Peter – Page 4 – Florida Politics

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.5.18

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

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

Democrats are continuing and sharpening their attacks on Rick Scott while Florida’s Republican governor bides time in a no-comment period until his big announcement Monday when he’s expected to declare his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Thursday is launching a new website “” anticipating Scott’s candidacy. The site lays out several of the Democrats’ attacks on Scott, claiming he will say and do anything to help himself at Floridians’ expense.

The rollout of the site continues an aggressive anti-Scott campaign Democrats began last month as it became increasingly apparent Scott would soon formalize his long-known intentions to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The attacks come in the period when Scott and many of his advisers and allies are reluctant to respond, lest they acknowledge a Senate candidacy before it can be rolled out with a splash. Scott has called for a special announcement Monday.

Three weeks ago, the DSCC released two digital videos alleging that Scott had used his tenure as governor to increase his personal wealth and that he’d had several instances of forgetting or losing information that some charged could have been key evidence of crimes. Last week the Florida Democratic Party organized a news conference to charge that Scott had been avoiding accountability on tragedies. On Wednesday, American Bridge released a memo detailing what it called weaknesses Democrats could exploit in Scott.

The new DSCC site features the two videos the committee already has released attacking Scott and links to several pages going into details on allegations the Democrats are making about his seven-year tenure as governor, and what they say will happen if he runs for the U.S. Senate.

Among the Democrats’ allegations:

— That he personally made lots of money on investments as wages remained low in Florida.

— That his business holdings make him a walking conflict of interest, and that he has kept his finances secret through his blind trust.

— That his offer for nursing home directors to call his cellphone in a crisis, combined with his alleged failure to respond to such calls, may put some blame on him for the tragic deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after Hurricane Irma last September.

— That Scott supported drilling near shores and beaches even as he has claimed to oppose it in more recent times.

— That he broke a promise to expand Medicaid health care to 800,000 Floridians.

— That he let 612 days pass between the Pulse and Parkland mass murders without taking any action regarding gun violence.


— @RepJohnLewis: 50 years ago today, I learned the painful news that my friend, my mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated in Memphis, TN. He was my brother, my leader — that day it felt like something died in all of us.

— @DavidJollyFL: This trade war is going to make it pretty viable to beat Trump in a Republican primary in Iowa in 2020.

— @RosLehtinen: The administration’s activation of the #NationalGuard to reinforce our border is an expenditure that does not utilize taxpayer dollars wisely. Mobilization of the National Guard should be used for true national emergencies, not a political imperative.

— @SenBillNelson: Six months after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, many of our fellow American citizens are still without electricity. I’m joining colleagues to call for new hearings on the recovery efforts, amid reports that utility repair workers are being sent home before the job is done.

— @AGGancarski: Always hilarious when I try to interview a first-time candidate and they stall and say they’ll call back at some point. There are dozens of candidates. There’s one of me. And it’s late in the day and late in the week, so don’t waste my time. Capiche?


Gov. Scott’s ‘big announcement’ — 4; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 10; NFL Draft begins — 21; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 22; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 28; Mother’s Day — 38; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 50; Memorial Day — 53; Father’s Day — 73; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 78; Deadline for filing claim bills — 118; Start of the U.S. Open — 144; Primary Election Day — 145; College Football opening weekend — 149; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 201; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 202; General Election Day — 215; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 315; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 334.

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Florida challenges order to make voting rights changes” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press — Attorney General Pam Bondi, acting on behalf of Gov. Scott and the state’s clemency board, appealed the judge’s decision to block the state’s current system of forcing ex-felons to wait at least five years before they can ask for the right to vote. U.S. District Mark Walker had given Scott and state officials until April 26to create a new process, but attorneys working for Bondi asked that Walker’s order be placed on hold while the case moves to a federal appeals court in Atlanta. “People elected by Floridians should determine Florida’s clemency rules for convicted criminals, not federal judges,” said John Tupps, a spokesman for Scott. “The governor will always stand with victims of crime. He believes that people who have been convicted of crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.” Hours after the appeal was made, Walker turned down Florida’s request to put the case on hold and said this “court does not play games.”



“Voter restoration legal fight spills over into governor’s race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — As Republican politicians trade legal barbs with a federal judge over the state’s process for returning voting rights to felons who have served their time, the issue is poised to be a big political issue in this year’s midterm elections. The reaction was largest in the state’s nationally watched governor’s race. Republicans supported the state’s appeal, arguing the current system is constitutional and should be kept in place. Democrats hammered Gov. Scott and Attorney General Bondi, both of whom are part of Florida’s Executive Clemency Board, saying the system they oversee is discriminatory. The order to overhaul the clemency process came from U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, who says forcing felons to ask for restoration of their rights in front of a four-person panel made up of the state’s most high-profile politicians is unconstitutional.

In Congress, Adam Putnam voted against troops guarding the Mexican border” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — In 2004, Congress passed an amendment as part of the Ronald W. Reagan National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2005 … “authorized the Secretary of Defense to assign members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, under certain circumstances and subject to certain conditions, to assist the Department of Homeland Security in the performance of border protection functions.” Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation resoundingly supported the security measure, with one exception: Putnam … one of only 20 House Republicans to vote against the amendment. This issue is especially relevant in light of President Donald Trump deciding to station troops on the southern border as a block against illegal immigration … effectively continuing a policy more than a decade old.

Worth the click — “’Please share with Carlos’: Pam Bondi’s staff knew of citizen complaint over Putnam’s land deal” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — POLITICO Florida reported about a land deal that made the family of Putnam $25 million, one that was facilitated by legislation he helped pass in 1999 as a state lawmaker. “The exact law created in the Putnam-sponsored bill was cited as justification in July 2005 when the water management district passed a resolution that signed off on the deal that paid Putnam Groves $25 million for land assessed at $19 million … Putnam was in Congress at the time, and told the Palm Beach Post in 2012 he had nothing to do with the negotiations.” Jack Nelson, chair of the Highlands County Tea Party, sought an investigation from Gov. Scott and AG Bondi … Nelson emailed a complaint to Bondi’s office. Her chief of staff at the time was made aware of it. According to emails requested under Florida’s public records laws, Jason Rodriguez forwarded Nelson’s complaint to Catherine Crutcher on Jun. 15, 2012, writing: “Please share with Carlos.” Carlos, in this case, is Carlos Muniz, who would eventually become Bondi’s chief of staff in 2013.

Assignment editors — Putnam will participate in the 2018 ‘Lay of the Land’ Candidate Summit Luncheon, beginning 1:30 p.m. at the Omni Orlando Resort, 1500 Masters Blvd. in ChampionsGate.

Gwen Graham gets approval from ‘Moms Demand Action’ gun reform group” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Graham is getting a “Gun Sense Candidate” rating from the national group Moms Demand Action, which was formed after the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre to urge gun law reforms. “Moms never forget. Moms never give up. Every mother’s top priority is defending the safety and well-being of their children and families,” Graham stated in a news release. “As governor, I will never forget. I will never give up. I will protect children across the state by passing common-sense gun safety once and for all.” Graham is the first candidate in the race to get the Moms’ seal of approval.

Lauren Baer exceeds $1M in fundraising — Democratic congressional candidate Baer raised more than $450K of that in the first quarter of 2018 in her bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. “We are so grateful for the grassroots support we’ve received throughout this campaign,” Baer said. “To the literally thousands of people who have donated, thank you. I pledged back in February not to accept money from corporate PACs, and I am proud that not one dollar has come from their coffers. This campaign will always be about representing FL-18 voters, not special interests, and I look forward to working hard for them every day.” Baer, who is seeking to unseat Republican Brian Mast, pledged not to accept money from corporate PACs.

Donna Shalala reports $1.17 million haul in 3 weeks” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Shalala‘s campaign wouldn’t say how much the candidate contributed to herself, but some rivals suspected she chipped in about $500,000 of her own money. Even if she did raise a little more than $600,000 from donors, it’s still a larger sum raised in an entire quarter than the other seven Democratic candidates in the race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Happening tonight:

No change of plans (yet) from Bob Buesing” via Florida Politics — Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young could see one re-election challenger swapped for another … Young currently faces Tampa attorney Buesing, who finished second in the four-way race for Senate District 18 in the 2016 cycle, and there are rumors he’s agreed to step aside to make way for Tampa Democratic Rep. Janet Cruz. In a statement to Florida Politics, Buesing neither confirmed nor denied he’d exit the race, instead saying he’d wait on Cruz to make a move. “My goal has always been electing a Democrat to this seat who will serve the people of Hillsborough County well in Tallahassee,” he said. “To that end, I announced my candidacy last January and have run a campaign based on the values and ideas that I believe represent the will of the people in this District. Should Janet Cruz decide to file, then I will make the best decision for my friends, family, and the constituents of Senate District 18.”

Vanessa Baugh leaving Manatee Commission for state House bid” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — After six years in local government, Manatee County Commissioner Baugh, 64, Has filed to run for the District 73 state house seat covering eastern Manatee County and a portion of eastern Sarasota County. She will face off against Sarasota attorney Tommy Gregory in what is expected to be a hotly contested GOP primary. Democrat Liv Coleman also has filed to run for the strongly Republican-leaning seat. Baugh’s departure two years into her four-year commission term means the District 5 seat will be on the ballot in November, along with three other county commission seats.

Save the Date:

Dustin Daniels, mayor’s chief of staff, launches campaign video” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Daniels, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s chief of staff, has released a video on Facebook … that all but suggests a run for office. Sources close to Daniels say he’s had very “intentional” talks with community leaders about making a mayoral run especially given all the dominoes that have fallen in the last week. Those dominoes include County Commissioner John Dailey announcing he will run for mayor instead of seeking re-election to his District 3 seat this year. Dailey’s announcement came on the heels of state Sen. Bill Montford‘s announcement that he would not run for mayor as was speculated for months. Daniels also has submitted his resignation as chief of staff, effective April 13. Starting April 16, Gillum’s communications director, Jamie Van Pelt, will take over as chief of staff.

DNC official quits after uproar over ‘colored people’ remarks” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — A Florida Democratic National Committee member who offended African-Americans for using the phrase “colored people” resigned his office as the state party chairwoman and other officials called on him to quit — echoing the comments of his own wife, the Democratic Party chair in Duval County. “I misspoke and used language that was hurtful. I apologized and pledged that I would learn from my mistake,” John Parker said in a letter to local, state and national officials that resigned as the Duval County Democratic state committeeman and as a DNC member from Florida. “I understand my error perpetuates divisiveness and does not allow us an opportunity for the important types of meaningful discourse — a conversation our party must engage in sooner rather than later — that help us grow as individuals and a party protecting the dignity of all people,” he wrote. Parker had said he meant to say “people of color” instead of “colored people” and eventually apologized for his offhand remarks Jan. 22 after a local Democratic Party meeting in Jacksonville.


Twenty-four amendments won initial approval of the Constitution Revision Commission — but those ideas have since been downsized to 12 actual ballot items.

The CRC’s influential Style & Drafting Committee approved the multi-item package Wednesday, though it’s still a “starting point,” committee chair Brecht Heuchan told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas.

Once the committee approves ballot titles and language, the full commission will be primed for a final vote on the proposals. Each item will need the approval of 22 members of the 37-person body.

Significant standalones: Six proposals were not grouped with others. That includes four less popular measures (proposals that advanced with fewer than 22 votes from the full body), including an immigrant employment verification plan, the elimination of the write-in loophole in elections, and a ban on greyhound racing.

Compromise: Some commissioners wanted each proposal to appear by itself on the ballot. Some wanted to save voters time by grouping everything together. Heuchan told Klas that he started the process thinking “everything should be grouped somehow,” but ultimately changed this approach after speaking with panel advisers.

Dilution: Klas wrote the committee “demonstrated how powerful it is” when it watered down an ethics package by removing a ban on local governments using taxpayer money to fund lobbyists to secure budget carve-outs.


Assignment editors — Gov. Scott visits Ponce Inlet to sign SB 1576, “Ponce’s Law” strengthening criminal punishments for animal abusers. Bill signing begins 8:45 a.m., Town of Ponce Inlet Council Chamber, 4300 South Atlantic Avenue in Ponce Inlet.

Putnam gives wildfire update — The Agriculture Commissioner on Wednesday announced that there are currently 29 active wildfires in Florida burning 33,973 acres. They include the Greenway fire, Collier County: 17,957 and 95 percent contained; Firebreak, Gulf County: 8,080 acres and 85 percent contained; Old Blade Line, Polk County: 450 acres and 60 percent contained; Mud Dauber Road, Polk County: 200 acres and 95 percent contained. Putnam oversees the Florida Forest Service, which includes wildland firefighters, is responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.

TaxWatch finds $147.5 million in ‘turkeys’ in state budget” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Florida’s new $88.7 billion state budget contains 87 “turkeys” worth $147.5 million, Florida TaxWatch announced Wednesday, including nearly $120 million in transportation projects slipped in by state legislators without formal evaluation. That helped starve arts spending. The Department of State had ranked 489 cultural, museum, and other arts projects worth $41.6 million, but the Legislature appropriated only $2.6 million — 6 percent of the ask, TaxWatch said. The organization defines “turkeys” as “usually local member projects, placed in the final appropriations bill without being scrutinized and subjected to the budget committee process, or that circumvented established grant and other selection processes.”

All in: Seminole Tribe says it will keep paying state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Despite a legal right to cut off the money, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has decided to continue paying the state its share of Indian casino gambling revenue each month [now $19.5 million, with a balloon payment at the end of the fiscal year]. The Tribe “confirmed” its decision Tuesday night, according to its outside counsel, Barry Richard of the Greenberg Traurig firm, who participated in a conference call. “There is no plan to stop the payments,” Richard said Wednesday morning. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them. “It has never been in their mindset to stop or reduce payments just because they have a legal right to,” he said. Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised an alarm over the potential loss of revenue share from the Tribe.

No Casinos: With Tribe’s decision, no need for Special Session on gambling” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The head of an anti-casino gambling organization has again written to top lawmakers, saying the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s commitment to keep paying gambling revenue share should shut down further talks on a Special Session. “Doesn’t today’s commitment by the Seminole Tribe to continue making compact payments resolve the potential revenue loss concern that legislative leaders said was the basis for holding a special session?” No Casinos’ president John Sowinski asked in a Wednesday letter.

Court sides with cops on using biker photos in lobbying” via the News Service of Florida — Fighting a bill that would have allowed Floridians to openly carry guns, two Orange County sheriff’s officers in 2011 moved forward with a plan to give lawmakers a glimpse of some people who might be able to pack heat publicly. The officers pulled together booking or driver’s license photos of “one percenters” — members of motorcycle clubs … the use of the photos led to a lawsuit that resulted this week in a federal appeals court rejecting arguments by three members of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club that the officers had violated a privacy law in using the photos. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Michael Fewless, who in 2011 was captain of the governmental affairs section of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and lobbied the Legislature, and John McMahon, an intelligence agent who selected and emailed the photos to Fewless.

Comcast launches 1-gigabit internet service in Palm Beach County” via Doreen Christensen of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Residential and business customers will now be able to plug into 1 gigabit-per-second internet services with existing cables in homes and offices in Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Martin counties, the company announced. The service, which costs $139.95 a month without a contract, also will be available in three other Treasure Coast counties, as well as parts of Brevard County. The service uses DOCSIS 3.1 technology to make it possible for Xfinity and Comcast Business internet customers to receive gigabit speeds over coax cable communication lines that most customers already have in their homes, Comcast said. Customers will need a new DOCSIS 3.1-capable modem, such as the xFi Advanced Gateway, to get the high-speed service.


Wounded teen who put cops on trail of Parkland shooter returns to school” via Anne Geggis of the Sun-Sentinel — Kyle Laman, 15, nearly lost a limb — if not his life — on the day Nikolas Cruz prowled the halls of the school, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others. “I just wanted to see some of my friends,” said Kyle, who will be facing more surgeries before he can walk again. He spent 16 days in the hospital before going home. On Monday, Kyle showed up to school accompanied by Coral Springs Police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich, the officer who found Kyle running on his injured foot in a field. Heinrich got him to paramedics after administering first aid. Kyle gave Heinrich a description of the shooter that was “spot on,” including where the shooter had been and what he was wearing, police said. “I saw other kids running, but Kyle was the first who was looking for an adult,” Heinrich recalled. Heinrich bandaged him up. In retrospect, he still can’t believe that the boy was running on that foot. “He severed one of the tendons that allows the foot to go up and down,” he said. “The doctors said they were amazed he was able to run also.”

’It has to be perfect’: Putting out a yearbook after the Parkland shooting” via Patricia Mazzei and Sam Hodgson of The New York Times — At Stoneman Douglas High, where a former student is accused of killing 17 people in a deadly rampage, editors decided the shooting would not overtake their book. They insisted on preserving a record of the days that came before, the ones filled with the regular markers of high school life: Football games. Club activities. The Sadie Hawkins dance. But they also knew their classmates would keep their book for decades, lugging it with them from dorm rooms to first apartments and showing it to their own children, who would ask about the shooting at Parkland and the lives that had been lost. The book would have to tell that story, too. For several days in the aftermath, the staff allowed The New York Times to follow the group of 37 editors, designers, writers and photographers as they pulled together the book — choosing the photographs and laying out the pages and making the painstaking decisions on how to best honor the students and staff who had died. The 452-page book is scheduled to be published in May and distributed to more than 2,500 people.


Marco Rubio on gun control: It depends who he’s talking to” via Ashraf Khalil of The Associated Press — It was one week after the fatal shootings at a Parkland high school, and Republican Sen. Rubio was looking to show solidarity with an angry crowd of parents and students in his home state. He told them — and a national television audience — that 18-year-olds should not be able to buy a rifle and said, “I will support a law that takes that right away.” About 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) north, District of Columbia officials could only shake their heads in disbelief. The city already had a law barring 18-year-olds from buying rifles, yet Rubio was the main senator pushing legislation to end that ban, as well as D.C.’s prohibition of assault weapons. “Rubio’s gun bill should be a public embarrassment as well as a personal embarrassment to him,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington’s nonvoting delegate in Congress. Gun control has long been a sore point in relations between officials in this heavily Democratic city, home to some of the nation’s toughest gun control laws, and Republicans, who as the congressional majority has power over D.C.’s laws. Rubio, in particular, is seen as the villain. City officials accuse him of playing cynical political games with the lives of Washington residents to curry favor with the National Rifle Association.

Rubio blames ‘bureaucracy’ for the wait on federal Irma funding” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — “It’s a pretty straightforward task,” Rubio said, standing in a trailer park in Marathon where a canal is still choked with debris and filth from the storm. “Get the money that we’ve already voted for down here, so they can hire people to clean this up.” People applauded. “Don’t clap yet, we’ve got to get the money,” Rubio said. “We just voted for the money; the hard part is getting the federal government to release it. We’ll keep banging on the door. There’s nothing else they can use the money for — it’s appropriated for this.” Rubio added, “Next time we get back here, these things will be cleaned up.”


Joe Henderson: FEA’s message: Seize the day at ballot box” via Florida Politics — FEA President Joanne McCall has a message for those in Tallahassee who pushed through major changes to the way public schools are funded and operate. “They say we are playing politics,” she told me. “We are playing politics, and the tide is turning in our favor. The public is with us. “We have 140,000 members and there are 2.8 million public school students in Florida versus 300,000 (students) in for-profit charter schools and 80,000 in voucher programs. We need to keep them angry about what’s going on.” Members are even considering applying grades to the candidates, similar to the tactic used by the National Rifle Association to identify those sympathetic to its cause. “If the Senate isn’t flipped, the governor can be the goalie who can veto and unwind the clock on policies from the Jeb Bush and Rick Scott era,” she said. “We’ll be looking for a pro-public education person.”


Joshua AubuchonMark DelegalLawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight: Helena Agri-Enterprises

Braulio BaezKatherine Pennington: Florida Public Service Commission

Paul MitchellMonte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: AF Group Insurance

— ALOE —

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden returns to practice for first time” via Curt Weiler of the Tallahassee Democrat — Longtime FSU head coach Bobby Bowden attended practice for the first time since his retirement eight years ago on special invitation from current head coach Willie Taggart. “It’s nice to be back,” Bowden said … “Glad to see (Taggart) in the job, glad to see the boys. It’s so great.” Bowden — who led FSU to 377 wins and a pair of national titles before he was forced out by the FSU administration after the 2009 season — gave FSU space throughout the Jimbo Fisher era. Taggart made it clear that Bowden was welcome on campus for practices and games whenever he wants to be there, ensuring that he will even hold a parking spot and a golf cart for him. … all it took was one look at his face to see how much being back meant to the man who made FSU what it is today.

Meet the Tampa attorney who took charge at Augusta Monday” via Martin Fennelly Of The Tampa Bay Times — The new Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, and with it the Masters, wears a 42-long jacket, including his green one that never leaves the premises. Monday was the first day on the job for Fred Ridley, 65, a highly successful Tampa lawyer and equally successful husband and father of three grown daughters. Ridley’s coming is unique. He is the first Augusta Chairman to have played in the Masters, which he did three times in the 1970s (three missed cuts). He won the 1975 U.S. Amateur championship. Ridley is also the last U.S. Amateur winner not to turn professional, choosing a law career. Bobby Jones never turned professional, either, and was a lawyer. The new Augusta Chairman was born in Lakeland and raised in Winter Haven, the only son of Polk County schoolteachers and administrators.

Happy birthday to three Tampa Bay politicos, Councilman Harry Cohen, Largo’s Michael Smith, and Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty.

Last Call for 4.4.18 — 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

New KIDS COUNT data for Florida’s 67 counties, to be released Thursday, “gives the state a very mixed progress report for Florida’s four million children in the areas of economics, health, education and community and family,” a Wednesday news release said.

“While some modest strides have been made, there’s also been some setbacks. This data is especially concerning considering Florida ranks in the bottom 10 states for overall child well-being. To begin reversing this trend, leaders from 13 organizations will announce the kickoff of a statewide civic engagement campaign called ‘Made in Florida — 100% for Kids.’ ”

The results will be presented at a 10 a.m. news conference in Tallahassee’s Florida Press Center, 335 E. College Ave.

Then, at 1 p.m. at FSU’s Turnbull Center, 10 Florida advocates and organizations will be recognized at a “Superheroes for Super Kids” award ceremony “to celebrate their vision, leadership and action that have resulted in major transformational changes for Florida’s children over the past 25 years.”

Honorees include Carol Marbin Miller, the Miami Herald reporter who co-authored the newspaper’s “Fight Club” series. The yearlong probe revealed systemic misconduct at DJJ stemming from inexperienced and underpaid staff, inadequate personnel standards and a high tolerance for cover-ups.

Evening Reads

Marco Rubio on gun control: It depends who he’s talking to” via Ashram Khalil of The Associated Press

Marco Rubio’s no longer making fun of philosophy majors” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott appeals judge’s ruling on voting rights for felons” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

All in: Seminole Tribe says it will keep paying state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

No Casinos: With Tribe’s decision, no need for Special Session on gambling” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Gold Star mom Karen Vaugh considers GOP challenge to Brian Mast” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

DNC official quits after uproar over ‘colored people’ remarks” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Media presses for more school shooting video” via The Associated Press

Gainesville’s self-driving shuttle rollout delayed” via Andrew Caplan of the Gainesville Sun

Quote of the Day

“In this environment, the prudence of funding so many local member projects at the expense of core statewide functions is questionable.” — Florida TaxWatch’s Kurt Wenner, at the organization’s budget turkey report presentation.  

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Rick Scott visits Ponce Inlet to sign SB 1576, “Ponce’s Law,” which strengthens criminal punishments for animal abusers. That’s at 8:45 a.m., Town of Ponce Inlet Council Chamber, 4300 South Atlantic Avenue, Ponce Inlet.

The Style and Drafting Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is scheduled to consider a series of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. That’s at 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.

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

Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight are expected to speak at a Sarasota Tiger Bay Club meeting about issues involving school safety and guns in schools. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Michael’s on East, 1212 East Ave. South, Sarasota.

The University of North Florida Board Trustees will consider a proposal to name the student union building after outgoing university President John Delaney. That’s at 5:15 p.m., University of North Florida, Adam W. Herbert University Center, Jacksonville.

Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton, a St. Petersburg Democrat, will host a legislative town hall in Bradenton, with a focus on opioid epidemic policies, issues affecting local government, and the school safety package. That’s at 5:30 p.m., 13th Avenue Community Center, 922 24th Street East, Bradenton.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat., and state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, will hold a town-hall meeting about gun violence and school safety. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex auditorium, 3000 N.W. 199th St., Miami Gardens.

When do you write about the arrest of a lawmaker’s spouse?

No matter what else the reporters of Florida Politics wrote on Monday, I knew that the story that would be most-read would be whatever we posted about a congressman’s wife being arrested for disorderly intoxication.

On that day, FP served up a steady stream of first-of-the-quarter, post-holiday scoops and stories about candidates maneuvering their campaigns into position for 2018 and politicos maneuvering their careers into position for the long term.

That didn’t matter. People wanted to see a mugshot. They wanted to read a police report.

They wanted to be reassured that a politician’s day-to-day life is no better or worse than theirs. Lots of families have someone who drinks too much on a holiday. Some of those folks even end up running head-long into law enforcement. A handful of them get booked into jail.

But is it news? Did we really need to publish the story about U.S. Rep. Darren Soto‘s wife being arrested at Disney World?

If you go by the standard of ‘Well, everyone else is publishing, so why aren’t we?’ then, yes, our reporter in Orlando, Scott Powers, had to write about it. The Orlando Sentinel was covering it, and certainly so were Central Florida’s voracious television news stations. Powers wasn’t first to the story, but since he was close to being first, I knew we’d win the click-bait race.

Later in the day, after I looked at the viewership stats on the story, I pushed Powers to take another bite at the apple. To Powers, a classy veteran of the newspaper industry, I had to have sounded like Jason Sudeikis’ character in the fake movie trailer from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight: “Get some likes. Get some clicks. Get some retweets. Get some forwards.”

Powers’ concern about hyping the story stemmed from Congressman Soto’s acknowledgment (via a press release and a statement) that “my wife has been honest about her struggle of living with mental illness…”

By re-upping the story, would we be taking advantage of someone who needs help and was just having a really bad day, just to earn a few thousand more clicks?

The police report further complicates the story. In it, the officer (who seemingly could not have been more patient) writes that “even while attempting to speak with her (Mrs. Soto), she continued to utter that her husband is a congressman, therefore, she can do whatever she wants.”

It’s that last part – the sense of entitlement it suggests – that guided me to my decision about pushing the story.

Yes, Mrs. Soto is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Yes, she had been drinking and only by the grace of God have I not found myself in the back of a police cruiser for similar reasons. But neither of those reasons are an excuse for haranguing a law enforcement officer.

That’s why we had to publish the story about a congressman’s wife being arrested for disorderly intoxication.

Here’s to hoping Mrs. Soto gets the help she needs.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.4.18

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

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

In advance of Gov. Rick Scott‘s expected announcement next Monday that he’s running for the U.S. Senate, the Democratic-campaign supporting PAC American Bridge 21st Century is laying out a discussion of five weak points it says Scott has that Democrats should pummel.

American Bridge contends that public opinion on current hot issues, the anticipated Democratic political wave, Scott’s tendency to underperform compared with other Republicans, the dramatic increase in Puerto Rican voters in Florida, and personal financial disclosure laws all are going to make it far more difficult for Scott to beat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in November than for him to win two governor’s elections.

“Rick Scott’s decision to run for U.S. Senate will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in recent Florida political history,” American Bridge 21st Century predicted in a campaign strategy memorandum issued Wednesday.

The memorandum, first shared with Florida Politics, argues in detail that Scott’s 2010 and 2014 victories came in years of Republican waves, while a Democratic wave is being projected this year; and that even within the waves Scott underperformed other Republicans on the ballot in both elections.

“This time, Scott’s putative Senate bid will run into a Democratic headwind the likes of which he has never encountered and for which his political brand is totally unprepared,” the memo declares.

This memo lays out five points American Bridge contends are Scott weak points:

– In both of his elections, 2010 and ’14, there were Republican waves, with final polls favoring generic Republicans by about 4 points.Scott didn’t cover that spread in either election, winning each by about 1 point.

The memorandum also contends that Scott ran as an anti-President Barack Obama crusader who helped increase Republican turnout. This year Scott not only has no such national foil to use to excite the grassroots, Republican President Donald Trump under-water popularity ratings might quell Republican grassroots turnout.

– Scott is, in the PAC’s assessment and words, “a historically weak vote-getter.” In his previous elections, he received fewer votes than other statewide Republicans on the ballot, Marco Rubio in 2010, and Pam Bondi, Adam Putnam and Jeff Atwater in both 2010 and 2014.

– Florida has seen an unprecedented influx of new voters, especially from Puerto Rico.

More than100,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida following the devastation of Hurricane Irma last September, and tens of thousands of others were already migrating to Florida every year for several years. When they have voted, Puerto Rican voters have favored Democrats significantly over Republicans.

However, the memorandum does not note any gains Scott may have earned within Florida’s Puerto Rican community with his multiple trips to Puerto Rico this past fall and winter, or with his administration’s multi-pronged initiatives aimed at offering services and cutting red tape for Puerto Rican migrants.

– Because of tough federal disclosure laws, Scott’s money will be an issue “like never before,” the memorandum predicts.

“Rick Scott’s net worth has gone up by $46 million during his time as governor, but he keeps it hidden from public view,” the memo declares, calling Scott’s blind trust “unethical” and noting it is run by his friend. “Federal disclosure laws are considerably stronger than Florida’s, and Scott will be forced to open the books on his wealth after he announces for U.S. Senate,” the memo continues. “Count on drip-drip-drip of negative headlines.”

In particular, the memo contends that Scott’s investments could be vulnerable to negative news because he is invested in a company that wants to drill in the Everglades; that a Medicaid privatization bill he pushed could have steered contracts to a health care company he owned; that he has a stake in a pipeline firm with a $3 billion natural gas pipeline through Florida and his appointees “shepherded” the project through regulatory hurdles; and that he personally owned stock in an Irish health care products company while approving tax rebates for that company.

– “The key issues in the 2018 election will be uniquely unfavorable to Rick Scott,” the memo claims.

Among them: opioids, gun reform, and disaster management.

“Without backlash against the White House to rely on, Scott will no doubt resort to spending millions on negative ads,” the memo concludes. “But in 2010 and 2014, after twice setting a record for spending in a Florida campaign, Scott won the lowest number of votes of all the statewide Republicans on the ballot. The pattern is clear: even when Republicans have done well, Rick Scott has struggled. It is too early to tell if the Democratic wave in 2018 will be a surge or a tsunami, but one thing is clear: it will be too strong for Rick Scott to overcome.”


— @DanRather: News anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn’t journalism. It’s propaganda. It’s Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses.

— @FoxBusiness: .@mattgaetz on Republicans in Congress: “We won the last election. It’s time to start acting like it or we’re not gonna win the next election… This was an election about border security and we’ve got to put resources in the game.”

@RepCurbelo: Major policy differences aside, @EPAScottPruitt‘s corruption scandals are an embarrassment to the Administration, and his conduct is grossly disrespectful to American taxpayers. It’s time for him to resign or for @POTUS to dismiss him.

— @MDixon55: Not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure @ChrisSprowls just basically called Commissioner (Judge) Stargel a nerd. (in the nicest/funniest way possible)

— @CarlosGSmith: If gay men can no longer trust Grindr, than who CAN we trust?

@Kriseman: Honor to spend a couple of days in Orlando with my comrades in arms, mayors of Beaverton, Chattanooga, Columbia, Flagstaff, Little Rock, and Orlando. It’s important we learn from each other & work together to combat the orchestrated attack on cities by state legislators.


Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 11; NFL Draft begins — 22; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 23; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 29; Mother’s Day — 39; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 51; Memorial Day — 54; Father’s Day — 74; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 79; Deadline for filing claim bills — 119; Start of the U.S. Open — 145; Primary Election Day — 146; College Football opening weekend — 150; General Election Day — 216; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 316; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 335.

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


Debates for U.S. Senate, Governor’s race set for late October” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – … in the renewed “Before You Vote” debate partnership efforts of Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. The two groups were joined by Broward College and WPBF, the West Palm Beach-based ABC-TV affiliate, to announce the planning and production of televised, evening debates Tuesday, Oct. 23, and Wednesday, Oct. 24. The face-to-face debates each would be at 7 p.m. and broadcast live on participating stations across the state, except in Pensacola, where WEAR-TV may broadcast it on an hour delay to stick with the 7 p.m. time in the Central time zone.


Female candidates take on taboos in new campaign ads” via Heather Caygle of POLITICO – From breast-feeding on camera to sharing intimate stories of sexual abuse, women running for office are turning campaign norms – and long-held gender stereotypes – on their head with a flurry of new ads that highlight once taboo topics. With a historic number of women running for Congress or governor in 2018, many say it’s long overdue that female candidates stop conforming to a ‘winning’ playbook written mostly by men. President Trump has played a part, too. A majority of the female candidates running this year are Democrats who are not only enraged by his presidency but motivated by the way he was seemingly able to break all the rules and still win.

Ron DeSantis says Donald Trump coming to help his campaign ‘very soon’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “I think the president’s going to come down for me very soon. Which will be very good,” DeSantis said to cheers before a gathering of the Polo Republican Club in Palm Beach County. DeSantis’ campaign adviser Brad Herold said “no” when asked if he could provide further information. “We’re proud to have the president’s endorsement and we look forward to him coming to Florida during the campaign,” he said. Trump has since been quiet on Florida’s governor’s race, but those close to the president say that privately he has told people that he plans to help DeSantis. “That would not surprise me,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, of a possible DeSantis-Trump event. “When I’ve been with POTUS, he’s said he wants to help him.”

Assignment editors – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will join the Unity March in Miami with Mayor Francis Suarez, Commissioner Keon Hardemon and other elected officials. The march begins 5:30 p.m. at Athalie Range Park, 525 NW 62nd St. (MLK Boulevard) in Miami. Beginning 6:01 p.m. – the time Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed – is a Reclaim the Dream MLK Candlelight Memorial Service and Gospel Concert to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.

First in Sunburn – Attorney General candidate Frank White releases another digital spot as part of an ongoing digital campaign that began with an introductory video, continued with a glimpse into White’s commitment to his faith last week and now a video speaking directly to Florida’s seniors.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Blue Dog Democrats group accepted NRA money. Now they’re giving it back.” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – The Blue Dog PAC, which has doled out campaign cash to Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist during the 2018 election cycle, said it would return a $4,950 contribution from the National Rifle Association’s political arm in July 2017. The PAC will also not cash a $5,000 check from the National Rifle Association given to the Blue Dogs in January 2018, about two weeks before the nation’s deadliest high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Murphy and Crist, who were both in favor of gun-control measures like a ban on assault-style weapons before the Parkland shooting, said they were not aware that the Blue Dogs’ PAC received NRA money during the 2018 election cycle. Murphy and Crist have both received $7,000 in direct campaign contributions from the Blue Dog PAC this election cycle, making it possible that their campaigns received NRA money.

Democratic polling shows a tight race for Carlos Curbelo” via Alex Daugherty and David Smiley of the Miami Herald – New polling from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shows that Curbelo could face a serious challenge for his seat in November. The poll’s results, which shows Curbelo up 45 points to 40 points over Mucarsel-Powell, are based on a survey of 418 likely 2018 general election voters in Florida’s 26th Congressional District and was conducted by the DCCC from March 17 to 22. Respondents’ information came from the voter file and the poll was conducted through all live calls, on cells and landlines, with a bilingual option. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.9 percent. “Month-by-month, week-by-week, primaries will produce battle-tested and uniquely qualified Democratic candidates,” the DCCC said in a press release. “And vulnerable House Republicans will be forced to face reality: According to a sample of newly released polling data from a wide variety of districts, Democrats are poised to take back the House.”

— “Two North Florida state Senators raise $40K+ after Session” via Florida Politics

Karen Skyers enters race to succeed Sean Shaw in HD 61” via Florida Politics – Skyers, a Democrat, joins Sharon Carter, Norman Harris, Dianne Hart and Byron Henry in the primary race. HD 61 is opening up in the fall due to Tampa Democratic Rep. Shaw foregoing re-election to run for Attorney General. “The people of District 61 need a representative who knows the ropes, who understands the political games that make or break a water project, a community center, or safety improvements in a neighborhood. Our community needs someone who isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out because that’s what I’ve been doing all along,” Skyers said in a news release. Skyers was until recently a lobbyist with Fort Lauderdale-based advocacy group Becker & Poliakoff. Before her lobbying career, she was the legislative aide to Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who represented the Tampa Bay area in the Florida Senate from 2006 through 2016.

Save the date – Bradenton attorney Will Robinson is holding a fundraiser Monday, April 23, in his bid for the House District 71 seat to replace term-limited Republican Jim Boyd. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at The Francis, 1289 N. Palm Ave. in Sarasota.

Javier Fernandez announces Bill Nelson endorsement, direct mail campaign” via Florida Politics –Fernandez announced an endorsement from U.S. Sen. Nelson in the House District 114 special election. “I’m proud to endorse Javier because I know he will be a strong advocate for his community in the Florida House,” Nelson said. “His experience and passion for public service make him an excellent choice to represent the people of Miami-Dade in Tallahassee.” Fernandez is running to replace former Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez. Also, the Fernandez campaign announced a slew of campaign mailers that have started to hit HD 114 mailboxes. Four of the six direct mail pieces focus on introducing Fernandez and his campaign platform and feature slogans such as “One of us, fighting for us.” One focusing policy says Fernandez will push affordable health care, responsible gun safety legislation, teacher pay raises and protecting Florida land and water from sea level rise.

Rob Panepinto raises $100K in March for Orange County mayor’s campaign” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Panepinto, a Winter Park entrepreneur, now has topped the half-million dollar mark in fundraising in his quest for the mayor’s office being vacated by term-limited Mayor Teresa Jacobs. His campaign had raised $36,200 in March and that Panepinto’s independent political campaign, Vision Orange County, had raised $64,000. That pushes the campaign’s total funds raised to just over $324,000, and Vision Orange County’s to $180,000. Panepinto faces Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke in the non-partisan mayor’s race.

Rick Minor leaves city race for run at John Dailey’s seat” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Minor is bowing out of a City Commission race to run for the County Commission District 3 seat left open by Dailey‘s switch to the mayor’s race. Minor filed earlier this year to run for City Commission Seat 3, which became open with Commissioner Nancy Miller‘s decision to not seek re-election. He announced he’s jumping to the county District 3 race in an effort to succeed Dailey. “I love what the county government is doing,” he said in a written statement, “and I love the vision that the county has developed over the last several years. So much so that I would have filed for this seat had John announced his mayoral run earlier.”

Pittman Law Group sets up PAC for mystery candidate” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Political action committee Progress Tallahassee has been set up by two members of the Pittman Law Group, but Sean Pittman and his people aren’t saying who or what the PAC is for. “The organization is a client of my law firm,” Pittman said via text message. “Due to Attorney-Client privilege, I cannot answer your inquiries. “The strong links between Pittman and Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor, have political observers wondering if the PAC has been set up for Gillum’s chief of staff, Dustin Daniels. Pittman has run Gillum’s campaigns. Tony Fusco, a Tallahassee injury lawyer and FSU graduate who was involved in student government when Daniels was student body president, said the committee was set up to raise money for a candidate but he refused to say who it is. “The person that’s running, I’ll let him decide the time to talk,” said Fusco, who donated $100 to the committee.

— “No mystery: Dustin Daniels entrance into Tallahassee mayoral race imminent” via Florida Politics


Against tyranny: Gov. Scott on Tuesday ceremonially signed HB 359, which strictly prohibits the state and all its agencies from investing in any company doing business with Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

D’oh! @ DEO: State knew Pompano gun maker in business with banned Russian firm when tax incentives offeredvia Dan Christensen of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration knew in 2015 when it offered $162,000 in tax-refund incentives to Pompano Beach assault rifle maker Kalashnikov USA that the company was doing business with a Russian arms giant that was blacklisted by the U.S. Here’s what confidential state records obtained by Florida Bulldog say about RWC Group LLC, a privately held American company which operates under the brand name Kalashnikov USA: “The Company has the exclusive license to manufacture and distribute products designed and under the brands of Concern Kalashnikov, a Russian military, hunting and sporting firearms manufacturer founded in 1807,” says a July 17, 2015 Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) memo. “The Company’s products are marketed under the Kalashnikov USA brand and are produced with state-of-the-art computer numeric control design and manufacturing systems, allowing for improved fit and finish. The Company’s product line includes semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. The Company’s products are available through direct dealers nationwide.”

Critics blast proposed prison visitation changes” via the News Service of Florida — Under a current rule, visitation is allowed every weekend as well as on state holidays. But the Florida Department of Corrections is moving ahead with a rule change that could cut visitation in half, a plan that critics say ignores research showing frequent visits with family and friends lowers recidivism and aids prisoners’ re-entry. Under the proposed rule change set to go into effect Saturday, visits would be limited to a minimum of two per month, for two hours at a time, on alternating weekends, depending on the inmate’s corrections identification number. About 100 people, many of them friends and family of inmates, appeared at a public hearing about the proposed rule in Tallahassee. Corrections officials maintain the change will help prison staff manage the number of visitors coming on a given weekend and prevent overflow crowds. Richard Comerford, the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Institutions, said the changes are also needed, at least in part, because of an increase in people trying to introduce contraband into prisons as well as staff shortages.

Providers, advocates blast proposed $98 million Medicaid cut” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – The state wants to reduce from three months to 30 days the grace period for retroactively paying Medicaid claims. The state estimates that the policy change will impact about 39,000 people, but representatives from the Safety Net Hospital Association of Florida and two left-leaning policy institutes testified that the state’s estimate is too low. The groups have made public record requests for the data. The latest round of criticism came at a public meeting in Tallahassee, the second meeting in two weeks the state has held on the proposed the changes to Florida’s sweeping Medicaid 1115 waiver. Agency for Health Care Administration representative Mallory McManus said the state would provide the data to the groups within the next two days. In a prepared statement, McManus stressed that “no Medicaid services are being reduced as a result of this amendment.” While proponents say the move is meant to encourage people to quickly apply for the program and begin receiving benefits, opponents say the shortened time frame hurts those who need the help the most.

Special Session for gaming overhaul likely on or after April 23” via Arek Sarkissian, Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – State Sen. Bill Galvano, who has been negotiating with House counterpart José Oliva, said they’re close to a deal and plan to talk to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which is at loggerheads with the state over a gambling compact but is still putting money into an escrow account that totals about $300 million annually. “That’s a whole lot of money,” said Galvano … “As a presiding officer, it’s something you pay attention to.” As for the April 23 start date, Galvano said a session “would be no earlier than that. When you think of special sessions, you think in terms of when you can do something, and this [April 23] gives us a little [additional] time to put a deal together — to see if it’s even possible — so we can knock it out before the summer and campaigns and the end of the fiscal year.”

Seminole Tribe’s lawyer says same old gambling proposals ‘won’t fly’ ” via Florida Politics – Despite increasing calls for and against a Special Legislative Session on gambling, the Tribe’s lawyer continues to back his client’s promise to keep paying millions to the state. “They’re not just going to stop paying just because they have the right to,” said Barry Richard on Tuesday. That said, if lawmakers come back with the same ideas as this past Regular Session, “that won’t fly,” Richard added … For the Tribe, the issue has always been about getting what they pay for.

Dorothy Hukill, Kathleen Passidomo recognized for roles in insurance debate” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Sens. Hukill and Passidomo are the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida’s Legislative Champions for 2018. The organization recognized the pair “for work on issues impacting Florida insurance consumers” during the 2018 Legislative Session. “The consumer protections that did occur this year would not have been possible without the initiative of these lawmakers,” PIFF President Michael Carlson said in a written statement. “Sen. Passidomo worked to protect a competitive auto market in Florida by thwarting attempts to throw all auto crash claims into courthouses,” he said. “Sen. Hukill acted on behalf of consumers, working to protect them from paying higher rates driven by inflated property insurance claims involving water and roofing losses. We are grateful for their support in tackling problems taking place in the insurance market and have seen the prevention of further harm with their leadership.”

Assignment editors – State Rep. Paul Renner will discuss the 2018 Legislative Session during a meeting of the Flagler County Republican Club beginning 6 p.m. at the Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Parkway N.E. in Palm Coast.

State ban on advance FEMA payments ties up billions for state cities, counties” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida – FEMA had only issued $38.7 million as of Monday through its Public Assistance Grant Program, which provides reimbursements to municipalities and some private nonprofit groups impacted by natural disasters. The amount paid is less than 1 percent of the $3.6 billion in requests made after Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. City and county leaders attributed the nearly stagnant flow of federal dollars to a Florida Division of Emergency Management ban on any advance payments for storm recovery projects before they go through an already time-consuming FEMA approval process. Previously, cities and counties could ask FEMA to provide cash for projects before they’re approved. But some projects submitted after previous hurricanes received too much cash, prompting FEMA to demand money back, DEM spokesman Alberto Moscoso said.

Harris Corp. to challenge Motorola SLERS contract” via Florida Politics – Harris is challenging a recent state contract that would see Motorola Solutions build the replacement to the Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System. … “We already submitted our intent to protest on [March 20],” Harris Corp. VP Max Green said. When the state and Motorola agreed to a deal, it was thought to put to rest nearly three years of bureaucratic and legislative infighting, however the challenge will require the state to spend potentially months reviewing the merits of Harris’ filing. … The radio system, known as SLERS, is deployed in more than 20,500 law enforcement patrol cars, boats, motorcycles and aircraft throughout the state. The system is funded through a $1 fee tacked on to vehicle registrations, and the contract is estimated to be worth around $18 million a year.


Richard Corcoran asks CRC to support ‘Marsy’s Law’ – The House Speaker sent a letter to members of the Constitution Revision Commission Tuesday, voicing his support of a proposed amendment (P96) that would add a crime victims’ bill of rights to the state constitution. Corcoran appointed nine of the 37 members. “Florida should join the growing list of states that have enshrined these important protections in their state constitutions,” he wrote. “As a member of the Commission, you have the tremendous opportunity to ensure that crime victims’ rights and interests are protected by law … This provision puts the constitutional rights of a crime victim on equal footing with the rights of the accused. Victims of crime deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”

Constitutional panel revamps ethics proposal” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — The CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee, which is reviewing 24 proposed revisions to Florida’s constitution, supported an amendment from Commissioner Carolyn Timmann of Stuart that removed the ban on governments using lobbyists to secure budget projects from the Legislature from a broader ethics measure (Proposal 39), sponsored by Commissioner Don Gaetz, a former Senate president from Niceville. Timmann, who is the Martin County clerk of the circuit court, asked for the provision to be removed, saying it was not considered while Gaetz’s measure moved through the CRC committee process and it was added in a 17-15 floor vote, which could jeopardize the overall ethics package. Each proposal will need 22 votes from the CRC to be placed on the November general-election ballot.

A civics education lesson in constitution revision process” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – A proposal to enshrine civics education in Florida’s constitution continues its forward path, as the state Constitution Revision Commission takes up the item among many still under consideration for the November ballot. Before the measure can progress, though, commission members need to consider a civics lesson for themselves. During debate on P10, as it’s referred to, commissioner Timothy Cerio — a lawyer who once served as Gov. Scott‘s general counsel — raised a pointed question about the language under consideration. “If I’m wrong, then I’m embarrassed,” Cerio said. “But line 18, it refers to our responsibilities as citizens of a constitutional democracy.” The proposal read, in total: “As education is essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the legislature shall provide by law for the promotion of civic literacy in order to ensure that students enrolled in public education understand and are prepared to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a constitutional democracy.” … “I believe it would be a constitutional republic, as opposed to a democracy,” Cerio continued. “I wondered if anybody has raised that, or if I am mistaken. There is a difference.” As defined by the founders, a democracy allows for direct decisions by citizens, while a republic has elected representatives set rules for the citizens.

Mike Fernandez, others oppose Florida ‘E-Verify’ systemvia Florida Politics – Billionaire GOP contributor Mike Fernandez and nearly 70 other business and political leaders are objecting to a proposed constitutional amendment to require employers to verify their workers’ immigration status and employment eligibility. Fernandez, a health care entrepreneur who also chairs the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund (IMPAC Fund), sent a letter Tuesday to members of Florida Constitution Revision Commission in opposition to Proposal 29 (P29) … The idea “is nothing more than an attempt to constitutionally mandate E-Verify by another name, and it suffers from all the same deficiencies,” the letter says. “Any newly created system would undoubtedly be subject to the same types of mismatches and errors that are all too common with E-Verify, and most government databases.”

First in Sunburn – CRC snags local artist for commission caricature – It’s something of a tradition for the Constitution Revision Commission to have a caricature portrait done of all its members. The 2017-18 CRC portrait will be done by John Roberge, the artist who also did the 1997-98 caricature, according to an internal commission email. A few years ago, Roberge retired from the Tallahassee Democrat as a graphic artist, and did illustrations and design work for Florida State before that, including the original FSU sports “shouting Seminole” logo. When completed, a copy of his 2017-18 caricature will also be provided to the State Archives of Florida. The plan is to follow the style of the previous work by showing each member with a “word bubble” over their head, humorously summing up their main interest in amending the state constitution. A similar one was done for the 1977-78 members.


Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen say it’s time for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Pruitt has been under a cloud of scandal following reports that he received cheap rent on a Washington apartment linked to an energy lobbyist … the apartment was also a locale for Republican lawmakers to raise money. Pruitt has also taken heat over expensive first-class flights and pay raises for his staff. Pruitt is reportedly under White House review and at risk of being fired, although Trump is said to have offered his support. Curbelo, on the other hand, thinks it’s time to cut ties. The Republican lawmaker took to Twitter to say Pruitt should resign or be fired. He was later joined by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who told the Huffington Post that “when scandals and distractions overtake a public servant’s ability to function effectively, another person should fill that role.”

Curbelo ties his political future in Congress to an unpopular tax law” via David Smiley and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – Nearly four months after Congress passed $1 trillion in tax cuts, polls show that less than half the country holds a favorable view of the legislation. That could spell trouble for Curbelo, who helped draft the legislation as a member of the congressional tax-writing committee. But heading into a challenging midterm election, the Miami Republican is undaunted. “What the tax bill is doing is, it’s pushing the economic recovery deeper into our society, which is why more and more you find Americans and small-business owners expressing confidence about the economy. And people do relate tax policy to the economy,” Curbelo said from a Lincoln-Marti school on the Tamiami Trail, where he and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio spoke to parents and teachers. “So, while the bill itself, you’ll see the [poll] numbers go up and down because people have labeled it, people have lied about it, some people said that the tax bill would be Armageddon — and obviously this has an influence on public opinion — I think the fundamentals are good. People are seeing meaningful wage growth for the first time in a long time.”


When Congressman Matt Gaetz isn’t on TV staunchly defending Donald Trump he could be on the phone with the President receiving light criticism, such as “smile more,” or compliments on his new haircut. 

That, along with other unique tidbits from the North Florida representative, make up a recent 40-minute episode of Off Message, a podcast hosted by POLITICO Washington correspondent Edward-Isaac Dovere. 

Gaetz, first elected to Congress in 2016, has a seemingly unblocked path to the primetime spotlight. Dovere notes that getting Gaetz to sit down for an interview took longer than it should because the freshman lawmaker’s schedule is saturated with other media appearances. What makes Gaetz attractive to producers? He’s a walking hot take — and he’s articulate. 

The message: Gaetz has an iron-tight argument against the probe — at least for brief spots on television. He essentially wants Attorney General Jeff Sessions to call Mueller and ask if there’s evidence of collusion. “If there is, I think that 14 months into the Trump presidency we should know it. And if there’s not, let’s go ahead and wrap this thing up.”

On pot: Known as one of the rogue cannabis advocates of the GOP, Gaetz talked a little bit about marijuana. “This is not an issue that we’re going to have to fight for another 10 or 20 years. The people who believe in cannabis reform are going to win because the American people are so strongly with us,” Gaetz said. “We just gotta get a few grey-haired politicians out of the way.”

Homesick: “I enjoy the state Legislature a great deal more [than Congress or the spotlight],” Gaetz, a former state representative, said. “I had more capability to impact outcomes that would impact people’s quality of life. Here, the Congress moves too slow.” 


What Facebook knows about me” via Rosemary O’Hara of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Even before I saw the information Facebook collected on me — and made accessible to a political firm hired by President Trump’s election campaign — I’d given up any expectation of privacy. When I accessed my archive, I saw a shockingly long list of everything I’ve said or done, ads I’ve clicked, messages I’ve sent and groups I’ve joined (or that signed me up.) As another friend shared, “Now I can really see how much time I have wasted.” I confess to having turned a blind eye to what I knew was happening behind the screen. As the cost of using its network, I knew Facebook was collecting data about me for advertising or other business purposes. But I didn’t realize that from my contacts list, it would grab the phone number of everyone I know. Some of those numbers aren’t meant for broadcasting. Yet there they are, in that Big Brother database in the sky. Most of us have nothing to hide and accept the loss of privacy in the name of security. But the Facebook data breach forces us to recognize the slippery slope we face with our information being used in nefarious ways.


Awesome appointment – Gov. Scott named consultant Mark Kaplan to the Tampa Port Authority. Kaplan, 50, is a is a former Chief of Staff for Gov. Jeb Bush. A longtime Mosaic Company executive who recently struck out onto his own, Kaplan also serves as chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. He succeeds Gregory Celestan for a term continuing through Nov. 25, 2021.

Brian Ballard lands another big lobbying contract” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Ballard Partners signed the $175,000-a-month deal with the Embassy of Qatar last week, and filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The focus will be on Qatar’s Florida interests. The Arab country is hosting the “Qatar-US Economic Forum” at the Four Seasons in Miami, featuring “in-depth panel discussions of new business and investment opportunities.” Ballard has quickly emerged as a heavyweight in Washington given his ties to Trump, which formed years ago in Florida.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Joshua Aubuchon, Lawrence Curtin, Mark Delegal, Lawrence Sellers, Holland & Knight: Helena Agri-Enterprises

Alberto Cardenas, Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Christopher Chaney, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: WW Grainger

Kurt Gruber, Baker & Hostetler: American Resort Development Association

Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Contextual Code

— ALOE —

Pessimistic trend surfaces among Florida consumers” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics – According to data from the University of Florida, Floridians are a bit more pessimistic about future economic conditions. That’s resulted in a continuous dip in overall consumer sentiment since January, when the index reflected the highest score in 16 years. Of the five components that make up the index UF’s Bureau of Economic Research uses to gauge sentiment, three decreased in March, leading to a 97.1 score for the month. In February, that number was 98.3; in January, it was 101.3. The highest possible score is 150. Expectations of personal finances a year from now dropped almost an entire point from February’s 105.9 to 105.1 in March. Those sampled also lowered their expectations of U.S. economic conditions next year by 2.7 points, and expectations over the next five years dipped 4.4 points.

Suit to let researchers break website rules wins a round” via Joe Uchill of Axios – A handful of researchers and First Look Media (which operates The Intercept and other sites) would like to use bots and create dummy accounts to test the behavior of employment and real estate websites. The researchers are studying whether machine-learning algorithms on employment and real estate websites might have developed gender or racial bias. To do that, they would set up multiple similar accounts, changing only minority or gender status between them, and apply for jobs or housing. That might violate the sites’ terms of service — and doing so, some courts have ruled, constitutes a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the major U.S. anti-hacking law. Why it matters: Knowing whether websites are biased against women and minorities is a public good. But sites aren’t always eager to help researchers reach those kinds of conclusions about them. Without courts clarifying the law (or legislators changing it), that threat could hang over researchers and their work.

Universal: ‘Stranger Things’ house set for Halloween Horror Nights” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel – The  2018 edition will feature a haunted-house maze based on “Stranger Things,” the hit supernatural drama seen on Netflix. Visitors will encounter the big, bad Demogorgon character; the parallel universe known as the Upside Down; the living room with flashing holiday lights; and top-secret government lab, Universal Orlando confirmed in its official announcement. “You’ll faithfully follow the storyline, starting off on Mirkwood and then quickly moving to inside Hawkins National Laboratory where things have gone terribly, terribly wrong,” Patrick Braillard, show director, wrote on the official Universal Orlando blog. The “Stranger Things” house is the first of nine that will be announced for the 2018 HHN, which runs for 34 select nights between Sept. 14 and Nov. 3. Universal is collaborating with Netflix along with Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer and Shawn Levy, the creators and executive producer of the sci-fi series.

Happy birthday to one of our favorite people, the incredible Beth Sweeny. Also celebrating today are our friends Dave DeCamp and Dan Pollock as well as Mike Synan.

Welcome to the world Adele and Vera Diamond, the twin baby girls of Christina and Ben Diamond. She’s a top fundraiser for U.S. Bill Nelson and he’s a state Rep. from St. Petersburg. Christina and the babies are doing great, per dad.

Dustin Daniels

No mystery: Dustin Daniels entrance into Tallahassee mayoral race imminent

The “mystery candidate” for Tallahassee mayor is indeed Dustin Daniels, the chief of staff to current Mayor Andrew Gillum, and he’s launching his campaign tout suite.

Sean Pittman, a prominent Tallahassee attorney who has run Gillum’s campaigns, kept quiet when the Tallahassee Democrat asked him to confirm Daniels’ mayoral bid. Ditto for attorney Tony Fusco, who said he was waiting for the candidate to announce on his “own time.”

Sources close to Daniels and Pittman, however, weren’t as tight-lipped.

The announcement could hit as soon tomorrow, although a second source says it could be a few days later than that.

Either way, when it drops, Daniels already has the groundwork laid for his campaign. Website? Check. Political committee? Check.

That committee, Progress Tallahassee, raised $3,600 in February, and the brief donor roll includes $2,000 from Securenet Solutions Group, an IT company owned by Rick Kearney, $1,000 from former FSU student body President Reuben Stokes II and $100 from Fusco.

The website also includes plenty of campaign-style language. All it needs is for someone to slap a “donate” button on the banner.

“A product of poverty and social hardship, Dustin is passionate about advancing meaningful change in the lives of people regardless of their site or situation,” the site’s front page reads. “From equipping local and national elected leaders with innovative policy ideas; helping small nonprofits to achieve financial sustainability; to advancing business and training programs for the underrepresented; Dustin has acquired diverse and powerful lessons while fighting on the front lines of social change.”

When the mayoral campaign announcement comes, Daniels will join Leon County Commissioner John Dailey, who announced last week, as well as political newcomers Erik David and Joe West.

Last Call for 4.3.18 — 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

As one Constitution Revision Commissioner put it Tuesday about ballot summaries, it’s not the length; it’s the clarity.

The commission’s Style and Drafting Committee is meeting this week on the daunting task of summarizing, combining and ordering proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot.

The 37-member panel is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document.

As of Tuesday, there were 24 active proposals to consider, including a crime victims’ bill of rights and a ban on indoor ‘vaping.’

Attorney Jason Gonzalez, managing partner of the Tallahassee office of the Shutts & Bowen firm, told the committee they “should assume there will be judicial review of what you are doing” — in other words, lawsuits.

But Commissioner John Stargel, a circuit judge in Polk County, replied that “it’s never whether you’re challenged (in court) … It’s whether a challenge is successful.”

Among other moves, the committee accepted a change to a proposal to create a Florida “E-Verify” system, aimed at confirming workers’ citizenship status, to make clear its application is prospective, not retroactive.

Commissioner Bob Martinez, a former federal prosecutor, addressed the lingering issue of “ballot fatigue,” in which voters get tired of reading ballot questions and don’t vote on them.

The commission’s worry shouldn’t be the length of the summaries, but how clear they are, he said.

Style and Drafting meets through this week and is expected to wrap up its work by Friday at the latest. The commission’s final report, including the language for the ballot, is due to the Secretary of State’s office by May 10.

Evening Reads

Trump best buddy in Congress (Matt Gaetz) wants Jeff Sessions to fire Robert Mueller” via Edward-Isaac Dovere of POLITICO Magazine

General election debates set for U.S. Senate, Governor’s races” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Ron DeSantis campaign says he’s polling higher than Adam Putnam in governor’s race” via Lawrence Mower of Tampa Bay Times

Carlos Curbelo ties his political future in Congress to an unpopular tax law” via David Smiley and Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Florida consumer sentiment in March slides into two-month decline” via University of Florida

State knew Pompano gun maker in business firm when tax incentives offered” via Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog

Teachers are striking, but it probably won’t happen in Florida” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics

Special session for gaming overhaul likely on or after April 23” via Arek Sarkissian and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Seminole Tribe’s lawyers say same old gambling proposals won’t fly” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Jose Fernandez’s lawyer claims fatal crash investigation framed Marlins ace” via Rafael Olmeda of the Sun Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“As in all of our past debate programs, we expect the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties to participate and to take advantage of this unique opportunity to make their respective cases to the people of Florida.” — Leadership Florida Board Chair Beth Kigel on televised debates for Florida’s U.S. Senate and governor’s races planned for late October.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases, including a dispute stemming from a job site accident that severed a man’s finger. Arguments start at 9 a.m., Florida Supreme Court, 500 South Duval St., Tallahassee.

The Style and Drafting Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is scheduled to consider a series of proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. That’s at 9 a.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Osceola, Nassau, Glades and Pinellas counties: 9 a.m., Advance Senior Center, 2260 East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee; 10 a.m., Amelia Island Chamber of Commerce, 961687 Gateway Blvd., #101G, Fernandina Beach; 11 a.m., Glades County Library, 201 Riverside Dr., Moore Haven; 3 p.m., VFW Post 4364, 5773 62nd St. North, St. Petersburg.

Florida TaxWatch will hold a conference call with the press to announce this year’s Budget Turkey report and address a large number of member projects in the FY 2018-19 budget. The call is at 10 a.m., and the call-in number is (872) 240-3412, Code: 803-142-885#.

The Florida Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing related to a study on easing congestion on Interstate 95 in Jacksonville. The study will look at adding express lanes on the interstate from J. Turner Butler Boulevard to Atlantic Boulevard. That’s at 4:30 p.m., Jacksonville Marriott, 4670 Salisbury Road, Jacksonville.

Former Miami Beach mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine will join a Unity March in Miami with Mayor Francis Suarez, Commissioner Keon Hardemon, and other elected officials as part of the “Reclaim the Dream” Martin Luther King Jr. memorial service. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Athalie Range Park, 525 NW 62nd St. (MLK Blvd.), Miami.

Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican, is expected to discuss the 2018 Legislative Session during a meeting of the Flagler County Republican Club. That’s at 6 p.m., Palm Coast Community Center, 305 Palm Coast Parkway N.E., Palm Coast.

Debuting today: The Spring 2018 edition of INFLUENCE Magazine

I’m not sure when it happened. Perhaps it was some time after Hurricane Irma struck the state, or around when another hurricane of sexual harassment scandals hit the Florida Legislature. But whenever it was, the last six months of Florida politics have been surreal.

And that was before a disturbed young man killed seventeen innocent souls at a high school on Valentine’s Day.

I have to be honest with you: It’s all really impacted me. Not in a physical way, of course, but the barrage of bad, breaking news has made a deep impression on me. And, believe it or not, it also made an impression on the focus and schedule of INFLUENCE Magazine.

This should be the edition in which we roll out the second INFLUENCE 100 listing the most influential people in Florida politics.

But right now isn’t the time for that.

As our reporters and our photographers reached out to those on the list so that we could tell their stories and take their pictures, there was resistance by some to being interviewed, to be photographed. And I admit it was awkward asking lawmakers to celebrate the influence of lobbyists and fundraisers at the same time they were putting together the most important piece of legislation passed in the last seven years.

So the INFLUENCE 100 is on hold for a few months. It will debut in late May or early June.

Meantime, so much is going on in the influence world (or, as the AP’s Gary Fineout likes to call it, the influence media), that we needed to get an issue out that captured what happened during the 2018 Legislative Session, as well as to many of the players who are part of The Process.

If one thing is clear post-Parkland, it’s that Florida Democrats — three decades removed from power — are gearing up for a monumental political and policy fight. The outcome of this fight will shape the influence industry for years to come. Several Democrats are on our list of Winners and Losers emerging from the Session, including our “Rookie of the Year” Lauren Book, a first-term state senator featured inside.

If Book is the newcomer to watch, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is the veteran lawmaker to listen to. If you read one thing in the magazine, make sure it’s her first-person thoughts on the state of The Process.

The rest of the magazine is filled with a barrage of news and notes about dozens of other players, including Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Rep. Chris Dorworth, Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes, and many others.

Some of those may well be in the INFLUENCE 100. Until then, ponder the contours of the new political landscape, coming to places — and pages — near you.


Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.3.18

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

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

Here’s a surprise the Easter bunny left in our basket: the latest edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, now available in digital format and coming soon in print.

We had planned for this issue to highlight the INFLUENCE 100, but so much is going on in the influence world (or, as the AP’s Gary Fineout likes to call it, the influence media), that we needed to get an issue out that captured what happened during the 2018 Legislative Session, as well as to many of the players who are part of The Process.

If one thing is clear post-Parkland, it’s that Florida Democrats — three decades removed from power — are gearing up for a monumental political and policy fight. The outcome of this fight will shape the influence industry for years to come. Several Democrats are on our list of Winners and Losers emerging from the Session, including our “Rookie of the Year” Lauren Book, a first-term state senator featured inside.

If Book is the newcomer to watch, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is the veteran lawmaker to listen to. If you read one thing in the magazine, make sure it’s her first-person thoughts on the state of The Process.

The rest of the magazine is filled with a barrage of news and notes about dozens of other players, including Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Rep. Chris DorworthRandy EnwrightJim Rimes, and many others.

Some of those may well be in the INFLUENCE 100. Until then, ponder the contours of the new political landscape, coming to places — and pages — near you.



Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 12; NFL Draft begins — 23; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 24; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 30; Mother’s Day — 40; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 52; Memorial Day — 55; Father’s Day — 75; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 80; Deadline for filing claim bills — 120; Start of the U.S. Open — 146; Primary Election Day — 147; College Football opening weekend — 151; General Election Day — 217; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 317; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 336.

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


The Constitution Revision Commission’s Style & Drafting committee meets Tuesday to finish up its work on packaging 25 active proposals for the November ballot.

Committee chair Brecht Heuchan says he plans to finish work this week, beginning with ironing out legal technicalities, “then any needed amendments to individual proposals, then preliminary discussion on ballot summary language, then grouping (and) ordering.”

The full commission had cleared the proposals after a three-day Session last month.

They include measures to ban offshore drilling, greyhound racing and indoor ‘vaping,’ put term limits on local school board members, and create a ‘bill of rights’ for crime victims.

The finished proposals will go back to the full commission, where they must receive no less than 22 votes to be placed on the ballot.

Then they face a minimum approval of 60 percent of statewide voters to be added to the state constitution.

The commission’s final report is due to Secretary of State Ken Detzner by May 10.

The body is constitutionally charged with forming every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document.


State GOP’s revenues dip; firm owned by committee member has consulting contract” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Facing increased competition from outside political committees, the Republican Party of Florida brought in the lowest amount of revenue last year in at least a decade, according to a party audit filed with state election officials. For the year ended Dec. 31, the RPOF collected $7.2 million in revenue, with $5.5 million coming from “campaign and political operations,” which includes fundraising. In 2015, the last year without an election, the party brought in $13 million in revenue. State parties typically bring in much more cash during an election year. The biggest hit to centralized state parties has been the increased use of political committees, which are controlled by specific candidates and can receive unlimited contributions. “The role of the formal party is not shrinking at all, but it has become more challenging with the role of PCs,” said RPOF spokeswoman Yohana de la Torre. “The party, however, is still the primary vehicle to ‘get out the vote,’ ‘chase absentees,’ register voters and sign up volunteers.”

Gwen Graham calls Donald Trump an ’embarrassment’ in digital ad” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Not only is the former congresswoman’s digital ad focused on Trump, but it is also first running in the Palm Beach market, an intentional move to target Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club where he frequently stays. It will later run on digital platforms across the state. “Donald Trump is an embarrassment,” Graham says in the ad. The ad is an attack on Trump but is done with a light touch, using soft music and does not feature a deep-voiced narrator that’s become common in attack ads.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Personnel note: Bettina Weiss in as Graham press sec’y” via Florida Politics — Weiss is an alumna of Connecticut College, where she earned a bachelor’s in American studies, and Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s in political communications. She moved over to campaign last month, relocating to Orlando from Washington, D.C. where she spent nearly two years working for Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super PAC that supports stricter gun laws, such as background checks for private sales and a ban on assault-style weapons. Weiss’ resume also includes work as a crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line, as a prevention coordinator for sexual violence resource center healingSPACE, and as a gun violence prevention reporter for Generation Progress, the youth-centered offshoot of progressive think tank Center for American Progress. Weiss’ addition signals the Graham campaign’s continued focus on gun violence in the four-way Democratic Primary for governor.

Ron DeSantis targeted in new radio, TV ads — The National Liberty Federation, a dark money group with ties to political consultant Roger Stone, is battering DeSantis in a pair of attack ads released this week. The group has plunked down more than $350,000 in ad buys on radio and TV, including more than $250,000 for a commercial airing on Fox News through Thursday. “It was supposed to be a revolution to take back Washington, but when Ron DeSantis got elected, it was like he couldn’t wait to be part of the in-crowd. Cozying up to two defense contractors, taking thousands of dollars in campaign donations, and even moving into a beachfront condo — you guessed it — owned by the same defense contractors,” the ad narrator says. “DeSantis didn’t throw the bums out of Washington; He moved right in with them. Is this the swamp creature we want to lead Florida?” The ad points to a website,, with a long list of gripes the group has with the Northeast Florida congressman, including “ties to the Republican establishment,” his net worth and his supposedly tepid support of Trump, an early backer in his bid for governor.

Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will hold conversations with college students by kicking off a tour at the Florida State University beginning 12:30 p.m., Oglesby Union Room 314, 75 N. Woodward Ave., Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Assignment editors — Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” breakfast in Miami beginning 8:30 a.m. at the La Carreta Restaurant, 8650 Bird Road in Miami. He will be the keynote speaker at the DeSoto County Republican Executive Committee’s Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner in Arcadia. That’s at 7 p.m., Turner Agri-Civic Center, 2250 NE Roan St., Arcadia. For news media: This is a ticketed event. If you plan to attend, please email by noon Tuesday.

Assignment editors — Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association will discuss plans for the General Election Debates for U.S. Senator and Governor in a media conference call beginning 10 a.m. at 1-888-392-4560; access code: 9979718. Hosts include Wendy Spencer, president and CEO, Leadership Florida; Beth Kigel, board chair of Leadership Florida; Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association; J. David Armstrong, president of Broward College and Caroline Taplett, president and general manager of WPBF TV.

Ashley Moody named a “Women to Watch” at Republican Women event — The Florida Women’s Political Network hosted its annual Celebration of Republican Women luncheon where it awarded Moody a “Women to Watch” award. This award goes to women who are “making strides in Republican politics and public service.” Moody said: “It was a privilege to stand alongside such strong women leaders from across our state who have spent their life fighting for Republican values. I look forward to continuing to fight for these values as Florida’s next Attorney General.” Following the lunch, Moody won the Attorney General straw poll with 74 percent of the vote.

Mike Miller’s first ad in GOP congressional primary features Rick Scott” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The ad for State Rep. Miller, running in the GOP primary for Congressional District 7 in Seminole and parts of Orange counties, entitled, “The Conservative,” touts Scott’s praise of Miller and includes audio of Scott saying, “I want to thank Representative Mike Miller for all that he’s done … He’s focused on making sure our taxes are low, everybody can get a job, that we have a great education system, and that people are safe,” Scott says over video of his meeting with Miller. Or, as the ad paraphrases Scott, “I like Mike.” In a statement, Miller said, “I appreciate his kind words about me recently, and I’m proud to call him my friend and my Governor. I’m fully supportive of whatever Governor Scott’s next step will be and look forward to working with him in the future.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Tim Canova drops Democratic bid to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will run as independent” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — “Even as independents, we are the real Democrats in this race,” Canova said at a news conference outside Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes’ office. “Even as we run as independents, I will run as a better Democrat. I did not leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left us.” Canova, whose 2016 bid received national attention after Sen. Bernie Sanders backed him over Wasserman Schultz, eventually lost the Democratic primary by 14 percentage points. Canova’s decision to run as an independent gives Wasserman Schultz a clear path to the Democratic nomination in 2018. Republicans Joe Kaufman and Carlos Reyes have also filed to run in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses portions of Broward County and northeastern Miami-Dade County.

David Richardson raises $410k in Q1  Richardson, one of many Democrats running for CD 27, said Monday he raised about $411,000 for his campaign during the first three months of the year. “My race in District 27 is not just about electing a Democrat — it’s about electing the right Democrat, one who is driven by and committed to progressive ideals. That’s who I am, and our fundraising numbers demonstrate that’s what this district wants. I thank my supporters for believing in this campaign,” Richardson said. The announcement did not mention how much of the Q1 haul came in through loans, though it said when the final report is in it’ll show more than $1.4 million in total fundraising and $1.1 million in cash on hand since Richardson filed in July. By the end of 2017, he’d lent his campaign $500,000.

Carrie Pilon files for SD 24” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Pilon announced Monday that she’s filed to run as a Democrat for the Senate District 24 seat currently held by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. “I’m running for the State Senate because the legislature in Tallahassee is not working for Florida’s families. As a member of the State Senate, I’ll hold special interests accountable, and stand up to the Legislature’s Trump-style agenda,” said Pilon, a former prosecutor who now runs an injury law firm. … “As a small-business owner, I know firsthand the challenges of meeting payroll and providing health insurance for our staff and families. We deserve a state legislature focused on helping our small businesses grow, not handing out corporate welfare checks to their friends.” … So far, Pilon is the only challenger to file for SD 24. Brandes has been in the Senate since 2012 when he was elected to the pre-redistricting SD 22 … Republicans hold an advantage in voter registrations in the district, though the seat is far from a Republican stronghold. SD 24 would have gone for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008. In 2016, the district flipped and went plus-7 for Trump.

Family feud: Ray Pilon endorses daughter-in-law’s political opponent” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — They might be family, but that isn’t stopping former Sarasota state Rep. Pilon from siding against his daughter-in-law in her bid for the state Senate. Ray Pilon is a Republican and his daughter-in-law, Carrie Pilon, is a Democrat … Shortly after Carrie Pilon made her announcement, Brandes sent out an email with the subject line: “Ray Pilon endorses Jeff Brandes.” … “Senator Brandes and I served in the Florida House and were both elected in 2010,” Pilon said in the news release. “We worked closely on many issues, and that continued when he was elected to the Senate. He is a person of high moral values, of integrity, honesty and fairness.” Carrie Pilon is the wife of Ray Pilon’s son, Chad Pilon. Ray Pilon also is running for office this year.

Tweet, tweet:

Save the date:

— “Frank White endorses Alex Andrade as HD 2 successor” via Florida Politics

— “Challenger emerges for Bobby Payne over Black Creek ‘boondoggle’” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Geraldine Thompson is back, filing to run in HD 44” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Thompson served four years in the Florida Senate, representing Senate District 12, and six in the Florida House, representing House District 39 before redistricting. She left the Legislature to run for Congress in 2016, losing the Democratic primary to now-U. S. Rep. Val Demings. “This [HD 44] was a district that previously had been so gerrymandered that a Democrat could not compete. After redistricting, people now will have a choice,” Thompson said. She hopes to take on incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski. “I think I have solid name recognition in the district. I’ve served the district. I’ve worked with the mayors in the cities of the district, so I think that gives me an advantage,” Thompson said. “With regard to House District 44, I think this is a race where there is an opportunity break down years of history of exclusion. I’m interested in being a part of that.”

Randy Cooper exits HD 71 race, will support Tracy Pratt” via Florida Politics — “I started running for this seat a year ago and have put my heart, soul, and a lot of sweat equity in this campaign but have to admit that it just was not enough,” Cooper, a Bradenton civil engineer and West Manatee Fire and Rescue District commissioner, said in a statement. Instead, Cooper is throwing his support behind Pratt, a Bradenton attorney who entered the HD 71 race Thursday. “Tracy Pratt is smart, young, and a wife and mother, who will put the interests of the citizens and business in the area first, not special interest groups,” he said.

Assignment editors — People in state House District 39 and House District 114 face a deadline to register to vote in May 1 special elections. Republican Josie Tomkow and Democrat Ricky Shirah face off in the special election in District 39, which includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties. Republican Andrew Vargas, Democrat Javier Fernandez and NPA candidate Liz de las Cuevas are running in Miami-Dade County’s District 114.


As U.S. Senate race looms, a slew of personnel moves in Gov. Scott’s office” via Florida Politics — There are staff changes galore in Gov. Rick Scott‘s office as he positions talent in advance of an expected April 9 announcement of his U.S. Senate campaign. Director of Appointments Collin Lomagistro is leaving effective today (Friday) to join the soon-to-be-announced campaign. ‎Environmental Policy Coordinator Julia Espy is becoming a Deputy Chief of Staff over transportation, housing and environment. Mary Beth Vickers, Policy Chief for Health and Human Services, will oversee all health and human services related areas. Chief Deputy General Counsel Jack Heekin is becoming another Deputy Chief of Staff over emergency management and law enforcement. Deputy Chief of Staff Megan Fay is leaving ScottWorld altogether to join Capital City Consulting. All this comes after an announcement earlier this week that Brad Piepenbrink was replacing Jackie Schutz Zeckman as Chief of Staff. She was said to be”pursuing other opportunities,” meaning also joining the campaign staff.

Scott signs bills designed to keep Florida ‘military friendly’” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott signed bills designed to reduce fees for Florida military, veterans and their families. The Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Family Opportunity Act reduces professional licensing fees and requirements for certain military members, veterans, and their spouses. Scott also signed HB 75, authorizing state colleges to waive student fees for active duty military service members. This bill will also help make higher education more affordable for our military men and women.

 Military pride: Gov. Rick Scott, a Navy man himself, visited Tampa to highlight funding for military members, veterans, and their families. He also signed a bill to “increase opportunities and reduce fees” for armed forces men and women.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott holds a bill signing ceremony for legislation to strictly prohibit all state agencies from conducting business with any entity that benefits the Maduro regime in Venezuela. Event begins 9 a.m. at El Perdigon, 5748 International Drive in Orlando.

Adam Putnam gives wildfire update — Putnam said Monday that there are currently 41 wildfires raging across the state. Of the 34,539 acres on fire, more than half are in Collier County where a 17,957-acre fire is 90 percent contained. Other significant fires include a Gulf County blaze that spans 8,080 acres and is 80 percent contained; a 1,037-acre fire in Miami-Dade in a fire that is 90 percent contained; and a Polk County fire that covers 450 acres and is 60 percent contained. The Florida Forest Service urges residents to take the following steps to prevent the spread of wildfires: obey outdoor burning laws, avoid burning on windy days, keep water and other firefighting resources on hand, never leave a fire or grill unattended, and avoid parking vehicles on dry grass. In the event of a wildfire call 911 or a local Florida Forest Service field unit office immediately.

 CFO Jimmy Patronis was joined by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Rep. Dane Eagle, Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, Fort Myers Fire Department Chief John Caufield and members of the fire service and law enforcement communities to highlight the signing of a measure expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Audit questions state anti-fraud efforts in Medicaid” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Florida’s Medicaid program has been rapped by auditors who questioned what the state got for millions of dollars spent with a company whose lobbyists included two former Republican House speakers and a former top health care regulator. State auditors additionally raised questions about how aggressive the Agency for Health Care Administration has been in trying to clamp down on fraud. The newly released audit said the agency’s Office of Medicaid Program Integrity never forwarded leads regarding potential fraudulent activity to 11 HMOs under contract with the state. The audit … questioned why Florida spent more than $5.5 million on an advanced data analytics system and renewed the vendor’s contract five times despite the company’s inability to include data on the majority of people enrolled in the Medicaid program. Between 2014 and 2017, when SAS Institute was working for the state, the company listed a cadre of well-connected Tallahassee lobbyists, including former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary and Medicaid director Tom Arnold and former House speakers Dean Cannon and Larry Cretul.

No Casinos on Special Session for gambling: Don’t do it” via Florida Politics — The head of a group that opposes casino gambling in Florida is telling lawmakers to take a pass on a Special Session for unresolved gambling issues. “If ever there was an issue that the Legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling,” No Casinos president John Sowinski wrote in a letter, released Monday, to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron. “Whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a ‘deal’ that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida,” Sowinski added. Legislative leadership late last week said it was considering a Special Session on gambling because of the end of a settlement agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state.

Pharmacy panel weighs implementation of new opioid laws” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Florida Board of Pharmacy, which is charged with updating administrative code to include the new opioid provisions reviewed statute changes passed and signed into law this year. The main concern: A package tailored to curb the state’s drug epidemic by targeting the practice of overprescribing opioids. Gov. Scott signed the legislation (HB 21) into law in March. The new laws provided in HB 21, which take effect in July, will limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply, and, when deemed medically necessary, a seven-day supply. Certain patients, such as those suffering cancer and other forms of chronic pain, will not be affected by the new prescription limits. The bill also mandates the use of a statewide database, or prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), which requires action from both pharmacists and doctors.

Medical marijuana provider Trulieve sues state over store limits” via Florida Politics — Trulieve, a medical marijuana provider, on Monday filed a “constitutional challenge” against the state’s Department of Health over how many retail stores it can open, and where, under current law. An attorney for the company, which is seeking “non-monetary declaratory or injunctive relief,” provided a copy of the complaint by George Hackney Inc., the Gadsden County nursery that does business as Trulieve. The lawsuit follows a similar administrative action last year that sought to lock down its “dispensary rights” … Trulieve now is asking a court to declare its rights under law to open new stores. The case, for now, has been assigned to Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge John Cooper.

Mears investors to compete nationally with ride-share cabs” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — A South Florida company has purchased majority ownership of the firm with ambitious plans to merge Mears’ traditional service with ride-share business tactics. “In the near future we will be the first and only full-service transportation company in the country that can meet all the ground transportation needs of a customer, including demand response ride-share services,” said Charles Carns, chief executive officer, in a memo to its more than 1,000 employees. The investment deal closed late Thursday, days after Mears had revised its concession contract with Orlando International Airport to acknowledge the change in ownership.

NRA takes aim at county gun law proposal” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The NRA’s top lobbyist in Florida is blasting a proposed Leon County ordinance designed to close the gun show loophole and require a five-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms. Marion Hammer … issued a written alert calling on members to oppose the measure. She was especially critical of County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley, who proposed the move in February. County commissioners voted unanimously last week to set the ordinance for a public hearing April 10. “Mary Ann Lindley is so rabidly anti-gun she is determined to impose these restrictions on law-abiding gun owners and force the financial burden on the Sheriff’s Office and the taxpayers of Leon County,” Hammer said in a post on the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Lindley doesn’t even pretend that she cares about crime, criminals or have any legitimate reason for passing it, she just wants to pass some gun control before she leaves office.”

Scott Maddox spends campaign cash on lawyers” via Florida Politics — Maddox’s 2020 state Senate campaign showed its first signs of life in months: It helped him pay for lawyers. Maddox is one of the central figures in an FBI investigation into City Hall that’s been going on since 2015, and recent movement points toward the bureau laying out the case for mail fraud and bribery. With the investigation still ongoing, Maddox’s campaign account for the 2020 Senate District 3 race nearly zeroed itself out with a $125,000 payment to law firm Baker Donelson on March 23. Maddox’s attorney Stephen Dobson joined the firm’s Government Enforcement and Investigations Group in February.

Speaking of Tallahassee — “U.S. grant ensures record-setting magnet lab stays in Florida” via The Associated Press — The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is getting a large federal grant that will ensure it remains in the Florida state capital. The National Science Foundation is awarding $184 million to the lab, whose main location is at Florida State University. The foundation said that the grant would cover five years and is a 9 percent increase over the last round of funding. The lab has over the years set and broken various records for magnet technology.

Duke seeks rate hikes for new power plant” via the News Service of Florida — With a new Citrus County power plant poised to start generating electricity in September, Duke Energy Florida on Monday asked state regulators to approve rate increases to pay for the project. Duke plans to begin operating the first unit of the natural-gas fired plant in September and the second unit in November. Duke said … that residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see a $3.61 bill increase in October and a $2.27 bill increase in December. Increases would vary for commercial and industrial customers. The state Public Service Commission will decide whether to approve the increases. Duke said the project, in part, would help reduce carbon emissions.


Joe Biden to visit St. Petersburg in June” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Biden announced that he is adding St. Petersburg to his extended list of book tour dates this summer. He’ll visit the Mahaffey Theater June 4. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue this tour and hear from so many more people,” said Biden in the release. Biden has already made two Florida stops on the national book tour for his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose.” He visited Miami in November and Orlando in January.

Marco Rubio offers hope for Irma-affected farmers” via the News Service of Florida — Federal disaster relief for farmers impacted by Hurricane Irma may be available “as early as next week,” according to U.S. Sen. Rubio. Florida citrus farmers have expressed increasing frustration as they await distribution of $2.36 billion in federal disaster aid … Citrus growers suffered at least $761 million in losses from the September storm, which caused an estimated $2.5 billion in losses to Florida’s agricultural industry. Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to release the agriculture aid, which was part of the $90 billion disaster relief package signed by President Trump on Feb. 9. Rubio’s office did not say how the funds, once available, would be distributed. The federal legislation provides Perdue with wide flexibility in disbursing the disaster assistance, with the goal of helping farmers rebound from crop losses as quickly as possible.

Rubio to move Miami office” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — But unlike when the Republican senator had to relocate his Jacksonville and Tampa offices last year, the move is being attributed to the office space, not to landlords getting frustrated with ongoing political protests outside the building. “We are in the process of relocating that office, but it was our decision, for a couple of reasons. We were not asked to leave by building management,” Todd Reid, Rubio’s state director, said. The current Miami office actually is in Doral, just west of the Miami International Airport, and is owned by the American Welding Society, which also has its headquarters in the building. Reid said the Rubio team has identified a new location in Miami but is not ready to move, nor announce the new location. However, he said the new location would continue to provide easy public access.

Nelson tours Jacksonville’s Anheuser-Busch brewery, criticizes Trump over tariffs” via Ryan Benk of WJCT — Citing a study by the business-friendly Tax Foundation, Nelson said the import taxes the Trump administration announced last month would get passed on to employees and consumers. “This extra tariff, or tax, on steel and aluminum is going to cost 9 billion extra dollars for consumers in this country, and in Florida alone, it’s going to be a half-billion dollars,” he said. “That itself is not a good thing, but what it portends also is starting a trade war.” Nelson said the sudden import taxes, and retaliation by China with tariffs on 128 U.S. products, remind him of a dark time in America. “A trade war ultimately runs into a recession, which is part of the reason [for] going into the Depression in the 1930s. So, you always have to worry about that. Remember the Smoot-Hawley Tax,” he said.

Florida lawmaker (Vern Buchanan) who helped craft new tax law stands to gain” via Richard Lardner of The Associated Press — Already one of the wealthiest lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Vern Buchanan could become even wealthier after he and other Republicans muscled a sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code through Congress late last year that includes breaks for the real estate and automobile industries that generate most of his income. The potential windfall for Buchanan — worth at least $80 million and perhaps much more — echoes on a smaller scale how favorable the new tax law is to President Trump, whose fiery populism won him support from struggling American workers and families. While Trump and Republican allies have billed the tax law he signed as a victory for a stressed middle class; the $1.5 trillion package provides the most significant tax cuts for corporations and the most prosperous Americans. Not a single Democrat in the House and Senate voted for the legislation, which they’ve depicted as a payout to the GOP’s largest donors. Seeking to convince voters otherwise, Republicans have trumpeted announcements from companies that credit the overhaul as the reason their workers are getting bonuses and wage increases. But the biggest winners are those who are already doing well.

Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will hold a town-hall meeting about preventing gun violence beginning 6:30 p.m. at Coral Springs City Hall, 9500 West Sample Road in Coral Springs.


Putting a local face to a large-scale issue makes it feel closer to home.

recent story by the Tallahassee Democrat’s Nada Hassanein goes just outside the capital city to Quincy to illustrate the impact a federal plan to end Temporary Protected Status could have on certain immigrants only miles away from the state’s Capitol.

Quincy resident Gladis de la Cruz fled to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1990 during the Salvadoran Civil War and had been protected under TPS since 2001. Hassanein writes that Cruz may have to return to El Salvador, where “ruthless gangs” that killed her father and uncle remain intact. “They’re the reason she left. They’re the reason she never wants to return. But she may have to.”

Deadline: The Trump administration ended TPS for Haitians, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans because it alleges the countries have “improved conditions.” Salvadorans, the largest group protected by TPS, have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave, or risk deportation.

Violence in peacetime: While no formal natural catastrophe or war plagues El Salvador “the chaos caused by nature was replaced by gang-related violence.”

Clearance at the Capitol: Ronal Vasquez, another Salvadoran who has worked on construction projects at the state Capitol, said he will have to return to Mexico or El Salvador, where “you have two options: Either you become a gang member, or you become a person who is against gang members — and then your life is always in danger,” Vasquez said.


Don’t be too quick to call race for governor” via Shevrin Jones for the Orlando Sentinel — Right now, the race for governor is wide-open. Voters are just learning about the candidates — and the more they learn about Andrew Gillum, the more they’re excited by his progressive vision. Florida’s Democrats are hungry for authentic progressives this year. They’re ready to vote for a leader who is fighting for higher wages for working families, expanding quality, affordable health care for all, defending our environment, protecting the rights of every Floridian, and taking meaningful action on gun safety. That’s why Gillum has emerged as the real progressive in the race for governor, and why the media has called him the “Democrat catching fire” who is “speaking from that true progressive playbook.” This year, Democrats know more than ever who’s really in their corner. They know it’s not someone who proudly declared she was a “very conservative Democrat” and they know it isn’t someone who said she was the only Democrat who could win statewide. I’m proud to stand with Andrew Gillum, and I deeply respect the other candidates in this primary. It has been a long time since we saw a field of gubernatorial candidates this diverse in their thinking, their backgrounds and their approaches.

Save rural Florida. Here’s how to do it.” via Rick Dantzler for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — How would we do it? By charging a Cabinet-level elected official — the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture — with preserving as much of what remains of rural Florida as possible. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs would be reorganized to become just the Florida Department of Agriculture, and it would have just one mission: to save what remains of rural Florida. Every single day the Commissioner of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture personnel would wake up with one thing in mind: to keep open land arable and free from development … anything that affects the preservation of agricultural land and undeveloped spaces should go through the Commissioner of Agriculture. Regulating, policing and supporting farmers and ranchers would remain since the health of agriculturalists is key to preserving open spaces. After all, no matter how much land is purchased for conservation, most land will remain in private hands, and the support of these property owners is key to limiting urban sprawl. Someone needs to become the state’s primary advocate for sufficient conservation funding, protection of farm and ranch land, and smart growth. I’ve suggested that it be the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture because most of our undeveloped land is agricultural in nature and landowners trust the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture.


Ranging from dissecting a fiery Trump tweet about DACA to examining what can be done to help endangered species in Florida, there’s a lot to unpack in the latest episode of The Rotunda.

But for some, the most ear-catching moment of Trimmel Gomes’ wide-ranging podcast this week is a part about a private-sector backed, solar-energy utopia sprouting north of Fort Myers: Babcock Ranch.

Alongside developer Syd Kitson, whose company Kitson & Partners is completing Babcock Ranch with Florida Power & Light, Gomes gives listeners a glimpse of the future.

It’s in the name: “I think the state of Florida really over the past several years realized that it’s the ‘Sunshine State’ and that [solar energy] is a great opportunity for a renewable energy source,” Kitson says in the interview, explaining what led him to build “the most sustainable new town in the country.”

The numbers: According to Kitson, Babcock Ranch will have just under 20,000 homes and 6 million square feet of retail space. FPL has built a solar facility capable of powering the town and what Kitson claims is the world’s largest solar-to-battery storage unit. Ninety-percent of the initial purchase is dedicated to preservation, and 250 families are expected to move into the community this year. Home prices range from the high $100s to $1 million to attract multiple generations.

More context: Gomes brings up Trump-imposed tariffs on solar panels as a possible deterrent to solar in the state, but Kitson says that private utilities should be capable of keeping costs low. In Babcock Ranch, homeowners will pay rates equivalent to FPL customers elsewhere, “the only difference is that … [when Babcock Ranch owners] turn on a light switch in their home, it’s solar energy.”


Marc Dunbar to join Citizens Insurance board” via Florida Politics — Dunbar, the Tallahassee-based lawyer and gaming lobbyist, will become the next member of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s board of governors. Dunbar, a partner in the Jones Walker firm’s Government Relations Practice Group, interviewed in February with CFO Jimmy Patronis for a vacancy on the state-run insurance concern’s board of governors. Citizens is the state’s insurer of last resort. Dunbar, who described himself as “an outsider with no insurance ties,” has said he was “honored to be considered.” He replaces Don Glisson Jr., an insurance executive who stepped down last August.

Scott Shalley joins VISIT FLORIDA board” via Florida Politics — Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, has been selected to join the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors effective immediately, the group announced Monday. “I’m honored to join the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, and I want to thank Chair Maryann Frenec and the rest of the board members for this opportunity,” Shalley said in a statement. “Retail and tourism go hand-in-hand, and having Florida continue to set records for the number of tourists, almost all of whom leave our state with more than what they came with, is great news for our members and our industry as a whole.”

Personnel note: Megan Fay joins Capital City Consulting” via Florida Politics — Fay, who until recently was Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Scott, is heading to Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting, the firm announced Tuesday. Fay will come on board in mid-April, said Nick Iarossi, a founding partner of the firm. “Megan’s policy knowledge and political instincts impressed us for years,” Iarossi said in a statement. “We are happy she can apply those skills to help our clients in Tallahassee. She will be a valuable addition to our expanding team.” As deputy chief of staff, Fay oversaw key state agencies, such as the departments of Education, Lottery, VISIT FLORIDA, and Business and Professional Regulation, as well as the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and CareerSource Florida.

Cesar Fernandez to join Uber’s Latin America public policy team” via Florida Politics — “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with public stakeholders all over Florida on embracing ride-sharing,” said Fernandez. “I’m excited to shift my focus to advocating for safe and reliable mobility solutions in Central America and the Caribbean.” Fernandez’ new job will be focused on government relations in several countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Uber currently operates in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Puerto Rico. The new position will keep him in the Sunshine State at the ride-hailing company’s offices in Miami.

Jonathan L. Williams to Lash & Goldberg — The firm added Williams, a former Deputy Solicitor General, as a “senior counsel” in Tallahassee. His practice includes state and federal administrative and constitutional law, product liability, health law, environmental, tax, gaming, and consumer protection. He helped represent Florida before the U.S. Supreme Court in a long-running dispute with Georgia over a multistate river system. “Jonathan’s addition to the firm highlights Lash & Goldberg’s commitment to expanding the depth and experience of our team to better serve our clients,” said Alan D. Lash, founding partner at Lash & Goldberg. “His exceptional and diverse legal skills will be a tremendous asset to our firm.” Williams got his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a law degree from Duke University.

Spotted in POLITICO Magazine — “(BrianBallard is a veteran Florida lobbyist who’s been in Washington for barely a year — the blink of an eye in an industry in which many of the top practitioners have spent decades inside the Beltway. But Ballard is closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town. He’s parlayed that relationship into a booming business helping clients get their way with the Trump administration — and his clients and even some of his rivals say his firm has a better grasp of what’s going on in the West Wing than almost anyone else on K Street … Ballard’s relationship with Trump has helped him solve a lucrative puzzle that has frustrated more established players … He’s a Trump-friendly out-of-towner who can connect with the establishment — he is a close ally of Senator Marco Rubio as well as Charlie Crist, the former centrist Republican governor of Florida who is now a Democratic congressman — and make corporate clients comfortable.”

— ALOE —

Ecologists hopeful after strong year for Everglades wading birds” via Greg Stanley of the Naples Daily News — Many of the birds produced some of their healthiest nests in a decade, fledging tens of thousands of chicks, according to South Florida Water Management District’s annual wading bird report out this month. It remains to be seen how lasting the uptick will be. And while the birds did well in the refuge of Everglades National Park and in a handful of water conservation areas immediately north of it, they still struggled in their ancient breeding grounds, in the disappearing shallow wetlands near the Big Corkscrew Swamp and coasts of southern Florida, according to the report. It’s important not to read too much into one-year population jumps or drops, said Mark Cook, the water district’s lead scientist, who helped put together the report. But last year’s numbers compared to 10- and 20-year averages are a sign for hope, Cook said.

Welcome to the worldJohn Hansen, the fifth addition to Riley and Nick Hansen‘s family. Mom and baby are doing great, says Dad.

Last Call for 4.2.18 — 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

Rep. Bobby Payne was not a fan of a Bill Day cartoon last week poking fun at Gov. Rick Scott over a treated wastewater measure from this past Legislative Session.

Payne, a Palatka Republican first elected in 2016, backed the legislation (HB 1149). He’s vice chair of the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee.   

The bill, also known as ‘toilet to tap,’ “could soon allow utilities and water managers in Florida to store, treat and recycle wastewater,” The News-Press explains.

Scott has until April 10 to sign the bill.

In the spirit of ‘equal time,’ here’s Payne’s response:  

“Floridians deserve better, and we have numerous environmental groups that support the bill. The opportunity to have a predictable and comprehensive permitting process for reclaimed water projects that combat saltwater intrusion and rehydrates depleted wetlands is a good thing.  

“We need more projects that are beneficial to the recharge needs of Florida’s aquifers and wetlands. The future of our water resources and its difficult balance will continue to be challenged, but this bill is a good start to help manage those needs through artificial recharge.”  

Evening Reads

The most powerful lobbyist in Trump’s Washington” via Theodoric Meyer of POLITICO Magazine

Eyes of the nation on Florida’s fast-growing school voucher program” via John Kennedy of GateHouse Capital Bureau

Rick Scott faces deadline on final batch of bills” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

NRA takes aim at county gun law proposal” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

Florida law allows driverless vehicles. Does the law go too far?” via Caitlin Johnston of the Tampa Bay Times

Darren Soto’s wife arrested at Walt Disney World” via Stephen Ruiz of the Orlando Sentinel

Tim Canova drops Democratic bid to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will run as independent” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Carrie Pilon files to challenge Jeff Brandes in Senate District 24” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Geraldine Thompson is back, filing to run in HD 44” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

National Science Foundation gives $184 million to fund MagLab at FSU and UF” via The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“The latest accusations have already had a severely detrimental effect on my 2020 campaign. In order to remain a viable candidate, I must clear my name. Thus, after receiving a legal opinion stating that it was proper, I authorized a campaign expenditure to do just that.” — Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox, ensnared in an FBI investigation into City Hall dealings, explaining a $125,000 payment to law firm Baker Donelson.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights


Wake Up Early?

Residents in state House District 39 and House District 114 face a Tuesday deadline to register to vote in May 1 special elections. Republican Josie Tomkow and Democrat Ricky Shirah are running in the special election in District 39, which includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties. Republican Andrew Vargas, Democrat Javier Fernandez and unaffiliated candidate Liz de las Cuevas are running in Miami-Dade County’s District 114.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” Breakfast in Miami. That’s at 8:30 a.m., La Carreta Restaurant, 8650 Bird Road, Miami. It is a ticketed event; if you plan to attend, email by 6 p.m.tonight.

Gov. Scott holds a bill signing ceremony for legislation to strictly prohibit all state agencies from conducting business with any entity that benefits the Maduro regime in Venezuela. That’s 9 a.m. at El Perdigon, 5748 International Drive in Orlando.

The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a hearing about proposed changes in what is known as a federal “waiver” for the state’s Medicaid managed-care system. The state is seeking federal approval to amend the waiver. That’s at 10 a.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.

First Lady Ann Scott and Prevent Child Abuse Florida will kick off the annual “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign recognizing Child Abuse Prevention Month. That’s at 10 a.m., Florida Governor’s Mansion, 700 North Adams St., Tallahassee.

Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association will hold a media conference call to discuss plans for general-election debates in the races for governor and U.S. senator. That’s at 10 a.m. Media call-in number: 1-888-392-4560. Code: 9979718.

The Style and Drafting Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will reconvene to consider groupings and summaries for proposed constitutional amendments for the November ballot. That’s at 1 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building, the Capitol.

Former Miami Beach mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine will speak with local Democrats at two events in Martin County. A “living room conversation” is at 5 p.m., 5016 SW Inverness Court, Palm City; and a monthly meeting of the Democratic Club of Martin County is 6:30 p.m., Best Western Downtown Stuart, 1209 SE Federal Highway, Stuart.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will hold a town-hall meeting about preventing gun violence. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Coral Springs City Hall, 9500 West Sample Road, Coral Springs.

State Rep. Jamie Grant, a Tampa Republican, is scheduled to speak to the Pinellas County Young Republicans. That’s at 7 p.m., St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.

A better read would be the ‘Better Call Saul’ story about Brian Ballard

In case you missed, POLITICO Magazine has delivered a hagiography of uber-lobbyist (actually, he’s also Uber’s lobbyist) Brian Ballard.

It’s the kind of piece that, after it’s been published, you commission a rogue lumberjack to saw down a California Redwood just so that you have the kind of wood luxurious enough in which to frame it.

“(Brian) Ballard is a veteran Florida lobbyist who’s been in Washington for barely a year — the blink of an eye in an industry in which many of the top practitioners have spent decades inside the Beltway. But Ballard is closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town. He’s parlayed that relationship into a booming business helping clients get their way with the Trump administration — and his clients and even some of his rivals say his firm has a better grasp of what’s going on in the West Wing than almost anyone else on K Street … Ballard’s relationship with Trump has helped him solve a lucrative puzzle that has frustrated more established players … He’s a Trump-friendly out-of-towner who can connect with the establishment — he is a close ally of Senator Marco Rubio as well as Charlie Crist, the former centrist Republican governor of Florida who is now a Democratic congressman — and make corporate clients comfortable.”

Even the blind quotes from Ballard’s green-with-envy competitors are positive. They each essentially say, “Damn it, he’s gonna make a sh*t-ton of money between now and when Trump eventually leaves office and it’s gonna be very difficult for him to wheelbarrow all of that cash out-of-town.”

As glowing as the POLITICO Mag profile is, there’s a backstory it references that’s probably as interesting as the current Ballard profile.

Bob Martinez lost reelection in 1990 to Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, and Ballard stuck around Tallahassee as a lobbyist. It wasn’t an easy to time to start out as a Republican lobbyist: Democrats held majorities in both chambers of the Florida Legislature and the governorship. But Republicans won control of the Florida Senate in 1994 and took the House two years later. And in 1998, Ballard’s old pal Jeb Bush was elected governor.

“A few weeks after the election, the Ledger of Lakeland, Florida, reported that Ballard’s firm — called Smith, Ballard, Bradshaw and Logan at the time — had something other Tallahassee lobbying firms ‘only wish they could claim: an undeniably special relationship with Bush that is being cautiously defended.’ Ballard brashly told the paper his firm had no more access to Bush than anyone else. ‘Anyone who thinks that when they are hiring us they have secured some special niche in the administration is wrong and should save their money,’ Ballard said. ‘Don’t hire us. Go somewhere else.’ “

That would be Jim Smith, Brian Ballard, Paul Bradshaw, and Mark Logan.

Three decades ago, Smith, Ballard, and Bradshaw left Bryant, Miller and Olive, the firm established by former Democratic Gov. Ferris Bryant, to capitalize on their proximity to Bush.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years and Ballard is “closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town” and Bradshaw (and Smith, who left Ballard to join Bradshaw’s firm) is the head of the largest (by client, if not overall revenue) governmental affairs firm in Florida.

Don’t you want to know what Ballard and Bradshaw, future masters of the political universe, were like when they were just starting out?

The current story of Ballard and Bradshaw is essentially the “Breaking Bad” of Florida politics — an incredible saga of how two firms, in their rivalries, drive much of the public policy debate in Florida (if you need just one example of what I’m referring to, read this article about how one recent food fight between two clients of the firm basically shut down a legislative session).

What I want from someone (it would have to be a better storyteller than me) is the “Better Call Saul” — the prequel to “Breaking Bad” — version of this political tale.

Of course, “Breaking Bad” is ultimately about one man, not two, as in this story. Regardless, it’d be intriguing to know how two young lobbyists became the Heisenbergs of state government.

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