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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Ice, ice, ‘Action!’

Vanilla Ice was the guest of honor at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism Wednesday evening.

There, the group bestowed the famed hip-hop artist with the 2018 Film Florida Legends Tourism Ambassador award, which is presented annually to entertainment legends who keep the Sunshine State on their mind and involved in their work.

“Vanilla Ice has been a recognizable artist for nearly 30 years, all the while being a wonderful ambassador for Florida,” Film Florida President Bonnie King said.

In honoring Ice (born Robert Matthew Van Winkle) King cited the artist’s record-breaking and successful hip-hop career — hit song “Ice, Ice Baby” was the first hip-hop song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts — and his devotion to Florida, which includes hosting an annual block party in Wellington and starring in his own Florida-based home improvement reality show, “The Vanilla Ice Project,” now in its eighth season on the DIY channel.

Ice also annually presents the music video award, now named after him, at The Palm Beaches Student Showcase of Films.

Added King: “Vanilla Ice continues to help others and accomplish so much, while representing the state of Florida in such a positive way.”

In receiving the award, Ice now joins the ranks of prior recipients Burt Reynolds, Sharon Gless, Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

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

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

Take 5

Florida chips in ahead of Florence — Private and public utilities sent aid to the Carolinas this week, anticipating additional cleanup and restoration efforts would be needed following Hurricane Florence, which made landfall on the North Carolina coast Friday morning. More than 200 crew members from 18 public power companies made the trip, according to the Florida Municipal Electric Association. As well, Tampa Electric Co., Florida Power & Light Co. and Gulf Power Co. sent line workers to help restore power. Gov. Rick Scott prepared the Florida National Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law-enforcement officers to deploy for affected areas if needed. He also waived weight requirements for emergency vehicles heading to the storm.

Lawmakers pass on revisiting security funding — A panel of state lawmakers this week ultimately rejected a request from Gov. Scott to reconsider funding appropriated to a program that arms non-teacher faculty in schools. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission convened on Friday, and despite repeated urges from Scott to unlock leftover funds trapped in the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, the item was not listed on the meeting agenda. Both House Speaker-designate Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano had pushed back against Scott’s request. Scott had pointed out that just $9 million of the $67.5 available for the Guardian Program had been used. He suggested the remaining $58 million could be used to help offset the cost of staffing safe-school officers or law enforcement personnel at every school.

UCF misspending prompts resignation, investigation — University of Central Florida Chief Financial Officer William Merck stepped down this week after it was discovered the school improperly used $38 million to construct a campus building. On Thursday, UCF President Dale Whittaker told the state university system’s Board of Governors that the school has replenished the state money, while taking steps to investigate the problem and to prevent similar occurrences in the future, reports the News Service of Florida. That action, however, didn’t keep House Speaker Richard Corcoran from launching an investigation into the misuse of funds. In a Friday letter, Corcoran announced that Incoming Speaker Jose Oliva would chair the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee “to investigate the misuse of funds by the University of Central Florida.”

Justice application period begins — The Florida Supreme Court Nominating Commission began accepting applications this week to fill three upcoming vacancies at the high court. Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement next year on the same day Gov. Scott will turn over the governorship to whoever is elected in November. The nine-member panel has 60 days to forward three to six names for each vacancy. Scott, who has argued that he has the authority to nominate new justices during his final day in office, announced this week that he intends to cooperate with the next Governor to pick new justices. That didn’t sit well with Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum. His campaign’s spokesperson said, “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Justices to consider sweeping ‘bundling’ challenge — The state Supreme Court will examine challenges to three amendments proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. Former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead filed the lawsuit, which claims each of the amendments improperly lumps issues together or ‘bundles’ the amendments. The three amendments at stake include a proposal that would ban vaping in the workplace and offshore drilling; a proposal that deals with governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members; and a measure that would remove constitutional language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property and would revise language to make clear the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.

Scott, Putnam welcome tree recovery money

When the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced it had received more than $340 million in federal Citrus Tree Recovery Program funding this week, Gov. Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were happy.

To them, it was the culmination of their hard work paying off for Florida farmers.

Adam Putnam welcomes $340 million in federal aid for citrus tree recovery.

“Since October, I have been fighting for Florida’s citrus growers to get the relief they deserve to replant and rebuild their livelihoods,” Scott said. “This includes, traveling to Washington to advocate for relief and activating a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program last year.”

“We’ve worked tirelessly with Florida’s agriculture industry, elected leaders and government agencies to help our citrus industry recover from Hurricane Irma’s unprecedented damage,” Putnam said. “Thanks to the hard work of so many, this much-needed piece of disaster assistance is finally on the way and will go a long way to help Florida’s citrus industry rebuild.”

In total, $343,331,216 is now at the ready to offset tree replacement, grove rehabilitation, system repairs and future economic losses incurred by Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in Southwest Florida a little more than a year ago.

State expands Blackwater River forest

The Blackwater River State Forest is extending to another 800 acres, state officials announced this week.

The expansion was made possible through a partnership between the Florida Forest Service, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Santa Rosa County, the Naval Air Station Whiting Field, and the Trust for Public Land. The land was acquired through the Forest Legacy Program.

The Blackwater River State Forest, located in the Panhandle, is expanding by 800 acres.

“Florida’s state forests are vital ecological and economic resources for our state, and we must continue to prioritize the protection of Florida’s unique natural spaces,” said Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. “This addition to Blackwater River State Forest will enhance natural resources and provide more recreational activities for Floridians.”

The land is expected to benefit endangered species in the area while also acting as a buffer space between NAS Whiting Field and the community.

Since 1990, the Forest Legacy Program has protected more than 2.6 million acres of land in the U.S., according to the Department of Agriculture.

Instagram of the Week

State leaders convene to highlight missing children

Alongside hundreds of law enforcement personnel, public officials and citizens, First Lady Ann Scott and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen remembered Florida’s missing children this week in Tallahassee.

The annual event, Florida Missing Children’s Day, also serves to recognize the state’s child protection efforts.

On Florida Missing Children’s Day, Seminole County K-9 handler Deputy John Locklin and Panzer received the Jimmy Ryce K-9 Trailing Team of the Year Award.

In 2017, according to FDLE, there were more than 32,000 missing children incidents reported to law enforcement.

“As a parent and grandparent, Missing Children’s Day is a solemn reminder that no family should have to endure the heartache of a missing child,” First Lady Scott said. “I pray for continued strength and healing for the families, and the safe return of the loved ones still separated from their families.”

Added Swearingen: “The safety and security of Florida’s children continues to be a major priority for FDLE, as is the successful recovery of those who are missing.”

First-generation students to receive scholarships

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart presented more than $1 million to Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega this week during the State Board of Education meeting.

The funding, made possible by the Florida College System Foundation, will help first-generation students who wish to pursue careers in health care.

“These scholarships will open doors for students that otherwise might not have existed,” Stewart said.

Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega received more than $1 million in scholarship money for first-generation students. 

With the help of the Helios Education Foundation, Florida Blue and Bank of America, the scholarships seek annually to relieve the national nursing shortage while also incentivizing college attendance.

The Florida College System boasts 28 institutions. More than 60 percent of the students attending these colleges work part-time while enrolled.

‘BearWise’ money doled out

A total of $500,000 has been awarded to 10 Florida communities to help them reduce bear-human conflicts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission announced this week.

The money, known as BearWise funding, will be used to help offset the cost of bear-resistant trash containers and other equipment.

BearWise funding helps provide bear-resistant trash cans, reduce the number of bear-human conflicts.

BearWise funding was prioritized for communities that had passed ordinances requiring trash be kept secure from black bears. Among those communities: The City of Apopka, Lake County, Santa Rosa and Seminole County.

The remaining funding went to the City of Mount Dora and Collier, Marion, Okaloosa, Volusia and Walton counties.

According to FWC, $2.1 million worth of BearWise funding has been provided to local governments since 2007.

Alexander concerned over university funding model

State Rep. Ramon Alexander asked the State University System Board of Governors to reconsider and reform parts of the performance-based funding model used to dole out additional money to institutions.

Alexander’s letter to the board preceded its Wednesday and Thursday meetings.

Because the current system does not provide any funding to the bottom three universities, Alexander argues in his letter, those institutions are “disproportionately” harmed.

State Rep. Ramon Alexander has questions on how Florida funds its university system.

“Last year, many institutions showed growth and improvement, nonetheless, despite all efforts, they received no additional state funding,” Alexander said in a statement accompanying his letter. “These funding disparities take a serious toll on the lower performing colleges and universities.”

He added that the current model “fosters a system of competition” between the much larger universities in the state, which have different missions. In other words, it shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all awarding opportunity.

Alexander highlighted how both the University of North Florida and Florida A&M University have improved their performance scores. But, since the schools are still rank among the bottom three institutions, they weren’t awarded performance-based money.

Davis helping host HBCU College Fair

State Rep. Tracie Davis will be collaborating on Saturday with The Center, One Foundation and Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis to host the second-annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities College Fair.

All nearby parents and students are welcome to attend the event, which will last from 10 a.m. — 2 p.m. today at Kingdom Plaza in Jacksonville.

The Center, One Foundation hosts the Second HBCU College Fair on Saturday.

Noting the “long and rich history” of HBCU’s, Davis said she was excited to help host the event.

“HBCU’s accept and provide scholarships to help more low-income and first-generation college students to ensure that all students get a fair chance at a good education,” she added.

Davis’ office also claims the demand for HBCU attendance is growing. It is expecting more than 1,000 people to attend the Saturday fair.

Lawmakers honored for ‘conservative’ clean energy work

Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes along with Republican state Reps. Ray Rodrigues and Holly Raschein were honored this week as Conservative Clean Energy Champions.

They were joined by 41 other conservatives across the U.S. that were recognized by Conservatives for a Clean Energy Future, a nonprofit advocacy group seeking to promote pragmatic renewable energy.

Conservatives for a Clean Energy Future President Mark Pischea named Jeff Brandes, Ray Rodrigues and Holly Raschein as Conservative Clean Energy Champions.

“I want to thank you for all you do to help support the development of favorable clean energy policies in state capitols across America,” wrote CCEF President Mark Pischea in a letter to the honorees. “We look forward to continuing to work with you — and our Champions — to continue making a difference for our clean energy future.”

Champions, Pischea added, “are fighters for our nation’s transition to clean energy.”

National Lifeline Awareness Week

The Public Service Commission wants Floridians to know that struggling financially shouldn’t block Floridians from quick access to emergency services — or even to family and friends.

The commission is participating in National Lifeline Awareness Week, an effort to promote awareness of a discount on landline, cellphone or internet services for low-income families.

One discount of $9.25 cents per month is available per household.

Lifeline helps low-income Americans stay connected in the modern world.

Recipients must have an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Alternatively, at least one member of the household must receive benefits through Medicaid, supplemental security income, federal public housing assistance, veterans’ pension and survivors’ benefits, or tribal benefits.

Learn more on the Federal Communications Commission’s website.

“In this day and age, it’s very difficult to function without a phone,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said.

“We want consumers to know that if they already participate in an approved federal assistance program, they probably qualify for Lifeline and can easily apply for their discount.”

Kuryla elected Florida Ports Council chair

At the recent Florida Ports Council annual board meeting in St. Petersburg, PortMiami Director and CEO Juan Kuryla was elected chairman. Kuryla replaces Port Everglades Chief Executive/Port Director Steve Cernak.

“Florida has 14 dynamic seaports that specialize in diverse business sectors from cargo to cruise. These ports, with their access to the third largest population in the U.S., serve as vital economic engines creating thousands of new jobs over the past five years,” Kuryla said.

Newly elected Florida Ports Council Chair Juan Kuryla, director and CEO of PortMiami.

“I am honored to have been chosen by my colleagues to lead the Florida Ports Council and I look forward to continuing the work of my predecessors in growing jobs and commerce for the great state of Florida.”

Port of Palm Beach Executive Director Manuel Almira was elected vice chairman and Port Panama City Executive Director Wayne Stubbs was elected secretary/treasurer. All positions are one-year terms.

The Florida Ports Council is the professional association of Florida’s 14 public seaports, providing advocacy, leadership and research on seaport-related issues at the state and federal level.

Base rate reduction coming for Peoples Gas customers

Customers of TECO Peoples Gas System can look forward to lower bills under an agreement approved by the Public Service Commission.

The PSC signed off on a settlement between the company and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers before the commission.

The commission attributed the estimated $11.6 million deal to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the GOP bill that directed most of its savings to corporations. Peoples is Florida’s largest natural gas utility, serving 370,000 customers in the state.

Good news for TECO People’s Gas customers.

The base rate reduction per customer heating the average house will amount to $1 per month, beginning in January.

“We want to ensure that customers directly benefit from recent changes to the federal tax law through lower bills,” PSC Chairman Art Graham said. “This agreement ensures that these savings for Peoples’ customers will continue beyond 2019, and we found it to be in the public interest.”

 ‘AOB’ issue still in the fore

Following Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ lead, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier again condemned the practice of assignment of benefits, or AOB, abuse.

Patronis recently called on reforms to curb the fraudulent practice.

Per Altmaier, “Now, more than ever, is the time for a solution to the abuse and fraud that continues to threaten the affordability of insurance in Florida.”

Once again, Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier is blasting assignment of benefits abuse.

Altmaier said AOB reform is a “top priority” for his office. AOB agreements allow contractors and repair personnel to essentially “stand in the shoes” of an insured person, according to Altmaier’s office.

“The excessive litigation fueled by bad actors who abuse AOBs will only result in higher premiums for our consumers,” he explained.

FSU surges in national rankings

Florida State University jumped seven spots to the No. 26 rank among national public universities in the latest U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2019” guide.

“Florida State University is one of the best universities in the nation, and we are excited that U.S. News & World Report recognizes our academic excellence,” said President John Thrasher. “Student success is at the heart of our mission at Florida State, and these rankings are a reflection of that commitment.”

FSU Provost Sally McRorie says the ‘drive to 25’ may come sooner than expected.

The latest ranking continues a rising trend for FSU. The school ranked No. 43 on the same list three years ago and has since steadily increased its status among public universities. The 2019 rankings mark the biggest single-year jump in university history, according to FSU officials.

Internally, FSU leadership has committed to becoming a ‘Top 25’ public university. Provost Sally McRorie said that goal could be achieved sooner than expected.

“Our ‘drive to 25’ is almost finished and a little earlier than I think any of us expected,” McRorie said. “That’s a testament to the very hard work of everybody across campus.

“We’re planning for what comes next!”

Hurricane happily ever after

Florida’s capital city played a small but significant role as Hurricane Florence churned toward land.

For a local couple intending to wed in North Carolina, Tallahassee was the next-best thing.

A slight change of plan for Sam Hajjar and Hayley Watts. (Image via

According to the Tallahassee Democrat’s Nada Hassanein, who reported the story, Sam Hajjar and Hayley Watts moved their wedding to Tallahassee ahead of the storm’s landfall Friday morning.

Watts, who had to re-plan everything with short notice, told the Democrat it’s “the wildest thing I’ve ever done.” But she’s thankful there’s a “sunny” forecast for the wedding now.

The couple, who grew up in Tallahassee, will now wed at the Red Hills plantation.

Capitol Directions

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott need a real statewide debate. Leadership Florida forum fits perfectly.

In the tight race for U.S. Senate, Bill Nelson and Rick Scott — for the sake of millions of Floridians — need to take part in a statewide, televised face-to-face debate.

Few can disagree that debates can be critical; they not only give candidates the best shot at making their respective cases, but voters also get an unfiltered opportunity to compare and contrast the two before heading to the polls.

And one forum that fits the profile perfectly (and is already planned) is “Decision 2018: Before You Vote,” the latest variant of the successful series from the nonpartisan nonprofit Leadership Florida, partnering with the Florida Press Association.

“Before You Vote” is currently set for about a month from now, Oct. 23 at Broward College, beginning 7 p.m.

Both Nelson and Scott need to commit to this debate — prearranged since March — as the best and only statewide televised forum in a crucial race that has attracted national attention.

Here’s why: A statewide consortium of 10 major network affiliates is dedicated to picking up the event, blanketing every Florida market. It is the same partnership that produced the highly acclaimed 2016 U.S. Senate debate (held at the same venue) pitting incumbent Marco Rubio against challenger Patrick Murphy.

Observers praised that forum as a serious, substantive and modern model for such events — which is precisely why Nelson and Scott need to take part.

Right now, the only so-called “debate” currently under consideration is from Telemundo, with coverage in select markets limited to Miami, Ft. Myers, Tampa, West Palm and Orlando. It will not be a statewide consortium.

Another event, this one from CNN, is being referred to as a “debate” by the Scott campaign, but Nelson’s campaign acknowledged it will review other possibilities, including the one to be hosted by CNN.

However, has no mention of any Florida debate or forum. Also, while CNN has a national reach, it is only available for those with paid cable. People watching via antenna will not see it.

On its website, News4Jax does refer to the CNN event as a “debate,” offering tweets from both campaigns admitting such. They say Scott agreed to the forum — going as far as calling it a “debate” on Twitter — but no mention of it from Nelson.

Again, the News4Jax event (even if it does happen) will offer limited TV reach.

Leadership Florida, their partners FPA/WPBF and Broward College, bring both a history and a stellar reputation for producing professional and highly regarded debates.

Moderators and panelists for the LF debates are all Florida-based journalists, who offered the most in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of the race and critical issues. As for timing, the LF/FPA debates are strategically scheduled to serve as the last word before Election Day.

Also, both Florida-based and national journalists have sought credentials for the Oct. 23 event and C-SPAN, as in the past, has expressed keen interest in carrying the debate.

Along with an extensive reach and prestige, the event will also have high-quality talent behind the camera.

Executive Producer Phil Alongi, a 25-year veteran of the NBC network, is producing this show — as he did the Rubio/Murphy debate in 2016. Alongi is also a technical producer for the Republican National Convention, as well as coordinating all media covering it.

The bottom line — and it cannot be stressed enough — is that Scott and Nelson need to DO THIS DEBATE.

Simply stated, it’s a solution where both campaigns (and voters) will benefit.

Hey RGA, ‘don’t … be an American idiot’—oh wait, too late

First, understand how I’m not angry, but laughing at the ham-handedness of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) media team.

You remember these fellas, the ones who attacked veteran Tallahassee and South Florida lobbyist Ron Book in an email blast?

And then had to withdraw said attack with their collective tails between their legs?

They used the FBI investigation angle to go after Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, which is understandable. What’s not is dragging in Book in the same email.

Why bring up Gillum’s vote “to extend a $90,000 lobbying contract” with Book?

Why mention that Book is a “major Gillum campaign donor”?

Worse, and I chuckle some more here at the inanity, why try to smear Book by calling him “a well-known ‘influence peddler,’ ” then bring up long-settled accusations from the – I kid you not – 1990s?

Can’t say I didn’t tell them.

Hey, maybe somebody finally listened to me and pulled the Book-themed attack.

If so, that was the smartest thing the RGA’s “Rapid Response” geniuses did this week.

Polling: GOP candidates on wrong side of medical marijuana smoking ban

As Florida Politics was preparing to release the results of our final post-primary, statewide survey focusing on the nexus of 2018 elections and medical marijuana, POLITICO Florida published a story putting Ron DeSantis, Ashley Moody and Matt Caldwell squarely on the wrong side of public opinion when it comes to Florida’s popular medical marijuana law.

The three top-of-ticket Republicans each offered varying degrees of incoherence as they staked out positions in support of Tallahasee’s quixotic crusade against allowing Florida patients to smoke medical marijuana.

DeSantis: “I want to see what happens with [the appeal].”

Moody: “…the litigation to clarify the amendment’s scope is reasonable…”

Caldwell: “…smoking is not a medicinal delivery system…[the smoking lawsuit] is just a fig leaf for full recreational use…”

Meanwhile, in the real world, voters believe — by a whopping 66-24 margin — that medical marijuana patients be allowed to smoke marijuana under the law.

These numbers come from Florida Politics’ polling partnership with medical marijuana advocacy org Empowering Wellness. What began as Wellness Week has now stretched over almost two weeks, and we’ve released results from four surveys over the last 10 days. In tomorrow morning’s SunBurn we’ll roll out the fifth and final poll, looking at the race for Attorney General.

ICYM the Sean Shaw-Moody horse race numbers,I’ll give you some hints:

—It’s tiggggght (duh);

—Medical marijuana is a winner for Shaw, and a loser for Moody.

Just like the three previous St. Pete Polls statewide surveys that we commissioned as part of Wellness Week(s), Floridians strongly support the state’s medical marijuana law, in numbers consistent with the 71 percent it received on the 2016 ballot. Also in line with the previous surveys, people aren’t happy with the Tallahasee status quo when it comes to the application of that law.

By a 42-23 margin, respondents disapproved of the way outgoing AG Pam Bondi has handled medical marijuana during her tenure. Those figures are squarely aligned with the prior results, where we asked if folks approved of Gov. Rick Scott’s handling (nope, by 45-30), and the Legislature’s handling (uh uh, by 48-29) of medical marijuana implementation.

Even in the survey we conducted among Republican primary voters in the uber-conservative 1st Congressional District (held by medical marijuana-supporting Republican, Matt Gaetz), Panhandle Republicans would rather keep the Florida medical marijuana law in place, versus repealing it, by a 53-34 margin.

DeSantis, Moody and Caldwell are simply out of step with the electorate on this issue, and all indications are that Democrats are going to continue weaponizing it to their electoral advantage.

We had Bill Nelson over Scott by 0.1 percent, Andrew Gillum over DeSantis by 0.3 percent, and Nikki Fried over Caldwell by 1.8 percent — and the AG race is looking to be another close one.

With a slate of statewide contests this tight, medical marijuana could easily make the difference in any one of them.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.14.18

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

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

ICYMI: Talk of porn, ‘sex toys and science’ spur lawsuit against Florida State’s medical school

Jokes by a med school professor about porn, sex toys and the Zika virus led to a lawsuit against Florida State University, according to a complaint filed in Leon County this week.

Christina R. Goswick-Childers, formerly an academic program specialist at the school’s College of Medicine in Tallahassee, filed sexual harassment and retaliation claims after she reported incidents and was let go last February, her suit says.

But the university on Thursday denied any discrimination or retaliation against her, countering with a 60-page dossier.

It says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated her case and was “unable” to find any “violations” of federal discrimination law.

It also says she was terminated for “multiple egregious performance issues” and notes that the professor she complained about — Dr. Gregg Stanwood — was never her direct supervisor.

Goswick-Childers said her troubles began in February 2016, when Stanwood — a developmental neuropharmacologist and behavioral neuroscientist — joked in front of two other co-workers he couldn’t give Goswick-Childers his credit card information.

That was because he feared “she may use the card to purchase porn or online sex toys and his wife may find out,” according to the complaint.

After she reported the remark about two months later, “the (work) environment became hostile and extremely stressful” as Goswick-Childers “believed she would face retaliation.”

She said she did the following January, after a guest speaker “made reference to sex toys in (a) presentation (on the) Zika virus,” the suit said.

Stanwood told her in front of four others that “he had made a bucket list item of being able to introduce a speaker that incorporated sex toys and science.”

The rest of the story is here.


@SenBillNelson: The president’s comments on the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico are shameful. We deserve and expect more from someone who holds the highest office in our country.

@ScottforFlorida: I disagree with @POTUS — an independent study said thousands were lost and Gov. Rosselló agreed. I’ve been to Puerto Rico 7 times & saw devastation firsthand. The loss of any life is tragic; the extent of lives lost as a result of Maria is heart-wrenching. I’ll continue to help PR

@AndrewGillum: No death is partisan, and our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserved better from @realDonaldTrump before, during, and after the hurricane.

@CHeathWFTV: “Every morning there is something new that the president tweets,” says @CortesBob “I have no reason to doubt the number of 2,975 deaths in Puerto Rico”

@MahoneysTheName: In a statement, @RonDeSantisFL disagrees with Trump: “Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated.”

@FrancesRobles: On the Oct. 3 day Mr. Trump threw paper towels at a crowd in Puerto Rico, 121 people died in Puerto Rico, compared to 82 who died on that day the year before. That’s an increase of 39 people, or 47 percent.

@BiancaJoanie: Written statement from @ricardorossello: “I ask the president to acknowledge the magnitude of Hurricane Maria … we cannot allow for the response efforts to be politicized.

@StephenLawsonFL: Former FBI agent on AndrewGillum NYC boat trip with undercover agents: “We’re not going to let anybody on that boat that we don’t think is worthy of a criminal investigation, if we can help it.”

@KevinsiDonohoe: FDP just got back all our Adam Putnam records requests. Interesting timing — I wonder why they waited?

@DeFede: I’m glad @FLGovScott and @SenBillNelson will debate. Debates are good. But it bothers me that they go to @CNN and @wolfblitzer — it feels disrespectful to folks in Florida and to Florida journalists. I hope the debates between @AndrewGillum and @RonDeSantisFL will be different.
— @MDixon55: State of Florida’s public pension fund boosted by 300% its stake in New Media, better known as @GateHouse_Media. Company has been gobbling up newspapers and gutting them, or shutting them down. That includes several papers in Jacksonville, just ask @TimesUnionGuild 


First general election mail ballots go out — 8; First day of fall — 8; Future of Florida Forum — 12; Government shutdown — 17; FSU vs. UM football game — 22; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 25; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 39; MLB World Series begins — 39; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 40; Halloween — 47; General Election Day — 53; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 67; Thanksgiving — 69; Black Friday — 70; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 74; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 151; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 173; 2020 General Election — 781.


Rejecting Puerto Rican death toll, Donald Trump accuses Democrats of inflating it” via Eileen Sullivan, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos of The New York Times — Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, rejecting that government’s assessment that the storm had claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Trump said that the toll was only six to 18 dead after his visit following the storm, but that was at a time when the estimate of fatalities was changing. It rose to 34 in the hours after the president left the island. Trump said Democrats padded the death toll by including, for example, a person who died of old age “in order to make me look as bad as possible.” The National Hurricane Center, a federal agency, called the death toll “highly uncertain” in an April report and logged the official number at 65. The report noted: “Hundreds of additional indirect deaths in Puerto Rico may eventually be attributed to Maria’s aftermath pending the results of an official government review.” In August, after a thorough review, Puerto Rican officials accepted a revised estimate of the dead as 2,975. And lawmakers — Republican and Democrat — have accepted those findings.

Donald Trump suggested on Twitter that Democrats inflated the Puerto Rican death toll to make him look bad. Sad!

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Florida Republicans are angered by Trump’s advancement of a conspiracy theory casting doubt on Hurricane Maria’s estimated death toll in Puerto Rico. They fear his comments will undo GOP inroads in the growing and increasingly influential Boricua community less than two months before Election Day. … “Mr. President. SHUT UP,” Alan Levine, a Republican appointed by Gov. Scott — a top Trump ally — to Florida’s university governing board, replied on Twitter. “Any death, whether one or 3,000 is a tragedy. That doesn’t mean you caused it, and it’s not about you. Show compassion for the families,” Levine wrote. “Learn what we can, so future response can improve. Honestly …”

Fact-checking the death toll estimates from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact — Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health relied on interviewing people and asking them about causes of death in their households. Researchers selected 3,300 randomly chosen households and found 38 deaths after the hurricane, including three from direct causes and 12 from interruption of necessary medical services. The Harvard researchers extrapolated based on that data about the number of “excess deaths” (the number of deaths compared with the same period during the previous year) and found a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate. The researchers concluded that there was a range of 793 to 8,498 deaths with a confidence interval of 95 percent. But it was that midpoint number of 4,645 “excess deaths” that drew most of the media attention. Since this story posted, another study attempting to approximate the death toll was commissioned by the government in Puerto Rico and published by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. The study released in August 2018 analyzed death certificates and other mortality data and found an estimated 2,975 excess deaths between September 2017 through the end of February 2018. The team compared the total number of deaths during that time to the expected number based on historical patterns and found that the number was 22 percent higher than would have been expected.


Bill Nelson, Rick Scott ads go at it over Scott’s ties to Trump, Nelson’s time in Washington” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — In a Spanish language ad released Wednesday, “Amigos,” Nelson’s campaign ties Scott to Trump and calls them “muy buenos amigos.” Scott was one of Trump’s earliest supporters but has noticeably distanced himself from Trump in past months, including not appearing at a Trump rally for U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Tampa in July. Scott did not mention Trump in his speech at a luncheon for Vice President Mike Pence last week, though Pence said a Scott victory would help the Trump administration in Congress. The Scott campaign released a new ad, “Give ‘Em Hell,” designed to show Nelson as “a career politician.”

To view “Amigos,” click on the image below:

To view “Give ‘Em Hell,” click on the image below:

Lawsuit says Scott’s office won’t fulfill public records request” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — A lawyer who recently won a public records lawsuit against Gov. Scott sued his office again Thursday, accusing his administration of ignoring a separate request for public records needed in a pending legal case. “You must acknowledge the request and respond to the request in good faith,” Ryan Andrews said in a letter to Scott’s office included in a complained filed in circuit court. “Time is of the essence.” Scott’s office said its Office of Open Government did acknowledge the request. Andrews represents the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which recently lost a bid to renew a state health care contract. AHF protested the contract award, its case is pending before an administrative panel, and the case is set to conclude in less than three weeks. As part of its case, AHF wants records of communications between Scott’s office and dozens of health care lobbyists who represented rival vendors. The list of lobbyists includes Dean CannonAl CardenasMike CorcoranHayden DempseyNick IarossiFred KarlinskyLarry OvertonBill Rubin and Gerald Wester, among many others.

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott makes another stop on his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way, Clearwater.


What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Evidence shows that undercover agents organized the boat trip and other events in New York. Indeed, two agents were on the boat, unbeknown to Gillum. And if FBI agents organized the outing, it implies that their interest in Gillum had evolved into a “predicated” investigation, former agents told the Times/Herald. It would require the agents working the case to show their bosses that they have allegations or facts about criminal wrongdoing that would justify having Gillum aboard.

Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Gillum is out with his first TV ad of the general election titled, “My Grandmother’s Voice.” Gillum begins the minute-long ad recounting advice given to him by his grandmother. He then explains how those messages motivate his run to be the state’s next Governor. “I can still hear my grandmother’s voice,” Gillum begins. “She’d say, ‘Go to school. Mind your teachers. Get your lesson. And one day, bring that education home. Bring it home for your little brother and your little sister who don’t know what an education is yet.’”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

GOP launches first DeSantis TV ad in general, references Dunedin baseball years” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — When DeSantis was 12 years old, he and the Dunedin Nationals baseball team went to the 1991 Little League World Series. The ad opens with a TV news report from the time, showing the young baseball players in a celebratory dog-pile. “We were only 12, but we learned to dream big, work hard and swing away,” DeSantis says in the ad, while standing in a room full of old baseball memorabilia (including a Tampa Tribune article from the time). “And that’s my plan as governor.” The closing line? “From Dunedin to Tallahassee, I’ll always to go to bat for Florida,” he says.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

DeSantis resignation ends dormant ethics complaint that raised questions about donors’ ties” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News — The complaint, which alleged DeSantis rented out a Palm Coast beachfront condo at a “well below fair market value,” did not advance to the U.S. House Committee on Ethics, which reviews claims against congressional members if warranted. But it raised questions about the three-term congressman’s close ties to two campaign donors, who work as top executives at Total Military Management, a Jacksonville-based defense contractor that has spent more than $700,000 since 2012 lobbying the federal government. With DeSantis out of Congress, those entities have now lost jurisdiction over the complaint.

’You might be a racist if your name is Ron DeSantis,’ asserts American Bridge” via Florida Politics — Liberal activist group American Bridge slammed DeSantis with a provocative new video. The title: “You might be a racist … if your name is Ron DeSantis.” DeSantis, whose campaign began with a warning that electing Democrat Gillum would “monkey this up,” has struggled to deflect Democratic criticism on the grounds of racial insensitivity. The American Bridge video opens with that quote, calling it an example of using “racial bullhorns” (a quote from Gillum as the controversy broke). From there, the group reminds voters of DeSantis being an administrator of a “racist Facebook page,” then splices in reportage of DeSantis speaking at four different conferences organized by conservative provocateur David Horowitz. “David’s done such great work, and I’ve been an admirer of an organization that shoots straight and tells people the truth,” DeSantis said.

To view the ad, click on the image below


Latest poll: Ashley Moody leading Sean Shaw 46-44 for Attorney General” via Florida Politics — Republican candidate Moody is leading her Democratic counterpart Shaw in the 2018 race for Attorney General, according to the latest survey from St. Pete Polls. When asked, “If the election for Attorney General were held today, who would you vote for: Republican Ashley Moody or Democrat Sean Shaw,” 46 percent said Moody and 44 percent said Shaw, with roughly nine percent undecided. The poll was commissioned as part of “Wellness Week,” a collaboration between Florida Politics, St. Pete Polls and Empowering Wellness. The takeaway: Moody seems to be the one Republican leading in these polls; all of the others had Democrats ahead.

Koch-backed Freedom Partners endorses voting restoration amendment” via Florida Politics — The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, chaired by Koch Industries VP Mark Holden, said that it was behind a 2018 ballot amendment that would restore voting rights to nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences. “We believe that when individuals have served their sentences and paid their debts as ordered by a judge, they should be eligible to vote,” Holden said in a news release. “In the Sunshine State, Floridians are permanently excluded from voting because of a prior felony conviction — one of only four states with a lifetime ban. “If we want people returning to society to be productive, law-abiding citizens, we need to treat them like full-fledged citizens. We support the Florida Second Chances campaign, which would return the eligibility to vote to Floridians who have done their time and paid their debts in full. This will make our society safer, our system more just, and provide for real second chances for returning citizens,” he concluded.

Florida Dem slammed U.S. weeks after 9/11 attacks” via Brent Scher of the Washington Free Beacon — Less than a month had passed from September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Lauren Baer, then a student at Harvard University, was calling the American response to the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 a “moment of hypocrisy,” attacking its “shameful history,” and hoping for a “more humble and humane” America to emerge. Baer, who went on to work in the Obama administration as a senior adviser in the State Department under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and is currently running for Congress, wrote a column every two weeks for the Harvard Crimson. Her October 10, 2001, column, “From Hypocrisy to Humanity,” was highly critical of the United States, criticizing some of those who responded to the attacks. “Some people speak of wanting an America to emerge from these events that is stronger and more proud,” Baer wrote. “I wish to see an America emerge that is humbler and more humane.” She also wrote that America had a “shameful history” of standing up for its values.


Florida Chamber endorses 16 more legislative candidates” via Drew Wilson of Florida PoliticsThe Florida Chamber of Commerce has put out its third wave of endorsements for state legislative seats … A handful of the Florida Chamber’s new endorsements are revisions reflecting a handful of surprise victories in the Aug. 28 primary election. “As we saw during the primary election, election outcomes can be unpredictable, but it’s our job to make sure that voters stay informed about the best possible candidates to move Florida forward,” said Marian Johnson. … Among those getting the nod in round three was state Rep. Gayle Harrell, who is running for SD 25 as well as incumbent Democratic Reps. David Silvers and Matt Willhite … Among the non-electeds earning the Chamber’s support were a pair of candidates who face tough battles in the fall: House District 69 candidate Ray Blacklidge and House District 93 candidate Chip LaMarca … Candidates getting the nod after their Chamber-backed rivals lost in the primary include HD 10 Republican Chuck Brannan, HD 51 Republican Tyler Sirois, and HD 73 Republican Tommy Gregory, who cruised in the primary after the Chamber’s first pick, Melissa Howardwithdrew from the contest after revelations she had faked a diploma from Miami University.

Jeff Brandes recalls ‘Right to Try’ law in new campaign ad” via Florida Politics — The new ad, titled “Right to Try,” features St. Petersburg osteopathic physician Rob Proietto speaking about Brandes’ role in passing a 2015 bill that authorized the use of experimental treatments and medications for terminally ill patients. “For a long time, patients fighting a life-threatening illness were also fighting a system that wouldn’t give them a chance,” Proietto says in the ad. “That’s why Jeff Brandes passed Florida’s ‘Right to Try’ law. Now, eligible patients with a serious medical condition can get access to experimental drugs or clinical trials. Critically ill patients have the right to try because Jeff Brandes is keeping hope alive.”

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Pam Dirschka calls out Rene Plasencia over skipping HD 50 forum” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Dirschka is calling out Plasencia for not committing to a candidates’ forum Monday and charging that he’s been avoiding face-to-face encounters with her, while Plasencia insisted he’s ready but that appropriate forums haven’t happened yet. “He’s a no-show,” Dirschka said. “I want a forum that is inside our district, where people who actually have an opportunity to vote for us can attend,” Plasencia responded. The Monday forum was set for Cocoa, outside of House District 50. Plasencia said he told organizers he would be willing to participate if the forum moved to a location inside HD 50. Hosting the forum is the League of Women Voters, Florida Today, and Eastern Florida State College. It is set for 7 p.m. at Eastern Florida State College’s Simpkins Center in Cocoa.

Frank Reddick crosses the aisle to back Shawn Harrison’s re-election bid in HD 63” via Florida Politics — Tampa City Councilors are chosen in nonpartisan elections, though Reddick is a Democrat and Harrison is a Republican. HD 63 is a swing seat that Harrison has held for three nonconsecutive terms. In 2018, he faces Democratic attorney Fentrice Driskell. “I have known and worked alongside Shawn Harrison for 12 years. Representative Harrison is a true bipartisan leader. He doesn’t just talk the talk. When Shawn was Chairman Pro-Tem of the Tampa City Council, he supported my efforts to make East Tampa a stronger community. When we asked for help to stop the evictions from Tampa Park Apartments, Shawn contacted HUD on our behalf, and together we were successful,” Reddick said.

Jennifer Webb passes Ray Blacklidge in total fundraising, cash on hand” via Florida Politics — The small-business woman raised about $7,900 from Aug. 24 through the end of the month, bringing her fundraising total to about $181,500 since she entered the race to succeed Peters late last year. That puts her ahead of her opponent by about $3,500 in campaign fundraising. “It’s clear that voters are attracted to our community-centered campaign, and they understand what’s at stake with this election,” Webb said in a news release. Thanks to one-time Democratic candidate Javier Centonzio stepping aside, Webb was able to make it through primary season without facing a challenger. Blacklidge wasn’t as fortunate.

Ben Diamond, Alex Andrade plan 2020 re-election bids” via the News Service of Florida — Diamond, who was first elected to the House in 2016, did not draw an opponent this year in Pinellas County’s House District 68. Andrade won an Aug. 28 primary over Republican Greg Merk and does not face a general-election opponent for an open seat in House District 2, which is made up of parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Also this week, Republican Zane Christian Matter opened a campaign account to run in 2020 in House District 50, which is made up of parts of Orange and Brevard counties. Rep. Rene Plasencia, an Orlando Republican, currently holds the seat.

Bill Carlson cracks $50K raised for Tampa City Council bid” via Florida Politics — Carlson posted another five-figure finance report for August, putting him far in the lead in the three-way race to succeed exiting City Councilman Harry Cohen, who is running in the crowded race for Tampa Mayor. Carlson started his campaign for the District 4 seat with a bang in June, bringing in more than $31,000 for his bid and followed it up with a healthy $8,145 in July and another $10,640 in his most recent report. The new money included a $500 check from Southern Strategy Group of Tampa, $500 from Tampa banker Henry Gonzalez and $150 from Orlando-based architect CT Hsu of CT Hsu + Associates as well as numerous individual donors.

Melissa Howard expected to serve probation over fake diploma” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — An investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has concluded that Howard “intended to defraud” when she touted a fake diploma from Miami University while running for the District 73 state House seat. Howard is expected to sign a deferred prosecution agreement that involves probation and community service. “The defendant Melissa Howard, intended to defraud and misrepresent her association and academic standing with Miami University,” wrote a Sheriff’s Office investigator. “Furthermore, the defendant produced the fictitious diploma and uttered it as being awarded to her as true, while knowing it to be false.” The deferred prosecution agreement allows Howard to avoid being formally charged with a crime if she does 25 hours of community service, pays certain costs and completes the terms of her probation.


Whether a Democratic ‘blue wave’ will come in November is unknown.

But what’s certain is that more Democratic candidates are running for federal office this year than any party has put forth since 1980, reports Harry Stevens of Axios.

“The last time either party drew these many candidates was in 2010, when Tea Party rallies and grassroots opposition to President Obama brought a new generation of conservative Republicans to Congress,” writes Stevens.

Numbers: 1,706 Democratic candidates have been active this midterm cycle. The previous record since 1980 was in 2010, which saw 1,688 Republican congressional candidates registered with the FEC, according to Stevens.

Recent past: In 2016, there were more Republicans running than Democrats. That’s been the case since 2008, when the Democratic Party fielded 1,168 candidates, compared to the GOP’s 1,105.

Context: “The number of candidates in itself doesn’t guarantee election victories,” writes Stevens. “But it’s one more sign of how motivated Democrats are this year.”


Additional Florida utility crews head north to help with Florence recovery” via Florida Politics — “As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, Florida public power has prepared to respond by engaging our network of mutual aid,” said Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association. “More than 200 crew members and equipment from 18 Florida public power communities are standing by to assist with power restoration efforts in North Carolina and South Carolina following the impacts of dangerous Hurricane Florence, which is expected to cause widespread power outages and massive property damage.” Also, Gov. Scott lifted weight limits on emergency vehicles headed north and placed Florida National Guard and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers on standby to assist with the recovery.

Adam Putnam to ‘work hard’ until the end” via the News Service of Florida — Asked for the second time in a week what is next for him, Putnam, a longtime elected official despite being only 44, maintained his goal is to “work hard” in his current job “to the very end.” “I went back to work the next morning,” Putnam said, referring to the day after the primary. “There’s a lot to be done.” Asked about remaining in public service, he said he’s “focused on being Commissioner of Agriculture.”

Enterprise Florida seeks ‘back channels’ to DeSantis, Gillum” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — “Obviously, Enterprise Florida, where we go will have a great deal (to do) with who wins the Governor’s race,” Executive Vice President Mike Grissom, who made the back channels reference, said without expounding on just how each candidate could be expected to reshape the agency. Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci expressed a little more confidence that there won’t be dramatic changes regardless of the winner of the Nov. 6 gubernatorial contest. “I continue to be optimistic about people when they are exposed to a set of facts, a set of facts could be persuasive,” Antonacci, who was Scott’s general counsel at the end of the Governor’s first term, told members of the public-private agency’s executive committee. “I think we’ll be able to persuade the next Governor of the value that this board provides and the value of the organization.”

Enterprise Florida knows one of its strongest advocates is term-limited and hoping to ascend to the U.S. Senate.

Superintendents: School security transfer ‘not yet ripe’” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — In a letter addressed to Scott, the Florida Association of District Superintendents President Richard Shirley writes: “We believe that all of the funds for school safety should be used in the year in which they were appropriated. “The funds remaining in the Guardian Program should not revert to the state General Revenue Fund.” Scott has repeatedly urged the Legislature in recent weeks to revisit the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a fund for school districts that opt to arm non-teacher faculty. According to the Department of Education, just $9 million of the $67.5 million appropriations has been used by schools. Scott wants lawmakers to convene a special panel to unlock the remaining $58 million. However, both House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano have pushed back against Scott’s request.

Red tide is weaker, but still hanging around Anna Maria Island. Is the worst behind us?” via Samantha Putterman of the Bradenton Herald — Manatee beaches were reported to have medium to very low levels of the algae, according to Wednesday’s red tide report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The numbers followed a similar report from the previous week. While the bloom appears to be weaker locally, it still extends from Pinellas County to northern Collier County along 120 miles of coastline, the FWC says. “Persistent surface currents — before, during and after the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon — likely played a role in transporting cells of K. brevis to the Northwest,” the FWC report says.

Legal battles mount over marijuana licenses” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Five wannabe operators who got shut out of the state’s first round of medical-marijuana licenses three years ago and recently were shot down a second time are asking a judge for help. But first, Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall has to settle an even more basic argument: How many licenses are up for grabs? Florida Department of Health officials maintain only two licenses are available under a 2017 law aimed at implementing a voter-approved constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. The 2017 law was also intended to curb litigation related to the highly sought-after licenses. But the rejected applicants contend that, if they meet eligibility requirements under the law, they should get licenses, no matter what the number. The five applicants have filed administrative challenges seeking to overturn health officials’ decisions to deny them licenses.

Brightline charges on despite efforts to stop the train” via Mike Synan of — Brightline is already up and running from West Palm Beach to Miami. The eventual plan is to run a train from downtown Miami to the Orlando International Airport. The train will not be a true high-speed rail system like what is found in China. However, the train will make the trip from Orlando to Miami in around three hours. To accomplish this, the train will have to reach speeds of 110 miles per hour in some parts of the stretch between West Palm and Cocoa and as fast as 125 miles per hour as it approaches Orlando on new tracks that will be built beside the Beachline. Opponents of the train told the FDFC that taxpayers should not have to pay for maintaining these crossroads. Several counties and cities along the route have a federal lawsuit against the train which is still working its way through the courts. St. Lucie, Martin and Brevard counties are all considering whether or not to try and get Brightline stopped in the courts. The problem remains to balance the need for a faster trip from Miami to Orlando with the time it would take to add a stop for the train at one or more of those cities along the coast.

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield argues for scrutiny of those higher speeds.

David Beckham, Trump — and the push to make Miami-Dade parks profitable” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — Budget pressures are nothing new for municipal parks, but Beckham helped bring the issue into sharper focus this year in the Miami area. The retired soccer star and his partners are promising millions of dollars of revenue to Miami in exchange for converting a city golf course into a one-million-square-foot commercial complex and professional soccer stadium surrounding 58 acres of traditional parkland. Melreese Golf Course, a privately run 131-acre course, is one of the largest properties in the city’s parks system and cost Miami’s budget an average of $88,000 annually over the last five years, according to a breakdown released this week by the city manager’s office. Months before he joined the 2016 presidential race, Trump was hoping similar concerns would give his resort company control of the county’s premiere 18 holes: the Crandon Park golf course on Key Biscayne. His company offered to spend $10 million fixing up the course and pledged at least $100,000 a year to the county for running a course that was losing money. “I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT GREAT!” Trump wrote in a March 2015 letter to Gimenez. That deal fizzled, weeks before Trump announced for president in June 2015. But there’s still interest in a possible private-sector boost for public golf courses.

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald — Commissioners voted to criminalize operating a business without a license after the second offense. The violation is currently punishable by a $1,000 civil fine, but if the new proposal passes a final vote in October, violators could face up to 60 days in jail for a third strike. Each day operating without a license is considered a separate offense, so unlicensed short-term rental hosts could be arrested for renting a property for three days or more. Miami Beach prohibits rentals of six months or less in most residential areas. Mayor Dan Gelber, who proposed the measure, said that criminalizing a third violation would give the city an extra tool to go after the operators of any type of unlicensed business. The city’s existing ordinance criminalizes unlicensed operations only for continued violations of 30 days or more, which can be difficult to enforce.

State challenged over Pasco hospice approval” via the News Service of Florida — The state Agency for Health Care Administration, which approved Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Pasco County, received challenges from The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and Compassionate Care Hospice of Pasco. The companies are challenging the preliminary decision to authorize Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care’s proposed $719,500 project and the state’s decisions to deny their license applications. Florida uses what is known as the “certificate of need” process to regulate new health care services and programs such as hospice. AHCA on March 30 published a need for one new hospice program in Pasco County beginning in July 2019. Ultimately, eight companies filed CON applications to provide the services.

Some of St. Cloud’s water is brown, but city says it’s safe to drink” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The discoloring has been present in some St. Cloud homes since early last year. City officials blame it on a diminished polisher — which helps clean the water — at one of the city’s treatment plants, as well as issues with the resin used to filter out organic materials. Despite the water’s dingy tint, it’s safe to drink and use, officials said. “We recognize it’s inconvenient, but it’s safe,” public services director DiAnna Rawleigh said. The Osceola County city is moving forward with contracting repairs to the treatment plant to clean up the water and also is working with an engineering firm to ensure the facility is operating at peak efficiency, St. Cloud spokeswoman Krystal Diaz said.

UCF acknowledges misusing $38M in state funds for new building” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — The money was used to build Trevor Colbourn Hall, an academic building that opened last month. The matter came to the Board of Governors at a meeting in Sarasota. The state funds can be used for expenses like instruction and maintenance, but not new construction. The university says it has replaced the money with funds from other sources. School leaders are also reviewing all other projects to make sure no others relied on misspent money. The UCF Board of Trustees approved the new building in May 2014 but didn’t know the source of the money used for construction, according to the university.

UCF’s now-controversial Trevor Colbourn Hall.


Matt Gaetz hobnobs with an alleged Holocaust denier. Again.” via David Corn of Mother Jones — In January, Rep. Gaetz, a conservative Republican firebrand from Florida, invited right-wing troll Charles C. Johnson to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech. Johnson, a notorious social media figure accused of being a white nationalist, had been permanently banned from Twitter for declaring that he wanted to “take out” a leader of Black Lives Matter. And in early 2017, Johnson had come under fire for denying the Holocaust. Eventually, the controversy over Johnson attending the State of the Union passed. But two months ago, Gaetz and Johnson were together again — this time on a yacht in Newport Beach, California. The occasion was a July 20 fundraiser for Gaetz’s re-election campaign.

Matt Gaetz is hobnobbing (again) with noted white supremacist Charles Johnson.


Pam Bondi: Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via the Washington Examiner — It is disappointing that Florida’s Democratic Senator, Nelson, has not made any good faith efforts to give a brilliant jurist the fair consideration he deserves from the U.S. Senate. Judge Kavanaugh is undeniably qualified for the Supreme Court bench. His professionalism has been commended by legal scholars, colleagues, and observers from both sides of the aisle. He has spent more than two decades in service to the American people, including in White House roles under former President George W. Bush. At first, Nelson said he would oppose the nominee before he even knew who it was. He later said he would hold off on deciding on Kavanaugh until actually meeting him. Yet he has even called Judge Kavanaugh a “right-wing extremist” in fundraising emails. Nelson and Senate Democrats have embarked on a senseless campaign to discredit Kavanaugh, despite finding nothing with which to discredit him.

Karen Halperin Cyphers: Does #MeToo reduce demand for a Bill Clinton endorsement?” via Florida Politics — I wanted to know how Floridians across the political spectrum would react to the question: Would an endorsement from the former president positively or negatively impact views toward the candidate he supports — with, and without, specific reference to #MeToo? It turns out that #MeToo matters — but not the same way for everyone. We found that a reference to the #MeToo movement: Dramatically increases negative views and decreases positive views among voters with no party affiliation (NPA). Has NO impact on the portion of Republicans who view a Clinton endorsement positively or negatively — not unexpected, given the low regard for Clinton among Republicans. Has NO impact on the portion of Democrats who would view a Clinton endorsement negatively. However, a large portion of Democrats do shift from positive feelings to “neutral” when the #MeToo movement is referenced. Interestingly, Democratic women have an even less negative response to the #MeToo reference than Democratic men. To me, these results suggest that Democrats are either in denial about the degree to which Clinton has “#MeToo-d” women, or it simply doesn’t matter to them.


New and renewed lobbying registrations

Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: U.S. Hemp Roundtable

Jim DeBeaugrine, RFJ Governmental Consultants: Servium Group

Eired Eddy, St. Petersburg College

Marti Coley Eubanks, PinPoint Results: David H. Melvin

Brian Jogerst, BH & Associates: Kadel Torres-Oliver

Rebecca Kapusta, Department of Children and Families

Mark Minck: National Center for Life and Liberty

Travis Moore, Travis Moore Relations: Qualified Reporting Services

Rhett O’Doski, Sean Stafford, McGuireWoods Consulting: Hilton

Foyt Tipton Ralston, Capitol Advocates: AgLogic


Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable with Republican lawyer Danny Alvarez, former Democratic CFO Alex Sink, Tampa Bay Times editorial writer Molly Moorhead, and commentator Barry Edwards.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: Joining Walker-Torres are Florida State Senator Linda Stewart, Florida State Representative Mike LaRosa, and John Sowinski of Voters in Charge. They will discuss Amendment 3 on the future of casino gambling throughout Florida.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: state Representative Ross Spano will discuss his campaign to represent U.S. House District 15; The latest from Tallahassee with Spectrum News Capitol Reporter Troy Kinsey; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim by Ron DeSantis about Andrew Gillum.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida and political consultant Beth Matuga.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams; Rick Mullaney, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; Matt Carlucci, former Jacksonville City Council President; and Earl Johnson Jr.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg will focus on the midterm elections and ballot; the powerhouse roundtable will take on the week’s news.

— ALOE —

Hurricane Florence evacuees flee to Disney World” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — With the threat of Hurricane Florence, some East Coast residents have evacuated to the Orlando area, making trip reservations within a day or two, the kind of planning that normally takes months. Nine Orlando-area Rosen Hotels and Resorts properties will offer reduced rates for people affected by Hurricane Florence, the company announced. The “distress rate” also includes free lodging for pets with guests. “Friends and Family in the Carolinas,” wrote travel agent Meredith Maki, who runs Inspirely Travel in Charleston, South Carolina, that specializes in Disney vacations, on her Facebook page. “Why not evacuate to DISNEY?!?”

What Joe York is reading — “AT&T boss writes script for HBO: more data, more money” via Drew Fitzgerald and Shalini Ramachandran of The Wall Street Journal —AT&T Inc.’s boss said the company may shift resources to HBO from other parts of its newly acquired Time Warner business to step up programming investments and use data on its customers’ tastes and habits to inform its content bets, part of a plan to compete with streaming giant Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also said the reams of data the telecom and television giant has — from the viewing preferences of its DirecTV subscribers to where customers take their phones — will help build up an advertising analytics business that could benefit the television industry more broadly, helping media companies compete with Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. “We think we have a couple of years window to stand this up and really make inroads,” Stephenson said in a wide-ranging interview. “I have yet to speak to a [chief marketing officer] or an advertiser who says, ‘I wish I could spend more money with Google and Facebook.’ That human being doesn’t exist.”

AT&T honcho Randall Stephenson.

Tamorrion Terry emerging into receiving threat Florida State needs” via Bob Ferrante of The Associated Press — “He’s a talented football player for us, a kid that can go up and attack the ball on one-on-one,” Florida State coach Willie Taggart said. “And a kid that can stretch the field for you as well. He had a great week of practice. And I think that’s why he had the game that he had, just his mentality where he went about practicing, and it paid off for him in the game. And hopefully a lot of our other guys learn from his example, come and locked into practice and you get the same results on the football field.” While the Seminoles (1-1) have struggled, generating just a field goal in the season-opening loss to Virginia Tech and needing a fourth-quarter rally to hold off Samford, the emergence of Terry is encouraging for a young receiving group that is still finding its way in Taggart’s Gulf Coast Offense. Florida State needs more performances like that from Terry and the rest of the receivers as the Seminoles look to jump-start the offense, beginning Saturday at Syracuse (2-0).

Happy birthday to Danny Martinez and the one and only Brian Pitts. Early birthday wishes to three good dudes, Brewster BevisChris Hudson, and Paul Seago.

Last Call for 9.13.18 – 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

Hearsay is generally inadmissible in a court of law. But it can be juicy.

Take this extended morsel, tucked into a filing at the Division of Administrative Hearings in a case lodged by The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) against the state over Calder Casino’s gambling permit.

The horse industry is in a battle for its life as track owners seek to get rid of live racing but hold on to lucrative games like slots and poker.

Here’s the thing: Dog and horse tracks in Florida generally are required to keep running live races to have slots and card games that usually make facilities more money. Calder, a Hallandale Beach facility that holds a limited schedule, is trying to ditch horse racing entirely to switch to jai alai.

It’s not alone, the FHBPA says.

“The FHBPA has heard that two other permitholders that operate slot machines in Broward County, i.e., the Mardi Gras greyhound track (now called “The Big Easy Casino”) and The Isle harness horse track (a.k.a “Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park”), either are considering or are intending to seek summer jai alai permits with the further intent to effectuate a permit swap to summer jai alai without impacting their respective slot machine licenses.

“If those permitholders are also able to swap their longstanding permits for a summer jai alai permit, then of the seven permitholders in Miami-Dade and Broward that are authorized to conduct slot machine gaming under … the Florida Constitution, six of the seven permitholders will become either jai alai permitholders or summer jai alai permitholders.

“Obviously, the switch to jai alai is not because of the popularity or profitability of jai alai; wagering records … demonstrate how extremely unpopular betting on jai alai games has become.

“Instead, it is the FHBPA’s position that the permitholders’ desire to switch to summer jai alai is caused exclusively by the fact that summer jai alai operations require the least amount of infrastructure and the least amount of dedicated real property and employ the cheapest form of labor—all of which results in the least amount of slot machine profits being spent by the permitholder to achieve the minimum pari-mutuel gaming activity necessary to satisfy the ‘live racing or games’ requirement for slot machine licensure.”

We called spokespeople for both The Big Easy and the Isle Casino — and got no response.

Evening Reads

‘Mr. President. SHUT UP’: Florida Republicans pan Donald Trump’s Puerto Rico conspiracy” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Bill Nelson is still dodging on Brett Kavanaugh” via Pam Bondi for the Washington Examiner

Morning Joe mocks Ron DeSantis for ducking tough questions on Florida issues” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

What Andrew Gillum’s trip to New York City means in the FBI investigation” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

Andrew Gillum releases first TV ad recalling ‘grandmother’s voice’” via Ryan Nichol of Florida Politics

Ron DeSantis fundraising in Coral Gables next week with Jeb Bush” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Republican group condemns Mike Hill’s primary campaign calling it ‘deceitful’ and ‘sexist’” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News Journal

SEIU Florida announces $5M spend on November election campaigns” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

David Hogg, Emma González to headline voter registration rally in Tampa Saturday” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

State finance problems loom as next Governor comes into office” via Diane Rado of the Florida Phoenix

Florida trade mission to Dominican Republic organizing” via the staff of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Brightline charges on despite effort to stop the train” via Mike Sinan of Florida Daily

Soaring stock makes Darden Orlando’s first $15 billion company” via Kyle Arnold of the Orlando Sentinel

Miami Beach could soon arrest people operating Airbnb-like rentals without a license” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“I went back to work the next morning. There’s lots to be done.” —Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost this year’s Republican primary for Governor.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Statewide candidates and political committees face a Friday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through Sept. 7.

The State Board of Education will meet in Collier County and take up numerous issues, including a 2019-2020 budget request for the education system. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Collier County School Board, 5775 Osceola Trail, Naples.

A symposium will be held in Hillsborough County about sex trafficking in schools. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry Campus, Auditorium, 4001 West Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, made up of House and Senate leaders, will receive a presentation about the state’s new “Long Range Financial Outlook.” The annual document analyzes past spending and future needs. That’s at 11 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Ballard Partners WeatherSTEM casting watchful eye on Tallahassee storms … of all types

As many of you know, Brian Ballard topped off his empire with an impressive new “castle” in downtown Tallahassee.

There are plenty of beautiful new features to the building, but with Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Southeast and several other storms brewing in the Atlantic, I find myself thinking about one feature in particular on the Ballard Partners edifice.

Atop the building, just a couple of blocks from the Capitol sits a cutting-edge WeatherSTEM weather monitoring unit. It’s so much more than just another pretty face (as technology goes) — it’s a potentially lifesaving high-tech system.

The WeatherSTEM unit features current-time and future weather forecasting. Advanced sensors and a camera track heat, winds, UV indexes, lightning, air pressure, rainfall, humidity and much more. Pretty much anything you’d want to know about before venturing out into the elements, it tracks.

Tallahassee, and for that matter all of Florida, is no stranger to WeatherSTEM systems.

The idea originated with Tallahassee entrepreneur Ed Mansouri, and now there are over 200 of units all around the state.

There’s one at The Swamp and another at Doak Campbell Stadium, and several of our state’s most important bridges have units that can track real-time weather conditions in case authorities need to close them down in a storm.

But Ballard’s new unit carries special significance for everyone in The Process, casting a watchful eye on the Capitol at all times.

It may not detect political shenanigans, but it does help protect our seat of government.

Wherever you are, if you have internet access, you can go here and tap into the images and data coming from the unit.

Tallahassee has had some issues with power outages in recent hurricane seasons, but there’s no need to worry about an outage causing the system to shut down — this little guy is the first of its kind in Tallahassee to be solar-powered and connected to cellular data. We’ll be able to turn to it in even the severest weather for updated data, weather or safety alerts.

It seems like every week or so, a new storm (of some sort) is brewing in Tallahassee.

Thanks to Ballard Partners’ decision to install the WeatherSTEM unit, we can all see that it’s raining more than dollars over there. For everyone who works in and around the Capitol, this unit is great for those who like to stock up with 30 cases of water and every conceivable size of battery before a storm hits.

As the Atlantic is proving this week, hurricane seasons seem to be getting more dangerous all the time.

It’s at least a little comforting to know that technology is keeping pace.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 9.13.18

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

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

If the numerous polls since the primary elections weren’t enough of a clue, a new measure from the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows the gubernatorial race between Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis and Tallahassee Democrat Andrew Gillum is a dead heat, with Gillum holding an inside-the-margin-of-error edge.

The Florida Chamber interviewed 514 Florida voters — 210 Democrats, 205 Republicans and 99 others — and found that Gillum led DeSantis 47-43 percent with 8 percent undecided and 2 percent preferring “someone else” from the five unaffiliated or write-in candidates who qualified for the election.

“Politically speaking, this is an interesting poll because most voters have learned a little about Ron DeSantis, yet most voters don’t know Andrew Gillum because he is a surprise winner and the most liberal of the Democrats on the ballot that ran in the primary election,” said Marian Johnson, the Florida Chamber’s senior VP of political strategy.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if Gillum, who is backing policies by Bill Nelson, yet supported by Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and George Soros will hold onto this lead while voters begin to understand his background and policies, or if Ron DeSantis and his policies will continue gaining popularity and propel him to succeed Governor [Rick] Scott as Florida’s next Governor. The election is more than 50 days away, and that’s a lifetime in Florida politics.”

That’s indeed a lifetime, and one unaccounted for factor is whether DeSantis, who kicked off his general election bid with what some saw as a racist “dog whistle,” can avoid the kind of racially charged gaffes that turn off the less rabid of those inclined to support a GOP nominee for Governor — his appearances as a speaker at conferences held by a man who has said African-Americans owe their freedom to white people inspire little confidence on that front.

The money race will be equally interesting. DeSantis won the Republican primary over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam despite a two-to-one fundraising deficit, and since winning the nom, his fundraising has been rather lackluster.

While Gillum chalked up more than $4 million in his post-primary reports, which included more than 27,000 individual contributions of $25 or less, DeSantis flatlined with about $522,000 raised, most of it from a handful of committee donors. Heading into September, Gillum had $4.23 million to spend to DeSantis’ $1.52 million.

As it stands, Gillum has the lead in both cash and polling, and if today were Election Day, he’d be “bringing it home.” Whether that changes — either due to revelatory info on the FBI probe in Tallahassee or DeSantis making another embarrassing appearance on FOX News — is in the candidates’ hands.

The poll also found seven out of the state’s 10 media markets were happy with the direction Florida was heading, though the four that weren’t — Broward/Miami, Palm Beach and Tallahassee — must-wins for any Democrat running statewide. The poll was conducted Sept. 6-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.


@SteveLemongello: 538’s #FLSen forecast should just be a picture of them flipping a coin

—@GeoffBurgan: Down 4 in a GOP leaning poll? No wonder they’re going negative right out of the gate on @AndrewGillum

—@MarcACaputo: A little more about the poll showing Gillum over DeSantis. The Democrat’s big advantage: the gender gap is working in his favor and independents favor him by 13 points

—@JeffSchweers: Tallahassee @COTNews Commissioner Gil Ziffer gives Mayor @AndrewGillum credit for taking leadership role in reducing city’s crime rate, pushing to hire more officers and engage in community policing.

—@PPPapin: This is a hall of fame tropical weather outlook map right here. I’ve never seen anything like this! #Florence, #Helene, #Issac, #95L, #96L, & lets just throw in another 20% baroclinicity induced system for the heck of it. Yes its peak season, but this is getting ridiculous.

@SamantaJGross: Why isn’t @FLGuard deploying their high-water rescue (Zodiac) boats to the Carolinas? I was curious, too PIO says they can’t deploy unless @FLGovScott says to. The @USNationalGuard‘s policy is to take units from states that aren’t hurricane-prone like FL. You know, just in case

—@WCraigFugate: As stressful as this is, I have one more thing for your preparation checklist. Check on your neighbors. Some folks will need help they may not ask for. Too proud, too stubborn, or too scared.

—@FrancesRobles: At least 5 Cuban-Americans in Miami who oppose the embargo with Cuba and promote better relations with the communist government in Havana received surprise visits last week from FBI agents.

—@RudyGiuliani: Just met with @Mike_Miller_FL who is a great candidate in Florida CD 7. His opponent voted against major tax reduction. She will raise your taxes. He will support the lowest taxes possible. Support Miller in FL. I do.

—@JerryIannelli: There is a 100 percent chance the Miami Dolphins Victory Ax is used to commit a crime by 2019



First general election mail ballots go out — 9; First day of fall — 9; Future of Florida Forum — 13; Government shutdown — 18; FSU vs. UM football game — 23; Voter registration deadline for General Election — 26; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 40; MLB World Series begins — 40; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 41; Halloween — 48; General Election Day — 54; 2019 Legislature Organization Session meetings — 68; Thanksgiving — 70; Black Friday — 71; Florida Chamber Insurance Summit — 75; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 152; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 174; 2020 General Election — 782.


Rick Scott’s blind trust mirrors hundreds of investments also held by wife“via Matt Dixon and Alexandra Glorioso of POLTICO Florida – Gov. Rick Scott’s blind trust, set up by the multi-millionaire to avoid perceived conflicts of interest, includes tens of millions of dollars in investments in the exact same companies as his wife, Ann. The holdings give the appearance of what one ethics attorney calls a “common investment strategy” that could undercut the intended independence of Scott’s trust, a POLITICO analysis of financial disclosure reports filed as part of Scott’s Senate campaign shows. Both the first lady’s investments and Scott’s blind trust holdings were revealed as part of federal financial disclosure forms filed in July. It’s clear from reviewing the holdings that actions Scott has taken during his nearly eight years as governor have affected companies in which Ann Scott holds an interest — which he could review as governor — and those held in the blind trust, in which a number of investments mirror those held by his wife.


Red tide and blue-green algae could block Rick Scott’s path to the Senate” via S.V. Date of HuffPost — Like millions of Floridians whose livelihoods are directly and indirectly tied to the state’s water quality, offshore fishing guide Larry Conley is watching his income dry up just as the man he and many others believe is responsible for the environmental calamity is seeking a new political office: Gov. Scott, who hopes to become Sen. Rick Scott. Will the algae disaster be enough to stop Scott, who won both his terms as governor with but the slimmest of margins? “I hope something does,” Conley said. Something may, but there are tens of millions, even a hundred million, reasons to believe that something may not: The piles of campaign dollars Scott has at his disposal to spread the message that ― despite his repeated weakening of environmental standards and enforcement programs ― the whole thing is actually the fault of the Democratic incumbent.

Florida Democrats report above-limit Nelson contributions, blame it on bookkeeping error” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida -The Florida Democratic Party says it will amend federal campaign finance reports after reporting nearly $60,000 in contributions to Nelson ‘s reelection campaign, which would be far above the threshold allowed by federal law. Reports filed over the past three months outlining FDP’s federal activities show nearly $58,000 in contributions to Nelson’s campaign for things like staff salary, health insurance benefits and fundraising, according to a POLITICO review of federal campaign finance reports.

Scott, Bill Nelson dueling campaign ads focus on education spending” via John Lucas of The Capitolist — Nelson’s ad claims budget cuts by Scott during his early years as governor resulted in reductions in per-pupil spending and teacher pay. “It’s no wonder why Florida ranks 40th in education, or why we’re experiencing a shortage of quality teachers,” the Nelson ad said. But, Scott’s ad, called “First,” the campaign says: “Florida’s incredible economic turnaround under Governor Scott has led to unprecedented achievement and funding for education in Florida.” “To pay for great schools, it takes a strong economy,” Scott says in the opening line of the new ad. Scott goes on to say that since Florida’s economic recovery, 4th-grade reading and math scores have become first in the nation. He says 8th-grade reading scores have climbed to first and high school AP classes and college education; both ranked first in the nation.

To view Scott’s ad, click on the image below:

To view Nelson’s ad, click on the image below:

New Nelson ads highlight Scott’s ‘poor job’ as Governor, self-enrichment — Two 30-second spots began airing throughout Florida. One, called “Know,” highlights Scott’s failures as governor including how he enthusiastically gutted environmental regulation that caused the toxic algae crisis plaguing Florida. The ad reminds people how Scott disgraced himself as a businessman whose company ripped off Medicare and U.S. taxpayers in one of the largest fraud schemes to date. It also cites media investigations into how Scott reaped a half-billion-dollar windfall from investments he hid from the public. The second spot, called “Amigos” — broadcast on Hispanic media across Florida — reminds voters how Scott raised $20 million for Trump’s election before Trump recruited Scott to run for Senate.

To view “Know,” click on the image below:

To view “Amigos,” click on the image below:

George W. Bush to headline Scott fundraiser in Palm Beach” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Former President Bush is holding a fundraiser for Scott in Palm Beach on Friday, according to an invitation to the event … The suggested donation to attend is $1,000. For $25,000, prospective donors can “chair” the event … the event is one of several Bush is holding for Republicans in important battlegrounds. Florida is one of a handful of states that could decide who controls the Senate in 2019.

Progressive group poll cautions Nelson against voting for Brett Kavanaugh” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The poll by YouGov Blue on behalf of Demand Justice suggests that politically, Nelson might find little to gain and potentially some votes to lose if he votes for Kavanaugh. In Florida, 80 percent of undecided voters answered that it would not impact their vote if Nelson decides to oppose Kavanaugh, according to a news release issued by Demand Justice. On the other hand, the survey finds that 31 percent of Florida Democrats say they would be less likely to vote for Nelson if he votes to confirm Kavanaugh. Influence Watch notes that Demand Justice was formed earlier this year as a nonprofit social welfare organization which hosts many similar advocacy groups advocating for a progressive-politics agenda, and emerged as one of the leading opposition groups to Kavanaugh’s nomination. The poll of 451 likely Florida voters was conducted Aug. 24-Sept. 1, and YouGov Blue cites a margin of error of 4.9 percent.

Fact-checking Scott and the risk to pre-existing condition protections” via Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact Florida — The Florida Democratic Party said, “Nearly 7 million Floridians have pre-existing conditions — but Scott and Florida Republicans wants to take away their health care coverage by ending the Affordable Care Act.” Scott says he’s in favor of preserving pre-existing condition protections, but he’s a longtime supporter of repealing the law that enshrines them, which means he’s pursuing a policy that endangers those protections. Meanwhile, the 7 million figure exaggerates the number of people who would be at immediate risk of seeing their coverage taken away shortly after an adverse court decision. That number might be closer to 2 million — a large figure, but substantially smaller than what the tweet said. We rate the statement Half True.


Ron DeSantis pledges Everglades help, oil-drilling opposition in environmental plan” via Marc Caputo and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — The release of DeSantis’ plan marks his first major policy announcement since winning the Aug. 28 GOP primary — amid a $10 million onslaught from U.S. Sugar — and coincides with an optics-filled airboat trip into the Everglades with “Alligator Ron” Bergeron, a colorful former state wildlife commissioner and construction contractor. The platform embraces some policies already in place, such as building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee and suggests changes without providing specifics. DeSantis’ platform says that on “Day 1” he will “stop toxic algae discharges” and “send clean water south” to restore the Everglades. “The issues with Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades developed over the course of more than a hundred years,” DeSantis’ proposal says. “Politicians continue to propose one-off, shortsighted, band-aid ‘solutions’ that provide no relief to those subjected to red tide and algae clogged water.”

Republican governors ad pegs Andrew Gillum as ‘way out there’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Republican Governors Association is entering the Florida election with a television commercial declaring that Democratic nominee Gillum is so far out there, “he’s on another planet.” The new 30-second spot, “Too Far,” outlines Gillum’s positions favoring universal health care, a tax increase on corporations to pay for expanded education funding, and to abolish and replace the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and charges that he and his ideas go “too far” for Floridians. Two of those three items, involving health care and ICE, are federal matters, outside the power of the governor’s office, though Gillum has expressed his support for them.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

What Kevin Cate is reading — Viral videos are replacing pricey political ads. They’re cheaper, and they work” via The New York Times — These are not the stories that candidates usually turn to the camera and open up about in ads. One talked about her father’s violent temper and how she once watched him throw her mother through a plate-glass door. Another recalled watching his brothers struggle to find steady work because of their criminal records … For many of these Democrats who were running against better-financed rivals, the breakthrough moment came after they got personal in relatively low-cost videos that went viral, reaching millions of people. Using documentary-style storytelling, which can last for several minutes, candidates have found a successful alternative to the traditional model of raising huge sums of money that get spent on expensive, 30-second television commercials … For a fraction of the cost, these videos can help to spread a candidate’s story in a way that is easily shareable and can inspire donations.

Florida Supreme Court’s future part of the Governor race” via Randy Schultz for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In a 4-3 opinion, the Florida Supreme Court last week upheld the trial judge who ruled that Amendment 8 would have misled voters. Supporters called the proposal civic-minded education reform. In fact, Amendment 8 sought to promote charter schools over traditional public schools by removing any local oversight of charters. Three justices in that majority were Fred LewisBarbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. Their terms expire on Jan. 7, the day before Scott leaves office, because they will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. Scott claims that he should fill those vacancies, not his successor. Democrats disagree. If Democrat Gillum beats Republican DeSantis, no one should expect similar collegiality between Gillum and Scott. Even if DeSantis wins, there might be a court fight. At stake is the privilege of choosing a near majority on the court. Here’s another potential twist. If Scott defeats Nelson, he will be sworn into the U.S. Senate four days before his term as governor ends. In that scenario, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera might try to appoint the new justices.


“‘A mistake:’ Florida GOP candidates take risk in backing Scott’s medical marijuana smoking ban” via Marc Caputo and Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida – The Republicans running to succeed Gov. Scott, and those trying to hold onto Florida Cabinet seats, are all supporting his decision to fight medical marijuana patients in court — even though the politics of pot could work against the party this fall in Florida. A circuit court in May struck down a Scott-approved law banning the smoking of cannabis or its purchase in its common bud form; Scott is now appealing that ruling.

Supreme Court accepts ‘bundling’ challenge to constitutional amendments” via Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously agreed to consider a challenge on whether three proposed constitutional amendments should be blocked from the November ballot. The court, however, postponed a decision “as to whether the case will be submitted … with or without oral argument,” its order said. Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed after Circuit Judge Karen Gievers found that the three proposals — including a measure that would ban offshore oil drilling and ban vaping in workplaces — improperly “bundled” unrelated issues. In her ruling, Gievers agreed with retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead and another plaintiff that such bundling would violate the First Amendment rights of voters, who could have conflicting views of issues in single ballot proposals.

Tax amendment backers make big ad buy” via the News Service of Florida — The committee known as Amendment 2 is for Everybody paid the money to the New York-based firm McLaughlin & Associates. The committee, which has been heavily funded by the industry group Florida Realtors, had nearly $400,000 in remaining cash on hand as of Friday … The proposed constitutional amendment would extend a property-tax cap for commercial and other non-homestead properties. Voters in 2008 approved a constitutional change that placed a 10 percent cap on annual increases in assessed values of non-homestead properties. The limit will expire Jan. 1 unless it is extended by voters through this year’s proposed constitutional amendment, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 2.

Local elected officers launch Amendment 10 initiative” via Florida Politics — Some of Florida’s Sheriffs, Tax Collectors, Clerks of Circuit Court, Property Appraisers, and other supporters gathered at the Capitol Wednesday to kick off a “statewide education initiative” about Amendment 10, or the “Protection Amendment.” “The amendment safeguards the interests of Floridians by protecting our right to vote, our families, our tax dollars, and our veterans,” a news release said. “Amendment 10 keeps, and in some cases returns, the power into the hands of the people.” The state’s Supreme Court last week unanimously upheld a lower-court ruling approving the amendment, which would overhaul state and local governments by requiring certain offices now appointed to be elected. That means the constitutional change remains on the Nov. 6 ballot, though it still must be approved by no less than 60 percent of voters to take effect.

Mary Barzee Flores: Mario Diaz-Balart’s health care record is ‘hurting families’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Barzee Flores is out with her first ad of the general election campaign, hitting incumbent U.S. Rep. Diaz-Balart on his health care record. The two are competing in Florida’s 25th Congressional District after both candidates went through their respective primaries unopposed. Now Barzee Flores is seeking to go on the attack, critiquing the congressman in the new ad, “Afford.” The 30-second spot is set to air in the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale and Ft. Myers/Naples markets. The ad will run in both English and Spanish.

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

New ad targets Debbie Mucarsel-Powell’s ties to Ukrainian oligarch” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — The National Republican Congressional Committee is out with a new ad revisiting allegations of ties between Mucarsel-Powell and a Ukrainian oligarch named Ihor Kolomoisky. Mucarsel-Powell, a candidate for Florida’s 26th Congressional District, faced scrutiny over her husband’s work for Kolomoisky during the Democratic primary this summer. She called the latest ad “a complete lie.” Mucarsel-Powell is competing against incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Earlier, a radio ad from the Congressional Leadership Fund attempted to link Mucarsel-Powell to the oligarch as well. Now, the NRCC is bringing attention to the claims once again in a new ad titled, “Connection.”

To watch the ad, click on the image below:

Save the date:

Assignment editors — Representatives of Florida Conservation Voters, Sierra Club and former Tampa Bay Estuary Program executive director Holly Greening to endorse Lindsay Cross for Senate District 24, 11 a.m., Archibald Park Madeira Beach, 15100 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg.

Anna Eskamani campaign video pays tribute to her inspiration, her mother” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Eskamani is launching a social-media campaign video telling the story of her mother, an Iranian immigrant who pursued the American dream and laid the foundation for her daughter’s values, before dying young. The two-minute, 11-second video, “My Mother’s Name Is Nasrin” is produced to be both inspiring and heartbreaking, while telling the story of Eskamani’s parents coming to America, meeting, working hard, and raising a family in Orlando, and how her memory drives her daughter. After Eskamani announces she found her purpose, the video changes to mostly contemporary footage of Eskamani driving, making speeches, meeting with people, and contemplating her mother. The shots also feature a variety of ordinary HD 47 residents in settings ranging from workplaces to a Pulse memorial. The video’s message transforms into a campaign theme about what Eskamani said her purpose is.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


Florida agencies, utilities poised to provide hurricane help” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott said Florida state agencies and electric utilities are taking steps to provide help after Hurricane Florence hits land later this week. Scott’s office said Florida has sent two urban search-and-rescue teams to North Carolina and South Carolina; a nursing team of 29 people to North Carolina to help with special-needs shelters, and five ambulance teams to North Carolina to help with medical evacuations. The assistance also includes Florida utilities sending crews to help restore power after the hurricane and the state suspending requirements for transportation of animals to help in the movement of livestock from areas affected by the hurricane.

Officials release new details on Hamilton prison riot” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — The riot that drew a heavy law enforcement response to a northeast Florida prison was triggered Friday by an inmate being gassed outside of a dormitory next to the recreation yard, officials said. The inmate at Hamilton Correctional Institute Annex was “being disruptive” and refused to comply with orders before he was gassed, according to a report by the Florida Department of Corrections. The incident at the facility located north of Live Oak was within view of some 100 inmates on the recreation yard being monitored by four staff members. “The inmates on the yard observed the use of chemical agent force and took exception to the actions by staff and began destroying property, breaking broomsticks, and surrounding the staff members that were assigned to the recreation yard,” the report said. After staff escaped from the yard, the Designated Armed Response Team deployed two flash bangs “to control the situation and prevent further damage to property,” the report said.

Officials release new details on Hamilton prison riot last week. (Image via Florida Times-Union)

Florida uninsured rate increases, tops national average” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — More than 2.6 million people in Florida lacked health insurance at some point in 2017, according to data by the U.S. Census Bureau. That means about 12.9 percent of the state’s population last year was uninsured — up from 12.5 percent in 2016 — as Florida continued to be higher than the national average of 8.8 percent. “Florida is going in the wrong direction, and Florida already had a high uninsured rate, to begin with,” said Joan Alker, executive director and research professor at the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy. Nationally, the data showed that about 1 in 4 uninsured people were 26 to 34 years old, and about 1 in 5 uninsured people were ages 34 to 44. Data also indicated that the uninsured tended to have lower incomes and were more likely to have high-school educations or less. Florida had the fifth-highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, with the higher states Texas (17.3 percent), Oklahoma (14.2 percent), Alaska (13.7 percent) and Georgia (13.4 percent).

Apply within: Panel starts process to replace Supreme Court justices” via Florida Politics — The Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission on Wednesday announced it would start accepting applications to fill three upcoming vacancies. Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince face mandatory retirement on the same day that term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Scott will leave office. Under the state constitution, judges and justices face mandatory retirement at age 70. In Florida, judicial vacancies are filled by appointment by the Governor, from a list of applicants vetted and submitted by judicial nominating panels. “Based on the Supreme Court’s current composition, one seat must be filled by a qualified applicant who resides in the Third Appellate District (based in Miami); the other two seats are at-large,” a news release said. The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the state’s highest court.

Citizens Insurance eyes ‘assignment of benefits’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Citizens President and CEO Barry Gilway announced the state-backed insurer is working on the “logistics” for public roundtable discussions as a way to find solutions to the practice of “assignment of benefits.” The announcement came after a request by state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. “The bottom line is AOB abuse and runaway litigation threaten to raise premiums for many Citizens policyholders who otherwise would see their rates remain steady or go down,” Gilway said in a statement. Citizens and other insurers have contended that fraud and abuse in assignment of benefits have led to costly lawsuits and driven up rates. But contractors and plaintiffs’ attorneys argue the process helps to ensure that damage claims are paid correctly.

State Farm drops lawsuit over ‘AOB’ information” via the News Service of Florida — State Farm Florida this week dismissed a lawsuit that stemmed from a woman filing a public-records request for information that the company submitted to regulators about the controversial insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits.” State Farm filed the lawsuit in July against the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, arguing that the information should be shielded from disclosure because it is a trade secret and exempt from the state’s public-records laws. But in a one-page document, State Farm said it was dismissing the case because the public-records request was withdrawn. The Office of Insurance Regulation received the records request in June from Elizabeth Tuxbury, a graduate student at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University who sought information submitted to the state after a “data call” of insurers. The document does not explain why the records request was withdrawn.

Horse group responds in challenge of Calder Casino gambling permit — A Florida Thoroughbred horsemen’s group told a Tallahassee judge not to throw out its challenge of a South Florida track’s gambling license, saying it hadn’t gotten proper notice of the state’s granting of the permit this February. The Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) also argued that if its challenge is what’s called a “collateral attack” on Calder Casino’s summer jai alai permit, it’s allowed under state law. The administrative law case, against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, has put a spotlight on the strain between the greyhound and horse industries and racetrack operators, who continue trying to get rid of live racing but hold on to lucrative games like slots and poker. Tracks in Florida generally are required to keep running live races to have slots and card games that usually make facilities more money. Calder, which holds a limited schedule, is trying to ditch horse racing entirely to switch to jai alai.

Calder Casino faces a ‘collateral attack’ from a Thoroughbred horseman’s group.

Initial brief filed in Miami Beach minimum wage casevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — An initial brief has now been filed in a case before the Florida Supreme Court that could have far-reaching implications on local minimum wage ordinances. The Court agreed to hear the case, City of Miami Beach v. Florida Retail Federation, late last month. Now, attorneys for the City of Miami Beach have filed arguments that lower courts erred in their rulings striking down the city’s minimum wage ordinance, approved in 2016. A state law, passed in 2003, preempt local governments from deviating from the statewide minimum wage. But the city argues the Florida Minimum Wage Amendment, passed in 2004, overrode that 2003 law.

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano will speak in Melbournevia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Napolitano is set to deliver a speech later this month at a Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida (RLCCEF) event in Melbourne. The RLCCEF will be hosting its annual Constitution Day Dinner on Sunday, Sept. 23. Napolitano will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. “Our purpose in putting on this dinner every year is to honor the Constitution, our Founders, the men and women of our armed forces and our first responders,” said Bob White, Chairman of the RLCCEF and the RLC Florida. “We’re very proud of the speakers we’ve brought to Brevard County in years past, but this year we’ve really outdone ourselves. Judge Napolitano is known as one of the foremost authorities on the Constitution.”

First in Sunburn –More marijuana dealmaking: Trulieve merging with Canadian company” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Canadian mining concern this week said it had finalized a deal to merge with Trulieve, a Florida medical marijuana provider. Toronto-based Schyan Exploration Inc. will combine with Trulieve Inc. to become Trulieve Cannabis Corp. It will trade stock publicly in Canada. The agreement was announced Tuesday. The closing date for the transaction is expected to be “on or around” next Friday, a press release said. The full financial terms were not disclosed. It’s the latest big deal in the state’s now go-go medicinal cannabis market, seen as a potential multibillion-dollar industry by investors.

Jimmy Buffett signs licensing deal with medical marijuana firm” via Jeff Ostrowsky of the Palm Beach Post — Buffett will license his Coral Reefer brand to Surterra Holdings Inc. for a line of cannabis products including vape pens, gel caps, edibles and lotions … “Cannabis is good medicine and should be made available to all who need it,” Buffett said in a statement. Buffett considered deals with several cannabis companies but chose Surterra because it focused on health and wellness rather than recreation … Buffett would receive royalties from the deal but not a stake in the startup. Coral Reefer pot products will be available at Surterra stores in Florida starting next spring.

State divvies up money to curb bear-human conflicts” via the News Service of Florida — Eight counties and two cities will divide $500,000 the state has set aside to help reduce bear-human conflicts. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced the awarding of the “BearWise” funds, with the largest allocations going to Seminole County, Apopka and Santa Rosa County. Seminole County will receive $177,000 and the Orange County city of Apopka will get $85,000, with both planning to sell bear-resistant trash cans to residents at a discounted price. Santa Rosa County will get $58,000 to make dumpsters bear-resistant at restaurants and other businesses in southern parts of the county. The commission also is sending $25,000 to Lake County for discounted bear-resistant trash cans. Lake, Santa Rosa and Seminole counties and Apopka are getting 69 percent of the state agency’s money, which was approved by the Legislature and generated in part through the sale of “Conserve Wildlife” license plates.


Joe Henderson: If Andrew Gillum is radical, so are lots of people” via Florida Politics — If I may offer just a tiny bit of advice to my GOP friends, it would be this: Be careful with all that “radical” talk. It’s not “radical” to say health care isn’t a privilege reserved for those who can afford good insurance. It’s not “radical” to say the failure to expand Medicaid to the neediest citizens is a moral failing by a government that should try to represent all the people. It’s not “radical” to say our public schools deserve better than they have gotten from a state government masking attacks on the teachers’ union as educational reform. Nor is it “radical” to question why Tallahassee, under Republican control for 20 years, has taken to slashing and burning environmental protections in a state where the great outdoors is kind of important. After controlling everything in Tallahassee for two decades, Republicans have become tone-deaf. They believe they’re responsible only to people who believe in the same things they do, and to hell with everybody else. That ignores the fact, by the way, that Scott won two elections to be Governor by about one percentage point each time.

Why state marijuana-impaired driving laws need reformvia Ian Stewart of Law360 — The expanding legalization of cannabis may be sending a message to drivers that marijuana is not as dangerous as previously thought. As noted in its July 2017 report to Congress, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cautions that this changing perception is likely impacting personal choices regarding marijuana use, and that “as more people choose to use marijuana, it is likely more people will drive impaired by marijuana.” This is borne out by recent studies that show an increasing national trend in marijuana use.


Personnel note: Teye Reeves joins Smith, Bryan & Myers” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Lobbyist Reeves has joined the Tallahassee firm of Smith, Bryan & Myers (SBM). “Teye has cemented herself as an ardent influencer in the Capitol,” said Matt Bryan, president of SBM, in a statement. “She has the ability to see an issue from all angles and effectively navigate it through the legislative and executive process. “We’re happy to have her as a part of our diverse team focused on providing complete and successful representation for our clients.” Added Reeves: “I’m excited to be joining Smith, Bryan & Myers. They have a stellar team approach with a reputation of getting things done for their clients. I look forward to being a part of the team.”

Congratulations to Teye Reeves.

Personnel note: Thomas Philpot named acting Deputy Secretary at DBPR — A department spokeswoman confirmed the move Wednesday. Philpot has been director of the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. He’ll fill in as Deputy Secretary of Business Regulation for Andrew Fier, who recently left to join the Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli law firm in Tallahassee. Philpot was most recently in the news for rejecting a request to install high-tech beer and wine vending machines in South Florida, a proposal opposed by lawmakers and industry groups.

Appointed — Heather Stearns to the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission; Anthony Waylon Graham to the 14th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Vivian FazioAlice Sum and William McCormick to the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; and Aaron Haak and Andrea Smith to the 20th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

— ALOE —

Universal moving Christian music fest to February” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Universal Orlando’s annual Christian music festival, Rock the Universe, is being moved on the theme park’s calendar for 2019. The next edition of the festival will take place on Feb. 1 and 2 … its news release mentioned it might attract more youth groups to “enjoy a faith-filled weekend of live music, worship and theme park thrills” since most schools will be in session by the new dates. Attendees will have a chance to get autographs from top Christian artists and experience a candle-lighting ceremony on the night of Feb. 2 and a Sunday morning worship service. The announcement also included the reveal of six performers for next year’s event. The Friday, Feb. 1 lineup will feature LecraeMatthew West and Colton DixonSkilletBethel Music and Crowder will play on Saturday, Feb. 2.

New park president takes over at SeaWorld Orlando” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — SeaWorld park President Jim Dean has moved up to a position in SeaWorld’s corporate office. In turn, a corporate officer has now taken over the reins of the Orlando park. The new president is Mark Pauls, who had previously served as vice president of operations for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Pauls has also held leadership positions at two of the company’s parks in Virginia, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA. Dean, who had previously spent nearly seven years as park president of Busch Garden Tampa, had been in charge at SeaWorld Orlando since 2017.

’Wreck-It-Ralph’ VR attraction coming to Disney Springs” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The “hyper-reality” attraction, as Disney calls it, will be named Ralph Breaks VR and be based on the upcoming Disney film “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” the second film to feature Ralph and his video game world. Ralphs Breaks VR is being built as a collaboration between Disney, ILMxLAB — the immersive entertainment division at Lucasfilm — and The VOID, the same partnership involved in the Star Wars: Secret of the Empire VR experience already operating at Disney Springs and at the Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney. “Our filmmakers and the terrific people at ILMxLAB have collaborated to bring an incredible hyper-real experience, for all ages, to The VOID,” said “Ralph Breaks the Internet” producer Clark Spencer on the Disney Parks Blog. “We can’t wait for people to be immersed in the worlds of the internet and online gaming with Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope.” An official launch date has not been announced. The film opens on November 21.

What’s in the Amazon box? Maybe a real 7-foot Christmas tree” via The Associated Press — Watch out for the 7-foot box on the doorstep. Amazon plans to sell and ship fresh, full-size Christmas trees this year … Christmas trees, including Douglas firs and Norfolk Island pines, will be bound and shipped without water in the usual sort of box. Amazon said they’d be sent within 10 days of being cut down, possibly even sooner, and should survive the shipping just fine … trees, wreaths and garlands will go on sale in November. Some will qualify for Prime free shipping, and Amazon will offer preorders so shoppers can choose a delivery date. A 7-foot Fraser fir from a North Carolina farm will cost $115, according to an Amazon holiday preview book. Also listed are a $50 wreath and a $25 red-leafed plant with a decorative candy cane speared into the soil.

That 7-foot Amazon box could be a Christmas tree.

Florence’s approach causes plethora of ACC schedule changes” via Aaron Beard of The Associated Press — The list of canceled games include No. 13 Virginia Tech’s home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia’s trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF’s game at North Carolina. Virginia has moved its Saturday home game against Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee, with the Category 3 storm forecast to come ashore along the Carolinas’ coastline late Thursday or early Friday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain throughout the region. The schools with canceled games left open the possibility of trying to reschedule them for later in the season, but there’s no guarantee that will work. There certainly aren’t many easy options for rescheduling games. The best chance would come if the teams share an off week, but that’s not an option here. There’s also the weekend of Dec. 1 after the scheduled completion of the regular season, though that could conflict with conference championship games.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers to unveil Bucs Beach at Raymond James Stadium” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The new beach-theme concept will be outside of the stadium’s gates, allowing anyone to enter when it debuts on Sept. 16, when the Buccaneers play the Philadelphia Eagles. “Bucs Beach is meant to create an experience in how we re-imagined the South Plaza space,” said Atul Khosla, Bucs chief corporate development and brand officer. “You will find everything from sand to the chairs, hammocks, tiki huts, local artists, food trucks, DJs entertaining the crowd and corporate partners activating in that space,” Khosla said. The concept is also open to naming rights, Khosla said. Bucs Beach cost more than $250,000, which the team covered.

Happy birthday belatedly to nice guy/top lobbyist Jeff Hartley, Siobhan Harley Kavanaugh, and Elizabeth Wester. Celebrating today are INFLUENCE 100’er Rosemary Goudreau O’Hara, Will McKinley, and David’s much better half, Melissa Joiner Ramba, who helps lead the Florida Retail Federation.

Last Call for 9.12.18 — 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

“The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside,” the old song goes. Or at least a parking pass.

The state is prepared to spend up to $200,000 to replace signs at its downtown Tallahassee office buildings and parking areas.

The Department of Management Services, which acts as the state’s real estate manager, this week advertised bidding for “qualified signage fabrication and installation contractors.”

The scope of work includes a variety of signs, including not just those with the names of the various office buildings, but also ones for “Tow Away Zone,” “Do Not Enter,” and “Reserved Parking” on parking decks.

Judging by photos of current signs sent by DMS spokeswoman Nina Ashley, it’s time for a refreshing.

“In many of the pictures you can see the rusting and pitting on the signs being replaced, most if not all of which we estimate are at least 25 years old,” Ashley said.

Sealed bids will be “received, publicly opened and read aloud” at 2 p.m. Oct. 4 at the department’s office of Real Estate Development and Management in the Southwood office complex.

Evening Reads

Democrats won’t stop, can’t stop, spending big bucks on television ads” via Gideon Resnick and Sam Stein of The Daily Beast

Red tide and blue-green algae could block Rick Scott’s path to the Senate” via S.V. Date of Huffington Post

Andrew Gillum slightly ahead of Ron DeSantis in governor race, poll shows” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

Facing attacks over Tallahassee’s crime rate, Gillum lands endorsement from Hillsborough State Attorney” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

DGA gives Gillum another $1M as RGA hits the airwaves for DeSantis” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

DeSantis pledges Everglades help, oil-drilling opposition in environmental plan” via Marc Caputo and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

Bank account closures leave Nikki Fried reluctant to file reports” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

With Amendment 10 safe on the ballot, advocated launch voter education push” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald

New Republican ad blasts Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for husband’s Ukranian connections” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

Fox News’ Andrew Napolitano will speak in Melbourne” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Florida saw record high number of tourists in first half of 2018” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

AT&T plans to launch 5G in Orlando early next year” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel

Amazon’s Top 25 toys for the 2018 holidays” via Sonja Haller of USA Today

Quote of the Day

“Experts: Get out if you can.” — Wednesday’s front page headline of the Star-News (Wilmington, North Carolina) as Hurricane Florence approached.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The state university system’s Board of Governors will meet after holding a series of committee meetings. Committees start at 8:30 a.m., with full board at 2 p.m., New College of Florida, Harry Sudakoff Conference Center, 5845 General Dougher Place, Sarasota.

Staff members for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will hold “mobile” office hours in Broward, Pasco and Gulf counties.

— 9 a.m., Health Fair, 1176 N.W. 42nd Way, Lauderhill.

— 1 p.m., Pasco County Government Center, 8731 Citizens Dr., New Port Richey.

— 3 p.m., Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10069, 1774 Trout Ave., Port St. Joe.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will hold one in a series of meetings across the state about infant and early childhood mental health. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Office of Early Learning, 250 Marriott Dr., Tallahassee.

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

Lindsay Cross, Democratic candidate for Senate District 24, will hold a news conference to “announce her endorsement by influential Florida environmental groups and outline her plans to address the red tide and algae outbreak.” That’s at 11 a.m., Archibald Park (Madeira Beach), 15100 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg.

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro will appear at a meeting of the Trumpers Club Miami Dade. That’s at 6 p.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport & Convention Center, 711 N.W. 72nd Ave., Miami.

Last Call for 9.11.18 — 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

First, a program note: Because today was Patriot Day, SUNBURN will not appear Wednesday. The state’s leading morning newsletter on Florida politics and policy will return Thursday.

So much for a “Victory Royale.”

A former janitor who cleaned Department of Revenue offices — and was charged with taking external hard drives from the desks of workers — pleaded ‘no contest’ to end the case, court dockets show.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Andru Reed, 22, reportedly said he was looking for video games. He was booked in April.

He has since pleaded out to 3rd-degree felony charges of “fraudulent modification of intellectual property” and “taking and damaging computer equipment,” records show.

Circuit Judge Frank Allman sentenced Reed to three years of probation, 500 hours of community service, and $620 in court costs.

Reed worked for a company that provided janitorial services to the department in Tallahassee’s Southwood office complex, an investigative report said.

On March 30, agents spoke with Reed at his Tallahassee home and found four hard drives, which “contained confidential taxpayer information,” according to an FDLE news release.

Reed “connected the hard drives to his Xbox to download video games without knowing what was on (them),” the release said.

Evening Reads

Donald Trump honors 9/11 victims in Pennsylvania in rare role as consoler-in-chief” via David Jackson and Susan Miller of USA Today

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski go to war with Don Jr. over Trump-9/11 analogy” via Matt Wilstein of the Daily Beast

Bill Nelson not on board with Andrew Gillum’s progressive proposals” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott touts education accomplishments in new ad” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Democrats even with GOP in Florida Senate spending since primary” via Mark Murray of NBC News

Ron DeSantis takes on Obama” via Mitch Perry of the Florida Phoenix

DeSantis campaign names Bob Cortes as Puerto Rican outreach chair” Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Florida AFL-CIO endorses Nikki Fried in Agriculture Commissioner race” via Samantha Gross of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times

Mary Barzee Flores: Mario Diaz-Balart’s health care record is ‘hurting families’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Florida’s felon disenfranchisement system under intense national glare” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Judge refuses to scuttle NRA lobbyist case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Sept. 11 also brings thoughts of hurricanes past, future, and climate change” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Another group aims at registering Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Hurricane Florence grows in size, tropical depression likely in Gulf” via Kim Miller of the Palm Beach Post

Alligator called ‘Fat Daddy’ bites man grabbing golf disc from water” via Doug Phillips of the Sun Sentinel

Quote of the Day

“America’s future is not written by our enemies. America’s future is written by our heroes. As long as this monument stands, as long as this memorial endures, brave patriots will rise up in America’s moments of need, and they too will fight back.” — President Donald Trump, speaking at a memorial service on the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Rick Scott will continue his statewide “Make Washington Work” bus tour. The next stop and rally is 8:30 a.m., Cheney Brothers, 2801 W. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala.

The Enterprise Florida Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m., InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami.

The VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

The Florida Commission on Offender Review will take up parole cases from across the state. That’s at 9 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

A campaign to educate voters on Amendment 10 launches with a host of locally-elected constitutional officers, such as Sheriffs, Tax Collectors, Clerks of the Court, and Property Appraisers from around the state. That’s at 10 a.m., old Capitol (courtyard-side steps), Tallahassee. [Ed. Note — This ran in error in Tuesday’s SUNBURN; the event is Wednesday.]

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board will tour the Port of Panama City before holding a board meeting. Tour at 10 a.m. Central time, Port of Panama City, East Terminal, 400S East Ave., Panama City. Also board meeting at 1 p.m. Central time, Bay County Government Center, commission chamber, 840 West 11th St., Panama City.

The Florida Workers’ Compensation Joint Underwriting Association will hold an annual membership meeting and a Board of Governors meeting. That’s at 10 a.m., Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, 9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.

The state university system’s Board of Governors will hold task-force and committee meetings in advance of a full board meeting Thursday. Meetings start at 12:30 p.m., New College of Florida, Harry Sudakoff Conference Center, 5845 General Dougher Place, Sarasota.

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