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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 10.2.17

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

The panel that will recommend changes to the state’s governing document will finally get down to work this week.

The 37-member Florida Constitution Revision Commission meets today to start the process of evaluating proposed constitutional amendments.

One of their first moves likely will be to adopt the recommendation of its Rules Committee—because of the lingering disruption from Hurricane Irma—to extend the public deadline for turning in amendments to this Friday. The committee also recommended extending to Oct. 31 the deadline for proposed commissioner amendments.

The commission meets every 20 years and has the unique ability to place constitutional amendments directly on the 2018 ballot. It had received more than 1,400 constitutional proposals from the public, although its website on Sunday night listed only 628 proposals. Commissioners have filed ten proposals.

For a proposed amendment to advance, it must be nominated by a member and then receive support from at least 10 commissioners. Public proposals that gain the initial support of the commission will then be referred to one or more of the 10 committees that have specific jurisdictions, including education, taxes, the judiciary and elections.

Proposals that win majority votes in the committees will return to the full commission, where at least 22 members must vote in support to place a measure on the November general election ballot next year.

The commission “must complete its work by May 10, which is the deadline to submit its final report to the Florida Secretary of State,” its website says. Its ballot proposals must get at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS — 

@JoeNBC: Poor leadership would be hiding at a country club golfing while fellow Americans are suffering and dying. She’s not doing that. You are.

@MarcoRubio: Information received last night makes me hopeful @DeptofDefense surge in #PuertoRico will lead to noticeable progress in days ahead … Still many problems,hospitals of particular concern.But @DeptofDefense @USACEHQ will get things moving in right direction in #PuertoRico

@GrossDM: More US citizens live in Puerto Rico than live in the Dakotas, Vermont, Wyoming, and Alaska combined. I don’t see Congress lifting a finger

— @AlexConant: Situation in Puerto Rico reminds me a lot of mistakes made in 2005. Crisis built over days & was fed by lack of awareness … But biggest problem in retrospect was disconnect between Federal and state/local response … Trump publicly attacking mayor of San Juan is evidence that same factors are at play, but to an even worse extent. … Will be curious to see how Trump’s visit to PR on Tuesday contrasts with Bush going to New Orleans in 2005.

@AndrewGillum: Florida welcomes any and all displaced persons from Puerto Rico with open arms. You are, and always will be, welcome here in Florida.

@DavidJollyFL: Lest anyone thinks its tradition for the US President to present the trophy at the President’s Cup, Trump today became first POTUS to do so.

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— SOCIETAL COLLAPSE —

Acute shortages plunge the masses into survival struggle” via Robin Respaut of Reuters – For days now, residents have awoken each morning to decide which lifeline they should pursue: gasoline at the few open stations, food and bottled water at the few grocery stores with fuel for generators, or scarce cash at the few operating banks or ATMs. The pursuit of just one of these essentials can consume an entire day — if the mission succeeds at all — as hordes of increasingly desperate residents wait in 12-hour lines.

Puerto Rico could become a public health catastrophe” via Tomás Guilarte for the Miami Herald – In the days since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, conditions on the island continue to deteriorate and become a humanitarian and public health catastrophe that could rival the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The fact that the power grid failed creates many obvious problems and some that are not so evident. When the sewer system stops working, wastewater—aka human feces and urine—and seaborne bacteria contaminate the water supply. This leads to bacterial infections — such as cholera, dysentery, E. coli and typhoid — that can be disastrous … I urge Congress to consider that more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens are facing overwhelming odds, and effective management of public, environmental and mental health is crucial to preventing the spread of disease. Congress recently appropriated funds for FEMA to work on hurricane relief. But with three major hurricanes having wreaked havoc this summer, the money will surely be spent quickly and on the mainland. Additional funds must be earmarked specifically to stabilize and help Puerto Rico recover. With more than 40 percent of the island living below the poverty level, residents must also be able to evacuate without having to fully repay transportation costs to the federal government.

– “Puerto Rico’s exodus begins with a trickle into Orlando” via Francisco Alvarado of POLITICO

Lost weekend: How Donald Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria” via Abby Phillip, Ed O’Keefe, Nick Miroff and Damian Paletta of The Washington Post – As Maria made landfall Wednesday, Sept. 20, there was a frenzy of activity publicly and privately. The next day, President Trump called local officials on the island, issued an emergency declaration and pledged that all federal resources would be directed to help.

— But then for four days after that — as storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food and water amid the darkness of power outages — Trump and his top aides effectively went dark themselves. Trump jetted to New Jersey to spend a long weekend at his private golf club … Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis … Unlike what they faced after recent storms in Texas and Florida, the federal agencies found themselves partnered with a government completely flattened by the hurricane and operating with almost no information about the status of its citizens … Trump’s rosy assessment of the federal response has also contrasted sharply with the comments of federal officials on the ground. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who was named this week to lead recovery efforts, told reporters Friday that there were not enough people and assets to help Puerto Rico combat what has become a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of the storm.

Destroyed communities are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. The aftermath of the powerful storm has resulted in a near-total shutdown of the U.S. territory’s economy that could last for weeks and has many people running seriously low on cash and worrying that it will become even harder to survive on this storm-ravaged island. Photo credit: Gerald Herbert.

Joining relief effort, Gwen Graham blasts Trump’s Puerto Rico response as ‘appalling’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Graham said that the world was witnessing “a failure of planning” for a deadly hurricane that was seen coming at Puerto Rico almost a week out. “Puerto Ricans are Americans and they deserve the same attention and response that the people of Texas has seen and what the people of Florida have seen. It’s appalling what this administration has done,” Graham said. “I don’t even have words for his tweets this morning,” referring to Trump’s tweets blasting San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and charging that Puerto Rican workers were not helping with the relief effort, and that all was going well, despite what “fake news” media were reporting. “We need leadership. We need people are willing to have a moral high ground and do what’s right for every American, and he has not shown that leadership,” she continued.

What Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Biehl are reading –Tesla is sending battery packs to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico” via Dana Hull of Bloomberg – Tesla is sending to Puerto Rico hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems that can be paired with solar panels in an effort to help the battered island territory restore electric power … Some of the systems are already there and others are en route. The equipment is sorely needed, since the island remains largely without electricity more than a week after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20. The company has employees on the ground to install them and is working with local organizations to identify locations.

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— STILL RECOVERING —

Yellow wristbands, segregation for Florida homeless in Irma” via The Associated Press – In the storm’s wake, homeless people and their advocates are complaining that some of them were turned away, segregated from the others, denied cots and food, deprived of medication refills and doctors’ visits, or otherwise ill-treated during the evacuation. Many of the complaints have been blamed on misunderstandings, the sheer magnitude of the disaster, the crush of people needing shelter immediately, or inadequate state and local emergency planning. All told, a record 72,000 Floridians sought refuge from the hurricane in early September at nearly 400 shelters.

— The response varied widely by county. In Miami, over 700 homeless were picked up and taken to shelters. In Collier County, the sheriff sent officers into homeless encampments in the woods to bring people to a shelter. But in Polk County, Sheriff Grady Judd warned that any evacuees with warrants against them and all sex offenders seeking shelter would be taken to jail. And in Volusia County, some officials were accused of turning homeless evacuees away from shelters without explanation. “Communities were all dealing with the fallout of not having very comprehensive planning in place to deal with this population,” said Kirsten Anderson, litigation director at Southern Legal Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm in Florida.

Mobile home residents without insurance in FL flood zones fall through the cracks” via Brett Murphy of the Naples Daily News – Much of Florida’s most vulnerable housing is in areas threatened by floodwaters, providing shelter to some of the state’s neediest residents who can’t afford insurance coverage to protect against flood damage, according to an analysis by USA TODAY … Among the findings: There are more than 5,200 mobile home parks in Florida. About one in five are in a high hazard flood zone. The three counties hit hardest by Irma’s storm surge have some of the highest concentrations of mobile home parks in susceptible areas: 82 percent of the parks in Monroe County, home of the Florida Keys, are in a flood zone; 74 percent in Collier; 48 percent in Miami-Dade. Eighty percent of Florida’s households don’t have flood insurance. Even in the two counties with the highest rates of coverage, Monroe and Collier, half of the homes aren’t insured. Two-thirds of Miami-Dade homes didn’t buy policies. Large numbers of residents in low-income counties are uninsured. Hillsborough County, with a median income that’s about half of the state’s wealthiest, has almost 500 mobile home parks, the second most in the state. But just 10 percent of households there are covered by flood insurance.

Irma left tons of tree debris. Relax, it’s getting picked up.” via Caitlin Ostroff and Carli Teproff of the Miami Herald – While many say the mounting debris has become an eyesore, cities and companies working hard to make the piles disappear have a message — relax. “Everybody wants everything done yesterday, but that is not reasonable,” Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said, standing near the pile of debris. “The storm was two weeks ago.” In the coming weeks and months, Hialeah expects to pick up the equivalent of three years of trash. More than 50 trucks, staffed with crews of eight or so, are slowly working their way through the city, house by house, for 12 hours every day. And it’s not as simple as sending a truck to pick up the mess … FEMA has a series of rules that municipalities must follow in order to be reimbursed for the cost of cleanup. These rules cover everything from who can pick up debris, where debris can be sent and measuring how much is picked up. The debris also has to be tagged, measured and mulched. If cities and counties stray from these rules, they won’t get reimbursed, meaning the municipality will front the bill, said Bruce Loucks, Cooper City’s city manager. In Miramar, that’s expected to be anywhere from $9 to $10 million. In Hialeah, it could be as high as $12 million.

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The Florida Keys are back in business but far from back to normal” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times – Tourism is a $2.7 billion industry in the Keys, according to Monroe County estimates, as vital here as water is to a conch. It accounts for 60 percent of every dollar spent and employs more than half of the workforce. Many of those workers returned from evacuation to find their homes damaged or gone. For most, the recovery has just begun. Paychecks are sorely needed. So are hot meals and a place to sleep. Irma leveled entire neighborhoods, and the remnants are scattered everywhere — except U.S. 1. It took hundreds of hours to clear the highway. Visitors will soon drive from the Florida mainland to Key West, the iconic westernmost getaway. Businesses along those 113 miles are desperate for them to arrive. Are islanders ready? Do they have a choice? Key West, the crown of the islands, was up and running and ready. Other areas worried that islanders would have to choose between their lives and their livelihoods. Ultimately, it came down to this: How could they even stop people from coming?

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Florida Keys launches $1 million emergency tourism campaign” via The Associated Press – The ad campaign promotes the theme “We Are 1,” referring to U.S. Highway 1, the Florida Keys Overseas Highway that runs throughout the Keys. It’s being supplemented by sales and public relations efforts to protect the winter tourism season. Officials say they recognize not all Keys tourism offerings have recovered but added the industry employs about half the Keys’ workforce, and it’s important to have cash flow in the economy. The campaign includes television, radio, digital, print and travel trade media in domestic markets. International markets include the United Kingdom, Germany and Scandinavia.

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— THE TRAGEDY —

Democrats continue slamming Rick Scott after police say nursing home death toll reaches 12 victims” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Gwen Graham (has) filed a public records request with Scott’s administration seeking records related to the deaths. She is requesting all communications tied to the private phone number Scott gave to nursing homes and communications between his office, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families related to the deaths, which occurred at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills … Though there is an ongoing Florida Department of Law Enforcement criminal investigation, the issue is already the subject of much partisan sniping. Democrats have incentive to go after Scott on anything tied to Irma because he has so far gotten high marks for how his administration handled the hurricane. A Florida Chamber of Commerce poll Wednesday showed Scott’s approval rating at 57 percent, one of the highest since he took office, and the storm only helped.

Second challenge filed against generator requirement” – The Florida Assisted Living Association, which represents more than 500 facilities across the state, filed the challenge this week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings. The organization LeadingAge Florida, which represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, filed a challenge earlier in the week. At the direction of Scott, the state Agency for Health Care Administration and the state Department of Elder Affairs issued emergency rules to require generators after the deaths this month of residents of a Broward County nursing home that lost air conditioning because of Hurricane Irma. Under the emergency rules, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have 45 days to submit plans that would involve acquiring generators to ensure temperatures could be maintained at 80 degrees or cooler for 96 hours after losing electricity. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities would have to carry out the plans within 60 days . But industry officials contend it is unrealistic to expect that nursing homes and assisted-living facilities could add generators in such a short period of time. Both challenges also contend the state did not follow proper administrative procedures in issuing the rules.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Rick Scott backs raise for juvy officers” via Florida Politics – Scott will recommend $8 million in pay raises to support officer recruitment and retention, a press release said. The state has more than 2,000 juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers. “Over the past six and a half years, we have taken aggressive steps to reform Florida’s juvenile justice system,” Scott said. “Florida’s juvenile detention and probation officers have the important responsibility of working with youth in DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice) care, but they also have the unique opportunity to help change lives and redirect our youth to a successful path … I look forward to working with the Legislature during the upcoming session to pass this 10 percent pay raise, which will ensure DJJ can hire highly qualified and dedicated detention and probation officers to help our youth and keep our communities safe for years to come.”

Stage is set for a big court battle over Florida’s funding of charter schools” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Palm Beach County School Board members filed a lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of one part of House Bill 7069. Another, potentially more far-reaching lawsuit with the backing of at least 14 other school districts — including Pinellas County — is still expected in the weeks ahead. Meanwhile, charter school advocates are rallying their forces, too — vowing to fight in defense of HB 7069 in the courtroom and also on the political battlefield. Among the weapons they’re preparing: A coordinated public relations campaign highlighting school districts’ spending, and fielding — and funding — challengers to school board members statewide who face re-election in 2018 and who have been critical of HB 7069. There’s been talk for several months of the districts suing, but Palm Beach County’s filing in Leon County Circuit Court marked the first official court action by any district. The school district wants a Leon County judge to declare that aspect of HB 7069 unconstitutional and to stop the state DOE from implementing it. (The law requires school districts to start paying out the allotted money to their local charters in February.)

“Dana Young files ‘fantasy contests’ bill” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Sen. Dana Young has again filed a bill to exempt fantasy sports play from regulation under the state’s gambling laws. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed her measure (SB 374) Friday afternoon. She introduced similar legislation this past session. The bill for the 2018 Legislative Session would prohibit a fantasy contest operator from offering “contests based on the performances of participants in collegiate, high school, or youth athletics.” That was a concern of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), she said in a phone interview: “I thought it appropriate that it be in there, so we added it.” A House bill last session also would have excepted fantasy contests from regulation as gambling. Around 3 million Floridians say they play some sort of fantasy sports. In sum, “we’re just confirming that fantasy sports are not illegal,” she said.

Tweet, tweet:

’Punch you in the face’ tweet over NFL protests has some wanting to punch this lawmaker” via Howard Cohen of the Miami Herald – State Rep. Julio Gonzalez posted, “It’s not about disrespecting you. I just wanted to raise awareness of what happens when I punch you in the face. #StandForOurAnthem.” Within minutes, Dr. Gonzalez, a former member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, took his blows from the Twitter sphere: “I would love to see you try. I will DM you a place, chump.” “How about this: Come at me, bro.” “So a friend who lives in Ft. Meyers Florida said that he will gladly drive up and satirically slap the livin’ s— …” He said his tweet was not a threat to punch a kneeling football player or anyone else in the face. Rather, he says he used parallelism, with a hint of satire, to illustrate what he sees as an incongruous argument put forth by those who say kneeling during the anthem in protest is a way to bring awareness to social and racial injustice but that the action is not disrespecting the flag or the country. “If I tell you I’m not going to insult you by hitting you in the face to bring awareness you’re still going to be insulted by my hitting you in the face. That is the parallel argument,” Gonzalez said in a phone interview.

Ex-Florida House Page Program director convicted of trying to entice 14-yr-old girl” via Ashley White of the Tallahassee Democrat – Michael Chmielewski, 38, was found guilty in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee after a three-day trial. He faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. During “Operation Cupid’s Arrow” in February, undercover investigators interacted with people trying to engage in sexual activity with minors. Chmielewski responded to a Craigslist ad from an investigator posing as a 14-year-old girl named “Sara.” They talked for two days on a messaging app. Chmielewski discussed sexual activity with “Sara” and traveled to meet her in person. He was arrested upon arrival. The operation netted a dozen men — eight in the Tallahassee area. Chmielewski’s sentencing hearing is slated for Jan. 5.

— STATEWIDE —

“Pam Bondi to co-Host 2017 Human Trafficking Summit” via Florida Politics – The attorney general, along with the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Children and Families and the University of Central Florida will host the 2017 Florida Human Trafficking Summit today (Monday) in Orlando. The summit will bring together local, state and national leaders working to eradicate all forms of human trafficking. Throughout the day, profession-specific breakout sessions and training opportunities will be available to educators, law enforcement, the legal community, healthcare professionals, service providers and other attendees. The summit starts at 8:15 a.m., Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Drive, Orlando. For more information about the summit, go to HumanTraffickingSummit.com.

“Bondi just saying ‘no’ to O.J. Simpson’s return to Florida” via Jim Rosica of Florida PoliticsO.J. Simpson won’t return to Florida if Bondi has any sway over his homecoming. The state’s Republican attorney general sent a 2-1/2 page letter to Corrections Secretary Julie Jones on Friday, saying she objected to Simpson’s return on behalf of the state. He previously lived in Kendall. Simpson’s lawyer also Friday said the former football star and celebrity criminal defendant will live in Florida following his parole from a Nevada prison where he’s been held the past nine years after a robbery conviction. He’d been sentenced to 33 years. Bondi mentioned an interstate agreement that allows states to deny relocation permission to parolees from other states … Bondi quoted Simpson as saying, “I could easily stay in Nevada but I don’t think you guys want me here.” “In light of Mr. Simpson’s history in California, Nevada and Florida … the same goes for the people of Florida,” Bondi told Jones.

Former football legend O.J. Simpson signs documents at the Lovelock Correctional Center, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, in Lovelock, Nev. Simpson was released from the Lovelock Correctional Center in northern Nevada early Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017. Photo credit: Nevada Department of Corrections.

Tweet, tweet: @AP: Nevada parole official says O.J. Simpson plans to live at a home in the Las Vegas area for the foreseeable future.

What Richard Corcoran is reading – “Visit Orlando’s secrecy, conflicts may prompt subpoena” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – Now — with news of yet another secretive agreement surfacing — House Speaker Corcoran says he will make sure it stops. “It would appear Visit Orlando needs to find out the hard way that there’s no such thing as hidden spending agreements with taxpayers’ money,” he said. “Visit Orlando can turn over the information needed to the House or we can subpoena it. Those are their only two choices.” Yes, a subpoena … It looks like this agency — which gets $50 million a year in hotel taxes — has something to hide. Last week, I started asking questions about another secret — the amount of money Visit Orlando has paid local TV station Fox 35, whose general manager serves on Visit Orlando’s board of directors, for naming rights … to a weather camera. What does that mean? It means that when a WOFL meteorologist gives a weather report, he says: “This is the view from our Visit Orlando tower cam …” Obviously, the majority of the people who hear such a thing on an Orlando TV station don’t need to be encouraged to “Visit Orlando.” They’re already here.

From citrus to savior: Caulkins Water Farm to celebrate rebirth” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – George Caulkins III … president of Caulkins Citrus Co., whose grove suffered a slow and painful death by citrus greening, will experience a rebirth formally when he and his public partners celebrate a new beginning at Caulkins Water Farm. The water farm is a big deal generally – but especially for Martin County folks. It holds the promise of relief to the St. Lucie River and Indian River estuaries from deluges of polluted water – up to half of the water storage needed to reduce annual Lake Okeechobee discharges by 90 percent. As a pilot project started in 2013, the farm along Citrus Boulevard in western Martin County was 413 acres. The expansion to 3,200 acres now will allow an annual 35 billion gallons of water to be stored and treated on-site. Most of the focus in restoration planning has been on long-term solutions, leaving the estuaries at the mercy of incessant, polluted stormwater drainage and Lake Okeechobee discharges. That’s why SFWMD Executive Director Ernie Marks calls water farms “pieces in the puzzle.”

NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Voter registration website now online via Florida Politics – A new website — RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — offers Florida residents another way to register to vote or update an existing registration, the state announced this week. It went live Sunday … Any Florida resident who is eligible to vote or is already registered to vote in Florida can use the site to submit an application, update an existing registration or pre-fill an application form to print and deliver to a Supervisor of Elections office. Users will need a Florida driver’s license or state identification (ID) card and the last four digits of their Social Security number to complete and submit the voter registration application electronically. Once an individual’s identity is verified and the application is deemed complete, a voter information card can be issued by the local Supervisor of Elections office.

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Save the date:

Early voting to begin for state House 44 special election” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Residents of the west Orange County district can vote every day until Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at three locations: the Southwest Branch Library at 7255 Della Drive in Doctor Phillips; the Orange County National Golf Center at 16301 Phil Ritson Way in Winter Garden; and the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office at 119 W. Kaley St. in Orlando. Republican Bobby Olszewski is facing Democrat Eddy Dominguez for the seat, which became vacant when former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle was appointed as a judge earlier this year. All ballots, however, list the name of former Democratic candidate Paul Chandler, who withdrew after the printing deadline. A vote for Chandler is considered a vote for Dominguez.

Tempers flare in House District 58 special election” via Florida Politics – The real nastiness began last week, when a series of mysterious flyers started appearing in East Hillsborough County mailboxes attacking Republican Yvonne Fry, a Plant City businesswoman. Fry faces fellow Republican Lawrence McClure in the race to succeed former state Rep. Dan Raulerson … Two mailers originated from Hillsborough County Conservatism Counts, an organization whose only recorded staff member is Ash Mason of Tampa, a former legislative aide and the SE Regional Director of the Christian Coalition of Florida. Although Conservatism Counts officially formed Friday, Sept. 22 … the committee apparently had enough resources to put together, print and send the mail pieces only three days later — the following Monday – timed to coincide with early voting. With such suspicious timing, Fry campaign consultant Brock Mikosky is nearly certain McClure’s camp is behind the attacks. An eight-second voicemail shows Mikosky venting his anger at Mason: “Fucking coward … Call me back. Stop hiding like a bitch.” Mikosky’s colorful tirade might be understandable — despite attacking a member of the Christian Coalition — considering the other recent mailers against his candidate, most notably from the “Ax the Tax,” headed by Doug Guetzloe, an Orlando-based political consultant and anti-tax crusader.

Four candidates qualify for District 72 state House race” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Democrats Margaret Good and Ruta Jouniari now will face off in a primary election Dec. 5. The winner will take on Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall in the general election Feb. 13. Good, Buchanan and Foxall qualified by collecting at least 305 valid petition signatures. Jouniari paid the $1,781.82 filing fee.

— MOVEMENTS —

Longtime AHCA general counsel exits” via the News Service of Florida – After more than five years heading the Agency for Health Care Administration’s legal office, Stuart “Stu” Williams has resigned to take a position as vice president for corporate development for Liberty Dental Plan of California. Bill Roberts, who has been serving as AHCA’s deputy general counsel, was introduced this week as interim general counsel at an agency meeting in Tallahassee. Williams’ resignation was effective Aug. 13. Williams served as AHCA’s general counsel for five years and five months. “It’s not a surprise I left. It’s a surprise I stuck around as long as I did,” he told the News Service.

Greenberg Traurig lobbying division listed in Best Lawyers – The law firm’s Government Law & Policy Practice was designated as “Top Listed” nationwide in the 2018 edition of Best Lawyers in America. The “Top Listed” designation is given to the firm that has the most listed lawyers in a particular location and practice area. The recognition is based exclusively on number of listed attorneys, according to Best Lawyers. In addition to the national designation, the firm’s Government Law & Policy Practice was also “Top Listed” statewide for California and Florida, as well as in the metro markets of Sacramento, California, and Tallahassee, Florida. “The firm’s bipartisan practice includes former elected officials, as well as former top aides and policy officials from the U.S. Congress, the Executive Branch, and various state governments,” a release said. “This integrated group of attorneys and professionals work together to provide clients with seamless representation in virtually any forum, including before the U.S. Congress and Executive agencies, as well as state and local government entities.”

New or renewed lobbying registrations:

Ivette Arango O’Doski, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: CGI Technologies & Solutions

David DanielJeff HartleyLisa HurleyJim NaffAndrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: Horizon Realty Advisors

Jodi Davidson, Colodny Fass: Feeding South Florida

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Solix

Marc DunbarDaniel RussellJennifer Ungru, Jones Walker: Aptim Environmental & Infrastructure, SEACOR Holdings

Michael CorcoranJeff JohnstonAnita BerryMatt BlairAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Estate of Jean A. Pierre Kamel

Richard Fidei, Greenberg Traurig: Security First Insurance Company, Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Marty Fiorentino, The Fiorentino Group: Mattamy Homes

Nicole Fried: School Board of Broward County

Samuel Kerce: Department of Juvenile Justice

Bruce Kershner: Florida Swimming Pool Association

Terry LewisNatalie KatoLori KillingerMartin Lyon, Lewis Longman & Walker: Sunshine State One-Call of Florida, Carlene Blunt

Joe McCann, Pittman Law Group: Palm Beach County Government

Mary McDougal, GrayRobinson: Christian Prison Ministries

Julie Padilla: Renovate America

Lincoln Quinton, NorthPointe: Dasher Technologies, ServiceNow

Steven UhlfelderToni Large, Uhlfelder & Associates: Sandata Technologies

Association celebrates Public Power Week via Florida Politics – The Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA), along with its 34 municipal electric utility members, will celebrate Public Power Week Oct. 1-7. Public Power Week is celebrated the first full week of October every year to help customers and stakeholders understand how they can better engage with their community-owned utility and benefit from all its offerings, according to a release. It’s especially meaningful this year as it comes on the heels of Hurricane Irma, which caused unprecedented damage and power outages in nearly every part of the state. In Florida, public utilities serve more than 3 million Floridians. “Public Power Week is all about recognizing the reliable, affordable electricity our members and public power utilities across the nation provide the people of their communities,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director. It “gives us a chance to emphasize the benefits of having a locally-owned and locally-controlled electric utility that is maintained by family, friends and neighbors.”

Happy birthday from the weekend to Ryan BanfillMichael Cantens, Tracy Duda Chapman, Jason Gonzalez, Jason Holloway, Danielle Ochoa, Chris Schoonover, Vito Sheeley. Celebrating today are Bob Lotane and Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — The politics of nursing home deaths

Former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee, a Democratic candidate for governor, said she’s filed additional public record requests “for all communications” to and from Gov. Rick Scott via his private cellphone about the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills nursing home.

Graham also seeks “all communications in the Governor’s Office, the Agency for Healthcare Administration and Department of Children and Families,” she said in a statement.

Gwen Graham is requesting public records “for all communications” to and from Gov. Rick Scott regarding the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills where 12 seniors died from Hurricane Irma.

“Twelve Floridians have now died, and we still don’t have a full picture of what went wrong,” she said. “The governor seems more concerned with pointing fingers than actually getting to the truth of how this happened and investigating why his office didn’t do more to help.”

“There’s no question Hollywood Hills should have called 911,” she added, “but the question still remains, could the state have done more to help?”

Scott, in an interview with Miami’s WSVN, answered a question on the deletion of voicemails sent from the nursing home to his private cellphone, which he gave in advance of the storm. As of Friday, 12 residents now have died after the home lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma.

“I’m like everybody else. You get lots of voicemails,” Scott said. “ … We have a process. … If you give me a voicemail, somebody will look at the voicemail, send it to the right agency, somebody calls them back. That’s exactly what we did in this case.”

Scott “has shown a complete disrespect for the spirit and letter of the Sunshine Laws,” Graham said. “Why would they have deleted voicemails in the middle of a crisis? These weren’t transitory scheduling requests. These were Floridians asking for help.”

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

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

Scott in Puerto Rico — After flying in, visiting the ports, and touring some of the island by air, Gov. Scott said Florida is ready and in a good position to help after Hurricane Maria washed out the island. Scott said he’s seeking to organize donations to be shipped out through Florida ports, offering “Florida’s playbook” on hurricane recovery, including dealing with federal red tape, and preparing Florida for whatever’s necessary to absorb what could be a massive influx of long-term evacuees.

GOP slams Bill Nelson — This week, Florida’s Democratic senior U.S. Senator sent out a fundraising email featuring Hurricane Irma, the Category 3 storm that devastated much of Nelson’s own state. “As Irma approached, I quickly called on the airlines to cap their fares at a reasonable rate, and I’m going to continue to fight to make sure the traveling public is treated fairly — but I want to hear from you,” Nelson’s email said. The email contained a survey, and a link to contribute. Republicans were quick to blast the move as “tone deaf.”

Nursing home lawsuit moving — A Tallahassee judge Thursday set the first hearing in the lawsuit lodged by the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills against the state. Circuit Judge Jim Shelfer scheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. Oct. 27 in the Leon County Courthouse, court records show. The nursing home sued the Agency for Health Care Administration last Tuesday after Gov. Scott ordered the agency to cut off Medicaid payments and carry out a moratorium on patient admissions. Debate continues over whether the home’s administrators acted appropriately as eight residents died Sept. 13, three days after the climate control went down. Other residents were evacuated. The death toll is up to 12.

Another special election set — Setting the card for the special election in House District 72, four candidates have qualified in the race to replace former Rep. Alex Miller, who left the House effective Sept. 1. Republican James Buchanan, Libertarian Alison Foxall and Democrats Margaret Good and Ruta Jouniari made the cut before the noon deadline Friday. The primary election for the race will be Dec. 5, and the winner of the Democratic contest will move on to the Feb. 13 general election with Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, and Foxall.

Scott backs officer raises — Gov. Scott said he will propose a 10 percent pay raise for juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers in his 2018-19 recommended budget. That budget is expected to be revealed at The Associated Press’ annual legislative coverage planning session Nov. 2 at the Capitol. Scott will recommend $8 million in pay raises to support officer recruitment and retention, a press release said. The state has more than 2,000 juvenile detention and juvenile probation officers.

Dems ask Scott to start opening relief centers

House and Senate Democrats delivered a letter to Gov. Scott’s office this week asking him to set up relief centers to help Puerto Ricans fleeing the U.S. territory in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“With some estimating it could take four to six months for full restoration of power and perhaps even longer before the infrastructure necessary for normal daily functions is returned to pre-storm levels, many Puerto Ricans are making plans to evacuate to the mainland United States, either in the interim or permanently. Undoubtedly, many will choose to relocate to Florida,” the letter said.

Florida Democrats are calling for more Hurricane Irma relief centers.

“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands of new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state responds proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families.”

The Democrats asked Scott to work with state agencies, local and federal governments, and relief organizations to get relief centers up and running.

Such centers, according to the letter, would “provide migrating Puerto Ricans with one-stop access to local, state and federal officials” to learn about job placement, Medicaid, SNAP or other programs that could help them back on their feet post-Maria.

Jimmy Patronis: Wait for insurance pros

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis extended continuing education deadlines for licensed insurance professionals in Florida this week, citing the increased post-Hurricane Irma workload for those in the profession.

“My primary goal is to get Floridians back on their feet and back to normal life as quickly as possible, and allowing insurance professionals to continue their work in the field — instead of stopping to complete office work — will allow more insurance claims to be adjusted and paid out faster,” Patronis said.

CFO Jimmy Patronis is extending the continuing education deadlines for licensed insurance professionals to help handle the post-Hurricane Irma workload.

“Continuing education is important in all professions, and it will be completed, but I believe that granting this extension is in the best interest of our state.”

State law requires insurance workers, including adjusters, agents and customer representatives, to complete their continuing education credits by their birth month. Patronis’ delay gives those born in September, October or November up until New Year’s Eve to get it done.

Patronis said workers don’t need to apply for the extension, but that it will be handled automatically through an online database run by the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Agent & Agency Services.

Instagram of the Week

Jack Latvala, ‘Statesman of the Decade’

The Florida Shore & Beach Preservation Association has named state Sen. Jack Latvala, the Senate’s budget chief and a GOP candidate for governor, as “Statesman of the Decade” for his work protecting Florida’s beaches.

“Sen. Latvala’s leadership, which resulted in a record year of beach and inlet project funding in 2017, has measurably advanced the effective management, repair and protection of Florida’s beaches,” FSBPA President Debbie Flack said.

Jack Latvala … “Statesman of the Decade.”

“His leadership has also made me realize just how fortunate Florida’s beaches and coastal communities, and this Association have been to be blessed with such a passionate and committed champion like Jack over the years.”

Among other measures, Latvala this year pushed legislation dedicating a minimum of $50 million annually to beach nourishment and inlet management restoration projects in Florida, the group said. Moreover, his bill revisited an outdated ranking system to ensure funding is used for projects in greatest need to address the state’s most severe erosion problems.

Florida features more than 820 miles of sandy beaches, according to the association.

Barbara Watson named ‘Hurricane Irma hero’

The Aventura Marketing Council, a group affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce, gave Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson props for her service “before, during and after Hurricane Irma.”

“As president of the SkyLake – Highland Lakes Area HOA, representing over 13,000 residents, I would like to thank state Representative Watson for being so helpful in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” said Marc Hurwitz, the Chamber member who nominated Watson. “We are truly lucky to have her as our representative.”

“Hurricane Hero” Barbara Watson of Miami Gardens.

Watson visited senior communities, performed wellness checks at nursing centers, and pitched in by helping get food, ice, and other supplies to those in need. But the standout moment that earned her the award was putting her constituents who lost power at the top of her priority list.

Post-Irma, she kept in contact with executives from Florida Power & Light to keep tabs on restoration efforts and make sure those with the direst needs were first in line for help.

Watson was humble in accepting the award, choosing to thank FPL for “taking our calls and understanding the urgent needs of our residents.” She added that she was “honored” to do her part.

Able Trust honors Sam Killebrew

The Able Trust is recognizing state Rep. Sam Killebrew, a Winter Haven Republican, as its “Representative of the Year.”

“The Able Trust is honored to thank Rep. Killebrew for his efforts on behalf of Floridians with disabilities,” said Susanne Homant, president & CEO of The Able Trust.

Rep. Sam Killebrew receiving his Ability Award. From left to right: The Able Trust Board Chair Karen Moore, Rep. Killebrew, The Able Trust President & CEO Susanne Homant, and The Able Trust Treasurer Marcy Benton.

The trust was created by the Florida Legislature in 1990 as the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation, a nonprofit public/private partnership and direct support organization of the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Its mission is to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment. Since its beginnings, The Able Trust has helped to put thousands of Floridians with disabilities to work.

Killebrew “sponsored an important bill for The Able Trust, a bill that eventually passed and assured the continuation of Able Trust programs,” Homant said. “The road to passage was bumpy, but Rep. Killebrew never gave up.”

Tuition-free college proposal filed

West Park Democrat Shevrin Jones filed a measure this week that would have the state foot the bill for many students attending any of Florida’s state colleges, the institutions commonly referred to as community colleges a decade ago.

The proposal (HB 181) would set up the “Sunshine Scholarship Program” to pay 100-percent of tuition – not including fees or books – for full-time students with household incomes under $125,000. Students seeking an associate degree would get 72 semester hours paid, while students gunning for a bachelor’s would get 120.

Shevrin Jones is asking the state to foot the bill for many students at Florida state colleges.

“Education has always been a gateway to greater opportunities, a builder of stronger communities, and a path to ending generational poverty,” Jones said. “I firmly believe that Florida can open the gates to opportunity to every Floridian, regardless of their economic circumstances.”

“The Sunshine Scholarship Program will help our children better themselves and their families and in turn strengthen our communities and our state as a whole.”

There’s a just one catch: Students would have to stay in the Sunshine State after they graduate or leave school for the same amount of time that they received scholarship funds. Any students who move would be on the hook for every cent the state paid, plus interest.

Plastic bags in bill’s crosshairs

South Florida Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez filed a bill in the Senate that would allow some Florida communities to give “banning the bag” a go.

SB 348 would only apply to cities with fewer than 100,000 residents, and the pilot programs authorized by the bill could begin in January 2019 and run through June 30, 2021.

Plastic single-use shopping bags may be a thing of the past in Florida communities, that is if Jose Javier Rodriguez has his way.

The movement to ban plastic bags has picked up steam over the last several years, with supporters pointing to the damage they cause to state waterways and wildlife, as well as their permanence in the once discarded.

But lawmakers blocked bag bans when they passed a measure about a decade ago overriding them until the state Department of Environmental Protection made its own recommendations.

That report came in 2010, but the home-rule override remains.

More bills going into effect Sunday

Twenty-three bills from the 2017 regular Legislative Session take effect Oct. 1, according to LobbyTools. That list includes 18 general bills and five public records exemptions.

LobbyTools gathered all bills into a report, “Bills That Go Into Effect Oct. 1, 2017” (subscription required).

The legislation includes a measure to provide autism awareness training for law enforcement officers (HB 39), one making it a crime to “excavate, expose, move, or remove the contents of a grave or tomb” (HB 107), and another that prohibits the possession of shark fins under certain circumstances (SB 884).

Bill Hager and Matt Willhite to lead PBC delegation

Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation this week voted in Republican Rep. Bill Hager and Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite as chair and vice chair, respectively.

Hager is taking over for Sen. Bobby Powell, and said he was “honored to serve.” Both he and Willhite received unanimous votes.

Matt Willhite and Bill Hagar are the new leaders of the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation.

Hager, who chairs the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, said he will “continue to focus on priority issues such as sober homes while promoting key fiscal and legislative issues of concern to Palm Beach County.”

Willhite added that he, Hager and the rest of the delegation “will work diligently to secure state funding for our county’s top priorities and will, as always, continue to advocate for the issues most important to the residents of Palm Beach County.”

Ben Watkins: State constitution fine as is

Florida’s bond finance director told the Constitution Revision Commission this week that he isn’t looking for any changes during the 20-year check up on the state’s governing document.

“Based on my experience, I don’t see the need for modification of the constitution to address any particular issue in the debt arena,” Ben Watkins told the CRC’s Bonding and Investment Committee.

Watkins offered up his opinion after giving the CRC committee members a presentation that served as a primer on how bonding works, which many on the committee said they needed to better understand state debt finance.

While the recommendation of the state’s Director of Bond Finance carries weight, the CRC committee will also hear from the Florida League of Cities and Florida Association of Counties, which will offer their own recommendations.

Push on for felon voting rights

The committee pushing a ballot amendment for automatic restoration of felons’ right to vote are getting a helping hand from a pair of former Senate Democrats with seats on the Constitution Revision Commission.

“As we’ve seen in numerous hearings throughout the state, Floridians strongly support allowing fellow citizens who have completed their sentences, paid every fine, and done everything required of them, to rejoin society and regain their right to vote,” former Sen. Chris Smith said.

Advocates are taking action to restore voting rights to ex-felons.

He and fellow former Sen. Arthenia Joyner said a press release that they would push for the amendment to be added through the commission, which if approved would put it on the 2018 ballot without the need for petition signatures – a costly process that sinks many proposals.

Joyner said the current clemency system “needs to end,” calling it “arbitrary” and “biased” toward lower and middle-class Floridians. Both she and Smith served as the Senate Democratic Leader.

Smith and Joyner’s proposal must go through the CRC committee process, and get 22 votes from the 37-member commission to be put in front of voters next fall. As of Wednesday, the proposal backed by Floridians for a Fair Democracy had 158,048 valid signatures – about 20 percent of what it needs to make next year’s ballot.

Voter registration website online Sunday

A new website — RegisterToVoteFlorida.gov — offers Florida residents another way to register to vote or update an existing registration, the state announced this week. It goes live Sunday, Oct. 1.

“At the direction of the Florida Legislature, the department has been hard at work the last two years spearheading the effort to create and implement an online voter registration website that provides Floridians with a secure and more easily accessible way to register to vote,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a statement.

“ … The right to vote is sacred in our country, and I hope that with this new and convenient method, more Floridians will register to vote and engage in the electoral process.”

Any Florida resident who is eligible to vote or is already registered to vote in Florida can use the site to submit an application, update an existing registration or pre-fill an application form to print and deliver to a Supervisor of Elections office.

Users will need a Florida driver’s license or state identification (ID) card and the last four digits of their Social Security number to complete and submit the voter registration application electronically. Once an individual’s identity is verified and the application is deemed complete, a voter information card can be issued by the local Supervisor of Elections office.

Greenberg Traurig ‘Top Listed’ firm

Greenberg Traurig has the most lawyers in its lobby corps according to Best Lawyers, which said the firm’s law and policy division earned its coveted “Top Listed” designation.

The designation, from the 2018 edition of Best Lawyers’ in America, goes to the firm with the most lawyers in a particular location and practice area. GT also topped the list in Florida and the Tallahassee metro area.

Greenberg Traurig is listed as a “Top Firm” by Best Lawyers.

Ditto for the state of California and its capital city, Sacramento.

According to Best Lawyers, “Top Listed” is based exclusively on quantity of lawyers, not quality, though the firm has a track record of putting top-level talent in its stable.

Florida Sports Hall of Fame names 2017 inductees

The Florida Sports Hall of Fame will add five legendary Sunshine State sports figures to its roster at a Nov. 8 induction ceremony in Ponte Vedra.

Making the list this year are FSU and NFL star Warrick Dunn, UF Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, Atlanta Braves franchise player Chipper Jones, former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, and Colleen Walker, and FSU and LPGA legend who will be honored posthumously.

Five new sports luminaries will be inducted Nov. 8 into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.

The ceremony will also honor the national title-winning 1967 Coral Gables High School football team, which was named the “Team of the Century” by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

“Without question, this is one of the most talented, eclectic and accomplished classes in Florida Sports Hall of Fame history,” said FSHOF President Barry Smith. “The contributions these individuals have made within their chosen sport, to their communities, the nation and indeed on a worldwide stage, demand recognition and we are honored to welcome them as the newest members of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.”

Seeking ‘top student chefs’

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is encouraging innovative high school students to showcase their culinary skills by entering the department’s “Fresh From Florida” Student Chef Cook-Off.

Teams of 2-4 students can submit original recipes featuring Florida-grown products for the chance to earn prizes and have their meal served in school cafeterias. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, Oct. 4.

Applicants must be a Florida student in 9th through 12th grade, and recipes must meet National School Lunch meal pattern and nutrition standards. They also must incorporate at least two Florida ingredients from the approved list.

For full rules and to submit an entry, go to FreshFromFlorida.com/StudentCookOff.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Richard Corcoran is the biggest threat in the Governor’s race … and he’s not even running

A new Florida Chamber of Commerce poll released this week gives Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam a significant early lead in the 2018 race for governor.

This comes as little surprise, especially since some view the Chamber as one of Putnam’s biggest cheerleaders.

However, the survey does have one shocking element. Richard Corcoran scored dead last in the Chamber-backed poll.

This poor showing begs a slightly closer look at polling and why the Land O’Lakes Republican might just be poised to be the biggest threat to Putnam.

In the GOP primary, Putnam gets 26 percent, with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at 9 points and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater with 2 percent. Corcoran manages only a single point.

As Speaker of the Florida House and a prominent figure in state politics, that Corcoran would receive such sparse polling numbers raises more than a few questions.

First, some background. According to state financial reports, political committees tied to the Chamber gave $785,000 to Putnam’s campaign in 2017 alone, with nearly half of that coming after he officially declared his candidacy.

In contrast, Watchdog PAC, the committee led by Corcoran, has received no Chamber money.

Why is that? One possible explanation is, during Session, Corcoran publicly struck out strongly against a Chamber priority – the state funding for VISIT FLORIDA. That certainly did not inspire the Chamber to open its checkbook.

What also makes this lack of financial support intriguing is that only last year, the Chamber scored Corcoran as an A-rated, pro-business legislator at 97 percent.

So the Chamber loves how Corcoran votes, just not enough to give him any money.

Now, compare this week’s Chamber survey to a similar poll taken three weeks earlier by Florida Atlantic University — a neutral third-party.

Both polls include the same four major Republican Party candidates (as well prospective candidates) for governor: Putnam, Corcoran, DeSantis and Latvala.

Both polls offer similarities: Putnam’s share is 1 point apart in the polls (26 versus 27 percent). DeSantis’ is same in both polls (9 percent). Latvala is also the same at 2 percent.

Also, notable in the Chamber polling is the margin of error, which typically changes with the number of respondents for primaries (only 256 Republicans surveyed) versus the number of respondents for general elections (615 surveyed). For the general, both surveys offer a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points, although the FAU margin of error — when broken down to Democratic or Republican primary only — increases to +/- 6.5 points. (The FAU poll does point out those changes as the sample size decreases.)

Nevertheless, the one key difference between the two polls is Corcoran.

Corcoran drops from 10 percent (solidly in second place) in the FAU survey to a single point (last) in the Chamber poll.

But why all the skepticism, you may ask. The Speaker is emerging as everyone’s favorite target in the governor’s race. And he’s not even running.

While on the stump, in media and digitally, Democrats have attacked Corcoran with alarming regularityGwen Graham, Andrew Gillum and even Philip Levine (who has been flirting with, but not committed to, a run for governor). Putnam and Latvala have also been consistent in their attacks.

Could it be that Corcoran is the most dangerous candidate to all of the above?

This summer, the Speaker had been quickly raising money ($4 million in 100 days) as well as assembling a top-notch political team (including admen and the winning pollster for President Donald Trump and Gov. Rick Scott). The Speaker also has a strong conservative record to lean on, which would make a compelling case in a Republican primary.

In addition, all polls show the race as wide-open – with some giving Corcoran double digits (despite not yet being an official candidate). That this is happening so early in the race is noteworthy.

Compare that to DeSantis, whose entire potential campaign now rests on a series of appearances on FOX News.

What’s more, other than two significant donors, DeSantis’ aligned committee raised little money (only $1M after the transfer from his federal PC) in nearly six months of its existence. That suggests a lack of infrastructure.

And with waning approval ratings for both Congress and Trump, a sitting congressman in the gubernatorial race is not necessarily setting the world on fire, at least among those in the state Republican Party.

All things considered, as Corcoran builds momentum and is positioned to become Putnam’s most practical challenger, why would the Chamber bother putting a thumb on the scales?

Perhaps not, but the Chamber would have 785,000 reasons to do so if they did.

Report: Can Florida Republicans finally win back-to-back U.S. Senate races?

Over the past century Florida has never elected a Republican in back-to-back U.S. Senate elections, making the Sunshine State somewhat of a rare bird.

Despite having a veritable stranglehold on the state legislature, and the fact that it will have held the Governor’s Mansion for 20 years by the time Rick Scott leaves office, the GOP has yet to string together consecutive victories for U.S. Senate, notes Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics.

The only other states that can claim the same are Montana and Hawaii, according to Ostermeier’s blog, the latter of which is young enough in its statehood that the trend hasn’t become generational.

It’s not like Florida Republicans have had a hard time winning statewide, either. One look at the governor and Cabinet, and a cursory glance at the campaign accounts of those looking to replace them next year, and it’s clear the Florida branch of the big tent party is suffering from an embarrassment of riches – RPOF simply outclasses FDP with its seemingly endless candidate bench, infinitely deep pockets, and perpetually motivated voters.

Of the 24 statewide races held in Florida since the turn of the century, GOP candidates have won 20. Nelson was the winner of three of those four, while former CFO Alex Sink holds the honor of being the only other Democrat since Walkin’ Lawton Chiles to win a statewide election.

And if it wasn’t for Chiles’ victory in his U.S. Senate contest against then-Congressman Bill Cramer, Republicans would have ended the streak back in 1970.

That election was decided by about 8 points. Not “close,” per se, but an examination of the half dozen opportunities Republicans had to put two of their own in the Senate since then certainly makes it look that way.

The first of those six wins came a decade later, when Paula Hawkins won in President Ronald Reagan’s landslide election in 1980. Two years later, Chiles won re-election by an astounding 24 points, cementing the legendary Florida Democrat’s reputation as a Cinderella smasher.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham also proved a thorn in Florida Republicans’ side. Connie Mack III’s win in 1988 was followed up by Graham’s 35-point beatdown of Bill Grant in 1992, while Charlie Crist was smacked with a 25-point loss by the former governor in the 1998 election, four years after Mack won re-election.

Former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris and Connie Mack IV earned their double-digit Ls from Nelson following victories by Mel Martinez in 2004 and Marco Rubio in 2010.

But the times, they are a-changin’.

Nelson isn’t as spry as he was when he came into the Senate as a fresh-faced 59-year-old who was only a little over a decade removed from from becoming the first member of congress in space.

And none of his opponents had the kind of goodwill Scott built up among Florida voters during his master class on how to prepare the state for a Hurricane. In fact a Scott candidacy, which is almost a guarantee, would be orders of magnitude more viable than the bids by Harris in 2004 and Mack in 2012.

Sure, many voters may have cast their ballots for the Florida transplant begrudgingly, especially in 2014, but there’s no political spectre so damaging or memorable as the 2000 presidential election snafu that put Harris on TV sets nationwide.

And Mack is just Mack. He was a better than serviceable congressman, but he pussyfooted around the idea of running too much and too publicly in 2012, while Nelson had higher favorables and had the innate benefit of being a Democrat in a presidential election year.

Those advantages disappear next year, and one of the Democrats’ only noteworthy streaks in Florida could  disappear with them.

Last Call for 9.28.17 — 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

A Tallahassee judge on Thursday set the first hearing in the lawsuit lodged by the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center against the state.

Circuit Judge Jim Shelfer scheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. on Oct. 27 in the Leon County Courthouse, court records show.

The nursing home sued the Agency for Health Care Administration last Tuesday after Gov. Rick Scott ordered the agency to cut off Medicaid payments and carry out a moratorium on patient admissions.

Eleven residents now are dead after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.

Debate continues over whether the home’s administrators acted properly. The first eight residents died Sept. 13, three days after the climate control went down. Other residents were evacuated.

In the lawsuit, the home’s attorneys argue the facility followed emergency-preparedness plans in the way it handled the air conditioning outage.

Also, the lawsuit alleges that the Scott administration violated the facility’s due-process rights.

(Background from the News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission.)

Evening Reads

September is the most energetic month for hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic” via Matthew Cappucci of Capital Weather Gang

Trump waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico” via Axios

Puerto Rico devastation could mean more Florida voters” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Nursing home search warrants look wide for answers in death of 11 people” via Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald

Bells rang and classes changed, but little else was normal at this Keys school” via Alex Harris of the Miami Herald

Tampa Electric agrees to generate enough solar power for 100,000 homes” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times

An ideal venue for Ron DeSantis to join governor’s race? Not so fast” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Pro-Confederate group heats up HD 58 race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Spectacle at City Hall: (Erwin) Jackson tosses cash to commissioners” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

Quote of the Day

“There is a crisis in Puerto Rico where food, fuel, water and medicine is sitting at the docks and not getting out to the remote parts of the island. The situation calls for an immediate response by the U.S. military to provide security and distribution … As was said after Hurricane Andrew: ‘Where the hell is the cavalry?’ ” — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Thursday.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights 

Wake Up Early

The University of Florida Board of Trustees is scheduled to continue a two-day retreat in Miami-Dade County. That’s at 8 a.m., Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, 50 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables.

Former state Rep. Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty in April to a charge of failing to file a tax return in 2012. It’s set for 9 a.m., Wilkie D. Ferguson United States Courthouse, 400 North Miami Ave., Miami.

The Florida Board of Medicine is scheduled to hold a conference call at 10 a.m. The call-in number is (888) 670-3525 and the participant code is 125 528 7056.

House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero is slated to speak about medical marijuana during a meeting of the Tiger Bay Club of Southwest Florida. It begins at noon, The Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 West First St., Fort Myers.

A “boots and jeans” fundraising reception for U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn of the 1st Congressional District is set for 6 p.m., at the WC Dover Farm, 534 Dover Road, Havana. To RSVP, email Ieva Smidt at ieva@flfstrategies.com.

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is scheduled to speak at an annual dinner of the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Skopelo’s at New World, 600 S. Palafox St., Pensacola.

The Delegation for 9.28.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation staying focused on priority issues

This week the last-gasp attempt to gut Obamacare failed. Just two days later, President Donald Trump and Republicans began to talk up tax reform. Getting relief to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico (and Floridians still suffering from Irma) was also on the minds of lawmakers.

For those who didn’t notice, some NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem Sunday. After President Trump blasted the few kneeling players, calling them SOBs, the handful of kneelers multiplied into many, forcing the issue to the top of the list around the country.

While Trump’s comments did not sit well with NFL players, Commissioner Roger Goodell, and some owners, the growing legion of kneelers did not please a good portion of the country. First-term Republican Brian Mast of the 18th District was one of those.

First-term Republican Brian Mast blasted NFL players #TakingTheKnee.

Mast, an Army veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan, went to Facebook and posted a photo of him saluting two flags blowing in the wind. The accompanying message chided the NFL for penalizing players for celebrating touchdowns, “but won’t require respect for our flag?”

“Any player who has taken a knee to protest this great country during its anthem should already be gone,” Mast wrote.

Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz took it a step further by going after the NFL. On Tuesday Gaetz announced he had taken over as lead sponsor of legislation titled the Pro Sports Act.

Originally filed eight months ago by now-retired GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the bill would strip the league office of its current tax-exempt status. NFL teams are not tax-exempt, but the league office, which enjoys the special status, “is responsible for the construction and development of new stadiums, paid for with over 6.5 billion taxpayer dollars,” Gaetz said.

Orlando Democrat Darren Soto took a strong stand the other way, tweeting that the players’ actions were “as patriotic as it gets!” Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson retweeted comments supporting the players, but otherwise stuck matters directly involving constituents.

As a whole, the delegation remained focused on the issues listed above. Mast has a deeply personal stake in the issue, while Gaetz represents the only district in Florida basically unaffected by Hurricane Irma. Both worked in support of disaster victims over the past two weeks, while Soto has worked on behalf of his constituents following Irma and is involved in the ongoing efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

In other words, the delegation worked on disaster relief as a bipartisan unit on behalf of those who elected them, as well as those who did not vote for them. Sure, the differed and postured on Obamacare and will do the same with tax reform, but when lives and well-being are at stake, there is no daylight between them.

Now, if we could only transfer that to the other big issues …

 Nelson, Rubio seek assistance for Puerto Rico

Florida’s senators are again working together on hurricane-related issues, this time on the ravaged Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. In addition to the wind damage and flooding, Hurricane Maria also knocked out power throughout the island.

Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio wrote to Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging the Justice Department to quickly establish task forces to combat illegal activity related to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“It is important that the federal government stands ready to assist in the difficult days after Hurricane Maria passes when hope must be available to combat despair,” Rubio and Nelson said in their letter to Trump. “However, as even the best-laid plans can be overwhelmed by natural forces, we urge your administration’s continued attention to this dangerous storm so that appropriate federal resources can quickly be made available as locally unmet needs arise.”

Rubio tweeted the “United for Puerto Rico” symbol that also includes a link for donations.

The situation in Puerto Rico is dire. On Monday, Gov. Ricardo Rossello issued a statement under the heading of “Humanitarian Crisis in Puerto Rico.” Rossello said the “devastation is vast” and pleaded to “the Trump Administration and the U.S. Congress to take swift action to help Puerto Rico rebuild.”

Rubio tours Puerto Rico devastation; calls for substantial aid

On Monday, Florida’s junior senator became the first delegation member to visit Puerto Rico following the devastation wrought last week by Hurricane Maria. Rubio got a firsthand look at the damage along with Puerto Rico Gov. Rossello, FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Resident Commissioner (nonvoting member of U.S. Congress) Jenniffer Gonzalez.

He also received detailed briefings of ongoing rescue and recovery efforts for what he described as a “crisis.” During remarks at a briefing with Long and Puerto Rican officials, Rubio called for helping the Commonwealth rebuild, but to do it in a way that helps prevent some of the devastation hurricanes like Maria can bring.

“This territory, Puerto Rico, has been impacted by not one, but three storms; Irma, 10 days later, Maria, and throughout it a fiscal crisis that it continues to confront,” Rubio said. “If we’re going to rebuild, and we will rebuild, let’s do it in a way that’s modern and resistant, for this will not be the last storm that impacts this island.”

Both Rossello and Gonzalez tweeted thanks to Rubio for his assistance.

Rubio also offered the reminder that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States and deserve all of the help they can receive.

“On this island live the loved ones of American citizens who gave their lives for our country,” Rubio said. “On this island live the loved ones and American citizens who at this very moment are risking their lives for the safety and security of our nation. It is our commitment to do everything within our power to ensure that the response to this hurricane is the same as it would be in any other territory or state of this great nation.”

On Thursday, Rubio dispatched four staff members to help local officials with recovery operations.

Nelson grills nominee to head product safety agency

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held confirmation hearings for four nominees to join Trump’s administration. The three-term Democrat, who is ranking member of the committee, had quite an exchange with Ann Marie Buerkle, the nominee to head the Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC).

Nelson was questioning Buerkle on reports the CPSC was trying to kill a new standard that would limit carbon monoxide emissions from newly-manufactured generators and replace it with a voluntary standard.

Bill Nelson grilled Ann Marie Buerkle, Donald Trump’s nominee to chair the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“A voluntary standard is what the manufacturers want,” Nelson told Buerkle. “How many more deaths from generators in the aftermath of hurricanes are we going to have to see before the Consumer Product and Safety Commission, looking out for consumer safety, finally gets around to saying: enough?

Nelson cited recently published reports indicating more than a dozen people have died in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma resulting from portable generators. Buerkle responded that new generators have technology that protects consumers.

He also questioned the agency’s intention to hire an executive with the portable generator industry’s advocacy association, who is against the new rule.

Climate Change Solutions Caucus membership grows to 58

The bipartisan climate change solutions caucus grew to 58 members this week with the addition of six new members. The new members include Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy.

In a release, the two caucus co-chairs welcomed Murphy and her colleagues.

“These new members are joining the Caucus amid a devastating hurricane season, where major storms are gaining strength from the warmer waters of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, one of the group’s co-founders.

“The real-world implications of sea level rise have been on display for all to see in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria,” said Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, also a co-founder of the group.

The membership is spread evenly with 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans. The other delegation members serving on the caucus are St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist and Palm City Republican Mast.

Gaetz to host country music concert

The first-term Republican is holding a re-election campaign-related event October 18 in Ft. Walton Beach. He will host a country music concert featuring Earl Bud Lee at the Green Door Music Hall beginning at 6 p.m.

Matt Gaetz is hosting a campaign-related event featuring country music performer Earl Bud Lee.

Lee is best known for writing the Grammy-nominated hit “Friends in Low Places” for and “One Night at a Time” recorded by George Strait.

Tickets are available online.

Friday Fundraiser planned for Dunn

A large group of the influence community is coming together to help the first-term Republican from Panama City gather cash for his re-election. On Friday, Carol and Walt Dover will host the event for Dunn at their farm in Havana. Carol Dover is President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Along with the Dovers, other Co-chairs include former Associated Industries President and CEO Jon Shebel and Susan Shebel.

The host committee includes former Attorney General and Secretary of State Jim Smith and Carol SmithJennifer and Ray GreenWill and Susie McKinleyBrent Sembler, the American Sportfishing Association and the National Restaurant and Lodging Association.

Lawson touts $1 million grant for electric buses

The first-term Democrat from Tallahassee announced a $1 million federal grant to expand the capital city’s electric bus fleet. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Transit Administration provided the funds toward the purchase of 15 new electric buses for Tallahassee’s Star Metro.

Al Lawson wrote to the USDOT in June offering “my full support as they continue to move toward all zero-emission busses in Tallahassee.” A basic requirement for the funding was the phasing out of diesel-fueled buses.

“This is great news for Tallahassee,” Lawson said in a statement. “The new electric buses will help to lower fuel costs and improve the air quality for our city’s residents.”

The grant allows Tallahassee to triple the number of electric buses in service. Five are now operating.

Potential Murphy opponent gets DC fundraising boost

Florida Rep. Miller’s run for the 7th Congressional District seat in Congress got a boost from some familiar names in Florida and Washington, D.C. this week. Former GOP Senator Connie Mack offered his Washington home and headlined a fundraising reception to give Miller’s campaign a lift. Sen. Rubio and former Sen. Mel Martinez are also among the headliners.

Event co-hosts included current GOP House members Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, Dunn of Panama City, Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, Bill Posey of Rockledge, Francis Rooney of Naples, and John Rutherford of Jacksonville.

Texas Republican Pete Sessions, Chair of the House Rules Committee and former Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), also served as co-host. Florida and Washington lobbyist Brian Ballard and PR guru Charlie Black were among the other co-hosts.

Miller, who is from Orlando, is seeking the GOP nomination to take on Stephanie Murphy, a first-term Democrat from Winter Park. His primary opponent is Sanford businessman Scott Sturgill.

Third quarter fundraising ends Sept. 30. Campaign finance reports are due Oct. 15.

Soto draws flak for timing, location for fundraiser

While Puerto Rico got hammered by Hurricane Maria, the Democrat from Orlando defended his re-election campaign fundraiser held last week in Kissimmee, home to Florida’s most concentrated Puerto Rican population. Wayne Liebnitzky, his 2016 and 2018 opponent for the District 8 seat in Congress, blasted Soto for going forward with the event.

“I think it’s absolutely shocking, disgraceful,” Liebnitzky said. “That event needs to be canceled. He needs to postpone it to a later date.”

Soto brushed off the criticism and touted his concentration on the well-being of Puerto Rico as Maria approached.

“I have been in hourly contact with Gov. Rosello’s office, spoke at length with our House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (Wednesday) in Jacksonville about Puerto Rico, FEMA funding, and am leading letters to ensure full financial support of Puerto Rico’s recovery over the next few days,” Soto told Orlando-Rising.com.

“Our efforts and readiness to advocate for an effective federal response will not be affected by an Osceola event with local Democratic activists,” he added.

The fundraiser started at $100 for individual donations and up to $1,000 for hosts.

Soto seeks shipping waivers, price gouging action for Puerto Rico

The Democrat from the 8th District has signed on to the letter urging the federal government to suspend the 1920 Jones Act governing shipping and ease FEMA cost-sharing rules during Puerto Rico’s recovery process from Hurricane Maria.

The Jones Act requires all ships moving supplies to Puerto Rico from American ports be American and American-crewed.

The letter initiated by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat from New York, asks Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, asks that the federal government suspend, for one year, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, for shipping to Puerto Rico so that the island can more easily receive oil, power grid equipment and other critical supplies.

Darren Soto has signed on to a letter urging the federal government to suspend the 1920 Jones Act governing shipping and ease FEMA cost-sharing rules during Puerto Rico’s recovery process.

“The island is now facing an unprecedented uphill battle to rebuild its homes, businesses, and communities. Temporarily loosening these requirements — for the express purpose of disaster recovery — will allow Puerto Rico to have more access to the oil needed for its power plants, food, medicines, clothing, and building supplies,” the letter argues.

Soto took the lead on another matter when wrote a letter to Attorney General Sessions, signed by four members of the Florida delegation, Sessions to look into price gouging in Puerto Rico. The signees asked Session to include abnormally high airline ticket prices out of San Juan to current efforts to combat illegal activity.

“We are concerned that airlines are price gouging as people are attempting to leave the Caribbean, in some cases due to urgent health needs,” they wrote. “Prices have soared to over $1,500 for a one-way ticket to Florida. However, we have found that not all carriers are behaving this way.”

Signing the letter were Florida Democrats Val Demings of Orlando, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston, Deutch of Boca Raton and Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami.

Crist lauds St. Petersburg pastor named House Chaplain of the Day

The first-term Democrat from St. Petersburg recently welcomed a hometown pastor to the floor of the House of Representatives. The Rev. Louis Murphy, the senior pastor at the Mount Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, was a guest chaplain and began the day’s floor session with the opening prayer.

“Reverend Murphy truly embodies what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself,” Crist said during remarks on the House floor. “A native of Florida, truly a man of God, a man of the people, — I personally thank Reverend Murphy for coming to the People’s House and providing such a moving, thoughtful, invocation.”

Charlie Crist recognized Reverend Louis Murphy Sr. on the House floor after he served as guest chaplain, delivering the invocation in the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo courtesy Charlie Crist.

In his prayer, Murphy asked for “divine guidance and wisdom for the men and women who have been elected and sworn to represent the interests of the people of these United States of America.”

Bilirakis seeks CSX help to rectify ‘dangerous’ railroad crossings

The Republican from the 12th District is calling on CSX to address safety concerns in Safety Harbor. On Tuesday, he wrote to Chief Operating Officer Cindy Sanborn, calling her attention to the concerns.

Bilirakis listed a crossing where the “disrepair has reached a dangerous level.” He also reminded Sanborn that a previously-approved crossing arm at another crossing in Land O’ Lakes is still needed despite “confusion between the Florida Department of Transportation, CSX, and Safety Harbor regarding the funding and completion of the project.”

Bilirakis noted that due to the damage vehicles have suffered at the uneven crossing, “drivers have unilaterally created alternate driving patterns to cross the tracks, entering oncoming traffic lanes, and creating additional hazards.

“I urge you to come to a swift resolution of these safety issues for the benefit of our community.”

Buchanan: Hurry and pay Madoff victims

The Republican from Sarasota is telling the U.S. Department of Justice to hurry up and start compensating victims of Bernard Madoff’s elaborate Ponzi scheme. The fund, authorized in 2012 to disperse billions to those defrauded by the imprisoned Madoff, has yet to release any of the $4 billion in forfeited cash.

“We’re going to hold their feet to the fire,” Buchanan told The Washington Post. “It’s a lot of money tied up, and our goal is to do whatever we can to get it flowing.”

Buchanan, a member of the House’s Ways and Means Committee and co-chair of the Florida delegation, get involved in the issue when learning the attorney overseeing the account had racked up $38.8 million in billings, which is $38.8 million more than victims have received. He wrote to Attorney General Sessions in May asking the government to speed things up.

Vern Buchanan is asking the DOJ to hurry up and start compensating victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

The attorney, Richard Breeden, blamed the Justice Department process, which receives and processes requests for compensation from individuals who did not invest with Madoff. Many of those requests are denied, but the evaluations are time-consuming.

“It’s been way too long,” said Buchanan. “The victims haven’t gotten a dime.”

Buchanan was informed by the Justice Department last week that payments would commence by the end of 2017.

“I want to be hopeful this is the first step,” Buchanan said. “If not, we’ll look at additional pressure we can bring, myself and maybe other leaders in Congress. For now, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Florida was second only to New York in the number of people ripped off by Madoff.

Frankel, Ros-Lehtinen introduce bill to protect seniors during disasters

In the wake of the tragedy caused by Hurricane Irma at the Hollywood nursing home — the death toll is now up to 11 — the West Palm Beach Democrat and Miami Republican are trying to prevent a reoccurrence. The two lawmakers introduced the Protecting Seniors During Disasters Act, which prescribes an analysis on how senior citizens and nursing home residents can be cared for during disasters like Hurricane Irma.

In addition to the nursing home tragedy, Frankel and Ros-Lehtinen point to the thousands of seniors who live alone. They mention those on lifesaving electrical medical equipment who might be placed in jeopardy after extended power outages.

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 11 seniors died from Hurricane Irma.

“Hurricane Irma here in Florida made it abundantly clear that our seniors are at much greater risk for harm than the general population,” Frankel said in a release. “The tragedy at the Hollywood nursing home, where more than 10 patients died due to an apparent lack of air conditioning in sweltering conditions, must never be repeated.”

The legislation would bring together top government officials and local disaster relief experts to evaluate ways communities can protect vulnerable seniors during natural disasters.

“Our bill would ensure that proper disaster plans and responses would be in place for nursing homes,” added Ros-Lehtinen.

Senators Nelson and Rubio have offered companion legislation in the Senate.

Deutch chides GOP to hurry up on CHIP extension

Heading into September, Congress knew several things, including raising the debt ceiling, needed to be done by the end of the month. With that issue no longer on the to-do list, the Democrat from Boca Raton reminded his colleagues that reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is still on the menu.

In remarks on the House floor, Deutch points to 375,000 Florida children, an 9 million overall, who depend on the program. With a Saturday deadline looming, he demanded, in highly partisan terms, to take action quickly.

“CHIP expires at the end of this week, but renewing it has taken a back seat to a cruel health bill motivated by a political vendetta and the hope of unlocking billions from campaign mega-donors,” Deutch said. “I hope my colleagues in the majority will waste no time joining me in supporting this vital program.”

The leadership of the Senate Finance Committee, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, previously announced an agreement on a CHIP extension.

Deutch comes up short again in spelling bee

While the Boca Raton Democrat has a way with words, he can also spell all of them. On Tuesday night, he competed in the National Press Club’s Press vs. Politicians Spelling Bee.

Both the press and politicians began with 7-person teams. As the participants dropped away one-by-one, it came down to Deutch against Todd Gillman, the Washington Bureau Chief for The Dallas Morning News.

Ted Deutch has a way with words, competing in the National Press Club’s Press vs. Politicians Spelling Bee.

When Deutch could not come up with the correct spelling for “stela” a stone used as a monument, he left Gillman with the opening he needed to win. When the journalist correctly spelled “somatotype,” a term used to categorize the human physique, Gillman could claim victory and leave Deutch finished as the runner-up for the second straight year.

“I was excited to be the last member of Congress standing,” Deutch said. “But that’s two years in a row, and I’d really like to win this thing. Now that there’s actually a championship belt, I’m going to come back and work twice as hard.”

The event benefited the National Press Club Journalism Institute.

 

Last Call for 9.27.17 — 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

Attendees of the 2017 Future of Florida Forum in Orlando, sponsored by the Florida Chamber Foundation, may have been there for policy chat, but others had an ear out for political notes sounded.

The attentive listener gleaned a few tidbits Wednesday:

— CFO Jimmy Patronis kept teasing at his plans, or lack thereof, for running for a full term in 2018. He stepped in after being appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to finish the unexpired part of Jeff Atwater’s second term after Atwater left to go work at Florida Atlantic University.

After mentioning a variety of years he could be in the office, Patronis said, “I have no idea what path I’ll be taking.” But, traveling around the state after Hurricane Irma, he said he realized, “I never will have the opportunity to get this skill set again.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate for governor next year, said Patronis is doing a “fantastic job”: “Talk about a baptism by fire,” he said, referring to Irma-caused insurance needs. (Patronis oversees insurance regulation.)

He also gave props to Gov. Rick Scott for his post-Irma performance.

“The most dangerous thing in Florida politics is a short memory,” Putnam said, but quickly linked that to the need for storm-related insurance awareness. Otherwise, he sure sounded stump-speechy, with his usual pro-Florida vibe. He did say the state’s agriculture industry was “shellacked,” with a mention that citrus production will end up being “cut in half.”

“You can stand in a grove and hear the fruit hitting the ground,” he said.

Evening Reads

National progressive group goes local to help FL Dem win” via Alexi McCammond of Axios

Puerto Rico still desperate for water and supplies” via Erica Pandey of Axios

Despite storms, Florida’s land rush endures” via Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times

State Attorney Aramis Ayala dismisses lawsuit against Florida governor” via Krista Torralva and Gal Tziperman Lotan of the Orlando Sentinel

Marco Rubio won’t seek Foreign Relations chairmanship” via Seung Min Kim and Elana Schor of POLITICO Florida

Tax credit scholarship program students more likely to attend college, study shows” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

Florida brewers have made an Irma IPA to help hurricane victims” via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times

Floridians worry about elder care and end-of-life arrangements” via the University of South Florida

Quote of the Day

“I’ve had a lot of experience in government, so I like things done the way I like them done, and I’m making sure that happens.” — Pete Antonacci, who was named CEO of Enterprise Florida this July, in response to a question on the state economic development organization’s “corporate culture.”

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights 

Wake Up Early

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Constitution Revision Commission Chairman Carlos Beruff are expected to be among the speakers at the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Future of Florida Forum. Events start at 8 a.m., JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes, 4040 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando.

The General Provisions Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission is scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol, Tallahassee.

The state’s Commission on Ethics gets together for a regular meeting. That’s set to start at 8:30 a.m. at the 1st District Court of Appeal, 3rd-floor courtroom, 2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee.

The University of Florida Board of Trustees is scheduled to start a two-day retreat in Miami-Dade County. That’s at 8:40 a.m., Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, 50 Alhambra Plaza, Coral Gables.

The Revenue Estimating Impact Conference is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. in room 117 of the Knott Building, Capitol Complex, Tallahassee.

A discussion is planned on how businesses can become certified vendors with the state and certified woman-, veteran- or minority-owned businesses. It begins at 9 a.m., University of Florida Small Business Workshop, ESSIE Building 1604, 2100 N.E. Waldo Road, Gainesville.

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

U.S. Bill Nelson and state Rep. Cynthia Stafford, both Democrats, will host a FEMA Application Assistance Event for those in need of aid following Hurricane Irma. FEMA representatives will be on-site offering guidance through the claims process. The event is 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sherbondy Village Community Center, 215 Pervis Ave., Opa-Locka.

Sen. Bobby Powell and Rep. Al Jacquet, both Democrats, will discuss medical marijuana at a jointly sponsored forum. The “Medical Marijuana Law Update & Community Forum,” free and open to the public, is 6-8 p.m., Mary V. McDonald Wilson Center behind Gaines Park, 1501 N. Australian Avenue, West Palm Beach.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to discuss tax reform during an Americans for Prosperity-Florida town hall. That starts at 6:30 p.m., Florida Hotel and Conference Center, 1500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando.

Florida House goes Michael Bay with Irma recovery video

The Florida House of Representatives graphics team has done it again, putting together an uplifting 5-minute clip about the state’s recovery after Hurricane Irma.

The video opens with ominous music and titles that read “They said we were divided … That we were hopelessly at odds … That in an hour of need … Americans wouldn’t answer the call … They were wrong.”

After setting the stage, the video moves on to an inspirational recounting of the state’s response to the storm, including shots of Gov. Rick Scott, first responders saving people and volunteers handing out food.

“Florida is an amazing melting pot of loving people. We will make it through this together,” Scott said in the clip, complete with his trademark Navy ball cap.

The titles continue, saying “Floridians answered the call … And so did their representatives,” before showing stills of many House members getting their hands dirty helping the Sunshine State rebound from the storm, which wreaked havoc in nearly every corner of the state.

Among the many lawmakers spotted in the clip are Republican Shawn Harrison and Democrat Sean Shaw of Tampa, Jacksonville Democrat Kim Daniels, Miami-Dade Republicans Manny Diaz and Jeanette Nuñez, as well Republicans Dane Eagle and Matt Caldwell, whose Lee County districts were among the hardest hit by Irma.

“Through the destruction and chaos … came the best of America,” one of the titles says.

Take five and watch the clip below.

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