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Andrew Gillum’s terrible, horrible, no good press week

When you are a relatively unknown candidate running in a large state like Florida, and you have neither the marquis name of your chief opponent nor the checkbook of the incumbent you are hoping to replace, it helps to get a steady stream of good press.

Frankly, it’s one of the only plays you have.

Good press is needed to build name identification and brand. Donors, both current and future, want to read good things about you. Supporters, friends and organizers need the near-constant reinforcement from the media that you are doing the right things to become the state’s next chief executive.

That is why having a week of headlines like, “Bad news for Andrew Gillum? Tallahassee named most dangerous city in Florida” and “Flop and Failure; Gillum-crafted city contracting cost $320k — and got no results” is the absolute last thing Andrew Gillum needed.

And when you give a pretty darn good speech to the local Tiger Bay club, but the hometown paper leads the next day with, “Gillum addresses email controversy”; it has to be hard to get out of bed that day. (For the record, FloridaPolitics.com covered the same story and lead with a different, more positive headline.)

I have had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Gillum on a couple of occasions, and I find him to be smart, earnest and engaging. But if his campaign is going to gain altitude, he has to to slow the press bleeding. He really needs a few good weeks to put the narrative back on course.

By any measure, the past week was about as bad a press week that a candidate can have (well, except for his first week as a candidate where he spent more time explaining, defending and apologizing for the first of several unforced errors). And a serious candidate for statewide office who doesn’t have the checkbook of the man he hopes to succeed will simply fade if it doesn’t get any better.

Gillum is correct when he says: “I don’t have a famous last name and I cannot stroke my own check to become the next governor of the state of Florida.”

That is precisely why the self-described “underdog” (thank you Brendan Farrington) needs to turn things around in short order.

After all, everyone loves to root for the underdog.

Sunburn for 6.1.17 – Hurricane season is here; Gov. gets budget; Adam Putnam’s big $#’s; Ballard Partners’ latest hire

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, FLORIDIANS: HURRICANE SEASON STARTS NOW

The Sunshine State’s 11-year storm free streak ended in 2016, when two storms — Hurricane Hermine and Hurricane Matthew — swept through the state. Hermine, a Category 1 storm, hit Florida in September, becoming the first hurricane make landfall in Florida since 2005.

A month later, Hurricane Matthew snaked its way up the state’s East Coast. While it never made landfall in Florida, the strong storm caused extensive damage in Florida, including washing out 1.3 miles of A1A coastal byway in Flagler County.

Gov. Rick Scott surveys the damage in Flagler County following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins today and runs through Nov. 30. The NOAA forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms this year.

With 15 named storms in the Atlantic, the 2016 storm season was the most active since 2012. And it served as a wake-up call for Floridians, especially since forecasters are calling for another active season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast calls for 11 to 17 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. Two to four of those hurricanes are expected to be major storms, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

Florida officials aren’t taking any risks, encouraging residents to get a put a plan in place and stock up on supplies — just in case.

“Preliminary forecasts point to an active hurricane season this year,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement Wednesday. “It’s crucial that Floridians plan early to protect their families and homes this hurricane season.”

Need to stock up on supplies? You’re in luck. Gov. Rick Scott OK’d a three-day, disaster preparedness sales tax holiday as part of a wide-ranging tax cut plan he signed into law last week.

The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday runs from June 2 through June 4. During the three-day window, items like flashlights, batteries, coolers, and portable generators are tax-exempt. The sales tax holiday is estimated to save Floridians $4.5 million.

Once you’ve got the supplies, it’s time to make sure you have all of your insurance documents in order. Make sure to scratch down the state’s toll-free insurance helpline number, which is staffed by Department of Financial Services staff and can connect Floridians to insurance experts who can help file insurance claims and better understand their claims.

Now that all that is covered, we do have one question: Did Rep. Charlie Crist get his prayer note asking God to “protect our Florida from storms and other difficulties” to the Western Wall this year? Not that we’re superstitious, but 2016 was the first year since 2007 that he was unable to send his note before the start of hurricane season.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will kick off the 2017 hurricane season with a press conference at 11 a.m. at the National Hurricane Center, 11691 SW 17th Street in Miami. Credentialed media planning to attend must RSVP to dennis.feltgen@noaa.gov before 8 a.m. On the day of the event, media must arrive no later than 10:15 a.m. for security purposes. Parking is located on the east side of the building with signage “NOAA Conference Parking.”

***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***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Senate sends $82.4 billion budget to Rick Scott” via Florida Politics — Senate President Joe Negron sent 13 bills, including the 2017-18 spending plan, to Gov. Scott on Wednesday. Scott now has until June 15 to act on the $82.4 billion spending plan, but exactly how he plans to proceed remains unclear. The Naples Republican has been tight-lipped on his plans for the budget, telling reporters in Fort Myers on Tuesday he can veto the entire budget, a portion of the budget, or veto a line in the budget. “I’m going to do what I do every year,” he said. “I’ll look through the budget and make sure the dollars are allocated in a manner that I think is good for the state.”

— Americans for Prosperity signals its continued support for this budget via state director Chris Hudson: “This budget also makes historic cuts to wasteful spending by zeroing out taxpayer dollars for controversial economic incentives. Forcing lawmakers back into a special session would demonstrate to taxpayers that special interests hold more weight in the Governor’s mansion than average Floridians who only expect their hard-earned dollars be used on essential government services.”

Prosecutors want Scott to veto raid on their money” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida prosecutors are lobbying Gov. Scott to whip out his veto pen and wipe out the Legislature’s $542.3 million raid on a wide range of trust funds, including a $10 million “sweep” of the state attorneys’ revenue trust fund (page 436 of the budget). … Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle sent an email to Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera that said: “Please try to remember to ask the governor to veto state attorney sweeps.” … The fund was created during the Great Recession of 2008-09 to give prosecutors a cushion against shortfalls. The main revenue sources are prosecution costs, worthless check fines and penalties from traffic citations. State attorneys say revenue streams from all three are on the decline, especially from worthless checks, as consumers increasingly use debit and credit cards, not checks.

It’s hard to overstate how much critics hate Florida’s ‘scam’ education bill. Will the governor veto it?” via Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post – House Bill 7069, was passed by both the Florida House and Senate at the end of their legislative sessions without time for serious consideration or debate … Scott has not said what he will do, but his office recently released information indicating that public response has been mostly negative. The Orlando Sentinel described the legislation as a “scam”: “Imagine for a moment that you went to the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread … But when you got there, the store manager said the only way you could buy bread would be for you to also buy a gallon of milk, 10 packs of adult diapers, a box of Popsicles, some day-old pastries, a 5-pound pork butt, 3 gallons of orange juice, a tin of anchovies and a fistful of lottery tickets. That would sound like a scam, right? Well, welcome to the way the Florida Legislature handled public education this year — legislation by scam.”

Couldn’t a similar story be written and headlined, “It’s hard to overstate how much supporters love Florida’s transparent education bill. Will the governor sign it?”

Scott approves DOT modification bill” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Scott signed five bills into law, including HB 865, the omnibus measure reforming areas of the Department of Transportation. In part, the bill prevents the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority from using DOT money in contracts that are not approved by the department. The bill also asks the department to submit a report taking a look at its district boundaries and headquarters and changes the allowable weight for vehicles fueled by natural gas on the interstate.

Criminal justice reform remains a top priority for Jeff Brandes via Florida Politics — Brandes, who has made criminal justice reform a top priority, was in Washington, D.C. last week for the Right on Crime annual summit. The conservative-leaning organization has been working on criminal justice issues in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Brandes said the key takeaway from the summit was that “many states are struggling with criminal justice reform at the same time.”“They’re all realizing that the current trajectory they’re on isn’t working,” said Brandes, who sits on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “I think one of the things is we’re learning from each other’s experiences. Texas started this years ago, and we’re learning from their experience. We know what is palatable and we know what the outcomes are.” … Brandes didn’t just focus on criminal justice during his trip to D.C. last week. He also met with Rep. Dennis Ross to talk about flood insurance; as well as Uber and Tesla to talk about bills passed during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Power struggle emerges over Constitutional Revision Commission rules” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Before the commission first met on March 20, Carlos Beruff proposed a set of rules to shape how the panel operates. They were modeled after the rules used by the CRC that convened in 1997-98 but modified to essentially give Beruff the authority to control which proposals made it to the ballot — more power than the chair had 20 years ago. Beruff, who is mindful of the fact that Gov. Scott is also likely to be on the 2018 ballot as a candidate for U.S. Senate, faced immediate resistance from the other commission members, who refused to adopt his rules.

— Among the changes Beruff is seeking are provisions that will allow him to reject proposals by individual members or committees, send a proposal back to a committee after it has been amended in another committee — a tool used to effectively kill proposals — and give him sole discretion over which proposals will be referred to which committee. He also proposes upending Florida Sunshine laws: allowing members of the commission to meet for the first time with two or more members in secret.

— Sen. Tom Lee filed an amendment late Wednesday that adopts the rules of the 1997-98 commission minus Beruff’s modifications.

— Former Senate President Don Gaetz said the working group’s efforts were shelved because Beruff and the governor’s staff didn’t like the results.

— ADAM PUTNAM’S BIG NUMBERS —

On Wednesday afternoon, Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign released a snapshot of the contributions it has collected for the campaign and political committee, as well as some other statistics that demonstrate, it says, “the wide range of grassroots support for Putnam’s campaign.”

Putnam has collected more than $2.1 million in the first month since he filed to run for governor, with more than $1.1 million in hard dollar contributions to the campaign. The contributions to the campaign came from 2,203 supporters. More than 1,714 supporters contributed under $500.

Tweet, tweet:

Overall, here’s where Putnam’s campaign stands:

— $13.4 million collected to date for the campaign and PC (combined

— $10 million cash on hand at the campaign and PC (combined)

Note: These numbers are as of 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31. The campaign says contributions are still being processed.

And here’s an infographic the campaign shared:

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Opponents eye 2018 to head off legislative moves legalizing slots” via John Breslin of Florida Record – Following a May 18 Florida Supreme Court ruling that stopped one county from allowing slots at a particular racetrack, those advocating against their spread said they are already working on the 2018 ballot initiative. “We are happy (with the ruling), but what happened was a partial victory,” said Paul Seago, executive director of No Casinos. “Hopefully we shoot now for total victory.” His group is working on a Voters in Charge initiative that will stop legislators moving to expand slots and other forms of gambling … Seago said his group and others have so far helped hold back legislation being passed. And the Voters in Charge ballot initiative will finally end those legislative moves, Seago said, adding that overall, No Casinos’ position is that the Florida constitution expressly bans lotteries except with limited exceptions.

Former Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg ‘seriously considering’ run for CD 6” via Mike Finch of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Soderberg, a University of North Florida professor and a former aide in the Clinton White House, said she may run in 2018 for [the] seat occupied by Rep. Ron DeSantis. Soderberg … said this week while attending a Volusia County Democratic Executive Committee meeting that she was on “the precipice” of making a decision but hasn’t made up her mind yet. “I’m seriously considering it, absolutely, but I’m not really ready to go into the strategies yet,” Soderberg said. “I want to make my decision based on what the issues in the district are.” Soderberg, 59, was a national security adviser and served as an ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton … She has written two books about American foreign policy and has been teaching at the university for 10 years, she said.

American Action Network releases digital ads in congressional districts of Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo via Florida Politics — The $250,000 digital ad campaign is part of a multi-million dollar effort to advance tax reform in Congress. The ad — which will run on online platforms in the congressional districts of Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast — is the second in a series of advertisements featuring Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the American Action Forum president and economist. In the 60-second spot, Holtz-Eakin talks about the need for corporation income tax reform to help grow the U.S. economy and raise the standard of living. The ad will run in 28 congressional districts — including those of Curbelo, Mast, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — over the next two weeks. The ad is expected to run on online platforms, including YouTube and Facebook. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Gwen Graham stresses protecting the environment, but takes $50K from developer fined $1.7M by state” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — A main theme of Democrat Gwen Graham’s nascent gubernatorial campaign has been criticism of Scott administration policies she says have battered Florida’s environment. …  Nearly one month before the speech, though, a political committee controlled by Graham received $50,000 from James Finch, a Panama City developer who in the past has been hit with large fines from environmental regulators. In each case, Finch has said his company, Phoenix Construction Services, did nothing wrong. … “Anyone who contributes to our campaign knows Gwen is determined to enforce Florida’s environmental laws and to protect our unique land and water,” said Graham spokesman Matt Harringer.

’Floridians need a champion again,’ Andrew Gillum says” via Kristen M Clark of the Miami Herald — Amid a crowded field of contenders for governor in 2018, Democrat Andrew Gillum is casting himself as the “slightly out of place” candidate who would bring years of government experience but also fresh ideas and “something different” than Florida has seen under two decades of Republican rule. “It is our political leadership — or the lack thereof — that has failed us,” Gillum said Wednesday, speaking for nearly an hour in front of a couple hundred people at the Capital Tiger Bay Club in Tallahassee. “We’ve had enough with slogans and showgames, enough with struggling to get ahead, enough with shrinking from our state’s challenges. … Floridians need a champion again.”

— “Gillum knocks Trump, Scott and Graham on environmental issues” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

— “Gillum emphasizes training angle for economic development programs” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Jeremy Ring announces 2018 CFO bid — The Margate Democrat became the first person to throw his hat into the 2018 Chief Financial Officer race, filing to run for the statewide office on Tuesday. “Our campaign will be focused on innovating and inspiring students and entrepreneurs across the state to take their brilliant world changing ideas and turn them into a reality,” he said in a statement. “I can’t wait to travel from Key West to Pensacola and throughout all 67 counties to personally meet every Floridian. I am so grateful for this opportunity and now onward and upward.”

Ring, a former Yahoo executive, opened the East Coast office of the company out of his New York City apartment in 1996. He served in the Florida Senate from 2006 until 2016, serving a stint as the chairman of the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. Ring will formally announce his 2018 campaign with an event on Monday in Tampa.

Jose Felix Diaz, six others qualify to run in SD 40 special election — State records show Republicans Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares; and Democrats Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, and Annette Taddeo qualified as of noon Wednesday. Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth, a no party affiliation candidate, has also qualified to run. The special primary election is July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26. A special election in House District 116, triggered by Diaz’s resignation, has been scheduled for the same days.

– “Alex Diaz de la Portilla’s website says he’s running in district that doesn’t exist” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

— FUZZY MATH —

Everglades Foundation’s fuzzy math exposed as coastal property values increase in 2016 – The Everglades Foundation hit a snag in its effort to drive a wedge between coastal residents and farming communities, as Glades farmers learned that coastal property values in Ft. Myers and Stuart actually increased during 2016.

Property appraisers in Lee and Martin counties announced a jump in property values, despite record amounts of rainfall and corresponding coastal discharges. This directly contradicts The Everglades Foundation’s claim in a 2015 study that discharges from Lake Okeechobee decreased property values in affected areas.

Reports from both TC Palm and Fort Myers News-Press said that property values in Martin County increased 5.3 percent, with an equivalent 6 percent increase for Lee County homeowners. In 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharged more than 1.7 million acre-feet of water into the Caloosahatchee River, as well as 827,000 acre-feet of water into the St. Lucie river, and 718,000 acre-feet of water south of Lake Okeechobee.

In January, the Everglades Foundation was also caught using its fuzzy math with data from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), attempting to show a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee would perform better than similar storage to the north. This resulted in a SFWMD scientist accusing the foundation of “irresponsible science” with “more of an academic exercise than a realistic tool to support informed policy and decision making.”

— MOVEMENTS —

First in Sunburn – Personnel note: Rebecca Benn joins Ballard Partners D.C. office — The Florida-based government affairs firm announced that Benn, the former director of federal affairs for CSX Transportation, is joining its Washington, D.C. office as a partner. “We are pleased to welcome Rebecca to our growing team in the nation’s Capital,” said Brian Ballard, president of Ballard Partners. “From negotiating billion-dollar budget bills in the Senate to advancing Congressional legislative priorities for the largest Eastern freight railroad, Rebecca’s extensive expertise in both the public and private sector ensure our diverse client portfolio will continue to receive the best guidance and advocacy for their issues.” During her five years at CSX Transportation, Benn directed all government relations initiatives impacting automation, safety, environmental regulation and safety and security, while overseeing federal constituent relations for seven states. She previously served as a professional staff member for the Subcommittee on Interior, Environmental and Related Agencies, as well as the Subcommittee on Veteran Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies. In both roles, she served as the leader Republican negotiators for bicameral and bipartisan billion-dollar federal appropriations bills, in addition to drafting legislative materials and analyzing budget requests. 

Personnel note: Rob Shave joins GrayRobinson via Florida Politics — GrayRobinson continues to grow its roster, announcing this week that Rob Shave has joined the firm as its director of government affairs. “Rob brings to the firm years of experience in a wide variety of public policy matters, including water policy, property rights, infrastructure and education-related issues,” said Dean Cannon, the firm’s executive vice president and chairman of government affairs, in a statement. “He’s an asset to our team and will be a strong advocate for our clients.” A Florida State University graduate, Shave began his career in government as committee staff for the Florida House Environment and Natural Resources Council. … Prior to joining GrayRobinson, Shave worked at Capitol Access, a Tallahassee-based lobbying firm.

Memorial service planned for Sergio Bendixen — A memorial service will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Storer Auditorium on the University of Miami campus, 5250 University Drive in Coral Gables. Bendixen, a pioneering public-opinion pollster, died Friday in Miami after a brief illness. “Sergio was a one-of-a-kind force to be reckoned with in the world of politics, a pioneer in the field of multilingual and multiethnic research, as well as a cherished mentor and loyal friend throughout South Florida, across the United States, and around the world,” said Fernand Armandi, his friend and business partner, in an email.

Appointed – Michael StricklandFrank CawthonKeith LawsonRobert Maphis and Edgar Laney to the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stuart Brown, SKB Consulting Group: Study Edge

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Inc. d/b/a FACCPA

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Iron Mountain Information Management

— ALOE — 

Florida dive boat captain bitten on hand by sea creature” via The Associated Press – Authorities say a dive boat captain known to hand-feed sharks was bitten by a “sea creature” off Florida’s Atlantic coast. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Teri Barbera tells the Palm Beach Post the agency’s marine unit responded Sunday after receiving a distress call from an Emerald Charters dive boat. They airlifted Randall Jordan to a hospital with hand injuries.

“Google’s breakdown of what American’s don’t know how to spell, state by state” via Travis M. Andrews of The Washington PostIn honor of the National Spelling Bee, which starts Wednesday, Google decided to see what words people in each of the 50 states struggle to spell. To do this, employees looked at Google searches of “how to spell ______” in each of the states from Jan. 1 to April 30 this year. Whatever word filled that blank most often in each state became denoted as that state’s “most misspelled word.” … The results may not be scientific, but they sure were amusing. … People in Wisconsin, for example, most frequently searched for how to spell Wisconsin. The longest word Americans didn’t know how to spell, searched for by both West Virginia and Connecticut users, was also an invented one: “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the word that one magic nanny named Mary Poppins sang about. … In Florida, the most misspelled word was receipt.

Happy birthday to Rep. Danny Burgess and Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Burlew.

Sunburn for 5.31.17 – Rick Scott’s budget strategy; Bad news for Andrew Gillum; He-Man on the ballot; Jeb Bush no longer fishing for the Marlins

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

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

Here’s a travel tip for when you visit Paris: don’t tell your French tour guide that “some people believe the American culinary scene is on par with France’s.”

We were walking — more like eating our way — through Montmartre when I made this bold statement. Montmartre is a village within the metropolis and thought of, as one observer notes, the way New Yorkers talk about the Village: It’s not what it used to be, It’s like Disneyland, the artists can’t afford to live here anymore, too many tourists, etc.

In front of The Wall of Love, a love-themed 40 square metres wall in the Jehan Rictus garden square in Montmartre.

But we are tourists!  So we just lost ourselves in the steep and cobbled streets of one of the most historic and interesting neighborhoods in Paris. The food here is exactly what you imagine when you think of France. A bakery follows a cheese shop, which follows an open air fish market, which follows a speciality foods shop, which follows a wine store specializing only in Pouilly-fume. Then there is a chocolatier and another bakery and another cafe and…

… all of the weight I took off in advance of this vacation has returned. But it’s all so delicious — and affordable. Fifteen Euros buys a charcuterie board that would cost five times that in the States. The nondescript glasses of Champagne Michelle has been enjoying are better than any of the big labels American bars limit themselves to serving.

And, yet, here I was, carrying the red, white, and blue for the American food scene.

We have such a diversity of influences and so many dialects of cooking which don’t exist elsewhere (just try to find great BBQ in Paris), along with access to the greatest supply of ingredients and produce and meats, that we’ve almost caught up with the French just by sheer weight of it all.

To prove my point, I reminded our tour guide that it was the American team which this year brought home the gold from the Bocuse d’Or, the most prestigious culinary competition in the world.

“But all of zee great dishes are French!” our guide insisted.

Clearly, she has not had the Panang Mole, which combines Thai red curry with Mexican mole, from Nitally’s in St. Petersburg or the thousands of other uniquely American dishes that make our food scene so great.

What a twist: Enjoying all of this wonderful French food has me longing for the comforts of home.

WTF?

The question on everyone’s mind this week: What’s going on with the budget?

With just a month until the end of the fiscal year, Florida lawmakers have yet to send the 2017-18 budget to Gov. Rick Scott for his consideration. Some Capitol watchers thought the Senate could send the spending plan to the governor as early as Tuesday; but, it wasn’t among the 26 bills sent to the governor yesterday afternoon.

As Associated Press reporter extraordinaire Gary Fineout pointed out last week, the lag time between passing the budget (which happened on May 8) and sending it to Scott is one of the longest since the Naples Republican took office. The Legislature took 28 days to deliver the budget to Scott in 2012, but with an early session to tackle redistricting that meant the budget still landed on his desk in early April.

Gov. Rick Scott speaks about job creation in Florida at Fish Tale Boats in Lee County. Photo credit: Naples Daily News.

What he’ll do once it lands on his desk remains unclear. For weeks he’s been traveling the state calling out lawmakers for their decision to cut funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, two of his top priorities, and has pointed out he “can veto the entire budget, veto a portion of the budget, or … veto a line in the budget.”

Once the governor receives the budget, he’ll have 15 days to act. Scott said he thought he would receive it “sometime this week.”

If Scott gets it today, he’ll have until the middle of June to make up his mind. That would give lawmakers enough time to hustle back up to Tallahassee if Scott vetoes the budget, triggering the need for a special session before the end of the fiscal year.  

So … what’s the hold up?

— “Rick Scott still mum on 2017-18 budget veto plansvia Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

***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***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“Scott could soon be the all-time king of line-item veto” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Former Gov. Jeb Bush earned the nickname “Veto Corleone,” with the intentional misspelling of “Vito,” for his aggressive use of the line-item veto. It was even used as a TV ad in Bush’s ill-fated run for president last year. But Bush’s record is in jeopardy, thanks to Gov. Scott. Yearly totals compiled by the LobbyTools legislative research service show that Scott vetoed $1.9 billion in spending in his first six years in office. If he wipes out more than $250 million from the budget that’s headed to his desk — which is highly likely — Scott will have surpassed Bush’s $2.1 billion over eight years, making him the rightful “Godfather” at the state Capitol in Tallahassee. And Scott still has a year to go. … 

— Scott’s veto track record does come with an asterisk, however. In that first year, he vetoed more than $615 million, but nearly half of the amount, or $305 million, was legislative authorization for an environmental land-buying program to be funded from sales of surplus land.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will present veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal at 9 a.m. at the National Guard Armory, 16386 Spring Hill Drive in Brooksville.

— House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, Leader Pro Tempore Bobby DuBose, and Ranking Member on the Education Committee Shevrin Jones have all written op-eds in opposition to HB 7069 and have called for Gov. Scott to veto it.

>>>”Respect Florida’s public schools and properly fund them” via Rep. Cruz

>>>”The Governor must Veto HB 7069 on behalf of our public schools” via Rep. DuBose

>>>”Florida education bill’s path isn’t how the process works” via Rep. Jones

First on #FlaPol – “House releases document listing state budget line items by county” via Florida Politics — The House released a county-by-county list of budget line items Tuesday, ranging from a $26.8 million loan for a highway project in Alachua County to $64,820 in adult education money in Washington County. Speaker Corcoran’s office dropped the list without comment, but it followed by four days Florida TaxWatch’s annual list of budgetary “turkeys” — line items included without sufficient public scrutiny or ranking low on the state’s priority lists.  TaxWatch asked Gov. Scott to veto projects totaling $178 million. “This report was produced prior to the veto process,” the document notes.

Wildlife Federation seeks special session to finance conservation land purchases” via Florida Politics — The Florida Wildlife Federation wants the Legislature to meet in special session to pump money into the state’s environmental land-buying program. The organization issued a written statement to Gov. Scott, House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron, arguing the Legislature is under a “clear obligation” to finance Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative approved by 75 percent of the voters in 2014. “They clearly directed our elected leaders to set aside some of our public tax dollars to buy conservation land so we have some of natural Florida left for future generations,” Federation President Manley Fuller said. “What does the 2017 Legislature do?  Allocates zero money for land conservation. Zero. Lawmakers need to go back and fix this in a special session.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Bad news for Andrew Gillum? Tallahassee named most dangerous city in Florida” via Florida Politics — Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI. It was also well above the state’s violent crime rate of 461.9 per 100,000 (Florida was the 11th highest in the nation). 

Gillum’s camp pushes back on the report: “Here’s the real story of Tallahassee: it was ranked one of the best cities in Florida to start a business and it continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Geoff Burgan, the Gillum campaign’s communication’s director. “People expect that communities will have challenges – what they care about is how you address them, and the Mayor’s taken public safety very seriously. He’s worked to put more police on the street and increase community policing practices. He’s also addressed the social side of public safety – from expanding the Summer Jobs program to offer kids an opportunity, to using restorative and alternative justice programs to better address systemic issues.”

— Gillum will address the Capital Tiger Bay Club at 11:30 a.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.)

Gwen Graham picks up endorsements of three prominent environmentalists – The Democrat announced Tuesday that she received endorsements from 1000 Friends of Florida founder Nathaniel Reed, Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller and former House Speaker Jon Mills, a board member of the Everglades Foundation.

Old news – “Foreclosure attorney to announce AG bid” via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times; One week ago: “Citing need for ‘new energy,’ Ryan Torrens becomes first Democrat in Attorney General racevia Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

“Miami Commissioner Ken Russell opens congressional exploratory committee” via David Smiley of the Miami HeraldRussell, a Democrat and first-term commissioner representing downtown and Coconut Grove, has tapped Utrecht, Kleinfeld, Fiori, Partners in Washington D.C. to help him decide if he should open a 2018 campaign for the CD-27 seat being vacated by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Locally, he’s working with political consultant Fernando Diez.

— “… I believe I need to do that next step, to see if this is the right decision to move forward and serve. I’ve already spoken with the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] in Washington, the state party chairman for the Democratic Party here in Florida,” Russell, 43, told the Miami Herald Tuesday afternoon. “This is something that’s very important to me. I represent the common neighbor who becomes a local politician. And that voice is becoming stronger and stronger.”

Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Annette Taddeo qualify in SD 40 — Six candidates vying to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles qualified to run in the Senate District 40 special election as of the end of the day Tuesday. Two Republicans — former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares — and three Democrats — Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith, and Annette Taddeo — qualified to run for the seat. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz filed a letter with the Department of State last week saying he planned to resign from his House District 116 seat to run for the Senate, but has not yet qualified. He has until today to do qualify. 

There’s a real He-Man on Florida ballot via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – State election officials on Tuesday agreed to let Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth qualify for a special election. Schlaerth turned into state officials an affidavit that contends he did not create the nickname to “mislead voters.” He also included an affidavit of a friend who says he was introduced to Schlaerth as “He-Man” last year. State rules allow nicknames to be placed on the ballot if it can be shown that the candidate is known by the nickname.

If Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth’s campaign materials don’t include a play on “I have the power,” it would be like he’s not even trying.

Jeb Bush endorses Jose Mallea in HD 116 — The former Florida governor is throwing his support behind Mallea in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “There is no question Jose Mallea is the right leader for District 116,” said Bush, who served as governor from 1999 until 2007, in a statement. “Jose has an inspiring personal story of working hard to achieve success in both business and public service, and now wants to ensure that same American dream is attainable for everyone, not just a select few. I know that Jose will effectively put his conservative principles and leadership skills to work in Tallahassee for the community he loves and for our great state.” 

Miami Republican candidate took wedding engagement photos in Cuba” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — A Miami Republican running in a special Florida House election traveled earlier this year to Cuba, where he and his fiancée posed for engagement photos in Havana. Daniel Anthony Perez, a 29-year-old attorney and first-time candidate for House District 116, described it as a family trip to see his fiancée’s elderly uncle. “It was to visit a family member,” Perez said Tuesday to a Miami Herald reporter who asked about the photos, which are posted online.

In Miami politics, even the location of where a candidate took their engagement photos can be controversial.

“We did take pictures while we were there. But the main reason we went was to visit her uncle. We took food, we took medicine.” … Perez and his fiancée, Stephanie Nicolas, posted their engagement photos on The Knot, a popular wedding planning website. The couple’s profile is public. The photos were also posted by PS Photography, a Miami-based studio.

More legislative hopefuls file for 2018Carmelo Garcia has filed to run in House District 41. Garcia, a Winter Haven Democrat, filed the necessary paperwork on Friday to challenge Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew, who was first elected to the seat in 2016. State records show Tony Munnings Sr. filed to run in House District 55. Munnings, a Lake Placid Democrat, is challenging Republican Rep. Cary Pigman. The Avon Park Republican was first elected in 2012 and is running for his final term in the Florida House.

— STATEWIDE —

Celeste Philip: Current indicators improved, but Zika threat remains serious” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Florida Surgeon General Philip and Gov. Scott told a roundtable of Orange County public health officials in Orlando that Zika preparedness is up and incidents and rain down this year, but the risk of another major disease outbreak remains significant and no one should abandon precautions. Florida has seen 50 confirmed case of Zika infection so far in 2017, all from overseas transmissions, and less than half of what was seen by this time in 2016. The dry spring has helped, as has more vigilance by officials and citizens, Philip said and that must not change. Real mosquito season is coming, and last summer’s experiences, with hundreds of confirmed cases and a local outbreak from infected mosquitoes in Miami-Dade County. “Compared with last years’ experience, we are better positioned,” Philip said.

Jeff Atwater offers insurance advice as hurricane season opens” via Florida Politics — Hurricane season begins Thursday. Are you covered? Are you sure? Better take a look at your policy, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater advised … “For a better chance of a complication-free claims process, Floridians should carefully review all insurance policies to ensure that proper coverage is in place for their home, car and belongings,” Atwater’s office said … Atwater suggested Floridians write down the state’s toll-free insurance help line number — 1-877-693-5236. It’ll put them in touch with experts who can help them file insurance claims and help solve problems during the claims-filing process.

Three-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday begins Friday via Florida Politics —  The Florida Retail Federation has issued a reminder that the new disaster preparedness sales tax holiday begins this week. Right in time for hurricane season, the state will waive sales taxes on purchases of emergency supplies beginning at 12:01 p.m. Friday, ending at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. … The waiver extends to solar-powered lights; self-powered radios; batteries; electric generators and fuel tanks; nonelectric coolers and reusable ice; and more. There are price limits for covered items. The Florida Department of Revenue has issued a tip sheet with all the details. The hurricane season begins Thursday and runs through Nov. 30.

Knox to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary Friday” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Winter Garden-based Knox Medical is set to open Orlando’s first medical marijuana dispensary in a location near Florida Hospital’s downtown campus. Knox is one of nine companies statewide licensed to produce and sell medicines derived from cannabis. Knox has been in operation for several months, relying primarily on delivery service, and earlier this month opened its first storefront, in Gainesville. The Orlando dispensary will be its second, and the company vowed to open more in Jacksonville, Lake Worth, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg in a short time. The Orlando location hold a grand opening at 11 a.m. Friday, at 1901 N. Orange Ave., about six blocks from Florida Hospital, a location consistent with the company’s vowed strategy of locating near major medical centers.

Miami megamall is biggest in U.S. – but don’t call it a mall” via Kurt Anderson of The Associated Press – Call it retail-tainment. Just don’t call American Dream Miami a mall. Developers are proposing a massive 6 million-square-foot (557,000 square-meter) project on the edge of the Everglades in bustling South Florida that would dwarf any other shopping mecca in North America, including Minnesota’s Mall of America. Don Ghermezian, president of developer Triple Five Worldwide Group of Edmonton, Canada – which also built Mall of America – said this is not your father’s shopping mall. In addition to millions of square feet of retail, the project would include an indoor ski slope, a water park, a submarine ride attraction, a skating rink, 2,000 hotel rooms, theaters, a performing arts center and places to eat and drink. “We are not mall developers. That’s not what we’re trying to build,” he said. “A lot of it is ‘retail-tainment.’ What we’re trying to create is an economic engine.”

— FLORIDA ON FIRE —

The rainy season might be on the horizon, but the threat of wildfires is far from over.

According to the Florida Forest Service, more than 2,300 wildfires have burned over 233,000 acres in Florida this year. There were 84 active wildfires burning as of Tuesday, according to the Florida Forest Service.

“As we enter what is traditionally Florida’s rainy season, much of the state is still experiencing drought conditions and elevated wildfire danger,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement. “Residents and visitors need to pay attention to and comply with local burn bans and should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

More than 2,300 wildfires have burned more than 233,000 acres in Florida already this year.

At least two dozen counties had burn bans in place as of May 26, according to the Florida Forest Service. That doesn’t include the four counties — Duval, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Orange — that have permanent burn bans in place.

According to the Forest Service’s fire danger index, about half of the state’s 67 counties had a moderate or high threat of fire on Tuesday. The index did not appear to put any county in the “extreme” risk category, several counties were in the “very high” risk category.

Putnam encouraged Floridians to take steps to reduce their wildfire risk, including by creating 30 feet of defensible space around their homes.

— MOVEMENTS —

Appointed –  Babu Varghese and Pankaj Shah to the Florida Board of Professional Engineers.

Personnel note: Bonnie King named president of Film Florida — Film Florida announced Tuesday that Bonnie King, a film commissioner for the Space Coast Film and Television Office, a Committee of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council, has been named president of the 2017-18 board of directors. King started her career as a radio broadcaster, becoming the first woman in Brevard County to host a rock-and-roll radio show during the day. She also worked as a marketing director for a regional shopping mall, before joining the Space Coast Office of Tourism/Film. “I look forward to working side by side with industry professionals as we seek opportunities to strengthen the film, TV and digital media industry,” she said in a statement. “Florida is open for business and competing for high wage jobs in the film, television and digital media industry and we plan on continuing to spread that message.” The organization also announced its 2017-18 executive board officers: Gail Morgan with the Emerald Coast Film Commission will serve as 1st vice president; Tony Stopperan with Ringling College of Art & Design will serve as 2nd vice president; Herta Suarez with SAG-AFTRA will serve as secretary; and Lauren O’Quinn with ClassAct Studios will serve as treasurer. Kelly Paige will serve as the immediate past president.

Sachs Media Group announces new leadership – Preparing for future growth following a record year in 2016, Sachs Media Group Tuesday announced major new roles for key company leaders. Sachs named Michelle Ubben the firm’s president, following her longtime service as senior partner and chief operating officer. Ryan Cohn, the firm’s vice president of digital, was named executive vice president and is part of the core leadership team setting a course for the firm’s future direction and growth. Sachs Media Group acquired Cohn’s firm, What’s Next Marketing, in 2012. Lisa Garcia was named chief operating officer, taking on responsibility for the firm’s working processes and daily operations. Garcia also will head up the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

Sachs Media Group’s new president, Michelle Ubben; founder/CEO Ron Sachs; Executive Vice President, Ryan Cohn; Lisa Garcia, Chief Operating Officer.

Turning 50, Greenberg Traurig tops the Law360 400 via Cristina Violante of Law360 —  Greenberg Traurig LLP is celebrating its golden anniversary with a trip to the top of Law360’s list of the largest U.S. law firms, capping off decades of steady growth by ousting Jones Day from the No. 1 spot. While its 2 percent growth in 2016 mirrored the industry’s overall average, the uptick was enough for the firm to leapfrog its rival, which shrank slightly, according to our annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based law firms as measured by domestic attorney headcount. “We’ve gotten bigger over the last 50 years, without a doubt,” said Brian Duffy, Greenberg’s CEO. “I also think we’ve gotten better every year over the last 50 years, and the latter is the more important part. There’s nothing magic about being a larger firm, but it is important to always, every day, be a better law firm.” … While most firms at the top of the Law360 400 trace their lineage back at least a century, Greenberg Traurig has become the largest U.S. firm after opening its doors 50 years ago in Miami. At the behest of its clients, the firm began crawling up the Eastern Seaboard in 1991 when it expanded into New York City, now the firm’s largest office. The firm launched its Atlanta office in 1998, it opened its doors in Boston, Chicago and Delaware in 1999, and it moved into New Jersey in 2002.

— ALOE —

GayDays expected to bring $100 million economic boost” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – What began in 1991 as a one-day celebration with 3,000 participants now spans a week and brings more than 180,000 gay and lesbian visitors to 40 events that pump an estimated $100 million into the local economy. Walt Disney World Resort initially posted signs at their gates warning families of GayDays’ visitors but now for the first time this year paid for a full-page ad in the GayDays publication. The resort unofficially designated June 1-4 as days to wear symbolic red shirts at each of its theme parks. Visits to SeaWorld and Universal also are on the schedule. GayDays has pledged this year to collect donations to support the onePulse Foundation.

GayDays began in 1991 as a one-day celebration at Walt Disney World with 3,000 participants. Now, the week-long event brings more than 180,000 gay and lesbian visitors to 40 Orlando venues, with an estimated $100 million going into the local economy.

Jeb Bush no longer interested in buying Marlins” via The Associated Press – The ex-presidential candidate and former Florida governor is no longer interested in buying the Marlins and has ended his pursuit of the team … former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who had been part of Bush’s group, is still exploring a bid with other investors. Jeter becomes the frontman for an investment group competing with a group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Romney group includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

Joe Henderson: Frank Deford’s passing deserves a moment of pause and reflection” for Florida Politics – People have rightly praised him as a consummate storyteller, wordsmith, and a giant in the world of sports writing – although, for Frank, a more appropriate description would be writer, period. Never mind the subject. Like wannabe’s everywhere, I poured over each line of a Deford story in Sports Illustrated. He routinely did things with words that I could only imagine. The magazine wisely granted him time and space to dig deep into a subject, and he repaid by producing lasting literature. One of the beautiful things about literature is that it survives eternally. These men wrote prose that happened to be about sports. They turned words into pictures and reminded everyone that when done properly, telling the story is an art. They made that matter. Godspeed, Frank Deford.

Where did Buster Posey go wrong in Monday’s Giants vs. Nationals brawl?” via Bob Sparks for Florida Politics – Actually, he was not involved. To put it mildly, that is the very reason he became a big story … video showed the former Florida State player standing still while events unfolded. Perhaps he was stunned because catchers are normally in the loop when an opponent is about to get drilled. To borrow from politics, we must ask “what did Posey know and when did he know it?” … “Well, I mean after it happened, I kind of saw Harper point,” Posey told the media in the Giants’ clubhouse. “Next thing you know, he’s going out after him. Those are some big guys tumbling around on the ground. So, it was a little dangerous to get in there sometimes.”

Happy birthday to Keith Fernandez and Adrian Lukis.

15 big questions facing Florida politics heading into summer

Summer is here — well, unofficially at least. And with it comes cookouts, summer vacations, and the start of the 2018 election cycle (again, unofficially). With a tumultuous legislative session in our rearview mirror and a jam-packed election cycle on the horizon, the answers to these 14 questions (plus a fill-in-the-blank) could shape the future of the state.

Does Gov. Rick Scott veto the budget? The Naples Republican isn’t saying whether he plans to veto the $83 billion spending plan; but really when it comes down it, he isn’t saying much of anything about his plans. Scott has repeatedly taken swipes at lawmakers for slashing funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, as well as raising concerns about transparency. But when asked whether he’ll veto it, Scott has noted he could veto all or part of it.

If Scott were to veto the 2017-18 budget, it would trigger a special session to get a new spending plan in place before the end of the fiscal year. And after a year of legislative defeats, vetoing the entire budget could be a risky move: The House and Senate could overturn a veto with a two-third vote of members present and voting.

The budget passed the House on a 98-14 vote; while the Senate voted 34-4 to approve it, effectively giving it a veto-proof majority in both chambers, assuming no member changes his or her vote.

Will there be a special session? Forget a special session to tackle the budget. Let’s talk about medical marijuana.

Lawmakers failed to pass a bill to implement the medical marijuana constitutional amendment, which passed with 71 percent support in 2016. And almost as soon as the 2017 Legislative Session ended, calls for a Special Session began to pour in.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he supported one, as did Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Chris Sprowls, among others. Senate President Joe Negron didn’t close the door on it, although he asked for input from his membership; and more than a dozen lawmakers have sent letters to the Department of State in hopes of triggering a special session that way. A special session to tackle medical marijuana is also backed by John Morgan, who bankrolled the 2014 and 2016 constitutional amendments, and the Drug Free America Foundation, which opposed it.

But with about a month until the Department of Health is required to have its rules in place, it’s not entirely clear whether lawmakers will call a special session this summer or wait until committee meetings begin in the fall.

How will the House Speaker’s race play out? Republicans in the House approved a rule that said Speaker candidates can only officially begin accepting pledges of support after June 30. But the shadow campaign, well that’s been ongoing.

The freshman class is expected to hold a vote June 30, with Rep. Larry Metz counting ballots, on June 30 to determine their caucus leader and the future House Speaker, if Republicans hold the majority in the House.

The race appears to be between Reps. Paul Renner, Jamie Grant and Randy Fine. Renner is believed to have a number of votes lined up behind him, including Rep. Joe Gruters who said he planned to back Renner. Grant is pulling in a significant number of anti-Renner votes, while Fine could play the role of spoiler if neither Grant nor Renner wins outright.

But Renner, Grant and Fine aren’t the only names in the pot. Naples Republican Byron Donalds is also a contender, and Erin Grall is said to be considering a run.

Who will be the next Chief Financial Officer? When CFO Jeff Atwater announced earlier this year he was leaving his post to take a job at Florida Atlantic University, he said his departure would come at the end of the 2017 Legislative Session.

While Atwater is sticking around until the 2017-18 budget is resolved, speculation of who Scott will pick to replace him have been swirling about for weeks now. Former Sen. Pat Neal is believed to be a top contender, and Sen. Aaron Bean has said he is interested in the position. Other names that have been floated include Gruters, a longtime ally of Scott’s, and former Rep. Jimmy Patronis.

Republicans will be watching who Scott selects, since it’s likely that person will run for the seat in 2018. And speaking of the upcoming election: Democrat Jeremy Ring filed to run for the seat in 2018, becoming the first person to officially throw their hat in the race.

What impact do the special elections have on the Legislature? Sen. Frank Artiles resignation from the Florida Senate has created a domino effect in the South Florida legislative delegation, with special elections scheduled in Senate District 40 and House District 116 this summer.

The South Florida Senate seat is seen as a must-win for Democrats, who lost the seat last year when Artiles defeated longtime Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard. Three Democrats — Ana Rivas Logan, Steve Smith and Annette Taddeo — have already qualified for the race.

Rivas Logan ran for the seat in 2016, but lost the primary to Bullard. She previously served in the Florida House as a Republican. Taddeo, meanwhile, ran for Congress in 2016 and was Charlie Crist’s pick for lieutenant governor when he ran for governor as a Democrat in 2014.

The Republican race pits former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla against Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. Republican Lorenzo Palomares also filed to run.

Diaz resigned his seat to run for Senate District 40, triggering a special election in House District 40.  Republicans Jose Miguel Mallea and Daniel Anthony Perez have filed to run, as has Democrat Ross Hancock. Mallea has received the backing of former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Not to be outdone, Central Florida voters will also head to the polls this summer to replace Rep. Eric Eisnaugle in House District 44. Several legislative hopefuls have already thrown their hat in the race.

Can Democrats recruit? The special elections this summer could the first test of the Democrats power going into the 2018 election cycle.

With a new chair at its helm and a host of new staffers, the state party says its confident it will “build the strongest, most effective grassroots infrastructure in the entire country as we turn Florida back to blue in 2018.”

At the state level, Democratic House Victory announced it was bringing on Reggie Cardozo, who worked with the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns in Florida, as its general consultant; as well as Janee Murphy, a Tampa political consultant and an ally of incoming Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee.

With several vulnerable congressional seats up this election, including the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Democrats are going to need to be able to recruit good candidates across all levels of government. And that could mean pulling from robbing from one level — as could happen in the case of Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat running for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat — to help another.

How long before Rick Scott announces U.S. Senate bid? It seems like more and more the discussions about whether Scott will challenge Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018 are turning into not if, but when conversations.

The Naples Republican is already starting to sound like he’s running for something, calling members of the House and Senate “politicians in Tallahassee.” His frequent trips to Washington, D.C. haven’t gone unnoticed; neither has the $3.26 million his state political committee, Let’s Get to Work, has raised since January, despite the fact Scott can’t run for re-election again in 2018.

And he seems to be laying the groundwork for a political operation. He recently announced he would chair the New Republican, a federal super PAC headed up by Melissa Stone, his former chief of staff and campaign manager for his 2014 re-election bid.

Scott has been coy about whether he’ll run, saying it’s an option before going on to say he’s focused on his current job. With an early session in 2018, he might hold off making any formal announcements until after next year’s Legislative Session.

What can Bill Nelson do to hold off Scott? The Orlando Democrat has already said he’s running for re-election in 2018, and several polls earlier this year showed Nelson leading Scott. But with millions upon millions of dollars expected to be spent on the race, Nelson might have to ramp up his efforts if he wants to guarantee another win in his column.

As the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, look for a lot of pressure on Nelson to perform. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is already attacking him, and it’s expected millions upon millions of dollars will be poured into the race to try to defeat the 74-year-old.

Nelson has already raised nearly $2.1 million for his re-election campaign, and had $3.6 million cash on hand at the end of the first quarter of 2017. Look for Nelson to take a more outspoken stance against President Donald Trump, an ally of Scott’s, in the coming months as he begins to ramp up his campaign.

What will Jack Latvala do? The Clearwater Republican is one of the big question marks when it comes to the 2018 race to replace Scott.

Latvala has made no secret of the fact that he’s considering a gubernatorial run. He’s been making the rounds across the state, and his fundraising committee has raised nearly $1.5 million since the beginning of the year.

In May, he told the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club if he runs it would keep career politicians from taking over Tallahassee like they’ve done in Washington, saying the state needs “a business perspective. We need experience in the real world. I just don’t see that on my side of the aisle in the governor’s race.”

But Latvala is hardly an outsider. He served in the Florida Senate from 1994 until 2002, and was elected again in 2010. He currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and arguably one of the most powerful state lawmakers in the House and Senate.

While he isn’t a household name, Latvala could spice up the Republican race to replace Scott. And his support for Scott’s top priorities this session — namely Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida — could earn him some Brownie points from Scott.

Latvala said he plans to announce his intentions in August. If he gets in, watch for a heated primary between him and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who many consider the front-runner. Latvala’s son, Rep. Chris Latvala, is already taking jabs at Putnam on social media, using the hashtag #PutnamIsStale when tweeting about Putnam.

Does Phil Levine really want to run for governor (and as a Democrat)? Earlier this year, the Miami Beach Democrat seemed to be on track to announce a 2018 run.

He started a political committee, All About Florida, and hired Matthew Van Name to coordinate efforts. State records show he poured $2 million of his own money into the committee, but hasn’t raised any coin beyond that.

With three Democrats — Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Chris King — already vying for their party’s nomination, Levine’s entry would make a crowded field even more crowded. And that appears to be something he’s cognizant of, even opening the door to an independent run during a Tampa Tiger Bay Club event in May.

A big Democratic fundraiser, Levine would have put raise lots of cash — and put plenty of his own on the line — in order to boost name recognition. And with a wedding and baby on the way, one has to wonder if Levine wants to invest the time (and money) to get his name out there.

How much money will races pull in? We’re already seeing big numbers when it comes to the 2018 governor’s race, and with more than 400 days until the Aug. 28 primary that number will surely be on the rise.

But it isn’t just the governor’s race we’re watching. With all the Cabinet positions, several competitive state House and Senate races, a U.S. Senate race, and a couple of congressional districts in play, the 2018 election cycle could be one of the most expensive cycles to date.

It isn’t just candidates (and their political committees) we’ll be watching, though. Already you’re seeing outside groups, like the American Action Network, pour money into Florida, and it will be interesting to see how much groups are willing to pay to play in the Sunshine State.

Which Rick will come out on top in St. Pete? The race between Rick Baker and Rick Kriseman for St. Petersburg mayor is shaping up to be one of the must-watch local races this election cycle.

Baker, the former Republican mayor, is hoping to make a comeback, and polls show he has a wide margin over Kriseman, the city’s current Democratic mayor. A recent poll from St. Pete Polls showed 46 percent of registered St. Petersburg voters saying they would pick him in a head-to-head matchup, while 33 percent are with Kriseman. Twenty percent of voters polled said they were unsure.

You can expect the city’s recent sewage issue to be a big factor when voters head to the polls in the upcoming mayoral race. According to the recent St. Pete Polls survey 44 percent of respondents said the city’s recent sewage issues will be a “major factor” in their decision for who they vote for in the upcoming mayoral race; while 36 percent said it will be a “minor factor.”

What will the CRC do? It’s been 20 years since the Constitution Revision Commission last met, and this uniquely Florida board seems to be off to a rough start.

The commission still hasn’t adopted rules, something that has drawn the ire of several organizations, including the Florida League of Women Voters. And with Republicans controlling the Governor’s Mansion, the House and the Senate, the 37-member panel has a distinctly Republican lean, leaving some Floridians to worry about what will end up on the ballot come 2018.

The commission has held a series of meetings across the state, giving Floridians a chance to weigh in on what they think should be changed. And voters have sure sounded off, suggesting the Florida Constitution be amended to address abortion, privacy, voting rights and even secede from the United States. But since committee members have remained mostly silent during the meetings, it’s hard to say where they stand on any of the proposals.

Will a hurricane sweep through Florida? We are talking about a political storm, although if you ask Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a weather event can turn into a political one in the blink of an eye.

No, we’re talking about the weather. Florida got hit with two hurricanes last year, after a decade-long dry spell. The weather woes put the Sunshine State in the spotlight, and forced everyone — including politicians in impacted communities — to make sure they were ready for the storm.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration is predicting 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine of which could become hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, NOAA’s forecast calls for two to four to become major hurricanes.

While it’s impossible to say whether a storm will hit Florida’s shores, one thing is clear: Another storm season like 2016’s could have a major impact on the state this year — and could have a ripple effect on politics in the year to come.

— Any list of questions facing Florida politics has to include a fill-in-the-blank section because you truly never know what event will occur to reset the axis. Will it be another tragedy, like last year’s shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub? Or will a prominent Florida pol take their act from the Sunshine State to the Donald Trump administration? You never really know because, as we like to say about trying to predict Florida politics: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.”

Bad news for Andrew Gillum? Tallahassee named most dangerous city in Florida

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum received some possibly unsettling news this week.

The Democratic candidate for governor, who has led Tallahassee since November 2014, learned that his city is the most dangerous in Florida.

That dubious distinction came by way of a survey from the blog 24/7 Wall St, which reviewed data from the FBI Uniform Crime Report to identify the dangerous metropolitan area in each state.

Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI. It was also well above the state’s violent crime rate of 461.9 per 100,000 (Florida was the 11th highest in the nation). Tallahassee also had a poverty rate of 22.4 percent and an unemployment rate: 4.4 percent.

Gillum’s camp offered a counter-narrative.

“Here’s the real story of Tallahassee: it was ranked one of the best cities in Florida to start a business and it continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Geoff Burgan, the Gillum campaign’s communication’s director. “People expect that communities will have challenges – what they care about is how you address them, and the Mayor’s taken public safety very seriously. He’s worked to put more police on the street and increase community policing practices. He’s also addressed the social side of public safety – from expanding the Summer Jobs program to offer kids an opportunity, to using restorative and alternative justice programs to better address systemic issues.”

After two decades of steady decline, violent crime in the U.S. seems to be on the rise. There were an estimated 15,696 murders nationwide in 2015, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, part of a 3.9 percent overall increase in violent crime.

On the bright side, however, is that U.S. crime still remains at historic lows; violent crime is down over 50 percent since 1991.

Since crime is not uniform across the country, violent crime is far more common in some cities than others – something a gubernatorial candidate certainly does not want on the campaign trail, especially when that most dangerous city is his hometown.

To identify the most dangerous city in each state, Wall Street 24/7 examined: “The total number and rates of murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, which are included in the violent crime rate, as well as burglaries, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson — all classified as property crime — also came from the FBI’s report.”

The website also considered corresponding data from 2011 through 2015. Unemployment rates for March 2017 were taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Numbers on poverty rates, the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school diploma were from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) for 2015.

Sunburn for 5.30.17 – Special Session when?; Budget turkeys where? Filed for SD 40 who? Fix ‘stand your ground’ how?

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

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

Bonjour from the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Our transatlantic cruise reached its final destination in Copenhagen, where we disembarked to take in the fascinating Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. It was here where Walt Disney found the inspiration for the theme parks that would bear his name.

Unlike other “seedy” amusement parts of the day, Tivoli was a “a clean and orderly park in Copenhagen … with ‘lush flowers, tame rides’ and a festive family atmosphere,” Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer wrote in their book The Idea Hunter: How To Find The Best Ideas And Make Them Happen.

Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843.

During a 1951 trip to Tivoli, Disney walked through the amusement park scribbling down notes about the seats, gardens, rides, food, and every other detail he noticed.

Disneyland opened in California four years after the trip.

After two days in Copenhagen, we made our way to the City of Lights for the second part of our journey.

The Florida political world took a breather for Memorial Day, but now it heads into a month where so much is in the uncertain. The number one question: Will there be a special session of the Legislature?

— WHEN, NOT IF — 

Lawmakers hoping for a special session to act on medical marijuana could be racing against the clock.  

Facing a rapidly approaching July 3 deadline to write rules to govern the state’s fledgling medical marijuana industry, the Department of Health published a notice last week outlining procedures it will use to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

While it wasn’t immediately clear when rules will be published, health officials have to give 15-day notice before adoption. It also allows for a three-day public comment window.

But that doesn’t leave much time for lawmakers to act before the Department of Health, which has been criticized for the slow implementation of the state’s low-THC law in the past, puts its rules into effect. And a month after lawmakers failed to pass implementing legislation, there still appears to be plenty of support for a special session on medical marijuana.   

Editorial cartoon via Andy Marlette.

The Department of State has received 16 letters from lawmakers asking for a special session. If 32 lawmakers send a letter asking for a special session, the department must poll the Legislature. Three-fifths of each chamber need to agree before a call is issued.

“I believe it is our duty as the Legislative Body of the State of Florida to implement the framework needed to adopt the significant amendment,” wrote Sen. Greg Steube in his May 18 letter Secretary of State Ken Detzner asking for a special session. “We have a duty to our constituents who support this measure, and who are in need of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions.”

Senate President Joe Negron confers with Sen. Greg Steube at the rostrum on the Senate floor. Earlier this month, Steube wrote a letter calling for a special session of the Legislature to implement Amendment 2. (Photo by Phil Sears)

A rank-and-file push for a special session might be a tougher path, but a call from leadership isn’t totally out of the question. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he supports a special session, telling a Tallahassee radio station earlier this month he believed and supported the notion that “we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana.”

Senate President Joe Negron signaled he was open to the possibility, and asked his membership for input on how they thought they should move forward. Last week, a spokeswoman for the Stuart Republican said he had not yet made a decision about a special session.

With a few weeks until the DOH needs to have rules in place, lawmakers might need to act fast if they want to give the state agency instructions about how the constitutional amendment should be implemented. And as more voices call for a special session — including gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and Adam Putnam, and the Drug Free America Foundation, which opposed the amendment — the question might not be if, but when the special session will be.

 — “Health officials outline their plan for writing medical marijuana rulesvia Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

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Adam Putnam faces criticisms for ‘bandwagoning’ over call for medical marijuana special session” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Putnam took a swipe at state legislators for failing to reach an agreement on the bill to implement Amendment 2 earlier this month, saying they need to come back to Tallahassee and get back to work. Putnam spokeswoman Amanda Bevis [said] the change of heart was really Putnam simply recognizing the need for state lawmakers to fulfill their duty to the people of Florida … Some believes Putnam doesn’t have the right motivations on medical marijuana, though, and say the past speaks for itself. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who pushed legislation in the Florida House to legalize a low-THC form of medical cannabis in 2014, criticized the Commissioner for only recently hopping on board the medical marijuana train for his political advantage now that he’s all in the governor’s race. Gaetz tweeted that Putnam had no desire to join forces and work together on legalizing medical marijuana just three years ago, questioning whether the commissioner’s motivations were pure or just a political tactic. “As Agriculture commish he had no interest in helping w cannabis reform when I asked,” Gaetz tweeted this week. “Now he’s running for gov and is full of opinions #weird.”

***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***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

State budget uncertainty has school districts ‘very concerned’” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – While waiting for Gov. Scott to approve or veto the Legislature’s education budget, the people in charge of school district checkbooks are trying hard to find a bottom line. It has not been easy. First, they see a $24.49 increase in total per-student funding, a minimal hike of 0.34 percent. Next, they check the “base student allocation,” which helps pay for day-to-day expenses, and see a tiny decrease of $27.07 per student, down 0.65 percent. But school districts also face inflation in areas such as health insurance and utilities, as well as rising contribution rates to employee pensions, he and others pointed out. For many districts, a gap between revenue and expenses appears likely under the Legislature’s plan, which officials hope is the worst-case scenario. “We’re very concerned,” said Kendra Sittig, Hernando County school budget director. “Any time they cut our base student allocation, that dips into what we’re able to provide for our students.”

Legislature failed transparency test this year, TaxWatch chief Dominic Calabro says” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – In an interview tied to Florida TaxWatch’s release of its annual list of budgetary “turkeys,” Calabro praised House Speaker Corcoran especially for subjecting member projects to unprecedented scrutiny. Where Corcoran fell down, Calabro said, was in failing to collaborate with the Senate leadership under President Negron from the beginning.“He just threw it out there — we’re going to do this,” Calabro said. “The process requires consensus from both sides at some point.” The result was an “I win, you lose” atmosphere. “That’s not a way to run the ship of state. The voters really don’t want that. We want the Sunshine State to be the best it can be. That requires principled compromise.” Still, Calabro sees an opening to improve the process. “We could learn a lot from this year’s missteps, and have a process that could go on for decades,” he said.

— “Another day, another call for the Governor to veto at least part of the budget” via John Lucas of The Capitolist

Joe Negron defends funding for anti-opioid drug buy” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida –  The Stuart Republican this year secured $10.5 million in funding for VIVITROL after budget writers in the House torpedoed spending for it. Negron increased by 50 percent funding for the drug, manufactured by Alkermes, in private backroom negotiations between him and House Speaker Corcoran during the waning days of the 60-day session. “I completely stand by it,” Negron told POLITICO Florida. “I think it’s the responsible course of action and I think it’s very sound public policy.” Alkermes, a firm based in Dublin, Ireland, made $156,500 in campaign contributions in the 2016 election cycle, including contributing $50,000 to Negron and political committees he controls or is affiliated with. The company has already contributed $39,000 this year, much of it going to committees associated with GOP state senators.

Sen. Joe Negron got money for the drug Vivitrol in private negotiations between him and House Speaker Richard Corcoran during the waning days of the 60-day session. (Photo: AP)

Darryl Rouson takes heat over exemption vote” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Rouson … is taking heat from area public officials — including some who gave him crucial support in his 2016 election — for switching his stance on the proposed constitutional amendment to increase the homestead tax exemption … local government officials say it would force layoffs, service cuts or property tax rate increases, and most Democrats opposed it. In late April, Rouson [said] he opposed the measure as “devastating” to this area, potentially forcing cuts in services including police and fire protection. He repeated that April 28, saying his position wouldn’t change. But May 1, Rouson voted for the measure, which passed easily and will go on the 2018 ballot. Six of 15 Senate Democrats and 11 of 41 House Democrats voted for it, along with nearly all Republicans.

“I evolved, like people do when they receive information over a period of time,” Rouson said. He said changing the bill to exempt “fiscally constrained counties” swayed him, and he decided, “The good policy is giving voters the choice. We created the opportunity for voters to weigh the facts and decide for themselves.” He denied that GOP leaders offered him any incentive for his vote.

Noah Valenstein cellphone is primary contact for business he says he doesn’t run” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Florida’s new Department of Environmental Protection secretary, Valenstein, flatly denied this week he had any role in the political consulting and polling businesses he turned over to his wife when he came to work for the governor in 2012. But the company website still listed his personal phone number as the contact. It was the same phone number Valenstein used on his application for the DEP job. “Thank you for raising this issue to my attention,” Valenstein said in an email to the Herald/Times. “I have asked my wife to immediately remove my cellphone number from her company’s website. Upon entering public service in 2012, I removed myself from the business and my wife has owned and operated it since. I was not aware my cellphone number remained on her website and neither was she.” The companies, Voter Opinions, LLC and Campaign Facts, LLC, (with website Facts2Win.com) are income-producing businesses for Jennifer Valenstein. Started by Noah Valenstein in 2010 out of their Tallahassee home, the companies have been paid nearly $1 million by candidates and political committees.

Constitution commission to vote on rules June 6” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Chair  Carlos Beruff … called a meeting for the entire 37-member commission for June 6 in Orlando to vote on rules. “Although consensus was achieved in some areas, there were many other areas where consensus was not reached,” Beruff wrote in letter to commissioners. “In light of the extensive time required by the working group to continue its work and the likelihood that much of their discussion will need to be reiterated with the full Commission, I think you will agree that consensus on Rules must be achieved on an expedited timeline to ensure we can continue our very important commitment to Floridians.”

— Beruff also set a new schedule for the commission, promising to have its work done by May 10, 2018.

 — NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — 

Happening this week  Andrew Gillum returns to campaign trail with speech at Miami Women’s March — The Tallahassee mayor is scheduled to give the keynote address at the March for Truth Rally, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday at the Government Center, 111 NW First Street in Miami. The event marks Gillum’s return to the campaign trail after the birth of his son, Davis. The Women’s March for Truth includes a coalition of grassroots groups, including the Women’s March National, Indivisible 305, Indivisible Miami, Rise Up Florida, and MoveOn.

South Florida lawmakers endorse Graham — Five South Florida state Representatives have thrown their support behind Gwen Graham, the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee. Graham’s campaign announced that she has earned the backing of Reps. Emily Slosberg, David Silvers, Kristin Jacobs, Evan Jenne, and Richard Stark. “Gwen believes we need to build a state that works for small business and home-based business owners, not just the largest corporations,” said Silvers in a statement. “On her Workdays, she gains firsthand experience learning about the challenges and opportunities entrepreneurs face. As governor, she will build an economy that creates growth and opportunity for businesses of all sizes.” In a statement, Graham said she was “honored to have the support of these South Florida representatives.”

Richard Corcoran has a new committee to help him become governor” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has opened a new political committee, Watchdog PAC, that may or may not bankroll his campaign for governor in 2018. The Land O’Lakes Republican says he will remain Speaker of the Florida House through the 2018 session and decide after that whether or not he will run for governor.

Jeb money trickles into Putnam’s bid for governor” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times —  A year ago, Bush’s Right to Rise PAC put $1,171 in money left over from his failed presidential run into a fund called SSLP Political Committee, which Putnam used for his 2014 re-election campaign for Florida Agriculture Commissioner. After the Right to Rise donation, SSLP was up to just over $221,000 and has not spent any money since, according to records with the Florida Division of Elections. But … Putnam moved all of SSLP’s unused money over into Florida Grown, a new committee he runs that has already raised $11 million since the start of 2015. … It’s no surprise Jeb Bush money would end up in Putnam’s campaign. For years, Bush has been encouraging Putnam to run for Governor. Even in 2014 while Putnam was still seeking re-election as agriculture commissioner, Bush used an event in Charlotte County to hint that Putnam should run for governor in the future.

In South Florida, Nancy Pelosi says Democrats will take on Carlos Curbelo” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – What she didn’t explain was why her party has yet to find someone to run against him. “We will be having a strong focus on Florida in the next election and certainly the Curbelo race will be one of them,” Pelosi pledged in Wilton Manors. Several Democrats intend to run for the Democratic-leaning 27th Congressional District being vacated by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring. But none have challenged Curbelo, a sophomore lawmaker whose 26th District also leans blue. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee officials have met with potential Curbelo challengers including while in South Florida this week for fundraisers that Pelosi attended. (Pelosi told the Herald that she herself hadn’t met with any potential candidates.)

Assignment editors – U.S. Rep. Brian Mast will speak at a Palm Beach County Tea Party breakfast beginning 10 a.m. at the Abacoa Country Club, 105 Barbados Dr. In Jupiter.

Qualification period begins in Senate District 40 –  The two-day qualifying period for candidates in the Senate District 40 special election begins at 8 a.m. A special primary election is July 23, with the special general election for Sept. 26 to replace Miami Republican Frank Artiles, who resigned the seat in April.

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Special elections set for House District 44 in August, October” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Special elections were set Friday for the vacancy in Orlando-based House District 44, with primary elections to be held on Aug. 15, and the election on Oct. 10, under an executive order signed by Gov. Rick Scott. he election is to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Republican former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, whom Scott appointed to fill a vacancy on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Already there are five candidates vying for the position, including four Republicans, John Newstreet, Bruno Portigliatti, Bobby Olszewski, and Dr. Usha Jain, and one Democrat, Paul Chandler. All filed for the 2018 election and will have to refile for the special election.

More legislative hopefuls announce 2018 bids LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Linda Rinaldi, a Surfside Republican, has announced she plans to challenge Democratic Rep. Joe Geller in House District 100 in 2018. Geller was unchallenged in 2016 and the seat is considered a safe Democratic district. Republican Luis Rolle has filed to run in House District 118. He will go head-to-head against Anthony Rodriguez in the Republican primary. Both men are hoping to unseat freshman Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.

Kellyanne Conway to headline Miami GOP Lincoln Day Dinner” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Conway will be headlining the Miami-Dade Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner June 27 … Conway has not spent a great deal of time in Florida since Trump took office. She worked as a pollster and was put in charge of Trump’s campaign shortly before Election Day last year … Miami-Dade was one of the nine counties Trump lost in November and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took more votes in that area than anywhere else in the state.

— IS THIS FOR REAL? —

Donald Trump set to roll back Barack Obama’s Cuba policies” via Alex Pfeiffer of the Daily Caller – The development is due to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Sen. Marco Rubio, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. This information coming from an anti-embargo group …was confirmed Sunday by John Kavulich of the nonpartisan U.S. – Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “The Trump Administration has been ‘ready’ since February 2017 to announce changes, but issues unrelated to Cuba have intervened,” Kavulich said. Former President Obama worked to enact several changes to Cuban policy during his tenure in office. He ended the policy known as “wet foot, dry foot” that gave Cuban illegal immigrants a path to legal status, opened travel to the island nation, re-established diplomatic relations and loosened restrictions on doing business in the country. These moves were applauded along bipartisan lines, but Cuban hardliners weren’t pleased. Trump himself has been on both sides of the issue. He told TheDC in 2015 that the “concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” but on the campaign trail he threatened to “terminate” deals that the Obama administration made with Cuba.

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— STATEWIDE —

What the Governor’s Office is reading – “Florida’s economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall” via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times – New figures show Florida’s real gross domestic product (GDP) rose 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 … ranking the Sunshine State fourth in growth among the states and District of Columbia, behind Texas, Utah and Washington. For all of 2016, Florida’s GDP increased 3 percent, ranking fifth behind Washington, Oregon, Utah and New Hampshire. Among the five most populated states, Florida’s GDP was fastest growing in 2016, with California’s 2.9 percent GDP growth following a close second. For the fourth quarter last year, Texas’ GDP outgrew Florida’s, 3.4 percent to 3.1 percent, but the Lone Star State grew at a much slower pace for all of 2016. U.S. growth has averaged 2.1 percent a year since the recession ended in mid-2009. The nation’s GDP growth rate slowed to just 1.5 percent over the year and 1.9 percent in the fourth quarter — well below Florida’s pace.

The worst story you’ll read today – “11 years old, a mom, and pushed to marry her rapist in Florida” via Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times – When she was a scrawny 11-year-old, Sherry Johnson found out one day that she was about to be married to a 20-year-old member of her church who had raped her. A government clerk in Tampa, refused to marry an 11-year-old, even though this was legal in the state, so the wedding party went to nearby Pinellas County, where the clerk issued a marriage license. The license lists her birth date, so officials were aware of her age. Not surprisingly, the marriage didn’t work out — two-thirds of marriages of underage girls don’t last, one study found — but it did interrupt Johnson’s attendance at elementary school. Today she is campaigning for a state law to curb underage marriages, part of a nationwide movement to end child marriage in America. Meanwhile, children 16 and under are still being married in Florida at a rate of one every few days. A great majority of the child marriages involve girls and adult men. Such a sexual relationship would often violate statutory rape laws, but marriage sometimes makes it legal.

Governor cleared to sign death warrants again, experts say” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Florida can start executing condemned killers again, now that the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand the state’s changes to its death-penalty law, experts say. But so far, Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t signed a warrant for any of the 366 prisoners on Death Row. “Other than the typical motions that defendants file and exhaust before a death warrant being signed, both federal and state, I don’t think there’s another barrier out there to stop the governor from moving forward,” said Rep. Chris Sprowls … a former Pinellas County prosecutor and legislative leader on death penalty issues. Scott could be ready to begin executions again soon. “Our office is currently reviewing the next steps in the process” of selecting a case and signing a death warrant, Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said. Scott has signed death warrants for 23 prisoners, more than any other Florida governor since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Florida could pave new changes in ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – A measure before Scott would effectively require a trial-before-a-trial whenever someone invokes self-defense, making prosecutors prove the suspect doesn’t deserve immunity. Scott hasn’t revealed his intentions, but he’s a National Rifle Association supporter, and this is an NRA priority. … Florida Republicans made this bill a priority after the state Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the defendant has the burden of proof before trial. If Florida starts a national trend to shift that burden to prosecutors, it’ll be just fine with Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who sponsored the bill. “It’s about following our right of innocent until proven guilty,” Payne said. “It’s about Fifth Amendment rights, it’s about due process, it’s about having a true immunity, for when folks really believe they’re in imminent threat of great bodily harm or death, to defend themselves properly.” Senators originally wanted prosecutors to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” before trial that self-defense didn’t justify a violent crime. The final legislation lowered the threshold to “clear and convincing” evidence. Either way, it makes prosecuting violent crimes more difficult, experts say.

Florida leads the nation in drowning deaths for preschoolers” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Florida had the highest drowning rate in the nation for the under four age group with 7.5 per 100,000 population, according to 2013 statistics from the Florida Department of Health. Enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown each year in Florida and do not live to see their fifth birthday. Most of those incidents occur in backyard pools and studies have shown that usually an adult was nearby, but not watching the child when they fell in the pool … Kelly Whittemore, founder of Swim Life, said children die in Central Florida because parents don’t realize how easy it is to get distracted when watching their children around water. “A child can drown in the seconds it takes to return a text message,” said Whittemore, who has been teaching swim lessons for 25 years. “Hollywood has done us all a big disservice. They’ve made it look like there’s lots of splashing and noise involved. In reality, a child can slip in without a splash and there’s no noise. That’s how quickly and silently it happens.”

Pam Bondi says charities she helps aren’t required to register with state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bondi’s office this week responded to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Deputy Solicitor General Jonathan L. Williams, writing on Bondi’s behalf, said in part that some of the organizations criticized by Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith aren’t “require(d) … to register (with the state) before receiving contributions from governmental entities.” Rather, they need to register as charities if they plan to “solicit,” or ask for, charitable contributions, Williams added. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee ordered Bondi to show why he shouldn’t find for Smith, giving Bondi 40 days to respond. Williams’ response came on the 40th day. “Florida law expressly and unambiguously authorizes (the Attorney General’s office to require) a settling party’s promise to make a contribution to a third party,” said the response to the order to show cause. “Nowhere in the relevant statutes does it say that these third-party entities must be registered charities.”

As FHP struggles to recruit, speeding tickets plummet” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Since 2010, the agency has lost 993 troopers to retirement or resignation, or a little more than half of its current workforce of 1,946 troopers, said FHP Director Col. Gene Spaulding. “That’s a big turnover,” said Spaulding, a 24-year highway patrol veteran himself. “That’s really tough.” Spaulding had 240 vacancies in the department this spring. Reinforcements are not filling the void. The state’s trooper academy typically has 80 recruits per class three times a year. Spaulding said the current class doesn’t even have half of that. Meanwhile, the workload is increasing. In 2011, the state reported 229,000 crashes. In 2016, that rose to 395,000. Local governments are stuck picking up the slack, said Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight, who spent 20 years working for the Highway Patrol.

— NEVER TOO EARLY —

Gary Croke: Past hurricanes help prepare for tomorrow” for Florida Politics – As a hurricane builds, so does the need to communicate. Police departments need to coordinate with fire and rescue to ensure the most vulnerable have a route out of the path of destruction, and to provide emergency care to those unable to get to safety in time … microwave technology, provided to local organizations … has enhanced communication between first responders. It has also helped reduce costs, and improve local networks’ reliability and performance. As the microwave provider to these local organizations, Aviat is proud to play a part in helping these communities be prepared with additional network capacity in future weather emergencies. However, natural and man-made disasters will continue to test the limits of this technology. As demonstrated by recent public safety incidents in Florida, during times of immediate crisis, lines of communication are often flooded by the number of individuals on the ground trying to help. The addition of more technology, such as body cameras on law enforcement officials, will only add to the onslaught of vital data that needs to shared. It’s also impossible to predict how intense future hurricanes may be. The emergency responders that have prioritized communications are entering hurricane season as well prepared as possible.

— REST IN PEACE —

Sergio Bendixen, pioneer pollster of Hispanics, dies at 68” via Patricia Mazzei and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – Bendixen had been suffering from a bad cold in recent days, according to his friend and business partner, Fernand Amandi. The two ran the Coconut Grove-based Bendixen & Amandi International polling firm, though Bendixen was semi-retired. “Sergio led the way in capturing the opinions of and understanding how Hispanics in America thought and felt about the most important issues in our time,” Amandi said. “He was largely responsible for giving Hispanic America a voice.” Bendixen not only focused on polling Hispanics: He also chose to survey them in Spanish, if they were more comfortable in that language, an industry innovation now considered standard in multilingual polling. He later expanded his work to other ethnic groups and worked for political candidates internationally, especially in Latin America. His best friend of 40 years, Mike Abrams, called him “the single greatest political mind I’ve ever met,” and said that all of Bendixen’s grandest political plans started humbly — sketched out on a napkin over lunch. “He could be a little Machiavellian to his political foes, but his loyalty and compassion for friends far outweighed any of that,” he said.

Nancy Pelosi visit demonstrates Ted Deutch’s growing role in nat’l party

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined South Florida Congressman Ted Deutch Thursday or a public event at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors.

That appearance was followed by a major Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at a private home in Fort Lauderdale; at $5,000 a ticket, the event raised $300,000.

All the money Deutch raised will go toward the Democratic efforts to win back the House of Representatives.

Because of the difficult 2018 Senate map for Democrats, most political experts see a Democratic takeover of the House as the party’s best opportunity in the midterm elections.

A Democratic sweep in the House could open many potential doors for ambitious members of Congress who can raise money, sell their message on television, and support tight relations with the top echelons of Democratic leadership, including Pelosi.

It is no accident Pelosi chose to travel to the heart of Deutch’s district to champion federal legislation supporting equal rights for gay and lesbians. Deutch was one of 194 cosponsors of The Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community.

At the beginning of the new Congress, Pelosi also named Deutch as the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. It is an important assignment, especially since the committee has undertaken the investigation into Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes for allegedly disclosing classified information.

Earlier this month, Deutch sponsored The Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act, which would require nominees to disclose whether they have solicited or contributed funds for political purposes to 527 political action committees, or tax-exempt groups formed under sections 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6) of the tax code.

Alongside his new Ethics perch, Deutch has been noticeably popping up on the national political shows including MSNBC’s Morning JoeCNN’s New Day and Wolf Blitzer, among others.

Historically, midterm elections have a way of whiplashing back on the party in control.

Deutch knows that Democrats could very well rule the House in two years, and as most of the existing Democratic House leadership are all in their late 70s, Deutch is making moves that appear to show he is prepared to take his career to the next level.

With Frank White out of Speaker’s race is Northeast Florida ready to rally to one of its own?

After Florida Politics’ most recent report about the mostly behind-the-scenes scrum within the Florida House GOP freshman class to determine which of its members will one day be Speaker, the conclusion was that for either Jamie Grant or Frank White to win, one of them would have to drop out of the race quickly.

Not much sooner after this was written did rumors start to circulate that White was contemplating exiting the race. And after considerable lobbying from Rep. Jayer Williamson (at least that’s what we heard), White, in fact, quit the race.

“I talked to some other members, and it just wasn’t the right time,” White, of Pensacola, told Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

Now that White is out of the way, and with both he and Williamson lining up behind Tampa’s James Grant, the race returns to its original state: Jacksonville’s Paul Renner on one side, Grant (and a large band of anti-Renner votes) on the other, and Randy Fine in a kingmaker/spoiler role (or, perhaps, a consensus candidate if Grant and Renner can’t win outright.)

The tempo of the race is quickening.

White’s dropping out read like the firing of a wicked return volley, particularly after Sarasota’s Joe Gruters announcing earlier in the day he would vote for Renner.

With Grant probably back in the lead, pressure is now on Renner to lock down his northeast Florida base. The region — Jacksonville in particular — believes it deserves a turn at leadership. And it’s time for the other Jacksonville/Northeast Florida House members to get in line.

That was the message Thursday evening at a major fundraiser for Renner’s political committee, the Florida Foundation for Liberty, delivered by the boss of bosses, Lenny Curry.

Curry and the rest of the Jacksonville political establishment are “all in” for Renner, according to a consultant who works for multiple candidates in the region.

Along with Curry, Ambassador John Rood and John Peyton spoke before a crowd of more than 250 about the need for Northeast Florida representatives to rally behind a Speaker candidate from Northeast Florida.

The question now is: Was the message delivered?

In the crowd last night: Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, and Cyndi Stevenson. If Renner is to win, he will need at least two of the three of them to vote his way.

Byrd is still likely with Grant.

Fischer and Stevenson are still undecided, but considerable pressure will probably be brought to bear for a Renner vote.

But even with those votes, the race fluctuates like my cholesterol level.

Grant’s camp, as confident as ever, thinks that White yielding to Grant is the final, decisive turn.

Which leaves the scrappy Randy Fine. Along with Byron Donalds and, perhaps, Erin Grall, Fine is the what’s standing between a two-horse showdown. Fine, ever the tactician, believes there are votes there for him if Grant or Renner can’t win a quick majority.

But is it time for Fine to play the role of kingmaker? Does he deliver his vote and (again, perhaps) a couple of other independent votes to Grant and Fine, in exchange for a committee chairmanship to be named later?

Stay tuned.

Democrats have opportunity-in-crisis with Rick Scott education bill veto possibility

Winston Churchill once said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Democrats are starting to formulate a strategy for Bill Nelson’s upcoming Senate re-election effort — more likely than not facing Gov. Rick Scott.

Not one to waste a good opportunity, Nelson’s nascent campaign could receive a significant boost by way of a veto of the sweeping education bill assembled by lawmakers in the 2017 Legislative Session’s final hours.

The proposal (HB 7069) – a leading priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran – has been panned by educators, parents and labor unions, all calling for Scott to wield his veto pen.

Opponents decry both the bill and state budget, primarily for adding ‘just’ $24 in average per-student spending while moving $140 million to charter schools, described optimistically as “Schools of Hope.”

However, tucked away in the PreK-12 Conforming Bill is a political “poison pill” in the case of a veto; rewards for teacher performance, as much as $233 million in bonuses.

Teachers considered “Best and Brightest” could receive $6,000, those “highly effective” will get $1,200, and those considered “effective” could see a bonus of up to $800, based on available funds.

Scott, still stinging from the rebuke by lawmakers who severely cut his favored VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida, could use his veto power to retaliate against projects near and dear to Speaker Corcoran.

Corcoran rallied throughout Session against the state’s business and tourism incentive programs, calling them “corporate welfare.”

Vetoing the reduced spending for VISIT and Enterprise Florida would be of little help since both programs would remain underfunded. Corcoran would not be unhappy if either one disappeared.

But a veto of HB 7069 would certainly do the trick, though not without a hefty political price.

Scott’s veto of teacher bonuses could hand Democrats an effective talking point for 2018. Just imagine the headlines: “Rick Scott denies bonuses for public school teachers.”

Such a move would certainly play well for Nelson and Democrats in attack mailers, TV ads and the like – each designed to inflict maximum political damage for Scott’s statewide campaign, should he choose to run.

Of course, this presents Scott with a classic Catch-22 scenario: damned if he vetoes, damned if he doesn’t.

So, as the deadline approaches, what remains is political calculus – finding the best way to mitigate any damage ahead of an all-but-certain Senate run.

And at least one option has a solid upside; it gives money to teachers, which is far from a bad thing.

The Delegation for 5.25.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Criticism of Trump budget proposal to grow upon his return from overseas

President Donald Trump presented his budget proposal to Congress this week. Like other budgets proposed by his predecessors, the term “dead on arrival” quickly becomes the operative word for those paying attention.

Usually, this event is well covered, especially on the cable news channels. This year, despite eye-popping proposals from the White House, the budget has taken a back seat.

Events in Manchester, England, and the president’s well-received foreign trip have rightfully received higher billing. While Manchester could never be predicted, give the President’s people some credit for dropping this newsmaker while he was overseas with Muslim, Jewish and Catholic leaders.

Trump’s trip to the Middle East produces the irony of high-level diplomacy and a budget proposal that would cut the Department of State by 29 percent. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly seeking a 9 percent cut in the Department workforce.

Other controversial proposals include cuts to Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, 13 percent to the Department of Education and other cuts to farm programs, welfare programs and Medicaid. Winners include substantial increases to the military, border security, public safety and school choice programs.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget as he speaks to members of the media in the Press Briefing Room at the White House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney describes the proposal as fulfilling “campaign promises the president made.” St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist had a somewhat different description.

“This budget is fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant,” Crist said in a statement. He spoke for nearly everyone in both parties by saying “it is the Congress that ultimately decides funding priorities.”

This proposal reflects the priorities (and promises) of Trump with numbers attached to them. Many in Congress want to spend more than we already are, while others want to get to a balanced budget.

Trump appears to be deploying the art of the deal with a lowball bid. Republicans in Congress will smile, but not go along with the deep cuts proposed. In the end, they may not go along with any cuts.

Or, Congress may continue with the recent practice of continuing resolutions and not even agree on a budget. The committee hearings should provide excellent opportunities for props and sound bites.

More will be paying attention by then.

The Associated Press broke down Trump‘s $4.1 trillion budget proposal in one handy graph:

Programming note: Just like Florida’s congressional delegation, we occasionally need to take a week off from the hustle and bustle from the beltway. We’re taking next week off to celebrate Memorial Day and recharge before what will likely be a busy few months before the summer recess. We’ll return Thursday, June 8. Until then, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Sinkhole opens outside of Mar-a-Lago

The town of Palm Beach reported Monday that a 4-foot by 4-foot sinkhole formed directly in front of Mar-a-Lago.

President Trump spent several weekends at Mar-a-Lago during his first few months in office. And as news of a sinkhole in front of the luxury resort spread, Amy B Wang with The Washington Post reported that metaphors began to pour in. A common theme of the social media feedback, wrote Trevor Nace with Forbes, had to do with how much time and money Trump has spent at Mar-a-Lago. For instance, Peter Stevenson with The Washington Post tweeted: “The swamp is draining?”

Town officials said the sinkhole appeared to be “in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach Utilities distribution crews secured the area and did exploratory excavation on Monday. The Palm Beach Post reported the hole in front of the club grew to about 10-feet by 6-feet because of the digging.

Delegation members react to extension of Haitian Temporary Protected Status

Members of the Florida delegation are grateful that Haitian refugees have six more months before their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) runs out, but most feel that is not enough time. Following his announcement of the extension, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly advised those Haitians temporarily in the U.S. following the devastating earthquake of 2010 to use the time to “handle their affairs.”

In March, a bipartisan group of South Florida delegation members, as well as both U.S. Senators, wrote to Kelly urging him to extend the deadline, “within all applicable rules and regulations.” A length for the extension was not suggested.

A release announcing the extension said: “Secretary Kelly was particularly encouraged by representations made to him directly by the Haitian government regarding their desire to welcome the safe repatriation of Haitian TPS recipients in the near future.”

Sen. Bill Nelson was among those who signed the March letter urging the Trump administration extend the deadline even further. He called for an 18-month extension.

“There’s just no way that in six months the nation of Haiti could absorb 60,000 of its people back,” Nelson said on the Senate floor.

Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart did not ask for more time. “I thank “President Trump and Secretary Kelly for this TPS extension, and I support the people of Haiti as they continue to rebuild,” he said in a statement.

 “I am pleased that the Administration gave Haitians a temporary six-month extension of TPS rather than abruptly ending the humanitarian measure and throwing thousands of lives in limbo,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch in a statement. “But it’s quite clear that conditions in Haiti won’t improve sufficiently in six months to justify letting TPS expire.”

Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz expressed gratitude for the six months, but called it “woefully short of what is needed.”

“There are still tent cities from the earthquake,” said Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson.

Delegation focuses on Lake O, Everglades restoration efforts

Senate panel OKs bill to provide Fed help for toxic algae outbreaks — The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a measure by Sen. Bill Nelson that could open the door to federal assistance for states and local communities hit by toxic algae blooms.

Isadora Rangel with TC Palm reported that, under the proposal, toxic algae blooms could be considered an event of national significance. The bill authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare several algae bloom an event of national significance and determine how much money is needed to help the community address environmental, social and health effects.

It would also set aside $110 million over five years for research how to control algae blooms, like the ones that plagued Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River last summer.

“Floridians have borne the brunt of recent toxic algae outbreaks, but by law have been unable to qualify for federal help,” said Nelson, in a statement. “Algae blooms are more than just a nuisance — it can be an environmental, economic, and public health nightmare that warrants emergency relief.”

Nelson has long worked to curb the impact of toxic algae blooms. In 2014, he shepherded a law through Congress that authorized $82 million for research to help battle outbreaks.

The 2017 measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Nelson, Rubio, others invite Zinke on Everglades tour — The congressional delegation — led by Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio — want to take Interior Sectary Ryan Zinke on a tour of the Florida Everglades.

The two senators, along with a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen representatives, sent a letter to Zinke inviting to get a firsthand look at the ongoing efforts to restore the Everglades. In their letter, the group of lawmakers said while they understand Zinke’s schedule is “incredibly busy,” they would be “honored to personally show you the River of Grass.”

“As the newest secretary of the interior, we welcome you to visit a unique treasure, America’s Everglades,” the lawmakers wrote. “As secretary, you serve as chairman of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and play a vital role in the effort to restore the balance of water flow and management.”

The letter continues: “The Everglades faces numerous challenges, but with a successful state and federal partnership, we are committed to ensuring future generations are able to enjoy this treasured ecosystem.”

Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Carlos Curbelo, Val Demings, Ron DeSantis, Ted Deutch, Mario Diaz-Balart, Lois Frankel, Matt Gaetz, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Brian Mast, Stephanie Murphy, Bill Posey, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, John Rutherford, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Daniel Webster, Frederica Wilson and Ted Yoho joined Nelson and Rubio in signing the letter.

F. Rooney talks Everglades projects funding — Plans have been approved, but without funding, it’s difficult to move forward.

That’s why Rep. Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican, met with representatives of the Office of Management and Budget last week to discuss funding for Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration projects authorized through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

“The key to Everglades restoration is the funding and completion of a series of projects authorized in the Water Resource Development Acts (WRDA) of 2007, 2014 and 2016 pursuant to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), enacted in 2000,” he said in a statement. “Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs funding to complete reinforcement of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. Florida’s entire Congressional delegation agrees on this issue and we ask that The White House include this important funding in their infrastructure budget, as President Trump promised during his campaign.”

Rooney sent a letter to Trump, signed by every member of the delegation, calling on Trump to support Everglades restoration projects. A member of the Everglades Caucus, Rooney has taken top House officials, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, on tours of the Everglades to stress the need for funding.

Nancy Pelosi travels to South Florida on Friday to support LGBTs, raise cash

The House Minority Leader will be in South Florida on Friday to attend a public event and a private gathering to raise money for Democrats. Along with Pelosi, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz are the featured attractions.

On Friday morning, the trio will hold a public event in Wilton Manors to bring attention to discrimination against LGBTs. They will speak of their support for the Equality Act, legislation designed to include LGBT as a protected class.

The event begins at 10:45 a.m. at the Pride Center located at 2040 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors.

Following the public event, Pelosi and her colleagues will head for a luncheon fundraiser at a private home in Ft. Lauderdale. Deutch will serve as host for the fundraiser, which will benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Democrats are targeting the 27th District seat currently held by the retiring Republican from Miami, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in 2018. Also, they are making a strong play to oust Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo in the 25th District.

The minimum donation, according to the Miami Herald, is $5,000.

Rubio, Yoho sponsor bills to help victims of North Korean regime

Florida’s Republican senator and the Republican congressman from Gainesville have each recently launched proposals on behalf of the internal victims of the brutal regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Rubio initiated the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017. Among other things, the bill uses the work of a United Nations commission that found “grave human rights violations still being perpetrated against the people of North Korea” and calling for international cooperation to helping refugees.

The bill also seeks to provide North Koreans with accurate information about what is happening in their country. It is co-sponsored by Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, along with Texas Republican Ted Cruz and Colorado Republican Cory Gardner.

“The human rights situation in North Korea is horrific,” Rubio said in a release. “The United States has a moral obligation and diplomatic imperative to prioritize human rights and access to information for the North Korean people, and this bipartisan legislation would do just that.”

Access to information is precise the topic of Yoho’s Distribution and Promotion of Rights and Knowledge Act of 2017. This bill, similar to Rubio’s Senate bill, seeks to increase the use of improved American technology to broadcast truthful information about the rogue regime to North Koreans able to listen.

Yoho, the chairman of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has gained the support of both the full committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, as co-sponsors.

“I applaud Asia Subcommittee Chairman Yoho for introducing this important legislation to support new ways for North Koreans to access this information,” Royce said in a release. “I’ve long said that increased broadcasting into North Korea must be part of any strategy to address the urgent threats from the Kim Jong Un regime.”

Paulson’s Principles: Party Prospects for the 2018 Congressional Elections

It has been decades since Democrats had majority control of the Florida congressional delegation. Democrats, who held only 10 of the 27 seats entering the 2016 election, hoped to narrow the gap with Republicans. They did. They picked up one seat, leaving Republicans with a 16-11 advantage.

A potential problem for Republicans is President Trump. His approval ratings have never been above 50 percent, and they are currently at 40 percent. That is unheard of for a president only four months into his term. Even worse, only 28 percent strongly approve of Trump, while 46 percent strongly disapprove.

The firing of FBI Director James Comey has met with public disapproval out of concern that Trump was attempting to pressure Comey to drop the investigation of fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and that Trump wanted Comey to terminate the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election.

Republicans control the White House and the party controlling the White House almost always suffers midterm losses. Those losses are even greater when the president’s popularity is low.

Democrats have an advantage by being more motivated than Republicans. Motivation is a major factor in voter turnout. Democrats currently hold a 6 percent lead in a generic ballot.

In other words, Democrats are more likely to turn out.

Finally, Democrats are also advantaged because Republicans have more seats in play and more seats in jeopardy. Two Republican members of Congress from Florida currently represent Democratic districts.

Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 in Miami holds the seat with the largest Democratic advantage in the United States to be won by a Republican. Curbelo’s district has a +6 Democratic advantage.

Neighboring District 27, held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who just announced her upcoming retirement — won her district by 10 points even though it has a +5 Democratic advantage. Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 19 points. Ros-Lehtinen’s departure makes District 27 the most likely Democratic pickup.

Mario Diaz-Balart, in neighboring District 25, easily won re-election in 2016 although the district is only a +4 Republican district. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made District 25 it’s Number 3 target on its “2018 Republican Retirement Watchlist.” Number 2 on the Watchlist is Vern Buchanan in District 16 in Sarasota and Manatee County.

The two most vulnerable Democratic seats are those won by newcomers in 2016. Charlie Crist defeated Republican David Jolly in District 13, a seat which Republicans have held since 1954.

Crist has raised almost a million dollars for his campaign account, and no serious Republican has emerged to challenge him. Larry Sabato rates the district as “leans Democrat.”

Stephanie Murphy defeated long-term Republican John Mica in District 7, a district evenly split between the parties.

Republican State Sen. David Simmons, who represents much of the district, has said he is “98 percent sure” he will run. Sabato rates it a “leans Democrat” district.

Democrats should pick up Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in District 27 and, if things fall in place, have a great shot at picking up two other Republican seats. A three-seat switch would leave the Democrats with a 14-13 majority in the congressional delegation.

It would be a significant boost to the Democratic Party in fundraising and candidate recruitment.

Gaetz targets invasive species with Reef Assassin Act

The Fort Walton Beach Republican is proposing legislation designed to protect Florida coral reefs and native fish from a carnivorous invasive species. The bill, known as the Reef Assassin Act, provides incentives to those who would help in the effort to rid Florida waters of the menace.

Lionfish, native to Pacific and Indian Ocean region, are now in coastal Florida waters and prey upon species such as red snapper and grouper. They also are known to damage Florida’s iconic coral reefs. The legislation provides that those providing dead Lionfish tails would be given “tags authorizing fishing for coveted reef fish.”

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

“By providing red snapper, bay grouper, triggerfish, and amberjack tags to those who kill lionfish, we can use our resources to protect our resources,” Gaetz said in a release.

Gaetz says the lionfish population in the Florida Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico has exploded in the past three decades. Female lionfish can release up to 2 million eggs per year.

“We applaud Congressman Gaetz for his new incentives-based legislation, and for bringing creative solutions and heightened awareness to the lionfish threat,” said Brian Yablonski, Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The bill already carries broad, bipartisan support within the delegation. Co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Hastings, Lawson and Soto; along with Republican Reps. Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, F. Rooney, T. Rooney, Ros-Lehtinen, Mast Yoho and Rutherford.

House passes Buchanan’s bill to enhance punishment for cop killers

Late last week, the House passed the Thin Blue Line Act, a bill sponsored by the Sarasota Republican. The vote tally was a bipartisan 271-143.

The bill’s primary focus would make the killing of a police officer or first responder an “aggravating” factor when determining the sentence for offenders. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“America’s police officers and first responders are the first ones on the scene to help those in harm’s way,” Buchanan said in a statement following passage. “Getting this bill signed into law will protect those who serve our communities and send a clear message: targeting or killing our first responders will not be tolerated.”

Last year, 11 Florida police officers were killed in the line of duty.

Joining Buchanan as co-sponsors of the bill were Florida Republicans Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Bill Posey of Rockledge. All delegation Republicans voted for the bill except Tom Rooney of Okeechobee and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall. Neither cast a vote.

Most Florida Democrats were among the 48 in their party voting in favor. The only “no” votes came from Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens did not cast a vote.

Mast, Curbelo receiving thanks for AHCA vote via mail

Already supported by digital and television ads, constituents of the two South Florida Republicans will soon have “thank you” mailers show up in their mailboxes. The American Action Network (AAN), a conservative group with close ties to Speaker Paul Ryan, will drop mail pieces expressing gratitude for the vote of 24 other Republicans in addition to the two Floridians.

“The AHCA will give families real choice, better coverage, and lower premiums,” said Corry Bliss, Executive Director of the American Action Network, in a release. “AAN will continue to promote the AHCA and thank lawmakers for keeping their promise and fighting for better health care.”

This marks the third different media outreach undertaken by AAN on behalf of Curbelo and Mast, part of a core group of endangered Republicans. Shortly after passage, the group announced television and digital media ads.

The television ads began this week. A smaller radio ad buy did not include the two Floridians. Ryan was one of the very few listed in all four buys.

Deutch backs sunlight on “dark money”

On a media conference call, the Boca Raton Rep. Deutch joined with Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to promote legislation designed to increase reporting requirements for presidential nominees and high-level appointees. The Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act seeks to enhance current law by requiring nominees to disclose their political contributions or solicitations.

Current law only requires the revelation of personal financial information. The intent of the legislation is to address a concern that nominees and appointees could receive funding from entities they would be called upon to regulate.

“Because of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizen’s United decision, big money has too much influence in our elections,” said Deutch, a co-chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force. “That’s why we need to be certain that presidential nominees aren’t going to put their own political interests above the interests of the American people.

For his part, Whitehouse repeatedly used the term “dark money.” During the confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, Whitehouse focused a great deal of his time focusing on this issue.

“We ask high-level appointees to disclose their financial relationships, which may have a serious influence on the work they do if confirmed,” Whitehouse said. “We also need to ask about financial relationships, which can be just as thorny.”

Curbelo, Murphy assume leadership roles in millennial-focused caucus

The Congressional Futures Caucus, an arm of the Millennial Action Project, has tapped the Kendall Republican as a co-chair and the Orlando Democrat as a vice-chair. Their new roles were announced at a Tuesday event at Facebook’s Washington office.

The Caucus membership consists of about 25 members who are aged 45 or younger. The group’s mission statement says “These members come together across partisan lines to creatively and pragmatically for nonpartisan common ground on issues facing America’s next generation, such as enhancing American competitiveness and innovation.

Curbelo, 35, will serve with the other caucus co-chair, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Senema, 40. Joining Murphy, 37, as the other vice-chair is Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, 33.

Mr. Ingoglia goes to Washington

Blaise Ingoglia took a quick jaunt to Washington, D.C. last week, as part of a small delegation of Republican leaders who met with President Donald Trump and Reince Priebus to talk about issues important to their communities.

Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, was one of 10 party leaders from swing states to meet with Trump and Priebus to talk about issues important to their states. The Spring Hill Republican said he was others in attendance included the chairs of the Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan Republican parties.

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia was one of 10 state party chairs invited to the White House last week to meet with President Donald Trump. (White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Facebook)

“It was a little surreal,” he said of his Oval Office meeting. “If you know the president, he’s very welcoming. He likes to talk; he likes to get feedback. It was a very humbling experience.”

Ingoglia said he talked with Priebus about the temporary protected status for Haitians, which the Trump administration announced Monday it would extend for another six months.

Ingoglia said the president and Priebus asked lots of questions about what the federal government could do to help communities within the state, and Ingoglia said what was impressive is they didn’t care if the issues were Democratic or Republican issues, they just “wanted to reach out to (as many) community leaders as possible.”

Ballard Partners adds third foreign client

Brian Ballard is continuing to grow his reach, inking a deal this week with the government of Turkey.

The firm signed a $1.5 million contract with the Turkish government, which will be represented by former Rep. Robert Wexler, reports Marc Caputo with POLITICO Florida. The new contract comes after Ballard Partners signed agreements with two other international clients, the Dominican Republic and the Socialist Party of Albania, the Balkan nation’s ruling party.

Ballard told POLITICO Florida he was excited about the firm’s “growing international practice” and he looks forward to working “with this important US and NATO ally.”

The new contract could be one of the firm’s most controversial. Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara to protest what it called “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by U.S. security against Turkish bodyguards in Washington during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit.

Florida House intern speaker series kicks off June 8

The Florida House on Capitol Hill’s popular intern seminar series is back.

The annual series is one of the most popular and successful education programs and gives Florida college students a chance to interact and exchange ideas with each other, members of the Sunshine State’s congressional delegation, and business and government leaders.

Rep. Ron DeSantis kicks off the 2017 Florida House Intern Seminar Series on June 8. Other speakers this year include Rep. Stephanie Murphy on June 15, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart on June 22; Rep. Brian Mast on June 29, Rep. Kathy Castor on July 13, Rep. Charlie Crist on July 20, and Rep. Vern Buchanan on July 27. A tour of the U.S. Supreme Court is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m.

Seminars begin at 8:30 a.m., with a light breakfast served at 8 a.m. The seminars take place at Florida House. Students interested in attending can RSVP to each event at rsvp@floridahousedc.org.

The Florida House on Capitol Hill is the only state embassy in the nation’s capital.

D.C. porta-potty industry booming

The first few months of the Trump administration have been good for the portable toilet business Washington, D.C., reports Perry Stein with The Washington Post. The reason? Increased protests on the Mall mean a greater need for porta-potties.

The National Park Service requires demonstration permit holders provide one portable toilet for every 300 participants, 20 percent of which must be wheelchair-accessible. That means, for example, the Women’s March on Washington needed nearly 600 loos.

The Washington Post reported that portable toilet rental companies said an increase in political advocacy has translated to boom times. The National Park Service has experienced a 30 percent increase in permitted protests compared with this time last year.

“All I’m going to say is that we love the activism. I’ll leave it at that,” Rob Weghorst, the chief operating officer of Virginia-based portable toilet rental company Don’s Johns told The Washington Post. “It’s been good. It’s made for an interesting and lucrative spring.”

 

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