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Sunburn for 8.4.17 – Happy Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday Weekend

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

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

Attention, Florida shoppers: Be prepared for a busy weekend at mall.

The 2017 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday kicks off today and runs through Sunday. The sales tax holiday — which was included as part of a $180 million tax cut package signed into law earlier this year — is expected to save Florida shoppers more than $33 million in taxes this weekend, according to the Governor’s Office.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for families to save money while purchasing the supplies their students will need for school,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart in a statement. “The start of a new school year is always an exciting time for Florida students and the back-to-school sales tax holiday makes it easier for parents and students to prepare for a successful year.”

And the sales tax holiday couldn’t be coming at a better time. The National Retail Federation estimates families with children in elementary through high school about $29.5 billion in 2017, up from $27.3 billion in 2016.

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, parents said they will spend an average of $238.89 on clothing and $130.38 on shoes. They’ll also spend an average of $204.33 on electronics, like computers or calculators, and an average of $114.12 on school supplies, like notebooks, folders, pencils and backpacks.

“We are looking forward to another successful Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, and applaud Governor Scott and the Legislature for recognizing the significance it has on our hard-working families and the 270,000 retailers throughout the State of Florida,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “Each year, shoppers show up in record numbers and provide a tremendous economic boost overall to retailers’ sales numbers while they are able to afford more of the supplies they need.”

If you’re shopping in Florida this weekend, many of those items will be covered by the sales tax holiday.

The tax holiday covers clothing, footwear and certain accessories that sell for $60 or less; certain school supplies — such as binders, notebooks, lunch boxes, and pens — that sell for $15 or less; and personal computers and computer-related accessories — like flash drives, memory cards and web cameras — that sell for $750 or less.

Want to cash in on the holiday? Better hurry, it ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — 

Save the date:

Gwen Graham grabs four Democratic women leaders’ endorsements” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – She picked up the endorsements of former state Reps. Karen Castor Dentel and Kelly Skidmore, Democratic National Committee member Alma Gonzalez, and former Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan … Gonzalez also is a former treasurer of the Florida Democratic Party. “Gwen Graham understands building an economy that works for every Floridian starts in our public schools and colleges,” she stated. “Gwen will fight to increase public school funding by ending the lottery shell game, expand technical education starting in our middle schools, and expand access to our colleges and universities. To move forward, we must build a 21st-century economy and ensure our children and grandchildren have the skills they need to fill those new jobs.” Hanrahan, of Boca Raton, said: “Gwen Graham understands building an economy that works for every Floridian starts in our public schools and colleges. Gwen will fight to increase public school funding by ending the lottery shell game, expand technical education starting in our middle schools, and expand access to our colleges and universities.”

Adam Putnam campaign banks another $1.3M in July” via Florida PoliticsPutnam’s gubernatorial bid is now approaching $17 million in total fundraising … The two-term Agriculture Commissioner ended June with just under $15.7 million in total fundraising, and about $11.6 million on hand between his committee, “Florida Grown,” and his campaign. Bevis said Putnam added $1.299 million between the two accounts in July to finish the month with $16.98 million in total fundraising and $12.3 million in the bank. Also noted was the fact that more than 5,000 donors had chipped in since the campaign started, with about 4,000 of those being small-dollar donors, defined as giving $500 or less.

NRCC targets potential swing Miami voters in mobile ads about health care” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – National Republicans are wading into the 2018 race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, launching a mobile ad campaign targeting potential swing voters in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The new National Republican Congressional Committee ad, which will also go out in seven other states, is intended to grab users’ attention. The narrator adopts a frightening tone in warning voters Democrats might want to pursue single-payer health care system. One of the Democrats who has filed for Ros-Lehtinen’s Democratic-leaning seat, state Rep. David Richardson … has said in a fundraising email that he backs a single-payer system. When the latest candidate, Matt Haggman, declared his candidacy, the NRCC quickly called on him to take a position on the issue, which the GOP wants to use to paint Democrats as radical.

David Richardson responds: “Damn right I’m supporting the creation of a single-payer healthcare system.  The only healthcare plan Republicans have is to throw millions off of their insurance, then lie about people like me who actually do have a plan to expand access to healthcare to more Americans.”

Save the date:

Miami’s special Senate election getting national attention” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –Florida Senate District 40 is grabbing national attention … Along with the Republican State Leadership Committee last week promising to give $100,000 to the Republican state Rep. José Félix Díaz … the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee named the campaign one of its “spotlight races” and pledged $150,000 to Democrat Annette Taddeo. Because it’s a relatively quiet off-election year, both parties are pouring resources into the race to do things like test messages headed into 2018. A committee led by incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens found Taddeo up by 4 percentage points, but he would not release the polling questions, which include insights on messaging and how the party frames issues.

North Escambia native Rebekah Bydlak running for HD 1” via NorthEscambia.com — Republican Rebekah Bydlak of Cantonment has filed to run for the seat currently held by Clay Ingram. Ingram can’t run again due to term limits. During the 2016 primary, Bydlak ran for Congress, taking fourth place in an eight-candidate race. “I have dedicated my life and professional career to fighting for conservative principles as a private citizen,” said Bydlak upon announcing her run for the Florida House. “For too long we have witnessed the same politicians saying one thing at home and doing another when elected, all the while getting nothing done. I’m running to fight for our conservative values and deliver for Northwest Florida.” Bydlak is currently the executive director of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, an advocacy organization dedicated to reducing federal spending and debt.

Bruno Portigliatti up with new TV ad in HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingPortigliatti’s commercial picks up on the theme of his first, which aired two weeks ago, introducing the small-business man to voters who watch Fox News channel on cable or satellite TV, only this time seeking to characterize his main opponents as a politician and a political insider. He doesn’t name them, but presumably, former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski is the politician, and Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce President John Newstreet is the political insider. Ignored is the fourth Republican in the race, Dr. Usha Jain. “All right, now that you know me, let me tell you why I am running,” Portigliatti says in the spot. “There are too many politicians in Tallahassee. And we won’t solve our problems by sending another one.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Save the date: Rep. Bryan Avila is hosting a joint fundraiser at 7 p.m. at Hialeah Park, 2200 East 4th Avenue in Hialeah. The fundraiser will benefit Avila, who is running for re-election; Manny Diaz, who is running for Senate District 36; and Frank Mingo, who is running for House District 103.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Feds sign off on Medicaid managed care, ‘lip’ money” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida – Federal officials approved a five-year extension of a statewide Medicaid managed care program and finalized a $1.5 billion pot of funding to help with charity care … State and federal officials have negotiated for months on issues such as details of the $1.5 billion for the “Low Income Pool” program … it means that millions of Medicaid beneficiaries will continue receiving care through HMOs and other types of managed-care plans through at least June 30, 2022. Also, it means that hospitals and providers such as federally qualified health centers will be able to tap into a larger amount of so-called LIP money to defray costs of caring for uninsured people. The money can go to hospitals, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and medical-school physician practices, according to details of the LIP money posted online by the federal agency. It can only go to help pay for what is considered charity care provided to uninsured low-income people — not for care of low-income people who have insurance.

An old tuxedo, wine and cigars” via Gary Fineout of the Fine Print – While legislators and other top state officials are not allowed to take gifts directly from lobbyists or the principals who hire lobbyists, state officials can accept gifts from others that are worth more than $100 if they report them. A look through some forms shows that only Pam Bondi and Richard Corcoran are the only top officials to regularly file them. Scott, former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have maintained that they have received zero gifts worth $100 or more in recent years. One top public official, however, who has disclosed gifts on a routine basis is Corcoran. A review of his forms for this year shows that Corcoran accepted a “old tuxedo” from fellow representative and House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo at the time of the presidential inauguration. Sen. Keith Perry gave Corcoran a box of cigars worth $100 in late January. But Negron – whose relationship with Corcoran seemed strained at times during the legislative session and subsequent special session – gave Corcoran a “humidor, crystal, wine, lighter and cutter” worth approximately $1,000 during the first week of the 2017 session.

Lizbeth Benacquisto appointed to RLCC executive committee — Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is one of several state lawmakers appointed to the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee’s 2017 Executive Committee, the RLCC announced this week. The announcement came on the heels of the annual national meeting in Atlanta. The RLCC is one of the leading campaign organizations for Republican legislative leaders, and has played a major role in returning legislative power to Republicans since 2010. In 2016, it helped Republicans gain control in state legislative chambers in Iowa, Kentucky, and Minnesota. “The members of our 2017 Executive Committee will be instrumental in ensuring continued Republican victories in legislative races throughout the country,” said Linda Upmeyer, the RLCC vice-chairwoman.

Bill seeks payment for injured sunbather” via the News Service of Florida – A  Central Florida senator filed a bill that would direct payment of nearly $1.9 million to a woman who suffered severe injuries when she was hit by a Volusia County Beach Patrol truck. Sen. David Simmons filed the “claim” bill, which would lead to Volusia County paying $1.895 million to Erin Joynt. The bill (SB 38) would help carry out a $2 million judgment in a lawsuit filed by Joynt, a Kansas woman who was injured in July 2011. Joynt was hit by the truck while sunbathing on Daytona Beach. Simmons’ bill … said she suffered injuries such as cranial fractures, facial fractures and rib fractures. A similar bill was approved by one Senate committee during the 2017 session but then stalled.

— STATEWIDE —

Citing ‘political games,’ tourism executive quits VISIT FLORIDA” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times Bill Lupfer, president and CEO of the Florida Attractions Association, told fellow board members he was resigning effective immediately. He cited the Sunshine Law as a factor, noting that he’s prevented by law from discussing his reasons with them in private. “I am now free,” Lupfer told board members, “to work with VISIT FLORIDA board members, other tourism industry leaders, and especially our FAA members to develop a new vision for how our state’s DMO (direct marketing organization) can best serve our industry, free of government restrictions, bureaucratic governance and political games.”

Tampa, Miami, Orlando tourism boards cut ties with VISIT FLORIDA” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Concerned about possible liability under a sweeping new disclosure law, a dozen county tourism groups, including Visit Tampa Bay and the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, have broken off co-op advertising partnerships with VISIT FLORIDA. “We have not renewed our partnership as we often would do,” said Visit Tampa Bay spokesman Patrick Harrison. “We still don’t have a clear idea as to quite what the new regulations mean. We’re kind of in a wait-and-see pattern. Harrison said Visit Tampa Bay interprets a new law to require local tourism board members, who serve without pay but who also have full-time jobs in the private sector, to disclose their income. The new law requires disclosure of “employee and board member salary and benefit details from public and private funds.”… “That is one of the concerns,” Harrison said.

Bullied girl is third Florida foster child to hang herself in year” via Carol Marbin Miller and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – On her last night, Giulianna Ramos Bermudezrepeatedly refused to take her prescribed medication and bickered with the mother of her Orlando foster care group home. Sometime in the small of the night, she tied a belt around her neck and pulled until it squeezed the breath out of her. The 16-year-old became the third Florida foster child to hang herself in less than a year, and the second for whom medication may have played a role. She left behind a child of her own, a 2-year-old girl who was born shortly after Giulianna was taken into state care. Mazzelyn Marsh, a 17-year-old who took Giulianna under her wing when she entered foster care, said her best friend was desperate to get out of the group home and reunite with her daughter. In the home, called Eva House, Mazzelyn said Giulianna was bullied by the other girls for her weight, her thick Hispanic accent and her status as a young mother.Like most foster kids she knows, Mazzelyn said, Giulianna was in therapy. And like her peers, Mazzelyn said, her friend didn’t like it. She was prescribed a powerful antipsychotic drug that is also used to treat depression.

Firefighter pay raise fight goes to Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida –The International Association of Firefighters Local S-20 filed a notice this week as a first step in asking the Supreme Court to take up the case … The notice stems from a June ruling by the 1st District Court of Appeal that rejected arguments that Scott’s veto of $2,000 pay raises for firefighters violated collective-bargaining rights. In a 2-1 ruling, the appeals court said Scott acted within his authority to veto spending items in the state budget — and that lawmakers could have overridden the veto but did not. The veto, which was controversial at the time, followed a series of events that included a bargaining impasse on a union request for $1,500 pay raises for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, according to the June 6 appeals-court decision. The Legislature resolved the impasse by including $2,000 raises for firefighters in budget fine print known as “proviso” language. A state law gives the Legislature responsibility for resolving impasses in collective bargaining, but the appeals-court majority focused heavily in the June ruling on Scott’s constitutional authority to veto spending items in the budget.

“Dania casino shut out in gambling permit case” via Florida Politics – State gambling regulators this week shot down a request by a South Florida gambling permitholder who wanted sell the permit and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday said both sales of permits and any relocation of gambling—both time-consuming processes—have to be OK’d by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in the state. Dania Entertainment Center, the company that owns The Casino @ Dania Beach, asked for a declaratory judgment on its “converted” summer jai alai permit. The decision further cements the state’s control over where and how gambling is offered, particularly after a permit is granted. The department’s “final order” also is a win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which asked to intervene in the case. The Seminoles, who operate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, had said allowing gambling licenses to be moved within a county “would provide out-of-state companies (with) an incentive to (buy) a license, possibly resulting in increased business competition for the Tribe.”

Post-Pulse push for gun reforms hits a wall” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando SentinelOne year later, calls for tougher gun laws have gone nowhere in Washington or Tallahassee. The reasons behind that include the election of strongly pro-gun President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress as well as the rise of a progressive movement looking to reach out to working-class voters, many of whom are inclined to support gun rights as they are. “For a lot of progressive candidates, they still care about gun-control issues, but there are so many other issues important in the age of Donald Trump,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. As the 2018 races approach, many Democratic candidates and officeholders in Florida still back a ban on assault weapons — a key part of Hillary Clinton’s platform in 2016 and supported by 52 percent of Central Floridians in a Mason-Dixon poll six months after Pulse.

Duke Energy seeks to recoup higher fuel costs” via the News Service of Florida – Duke Energy Florida has filed a proposal that could lead to recouping about $200 million from customers … because of unanticipated fuel costs. Fuel such as natural gas and coal makes up a large portion of electric bills, with utilities typically going before the Public Service Commission each fall to get approval for fuel costs, which are then passed through to customers. In denying the midyear increase for Duke, the Public Service Commission effectively put off a decision about whether the utility should be able to recoup the higher-than-anticipated costs. The filing seeks what is known as a “true-up” of $195.5 million in fuel costs and $5.1 million in other costs, the document said. A hearing is scheduled in October.

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “back-to-school “legal basics” with attorney Shelli Freeland Eddie of the Freeland Eddie Law Group.

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

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include Tampa Bay Times reporter Kathleen McGrory, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith and Democratic political consultant Victor DiMaio.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Topic is teacher retention, with state Rep. Rene Plasencia and Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Topic is the House District 44 special Republican primary with business executive Bruno Portigliatti and Dr. Usha Jain, medical director for the Emergi Care Medical Center. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter examines Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham’s claim about people being more prone to death while covered by Medicaid as opposed to being uninsured.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will speak with attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman and Joanne McCall of the Florida Education Association.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Justice talks with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Congressman John Rutherford of Florida’s 4th Congressional District and Chris Hand, former Chief of Staff for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Caption: Marco Rubio will be the special guest on This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice.

— ALOE —

What Jeff Brandes is reading –Humans cause most self-driving car accidents” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios – Since 2014, there have only been 34 reported accidents involving self-driving cars on California roads, according to state incident reports — and most happened when a human-driven car rear-ended or bumped into a self-driving car stopped at a red light or stop sign, or driving at low speed … A major benefit to self-driving cars is the potential to reduce traffic accidents caused by human error. While it’s a small set of data, the low rate of accidents caused by self-driving cars underscores the technology’s enhanced safety. But humans will continue to be a problem for the foreseeable future. A closer look at those accident reports reveals stark differences between how self-driving cars interpret the rules of the road and how humans behave behind the wheel. For example, human drivers make sudden lane changes or run red lights — not the way self-driving cars are taught to behave on the road. These awkward interactions between self-driving and human-driven cars will probably result in more fender-benders as more autonomous vehicles arrive on the roads.

Happy birthday to Rep. Tom Leek and our friends, Ryan Anderson, Marty Fiorentino, and Herbie Thiele. 

State ethics panel clears Aaron Bean in budget controversy

It’s a swing and a miss for The Naples Daily News and its man in Tallahassee, Arek Sarkissian, as state ethics commissioners tossed out a case against Sen. Aaron Bean stemming from his hand in a $1 million special appropriation.

The Florida Commission on Ethics found “no probable cause to believe that Senator Bean misused his position to secure an appropriation in the State budget for a business venture in which he was personally involved, and dismissed the allegation,” according to a Wednesday press release.

The claim, according to a March exposé penned by Capitol reporter Sarkissian, who’s edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner and Manny Garcia hire Brett Blackledge:

“Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year’s budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically.”

But wait, there’s more.

The Commission also “voted to dismiss an allegation that he had a voting conflict when he voted to approve a line item appropriation for the business venture,” according to the release.

And “no probable cause was found to believe that the Senator misused his position to ask a fellow legislator to include a request for the business appropriation in the Florida State University budget.”

Why, the board even cleared Bean of “misus(ing) his position to receive a $7.76 reimbursement for mileage.”

Sarkissian was tipped to the salacious story by Carlos Slay, a self-styled “public advocate” who lost a contentious race to Drew.

“Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew and State Senator Aaron Bean are childhood friends. The e-mail obtained through a records request show that John Drew and State Senator Aaron Bean were working on creating a business opportunity that would allow each of them to make money,” Slay wrote, in emails he sent to this outlet in October.

He then filed the ethics complaint.

We didn’t bite then. Seems we called it right.

As for Sarkissian: Sorry, no investigative reporting award for you on this one.

As The Wire’s Omar Little said: “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

The Delegation for 8.02.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Some in delegation call for harsher sanctions against Nicolas Maduro

Despite the threat of harsh sanctions from the U.S. government, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro went ahead with what many called “sham” elections. The diplomatic term was “contentious.”

President Donald Trump and his administration moved swiftly to impose sanctions on Maduro by freezing his assets in the United States. The Trump administration is now labeling Maduro a “dictator.”

“By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Maduro was quick with a comeback: “In the U.S., it’s possible to win the presidency after getting three million fewer votes than the other candidate. Tremendous democracy.”

Both of Florida’s U.S. senators, as well as South Florida congressional Republicans, weighed in strongly, understanding all have Venezuelan-American constituents. And many of those constituents have family members still in the struggling country.

“The U.S. should not recognize the Maduro regime’s fraudulent Constituent Assembly, established against the will of the Venezuelan people and contrary to Venezuela’s constitution,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Before the vote, Rubio and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez wrote to Trump urging sanctions against allies of Maduro. Trump quickly sanctioned more than a dozen individuals.

A pedestrian walks next to a message on a wall formed with Venezuelan currency that reads in Spanish: “The Constituent Assembly is a fraud”, in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, July 31, 2017. Electoral authorities said more than 8 million people voted Sunday to create a constitutional assembly endowing President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling party with virtually unlimited powers – a figure widely disputed by independent analysts. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

“When he issued sanctions last week against 13 operatives of the Maduro regime, President Trump warned: should the Maduro regime move forward with the illegal Constituent Assembly, there would be grave consequences,” said Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart.

“This is the first in what I hope are the strongest possible economic sanctions to stop Maduro from instituting a Cuban-style regime,” said Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. “The United States should consider cutting off imports of Venezuelan oil.”

Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen shared Nelson’s call to go after Venezuelan oil imports. Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo noted before the vote the “bipartisan consensus” in Congress to deal with Maduro and added, “all options are on the table.”

The “consensus” may be genuine, but 24 hours after sanctions were announced only one Democratic member of the delegation had either issued a statement or put out a tweet regarding Venezuela. Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch tweeted “We cannot turn a blind eye as Maduro uses a sham election to continue human rights abuses & destruction of democracy.

On Tuesday, the crisis deepened with the arrests of two prominent opposition leaders. Rubio called the arrests “a direct challenge to President Trump” and remains confident Trump will keep his promise for “strong and swift economic sanctions.”

Sanctions against Venezuelan oil may not be far away. Perhaps Maduro won a Pyrrhic victory.

 

 

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

— Editors’ note: In the July 27 edition of The Delegation, we incorrectly identified Rep. Diaz-Balart‘s chief of staff. Diaz-Balart’s chief of staff is Cesar Gonzalez. We regret this error.

Proposed budget gives KSC a boost toward Mars

A NASA spending bill making its way through the Senate would provide Kennedy Space Center in Florida with $640 million to update infrastructure that is key to sending astronauts to Mars, reports Ledyard King with USA TODAY.

The money, which was approved last week by the Senate Appropriations Committee as part of a $19.5 billion appropriations bill for NASA in 2018, represents a $210 million increase in funding compared to the current year. The amount includes $545 million that Sen. Nelson requested for Exploration Ground Systems and $95 million for related constructions.

Using the waters off the coast of Galveston, a NASA and Department of Defense team tested Orion exit procedures in July 2017. A NASA spending bill making its way through the Senate would set aside $640 million to upgrade infrastructure used for the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule, which are being built to send humans to Mars. (Photo via NASA.)

“Getting this additional money for the launchpad is a big win for KSC and the effort to land humans on Mars,” said Nelson.

Sen. Rubio is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Among the many things funded by the appropriation would be a necessary upgrade to launchpad 39B and related facilities necessary to further the mission to send humans to the Red Planet.

The budget includes other spending priorities, plus $100 million for the education programs targeted for elimination by the budget submitted by President Trump.

Paulson’s Principles: A brief review of Florida’s rapidly growing power in Congress

America is divided into 435 congressional districts, and each state is awarded districts based on its overall population. Based on Florida’s population after the 2010 census, Florida was awarded 27 congressional districts with each district containing just under 700,000 residents.

After becoming a state in 1845, Florida had a single at-large member of Congress for the next 28 years. After the 1870 census, Florida received a second seat in Congress. The 1900 census led to a third seat, and the 1910 census created the fourth seat. The 1930 census added a fifth seat, and the 1940 census added a sixth seat for Florida. The first 100 years of Florida brought a slow, but steady growth in Florida’s power in Congress.

Real population growth exploded in Florida following World War II. Along with that population growth came a large expansion in the number of Congressional seats held by Florida, as well as Florida’s growing political clout in national politics.

Florida gained two seats after the 1950 census due to technological innovations such as air conditioning and the expansion of the interstate highway system, and also due to the relocation of hundreds of thousands of retirees and military personnel who trained in Florida during World War II.

The eight members after the 1950 census jumped by two more seats and ten members total after the 1960 census. Three seats were added after the 1970 census (15 total), and four additional seats were gained after both the 1980 and 1990 census. The delegation increased to 19 in 1980 and 23 in 1990. Two more seats were added after both the 2000 and 2010 census, increasing the size of the Florida delegation to 25 in 2000 and 27 in 2010. Current projections indicate Florida will add two additional seats after the 2020 census.

Since World War II, Florida jumped from six seats in the House of Representatives to its current 27 seats. Because the number of House seats remains constant at 435, every gain by Florida is at the expense of other states who have lost congressional representation due to their slower than average population growth.

We know that most congressional seats are safe. Very few members of Congress lose their seats every two years. Larry Sabato estimates that 276 or 63% of congressional seats are safe and 159 or 37% are competitive.

159 competitive seats may seem like a lot considering that Democrats need to pick up only 24 seats to regain control of the House. Republicans hold 100 of the 159 competitive seats, meaning Democrats should have an excellent chance of picking up the needed seats.

We also know that 226 of the 241 Republican victories in 2016 were by 10 or more points. This means Democrats must not only pick up seats in close districts, but they must win some seats that Republicans won by a comfortable margin.

One of those seats was Florida District 27, won by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen by 10 points in 2016. She has announced she will not run again in 2018, leaving an open seat opportunity for Democrats in the most Democratic district in the country currently held by a Republican.

Democrats must win District 27, or they are toast.

(Next week: Why some congressional elections are more important than others)

Gaetz pushes hard for special counsel to investigate Comey, others

Rep. Matt Gaetz wants to double the special counsels investigating issues surrounding the 2016 election.

While Robert Mueller is looking into Russian activity in the 2016 cycle — and any “collusion” with the Trump campaign — Gaetz and conservative Republicans believe other players should receive equal scrutiny.

The Fort Walton Beach Republican last week brought a bill under discussion before the House Judiciary Committee asking the committee to seek documents from President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions “surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.”

Instead of piling on, Gaetz and the House Freedom Caucus want to learn more from Comey. The Republican members are interested in Comey’s interactions with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the investigation into Clinton Foundation, and what brought Comey to “pre-emptively pardon Hillary Clinton’s IT staff,” among other things.

“The rule of law still matters,” Gaetz said. “It’s past time to appoint a special counsel to investigate the real crimes and the real criminals. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I will continue to call for justice and robust oversight.”

Fellow Florida Republicans Ron DeSantis and John Rutherford are also members of the committee along with Ted Deutch.

The committee reported the bill, including the Gaetz amendment, favorably to the full House on a 19-11 vote. All Republicans voted in favor, and all voting Democrats cast “nay” votes. Five Democrats, including Deutch, did not vote.

Dunn joins with Florida colleagues to gain $30 million for defense projects

Rep. Neal Dunn has successfully convinced his House colleagues to insert $30 million into the defense appropriations bill to “fast-track needed improvements to the military training range in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.”

The funds will go toward constructing a data collection and monitoring site in Carrabelle and fiber connections to an existing facility at Eglin Air Force Base.

“The Gulf Range is a national treasure, one-of-a-kind resource essential to our national security,” the Panama City Republican said in a statement. “This funding will help us to make sure the military has the cutting-edge test and training area that it needs.”

The Joint Gulf Range is used for high-level air combat training and enables hypersonic weapons testing, among other things, at both Eglin and Tyndall Air Force Base.

“Although these places are often overlooked, our investments in the military’s test and training ranges are returned many times over to the nation in the projection of American military supremacy around the globe, protecting the homeland, and preserving international order,” Dunn said on the House floor.

Joining Dunn as co-sponsors of the amendment were fellow Republicans Matt GaetzTom Rooney of Okeechobee and Francis Rooney of Naples.

Rutherford, Lawson tout funding for veterans’ care choices, outpatient clinic

Two North Florida congressmen touted passage of a bill that extends the life of the VA’s Choice Program. Along with the extension, which allows veterans also to seek medical care with community providers, the bill also authorizes $18.6 million for a replacement outpatient clinic in Jacksonville.

“I have been encouraged by the progress being made at the VA; however, too many veterans face long lines and receive inadequate care,” said Republican Rep. Rutherford in a statement. “That is why extending funding for the VA Choice Program at this time is essential to ensure that our veterans receive the care that they require and deserve.”

Rutherford thanked the Veterans Affairs Committee chair, Republican Phil Roe of Tennessee, for supporting the funding for the clinic. Palm Harbor Republican Gus Bilirakis is the committee’s vice chairman, while Panama City Republican Neal Dunn also serves on the committee with Rutherford.

“I am pleased that this bill included authorization for a replacement VA outpatient clinic for the city of Jacksonville,” said Lawson, whose district includes a portion of Jacksonville. “I look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Rutherford to guarantee that the veterans have the resources they need and deserve.”

The bill now heads to the desk of President Trump for signature.

Lawson focuses on student debt

Rep. Lawson wants to provide some help to folks with student loans.

The Tallahassee Democrat recently introduced the Student Opportunity Act, which would make it possible for people with higher federal student loan debt to refinance their loans at a lower rate.

“Education is a fundamental facet of the American dream. Across the country, students attend colleges and universities with the hopes of climbing the economic ladder, providing for their families, and working to meet new challenges with ingenuity and expertise,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the cost of college has increased significantly in the last decade, and for many Americans, this avenue to a brighter future has become unaffordable. Reducing student debt will help increase economic activity and provide our nation’s students with the relief and opportunity they deserve.”

The measure — which has 12 co-sponsors, including Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat — would also ensure future students could afford loan financing and would eliminate the tax penalty for loan balance forgiveness.

Lawson isn’t the only Florida lawmaker honing in on ways to help students with debt. In July, Sen. Nelson filed legislation to cut student loan interest rates and allow borrowers to refinance existing loans.

Crist-world

Crist part of a congressional delegation traveling to Israel — Rep. Charlie Crist is spending a week in Israel, traveling to the region with the goal of learning more about the United States’ strategic relationship with Israel.

The weeklong trip — which kicked off on Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 9 — is sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC. The foundation, according to Crist’s office, works to inform the public about Israel, the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and other issues impacting the Middle East.

Crist and other House members are expected to meet with key Israeli and Palestinian leaders, including government officials, Knesset members, military leaders, defense experts, journalists, and entrepreneurs.

Rep. Charlie Crist is part of a congressional delegation traveling to Israel. And fret not Florida: He made sure to pack a letter asking God to protect Florida from storms.

They’ll also visit several key strategic sites, including defense and technology projects; the Gaza, Syrian, and Lebanon borders; the Golan Heights; Jewish, Christian and Islamic Holy sites; and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

The trip couldn’t come soon enough: The Sunshine State was soaked this by Tropical Storm Emily, one of the first storms of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season to impact Florida.

For nearly a decade, Crist had a prayer note delivered to the Western Wall before each hurricane season. In it, Crist asked God to protect “Florida from storms and other difficulties.” He started sending up the prayers in 2007 and did it every year until last year when he was unable to send his request before the start of the 2016 hurricane season.

Crist didn’t send a note this year, but a spokeswoman for the St. Petersburg Democrat said he was “bringing one with him” on the trip to Israel.

With four months left until the end of hurricane season, it’s never too late for a prayer.

Crist, Johnson talk civility — Rep. Crist and Rep. Mike Johnson are continuing their calls for civility.

The Florida Democrat and the Louisiana Republican recently joined Tim Farley on Sirius/XM’s POTUS Channel Midday Briefing to chat about their push for a National Day of Civility. The two men also talked about the need to return to civility in political discourse.

The two men, along with Democrat Nanette Diaz Barragan, filed a resolution to establish July 12 as a National Day of Civility.

It came on the heels of a report, according to Crist’s office, which showed 9 out of 10 Americans agreed that increased incivility leads to intimidation, threats, harassment, discrimination, violence and cyberbullying. The report also found a majority of Americans believe incivility in politics encourages general incivility in society and deters citizens from engaging in public service.

“In this freshman class in the U.S. House, we are committed to civility and trying to treat each other well,” said Crist in the segment.

Ross submits accountability bill for low-income housing landlords

Rep. Dennis Ross has joined with Tennessee Democrat Steve Cohen to reintroduce a bill to hold landlords of low-income housing accountable for poor living conditions.

If passed and signed by the President, the bill — dubbed the Housing Accountability Act — would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to survey tenants twice each year. Owners who repeatedly fail the surveys would face penalties.

“No matter someone’s income or socioeconomic status, no one deserves to live in squalor,” said Ross in a joint statement. “Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and to live in a safe, clean home.”

Both Ross and Cohen provided examples of property owners neglecting tenants who were living with either no lights, crumbling staircases, rats, exposed electrical wiring and other problems. Meanwhile, a particular owner with properties in both Florida and Tennessee continued to collect $8.6 million in subsidies from HUD over the span of just one year.

“Congress must step in to prevent this from happening again in Memphis or anywhere else,” said Cohen.

Sens. Nelson and Rubio joined forces to submit similar legislation in the Senate in January.

“I am proud to join Rep. Cohen and Sens. Rubio and Nelson in putting forth bipartisan legislation that will help families improve their living conditions, and give them the ability and strength to ensure their homes are up-to-code and well-kept,” said Ross.

T. Rooney, Diaz-Balart announce VA clinics will remain open

Two Republican members of the Florida congressional delegation have successfully persuaded Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin to keep two South Florida clinics that serve veterans open.

Reps. Tom Rooney and Diaz-Balart made their case in a letter to Shulkin, after learning clinics in Clewiston and Moore Haven was targeted for closure.

“The decision to close these facilities undermines the VA’s duty to provide quality care to veterans in all reaches of the country,” they wrote in their June 13 letter.

Shulkin responded on July 25 with an acceptable compromise. He noted in separate letters to the congressmen the West Palm Beach VA facility would handle the bulk of the care for the region’s veterans, but kept the convenience of veterans in mind.

Shulkin wrote that leadership “re-examined access data and developed a staffing plan to continue providing services at both locations.” The facilities will be open one to two days per week.

“Our men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line have a hard enough time receiving care as it is without the VA closing the clinics that are closest to their homes,” said Rooney in a joint statement. “By keeping these clinics open, the VA is showing their commitment to our veterans and ensuring they receive the best and most convenient care.”

Diaz-Balart thanked Shulkin for working with them and expressed the desire to continue “working with Congressman Rooney and Secretary Shulkin to ensure we continue our commitment to Florida’s veterans.”

F. Rooney, MDB highlight Everglades funding

Everglades restoration projects might have received a nice chunk of change in the most recent appropriations process, but some lawmakers would like to see more money to restore the River of Grass.

Rep. Francis Rooney said Florida received everything it asked for and everything President Trump asked for in his budget. The House has set aside $82 million for Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation projects; $76.5 million for Everglades restoration; $8 million for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan; $10 million for planning and interagency coordination in support of Everglades restoration; and $153 million for ecosystem programs under the U.S. Geological Survey, including those in the Everglades, in fiscal 2018.

“We got 100 percent of what the Office of Management and Budget set over for the Herbert Hoover Dike, for CERP and for the Department of Interior. We did better than most, given the very tight budget” said the Naples Republican. “I think it’s because we’ve had a unified, consistent message.”

The delegation has unified behind Everglades funding, sending a letter to Trump earlier to encourage him to fund projects. Rooney has also given tours of the Everglades to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Ken Calvert, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Interior and the Environment.

Rooney and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart highlighted fiscal 2018 funding during an event at the Merritt Pump Station in the Picayune Strand State Forest this week. While both men applauded Congress’ commitment to funding, they also acknowledged they were dealing with less money than in previous years, reports Alexandra Glorioso with the Naples Daily News.

According to the Naples Daily News, the budget allocations could be used for several projects, including The Picayune Strand Restoration Project, the Indian River Lagoon, the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir, and Kissimmee River Restoration.

“Everglades restoration has always been a key issue for me in Congress,” said Diaz-Balart in a statement last week. “I remain committed to continue working with Congressman Rooney, the Florida delegation, and our Congressional colleagues to advocate for the restoration process that will preserve this natural treasure for years to come.”

Deutch co-sponsors bipartisan legislation to allow Canadian snowbirds to stay longer

Late last week, Rep. Deutch teamed up with two Republicans from opposite ends of the country to try to make it easier for Canadian visitors to travel to the United States.

The Boca Raton Democrat — along with New York Republican Elise Stefanik and California Republican Duncan Hunter — introduced the Canadian Snowbird Visa Act, which would allow our neighbors to the north who own or lease homes in the U.S. two extra months to travel in the country.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to amend U.S. law to increase the number of days a Canadian visitor may spend in the country. Current law allows 182 days, and the proposal would permit Canadians over the age of 50 who own or lease to qualify for an extension.

“If our chilly neighbors to the north want to spend more time on our warm Florida beaches, we should welcome them with open arms,” Deutch said in a joint statement. “Canadians contribute over $4 billion to Florida’s economy every year, helping to create jobs and support businesses in our communities.”

Canadians spent nearly $20 billion in the United States in 2016 and purchase “on average $13.1 billion of residential real estate” each year, according to Deutch’s office.

“In the North Country, we know how important Canadian visitors are to our small business owners and our tourism economy,” said Stefanik. “Providing them with an extra two months to engage in (tourist) activities will support many small businesses, grow jobs, and foster an even closer relationship with our neighbors to the north.”

Ethics group wants DWS investigated over IT staffer

A right-leaning watchdog group has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz because she continued to employ an IT staffer after he became the subject of a criminal investigation.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust on Monday asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to launch an inquiry into “Wasserman Schultz’s apparent breach of House Ethics Rules.” According to the conservative ethics organization, Wasserman Schultz violated ethics rules by continuing to employ Imran Awan even after he was blocked from using the House IT system.

“There is something quite amiss as to why Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to use taxpayer funds to employ former technology staff member, Imran Awan, even months after he was barred from accessing the House’s computer systems and a number of her colleagues severed ties with Awan,” said Matthew Whitaker, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.

Wasserman Schultz fired Awan last week after he was arrested on one count of bank fraud while attempting to leave the United States for Pakistan. Awan and several family members, who also previously served as House staffers, have been at the center of a months-long House investigation.

The complaint says that since Awan was barred from accessing House computer system, he would have been prevented from “performing any reasonable IT work.”

“After Awan was barred from accessing the House computer system, Wasserman Schultz continued to pay Awan with taxpayer funds for IT consulting — a position that he could not reasonably perform,” wrote Whitaker in the complaint.

David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, told Heather Caygle of POLITICO, the complaint was baseless and meant to undermine Wasserman Schultz.

New AAN radio ad highlights Mast, Curbelo position on tax reform

Voters in two Florida congressional districts could soon be hearing more about the tax code.

The American Action Network’s Middle-Class Growth Initiative began airing radio advertisements in 34 congressional districts — including the districts of Reps. Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo — that highlights the failures of the current tax code and calls for tax cuts for American families and small businesses.

“Nothing is more important than fixing our outdated tax code and cutting taxes for working families and small businesses,” said Corry Bliss, the executive director of the American Action Network. “As leaders in Congress debate our broken code, AAN will spearhead an aggressive advertising effort across key congressional districts nationwide to ensure lawmakers make reform a priority and American gets a tax code that puts middle-class families and job creators first. This is an opportunity for Americans across the country to unify behind prosperity and growth for all and we look forward to being part of that conversation.

The $1 million radio campaign will air for five weeks and is part of the American Action Network’s ongoing effort to reform the country’s tax code.

The Middle-Class Growth Initiative will begin its full-scale campaign during the month of August with a $5 million investment to ensure Congress passes pro-growth tax policies. The initiative will include a targeted advertising effort across several platforms, which include television, digital, radio and mail.

Spotted — At California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham‘s 50th birthday fundraiser in D.C.’s Penn Quarter: Brian Mast and Carlos Curbelo.

2 South Florida Congressional seats draw additional challengers

The candidate pool in two South Florida congressional elections grew by this week with the addition of two Democrats to the 2018 field.

Matt Haggman will join nine other candidates to run for the seat held by retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinenwhile Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a strategic planning consultant from Pinecrest, will mount a challenge against Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo.

Haggman is the former director of Miami’s Knight Foundation. He will run a full-time campaign and try to appeal to “pragmatic progressive voters” as a political newcomer.

“Our biggest challenges continue to go unmet,” Haggman told the Miami Herald. “We’re not building for the future. Sea-level rise is being ignored. Many of the jobs today will be dramatically different in a very, very short time. We’re doing very little on that — and that has to change.”

Matt Haggman, the former director of Miami’s Knight Foundation, is the latest Democrat to throw his hat in the race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Others vying for the Democratic nomination are former Judge Mary Barzee Flores, state Rep. David Richardson, state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn, and Mark Anthony Person.

Three Republicans have announced bids. Those include former school board member Racquel Regalado, former state Representative and current County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, and Maria Peiro.

Mucarsel-Powell, who currently lives outside the district, points out to the Miami Herald that Curbelo “voted more than 86 percent of the time with Trump.” She also pledged her campaign will not focus entirely “on what’s happening with the president.”

While Democrats hold a 6 percent voter registration edge in the district and national Democrats are targeting Curbelo, Mucarsel-Powell is only the second to step up and run against him. Music producer Steven Lachat is the other Democrat in the race. Hillary Clinton won the district by 15 points over Trump.

By comparison, Clinton won Ros-Lehtinen’s district by 19 points and has 7 Democratic challengers, but an open seat is the best chance for a relative unknown.

As of the last FEC financial report, Curbelo had $1.1 million in the bank. While Mucarsel-Powell pledges to raise “at least $4 million to compete.”

Miller snags three more clients

Former Rep. Jeff Miller, now a lobbyist with McDermott Will & Emery, has added three more clients.

POLITICO reports the former House Veterans Affairs Committee chair who retired from the House in January, will now lobby for Ambrosia Treatment Centers, Lumina Analytics, and Veterans Evaluation Services in the executive branch.

Jeff Miller, who retired from Congress in January, is growing his client roster at McDermott Will & Emery, recently adding three more clients.

Miller is also registered to lobby on veterans issues for billionaire financier Steve Cohen.

Among Miller’s colleagues at McDermott Will & Emery include former Virginia Democratic Rep. Jim Moran, who also served along with the eight-term congressman for more than a decade.

Abramoff to be featured in new reality TV show

Jack Abramoff could soon be heading to the small screen, reports Emily Heil with The Washington Post.

The one-time lobbyist who served time in time in federal prison is set to be featured in a new reality show called “Capitol Makeover: Bitcoin Brigade.” The show will follow Abramoff as he takes a group from AML Bitcoin through a boot camp meant to transform them “from techies to lobbyists ready to take on Capitol Hill,” reports The Washington Post.

Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, shown here in Washington in 2012, is set to participate in a reality television show about Bitcoin. (Photo via The Associated Press)

The Post reports that producing the series is Blockchain Entertainment, a new production company devoted to projects about digital currency, and Ignition Creative. Filming is set to begin in 2018, and it is currently unclear where the show will air.

In 2006, Abramoff pleaded guilty in Miami to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges stemming from his lobbying work on behalf of Native American tribes. He later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud that arose from a deal to buy SunCruz Casinos. He served six years in prison.

This won’t be Abramoff’s first time in front of the camera. In 2010, he was featured in a documentary called “Casino Jack and the United States of Money.”

Sunburn for 8.2.17 – Dems lackadaisical fundraising; ACLU gears up for 2018; God bless Mike Fasano; DEO shuffle; RIP, Mark Silva

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. I hate to start the day on a sour note, but I have to share some bittersweet housekeeping news. Our Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster is leaving our enterprises for a position with the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. For more than a year, Jenna has been at the center of our operations, breaking news (like Ambassador Francis Rooney running for Congress) and breaking new ground with our e-mail products (Jenna is the heart and soul of our “Sixty Days” and “Takeaways from Tallahassee” programs. She did all of this and so much more while always doing it with the most pleasant disposition. We’re really going to miss her. Please join me and the rest of her colleagues in wishing her the best in her new endeavor.

On a sunnier note, for our readers in Tallahassee, here’s the best news you’ll read today: UberEATS will launch in Tallahassee on Thursday, August 3. This expansion will help connect more residents, students, and visitors to some of the Capital City’s favorite local restaurants. Stay tuned for more details later today.

And, finally, an above the fold (get it!) shout-out to one of the best men I know who just happens to be in politics, Kevin Cate. Also, happy birthday to one of my Top 5 favorite Republican Speakers of the House, Dean Cannon.

Now, on to politics…

— DEMOCRATIC GOV. CANDIDATES BEST GET MOVING —

As much flack as Adam Putnam, the Republican front-runner for the GOP nomination for Florida governor, has received recently, it’s really the three announced Democratic candidates who are having a rough summer, at least when it comes to raising money for their fledgling campaigns.

Neither Andrew Gillum, nor Gwen Graham or Chris King raised as much money in July for their political committees as Rick Baker did for his St. Petersburg mayoral campaign.

Gillum’s Forward Florida committee received only once check, a $10,000 contribution on July 14.

Graham’s Our Florida committee, which has been averaging nearly $400,000 a month in contributions since its February launch (h/t to George Bennett for that math), has reported three July contributions totaling $45,000.

King’s Rise And Lead Florida committee has yet to report a single contribution for the month, although sources close to the campaign say they won’t end July with a doughnut.

Mind you, the candidates have until Friday to report contributions made at the end of the month to their committees. One campaign’s fundraising director expects each of the candidates to end up with six-figure hauls.

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

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

ACLU investing millions of dollars in Florida to restore ex-felons’ voting rights” via David Weigel of The Washington Post – “It’s going to be at least [a] $5 million commitment, maybe more,” said Faiz Shakir, the ACLU’s national political director, in an interview. “We’ll build through the end of the year, and to get the signatures we need to get on the ballot, we’re looking at a million.” The voter restoration campaign is one of the most ambitious outgrowths of the ACLU’s “people power” project, announced four months ago with a rally in Florida. The idea of bringing new ACLU members and donors into grass-roots politics was on display that day, as local organizers walked around the college sports arena the ACLU had chosen for the launch, gathering signatures for the voter restoration effort. Florida’s felon disenfranchisement law, which first gained national attention after the 2000 presidential election, has remained in place under a series of Republican governors and state legislatures. Florida, Kentucky and Iowa are the only states where felony convictions permanently strip the offender of voting rights pending special clemency hearings. In 2016, the nonpartisan Sentencing Project estimated that 1.68 million Florida residents had been stripped of voting rights; clemency hearings, meanwhile, had slowed to a trickle under Gov. Rick Scott.

Villages, health care cut big checks to Rick Scott-chaired super PAC” via Florida Politics – The super PAC chaired by Gov. Scott has posted over $270,000 in fundraising for May and June, with $100,000 of that kicked in from the holding company for The Villages … The New Republican PAC, a national committee aimed at “rebranding and reinventing” the Republican Party after the election of Donald Trump, also paid out almost $50,000, leaving it with around $250,000 in cash-on-hand. Other contributors include South Florida-based Dosal Tobacco ($25,000), former Senate President Mike Haridopolos‘s PAC “Friends of Mike H” ($25,000), and Gulf Coast Health Care, a Pensacola-based long-term care provider ($40,000).

Andrew Gillum calls Adam Putnam ‘recent convert’ to gun rights movement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “Now that people have started to catch on that Commissioner Adam Putnam’s a recent convert to the gun rights movement, we should ask him how he really feels,” the Tallahassee mayor asked about the state agriculture commissioner. In the past couple of weeks, Putnam has turned up the heat on his rhetoric about guns, making his support of the gun rights movement as much of a focal point of his campaign as virtually any other issue to date. On July 18, he declared he saw a pathway to open-carry of guns in Florida, and to guns on college campuses, and later declared himself proud to be an “NRA sellout.” But the Tampa Bay Times published an article in which several gun rights advocates essentially asked of Putnam, “Where have you been?” and reported that several times earlier this year when asked about gun issues he deferred or offered non-committal responses. “Does he really think it’s a good idea for our college students to carry weapons on campuses? Does he support an assault weapons ban and closing gun show loopholes?” Gillum asked.

First in SunburnMatt Caldwell tries his hand at cattle, timber industries during #2LaneTravels Work Day – Rep. Caldwell got a taste of the cattle industry last month, when he held a #2LaneTravls Work Day focused on the cattle and timber industry. The work day event gave Caldwell a chance to not only see a different model for the cattle industry, but better understand the scope of the state’s timber industry. The most recent work day gave him a chance to work with Usher Land and Timber’s cattle ranch, out with their logging crews, and check out the Suwannee Lumber Company’s mill and manufacturing facility. “It was exciting to work alongside cattlemen, logging crews and timber operations teams,” said Caldwell in a statement. “As we continue to highlight important jobs throughout our statewide travels, these work opportunities will help me lead in Tallahassee on day one and champion ag-related issues that are vital to economic growth and prosperity in our state. The hard work done in the timber, cattle, and logging industries is vital to our state’s economy and I am thrilled to highlight a part of Florida that most people don’t see.”

Click the image below to watch the video:

José Felix Díaz raised $530K from donors who directly lobbied his committee” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – As chair of the House Commerce Committee, Díaz has overseen a wide range of industries that are fertile fundraising territory, including gaming, insurance and a wide array of businesses interests. The powerful committee was created this year when House Speaker Richard Corcoran put a range of issues previously overseen by two committees under one committee umbrella, a move that also upped its fundraising potential. Shortly after the 2017 legislative session, Díaz also announced his candidacy in the special election for Senate District 40 against Democrat Annette Taddeo. Because it’s the only race in an otherwise quiet summer, the campaign is getting national attention as both parties test messages and strategies headed into 2018. Díaz says campaign contributions don’t impact how he votes or runs his committee.

What Will Weatherford is reading – “Pasco businessman Ardian Zika to run for House District 37” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Land O’ Lakes business owner and banker Zika is the latest Republican to file to run for the Pasco County state House seat being vacated by term-limited Richard Corcoran. The 37-year-old Zika was born in the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to the U.S. from Kosovo in 1997. “I’m the product of American exceptionalism and I, like you, am working tirelessly in pursuit of the American Dream,” said Zika in a statement … “Our campaign puts Floridians First so each one has an opportunity to reach the American Dream through upward economic mobility,” he says. “I’ll champion bold and visionary ideas to unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit of innovation and transform our community. As your State Representative, I’ll fight for lower taxes, less regulation and more personal responsibility and to protect our constitutional rights.” Zika has spent the past 14 years in the banking industry before starting up his own business advisory company, Guardian & Company I, earlier this year.

HD 44 Republican primary votes coming in” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The office of Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles reported that 7,175 absentee ballots have been requested and mailed out for the contest, and 2,063 already have been filled out and returned, two weeks out from the Aug. 15 primary election. There are 44,705 Republican voters in HD 44, which covers southwest Orange including the suburbs of Windermere, Winter Garden, and Ocoee, and was vacated this spring when Republican former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle resigned. The GOP race features four candidates: Dr. Usha Jain, Bobby Olszewski, John Newstreet and Bruno Portigliatti. There is only one Democrat running, Paul Chandler, so he’ll face the winner in the Oct. 10 special general election. Early voting starts Saturday and runs through Saturday, Aug. 12. Three early voting stations will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.through those eight days: The Southwest Library near the intersection of Dr. Phillips Boulevard and Sand Lake Road; the Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge in Winter Garden; and the Supervisor of Elections Office, on Kaley Street south of downtown Orlando.

– “Direct mail roundup: Pro-Bruno Portigliatti postcards hit HD 44 mailboxes” via Florida Politics

– “Police Benevolent Association backs John Newstreet in HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Save the date:

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

50,000 citizens takeouts approved for Oct.” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has approved 50,000 policies to be removed from Citizens Property Insurance Corp. in the October takeout period. Safepoint Insurance Company is approved to remove up to 35,000 personal residential policies and Southern Oaks Insurance Company is approved to remove up to 15,000 personal residential policies. Nearly 140,000 policies have been approved for removal from Citizens in 2017, though thus far only 13,460 have been successfully removed.

Richard Corcoran’s choice of friend Mike Fasano for key post goes badly awry” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – For weeks, Corcoran quietly planned to shake things up at Florida’s state-run insurer, Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Then Citizens got wind of Corcoran’s plan and everything fell apart. As speaker, Corcoran can make two appointments to Citizens’ nine-member board that sets insurance rates for homeowners in much of Florida. His choice for one of them was his friend Fasano, the Pasco tax collector who as a Republican lawmaker was a persistent thorn in the insurance industry’s well-heeled side. Corcoran wanted Fasano to replace Chris Gardner, an Orlando insurance executive, an appointee of former Speaker Will Weatherford and an ally of Citizens chief executive Barry Gilway. Gardner’s term expired Monday. Fasano was likely to make life miserable for Gilway. But before Corcoran could appoint Fasano, two Gilway advisers raised a red flag: Because Fasano is an elected constitutional officer, putting him on Citizens’ board could violate Florida’s ban on dual officeholding by public officials who can’t simultaneously hold two positions with sovereign political power.

Happening today – Reps. Byron Donalds and Bob Rommel will discuss the 2017 Legislative Session during a meeting of Republican Women of Southwest Florida Federated. Meeting starts 11:30 a.m. At the ROW restaurant, 2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road In Naples.

Happening today – Sens. Anitere Flores and Jose Javier Rodriguez as well as Rep. Nicholas Duran will discuss the 2017 Legislative Session during a luncheon of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce beginning noon at Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail in Miami.

Happening today – Sen. Aaron Bean will give an overview of the 2017 Legislative Session to the Rotary Club of West Jacksonville beginning 12:30 p.m. At the Florida Yacht Club, 5210 Yacht Club Road in Jacksonville.

— STATEWIDE —

Consumer sentiment back up in July” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Consumer sentiment among Floridians rose 1.5 points in July to 97.7, the second-highest reading since March 2002, according to the University of Florida’s most recent consumer sentiment data. Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest drop in this month’s reading, down 2.7 points from 91.1 to 88.4. Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a major household item such as an appliance increased 1.5 points, from 102.1 to 103.6. Expectations of personal finances a year from now ticked down nine-tenths of a point, from 104.7 to 103.8. Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year showed the greatest increase in this month’s reading, up six points from 91.8 to 97.8. Additionally, expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years rose 4.1 points, from 91.1 to 95.2.

Florida judge: 20-year sentence for firing gun an injustice” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – An appeals court judge criticized Florida’s mandatory minimum gun laws while regretfully upholding the 20-year-sentence of a man who fired a gun at the ground. A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal agreed that Eric Patrick Wright’s sentence cannot be reduced, but Judge James Wolf took the extra step of writing an opinion that calls the case an injustice. “This case … is a classic example of how inflexible mandatory minimum sentences may result in injustices within the legal system that should not be tolerated,” Wolf wrote. Court documents show that Wolf’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his child barged into his fiancee’s Jacksonville home in 2013 to confront him. He asked her to leave, she refused and a struggle ensued. Wright drew a gun and fired it to scare her off.

“Greyhound group asks state to reverse decoupling decision” via Florida PoliticsAs promised, the Florida Greyhound Association is asking state gambling regulators to “reconsider” their decision to allow Miami’s Magic City Casino to discontinue live dog racing. The association filed a “motion to intervene” Tuesday. Ending racing there “will put (its) members … out of business,” the motion says. “The purpose … is to forever end greyhound racing at the track. Many members are family owned businesses that have raced greyhounds at the race track for generations.” The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, last month approved a request from the Havenick family to drop dog racing at its Miami facility in a first-of-its-kind ruling.

Football player workers’ comp case goes to Supreme Court” via the News Service of Florida – A former Arena Football League player wants the Florida Supreme Court to take up a dispute about whether he should receive workers’ compensation insurance benefits because of injuries suffered while trying to regain a roster spot with the Orlando Predators. Attorneys for Bryon Bishop filed a notice that they are appealing a June 6 decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal. A three-judge panel of the appeals court overturned a judge’s ruling that supported workers’ compensation benefits for Bishop, a former lineman for the Predators who was injured in July 2013 as he worked out with the team. The appeals court concluded that Bishop was not an employee of the Arena Football League. Bishop and a Predators coach had signed a contract, but the document had not been signed by a league official.

Former Bradenton lawmaker Ron Reagan sued over unpaid loan” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Another creditor is suing a company founded by former Bradenton state Rep. Reagan over a loan for the insurance startup. Steve Valley loaned Reagan’s Tidewater Insurance $25,000 in 2011. The company has not made any payments on the loan and Reagan has stopped responding to communications, Valley said. “I’m not doing this because I don’t like Ron,” Valley said of the lawsuit filed in July. “I consider him a friend. It’s business; it’s not personal.” … Reagan said he’s still working to get the company launched and is “very hopeful” it eventually will take off. But Tidewater still has not received authority from the state Office of Insurance Regulation to operate. “It’s an investment that a lot of us put a lot of money into,” Reagan said. “Unfortunately, we have not got the company launched as quickly as we wanted to.”

Lower speed limits coming to some Florida roads” via Wayne Roustan of the Orlando Sentinel – Florida is thinking about reducing speed limits from an average of 45 mph to 25 mph in some areas. It’s part of an ambitious plan to make the state’s roads and highways safer for people on foot and bicycles. Which roads will get slower? It’s too soon to say. The Florida Department of Transportation is considering a number of measures that could show up over several years. They are part of the “Complete Streets” initiative adopted by FDOT in 2014 and tailored by individual counties, cities and towns.

New driver’s licenses to boost security” via the News Service of Florida – Colorful high-tech driver’s licenses and state identification cards, designed for added security and to cut down on fake IDs, will start rolling out across Florida this month. In the works since 2014, the new design will become available Aug. 21 at a driver’s license office in Volusia County’s Orange City. The card features nearly double the number of security features as the current card … Each card will have better safeguards, from features that appear only when viewed under ultraviolet light to a pastel-colored linear rendering of the Florida state seal and a large orange “FL.” A head shot of the person who has been issued the card will appear in four locations, including one that is a part of a transparent background. A red box will be affixed to the front for people under 21, stating when the cardholder will reach that age. The back features an image of the state of Florida, the year 1845 in reference to the year of Florida’s statehood and the word “Florida” amid blue lines representing ocean waves. The information on the card will also be linked through two barcodes and a magnetic stripe on the back.

Union reps confident about wage negotiations with Disney” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – While cast members chanted “strike, strike” during an announcement that unions will ask Walt Disney World for higher wages, neither Disney nor the unions want wage negotiations to end with people out of work. The unions would not disclose the proposal they’ll take to the bargaining table Aug. 28 but said it would be an accelerated progression to a living wage similar to California’s minimum wage increase to $15 an hour by 2022. Disney’s last raise was from $8.05 to $10 an hour in 2014. Three years ago, Disney signed a 5 1/2-year contract that allowed workers to reopen wage talks this year. The two sides have until October to reach an agreement on pay or the entire contract could be reopened, including pension and health care benefits. Walt Howard, vice president of Teamsters Local 385, said he is hopeful that they will come to an agreement with Walt Disney World, the state’s largest employer. He said this negotiation is unique because it is the first time in more than 40 years that all six unions representing Disney cast members are united with one cause.

Asima Azam’s cries of ‘identity politics’ ring hollow in Orlando City Council race” via Florida Politics – For most voters, a candidate who embraces faith — no matter which faith that would be — is seen as a positive. But in the case of Asima Azam, a real estate attorney vying to be the first Muslim-American elected to the Orlando City Council, the way she espouses her faith smacks of just a bit of hypocrisy … while Azam is certainly quick to proclaim her faith, as she does in an Orlando Sentinel profile piece, she is equally quick to condemn opponents for merely mentioning it. And when Fox 35 interviewed Azam, faith is in the very first question: “You would make history because you would be the first Muslim-American to be elected to Orlando’s City Council.” However, when Robert Stuart, Azam’s opponent for the District 3 seat, mentions in a polling question that she is Muslim-American — a fact she openly embraces — both Azam and Democrats were quick to cry “identity politics.” You just cannot have it both ways. While there Azam is impressive, it is hypocritical for her to tout her heritage one moment, and accuse others of identity politics the next.

Sexually transmitted Zika case confirmed in Pinellas County” via WFLA – The Florida Department of Health … stressed that there is no evidence of Zika transmission through mosquitoes taking place anywhere in Florida. The infected person did not travel, but has a partner who recently visited Cuba. The partner started showing symptoms consistent with Zika. Both then tested positive for the virus. The health department has been in touch with mosquito control, and says mosquito reduction activities are taking place. The number of Zika cases reported in Florida so far in 2017 is now 118. Ninety of the cases are travel-related infections.

— MOVEMENTS —

“Leadership team changes at Department of Economic Opportunity” via Florida PoliticsChris Peary, DEO’s chief information officer, last month was moved up to chief of staff, replacing Jim Poppell, now the Secretary of the Lottery. Peary was previously with the Florida Senate and Florida Department of Education. Also promoted is Erin Gillespie, from communications director to deputy chief of staff, overseeing “the agency’s communications and legislative affairs efforts, as well as project management and policy development,” an announcement said. Before joining DEO, Gillespie was Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s press secretary. And Karen Smith has moved from the Department of Transportation to be DEO’s new Press Secretary.  

“Rick Scott appoints three to Citizens Insurance Board of Governors” via Florida Politics – The governor named Chris Gardner, of Winter Park, chief executive officer of Hub International Florida; Jim Holton, of Indian Shores, president and owner of Holton Companies; and Bette Brown, of Tavernier, area executive of CenterState Bank. Gardner’s term ends in July 2019, Holton’s in July 2020 and Brown’s in March 2020. Gardner was previously appointed to the board by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford. Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a government-created corporation, became the state’s insurer of last resort after millions of Floridians were dropped by their homeowner insurance companies in the wake of 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

“John McKay appointed to Citizens Board of Governors” via Florida Politics – Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Tuesday named McKay, the state’s Senate President in 2000-02, to the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors. McKay, of Bradenton, now is president of The Riverside Real Estate Company. He also serves as board chairman for the Manatee Rural Health Foundation and the McKay Academy, and was formerly board chairman for the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and Ringling Museum of Art. McKay replaces former board member Juan Cocuy for a three-year term ending July 31, 2020.

AppointedMike Griffin to the Tampa Port Authority.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Matt Brockelman, Deno Hicks, Southern Strategy Group: JB Coxwell Contracting

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: MCO Biotechnology Group LLC.

Jon Johnson, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: ProCom Consulting

“Personnel note: Susannah Nesmith joins Miami-Dade ethics panel” via Florida PoliticsNesmith, a more than 25-year veteran of South Florida journalism, announced on Facebook Tuesday that she has taken a job as an investigator for the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission. “I’m going to take the investigating skills in a different direction, one I’m excited about,” she wrote. Nesmith was an award-winning reporter at The Palm Beach Post and Miami Herald, later free-lancing and teaching journalism at Barry University. She’s also recently been the Columbia Journalism Review’s correspondent for Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Nesmith “covered wars, elections, civil conflicts and natural disasters in Iraq, Colombia, Haiti, Turkey, Venezuela, Florida and New Orleans,” her bio says.

— REST IN PEACE —

Mark Silva, Tim Nickens, Jeb Bush, Michael Griffin, and Brian Crowley. Photo via Facebook.

“Mark Silva, longtime newsman, dies of brain cancer” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – “Mark Silva, longtime Tallahassee bureau chief for the Miami Herald who went on to cover the White House for the Chicago Tribune, died early Tuesday at his home in Arlington, Va.. He was 63 and recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Silva led the Herald’s capital bureau from the mid-1980s through the 1990s and became the paper’s political editor through the 2000 presidential election, a contest decided only after a pivotal Florida recount that brought Tallahassee global fame.

“He joined the Orlando Sentinel as political editor in 2001, moving to Washington three years later to cover the George W. Bush White House. Later, he was an editor with Bloomberg News and mostly recently an editor with U.S. News & World Report, where he led a new team examining politics and policies in the 50 states at the organization’s Best States project. Silva leaves his wife of 33-years, Nina, and two children, Dylan and Lisa and a grandson, Noah.

“Silva was a force in Tallahassee during a newspaper heyday during which Florida dailies maintained robust capital bureaus that competed fiercely over every inch of political, legislative and policy territory. Silva was rarely beaten. But he often beat others. With a relentless work ethic and a passion for collecting news tips from lobbyists drinking ‘see-through’ at Clydes, Silva could power out a steady stream of dailies and weekenders. He also could turn a phrase.”

Tributes:

The former governor of Florida:

The mayor of Tampa:

CNN’s Senior White House Correspondent:

A former executive director of the Florida GOP:

A veteran Democratic political operative:

A prominent Florida and D.C. lobbyist:

— ALOE — 

With prices rising, cheap chicken wings may be a thing of the past” via Tim Carman of The Washington Post – The bad news: Chicken wings prices were out of control — and not just for chefs and restaurants in the D.C. region. Wholesale wing prices have been rising for months. The reason behind the skyrocketing wing prices is simple, says Erik Oosterwijk, president and founder of Fells Point Wholesale Meats. The demand has increased. Just think about all the chains that, more or less, specialize in wings: not just Buffalo Wild Wings, but BonChon, Wingstop, Wing Zone and Hooters, among others. Then there are the pizza chains, such as Domino’s and Papa John’s, that have adopted wings, as well as sports bars, dive bars and BonChon imitators where the snack is a staple. The increased demand is sweet revenge for the humble wing, an unwanted poultry byproduct back in the 1980s, when the American dining public was certain that animal fats would kill them and demanded only boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But starting around 2009, wing prices started to eclipse those for breasts, hinting that demand for wingettes and drumettes was on the rise.

Miami wants to be included in 2026 World Cup bid” via Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press –Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county will submit a bid by September to host games in the 2026 World Cup, a move that comes with David Beckham possibly on the cusp of getting approval to bring an expansion Major League Soccer franchise to Miami and following a week where more than 110,000 fans attended two high-profile exhibition matches in South Florida. The county will make its pitch to the United Bid Committee, the group formed by the national delegations of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to pursue bringing a men’s World Cup to North America for the first time since 1994. “We are hopeful,” Gimenez said. “We anticipate that we would make the first cut. I think Miami is in a very strong position to make the first cut and actually to make the final cut of either eight or 10 American cities to host World Cup games in 2026.” Part of the UBC’s 10-person board is former University of Miami president Donna Shalala. The group has been contacting more than 40 cities in recent weeks, inviting them to apply.

Happy birthday to Skylar’s much better half, Lindsey Perkins Zander.

Asima Azam’s cries of ‘identity politics’ ring hollow in Orlando City Council race

In modern politics, faith has always been somewhat of a double-edged sword.

For most voters, a candidate who embraces faith — no matter which faith that would be — is seen as a positive.

But in the case of Asima Azam, a real estate attorney vying to be the first Muslim-American elected to the Orlando City Council, the way she espouses her faith smacks of just a bit of hypocrisy.

It’s not that Azam is Muslim, which (unfortunately) has become a highly charged issue in recent American politics.

It is while Azam is certainly quick to proclaim her faith, as she does in an Orlando Sentinel profile piece, she is equally quick to condemn opponents for merely mentioning it.

In February, the Sentinel wrote: “Azam said she believed, and the Orlando Sentinel’s archives suggest, she would be the first Muslim to sit on the council.”

And when Fox 35 interviewed Azam, faith is in the very first question: “You would make history because you would be the first Muslim-American to be elected to Orlando’s City Council.” In response, she proudly accepted the description: “I am a second-generation Muslim-American. My parents came from Pakistan, I’m a wife, a mom and I’m a working mom …”

Again, diversity in representation, particularly on the municipal level, is always a good thing.

However, when Robert Stuart, Azam’s opponent for the District 3 seat, mentions in a polling question that she is Muslim-American — a fact she openly embraces — both Azam and Democrats were quick to cry “identity politics.”

You just cannot have it both ways.

Comparing her statements — where Azam self-identifies as Muslim — with the polling she decries, conducted by well-regarded Democrat pollster Jim Kitchens (also a resident of District 3), they are virtually identical.

Voters were asked if the following statement increased or decreased the likelihood they would vote for my opponent or if there was no impact: “Asima Azam is a wife, mom of three and a real estate attorney. She has served on Orlando’s Building and Zoning Board but has never run for political office before. News reports state that if she won, she would be the first Muslim American elected to the Orlando City Commission.”

If the question was divisive and troublesome, why is it that Fox 35 or the Sentinel are not guilty for doing, in essence, the exact same thing?

If Azam were truly offended, why did she repost and publish the question verbatim to her Facebook page? Why not refuse to answer the Fox 35 question, or object to the Sentinel headline?

One reason the campaign now finds it offensive could be to score some quick political points with “identity politics.” Indeed, Democrats were eager to take up the issue in a recent fundraising email.

Stuart’s campaign conducted a scientific poll, using a proper sampling of District 3 voters. There were no robocalls or push-polls. It was simply asking for positive and negative responses about Stuart and his opponent, their faith, and our community service.

Such surveys are commonplace, and often use identifying features (such as the way each candidate presents themselves) to gauge voter interest.

While Azam is impressive, it is hypocritical for her to tout her heritage one moment, and accuse others of identity politics the next.

Sunburn for 8.1.17 – Emily comes and goes; Ashley Moody’s latest backers; HD 44 fireworks; Jason Altmire’s big news

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

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

— TROPICAL DEPRESSION EMILY MOVING OUT OVER THE ATLANTIC —

Tropical Depression Emily is moving out over the Atlantic early Tuesday, a day after slogging across the Florida peninsula, where it brought drenching rain and power outages.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the depression’s maximum sustained winds are near 30 mph. Forecasters say slight strengthening is possible during the day but the poorly-organized depression is expected to stop being a tropical system within a day or two.

The depression is centered about 50 miles north-northeast of Vero Beach, Florida, and is moving east-northeast near 12 mph.

Emily’s rain shouldn’t prompt Lake Okeechobee discharges, expert says” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – The 2 to 3 inches of rain over a wide swath south of Orlando could raise the lake level about 6 inches, said Paul Gray, a Audubon Florida scientist who’s been studying the lake environment for decades. The lake elevation Monday morning was not quite 12 feet 9 inches, which is about a foot lower than the average for the end of July. “Even with all that rain from Emily, the lake level would still be below the average for this time of year,” Gray said. “Luckily, the drought this spring brought the lake way down and gave it a lot of capacity to hold more water without getting too high.” Emily was a tropical storm when it made landfall Monday afternoon but was downgraded to a tropical depression by 5 p.m.

Emily’s surprise: Ingredients were there for quick-forming tropical storm” via Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times – Though the forces at work in Emily’s rapid development are familiar, experts said they came together in a way that fooled the mostly highly-regarded computer forecast model and highlighted how unpredictable Mother Nature can be. Emily began as a so-called cold-core frontal low, a type of weather front familiar this time of year, said Stacy Stewart, senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. These kinds of fronts typically span many hundreds of miles and have a large circulation and wind radius. That means it takes days for the heat generated by thunderstorms to warm up the front’s inner core, which causes the pressure to drop and wind speeds to increase. When this happens, the front can transition to a so-called warm-core tropical low, which can develop into much stronger storms — including cyclones.

The frontal low that spawned Emily was unusually small, about 150 miles in diameter, meaning it required relatively few thunderstorms to warm up its core … “We get one or two storms a year that form like this, but not this quickly,” Stewart said.

Must read –Tampa Bay is due for a major hurricane. It is not prepared.” via Darryl Fears of The Washington Post – A Boston firm that analyzes potential catastrophic damage reported that the region would lose $175 billion in a storm the size of Hurricane Katrina. A World Bank study called Tampa Bay one of the 10 most at-risk areas on the globe. Yet the bay area — greater Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater — has barely begun to assess the rate of sea-level rise and address its effects. Its slow response to a major threat is a case study in how American cities reluctantly prepare for the worst, even though signs of impacts from climate change abound all-around. The sea in Tampa Bay has risen naturally throughout time, about an inch per decade. But in the early 1990s, scientists say, it accelerated to several inches above normal, so much that recent projections have the bay rising between 6 inches and more than 2 feet by the middle of the century and up to nearly 7 feet when it ends. On top of that, natural settling is causing land to slowly sink. Sea-level rise worsens the severity of even small storms, adding to the water that can be pushed ashore. Hard rains now regularly flood neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, Tampa and Clearwater.

Rick Scott says Floridians pay far more into flood insurance than they get back in claims” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact – Scott said “Over the past 35 years, Florida families have paid into the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) over $16 billion, four times more than the amount they have received in claim reimbursements.” A study from the Wharton Center concluded that Florida’s “policyholders paid $16.1 billion in premiums but collected only $4.5 billion in claims reimbursements: that is, premiums paid over time were about 3.6 times the insurance reimbursements.” That statistic from the study covered 1978-2008, but it’s likely the trend has continued through 2012. The only key point that Scott omits is that this imbalance is common: Lots of states pay more in premiums than they receive in claims.

A major storm could change that dynamic, and the purpose of insurance is to protect against such an event. We rate this claim Mostly True.

– “Insurers say they’re ready for Tropical Storm Emily” via Florida Politics

Meanwhile … “State adds three ‘travel related’ Zika cases” via the News Service of Florida – … bringing to 116 the number of reported cases of the mosquito-borne virus this year, according to numbers on the state Department of Health website. State numbers a week earlier showed 113 cases. The state does not have any areas where ongoing transmission of the virus is occurring … But incidences of infected people bringing the virus into the state – known as “travel related” cases – continue to increase. The new numbers show 88 travel-related infections reported this year. Another 22 cases involve people who were exposed to Zika in 2016 and tested in 2017, with the nature of the exposures listed as “undetermined.” Another six cases involve people who were infected in the state in 2016 and tested in 2017. Zika is particularly dangerous to pregnant women because it can cause severe birth defects.

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

NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

’Open carry’ advocates ask Adam Putnam: Where have you been?” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Putnam is talking a lot about a “pathway” to an open carry gun law in Florida as he chases the Republican nomination for governor … But his vocal support for an open carry law surprises people who have actually pushed for it in Tallahassee. Two leading open carry supporters, Sen. Greg Steube and former Senate President Don Gaetz can’t recall Putnam ever helping them get the bill passed. “Zero,” Gaetz said of Putnam. “He didn’t help and he didn’t hurt. He played no role in moving the bill. He never called me or approached me about the bill or offered to help.” Steube filed open carry (SB 140) in the 2017 session, and the bill was seven words long. Steube has no recollection of Putnam trying to help pass the bill. “This is the first I’m hearing of him taking a position on it,” Steube told the Times/Herald. Citing Putnam’s “pathway” comments, Steube said: “Prior to that, I didn’t know what his position was.” Neither Steube nor Gaetz is supporting a candidate for governor.

Four more sheriffs endorse Ashley Moody for attorney general — Four more Republican sheriffs – Hernando Sheriff Al Neinhuis, Lake Sheriff Peyton Grinnell, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, and Sumter Sheriff William “Bill” Farmer – have backed Ashley Moody in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “I’m proud to have the endorsement of four sheriffs who demonstrate daily their passion for protecting their local communities and work around the clock to go after violent criminals who target our neighborhoods, predators who target our children, identify thieves who target our seniors, and scammers who target hardworking Floridians,” said Moody in a statement. “These four sheriffs understand better than most that to keep to Florida safe requires around the clock vigilance and unwavering dedication to service. I thank them for all they’ve done to protect us and I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of men of such high character and conviction.”

Matt Haggman, who may run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat, to make ‘special announcement’ Tuesday” via Alex Daugherty and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Two weeks ago, Haggman quit his post as the Knight Foundation’s program director in Miami, telling a reporter to “stay tuned” about his future plans. And now Haggman is hosting an event dubbed “Building a Better Miami” where he promises a “special announcement,” according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. If Haggman jumps in the race for Ros-Lehtinen‘s seat he will become the sixth Democrat aiming for the Miami-based seat that Democrats argue is likely to flip after Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement in April.

Tony Cartwright files to run in HD 4 — Libertarian Ton Cartwright has filed to run against Rep. Mel Ponder in House District 4 in 2018. LobbyTools Legislative IQ reports that Carwright flew F-15 fighter jects in the Air Force after graduating from the University of Memphis. After finishing his active duty career at Eglin Air Force Base, he joined the United States Air Force National Guard and serves as a part-time operational test pilot. He currently works as a civilian at the base, advising on F-15 test programs. Ponder, a Destin Republican, was first elected in 2016.  

First in Sunburn – Wyman Duggan entering HD 15 race — The invisible primary to replace Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s HD 15 has been won by local insider Wyman Duggan. Duggan was urged to run by Mayor Lenny Curry and Curry’s political team ​(Tim Baker as consultant, Brian Hughes as comms) is on board. Fant is “AG or bust” in 2018, which denotes laudable commitment, but could leave him without a chair when the music stops … unless he wants to run for an open City Council seat (Jim Love in Fant’s home District 14 would be termed out in 2019). Duggan briefly ran in 2012 for state Senate, but lost the money race to eventual winner Aaron Bean. Duggan won’t lose this money race — he will have a finance team no other hopeful can match.

Direct mail round-up: John Newstreet branded as ‘Osceola Liberal’” via Florida Politics –The direct mail campaign attempts to brand the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce CEO as an “Osceola Liberal” who supports amnesty for illegal immigrants and backs the DREAM Act. The mailers, sent out by the Jacob Milich-chaired Central Florida Republicans for Truth, are peppered with quotes by Newstreet seemingly supporting an open-door immigration policy. “With a megaphone in hand, JOHN NEWSTREET addressed a group of pro-amnesty farmworkers fighting for Amnesty and the DREAM Act,” the ad reads, before attributing “we’re supportive,” “we’re friendly to you” and “I wish I could say it’s possible” to Newstreet. One side of the mailer asserts “conservatives cannot trust” the former aide to U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio, while the other says he “betrayed our conservative values” and gives him the Trumpian nickname “Lyin’ John Newstreet.” Newstreet is one of four Republicans running in the special election for HD 44.

Two west Orange County mayors yank support for Bobby Olszewski in HD 44 race via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn and Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson announced in an open letter that they are withdrawing their endorsements of Olszewski because of concerns over his commitment to the home rule paradigm that assumes cities and counties should have the rights to govern as they see fit. The pair of mayors blasted Olszewski for supporting term limits for local offices, and stating in campaign fliers that as a state representative he would push for term limits. Those fliers also called for ethics reform legislation that would address “secret government contracts” and increase the lobbying ban for local officials. Olszewski responded by doubling-down on that position, and challenging his opponents to state their positions on term limits.

Republican emerges for Mark Miller House seat” via the News Service of Florida – With state Rep. Mike Miller running for Congress, a Republican candidate has emerged to try to succeed him in the Florida House. Winter Park Republican Stockton Reeves has opened a campaign account to run next year in Orange County’s House District 47 … Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani opened an account for the race in early July.

Save the date: Berny Jacques will hold a fundraiser for his House District 66 campaign at 6 p.m. on Aug. 16 at Intermezzo Coffee & Cocktails, 1111 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Conservative group files complaint against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Imran Aman case” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust filed a complaint … “There is something quite amiss as to why Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued to use taxpayer funds to employ former technology staff member, Imran Awan, even months after he was barred from accessing the House’s computer systems and a number of her colleagues severed ties with Awan,” said Matthew Whitaker, Executive Director of FACT. “Since Awan’s arrest last week, Wasserman Schultz has been evasive and unable to answer even basic questions about the nature of Awan’s employment with her office. This only further confirms the urgency of an investigation into her unethical and illegal actions.” While other Democratic members of Congress who had employed Awan quickly severed ties after the investigation came to light, Wasserman Schultz didn’t fire Awan until he was arrested July 25 for bank fraud.

Gov. Scott’s promise to fight for Obamacare repeal has stalled” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Scott vowed during his first campaign in 2010 to fight to repeal the federal law. We have been tracking his progress on our Scott-O-Meter, which tracks dozens of Scott’s campaign promises. Scott’s promise stalled during Obama‘s tenure but the election of Trump, a Scott ally, gave the pledge new potential. Scott has met with Trump and members of his administration multiple times urging repeal of the law, prompting us to move up his promise to In the Works. It is unclear when or if the Senate will be able to muster enough votes to repeal Obamacare or take any other significant steps related to the health care law.

Scott has about a year and a half to continue to advocate for repeal until his term as governor expires in January 2019. For that reason, we’re moving our rating of Scott’s promise to fight for repeal of Obamacare to Stalled.

American Action Network launches radio ads highlighting Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo efforts on tax reform — The American Action Network’s Middle Class Growth Initiative will begin airing radio advertisements in 34 congressional districts – including the districts of Reps. Mast and  Curbelo – that highlights the failures of the current tax code and calls for tax cuts for American families and small businesses. The $1 million radio campaign is part of the organization’s ongoing effort to reform the country’s tax code. “Nothing is more important than fixing our outdated tax code and cutting taxes for working families and small businesses,” said Corry Bliss, the AAN executive director in a statement. “As leaders in Congress debate our broken tax code, AAN will spearhead an aggressive advertising effort across key congressional districts nationwide to ensure lawmakers make reform a priority and America gets a tax code that puts middle-class families and job creators first.”

Francis Rooney and Mario Diaz-Balart want more money for Everglades” via Alexandra Glorioso and Ledyard King of the Naples Daily News – But the two congressmen who represent Collier County said their hands are tied due to a budget process that gives the president ultimate authority on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget. “We got everything we asked for and everything the president asked for in this budget,” Rooney said at Picayune Strand State Forest during a news conference with Diaz-Balart. “Now it wasn’t everything we were hoping the president would ask for, but the appropriators can only give us the maximum that the White House asks for.” Congress can’t appropriate more funds for specific projects than the president allocates in his budget. The Republican-controlled Congress banned such earmarks several years ago as a way to control government spending. All it can do is provide more funding to an agency or a program in the hopes that the extra money will find its way to local priorities.

— OPINION —

David Barnes: To lower college tuition; get the government out of the way” for Florida Politics – Few issues resonated more with young people during last year’s presidential election than the idea of “free college.” After all, with tuition costs at an all-time high and many recent college graduates saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, millennials are looking for a financial lifeline. What to do? Well, according to some, the problem is stingy state governments. The less the state chips in, the more expensive college becomes. Known as “state disinvestment,” it’s a theory that has a number of high profile supporters and seems very logical at first glance. Unfortunately for big government proponents, it’s not that simple. New research from the American Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank, found scant evidence for the idea that in-state public colleges and universities give students a break on tuition when government increases their funding. If lawmakers truly want to help young Americans better afford higher education, they should start by introducing real choice and competition into the system, instead of more subsidies. Reforming the accreditation process, which discourages innovation and crowds out newer, smaller institutions that can’t afford the costly and burdensome process, will bring less costly alternatives that give better value than a four-year degree.

Kent Fuchs: Yes, college is a good thing for America and Americansfor the Tampa Bay Times– At a time our country seems more divided than ever, America’s colleges and universities still offer young people an opportunity to find common ground and grow together — two things on which the very future of the nation may depend. The need to point this out crystallized for me with the recent release of new findings from the Pew Research Center showing that a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58 percent) believe colleges and universities are bad for the country. Although the poll shows a majority of Americans overall (55 percent) still think college is a good thing, the fact that a significant and growing part of our population doesn’t is alarming.

— FEW FLORIDA JUVENILE LIFERS RE-SENTENCED DESPITE MANDATE —

Barbed wire surrounds the prison that holds Jason Robinson, 39, in Gatesville, Texas. Robinson was convicted of murder at 16. Photo credit: AP.

The Associated Press surveyed all 50 states to see how judges and prosecutors, lawmakers and parole boards are re-examining juvenile lifer cases. Some have resentenced and released dozens of those deemed to have rehabilitated themselves and served sufficient time. Others have delayed review of cases, skirted the ruling on seeming technicalities or fought to keep the vast majority of their affected inmates locked up for life. In Florida, reports Gary Fineout:

— Florida has roughly 600 inmates whose life sentences for homicide are potentially affected by court rulings mandating a second look at the punishment of juvenile offenders, but most still await a shot at resentencing.

— So far only about 85 of those inmates have been resentenced.

— The slow pace stems from various factors. A lack of money has kept some prosecutors and public defenders from revisiting cases quickly. Some elected prosecutors have adapted more rapidly than others to the mandated reviews. And state courts have struggled to figure out which types of sentences comply with the rulings.

— In addition to the 85 homicide offenders already resentenced, about 80 others imprisoned for life in nonhomicide cases have received new terms.

— Public defenders asked legislators this year for nearly $8 million to tackle all the case reviews, but the request was rejected.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida’s first responders to child abuse overwhelmed, inexperienced” via Olivia Hitchcock of the Palm Beach Post – A dozen former and current Florida Department of Children and Families child-protective investigators in Palm Beach County [say] that an inundation of paperwork, an ever-expanding job description and a ballooning number of cases have led to what some are calling a “mass exodus” of investigators statewide. “Out all night, up all day, you aren’t getting any sleep. How can you make a sound decision about a child’s safety?” a current investigator said. At one time or another in 2016, nearly every investigator in Palm Beach County juggled more cases than state policy recommends they should, an analysis of data provided by the state shows. In fact, some investigators handled more than double the recommended caseload — 15 — at one point in 2016, data show.

“Claim bill filing deadline approaches” via Florida Politics – Senators face an Tuesday deadline to file claim bills for the 2018 session, according to LobbyTools. Such bills are filed to get added compensation for those injured by governmental negligence (or for families of people who died). Florida law limits local governments and other public bodies to paying no more than $200,000 per person in damages unless lawmakers pass a claim bill, also known as a relief act, for extra money. The legal doctrine of sovereign immunity protects governments from suits unless they agree to be sued, the Tampa Tribune once explained. “But that blanket protection has been chipped away over the years, after incidents in which otherwise innocent citizens were harmed. In 1973, Florida lawmakers decided to allow some suits against the government,” its article says. “Since then, lawmakers have developed distaste for claim bills, especially after years of intense lobbying against them by public entities and their insurance companies, and for them by claimants.”

Palm Beach County commissioners move to end moratorium on pot shops” via Jeff Ostrowski of the Palm Beach Post – Lake Worth is the only locale in Palm Beach County to welcome medical marijuana dispensaries for now, but that’s about to change. Palm Beach County commissioners pushed forward the process of setting rules for pot shops in unincorporated areas. County commissioners set Aug. 24 as the date of a first reading of a proposed ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries. The final reading would come Sept. 28. Now, the county says, it’s poised to end that moratorium and allow cannabis retailers to operate. A state law passed in late June says dispensaries must be at least 500 feet from elementary and secondary schools, but some Florida municipalities already had begun to approve cannabis retailers.

— MOVEMENTS —

“Board to consider applications for PSC seats” via Florida Politics – The Public Service Commission Nominating Council, the panel that vets and recommends candidates to Gov. Rick Scott, will meet twice this month to select finalists for the three openings on the commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities. An Aug. 9 meeting in Tampa is set for selecting the “most qualified” applicants to be interviewed, with the interviews themselves to be held Aug. 17 in Orlando, with a vote on the finalists by the end of that meeting. Commissioners Art Graham and Ronald Brisé have reapplied for their seats; their latest terms are expiring. The council also will look at applicants, including former state Comptroller Bob Milligan, to finish the rest of the term of former Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, who stepped down to become Florida’s new CFO.

Scoop – “Jason Altmire to depart Florida Blue in advance of new book” via Florida PoliticsFormer Democratic U.S. Rep. Altmire says he’s leaving Florida Blue to promote his new book on political polarization, “Dead Center,” to be published this fall. “You only get one chance to do it right on something like this, so I’m going to go all out to promote it and see where it leads,” he told Florida Politics. “I’m really excited. It will be an adventure and the timing is perfect.” His last day with Florida Blue will be next Friday. Altmire, a Keystone State native and known as a centrist Democrat, represented the 4th Congressional District in western Pennsylvania.

New leader picked for South Florida Water District” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – … replacing Pete Antonacciwho is leaving to become Gov. Scott‘s top business recruiter. The district’s Governing Board unanimously agreed during a teleconference to promote Ernie Marks, district director of Everglades policy and coordination, to executive director. “We have a lot of projects that are critical, that we are on the cusp of completing, and having a seamless transition in that leadership is very, very important,” board member Brandon Tucker said.

Personnel note: Devon Nunneley joins Lockwood Law Firm – Nunneley, who’s practiced law in Washington, D.C., at two of the nation’s leading law firms, comes on board with John Lockwood’s boutique regulatory law firm in Tallahassee. “Devon brings complex civil litigation experience to our firm that will enhance our gaming, administrative and cannabis law practices with her unique skill set,” Lockwood said in a statement. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, and received dual Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees, cum laude, from the University of Florida in International Economics and Spanish. Nunneley, licensed to practice law in Florida, attended UF as a National Merit Scholar and was a member of the Honors Program there. “I moved to Tallahassee to be closer to family,” Nunneley said. “I’m excited to … learn from the best of the best, expanding on the time I spent in D.C. representing large clients.”

— ALOE —

Gas prices rise in Florida but still below national average” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – AAA released a new study on gas prices across the Sunshine State … gas prices in Florida stood at $2.29 per gallon Sunday. That’s an increase of 8 cents from last week and is slightly below the national average of $2.31 per gallon, an increase of 3 cents from last week. At this time last year, gas prices in Florida averaged $2.18 per gallon and the national average stood at $2.15 per gallon. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said that motorists should expect higher prices in the days to come as crude oil prices are higher than they have been in two months and Middle Eastern nations reduce the supply in August.

UCF placekicker gives up eligibility for YouTube videos” via Terrence Harris of The Associated Press – Donald De La Haye has made the decision to give up football rather than give up making advertising money from videos on YouTube that he produced … De La Haye did not accept the conditions of a waiver received from the NCAA and has been ruled ineligible to compete. The statement said UCF officials petitioned the NCAA on De La Haye’s behalf and got the governing body to allow De La Haye to continue to make money from videos that did not depict him as a student-athlete. But the YouTube videos that depict him as a student-athlete would have to broadcast on a non-monetized account. De La Haye, a marketing major, made several videos, some depicting his everyday routine and some that dealt with his experiences on the football team. Some of his videos had more than 50,000 views, though it is unclear how much money De La Haye made.

Happy birthday to Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, Capital City Consulting’s Ashley Kalifeh, the Florida Squeeze’s Kartik Krishnaiyer, Daniel Nordby, our friend Brian Shuford, and Karen Unger. 

Subway

Takeaways from Tallahassee — ‘Sub’limely offbeat court filings

We’ll kick off Takeaways with two of the more unusual lawsuits filed in Tallahassee’s circuit civil court this past week:

— A corporation called Doctor’s Associates Inc. is seeking a court order against the state’s Division of Corporations “to strike and forever remove from the public records of the state … (a) certain inadvertently filed amendment” to its articles of incorporation.

It seems the document, filed last year, removed a member of the corporation’s board of directors. But the person in question was never a board member, and the amendment also fails to properly identify who the current board members actually are.

When the company tried to correct the record, the division said it needed a court order to delete the document, the complaint said, resulting in the suit at hand.

In case you didn’t recognize the name off the bat, Doctor’s Associates Inc. is the corporation behind Subway, the biggest restaurant chain in the country, according to Business Insider.

Despite shutting down “hundreds of locations in 2016,” it’s “still the most ubiquitous restaurant chain in the U.S., with McDonald’s in the No. 2 spot,” the news site said. (The corporation doesn’t own any of the restaurants, however; they’re all franchised.)

So what does “Doctor’s Associates” have to do with subs? According to an archived version of the site’s frequently asked questions, “When the company was founded, Dr. Peter Buck, co-founder, was a scientist with a doctoral degree, and Fred DeLuca [the other co-founder] had aspirations of becoming a medical doctor. Hence the name Doctor’s Associates.”

— The Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society sued the state’s Department of Revenue, saying it’s still owed a refund of over $30,000 in taxes paid for its 2013 national convention at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista.

The concern, known by its “WoodmenLife” nickname, isn’t a for-profit insurer but a nonprofit, membership-based “fraternal benefit society” founded in 1890 and based in Omaha, Nebraska. (Founder Joseph Cullen Root was first motivated to provide financial security to “pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families.”)

It spent more than $406,000 on the convention, including $33,887 in “sales and use tax,” the complaint says. When it finally got around to filing for a refund in 2016 based on its tax-exempt status as a nonprofit, the state declined, saying it didn’t have a valid exemption at the time.

WoodmenLife explained in the complaint that it didn’t know at the time it needed a “certificate of exemption” to claim a tax exemption. Had it known, it would have gotten one, and did in fact register with the state as a nonprofit afterward.

It protested Revenue’s denial and was turned down, resulting in the suit. WoodmenLife now seeks a full refund and “appropriate interest” on its payment.

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

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Bump it up — Gov. Rick Scott announced this week he plans to ask the Legislature to set aside $30 million to give the state’s law enforcement officers another pay raise. The proposal would allow each state agency with sworn law enforcement officers to formulate their own pay raise plan to meet specific needs. “Our state law enforcement officers face danger every day, and they have protected our communities during some our state’s most challenging times,” said Scott in a statement. “I was proud to stand with the Florida Senate and Florida House this year to fight for the well-deserved 5 percent pay raise for sworn state law enforcement officers, but we cannot stop there. We must do everything we can to recognize our law enforcement and work to ensure that our state can recruit hard-working law enforcement officers to build on Florida’s 46-year crime low.”

Gov. Rick Scott, shown here meeting with state law enforcement officers in Fort Myers on July 10, announced this week he planned to ask for $30 million for law enforcement pay raises in next year’s budget. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Growing suit — At least five Florida school boards are suing the state over a controversial education bill (HB 7069), which was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Scott earlier this year. The Bay, Lee and Volusia county school boards voted this week to join a suit that contends the legislation potentially violates the state constitution. Broward and St. Lucie school boards have already acceded to the suit, and the Miami-Dade and Polk school boards are expected to decide in the coming days about whether to participate. The Pinellas school board plans to decide by Aug. 15. Advocates of traditional public schools have argued the law, which includes money for a “Schools of Hope” program, favors charter schools over traditional public schools.

SoFla special — The ballot is set. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz handily defeated former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares in the Republican primary to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. Diaz received nearly 58 percent of the vote, while DLP received about 26 percent of the vote. Palomares picked up 17 percent. Diaz will face Annette Taddeo in the Sept. 26 general election after Taddeo crushed Ana Rivas Logan in the Democratic primary. Taddeo received nearly 71 percent of the vote, compared to Rivas Logan’s 29 percent. Democratic polling released this week showed Taddeo had a slight lead over Diaz, but the cavalry is already coming out to support Diaz. Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson pledged the full support of the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Republican State Leadership Committee has already committed $10,000 to the race. In the GOP primary for House District 116, political newcomer Daniel Perez defeated Jose Mallea, a longtime political operative. He’ll face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in September.

Reps. Jose Felix Diaz and Jamie Grant help woman at the polls. Diaz won his Senate District 40 primary by about 30 points. (Photo via Rep. Jamie Grant’s Facebook.)

Toodle-loo — Rep. Dan Raulerson is bidding adieu to the Florida House. Raulerson announced this week he was resigning his House District 58 seat, effective Aug. 15. The Plant City Republican missed a portion of this year’s Legislative Session because of severe back problems but had initially planned to run for re-election. Raulerson said this week he needed to focus on his health and business, and wouldn’t be involved in a campaign to choose his successor. And it appears that campaign has already begun: Two Republicans, Yvonne Fry and Lawrence McClure, are already considering a run. Gov. Scott will likely call a special election for the race, but with committee meetings set to begin in September, it could be a tight timeline.

Ch-ch-changes — House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced his 2018 leadership team this week, appointing Rep. Jim Boyd as chairman of the Commerce Committee, taking over for Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26 to run for state Senate. Rep. Paul Renner, who was recently picked to become Speaker in 2022-24, will replace Boyd on the House Ways & Means Committee. Rep. Dane Eagle will continue to serve as the majority whip, but will now be a member of the Republican leadership team. Corcoran also said he planned to release updated committee assignments in the coming weeks.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Rep. Paul Renner (right), a Palm Coast Republican and future House Speaker, would serve as chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee during the 2018 Legislative Session. (Photo by Phil Sears)

Taking a stand

Gov. Scott is doubling down in his opposition to Nicolas Maduro.

The Naples Republican released this week details of a plan that would prohibit the state from doing business with any organization that supports the Maduro regime—even though it already doesn’t do any business with Venezuelan companies that have ties to Maduro.

“The atrocities happening at the hands of the brutal and oppressive Maduro regime are unspeakable. I have heard firsthand from Floridians about the need for change in Venezuela,” said Scott in a statement. “Nicolas Maduro’s attempt to rewrite Venezuela’s constitution and take power away from his citizens is reprehensible. This brash attempt, which completely disregards the will of the people, will not be tolerated. Floridians stand with our fellow Americans for freedom and democracy in Venezuela and all Latin America.”

A sign with a message that reads in Spanish: “Maduro is hunger!” is attached to a cable forming part of a barricade made by demonstrators during a 48-hour general strike in Caracas, Venezuela on July 26, 2017. Gov. Rick Scott plans to ask the state to not invest in companies that are controlled by the Venezuelan government. (Photo via The Associated Press.)

The proposal, which will be considered by the trustees of the State Board of Administration in August, prohibits the SBA from investing in any securities issued by the government of Venezuela, in any company that is majority owned by the Venezuelan government, and from participating in any vote or resolution that advocates or supports the Maduro regime.

The proposal also prohibits the SBA from doing business with any financial institution or U.S. company that directly, or through a subsidiary, and in violation of federal law, loans, extends credit, advances funds, or trades goods or services with the Venezuelan government.

“Prohibiting the Florida State Board of Administration from making investments that support Nicolas Maduro is a big step in the right direction, and we must continue to find ways to bring freedom and democracy to Venezuela,” he said. “I am encouraged by the Trump administration’s sanctions against the Maduro regime this week. President (Donald) Trump‘s swift actions on this issue are welcomed, and I look forward to working with our federal and state partners to support democracy in Venezuela.”

The Florida Treasury currently conducts no business with Venezuelan companies with ties to the Maduro regime, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis in a statement. Patronis has committed to review all measures to “remove every last investment penny from “companies that provide support, in violation of federal law, to the Maduro regime.”

Focus on Latin America

Look for Gov. Scott to continue to focus on Latin America throughout the fall.

Scott announced this week he will host the 2017 Latin American Summit Oct. 2 at the InterContinental Hotel in Miami. The summit, according to the Governor’s Office, will bring together world leaders to improve current partnerships and build new relationships to better serve the interests of Florida families.

“As the unrest and oppression continue in Cuba and Venezuela, I am hearing from more and more Floridians who are expressing the need for change in Cuba and Venezuela. I join them in demanding democracy and freedom across Latin America,” he said in a statement. “I am honored to host the 2017 Latin American Summit to connect leaders from around the world to discuss the issues impacting Latin America. Without freedom and democracy, the region’s economy suffers..I look forward to building new relationships that will enhance democracy and human rights throughout Latin America.”

Scott has spoken out in recent months about the unrest in Venezuela, including holding rallies in Miami in support of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Madam President

The Florida Sports Foundation, an arm of Enterprise Florida, has a new president.

The organization announced this week Angela Adams Suggs will serve as its new president and the senior vice president of sports development for Enterprise Florida. She starts her new gig Aug. 7.

“The Florida Sports Foundation is an amazing organization, and I am honored to accept the president role,” she said in a statement. “Sports support jobs in all Florida communities and bring billions into our economy. I look forward to working with the board of directors, staff and industry leaders as we continue the growth of sports tourism and development in Florida.

A native of Tallahassee, Suggs spent about eight years at Florida A&M University, most recently serving as the senior associate athletic director for external affairs. She also served as the assistant athletic director for marketing and development at the university. She has a bachelor’s degree in business economics from Florida A&M and a master’s degree from St. Thomas University.

The Florida Sports Foundation is a nonprofit corporation, which serves as the sports industry development division of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs recruiting organization. The foundation, among other things, assists Florida communities secure, host and retain sporting events and sports-related business.

Tournament of research

The state’s fish and wildlife protector called on anglers to reel one in for the sake of research.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission teamed up with the Bienville Plantation recently to host two simulated bass fishing tournaments to assist with an ongoing research initiative aimed at studying water quality in boat livewells during summer bass tournaments.

The tournament was the second of eight events in the research effort and took place on the 1,300-acre Bienville freshwater lake. Twenty-two anglers — including Florida League Worldwide pro anglers Braxton Setzer and Joshua Weaver — participated in the event.

Jimmy Johnson with the Bienville Plantation and Jason Dotson, the section leader for FWC’s freshwater fisheries research, were on hand for the recent simulated tournaments. FWC is using the tournaments to study which combination of livewell settings and management styles provide the best water to keep bass healthy prior to release. (Photo via FWC.)

Bass caught during the tournament were temporarily held in angler’s boat livewells, the holding tanks in a vessel that contains aerated water to keep bass healthy until they are released, until it was time for the weigh-in. The FWC has designed a research study to determine which combination of livewell settings and management styles provide the best water to keep the bass healthy before their release.

The largest bass caught weight 7.3 pounds, and the winning weight was 18.66 pounds.

Changing of the guard

There’s a new sheriff in charge.

The Florida Sheriffs Association announced Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson will serve as the organization’s president for the coming year. Adkinson will be responsible for presiding over the association, working with staff and the board of directors to guide the efforts and direction of the association and its 67 sheriffs.

“I am thrilled and honored to serve in this once-in-a-lifetime role,” said Adkinson in a statement. “I hope to make the association and our community proud.”

A Walton County native, Adkinson is in his 18th year of working in law enforcement. Before being elected sheriff, he served as the appointed city marshal/chief of police for the DeFuniak Springs City Police Department He has also worked with the Florida Department of Corrections, Bureau of Parole and the Tallahassee Police Department.

“The association could not have a better leader taking the reins,” said Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, the association’s immediate past president. “Sheriff Adkinson loves his county, his state, his country and his fellow sheriffs. I am honored to work with him and make his transition seamless.”

The board also appointed Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter to serve as vice president; Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri to serve as secretary; and Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz as treasurer.

75K in 7 years

There’s a whole lot of new businesses in Florida.

Gov. Scott announced Florida added 75,449 new businesses since December 2010, marking a 16.5 percent increase in the number of private-sector employers in the state. The number, according to the Governor’s Office, accounts for the total net number of businesses year-over-year since December 2010.

“Florida’s rising consumer sentiment shows Floridians are confident in the state’s economic growth and I am proud that we’ve created an environment that fosters this confidence and encourages new business growth,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “DEO works to provide Floridians with as many tools as possible to help their businesses succeed and create jobs for families. In the future, we expect to continue making job gains and growing Florida’s economy at a faster pace than the nation’s.”

Help for Haiti

A truck-load of hospital beds are Haiti-bound, thanks in large part to Sen. Daphne Campbell, who was born in Cap-Haitien.

Campbell announced this week that a medical mission initiative set into motion in February has reached its next phase, with volunteers loading and shipping hospital beds to the island nation. The beds, which were donated by the Miami Jewish Health System, were expected to be transported to Hospital Justinien in Cap-Haitien this week.

“This is a great effort for the people of Haiti,” said Campbell in a statement. “They are in severe need, and this will help them immensely.”

No more hate

Hollywood commissioners took a step in the right direction, but Rep. Shevrin Jones wants to make sure they follow through on a promise.

Earlier this month, Hollywood commissioners agreed to rename three streets named after Confederate generals. While all three of the streets run through the entire city, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports two of the streets run through the predominantly black Liberia neighborhood. Commissioners initially voted 5-2 to approve the change, but they need to vote on the matter for a second, and final, time Aug. 30.

Jones, a West Park Democrat, has been among those who have called for the change, and this week he encouraged “all South Florida elected officials to be present and stand with (him) and the members of the community … to support this important cause.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, shown on the House floor in February 2016, said it was the duty of elected officials to “take the necessary actions” to make sure all taxpayers felt comfortable in their home, and encouraged South Florida lawmakers to join him in urging Hollywood city officials to renames of three streets named for Confederate generals. (Photo via the Florida House.)

“These are signs that commemorate cruelty and oppression, and it is time that we remove the symbols of hatred from our street,” he said in a statement. “The members of this community have spoken out, and they are tired. As elected officials, it is our duty to take the necessary actions to create an environment that the tax paying citizens of this community can be happy to call home.”

The Hollywood City Commission is expected to hold a meeting to vote on changing the name of the streets at 1 p.m. Aug. 30.

Modern medicine

More jobs are coming to South Florida.

Gov. Scott announced this week that Modernizing Medicine plans to expand operations in the Boca Raton Innovation Center, adding 838 jobs by 2022. The company also anticipates it will make a capital investment of more than $15 million in the Boca Raton community.

“I am proud that Modernizing Medicine will be expanding in Palm Beach County to create more than 800 new jobs which will provide even more families a great career,” said Scott in a statement. “Companies like Modernizing Medicine are helping Florida become the best state in the nation for job creation while helping our unemployment rate continue to drop.”

Gov. Rick Scott was on hand as Modernizing Medicine announced it planned to add 838 jobs in Boca Raton by 2022. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Founded in 2010 by Daniel Cane and Dr. Michael Sherling, the company specializes in health care information technology and has grown to more than 550 employees.

“We are extremely excited to expand our presence and create more jobs across a wide range of fields in South Florida,” said Cane, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “As a Florida-based technology company, it’s not lost on us that we’re in the backyard of where the modern day era of technology was born.”

Must visit

Looking for a good place to catch a show? Tallahassee’s Donald L. Tucker Civic Center might be the place to be.

Venues Today recently ranked the civic center, a Spectra by Comcast Spectacor-managed facility, as one of the top stops in Florida. The center earned its No. 3 spot on the list of venues with a capacity of 10,001 to 15,000 based on total gross ticket sales and attendance from April 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017.

“This recognition is a byproduct of the unwavering dedication of our staff and extraordinary support we receive from Florida State University,” said Ben Weiss, the center’s general manager, in a statement. “We are very fortunate that the University continues to make investments into this facility. The positive response from our industry partners is reflected in the volume of entertainment we’ve been able to present.”

The facility had long been run by the city and county but was bought in 2013 by the Florida State University Board of Trustees.

The Tucker Center has hosted a variety of concerts, including Chance The Rapper; Florida Georgia Line’s “Dig Your Roots Tour;” and Toby Mac over the past year. It has also played host to The Price is Right Live, WWE Live, and the first and second rounds of the Women’s NCAA tournament.

Awards season

Ramsberger honored for “judicial excellence” — He’s “tireless.” He’s a “champion for improved justice in domestic violence.”

Circuit Judge Peter R. Ramsberger of the 6th Circuit is the 2017 recipient of the Chief Justice Award for Judicial Excellence. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga presented the award to Ramsberger at the Conference of Circuit Court Judges of Florida.

Ramsberger, on the county and circuit benches since 1990, also “has created, prepared, revised and presented more judicial education programs than any other judge in Florida,” the release said, noting his “humor, humility, inclusiveness and an overall exceptionally warm judicial demeanor.”

The Chief Justice Awards for Judicial Excellence, established in 2014, recognize one county court judge and one circuit judge who demonstrate exceptional commitment to the judicial branch and who personify judicial excellence.

Ramsberger is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Florida State University College of Law.

Farm Bureau honors Grimsley — She’s been a state Representative, is a state Senator, and has sights on the office of state Agriculture Commissioner.

Denise Grimsley, a Lake Placid Republican, now is also the Florida Farm Bureau’s 2017 Florida Senate’s Legislator of the Year.

“Florida Farm Bureau appreciates Sen. Grimsley’s leadership and commitment to Florida agriculture on so many important bills and funding issues during the 2017 legislative session,” said Adam Basford, director of state legislative affairs at Florida Farm Bureau, in a statement. “Sen. Grimsley worked hard in the Senate to support issues important to our state’s producers.”

Recognized for her “leadership and commitment to Florida agriculture,” the Florida Farm Bureau named Sen. Denise Grimsley its 2017 Florida Senate’s Legislator of the Year. (Photo via the Florida Senate.)

Grimsley currently serves as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and vice chair of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

Before entering politics, Grimsley served as vice president and COO of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company and is a fifth-generation Floridian involved in the citrus and ranching industries. She is also a registered nurse and hospital administrator, as well as a businesswoman.

“I am honored to be named the Florida Senate’s Legislator of the Year and a Champion for Agriculture by Florida Farm Bureau,” Grimsley said. “As a candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, I believe this award showcases my dedication to strengthening and supporting Florida’s agriculture industry.”

LeadingAge honors best in the field — Here’s to going above and beyond: LeadingAge Florida recognized outstanding members, employees and residents during its 54th annual convention and exposition.

The awards honored everyone from outstanding trustees and volunteers to executives and communities who work to develop programs that are models of excellence, innovation and best practices.

“Our award winners are the best in the field of aging and seniors’ services,” LeadingAge Florida President & CEO Steve Bahmer said. “They represent their communities and LeadingAge Florida at the local, state and national levels. I appreciate their passion, dedication and commitment.”

For the first time since 2006, LeadingAge Florida handed out its Lifetime Achievement Award to Peter Dys, the CEO Emeritus at Shell Point Retirement Community. The award is considered to be the most prestigious award given out by the organization and honors individuals who have provided LeadingAge Florida and the state with significant, transformative leadership in aging services.

LeadingAge Florida also presented Dr. Edwin Bodo with the Chairman’s Award, which recognizes an individual with a passion for aging services. The organization named Elizabeth Sholar, the administrator and senior director of health care services at Fleet Landing as “Executive of the Year;” Lisett Fernandez-Montero with St. Dominic Gardens as the “Service Coordinator of the Year; Kevin Mannix, the director of dining services at Cypress Cove at HealthPark Florida as “Employee of the Year;” Francis “Chance” Irvin, chair of the Penney Retirement Community board of directors as “Trustee of the Year;” and Shirley “Bunny” Weston, a resident at Bishop’s Glen, a Retirement Housing Foundation Community as “Volunteer of the Year.” The Memory Bridge Program of Water’s Edge Extended Care at Sandhill Cove took home the award for best practices.

Founded in 1963 and formerly known as Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, LeadingAge Florida represents continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), nursing homes and assisted living facilities, among others.

Newton a 2017 champ — Florida counties have a champion in Rep. Wengay Newton.

The St. Petersburg Democrat was recently named a Florida Association of Counties’ “2017 County Champion.”

“As someone who served at the local level, I understand that it’s the constituents and elected officials back home that truly know-how policy may affect the community,” said Newton in a statement.

Rep. Wengay Newton was named a 2017 County Champion by the Florida Association of Counties for commitment to working alongside counties on local issues. (Photo via the Florida House.)

Newton will be presented with the award during one of the upcoming committee weeks and was recognized for his commitment to working alongside counties on local issues throughout the 2017 Session.

“I’m sincerely honored to be chosen as a recipient of the County Champion Award and acknowledged as being a strong voice for local control,” he said. “I look forward to continue working together with my local government to ensure that I represent my constituents in Tallahassee as effectively as possible.”

Stickers for sea creatures

Want to save a manatee or protect a sea turtle? There’s a sticker … ahem … a decal, for that.

Each July, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission introduces new manatee and sea turtle decals, which are available for a $5 donation. The waterproof decals can be placed on a vehicle or on the side of the boat, and the money generated goes toward research, rescue and management programs that help Florida’s manatees and sea turtles survive.

FWC recently introduced new manatee and sea turtle decals, which generate funding for research, rescue and management programs. (Photo via FWC.)

“Florida is home to more manatees and sea turtles than anywhere else in the U.S.,” said Carol Knox, who leads FWC’s imperiled species management section, in a statement. “Public support has been critical in helping us conserve these imperiled species. So please ‘stick on a decal’ and show support for our manatees and sea turtles.”

According to the FWC, the decals address a critical conservation issue. The new manatee decal encourages boaters to be on the lookout for manatees and shows boaters keeping a safe distance as a mother and calf swim along. The sea turtle decal is meant to encourage Floridians to help sea turtles survive and shows a green sea turtle, which nests on Florida’s Atlantic and Gulf coast beaches.

Back-to-school

The first day of school is just around the corner, and that means only one thing: It’s time to shop.

The 2017 back-to-school sales tax holiday kicks off Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 6. The sales tax holiday is expected to save families more than $33 million on school supplies “so students can succeed in the classroom,” said Gov. Scott in a statement.

“We are working to ensure every child in Florida has the opportunity to get a great education, and we look forward to their continued success in the upcoming school year,” Scott said.

Under this year’s sales tax holiday, items notebooks, pens and pencils, and backpacks are among those that are exempt from sales tax.

Gov. Rick Scott handed out backpacks and school supplies to students during the organization’s 17th annual “National Backpack Program.” (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

The governor got a peek at some of the latest backpack styles this week when he attended the Office Depot Foundation’s Back-to-School Celebration in Miami. Scott helped hand out backpacks and school supplies to students and parents during the organization’s 17th annual “National Backpack Program” event.

“It is our mission to make sure that every child has the right tools to achieve success in schools,” said Mary Wong, the president of the Office Depot Foundation, in a statement. “School is challenging enough on its own, and when you’re unable to come prepared with the basic essentials for learning, it’s nearly impossible. We want to give every kid a fair chance.”

Big Q2

It’s fair to say Florida Power & Light had a good second quarter.

NextEra Energy, the parent company of FPL, reported an 11 percent in adjusted earnings in the second quarter of 2017. The Juno Beach-based company reported adjusted net earnings of $881 million for the quarter, compared to $777 million during the same time period last year.

FPL net earnings were $526 million in the second quarter of 2017, compared to $448 million during the same quarter of 2016. FPL increased its customer base by 1.3 percent, or 64,000 customers, over the previous year.

“During the quarter, FPL executed on its innovative and cost-effective approach of advancing affordable, reliable, clean energy infrastructure across Florida,” said Jim Robo, the chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy in a statement.

Get ‘em out

Up for a challenge? There’s still time — and plenty of lionfish in the sea — to compete in the 2017 Lionfish Challenge.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s statewide removal program ends Sept. 4. FWC officials have said more than 5,000 lionfish have been removed this year as part of the program, including nearly 3,700 recreational fish removals and more than 1,200 pounds, or about 1,400 fish, of commercial removal.

Volunteers show off a lionfish during the FWC’s 2017 Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival in Pensacola. The 2017 Lionfish Challenge runs through Sept. 4. (Photo via FWC.)

The challenge, which kicked off May 20, rewards lionfish harvesters with T-shirts, tumblers and pole spears. Participants must harvest 25 lionfish, or 25 pounds commercially, to qualify for the program.

The person who captures the most lionfish at the end of the competition will be crowned the Lionfish King or Queen at the Lionfish Safari tournament in St. Petersburg in September.

Going once, going twice

Grab a paddle and get ready for an auction.

The 2017 unclaimed property auction is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek in Fort Lauderdale. The 2017 event features the sale of nearly 50,000 individual items valued at more than $630,000, according to CFO Patronis’ office.

The annual auction includes items from safe deposit boxes that have gone unclaimed for years, despite exhaustive efforts to return them to their owners. Proceeds from the event, Patronis’ office said, are deposited into the state’s education fund.

Need a gift for a special someone? Items on the auction block during the 2017 unclaimed property auction include a pair of 4.3-carat diamond earrings and several high-end watches. The auction starts at 10 a.m. Saturday. (Photo via the Department of Financial Services.)

If a property owner discovers that he or she owned an item that was auctioned, the proceeds from the sale can be claimed at any time at no cost.

This year, items up for auction include a 12-pound silver bar recovered from the shipwreck Atocha, a vintage Wilt Chamberlain basketball card, a pair of 4.3-carat diamond earrings, and several high-end watches, including brands like Rolex, Chopard and Bulgari.

Registration for the event opens at 8 a.m.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

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