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Sunburn for 6.8.17 – Split-screen madness; Med. marijuana in play; Rick Scott to D.C.; Blockbuster ACLU report; Gator vs. plane

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

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

What time is too early to make popcorn?

As fascinating as Florida politics is, even in what is supposed to be the slow time of late spring, it will be difficult for aficianados not to keep one eye on Sunshine State politics and another on events transpiring Thursday in D.C. and beyond.

FBI director James Comey will recount a series of conversations with President Donald Trump that he says made him deeply uneasy and concerned about the blurring of boundaries between the White House and a law enforcement agency that prides itself on independence.

Corey’s testimony begins at 10 a.m., although some bars in Washington D.C. are opening early so those in the District can tie one on this morning.

“They really should declare a national holiday, since no work is going to get done,” Sally Quinn is quoted in this New York Times story by Michael Grynbaum and Katie Rogers.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, polling stations across Britain opened for national elections amid heightened security Thursday. The election was supposed to be dominated by Britain’s pending departure from the European Union, but voters are anxiously aware of the threat the country faces from international terrorism following attacks in London and Manchester.

Of course this is a newsletter about Florida politics and it promises to be a fascinating day in the Capitol.

So make sure you have a fresh set of batteries in your TV remote control as you prepare to scroll through The Florida Channel, Fox News, and BBC throughout this extraordinary day.


When it comes to medical marijuana, lawmakers are getting another puff of the pipe.

The Legislature appeared to reach an agreement on a deal to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment, announced Wednesday they would include an implementing bill in the Special Session call.

The agreement came just hours before the start of a planned three-day special session, and ended weeks of will-they-or-won’t-they speculation about medical marijuana.

“Our constitutional duty is to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, who filed the bill (SB 8A) just before the Special Session started. “This patient-first legislation will expand access to this medicine, while ensuring safety through a unified regulatory structure for each component of the process from cultivation to consumption.”

Senate President Joe Negron talks to Sen. Rob Bradley on the Senate rostrum Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Phil Sears

The bill, among other things, calls on the state to license 10 new growers this year, in addition to the seven that are already licensed under existing state law. It also requires four licenses to be issued for every 100,000 patients who register with the state’s medical marijuana registry.

While earlier negotiations broke down over how many dispensaries each grower could have (reminder: the Senate wanted caps; the House didn’t), the proposed legislation includes caps on dispensaries. Growers would be capped at 25 dispensaries; however, they would be able to add five dispensaries for every 100,000 patients. Those caps would sunset in 2020, unless of course the Legislature were to act.

In return for caps on dispensaries, the House appears to have received one of its priorities — making medical marijuana and marijuana delivery devices exempt from sales tax.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 15-1 to approve the bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, on Wednesday. The Senate Health Policy and Appropriations committees are set to take up the bill Thursday.

— “Rick Scott expands special session call to include medical marijuana” via Florida Politics

— “Medical marijuana bill would add more licensed growers” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Are vaping and smoking the same? Ray Rodrigues won’t say” via Florida Politics – As the medical marijuana implementation bill winds its way through the Special Session, some lawmakers still are grappling with whether smoking medicinal cannabis is the same as ‘vaping’ it. Before the Health and Human Services Committee approved the House bill (HB 5A), members asked bill sponsor Rodrigues, the House Republican Leader from Estero. “Are we allowing smoking?” asked Rep. Thad Altman, an Indialantic Republican. Nope, said Rodrigues, just vaping—short for vaporizing.

— “Jeff Brandes files strike-all amendment” via Florida Politics

John Morgan: I’m still suing the Legislature” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Where there’s no smoke, there’s a John Morgan lawsuit. Morgan—attorney, entrepreneur and main backer of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment—Wednesday said he still plans to sue the state despite lawmakers brokering a deal to include implementation of the measure in this week’s Special Session. Mainly, Morgan’s hair’s on fire that Florida doesn’t allow smokeable medicinal cannabis. Morgan first said he planned to sue last month. “Done is better than perfect and this is far from perfect,” he said in a statement to “I will be suing the state to allow smoke. It was part of my amendment.”

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Mystery mailers from Illinois target Joe Negron” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Voters in Negron‘s Treasure Coast-Palm Beach district are getting mailers from a newly formed Illinois-based PAC criticizing Negron’s role in an education bill that’s closely identified with House Speaker Corcoran … The mailer from a group called SunshinePac from Evanston, Illinois, criticizes HB 7069 and focuses on Negron rather than Corcoran. SunshinePac was formed May 25 as a federal committee, according to Federal Election Committee records. It is headed by John Hennelly, a former Florida director for the Service Employees International Union who’s now a consultant with the liberal Chicago-based firm Democracy Partners. “What has politician Joe Negron been up to in Tallahassee this Session? Making backroom deals and our schools are paying the price,” says one side of the mailer, which shows a picture of Negron and Corcoran but doesn’t identify the House speaker.

“House, Senate divide grows as lawmakers begin Special Session” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Lawmakers made little progress Wednesday toward narrowing the gap between the House and Senate on the major funding issues – education and economic development – that drove Gov. Scott to call a special session. With only two days remaining in the scheduled three-day session, lawmakers must quickly find compromise on policy fights that have been made more complicated since the regular 60-day session ended early last month. State Sen. David Simmon, R-Altamonte Springs, summed up the vibe at the Capitol best when he all but said Friday’s scheduled final day is flexible. “These three days here, they’re an artificial deadline for all of us,” he said. “They’re a real deadline, but they’re one that we can work around.”

Lawmakers will likely have to extend session but will Senate Republican fundraiser be in the way?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – With the Senate insisting that any budget agreement follow the 72-hour cooling off period, the House Republican leadership agreed to go along, even though they read the constitutional waiting period as not applying to the budget bills they will be passing this session. House leaders asking for in return … telling the Senate it wants them to come back to finish their work Tuesday, June 13 — same day the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has scheduled its annual golf fundraiser in California. The traditional golf fundraiser, often held at the prestigious Pebble Beach golf course, moved this year to Torrey Pines, the swanky municipal course situated along the cliffs of San Diego … The bad news for Senate Republicans is that the fundraiser is scheduled for June 12-13. Sen. Rob Bradley said the fundraiser should have no impact on the Special Session.

“House panel clears Special Session infrastructure, job training bill” via Florida Politics – The House’s main budgeting panel cleared one of the bills planned for the Special Session dealing with tourism promotion, job training and public infrastructure. The Appropriations Committee, on a unanimous vote, OK’d the measure (HB 1A). Among other things, it creates the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, and awards $76 million to and imposes accountability and transparency measures on VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

Great profile on Jeff Clemens: “U2 by UV drummer makes noise in state Senate, too” via Ben Crandell of


Rick Scott, Lenny Curry to attend White House event with Donald Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – With the Special Session underway in Tallahassee, Scott will be at the White House for a “listening session” on infrastructure with President Trump. He will join a number of governors and state, local and private sector leaders “who are interested in working together to improve our nation’s infrastructure” … Also participating in the White House event is Jacksonville Mayor Curry and Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge.

Governor and Cabinet to take up environmental land-acquisition priorities” via Florida Politics —The newest project on the state’s priority list for conservation land buys is a 4,700-acre spread in eastern Alachua County, containing valuable wildlife, water, and plant resources, but also largely given over to pine harvesting. That’s if Gov. Scott and the Cabinet approve an updated Florida Forever work plan during a meeting scheduled next week. Sitting as the Board of Trustees of State lands, Scott and the Cabinet also will review the Florida Forever land-buy priority list and five-year plan for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. … New to that plan is Lochloosa Forest, assessed at nearly $5.3 million … containing flatwoods, swamps, and marshes, with Hatchet and Bee Tree creeks flowing through.

Carlos Smith: Since Pulse, Rick Scott has done nothing for LGBTQ community” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising –The openly-gay Orlando representative wondered whether Scott would, and whether he should, attend next Monday’s memorial ceremonies in Orlando for the 49 people who were murdered and 53 people who were wounded that night … “He’s done nothing. And he should be held accountable,” Smith said of the governor … he watched Scott evolve with exposure to Pulse families and survivors and become more understanding and sensitive – but then, devolve over ensuing months, to the point that Scott once again did not acknowledge the gay community when he talked about Pulse in his opening address to the Florida Legislature. Smith said Scott now is in an awkward position regarding Pulse, the same position he was in a year ago. Smith said the governor had appeared at the massive Pulse vigil held at Lake Eola Park June 19, 2016, asked if he should speak, was advised that he might be booed, and so did not speak. “Why would he be booed? Because the LGBTQ community knows that he’s done nothing for us,” Smith said.

Sarah Palin accidentally bashes Florida Republicans in Paris accord meme” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaPalin took a strong stand in support of Trump’s decision to withdraw from a global warming agreement, warning her Facebook readers with a meme that intoned, “Don’t be Fooled! The Paris Climate Accord is a SCAM.” However, the picture the former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee used — featuring well-dressed people celebrating — was pure fake news …  it depicts a group unlikely to support either the idea of man-made climate change or the Paris accord: highly conservative Republican members of the Florida House of Representatives on the chamber floor. Palin deleted the post after Politico reported her error.

“Labor relations panel will hear complaint against Sarasota Herald-Tribune” via Florida Politics – A Florida-based division of the National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on a complaint against the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the paper’s leadership intimidated and threatened “reprisals” if newsroom employees voted to form a union. The hearing is Aug. 21 in Tampa. Last September, the Herald-Tribune’s newsroom staff voted to unionize under the NewsGuild-CWA by a vote of 22-16. Among the allegations, the complaint said publisher Patrick Dorsey in August “created an impression among employees that their union activities were under surveillance.”


A new investigation from the American Civil Liberties Union found Florida officials didn’t provide the public with timely or trustworthy information during the 2016 toxic algae bloom that impacted Treasure Coast communities.

The report — published Tuesday and titled “Tainted Waters: Threats to Public Health and the People’s Right to Know” — looks at state’s record of transparency when it comes to disseminating information about the public danger to the public’s health posed by the algae flor.

Algae blooms from excess nutrients in the waterways are common and becoming more common in developed countries. Photo credit: EPA.

John Lantigua, an investigative reporter with the ACLU of Florida’s, investigated the state’s response to the algae outbreak. Lantigua, a Pulitzer Prize winner reporter, conducted his research with the help of local residents, scientists, media and state employees willing to cooperate.

The report found state scientists testing the river and estuary water for toxins did so in places where the algae was the thinnest, as opposed to along the shores and inlets where algae accumulates and where people interact with the water interacts the most. It also notes that local officials and groups complained that a task force created by statute to try and mitigate the effects of algae infestations has not been funded since 2001.

“Open government means people have a right to be informed about what public officials and employees are doing, and that information is particularly crucial when it comes to public health issues,” he said. “What we found was a lack of urgency and transparency on the part of the state in reporting information about the crisis, caused by the release of tainted waters from Lake Okeechobee.”


In the final part in a series looking at online education, Jessica Bakeman with POLITICO Florida looks at how the fierce rivalry between the University of Florida and Florida State University hasn’t entered the online education arena.

Bakeman writes that as the two preeminent universities plan for the future there has “been surprising little between the longtime rivals.”

According to the report, the University of Florida, aided by the Florida Legislature, “has undertaken an aggressive expansion of distance learning, billing itself as an international hub, while Florida State has resisted pressure from state officials to grow its non-traditional offerings, preferring to see itself as a physical destination for students.”

Those differences, Bakeman notes, could have a disproportionate effect on how online education evolves and whether the state meets its goal of having thousands upon thousands of undergraduate students taking nearly half their courses virtually by 2025.

University of Florida now counts 31 percent of its undergraduate programs delivered online. But Bakeman reported that the path hasn’t always been a smooth one. More than a year ago, the school ended its multi-million dollar contract with Pearson after the company failed to attract enough students from outside the Sunshine State. At FSU, the school’s reluctance to embrace online education has “put the school in conflict with Gov. Scott and the State University System’s board of governors,” reports Bakeman.


“Andrew Gillum ‘slams’ Special Session” via Florida Politics – Tallahassee Mayor Gillum issued a brief statement calling this week’s Special Session “a complete embarrassment to our state.” Gillum also took a swipe at an education policy bill (HB 7069) Gov. Scott is considering that, among other things, could funnel more money to privately-managed charter schools. The session “was called with a total lack of transparency, and thanks to HB 7069, Floridians’ tax dollars are almost certainly about to enrich for-profit charter school executives,” Gillum said in the statement.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla faces foreclosure on out-of-district home” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – On campaign filings for the District 40 state Senate race, Diaz de la Portilla lists two addresses: a mattress company that belongs to his father and a five-bedroom West Miami home facing foreclosure. Both lie outside the district he is running to represent, a large swath of Southwest Miami-Dade County. According to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser, Diaz de la Portilla and his ex-wife jointly own the West Miami home. In April, Wells Fargo filed a notice in county court seeking to foreclose on the home … Diaz de la Portilla listed the home as being worth $603,357 in a financial disclosure form. Diaz de la Portilla said the foreclosure was a necessary step toward modifying the loan on his home following a divorce.

Democrat who switched parties too late withdraws from state Senate race” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald Steve Smith signed an oath when he qualified as a candidate for the state Senate last week saying he’s been a registered Democrat for a year. Not quite. Florida law requires anyone qualifying as a party candidate to state in writing that they have not been a member of another party for a full year before qualifying. Smith … registered as a Democrat June 10, 2016, less than a year before he and six other candidates qualified May 30 — 12 days short of a year — for the District 40 seat left vacant by former Sen. Frank Artiles. Hours after a Miami Herald story went online Tuesday about the apparent violation, Smith he withdrew his candidacy, saying he did not want to jeopardize the Democratic Party’s chances to turn the seat blue and his own political aspirations down the road. “It is what it is,” he said.

Bobby Olszewski qualifies by petition for HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican Bobby Olszewski has become the first qualified candidate for the special elections set for later this year to fill the vacant seat for House District 44 in western Orange County. Olszewski’s campaign said it collected more than 400 petition signatures and on Wednesday the Orange County Supervisor of Elections certified 370, enough to put him on the ballot. The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 15, with the final election on Oct. 10. “I couldn’t be more thankful to our great volunteers who helped us reach this goal with our voters in record time,” Olszewski stated in a news release. “My volunteers and I will out and about in our community throughout this election looking to bring our hometown, conservative principles to Tallahassee.”


Donald Trump nominates Stetson law professor to veterans appeals court” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times Trump has nominated a Stetson University law professor to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Michael P. Allen is director of the Veterans Law Institute and was a civil trial attorney in Boston before joining Pinellas County-based Stetson.

“Personnel note: Stephen Lawson moves to VISIT FLORIDA” via Florida PoliticsLawson has left the post of communications director for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He has become vice president of Government Relations for VISIT Florida. He announced the job change in an email. Lawson has been making the rounds of Gov. Scott’s administration, previously serving as communications director for Enterprise Florida, the public-private economic development organization.

Sachs named as agency of record for JMI – The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank, named Sachs Media Group as its Agency of Record. Under the leadership of newly appointed president Michelle Ubben, Sachs Media will elevate JMI’s profile in Florida and nationally by providing public affairs and strategic communications services in support of JMI’s initiatives. JMI is led by president/CEO Dr. Bob McClure, who was named one of INFLUENCE Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Florida Politics.

AppointedDaniel Waters and Marielle Kitchener to Big Cypress Basin Board.

AppointedAdrian Alfonso to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc.

New and renewed lobby registration: Bob Harris, Messer Caparello: West Coast University

— ALOE —

9 TV shows set in Florida but not Miami, like ‘Claws’ in Manatee County” via Caitlin O’Connor of the Tampa Bay Times – I Dream Of Jeannie … Maj. Tony Nelson and Jeannie called Cocoa Beach home. Second Noah … Tampa got its moment in the spotlight in this short-lived mid-’90s series about a family with a tendency to take in kids and stray animals. Fresh Off the Boat … ABC’s hit sitcom features a Taiwanese family moving from Washington, D.C., to Orlando around 1995. The Glades … This A&E show about an FDLE detective was set in fictional Palm Glade somewhere in, well, the Everglades and filmed around South Florida. Siesta Key … A reality series filmed around Sarasota County’s popular beach destination is set to premiere July 19 on MTV. Bloodline … Netflix’s recently concluded family thriller was set and filmed in the Keys. American Horror Story … 2014-15’s Freak Show season was set in Jupiter in 1952, following the lives of members of, well, a freak show. Cougar Town …  Courtney Cox & Co. were on the prowl in fictional Gulfhaven, nicknamed “Cougar Town,” somewhere around Venice and Sarasota on the map.

Florida, Florida State on the winning end of baseball’s June Madness” via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics –Both Florida and Florida State have provided significant contributions to this year’s mayhem, which saw nearly half of the 16 seeded teams and regional hosts go down to defeat. Four others, including the Gators and Seminoles, had to bounce back from losses. No team among the 64 tournament teams had to climb the mountain faced by Florida State. The Madness struck in the first game, when FSU inexplicably lost to fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech, 3-1. The Gators were moving along nicely in their regional until Sunday night. They had the opportunity for a three-game sweep, but the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, earned a reprieve with a 6-2 win. Florida restored order Monday with a 6-1 regional-clinching win, but it was 0-0 in the sixth inning.

Orlando gator killed on runway at executive airport” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel – An 11-foot alligator was reportedly killed at 2 a.m. June 1 … A spokeswoman for the airport, Carolyn Fennell, confirmed that the incident occurred last week. She said there was some damage to the private plane but didn’t have details about that. “Fish and Wildlife Service said it was a 500-pound alligator,” Fennell said. The executive airport is 3 miles from downtown Orlando and is governed by Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which also governs Orlando International Airport. It covers about 1,000 acres, near several lakes, including Lake Underhill.

NASA announces new astronaut class, and one is from Florida” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel – The class of 12 astronauts will start a two-year training program in August. One candidate, Frank Rubio, 41, hails from Florida. He graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York The rest of the 2017 class: Kayla Barron of Richland, Washington; Zena Cardman of Williamsburg, Virginia; Raja Chari of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Matthew Dominick of Wheat Ridge, Colorado; Bob Hines of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Warren Hoburg of Pittsburgh; Jonny Kim of Los Angeles; Robb Kulin of Anchorage, Alaska; Jasmin Moghbeli of Baldwin, New York; Loral O’Hara of Sugar Land, Texas; Jessica Watkins of Lafayette, Colorado

Happy birthday to Chris Hand and PSTA’s Brad Miller.

Does Jack Latvala keep falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick so he can be CFO?

“You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe? It should be more natural, brother. It should flow out, like this – ‘Look, man, I ain’t fallin’ for no banana in my tailpipe!’ See, that’s more natural for us.” — Axel Foley

It’s been more than thirty years since Eddie Murphy played the part of Detroit police detective Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, but there are several scenes which are just as funny today as they were in 1984. Who can forget Bronson Pinchot‘s cameo as Serge? Or Murphy’s performance in the hilarious “Super Cop” scene (co-stars John Ashton and Judge Reinhold can be seen holding back laughter as Murphy delivers his monologue.)

And, of course, one of the funniest running jokes throughout the movie is the ‘banana in the tailpipe’ gag.

Early on in the movie, Murphy/Foley sneakily shoves his banana (technically three of them) into the tailpipe of a patrol car trying to tail him. Hijinks ensue.

Although its debatable if this trick actually works in real life, the scene was so popular and has become such a part of pop culture that it’s an expression we use when we think someone is trying to pull something over on us.

To that end, why does state Senator Jack Latvala keep falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick when it comes to Gov. Rick Scott and the vetoing of the local budget projects Latvala holds so dear?

Last week, the Governor axed roughly 400 projects worth nearly $410 million that were placed in the budget by Republicans and Democrats. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, this is, at least, a partial indictment of Latvala’s work. Many of the vetoed projects, such as several construction projects at the University of South Florida, are local initiatives Latvala personally shepherded into the budget.

This is yet another year during which Scott — the new reigning champ of gubernatorial budget vetoes — has axed hundreds of millions of dollars in member projects. When Scott did so in 2015, Latvala said that “the governor has declared war on the Legislature.”

This was after Latvala ‘pledged his devotion to Scott for months’ (Steve Bousquet‘s words, not mine). Just as Latvala was ‘devoted’ to Scott this year (Latvala appeared with Scott at a press conference last month when the Governor talked openly about vetoing large chunks of the veto).

In other words, after each legislative session, Scott puts a banana in Latvala’s tailpipe.

So why, beyond party loyalty, does Latvala remain ‘devoted’ to Scott?

One theory for Latvala’s continued fealty is that he has a better chance at being at being appointed Chief Financial Officer than some might think. Most news stories speculating as to who Scott may choose center around former state Sen. Pat Neal, state Rep. Joe Gruters, and former Rep. Jimmy Patronis.

Doesn’t Chief Latvala make as much, if not more, sense than any of those picks?

Not getting too upset about a few budget vetoes is a small price to pay for a (possibly) nine-year place in the Florida Cabinet.

Sunburn for 6.7.17 – Special Session already not so special?; There’s a bear in the election woods; David Richardson aims for D.C.; op-eds galore

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

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


Special Session hasn’t even started yet, and stuff’s already starting to blow up.

Take House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s Tuesday evening reaction to the Senate’s filed bills on education, economic development and tourism marketing.

“We stand with the Governor in his commitment to increase funding for our K-12 public schools and creating more jobs,” he said.

“But instead of addressing jobs, honoring the will of the people in passing medical marijuana, or taking care of our public school children, the Senate President wants a massive property tax increase, wants to weaken accountability provisions for VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida (EFI), and wants to raid reserves to give to hospital CEOs.  

“Needless to say, the House is not raising taxes, not softening accountability rules, and not borrowing against reserves to pay for corporate giveaways,” Corcoran added.

“And without question the House will not allow funding for our schoolchildren to be held hostage to pork barrel spending and special interest demands.”

In the words of Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.”

Before that, Senate Appropriations chair Jack Latvala dropped a bomb when, in a memo, he said bills filed during the Special Sesh would fall under the constitutionally-mandated 72-hour cooling off period.

Staff came to that conclusion by researching session precedent going back to 1993, Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said.

If a bill gets amended, however, that would reset the clock, pushing back the end of session beyond Friday.

Later, the House filed HB 3A on the Florida Education Finance Program. But the House’s bill statement said the cooling off period does not apply.”

“It is not general in application; does not resemble the constitutionally required format and scope of a general appropriations bill described by Article III, section 19(b); does not meet the definition of a General Appropriations Bill in Joint Rule 2; and meets the general appropriations exemption applicable to supplemental appropriations provided in Joint Rule 2,” the statement said.

In other words: Pass or fail, we ain’t staying. (We won’t even mention the lack of medical marijuana in the call as of Tuesday night.) So let’s quote another great movie line, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy (week).”

– “Uh oh: Florida lawmakers’ special session in jeopardy before it even begins” via Michael Auslen, Mary Ellen Klas and Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald

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Special Session gets underway today – The schedule starts with a House floor session at 12:30 p.m. and a Senate session at 1 p.m. The House Appropriations Committee then meets at 2 p.m., with the Senate Commerce & Tourism Committee convening at the same time. The Senate Appropriations Committee is slated to meet at 4 p.m. The following day, the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet again at 10 a.m., with the full House going into session at 10:30 a.m. The Senate follows with a floor session at 2 p.m. Finally, both chambers meet on the floor on Friday, with the Senate starting at 10 a.m. and the House going in at 10:30 a.m. All meetings and times are subject to change.

Special Session rules — The team at LobbyTools put together a handy guide to get you up-to-date about what you need to know before the Legislature gavels in. When it comes to committee meetings, meetings need to be noticed two hours in advanced; committee amendments shall be filed no later than one hour before the committee. Senate rules require the Special Order Calendar to be published two hours in advance, but House rules don’t special a Special Order Calendar publishing deadline. The Senate deadline for floor amendments for bills on the Special Order Calendar is 5 p.m., or 2 hours after the calendar is announced. House floor amendments must be approved two hours before a floor session. And when it comes to fundraising, the rules of a regular session apply: Members of the Legislature aren’t permitted to solicited, be solicited or accept any contribution during special session

“Joe Negron: Senate will consider veto overrides” via Florida Politics Senate President Negron told members in a Tuesday memo he expects “a proposal to override the veto of some university and higher education funding.” The Stuart Republican also left the door open for medical marijuana implementation to be added to the call, saying he had made no deal “limit(ing) the subject matter to the issues listed in the Governor’s proclamation” … Legislative negotiators are reportedly close to striking a deal regarding marijuana dispensary caps, limiting the number of retail locations, that hamstrung lawmakers during this year’s regular session that ended in May. Introducing marijuana legislation would require a two-thirds vote.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala talks with Senate President Joe Negron during early discussion of the budget on the final day of the extended 2017 Legislative Session at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Colin Hackley.

“Jack Latvala: ‘Cooling-off’ period applies to Special Session bills” via Florida Politics Latvala is telling fellow senators that funding bills will be subject to the state’s constitutionally-mandated “cooling off” period. That potentially means, if the bills are amended, that lawmakers could be stuck in Tallahassee past Friday, when the session is scheduled to end. The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a memo that he and Senate President Negron—an attorney—had “reviewed relevant legal precedent and accepted the advice of our professional staff regarding the application of the 72-hour cooling off period.” A House spokesman wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Rene Garcia: I’m ‘not comfortable’ with more K-12 funding without changing HB 7069” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The Hialeah Republican told President Negron in a letter that he’s “not comfortable supporting any compromise” on increasing K-12 funding for 2017-18 that does not also address a controversial education policy bill that awaits Gov. Scott‘s approval. García was one of three Senate Republicans to vote against HB 7069 when it narrowly passed the Senate on the final day of the 2017 regular session. “While my career has reflected a passionate commitment to school choice and local autonomy, I find it difficult to support adjusting the Florida Education Finance Program while failing to address the erosion of Florida’s commitment to public education that is contained in HB 7069,” García said.

Medical marijuana activists ‘cautiously optimistic’ Legislature will take it up in Special Session” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Key players in the issue like Orlando attorney John Morgan said that they believe Negron was worried the seven original growers would have an unfair advantage over other MMTCs — but said those fears were irrational since the dispensaries would end up beating out each other in the long run anyway. “Joe [Negron] is misguided because I don’t think you should cap dispensaries,” Morgan told SSN. “Competition takes care of everything in a capitalistic society, [but] these lawmakers are not capitalists. They are people who have lived at the public trough their whole lives.” If legislators can’t work out an agreement over medical cannabis, it will be up to the Department of Health to figure out how to regulate the state’s medical marijuana industry before July 3.

Morgan, who supports lifting MMTC caps, said he was hopeful lawmakers would work out some kind of agreement, one way or the other, but trashed legislators for toying with the will of Florida voters. “They have never done anything besides go up there and play board games like it’s a Monopoly game and it’s not real,” he said. “At the end of the day, the cream will rise to the top. They’re fighting something that doesn’t need to be fought about.”

“Some lawmakers bowing out of Special Session” via Florida Politics At least eight House members and one senator won’t be attending some or all of this week’s Special Session, set for Wednesday-Friday. The June meeting is conflicting with some lawmakers’ plans, including one whose brother is getting married out of state. A list, as of Tuesday afternoon, showed lawmakers asking for and receiving excused absences for part or all of the three-day session, with reasons given.

DSCC goes after Scott over special session — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is out with a new ad hitting Gov. Scott over the upcoming three-day special session. The video features clips of recent media reports talking about the special session, and the governor’s request for money for economic incentives. The 60-second spot also highlights concerns over a sweeping education bill, as well as the governor’s vetoes for higher education, road construction projects. Scott is widely expected to run for U.S. Senate in 2018. Click on the image below to watch the clip.

Assignment editors: Rep. Shevrin Jones and FEA President Joanne McCall will hold a press call to discuss the special session at 11 a.m. Interested media should RSVP to Johanna Cervone at for dial-in information.

Split appeal court upholds Gov. Scott’s 2015 veto of firefighters’ $2,000 raise” via Florida Politics — The Governor’s constitutional authority to veto budget line items trumps a state law requiring him to bow to the Legislature when it resolves labor collective bargaining impasses, a divided 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. … “The Florida Constitution clearly articulates the governor’s authority to veto the (budget), or specific appropriations therein. It authorized him to veto the raise appropriation here,” the court said. “That appellant’s members possess constitutional collective bargaining rights does not alter the governor’s constitutional authority with respect to the GAA.” … The dispute involved Gov. Scott’s veto of a $2,000 raise the Legislature OK’d for members of … the Florida Forest Service for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2015. In a dissent, Judge Bradford Thomas wrote that upholding the raise would not “significantly impair the governor’s general veto authority and properly harmonizes conflicting provisions of organic law.”

Governor’s veto threatens Appleton Museum of Art” via Joe Callahan of the Ocala Star-Banner – College of Central Florida officials were in crisis mode in the wake of Gov. Scott’s decision to veto $1.5 million in state funding the college was counting on to operate the Appleton Museum of Art. CF President Jim Henningsen and his staff met multiple times to discuss options to keep the prestigious museum open beyond June 30, which is the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year. Henningsen hopes to get approval from the family of the museum founder, Arthur I. Appleton, to use $1.5 million of the museum’s $19 million endowment to keep the museum open for one more year, through June 30, 2018. “We are trying to reach the family to see if they will approve the money, and then we can lobby the legislature to get the Appleton funded in next year’s budget,” said Henningsen, adding that if no state funding can be acquired next year then the museum may have to be closed.

“Scott’s vetoes could impact Luna archaeology efforts” via Joseph Baucum of the Pensacola News-Journal – The University of West Florida’s excavations of the Don Tristan de Luna settlement in East Pensacola Heights could be impacted by Gov. Scott‘s $410 million cuts to the Legislature’s $83 billion proposed budget. The governor slashed $4.1 million to the university, of which $1.1 million would have gone to the university’s archaeology program. Since 2015, researchers and students from the program have conducted several digs and tests of the Luna site, arguably the oldest established European multi-year settlement in the United States. “We realize it has not been an easy year and we thank ​our legislative partners for all of their efforts,” said UWF President Martha Saunders. “The archaeology program is an active program, so we are concerned about the impact on the students currently enrolled. We are committed to doing everything we can to minimize any disruption.”

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will present the Medal of Merit to Airman David Barba and Aviation Boastswain’s Mate Andrew Miller at 9 a.m. at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville. The two sailors are being awarded for their courage and selflessness assisting victims following an incident in Times Square earlier this month. Media interested in attending should arrive at the pass and decal parking lot by 8:15 a.m. for security check in. For additional questions, contact William Austin, Mayport Public Affairs Officer, at 904-629-7145 or

Assignment editors – Aides to Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet will meet at 9 a.m. in the Capitol’s Cabinet meeting room in advance of the scheduled June 14 meeting.

Meanwhile … “Trouble getting sake in Florida? Law could soon change for the better” via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times – State law officially defines wine as a beverage fermented from grapes, berries or other fruit. Made from fermented rice, sake … often has been erroneously lumped with liquors, typically distilled from grains. Restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, and other places allowed to sell and serve wine and beer, but not liquor, have often shied from sake, fearing legal problems. House Bill 689, passed by the Legislature in the 2017 Session but awaiting action from Gov. Scott, would finally clarify that sake is indeed a wine, making it servable and sellable anywhere other wines and beers are sold.


At least 3 Florida counties targeted by Russian hacking attempt” via Steve Bousquet and Adam Playford of the Tampa Bay Times – At least three Florida elections offices got malicious emails days before the 2016 presidential election that a classified federal report says were part of a Russian cyberattack that aimed to hack into their computers. Election supervisors in Citrus, Clay and Pasco counties got the emails, but they did not open them. It’s unclear whether the cyberattack was successful anywhere else in Florida. A secret intelligence report by the National Security Agency described two efforts by a Russian military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. to disrupt the presidential election.

State officials say voting system was secure in 2016” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Florida’s online elections databases and voting systems remained secure in 2016 … despite what appears to be confirmation that a phishing email was sent to state elections offices  and news reports indicate that federal officials believe the Russians were behind it. “The Florida Department of State participated in an informational call with the FBI related to elections security at the end of September 2016, said Sarah Revell, spokesperson for the agency that oversees Florida’s elections system. “But there was no indication of a Florida-specific issue.” She denied there were any successful hacking attempts from the phishing emails investigated by the National Security Administration.

Shot tweet:

Chaser tweet:

Perry Thurston backs Gillum for Governor — Thurston, the chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, announced Tuesday he was endorsing Gillum’s gubernatorial bid. “As Governor, we can trust Mayor Gillum to be a fierce advocate for our community on so many issues – from addressing climate change, to ensuring healthcare is accessible to the most medically-needy in our state, to protecting public education from for-profit charter schools and their friends in the Legislature,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to helping him ‘Bring It Home’ for Florida!” 

Miami-Dade State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle considering statewide run in Florida” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — Rundle is mostly interested in the possibility of running for Governor but didn’t rule out running for Attorney General, said State Rep. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat who organized the meeting at her home Memorial Day weekend. While multiple Democrats have filed to run for Governor, no well-known Democrat has announced a bid for attorney general. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, a Democrat, is considering running for Attorney General. (Gov. Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, both Republicans, are term limited.) Fernandez Rundle had no timeline for making a decision, Geller said.

– “Jail inmate scalding death haunts Miami-Dade prosecutor’s plans to run for governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Tweet, tweet:

Matt Caldwell raises more than $100K for Agriculture Commissioner bid in May” via Florida Politics — The North Fort Myers Republican raised $101,1575 for his 2018 agriculture commissioner bid during a 20-day period in May, his campaign said Tuesday. While Caldwell filed to run for the statewide office May 1, he did not begin fundraising until after the 2017 Legislative Session ended. Caldwell will report ending the month with $100,458 cash on hand, according to his campaign. His political committee, Friends of Matt Caldwell, will report raising $712,825 since January. “I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support we have received and what we have been able to accomplish in our first month,” said Caldwell in a statement. “When we announced our campaign, I said this would be a grassroots endeavor.”

Now a CFO candidate, Jeremy Ring to publish a book on Yahoo experience” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Former state Senator Jeremy Ring, the only official candidate in the 2018 race to be Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, has just completed a book about his experiences working as a founding member of Yahoo. Ring said Monday he plans to publish his book this fall. “We Were Yahoo” will describe how the Silicon Valley-based company changed the world twice, Ring told a couple of dozen supporters who gathered to learn more about him at an appearance at the University Club in downtown Tampa. “The first time on the way up it pioneered the entire digital information age, and everybody knows that, but on the way down the major missteps of that company allowed Facebook and Google to grow and mature and become the companies that they were,” he said.

Assignment editors: Ring will address the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans annual conference at 11 a.m. at The Florida Hotel & Conference Center, 1500 Sand Lake Road in Orlando.

Democrat running for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s open seat drops out” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Miami businessman Scott Fuhrman, who jumped into politics last year and took on longtime Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, announced Tuesday that he’s suspending his campaign for Ros-Lehtinen’s open congressional seat in 2018. Fuhrman said a lack of support from donors was the primary reason behind his decision. “Running these campaigns costs an exorbitant amount of money, it’s really insane,” Fuhrman told the Miami Herald. “I spent over a million dollars of my own money in 2016 and this year. I couldn’t really get the support among the Democratic donor community without having to put in a huge amount of my own money in the race.”

Legislature’s financial sleuth, David Richardson, to run for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – “I’m ready for it,” Richardson said. “The most important thing is that anyone working Washington has got to work in a bipartisan way and, for the last five years, I’ve demonstrated I’ve been able to get things done in the minority.” Richardson, 60, entered a race that is already crowded with both Democrats and Republicans … He starts with a strong base as his Democratic state House district is enclosed entirely within Congressional District 27, is 60 percent Hispanic and leans Democratic. “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen because of her tenure has been amazing and exceptional with constituent services,” he said. “I really believe she could have won in 2018.” Richardson said he has been considered a run for Congress for some time but expected Ros-Lehtinen to retire in 2020. Her unexpected announcement that she will retire in 2018 after 35 years in office, accelerated his timeline.

— Flashback to May 10: “David Richardson preparing for run in CD 27” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

“Daisy Baez hit with residency complaint” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — A Coral Gables voter said he has filed a complaint against state Rep. Daisy Baez, accusing the Democrat of violating a Florida requirement that lawmakers live in the districts they represent. Christian Rodriguez asked House Speaker Richard Corcoran to investigate Baez’s residency, according to a copy of the complaint obtained by the Miami Herald. Though it is dated May 29, the House had yet to confirm receipt as of Tuesday, more than a week later. “Baez is ineligible to represent the district in the Florida House of Representatives and should be removed immediately upon a finding that she either never established her permanent residency within House District 114 or she relinquished her permanent residency,” the complaint says.

Two Republicans, one Democrat qualify for HD 116 race — State records show two Republicans, Jose Mallea and Daniel Anthony Perez, and one Democrat, Gabriela Mayaudon qualified to run for the seat. Democrat Ross Hancock, who previously filed to run for the seat, has withdrawn from the race, according to state records. Mallea and Perez will battle it out for their party’s nomination in the July 25 primary. The winner will face Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 general election. Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican, resigned his seat effective Sept. 26 to run in the Senate District 40 special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles. Artiles, a Miami-Dade Republican, resigned in April amid scandal.

— “Missing penny almost costs House candidate” via Florida Politics

– “Invisible Pasco’ activist Linda Jack to challenge Amber Mariano in House District 36” via Florida Politics

– “House candidate Berny Jacques wins another local elected official’s endorsement” via Florida Politics


After a seemingly rule-less meeting, constitution panel adopts rules” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Rules — addressing such matters as who will appoint committees, how proposals will move through committees, whether Florida’s Sunshine laws will cover everything — emerged from a sometimes chaotic debate in Orlando at a meeting that Chair Carlos Beruff adjourned suddenly after he got what he apparently wanted. By a 20-11 vote, the commission adopted a proposal from Gov. Scott-appointee Brecht Heuchan that largely adopts, as a base, the rules used by the previous state Constitution Revision Commission in 1997-98, with a few changes Heuchan said were the desires of a rules work group that had met. With that, Beruff closed down discussion or consideration of dozens of other proposals, including some amendments and then adjourned the meeting. He promised that the other suggestions would be taken up at later meetings, but made contradictory statements about whether they would be considered by the full commission, or by a rules committee, which he would be able to appoint and control. But the rules package didn’t address everything that everyone wanted, and opponents mounted challenges.

“Supreme Court will hear Florida A&M hazing appeal” via Florida Politics – The justices have decided to consider an appeal from Dante Martin, convicted in the 2011 hazing death of FAMU drum major Robert Champion. A date for oral arguments is not yet set. “Florida’s hazing statute criminalizes the type of conduct that—though physically grueling, perceived as brutal to many, and unappealing to most—is nonetheless protected under the federal constitution,” his initial brief said. Martin and Champion were both members of the school’s famed “Marching 100” band. Champion, 26, succumbed to internal injuries after a brutal beating ritual with fists, mallets and drumsticks in a band bus that was parked outside a game in Orlando. According to the AP, “the case brought into focus the culture of hazing in the band, which was suspended for more than a year while officials tried to clean up the program.” Martin, now 30, was sentenced in 2015 to 6 years and 5 months in prison on felony manslaughter and hazing charges, according to the Department of Corrections website. He is currently serving time in the Wakulla Work Camp.

National, local politics infuse union fight over panhandle county’s teachers” via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – With Alabama on its northern border and the Gulf of Mexico along its southern coast, Santa Rosa County is deep red. Even many of its teachers — a traditionally left-leaning group — didn’t want to be associated with the state and national unions’ efforts to boost Democrats. So, leaders voted to leave in late 2015. The Tallahassee-based Florida Education Association has since helped form a competing local union there and is challenging the now-independent Santa Rosa Professional Educators for the rights to collectively bargain contracts with the school district. SRPE’s leaders say the state union is coming after them out of fear that other, bigger chapters will follow their lead. Several unions from around the right-to-work state have indicated their interest in breaking away as well, the group’s president and attorney claim.

Deal for David Beckham’s Miami soccer stadium land gets approval” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press – In a 9-4 vote Tuesday, Miami-Dade County commissioners decided to allow Miami Beckham United to buy 3 acres of county land, the final piece in a nine-acre plot on which a 25,000-seat soccer stadium is planned. It’s a big win for the English soccer icon, who has spent four years – and counting – trying to bring Miami an expansion MLS franchise. “Miami is ready,” said Tim Leiweke, one of the partners in Beckham’s group. “We are committed. And the city and the county have now taken the necessary steps for us to control our own destiny for a privately financed, world-class soccer stadium for Major League Soccer. Beckham’s group will pay just over $9 million for the three-acre plot. It has already paid $19 million for the other 6 acres needed, and Leiweke said he’s hopeful a team could start playing in the stadium in 2020.

Injured Orlando Predators player loses workers’ compensation claim on appeal” via Orlando Rising — A former Orlando Predators player can’t recover workers’ compensation benefits because nobody from the Arena Football League ever signed his employment contract, the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday. Bryon Bishop attempted to claim benefits for an injury sustained during a tryout to rejoin the now-defunct team following a hiatus. A judge of compensation claims had ruled that he was entitled to them under his contract with the league. A three-judge appellate panel … cited the lack of a signature by a league representative in reversing the compensation judge. Only Bishop and a team representative had signed. The contract term was Feb. 1-Aug. 31, 2013.

Workers’ comp judge ordered to reconsider $20K attorney fee agreement” via Florida Politics — A state appeals court criticized a judge of compensation claims for denying a $20,000 attorney fee award because of unsubstantiated claims that the parties had colluded. The 1st District Court of Appeal ordered Judge John Lazzara of Tallahassee to conduct a proper evidentiary hearing in the matter. … The case involved a claim for hearing loss by Jose Delgado against City Concrete Systems Inc. and FCCI Insurance Co. The parties had agreed upon the fee award, but waited until May 2016, after the Florida Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated Castellanos v. Next Door Co. ruling on attorney fees, to file it with the judge. … The court criticized Lazzara’s seven-page order “that assumed certain unestablished facts and strongly suggested that the attorneys engaged in collusion to commit fraud.”

“Personnel note: David Mica Jr. named interim head of Florida Lottery” via Florida Politics Mica Jr., the Florida Lottery‘s chief of staff, has been named interim secretary while Gov. Scott searches for a full-time replacement, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday. Mica was officially appointed as interim on Friday, according to Lottery spokeswoman Connie Barnes. The vacancy was created by the departure of former Secretary Tom Delacenserie, now president and CEO of the Kentucky Lottery.

Sabal Trail pipeline protesters accept probation deal” via Katie Pohlman of the Ocala Star-Banner – Two protesters who crawled 250 feet into a piece of the Sabal Trail pipeline in February will receive 12 months of probation each. Karrie Kay Ford, 29, of Gainesville, and Nicholas Segal-Wright, 26, of Lake Worth, entered no contest pleas to a misdemeanor trespassing charge. Ford also entered a no contest plea to resisting a law enforcement officer. The two have to complete 30 community service hours and pay a joint restitution of $7,183 to Sabal Trail Transmission at a rate of $200 a month each during probation. They will have to decide how to pay the remaining amount after the year has passed. Both are prohibited from returning to any land or property that Sabal Trail Transmission owns or has interest in.


Orlando workplace shooter John Neumann Jr. showed ‘pattern of abuse’ court injunction says” via David Harris of the Orlando Sentinel — A former Fiamma co-worker wrote in 2014 court filings that John Robert Neumann Jr. was a “danger to our community” and showed a “pattern of abuse” that was known among other employees. … Carlos Rodriguez filed two injunctions against Neumann in May 2014 that highlighted an ongoing dispute — one for stalking and another for repeat violence. Rodriguez wrote that Neumann started verbally attacking him and “spitting in my face.” … Deputies were called to the business after Rodriguez accused Neumann of assaulting him, but no charges were filed.”

Company ‘heartbroken’ after workplace shooting near Orlando killed 5” via Emily Shapiro of ABC News — After a “disgruntled” ex-employee returned to his former workplace near Orlando, Florida, shooting and killing five people, the company said it is “heartbroken,” calling the attack “unspeakable.” … Fiamma, which is part of an Italian company that manufactures awnings and accessories for RVs, said in a statement, “The Company is heartbroken following the unspeakable attack upon our loved ones and employees. In these dark hours we ask for thoughts and prayers for all the victims of this tragedy and their families.”

Sheriff: Workplace shooting left 2 teens parentless” via The Associated Press — As families of five people killed in a workplace shooting in Florida deal with their shock and grief, a local sports league is raising money for the children of one of the victims – two teens who had already lost their mother nine years ago. Kevin Clark was a “wonderful man and an absolutely amazing, supportive and wonderful father” to his 14-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son, the local Pop Warner league said Tuesday in its fundraising appeal. … The Lake Howell Pop Warner league said Clark’s 14-year-old daughter was a cheerleader in the league, and his 18-year-old son played football in the league for several seasons. The fundraising appeal says Clark was a big supporter who “could often be found snapping pictures on the sideline during game days.”

Friend: Orlando victim feared workplace shooter would seek revenge over firing” via Troy Campbell of WKMG — A friend of Fiamma shooting victim Robert Snyder (said) …  that Snyder warned others of the gunman’s behavior prior to the shooting. It was Snyder who personally fired John Robert Neumann Jr. in April, said Lillian Crouch, who has been on a billiards team with Snyder for about three years. …. Crouch said Snyder told her at the time of Neumann’s firing that he feared Neumann would return for revenge.

— “Orlando workplace shooting victim Kevin Clark was devoted dad, passionate photographer” via Beth Kassab of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Orlando workplace shooting victim Robert Snyder was skilled billiards player, ‘awesome’” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Orlando workplace shooting victim Brenda Montanez was ‘like a ray of sunshine’” via Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Orlando workplace shooting victim Kevin Lawson was husband, father who loved motorcycles” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Orlando workplace shooting victim Jeff Roberts had been married nearly 37 yearsvia Gal Tziperman Lotman of the Orlando Sentinel


Steve Hayes: Tourism industry in jeopardy with House Bill 1A” via Florida Politics – As I watched Gov. Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and Speaker Richard Corcoran announce their plans for a special session to discuss tourism funding, I felt hopeful for the fate of Florida’s tourism industry. However, my optimism faded when I read the strict VISIT Florida provisions tucked inside House Bill 1A. Of course, I am deeply appreciative of our lawmakers’ willingness to rethink the issue of VISIT Florida’s funding, but I am concerned the severe restrictions still hinder VISIT Florida’s ability to help smaller communities compete in the increasingly aggressive tourism promotion industry. VISIT Florida must be able to operate to keep tourists, and revenue, flowing into the Sunshine State. Restoring its funding to $76 million is certainly a critical component to ensuring our tourism industry continues to flourish, but the bureaucratic red tape proposed by HB 1A counteracts the increased budget.

Pat Neal: look to Colorado — cutting visit Florida funding would be disastrous” via Florida Politics – To gauge just how disastrous major cuts to VISIT Florida would be, one must look to Colorado. Keep in mind that Colorado has a more diversified and equitable share of its gross domestic product among different industries, and is not quite as reliant upon the tourism industry alone for its revenues. So, presumably, the effects of defunding tourism marketing programs in Florida would be even more drastic than those seen in Colorado. In 1993, an obscure provision in the state law allowed for the funding of the state’s tourism marketing mechanisms to expire. This meant that Colorado became the first state to essentially eliminate its funding for tourism marketing. The effects were fairly immediate and more drastic than could have been anticipated. The elimination of their $12 million tourism marketing budget manifested in a 30 percent decrease in Colorado’s share of the domestic tourism market. In terms of dollars, this constituted a contraction of Colorado’s tourism revenue by $1.4 billion annually.

Timothy Stapleton: fighting the opioid epidemic in the exam room via Florida Politics – It’s up to all of us to come together as a community to fight this rampant problem at every level: education, prevention, treatment and recovery services. Physicians can effect positive change by staying educated on best practices and effectively communicating with their patients about treatment protocols for pain management. There is an inherent risk in prescribing highly addictive medications, particularly for patients suffering from severe chronic pain. Physicians have a duty to consider the risks versus clinical effectiveness of prescribing opioids and communicate those risks and benefits clearly and honestly to their patients. Physicians have an obligation to educate their patients while developing treatment goals. Treatment does not end when a prescription is written: An open line of communication is necessary to make appropriate clinical decisions and detect signs of opioid dependence.

John Sowinski: Gambling lobbyist finally admits it – casinos prey on customers” via Florida Politics Marc Dunbar … wears the hats of a lawyer, lobbyist and investor. And so, call it a Freudian slip or just a moment of candor, it was interesting to hear someone from the inside let us all in on how the industry views its customers – as prey. This came out in a recent interview … In it, Dunbar discussed the state’s longstanding rejection of Vegas-style resort casinos — something the industry has sought in this state for decades. Because of that prohibition, he said, “you arguably have the kind of gambling that you don’t want to have, the kind that preys primarily on your constituents, as opposed to the tourists.’’ It’s an interesting argument to make to state lawmakers – fleece the tourists to spare your voters. Perhaps it would be an argument some might buy if there was any validity to it. But it’s a fake choice. Casinos do indeed prey on customers. And the most effective method they have for doing so is with high-tech, digital slot machines. Researchers have documented that these machines create a fast-paced, immersive environment in which gamblers lose track of time and losses.


How not to lobby the Florida Legislature via J.D. Alexander‘s Facebook page:

New and renewed lobby registrations: Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: Commvault Systems; David Ramba, Allison Carvajal, and Evan Power, Ramba Consulting Group: Surgical Care Affiliates

“Personnel note: Beth Vecchioli rejoins Carlton Fields” via Florida Politics Vecchioli will be Senior Director for Government Consulting and co-Chair of the firm’s Property and Casualty Regulatory Group in its Tallahassee office. Previously, she was senior policy advisor and a member of Holland & Knight’s Florida Government Advocacy Team. “This is like coming home for me,” Vecchioli said. She was formerly with Carlton Fields for 9 years, serving as a government consultant from 2003-12. At Carlton Fields, she’ll advise clients in the areas of insurance regulation, lobbying, and financial services. Her client roster includes insurers, reinsurers, mortgage brokers and lenders, as well as national computer companies. She was a senior manager and regulator at the Florida Department of Insurance and Office of Insurance Regulation for more than 10 years.

“Personnel note: Joshua E. Doyle selected as head of Florida Bar” via Florida Politics Doyle, a Tallahassee-based special agent for the FBI, will be taking the reins from John F. “Jack” Harkness, Jr. as the next executive director of The Florida Bar, according to a Tuesday press release. Harkness, who’s been with the Bar for 37 years, will shift to an “ongoing consulting role.” They’ll start a six-month transition in July. The Bar is charged with regulating the state’s 104,000 licensed attorneys. Doyle, 37, who has spent seven years with the bureau, previously was a lawyer-lobbyist for Metz, Husband & Daughton in Tallahassee, including serving as outside legislative consultant to the Bar, the release said. Leading the Bar “is his dream job,” said name partner Jim Daughton. “It’s the only job he would have left the FBI for.”

AppointedJanet Price to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.

— ALOE —

Florida woman let snake bite baby as learning opportunity” via The Associated Press – A Florida woman is under investigation after apparently posting a video on Facebook showing a red rat snake biting her 1-year-old daughter. The woman … has no regrets for “introducing” the girl to the snake, which she found in the driveway of her home near Sebring … the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office is investigating. The woman says, “people are too sensitive” … the snake bit her and her son several times and “didn’t leave a mark.” She thought it was a good opportunity to “introduce” the girl to the snake without her getting hurt.

Universal announces Fast & Furious – Supercharged to debut next spring” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Fast & Furious – Supercharged will include a simulated 120-mph car race through the streets of Los Angeles with the Fast & Furious crew of Dom Toretto, Hobbs, Letty and Roman. The 3D attraction replaces Disaster!, an earthquake adventure that closed in 2015. The newest ride will feature Universal’s new Virtual Line system, which is being used at Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon and the Volcano Bay water park. Guests can select a time to ride in advance to avoid queues for the attraction, which will include an exhibit of show cars.

Happy birthday to Rep. Jason Brodeur and Thomas Grigsby.

Andrew Gillum, um, meets his match in Kathy Fernandez-Rundle

In the pantheon of bad campaign launches, it would be hard to match Andrew Gillum’s email-gate rollout from hell.

However, on Monday, we witnessed worse.

Somehow, Gillum’s been out done.

It is fair to say that Miami-Dade State Attorney Kathy Fernandez Rundle’s not-so-subtle trial balloon was a sh**-the-bed moment.

Why was it so bad?

Well, yes, thank you very much for someone disclosing – seemingly without permission – the names of the attending consultants. Some amazingly talented people were there, but,come on, it was very poor form to out people who haven’t signed up yet. But we’re all big boys and girls, so we will call that a minor error, but an error nonetheless.

On to the major error.

If you are going to let out a little string on the kite, it’s probably best to have at least worked out the BIGGEST STORY surrounding your candidate. Namely, the very recent protest by MEMBERS OF YOUR OWN LOCAL PARTY because you refused to prosecute some pretty bad actors. For reference, see paragraph 5 in the Miami Herald article referencing the non-rollout, non-announcement announcement.

I do not have a position on whether or not State Attorney Rundle should have at least made an attempt at prosecuting prison guards who left a man in scalding hot water for an hour and a half – I’ll let those with law degrees scuffle over that one. But someone in Run-Rundle-Run camp should have had the sense to raise a hand and say, “Um, guys…this is going to be in paragraph 5 of the Miami Herald story.”  Someone pushing this story to various news outlets should have put a little more thought into this one. The protest-from-her-own-party tale is barely a month old, so it’s not like anyone could have possibly missed it.

Shouldn’t someone have tied up those loose ends or have her take a clear and defensible stance? No comment doesn’t cut it when you are teasing a statewide run.

This IS a Democratic primary after all, and having Black Lives Matter and your local party calling you a scoundrel really is a problem.

Oh well. At least Tallahassee’s Mayor can feel better.

Would it really be so bad if lawmakers didn’t take up pot during special session?

What!? No medical marijuana in the call for a Legislative Special Session? OMG!

Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Would it be so awful if lawmakers returned and did not take up medical marijuana? Now, don’t get me wrong. I think they should. If they don’t, the Florida Department of Health will be left to develop emergency rules. The Board of Medicine will tinker. The current crop of licensees will continue to produce and sell products. The courts may (or may not) get involved, but probably not in time this year to make a difference.

But, just for a minute, let’s step back from the edge and walk through this scenario.

Right now, licensees are opening dispensaries at a fairly brisk pace – Trulieve is likely to open two in the next two weeks alone. As of this writing, there are about 12,000 patients in the registry (not 20,000 as reported in the Herald-Tribune this weekend). That’s about a six-fold increase since March! Wow!

And when lawmakers meet this week will they take up medical marijuana?

Senate President Joe Negron must agree to increase the caps on dispensaries to ensure a deal. During the regular session, he was dug in at five dispensaries per licensee. Will he be willing to move toward the House position and increase the number of dispensaries five or ten fold to get a deal? Unlikely. Negron doesn’t like to cave to the House.

What we do know is if they don’t reach a deal by close of business Tuesday, there likely won’t be a medical marijuana bill during the Special Session.

From this vantage point, it looks a lot like the functional equivalent of status quo for at least another year.

Is that really so bad? Is either scenario much different?

Before the pro-Amendment 2 folks light me up (not the worst pun ever), hear me out. Seriously take a knee for a second. Under either scenario, does the world look much different if they do or do not include medical marijuana in the call?

Don’t ply me with “their sacred duty” arguments because I agree. They should figure this out. But with almost 100 percent certainty, if they include it and they pass something, it is hard to see how or why it will make much of a difference in the near or even midterm.

The patient registry is growing briskly. Competitive fires are burning across the state as licensees are scrambling to grab market share and get to market quickly (that IS what you said you wanted) and with each passing day, a growing number of patients are receiving medical cannabis as treatment. Last I checked, the world hasn’t ended.

But here’s another truth: nobody (especially the ardent pro-Amendment 2 folks) is going to be happy or even satisfied if they include medical cannabis in the call and pass something that is almost certainly going to be a compromise.

So it won’t be the end of the world if the lawmakers don’t tackle pot this week.

Sunburn for 6.6.17 – Graham trumps King; Ashley Moody’s BFF; WTF CRC?; Deal on pot for Special Session?; Rosanna Catalano’s new gig; Prayers for Orlando

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

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

Good morning from … Madeira Beach. That’s right, after 26 days, we’re back home and likely not leaving again for a very long time. As wonderful as our adventure was, there truly is no place like home. Let’s begin this edition with a scoop from the campaign trail.


Gwen Graham has only officially been in the race for governor for about a month, but her campaign is reporting she has raised more than $2.25 million, surpassing the $2 million raised by rival Chris King.

According to her campaign, Graham raised $1.5 million in May — $430,000 to her official campaign account and more than $1 million toward Our Florida Political Committee, the political committee backing her 2018 run. The combined total raised between the campaign and political committee is now $2.25 million, according to her campaign.

“I’m humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received from Floridians across our state. Florida families understand that after almost twenty years of Republican rule in Tallahassee, we’re running out of time. Too many families are struggling to get by, too many children are at risk of losing their future, and too much of our land and water is threatened,” she said in a statement. “As governor, I will renew our promise to public education, build an economy that works for every Floridian, and fight to protect our environment.”

The King campaign said Monday it had passed the $2 million mark in total contributions in May, and raised $212,000 during the one-month period, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

May fundraising numbers weren’t immediately available for Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Campaign finance reports covering the month of May are due to the Division of Elections by June 12.

***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***


Libertarian candidate Joe Wendt entering 2018 U.S. Senate race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Wendt, 32, has claim to fame in the Libertarian Party of Florida, having finished second with 43 percent of the vote in a 2012 Soil and Water Conservation District race in Hillsborough County, one of the best showings ever for a Libertarian in any Florida election. This time he wants to shoot statewide, focusing on incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and his expected Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott in the 2018 election. “I’m realistic, but I think I can do well,” Wendt said. …  He also may be looking at a potentially major candidate for a primary within the Libertarian Party: right-wing political fire-breather, consultant, and author Roger J. Stone Jr. The consultant to President Donald Trump’s campaign is a registered Libertarian, and he’s been subject to rumors this year, as well as in 2016, that he would seek office himself, in Florida. They’re rumors that Stone himself apparently likes to stoke, including in a Draft Roger Stone for Senate Facebook page that includes pictures of him in front of Roger Stone for Senate signs, and no one is quite certain if he’s serious.

Wendy Davis backs Graham for Governor — The former Texas state senator threw her support behind Graham during a Ruth’s List event in Orlando over the weekend. “She has shown compassion, grit, and a determination to work for all Floridians. I am proud to endorse Gwen Graham for Governor of Florida,” said Davis in a statement. “When I took to the floor of the Texas State Senate to filibuster a bill that would restrict vital women’s health care access, and then ran for Governor of Texas, I did so because someone had to take a stand. Now I’m proud to be standing with Gwen as we chart the future of values we care about.” Graham, a former U.S. representative, said as Florida’s first female governor she would make Florida “one that respects women and gives them the support they need to be successful.”

Assignment editors: Gillum will meet with the Puerto Rican Leadership Council at 9 a.m. at the Center for Peace Islamic Society of Central Florida, 1021 N. Goldenrod Road in Orlando. Gillum will then highlight protecting seniors’ healthcare and retirement benefits during remarks to the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans Annual Conference at 11 a.m. at the Florida Hotel & Conference Center, 1500 Sand Lake Road in Orlando.

Pam Bondi to back Tampa’s Ashley Moody to succeed her as Attorney General” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times — Bondi said on Monday that Moody is her preferred successor, and the candidate she will support in the 2018 race. “I’ve known her most of her life,” Bondi said. “I don’t think there could be a more qualified candidate for attorney general in the entire state of Florida. I whole-heartedly support Ashley and I’m proud of her for wanting to sacrifice so much for our state.” … Moody served as a circuit judge in Hillsborough for 10 years before abruptly resigning in April. …. Last week, Moody filed to run for the office with the state Division of Elections. She is expected to officially announce her candidacy Tuesday. The other candidates are Republican State Representative Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Democrat Ryan Torrens of Tampa . “No one will outwork Ashley Moody in this race,” Bondi said.

“Mitch Berger may run for Attorney General if Jack Seiler doesn’t” via Amy Sherman of the Miami HeraldMitchell Berger, a prominent Democratic donor, says he will consider running for Florida Attorney General if Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler decides not to run. “If he says ‘no’ I will certainly think about it,” Berger said. “I’m trying to get Jack to do it. He would be the right person — he would have my support if he is going to do it.” Berger founded Berger Singerman law firm in 1985 and lives in Fort Lauderdale. He has hosted several fundraisers for national candidates including Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Happening Thursday — Annette Taddeo hosts fundraiser at The Biltmore Hotel — Taddeo’s campaign is hosting a fundraiser at 6 p.m. at The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. The event host committee, according to the campaign, features a “growing list of supporters who are excited about picking up a key state Senate seat in Miami-Dade and are enthusiastically behind Annette’s campaign.” The host committee, according to a copy of the invitation, includes Rep. Charlie Crist, David Geller, Chris Korge, and John Morgan. A few lawmakers who were expected to attend were taken off the invite because of the special session, said Christian Ulvert, Taddeo’s political consultant, in an email accompanying the invitation. Lawmakers can’t fundraise during session. Taddeo is one of three Democrats vying to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal, in Senate District 40. Democrats Ana Rivas Logan and Steve Smith are also running for their party’s nomination. On the Republican side, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz are running. The special primary is July 25, with the special general election on Sept. 26.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla’s sole income source: Firm he founded, paid $900K for work on brother’s failed race” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The Republican state Senate candidate made all his income last year through a political consulting firm he founded the same year it was paid nearly $1 million for work on his brother’s failed state Senate run. Díaz de la Portilla said his firm, First Stone Management, which he started in January 2016, earned income from other sources in addition to his brother’s campaign and committees associated with the race. He said that money was from private sources and would not discuss it further because it is “proprietary and confidential.” He would only say that his firm was paid from outside sources for things like advertising and mailers. … “Work was done for multiple clients,” he told POLITICO Florida. “90 percent was flow-through to everything from TV to US Post office. All the mediums used in political communication.”

Bob Buckhorn crosses party lines to help Shawn Harrison’s bid for re-election” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – As Harrison already begins looking forward to getting re-elected next year, he’s getting assistance from one of the biggest Democrats in the region, Buckhorn. “I support people who support the City of Tampa and our legislative issues,” Buckhorn told in a text message. “He never forgot what it was like to be a local elected official and has been a voice of reason in a political party that has made local government a target. It seems to me that we are all better served when our elected officials care more about their community that their political issues.” Harrison has voted against the majority of his party in a few notable cases, such as when he supported a hybrid version of Medicaid expansion a few years ago. He also supported economic incentives for Enterprise Florida, a position Buckhorn backed and which earned him the public rebuke of Gov. Scott at an appearance at MOSI early this year.

Save the date: Shawn Harrison to host June 29 fundraiser — The Tampa Republican is kicking off his 2018 re-election campaign with a fundraiser at the Tampa Theatre. The event is hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls, according to a copy of the invitation. 

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Democrat Bob Doyel, a former circuit judge, has filed to run against Sen. Kelli Stargel in Senate District 22. Republican Michael Cantu has filed to run against Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry in House District 26. Cantu, who unsuccessfully ran in 2014 and 2016, is a former professional musician and a graduate of the University of Central Florida. Three Republicans have filed to replace House Speaker Richard Corcoran in House District 37. Bill Gunter, a pastor at Redeemer Community Church, has filed to run for the seat. Gunter won the GOP primary to replace Mike Fasano during a 2013 special election, but ultimately lost to Amanda Murphy. Elle Rudisill, an assistant state attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit in Pinellas and Pasco counties, also announced she planned to run. George Agovino filed to run for the seat earlier this year. Corcoran can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Democrat Carmelo Garcia filed to run against Rep. Sam Killebrew, a Winter Haven republican, In House District 41. In 2016, he briefly ran in Florida’s 9th Congressional District. Democrat Tony Munnings has filed to run against Rep. Cary Pigman in House District 55. Munnings has previously filed to run for office, but failed to qualify in the last two election cycles. Democrat David Poulin droped out of the House District 56 race, leaving two Republicans — Melony Bell and Jeff Mann — vying to replace Rep. Ben Albritton, who can’t run again because of term limits. Democrat Jeffrey Solomon has filed to run in House District 115. Solomon, a South Florida chiropractor, has run in House District 115 three times before. He challenged Rep. Michael Bileca in 2012 and 2016, and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in 2010.


You could call it the wild west of the Florida Constitution.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has been operating without an agreed upon set of rules since March, when the uniquely Florida committee convened for the first time in 20 years.  

Since then, the 37-member committee has been touring the state, hearing from Floridians interested in everything from restoring voting rights for non-violent felons to seceding from the union — plus plenty of people have been sounding off about the rules, or in this case the lack thereof.

That could all end today when the full commission meets at the University of Central Florida’s FAIRWINDS Alumni Center to consider — and likely vote on, the rules of the 2017-18 commission. But with dozens of amendments and substitute amendments on the agenda, don’t expect it to be a short and peaceful meeting.

Some background: Commission Chairman Carlos Beruff, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, has proposed rules that would, among other things, limit the full committee’s power to override committees; allow private meetings between committee members; and give Beruff the power to send proposals back to committees after another committee amends it.

Those rules have drawn the ire of watchdog groups, and even some of the members of the commission. While a working group was formed to offer up suggestions, members of the working group — including Sen. Tom Lee, appointed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and former Sen. Don Gaetz, appointed by Senate President Joe Negron — have indicated they aren’t in favor of the rules as written.

Lee filed an amendment last week to adopt the 1997-98 commission rules. Gaetz and Rich Newsome, who was appointed by Corcoran, have co-sponsored the amendment.

Gaetz has filed several amendments, including one that would allow two or more commissioners to meet to discuss commission business, as long as the meeting is “publicly noticed by the Secretary of the Commission on the Commission’s website with at least three hours’ notice and is held in a meeting room in the Capitol Complex approved for such purpose.”

The full commission meets at 9 a.m. at the University of Central Florida’s FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, 12676 Gemini Blvd. N. in Orlando. The meeting is open to the public and will be live-streamed on


“‘Progress’ on getting marijuana in Special Session but ‘no deal’ yet” via Florida PoliticsLegislative leaders working behind the scenes are getting closer to putting medical cannabis implementation into the call of this week’s Special Session. One senator, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “some progress” had been made but there was “no deal” as of Monday afternoon. When this week’s Wednesday-Friday Special Session was announced last Friday, it only included plans to fund education, tourism marketing and economic development. That’s despite dozens of lawmakers, including House Speaker Corcoran, who have said the Legislature needs to pass implementing legislation this year for the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana.

Bill filed detailing student funding for Special Session” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Many of the specific amounts that House PreK-12 Appropriations chairman Manny Diaz proposed remain the same from measure to measure. Those include spending levels for school recognition, exceptional student education, safe schools, supplemental academic instruction, instructional materials, classroom supplies, student transportation and digital classrooms. Under Diaz’s bill, the base student allocation would rise $43.24 over the fourth calculation from 2016-17, to $4,203.95. That amount is $70.31 higher than the BSA lawmakers initially adopted this spring. The Diaz proposal also would decrease school districts overall required local tax effort by more than $1.5 million from the original budget. Lawmakers passed a bill calling for $7,605,379,015. HB 3A would set the required local effort at $7,603,850,013.

New economic development bill gives governor $85 million grant fund with few strings attached” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The agreement, between House Speaker Corcoran and the governor, and signed off on by Senate President Negron last week, paved the way for Scott to sign the $83 billion budget … and call for a three-day special session … In calling back legislators, the governor directed them to add $215 million in K-12 funding to the budget, restore $75 million to the tourism marketing agency, Visit Florida and create an $85 million grant program within the Department of Economic Opportunity. If they pass the bills, many expect the governor to sign Corcoran’s priority legislation, HB 7069. The economic development bill proposed by the House, HB 1A, will regulate how taxpayer money is used for economic development. The bill says that DEO and Enterprise Florida will “identify projects, solicit proposals, and make funding recommendations to the Governor, who is authorized to approve” them.

“Rick Scott defends record-setting budget vetoes” via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressScott‘s veto total – which was about 14 percent of the entire $82.4 billion budget – included the main state account that goes to public schools. But the governor also vetoed roughly 400 projects worth nearly $410 million that were placed in the budget by Republicans and Democrats. Some counties that are home to top Republican legislators – including Miami-Dade, Pasco and Pinellas counties – had a long list of budget vetoes. Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, who had several projects vetoed, tweeted out that “we won’t stop fighting for the worthy projects Floridians need, want and deserve.” During a stop in Panama City, Scott maintained that his vetoes did not target any legislators who had upset him this year. “We look at every line to see whether it’s good for Florida families,” Scott said.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with 25 bills on Monday. He has until Tuesday, June 20 to act. As of Monday, 93 bills were on the Governor’s desk. Monday’s bills include SB 128, a procedural fix to the state’s “stand your ground” law; SB 436 on “religious expression in public schools,” and SB 494, which would allow more people wrongfully convicted and imprisoned in Florida to receive compensation for their time behind bars.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will highlight security funding for Jewish Day schools during a press conference at 9 a.m. at Brauser Maimonides Academy, 5300 SW 40th Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. He’ll then highlight the funding during a press conference at noon at Orlando Torah Academy, 8651 Commodity Circle in Orlando.  

“Mike Dew named Secretary of Florida Department of Transportation” via Florida PoliticsAs expected, Gov. Scott named Dew, the Florida Department of Transportation‘s chief of staff, as its next Secretary, effective immediately … first told readers that Dew had received a call from the Governor’s Office telling him the job was his. Dew, who put in for the top spot the morning of the deadline to apply, was Scott‘s external affairs director in 2011-12. He bested the other finalists: Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse and former FDOT assistant secretary Richard Biter. The position became open when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

— Flashback to May 17  – “Mike Dew is a shoo-in for Transportation Dep’t’s top job” via Florida Politics

P.S. Look for Dave Mica, Jr. to be named interim Secretary of the Florida Lottery.


Assignment editors: First Lady Ann Scott will make her first stop on her 2017 Summer Literacy Adventure at 10 a.m. (CDT) at Eden Gardens State Park, 181 Eden Gardens Road in Santa Rosa Beach. Scott is expected to read to students from The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast during her visit. 

Happening tonight – Marco Rubio, F. Rooney expected to join President Trump for dinner — President Donald Trump has invited a half dozen members of Congress to dinner at the White House, according to POLITICO. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican and the former ambassador to the Holy See, are among those expected to attend the outreach dinner. Also on the invite list, according to POLITICO, Sens. Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton, and Todd Young, and Rep. Lee Zeldin.

“New deal? Gretna asks court to reconsider slots ruling” via Florida PoliticsLawyers for a North Florida racetrack have asked the state’s Supreme Court to rehear argument in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them. Gretna Racing filed a motion for rehearing late Friday, court dockets show … Last month, the court unanimously ruled against the track, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots cannot offer them … The track’s 12-page motion counters, in part, that the justices “misapprehended” case law on counties’ home rule authority.

“No Casinos responds to criticism it’s ‘misinformed’ about casino gambling” via Florida PoliticsThe state’s anti-gambling expansion group is pushing back against comments it’s “misinformed” about casino gambling not being a “meaningful attraction for Florida tourism.” Steven Norton, a longtime gambling executive and consultant, linked to Nick Sortal’s Friday column for the Miami Herald in Norton’s Monday email roundup of the gambling scene in the South … In his own commentary, Norton points to Las Vegas: “It’s not just the gaming, but the entire experience… you will find many potential visitors who will not vacation at a resort unless casino gaming is available.” … But Paul Seago, No Casinos’ executive director, pointed to a report commissioned by the Legislature in 2013 — the same one mentioned in the Herald column — concluding that “even if destination casinos were built, 95 percent of the revenue would be derived from locals.”

Regulators reject Duke request to make customers pay more” via Florida Politics — State utility regulators refused to let Duke Energy Florida add $4.70 to customers’ bills effective July 1 to cover rising fuel costs. The Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, voted instead to make the utility wait until this fall to propose a fuel-cost adjustment. Any increase would begin to take effect July 1 next year. That could mean a steeper increase next July 1, when a separate $4.25 boost tied to the coming online of a new natural gas-fired generating plant in Citrus County. The utility plans to retire one of its coal-burning generators. But it would allow a truer picture of Duke’s actual fuel costs for the year, the commissioner reasoned. “(Duke) wanted to smooth it out, and the commission said, No, we’d rather just look at it all in the upcoming hearing in the fall, and see it there are offsets. And maybe we can look at your projections and see whether you are projecting something wrong,” Deputy Public Charles Rehwinkel said.

Cover-up at Port Richey P.D.?” via Noah Pransky of WTSP – Following a whistleblower’s tip, 10Investigates launched a four-month investigation into the Port Richey Police Department, where officers allegedly accessed personnel records to remove detrimental discipline and evaluations: an apparent violation of several Florida state criminal statutes. Research included numerous records requests and interviews with officers, former officers, and several with current police chief, Gerard DeCanio … not only had dozens of disciplinary documents gone missing from both police department and city HR records, but also a lack of appetite from DeCanio to launch an internal investigation or ask for outside help to get to the bottom of how the records – which are required to be retained by state law – disappeared. DeCanio insisted the problems happened before he re-joined the department October as chief.


Sheriff: Fired worker kills 5, then self as sire approached” via Terrance Harris and Mike Schneider with the Associated Press — A lone gunman returned with a semi-automatic pistol to the Orlando awning factory where was fired in April and methodically killed five people on Monday, then killed himself at the sound of an approaching siren, the Orange County sheriff said. Sheriff Jerry Demings identified the shooter as John Robert Neumann Jr., a 45-year-old Army veteran who lived alone and did not appear to be a member of any type of subversive or terrorist organization. The shooting began at about 8 a.m. after Neuman slipped through a rear door into the cavernous factory, an area that stretches across more than two football fields where awnings are stitched together for recreational vehicles. “My experience tells me that this individual made deliberate thought to do what he did today. He had a plan of action,” the sheriff said. “We have information that at least one of (the victims), he had a negative relationship with. He was certainly singling out the individuals he shot.”

Orlando shooter came in knowing who he wanted to kill, not to kill” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said John Robert Neumann Jr., 45, whose hometown has not yet been disclosed, slipped in through a rear door of Fiamma and encountered a new employee, a temporary employee, who was not working there when Neumann was fired a few weeks ago in April. “He pointed a firearm at her and told her to get out of the business,” Demings said. … In a matter of a few minutes, Neumann had killed Robert Snyder, 59, Brenda Motanez-Crespo, 44, Kevin Clark, 53, Jeffrey Roberts, 57, and Kevin Lawson, 47, at the Fiamma facility on Forsyth Road, just north of the Hanging Moss Road intersection in east Orange County.

 Orlando shootings: WFTV anchor turns personal” via Hal Boedecker of the Orlando Sentinel — Coverage of the Orlando shootings Monday morning took an unusually personal turn for WFTV-Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez. She relayed that she was hearing from a childhood friend — a pal who said that her father-in-law was among those shot. The WFTV anchor told her friend that she loved her but acknowledged that few details about what happened were then available. … As viewers waited for confirmation of what had happened, Alvarez also dropped the anchor veneer. She said she was sick of all the violence and cited an incident last week when a man brandished a fake gun at Orlando International Airport. “This isn’t Orlando,” she said. She said the community would come together.

— “Orlando shooter: Who is John Robert Neumann Jr.?” via Christal Hayes of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida leaders react to the Orlando shooting:

— U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson: “The city of Orlando, which is still healing from the Pulse massacre, has seen too much violence this past year. We must do more to address mental health issues in this country.”

— Gov. Scott: “Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam: “In the wake of today’s shooting in Orange County, my prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, first responders and the entire the Central Florida community.”

— Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum: “My deepest sympathies go out to the victims’ families and friends after today’s tragedy in Winter Park. It has been a difficult year for the Orlando area – one punctuated by the worst mass shooting in American history and a tragedy where two law enforcement officers lost their lives. But the community has rallied together to stand united in love and solidarity, and in the wake of today’s mass shooting, I pray they find the strength to continue to do so. We must do more to stop Florida’s epidemic of gun violence – not simply send our thoughts and prayers in the wake of lost lives.”

— U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy: “I’m incredibly saddened by the news of this morning’s tragic shooting in Orlando. My heart breaks for the families and co-workers affected, and I join all Floridians in praying for a quick recovery for those injured and for the families who lost a loved one. The Orlando community is also grateful to our first responders for their speed, bravery, and professionalism, especially the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. I am incredibly thankful for their dedicated public service. “Orlando has endured far too much heartbreak over the past year, and it’s especially important we remain united and supportive of one another. This senseless act of violence happened just one week away from the anniversary of the Pulse attack, only adding to our community’s collective grief. In these difficult moments, we must continue to find strength in one another. We are Orlando strong and Orlando united.”

— U.S. Rep. Darren Soto: “Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims of #ForsythShooting. I encourage public to support law enforcement investigation.”

— Sen. Linda Stewart: “Orlando business shooting is not terrorist attack. Mental Health issues more likely, again a continued need for more help.”

— Rep. Jason Brodeur: “Hug your family. Be vigilant. Local Family Help Line: 407-679-0100. Ext. 3087.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls: “My heartfelt prayers to the families & victims of the shooting in Orlando. A big thank you to first responders who contained the situation.”

— Rep. Jennifer Sullivan: “Praying for the families effected in the Orlando shooting. My heart is grieved at the thought of yet more loss.”

— Rep. Frank White: “Thoughts and prayers for those affected in today’s tragic shooting in Orlando.”

— State Attorney Aramis Ayala: “A sad day in Orlando. My most sincere condolences to the families impacted. Much respect and honor to Orange County Sheriff’s Office and first responders.”


Darryl Paulson: In defense of politics” via Florida Politics – How did politics fall from “the greatest and most honorable adventure,” to ranking below cockroaches? Polarization, hypocrisy and corruption are three primary factors associated with the decline of politics. Compromise is seen as weakness and an evil … Politics has made important contributions to our nation. In fact, our nation would not exist if it was not for the political efforts of those who opposed the tyranny of the Crown. Without politics, we would not have our constitution, over which they were great divisions. We would not have ended slavery and kept the nation united without politics. We would not have triumphed over the horrors of fascism in World War II or communism in the Cold War without a united political effort. Those who denigrate politics and politicians do so at their own peril.

Joe Henderson: Tallahassee gets Special Session, the public gets the bill” via Florida PoliticsScott got what he wanted. Corcoran got what he wanted. What everyone else got was a take-it-or-leave-it deal that smacked of smoke-filled rooms and quid pro quos. Even Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who chairs the Senate’s budget panel on tourism and economic development, was left out of the conversation. That led to this cynical tweet from Republican state Senator and possible gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala: “It’s a shame the House wouldn’t negotiate during the regular session. Now we have to spend $60-70k a day on a special session.” Write that on the tombstone for this Legislative Session. Corcoran really, really wanted more money for those “Schools of Hope” charters that would otherwise have gone to public schools. Assuming lawmakers go along to get along, Corcoran wins. Scott wins. And what do we, the people, receive? As always, we get the bill.


Appointed Virginia Johns to the Governing Board of Suwannee River Water Management District; Clifford Newsome to the Calhoun County School Board; Jaime Weisinger and Brandon Tucker to the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District and John Henslick to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Appointed – Judge Eric Roberson to the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court; Gregory G. Groger to the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court and Thomas James Coleman to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.

“Personnel note: Rosanna Catalano joins Capitol Access” via Florida Politics Attorney Catalano is joining Capitol Access, a government relations firm in Tallahassee. “We are excited about this new relationship,” said Jerry Paul, founder and managing member of the firm. “Ro’s experience, professionalism, and high-energy personality are a perfect fit for Capitol Access and the clients we serve.” Catalano has been executive director and chief administrative officer for the Florida Elections Commission, according to a press release. She also was assistant general counsel at the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Brett Heuchan, The Labrador Company: AltMed LLC; Richard Heffley, Kelly Horton, Heffley & Associates: FFT Technologies

On this week’s edition of The RotundaTrimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, features the Orlando Sentinel’s Gray Rohrer reporting on the art of the backroom deals leading to Governor Rick Scott’s official call for a special session. Plus, President Donald Trump finds an unlikely ally in a former Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party. Gomes also interviews Barney Bishop who says many other Blue Dog Democrats are standing in support of Trump and his calls for Tax Reform.

— ALOE — 

Collector charged in theft of Star Wars items in California” via Kristen Bender of The Associated PressSteve Sansweet, the owner of the largest privately owned collection of Star Wars memorabilia in the world, said he feels lucky he found out about the theft of $200,000 worth of prized vintage action figures from his California nonprofit museum before it was too late. About 120 pieces were stolen between 2015 and 2016 by a friend who stayed at the compound four times during that period, Sansweet said. The sprawling collections are set up on shelves and are not behind glass or under lock and key. About 100 of the stolen items have been recovered, he said. Police arrested Carl Edward Cunningham, 45, of Marietta, Georgia, and in March, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office charged him with felony grand theft.

Happy birthday to Reps. Charles McBurney and Jeanette Nunez.

Sunburn for 6.4.17 — Where’s Jack?; The new ‘Veto Corleone’; Jeremy Ring hits the trail; Steve Bousquet looks back

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

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

If you know him, it should come as no surprise that it was Gus Corbella, the well-traveled Greenberg Traurig lobbyist, who first reached out to me Saturday night.

“Y’all ok?”

At that moment, I had no clue about which Corbella was referring. In fact, since it was late Saturday night, my first assumption was the Tampa Bay Times had gone live with a story about me that would run in the Sunday newspaper.

Of course, my assumption could not be more wrong. Soon several text messages popped up on my phone, as well as on the phones of the people around me. Diners were getting up from their tables and walking out of the restaurant without finishing their meals.

And that’s when the flood of flashing blue lights from the emergency vehicles racing down the street poured in through the glass of our restaurant.

London was under attack.

Twitter was blasting rapid-fire updates about a van running down pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbings in two neighborhoods near the bridge.

Hey, weren’t we just at London Bridge earlier that day?

Michelle and Ella had been in the bathroom while all of this was happening. I was already on my way to find them when we all saw each other. Michelle said later I was ashen-faced. Ella understood something was going on and she asked her mother not to lie to her.

The hotel staff was directing guests inside. More emergency vehicles raced by. Everyone was moving with intensity, if not purpose.

We were not close to the attacks but we were nearby. And, as tourists, we didn’t know what was close and what was far. We were scared.

This was the third time in as many weeks that our family vacation had been punctured by terrorism or the threat thereof. When we landed in England two weeks ago, it was on the same day as the bombing in Manchester. There was the scare outside Notre Dame. And now there was the attack at London Bridge.

How do people endure this?

I guess they just do. The Israelis have for decades.

Want to know who one of my favorite people from Saturday night is? The man who calmly walked away from the terror attack with his pint still in hand.

And so is Richard Angell, the man who returned to the London Bridge restaurant after the attacks to pay his dinner bill.

And so are the bar patrons who fought off the attackers by throwing pint glasses at them.

And, most of all, the heroes were the London police, who took just eight minutes from the moment they were contacted to confront and kill the three attackers.

As I write this, its morning rush hour in London and the streets are filled with people and cars. We are leaving here, imbued with a sense of solidarity with these brave people.

So to answer my friend Gus’ question, yeah, we’re OK.

Tweet, tweet:


What does Jack Latvala have up his sleeve?

The Clearwater Republican, chair of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, was suspiciously out of the limelight Friday as Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders announced their plans for a Special Session.

He did tweet and post on Facebook: “It’s a shame the House wouldn’t negotiate during the regular session. Now we have to spend $60-70k a day on a special session.”

(Of course, that did invite a response from Facebook commenter Roy Rhodes: “Welcome to the Florida legislature Jack! You’ve been there for years.”)

On Facebook and in another tweet, Latvala added, “Glad to see the House agree to positions the Senate took during regular session on Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida and K-12 funding.”

But otherwise, he kept his head down — which always makes us curious.

Latvala will be term-limited in the Senate come next year.

And we’re mindful of stories from last month that said he’s “leaning” toward jumping into the race for Governor in 2018, but that he wouldn’t decide till “June or July.”

Well, it’s June.

The clock ticks. Maybe he’s wrapped up in other political planning. Stay tuned …

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Gov. Scott signed a nearly $83 billion state budget Friday and released a list of line item vetoes amounting to nearly $12 billion.

The vetoes included individual projects worth $409 million — much of the rest represented Scott’s rejection of efforts to take money from dedicated trust funds.

Scott vetoed $11.5 billion associated with the Florida Education Finance Program — money for the public schools.

“I am also vetoing General Revenue funds which I believe should be allocated to our students in public schools,” Scott wrote.

“This action can be accomplished without changing the required local effort … previously authorized and agreed upon by the Florida Legislature in the budget,” he added.

In other words, Scott accepted the Legislature’s decision to lower property tax rates for public education, allowing homeowners to benefit from rising property values.

— Here’s Scott’s veto message

— Here’s the list of line item vetoes


Corcoran hopeful new law, apology brings ‘closure’ to Dozier case” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida — Scott signed into law a bill that authorizes two memorials dedicated to the memories of boys who lived and died at what was once the nation’s largest reform school, and directs $1.2 million so the victims’ unclaimed and unidentified burial remains can be returned to two Northwest Florida counties. “Today’s signing, coupled with an official apology led by the House earlier this year, will hopefully bring some closure and healing to all those affected directly or indirectly by the atrocities that occurred at the Arthur Dozier School for Boys,” said House Speaker Corcoran …”I thank Governor Scott for signing this legislation, I thank the many House and Senate Members who passionately took up this cause, and look forward to seeing the construction of a memorial that is a tribute to those lost and a testament to the strength of those who never gave up the fight.”

‘(Friday’s) signing … will hopefully bring some closure and healing to all those affected directly or indirectly by the atrocities that occurred,’ said House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a statement. Photo credit: AP.

Scott approves vote-by-mail fix” via LobbyTools — Among the 33 bills Gov. Scott signed into law Friday was HB 105, a bill requiring supervisors of elections to notify voters when their signature is rejected. Voters with mismatched signatures can submit an affidavit to confirm their vote-by-mail ballot is legitimate.

Scott signs Triumph Gulf Coast bills into law” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — The first payment of BP’s $1.5 billion settlement for the 2010 oil spill will be transferred to Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., which will spend the money on projects in eight Panhandle counties affected by the spill. The counties include Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla. BP will make payments until 2033 as part of the settlement. The new law mandates that at least 75 percent of all future payments be transferred to Triumph Gulf Coast within 30 days of being received.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will ceremonially sign the Triumph Gulf Coast bill during a bill signing ceremony at 11 a.m. (CDT) at Venture Crossings, 5900 Venture Crossings Blvd. in Panama City. He’ll hold a second ceremonial bill signing event at 1:30 p.m. (CDT) at VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering at Pensacola International Airport, 2430 Airport Boulevard in Pensacola. The airport location is an active construction site, and media should enter via Langley Avenue.


Save the date: Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Andrew GillumGwen Graham and Chris King are expected to appear at a candidate forum on June 17. The forum is part of the Florida Democratic Party’s “Leadership Blue Gala,” a three-day event that features a keynote speech by former Vice President Joe Biden.

Assignment editors — Former Yahoo executive and State Sen. Jeremy Ring is expected to elaborate upon his plans to run for Florida CFO at a gathering with supporters and community leaders in Hillsborough County. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the University Club, 201 N. Franklin St., Suite 3800 in Tampa.

Old news: “Fresh off big talk-radio endorsement, DeSantis makes moves to run for governorvia Marc Caputo today. “Ron DeSantis for Governor: Don’t rule it out” via A.G. Gankarski on May 16

Tony Knox is a polished politician” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — The veteran shoe shiner has filed to run for Florida governor in 2018 without any party affiliation. He has spent 30 years shining the shoes of Florida power brokers, along Monroe Street, in Adams Street bars, and at the airport. “The Speaker’s office, Senate President’s, the Governor’s, I’ve been in all of those places,” Knox said while working on a pair of wing tips on the steps of the state Capitol. “I know what goes on in this building,” he added, confiding he has been in the room when deals have been cut.

“Democrats bet health care bill will help them oust Brian Mast via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm — Democrats already are targeting the freshman Republican from Palm City for voting in favor of the controversial American Health Care Act that 55 percent of Americans view unfavorably, according to a May poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Under the bill approved by the House, the number of uninsured people would rise by 23 million in the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Democrats hope grass-roots momentum, President Trump‘s slumping approval ratings and voter anger over the bill will ignite a Democratic takeover of Congress. They envision something similar to the Republican Party wave after passage of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” in 2010. Mast has come under attack by such groups as Indivisible, a grass-roots movement created to resist Trump’s agenda, as have GOP lawmakers across the country. Ousting Mast, however, will be a steep climb.

In ads, Koch-backed group asks Carlos Curbelo to oppose border adjustment tax” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — The Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity is launching a six-figure digital ad campaign urging Curbelo to “support AFP’s plan to un-rig the economy.” Curbelo sits on the Ways and Means Committee that will rewrite tax policy. He hasn’t publicly supported or opposed the tax so far. “We hope Congressman Curbelo uses his leadership role in passing pro-growth tax reform based on AFP’s 5 Principles of simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and no new burden on taxpayers,” AFP state director Chris Hudson said in a statement. “That starts with opposing a border adjustment tax — a trillion-dollar tax on consumers masquerading as a tax on imports.”

Democrats take advantage of high-profiles absences during District 40 forum” via Martin Vassolo with the Miami Herald — Scheduling conflicts prevented Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla from addressing a mostly black crowd at the panel inside Second Baptist Church … leaving some community members disappointed. Wylamerle Marshall, 89, said their absences proved to her they were not committed to serving her district, District 40 in Southwest Miami-Dade. “Their not being involved in the process tells me they are not that interested in the position that they are running for,” she said. “I would not waste my time with them.” The absence left just one Republican in attendance, attorney Lorenzo Palomares. … Democrats in the race — former state Rep. Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith and Annette Taddeo — along with independent candidate Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth, maintained their support for climate science and said they fear dramatic sea-level rise in Miami-Dade County.

The Marlins stadium saga and Miami’s hot Senate GOP primary” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla opposed public funding for a potential Major League Soccer stadium. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, trailing the well-known Diaz de la Portilla in early polls, replied with a couple of links to stories from 2006 and 2007, when Diaz de la Portilla favored legislative proposals to benefit the Marlins’ quest for a baseball stadium. In 2007, Diaz de la Portilla filed a bill giving the Marlins — who then shared the Miami Dolphins’ stadium in Miami Gardens — a $60 million state tax subsidy over 30 years so the county could build the ballclub a $490 million, publicly owned stadium. As for Diaz: In 2013, he voted against giving the Dolphins up to $200 million in tax incentives to help renovate their stadium. In 2012, he sponsored a proposal — likely running afoul of the Florida Constitution — saving the city of Miami from being on the hook for a huge property-tax bill for its Marlins stadium parking garages.


Florida city ‘rats’ on self to evict homeless from park” via The Associated Press — Fort Lauderdale called the state health department last month to report rats in city-owned Stranahan Park. A state health inspector cited the city and gave it 30 days to clean the park. Using that citation, Fort Lauderdale ordered 60 people from the park and threw away any belongings that went unclaimed. Advocates for the homeless said one woman lost a laptop computer while others lost birth certificates, Social Security cards, identification cards and family photos. Mayor Jack Seiler said that when the state cited the city, officials had no choice. “When the Department of Health had to intervene … we had to act.” He said that the city is under no obligation to give homeless people a comfortable existence in the park when their presence harms nearby businesses.

OIR approves nearly 20,000 Citizens takeouts for August” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools — The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved 19,520 policies for removal from the state’s insurer of last resort, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., in August. National Special Insurance Company is approved to remove up to 4,520 personal residential policies and Southern Oak Insurance Company can remove up to 15,000 policies. So far in 2017, 89,244 policies have been approved for removal from Citizens, though OIR reports only 12,276 have been removed.

Limits on marijuana dispensaries get new life in Hillsborough after lobbying from grower” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Just three months after declaring Hillsborough County open to boundless medical marijuana businesses, commissioners now may put a cap on how many dispensaries can set up shop … the about-face comes amid an intense lobbying campaign by a state-approved medical marijuana company that would benefit greatly from less competition … Those hoping to limit dispensaries have pushed for a re-vote Wednesday … If approved, Hillsborough would allow just 13 dispensaries. Those already operating would have a significant advantage: Licenses would be awarded on a point system that heavily favors experience operating here.

Worst story you’ll read today – “11-month-old boy dies; welfare workers fail, even on the basics” via Olivia Hitchcock of the Palm Beach Post — died about eight days after he was found whimpering in his crib, a blanket wrapped around his neck. Fort Lauderdale police have opened a criminal investigation, but autopsy results are not final, and there is no determination of whether his death involved wrongdoing … A Florida Department of Children and Families review of the case found caseworkers violated even basic policies. They placed him in the home of a woman with 11 abuse allegations and a misdemeanor drug conviction. They mistakenly believed she was a relative. She wasn’t. Brayden’s great uncle, a convicted drug trafficker, did live in the home but had made it clear to caseworkers that he would not take care of the infant. The caseworker’s assessment of the home “contained inaccurate information, was incomplete and did not provide a thorough assessment of the home environment,” DCF concluded in its review that sharply criticized child welfare workers involved in the case.


Casinos push for expansion, but for public, all bets are off” via Nick Sortal for the Miami Herald — As I survey the scene nationwide, I think it’s fair to ask the question: Do we have enough casinos already? And, a related question: Do we have enough gambling already?

 Gambling operators say the market must expand to maintain profitability — and to create more taxable revenue to feed state coffers. But what about the public? When is the last time you’ve heard a group of everyday fans of slots, poker, or table games get together to demand expansion?

… The question of how much is enough is something that should be asked nationally, not just in Florida. Take the mid-Atlantic. New York, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania all are in some stage of expansion after New Jersey broke the ice four decades ago. Those states are fighting each other for market share — to the point that just about everyone in those states can now get to a casino via car or train relatively easily, no airfare necessary.

I understand that each casino expansion proposal is unique and that many may be valid. But the casino industry shouldn’t automatically assume that every court ruling that halts gambling growth is a bad thing.

— “Gadsden track seeks rehearing in slots case” via The News Service of Florida

— 30 —

In a Sunday column, Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Bousquet reflected on his three decades in the Capitol Press Corps. The end of the regular session marked 30 years in the Press Corps.

Steve Bousquet at Tallahassee’s R.A. Gray Building in 2006.

Here’s some highlights:

Key lime pie & secrecy: In 1988 one of the less weighty questions that faced the Legislature was whether Florida should have a state pie. It already had a state bird, a state reptile and a state song. The key lime bill, Bousquet writes, didn’t pass but “the lawmaker who filed that bill taught a young reporter a lesson about how Tallahassee’s top down, undemocratic style of governing really works.” Bousquet remembers Rep. Norm Ostrau, a Democrat from Broward County, as one of the most candid about the frustrations of being shut out of big decisions by party leadership. “You’d love to be part of the secret meetings,” he said, “so you could hear them make up your mind for you.”

Technological advances: Bousquet points out nowadays “only a social-media clueless legislature does not have a Twitter feed — a 140-character spin room to push agendas and belittle opponents.” But back in 1988, Bousquet says reporters wore pagers, wrote print-only stories on portable Radio Shack laptop, and sent them to editors by “attaching rubber couplers to pay a telephone’s handset.” He continues: “When the editor said “Got it,” it was time to head to Clyde’s for a cold beer and a bowl of popcorn, where we would find lobbyists and lawmakers, and would work that smoky crowd for more tips and stories.

Political change: When Bousquet got his start Democrats “enjoyed the kind of majorities in both houses in 1988 that Republicans have today.” Term limits didn’t exist; it was still totally OK for lawmakers to party all night and have a lobbyist pick up the tab. Two of the biggest changes, Bousquet writes, over the years — the spread of political committees and term limits — has been “both been very bad for the institution, and for Floridians.”

Shrinking press corps: As Bousquet writes, most papers have cut their staffs, while online news outlets that didn’t exist 30 years ago have multiplied. In 1988, the clerk’s manual listed 73 full-time reporters; the 2017 edition lists 62. Still, the press corps remains strong. Bousquet notes that members worked “the phones until midnight revealed the shocking racist and sexist rants of Sen. Frank Artiles of Miami, who quickly resigned his seat. So much for a “decimated” capital press corps.

30 years, in his own words: “Thirty years. The number 30 is a part of journalistic lore and signals the end of the story. It dates to the Civil War, when news was sent by telegraph using Morse Code. In some cases, an X meant the end of a sentence, XX the end of a paragraph and XXX, or the Roman numeral for 30, the end of the story. But there’s no end in sight in Tallahassee. A wild and unpredictable race for governor is only beginning. A governor whom no one saw on the horizon eight years ago, Rick Scott, is angling to run for U.S. Senate. A powerful group of appointees want to overhaul the state Constitution. And the next session of the Legislature starts right after Christmas.


Lobbyist Doug Bell leaves Buchanan Ingersoll for Metz Husband Daughton” via Florida Politics — “With many years of in-depth experience focusing on government affairs and administrative law, and specializing in myriad areas, including insurance and health care, we know Doug is uniquely positioned to help our clients achieve their legislative goals,” said MHD President Jim Daughton. Before joining MHD, Bell served as senior principal at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney … Bell boasts an AV Preeminent distinction, the highest available for professional excellence from Martindale-Hubbell’s Peer Review Ratings; has been named a member of the Florida Legal Elite in Florida Trend Magazine; and, has listed among The Best Lawyers in America publication.

— ALOE —

Southern rocker Gregg Allman laid to rest near Highway 41” via Jeff Martin of The Associated Press — Thousands of fans lined the streets of Macon to honor Allman, who was carried into Rose Hill Cemetery as a bagpiper played a somber tune. Family and friends, including musicians who played in The Allman Brothers Band over the years, gathered next to his grave and on a nearby hillside shaded by huge oak trees. Toward the end, a freight train rolled in and stopped alongside the cemetery, reminding some mourners of Allman’s lyrics to “Melissa.” Along the funeral route, many shared memories of concerts, and some blared the band’s songs from their cars and trucks. One carried a sign saying “You made our soul shine. We’ll miss you brother Gregg.”

Happy birthday belatedly to Robert Agrusa (doing great things in Central Florida), Holly Benson, Reggie Cordoza, Julie Fess, and Mark Proctor. Celebrating today is Brad Burleson, (The Man) Matt Hunter, Seth McKeel, Heidi Otway, and Ricardo Rangel.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Governors Inn fight heads to court

A nasty squabble between two brothers, both owners of Tallahassee’s Governors Inn, is now the subject of a lawsuit filed in Leon County.

First, some explanation: The 34-year-old inn, described by its website as “a 41-room boutique hotel located just steps from Florida’s Capitol … in what was originally a livery stable,” isn’t owned by a single entity.

Rather, it’s set up as a condominium, with the guest rooms owned by different individuals and businesses that “place them in a rental pool where they are available for overnight or extended-stay rental through the Inn,” says the suit filed this week.

A separate management company runs the inn day to day, including “guest services, front desk staffing, valet parking, breakfast, advertising, room supplies, cleaning and other maintenance.”

Timothy Kropp of Texas, formed a company called TNGI that holds title to 21 of the 41 rooms in the inn, the suit says. He’s the treasurer; brother Steven Kropp of Orange County is president and secretary.

Steven Kropp also is trustee of the Steven G. Kropp Revocable Trust, which has a 41 percent ownership interest in TNGI, according to the suit.

But Timothy says brother Steven recently has been acting “like a veritable, self-proclaimed dictator,” the suit says.

He wrongly fired Timothy as company treasurer, ousted other members of the company, threatened to “withdraw all TNGI’s units from the Inn’s rental pool,” and shorted other stakeholders of hotel income, it adds.

Steven Kropp did so without calling any company meetings or seeking the consent of other members, according to Timothy Kropp’s suit, adding that Steven “wrongly used company funds to pay his personal expenses,” pegging the amount at over $234,000.

Timothy even sent his brother a cease-and-desist letter last month. Steven returned the letter with handwritten annotations in what appears to be black marker, a copy of which was attached to the complaint.

On various pages, Steven Kropp allegedly wrote, “Not in agreement,” “Vote held!” “Not true,” and “No! Rejected!”

Timothy Kropp is represented by attorney David P. Healy of the Dudley, Sellers, Healy and Heath law firm in Tallahassee. Healy was not in the office Friday, an assistant said. Name partner Fred Dudley is a former Florida state representative and senator who unsuccessfully ran for attorney general in 1998.

Steven Kropp couldn’t be reached Friday.

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

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

Budget sent, vetoes issued — Nearly a month after state lawmakers adjourned Sine Die, Senate President Joe Negron sent the state’s $82.4 billion budget to Gov. Rick Scott for his consideration on Wednesday. By Friday, Scott announced he had signed the 2017-18 spending plan, and vetoed $410 million in legislative projects he said did not provide a great return for Florida families. The Naples Republican also announced he Florida Educational Finance Program, which funds K-12 public education, and said he would veto a bill (HB 5501) that, among other things, slashed funding for Visit Florida funding by 60 percent. The decision to veto a section of the budget triggered a special session, which Scott called on Friday.

Going back to Tally — Gov. Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron announced the special session during a joint press conference at the Miami International Airport. Scott is calling on the Legislature to to provide an additional $215 million to K-12 public education, which would increase per student funding by $100; establish the Florida Job Growth Fund to promote public infrastructure and individual job training and fund it at $85 million, the same amount he requested for incentive programs for Enterprise Florida; and pass legislation that sets aside $76 million for Visit Florida and includes comprehensive transparency and accountability measures for the organization. In exchange for his priorities, the governor is expected to sign a wide-sweeping education bill, a top priority for Corcoran, and a higher education bill, a top priority for Negron. But Scott refused to say whether a deal had been reached, saying the “only person who would know is me.”

The halls of the Capitol will be full once again, as lawmakers and lobbyists head back to Tallahassee for a special session from June 7 through June 9. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser)

No pot talk — Lawmakers will be back in Tallahassee for a special session from June 7 to June 9, but they won’t be talking about medical marijuana, at least not at first. The initial call — signed by Gov. Scott and filed with the Department of State at 9:30 a.m. Friday — does not include medical marijuana implementation. In a memo to members Friday, House Speaker Corcoran said the House has “communicated to the … Senate that this is an issue we believe must be addressed and that we are prepared to expand the call to address the implementation of the constitutional amendment approved by the voters.” Hours after the special session was called, Florida for Care, the group advocating for implementing legislation, sent an email to supporters urging them to contact their legislators to “demand medical marijuana be added to the call for next week’s special session.”

It’s a law — Gov. Scott signed several bills into law this week, including legislation (HB 7077 and HB 7079) that makes $300 million available to benefit communities in the Panhandle and ensure their continued growth. The Triumph Gulf Coast legislation makes sure the money received in the settlement of the state’s economic damage claims caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill remain in the eight disproportionately affected Northwest Florida counties. Scott also signed a bill (HB 65) that creates a civil cause of action for a person injured by an act of terrorism; a bill (HB 211) reducing the regulatory burden of Florida’s cosmetic manufacturers by eliminating registration requirements for cosmetic products; a bill (HB 249) that creates guidelines for EMS to report drug overdoses; and a bill (HB 7115) that, among other things, establishes a memorial for the victims who died at the Dozier School for Boys at the Capitol and in Jackson County. Also this week, Scott OK’d a bill that will allow the state to start issuing “certificates of nonviable birth” beginning July 1. Under the Grieving Families Act, the state will issue the certificates only if parents request them.

Hurricane hunters — The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season kicked off this week, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Two to four of those hurricanes are expected to be major storms, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. “The 2017 Hurricane Season is upon us and Division staff has been working hard to make sure Floridians are ready,” said Bryan Koon, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “It’s never too early to begin preparing your business or family for a potential hurricane impact. Now is the right time, and the Governor’s tax holiday gives folks the opportunity to stock up on any helpful items still missing from their disaster supply kits.” According to the Associated Press, this year the National Hurricane Center will experiment with advisories showing the times when sustained tropical-storm-force winds are estimated to hit land. If a tropical disturbance nears shore, forecasters also could post advisories or warnings before it develops into a tropical depression or named storm.

Gov. Rick Scott tours the National Hurricane Center in Miami on the first day of hurricane season. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Storm season

Emergency updates — With storm season now underway, it’s time to get a plan, and make sure all of your emergency contact information in up-to-date.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is urging residents to register — or update their emergency contact information. Residents with valid drivers’ licenses or identification cards can enter up to two emergency contacts into the department’s secure emergency contact information database. That information, according to the agency, can only be accessed by law enforcement and only during emergencies, like a hurricane or a crash.

Citizens can register or update their emergency contact information free of charge on the DHSMV website and in local driver license and tax collector office.

“Having a plan in advance of a hurricane, wildfire or challenging weather conditions is critical to ensuring you and your family can safely evacuate if necessary,” said Terry Rhodes, the executive director of the DHSMV. “Know your evacuation routes, keep your vehicle properly maintained and register or update your Emergency Contact Information today.”

Andrew Esser boards up the glass doors at the entrance of Sky King Fireworks in preparation for Hurricane Matthew in 2016 in Cocoa. The Department of Financial Services is encouraging Floridians to make sure all of their insurance documents are in order this storm season. (Photo via the Associated Press)

Write down this number — Got an insurance question? The Department of Financial Services has you covered.

CFO Jeff Atwater encouraged Floridians to keep the state’s insurance helpline number (877-693-5236) handy throughout storm season. Operated by the Department of Financial Services, the hotline connects Floridians with insurance experts who who can help them file an insurance claim, better understand their policy, and settle setbacks that can arise during the claims-filing process.

“Getting back on your feet following a storm can be a stressful state of affairs, but I hope that having free and ready access to insurance expertise can help the recovery process run more efficiently for Florida families,” said Atwater. “All Floridians should keep the helpline phone number on their emergency contact list and inside their family’s hurricane kit.”

Atwater also encouraged Floridians to review all insurance policies to make sure they have proper coverage in place for their home, car, and belongings. The department’s Division of Consumer Services also offers an online disaster guide and emergency preparedness toolkits.

Beware of price gouging — Attorney General Pam Bondi has a message for Floridians: Be on the lookout for scammers.

Bondi’s office released its 2017 Hurricane Preparedness Guide this week, which includes information about how to avoid scams before and after a storm. Some of the most common storm relates scams to watch out for, according to Bondi’s office, include tree removal scams, building repair scams, debris-removal scams, disaster relief scams, and water testing and treatment scams.

Bondi said Floridians should be on the lookout for price gouging. The state bans the “unconscionable increase in prices in the rental or sale of essential commodities such as lumber, ice, water, generators and shelter once a state of emergency has been declared,” according to Bondi’s office.

She also said Floridians should be wary of any contractor who approaches unsolicited or offers to perform repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job and to know that charities often pop up after a natural disaster.

Floridians who suspect a scam or want to report an incident of price gouging should file a complaint online.

Shoppers crowd the entrance to the Costco store in Altamonte Springs to stock up on supplies ahead of the anticipated strike of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Gov. Rick Scott OK’d a three-day, disaster preparedness sales tax holiday, which runs through Sunday. (Photo via the AP)

Shop ‘til you drop — Need to stock up on hurricane supplies? This is the weekend to do it.

Gov. Scott OK’d a three-day, disaster prepared sales tax holiday as part of wide-ranging tax cut plan he recently signed into law.

During the three-day window, items like flashlights, batteries, coolers, and portable generators are tax-exempt. The sales tax holiday is estimated to save Floridians $4.5 million.

“Thanks to our legislative leaders and Governor Scott for including the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday in the budget, especially with Florida coming off of a year with hurricanes, tornadoes and floods,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley in a statement. “I strongly encourage all residents and visitors to take advantage of these savings by visiting your local retailers to load up on those items that will help keep you and your family safe in the event of a natural disaster.”

The sales tax holiday kicked off Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Florida State Hispanic Chamber scores during 2017 Session

The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is claiming some big wins during the 2017 Legislative Session.

The statewide chamber was involved in some of the most controversial bills this year, including working to pass the landmark Uber and Lyft legislation and defeating legislation to ban fracking in Florida. The organization also backed the so-called “whiskey and Wheaties” bill, which passed the House and Senate, but fell victim to Gov. Scott’s veto pen.

The group represents hundreds of thousands of small business owners across the state, and has built a reputation as an influential partner and ally in the capital city, said Julio Fuentes, the president of the FSHCC.

“FSHCC operates on the principles of free market and free enterprise, which have always guided our efforts in the Capitol,” he said in a statement. “Hispanic small-business owners directly contribute over $90 billion toward our economy every year, so when we decide to act on our principles, we are a force.”

Here fishy, fishy

Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day might be in the rearview mirror, but the Lionfish Challenge continues.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said 4,000 people attended the two-day Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day festival on May 20. And while three tournaments were cancelled that weekend because of weather, more than 12,000 lionfish were removed from Florida waters, including 3,868 during two days of rough weather competition during the Pensacola-based Lionfish World Championship.

Jessica McCawley, the director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management said the people showed their dedication to removing lionfish from Florida’s waters

Volunteers show off a lionfish during the FWC’s 2017 Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival in Pensacola last month. (Photo via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

“The weather was not ideal, and yet the festivals were still busy with people excited to learn about and taste lionfish,” she said in a statement. “We always want to encourage safety first and foremost, and we’re glad everyone was able to safely travel offshore to remove a significant number of lionfish.”

The Lionfish Challenge, a removal incentive program, continues through Sept. 4. Nearly 150 people have already registered to participate in the program, which rewards harvesters with prizes like T-shirts, tumblers, pole spears, and an extra spiny lobster per day during the two-day sport season.

UCF captures national computer programming title

These sure are some smart kiddos.

A team of three University of Central Florida students was recently named national champions in the “Battle of the Brains,” an elite computer programming contest. The team — made up of Alex Coleman, Timothy Buzzelli and Josh Linge — also finished 13th the in the world.

“Using a sports analogy, imagine how hard a football team has to work to win a national championship. This is the same thing. You have to work very hard to put yourself above the others,” said Ali Orooji, the team’s faculty advisor and a UCF professor. “It takes talented, devoted students who are willing to work hard, and coaches who volunteer so much of their time to coach these team members. It also takes the support from the university, which motivates us to keep going.” The team’s next practice is Saturday to prepare for next year’s competitions.

The contest challenges teams with complex, real-world problems under a five-hour deadline. Competitors race through a battle of logic, strategy, and mental endurance, using a single computer. Teammates collaborate to rank the difficulty of problems, deduce the requirements, design tests, and build software systems to solve the problems.

UCF has placed in the Top 3 in the region for 35 consecutive years. ITMO University in St. Petersburg, Russia, won the world contest.

Gains for House Democrats

All throughout session the House Democrats kept tabs on how many of their bills were getting heard. Now, with the regular 2017 Session in the rearview mirror the final tally is out.

Max Flugrath, the deputy communications director for the House’s Democratic Office, said in an email that 50 bills sponsored by Democrats were heard on the House floor during the 2017 Legislative Session. That’s up from an average of 32.5 bills between 2011 and 2016, according to research compiled by the House Democratic communications team.

Graph courtesy of the Florida House Democratic Office.

Democratic legislation accounted for 7.2 percent of the bills heard on the House floor from 2011 to 2016. In 2017, that percentage increased to 11.3 percent.

“It is our hope that this data will provide Floridians with a deeper understanding of how the legislative process works and provide an unprecedented level of transparency on what types of policies their Florida House is debating each session,” Flugrath said in an email.

Thank you for your service

Eighty Florida veterans got a personal “thank you” from Gov. Scott this week.

The Naples Republican presented more than six dozen veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal for their service to Florida and the nation.

“It is so important that we appreciate and honor the service of our Armed Forces not just on holidays, but every day,” said Scott, a Navy veteran, in a statement. “I’m incredibly proud today to honor these brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting the families of our great nation and present them with the Veterans Service Medal.”

Gov. Rick Scott met with veterans during an event in Brooksville this week. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

Scott recognized First Sgt. Daniel Cabrera, a 30-year Army veteran, during the ceremony. Cabrera enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1984, serving as a cavalry scout. He transitioned to the Florida Army National Guard in 1988 as an observational helicopter repairman. During his years of service, he was twice deployed to Iraq and once to Kosovo

Help for rural communities

For the second year in a row, Volunteer Florida is providing grants to help students in rural communities succeed in school.

The Rural Communities Assets Fund provides grantees with capacity building support so they can use volunteers to service students. The fund allows grantees to recruit, equip and mobilize volunteers in eligible rural areas to address acute educational needs of underserved children and youth in early childhood settings and in the K-12 education system.

“This funding will help rural communities meet the needs of local students,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman. “Volunteer Florida’s Rural Community Assets Fund will strengthen local organizations so that they can more effectively put volunteers to work to serve students.”

Organizations serving eligible rural communities have until 5 p.m., June 21 to submit their proposals. Volunteer Florida will distribute a total of $100,000 through the fund. Respondents may request between $5,000 and $10,000, and must provide a 25 percent cash or in-kind match.

State OKs purchase of 5K acres of environmentally sensitive land

There’s a bit more land in the state’s portfolio.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet recently agreed preserve 5,211 acres of environmentally sensitive ranch lands in Okeechobee and Highlands counties through the purchase of conservation easements. The purchases were part of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, in which the state partners with Florida’s farmer and ranchers to preserve active agriculture operations and their economic and environmental benefits.

“With more than 1,000 people moving to Florida every day, we must continue to prioritize the preservation of our world-renowned natural spaces,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement. “Through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, we’re partnering with farmers and ranchers to preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment for future generations in a cost-effective way.”

One easement, according to Putnam’s office, will preserve 4,177 acres of the Triple S Ranch in Okeechobee County. More than 25 percent of that easement is considered unaltered wetlands consisting of interconnected cypress domes.

The second easement conserves 1,034 acres of S.Y. Hyatt ranch in Highlands County. That easement is one-mile south of the Avon Park Air Force Range, and borders the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area and the Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge.

Three cheers from Gov. Scott

30 years of service — Thank you for your service, Sgt. Maj. Ray Quinn.

Quinn, who served in the U.S. Army and Florida National Guard for 30 years, was recently honored by Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet for his service.

“I’d like to thank Sergeant Major Quinn for his dedication to the safety of families in Florida and the nation,” said Scott, who presented Quinn with the Governor’s Medal of Merit. “I am incredibly humbled by his lifelong service, first as a member of the Army National Guard and then as a community leader in local government.”

Quinn enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1965, and transitioned to the Florida Army National Guard in 1973. After he retired, he served as staff of the Adjutant General of Florida as the director of executive services. In 2010, he was appointed by the governor to serve as an interim St. Johns County commissioner, serving in that role until Jan. 2011.

Quinn currently serves as the chairman of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame Council, vice chair of the St. Johns County Veterans Council and is Vice President for Veteran Affairs, First Militia Chapter Association of the U.S. Army.

“Sergeant Major Quinn has dedicated his life to serving his community, state, and nation during his time in the U.S. Army and Florida Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Sutphin, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. “He continues today to serve his community and veterans across the state with honor and integrity. Sergeant Major Quinn represents what it means to be a member of the Florida National Guard and a leader in our community.”

Sgt. Maj. Ray Quinn was recognized for his 30 years of military service. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

Educators honored — Give these Florida educators a round of applause!

Gov. Scott recently presented four Florida educators with the Governor’s Shine Award, which is presented to teachers and administrators who make significant contributions to the field of education.

Scott honored Evangeline Aguirre, an ESOL intensive reading and English teacher in Palm Beach County; Diana Huff, a fifth grade reading, writing and social studies teacher in Duval County; Justine Jackson, a middle schools intensive language arts teacher in Sarasota County; and Leigh Ann Norris, an elementary reading, math, science and history teacher in Hamilton County.

“I am proud to present these four educators with the Governor’s Shine Award today for their commitment to the success of Florida students,” said Scott in a statement. “I’d like to thank these educators and all of the teachers and administrators throughout the state who go above and beyond to prepare our students for higher education and a great career.”

What were you doing at 23? — Kudos, Erin Winick.

Gov. Scott recently presented Winick, the 23-year-old founder and CEO of Sci Chic, with the Young Entrepreneur Award. Founded in October 2015, the company designs and produces 3D printed jewelry and accessories inspired by science and engineering.

“It’s great to see Florida entrepreneurs follow their dreams of starting a business while inspiring others to get involved with STEM,” said Scott in a statement. “It takes dedication and hard work to start a business and I look forward to seeing Sci Chic’s success in Florida.”

Winick, a recent mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Florida, started the company because she saw a need to show the creativity and fun in science and engineering.

“Sci Chic is focused on using science and engineering to produce fashionable jewelry. We work hard to develop STEM inspired fashion and inspire young girls to get involved with science and engineering,” she said in a statement. “I’m grateful for the success we have seen, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Erin Winick, the 23-year-old founder of Sci Chic, was presented with the Young Entrepreneur Award. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

Small biz, big winners — Gulf Coast Angler Charters got a pat on the back from the state’s top lawmaker recently.

Gov. Scott presented the Cape Coral charter fishing business with the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award during a recent Cabinet meeting. Founded in March 2016, the company is owned and operated by Capt. Johnny O’Hearon and his wife, Julie O’Hearon.

“It’s great to see Johnny grow his small business and allow residents and visitors to enjoy our state’s beautiful waterways,” said Scott. “Florida is proud to be the Fishing Capital of the World, and I wish Johnny continued success in his charter business.”

Champion volunteer — Andrew Lumish is a “champion of service.”

Gov. Scott presented Lumish, a Tampa Bay resident, with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service award for the work he does scrubbing and cleaning veterans’ tombstones.

A small business owner, Lumish has restored over 500 graves at three cemetary sites in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. He has also restored almost all veteran monuments at Lutz Cemetery in Hillsborough County.

“I applaud his selfless and continued efforts to pay tribute to the lives and memories of our veterans,” said Scott in a statement.

Each tombstone is properly cleaned by the same standards practiced at Arlington National Cemetery, then accompanied with a full story about the deceased veteran on social media. According to the Governor’s Office, Lumish’s 21-year-old son, Tyler, also helps with restorations as well as posting veterans’ stories to social media.

Often called “The Good Cemeterian,” Andrew Lumish restored over 500 graves at three cemetary sites in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Hunger-free zone

Consider these a hunger-free zone.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced it will once again administer its Summer BreakSpot program. The program, which runs from June through August, offers meals at no cost to children 18 and under who are from low-income families.

The state agency partners with more 4,200 schools and community organizations across the state to offer nutritious meals, recreational fun and educational activities. Last year, the sites served nearly 16 million meals to Florida children. The number of Summer BreakSpot served has increased by 46 percent since the department assumed responsibility of the program in 2012.

The program is part of the National Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Welcome to the board, Rep. Rene Plasencia.

Gov. Scott appointed Plasencia to the Board of Control for the Southern Regional Education. The 44-year-old Orlando resident currently serves in the Florida House, and is a district relations manager with Florida Virtual School. He previously served as a classroom instructor.

Plasencia succeeds former Sen. Nancy Detert on the board, and is appointed to a term ending June 30, 2018.

The governor appointed Pankaj Shah to the Board of Professional Engineers. The 72-year-old Clearwater resident is the former chief executive of Cumbey and Fair. Scott also reappointed Babu Varghese, a 58-year-old Davie resident. Both were appointed to terms ending Oct. 31, 2020, and both appointments require Senate confirmation.

Randolph Cash is joining the Collier County Housing Authority. Scott appointed the 62-year-old Naples resident to a term ending Oct. 17, 2018. He is the president of Flamingo Air Management, and fills a vacant seat.

Scott appointed Richard Del Toro Jr. and Carmine Izzo, both of Port St. Lucie, to the Children’s Service Council of Saint Lucie County.

Del Toro, 40, is the assistant chief of police at the City of Port St. Lucie Police Department. He fills a vacant seat for a term ending Nov. 13, 2017. Izzo is a lieutenant on the police force, and was appointed to a term ending Nov. 13, 2019.

There are three new members — Frank Cawthon, Robert Maphis, and Edgar Laney — of the Construction Industry Licensing Board. Scott also reappointed Michael Strickland and Keith Lawson to the board. All are subject to Senate confirmation.

Scott also reappointed former Ambassador John Rood to the Florida Prepaid College Board; Samuel “Bo” Spring and Jon Costello to the Governing Board of the Northwest Florida Water Management District; Daniel O’Keefe and Federico Fernandez to the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District; Michelle Williamson, Mark C. Taylor and Bryan Beswick to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District; Douglas Bournique to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District; Thomas Napier to the State Retirement Commission; and Paul Weott to the Board of Orthotists and Prosthetists.

Scott announced the 11 reappointments after the Senate failed to consider them for confirmation before the end of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Commemorating National Gun Violence Day

The No. 2 Democrat in the House marked National Gun Violence Day by turning rhetorical fire on Florida’s Republican leadership.

“It is no surprise that we are also a national leader in firearms related deaths,” Rep. Bobby DuBose said in a written statement. “For years, rather than looking for ways to stem the tide of this growing epidemic, Republican leadership has instead bowed to the wishes of the NRA over protecting the health and safety of our fellow Floridians. If the thought of a child being shot every seventeen hours isn’t enough to spur this legislature to action, I’m not sure what can.”

Rep. Bobby Dubose, show here in 2016, called on state lawmakers to pass “commonsense gun safety reforms” on National Gun Violence Awareness Day. (Photo via the Florida House)

The state’s gun homicide rate is 4.5 per 100,000 residents, he said — compared to 3.5 nationally. That rate has increased by 31.6 percent since the Stand Your Ground law passed in 2005, he added.

“It’s past time for Florida to pass commonsense gun safety reforms that will keep our citizens safe,” said Dubose. “When there are children dying in our streets, the time to act is now.”

100 deadly days

The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day is among the deadliest time for teen drivers, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The new report, released this week, found the average number of deadly teen driver crashes climbs 15 percent compared to the rest of the year. The report found that over the past five years, more than 1,600 people were killed in crashes involving inexperienced teen drivers during this deadly period.

“Teen crashes spike during the summer months because teens are out of school and on the road,” said Amy Stracke, the managing director of Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA—The Auto Club Group, in a statement. “The Foundation’s research found that inexperience paired with greater exposure on the road create a deadly combination for teen drivers.”

The study — Rates of Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age — analyzed crash rates per mile driven for all drivers. It found for every mile on the road, drivers ages 16 and 17 are 3.9 times as likely as drivers over the age of 18 to be involved in a crash; 2.6 times as likely as drivers over 18 to be involved in a fatal crash; and 4.5 times as likely as drivers between the ages of 30 to 59 to be involved in a crash.

To help keep the roads safe, AAA is encouraging parents to talk with their children about distractions and speeding; teach them by example and minimize their risky behavior while driving; and make a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers.

AAA also offers a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangers of summer driving, including resources on how to become effective in-car coaches and how to manage a teen’s overall driving privileges.

“Golden Shovel” ready

Got a nice garden? Odds are it doesn’t compare with the gardens at some schools across Florida.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently announced the winners of the third annual Florida Farm to School “Golden Shovel” Awards. The award recognizes Florida students, educators and community members for their extraordinary garden efforts.

Tallahassee School of Math and Science in Leon County won in the Secondary Division for Best New Garden. (Photo via Department of Agriculture).

Applicants, according to the Department of Agriculture, implemented innovative gardening techniques, including irrigated raised beds, hoop houses, fruit tree orchards and aquaponics systems. Produce from the school gardens was featured in student and teacher meals, donated to the community and taken home for the weekend.

Awards were given for the best new garden, best revitalized garden, best use of produce, most community involvement, and most creative learning environment. Awards were presented at both the primary and secondary level.

Florida Healthy Kids celebrates 25

Happy anniversary, Florida Healthy Kids!

First launched in 1992, the Florida Healthy Kids program expanded to all 67 counties by 1998. Since then, the state’s approach to comprehensive health insurance for children has been recognized as a model for other states and received the Innovations in American Government American from Harvard University. The program was also credited with sparking the creation of the national Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997.

“Our vision to make comprehensive, quality healthcare services accessible for all Florida children is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago,” said Rebecca Matthews, the CEO of the Florida Healthy Kids Corp., the nonprofit, public-private partnership that oversees the program. “While we have made tremendous progress, 283,000 children in Florida remain uninsured. Forward-focused on closing the gap, we are preparing to launch a new promotional campaign this fall to further identify, educate and enroll eligible families.”

Florida Healthy Kids provides care to children between the ages of 5 through 18. Benefits include doctor visits, check-ups, immunizations, prescriptions, surgeries, and emergency care. Most families pay $15 or $20 a month. About 3.8 million children across the state are covered.

“With each child insured, we are taking another step toward making the next generation healthier and our communities stronger,” said Wendy Link, a corporation board member.

Fun in the sun

Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. (Chris O’Meara/AP Photo)

Best beaches in the land —Need more proof Florida has the best beaches around? Look no further to “Dr. Beach.”

Three Florida beaches landed on the list of Top 10 Beaches in the nation, including Siesta Beach, which was ranked No. 1 on the 27th annual Top 10 list.

Compiled by Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University, the list uses 50 criteria to evaluate beaches, including water and sand quality, and safety and management. Leatherman is an internationally known coastal scientist who has published 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles and reports about storm impacts, coastal erosion and ways to improve beach health and safety.

Siesta Beach, according to the 2017 Top 10 Beach List, is hundreds of yards wide, and attracts fitness fans and volleyball players. The beach, according to the Associated Press, is about 200-300 feet (60-90 meters) wide in some places. The beach was last year’s runner up and one of three in Florida on this year’s top 10 list.

“The sand is outstanding,” said Leatherman, aka Dr. Beach, according to the Associated Press. “Every time I go there, I’ve got to take a bag home with me. It’s almost sacrilegious to walk on it with shoes on.”

A barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, Siesta Beach is located just southwest of downtown Sarasota. It also include lots of parking, a trolley service to and from the island’s adorable downtown area and plenty of lifeguards. The beach also has natural dunes, which is a bit rare for Florida, and the fine sand is excellent for building sand castles.

Two state parks — Grayton Beach State Park and Caladesi Island State Park — also landed on the list.

Water safety — The summer months mean lots of time out on the water, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to make sure boaters wear their life jackets when they head out on their boats.

The FWC released three life jacket testimonials to commemorate National Boat Safety Week. The dramatic accounts provide vital information and act as a call to action for every boater to make sure they wear life jackets while enjoying the state’s waters.

The testimonials recount the events that happened to Tony Spivey and his son, Honor; P.J. Wheetly, who stepfather died while boating without a life jacket; and Larry “Doc” Cox,” whose life was saved by a life jacket he purchased that same morning.

“The stories of these families really bring home the message that it doesn’t matter who you are, you should always wear a life jacket while enjoying Florida’s waterways,” said Capt. Tom Shipp with FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section in a statement. “The videos are dramatic accounts given by the people themselves, and are reminders of just how important it is to make sure we all come home after a great day on the water.”

In 2016, there were 714 boat accidents in Florida. That’s down from 2015, when there were 737 reportable accidents; but up from 2014 when the state reported 634 accidents, according to the 2017 Boating Accident Review.

Go fish —  Gag season is now open.

Gag group opened for recreation harvest in most state and federal Gulf of Mexico waters this week, and will remain open through the end of the year. Anglers planning to fish for gag grouper in state of federal Gulf waters from a private recreational vessel are required to sign up as a Gulf Reef Fish Angler.

The season is not open in Monroe County, because it follows the Atlantic state season. Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor and Jefferson counties are also excluded because they have their own season, which runs from April 1 to June 30. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be discussing extending the shorter season during its July commission meeting in Orlando.

The minimum size limit for gag grouper in Gulf waters in 24 inches in total length. The daily bag limit is two fish per person within the four-grouper per person aggregate limit.

FWC staff demonstrates de-hooking during the Saltwater Angler Recognition Program meet-and-greet in Tallahassee earlier in April. (Photo via the FWC)

No really, go fish — Love to fish, but don’t have a license? No sweat, it’s a license-free fishing weekend!

This weekend is one of eight license-free fishing days approved by Gov. Scott and offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission each year.

“License-free fishing weekends are the perfect opportunity for Floridians and visitors to see for themselves why Florida is known as the Fishing Capital of the World,” said Scott. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the license free fishing weekends in June with their friends and loved ones.”

Recreational anglers can head to the sea Saturday and Sunday for license-free saltwater fishing; while June 11 and 12 is a license-free freshwater fishing weekend. The license-free fishing weekends coincide with National Fishing and Boating Week.

“With two consecutive weekends of license-free fishing here in Florida, National Fishing and Boating Week is a great time for anglers to share their passion for fishing and boating with friends and loved ones,” said Kellie Ralston, the Florida Fishery Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association. “We hope the week inspires residents and visitors to spend time together while enjoying our natural resources.”

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



Time to move forward with the Miami I-395 project, reconnect a divided Overtown

Bridges have one purpose, to get people safely from one place to another. Being aesthetically pleasing is just a bonus.

Drama should not be part of the deal.

Yet no bridge has come as much drama as the proposed I-395 overpass through Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

It’s time to end the spectacle and move forward.

The main function of any bridge, particularly one in an urban setting, is to ease traffic. Archer-Western de Moya’s winning design for the Miami-Dade “signature bridge” for the I-395 overpass at I-95 interchange through Overtown does more than that — serving well beyond its intended purpose.

The I-395 project is both a literal and figurative bridge, helping to ease traffic as well as transforming a long-divided neighborhood.

A quarter-century in the making, the I-395 project had been discussed, delayed, and debated. And after 25 years of meetings, both the community and the Florida Department of Transportation came to an agreement, choosing the most favored design that melds both form and function.

The goal of this bridge, apart from fixing one of the worst and most dangerous interchanges in Miami, is to finally end the burden on commuters who need to pass through Overtown, removing an ad hoc toll of nearly $100 million every year in lost time and money in traffic delays and untold frustration.

The new bridge will replace the low-slung, 1960s-era expressway slicing through Overtown, and open up the area for the good of the entire community.

What the new I-395 interchange will offer is more than simple convenience for drivers, however; it benefits the entire community with multipurpose courts, parklike shared areas, an amphitheater, children’s play area, public art and murals.

It will also incorporate Overtown’s diverse history and roots, as well as raising I-395 by an added 60 feet to allow a “legacy wall” of ceramic panels that mark the beginning of the Heritage Trail, honoring Miami’s Tequesta indigenous people and African-American, Latino and Caribbean communities.

With more than 5,000 square feet of open spaces (versus 500 feet for the No. 2 design) and spacious 50-foot heights to work with — the Archer-Western de Moya design can accommodate features as an urban market, community garden and several vendor areas,

What the design is not, as former Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff suggested in a Miami Herald op-ed last month, is a “bait and switch.”

In fact, the Archer-Western de Moya design clearly outperformed the competition, scoring “excellent” by a majority of city, county leaders, FDOT stakeholders, as well as garnering support from state Sen. Rene Garcia, CRAs in Overtown and Omni, in addition to letters of praise from local cultural archives such as the Black Archives and Dade Heritage Trust.

“The Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida is fully supportive of the Heritage Trail design concept as presented … Should the team be awarded a design-build contract for this project, we will commit to working with them as they implement these concepts as part of their design and construction commitments to FDOT,” wrote the Black Archives in its support letter to the FDOT.

Despite the widespread community support and a superior bid by Archer-Western de Moya, a handful of local politicians have not taken well to the winning design, including Sarnoff (through his Herald piece) and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who has his own personal agenda.

Since the announcement, they have worked overtime to turn the I-395 project into something of a bridge over muddied water.

As Elaine deValle of Political Cortadito wrote in May: “Gimenez and his pals on the county commission are trying to sell us a bridge. Not just any bridge. His buddy’s bridge.”

As County Mayor, Gimenez has clearly supported Pedro Munilla, who deValle noted was “cousins (or something)” with the mayor’s wife and CEO of Munilla Construction Management. MCM, pairing with Flour Enterprises, was one of the five firms bidding on the “signature bridge” project.

The final choice of Archer-Western de Moya has not satisfied Gimenez and his supporters (such as Commissioner Sally Heyman), who are now actively lobbying to slow down the process. This must end.

For the sake of Miami, its commuters and the citizens of Overtown – who need this long-delayed bridge to begin rejoining a physically split community — it’s time to move forward.

Sunburn for 6.2.17 – Another Uber win; Ashley Moody for AG; new House candidates galore; Aramis Ayala on the record; the Marlins can’t draw

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

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


A former Uber driver has lost his bid to have class-action litigation against the company centralized in a South Florida federal court.

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation this week ruled against Sebastian A. Rojas, who claims Uber wrongly classified him and other drivers as independent contractors and not as employees.

Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, speaking during the opening of the Digital Life Design (DLD) Conference in Munich.

Rojas wanted his and two other suits consolidated in the Southern District of Florida, saying “they are nearly identical.” Uber and the other plaintiffs had objected, however.

Among other things, Rojas wants Uber to pay its drivers minimum wage and overtime pay, as required by federal wage law.

The San Francisco-based ride booking service already has been waging a multi-state legal battle not to be considered an employer so it doesn’t have to pay certain benefits under state labor laws.

The Multidistrict Litigation panel found that “centralization will not serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses or further the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.” Two other suits are in North Carolina and Tennessee.

There are “significant” questions of “state-specific” employment law, the panel said,  and noted the volume of similar cases in the judicial pipeline: “13 related actions involving FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) claims.”

“Additionally, the Panel is aware of at least four pending actions alleging similar claims under state law,” it said. “… Voluntary coordination remains practicable.”

In February, Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled that a former Uber driver wasn’t entitled to unemployment benefits because he was an independent contractor, not an employee.

That court said “drivers exercise a level of free agency and control over their work different from that of the traditional … employer-employee relationship.”

Last year, the company settled lawsuits for millions of dollars in California and Massachusetts, allowing it to keep classifying drivers as contractors.

On Thursday, Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

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Former Hillsborough judge Ashley Moody files for Attorney General” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Moody, a Republican, was elected to the 13th Judicial Circuit in 2006. At the time, she was the youngest judge in Florida. … Back in April, when Moody resigned from the bench, she hinted to the Times’ Sue Carlton about a big announcement in the future. “I felt like it was time to serve our community and system of justice in different ways,” she said.

It’s early days, so Ashley Moody has not yet started raising money. However, she has lined up Tampa accountant Nancy Watkins, who handles many prominent Republicans’ books, as her treasurer.

Andrew Gillum-crafted city contracting program cost $320K — and got no results” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — In 2006, his third year on the commission, Gillum helped take the lead in crafting the city’s Charitable Contribution Vendor Incentive Program, which was aimed at giving a leg up to vendors seeking city contracts who gave to a list of certified local charitable organizations. … The program was deemed a complete failure. Commissioners unanimously voted to kill it in 2014 after spending $40,000 annually over a period of eight years. … City records show that companies gave just under $1 million in charitable contributions between 2008 and 2014 through the program. Contributions given in 2006 and 2007 did not go through an auditing or official verification process, so might not be accurate, officials said. The lone vendor that got credit for winning a city contract because of the program was Jimmie Crowder Excavating and Land Clearing, according to records.

Gillum said the program’s aim was good but that its execution was bad. “The program looked to help companies operating in the city to be better corporate citizens,” he said in a statement issued Wednesday through his campaign. 

Bobby Powell backs Gillum for Governor — The state Senator and chairman of the Palm Beach County legislative delegation announced Thursday he was throwing his support behind Gillum for governor. In a statement, Powell said he has known Gillum for more than 15 years and said he is passionate and committed to the citizens of Florida. “Andrew is the only candidate capable of rebuilding Florida’s economy so that it creates better-paying jobs at every rung of the income ladder, and his bold proposal to protect the healthcare of Floridians with a pre-existing conditions is the kind of solution we need,” said Powell in a statement. “I’m excited to endorse him so we can best serve the people of Florida together.”

Gwen Graham declares support for Competitive Workplace Act” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Graham expressly announced she would push hard for the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act,” which would extend nondiscrimination practices to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer Floridians. She also vowed to sign an executive order as governor to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “I am proud to live in a state with vibrant LGBTQ communities from Key West to Pensacola,” Graham said. “Despite facing institutionalized discrimination and bigotry, and the heartbreak of the terrorist attack at Pulse, LGBT Floridians have never given up in their fight to make Florida a more equal and welcoming home for everyone. This month, we celebrate the progress we have made and recommit ourselves to the fight for equality.”

Is this really a thing? “Orlando or Winter Park? Chris King’s campaign gets it wrong” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – King’s campaign refers to the affordable housing investor as an “Orlando small businessman,” while his campaign releases are datelined “Orlando.” King’s official campaign bio also states that he and his wife “are raising their three children in Orlando.” But King, 38, lives in Winter Park, his campaign acknowledged. His campaign and his business, Elevation Financial Group, are also based in Winter Park. Hari Sevugan, a King campaign consultant, said while King is a Winter Park resident, he was born in Orlando and has roots throughout the area.

A campaign spokesperson joked that Chris King still considers the Orlando Sentinel his hometown paper, despite the story questioning his residency. Photo via Orlando Sentinel.

’Name ID v. money:’ Alex Diaz de la Portilla leads Jose Felix Diaz in early polls of bareknuckle state Senate race” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Díaz de la Portilla, a veteran of tough campaigns, is better known than Diaz in the district, partly due to his record and that of his two brothers who have also held state and local elected office. As a result, a poll paid for by his campaign shows he leads Diaz 48-12 percent among likely GOP voters. Attorney and former Spanish-language Trump campaign surrogate Lorenzo “Larry” Palomares-Starbuck is in third with 10 percent. Diaz said he’s not worried because Díaz de la Portilla’s support is a mile wide and an inch deep; each of the three brothers lost their last election.

Prosecutor Elle Rudisill announces HD 37 run” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Rudisill, an assistant state attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit in Pinellas/Pasco county since the fall of 2014, will seek the being vacated by term-limited Richard Corcoran in 2018. “Today, I embark on an incredible journey of running as a Conservative Republican candidate for the Florida House of Representatives … For the past few years, I have had the privilege of serving as a Prosecutor right here in Pasco. Now is my chance to make even more of a positive impact for my hometown of Land O’ Lakes and Central Pasco County. Growing small businesses, educating all of our youth, and protecting Pasco will be my aim in Tallahassee.”

— “Bill Gunter to take another stab at HD 37 seat” via Florida Politics

Jeff Ramsey announces HD 51 run — The Merritt Island Republican announced Thursday he was throwing his hat in the race to replace Rep. Tom Goodson in House District 51. “I have spent my career fighting to make sure our country stays free and safe for future generations, and I look forward to continuing the fight in Tallahassee,” said Ramsey. “We must continue to push for policies that cut taxes and promote job growth as well as protect our freedoms, especially our Second Amendment rights. And Florida must ban sanctuary cities.” An Air Force veteran, Ramsey said he planned to make veterans a priority.  Goodson can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

“Democrat Emma Collum announces HD 93 bid” via Florida Politics— Collum, the founder of Women’s March FL and the national head of field operations for the National Committee of Women’s March, announced Thursday she was running in House District 93. “Over the last year, my work on both Women’s March FL and the National Committee of Women’s Marches has brought a new sense of purpose and resolve to fight for the things I believe in,” said Collum in a statement. “Part of the lesson of those marches is to channel our anger and disappointment about government into movements and change. I’m excited to take this straight to Tallahassee.”

An early organizer of the Women’s March, Emma Collum played a key role in getting thousands upon thousands of Floridians to Washington, D.C. and regional marches.

She is currently the executive director of the twenty-chapter statewide group, as well as a field director for the national organization. Collum is the third Democrat to throw her hat in the race to replace Rep. George Moriatis, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who can’t run again because of term limits. Jonathon May and Stephanie April Myers have also announced their runs.

Will Weatherford backs Jose Mallea in HD 116 — The Mallea campaign announced Thursday that Weatherford, who served as speaker from 2012 to 2014, has endorsed the Miami Republican. “Jose Mallea is a principled conservative, committed to limited government and lower taxes,” said Weatherford. “I’ve known Jose for many years. He’s a strong leader with a solid work ethic who will promote policies to create jobs and safer communities. District 116 will be well served by his fresh, conservative voice in Tallahassee.” Mallea is vying to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Diaz resigned, effective Sept. 26, to run in the Senate District 40 special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal. “Speaker Weatherford is one of Florida’s most effective conservative leaders, and I am honored to have his support,” said Mallea in a statement. “I look forward to following his model of servant leadership and commitment to increasing opportunity for everyone by keeping taxes low and supporting pro-growth policies.” Mallea faces Daniel Anthony Perez in the special Republican primary.

Mallea gets enough signatures to qualify for ballot — The Miami-Dade Republican has received 305 verified signatures, pre-qualifying him to run in the House District 116 special election. “Our campaign’s momentum is strong, and I am so encouraged by the support we are receiving all around the district,” said Mallea. “I plan to keep working hard to get our conservative message out, and I look forward to meeting and speaking with as many voters as I can.” The abbreviated qualifying period for the special election runs from June 5 through June 6. Mallea needed 240 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Democrat Ross Hancock running in HD 116 — LobbyTools Legislative IQ reported that Hancock, a perennial Democratic candidate, has filed to run in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. Hancock previously challenged Reps. Erik Fresen and Michael Bileca. A graduate of the University of South Florida, he works for a Miami-based manufacturing company.


“Rick Scott interviews DOT candidates” via Florida Politics – The Governor interviewed the three finalists Thursday for secretary of the Department of Transportation, his public schedule shows. Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse was at 2:40 p.m.; former deputy DOT secretary Richard Biter at 3:40 p.m. and current DOT chief of staff Mike Dew at 4:40 p.m. The interviews are likely for show: Sources tell that Dew got a phone call from the Governor’s Office in April telling him the job was his. The open position was created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Backstage talks heat up as Rick Scott, Richard Corcoran try to save priorities” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – As Scott trains his veto pen on the new budget and decides the fate of Corcoran‘s priority omnibus education bill (HB 7069), the speaker sounds more open to preserving Enterprise Florida in some form. Corcoran remains opposed to an Enterprise Florida that “picks winners and losers” and doles out incentives to specific companies, but says the House supports job training and an infrastructure program that spurs jobs. “We’ve said all along we’re not against economic development,” Corcoran told the Times/Herald. But what if the House meets Scott halfway on keeping Enterprise Florida alive and maybe tosses in a $50 million sweetener to restore VISIT Florida’s ad budget?  “There’s discussions going on all the way around,” Corcoran said. “Everyone wants something, and everyone doesn’t want to lose something, and everyone wants to get along. The discussions are good. So we’ll see.”

— What’s the Speakers Office is really thinking: “If the inference is that there are negotiations to add incentive money for anything, that is way off. Any jobs programs or infrastructure program would not be money directly to any companies and would be infrastructure owned by the public for the public good that can be utilized by multiple companies or entities. That isn’t EFI and incentives are dead.”

Medical marijuana special session appears all but certain” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Two high-ranking state senators close to President Negron say they believe he will join the call for a special session to implement the voter-approved medical marijuana constitutional amendment. House Speaker Corcoran has already publicly supported doing so. Negron and Corcoran have begun talking to lawmakers about how to resolve disagreement between the two chambers on a medical marijuana bill that broke down in the final hours of the legislative session last month. A special session — likely slated for the week of June 19 — would allow them to implement a constitutional amendment passed by 71 percent of voters in November. It would also give them a chance to rewrite sections of the state budget if needed or override Gov. Scott’s impending vetoes.

State Rep. Al Jacquet accused of using position to get parking ticket dismissed” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun-Sentinel – Jacquet is facing ethics charges that he misused his former position as Delray Beach vice mayor to have a $35 parking ticket voided by the city’s police department. An ethics panel announced Thursday after meeting in a closed-door session it had determined probable cause existed to hold a public hearing on whether an ethics violation occurred. Jacquet said he didn’t do anything improper, and he will present his side to the ethics board at the hearing. He declined to discuss the specifics of the complaint filed against him.


Released this week, the Associated Industries 2017 Voting Record report calculated more than 208,966 votes on 1,955 bills with 848 legislators.

“This session, AIF faced a variety of tough issues on behalf of Florida’s business community, including opposing any measure that would have made it more expensive for businesses to operate, such as prejudgment interest and fighting to preserve the insurance premium tax salary credit,” said Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of AIF, in a statement. “Additionally, AIF was a proud advocate for Florida’s business community, actively engaging on measures, such as reducing the business rent tax, addressing the workers’ compensation system, making 5G wireless technology a reality and protecting productive private agricultural land.”

Feeney said while AIF accomplished many of its priorities during the 2017 Legislative Session, “this year’s Voting Records vary from what (AIF has) seen in years’ past.”

The report shows the lowest percentages since 2002 for both the Senate and House, with the Senate voting in favor of the business community 74 percent of the time. The House, according to the report, voted in favor of the business community 79 percent of the time.

According to the report, five House Republicans — Colleen Burton, Holly Raschein, Eric Eisnaugle, Jay Fant and Charlie Stone — voted with AIF at least 90 percent of the time. Burton and Raschein voted with AIF 91 percent of time.

The report showed eight Senate Republicans — Keith Perry, Doug Broxson, Denise Grimsley, Dennis Simmons, Aaron Bean, Jeff Brandes, Tom Lee and Greg Steube — voted with AIF at least 80 percent of the time.

“Although Florida’s business community had to fight back initiatives that would have negative impacted our state’s small and large businesses, we did make some headway this session; and, we thank Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature for continuing to give our state the opportunity to have a vibrant, competitive business environment,” said Brewster Bevis, the senior vice president of state and federal affairs at AIF, in a statement.

Tweet, tweet:


Enterprise Florida reduces marketing ahead of potential cuts” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Enterprise Florida’s executive board Thursday discussed ways the agency can do more with less as the economic development partnership braces for a 23 percent budget cut that Gov. Rick Scott has railed against. The $16 million Enterprise Florida could receive from the $83 billion budget under review by Scott would mean cuts in marketing the state.

— “Would I like us to have a bigger budget so we can do some very targeted marketing during certain specific times when you would do TV? We don’t have that, so we’re going to focus on digital and print,” said Eric Silagy, president and chief executive officer of Florida Power & Light and chairman of Enterprise Florida‘s Marketing Committee. “We’ll leverage wherever we can. … It’s going to have to be very, very specific. But limited.”

How many counties are doing better now than before recession? EFI is stumped” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The question from Florida Chamber of Commerce chief economist Jerry Parrish seemed innocent enough for the quarterly board meeting of Enterprise Florida … How many counties have more jobs now than before the recession? The audience of executives was stumped … Parrish had to ask it twice and then someone volunteered an answer: 50. “Wrong,” responded Parrish. The real number of counties that have more jobs today than they had before the Great Recession “is stunning,” he admitted to the group that has pegged its future and fate on job creation in Florida. The number is 31. That leaves 36 counties that still have not returned to pre-recession employment levels, a sign of an uneven and incomplete recovery in an era when Gov. Scott has made job creation his singular focus.

Florida Supreme Court revising death penalty jury instructions” via Katie Pohlman of the Ocala Star-Banner – Comments have rolled into the court over the past month about its proposed amendments to the jury instructions in first-degree murder cases, which the court originally posted for public viewing April 13. The commenting period ended May 29. Five commenters have entered requests for oral arguments in the case. None have yet been scheduled. State Supreme Court justices are faced with revising jury instructions after Gov. Scott signed new regulations in March requiring a unanimous jury decision in death penalty cases. The regulation also requires that juries, not judges, find the aggravating factors in a case worthy of sentencing the defendant to death.

Hurricane season is prime time for scams, price gouging, Pam Bondi warns” via Florida Politics — It’s hurricane season. Brace for rip-offs. Following Hurricane Matthew last year, Attorney General Bondi’s office drew more than 3,100 complaints of price gouging, resulting in 21 investigations and four lawsuits. As the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season opened … Bondi referred Floridians to her 2017 Hurricane Preparedness Guide. It’s a primer, containing easy-to-use checklists and definitions of terms — plus warnings against scams of every color. Like tree-removal scams, building repair scams, debris-removal scams, disaster relief scams and water testing and treatment scams. … The investigations opened last year have netted more than $60,000 in restitution and $70,000 in penalties paid to the state to date, Bondi said. You can report a scam or price gouging to Bondi’s office at (866) 9-NO-SCAM or via

New hurricane advisories will give deadlines for storm prep” via Jennifer Kay of The Associated Press – Some coastal residents always put off emergency preparations until storm clouds loom on the horizon. The National Hurricane Center is going to try giving those people a deadline this year, issuing experimental advisories showing when tropical-storm force winds may hit particular communities to help them understand when it’s too late to put up storm shutters or evacuate. The forecasters’ advisories will be fueled by more data than ever, thanks to new weather satellites and an expanded network of underwater gliders. To help people understand when storm preparations should be completed, the hurricane center will experiment with advisories showing the times when sustained tropical-storm force winds are estimated to hit land. If a tropical disturbance nears shore, forecasters also could post advisories or warnings before it develops into a tropical depression or named storm.

CareerSource centers dealing with their own layoffs as economy rises” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – In an ironic economic twist painful to some, Florida’s agencies charged with helping unemployed people find jobs are facing budget cutbacks because of the state’s declining unemployment rate — and some now are forced to lay off a few of their own workers. CareerSource Florida‘s 24 regional agencies are facing budget cuts, some deep, and in many cases that means layoffs of those people who help other people who’ve been laid off. “It’s kind of a Catch 22 for us when the economy improves. The unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, so that’s great for the economy, but our funding is based on a formula that takes into account the levels of unemployment,” said Tonya Elliott-Moore, CareerSource Central Florida’s director of communications and community relations. “That’s something that workforce boards across the country, not just in Florida, have to deal with.”

Study: Last year’s St. Lucie River blooms contained 28 kinds of blue-green algae” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – The more types of algae in a bloom, said Barry Rosen, a USGS biologist and lead author of the study, “the more types of toxins might be produced.” Blue-green algae, known scientifically as cyanobacteria, is naturally occurring microscopic organism. A combination of high levels of nutrients from fertilizer runoff; long, hot days; and low salinity can cause it to explode into a full-tilt bloom. A species called Microcystis aeruginosa was the primary blue-green algae in last year’s blooms. It produces a toxin called microcystin that’s known to cause nausea and vomiting if ingested; rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled; and liver disease if drank.


In an interview with Scott Powers published Thursday on Orlando Rising, State Attorney Aramis Ayala defended her anti-death penalty position as “evidence based” and charged that the Florida Legislature’s $1.3 million cut to her budget will hamper anti-human trafficking and domestic violence prosecutions.

The interview, which Ayala provided written responses to written questions, marks some of the most comprehensive public statements Ayala has made since her March 16 announcement that she had decided Florida’s capital punishment laws are unjust to all and she would not pursue them. Here are a few excerpts from the conversation.

OR: Did you ever imagine your decision to refuse to seek death penalties would erupt into such legal, political, and cultural firestorms?

AA: I would have expected research from the legislators that challenged the validity of findings prior to cutting $1.3 million from my office budget. An evidence-based decision should have a response that is evidence based… not emotional or political. … What I did not anticipate is the governor overstepping his authority by inserting himself in a prosecutorial decision and removing 23 cases from my office. I believe what Gov. Scott has done is an attack on the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution, the rule of law, the separation of powers and our criminal justice system. Scott’s move is unprecedented and solely based on his own political beliefs. … did not anticipate the Legislature cutting my office budget $1.3 million and eliminating 21 positions from my office. This move will severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes, threaten public safety, and ultimately have an economic impact on the Central Florida community. …I also did not anticipate racist responses including someone sending a noose to my office because they disagree with how my administration will handle death penalty cases.

OR: The Florida legislature said, essentially, that if you’re not going to pursue death penalties, which are expensive cases, you won’t need as much money, and so took $1.3 million from your office in next year’s budget. How would that affect your operations?

AA: To be clear less than .01 percent of all cases in the 9th Circuit are death penalty cases. The other 99.9 percent include non-capital homicides, sexual batteries, sex crimes against children, domestic violence, drug and human trafficking, carjackings, robberies, burglaries, DUI’s thefts, aggravated assaults, batteries, and other violent and non-violent crimes. It is also important to note… my office will also be footing the bill for every single case Scott removed from this office. … The impact of cutting $1.3 million and eliminating 21 positions will have a devastating effect on existing efforts to prosecute widespread human trafficking and domestic violence offenders in this circuit. As one of the biggest tourism hotspots in the world, Orlando is a prime location for human trafficking, ranking third in the nation, and first in the state. … The 9th Circuit has 23 ongoing human trafficking investigations and 15 cases pending prosecution. This unit has also handled 209 sex trafficking tips, 13 labor trafficking tips, and has rescued 21 human trafficking victims. If these funds are not continuing, the human trafficking epidemic in the 9th Circuit will continue to grow in this Circuit at an exponential rate.

OR: Have you or anyone on your staff or campaign had any contact with George Soros or his representatives, who ran an independent election campaign on your behalf, and who oppose capital punishment?

AA: No, I do not know George Soros nor have I ever spoken to Mr. Soros. While campaigning for this position, I was running on a platform centered around justice reform and integrity. I wanted to bring change to the office. I talked about eliminating racial disparities, and I advocated for smarter data-driven policies to improve public safety. I understand that Mr. Soros invested in around a dozen prosecutor campaigns across the country, both Republicans and Democrats, as supporters and opponents to the death penalty. He supported candidates like myself who were committed to bringing change and reform to prosecution. My values and goals were very clear before Mr. Soros ever supported my campaign. I appreciate the support he gave, but I never solicited it nor did it change my platform.

The complete interview can be found on


Personnel note: J.D, White joins Mercury — The bipartisan public strategy firm announced Thursday that John David “JD” White is joining its Florida office as a senior vice president. “We are excited to welcome JD to the Mercury team,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker. “Mercury’s Florida operation is comprised of the state’s top strategists across party lines. JD’s public policy expertise, as well as his political experience will be an asset to our work here in Florida and globally.” White most recently served as former Rep. David Jolly’s chief of staff in Washington, D.C. and Tampa Bay. In that role, he directed all policy objectives, strategies, and legislative initiatives, while overseeing all offices and operations. Previously, White served as director of government affairs at WellCare. He also advised Premier Healthcare Alliance’s 2000 member hospitals and health systems to Congress, and previously served as a legislative assistant to former Rep. Porter Goss. A Florida native, he received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Florida State University.

Personnel note: Laura Cassels joins Rowland Publishing via Florida PoliticsCassels, a veteran journalist and public relations professional, will become the managing editor at Tallahassee-based Rowland Publishing, publisher of Tallahassee, Emerald Coast and 850 magazines. Cassels joins the company on June 12. As managing editor, she will oversee “editorial processes, edit copy and produce stories” for the magazines and the two dozen other publications that Rowland produces for others, according to a press release.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: Study Edge

Kelly Horton, Heffley & Associates: FFT Technologies

— ALOE —

As pythons invade Florida, professional snake hunting becomes booming industry” via Phil Keating of Fox News – An estimated 100,000 pythons are living in and ravaging Florida’s Everglades. In Miami-Dade County, the South Florida Water Management District decided Florida’s python problem has become so big and so bad, paying for a “python posse” to find and kill them could be the answer. It’s a two-month, $175,000 pilot program. Twenty-five python hunters get paid $8.10 an hour to drive, hike and crawl in the hot and humid Everglades, looking for snake dens and wrestling the big beasts to the death. In seven weeks, the 25 pros have killed and removed 149 pythons. The longest one was a 16-footer. Most are in the 7-, 8- and 9-foot range. The hunters also get $50 for every snake they bag, and for each foot longer than 4, there’s an additional $25.

 “Nobody went to Wednesday’s Marlins-Phillies game in Miami” via Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated – A midweek afternoon game in Miami between the Marlins and the Phillies—the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the National League East, respectively—was never going to draw much of a crowd, given the matchup, the time and the fact that the Marlins have successfully chased away most of their fans over the last six years … But even by the low standards the Marlins have set for themselves, the dearth of spectators for Wednesday’s 10–2 Miami win was shocking to see. For the record, those 1,590 souls would be the lowest attendance for an MLB game since Sept. 5, 1989.

Associated Press reporter Steve Wine counted just 1,590 fans at the Miami Marlins Wednesday afternoon game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park. It was the least-attended MLB game since Sept. 5, 1989.

Happy birthday today to my friend Chris Ingram, as well as Jim Gill and Daniel Tilson.

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