Peter – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Python purge

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this week aimed at eradicating invasive species, such as the rightly maligned Burmese python, from wreaking havoc in Sunshine State ecosystems.

SB 168 creates a pilot program within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) allowing them to hire private contractors to capture or kill any of a long list of “priority invasive species” — currently five species of python, two species of lionfish, and a group of lizards known as tegus.

Former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican, first filed legislation early last year to rid the state of tegus, a lizard he said was “decimat(ing) the fauna and flora of the Everglades and other natural areas and ecosystems in the southern and central parts of this state at an accelerating rate.”

Former Sen. Frank Artiles first filed legislation to stop invasive species from wreaking havoc on the Everglades.

Tegus, native to South America and brought to Florida as pets, have either escaped or been released over the years, creating new wild populations in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties.

The program, funded at $600,000 over two years, also requires FWC to identify and add species that threaten Florida’s native wildlife to a state list and set up rules for exotic pet dealers to tag them with transponders.

The measure was sponsored by Sarasota GOP Sen. Greg Steube and won unanimous approval from both chambers of the Legislature in the closing days of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew Wilson, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe and Peter Schorsch.

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

Special Session on gambling, anyone? — Top officials in the Legislature are considering a Special Session to tackle unresolved gambling issues from the 2018 Regular Session, including renewal of a deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe. It’s all about the money: The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers. As part of a blackjack lawsuit settlement, the sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31, after which point the Tribe is entitled to stop paying. That possibility concerns House Speaker Richard Corcoran. “The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away from the forbearance agreement jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a Thursday statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”

Judge orders new voting rights restoration — A federal judge ordered Gov. Scott and the Board of Executive Clemency to come up with a new system for restoring ex-felon voting rights within a month. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker deemed the process unconstitutional in February calling it a violation of the First and 14th amendments. Walker criticized the Governor and the board for threatening to ditch the ex-felon voting restoration process altogether after last month’s ruling. The Governor’s office continues to argue the process should be at the discretion of elected officials, as outlined in the state constitution.

Rick Scott planned drilling ban — When Gov. Scott and U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced in an impromptu Tallahassee news conference that Florida’s coastal waters would be “off the table” for oil drilling, speculations rose that it was a political move tailored to help Scott in an expected 2018 Senate bid. Records, text messages and emails obtained and reviewed by POLITICO Florida showed that a staffer from the Interior planned to be in Tallahassee at least four days before the announcement and was in the capital city the day before Zinke and Scott said Florida would not be subjected to drilling. “It’s no secret that our office worked with the Department of the Interior to set up a meeting that the Governor publicly requested on Jan. 4,” Scott’s spokesman McKinley Lewis told POLITICO.

Randy Fine wants gun laws repealed — Palm Bay Republican Rep. Fine is aiming to repeal three gun-control measures passed by the Legislature in the 2018 Session. He told Florida Today this week that he’ll file a bill ahead of the 2019 Session that would walk back Florida law that now bans the purchase and sale of bump stocks, raises the minimum age for firearms purchases to 21 and mandates a three-day waiting period for gun purchases. Fine voted for the firearms measures, which were included in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, but said he did so only to secure the funding to increase school safety, which was tied to the same package. Fine’s move follows the NRA’s recent lawsuit against the state claiming the new laws are a violation of the Second Amendment.

Adam Putnam ordered to pay up — Agriculture Commissioner Putnam was ordered this week to pay claims to 12,000 homeowners whose citrus trees were destroyed by the state more than a decade ago. Circuit Judge Keith Kyle of Fort Myers ruled those homeowners can force the commissioner to make a list of state assets to sell to cover the claims, which now total nearly $17 million. The trees were destroyed as part of a statewide initiative to eradicate citrus canker in the Sunshine State. The order focuses on claims in Southwest Florida. Judge Kyle, in his order, wrote that “wildly different amounts” have been paid for canker claims in different regions of the state. Kyle said Putnam’s office contended each case be tried in separate counties. Putnam’s spokeswoman Jennifer Meale said the department intends to appeal the ruling and that claims should be appropriated by the Florida Legislature.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Gov. Scott’s former chief of staff, Jackie Schutz Zeckman, abruptly left her position at the beginning of the week with a resignation letter that looks more like a formality than a farewell.

“Governor Scott, Effective today, 3/25/18, I resign as chief of staff. It has been an absolute honor to serve in the Governor’s office as your communications director and chief of staff. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!” the letter reads.

Jackie Schutz Zeckman, shown to the left of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, resigned abruptly this week.

For someone leaving after seven years in the Governor’s office, there’s nothing melancholy or bittersweet in that missive. Perhaps because that “amazing opportunity” may be her next job, not the chief of staff gig.

When Scott announces his run for U.S. Senate, Schutz Zeckman is likely to be one of his top campaign staffers.

It’s not the first time Schutz Zeckman has left the Scott administration — she did the same thing in 2014 to take the deputy communications director position on Scott’s re-election campaign.

Scott signs ‘Condo Cleanup’ bill

The “Condo Cleanup Bill” (HB 841) was signed into law last week by Gov. Scott with this note from the press office:

“This bill revises numerous provisions relating to community associations regarding reporting requirements, official records, websites and bylaws.”

Rick Scott signs a bill to ‘clean up’ condominium associations, cooperatives, and homeowner associations.

Largely technical in nature, it “cleans up” how condominium associations, cooperatives, and homeowner associations govern themselves and conduct business.

Almost 10 million Floridians live in homes with a community association, making Florida the number one state in the country for residents in community associations.

“This will save homeowners money and headaches — and we applaud Governor Scott for signing it into law,” said Mark Anderson, Executive Director and Lobbyist for Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies (CEOMC).

“We appreciate the Florida Legislature and especially Rep. George Moraitis and Sens. Kathleen Passidomo and Debbie Mayfield for providing the clarity our association members need,” he added.

Instagram of the week

AHCA fines ALF beset with bedbugs

The Agency for Health Care Administration slapped a South Florida assisted living facility with a $1,000 fine this week after the facility was found to be infested with bedbugs.

The bloodsucking parasites were in no way bedridden — an AHCA inspection found them “crawling on the walls” in at least one room at South Hialeah Manor.

South Hialeah Manor needs a new pest control company, pronto.

A separate inspection by the state Department of Health uncovered bugs in a dozen rooms. Their take: South Hialeah Manor needed a new pest control company, proto.

AHCA also said the ALF shirked its responsibility to make sure one of the three residents who was bitten got treatment.

Topping the list of ALF resident rights in Florida law is the right to live “in a safe and decent living environment, free from abuse and neglect.”

Hurricane money available for homeowners and evacuees

The Florida Housing Finance Corporation announced this week that it has $5 million in funding on hand to help out Florida homeowners as well as Puerto Ricans and S. Virgin Islander evacuees in the Sunshine State.

Florida Housing said the money was available through the State Housing Initiatives Partnership, or SHIP, and is slated to head to the 12 counties — and the cities within them — that were the hardest hit during the 2017 hurricane season: Broward, Collier, Duval, Hendry, Highlands, Lee, Monroe, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Polk and Seminole.

Help is on the way, says Florida Housing executive director Trey Price.

“Florida Housing is following through on its commitment to provide long-term housing solutions in times of disaster,” said Trey Price, executive director for Florida Housing. “This funding will not only assist the citizens of Florida who were impacted by the hurricanes with their housing needs but also our fellow Americans from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that had to evacuate to Florida.”

Depending on income, homeowners and evacuees affected by Hurricanes Irma or Maria may be eligible for home repair or replacement, down payment assistance, rental housing assistance and other affordable housing assistance.

The week in appointments

Children’s Services Council of Brevard CountyAdrian Laffitte, 62, of Melbourne, is the retired director of government relations for Lockheed Martin. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico and his master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Laffitte fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending May 2, 2019.

Board of Pilot Commissioners Sherif Assal, 55, of Miramar, is the senior vice president of American Guard Services, Inc. and the president of United Stevedoring of America, Inc. He is reappointed for a term ending Oct. 31, 2021. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Jacksonville Port Authority J. Palmer Clarkson, 61, of Jacksonville, is the president and chief executive officer of Bridgestone HosePower. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina. Clarkson succeeds Joseph York and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021. This appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.

Anderson to continue tenure at NICA

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis this week reappointed Bryan Anderson to the Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association, or NICA.

Anderson, a veteran of the health care industry, now will continue to provide oversight for the Florida Birth-related Neurological Injury Compensation Plan, which was created by the Legislature in 1988 to help families cover the costs of needed care for infants without having to worry about costly litigation.

Longtime health care veteran Bryan Anderson will continue to serve on the NICA board.

“Bryan is a wonderful asset to the NICA board,” said Patronis. “He will continue his good work to ensure infants with birth-related neurological injuries and their families receive the care they need without the financial burden.”

Anderson was first appointed to the board in 2009. He was reappointed again in 2012 and 2015.

In addition to his service for NICA, Anderson is vice president of government relations at Hospital Corporation of America, where he aids in the implementation of HCA’s legislative and regulatory agenda by representing the company before Florida’s executive and legislative branches of government and key state agencies.

State senators exhibit ‘upper chamber’ character

Much is said about collegiality in the Senate. Yet sometimes the public displays of mutual respect and affection still surprise and impress.

Such was the case Tuesday when state Sen. Linda Stewart realized that there was no way that Orlando traffic was going to let her get to a Tiger Bay of Central Florida gun control debate on time. She and Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley were the headliners.

She wasn’t going to make it, and she needed a pinch-hitter.

Orlando traffic forced Linda Stewart to call on a last-minute pinch-hitter for a gun control debate.

There were plenty of Democrats in the room, certainly including a few who would have jumped at the chance to be the impromptu fill-in for the Democratic senator from Orlando who had proposed banning assault weapons. Hello, Anna Eskamani? Hey, Geraldine Thompson? Hi, Eddy Dominguez?

But whom did Stewart call? Republican state Sen. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs. He was honored, he said. And of course, he would, allowing that he couldn’t and wouldn’t represent Stewart’s views, but would do his best to debate at least the nuances with Baxley, author of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law and a fervent Second Amendment advocate. As it happened, Stewart arrived as Simmons was finishing opening remarks, arguing there could be acceptable language dealing with assault weapons, and she took over.

Smith gets props for Publix PrEp win

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith received the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation’s Legislative Leadership Award this week for his work to change Publix’s mind on covering PrEp, an HIV prevention pill, for its employees.

“Our recent success with encouraging Publix to change their employee health plan to begin offering PrEp is a great example of how we can get things done when politicians are unresponsive to important issues facing our communities,” the Orlando Democrat said.

Carlos Guillermo Smith earned recognition for his work to change Publix’s mind on covering PrEp, an HIV prevention pill.

“I am extremely humbled to be recognized by The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation for our work to educate the private sector on both the modern science of HIV transmission and on how they can be responsible corporate partners to local, state and federal HIV prevention strategies.”

Earlier this year the grocery giant, which employs more than 130,000 Floridians, revealed the medical coverage it offered employees did not cover PrEp. Officials cited an internal policy that their plan only covered “only covered identification, treatment or management of a medical condition” and not preventive care for ailments employees might get in the future.

Shortly after the news broke, Smith met with Publix’s government relations team. Less than 24 hours later the company announced it had changed its policy.

CRC coming back in ‘style’

The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) noticed the following meeting schedule for next week. Most meetings are of the commission’s Style and Drafting Committee, charged with grouping amendments and writing ballot summaries:

Monday, April 2: No meetings scheduled.

Tuesday, April 3: Style and Drafting Committee, 1-6 p.m., 102 House Office Building.

Wednesday, April 4: Style and Drafting Committee, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., 102 House Office Building.

Thursday, April 5: Style and Drafting Committee, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., 102 House Office Building.

Friday, April 6: Rules & Administration Committee, 8:30-9 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building; Style and Drafting Committee, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., 102 House Office Building.

Daily agendas are available on the commission’s Calendars Page.

Insurers urge evacuations for wildfire-affected homeowners

As numerous wildfires scorch the state, a large insurance association is reminding Floridians that their policies provide coverage for additional living expenses — should those homeowners feel the need to evacuate.

Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, or PCI, sent the alert out this week, as fires sprouted across the state, particularly in Southwest Florida. PCI represents more than 1,000 member companies nationwide.

Insurers remind Floridians that additional living expenses are covered in the case of wildfire evacuations.

“PCI urges Florida homeowners and renters impacted by the severe wildfires occurring in Southwest Florida to evacuate if instructed to do so and contact their insurance companies immediately to help in the recovery process,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI’s regional manager. She added that in instances of evacuation, policyholders typically are covered for hotel expenses.

The alert provided other tips for homeowners, including updating policies to cover new additions to homes, developing an inventory of household items, and reviewing the fine details of policies with professionals.

The group also explained preventive measures homeowners can take to prepare for and protect against wildfires. Among them: Clear dead brush around your home and in gutters, cut anything growing over a chimney, create a family wildfire plan, keep an extinguisher on hand and consider landscaping with fire-resistant plants.

Hurricane claims keep insurers busy

It’s been months since Hurricane Irma ravaged the state, and as time lapses, circumstances change for those who experienced damage.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to date has received 66,400 claims from the storm — roughly 37 percent of which have recently been reopened to reassess and revise damage estimates.

Hurricane Irma is keeping insurers busy, says Citizens’ chief of claims Jay Adams.

“We want to reinforce to people that what we have provided them is an estimate and that estimates may change as repairs begin,” said Jay Adams, Citizens Chief of Claims. “The initial estimate and payment does not necessarily mean your claim has been concluded.”

Ninety-percent of Citizens’ claims are closed. The insurance group doled out initial payments immediately after the storm based on the actual cash value of damages incurred. But in the repair process, additional costs may arise.

For policyholders, Citizens said it’s important to reach out before beginning repairs not covered under the initial estimate. The group wants homeowners to know that supplemental payments are available, and field adjusters are working diligently to help with any questions.

Free-market solutions for Florida?

Florida’s known for its competitive business environment — but according to liberty-minded thought leaders, there’s still work to be done.

A new policy brief from Florida’s premier free-market think tank, The James Madison Institute, suggests two major reforms for the Legislature to consider that could lead to a “more prosperous Florida.”

Sal Nuzzo is pushing two free-market proposals for a ‘more prosperous Florida.’

“While we do get much correct in the policy trajectory, Florida is by no means perfect,” reads the introduction to the brief, authored by JMI Vice President of Policy Sal Nuzzo and Goldwater Institute’s Director of National Litigation and General Counsel Jon Riches.

JMI wants lawmakers to look to The Right to Earn a Living Act, recently adopted by Arizona, to reform occupational licensing in the Sunshine State. The legislation would require regulators to show they are restricting an industry because of a public health, safety, or welfare concern. It also gives businesses a legal pathway to repealing existing barriers to entry enforced by regulators.

The think tank also points to the REINS Act as a potential solution to encourage free enterprise in the state. If adopted by Florida voters, language provided in the REINS Act would require new agency rules that significantly affect the economy be approved by the Legislature before coming into effect.

FSU College Of Law Moot Court team wins national competition

The Florida State University College of Law Moot Court Team has earned first place in the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. The tournament was held March 23-24 in Washington, D.C.

Third-year law students Jenna VonSee and Brenda Czekanski won the Seigenthaler-Sutherland Cup National First Amendment Moot Court Competition. They were coached by FSU College of Law alumni Jonathan Martin (left) and Ian Waldick (right).

Twenty-four law school teams took part in the competition, including teams from some of the nation’s top law schools. Florida State beat South Texas College of Law Houston, which is ranked by preLaw Magazine one of the nation’s best law schools for moot court, in the final round of competition at the Newseum.

Winning team members are third-year law students Brenda Czekanski, from Miami and Jenna VonSee, from Orlando. FSU College of Law alumni Jonathan Martin (’15), assistant general counsel at the Florida Department of Financial Services, and Ian Waldick (’16), a staff attorney at the Florida Supreme Court, coached the team to victory.

Martin and Waldick previously won a national moot court competition in 2015 when they were law students at FSU.

Leon County designated leader for disaster preparedness

Communities across the U.S. will now look to Leon County as a prototype for hurricane and disaster resilience.

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) in partnership with FEMA this week designated the capital city’s surrounding area as the first #HurricaneStrong community in the nation. That means other areas will look to Leon’s response to hurricanes Irma and Hermine as textbook examples of how to bounce back from a disaster.

Leon County Commission Chair Nick Maddox.

“This is big. It is a reflection of the tremendous emphasis we have placed on one of our most important responsibilities,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “Keeping our citizens safe and informed in the event of a hurricane and getting our community back to normal as quickly as possible afterward has always been a top priority.”

Through the 2018 hurricane season, the county will continue to codify criteria for other local governments to use in the event of natural disasters. Leon will work alongside FLASH, which launched three years ago as an outreach campaign to beef up personal safety, financial security, family preparedness, damage prevention and community service across states.

“Every emergency gives us the knowledge and opportunity to build a more resilient community ahead of the next storm,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “And our County’s partnership with FLASH will make us even stronger as we leverage national networks, best practices and other resources.”

Wading birds bounce back

Bird watchers and ornithologists rejoice: Florida’s wading bird nesting season produced one of the highest nest counts the past decade.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) released its annual South Florida Wading Report this week. In the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, it showed 2017 increases when compared to the 10-year average in several species, including the Wood Stork, White Ibis, Great Egret and Little Blue Heron.

Everglades Little Blue Heron is one of Florida’s wading birds on the rebound.

“The 2017 numbers represent a ray of hope for the future of wading bird populations in America’s Everglades,” said Celeste De Palma, director of Everglades policy for Audubon Florida, an environmental group known for its focus on bird preservation.

Audubon attributed the success to near-historic water conditions. But, the group noted, conditions were worse in Florida Bay and Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and consequently, nesting counts for individual species in those areas continued to decline.

“Though the count was one of the highest in nearly a decade, the underperformance of special wading bird historic strongholds like Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Florida Bay, should put the impetus on accelerating Everglades restoration efforts to get the water right for the entire watershed,” De Palma said.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 3.30.18

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

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

Grab your bonnet, pull out the seersucker and get ready for a good-old-fashioned Easter egg hunt. And yes, maybe go to a political event. Here are some politicos’ plans for Easter.

Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, per spokesperson: “He’ll be spending Easter with his wife, Ann, their family and the grandkids.”

Jimmy Patronis, Chief Financial Officer: “I’ll be spending a lot of time with my family. It’s going to be all about our boys – we can’t wait to see their excitement when they find their Easter baskets. It’s a weekend to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter gives us all renewed hope. It reminds us that even in our bleakest moments, the Lord will be there to shine a light.”

Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Agriculture: “Planning to hunt (for eggs), celebrate the resurrection of Christ our Lord and eat a good meal with my family.”

Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the Florida House: “I will be spending Saturday with the Pollack family at the “Ride for Meadow.”  See attached. On Sunday My family and I will attend Easter services to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Ron DeSantis, U.S. Representative and Republican candidate for Governor: “Spending time with my wife, daughter Madison and our new son Mason.”

Andrew Gillum, Democratic candidate for Governor: “I’ll be in Tallahassee! Mom is coming to cook for the family and we’ll all be attending Easter Service together.”

Philip Levine, Democratic candidate for Governor: “Our campaign team will be enjoying a much-needed weekend of family time and rest. I’ll be spending time enjoying the water and sunshine with my family and catching up on time with baby Henry!”

Ashley Moody, Republican candidate for Attorney General: “This Easter Sunday, I look forward to spending time with my family as we gather together to celebrate and rejoice that all things are possible through Him. May your Easter be full of hope, inspiration, and love.”

Sean Shaw, state Representative and Democratic candidate for Attorney General: “After a night of the Final Four, I’ll spend a quiet Easter with members of my community at my home church here in Tampa, St. John’s Progressive Missionary Baptist. I’m looking forward to worshipping with my friends & neighbors in the morning & spending the rest of the day in celebration with family & loved ones on this joyous occasion.”

Frank White, state Representative and Republican candidate for Attorney General: “My favorite Easter tradition is having our three boys place a blooming flower on the cross, along with many other families, that symbolizes the new life Christ has given us. And of course our Easter egg hunt!”

Matt Caldwell, state Representative and Republican candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture: “Easter is about the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s own Son for the forgiveness of our sins – a miracle of faith and grace, as detailed in Romans, Chapter 6. Our family will attend church as we encourage all to do every Sunday, celebrate Easter dinner at our home with extended family, and enjoy an egg hunt with our daughter Ava and the kids.”

Denise Grimsley, state Senator and Republican candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture: “We’ll go to church and then have lunch with family at the farm. Some eggs might be hunted before the day is done.”

Matt Gaetz, U.S. Representative: “On Easter Sunday I’ll be attending sunrise service at Blue Wahoos Stadium and then flying to Washington to attend the White House egg roll with President Trump.”

Bill Galvano, Senate President-designate: “I will be with my family engaging in traditional Catholic activities including observance of Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Mass. Of course Easter will include pasta and red sauce.”

Wilton Simpson, Senate Majority Leader and egg farmer: “We’ll begin Easter morning by putting away 800,000 freshly laid eggs, saving only the most special ones for the Easter Bunny. Then, it’s off to church, before a day of family fun and egg hunts with the grandkids.”

Lizbeth Benacquisto, state Senator: “We are celebrating my sweet Gabriella’s 19th birthday and will enjoy a wonderful and blessed family gathering Easter Sunday.”

Dana Young, state Senator: “I will be in Tampa celebrating Easter with my family and cooking a Greek Easter feast! (Matt’s family is Greek). Looks like perfect weather!

Kelli Stargel, state Senator: “Easter is such a special holiday remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection from the grave. We are  incredibly blessed to be sharing the day with those we love. We’ll have Easter lunch, after church, with our daughter Hannah and my sister. Then we plan to visit  my husband’s father and grandmother.”

Dane Eagle, state Representative: “This Sunday I’ll be with family celebrating the resurrection of Jesus in the same place we’ll celebrate the resurrection of the Florida Gators this Fall – Gainesville! Go Jesus! Go Gators! Happy Easter!”

Randy Fine, state Representative: “The Fine Family will be celebrating Passover at Colonial Williamsburg! We will be not only commemorate the Jews exodus from Egypt, but celebrate the revolutionary roots of our amazing Country!”

Jason Fischer, state Representative: “Saturday we are heading to the 50th Annual Mandarin Art’s Festival, followed by an Easter egg hunt at my parents church. On Sunday, I don’t want to ruin the surprise so the most I can say is that it’s gonna be an Egg-citing day!”

Kathleen Peters, state Representative: “I get to celebrate our risen Lord first as a lector at 8:30 Sunday mass. Then the celebration continues at my home with an Easter egg hunt with my four grandchildren and a savory meal with my wonderful family. A perfect day!”

Matt Willhite: “I have to work at the firehouse on Friday and Monday. Saturday I will be at my two sons football games.”

Bob Buckhorn, mayor of Tampa: “My 90-year-old mom is flying down to spend Easter with us. After Mass, we will have an Easter egg hunt on the lawn with the younger cousins. Heading for college tour with Grace on Monday.”

Easter spending expected to be near all-time record” – The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) says Floridians will increase their Easter spending to near record levels this year, with the per person average expected to top $150, down slightly from last year’s record total of $152. The total expected to be spent nationally is $18.2 billion, second highest in survey history and down from last year’s record of $18.4 billion. According to the survey, consumers will spend $5.7 billion on food (purchased by 87 percent of shoppers), $3.2 billion on clothing (48 percent), $2.9 billion on gifts (61 percent), $2.6 billion on candy (89 percent), $1.3 billion on flowers (39 percent), $1.1 billion on decorations (42 percent) and $780 million on greeting cards (46 percent) … 60 percent will visit family and friends, 58 percent will cook a holiday meal, 51 percent will go to church and 17 percent will go to a restaurant … 35 percent of consumers will participate in an Easter egg hunt and 16 percent will open gifts … 45 percent will watch TV, 11 percent will shop online, 9 percent will shop in a store and 8 percent will go to a movie.

They have 40,000 Easter eggs ready to drop, but Donald Trump could scramble their plans” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald – Wellington’s NewSound Church has two massive helicopter egg drops planned for Saturday and Sunday … But Trump’s potential visit to Mar-a-Lago this weekend could derail the church’s plans … The Federal Aviation Administration has posted that pilots could expect temporary flight restrictions beginning Thursday and remaining through Sunday if Trump flies to Florida. If he does, it would mark the president’s 16th trip to Mar-a-Lago since assuming the presidency in January 2017, according to a Town & Country timeline. Church organizers told the Palm Beach Post they are holding out until the last minute and tickets for the egg drop sold out in two days. The church is about 13 miles from Palm Beach International Airport and FAA officials clear 30 nautical miles for presidential flights.

Worth the click – John F. Kennedy’s last Easter in Palm Beach” via the Palm Beach Post

Parkland families prepare for first Easter, Passover after massacre” via Khristina Narizhnaya and Max Jaeger of the New York Post – This year’s Passover and Easter services will be particularly emotional for the families of the Parkland shooting victims, their shattered kin told The Post … Vicki Alhadeff, 69, said she can’t even fathom marking Passover without her 14-year-old granddaughter Alyssa, who was one of 17 people killed in the Feb. 14 massacre … Alyssa’s father, Ilan, said he and her mother, Lori, started the nonprofit Make Schools Safe since their daughter’s death and noted that activism is very much in the spirit of Passover, which begins Friday. “[Passover is] about remembering the past so we learn for the future,” he said. “People fought in the past for rights — we’re fighting for everybody’s rights.” The family is planning a Seder potluck to honor Alyssa, Lori added. “We’re going to bring everyone together and celebrate her life, too,” she said.

Chabad of Clearwater’s tiny kosher store does brisk business for Passover” via Waveney Ann Moore of the Tampa Bay Times – Rabbi Levi Hodakov says the minuscule shop that operates out of the ranch-style house where worshipers gather for Sabbath services is more than a place to buy kosher food. Open for only a few hours a week, it’s not uncommon for shoppers to stop by at odd hours in search of a needed item. But for the women who attend Miriam Hodakov’s Wednesday morning class, it’s also become a time to pick up supplies. As Passover — the eight-day celebration that begins at sundown — approached, stocking up on the right ingredients was extra important. Chabad of Clearwater’s goal is to make it easier for central and north Pinellas County Jewish residents to keep kosher … “The more convenient you are going to make it for somebody, the more likely they are going to keep kosher,” her husband said.

Programming note – So that the staff of Florida Politics can fully enjoy the Easter holiday, there will be no Sunburn on Monday. We will resume publication on Tuesday.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Easter – 2; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising – 16; NFL Draft begins – 27; Avengers: Infinity War opens – 28; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 34; Mother’s Day – 53; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 56; Memorial Day – 59; Father’s Day – 79; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 84; Deadline for filing claim bills – 124; Start of the U.S. Open – 150; Primary Election Day — 151; College Football opening weekend – 155; General Election Day — 221; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 321; 2019 Legislative Session starts – 340.

***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***

— TOP STORY —

Legislative leaders ponder Special Session on gambling” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Top officials in the Legislature are considering a Special Session to tackle unresolved gambling issues from the 2018 Regular Session, including renewal of a deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe. It’s all about the money. The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack. Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, … the sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31, after which point the Tribe is entitled to stop paying. That possibility has House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a fuss. “The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away from the forbearance agreement jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a Thursday statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”

 — NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

FEC may change rules on ‘zombie campaigns’” via Noah Pransky of WTSP – The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is now accepting public comment on potential rule changes related to an investigation, “Zombie Campaigns,” ahead of a possible federal hearing on the topic. The FEC will accept comments through May 21, 2018. The action comes after Washington-based watchdog Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a petition calling for stricter rules on how former lawmakers spend leftover campaign money, citing the 10News/Times/TEGNA investigation. In some cases, lawmakers-turned-lobbyists gave former donors’ dollars to the opposing party while lobbying on behalf of special interests. The CLC asks the FEC to clarify that such spending is not allowed. Following the public comment period, the commission will consider the petition and either take action or publicly explain why they are not.

Rick Scott and April 9” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida – While there’s little doubt about what Scott may be up to April 9, here’s another hint. After Scott tweeted that a big announcement was coming April 9, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a close political ally of the governor, tweeted out a #TriviaTime comment. “Interesting date, @ScottforFlorida. What happened April 9, 2010?” Patronis tweeted. Answer: April 9, 2010, is when Scott filed his initial paperwork to run for governor. He also put $2 million of his own money into the contest that day. Another $71.2 million of his family money would follow.

Andrew Gillum touts new wave of endorsements – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum announced a new list of endorsements, including Volusia County Council Member At-Large and former state Rep. Joyce Cusack; Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry; Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill; Daytona Beach City Commissioners Dannette Henry and Paula Reed; Orange City Council Member Evelyn Robinson; DeLand City Commissioner Jessica Davis and West Volusia Hospital Authority Commissioner Barb Girtman.

Philip Levine launches new ad: “Person He Is” – Touting new polls that shows him leading the Democratic race for Florida governor, Levine is releasing a new biographical ad “Person He Is.” The 30-second spot will run through April in Florida broadcast and cable media markets, part of a previously announced $2M ad buy for March. “As Floridians get to know more about Philip Levine, they will quickly see that the person he is and the Mayor he was, is the Governor he will be.” said senior adviser Christian Ulvert.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Billboard in Bradenton slams Vern Buchanan for his ties to ‘the Trump agenda’” via Hannah Morse of the Bradenton Herald – A political action committee known for its “Impeachment Now” billboard near Mar-a-Lago aimed at President Trump has chosen a new target: U.S. Rep. Buchanan. Wedged between a Longhorn Steakhouse restaurant and a pawn shop, drivers heading north on 14th Street West in Bradenton will see Mad Dog PAC’s call to “vote him out.” The goal of the PAC, which formed late last year and has raised $7,000, is a billboard campaign to “make an impact” on the 2018 midterm elections in November, said its treasurer J. Dirk Schwenk … the Annapolis, Maryland-based lawyer confirmed the Buchanan billboard was theirs. “(Buchanan is) targeted because he’s closely affiliated with the Trump agenda,” Schwenk said. The billboard includes a checklist of “obstruction of justice,” “witness tampering” and “bribery,” resurfacing ethics complaints that haunted Buchanan several years ago. Buchanan has since been cleared of the allegations.

Are most people in this Congress district ‘uneducated?’ Candidate says she misspoke” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Most people living in the congressional district represented by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are “uneducated,” a Miami Beach commissioner seeking the seat said this week during a candidate forum. “There’s a perception that this is a very wealthy district. Out of the 740,000 people, only about 190,000 have college degrees, 90,000 have graduate degrees,” said Kristen Rosen Gonzalez. “But the vast majority of people in this district are uneducated.” Rosen Gonzalez, who was responding to a question about the district’s biggest challenges, said she meant to say “under-educated.” Still, she says the tweet, which was deleted, took her comments out of context. “It’s disappointing when the Miami Herald pulls a truly thoughtful and empirical observation out of context. My only intention is to improve and serve our community and the person who tweeted that knows that,” she said. “Shame on that person.”

Bradenton Democrat Tracy Pratt running for state House” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Bradenton attorney Pratt has filed to run for the District 71 state House seat covering western Manatee County and a portion of northern Sarasota County. Pratt, 46, said her concerns about gun violence after the shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and her frustration with GOP leaders at the federal and state level are motivating her to run for the seat. “I have been really disappointed with what’s going on in Washington and how that is trickling down to the state,” Pratt said. A native of Michigan, Pratt moved to Florida in 1994. She attended Manatee Community College — now State College of Florida — and received a bachelor’s degree from Eckerd College before attending the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Pratt is challenging Republican Will Robinson, a Bradenton attorney who already has raised $174,475 for the race.

— STATEWIDE —

Vice President Mike Pence to visit Sanibel for a week’s vacation” via Melissa Montoya of the Naples Daily News – Pence‘s arrival will affect Lee County’s airspace beginning at 1:45 p.m. through 3 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Temporary flight restrictions will span across three nautical miles in Lee County during that time. Pilots will be prohibited from flying during that time. Pence is expected to be in town through April 6.

Marco Rubio calls on Army Corps of Engineers to give priority to Florida projects” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Rubio, a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, sent his letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James. It reminds James that the budget bill Congress approved and President Trump signed last week authorizes and allocates money for numerous projects, and Rubio wants to make sure Florida gets its share into the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fiscal Year 2018 work plan. The list Rubio forwarded includes 22 congressionally authorized engineering and construction projects, including some that have numerous sub-project parts; two local projects authorized to receive federal assistance; and another couple dozen programs that need ongoing maintenance and operation money.

Bill Nelson pledges VA will not be privatized” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Nelson charged in Orlando that the latest shakeup at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has to do with President Trump‘s desire to privatize health services for veterans and he vowed to block it. Fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island Nelson join Nelson in honoring dozens of Central Florida veterans, many of them disabled and in wheelchairs or gurneys at the Orlando VA Medical Center at Lake Nona. “I want all of you to know that against all of the rumors swirling that VA. medical care is going to be privatized, don’t worry. It will not be. And I guarantee you that Sen. Reed and I will be two of the people that will not let it happen,” Nelson told the gathering of disabled veterans.

Assignment editors – Congressman Ted Deutch will host a town hall to discuss the next steps in gun violence prevention Tuesday, April 3, beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Coral Springs City Hall – City Commission Chamber, 9500 W. Sample Road in Coral Springs.

‘Stress’ relief: CFO Jimmy Patronis was joined by lawmakers, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Kurt Wilson and fire service and law enforcement members to mark the signing of a bill expanding mental health benefits for first responders.

Top state emergency official’s former firm promotes ties to drum up business via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida – A consulting firm founded by a top Florida Division of Emergency Management chief used its patriarch’s name and state job title to solicit services to counties and cities awaiting reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Jason Gilmore, of Tallahassee-based Wheeler EMC, sent emails to county emergency management agencies across the state offering expertise in navigating FEMA’s tricky and lengthy application process, according to dozens of emails obtained by POLITICO Florida through a public records request of the state’s 67 county emergency management offices. In a Jan. 23 email, Gilmore introduced Wheeler EMC as being founded by Jason Wheeler, recovery bureau chief of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. The state agency, an offshoot of the governor’s office, hired Wheeler on Aug. 25 with an $85,000 salary after he promised to distance himself from the private firm. His new job responsibilities include overseeing FEMA reimbursement requests, which is similar to the services his former firm provides.

Lawmakers’ wives on new charter school boards” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times – Anne Corcoran, the founder of a charter school in Pasco County, is assisting with a new Tallahassee school. She’s married to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran …  Erika Donalds, the founder of a charter school in Collier County, is leading the effort to open a new Martin County school. Her husband is Rep. Byron Donalds, who shepherded Speaker Corcoran’s bill on vouchers for bullied students through the House. Neither Corcoran nor Donalds is paid for their role in helping develop the new schools. Both women said they were approached by the founders of these new schools because of their expertise in opening a school. When asked about the school choice debate Anne Corcoran said “it’s not my fight.”

Faith leaders urge State Attorney Bernie McCabe to stop death sentences” via Laura Morel of the Tampa Bay Times – In a letter signed by 46 pastors and priests, they ask McCabe to consider their concerns. “We all believe there must be accountability and consequences for those who commit crimes. A true justice system can achieve these ends without denying dignity and respect to human lives,” the letter reads. “With the death penalty, this dignity is denied and we commit the grave error of closing off hope to the possibility for redemption.” Among the signers is Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, as well as other members of the diocese and ministries across Tampa Bay.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Ante up: Dan Adkins, Hartman & Tyner suing each other over lost ‘millions’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Since November, (Mardi Gras Casino head) Adkins has been locked in a legal battle with H&T and its directors, accusing them of lying to him that he’d be paid “millions of dollars” upon sale of the company’s gambling businesses in Florida, West Virginia and Michigan … Adkins’ lawsuit, now moved to federal court, also says his “day-to-day authority has been stripped” and he has “effectively lost the ability to govern the enterprise he has been at the helm of for almost 30 years.” H&T also removed him from its board and cut his pay, the suit says. Last Friday, H&T struck back by filing its own federal suit. It says the 60-year-old Adkins “engag(ed) in self-dealing, corporate waste, and gross mismanagement … conceal(ing) the poor financial state of H&T’s businesses caused by his misconduct so that he could … enrich himself and his family members.”
— MOVEMENTS —

UCF’s Dale Whittaker confirmed as president” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel – University trustees selected Whittaker over three other finalists for the top job March 9, but his appointment was not official until it was confirmed by the state’s Board of Governors at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Whittaker, 56, was hired as the university’s provost in 2014. He was previously the vice provost and an associate dean at Purdue University. He’ll succeed President John Hitt, who is set to retire June 30 after 26 years on the job. The Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s universities, had little discussion about Whittaker’s appointment before voting unanimously to confirm him.

— WEEKEND TV —

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

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of the growing economic impact of cancer in Central Florida. Joining Walker-Torres are Dominic Calabro, president, Florida TaxWatch; Margaret Guedes, CEO, president and founder, Kids Beating Cancer; Dr. David Shook, Florida Hospital; state Rep. Jason Brodeur, chair, Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King, a businessman from Winter Park, sits down with Ybeth Bruzual to talk about his campaign for governor, his reaction to gun-related legislation after the Parkland mass school shooting, and other issues facing Floridians. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by President Trump about Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with pollster Steve Vancore, attorney Sean Pittman and Beth Matuga.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez-Brosche.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg talk current events and host a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.

— ALOE —

Egg prices have jumped 37 percent in time for Easter. But you should be paying even more.” via Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post – It turns out that most grocery stores lose money on every dozen eggs they sell. A survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation found that on average egg prices are 37 percent higher than this time last year, at $1.80 per dozen. That’s a swing from 2017 when the survey found that egg prices had gone down 41 percent from spring 2016, to $1.32 per dozen … what hasn’t changed is that grocery stores sell eggs at a loss and can afford to post prices below their wholesale cost because shoppers will reliably buy eggs as a staple. And grocery stores know that once shoppers are in the door, they most likely will grab other items on their way to check out, whether they planned to or not.

Just in case you still haven’t seen this Florida Man conspiracy theory sequence from FX’s ‘Atlanta’” via The Feed – FX’s critically-acclaimed Donald Glover-starring sitcom Atlanta returned for its second season a few weeks ago, but in case you haven’t caught this much-shared sequence in which Darius, portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield hilariously lays out his Florida Man conspiracy theory to an incredulous Earn (Glover), here it is again. Darius believes that Florida Man is actually one guy, whose identity no one knows, who is part of a voter suppression plot in the Sunshine State.

Click on the image below to watch the clip:

Happy birthday to the man, Trent Phillips.

Last Call for 3.29.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Rep. Randy Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, is asking Gov. Rick Scott to “immediately remove West Melbourne Deputy Mayor ‘Coach’ John Tice from office after Tice was arrested for stealing taxpayer dollars,” his office said in a Thursday news release.

Fine said he made the request “as the state representative representing the bulk of West Melbourne.”

“The charges against Tice are serious and merit his immediate removal,” Fine, elected in 2016, said in a statement. “He simply cannot be allowed to have any political power over the people of West Melbourne, let alone serve as the next-in-line in the event of an issue with the Mayor.”

According to Florida Today, Tice “was arrested Thursday morning on fraud-related charges connected with his former job as executive director of Melbourne’s Liberty Bell Memorial Museum.”

The 65-year-old “faces charges of scheme to defraud under $20,000, communications fraud, depositing an item with the intent to defraud and grand theft,” the paper reported.

“To be clear, John Tice’s crimes did not occur in the City of West Melbourne,” Fine said. “ … I have spoken frequently about the culture of corruption that I believe exists in Brevard County. The fact that an elected official in one city could apparently steal from another city while under observation from an elected official of that second city shows that the corruption is complex and entangled.”

McKinley P. Lewis, Scott’s deputy communications director, said the governor “expects all elected officials to behave ethically and responsibly. Our office is reviewing the details and we will keep you updated on any action taken.”

Evening Reads

Donald Trump visit would ruin Palm Beach church’s Easter egg drop” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald

Mike Pence to visit Sanibel for a week’s vacation” via Melissa Montoya of the Naples Daily News

Parkland families prepare for first Easter, Passover after massacre” via Max Jaeger of the New York Post

Bill Nelson pledges VA will not be privatized” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Darryl Rouson on voting rights: Fix this now” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Supreme Court rejects Death Row appeals” via the News Service of Florida

Shooting suspect’s brother pleads no contest to trespassing” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press

University of Florida paid $67K for white nationalist Richard Spencer’s event” via The Associated Press

Dan Adkins, Hartman & Tyner suing each other over lost ‘millions’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Florida sweet corn looks tight until Easter” via Fresh Plaza

Quote of the Day

“It is critical that all proposed and ongoing Florida projects receive your full and fair consideration while taking into account each project’s value to the local community, our state, and to our nation as a whole.” — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, in a letter sent Thursday to the Army Corps of Engineers, urging priority for scores of Florida water projects from the Herbert Hoover Dike to the harbors in Jacksonville and Pensacola.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation will host a “Celebrating Women in Business” event at 1 p.m., Augustus B. Turnbull III Conference Center at Florida State University, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

The Policy Subcommittee of the Tobacco Advisory Council, which advises on the Comprehensive Tobacco Education and Use Prevention Program, holds a conference call at 1 p.m. The number is (888) 670-3525, and the participant code is 5720848571 then #.

The Florida Self-Insurers Guaranty Association’s Board of Directors will meet to discuss general business. That’s at 2 p.m., 1427 E. Piedmont Drive, second floor, Tallahassee.

Constitutional panel may combine issues of greyhound racing, offshore drilling and vaping into one ballot question

The halls of the Capitol may be quiet, but behind the scenes a hurly-burly packaging of Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) proposals is underway.

Its Style and Drafting Committee intends to finish its work next week, with final commission votes to follow shortly thereafter.

Twenty-five proposals are still active, with the stated intention they’ll be packaged together before coming back to the floor.

The CRC doesn’t have the same single subject requirement that citizen initiatives do, nor are amendments subject to Supreme Court review.

One proposal under consideration is Proposal 67 (P67) by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa, which will phase out and ban greyhound racing by 2020. It received 18 votes to send it to Style and Drafting, but will need 22 to make it onto the November ballot.

The proposal is sponsored by two former Senate Presidents, Lee and Don Gaetz, and Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, who chairs the Style and Drafting Committee.

Lee was appointed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Gaetz by Senate President Joe Negron, and Heuchan by Gov. Rick Scott.

Recently released survey data from Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin shows P67 is supported by 65 percent of Floridians, and approval grows to 70 percent among “informed” voters.

P67 receives not less than 63 percent support in any area of the state. It plays well with women (75 percent), married women (75 percent), women with children (76 percent), independents (67 percent), and independent women (77 percent). These voter profiles will be critical in the upcoming November elections.

Moreover, 73 percent were more likely to support ending greyhound racing when hearing about the confinement dogs endure, with 61 percent of voters much more likely to vote ‘yes.’

Speaking of grouping, one likely combination is a union of P67 with Proposal 91 that would ban offshore drilling, and Proposal 65 to ban vaping in places where smoking is already outlawed.

It could be a matter of a rising tide lifting all boats: Proposals 91 and 65 would get the benefit of the greyhound proposal this fall, including its legion of grassroots advocates. Meanwhile, Proposal 67 becomes a sure bet to pass on the floor.

With voters, the combination makes sense. The vaping ban (68 percent), oil drilling ban (59 percent) and greyhound racing phase-out (65 percent) all enjoy clear majorities of support among voters statewide.

There is also overlap in terms of support for these three amendments, with large percentages of voters who favor ending greyhound racing also supporting bans on vaping and oil drilling off the Florida coast.

In fact, nearly three of four (73 percent) who vote yes on ending greyhound racing also support the ban on vaping.

Overlap with the offshore drilling ban is similar, at 68 percent. Combine the three proposals, and the total momentum could pull all across the finish line.

Such is the square dance taking place now with the 25 proposals still alive. Every camp is exploring possible partners, and looking to prevent pairings that seem disadvantageous. And next week, the music will start to play.

Sunburn – The morning read of what hot in Florida politics – 3.29.18

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

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

As we approach Easter, Republican candidate for Attorney General Frank White has dropped a new video on the Vimeo streaming site that highlights his beliefs.

“I am a Christian – Jesus Christ changed my life,” White begins on the 1 minute, 14 second clip. “It didn’t become real to me till I was an adult.”

White goes on to discuss his father’s death, and how that “shock” invigorated his faith and led him to “feel God’s love.”

The graphic “Born Again Christian” overlays pictures of White, a House member from Pensacola, with his wife and three children.

“Life is not about us. It’s about serving others,” White says.

He faces three other Republican contenders: fellow state Reps. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Ross Spano of Dover, and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody.

Democrats now include state Rep. Sean Shaw and Tampa-area lawyer Ryan Torrens.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@howardfineman: The Franklin Professor of Presidential Practice at @Penn, #JoeBiden, spoke to my seminar at @AnnenbergPenn today. Students got a priceless education. Leaving ideology and politics aside, it’s hard not to agree that he’s a decent, caring guy with a sure street sense of the world

— @DonaldJTrumpJr: Jeb! I love everything about my father. I love that he’s a fighter, I love that he has guts, I love that he’s President (all those things you’re not) Also love that he learned enough about politics in a few weeks to dismantle you piece by piece despite it being your life’s work

— @MarcoRubio: Was mistake to not fund Governor Scott’s request for 5 positions devoted to securing the state election database. If @FLGovScott requests a budget amendment to fund this,I hope the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will approve as soon as possible

— @CHeathWFTV: This school bus just picked up more than three dozen kids at this extended-stay motel in Orlando. This is the part of Florida’s economy that state leaders don’t want to talk about.

— @RyanEGorman: People on Twitter are reading WAY TOO MUCH into the Roseanne reboot. It was funny, relatable (for a lot of people) and it didn’t swing too much one way or another politically. Let’s not make this more complicated or culturally significant than it needs to be.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Easter – 3; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising – 17; NFL Draft begins – 28; Avengers: Infinity War opens – 29; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 35; Mother’s Day – 54; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 57; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 85; Deadline for filing claim bills – 125; Primary Election Day — 152; College Football opening weekend – 156; General Election Day — 222; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 322; 2019 Legislative Session starts – 341.

***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***

— TOP STORY —

Jeb fires Trump barbs at Yale talk via the Yale Daily News’ Skakel McCooey and Carly Wanna Mar – “I’m not going to talk about the 2016 election,” Bush joked on Tuesday in a talk sponsored by the The William F. Buckley, Jr. Program at Yale. “I’m still in therapy.” But that didn’t stop him from taking shots at President Donald Trump … At one point, Bush described the current president as ‘Republican in basically name only.’ … And earlier in his speech, Bush said that after the 2016 Republican primary in South Carolina, he returned home to children who ‘actually love me.’ His comment was met with raucous laughter from the crowd, and several audience members interviewed after the event said they interpreted Bush’s comment as a jab at Trump.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Oppo dump –As state lawmaker, Adam Putnam created law that later allowed $25M family land deal” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – As a state lawmaker in 1999, … Putnam sponsored sweeping water legislation that included a provision that would later help facilitate a $25 million land deal between the state and his family-owned citrus company. Putnam … comes from a prominent citrus growing family, and has long been a fixture in Florida politics, serving in the Florida House, Congress, and now as agriculture commissioner, a statewide elected post. The land deal has received past attention, but the direct role Putnam played in creating a new law that allowed it to happen was previously unreported. POLITICO Florida reviewed previous legislation, staff analysis and old House floor speeches to piece together Putnam’s role in the process.  The legislation he sponsored created a new state statute that gave a narrow definition of where the South Florida Water Management District could purchase land through eminent domain, or the process of the government taking private land for a public purpose.

First in Sunburn – Chris King campaign releases digital ad – “March On” highlights “Chris’s commitment to ending the scourge of gun violence plaguing Florida,” according to a release from the King campaign. The ad will reach targeted Democratic voters on Facebook across Florida. The ad features footage of King attending Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in Orlando, where he helped lead the march through downtown Orlando and rallied the assembled crowd, pledging to ban assault weapons and take on the NRA as governor.

Click on the image below to watch King’s video:

Philip Levine campaign adds statewide engagement director” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Chelsea Lunn, an organizer in both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns, will become Levine’s statewide engagement director. A South Florida native, Lunn was a regional organizing director for Clinton’s 2016 campaign and an organizer for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. “We are excited to welcome Chelsea Lunn to #TeamLevine as our statewide engagement director,” Levine campaign manager Matthew Van Name stated in a news release. “Chelsea’s experience in organizing and mobilizing coalitions will allow our campaign to continue to expand its reach in every part of the state. As we saw this past weekend, #TeamLevine is reaching voters directly through an aggressive outreach effort and Chelsea will help take our efforts to new levels.”

Ashley Moody rolls out more local endorsements – Moody announced the endorsement of 19 local elected officials in her bid to become Florida’s next attorney general, including Mayors Pamn Henderson, City of Callaway, and Mike Thomas, Panama City Beach; Commissioners David Borrero, City of Sweetwater; Henry Dean, St. Johns County; Darrell Harris, Hendry County; Ed Kelley, Volusia Chair of County Council; Tod Neville, St. Augustine Vice Mayor and City Commissioner; Marion Poitevint, Gilchrist County; George Spicer, Nassau County; Justin Taylor, Nassau County, and William Truex, Charlotte County. School Board Members Bill Husfelt, Bay County Superintendent of Schools, and Melody Johnson, Volusia County. Clerk of Courts Angelina “Angel” Colonneso, Manatee County and Bill Kinsaul, Bay County. Tax Collectors John Drew, Nassau County; Bob McKee, Lake County, and Rhonda Skipper, Walton County. Property Appraiser Michael Hickox, Nassau County.

Marco Rubio’s decision not to campaign for Rick Scott becoming an issue in congressional race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Rubio‘s reluctance to give full-throated support for Gov. Rick Scott‘s anticipated run for Florida’s other U.S. Senate seat is becoming an issue in the Republican primary contest between Scott Sturgill and Mike Miller in Florida’s 7th Congressional District. The congressional campaign for Sturgill, a businessman from Sanford, is criticizing Rubio’s loyalty, and questioning whether an alliance with Rubio might be an issue for Miller as Republicans look to support Scott this fall against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. Miller used to work on Rubio’s campaigns, and Rubio has endorsed him in the CD 7 contest, as Rubio had done in previous contests when Miller was elected and re-elected to the Florida House of Representatives in Florida’s House District 47. … Sturgill’s campaign spokesman Frank Torres declared in a statement released Thursdaythat Rubio’s reluctance is something Republicans need to think hard about when they’re considering whom Rubio is or isn’t supporting.

Rubio endorses Julio Gonzalez in District 17 congressional race” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Rubio is getting involved in the GOP primary battle for a congressional seat that includes southern Sarasota County, endorsing state Rep. Gonzalez in his match up with state Sen. Greg Steube. Rubio Gonzalez “brings excellent credentials as a doctor, attorney, Navy veteran, and community leader. He’s been a strong voice for conservatism in the Florida House of Representatives and is the type of leader we need in Congress. Principled, honest, and committed, Dr. Gonzalez will be a powerful voice in Washington who will get things done.”

Nancy Pelosi fundraises for Lauren Baer — via email” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm – Pelosi sent out a fundraising email through Baer‘s campaign … “Now more than ever, we have a duty to elect accomplished Democratic women like Lauren Baer in critical battleground districts like Florida’s 18th,” Pelosi said in the email. Baer’s campaign manager Rebecca Lipson said Pelosi’s email isn’t an endorsement. The fundraising email comes as the National Republican Congressional Committee continues to negatively tie Democratic candidates to Pelosi. “Lauren Baer apparently didn’t get the memo that Nancy Pelosi is the most unpopular political figure in every competitive House district this year,” NRCC spokesperson Maddie Anderson said in an email. “In a cycle where record numbers of Democrats are desperately trying to distance themselves from Pelosi, Baer is sticking nice and close to her role model. This is a truly exciting development.”

Manny Diaz raises $50K in first Senate fundraiser” via Florida Politics – Miami Republican Rep. Diaz brought in an even $50,000 in the first fundraiser for his Senate District 36 campaign. “This number reflects the growing momentum in our campaign,” Diaz said. “I’m so grateful for the strong community support we have and for all the local leaders from across the district who took time to be at our event and invest in this campaign. Our team continues to grow, and I plan to keep working hard to connect with as many voters as possible.” His new money came in during a fundraiser Diaz held March 22 in Hialeah. The host committee for that event included House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva and Miami Rep. Carlos Trujillo as well as a long list of county and municipal officials. Also in attendance was Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, who currently holds SD 36 but faces term limits in 2018.

— “Andrew Vargas adds $98K for HD 114 campaign” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Jerry Demings gets Buddy Dyer’s endorsement in Orange County mayor’s race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Demings has received the endorsements of Orlando Mayor Dyer, former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, and former Orange County Chair Linda Chapin in his campaign to become the next mayor of Orange County. Demings’ campaign confirmed that Dyer, mayor of Orlando for the past 15 years; Hood, Orlando Mayor for the 10 previous years; and Chapin, the last Democrat to hold the top Orange County executive office now known as the mayor’s office; along with several other key backers are onboard for his 2018 election campaign.

— FEELING BLUE —

The Democratic buzz behind the 2018 election is evident.

The ever-enigmatic ‘blue wave’ could trickle down to statewide legislative seats. And, if the Dems are miraculous they could potentially flip the state Senate (as we describe here), meaning the gavel would be turned over to Sen. Audrey Gibson, rather than Sen. Bill Galvano.

According to multiple sources interviewed by Florida Politics, including several Democratic state senators, as well as top party staff members, Dems are aggressively working to flip seats in play — and in a chamber that favors Republicans 23-15, everyone’s watching.

Dems have: Been rumored to be sporting, or encouraging to run, strong challengers for three Bay-area seats, including Jack Latvala’s former post and those currently occupied by Sens. Dana Young and Jeff Brandes; invested unexpectedly in first-time candidates challenging Sens. Kelli Stargel and Keith Perry; pushed a high-profile South Florida Dem to challenge Rep. Manny Diaz in his bid for the upper chamber.

Reality: Republicans are flush with cash, Democrats traditionally aren’t. There’s also the incumbent advantage at play, as Galvano, who leads his party’s campaign efforts, described. “The Democrats can focus on recruiting candidates. We are focusing on preparing our already-set slate of candidates for victory,” Galvano said.

Deep pockets?: The Dems could, however, recruit financial resources from national groups attracted to potentially flipping chambers. “If there was ever a cycle when Democrats could make huge gains in a chamber, including possible flipping one, it’s this year, and it’s in the Florida Senate,” said Christian Ulvert, a prominent Democratic political consultant.

— “Janet Cruz is thinking about running for Florida Senate. Here’s why some Democrats aren’t celebrating” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

— STATEWIDE —

Environmentalists ask Rick Scott to veto ‘toilet-to-tap’ bill” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Environmental groups are pushing Gov. Scott to veto a measure that could allow treated wastewater to be pumped into Florida’s fragile, underground aquifer to help the state’s powerful building industry. Scott hasn’t vetoed any legislation yet this spring. But he has received more than 3,000 petition signatures from people opposing the reused water bill, on which the governor has until April 10 to act. Supporters defend the legislation as innovative and central to powering the state’s economy, by permitting developers whose projects consume vast amounts of water to continue work in an increasingly parched state. Environmentalists, though, say the legislation threatens to poison the aquifer for generations, and have dubbed it “toilet-to-tap.”

Free the turtle: Gov. Scott “highlighted investments of more than $4 billion in the Securing Florida’s Future budget,” then helped out in a turtle release at Sombrero Beach on Wednesday.

Pam Bondi wants in-person meeting with Facebook” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times – One of … Bondi’s top deputies is demanding an in-person meeting with executives at Facebook to talk about the release of more than 50 million users’ personal information. In a Thursday letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Bondi’s Privacy Bureau chief, Patrice Malloy, wrote that she expects a meeting set up by the end of the week. She included a list of nine questions she wanted answered after the New York Times revealed that Facebook users’ information was harvested by a company called Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Malloy called the release “troubling,” and she asked to know the type of data that Facebook released, whether the company was paid for the data, which third-party applications also used the data, and how Facebook learned its policies were violated.

Jimmy Patronis takes victory lap on first responders’ bill – The state’s CFO, in a Wednesday email newsletter, thanked lawmakers and Gov. Scott for a new law that extends workers’ compensation benefits to first responders—police, firefighters, paramedics—who suffer from job-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Signing this bill into law tells every first responder that it’s okay to seek help and treatment, and that the entire state has their back,” Patronis said. “This bill is for every first responder who has shared their struggles with PTSD: Stevie LaDue, who committed suicide, and his sister Megan Vila who advocated on his behalf; David Dangerfield who took his life and his wife Leslie who gave him a voice; Gerry Realin, a Pulse Nightclub first responder who continues to struggle with the images of that day and his wife Jessica who is his constant champion; and all the brave men and women on the scene at Pulse, Parkland, and the FIU bridge collapse, this is for you.”

Sure bet? Seminole gambling money will keep flowing, lawyer says” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Despite the end of a legal truce between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state this Saturday, don’t expect the Tribe’s gambling money to stop flowing to Florida’s coffers, its longtime outside lawyer said. That’s also despite lawmakers’ failure, once again, to pass comprehensive gambling law reform or renew the revenue sharing agreement between the Tribe and state this past Legislative Session. More than $382 million in revenue share from Seminole casino gambling is predicted for next fiscal year. Through last February, the Tribe has already paid the state $1.5 billion, records show. A request for comment from the Tribe was referred to Greenberg Traurig’s Barry Richard. “I don’t think anything is going to happen immediately,” Richard said in an interview.

DBPR urges appellate court to let stand judge’s ‘pre-reveal’ ruling – Lawyers for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which also regulates gambling and  alcoholic beverages, is asking an appellate court to approve a lower court’s ruling that pre-reveal games—which look, play and pay out similar to slot machines—are in fact illegal slots. They filed a brief with the 1st District Court of Appeal earlier this month. The lawyers say Circuit Judge John Cooper got it right in a second decision that overturned his previous ruling that pre-reveal games were not gambling. Gator Coin II, the Jacksonville company that distributes the games to bars and taverns, has argued they are for entertainment only. They can’t be gambling because players always know, through a preview function, whether an upcoming play is going to be a winner or a loser, the company has said. The state’s brief, however, says “hiding a slot machine behind a ‘preview’ feature amount(s) to nothing more than an attempt to circumvent Florida law.”

In the heat of battle: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose department includes the state’s wildland firefighters, Wednesday visited the site of the Greenway Fire in Collier County, which is 16,876 acres and 50 percent contained. “Currently, there are 52 active wildfires in Florida burning 27,870 acres,” his office said.

Uber goes to Supreme Court in records dispute” via the News Service of Florida — A subsidiary of Uber Technologies has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute about whether Broward County needs to release records about the number of passengers picked up by Uber drivers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Rasier-DC, LLC filed a notice last week that it was appealing a January ruling … The 4th District Court of Appeal ruling came after a company that operates Yellow Cab in the area filed a public-records lawsuit requesting records … A panel of the appeals court upheld a circuit judge’s ruling that part of the information is not covered by trade-secret protections and should be public. That information includes numbers of pickups and money paid to the county as a usage fee.

— MOVEMENTS —

Longtime weather forecaster Ken Graham chosen to lead National Hurricane Center” via Rick Neale of FLORIDA TODAY – Weather has remained his passion throughout his adult life, and his meteorological career has landed him a high-profile job in the South Florida tropics. SundayGraham starts work as director of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center. “I’m super excited. I think, at the same time, really humbled. I’m a forecaster and meteorologist at heart. I’ve been telling everybody I’ve wanted to do this since I was 7 years old,” Graham said during the National Hurricane Conference at Hilton Orlando. “We’re in the heart of preparedness season. So I’m going to really hit the ground running, talking to folks about preparedness for the hurricane season. It’s going to be a quick ramp-up,” Graham said.

Indicted Broward Health chairman resigns” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Rocky Rodriguez, who had been appointed by Gov. Scott, stepped down, board member Steven Wellins said at the opening of a board committee meeting. “We received notification that Rocky Rodriguez has resigned his position as commissioner of the North Broward Hospital District,” Wellins said, using the organization’s legal name. “On behalf of all the board of commissioners, I would personally like to thank Rocky for his leadership, his dedication, his contributions through the years.” Wellins said he did not have a letter of resignation but had been notified of Rodriguez’s action just before the meeting. He said there would be further discussion at the board’s regular meeting.

Michelle Ertel named BusinessForce committee director” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – BusinessForce, originally established as the political arm of Orlando Inc., the Orlando regional chamber of commerce, then taken independent, is composed or regional business and community leaders representing thousands of businesses throughout Central Florida, promoting a pro-business environment. It is non-partisan, supporting and promoting political candidates and elected officials in state and local government who endorse free enterprise. “When government’s focus is on the well-being of its business community, citizens prosper. Candidates who value a warm business climate have long looked to BusinessForce for guidance and I am elated to now be part of the process,” Ertel stated in a news release. She will be the principal staff person for the organization.

Palm Beach Post, Daily News to be sold to fast-growing GateHouse” via The Palm Beach Post – One of the nation’s busiest acquirers of newspapers and online media has agreed to buy The Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News in a deal announced Wednesday at $49.25 million. New York-based New Media Investment Group Inc. executives said (the papers’ status) as market news leaders and a growing digital readership made the sister publications attractive additions to a GateHouse Media stable of more than 140 daily newspapers. That represents more than one in 10 in the country. The papers and associated websites have been owned since 1969 by Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises. The sale is expected to be completed by May.

— ALOE —

Easter spending expected to be near all-time record” – The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) says Floridians will increase their Easter spending to near record levels this year, with the per person average expected to top $150, down slightly from last year’s record total of $152. The total expected to be spent nationally is $18.2 billion, second highest in survey history and down from last year’s record of $18.4 billion. According to the survey, consumers will spend $5.7 billion on food (purchased by 87 percent of shoppers), $3.2 billion on clothing (48 percent), $2.9 billion on gifts (61 percent), $2.6 billion on candy (89 percent), $1.3 billion on flowers (39 percent), $1.1 billion on decorations (42 percent) and $780 million on greeting cards (46 percent) … 60 percent will visit family and friends, 58 percent will cook a holiday meal, 51 percent will go to church and 17 percent will go to a restaurant … 35 percent of consumers will participate in an Easter egg hunt and 16 percent will open gifts … 45 percent will watch TV, 11 percent will shop online, 9 percent will shop in a store and 8 percent will go to a movie.

For live ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ NBC turns to a Legend” via Mark Kennedy of The Associated Press – Most Easter Sundays, you can find John Legend at home, helping cook a big dinner for family and friends. Except this Easter. He’ll be a little busy — being Jesus Christ in front of millions. Legend leads a cast that includes Sara Bareilles and Alice Cooper in a live NBC version of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. “It’s an iconic show. It’s meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time,” Legend said. “You want people who are fans of it already to be excited by our rendition. But then also we want to attract new people to the show, too.” Live TV musicals have become progressively more complex, with the use of cars and multiple locations, sometimes outdoors. But “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be more stripped down, an attempt to capture a concert vibe. It will be staged inside an armory in Brooklyn with about 12 cameras. The actors will be augmented by a 32-piece band — including a mobile, all-woman string quartet — and 1,500 people will be in the audience, surrounding the action and interacting sometimes with the performers. The stage will be just 2 feet above a mosh pit.

Happy birthday to Chris Korge and our friend, Louis Betz.

Last Call for 3.28.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Here’s an alarming statistic from the state’s Department of Agriculture: “Currently, there are 52 active wildfires in Florida burning 27,870 acres.”

Yikes.

The Florida Forest Service, under Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, “manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests.”

It’s also responsible for “protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.”

Persistent drought conditions in the state don’t help.  

In the fight against wildfires are in southwest Florida are 15 fire district and state brush trucks, 11 state firefighting bulldozers, two fire district water tenders, a state firefighting Super Huey helicopter and a state firefighter fixed-wing aircraft, the department reports.

And Godspeed to the men and women fighting all those fires to keep people and property safe.

Evening Reads

Environmentalists urge Rick Scott to veto ‘toilet-to-tap’ legislation” via John Kennedy of GateHouse Capital Bureau

Florida Democrats look to expand map of Senate seats in play” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

Sure bet: Seminole gambling money will keep flowing, lawyer says” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Lake Okeechobee reservoir plan submitted to Army Corps of Engineers” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm

Matt Gaetz faces primary challenge from Marine vet” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Corrine Brown’s appeal focuses on dismissed juror” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Stoneman Douglas students help kick off ’17 for Change,’ a new gun-control group” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Prosecutor: Nightclub shooter intended to attack Disney” via The Associated Press

Indicted Broward Health chairman resigns” via David Fleshler of the Sun-Sentinel

Uber settles trademark infringement lawsuit with Tallahassee company” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat

Quote of the Day

“The record, in this case, supports only one conclusion: that this juror was basing his verdict on his view of the sufficiency of the evidence, after prayerful consideration and as he saw it … guidance from the Holy Spirit. Whether he should or should not have depended on any guidance from the Holy Spirit does not resolve the matter in favor of his dismissal.” — William Mallory Kent, an attorney for former Congresswoman Corrine Brown, writing in a brief that the Jacksonville Democrat’s conviction on charges related to a charity scam should be tossed out because the juror was improperly dismissed because of his religious statements.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Members of the Volusia County legislative delegation will discuss the 2018 session during a West Volusia Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast. That’s at 7:30 a.m., DeBary Golf & Country Club, 300 Plantation Club Dr., DeBary.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, will discuss the 2018 legislative session during a meeting of the Rotary Club of East Arlington. That’s at 7:30 a.m., Blue Sky Golf Club, 1700 Monument Road, Jacksonville.

The state university system’s Board of Governors will meet after holding committee meetings, starting at 8:30 a.m., with full board expected to begin about 9:15 a.m., University of North Florida, Student Union, 1 UNF Dr., Jacksonville.

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

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will hold one in a series of meetings about a diesel-emissions mitigation program. That’s 3 p.m., Department of Environmental Protection Southeast District Office, 3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach.

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is scheduled to speak at the Martin County Taxpayers Association annual dinner. That’s at 6 p.m., Monarch Country Club, 1801 S.W. Monarch Club Dr., Palm City.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 3.28.18

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

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

First in Sunburn — Millions of Florida voters will be able to judge the top candidates for Governor firsthand by way of a pair of one-hour televised debates set for back-to-back-nights in August.

Hosted by the Children’s Movement of Florida and the Florida Press Association, debates for the Republican and Democratic candidates will be Aug. 1 and 2 at the University of Miami Maurice Gusman Concert Hall.

The events — announced Tuesday as part of “The Race for Governor” project —  will begin each night at 7 p.m. and are less than four weeks from the Aug. 28 primaries, which will narrow down the field to two. Both programs will broadcast in Florida’s ten major media markets.

Florida’s Democratic candidates for governor will be debating each other August 1.

Producing the twin debates is South Florida CBS station WFOR/Channel 4, led by project consultant Philip Alongi, a former longtime executive producer for NBC News.

While qualifying for participation is still being figured out, major candidates in both parties are expected take part. The likely benchmark will be a minimum threshold of voter support as registered by reputable polling.

Also, not yet determined is whether Republicans or Democrats will go first.

“The vision and direction offered by Florida’s next governor will dramatically affect the lives of Floridians in every part of our state — from children to the elderly,” said David Lawrence Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement. “These debates let voters hear what the candidates think on critical issues ranging from early childhood education, health care, environmental protection, and public safety to jobs and economic development.”

With WFOR as the anchor station, other outlets carrying the two-night debates include Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, WFOR (CBS); West Palm Beach, WPBF (ABC); Orlando, WESH (NBC); Jacksonville, First Coast News; Gainesville, WCJB (ABC); Tampa/St. Pete, WFLA (NBC); Tallahassee, WCTV (CBS); Pensacola, WEAR (ABC); Panama City, WMBB (ABC); Fort Myers, either WBBH (NBC) or WZVN (ABC).

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @RealDonaldTrump: THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED! As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!

— @MaryEllenKlas: Florida’s national expert on redistricting weighs in on the census battle: it’s about raw political power

— @KevinCate: The @MayorLevine numbers shouldn’t shock anyone. As I pointed out in Medium post, on current spent trajectory, he should be in the mid-30s by June 1 at the latest. Spend is unprecedented. He’s already spent almost half of everything billionaire Jeff Greene spent on TV in 2010.

— @SchmitzMedia: Very interesting … Martin Co. school board Rebecca Negron, who is married to Senate President @joenegronfl, is the only board member in favor of the guardian program.

— @LeonSchools: To be clear: Leon County Schools will not be arming teachers. The only armed individuals on our campuses will be sworn law enforcement officers. Thank you @LeonSheriff for your continued partnership.

— @RepJimBoyd: Well said @JimmyPatronis “Our first responders fight for our lives every day, today fight for theirs.” Honored to stand and support this legislation that puts the well-being of our #firefighters first. @mattwillhitefl — GREAT job getting this done in the FL House

— @ChristianMinor: Change is coming to #Florida #JuvenileJustice & it’s being spearheaded by Sen. @JeffreyBrandes Thank you for your commitment to helping our youth & those that oversee their change & rehabilitation. Your efforts are critical to FL’s future

— @MDixon55: You got me here. I’m the idiot who goes to write story first. You and @fineout always make me pay for that

— DAYS UNTIL —

Major League Baseball Opening Day — 1; Easter — 4; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 18; NFL Draft begins — 29; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 30; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 36; Mother’s Day — 55; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 58; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 86; Deadline for filing claim bills — 126; Primary Election Day — 153; College Football opening weekend — 157; General Election Day — 223; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 323; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 342.

***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***

— TOP STORY —

Marco Rubio says he won’t campaign against Bill Nelson if Gov. Rick Scott, as expected, challenges the Democrat for his U.S. Senate seat this year.

“Bill Nelson and I have a very good working relationship,” Rubio said, speaking with reporters in Tallahassee on Tuesday. “Come election time, both of us understand — he supported Patrick Murphy because he wanted his party to have more seats in the Senate.”

Murphy, a Democrat and former Congressman, ran against the Republican Rubio in 2016 and lost by 8 points.

“I think he will do a good job if he were the Senator,” Rubio said of Scott, who plans a “major announcement” April 9 about his political future. The Naples Republican is term-limited as governor this year.

Rubio said of Nelson, “I couldn’t ask for a better partner from the other party,” but added he will support whoever is the GOP nominee for Senate come November.

“The U.S. Senate is a place where you have to work well with people, or you can’t get anything done,” Rubio said. “Just one senator can bring the place to a halt. So you have no choice but to work with people. And the people of Florida expect that.”

Rubio called his relationship with Scott “positive” while saying they don’t communicate all that much. “But on the issues that align, we work well together. I would anticipate that, if he wins, I will have just as good a relationship with him as I have with Sen. Nelson.”

Rubio: No problem with citizenship question on Census — The GOP U.S. Senator said he had no objections to a question about citizenship being on the 2020 Census for the first time in 70 years. Critics said the move would undercount certain minorities and immigrants. Census takers “ask you all sorts of other information for purposes of identifying the demographics of a community,” Rubio said. “They ask how much money you make, how many kids you have, about your race and your ethnicity. Why wouldn’t (they) ask about your citizenship status? Taking into account how many people are U.S. citizens, I personally don’t see the problem with it.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Huge — “Federal judge orders Rick Scott, Cabinet to create new voting rights restoration system for felons by April 26” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — U.S. District Judge Mark Walker in Tallahassee issued a permanent injunction in support of the Fair Elections Legal Network, which sued the state a year ago. The group successfully challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 150-year-old voting rights restoration process for felons in the nation’s third-largest state. “This is a victory for the principle that the right to vote cannot be subjected to officials’ gut instincts and whims,” said Jon Sherman, senior counsel for the nonprofit voting rights group. “We are also heartened that the court prevented Florida from following through on its threat to be the only state in the nation with an irrevocable lifetime ban on voting for all former felons — what the court called ‘the ultimate arbitrary act.'” In his ruling, Walker suggested that felons should not have to wait more than one four-year election cycle for a decision on their voting rights petitions.

Philip Levine: Minimum wage, vacation rentals should be local decisions” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Tailing off a suggested early lead in the four-way Democratic gubernatorial primary, Levine spoke to Tallahassee’s Tiger Bay Club, a group that describes itself as a nonpartisan forum for all things political. Levine gave a glimpse of what his administration would look like if he were elected. Specifically, he said he’d fight for maintaining power in or returning it to local governments. “Government works best when it’s closest to the people,” Levine said, referencing an ideology of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson. “I believe that’s what we need to get back to.” Levine said he’d raise the minimum wage to a higher floor, giving municipalities the option to increase it further. “My belief is that we need a higher minimum wage,” Levine told reporters. “I don’t know if it’s 15 [dollars per hour] in Pensacola, but I do know it’s 13.31 [dollars per hour] in Miami Beach.” Regarding vacation rentals, which are provided by companies like Airbnb, Levine said local governments should be able to require short-term rentals to comply with zoning restrictions. He referenced his tenure as mayor and his fight against the emerging industry.

— “Phil Levine comes to the ‘burg; here are a few first impressions” via Peter Schorsch

Matt Caldwell touts eighth wave of endorsements — Caldwell announced several key Republicans in the eighth wave of endorsements since launching his bid for Agriculture Commissioner. The list includes current state Reps. Chuck Clemons and Jennifer Sullivan and former Reps. Neal Combee and Dan Raulerson. Additionally, the campaign is launching #2LaneTravels, a webpage highlighting Caldwell’s campaign travels across the Sunshine State.

Save the date:

First on #FlaPol — “Janet Cruz is eyeing Dana Young’s Senate seat for 2018” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — According to several sources close to the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm, Cruz has spoken to both Senate Democratic leadership and high-level donors about her entering the race. These sources also say Cruz recognizes she has a tight window to make a decision. Minority Leader Oscar Braynon said he’s aware of Cruz’ interest in the race and has been encouraging her to run since Democrats flipped Senate District 40 with the election of Annette Taddeo late last year. Cruz’ interest has grown in recent weeks in part due to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Young’s subsequent vote on an assault weapons ban in the back half of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Stoneman Douglas grad Parisima Taeb wants Heather Fitzenhagen’s House seat” via Seth Sofia of the News-Press — Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate Parisima Taeb, a Fort Myers doctor and Iranian-American citizen, has begun collecting signatures in hopes of challenging three-term incumbent Rep. Fitzenhagen in House District 78 this November. Taeb, 39, an internal medicine doctor with an obesity clinic in Fort Myers, said being a Douglas graduate doesn’t give her greater desire than other activists to address gun violence in schools and communities. … (T)he shooting last month in Parkland is what compelled her to run for office after being involved in other activist work, such as children’s and addiction issues and disaster relief. “Yeah, I have that connection, being in that school, being with the teachers,” Taeb said. “But as a physician, I feel responsible. I am responsible. That’s the oath I took when I became a doctor.”

Harry Cohen, possible candidate for Tampa mayor, plans announcement today” via Dennis Joyce of the Tampa Bay Times — Tampa City Council member Cohen is expected to announce his long-expected campaign for mayor in a news conference. “I am planning on paying a visit to the supervisor of elections office at 9 a.m.,” Cohen said. “I’m sure you can figure out the possible reasons I might be going there.” Cohen would join a potentially large field of candidates in the March 5, 2019, election that already includes Topher MorrisonEd Turanchik and Michael Anthony Hazard, and may eventually include former police Chief Jane Castor, architect Mickey Jacob, retired banker and philanthropist David Straz and council member Mike Suarez. Cohen, 48, is an attorney and Tampa native who has represented the South Tampa council District 4 since 2011 and faces a term limit in his district seat. He worked until recently as a deputy to Clerk of Court Pat Frank.

— STATEWIDE —

Federal grand jury subpoenas state, city records in probe of maker of Russian assault rifles” via Dan Christiansen of FloridaBulldog.org — A Miami federal grand jury has subpoenaed records from Gov. Scott’s administration and Pompano Beach about an aborted economic incentives deal with a U.S. manufacturer of Russian-style Kalashnikov assault rifles. The subpoenas were accompanied by a letter signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin announcing the existence of “an official investigation of a suspected federal offense.” The suspected offense was not specified. But the company, RWC Group LLC, whose brand name is Kalashnikov USA, may be operating in violation of U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Russian-made military assault weapons. Bloomberg Business later reported that “a complicated web of shell companies connects Kalashnikov USA to allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and appears designed to avoid U.S. sanctions.” The subpoena to the state was served on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which oversees the state’s Qualified Target Industry tax-refund program. It demanded copies of all documents, materials and correspondence submitted by or about RWC, which stands for Russian Weapon Company.

Scott signs bill for first responders — The governor signed the bill (SB 376) in Tampa on Tuesday. Backed by state CFO Jimmy Patronis, the measure extends workers’ comp benefits to first responders dealing with job-related post-traumatic stress. Democratic Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, carried the bill in the Senate; Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue captain, sponsored the House version (HB 227). The Florida League of Cities had opposed the plan at first, then dropped its opposition. Because cities and counties in Florida employ almost all first responders, they will incur almost all of the costs of the new benefit.

Help is on the way: Gov. Scott on Tuesday signed a bill expanding PTSD benefits for first responders at the Tampa Firefighter Museum.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will highlight $4 billion in environmental spending in Florida’s budget beginning 10 a.m. at The Turtle Hospital, 2396 Overseas Hwy. in Marathon. Following the news conference is a turtle release starting 10:40 a.m. at Sombrero Beach (West End), 2150 Sombrero Beach Road in Marathon.

Judge: Adam Putnam’s refusal to pay citrus tree owners ‘contrary to oath he took’” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam … faces a court order to pay millions of dollars in damages to 12,000 homeowners in southwest Florida whose citrus trees were confiscated and destroyed under Florida’s citrus canker eradication program. If Putnam doesn’t pay the Lee County homeowners after 15 years of litigation, a judge is ordering that homeowners can force Putnam to make a list of state assets he must sell to pay damages and legal fees that now total nearly $17 million. Every day the case drags on, the interest owed by taxpayers goes up by another $2,199. In a scathing decision, Circuit Judge Keith Kyle in Fort Myers criticized Putnam for “rationalizations and excuses” that are “without merit and wholly unacceptable.”

Assignment editors — Putnam visits the Greenway Fire in Collier County 9:45 a.m. to give an update on wildfire activity in Florida Forest Service response efforts. Florida Forest Service Incident Command Post is at 950 Sabal Palm Road in Naples.

First Florida ‘Schools of Hope’ charter company operators approved” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Legislature’s Schools of Hope charter school program took a major step forward when the state Board of Education approved its first two operators. Texas-based IDEA Public Schools and Miami-based Somerset Academy, an affiliate of state charter giant Academica, received the board’s unanimous support to establish charter schools in communities where the district public schools routinely perform poorly on state tests and local improvement plans do not bring change. “We’re excited to serve these communities in Florida,” said Dan Fishman, vice president of growth at IDEA. He said his group had been meeting with civic leaders in Tampa and Jacksonville, among other cities, to determine where a school might be most needed.

Happening today — Committees of the Florida University System’s Board of Governors will hold a series of meetings on a variety of topics. Budget and Finance Committee will receive updates on the new state budget and performance-based funding. The Legislative Affairs Committee will address issues brought up during the 2018 Legislative Session. Meetings begin 8:30 a.m. at the University of North Florida, Student Union, 1 UNF Dr. in Jacksonville.

Superintendents say money may not cover resource officers” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In reacting to the shooting deaths of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, the Legislature passed a new budget and related bills that boosted funding for resource officers by $97.5 million to $162 million in the upcoming academic year. But a report from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents said school districts might not be able to meet the goal of posting at least one safety officer at each of Florida’s more than 3,500 elementary, middle and high schools. “We appreciate the legislative appropriations, but many districts will have difficulty meeting the requirement to establish or assign one (or) more safe-school officers at each school facility,” the report said … superintendents said much of the $67 million for that initiative might go unspent. They asked the Board of Education for support in shifting some of those funds to the school resource officer program.

State appeals greyhound drug testing decision” via the News Service of Florida — The state Department of Business and Professional Regulation last week filed a notice of appeal at the 1st District Court of Appeal after Administrative Law Judge Lawrence Stevenson on March 7 found that two drug-testing rules were invalid. Stevenson sided with greyhound trainers Charles McClellan and Natasha Nemeth, who face the possibility of license revocation after urine tests showed metabolites of cocaine in racing dogs. Stevenson agreed with the trainers that drug-testing rules did not adequately carry out state law. As is common, the notice of appeal filed last week did not detail the arguments that the department will make.

Proposal targets politicians’ naming powers” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A proposed constitutional amendment advanced by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission would prohibit city, county and state lawmakers from naming taxpayer-funded structures after currently elected officials. The proposal also would require stand-alone bills when facilities are named after former elected officials. Critics contend the proposal is a solution in search of a problem. But Constitution Revision Commission member John Stemberger called his proposal (Proposal 37) a “small” way to improve the public perception of lawmakers. “I think the public’s stomach turns when we name projects after ourselves as public officials,” Stemberger said of his proposal, which the commission approved in a 20-13 vote. “When we name projects, be they scholarships or whatever it is, after members who are in leadership, I think it raises ethical issues.”

Dennis Baxley, Linda Stewart turn debate to defining assault weapons, defense rifles” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Florida Senate’s leading pro-gun champion squared off against the same chamber’s top advocate for firearms reform at the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. Republican state Sen. Baxley defined a fear among firearm owners that gun control advocates want to take away their weapons, deny them freedom, and strip away their abilities to defend their homes and families against even the most extreme of threats. The guns in question should be considered defense rifles, Baxley, author of the state’s Stand Your Ground Law, stressed repeatedly. Those who believe guns are key to freedom, he said, are quiet now but will storm the polls in November. Democratic state Sen. Stewart defined a belief that the high-powered, rapid-fire rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines used in the mass shootings at Parkland, Pulse, Las Vegas and so many other places are the reasons for mass fatalities in such incidents, and their sales should be banned to stop their proliferation. The guns in question should be known as military-style assault weapons, Stewart, author of the assault weapons sales ban bills the past two years, insisted, adding that even the National Rifle Association defines them as assault weapons.

State battles Southwest Florida wildfires” via the News Service of Florida — With the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services saying drought conditions and increased fire dangers are expected to continue for the “foreseeable future,” crews were fighting 41 wildfires Tuesday morning across the state — including major blazes in Southwest Florida. “Florida’s wildland firefighters are prepared to battle increasingly hazardous wildfires across the state, but it’s imperative that Floridians are cautious with fire to help protect Florida’s residents, natural resources and wildland firefighters,” said Putnam. The largest fire, totaling 16,794 acres in Collier County, was 50 percent contained, according to the department.

Wait, what? — Storage devices missing at Department of Revenue — The Florida Department of Revenue has confirmed that three electronic storage devices from employee workstations are missing — possibly because of theft. The devices are believed to contain personal identifying information. An alert from Revenue’s Communications Director Valerie Wickboldt said the agency filed a report “for potential theft of state property” and that law enforcement is currently investigating. “If after the full investigation it is found that any employee did not take the proper steps to protect taxpayer information they will be held accountable,” Wickboldt wrote.

It’s terrible this is even necessary — “Johns Hopkins All Children’s will treat babies exposed to opioids with anonymous $2.5M donation” via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times — The donation will be used to open a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Follow-up Clinic at the hospital’s main campus in St. Petersburg … The money also will enhance existing services at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Specialty Clinic in Sarasota, which opened in 2013. “It’s hard to overstate the relevance or the impact of this generous donation,” Jenine Rabin, executive vice president of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation, said in a statement. “At a time when so many in our communities are struggling with opioid addiction, these funds will bring critical services to the babies and young children who may suffer the serious, long-term effects of exposure to these drugs. This gift gives these little ones more than a fighting chance for a healthy life.”

— REPORTING GETS RESULTS —

In the wake of the Miami Herald’s “Fight Club” series, it’s unsurprising the Legislature passed significant changes to the state’s juvenile justice system.

Herald investigative reporter Carol Marbin Miller, who alongside Audra D.S. Burch uncovered decrepit and violent conditions in Florida’s juvenile detention centers, penned a recent story examining the legislative measures approved this past Session to address systemic issues in youth lockups.

Bills and appropriations approved by Gov. Scott this year include $8 million for wage increases for Department of Juvenile Justice workers, investment in video surveillance, money for beds and maintenance issues in facilities, and a $9.1 million spend on early intervention programs.

Surprise: Scott signed a bill last week allowing legislators, prosecutors and public defenders to make unannounced inspections of juvenile facilities. Miller said this follows South Florida Democratic Rep. David Richardson’s lockup tours, during which he observed conditions were “deplorable.”

Journalists, too: That same bill also prohibits detention centers from barring access to anyone who “gives sufficient evidence that he or she is a bona fide reporter or writer.”

Long road ahead: St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, widely considered a champion for criminal justice reform, said addressing the Parkland tragedy created budget constraints. “He said he intends to seek additional dollars in next year’s session,” writes Miller.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Florida short-term rental policies hurt innovation, trade group says — States that embrace short-term rentals and other segments of the burgeoning “sharing economy” tend to be better innovation incubators than states that don’t, according to the Consumer Technology Association … the trade group included a category on state’s policies regarding short-term rental platforms — such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO — in its forthcoming 2018 U.S. Innovation Scorecard. The report isn’t due out until next month, but CTA offered a taste of what’s to come in a Tuesday release. … how does the Sunshine State fare? … “parts of Florida are taking advantage of tax agreements to bring in tens of millions of dollars to state and country coffers. In fact, 39 Florida counties have these tax agreements, but 24 counties do not, leaving many rental owners unprotected depending on where they reside … A bill to support the platforms statewide fell just short this legislative session, prompting Florida — an Innovation Leader, the second-highest of our four tiers — to earn a ‘C’ grade in our Short-Term Rentals category.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Republican lawmaker defends Parkland student’s Cuban flag” via The Associated Press — Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spoke to activist Emma Gonzalez’s father about a comment by Iowa Congressman Steve King. King took to Facebook to question the teenager’s guns stance and her use of the communist-run island’s flag. King says Gonzalez was claiming Cuban heritage while not speaking Spanish and advocating for gun control when her ancestors fled a dictatorship that disarmed people. Ros-Lehtinen says Gonzalez wore the patch because she is proud of her heritage, not because she supports Castro’s dictatorship. The Parkland student thanked the congresswoman in a tweet.

Spotted: Former U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller in POLITICO Playbook — In the last few days, people close to President Donald Trump have signaled that (Veterans Affairs) Secretary David Shulkin might be on his way out.” Several names are bouncing around — but “Senate insiders are predicting a bruising confirmation battle for many of them … Miller — the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee before he retired — has lobbied the administration on behalf of the Qatari government, the Viettel Group — Vietnam’s major mobile company — and a host of veterans-related concerns.”

— OPINIONS —

I tried to befriend Nikolas Cruz. He still killed my friends.” via Isabelle Robinson for The New York Times — I am not writing this piece to malign Cruz any more than he already has been. I have faith that history will condemn him for his crimes. I am writing this because of the disturbing number of comments I’ve read that go something like this: Maybe if Cruz’s classmates and peers had been a little nicer to him, the shooting at Stoneman Davis would never have occurred … I was assigned to tutor him through my school’s peer counseling program. Being a peer counselor was the first real responsibility I had ever had, my first glimpse of adulthood, and I took it very seriously. Despite my discomfort, I sat down with him, alone. I was forced to endure his cursing me out and ogling my chest until the hourlong session ended. When I was done, I felt a surge of pride for having organized his binder and helped him with his homework. Looking back, I am horrified. I now understand that I was left, unassisted, with a student who had a known history of rage and brutality … students should not be expected to cure the ills of our genuinely troubled classmates (or even our friends) because we first and foremost go to school to learn.

Legislators gut arts even while spending big” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel — Gov. Scott and Florida legislators are spending record amounts of your tax dollars these days. Still, not everyone’s benefiting from the spending spree. While prisons and toll roads are getting more, Tallahassee leaders gutted funding for arts and culture. They slashed the state’s grant program — for museums, theaters, science centers and more — by nearly 90 percent, from $25 million down to $2.6 million. That’s supposed to fund nonprofits all over the state. By comparison, legislators committed $76 million to subsidize the for-profit tourism industry. Put another way: Arts and cultural grants dropped to 0.003 percent of the state’s $88.7 billion budget. That’s three one-thousandths of a percent … during a year of record spending. Welcome to Florida’s age of un-enlightenment.

— MOVEMENTS —

Spotted — At Tuesday’s Maggie’s List luncheon: Attorney General Pam Bondi; Congressman Gus Bilirakis; state Sens. Dana Young and Kathleen Passidomo; state Rep. Jackie Toledo; AG candidate Ashley Moody; former state Rep. Sandy MurmanNancy WatkinsBeth BashamKaren PittmanNancy WatkinsArlene DiBenignoElise Lippincott and Sandi Sullivan. Maggie’s List board members: National Chair Sandy Mortham, Florida Chair Christina JohnsonLeslie SaundersWendy PepeCarole Jean JordanJudith Albertelli and Judy Arranz.

Appointed — Sherif Assal (reappointed) to the Board of Pilot Commissioners; Adrian Laffitte to the Children’s Services Council of Brevard County.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Paul BradshawDavid BrowningJames McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Abrams Fensterman

Thomas DeRita Jr., Resource Group NA: Steeplechase HOA

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Paul Fraynd

Tweet, tweet:

— ALOE —

Apple introduces new low-end 9.7-inch iPad” via Ina Fried of Axios — As expected, the new 9.7-inch model also supports the Apple Pencil … Apple has a lot of ground to recover in the K-12 market to catch up with Google’s Chromebook. And Google isn’t standing still, yesterday announcing the first Chrome OS-based tablets. Plus, Apple didn’t significantly drop the price as some had predicted. On the software side, Apple also introduced a new app for teachers to create handouts, called Schoolwork, and is bringing its existing Classroom app to the Mac, per the Verge. It is also adding Pencil support to its Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps. The new iPad will sell for $329 to consumers and for $299 to schools. That would appear to be the same as the existing low-end model, which did not have Pencil support. The new model also adds a faster processor and other improvements.

What Jeff Brandes is reading — “New cars are quickly getting self-driving safety features” via Tom Krisher of The Associated Press — Car and tech companies are rolling out laser sensors, artificial intelligence, larger viewing screens that show more of the road, cameras that can read speed limit signs, and systems that slow cars ahead of curves and construction zones. Many of the new features repurpose cameras and radar that already are in cars for automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection and other safety devices. The companies also are keeping a closer watch on drivers to make sure they’re paying attention. Arizona’s governor suspended Uber’s self-driving vehicle testing privileges after one of its autonomous vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian last week. But auto engineers and industry analysts still say roads will become safer as more vehicles get automated features that either assist or replace human drivers. The government says human error causes 94 percent of crashes. The cutting-edge devices usually come out first in more expensive vehicles, but go to mainstream vehicles as costs fall.

Last Call for 3.27.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Marco Rubio is taking up the banner for year-round daylight saving time (DST) because it’s the will of the people, he said Tuesday.

The Republican U.S. Senator spoke with reporters at his Tallahassee office.

He filed the “Sunshine State Act” to “mark daylight saving time permanent for the state of Florida,” after a bill was OK’d this Legislative Session and signed by Gov. Rick Scott to do the same thing.

But the move requires a special act of Congress.

“The state, through its elected representatives, chose to make this change,” Rubio said. “But they can’t do it without a federal bill. So we’ll see.”

The policy “has no partisan lines, it has no ideological lines,” he added while admitting that a move to permanent DST in Florida is a stretch.

“It would never pass on its own,” he said of the legislation. “It would have to be a part of something else.”

When asked if he were “getting a lot of resistance” to the idea, Rubio said, “Yeah, and I’m getting a lot of support too.”

“… I don’t think there’s a wrong or right answer; this is not a moral question,” he said. “Basically, it’s whether you want it to get darker later or earlier … But we’re not going to shut down the government over it.”

Evening Reads

CNN poll: 42% approve of Trump, highest in 11 months” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN

Marco Rubio on having U.S. Census asking about citizenship: I don’t see the problem with it” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

Federal grand jury subpoenas state, city records in probe of maker of Russian assault rifles” via Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog

Democratic governor candidates call for prison visitation reviews, overhaul” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union

Philip Levine: Minimum wage, vacation rentals should be local decisions” via Dan McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Proposal targets politicians’ naming powers” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Let’s take a closer look at that civil justice reform signed into law” via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald

Legislators gut arts even while spending big” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

Bill Montford’s decision rips the Tallahassee mayor’s race wide open” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

Industrial hemp on the radar for Florida farmers and researchers” via Paul Rusnak of Growing Produce

Quote of the Day

“My belief is that we need a higher minimum wage. I don’t know if it’s 15 [dollars an hour] in Pensacola, but I do know it’s 13.31 [dollars an hour] in Miami Beach.” — Former Miami Beach mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Philip Levine, speaking at a Capital Tiger Bay Club meeting in Tallahassee.

Bill Day’s Latest who

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Committees of the state university system’s Board of Governors will hold a series of meetings starting at 8:30 a.m., University of North Florida, Student Union, 1 UNF Dr., Jacksonville.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam visits the Greenway Fire in Collier County at 9:45 a.m. to give an update on wildfire activity in Florida Forest Service response efforts. Florida Forest Service Incident Command Post is at 950 Sabal Palm Road in Naples.

Gov. Scott will highlight $4 billion of environmental spending in Florida’s budget beginning 10 a.m. at The Turtle Hospital, 2396 Overseas Hwy. in Marathon.

The Claims Committee of the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors will hold a conference call and discuss issues such as claims from Hurricane Irma. That’s at 10 a.m. Call-in number: 1-866-361-7525. Code: 5219676193.

Following the Governor’s news conference, Scott will take part in a turtle release starting 10:40 a.m. at Sombrero Beach (West End), 2150 Sombrero Beach Road in Marathon.

Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott will speak at a Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida luncheon about issues involving the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, gun rights and a new state school-safety law. It begins at 11:45 a.m., The Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 West First St., Fort Myers.

The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a hearing about proposed changes in what is known as a federal “waiver” for the state’s Medicaid managed-care system. The state is seeking federal approval to amend the waiver. That’s at 3:30 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 6800 North Dale Mabry Highway, Suite 220, Tampa.

Phil Levine comes to the ‘burg; here are a few first impressions

It’s a great time to be Philip Levine, the former mayor of Miami Beach who is now the for-sure front-runner for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s wide-open gubernatorial race.

The latest poll — the second in a week — shows Levine leading former congresswoman Gwen Graham and way ahead of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Entrepreneur Chris King, whose increasingly narrow path to victory is via the same centrist lane Levine occupies, is struggling to register in the surveys.

Levine has pushed his way to the top of the field, in part, by doing the same thing the current occupant of the Governor’s Mansion did to win in 2010 and again in 2014: open his personal checkbook. Kevin Cate, a media consultant to Gillum’s campaign, estimates (in a must-read analysis) that Levine has already spent $6.01 million on TV advertising. That’s half as much as what billionaire Jeff Greene spent during his entire 2010 bid for the U.S. Senate.

But it’s not money alone which has Levine atop the field. He’s positioned himself as the authentic optimist versus the dour, scolding Graham and the exciting but divisive Gillum.

Levine was in St. Petersburg over the weekend to open the first campaign outpost there of any of the gubernatorial campaigns. Having never met Levine, I asked for a few minutes before he cut the ribbon on his regional HQ. He and a couple of staffers met me for a soft taco and a Corona (the beer was mine) at Casita Taqueria in the burg’s Grand Central District.

Here are a few first impressions of Levine and his campaign.

— Levine has a great answer for the dog-whistle talk about how he might not be able to win in places north of I-4. It’s his answer to share, so I’ll let him, but needless to say, he knows that he’s a Jewish guy from South Florida. In fact, he says his favorite type of question is when people ask him how someone with the last name like Levine can win in the Panhandle.

— Authentic. That’s the word you hear a lot from Levine. He believes that’s what sets him apart from his Democratic AND Republican opponents. He insists (and seems) very comfortable in his skin. He was also interested in my opinion about who I thought was the most authentic among the Republicans.

— Levine bristles when his progressive credentials are questioned. He believes his record in the private sector and as mayor of Miami Beach speaks for itself when it comes to the issues Democratic primary voters care about.

— I get worried when wealthy politicians say things like ‘they don’t need to be governor‘ or ‘they don’t have to be in office to be successful.’ This is especially worrisome after the election of Donald Trump and Rick Scott, whose checkbooks have enabled them to eschew some of the necessary rigors of politics. It’s also a rich guy’s way of reminding you how rich they are. Levine comes close to saying stuff like that, but doesn’t go full-entitled.

— If I am playing fantasy campaign staff and I had to draft a team from the existing operatives working in the state, I’d be most satisfied with Levine’s team, especially after the hiring of Max Flugrath as press secretary. (Of course I’d draft Ashley Walker with the first pick, but she’s too busy running a slew of super PACs to direct a gubernatorial campaign.) No disrespect to Julia Woodward or Omar Khan, but Christian Ulvert as GC and Matthew Van Name as manager is the best one-two punch of any of the Democratic campaigns. Flugrath, who did miracle work with the Florida House Democratic Caucus, just adds further depth to Levine’s team. Top to bottom, I believe Levine has built the best staff. (One note: despite the campaign’s protestations to the contrary, Republican strategist Adam Goodman is involved in Levine’s bid at some level; there’s nothing official, but you know how you can tell someone’s been in a room recently even though you didn’t see them? That’s what my gut tells me about Goodman’s involvement. He’s there somewhere.)

— Levine says he and his team are having a lot of “fun” and that shows with the easygoing nature of the staff who was with Levine in St. Petersburg. Maybe Graham’s having fun at her workdays, and maybe Gillum’s having fun while barely hanging on to his position in the race. But there’s no doubt Levine is enjoying how his campaign is proceeding.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 3.27.18

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

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

First in Sunburn are the complete numbers from a recent survey by left-leaning Public Policy Polling.

Kudos to The Miami Herald for reporting the top-lines from the poll, in which 613 likely primary voters were queried between March 23 to March 25. They showed that former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is slightly ahead, with nearly half of all voters still undecided. Levine, who has been slowly climbing in polls, carried 22 percent of the vote, compared to 19 percent for former congresswoman Gwen Graham, 8 percent for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and 5 percent for businessman Chris King. Some 46 percent of voters remain undecided.

What Sunburn can share are the favorability/unfavorability ratings of the four candidates, and they’re pretty interesting.

Levine is well-positioned at 29-15 percent, while Graham is all right at 24-14 percent. Inexplicably, King is upside down at 6-16 percent (why is a candidate who is barely known turning off three voters for every one he impresses?)

Gillum’s numbers reflect the problem at the core of his candidacy: he excites as many voters as he turns off. He’s slightly upside-down at 13-15 percent.

Then again, these numbers also reflect the reality of Gillum’s only path to victory. If he is to capture the nomination, it will be in a close race and one in which he wins the overwhelming support of black Democratic voters and some young and professional white voters.

The PPP poll was commissioned by a labor union, according to political consultant Christian Ulvert, who declined to name the organization.

The full results will be available on FloridaPolitics.com later this morning.

— “Only one issue tops health care among Florida Democrats, new poll shows” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @MarcoRubio: Ridiculous media freak out over John Bolton continues. It is a blatant lie to portray him as just some media pundit. With years of combined experience at DOJ & StateDept he is, by far, more qualified than Tom Donilon or Susan Rice were when they got the same job under Obama.

@MDixon55: The confusion about what the announcement was going to be today, was quite something. Several people who have been in @FLGovScott‘s orbit thought THE announcement was coming today. They kept circle tight, everyone else was trying to read smoke signals.

— @Fred_Guttenberg: Most people who know me will know that I say what is on my mind. With that, I am getting a lot of messages from people concerned that the Parkland families are getting divided. I do not think so, although the media will try to create that.

— @FrankLuntz: Lots of misinformation going around about this, so I’ll try to set it straight. Cuba’s flag 🇨🇺 has been used by the country since 1902, before they adopted communism. It’s even regularly displayed in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood — where the people are no fans of Castro.

— @MichaelCBender: Congrats to @bethreinhard & the @washingtonpost team for winning the Toner Prize for political reporting for their stories about Roy Moore’s accusers. Well deserved!

— DAYS UNTIL —

Major League Baseball Opening Day — 2; Easter — 5; Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 19; NFL Draft begins — 30; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 31; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 37; Mother’s Day — 56; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 59; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 87; Deadline for filing claim bills — 127; Primary Election Day — 154; College Football opening weekend — 158; General Election Day — 224; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 324; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 343.

***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***

— TOP STORY —

Records, Zinke’s office refute Scott framing of impromptu oil-drilling reversal” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — When Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Jan. 9 Florida was “off the table” for offshore oil drilling, the governor cast the hastily arranged news conference at the Tallahassee airport as unplanned and the Donald Trump administration’s decision as something Scott had influenced at the eleventh hour. In fact, Zinke’s top advance staffer, whose job it is to plan ahead for such events, was in Tallahassee the previous day. And top officials from the offices of both Scott and the secretary were in regular contact for several days leading up to the announcement, according to more than 1,200 documents reviewed by POLITICO Florida as part of a public records request. The documents, which include phone records, text messages, and emails, contradict the supposed spontaneous event that portrayed Scott as single-handedly securing a politically popular win for Florida’s environmental future only days after the administration had spelled out a controversial new national five-year plan to boost offshore oil drilling.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Scott expected to announce U.S. Senate bid in April” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — One of Scott’s longest-serving staff members is leaving for “other opportunities” that could include a role in what is expected to be his challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill NelsonJackie Schutz Zeckman, who has been the Republican governor’s chief-of-staff for the past year, has left that post, with deputy Brad Piepenbrink moved up to the top spot. Zeckman wouldn’t comment on what’s next. But she did say that a Scott event is planned for April 9 — although she would not confirm that it’s an announcement of his candidacy. “It’s been a wonderful job,” Zeckman said of her latest position in the Scott administration. She’s been with the governor since 2011, beginning as a deputy press secretary and also serving in his 2014 re-election campaign.

— “Scott poised to jump into Florida’s race for U.S. Senate” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

American Bridge: “For seven years, Rick Scott has played politics like the wealthy insider he is — an untrustworthy politician who only cares about his own ambition and making money for himself and his wealthy cronies. During Rick Scott’s time in office, his net worth has gone up by millions while a majority of Florida counties have failed to recover from the recession. In November, Floridians will reject his failed record.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans are hitting Nelson with a relatively weak charge, he supported Hillary Clinton!

Click on the image to watch the digital ad from the NRSC:

Assignment editors — Levine will speak at the Capital Tiger Bay Club meeting 11:30 a.m. at the FSU Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 W. Pensacola St. in Tallahassee.

Ron DeSantis denies link to Cambridge Analytica data” via The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Mark Harper — DeSantis … is denying he ever used Facebook data harvested by Cambridge Analytica to help him in previous campaigns. This month the London-based data science firm admitted collecting information from about 50 million Facebook users without their consent but denies using that information to assist in the 2016 election of Trump and others. One of the firm’s directors, Rebekah Mercer, was named as part of DeSantis’ finance leadership team last December. A former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, alleged in a Guardian article that he and the firm used Facebook information to match it to personality traits and voter rolls in an effort to target messages to help candidates get elected.”

Tallahassee aims to challenge state pre-emption on gun control” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Mayor Gillum asked City Attorney Cassandra Jackson to give a presentation on the state law that prevents local governments from passing any gun regulations and also allows for elected officials who attempt to pass such laws to be sued. He also asked his colleagues to consider a resolution directed toward both the state and federal governments “expressing our call for common sense gun reform and express again the argument we attempted to make legally with our disagreement with Florida Statute 790.33.” They voted unanimously to have staff come up with a resolution to bring back for final review and approval.

Former AG Bob Butterworth endorses Gwen Graham — “Graham is the only candidate for governor who has put forward an actionable plan to hold drug companies accountable and to end the opioid epidemic. Gwen understands Florida can’t arrest our way out of this crisis. The state must stop it at its source,” Butterworth said. “Just as Florida led the nation in taking on big tobacco, Gwen isn’t afraid to take on any industry or special interests, and she will lead our state in taking on the drug companies fueling addiction in Florida.” As attorney general, Butterworth led Florida’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry, which set a national example and resulted in an $11 billion settlement for the state of Florida … Butterworth also served as Broward County sheriff, a judge, and secretary of the Department of Children and Families. “With experience as a lawyer, public school official and member of Congress, Gwen Graham is the most qualified candidate to revive our state from 20 years of Republican negligence. She has a record of defending Florida families, and, as governor, will move our state forward to stop the opioid epidemic, protect our children and pass common-sense gun safety.”

Super PAC targets ‘Never Trumper’ Mike Waltz in FL CD 6 race” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — The first spot in the district that includes Volusia, Flagler and southern St. Johns counties is from a political action committee targeting candidate Waltz and supporting John Ward. The fifteen-second ad features a Waltz voice-over from the 2016 campaign, saying “look at Donald Trump‘s real record and stop him now,” with graphics proclaiming Trump’s “real record” as being the tax cut package and appointing Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In January, spokesman Brian Swensen made it clear that Waltz’s opposition to Trump was fertile narrative ground. “Michael Waltz was a strong #NeverTrump supporter who actively worked to make sure Trump was not elected and helped spread the egregious Trump and Putin lies being pushed by Hillary and the liberal media. He will quickly learn that Republican primary voters are not easily fooled, and they do not forget,” Swensen said.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Vulnerable Florida Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Brian Mast get air support on taxes” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Ads will run in the districts of Rep. Curbelo of Miami and Mast of Palm City,  two of the 26 districts nationally included in a $1 million campaign from American Action Network. “The district-specific ads highlight the middle-class tax cuts by the numbers: 3 million Americans receiving bonuses, the fastest wage growth in eight years, and working families receiving a tax cut of $2,000,” ANN said in a release. The group, aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, is spending “six figures” in Florida. It has been steadily spending to before and after the tax bill was passed.

Save the date:

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First on #FlaPol — Bill Montford rules out Tallahassee mayoral run — State Sen. Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat, is staying put for the remainder of his Senate term that ends in 2020, sources told Florida Politics. Montford had been toying with a run this year for Tallahassee mayor; current Mayor Gillum is a Democratic candidate for governor. Montford was a popular school principal, Leon County commissioner and schools superintendent before running for and winning his current position in 2010. “That leaves two candidates for mayor — Erik David, a Florida State University computer science student, Army veteran and martial arts instructor, and Joe West, a retired stand-up comic and disabled Vietnam War veteran,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported online Monday.

Statewide vote could put a new sheriff in town even if Miami-Dade doesn’t want it” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald — Proposal 13, which moved forward in a state constitutional commission, would require counties to hold elections for five offices, including tax collectors, property appraisers, supervisors of elections and clerks of circuit court. But the biggest-ticket job on the list — sheriff — singles out the state’s most populous county, which appoints a police director instead at the discretion of the mayor. Opponents say the change, which other voters in the state could approve by the necessary 60 percent even if Miami-Dade voters don’t agree, would violate the county’s home rule charter. But supporters counter that the change would bring Miami-Dade in line with other counties and add more transparency and public accountability to the role. “The constitutional officers don’t implement policy from a [county] board,” said Commissioner Carolyn Timmann, clerk of the court in Martin County and the proposal’s sponsor on the Constitution Revision Commission. “They follow state laws, state rules and the state constitution.”— STATEWIDE —

Scott signs nursing home generator requirementsGov. Scott held a signing ceremony for measures that make permanent the state’s emergency rules requiring every nursing home and assisted living facility in Florida to have emergency generators. The two bills (HB 7099, SB 7028) replace a pair of emergency rules that the Scott administration issued in September. That followed the deaths of residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, a Broward County nursing home that lost its air-conditioning system during Hurricane Irma. The signing event was at the Calusa Harbor Health Center, Continuing Care Community, in Fort Myers. Along with a requirement that facilities also have 72 hours’ worth of fuel, lawmakers also OK’d a tax break for homes that purchase electric generators.

Scott touts environmental, agricultural money” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “I announced this morning that I’ll have a major announcement April 9, and I hope everybody comes. It will be a fun day,” Scott told reporters. As for the environment and agriculture money, Scott called it a “great year.” Combining the two broad areas, Scott was pitching a $4 billion total investment this year, which includes $293 million for the Everglades including $50 million to fix the Herbert Hoover Dike, $50 million for freshwater springs, $400 million for water resources, $100 million for land conservation, and $150 million to operate the state parks, and $128 million to support the citrus industry. “This was a great year for in the Legislative Session,” Scott said. “There are so many things that we are doing.

Spotted in The Washington Post — “Scott, another proud cost-cutter, is bragging about his more recent increases to school funding as he prepares to launch a bid for the U.S. Senate … The new rhetorical approach represents a major turnabout for a generation of conservative leaders who came into office promising to get better results with less taxpayer money for public schools … (T)eachers and the public demand more money after years of tight budgets and a Republican focus on tax cuts. That has forced a change in strategy, even as the legislators continue to resist calls for new taxes.”

Agencies to pay millions in deaths, injuries” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott signed eight “claim” bills, passed during the Legislative Session and stem from sovereign-immunity laws that cap the amounts of money government agencies can be forced to pay in legal cases. Claim bills typically direct agencies to pay amounts that exceed the caps — sometimes long after the deaths or injuries occur: The parents of 5-month-old Nicholas Patnode ($2.4 million) … Vonshelle Brothers ($1 million) … The foster family of J.W., a 10-year-old boy with a history of mental illness and sexually aggressive behavior ($5.1 million) … Cathleen Smiley ($25,000) … The parents of Jean Pierre Kamel ($360,000) … Christopher Cannon ($500,000) … The estate of Sherrill Lynn Aversa ($650,000) … Ramiro Companioni Jr. ($5 million).

Florida strengthens animal cruelty laws” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Gov. Scott signed a bill that bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time (selling cocaine also is a level 5 offense). The change comes into effect this October. Known as Ponce’s Law, state lawmakers spearheaded the legislation (SB 1576) this year after a man allegedly beat his nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, to death last April in Ponce Inlet. The charged offender, Travis Archer, does not face a mandatory prison sentence under current statutes if he is convicted. Archer’s case is still pending. The new law also gives judges the option to prohibit an offender from owning a future pet. The legislation also requires animal control agencies and humane organizations to adopt policies to help return lost dogs and cats to their owners, especially in the wake of hurricanes.

Jeff Vinik scores win with signing of Water Street Tampa bill” via Florida Politics — A bill that would create a special taxing district for the Water Street Tampa development in Hillsborough County was recently signed into law by Gov. Scott. The proposal was backed by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership of Bill Gates’ investment arm, Cascade Investment, and billionaire developer Jeff Vinik. Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa. The Water Street Tampa Improvement District, created by HB 1393, would allow an appointed board to levy assessments on commercial properties and charge property tax of up to one mill — $1 per $1,000 of assessed value — on property within the district. Water Street Tampa, a private development, seeks to bring the first new office towers to Tampa in a quarter century, as well as retail, educational and entertainment space.

Assignment editorsGov. Scott will hold a signing ceremony for a bill (SB 376), backed by state CFO Jimmy Patronis, which extends workers’ comp benefits to first responders dealing with post-traumatic stress. The event is 2 p.m., Tampa Firefighter Museum, 720 Zack St., Tampa.

It’s payday: Here’s every state salary at your fingertips” via Tallahassee Democrat — We’ve got everything you always wanted to know about state paychecks but might have been afraid to ask. The Tallahassee Democrat has assembled a cool little website that gives you probably more data than you even want to know … This searchable database compiles salary information from all executive branch agencies and higher education institutions and includes state attorneys, public defenders and judicial employees. It does not include the legislative, benefit-only entities, or municipal/county government employees. The information is updated the second business day of each week, typically Tuesday before 10 a.m. The data from the universities is collected biannually (usually April and November).

New law allows smaller restaurants to get liquor licenses in downtown Orlando” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A local bill pushed by state Rep. Mike Miller and just signed into law by Gov. Scott will allow for smaller restaurants in Orlando’s downtown area to qualify for liquor licenses. House Bill 1447 reduces the minimum size of restaurants serving liquor so that small niche eateries in some of the quirky-shaped and sized locations around downtown can do so. “This is pro-small business,” Miller said. That is the case even more than usual with this law since it deals with businesses that previously were too small. Under an old state law, restaurants seeking full liquor licenses are required to have at least 2,500 square feet of space and a capacity of at least 150 patrons. HB 1447 reduces those requirements to 1,800 square feet and 80 customers for an area that includes Orlando’s downtown proper as well as parts of neighborhoods and business districts surrounding it, such as the Lake Ivanhoe, Thornton Park, and Paramore.

Court revelation: Pulse club gunman’s dad was FBI informant” via Tamara Lush and Jason Dearen of The Associated Press — The government has revealed only now that the Pulse nightclub shooter’s father was an FBI informant for 11 years before the attack, lawyers for his widow said … prosecutors also told them in an email that the government found evidence on the day of the attack that Omar Mateen’s father, Seddique Mateen, had been sending money to Afghanistan and Turkey, and that he had been accused of raising money to fund violence against the government of Pakistan. Noor Salman’s lawyers said the new information — shared only after prosecutors rested their case — should result in a mistrial or an outright dismissal of the charges against her. The judge didn’t immediately rule on the defense’s motion, and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the developments. Salman, now 31 and the mother of a small child, is being tried in federal court in Orlando. She is accused of helping her husband plan his June 2016 attack at the gay nightclub in Orlando, where he killed 49 people.

Firefighters still battling blazes in Collier County The Florida Forest Service and local first responders continued efforts to contain three massive wildfires in rural Collier County and more than 45 other wildfires across the state, the state’s Department of Agriculture reported Monday. “The Florida Forest Service is doing everything in its power to suppress and contain current wildfires in anticipation of very poor weather conditions tomorrow, especially in southwest Florida,” Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a statement. “It’s imperative that Floridians are cautious with fire to help protect Florida’s residents, natural resources and wildland firefighters.” While Florida has received some rainfall, drought and others wildfire dangers are expected to continue. The Florida Forest Service has battled over 700 wildfires across the state in 2018.

Women’s group slams Everglades Foundation head for Harvey Weinstein ties” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — But billionaire hedge-fund investor Paul Tudor Jones is pushing back and alleging that the group is actually a front for Big Sugar. Tudor Jones started the Everglades Foundation back in 1993 in an attempt to replenish Florida’s unique ecosystem. But he also has a history of saying demeaning things about women while working closely with Weinstein as a board member of his organization, and he was caught sending emails to the disgraced producer wishing him well as news broke of his alleged sexual misconduct. Last month, a group called Women United Now started staging protests against Tudor Jones, from the University of Virginia — where he’s a major donor — to the Everglades Foundation’s yearly gala at the Breakers in Palm Beach to a Miami Heat game last week. “The Harvey Weinstein scandal has unveiled a cultural problem that was hiding in plain sight,” Women United Now founder Catrena Norris Carter tells New Times via email. “Powerful men have been abusing and exploiting women, and other powerful men have been complicit in these actions by ignoring it and worse, covering it up. Paul Tudor Jones is one of these men.”

Flags at half-staff for Air Force sergeants killed in Iraq via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott ordered flags at half-staff for two Florida men killed in a military helicopter crash in the Middle East. On March 15, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. William R. Posch of Indialantic and Air Force Staff Sgt. Carl Enis of Tallahassee died along with five other crew members in the crash, in western Iraq. Posch and Enis were pararescuemen with the 308th Rescue Squadron, 920th Rescue Wing, based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, according to the Governor’s Office. “As a mark of respect,” Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Brevard County Courthouse in Viera, the Leon County Courthouse in Tallahassee, Town Hall in Indialantic, City Hall in Tallahassee, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday.

— A MOVEMENT OF HOPE —

It’s difficult to capture the extent of the state’s opioid crisis.

But the Panama City News Herald’s recent 13-story report does a pretty good job. Interviews with those affected by the epidemic — ranging from parents of kids who overdosed to the doctors who perform autopsies — depict a harrowing situation in Bay County.

Drug addiction plagued the Panhandle area, but, per the Herald, “it also fueled a movement of help, in churches, doctor’s offices, jails and even courtrooms.”

Gut-wrenching: One segment spotlights Christopher Jackson, a state diving champion who attended the U.S. Naval Academy. Jackson overdosed in 2016 after becoming addicted to painkillers following diving-related injuries.

Balance: The knee-jerk effect of the crisis has resulted in some group’s limiting opioids — like the VA. One installation tells the story of Tim Ford, an army veteran who was unable to get needed painkillers because he’s tested positive for marijuana in the past.

Backdrop: The special report was published less than a week after Gov. Scott signed landmark legislation tailored to curb the state’s opioid crisis. The bill includes prescription day limits for acute pain and enhanced use of a statewide database to monitor prescription frequencies. 

— OPINION —

Missing: Criminal justice data” via Amy Bach of The New York Times — Missing data is at the core of a national crisis. The United States leads the industrialized world in incarceration. With nearly 5 percent of the planet’s population and almost a quarter of its prison population, the country has invested a tremendous amount of money in the corrections system without the statistics necessary to tell us whether that money is actually reducing crime, improving fairness or lessening recidivism. State and federal spending on corrections has grown more than 300 percent over the past 20 years — becoming one of the fastest-growing line items in state budgets. But all of this is beginning to change. Two weeks ago, Florida legislators passed a bill that would make the state’s criminal justice system the most transparent in the country. The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Scott, requires the state’s 67 counties to collect the same data, record it in the same way and store it in the same public place. The state is to set up a repository that will house data that covers arrest to post-conviction and will be collected and reported by court clerks, state attorneys, public defenders, county jails and departments of correction.

— TALKING SHOP —

Journalists and communications professionals hold unique perspectives on the behind-the-scenes activity of the news cycle — but it’s rare they’re given a platform for their unfiltered insights.

That’s why Trimmel Gomes’ conversations with Sun Sentinel political reporter Dan Sweeney and Karen Moore, CEO of recently rebranded communications powerhouse Moore, in the latest episode of The Rotunda podcast are so valuable.

Released Monday, Gomes delves into the grassroots advocacy of the Parkland anti-gun violence movement, particularly Saturday’s March for Our Lives, with communications veteran Moore. With Sweeney, listeners get a local understanding of the fallout of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Here are some other episode highlights:

Activist tips: Starting advocacy campaigns on the first day of Session is too late, says Moore. Also, relax on the facts. Build a story instead. “Legislators voting on an issue may remember a few data points, but what they’ll really remember is a story.”

On social: Moore said Florida is a top-ranking state for elected official presence on digital media. “So if you’re not using that tactic then you’ve lost a whole opportunity to gather attention to your issue by the people you need to have vote on them.” From Sweeney (who tweeted 217 times during the Senate’s Saturday floor session): Thread your tweets.

What’s next for Sweeney: He told Gomes the past Session is likely his last. He’ll instead focus on digital engagement and reader interaction. In early April, Sweeney says the Sun-Sentinel will launch a true-crime podcast, “Felonious Florida,” which he described as “a little dose of crime stories, a little dose of ‘Florida Man.’”

— ALOE —

Can’t wait to read:

“Everything Trump Touches Dies” will be released Aug. 21, Rick Wilson says. It’s available for pre-order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from local independent bookstores.

FSU lifting ban on alcohol for Greek, registered student organizations” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Florida State University is lifting its self-imposed five-month ban on alcohol for all Recognized Student Organizations. But all organizations must complete risk management training if they plan to host events with alcohol, said Amy Hecht, vice president for student affairs: “The Student Activities Center staff will continue to offer training and advising, and will continue supporting all student organizations to prevent dangerous and unsafe conduct and behaviors … The university also will continue to engage students as we strive for a safer, healthier community for all.” In January, FSU President John Thrasher lifted some restrictions he imposed November to allow Greek organizations to begin recruiting again and to participate in philanthropic events.

Florida State returns bulk of roster from Elite Eight team” via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press — When next season begins, the Seminoles will not be considered an underdog after their first Elite Eight appearance in 25 years. Leonard Hamilton will have most of his squad back after the season ended with a 58-54 loss to Michigan in the West Region final. That is the opposite from a year ago when he lost four starters and his top three scorers. That is why many back in October thought this would be a transition season for the Seminoles before they could make another run for a high seed and contend in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. “I don’t know if we arrived a year early or not,” Hamilton said about his team’s 23-12 season. “We very well could have won the game and be on our way to San Antonio, but we didn’t.” The Seminoles’ biggest question going into the offseason is if the NCAA will grant an extra year of eligibility to leading scorer Phil Cofer? The 6-foot-8 forward, who averaged 12.8 points, missed most of the 2015-16 season due to a foot injury. Cofer and school officials have been optimistic that the NCAA will grant the request.

Gulf Power customers to see lower bills” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — State regulators approved a plan that will lead to Gulf Power Co. passing along more than $100 million in savings to customers because of the federal tax overhaul. Gulf, which has 460,000 customers in Northwest Florida, and other utilities put together such plans after Congress and Trump approved a package in December that included cutting the federal corporate income-tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Gulf will pass along about $103 million in savings to customers, with reductions starting in April power bills. The Pensacola-based utility said an average residential customer would save about $14 a month in 2018.

Happy birthday to our friend Joni James and DeVoe Moore.

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