Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

— Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Also, Democratic legislators and candidates from across the state will speak at the event.

They include the five candidates for Governor — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine — as well as special guests like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Kat Posada.

“We look forward to electing a Democratic Governor for the first time in 24 years,” FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo said in a statement.

“This weekend couldn’t come at a more important time,” she added. “We are so excited for this opportunity for Democrats across the state to come together to strategize, train, and prepare to turn Florida blue in 2018.”

The event is being held in Hollywood and will include “grassroots training, strategy meetings with Democratic caucuses and clubs, and Saturday night’s gala.”

“After eight years of Rick Scott, Florida is ready to elect a Democrat to lead their state,” Inslee said. “Florida Democrats are fired up to take back the governorship and win up and down the ballot.”

>>> The full weekend schedule can be found here.

Meantime Friday, the Republican Party’s Sunshine Summit boasts a bonanza of conservative stars from Florida and nationally.

Welcome to Day 2 of the Florida GOP’s Sunshine Summit.

The speakers’ agenda is jam-packed, but let’s take a look at a few of the highlights:

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Congressman Ron DeSantis, candidates for Governor. After their Thursday night debate, this will be an opportunity for them to individually shine. “A recent Fox News poll shows Putnam with a healthy lead over DeSantis, 32 percent to 17 percent, though nearly four in 10 voters are undecided,” the Times’ Steve Contorno reports. Expect both to hit red-meat Republican issues hard before a friendly audience.

— House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-designate Bill Galvano. They’re slated to appear together for a “Future of Florida” panel. Expect some insights on priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session. As an aside: If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll hint at a path forward for gambling reform despite the likely passage of a state constitutional amendment this November. If passed, it will largely strip lawmakers’ influence over gaming.

— State Rep. Chris Sprowls. The Pinellas County Republican has already clinched the House Speakership for 2020-22, after Oliva. The former assistant prosecutor, now returned to private practice, may hint at his own priorities in the years ahead. Sprowls, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, joined the State Attorney’s Office for Pasco and Pinellas counties shortly after graduating law school. He led an effort this year to pass a bill that will initiate research and data collection on the state’s criminal justice system.

Dick Morris, author and pundit who rose to fame as the political consultant to President Bill Clinton on “triangulation,” the melding of traditional Republican and Democratic policies in the hope of compromise. He has since gone on to support and consult for Republicans and has been a regular on the talk show circuit. And Morris has praised President Donald Trump, particularly on what he calls the new “dominance” of the United States.

— Last but not least: Dinesh D’Souza, author and filmmaker, and the reason Peter Schorsch won’t be attending this year’s summit. On Twitter, D’Souza mocked students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were murdered during a February mass shooting. Gov. Scott, Putnam, and Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo all released statements critical of D’Souza, who later apologized. But DeSantis said: “I disagree with what he tweeted, but I would not disinvite him” to the summit.

ICYMI: Frank White goes prime-time — If you tuned into last night’s gubernatorial debate between DeSantis and Putnam, you saw the following ad from GOP Attorney General candidate White, now a state Representative from Pensacola. We were told it would air twice statewide during the debate. White tweeted the ad earlier Thursday, with the message: “I am a Constitutional conservative with a record to back it up. I have an A+ rating from the NRA, am 100% pro-life, support term limits and stand with President Trump.”

Happening today — POLITICO Playbook co-authors Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, and Playbook Florida author Marc Caputo host a Playbook Elections event to discuss the 2018 midterm cycle and issues in the race. This event is part of the POLITICO-AARP Deciders series and will feature interviews with Debbie Mucarsel-PowellDavid Richardson and Donna Shalala. The event will take place at the InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza. Doors open at 8 a.m.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MattHarringer: Does anyone know, is @RonDeSantisFL endorsed by @realDonaldTrump?

@RumpfShaker: So we had an hour debate and what, maybe two questions actually about Florida? Pathetic, Fox News. The primary is in August and voters deserved to hear how these guys would actually operate as GOVERNOR, not just what they think about Trump.

@Fineout: After watching both the Democratic/GOP debates so far, maybe it’s time to recognize that as TV news and media coverage spends more and more time on DC — and that’s what voters/focus groups tell the campaigns they are interested in — the debates revolve around those talking pts

—@MaryEllenKlas: Winners of the @FoxNews GOP debate: @marthamaccallum and @BretBaier. They asked well-prepared, FL focused, and tough questions. Predictably, the well-trained pols @adamputnam and @RonDeSantisFL avoided direct answers.

@ErikaDonalds: Well, we got a question about the largest piece of the state budget, but what about the second largest?? #SunshineSummit

@MarcACaputo: DeSantis not in favor of legalization of weed, but says it should be left up to the states and that the feds shouldn’t prosecute over it Putnam: as a dad, as an employer, I don’t want Florida to jeopardize our “family friendly” image

@ChrisKingFL: Nothing on affordable housing. Nothing on raising the minimum wage. A whole lot of cozying up to President Trump. Is that really the best @FloridaGOP has to offer? That wasn’t a race to the right. It was a race to the bottom. #FLGOPsummit

@FredGuttenberg: These vile candidates, Putnam and DeSantis, have simply shown that they are weak. We will make sure they will see the devastation of the gun policy that they support first hand. They will come face to face with an orange wave.

@Lin_Manuel: This Saturday, 2600 Puerto Rican families will be kicked out of FEMA funded temporary housing on Sat, many in Florida. The same program for those displaced by Hurricanes #Katrina & #Rita were extended to 26 months. PR victims have only been given 9 months.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 9; MLB All-Star Game — 18; Deadline for filing claim bills — 33; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 33; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 34; Start of the U.S. Open — 59; Primary Election Day — 60; College Football opening weekend — 62; NFL season starts — 70; Future of Florida Forum — 89; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 116; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 117; General Election Day — 130; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 230; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 249.

— TOP STORY —

Ron DeSantis gets solid hits on national issues in Fox News debate” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The first Florida Republican gubernatorial debate mainly focused on national issues and how they affect Florida, giving U.S. Rep. DeSantis chance after chance to put Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam on the defensive Thursday night. The Fox News organized, moderated, and televised debate pressed the two on issues ranging from Supreme Court picks to Trump, and from international tariffs to immigration reform. DeSantis’ wheelhouse. While Putnam pressed his conservative values and credentials hard on everything from tightening abortion laws to gun control, DeSantis accused him of being soft on the estimated 850,000 illegal immigrants in Florida because Florida’s agriculture industry may want them, while waving his own endorsement from Trump like a trophy. “He has been weak on the border, weak on immigration,” DeSantis charged to Putnam. Putnam had few chances to talk about issues he’s watched dominate much of Tallahassee in recent years such as school reform, land conservation, jobs growth, or state budget priorities because they never remotely came up. “I care more about the jobs in Ruskin [Florida] than about Russia,” Putnam said, one of several attempts, mostly that went nowhere, to turn the attention to Florida state issues.

Ron DeSantis scores some significant hits on national issues.

Putnam, DeSantis vow to sign abortion-ban law if elected” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida — Putnam and DeSantis both pledged at their first debate to sign legislation to ban abortions “after a fetal heartbeat is detected.” Such a law would be viewed as a direct challenge to the federal landmark abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade. “Yes, I’ve said I would sign the heartbeat bill,” Putnam said when asked about whether “the next Supreme Court justice should vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.” “Yes, we need a constitutionalist on the bench; someone who is not going to try and make law from the bench, but, someone who will abide by our constitution and protect and defend life.” … “I will always pursue a pro-life agenda here in Florida as Florida’s next governor,” Putnam said.

Florida Democrats: Republican debate a ‘right-wing circus’” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — … within minutes of the 6:30 p.m. start time, Florida Democrats had a lot to say. … 10 minutes into the Republican debate, FDP sent out an email saying that if SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, “Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis would lead Florida’s war on women.” … Gwen Graham echoed FDP in a series of tweets shortly after the debate started. … Andrew Gillum, who often touts his successful court battle with the National Rifle Association on the campaign trail, didn’t need to wait reheat Putnam’s most famous statement of the campaign season to date — that he’s a “proud NRA sellout.” … fellow gubernatorial candidate Chris King followed up after the debate wrapped with a statement lamenting the debate’s focus on the president … “Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis just spent 60 minutes one-upping each other on who’s the bigger Trump sycophant.” … former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine hit his GOP opponents for their focus on blaming Barack Obama for everything from health care to, as Putnam asserted, the degradation of political discourse. … Most Democrats admonished Putnam and DeSantis for going “Full Trump” at the debate, and FDP chair Terrie Rizzo was among them. Her post-debate statement wasn’t one of frustration, however, but one of confidence and anticipation of Election Day. “After tonight’s debate, I’ve never been more confident that Democrats will retake the Governor’s Mansion in November​,” she said.

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Conservative group launches Florida ads on Nelson, SCOTUS vacancy — One Nation, an issue advocacy organization dedicated to promoting common-sense legislative solutions, launched a digital campaign in Florida advocating for the nomination and confirmation of a constitutional conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ad, entitled “SCOTUS,” calls on Nelson to not cave to the far left by obstructing Trump’s nominee. “This is merely the first step in our full-fledged advocacy campaign for the nomination and confirmation of a constitutional conservative to the U.S. Supreme Court,” said One Nation President and CEO Steven Law. The paid digital ad is part of a 10-state advocacy campaign that begins running today.

To view the ad, click the image below:

Scott at the White House pushing for full dike funding, expanded water monitoring” via the Sunshine State News — Scott met with White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to continue advocating for full funding for the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The governor also spoke about the importance of the federal government quickly approving the EAA reservoir project, which will hold more water south of Lake Okeechobee. For decades Congress has failed to address the dike or EAA water storage. Scott has fought for them, believing they ultimately will help minimize harmful water releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and Estuaries that can cause algae to bloom.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

DeSantis scores Jose Oliva’s endorsement for Governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Oliva endorsed DeSantis … Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking Republican to swing his support to a candidate who otherwise has little support from Tallahassee power brokers. “Ron always puts America first,” Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican who made his fortune in the cigar industry, said in a written statement. “He’s a tax cutter, budget hawk, education reformer, and the rarest of elected officials in Washington, a demonstrated conservative. Florida has consistently shown what conservative governance can do for our schools, economy, job creation, and quality of life. We must continue that legacy of conservative leadership and Ron DeSantis is the candidate we can trust to do that.” The endorsement … could open the door to Oliva’s fundraising prowess as one of the two most powerful men in the Republican Florida Legislature. It could also signal support for DeSantis in the Cuban-American community in Florida’s most-populous county, Miami-Dade, where about 72 percent of the registered Republicans are Hispanic, nearly all Cuban-American.

After wildfire, Graham calls for investigation into contracting scandals” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Graham is calling for an outside investigation into recent state contracting scandals, after authorities said a wildfire that destroyed 36 homes in the panhandle was started by a company contracted by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “While I am glad the FWC and its Inspector General are conducting an internal review of the Eastpoint fire, that isn’t enough given the repeated state contracting scandals we are seeing from the Scott administration,” Graham said in a statement. “We need an outside investigation to examine what keeps going wrong so that we can demand accountability from the Governor and Florida Legislature,” she said. “If Scott doesn’t initiate it immediately, it will be one of the first things I do as governor to cut down on the state’s waste, fraud and abuse.”

Two more sheriffs endorse Denise Grimsley for Ag Commissioner” via Florida Politics — Nods came in from Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell and Gilchrist County Sheriff Robert Schultz, who join the sheriffs of Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Levy, Putnam, Marion and Union counties to give the Grimsley campaign a monopoly on North Central Florida law enforcement. Darnell’s endorsement is somewhat notable given that, like most voters in the county she serves, Darnell is a Democrat. While she is the seventh Democratic county sheriff to cross party lines to endorse Grimsley, she is the first to do so since Florida Democrats got a competitive option in the statewide race with the entry of pro-marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried.

Shad Khan backs Alvin Brown for Congress” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — “Alvin Brown is a forward-looking leader that Florida needs,” Khan said. “I’ve worked with him and seen him in action up close as he’s made a difference on education and economic development. He is the best candidate for the job.” Brown added: “I am humbled by the outpouring of support our campaign has received from folks across the 5th District. Shad is a positive force in the community, and I’m proud of the incredible work he’s done in Jacksonville.” Khan, who heavily supported Brown’s re-election campaign for Jacksonville mayor, has not made a habit of supporting electoral challengers in local races. His preference has been to help incumbents with whom he can partner, so the decision to go against a sitting incumbent (one well-regarded by many in Jacksonville’s political class) is worth noting.

Looking forward: Jacksonville’s Shad Khan — owner of the Jaguars, among other things — endorses Alvin Brown for Congress against incumbent Democrat Al Lawson, calling Brown “a forward-looking leader that Florida needs.”

Assignment editors — Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina joins congressional candidate Lauren Baer for church services Sunday at River of Life Fellowship Church, 4500 S. 25th St., Fort Pierce.

Republicans burn Carlos Curbelo after taking his PAC money” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Curbelo needed just 25 Republicans to support his push for a “discharge petition,” a parliamentary move designed to bypass House leadership and bring the issue of immigration reform to the House floor. But only 20 of the 61 Republicans he contributed to signed on, leaving the effort two votes short of the necessary threshold. Worse, 13 Republicans who received money from “What a Country!” both refused to sign the discharge petition and also voted against the compromise legislation this week — denying the Miami Republican on his signature issue, immigration reform. That failure is now haunting him on the campaign trail in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, the nation’s most Democratic-leaning seat held by a Republican running for reelection.

Congressional candidate says NBC Miami rejected campaign ad over Spanish content” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Matt Haggman, a Democrat running for Congress in Miami, ripped NBC’s Miami affiliate after he says they refused to run a campaign commercial because it includes 10 seconds of his wife speaking Spanish. But the station says his facts are all wrong. According to Haggman’s campaign, he purchased airtime on the station recently in order to run a 15-second commercial. But Brian Svoboda, an attorney representing Haggman’s campaign, says the campaign was told by its media buyer that WTVJ “would not run the advertisement because of a general policy that disfavors Spanish-language advertising.” An NBC6 spokesperson said in a statement that Haggman’s campaign was completely wrong and that the ad would run as early as Friday. “The Haggman campaign’s information is inaccurate,” said the statement. “We do accept Spanish-language ads, and NBC6 accepted the Haggman campaign’s ad.”

Janet Cruz scores endorsement of Ruth’s List in state Senate race” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — “Leader Cruz is an extraordinary advocate for Florida’s women and families,” said Pamela Goodman, Ruth’s List Florida executive director. “Her record is unblemished — supporting gender equality, women’s reproductive rights, and health care for all. The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.” Cruz said, “I am privileged to stand with the grassroots army of strong, dedicated women built by Ruth’s List. Women all across this country are energized and making the difference by demanding and voting for candidates who support equality and fairness at work, school, and everywhere.” Cruz is running for the District 18 seat which is currently held by Dana Young.

United Teachers of Dade endorses Jason Pizzo in SD 38 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jason Pizzo has grabbed the endorsement of the United Teachers of Dade (UTD) in his Democratic challenge to incumbent state Sen. Daphne Campbell. Pizzo, a Miami attorney, is competing with Campbell in the Senate District 38 primary. No Republicans filed to run in the race. The teachers’ union released a statement explaining why they’re supporting Pizzo. “We believe that he will make a difference in Tallahassee by voting pro-public schools, working toward sound education policies, and looking to improve the lives of working people,” said UTD President Karla Hernandez-Mats. “We know that by doing so, Jason will help us positively impact the 350,000-plus children that we educate every day.”

Rebekah Bydlak earns NRA endorsement over former lawmaker Mike Hill” via Florida Politics — The NRA said it picked Bydlak out of the three Republicans in the primary race due to her “strong support of the Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues.” The endorsement comes in a day after Bydlak got the nod from the Florida Medical Association. She has also been endorsed by Clay Ingram, who has held the House District 1 seat since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections.

Lock and load: The NRA has endorsed Republican Rebekah Bydlak to succeed term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram in House District 1 for her “strong support of the Second Amendment, self-defense, and anti-crime issues.”

National Rifle Association backs Sasha Dadan for HD 83” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Dadan, a Port St. Lucie attorney, has picked up an endorsement from the National Rifle Association in her bid to succeed term-limited Stuart Rep. Gayle Harrell in House District 83. “The National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida are pleased to inform you that both organizations have endorsed you for election to the Florida House of Representatives,” reads a letter signed by past NRA president Marion Hammer. “We sincerely appreciate your strong support of Second Amendment, self-defense, and crime issues.” … Dadan, a who entered the race in late May, faces businessman and Martin County Republican Party chair Toby Overdorf for the GOP nom in the safe Republican seat covering parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

—“Anna Eskamani receives teachers’ union endorsement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

State attorney race heats up with complaints, counter-complaints among Republican candidates” via Michael Braun of the News-Press -He said, she said. That’s been the tenor of the Republican campaign for state attorney of the 20th Judicial Circuit. The latest salvo came this week when Stephen Russell, the current state attorney, requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct an investigation into a complaint alleging a felony violation by attorney Chris Crowley, who is running for state attorney against Chief Assistant State Attorney Amira Fox.

Meanwhile … “Poll: Gay voters are concerned about guns” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A new national poll by the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence finds an overwhelming percentage of LGBTQ voters support what the fund is campaigning on: gun control. The survey was conducted of 880 self-identified LGBTQ adults by Whitman Insight Strategies in association with Pride Fund; the margin of error is 3.3 percent. Of those surveyed, 79 percent said the sale guns should be stricter, and 75 percent said that a political candidate’s position on gun reform is likely to impact their vote. Among other findings: 89 percent support expanded background checks to cover all gun sales; 88 percent support preventing individuals convicted of hate crimes from purchasing guns; 80 percent support banning assault weapons; 78 percent support banning large-capacity magazines.

— HELP WANTED —

FEC officials are having a hard time regulating political advertisements in the digital age. 

“During a daylong public hearing in Washington, D.C., the Federal Election Commission’s four remaining commissioners … couldn’t find consensus on how to best drag federal political ad regulations into an internet age that commenced last century,” reports Ashley Balcerzak for The Center for Public Integrity and TIME. 

Worsening the situation for the FEC, tech giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google declined to testify, which caused FEC Democratic Vice Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub to declare that those companies ‘would have been more useful than a panel of constitutional lawyers.” 

Baby steps: “At the most basic level, FEC commissioners are trying to decide how online ads should display a disclaimer that generically reads: ‘Paid for by Committee X. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee,’” reports Balcerzak. 

Self-regulation: Facebook, Twitter and Google already have placed restrictions on political ads in the wake of Russian trolls interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Facebook recently launched a public database of all political ads showing who has paid for them. “Twitter goes so far to require a U.S. passport in some cases.” 

Can’t keep up: Part of the problem of trying to regulate digital media is how frequently the landscape changes. One source told Balcerzak, “Rules focused on characters, pixels, seconds, font size, contrast and other visual factors are too inflexible to withstand technological change.” 

— A BILLION HERE, A BILLION THERE —

Florida lawmakers passed an $88.7 billion budget during the 2018 Legislative Session. 

But that doesn’t tell the whole story, writes Lloyd Dunkelberger for the News Service of Florida. Nearly $610 million was tacked onto the overall budget to fund 16 other bills passed and signed into law by Gov. Scott — meaning Florida is spending quite a bit more this year than in years past. 

“The $89.3 billion in spending is $4.36 billion higher than the 2017-2018 budget year that ends Saturday, representing more than a 5 percent increase,” writes Dunkelberger. “It is more than $20 billion higher than the $69 billion 2011-2012 spending plan, which was the first under Scott, who leaves office in January because of term limits.” 

Parkland: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act was accompanied by $400 million, the largest out-of-main-budget expense, notes Dunkelberger. It includes “$69 million for mental-health programs in school districts, a $97 million increase to hire more school resource officers, a $98 million grant program for improving school security and $67 million for an initiative that would allow school personnel to be trained as armed ‘guardians’ on school campuses.” 

Bright Futures: The permanent expansion passed by the Legislature and signed into law came with a $123.5 million sticker price, also outside of the main budget. 

Opioids: Landmark opioid legislation passed the Legislature this year was accompanied by $53.6 million to target the drug epidemic. 

— STATEWIDE —

Appellate court mostly finds for lawmakers in matching-gift case” via Florida Politics — The Legislature largely won in an appellate decision out Thursday in a case alleging lawmakers failed to match $460 million in private donations to universities and state colleges that were made under Florida’s matching-gift laws. A unanimous panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal found that Circuit Judge Charles Dodson overstepped when he declared “that the Legislature’s failure to appropriate funds constitutes a violation of the single-subject requirement (in) the Florida Constitution.” Dodson also didn’t have “jurisdiction to grant one of the remedies sought in the complaint — an injunction prohibiting the Legislature from adopting future appropriations bills that do not contain specific appropriations for matching donations — because doing so would violate the separation of powers doctrine,” the opinion says. “The message is clear. Courts cannot interfere with the process of another branch of government to perform its constitutional duties.”

Three more lawmakers going to gambling conference — Another trio has confirmed attendance at the National Council of Legislators from the Gaming States’ (NCLGS) summer meeting next month in Cleveland. Reps. David Santiago, a Deltona Republican; Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican; and Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican; have said they will be there, organizers said. They join Sen. Perry Thurston Jr., a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Reps. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat, and Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican. Those three had previously confirmed. The conference is July 13-15 at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown. The meeting agenda includes six legislative sessions on “Casinos, Emerging Forms of Gaming, Lotteries, Pari-Mutuels, Responsible Gaming, and State-Federal Relations;” two “master classes” presented by the International Masters of Gaming Law, and a special general session panel “examining the economic impacts of gaming.” The event is organized by Spectrum Gaming Group, the New Jersey-based consulting firm hired by the Florida Legislature in 2013 to review and analyze the state’s gambling landscape.

Six lawmakers call for review of civics test administration in three Florida counties” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The six legislators — Sen. Dennis Baxley and Reps. Jason FischerMichael BilecaJames GrantBob Rommel and Jennifer Sullivan — repeated criticisms raised by members of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, an organization that formed to oppose the Florida School Boards Association’s legal challenge of the state tax-credit scholarship program. Fischer, a one-time Duval County School Board member, is a former coalition member. In a news release, the coalition contended that the Duval, Manatee and Polk districts held low-performing seventh-graders out of taking the civics exam to boost their passing rates. District officials explained they intended to have the students take the exam as eighth graders after they are better prepared. State officials have confirmed there’s nothing wrong with that approach.

Jason Fischer is one of a group looking for a review of civics test administration.

Performance money ready to flow to universities” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Board of Governors approved the distribution of $560 million in annual performance funding for 11 state universities, and, as usual, there were winners and losers … the university-system board approved $265 million in state performance funds for eight schools, with three schools at the bottom of the performance list getting shut out. The board also endorsed the distribution of $295 million in “institutional” performance funds for 11 schools. Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s newest school, is not eligible yet. The total performance funding is $40 million higher than the $520 million in performance funding in the 2017-2018 academic year. The annual list is based on 10 measurements of performance by each of the institutions, including graduation rates, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs. The University of Florida was at the top of the funding list with $110.6 million, including $57.6 million in state performance funding. Last year, UF received just under $104 million.

Dog-racing ban lawsuit to go before judge — Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers has changed the time of a hearing this Friday on a lawsuit filed by the Florida Greyhound Association against Amendment 13, court dockets show. The hearing will now be 11:30 a.m. The amendment, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), aims at ending dog racing in the state. The Animal Law section of The Florida Bar and the Committee to Protect Dogs have asked to get involved in the suit, which named the Department of State as a defendant. Among other claims, the suit says the ballot title and summary “ … fail to inform voters that its passage would essentially expand gambling by allowing pari-mutuel facilities in Florida to convert to mini-casinos.” The amendment would allow other gambling activities such as card games to continue at tracks after betting on dog racing ends. The measure would need at least 60 percent approval from statewide voters to be added to the constitution. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

Department of Corrections hosts ‘same-day hiring’ event — The state’s prison system will be at Gulf Coast State College on Friday with “same-day job offers for correctional officers.” Northwest Florida Reception Center in Chipley, Franklin Correctional Institution in Carrabelle and Gulf Correctional Institution in Wewahitchka all have jobs open, and each is offering a $1,000 signing bonus. Applicants should bring a driver’s license, legible copy of birth certificate, social security card, high school diploma, GED or college transcripts and any name change documents (if applicable), such as a marriage certificate. Veterans and current reservists/Guardsmen should bring a copy of their DD-214 or military ID, respectively. If you want to take the Criminal Justice Abilities Test during the event (required for employment), please bring a money order in the amount of $12 made payable to the Florida Department of Corrections. That’s from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Central time, Gulf Coast State College, Robert L. McSpadden Student Union East, 5230 W Highway 98, Panama City. Preregister for the event by calling 866-562-3362.

State weighs adding data to health transparency site” via the News Service of Florida — There is no “launch date” for new data to be uploaded to a Florida website aimed at improving health care price transparency … Molly McKinstry, deputy secretary for health quality assurance at the Agency for Health Care Administration, said the state hasn’t decided when to make the updated cost information about care at local hospitals available on the FloridaHealthPriceFinder website. “That’s something we’re considering,” McKinstry told members of the State Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council when asked about the agency’s plans. The council assists the agency in how the state collects and shares health care data and recommends improvements.

Somebody started an attack website in this activist’s name. Now, she’s suing” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A blogger known for criticizing politicians in Northeast Miami-Dade is suing a website hosting company — for allowing someone to create an anonymous page dedicated to bashing her. Stephanie Kienzle filed a lawsuit against Fabulous.com, which hosted a page created by unknown critics in her name. Kienzle, who runs the website votersopinion.com, was once named “Gadfly of the Year” by the Miami New Times for her persistent columns about what she sees as corrupt politicians in North Miami and North Miami Beach.

Stephanie Kienzle of Voters Opinion. (Image via the Miami New Times)

Confederate statue to be moved to Lake County” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The question of the day: Where do you put a statue of a Confederate general that has represented the state in the U.S. Capitol for years? The answer: The Lake County Historical Museum. The panel … received three proposals from curators looking to bring the statue back to the Sunshine State. The Statue Location Selection Committee decided on Thursday to allow the Tavares museum to take ownership and responsibility of the no-longer-wanted statue depicting Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith. After hearing two interested parties make pitches, taking public comment and scoring each proposal based on viability, the panel overwhelmingly agreed that the Lake County Museum fits the bill.

Florida getting better for kids” via Ryan McKinnon of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Life as a kid in Florida is getting better, slowly but surely, according to a national report released Wednesday, though the state still ranks among the bottom half in the country. Florida moved up six spots to rank the 34th best place in the country for children on the 2018 Kids Count Data Book, an annual ranking of outcomes for children in the United States produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The annual report measures all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico across four areas: economics, education, health and family. Although Florida remains in the lower half of rankings, the state’s 34th place ranking is a major improvement from last year’s report, which ranked Florida 40th.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump administration extends ban on lawsuits over confiscated property in Cuba” via Mimi Whitefield of the Miami Herald — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress that he intends to suspend a section of the Helms-Burton Act that allows former owners of commercial property expropriated by Cuba to sue companies and the Cuban government for using or “trafficking” in those confiscated holdings. Beginning Aug. 1, Pompeo said, he would suspend for another six months the right to bring a legal action under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, also known as the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act. The law requires notification of congressional committees at least 15 days before a suspension is to begin. The secretary of state has authority to determine Title III since January 2013, when former President Barack Obama delegated the matter to the State Department.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

US government OKs Florida’s Hurricane Irma recovery plan” via The Associated Press — The federal government has approved Florida’s request for $616 million that will be partially used to repair homes destroyed or damaged by Hurricane Irma last year. The state’s plan says $273 million will be spent fixing and rebuilding 6,000 homes. Another $100 million will be used to build affordable housing, $75 million to buyout homes in high-risk areas, $62 million for administration and $60 million for small business recovery.

Darren Soto’s longshot tactic aims to stall deportation of undocumented wife of Polk County Marine veteran” via Lisa Maria Garza of the Orlando Sentinel – Alejandra Juarez, the wife of a Marine veteran in Davenport, is putting her faith in a rare legislative tactic in hopes of avoiding her scheduled Aug. 3 deportation to Mexico and the breakup of her family. But it’s a longshot that apparently has little chance of delaying the 38-year-old undocumented immigrant’s deportation, based on a policy change by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under President Trump.

Ex-aide to Roger Stone subpoenaed in Russia investigation” via Maggie Haberman of The New York Times — The aide, Andrew Miller, has not been mentioned before publicly in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Miller, a registered Libertarian, worked briefly for Stone around the Republican convention in 2016, helping to arrange media interviews and conducting other tasks … A lawyer, Paul Kamenar, said he planned to file a motion on behalf of a client who was subpoenaed to be questioned in front of the grand jury, though he did not identify Miller. Kamenar said the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit organization, was paying for his services. His motion will argue that Mueller’s appointment “was unconstitutional,” he said.

— MOVEMENTS —

League of Cities forms “Florida Municipal Communicators Association” — The new association, launched Thursday, is dedicated “entirely to the communication efforts of Florida’s municipal governments.” It’s billed as a professional network of individuals providing communications leadership and support in Florida’s cities, towns and villages. “Regardless of the size of your city or staff, this association can be a valuable resource to your daily operations,” City of Parkland Public Information Officer and FMCA President Todd DeAngelis said in a statement. “On behalf of the founding board, we are confident that FMCA will provide valuable and substantive resources for communications professionals at city halls throughout the state.” The association will be administered by the Florida League of Cities. Membership is open to any person employed by a Florida municipal government who performs communications functions in the regular course of his or her official duties. To learn more, visit fmcaonline.com.

Personnel note: Michelle Ashton joins Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida — Ashton is the organization’s new digital marketing and membership manager. She comes to the foundation with “more than 12 years of experience in communications, project management, and community engagement,” a news release said. “Her diverse background includes work in public-private partnerships, cultural organizations and nonprofits in Louisiana and Texas.” President and CEO Andrew Walker said in a statement, “Her experience fills a need at the Foundation and will help us grow to better serve Florida’s wildlife. Communicating with donors, the media and the public is vital to our mission, and we look forward to improving our efforts with the creation of this role.”

Personnel note: BG Murphy leaves Jimmy Patronis’ office, joins SentryMurphy, formerly legislative affairs director for the Department of Financial Services, has joined Wisconsin-based Sentry Insurance’s government relations team. He’ll represent Sentry, working with lawmakers and regulators in Southeastern states. “We’re excited to have someone with a wealth of knowledge about how public policy is formed join our team,” said Tony Trenzeluk, Sentry’s director of Government Affairs. Sentry’s Government Affairs team “tackles insurance issues on the local, state, regional, and national level. Team members come from all political backgrounds with the goal of building relationships with legislators, candidates, and trade associations,” a release said. Murphy will continue to be based in Tallahassee.

Appointed — Major General Don Litke (U.S. Air Force, Ret.) to the Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees.

— WEEKEND TV —

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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei host a roundtable with guests Republican political consultant Adam Goodman, Tampa Bay Times columnist John Romano, Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief Steve Bousquet and Gayle Andrews, a Democratic political and media consultant.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on population growth across Florida cities and how it affects the quality of life. Joining Walker-Torres are Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn; Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere; West Melbourne Mayor Hal Rose; and Lakeland Mayor Pro-Tem Phillip Walker.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Guests include former state Rep. Amanda Murphy and candidate Leo Karruli to discuss the Supreme Court travel ban ruling. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made by the Florida Democratic Party about Gov. Scott.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with reporter Dara Kam and Bob McClure of the James Madison Institute.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute director; Anna Lopez Brosche, outgoing Jacksonville City Council president; Melanie Patz, co-chair of the 904ward Jacksonville Community Remembrance Project; Dr. Rudy Jamison, UNF Center for Urban Education and Policy; state Rep. Cord Byrd.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a roundtable focusing on immigration.

— ALOE —

Central Florida could get another area code” via the News Service of Florida — State regulators next month could approve moving forward with a new area code — 689 — in parts of Central Florida. The state Public Service Commission is scheduled to take up the issue July 10 because of a projection that the region will run out of available numbers in the 407 area code, which serves Orange, Osceola, Seminole and parts of Lake and Volusia counties. Public Service Commission staff members recommended approval of using the additional area code. The proposal came after Neustar, Inc., which helps administer area codes, sent a letter to the Public Service Commission in May saying that the available numbers in the 407 area code were only sufficient to meet demands for another year.

First look at Toy Story Land” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Toy Story Land opens to guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Saturday, but Orlando Rising was a part of a special sneak preview and its two new attractions. Also featuring a new entrance for Toy Story Mania and a new counter-service restaurant … “All the toys around you are playing, and when you enter the land, you become an honorary toy as well,” said Wilma Colon, Walt Disney World spokesperson. Turning right into Toy Story Land … guests will first see Woody, leaning on the Toy Story Land sign. Keeping with the “toys in Andy’s backyard” theme, you’ll find large footprints on the dirt-colored pathways and structures made to look like toys or random items strewed across the yard, like Popsicle stick benches and wooden blocks as barricades. The first attraction you’ll also notice is Slinky Dog Dash, the family roller coaster which weaves throughout much of the 11-acre land. The ride features two powered launches with the whole experience lasting just under two minutes.

Toy Story Land to open this weekend.

Florida dominates ‘best beach towns’ list” via WalletHub — With summer being peak moving season, the personal-finance website WalletHub determined the most livable beachside communities, by comparing 205 cities across 58 key metrics. Five Florida cities made the top 10 list. The dataset ranges from housing costs to share of for-sale waterfront homes to the quality of beach water. Top 10 Best Ocean Beach Towns in America (in order): Lahaina, HI; Naples; Sarasota; Mill Valley, CA; St. Augustine; Santa Monica, CA; Boca Raton; Kihei, Hi; Westport, CT; Key West.

There’s a Gmail plug-in to make you stop apologizing so much” via Leah Fessler of Quartz — If you begrudge your knee-jerk hedges, you may enjoy the Gmail Chrome plug-in called Just NOT Sorry, created by Tami ReissSteve BrudzManish Kakwani, and Eric Tillberg of Def Method, a software consultancy based in New York. Once you’ve installed Just NOT Sorry, which takes approximately 20 seconds, the plug-in alerts you whenever you write minimizing words like “I’m sorry,” “I just,” or “I’m no expert” in an email, by underlining such phrases in red. When you hover over the underlined phrase, the plug-in provides succinct pop-up advice as to why you should amplify, and not undermine, your message. The advice comes from experts like Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a labor economist specializing in gender, and Tara Sophia Mohr, author of Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead. (Should you choose to keep the underlined words, they will not appear underlined when you send your email.)

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes today to two politicos at the top of their game, even though they play for opposite teams: Sarah Bascom, a fierce defender of, well, half of the capital and Christian Ulvert, proud Democrat representing, well, half of South Florida.

Last Call for 6.28.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Another day in America, another mass shooting. This one chills the marrow of those of us in the news business.

Thursday’s tragedy came at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, where a gunman shot “multiple people,” according to initial reports.

Police there soon confirmed an “active shooter” at the paper’s offices. At around 4:30 p.m., Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ron Bateman said a suspect was in custody and at least five people were reported to have been killed, county officials said.

The latest shooting comes four and a half months after a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County shot and killed 17 people.

“What a heartbreaking and senseless tragedy at the @capgaznews,” Gov. Rick Scott tweeted. “@FLAnnScott and I are thinking today of journalists in newsrooms in Florida and across the country.”

Democratic candidate for Governor Gwen Graham also weighed in on Twitter: “This is not normal. We cannot accept journalists hiding under desks, or children huddling together in school closets, or concertgoers running for their lives … We must do everything we can to make our communities safer from senseless gun violence.”

The incident happened to occur the same week right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos called on “the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” as reported in a New York Observer story.

He later explained he had simply issued his “standard response to a request for a comment.”

Phil Davis, the Gazette’s crime reporter, tweeted Thursday as he waited to be interviewed by police: “Gunman shot through the glass door to the (newsroom) and opened fire on multiple employees. Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad.”

The Gazette is owned by The Baltimore Sun, where police were also stationed “as a precaution,” that paper reported.

Evening Reads

Digital ad pressures Bill Nelson to support Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court pick” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Tallahassee mayor’s path to Governor’s mansion runs through Florida’s black community” via Elizabeth Koh and Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald capital bureau

Incoming House Speaker backs Ron DeSantis in Governor bid” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Adam Putnam: ‘Grassroots passion’ to prevail over Donald Trump-backed Ron DeSantis” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Democrats say FEMA, HUD have ‘abandoned’ Puerto Rican evacuees in last-minute push” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel

Shad Khan backs Alvin Brown for Congress” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Feds still deliberating entering lawsuit over FIU bridge records” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Lake Okeechobee discharges to St. Lucie River will stop for nine days, then resume” via Ed Killer of TCPal.com

In volatile market, big Florida law firms grew financially — or just held on” by Lizzy McLellan of Daily Business Review

How to watch the first Florida Republican gubernatorial debate tonight” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.” — A tweet by Phil Davis, crime reporter at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

A POLITICO Playbook Elections event is set to discuss the 2018 midterm cycle and issues shaping the races. This event is part of the POLITICO-AARP Deciders series and will feature interviews with Democratic congressional candidates Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, David Richardson and Donna Shalala. That’s at 8 a.m., InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami.

The Department of Corrections is offering “same-day job offers for correctional officers” in north Florida at an event on the Gulf Coast State College campus. That’s at 8:30 a.m. Central time, Robert L. McSpadden Student Union East, 5230 W Highway 98, Panama City. Preregister for the event by calling 866-562-3362.

The Republican Party of Florida’s “Sunshine Summit” will continue and feature numerous speakers, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and conservative figures such as Dinesh D’Souza and Grover Norquist. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, 6000 West Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee.

Republican John Ward, who is running for an open seat in Congressional District 6, is slated to take part in a Lake County GOP “Coffee with the Candidate” gathering. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Lake County Republican Party office, 212 West Main St., Tavares.

The Florida Democratic Party will start its “Leadership Blue 2018” event in Broward County. That’s at 3 p.m., The Diplomat Beach Resort, 3555 South Ocean Dr., Hollywood.

Conservative ‘warrior’ attacks Naples Daily News, reporter

“SMEAR JOB,” the tweet blares in all caps.

“Journalism is dead,” it adds, blasting former Florida Politics correspondent Ana Ceballos, now the Tallahassee-based reporter for the Naples Daily News.

The David Horowitz Freedom Center went on the attack this week over her “partisan hit piece” on Congressman and Republican candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis.

That article noted DeSantis “accepted a paid trip to attend a conference featuring speakers who have defended a candidate accused of child molestation, suggested killing Muslims and argued that women are less likely to be in leadership roles because of ‘biological causes.’ ”

The event was organized by — you guessed it — the David Horowitz Freedom Center, “established by right-wing provocateur David Horowitz.”

He “picked up the $1,218 tab for the three-term congressman’s two-night stay at a luxury beachfront hotel in Palm Beach last November, according to financial disclosure forms. DeSantis, a Palm Coast Republican, was invited to speak on national security issues,” the story said.

Horowitz is a refugee of the leftist 1960s, taking to the far-right in the 1980s, when he founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles, later rebranded as the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

It “sees its role as that of a battle tank, geared to fight a war that many still don’t recognize,” its website says. “Since its founding in 1988, the Center has been warning that the political left has declared war on America and its constitutional system, and is willing to collaborate with America’s enemies abroad and criminals at home to bring America down.”

Ceballos declined to comment. Here’s the news release the center tweeted out on the “vile and shoddy” story, oh my, misspelling her first name:

We’ll just note, among other things, the news release says she wrote that DeSantis himself “suggested killing Muslims,” when the story doesn’t say that.

Otherwise, we’ll let Mr. Horowitz and/or his minions hoist themselves on their own petard.

__

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.28.18

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

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

The first Republican gubernatorial debate, Thursday’s highlight at the two-day Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit, ought to have Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam nervous and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis salivating.

At least under conventional thinking, which cautions against risking faceoffs if you’re 15 points up in polls, especially on national TV; and recommends high-profile shots at the front-runner if you’re down that much.

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the 2015 Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit.

But not here.

Putnam’s most likely going to find himself among good friends packing Orlando’s Gaylord Palms Convention Center Ballroom; while DeSantis, who’s done too much of his campaigning through FOX News appearances, may have to hope his calling card from BFF President Donald Trump works with introductions.

Putnam spent his eight years as Ag Commissioner and certainly the 14 months of this campaign visiting every county and berg he could get to in Florida. He can tell you where the best BBQ is in Taylor County, or what infrastructure locals need in Hendry. He likely not only knows most delegates, he probably knows if one of their sons made the varsity football team this year.

Home-court advantage for Putnam, and potential traps aplenty for DeSantis.

Tweet, tweet:

First in Sunburn – Florida Democrats release guide to GOP debate — Putnam and DeSantis are gearing up for their first debate in the Republican primary for Governor, and the Florida Democratic Party is rolling out a digital ad and a “guide” to help viewers at follow along. … “This is the most extreme, far-right field of Republican candidates Florida has ever seen. Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are in a race to the right in which each candidate is aggressively competing to win over the GOP’s extreme base,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo. “While the Democrats have already held three debates focused on issues like health care, education and the economy, the Republicans are in an all-out brawl to be Donald Trump’s man in Florida.” … The ad, titled “Sellouts,” slams Putnam for referring to himself as an “NRA sellout” and the recent revelation that the department he runs as Agriculture Commissioner went a year without conducting a sometimes-required background check for concealed weapons permits. DeSantis gets hammered as a Trump gopher beholden to a stable of billionaires backing his campaign. It then goes dives into a back-and-forth of the two candidates blasting each other while lauding Trump. … As far as what to watch for the in the debate, FDP says to look out for DeSantis going “Full Trump” and questions whether he’ll hold Putnam accountable for “his mismanagement of the Department of Agriculture” … the guide also questions whether the candidates will “move beyond platitudes and address teacher pay” and whether they’ll use any time addressing health care issues.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@MarioDB: Sitting idly by was, and always has been, out of the question for me. I remain ready to negotiate with any Member of Congress who is willing to join me in prioritizing this issue over petty politics and party. #immigration

@MattGaetz: Get ready for @seanhannity in Pensacola!

@RosLehtinen: I voted for the compromise #immigration bill because it moves our country in the right direction by protecting #DREAMers from deportation, putting them on a pathway to citizenship, and allowing them to continue a productive life in a nation that benefits from their contributions. 

@SalNuzzo: Make no mistake — this was the single most consequential week of @realDonaldTrump Presidency. Today, constitutional conservatism achieves generational wins with several #SCOTUS rulings #FlaPol

@mcimaps: This is actually lose-lose. If we somehow block a SCOTUS nominee and drag it to 2019 it could well tank several red state Dems. Then a GOP majority just confirms later. I’m having real trouble seeing a path that doesn’t lead to pain.

@fineout: Chief Financial Officer @JimmyPatronis said that the state will set up a claims office on Thursday in Franklin County — residents who lost their homes from the fire will be provided assistance to help with living expenses to “create some stability.”

@JimRosicaFL: A bench trial on the Florida Greyhound Ass’n suit against the @FloridaCRC betting on dog-racing ban previously had been set for July 26 at 2 p.m. before Gievers. #FlaPol

@bruceritchie: “Today’s ruling is a huge win for the entire state of Florida,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said of US Supreme Court ruling in case against Georgia over water use. But the case isn’t decided — it goes back to the special master to address evidentiary questions.

@FLBOG: Congratulations to @USouthFlorida for achieving its goal of reaching preeminent status, as designated by the Florida Legislature. Go Bulls!

— DAYS UNTIL —

Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 10; MLB All-Star Game — 19; Deadline for filing claim bills — 34; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 34; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 35; Start of the U.S. Open — 60; Primary Election Day — 61; College Football opening weekend — 63; NFL season starts — 71; Future of Florida Forum — 90; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 117; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 118; General Election Day — 131; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 231; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 250.

— TOP STORY —

With the release of several high-stakes opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court has dominated the media cycle this week.

But perhaps the strongest bit of news didn’t come from a SCOTUS ruling. Instead, it came from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced on Wednesday he’d retire from the highest court.

Kennedy, a conservative, is regarded as a swing option on SCOTUS. He’s aligned with more liberal rulings on key issues in the past. Thus, the news sent shockwaves across the country, especially in Florida.

Retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Starting at the top: Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he respected Kennedy and believed he was a “balanced, consensus candidate” when former President Ronald Reagan appointed the judge. “I expect President Donald Trump to do the same with his nomination.” Nelson also suggested the nomination, which requires Senate approval, take place after the election. Gov. Scott, who’s competing against Nelson for his Senate seat, thinks otherwise. “I am glad a vote for the next Supreme Court Justice will happen this fall,” Scott said.

In Congress: Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Stephanie Murphy were quick to comment. “Now our country’s highest court could be tilted in favor of special interests over the American people,” Deutch wrote on Twitter. “Reproductive, LGBT, and voting rights are at serious risk. Our slow progress toward equality could now be undone.” Added Murphy: “America is watching. We will speak up & we will be heard. The future of our nation is at stake.”

On the trail: In the Democratic race for Governor, Chris King and Jeff Greene spoke up first. King said, “News of President Trump filling another lifetime appointment should send shivers through the spine of every American —— a Supreme Court refashioned in Donald Trump’s image will issue devastating blows to civil rights, workers’ rights and women’s health care.” On Twitter, Green wrote that Kennedy “has served fairly and honorably — I only hope his replacement will have the courage to do the same.” Conversely, on the Republican side, U.S. Rep. DeSantis wrote, “Trump has been terrific in his judicial picks and this will be biggest nomination yet!”

—“The 25 people most likely to replace Kennedy on the Supreme Court” via Jessica Estepa of USA TODAY

—“Scott: SCOTUS pick should happen this fall; Nelson: wait until after election” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

—“After failing to pass abortion restrictions, Joe Gruters sees hope in Kennedy’s retirement” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

FDP wants Scott to press Trump to end fight against Obamacare pre-existing condition rule” via Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida – The FDP earlier this week began circulating the letter to people around the state from its various lists. It’s likely the respondents, whose names POLITICO reviewed, lean left. But they weren’t asked their party affiliation or whether they are registered to vote. The letter was signed by more than 60 Floridians from 38 counties. “On Thursday, while you spend the day hobnobbing with donors in Washington, D.C., we request that you stop by to see your ‘close friend’ Donald Trump and tell him to stop his attacks on healthcare protections for pre-existing conditions,” the letter states. Scott’s office said it would “keep [POLITICO] posted” on whether the governor will meet with Trump or anyone in his administration about its court battle over whether mandating insurance companies cover people with pre-existing health conditions is still constitutional under the Affordable Care Act.

Playing with fire: Scott, a raging inferno, and a $50,000-a-head fund-raiser” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Thirty-six homes and 800 acres are reduced to charred rubble. Residents of a close-knit, hardscrabble community are left without food and shelter. As they assess their lives in 95-degree heat, all they have are questions. … One place to start is with the seven political appointees on the wildlife commission who hired the vendor. Every one of them is a close friend of Gov. Scott. Serving as a wildlife commissioner is a plum appointment. The FWC board is an extension of the governor’s office and always has been, so this is also Scott’s problem. … (A) Scott appointee to the FWC is Gary Nicklaus — the son of that Nicklaus, as in Jack, the Golden Bear, a long-time Palm Beach County resident. While Eastpoint residents were still sifting through the rubble on Wednesday, the golfing legend threw a fund-raiser for Scott’s Senate race, and a listing as a host cost a donor $50,000. That money would go a long way in Eastpoint right now — and those are hardly ideal optics for any political campaign.

Happening today:

DGA chairman: Florida high on ‘national priority list’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — “It is high on our national priority list,” Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, told POLITICO. “Florida is ready for a change after two decades.” Inslee, who as DGA chairman is tasked with coordinating Democratic gubernatorial races nationally, says that the sometimes aggressive tone does not concern him once primary politics are in the rearview mirror. Inslee said his group does not yet have a set budget or outline for what it will spend on the Florida race, but stressed the winner of the primary race will have DGA resources in the general election.

Florida on top: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Documents: Putnam office staffers admitted inappropriate, sexually charged behavior” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Within a one-year period, beginning in early 2015, three staffers in Agriculture Commissioner Putnam’s office admitted to sexual harassment and watching pornography on a work computer, as documented in state investigations. Two of the incidents were grocery store inspectors who work for Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services; each made inappropriate comments to non-department female staff who worked at grocery stores. A third staffer was a fruit and vegetable inspector who used his state computer to view pornography more than 1,000 times, including searches involving state Attorney General Pam Bondi, who serves with Putnam on the Florida Cabinet. In all three cases, which are detailed in separate inspector general reports, Putnam, carried out some form of punishment. Two of the employees are still with the department, which has about 3,650 employees, while the third left for unrelated reasons.

More trouble for Putnam — “Florida wildfire started by state contractor attempting controlled burn, investigation finds” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — A wildfire in Eastpoint that destroyed 36 homes and burned more than 800 acres was caused by a state contractor attempting a controlled burn, an investigation has found. Wildland Fire Services, Inc., a company hired by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, caused the wildfire during a prescribed burn, Putnam said in a news release. His office conducted the investigation into the fire.

First in Sunburn — Video: Gwen Graham details plan to ‘Take it Back’ — Graham is out with a new video backed up by a digital ad buy pitting her campaign platform against the past 20 years of Republican rule in Tallahassee. “It has been really bad for the state of Florida that for 20 years the Republican Party has been in total control. It’s the special interest, high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee,” Graham says over high-contrast photos of Richard Corcoran, DeSantis, Putnam, and Scott. “It makes me really angry. It didn’t used to be this way.” … “I grew up in a household where public service meant caring about the people of the state and caring about the state itself,” Graham says. “We’ve lost that, but we’re going to take it back.” Her plan to unwind two decades of Republican control: Medicaid expansion, slashing public funding of charter schools, and getting “weapons of war off our streets and out of our schools.” The former Congresswoman, who more often defines herself as a one-time PTA mom, closed with a message for those who think she doesn’t have the right stuff to go toe-to-toe with Putnam or DeSantis in November. “As I’m campaigning to be the next governor of Florida, the commitment I’m making — they’re not just words. So do not mistake my friendliness for any single bit of lack of resolve. Because that’s why I’m running. I’m running to help this state, and I’m going to get it done for the people of Florida.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Philip Levine rolls out more local endorsements — New backers include Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán; former Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Levine-Cava; former Broward County DEC Chair Mitch Ceasar; Hillsborough County School Board Member Lynn Gray; Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy; former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas; and Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick.

Save the date — Fox News conservative commentator Sean Hannity will hold a campaign rally with Matt Gaetz and gubernatorial candidate DeSantis on Monday, July 2, 5:30 p.m. Central time, New World Landing, 600 S. Palafox St., Pensacola. The event is open to the press and public.

Stephanie Murphy picks up union backing, pledges to fight for them” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — In an announcement of little surprise to anyone, Murphy’s re-election campaign announced the backing of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, its affiliate, the Central Florida AFL-CIO; and the Florida Education Association. Together they represent more than 180,000 members in Florida. She then took the occasion to address the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus vs. AFSCME, in which the court, by a 5-4 decision, banned so-called “fair-share fees,” which require workers represented by unions to pay dues whether they want to be union members or not. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court is the latest salvo in a decadeslong partisan attack on workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain for better jobs and a better life,” Murphy said in a news release. “Having grown up in a union household, I believe this ruling is a setback for workers and the people they serve.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorses primary challenger to Murphy” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Chardo Richardson hasn’t gotten much traction so far — but the Democratic Party’s biggest new star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, made sure to endorse him after her stunning victory in New York on Tuesday night. Murphy, though, has a massive campaign-money advantage over Richardson and could point to two new endorsements from major labor groups the Florida Education Association and the AFL-CIO. Richardson, 38, of Longwood, a former ACLU of Central Florida board member, knows Ocasio-Cortez through progressive groups formed to find and recruit potential candidates. “We were the original Brand-New Congress and Justice Democrats,” Richardson said. “Alexandria and I always had a great relationship and supported each other.”

Surprise Democratic winner Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is endorsing Stephanie Murphy’s primary challenger. (Image via Getty)

Internal Annette Taddeo poll finds she starts re-election campaign with double-digit lead” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling just as Cancio was getting into the race two weeks ago, found that Taddeo would have pulled 49 percent of the vote compared to (Republican attorney Marili) Cancio’s 32 were the campaign held in mid June. Cancio, who only filed her campaign papers June 12, fared slightly worse than a generic Republican candidate would in running versus a generic Democrat.

Florida Medical Association backs Rebekah Bydlak for HD 1” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A political committee tied to the Florida Medical Association gave Gonzalez Republican Rebekah Bydlak its seal of approval in the race to succeed term-limited Rep. Clay Ingram in Escambia-based House District 1. “As a lifelong member of her community, Rebekah Bydlak will be a great representative to her constituents in House District 1 and the FMA PAC looks forward to working with her on the health care issues important to the citizens of Florida,” said Dr. Mike Patete, president of FMA PAC. Patete’s pratique is the latest for Bydlak, who has also been endorsed by Ingram. … Bydlak’s main challenger is fellow Republican Mike Hill, who served three years in the House before leaving to mount a failed campaign for Senate District 1 in the 2016 cycle. Milton Republican Lisa Doss made it a three-way primary race when she filed two weeks ago. … HD 1 covers the bulk of Escambia County. It is a Republican stronghold.

Palm Beach unions endorse Tina Polsky for HD 81” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Tina Polsky is pulling in support from several local and statewide unions in her race for House District 81. The Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA), the Florida Education Association (FEA) and the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association (PBA) are all backing Polsky in her Democratic primary with Mindy Koch. “We are pleased to endorse Tina because she has shown us that she cares about access to high-paying jobs and health care,” said Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO President Pat Emmert. “Tina will also make sure that unions have a permanent seat at the bargaining table in order to ensure safe working conditions and equitable pay.”

—“Construction trade association endorses HD 114 challenger Javier Enriquez” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

— STATEWIDE —

Scott, Cabinet delay decision on hiring new OFR head” via Florida Politics — Despite interviewing five “quality candidates” on Wednesday, Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet held off on appointing a new head of the state’s Office of Financial Regulation (OFR). Instead, they decided to keep the application period open through mid-July. Thirty-four people already had applied. Scott, Attorney General Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Patronis, and Agriculture Commissioner Putnam held a conference call and interviewed their top five applicants to replace outgoing OFR Commissioner Drew Breakspear … After interviewing the five — including state GOP state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville — Scott balked, saying he wanted more time to make a decision. Scott and the others also agreed to accept more applications and decide at the next Cabinet meeting on Aug. 14.

PSC nominating panel sets meeting for next month — The Public Service Commission Nominating Council will meet July 17 in Orlando to interview the six “most qualified” candidates to fill two upcoming vacancies on the PSC, which regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities. They include Julie Brown and Gary Clark, who are hoping to get reappointed for another four years. Their current terms expire at the end of the year. Brown, an attorney from Tampa, has served on the PSC since January 2011 and was reappointed in 2014. Clark was appointed to his seat last September to complete the term of Patronis, named to serve as Florida’s chief financial officer. Clark previously was a deputy secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. After interviewing the candidates, the council — chaired by Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican — will forward a short list to Gov. Scott, who will make the final selections.

Julie Brown is seeking another term on the PSC.

Florida unexpectedly releases school grades” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Without warning, the Florida Department of Education released 2018 school grades in a midday email that caught school districts unaware. The bottom line showed a continued increase in A-rated schools and a decrease in F-rated schools. Nearly all schools that received an F in 2017 saw an improvement of at least one letter grade. The grades take on even greater significance this year for another reason: Schools with continued poor results of D or lower face takeover by outside entities, with the possibility of a district-managed turnaround abolished by the state Legislature. For Foster and Oak Park elementary schools in Tampa, that’s bad news. They saw their grades remain low and will be taken over by an external operator as a result.

FSU says it qualifies for nearly $100M in ‘performance funding’ ” via Florida Politics — Florida State University says it’s “improved in every performance metric outlined by the Florida Board of Governors and will receive $98.7 million in performance funding this year in recognition of its continuing excellence.” The school announced a Wednesday news release. The funding is subject to confirmation Thursday by the full Board of Governors. The funds will allow Florida State to “continue making investments in targeted areas as it strives toward its goal of becoming a U.S. News & World Report Top 25 public university.” “I’m pleased that our achievements are reflected in the performance metrics,” FSU President John Thrasher said in a statement. “This performance funding will help support the university’s preeminence in ways that will benefit our students and the state as we prepare career-ready graduates.”

’Stand your ground’ rejected in murder case” via the News Service of Florida — The ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal stemmed from the conviction of Hiram Gonzalez Morales in the death of Crestony Colin. Morales contended that he killed Colin in self-defense after Colin pointed a gun at him and demanded money while the pair were in a car in rural Palm Beach County. Morales said he twisted Colin’s hand that held the gun, which went off and killed Colin. Morales put Colin’s body in the trunk of the car and later set fire to the car in western Broward County, with Morales suffering burns on his legs. Morales unsuccessfully argued in circuit court that he should be shielded from prosecution under the “stand your ground” law, which says people are justified in using deadly force and do not have a “duty to retreat” if they believe it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm. He also raised self-defense arguments at trial but was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison. The appeals court, in an eight-page ruling, said the circuit judge did not err in denying the “stand your ground” defense.

Dog-racing ban lawsuit to go before judge — Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers has set a hearing for this Friday on a lawsuit filed by the Florida Greyhound Association against Amendment 13, court dockets show. That’s a proposed state constitutional change put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The measure aims at ending dog racing in the state. The Animal Law section of The Florida Bar and the Committee to Protect Dogs have asked to get involved in the suit, which named the Department of State as a defendant. Among other claims, the suit says the ballot title and summary “ … fail to inform voters that its passage would essentially expand gambling by allowing pari-mutuel facilities in Florida to convert to minicasinos.” The amendment would allow other gambling activities such as card games to continue at tracks after betting on dog racing ends. The measure would need at least 60 percent approval from statewide voters to be added to the constitution. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 12 tracks.

First in “Last Call”: Casino seeks tax relief for slots — Calder Race Course is seeking a tax break from the state’s Department of Revenue on its slot machines, records show. The department, in response to a public record request, on Wednesday released a copy of the petition Calder’s attorney, James M. Ervin Jr. of Tallahassee, filed June 20. The Miami Gardens track, which no longer runs live horse racing, now does business as Calder Casino, offering about slots and electronic table games. It leases 122 of its 1,100 slot machines from vendors, the petition says, and pays both state and local tax. But state law caps taxes collected on the first $5,000 worth of “tangible personal property.” Calder is asking that each of its three slots leases be considered separately to fall under the $5,000 cap, instead of as a whole “single sale,” easing its tax burden. “Each of the three supplied invoices detailing the leasing of slot machines meets the requirements of a single sale,” the petition says. “Given the high cost of slot machines, the implications of the $5,000 surtax limitation represent a substantial and material value to the petitioner’s business.”

Calder Race Course is seeking a tax break.

Brightline high-speed rail opponents want to know where candidates stand on the issue” via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — A group is asking candidates for several local, state and federal seats to take a survey about the proposed Brightline high-speed rail project that, if completed, would connect Miami, Tampa and Orlando. Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida is sending the survey to 76 candidates. Candidates targeted include those running for U.S. Senate, congressional districts 8,18 and 20, governor, the Florida Legislature and county and city commission seats along the Treasure Coast. The three congressional districts are on Florida’s east coast from Fort Lauderdale to just north of Titusville. Tampa Bay and Orlando candidates are not included in the survey. The group is asking candidates to return the survey by July 13 in order to have a report card ready for voters ahead of the Aug. 28 Florida primary.

Class action gets go-ahead in toll dispute” via the News Service of Florida — A state appeals court cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit against the Miami-Dade Expressway Authority by companies that lease trailers pulled by tractor trucks. The lawsuit stems from tolls that the expressway authority charged to the trailer companies based on a system that captures images of vehicles’ rear license tags. The companies had leased trailers to other businesses that, in many cases, then hired tractor-truck owners to haul the trailers. The trailer companies allege in the lawsuit that they should not have been charged tolls, which were the responsibility of the truck drivers, according to the ruling by a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal. The plaintiffs, including Tropical Trailer Leasing, LLC, also sought to “certify” the lawsuit as a class action. A Miami-Dade County circuit judge approved the certification, leading the expressway authority to appeal. In a 2-1 decision, the appellate panel allowed the class-action lawsuit to move forward.

DeLand city commissioner arrested on drug charges, FDLE says” via Michael Williams of the Orlando Sentinel — Jeffrey Hunter, 59, has been under investigation since February 2018, authorities said. He faces a charge of sale or delivery of hydrocodone. Authorities learned Hunter might have been involved in drugs while investigating a fraud and extortion case in which he was a victim. Agents discovered that Hunter had allegedly given his ex-girlfriend pills on several occasions, officials said. Hunter was booked into the Volusia County Jail on a $25,000 bond.

Happening today — The Florida Association of Counties continues its annual conference, with panels starting at 8:15 a.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Dr., Orlando. Workshops include “Running for Higher Office: What You Need to Know.” Schedule panels discussions will feature former Secretary of State Sandra Mortham; state Rep. Charlie Stone of Ocala; state Rep. Chuck Clemons of Newberry; state Rep. Kathleen Peters of Treasure Island; and former lawmakers Steve Geller and Nancy Detert. Speakers on other panels throughout the day include state Rep. Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek; state Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg; and Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.

— GROUND ZERO —

A glimpse at recent history paints a rough picture for the Sunshine State.

A new Palm Beach Post investigation ties the nation’s heroin epidemic to actions in the state beyond the already reported pill mill hubs in South Florida.

DEA records reviewed by the Post show that the state was the opioid dealer of choice for anywhere east of the Mississippi River. “And when Florida finally turned off the free-flowing oxycodone spigot in 2011, drug users in states once fed by Florida oxycodone did exactly what users in Palm Beach County and Florida did: They turned to heroin.”

‘Oxy Express’: Post reporters traveled the route stretching from Palm Beach through Appalachia. They found an overall influx of heroin in the entire region following Florida’s 2011 crackdown on pill mills.

The numbers: A timeline shows that in 2012, “East of the Mississippi, where Florida oxycodone had flowed, heroin death rates rise 53 percent while death rates linked to oxycodone and similar drugs fall 7 percent.”

The team: The project is worth reviewing in its entirety. Pat BeallJoe Capozzi and Lawrence Mower, who now is at the Tampa Bay Times, all contributed reporting. Beall spearheaded the effort. “It took 2,188 miles of travel by a Post reporter and photographer, 15 years of drug and treatment data, 13,000 pages of documents, 80 million hospital patient records and months of listening.”

— WHERE TO NOW? —

FEMA’s Temporary Shelter Assistance, currently funding motel stays for many Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria, is set to expire after Saturday.

For 610 Boricua families in Florida, writes Bianca Padró Ocasio for the Orlando Sentinel, that means it could be time once again to pack bags and move.

Ocasio’s story centers on a Super 8 in Kissimmee, “where [displaced Puerto Ricans] have been united by a sense of loss and have put down unexpected roots.” Names, faces and narrative tell stories of continued hardship and misfortune. In mid-May, the Super 8 was a temporary home to 33 Puerto Rican families.

Loss: Valuables and other belongings were washed away by Maria. “We lost everything … the baby’s crib, the beds, the drawers, our TV … everything,” one source at the motel told Ocasio.

Politics: Scott, Nelson, Ricardo RosselloMarco RubioDarren Soto and local politicians all are mentioned in the story. Soto seems to be the favorite, according to Ocasio.

New horizons: The Super 8 manager is skeptical of TSA’s expiration; it’s been extended four times before. Companies stretched thin labor-wise — like a Japanese auto-parts manufacturing factory in Ohio — are looking to hire displaced Puerto Ricans, and that could be a small saving grace.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Reversing course, Trump urges House GOP to pass immigration bill” via Rachael Bade and Louis Nelson of POLITICO Florida — Trump issued an all-caps call on Twitter for House Republicans to pass immigration reform legislation, a sharp reversal from last week, when he said Republicans were “wasting their time” trying to pass such a measure. But House Republicans say it’s probably too little, too late. Senior GOP sources still expect their carefully crafted immigration bill to fail in a Wednesday afternoon vote — though the whip team has set to work to see if Trump’s comments can bolster their numbers. If Trump really wanted this bill to pass, they argue, he should have tweeted his endorsement last week instead of sending mixed signals to the party.

Trump signals U-turn on federal opposition to highway across Everglades wetlands“via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami HeraldIn the first year of the Trump administration, Department of the Interior officials issued a rare, detailed letter warning Miami-Dade County that extending the Dolphin Expressway across sensitive wetlands could block part of the $16 billion, decades long effort to restore the ailing Everglades … Three months later — with a new Trump appointee overseeing Everglades restoration — the federal agency signaled it was open to a U-turn on the prospect of paving protected wetlands. Just after Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced plans to make the Kendall Parkway a top priority for his final term in office, Interior sent a second short, breezy and encouraging letter to expressway planners that the previous letter was under review.

It’s the media! Rubio says he knows why Republicans don’t criticize Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio said that speaking out “means siding with a media that never cuts him a break, turns even little things he does into an act of evil, are also unfair to them & in the end will still attack you anyway.” He was commenting on an online poll in which 92 percent of Republicans said they think the media intentionally misreport information. But Rubio’s take ignores other factors: Some Republicans are fearful of speaking out because they could draw a primary opponent — or the wrath of Trump himself.

Tweet, tweet:

Senate farm bill stalled by Rubio’s Cuba crusade” via Liz Crampton of POLITICO – Senate leadership’s goal of holding a floor vote on the farm bill this week is now in doubt, as key farm-state lawmakers work to resolve a new demand from Rubio over a provision that would promote agricultural trade with Cuba. The Florida Republican on Wednesday declared on Twitter that he’d block any new amendments to the farm bill unless the Senate votes to strike a provision that would allow USDA funding for foreign market development programs to be spent in Cuba — or until senators adopt his proposal to ban U.S. taxpayer dollars from being spent on businesses owned by the Cuban military.

Justices give Florida narrow win in water fight with Georgia” via Jessica Gresko and Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — The justices’ 5-4 ruling concerns a dispute over Georgia’s use of water from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers that serve booming metro Atlanta, Georgia’s powerful agricultural industry and Florida’s oyster fisheries beyond the river’s mouth. The court said a special master appointed to hear the lawsuit should reconsider Florida’s argument that limiting how much water Georgia uses would provide more water downstream to the Apalachicola River that flows into Apalachicola Bay and the nearby Gulf of Mexico. Florida officials celebrated the decision even though it means that the expensive battle, which has cost the state’s taxpayers $57 million in the last four years, will continue forward. “Today’s ruling is a huge win for the entire state of Florida,” said Gov. Scott, who pushed to have the state sue Georgia directly. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, however, said he “remained confident” in his state’s legal position.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: Marco Rubio says media is reason GOP won’t criticize Donald Trump” via Florida Politics — Huh? Rubio tweeted that Republicans are afraid to criticize President Trump because “it means siding with a media that never cuts him a break, turns even little things he does into an act of evil….” Apparently, he believes the reason members of his party won’t stand up to the man who put the bully back in the pulpit is because they’re afraid of the media? The only media they’re afraid of is @realDonaldTrump. Republicans don’t criticize Trump because they don’t want to be the target of his Twitter attacks. Their knees shake at the notion that offering even reasoned opposition to the president’s globe-stomping antics would earn them the rebuke of hard-liners and a primary challenge.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: New specialty PR firm opens in Tallahassee — Privy Public Relations & Marketing will specialize in “influencer marketing,” married co-founders Molly Kellogg-Schmauch and Brien Schmauch said in a statement. Influencer marketing focuses on influential people in a particular market, rather than the target market as a whole. The influence market “ad spend” is poised to “reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022. Influencers also tend to have higher user engagement than content generated by brands,” they said. The goal: Target “niche audiences that social influencers have cultivated into a community.” Locally, Kellogg-Schmauch most recently handled communications for the Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers and the Florida Commission on Offender Review.

New and renewed lobbying registrations

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: 831 Federal Acquisition dba The Big Easy Casino

Gregory Borys, Susan Jun: Morgan Stanley

Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Florida International University Foundation

Chris Carmody, GrayRobinson: Seminole County Supervisor of Elections

Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: Sunshine State Tag Agency

Jennifer Green, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Jobs for Florida’s Graduates

Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: Brandt Information Services

Meredith Woodrum Snowden, Leath Consulting: Amerisure Insurance Companies

— ALOE —

Five years of transformation at Disney’s Hollywood Studios” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — With the June 30 opening of Toy Story Land, the slimmed-down park begins to fill out again with new attractions ahead of the massive crowds expected in 2019 when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is scheduled to open. Here’s a look back what comes next … Sept. 27, 2014: The Studio Backlot Tour closed; Nov. 6, 2014: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow closed. Jan. 7, 2015: Removal of the Sorcerer’s Hat begins. Aug. 15, 2015: At the D23 Expo, Disney announced what was taking over much of the now-empty space in Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Dec. 4, 2015: Star Wars Launch Bay opened in the old Magic of Disney Animation building; April 29, 2016: The Earffel Tower was demolished; Aug. 13, 2017: The Great Movie Ride closed. Sept. 29, 2017: The Grand Avenue section of the park opened; Late Fall 2019: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has some big things in store as it hits the five-year mark.

Seminole Tribe opens newest casino in New Jersey — The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will host a grand opening Thursday. The Seminole Tribe of Florida in late 2016 consolidated its control over the Hard Rock brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The latest casino, on the Atlantic City boardwalk, was once owned by President DonaldTrump and called the Trump Taj Mahal. In addition to Atlantic City, the Seminoles recently added a Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach and made a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada. The tribe also has expressed interest in building a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey, just outside New York City. Hard Rock-themed properties are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Happy birthday — Celebrating today is state Sen. Wilton Simpson, as well as Disney’s Leticia Adams, the Associated Press’ Brendan Farrington, Tyler HudsonBrian Lee, lobbyist for Floridians Against Fracking.

Last Call for 6.27.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Calder Race Course is seeking a tax break from the state’s Department of Revenue on its slot machines, records show.

The department, in response to a public record request, on Wednesday released a copy of the petition Calder’s attorney, James M. Ervin Jr. of Tallahassee, filed June 20.

The Miami Gardens track, which no longer runs live horse racing, now does business as Calder Casino, offering about slots and electronic table games.

It leases 122 of its 1,100 slot machines from vendors, the petition says, paying both state and local tax. State law caps taxes collected on the first $5,000 worth of “tangible personal property.”

Calder is asking for each of its three slots leases to be considered separately to fall under the $5,000 cap, instead of as a whole “single sale,” easing its tax burden.  

“Each of the three supplied invoices detailing the leasing of slot machines meets the requirements of a single sale,” the petition says.

Those invoices, however, were not disclosed because Calder claimed a “trade secrets” exemption for them under the state’s public records law.

“Given the high cost of slot machines, the implications of the $5,000 surtax limitation represent a substantial and material value to the petitioner’s business,” the filing says.

A copy of the petition is here.

Evening Reads

With Supreme Court vacancy, Donald Trump’s 2016 Mar-a-Lago pledge again looms large” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Florida gets another chance to make case in ‘water war’” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida

Immigration bill brokered by Miami Republicans fails” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

In welcoming Hispanic leader support, Rick Scott offers mixed messages on refugees” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Rick Scott, Cabinet delay decision on hiring new OFR head” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Documents: Putnam office staffers admitted inappropriate, sexually charged behavior” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

DGA chairman: Florida high on ‘national priority list’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

State: Controlled burn sparked Florida fire that destroyed 36 homes” via the Florida Times-Union

These Puerto Ricans who fled Hurricane María’s destruction built a community at a Super 8 in Kissimmee. Now, they have to leave it.” via Bianca Padró Ocasio of the Orlando Sentinel

How Florida ignited the heroin epidemic” via the Palm Beach Post

Quote of the Day

“We have to think: What if you are coming from Puerto Rico? What of the challenges of Nicaragua, the challenges of Venezuela, the challenges of the Cubans coming here? We are the melting pot. We are the best melting pot in the world.” — Gov. Rick Scott, after endorsements from Orlando-area Hispanic leaders for his U.S. Senate run.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Association of Counties will continue its annual conference, with events including a workshop titled, “Running for Higher Office: What You Need to Know.” A panel discussion is expected to include former Secretary of State Sandra Mortham; state Rep. Kathleen Peters, a Treasure Island Republican; and former lawmakers Steve Geller and Nancy Detert. Speakers on other panels during the day are expected to include state Rep. Kristin Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat; state Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat; and Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. Panels start at 8:15 a.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Dr., Orlando.

The state university system’s Board of Governors will consider confirmation of the reappointments of Mark Rosenberg as president of Florida International University and Donal O’Shea as president of New College of Florida. The board will also vote on an annual performance funding allocation for the universities. That’s at 10:30 a.m., University of Central Florida, Fairwinds Alumni Center, 12676 Gemini Blvd. North, Orlando. Also, call-in number: 1-888-670-3525. Code: 4122150353.

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

The state Statue Location Selection Committee will discuss where a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith will be displayed after it is returned to Florida. A likeness of Smith has long represented Florida in the National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. But Florida lawmakers this year approved replacing the statue of Smith with a statue of civil-rights leader and educator Mary McLeod Bethune. That’s at 2 p.m., R.A. Gray Building, 500 South Bronough St., Tallahassee.

A campaign fundraising event is slated for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, who is running for re-election in Congressional District 16. That’s at 5:30 p.m., 835 Longboat Club Road, Longboat Key.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are slated to take part in a Fox News debate that will be part of the Republican Party of Florida’s “Sunshine Summit.” That’s at 6:30 p.m., Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, 6000 West Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee.

Republican Nicolas Kimaz, who is seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, in Congressional District 22, will hold a campaign event in Broward County. That’s at 7 p.m., JB’s on the Beach, 300 N.E. 21st Ave., Deerfield Beach.

Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat, will be honored during the Female Development World Organization’s annual Protect the Children Gala Dinner. That’s at 7:30 p.m., The Venue, 2345 Wilton Dr., Fort Lauderdale.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.27.18

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

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

How does a moderate reconcile helping re-elected Republican lawmakers in the Age of Trump? I explain why I do it in this blog post I hope you will read. Click here to read the full blog post.

In the same vein (even though the columnist reaches a different conclusion), this David Brooks piece is worthy of your time: “Republican or conservative; you have to choose.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@SenBillNelson: Have just been told by HHS that they are planning to set up ”family camps” where children and parents would be detained together. I asked what is a “family camp” and how would it work? They said they don’t know yet.

—@RepDeSantis: The Supreme Court has rightfully upheld President Trump’s executive order prohibiting travel from failed countries and state sponsors of terror. Glad the Court affirmed the President’s lawful authority to protect our national security.

—@MBFforCongress: What is the point of having a congressman with a literal “seat at the table” with POTUS, if he won’t stand up and fight for the issues that matter to his constituents? @marioDB is both spineless and an abject failure as a leader

—@DeFede: .@MarioDB is a politician that believes access to the President is valuable. @MBFforCongress argues that access stokes his ego but achieves little for his district. And therein lies the question of this election: Do we need access to power or a check on that power?

—@MayorLevine: .@Shaq is on #TeamLevine, are you? This is our year to change the direction of Florida! Growing up I worked every job, from washes dishes to washing cars. I’m running for Governor to level the playing field, so everyone has a shot at the American dream.

—@ShevrinJones: When I look at the evangelicals today, I finally see what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he said: ”I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

—@Fineout: Florida should know tomorrow how successful @FLGovScott decision to spend $57 million on the water wars fight with Georgia has been. SCOTUS is down to 2 remaining decisions for term inc the Ga v Fla case. Court expected to announce those final 2 decisions at 10 a.m. Wed

—@JeffBurlew: Agriculture Commissioner @adamputnam says investigators have not yet determined cause of Eastpoint forest fire. Comments came during news conference at Eastpoint Volunteer Fire Station

— DAYS UNTIL —

Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 1; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 11; MLB All-Star Game — 20; Deadline for filing claim bills — 35; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 35; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 36; Start of the U.S. Open — 61; Primary Election Day — 62; College Football opening weekend — 64; NFL season starts — 72; Future of Florida Forum — 91; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 118; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 119; General Election Day — 132; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 232; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 251.

— TOP STORY —

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Tuesday to uphold a Presidential order halting immigration from a select group of mostly-Muslim countries.

As expected, reactions from Florida officials and politicians were mixed, but mostly bipartisan — except for Congressman Carlos Curbelo. The South Florida Republican issued a bold statement urging the “administration to discontinue this misguided policy and instead take action to continue our tradition of welcoming those who are persecuted.”

Carlos Curbelo calls Donald Trump’s immigration ban ‘misguided.’

Other Conservatives would likely disagree with Curbelo. But some, namely Democrats, might align with him as they took to Twitter or distributed statements to reporters condemning the ruling.

The right: Republican Reps. Neal DunnVern Buchanan and Ron DeSantis were vocal in their support for the ruling. DeSantis, who’s running for Governor, highlighted Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence, which pointed out how lower court judges can exercise an undue amount of power — a reference to the injunction placed on the ban ahead of its SCOTUS hearing.

The left: Congresswoman Val DemingsLois Frankel and Frederica Wilson lashed out against the ruling. Frankel said the decision “feeds into fear and hatred, and abandons our deeply held American values of diversity and freedom of religion.” Wilson compared the decision to Korematsu v. United States, which allowed internment of the Japanese during World War II.

Campaign trail: DeSantis was more outspoken — at least on Twitter — about the ruling than his opponent Adam Putnam. Democrats Jeff GreeneChris King, Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham all criticized the SCOTUS decision. Both King and Gillum called it “xenophobic” and Greene said it “doubles down on [Donald Trump’s] racist agenda.” Graham dubbed the ruling “un-American.”

— NELSON VS. SCOTT —

Rick Scott: If Congress doesn’t pass a budget, they shouldn’t get paid” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — In a rollout event at Florida Forklift in Tampa, the governor said congressional officials shouldn’t get a salary if they fail to pass a budget. “In Washington, it’s completely dysfunctional. They don’t do their job. They don’t get things done,” Scott said to the crowd of several dozen, which included state Sen. Dana Young. “Why should they get paid when they don’t do their job? Their most important job is the budgeting job.” The policy is Scott’s fourth in a series he calls, “Make Washington Work.” Scott brushed off concerns about the feasibility of his program after the event. “I’m going to continue to put out policy proposals … I know some of them are going to be difficult to get done. I’m not going to give up. I’m going to work hard to get them done. I don’t think anyone thought we could get to 1.5 million jobs when I got elected back in 2010. We worked on that every day and we dealt with our numbers there.”

In Jacksonville, Rick Scott rolls out the newest proposal of his “Make Washington Work” Plan requiring Congress to pass an annual budget and meet appropriations bill deadlines, or forgo their own salaries.

—”Bill Nelson by 4 or Scott by 5? Dueling polls show Florida Senate race might be tied” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

NBC News poll: Putnam clear GOP Gov. front-runner, Democrats split” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A fresh poll shows Putnam with a solid lead in the Republican primary for Governor, while on the Democratic side it’s still anybody’s race. The NBC News/Marist Poll found Putnam leading DeSantis 38-21 percent, with 39 percent undecided. … On the Democratic side, Levine is on top with 19 percent support, followed by Graham in the No. 2 spot with 17 percent support. The other three major Democrats vying for the Governor’s Mansion — Gillum, King and Greene — combine to have 15 percent support among Sunshine State Democrats, 47 percent of whom say they haven’t decided who they will support in the primary. Only about a third of those who said they were supporting a particular candidate in the Democratic primary said they were firm supporters, adding a layer of mystery regarding who is really on top in the five-way race primary. … Crosstabs included in the poll mainly focused on Trump … Floridians gave Trump a negative job approval rating, with 43 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving … When it comes to Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president, 46 percent of Floridians say it’s fair, while 36 percent are calling foul.

New polling gives Adam Putnam the clear lead among Republicans.

King campaign points to own polls, says ‘support is growing’ — A day after an NBC News/Marist Poll was the latest to put him in last place among Democratic gubernatorial candidates, the King campaign says its support is growing in “key demographics.” In the words of senior adviser Omar Khan: “We’ve said all along in this campaign that when voters meet Chris King, they tend to support him. As we continue to introduce Chris and his bold, progressive vision to voters across Florida, we’ll continue to see support for his candidacy grow. Democrats are looking for a fresh, bold vision for Florida’s future in 2018 and this survey proves Chris is uniquely positioned to win among a crowded field of conventional politicians from the political establishment.” Overall, the campaign pegs its support at 11 percent, putting it in third place behind Graham at 21 percent Levine at 20 percent. Their results also show single-digit gains in support in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando and West Palm Beach since March. White, African American and Hispanic support has inched up into the low double digits from the low singles; ditto for support among both men and women, and most age groups. King has nine weeks to turn those numbers into a plurality.

After on-air racial slur, top DeSantis fundraiser reportedly suspended from Fox News” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Video clips from the appearance show David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, get into heated debate with Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who was also appearing on “Fox & Friends Weekend.” Bossie and Payne were debating Democrat’s assertions that Trump is racist when Bossie asked Payne: “Are you out of your cotton-picking mind?” Payne is black. Bossie apologized on Twitter later that day. Bossie was one of the big names on DeSantis’s national finance team when that group of wealthy donors was rolled out earlier this year.

Gillum makes his case at Orlando town hall” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Central Florida Democrats may not have gotten a debate in their backyard, but they did get to hear Tallahassee Mayor Gillum give his pitch Tuesday on why he should be the Democrat to go toe-to-toe with either Putnam or DeSantis in November. … “In spite of the debate being canceled, Orange County and Orlando matter to me” … “in fact it should matter to anybody who wants to be Governor of this great state,” Gillum said. … Gillum then launched into the platform that should be familiar to most who have kept tabs on his campaign … He dogged Gov. Scott for not expanding Medicaid and turning away federal cash for high-speed rail; he gave a full-throated endorsement for Amendment 4, and he detailed an extensive list of education priorities he’ll push for if elected … The closing minutes of the town hall saw Gillum pass the mic to Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill, who gave him a very personal endorsement in the primary race. … She then riled up the crowd with an impassioned recounting of Gillum’s merits as a candidate, while also knocking his opponents. “I don’t care who your momma or daddy are — yeah, that’s some shade there. I don’t care how much money you have,” Hill said of the other Democrats in the race. “ … Gillum is the choice for working Floridians.”

Gillum talks about FBI probe with Washington Post podcast; Scott Maddox pushes back” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — On a recent Washington Post podcast “Cape Up” with Jonathan Capehart, the host talked with Gillum for a good 45 minutes about why Gillum would give up the security of being mayor to take a risky run for Florida governor. … Gillum hit his usual talking points … And he made some of his most expansive comments to date about an ongoing FBI investigation into corruption at City Hall — and without naming him, pointing to Scott Maddox as the prime target. … “I have zero tolerance for corruption and inappropriate or illegal behavior, and the last several months there appears to be an FBI investigation into something we thought was writ large in our government, the CRA, which I am chair of,” Gillum said … But an FBI search warrant released publicly by accident in February was “fairly telling,” he said. … it showed at least an accusation of one of my colleagues having taken money potentially in exchange for a set of votes on something that came before the commission,” Gillum said. … Regarding Gillum’s comments, Maddox said in a prepared statement: “I understand the tactic of deflection in statewide campaigns, but facts are stubborn things. The record is clear that I have been a consistent critic of the Edison and a consistent vote against non-infrastructure CRA projects. In fact, of the CRA projects being investigated a majority of them were voted on prior to me being on the commission.”

Gillum: ‘Dark money’ PAC should disclose donors, but ‘begin advertising on my behalf’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Gillum, who in February had warned about the influence of “dark money” in the race, stopped short of condemning The Collective Super PAC for refusing to say the ultimate source of a lump-sum payment of $742,720 from an affiliated nonprofit that does not have to disclose its donors. The Collective money was all spent trashing one of Gillum’s rivals, Graham, as a phony liberal. “I want them to begin advertising on my behalf. I want them to put up ads that have me in it. I want them to talk about what my record has been in this race,” Gillum said on the “Strange Days” podcast in Miami. “When they start doing that, then that will be real support for me.” The Collective has said it will spend as much as $1.5 million in Florida and signaled that the second half of its ad campaign would focus on supporting Gillum. “I want them to disclose who’s helping them to begin advertising on my behalf. I would love for them to disclose. That would be my ask if they are listening,” Gillum said. “I want them to do what their mission requires them to do, which is to support candidates of color running for office and get them elected.”

The race is over, right? — Shaquille O’Neal endorses Levine in new radio ad — Levine is launching a new radio ad featuring an endorsement from former Miami Heat and Orlando Magic center O’Neill. “You know, I’ve met a lot of people in my life — but there’s something really special about this guy from Florida who’s never been afraid to step up for others when the game of life is on the line, his name is Philip Levine,” O’Neill says in the ad. “He’s running for Governor to get families hope, with better-paying jobs and children better schools that inspire them to be their best. That’s why I’m all in for Philip Levine.” The new radio spot will run in markets across Florida, backed by a five-figure media buy.

Game over? Shaquille O’Neill gives support to Philip Levine. (Image via Getty)

Levine rolls out more local endorsements — The Levine for Governor campaign his rolling out more endorsements from state and local elected officials throughout Florida. New backers include Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán; former Hollywood Mayor Peter Bober; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Danielle Levine-Cava; former Broward County DEC Chair Mitch Ceasar; Hillsborough County School Board Member Lynn Gray; Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy; former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas; and Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick.

Matt Caldwell snags NRA’s first statewide endorsement” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Amid debate over gun legislation opposed by the NRA in March following the Parkland school shooting, Caldwell voted against the legislation and also called himself “a proud lifetime member of the NRA.” Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist, said Caldwell was the only candidate in the race with “a perfect record of unyielding support of the Second Amendment to our constitution.” … “Rep. Matt Caldwell has been a steadfast supporter of Second Amendment issues as a member of the Florida House,” said Hammer. … This is the first statewide race in which the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund has issued endorsements.

Former Florida GOP chairs endorse Denise Grimsley — Several former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) chairs, including Al CardenasCarole Jean Jordan and Leslie Dougher, as well as Wendy Bitner Rodin, wife of the late RPOF Chair Dave Bitner, are endorsing Grimsley for Agriculture Commissioner. “I have known Denise for many years,” said Cardenas, who later served as the chairman of the American Conservative Union. “She has been a tireless grassroots Republican and has served our party’s conservative vision well. She knows agriculture and she will be an effective voice for Floridians.” … “Dave and I met Denise many years ago,” said Bitner Rodin. “She is the conservative leader Florida needs. Denise is a strong Republican woman and I believe she will serve our state well.”

Ashley Moody announces 150-member grassroots committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “Our campaign to serve as the state’s top prosecutor continues to build upon the significant endorsements of 42 of 49 Republican sheriffs, the Florida Police Benevolent Association, 12 of 20 State Attorneys, and local elected officials,” said campaign manager Nick Catroppo. “Today’s announcement … serves as validation that Republican activists trust only one candidate for Attorney General, the only candidate who has the lifelong experience and credentials, and the only candidate who has ever prosecuted a case.” The grassroots committee includes 41 people in her home west-central region; another 29 or 30 people each in the east-central and north-central areas of the state, as her campaign defines them; and at least 10 from five other regions.

Alan Grayson accuses Darren Soto of ducking debates; Soto says he’ll do them” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — According to the Grayson campaign, multiple media outlets have inquired, with a wide array of times and places, about getting the two Democrats face-to-face. Grayson’s campaign is dubbing Soto “No-Show Soto” for not accepting. Soto’s campaign denies any ducking and said debates would happen. “Congressman Soto will do debates and forums,” Harry Kruglik, Soto’s campaign representative, said in a written statement. “We’ll be finalizing and releasing the debate and forum schedule next week.”

Donna Shalala has until late July to file financial disclosure” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — As her opponents picked at her time on corporate boards, Shalala received a second extension this month allowing her to delay the disclosure of her personal finances with the U.S. House of Representatives. Shalala’s disclosure, originally due May 15, is now due July 27, roughly one month before the Democratic primary to replace U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress. Shalala requested a second extension — which is not unusual — on June 12. “Donna Shalala believes in complete transparency and in that spirit will comply with all legal requirements pertaining to the release of her financial disclosure documents,” said Fernand Amandi, a political consultant with the Shalala campaign. … But state Rep. David Richardson, one of Shalala’s four primary opponents, questioned Tuesday why Shalala needed to delay revealing her finances. … “All the other candidates in this race have disclosed their personal financial information, as required by law,” said Richardson, one of Shalala’s four primary opponents. “Why won’t she make a timely filing? What is she trying to hide from the voters?”

Donna Shalala has until next month to file her financials.

League of Conservation Voters endorse Soto  The LCV Action Fund is supporting the Celebration Democrat for re-election. The LCV works to elect candidates who support sound environmental policies. Tiernan Sittenfeld, an LCV vice president, praised Soto for his work in Congress to move to a future of “clean energy.” St. Cloud Republican Wayne Liebnitzky will face the Democratic winner in the November general election.

Nicholas Trolli endorses James Buchanan in HD 74” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Buchanan picked up an endorsement from a former rival in the race to replace Sarasota Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez, who is leaving the state House to run for Florida’s 17th Congressional District. Trolli opened a campaign account to run for House District 74 in February before U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s retirement announcement led HD 74 and other seats to open up. Trolli formally withdrew from the race June 15, leaving Buchanan and North Port Vice Mayor Linda Yates as the only Republicans running for the seat. “We need a person who understands business, someone who works well with others, influences decisions and encourages consensus,” Trolli said. “James Buchanan … is that person!”

Tina Polsky gets union backing in HD 81 bid — Boca Raton Democrat Polsky picked up endorsements from four unions in her bid to succeed exiting Rep. Joe Abruzzo in Palm Beach County’s House District 81. Announcing their support for Polsky Wednesday were the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast AFL-CIO, the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, the Florida Education Association, and the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association. … “I am truly humbled and honored by the confidence these unions and their members have placed in me. I will continue to work hard to merit and maintain their trust when I get the chance to represent their concerns in Tallahassee starting next year.” … Polsky faces Mindy Koch in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary.

BizPAC endorses Matt Spritz for HD 89 — Boca Raton Republican Spritz announced Wednesday that local pro-business organization BizPAC has endorsed his campaign to succeed term-limited Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89. … “Matt has proved to be an effective leader who appreciates and understands how important the success of our local businesses is for hardworking families in our community. I’m confident he will wisely represent our area in Tallahassee,” said BizPAC board chair John R. Smith. … “I’m honored to have the support of BiZPAC,” said Spritz. “Their organization is widely respected as a key voice for business in the local political arena — committed to making government better in Palm Beach County.”… Spritz faces Michael Caruso in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. Also running are Democrats Jim Bonfiglio and Ryan Rossi.

Construction trade association endorses HD 114 challenger Javier Enriquez” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A national construction industry trade association is endorsing attorney Enriquez in his run for House District 114. The Associated Builders and Contractors Florida East Coast Chapter (ABC FEC) put its support behind Enriquez, a Miami Republican. Enriquez is challenging incumbent Democratic state Rep. Javier Fernandez for the seat. ABC FEC represents nearly 21,000 members of the commercial construction industry including general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers. The group is in favor of “lower taxes, free enterprise and reasonable regulation” and provides construction industry training in Florida. “We are pleased to support Javier Enriquez,” said Peter M. Dyga, president and CEO of ABC FEC.

Second Stoneman Douglas parent enters District 4 School Board race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Tennille Doe-Decoste, whose son survived February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is set to challenge fellow MSD parent Lori Alhadeff for the Broward County School Board District 4 seat. Doe-Decoste cited the massacre as a motivation to run, particularly due to the loss of one of her son’s close friends. “My son just graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) grateful that he survived the shooting, but profoundly sad that his best friend since 3rd grade, Joaquin Oliver, didn’t,” she said. “I have decided to get off the sidelines and run for school board in District 4 so I can push a platform that seeks to prioritize school safety while effectively solving some of the other challenges that threaten the well-being and/or academic performance of our children.”

— STATEWIDE —

Scott won’t say whether he likes Jay Fant as OFR head” via Jim Rosica and A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Scott didn’t telegraph his interest in who should be the state’s next top financial regulator at a Tuesday campaign stop in Jacksonville for his U.S. Senate campaign. When asked whether Republican state Rep. Fant, a political ally, was his pick, Scott said “it goes through the Cabinet process. There are individuals who have applied … We’ll go through the interview process and soon as we go through that process, I’m sure (we’ll) pick the right person.” Scott and Cabinet members will hold a conference call Wednesday morning and are expected to interview applicants and appoint a replacement for Drew Breakspear. He recently announced he was stepping down as commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR). Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a member of the Cabinet, had pressured Breakspear to leave the post.

Rick Scot won’t say if he supports Jay Fant for OFR.

Florida teachers union to lawmakers: Increase our pay” via Florida Politics — The Florida Education Association (FEA) is asking state lawmakers to take a pledge — to make them “at least” average. The statewide teachers union held a press call Tuesday about boosting their pay, saying that “Florida’s public school teachers and education staff professionals sit near the bottom of the national barrel when it comes to pay, ranking at 45th or worse when compared to other states.” They’re asking lawmakers to sign on to the FEA’s “Pledge to Improve Teacher and Education Staff Professional Salaries” and commit to “lifting wages to at least the national average by fiscal year 2023” … “This shouldn’t be a big reach” for them, said Joanne McCall, FEA president, adding that many teachers take second jobs to “make ends meet.”

Study: New rule should mean more Florida kids in diversion programs” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Now that state law requires every judicial circuit in Florida to have an arrest diversion program for juveniles accused of low-level crimes, the next step is to ensure law enforcement agencies have policies that lean toward diversion and create robust training programs. … The fourth annual Stepping Up: Florida’s Top Juvenile Pre-Arrest Diversion Efforts report included takeaways based on interviews and assessments of the agencies and counties … that use diversion over arrest most often. “We talk a lot about not being tough on crime, rather being smart on crime,” said the study’s author, Dewey Caruthers, of the St. Petersburg-based Caruthers Institute. “But what does that mean?” The diversion programs typically work like this: if a kid is accused of a low-level offense, such as shoplifting or disorderly conduct, a cop can issue a civil citation instead of arresting them. The child would then go through an assessment and be paired with programs tailored to their needs. … The statewide usage rate — or the proportion of juveniles eligible under Florida law who are funneled into diversion programs — increased to 59 percent, 6 percentage points higher than the year before. … “Our hope and expectation is that it will increase utilization,” said Scott McCoy, senior policy counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Justices to take up ‘Stand Your Ground’ split” via Jim Saunders of News Service of Florida — With lower courts split on the issue, the Florida Supreme Court said Tuesday it will take up a question about whether a 2017 change to the state’s “stand your ground” self-defense law should apply to older cases. The controversial 2017 change shifted a key burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases — a shift that can play a role in determining whether people claiming self-defense should be shielded from prosecution. … The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the case of Tashara Love, who sought to use the self-defense law to be shielded from prosecution in a November 2015 shooting incident outside a Miami-Dade County nightclub. … Love’s attorneys pointed to potentially broad implications. “This case presents an issue of statewide importance impacting countless criminal prosecutions: whether the 2017 amendment to the Stand Your Ground law applies to all pending cases or only those arising after its enactment.” … Before the 2017 change, the Supreme Court had ruled that defendants had the burden of proof in pretrial hearings to show they should be shielded from prosecution. But with backing from groups such as the National Rifle Association, lawmakers shifted the burden from defendants to prosecutors to prove whether self-defense claims are justified.

Court rejects speeding up marijuana cases — The 1st District Court of Appeal on Tuesday rejected requests to quickly send two medical-marijuana cases to the Florida Supreme Court. One case focuses on whether state law wrongly bans patients from smoking medical marijuana. Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last month ruled that the smoking ban violates the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in Florida. Attorneys for the state appealed that ruling. Plaintiffs in that case had asked that the case be “certified” to the Supreme Court — a move that would effectively lead to bypassing the 1st DCA. The other case was the state’s appeal of Gievers’ decision to let Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner grow and make juice of his own medicinal cannabis, which he says will help keep his lung cancer in remission. The appeals court rejected both requests; its orders did not explain the reasoning.

John Morgan hints at ballot initiative for marijuana legalization” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Morgan said he’s “going to look at starting a fund” toward an initiative to legalize marijuana, including recreational use, on the 2020 ballot. He has previously has been on the record supporting marijuana legalization. His latest tweets move him further in terms of personally promising a political solution. The Orlando attorney and businessman, who was behind the 2016 constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana in the state, was tweeting in response to a Florida Politics story (above) on an appellate court order.

Wellcare tapped for CMS contract” via News Service of Florida — The state expects to turn over management of the care of medically fragile children to a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans beginning in January. The Florida Department of Health announced on Tuesday that WellCare’s Staywell Health Plan edged two competitors for a contract in the Children’s Medical Services program. … other bidders have until Friday to challenge the Department of Health’s decision. … “We are pleased Staywell Health Plan has been selected to work with the Florida Department of Health to serve children across the state through the Children’s Medical Services Managed Care Plan. This announcement reflects our proven track record of providing access to high-quality, comprehensive health care for our Medicaid members,” the company said in a prepared statement. … The Children’s Medical Services program focuses on children with special health care needs … Facing spiraling costs, Gov. Scott’s administration removed more than 9,000 children from the so-called CMS program. … While it had retained control over the CMS managed care program, the Scott administration decided this year to transfer control to a third-party managed care company.

First in Sunburn — South Florida’s Mardi Gras Casino gets slots license — State gambling regulators granted real estate billionaire Jeffrey Soffer’s request for a slot machine license at South Florida’s former Mardi Gras Casino and Race Track. The license, disclosed Tuesday after a public record request, shows that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation approved the license May 2 — one day after news that Soffer had closed on a $12.5 million deal to buy the property, now called The Big Easy Casino. The sale marked an end to the four-decade-long ownership of the Hallandale Beach facility by Hartman & Tyner, a Southfield, Michigan property management firm. Soffer, whose family-controlled Turnberry Associates also owns Miami Beach’s Fontainebleau Resort, had been rumored to want to move the license from the Hallandale Beach track to the Fontainebleau. But Soffer said that “such a move is both illegal and not in the cards.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Republican tax law hits churches” via Brian Faler of POLITICO — Their recent tax-code rewrite requires churches, hospitals, colleges, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees. That could force thousands of groups that have long had little contact with the IRS to suddenly begin filing returns and paying taxes for the first time. Many organizations are stunned to learn of the tax — part of a broader Republican effort to strip the code of tax breaks for employee benefits like parking and meals — and say it will be a significant financial and administrative burden. It also means political peril for lawmakers, many of whom were surely unaware of the provision when they approved the tax plan.

Churches are not laughing about the new GOP tax rules.

GOP flails ahead of immigration vote” via Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan of POLITICO Florida — Desperate to flip conservative votes, centrist House Republicans offered to add a controversial provision requiring the use of E-Verify, which mandates all companies certify the legal status of their workers. But it doesn’t look like it will be enough. The addition of E-Verify could cause problems for centrist Republicans who hail from agricultural districts whose farmers could be walloped by the mandate. The latest amendment would also include a new agriculture worker program to try to ease centrists’ concerns. Moderate Republican Rep. Curbelo, another skeptic of the E-Verify program, also seemed uncomfortable with the addition — though he suggested he’d accept it if it picked up votes. “If we can get a product to the Senate, that is very important to me,” the Florida Republican said. “The question is: Is there growth [in the vote] or not.”

Separated immigrant children in Florida will be ‘expeditiously’ reunited with family, official says” via Skylar Swisher of the Sun-Sentinel — Separated immigrant children being held at South Florida shelters will be reunited with their parents as “expeditiously” as possible, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers Tuesday. “We do not want any of these children to be separated from their parents any longer than is absolutely necessary under the law,“ Azar said. … At least eight separated children in Florida haven’t even been able to reach their parents, who may have been deported, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s staff. … As many as 174 separated children have been held in Florida, according to Nelson’s office. … Confusion abounded on why the tally of separated children only dropped from 2,053 last Wednesday to the current count of 2,047. Federal officials wouldn’t say whether facilities are still accepting separated children. … Nelson asked the secretary what his agency was doing to reunite about 70 separated children being held at the Homestead temporary shelter. … Azar said a sponsor — such as a relative or a parent already in the United States — could take the children. The agency aims to connect parents with their children at least twice a week via phone or Skype, he said. … Azar did not provide a timeframe for the reunification process, but he said he is working to “expeditiously get children out of our care.”

Pam Bondi opposes family separation and has taken on the feds before. So why not now?” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — As 17 other states filed a lawsuit Tuesday in an attempt to force Trump’s administration to reunite migrant families, Bondi‘s office said she had no jurisdiction over the issue. “The Attorney General has never supported separating children from their parents, however, the Florida Attorney Generals’s Office has no jurisdiction over federal immigration laws,” said Whitney Ray, a spokesman for Bondi … Ray’s statement that Bondi has no jurisdiction over federal immigration law is in keeping with her not opposing the Trump administration, but at odds with her office’s history of challenging federal law and laws in other states. … In 2012, Bondi filed a brief joining 21 other states in a lawsuit challenging the ban on semi-automatic weapons Connecticut passed after the Sandy Hook school shooting. She’s written in support of Arizona’s hard-line immigration law, the expansion of the Keystone oil pipeline and Boeing’s handling of a labor dispute in South Carolina. Bondi also opposed cleanup efforts in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. … Asked Tuesday how Bondi could have played a role in challenging those state and federal laws but not have standing to challenge Trump’s family separation policy — which she opposes — Ray did not immediately respond.

— OPINIONS —

Joe Henderson: It’s getting harder to identify the good guys” via Florida Politics — Organize Florida is the collective that harassed Bondi last Friday … The group describes itself as “a community-based, nonprofit member organization of low and moderate-income people dedicated to the principles of social, racial, and economic justice and the promotion of an equal and fair Florida for all.” Very good. We need more of that. What we don’t need are the guerrilla tactics they used against Bondi. … Wait a minute, Pam. Don’t think I’m defending your decision to have Florida join a lawsuit that could end protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. That’s what triggered the protest, and Bondi should be ashamed … And I did have to suppress a laugh when I saw her quote in the Tampa Bay Times about the incident. “We were in a movie about anti-bullying and practicing peace and love and tolerance and accepting of people for their differences. That’s what Mister Rogers is all about. We all believe in free speech, but there’s a big difference there.” A good way to put anti-bullying, peace, love and tolerance into practice might be to stop trying to destroy people’s insurance lifeline without replacing it with something that can provide the coverage they need and can afford.

— MOVEMENTS —

AppointedKristy Branch Banks to the Franklin County School Board. She will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Teresa Ann Martin of District 3, beginning June 26, 2018.

Incumbents make first cut for PSC seats — Hoping to get reappointed for another four years, state utility regulators Julie Brown and Gary Clark are among the six “most qualified” applicants who will be interviewed next month for seats on the state’s Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission Nominating Council on Tuesday agreed to invite the two incumbent commissioners, along with candidates Anibal TaboasAmir LibermanMonica Rutkowski, and Gregory Hill, to interview for the $132,036-a-year positions, which Brown and Clark now hold on the five-member commission. Their current terms expire at the end of the year. Interviews will be held July 17 in Orlando. The council will forward a short list to Gov. Scott, who will make the final selections. The commission regulates investor-owned utilities.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Brian BallardBrad Burleson, Ballard Partners: Bird Rides

Rhett O’DoskiSean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Kaleidoscope Interventions

Meredith Woodrum Snowden, Leath Consulting: Amerisure Insurance Companies

— ALOE —

Amazon overtakes Apple as the most valuable American brand, claims Brand finance” via Ben Lovejoy of 9to5mac.com — Seven of the top 10 most valuable American brands are tech companies: Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, AT&T, Microsoft, Verizon, Walmart, Wells Fargo and Chase. Both Amazon and Apple saw remarkable growth, says the consultancy. Amazon takes this year’s top spot, with its brand value growing by 42 percent to $150.8 billion. The surge in value for Amazon’s brand allowed it to overtake Apple (up 37 percent to $146.3 billion), which takes second place in the ranking, despite similarly strong growth. Google (up 10 percent to $120.9 billion) fell from first place to third, unable to keep pace with the remarkable growth of the top two brands.

Amazon takes the lead.

What Stephanie Smith is reading — “Uber wins right to keep operating in London” via Ivana Kottasová and Charles Riley of CNN — The Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled in the tech company’s favor, granting it a 15-month license to operate in the British capital. Uber had been forced to appeal after Transport for London declined to renew its license in September. The transport authority had said Uber was not “fit and proper,” citing several concerns including how it responded to serious crimes. The decision is a major victory for Dara Khosrowshahi, who has sought in his 10 months as CEO to present Uber as a humbled and reformed company. “We are pleased with today’s decision,” Uber said in a statement. “We will continue to work with Transport for London to address their concerns and earn their trust.”

Happy birthday to our friends, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, I Love The Burg’s Brian Bailey, Tampa restaurateur Tony DeSisto, and photographer Sarah Bray. Also celebrating today is Sen. Lori Berman.

Last Call for 6.26.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

A Tallahassee attorney and a professional poker player have settled a lawsuit filed last year over what’s known as “staking.”

A notice of settlement was filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court last week, records show.

Hal Lewis, a name partner in the Fonvielle Lewis Messer & McConnaughhay personal-injury law firm and a poker aficionado, said the terms of the deal are confidential.

In his complaint, Lewis said he fronted “large sums of money” to poker player Maurice Hawkins of South Florida. Hawkins later lost over $22,000 of that bankroll in unauthorized side gambling, Lewis’ lawsuit said.

In professional poker, “staking” is when a “poker investor (‘the backer’) puts up money on behalf of a poker player (‘the horse’) in exchange for a cut of the profits,” according to an Upswing Poker article.

“The backer typically assumes all the risk: Any money the horse loses is on the backer,” the article says. “But if the horse wins, the profits are shared according to the terms of the poker staking contract between the parties.”

Hawkins played and lost, the suit said. He told Lewis he wanted to quit the staking deal and give back $22,788 that was left — but he couldn’t because he also lost that money on personal bets outside of the deal, according to the suit.

“I just busted,” Hawkins allegedly said in text messages, copies of which Lewis had attached to his complaint.

Hawkins had previously disputed Lewis’ account, telling Florida Politics he owed the attorney nothing and that Lewis was just being a “big bully.”

Evening Reads

Supreme Court vote on travel ban considered victory for South Florida Venezuelans” via Christian De La Rosa of the Associated Press

Separated immigrant children in Florida will be ‘expeditiously’ reunited with family, official says” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

Rick Scott: ‘No budget? No pay!’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Andrew Gillum talks about FBI probe with Washington Post podcast; Scott Maddox pushes back” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

Agriculture candidate Matt Caldwell snags NRA’s first statewide endorsement” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, opponent Jeremy Ring debate cryptocurrency” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel

Carlos Curbelo on Donald Trump travel ban: ‘Discontinue this misguided policy’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

South Florida Democrats lurch left with call to abolish ICE” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

John Morgan hints at ballot initiative for marijuana legalization” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Study: New law should mean more Florida kids in diversion programs” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“We must not summarily reject an entire region of the world, and we should never use any religious test. I urge the administration to discontinue this misguided policy and instead … continue our tradition of welcoming those who are persecuted.” — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a South Florida Republican, reacting to the Supreme Court’s affirming of President Donald Trump’s travel ban largely applying to Muslim-majority countries.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet will hold a conference call and are expected to appoint a replacement for Drew Breakspear, who recently announced he was stepping down as commissioner of the state Office of Financial Regulation. That’s at 8 a.m., to be televised on The Florida Channel.

The Strategic Planning Committee of the state university system’s Board of Governors will continue a review of the annual accountability plans for the 12 state universities. That’s at 8:30 a.m., University of Central Florida Fairwinds Alumni Center, 12676 Gemini Blvd. North, Orlando.

Scott will speak during the opening ceremony of the Florida Association of Counties annual conference. That’s at 9 a.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Dr., Orlando.

The Gulf Consortium Board of Directors, which works on issues related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will meet in Orange County. That’s at 2 p.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando, 9801 International Dr., Orlando.

A campaign kickoff event is scheduled for Democrat Debbie Katt, who is running in Hillsborough County’s House District 57. Katt is trying to succeed Rep. Jake Raburn, a Lithia Republican who decided against seeking another term. That’s at 6 p.m., Joia Fabulous Pizza & Martini Bar, 10475 Gibsonton Dr., Riverview.

Reconciliation

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police generally need a search warrant if they want to track criminal suspects’ movements by collecting information about where they’ve used their cellphones.

Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes may not have been the first Florida lawmaker to raise concerns about that issue, but he has probably been the loudest.

In 2013, in the face of staunch opposition from law enforcement, he sponsored legislation that would have prevented warrantless cellphone searches.

Privacy in an age of boundless technological innovation is one of a barrage of issues of which Brandes is on the forefront:

— He was talking about ride-sharing before many of his colleagues knew how to pronounce Uber.

— He’s the lawmaker who paved the way for autonomous vehicle testing in Florida.

— He’s been one of the leading proponents in the Senate for the expansion of medical marijuana and the reforming of the criminal justice system.

It’s on issues like those last two which have often left Brandes with fewer allies than he would like. Then again, PolitiFact in 2011 described him as the most independent member of the Florida Legislature, at least if you go by the voting records.

Because of his forward-thinking (among several other reasons), I’ve been proud – no, make that excited – to work for Brandes’ political operation. I broke with many other progressives to support his insurgent bid in 2010 against Democrat Bill Heller, himself a good man and thoughtful lawmaker.

This November, Brandes faces a challenge from a very intelligent, exceedingly friendly challenger, Carrie Pilon, whom I’ve known since she was the president of our high school’s student government. The voters of Senate District 24 are genuinely blessed to have two competent candidates.

In any other election cycle, Team Brandes would not be very worried by the threat posed by Pilon. She’s a first-time candidate with probably a tenth of the resources Brandes has to run his campaign.

Just as he did against another smart, capable Democrat (Judithanne McLaughlin), Brandes would simply overwhelm her in a district that leans ever so slightly to the right.

But this is no ordinary election cycle. In fact, it has the possibility to be the most extraordinary non-presidential election cycle of the last 30 years. That’s because it is, simply, the Cycle of Trump.

Since Trump was elected in 2016, there has been one election after another won by Florida Democrats. If you need evidence that a blue wave is forming in Florida politics, look no further than last week. That’s when a white Democrat defeated a Cuban Republican for the Miami-Dade County Commission seat that represents – wait for it – Little Havana.

Unfortunately, if a blue wave does sweep through Florida politics, it will wipe away sensible Republicans like Brandes, U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and/or state Sen. Dana Young.

What a blue wave is unlikely to do is take out the far-right, fire-breathing Republicans who have transformed the GOP into a party that looks nothing like ‘the party of Lincoln.’

Meanwhile, moderating forces of the Republican Party are heading for the hills.

Last week, the brilliant strategist Steve Schmidt announced he is becoming an independent and is urging others to vote Democrat.

Also conservative columnist George Will suggested that voters should punish Paul Ryan‘s colleagues in the U.S. House by giving control to the Democrats.

I am a registered Republican. Not because of philosophy but because, in Pinellas County, Florida, the only real action in the primaries has been on the GOP side. Democrats have been unable to slate an entire ballot much less recruit enough candidates to enjoy competitive primaries.

For the last ten years, I’ve waged war for Brandes and many, many others against the forces of the far-right. At some point or another, we all delude ourselves into believing we are Robert Jordan.

If there were any time to leave the Republican Party, now — in this era of Trump — now would be the time. Most people probably assume I’m a Democrat anyway.

But I ain’t leavin’.

If there ever were a time for common-sense Republicans to fight for the soul of their party, it’s now. Don’t just abandon it to the #MAGA crowd.

That’s why it’s critical to support Republicans who 1) genuinely believe in limited government, and 2) are running in vulnerable seats susceptible to the blue wave.

A vote for Curbelo or Mario Diaz-Balart or Brandes or Rob Bradley or dozens of other main street Republicans is not a vote for or against Donald Trump. It’s a vote to make sure there’s still a party left after he’s long gone.

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