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for House T-shirt controversy

T-shirts cause clothing kerfuffle in House

Hmmm, they don’t seem that provocative.

On Thursday, members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus wore purple T-shirts with the slogan, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate.”

Lori Berman
Berman (via Twitter)

Once on the House floor, however, an alarm rose among some: Were they appropriate?

Rules Chair Jose Oliva, slated to be Speaker in 2018-20, soon put the kibosh on the sartorial messaging.

Take the T-shirts off, the offending members were told, or turn them inside out. The reason: They violate House decorum.

After the session, Florida Times-Union reporter Tia Mitchell tweeted a photo of Rep. Lori Berman with, yes, her T-shirt turned inside out.

” ‘A woman’s place is in the House & Senate.’ But the Sgt at arms says her tshirt is not (forced to turn inside out),” the tweet said.

We’ve asked the Speaker’s Office, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz, and caucus chair Heather Fitzenhagen for comment on the apparel argument.

We’ll report back when we hear anything. In the meantime, we’re taking votes on what to call the episode.

“The Great Costuming Quarrel of 2017”? “The Attire Altercation”? “The Disrobing Dispute”?

Other suggestions welcome. The person who comes up with the best name wins a free copy of the Spring issue of INFLUENCE magazine, and maybe a gift card (but don’t hold your breath).

Updated 6 p.m. — The plot thickens. On Wednesday, Fitzenhagen sent an email to Women’s Caucus members:

“Each member will be hand delivered their shirt today for our celebration of Women’s History Month. As a reminder, the plan is for everyone to wear their shirt TOMORROW. We changed the color of the shirts to purple this year in an attempt to raise awareness about Gynecological Cancer and the importance of early detection.”

But the next day, she sent a follow-up:

“I’m extremely sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m asking all Caucus members not to wear the shirts on the House Floor during Session. If you do not have an extra shirt, we would suggest turning yours inside out. Again, we are sorry for the inconvenience and hope this notification will allow all House members to make other arrangements.”

Fitzenhagen still has not responded to a message seeking comment.



AT&T, Motorola chosen for FirstNet, nationwide public safety comms network

Telecommunications giant AT&T, partnering with Motorola Solutions, received some exciting news Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Commerce and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has announced AT&T was chosen to build and manage the first nationwide wireless broadband network for America’s police, firefighters and emergency medical services.

FirstNet is a federal initiative to create a single platform as the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated exclusively to public safety.

Estimated costs for this public-private partnership is as much as $46.5 billion.

Through the initiative, AT&T and Motorola — selected over a group of rival providers, including Melbourne-based Harris Corp. — will be called on to deliver an interoperable network for first responders, using upgraded technology for improved communication with each other and across agencies at the local, state and national levels.

Devices and applications designed exclusively for public safety, including push-to-talk solutions and intelligent software, will bring seamless communication between radio systems connected to FirstNet. Public safety agencies will soon be able to take full advantage of heightened data capabilities brought on by the new network.

With the number of major events hosted by AT&T in Florida — Gasparilla, national conventions, Super Bowls and more — this network will enhance security capabilities of multiple agencies working together.

More importantly, this technology will be a lifesaving tool during major hurricanes and other natural disasters when residents rely on communications between local law enforcement, the National Guard, Florida Wildlife Commissioner Officers, EMTs and others.

FirstNet will begin implementation later this year and eventually cover all 50 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, including rural communities and tribal lands; the initiative will also create 10,000 U.S. jobs over the next two years.

Millions of first responders and public safety personnel will have access to new emergency communications for serving more than 320 million citizens nationwide.

Supporting AT&T and Motorola Solutions in the FirstNet rollout include General Dynamics, Sapient Consulting and Inmarsat Government.

Sunburn for 3.31.17 – Poll shows Fla. voters optimistic; Meat-ax budgeting; fracking bill dead; Joe Redner’s pot suit

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

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


A new poll from Public Opinion Strategies found Florida voters are feeling the most optimistic about the direction of the state than they have in nearly a decade.

The poll of 600 registered voters was conducted from March 1 through March 5 for the Florida Hospital Association. The findings were part survey that looked at Florida voters’ feelings toward Medicaid.

According to the March survey, 50 percent of voters said they think “things in Florida are generally headed in the right direction;” while 33 percent said they thought things “are off on the wrong track.” Those numbers mirror a January 2007 survey, which found 51 percent of Floridians thought the state was headed in the right direction.

But the numbers from this year are starkly different from six years ago, when a November 2011 survey found 65 percent of Floridians said the state not on track. At the time, just 22 percent of Floridians thought the state had positive trajectory.

Floridians good vibes about the the direction of the state don’t necessarily translate to great approval ratings for the state’s leaders. The survey found 45 percent of Floridians approve of the job Gov. Rick Scott is doing; while 41 percent said they disapproved.

The survey has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Scott saw overwhelming support among Republicans at 72 percent. But when it comes to independents and Democrats, Scott is upside down: 64 percent of Democrats and 46 percent of independents said they disapprove of the job the Naples Republican is doing.

The Florida Legislature doesn’t fare much better: 41 percent of voters said they approved of the legislative branch’s actions, compared to 34 percent who disapproved. The survey found 58 percent of Republicans said the liked the legislative course; while 49 percent of Democrats said they disapproved of the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Independent voters seem to have mixed feelings about the Legislature. According to the poll, 36 percent of independents said they disapproved of the House and Senate, while only 32 percent held a favorable opinion.

In short, Republicans like Republican control. Democrats pretty much hate it. And independents can’t really make up their minds. Par for the course, right?

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DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 2; NFL Draft – 26; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 34; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 34; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 155; Election Day 2017 – 220; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 258; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 282.

RICHARD CORCORAN: RICK SCOTT IS A GOVERNOR WHO WON’T HELP US via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – “We’ve got problems in the Senate, and we’ve got problems with a governor who won’t help us take this burden off the backs of our small businesses,” Corcoran told the Times/Herald. “If the governor would get more active and start traveling the state, talk about the stuff that’s really going to cost us jobs.” Repeating a familiar theme, Corcoran said: “Handing over million-dollar contracts to Pitbulls and Emerils and the insider dealing that goes on is not how we bring tourism here.”

$81.2 BILLION HOUSE BUDGET AIMS THE MEAT-AX AT MEMBER PROJECTS via Florida Politics – State spending would shrink significantly under the budget being prepared in the Florida House, with much of the savings coming at the expense of projects sought by house members. “We go from a $1.2 billion deficit to an almost $1.1 billion surplus. In the year after, we go from a $1.8 billion deficit to a $1.3 billion surplus,” Appropriations Chairman Carlos Trujillo said during a news conference. … That adds up to around $2.2 billion in cuts, for a state budget worth $81.2 billion. Budget subcommittees killed one-quarter of the projects members wanted to bring home to their districts, saving $700 million, Trujillo said. … “Across the board, in every single silo, all my sub-chairman have done an exceptional job of identifying areas where they could save money,” Trujillo said.

WINNERS, LOSERS UNDER NEW HOUSE RULES FOR HOMETOWN PROJECTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – When it comes to hometown pork barrel spending in Florida’s next budget, this should be a good year for Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties for two reasons: Key members of House Speaker Corcoran‘s inner circle are from Miami, and the Senate’s lead budget-writer is Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater. But projects must clear new hurdles this session, and some clear winners and losers are emerging. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is the runaway winner with 23 projects eligible to be in the House budget. Rep. Jeanette Nunez got 13 projects through a committee, and so did Rep. Halsey Beshears who represents 10 small, rural counties in North Florida … Rep. Liz Porter steered 11 projects through a committee. At the same time, Rep. Kathleen Peters … who supports Enterprise Florida, filed 18 projects and four got through committees. Rep. Brad Drake, the pro-Enterprise Florida Republican who filed the most projects, got six heard out of 45. Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit founded by Sen. Lauren Book … is eligible for another $1 million from taxpayers.

SENATE PASSES 2017 GAMBLING BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Sen. Bill Galvano, the chamber’s shepherd of this year’s legislation, told fellow lawmakers he couldn’t promise that “we’ll reach a state of resolution” this session. That said, he expects the House and Senate to go to conference on their respective bills, which are significantly different. Galvano later told reporters the bill represents $340-350 million in potential revenue for the 2017-18 budget, and this year, every bit helps. Senate President Negron, in a statement, said he was “pleased” that the bill “honors the will of our fellow citizens in the eight counties that have approved referenda to expand the availability of gaming options.”

MATT GAETZ: FIX FLORIDA’S EVERGLADES, AVOID DISTRACTION OF COSTLY LAND BUY via Florida Politics – At the heart of the current debate over fixing Lake Okeechobee is whether additional land should be purchased by the government using state and federal dollars through a bonding scheme that relies on future generations paying off the debt. At a time when 42 percent of all land in South Florida is already owned by the government, we should be looking for ways to get government out of the real estate business – not deeper into it. And with Washington so focused on cutting costs, there simply isn’t enough money to buy more land, especially for projects for which land has already been acquired by the government. Instead, the dollars committed by Congress and the state should be going toward projects that the science says can provide communities with tangible benefits for flood protection, storage and water treatment – the most quickly and at the best price.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

HOUSE APPROVES CRACKDOWN ON PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN PRO SPORTS STADIUMS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, would forbid the construction, renovation, or improvement on any pro facility “on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.” Cities and counties could sell public land to teams only at fair market value. Teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away. Coconut Creek Democrat Kristin Jacobs said she liked the idea but warned of unintended consequences. She pointed to negotiations with a new owner of the Florida Panther that required Broward County to upgrade the scoreboard, club room, and other amenities at the BB&T Center. “This bill would preclude that investment by Broward County. And if, in fact, the county could not go forward and make these investments to attract a new owner, guess what? You’d have no team. You’d have a big, hulking, empty facility that costs the taxpayers.”

HOUSE PASSES LOBBYING AND GOVERNMENT ETHICS LEGISLATION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – HJR 7001 is a proposed constitutional amendment to extend the lobbying ban for legislators and statewide elected officers from two years to six years. HB 7021 strengthens the financial disclosure requirements of local government officials and requires local government lobbying registration. HB 0479 makes a wide range of changes to government auditing provisions, most notably requiring government entities to create internal controls to prevent “fraud, waste and abuse” which the bill attempts to define.

LEGISLATIVE PANEL PUSHES FOR ANTI-ABORTION COUNSELING SERVICES via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – A House panel has advanced a bill that puts state money into the operation of anti-abortion counseling services. The House Health and Human Services Committee pushed the bill (HB 969) to the full floor … The bill is meant to structure a 12-year-old pregnancy services program offering women free counseling and prenatal services from a pro-life perspective. The pregnancy center would also provide services including physician referrals, flu and tetanus vaccines and medical screenings. State Rep. Lori Berman said the move would put women’s lives in danger, and that state money should not go to religious purposes. While religious content is not allowed in these pregnancy centers, some of the service providers that have been contracted in the program are part of evangelical Christian networks, like Heartbeat International.

UNION-DECERTIFICATION BILL CLEARS FLORIDA HOUSE ON A 75-41 VOTE via Florida Politics – The House approved legislation that would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues … Democrats call it union busting. “It amazes me that we constantly come up with bills that are disguised, but that actually weaken the unions,” Broward Democrat Richard Stark said. “In this day and age, we forget how important unions were in keeping America great. They had a lot to do with the rise of the middle class in this country,” he said. “And we need to respect unions and stop trying to come in with back-door ways to weaken them.” Sponsor Scott Plakon insisted the point was accountability.

UCF-HCA HOSPITAL DEAL GETS COMMITTEE OK via Naseem Miller of the Orlando Sentinel – The joint venture between UCF medical school and the for-profit hospital chain HCA took another step on toward building a 100-bed hospital in Lake Nona. The Facilities Committee of the Florida Board of Governors unanimously approved the deal. The public-private venture will go in front of the full board for a final vote. The approval is only part of the process before the hospital can break ground on a 25-acre land next to UCF College of Medicine. The joint venture received initial approval from the state agency that oversees health policy and planning. But that decision has been appealed by Florida Hospital and is going through a hearing process, which is a separate process from the Board of Governor’s approval.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

LEGISLATORS STALEMATE ON STUDY KILLS FRACKING BILL via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – A bill that would ban fracking in Florida is dead this year, with the state House and Senate unwilling to agree on whether a scientific study is needed before considering an all-out prohibition. House bill sponsor Rep. Mike Miller said he still thinks the state should have some sort of a fracking ban, but the study would ward off lawsuits brought by property owners who feel their rights have been violated. He said House leadership would not let his bill move forward without the study. “I think there’s a leadership situation where we have concerns about property rights issues and things the Senate sponsor may not agree with,” Miller said.

ARE HOUSE REPUBLICANS MAKING HEALTH CARE MORE ‘FREE MARKET’ OR ‘UNFAIR’? via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida House took steps toward the future Corcoran wants, passing two components of a free-market health agenda the chamber has pushed in recent years: HB 161 gives people and employers the option to negotiate and contract directly with a doctor for primary care services. It passed 107-6. HB 145 allows surgical centers to keep patients for a full 24 hours and creates new recovery centers that can care for them 72 hours after surgery. It passed by a 79-34 vote, as most Democrats rose to oppose the bill. Direct primary care will “make our health care system stronger,” said Rep. Mike Miller, who sponsored the legislation last year and helped push HB 161 this year. Agreements with doctors aren’t insurance and don’t qualify as a health plan under Obamacare, but lawmakers believe it will increase access to preventive care. Opponents argued that new options for surgery and recovery will make it harder for hospitals to survive. Hospitals rely on private insurance to help cover losses from Medicaid, which pays less, and charity care for patients who can’t afford to pay at all.

HOUSE FLOATS OVERHAUL OF STATE SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEM via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – PCB EDC 17-03 aims to ramp up the intervention system for traditional schools that struggle under the state accountability and testing program. It would expand early warning requirements on student performance into elementary grades, and overhaul the responses for schools that cannot overcome the obstacles. School districts would be directed to declare educational emergencies for schools with grades below C, allowing them to renegotiate contract terms to eliminate programs seen as standing in the way of academic improvement. For schools facing required turnaround plans, the choice of a district-managed option — the most popular one currently used — would be deleted. Districts would have to choose among reassigning students to other schools, closing the campuses and reopening them as charters, or hiring an outside operator.

UNLESS THERE ARE CHANGES, JOE REDNER SAYS HE’LL SUE OVER LEGISLATURE’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics– Advocates of Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in Florida, have been expressing disdain for HB 1397, moving through the Legislature this Session, sponsored by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues … Opponents denounce the bill as currently written, primarily because it bans smoking, vaporizing and eating of medical marijuana. It also requires patients recertify with the state every 90 days and compels patients to sign an “informed consent” document warning them about the dangers of marijuana use and reminding them that it is illegal federally. In the past, [United for Care campaign manager BenPollara said he knows organizations and individuals who may sue if the ultimate legislative product has those elements. Tampa adult entrepreneur and gadfly Redner confirmed he would be one of those individuals. “We have a constitutional amendment, and I loooove the court system,” Redner said. “I cannot wait to sue the state Legislature. Please don’t pass a good law!” he joked about the efforts of Rodrigues, who is pushing the main medical marijuana bill in the Florida House.

HUNDREDS RALLY AT CAPITOL IN SUPPORT OF EMBATTLED ARAMIS AYALA via Florida Politics – A church atmosphere prevailed as some 300 people converged on the state Capitol Thursday to protest Gov. Rick Scott’s removal of Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala from the murder prosecution of Markeith Loyd. The protest, organized by Color of Change and Equal Justice USA, included denunciations of the Legislature for threatening to strike $1.3 million from Ayala’s budget. Organizers said they’d collected 130,000 petition signatures seeking Ayala’s reinstatement. … Participants acknowledged that Loyd stands accused of murdering his pregnant girlfriend and a sheriff’s deputy. But they insisted that Ayala alone holds prosecutorial discretion over whether to seek the death penalty. … “Whether you agree or not with State Attorney Ayala’s opinion, she was independtly elected by the 9th Circuit, and she has the right to make that decision,” said Sen. Randolph Bracy, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

MARCO RUBIO SAYS HACKERS TWICE TARGETED HIS PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN via USA Today – The remarkable revelation on Thursday was made even more extraordinary by the setting in which it was disclosed: a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing looking into Moscow’s role in the 2016 presidential campaign and President Trump’s victory. Rubio told committee members that both tries were unsuccessful. Rubio divulged the attempted hack following comments from an national security expert that Russian operatives tried to undermine the campaigns of presidential candidates viewed as hostile to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Did Russia help Donald Trump win GOP primary by sidelining Marco Rubio?” via Newsweek

COULD RICHARD CORCORAN BE THE NEXT GOVERNOR? via Don Gaetz for the Pensacola News-Journal – First, it’s not his turn. Notwithstanding a recent exception, Republicans take turns. Next time was supposed to be CFO Jeff Atwater’s turn. But, despite a splendid tour of effective public service and very nice poll numbers, Atwater is going home. Moving through the chairs are others who’ve dutifully served in office after office, making the rounds, slapping the backs, eating the rubber chicken dinners. It’s their turn, they say, before Corcoran. Second, he doesn’t have big money. When the price of election, as set by the current governor, is $73 million personal cash plus a bunch more from very interested friends, Richard Corcoran doesn’t have it. Third, he continues to whittle a stick he jabs, cheerfully and repeatedly, into the laser focused eye of the aforementioned governator, who, in turn, has laid down a free fire zone on Speaker Corcoran and anyone within a thousand feet of him. Fourth, there is the ancient curse of Marcellus Stearns. Stearns was Speaker of the House from 1869 to 1872. He wanted to be Governor but instead of moving right into the big chair he had to wait three years until he was finally elected chief executive in 1875. He pronounced a curse on all future presiding officers – if he couldn’t do it, no future Speaker could ever move directly from the Rostrum of the House to the Governor’s Mansion. (Actually, I don’t know if he pronounced a curse but it seemed like a good “alternative fact.”)

ANDREW GILLUM, MAYORS: STATE PREEMPTION HURTS LOCAL VALUES via Florida Politics – For the past few years, state legislators in Tallahassee have steadily eroded the ability of towns, villages, cities and counties to govern. They’ve passed new laws to prevent citizens from having their say through local government. And now, they’re threatening to silence local voices with fines and other punishment. It’s called preemption. And it’s a threat to our democracy. State lawmakers don’t like when our communities pass ordinances to preserve quality of life, protect our environment, promote public safety, improve wages and sick leave, regulate utility infrastructure, development and vacation rentals, and restrict threats to public health. They don’t like when cities and counties govern according to their own values. So, they strip local authority with ill-advised preemption. But you know better. When you vote in local elections, you’re voting for local problem solvers. You’re voting your values. You know what’s best for our communities — not out-of-touch state legislators, hundreds of miles away.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gillum will hold a round table discussion with ACA navigators at 9:30 a.m. at the Epilepsy Foundation, 1200 NW 78th Ave, #400 in Doral.

DAVID RIVERA FILES TO RUN FOR OFFICE AGAIN via Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Rivera, a former state legislator and congressman turned perennial candidate, filed … to run for House District 105, currently represented by term-limited Rep. Carlos Trujillo– who holds the position that once made Rivera so powerful in Tallahassee: budget chief. A recount November determined that Rivera had lost the House District 118 seat to a first-time candidate, Democrat Rep. Robert Asencio. Another Republican, Ana Maria Rodriguez, has also filed to seek the seat. By the time the 2018 election rolls around, Rivera may no longer be dogged by a federal criminal investigation into the 2012 congressional election. He is suspected of orchestrating an illegal campaign finance scheme against one of his rivals in the Democratic primary. The statute of limitations for prosecutors to charge Rivera will expire later this year, and the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami has shown no signs of an upcoming indictment.

HEAVY-HITTER TOBY OVERDORF FILES FOR HD 83 via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News – Overdorf, 47, serves on the Republican Party of Florida Executive Committee and is familiar to many Republicans around the state. He is running on a platform of pro-growth economic policies that promote job creation, greater economic prosperity, and the completion of necessary environmental restoration projects. … Overdorf is probably as qualified to serve in Florida elected office as anyone, say party-entrenched Republicans who told Sunshine State News they have seen “his energy, intelligence and common sense” up close.

FEDERAL OFFICIALS: MANATEES NO LONGER CLASSIFIED AS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the federal government are taking manatees — which have long been considered endangered since the first endangered species list came out in 1967 — down a notch to merely “threatened.” Federal officials called it a success story for the Endangered Species Act. The action was driven by a lawsuit by the libertarian group Pacific Legal Foundation, representing a group in Crystal River that opposes new protections for manatees there.

WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – RECORDS SHOW A SQUALID BEGINNING FOR TODDLER WHO LATER DIED IN FOSTER CARE via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – On the day two child welfare investigators turned up unannounced at the home of little Aedyn Agminalis, a machete, a hookah, a sex toy and a liquor bottle were lying on the living room floor. Four more sex toys and a used condom sat on a chair. In the bedroom where the toddler slept, fecal matter was smeared on the walls, the carpet, the crib and his blanket. His parents kept a cat litter tray in his room. It had not been cleaned for several days. The “deplorable” conditions found at the Brandon apartment in September were revealed in a report recently released by the Florida Department of Children and Families. They resulted in the boy going into foster care. Three months later and just weeks from a likely adoption, the 17-month-old died after suffering head trauma. Foster mom Latamara Stackhouse Flythe was arrested Feb. 20 on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse. Biological parents Brynn and Artha Agminalis were also arrested a few weeks later and charged with child neglect. Both pleaded not guilty.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at***


Ed Briggs, RSA Consulting: Community Champions; Miracles Outreach; Uniti Fiber

Pete Buigas, Buigas and Associates: NeuroScience Centers of Florida Foundation, Inc.

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: ISF, Inc.

Chris CarmodyJoe SalzvergRobert “Bob” 🙂 Stuart, GrayRobinson: Government Payment Service, Inc.

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: P & G Investors, LLC

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Caregiver Services, Inc.; Weedmaps

Yolanda Cash Jackson, Becker & Poliakoff: CIOX Health, LLC; Coalition of Franchisee Associations

Natalie King, RSA Consulting Group: HomeAway; Miracles Outreach; Uniti Fiber

Allison Liby-Schoonover, Metz Husband & Daughton: The Florida Bar Business Law Section

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Key Health Medical Solutions, Inc.

Jerry Lee McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Opportunity Fund, Inc.

Eli Nortelus, David Roberts, Nortelus Roberts Group: Solidaridad Sin Fronteras

Ron Pierce, RSA Consulting: Miracles Outreach; Uniti Fiber

Bill RubinMelissa AkesonAmy BiscegliaHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Weedmaps

Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: Coalition of Franchisee Associations

PERSONNEL NOTE: ONE EIGHTY CONSULTING WELCOMES SAM VERGHESE – One Eighty Consulting Inc., a leading procurement and governmental affairs firm in the Southeast, has hired Verghese, the former Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. Verghese’s background includes having served as Chief of Staff for the agency overseeing Florida’s 1 million business license holders (DBPR), Senior Staff Director for the Florida House and the Director of External Affairs for Gov. Scott in the Executive Office will allow him to serve 180’s current clients as well as grow the firm in new directions. In 2014, Verghese was appointed as the youngest agency head in Florida history at his Department (DOEA) and later went on to earn confirmation from the Florida Senate … He was also an appointee to the Career Source Florida board of directors which implemented numerous job creation initiatives to boost Florida’s economy.

HAPPENING TODAY – FUNERAL SERVICES FOR BRIAN DASSLER PLANNED – Funeral services for Dassler, the deputy chancellor of educator quality, are scheduled for 3 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee. Dassler died on March 20, he was 38. Dassler grew up in Broward County, where he graduated from Cooper City High School. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Florida. In 2006, he was named Teacher of the Year in Broward County, the nation’s sixth largest school system. He was the youngest teacher to receive the award. There will be a post-service reception at The Edison Restaurant immediately following the service. A memorial service honor his life and accomplishments will take place in Broward County at the end of April. The family has request that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Brian Dassler Memorial Scholarship established by the Broward Education Foundation, and The Brian Dassler Transformation Leader Memorial Fund set up by The UF College of Education.

HAPPENING SUNDAY – ORCHESTRA SUNDAY AT TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH — Trinity United Methodist Church will hold its annual “Orchestra Sunday” during the 11 a.m. worship service Sunday. The service will include 25 to 30 minutes of music by a 28-piece professional orchestra. Legislators, staff and anyone staying in Tallahassee over the weekend is invited. The church is located at 120 W. Park Ave.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Political Analyst Dr. Lawrence Miller joins Dr. James discuss whether “patriotism is more than cheap platitudes.”

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: Democratic U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will go one-on-one with Jim DeFede to talk health care, Russia and President Donald Trump.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Guests on this week’s episode include House District 61 Democrat Sean Shaw, Politifact Deputy Editor Katie Sanders, WTSP investigative reporter Noah Pransky and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa: Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart will discuss topics including funding (or defunding) Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and the state’s overall budget outlook; Anne Packham from the Primary Care Action Network and Republican political analyst Frank Torres will talk health care legislation; and News 13’s David Bodden and PolitiFact reporter Allison Graves will examine President Donald Trump’s dubious wiretapping claims.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Host Kent Justice will sit down with Clay County Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis and Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute Director Rick Mullaney.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yorden will sit down with Dr. Ed Moore, the president of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, an association of 28 private, not-for-profit colleges and universities.

UNIVERSAL RELEASES VOLCANO BAY TICKET PRICES via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – … with a one-day ticket running $5 more than Disney’s two competing water parks and $8 more than SeaWorld’s Aquatica. And while the price difference is not significant, Universal is touting its newest water park as the highest-tech water ticket in town. The park that towers over Interstate 4 will offer Tapu Tapu allowing guests to wait in virtual lines for rides and the ability to control some of the rides’ components through the technology. A one-day ticket to Volcano Bay is $67. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach cost $62 for a one-day visit, while SeaWorld’s Aquatica single day ticket is $59. A Volcano Bay Express Pass starts at $19.99 per person and lets guests bypass the water park’s virtual line experience. A Florida resident 3-park multiday ticket includes admission to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay for $199 for adults.

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridians, Eric Edwards and Dave Mica, Jr.

Patient groups abound in formulary debate, but who funds them?

Legislation introduced this Session – HB 95 and SB 182 – seeks to change the current drug formulary system utilized by health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers.

Both bills have received significant support from “patient advocacy groups” during the course of the debate.

But who are these so-called patient groups, and how are they funded?

Well, a recent New England Journal of Medicine paper titled, “Conflicts of Interest for Patient-Advocacy Organizations,” which has been widely reported on, including in a recent Kaiser Health News report, indicates that many “patient advocacy groups” may be funded by the pharmaceutical industry.

That’s right, the same industry that gave consumers the EpiPen, which cost so much that parents could no longer afford them for their kids, and featuring characters like pharma bro Martin Shkreli, who raised the price of an AIDS-related drug by 500 percent, are creating “patient advocacy groups” to push for legislative changes across the U.S., likely including right here in Florida.

Some important points from the study to consider:

– At least 83 percent of the nation’s 104 largest patient advocacy groups take contributions from the drug, medical device and biotech industries, raising questions about whether they consistently put patients first. . .

– “If you’re a policymaker and you want to hear from patients, there’s a danger if there’s an undisclosed or underdisclosed conflict of interest,” said Matthew McCoy, the paper’s primary author. “The ‘patient’ voice is speaking with a pharma accent.”

– Of the 18 nonprofits not reporting pharmaceutical money, all but five failed to disclose donors at all. Just one of the 104 nonprofits stated explicitly that it does not accept industry money.

– Executives or former executives in the pharmaceutical industry serve on a third of the organizations’ boards, the researchers found.

– About one-fifth of the patient advocacy groups studied accepted $1 million or more from drug makers, but exactly how much those groups accepted is fuzzy. Half of the organizations disclosed their donations in ranges rather than precise amounts, and most of those reported their highest donations with an unbounded upper range, the study says.

So, who is really behind the formulary change in the Florida Legislature?  Is it patients or is it really big pharma?

Beyond that debate, however, formularies have also been proven to be effective at controlling costs, especially at a time when the price of drugs continues to escalate.

Moreover, effective drug formulary management also helps to identify drug therapies that will benefit patients and, similarly, helps to detect drug therapies that may have a negative interaction with other medications a patient is taking.

As Florida lawmakers continue the debate over drug formularies, they should be wary of potentially shady patient groups and take into account what really matters in this debate, positive health outcomes balanced with affordable prescription drugs for Florida patients.

Can Susan Glickman ever shoot straight?

The House of Representatives’ new lobbying registration regime has ensnared Susan Glickman, Florida director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran now requires lobbyists to disclose every bill, amendment, and individual appropriation they are trying to influence.

Go to the House website, and you’ll see Glickman is registered for four House bills. But not for a fifth that she also testified on recently.

That would be HB 1043, which would allow Florida Power & Light the ability to pass on the cost of energy exploration to its customers.


But this isn’t the first time silly Susie has blundered her way through the thicket of lobbying disclosures.

Back in 2015, Glickman appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to discuss the importance of registering lobbyists.

But a search on the state’s registration website showed she herself had not registered, despite appearing as a lobbyist before at least three committees during Session.

Did I say “whoops” already?

So now it remains to be seen what punishment Glickman gets for not being able to follow the rules.

We’d be OK with a one-year banishment from the halls of the Capitol. Or at least on the House side.

Sunburn for 3.30.17 – Don’t touch Medicaid, Florida voters tell pollster; Hot takes on Putnam, Latvala and Susan Glickman; Pam Bondi in D.C.; CRC meets; ‘It’ trailer!

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

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


If there’s a budget crisis looming in Florida, voters sure as heck don’t know about it.

A new survey, commissioned by the Florida Hospital Association and shared exclusively with, finds 76 percent of registered voters did not feel the state budget was in a crisis. The results of the survey, conducted by the highly respected Public Opinion Strategies from March 1 through March 5, comes as state lawmakers issue their initial budget recommendations, which could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals in the coming year.

The House has proposed cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million, or a total of $621.8 million once the federal match is factored in. The Senate has recommended cutting $99.3 million, or a $258.6 million total cut.

But those cuts go against what Floridians want. According to the survey of 600 registered voters, Floridians have the most favorable opinions of both Medicaid and Medicare the association has recorded in six years. The most recent survey found 56 percent of Floridians said they had a favorable opinion of Medicaid; up from 47 percent in a November 2011 survey.

But voters just don’t want more money for Medicaid, it’s one of their top funding concerns. When asked about funding priorities, 61 percent of voters said they thought the funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to lower-income children, the disabled elderly and pregnant women, should be increase.

There is broad support for increased spending, with 57 percent of voters who live in House districts that went to President Donald Trump and 66 percent of voters living in districts that went to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying they supported increases to the program.

There’s also a strong consensus that state legislators shouldn’t shift funds that could be spent on Medicaid to other priorities, like the state’s colleges and universities, tax cuts for businesses, or tourism promotion. A solid majority of voters in each media market said the state Legislature should keep the money for Medicaid.

The highest support for keeping the cash for Medicaid came from the Jacksonville area, where 80 percent of respondents said they wanted legislators to keep money for Medicaid programs. The Fort Myers media market — which includes Gov. Rick Scott’s hometown of Naples — had the highest percentage of people saying they should shift the funds, with 20 percent of respondents saying they would tell their lawmaker to use it for something else.

So what about those folks who said Florida’s budget was in crisis mode? Even they think seem to think shifting state funds away from Medicaid isn’t a great idea. According to the survey, 69 percent of Floridians who said they thought the budget was a crisis said they would tell their legislator to keep funding for Medicaid.

With the House and Senate appropriations committees expected to vote on their proposed budgets next week, the question is this: How much impact will what Floridians say they want when it comes to Medicaid funding have on the state budget?

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

HOUSE, SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEES TO VOTE ON BUDGETS APRIL 5 via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider its proposed budget for the next fiscal year April 5, Sen. Jack Latvala told members of the chamber … The House Appropriations Committee is also scheduled to vote on its budget April 5. The proposals will then go to the respective chamber floors for consideration by all members.

ENTERPRISE FLORIDA, VISIT FLORIDA AMENDS CONTRACTS WITH RICK SCOTT ADMINISTRATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The amended contracts Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida have with the Scott administration require the groups to post on their websites more detailed financial information, including tax returns, public records training for their employees, offer more procurement notice, and it puts in place salary caps for employees. Under changes to the Enterprise Florida contract, any intent to award a contract $1 million or greater must be posted on its website five days before execution. For Visit Florida, that threshold is $500,000. The amendments also don’t allow Enterprise Florida employees to have salaries higher than the governor, while Visit Florida can’t use more than $120,000 in taxpayer money to go toward any employee salary.

SENATE PLAN GIVES RICK SCOTT JOB INCENTIVE MONEY, BUT THERE’S A CATCH via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott would get the $85 million he has asked the Legislature for to continue to hand out job incentives to companies to move to Florida, but with a big caveat, under a plan the Florida Senate rolled out … the Senate would allow just $45 million of that to go to new job incentive projects. And on Visit Florida, the state’s embattled tourism marketing agency, the Senate would give $76 million, close to what they received this year. While not exactly how he requested it, Scott has to like the Senate plan more than the House’s plan which would eliminate all funding for the tax incentive programs and would cut Visit Florida’s budget to just $25 million.

EVERGLADES RESERVOIR PROPOSAL COMING BACK — WITH AMENDMENTS Negron‘s proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir will be brought up next week before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate’s budget chief announced … But another senator, Rob Bradley, sponsor of the proposal in Senate Bill 10, said the legislation likely will undergo changes to address environmental groups’ concerns about the bill language. Environmentalists are concerned about language in the bill as rewritten by a Senate committee two weeks ago that would direct water and land conservation funding to water supply projects as some powerful interest groups want. Bradley said the bill language still is being reviewed but added, “There will be some amendments that address that, and I think some of the folks who were concerned will be pleased with.”

SENATE ISSUES DRAFT $3.8B ENVIRONMENTAL BUDGET, MILLIONS HIGHER THAN HOUSE via Florida Politics – Among the legislative asks from the Senate is $275 million for Everglades restoration – compared to $165.7 million from the House. Another $50 million for springs restoration, while the House is seeking only $40 million. There is also $22.6 million for Florida Forever for land acquisition under the Florida Communities Trust program, the same program would get $10 million from the House for local government grants to buy land for parks and wildlife corridors as buffer zones for water resources … Beach restoration projects would get $100 million — a priority project for Sen. Latvala — as opposed to $30.1 million in the House plan; $64 million would go to water projects versus $20 million from the lower chamber.

NO MONEY FOR LAKE O IN HOUSE BUDGET via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – The budget also would reduce Everglades and springs restoration funding compared with what the Legislature allocated last year. It also cuts money for the Florida Forever program, which buys land for habitat preservation and parks. There’s no money for muck removal in the Indian River Lagoon, either. However, the House would boost funding to get homeowners off septic tanks, which can pollute waterways, and to connect them to sewer systems with $25 million in aid to local governments. Gov. Scott has asked for $40 million for conversions in areas affected by algae blooms, such as the lagoon and St. Lucie River.

— “House chairman proposes killing funding for legal fight over water” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

SENATE COMMITTEE SUGGESTS MORE THAN $600 MILLION IN HIGHER-ED MONEY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Bill Galvano outlined a Senate plan to increase spending for the 12 state universities by $313 million, or an 11 percent increase, while also boosting student scholarships and financial aid by $320 million, or 61 percent … This is a stark contrast to the deep cuts — $110 million from universities — suggested by the House earlier in the week. The Senate plan would provide $75 million to universities under a “world class scholars” program designed to attract top-level professors and researchers. Another $55 million would be distributed, recognizing top graduate programs in law, medicine and business. The Senate proposal includes a $180 million boost in the Bright Futures program, which would bring funding to $397 million in the 2017-18 academic year.

GAMBLING BILL READIED FOR FLOOR VOTE IN SENATE via Florida Politics – Sen. Bill Galvano on Wednesday took questions on this year’s omnibus gambling legislation (SB 8), which is now ready to voted out of the chamber. But the vast differences between the Senate and House bills guarantee the chambers will be going to conference, which Galvano alluded to on the floor. “There are negotiations that would have to take place going forward,” he said. The bill also was amended to remove language outlawing advance-deposit wagering (ADW), a kind of off-track betting in which the gambler preloads an account with money, like a prepaid card. The bill is among several on the agenda for the Senate’s Thursday session, set to start at 10 a.m.

— “No one is showing cards yet, but a gambling compromise could be coming” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

BILL ON PUBLIC RECORDS ABUSES PASSES SENATE via Associated Press – A bill that would crack down on abuses of Florida’s public records law passed the Senate. The bill (SB 80) was approved 38-0 on Wednesday. It aims to target those who file numerous records requests in order to file lawsuits and receive attorney fees or settlements. But it keeps a provision that requires judges to award attorney’s fees if records are improperly withheld. And it gives judges latitude to award attorney’s fees against those who file needless lawsuits. The bill, which was sponsored by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, also has a requirement that those who file requests must notify an agency at least five days before filing a lawsuit for the purpose of obtaining attorney’s fees. A similar bill is moving in the House.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

RICHARD CORCORAN TALKS OF ‘CONSEQUENCES’ AT PRAYER BREAKFAST via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay TimesCorcoran spoke at the annual legislative prayer breakfast at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee. The yearly event is sponsored by the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition, part of the national conservative group founded and led by Ralph Reed and based in suburban Atlanta. “It’s that truth that you tap into and you say, ‘I will fight for truth,'” Corcoran said in a brief speech. “And I will stand, regardless of the consqeuences, and that doesn’t happen without your prayers and your support.” About a dozen legislators attended, as did two justices of the Florida Supreme Court, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. The coalition’s executive director, Tim Head, urged attendees to flood Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson with emails and calls to urge him to reverse course and support Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. The crowd applauded when Head predicted that Trump could appoint up to five justices if he serves two terms as president.

STATE MAY SHIFT STUDENTS AWAY FROM FAILING SCHOOLS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Calling it an “emergency,” Florida may agree to spend up to $200 million to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The idea crafted by Speaker Corcoran and other top Republicans in the House is this: Offer up money to help build “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods, many of them in urban and poor areas. The schools would be within 5 miles of or in the zones of existing traditional public schools that have repeatedly earned low grades under the state’s school grading system. “No longer will we rob children of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “Now every single child will be afforded an opportunity of a world class education.”

HOUSE AMENDMENT TURNS THE TABLES ON JUDGES IN REDISTRICTING CASES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee voted along party lines to change the implementation of the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the constitution, which subjected the Republican-led Legislature to years of litigation and an embarrassing admission that they intentionally drew districts that favored incumbents and parties in violation of the law. Under the amendment added to HB 953 by Rep. Larry Ahern, any challenges to a redistricting map would have to occur within 60 days after the maps are passed, effectively short-circuiting the time challengers can obtain records and documents to prepare a case. The bill also suspends any litigation that occurs 71 days before candidates qualify for election and freezes the districts in place until after the election. And, in an attempt to turn the tables on the judiciary if it must resolve a dispute over the maps, the bill subjects judges to cross-examination.

HOUSE PASSES 12-YEAR TERM LIMITS FOR JUSTICES AND JUDGES via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The measure, which would be the first of its kind in the country, has been criticized by business groups and conservative and liberal lawyers. To make it into the state constitution, it needs to pass the Florida Senate, where it has not been given a single committee hearing, and gain 60 percent of voters’ support. Rep. Jennifer Sullivan says the amendment (HJR 1) would give greater accountability to the judicial branch. Supreme Court justices and judges serve until they are 70 years old and face voters every six years in a yes-or-no merit retention election. “Today, we have a judiciary that is legislating from the bench,” Sullivan said. “It is not accountable to the people.”

— “Orlando Rep. Eisnaugle, up for judgeship, votes against term limits for judges” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

TWEET, TWEET: @SShawFL: I personally know that #judicialtermlimits are bad. Judges are already accountable to voters via merit retention races – I lived thru 2.I personally know that #judicialtermlimits are bad. Judges are already accountable to voters via merit retention races – I lived thru 2.

COMMITTEE APPROVES PLAN TO CHANGE FRS via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Government Accountability Committee approved a  measure that would place newly hired public employees in an investment 401(k) styled-plan if they fail to make a choice within six months of being hired. Now, when no decision is made the workers are placed in a traditional defined-benefit pension plan. The Florida Retirement system is the pension plan for state employees along with workers in 186 cities, independent hospital and special districts. It has about 630,000 active members. The House has explored ways to eliminate the defined-benefit option for new hires since at least 2011. The Senate has consistently backed the current plan.

HOUSE GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS BUDGET PROPOSES IT RESTRUCTURE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – House and Senate budget subcommittees on government operations released draft budget plans that both offered about $2 billion for the next fiscal year but differ on how to handle information technology. About $648 million would go to the Department of Management Services under the House plan, but comes with a substantial restructure of how the state handles information technology — terminating the Agency for State Technology — outlined in a conforming budget bill HB 5301. It creates a 7-member Office of Technology and Data Solutions within DMS instead and requires the state to privatize services with companies that offer cloud data storage services.

BILL TARGETING PUBLIC-EMPLOYEE UNIONS ADVANCES TOWARD FINAL HOUSE FLOOR VOTE via Florida Politics – A proposal that could decertify public employee union chapters across Florida moved closer to a final House vote Wednesday, as its sponsor denied it was “union busting.” Sponsor Scott Plakon, a Republican business owner from Longwood, argued his bill was about transparency and democratic principles. “This empowers the majority who may not be paying dues,” he said. “Should a very small minority be able to impose their will on people who don’t want to be a part of it?” he wondered aloud at one point in the debate. HB 11 would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues. … Democrat John Cortes, a retired corrections officer from Kissimmee, was blunt. “Is this some kind of form of union busting?” he asked. … The bill would make unions more responsive to members, Plakon said.

BAN ON PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR PROFESSION SPORTS FACILITIES CLEARED FOR FINAL HOUSE VOTE via Florida Politics – Two days after the Oakland Raiders won NFL approval to move to Las Vegas, the Florida House set a final floor vote on a bill that would ban professional sports teams from building or refurbishing stadiums on public land. CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, says “a sports franchise may not construct, reconstruct, renovate, or improve a facility on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.” … The sale of public land for sports stadiums must be at fair market value. Furthermore, teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away.

DAVID RICHARDSON WINS NARROW APPROVAL TO SHIFT OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE PRISONS TO A SINGLE AGENCY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Numbers don’t lie and Florida’s private prisons are not saving money as promised, according to an investigation by legislator and retired forensic auditor Richardson. Part of the reason, he believes, is that the agency in charge of monitoring the contracts has no experience in prisons so the private prison vendors have for years “hoodwinked” the Department of Management Services, which supervises their contracts After nearly two years investigating and auditing state prisons, Richardson won a small victory and persuaded a House committee to shift oversight of the seven private prisons in Florida into a single agency to increase accountability and end what he says is a culture of finger-pointing when troubles emerge. “I want one agency accountable and we will call them when things go wrong,” said Richardson, as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 7-6 to move oversight of the state’s seven private prison from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Corrections.

‘WHISKEY AND WHEATIES’ BILLS STALLS IN HOUSE via Florida Politics – The House sponsor of the bill to allow retailers to sell hard liquor in the same store as other goods temporarily postponed its consideration Wednesday. The bill was set to be discussed during the daily floor session. “We’re still trying to work out some differences between the Senate and the House bill,” said Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila, adding “it’s still an ongoing conversation.” Avila explained that the sticking point was a provision relating to gas station convenience stores. Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami-Dade Republican, has complained that “thousands of local gas stations” who might want to sell spirits would be shut out by the bill because it requires 10,000 square feet.

ALIMONY LEGISLATION DEAD FOR 2017, SPONSOR SAYS via Florida Politics – Good news for opponents of this year’s alimony overhaul, and bad news for its supporters: The bills are dead for the year. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Naples Republican who’s carrying the Senate version (SB 412), on Wednesday said the chair of its first committee of reference has refused to hear the bill. Rene Garcia chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs. “Chairman Garcia determined that he was not interested in hearing it and I respect that decision,” Passidomo said. “I don’t think leadership weighed in on it.” … Passidomo also noted the House bill (HB 283), sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, also has not gotten a hearing. And with House subcommittees wrapping up work this week, that virtually dooms the legislation there.

COSMETICS INDUSTRY HOPEFUL THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM FOR REFORM BILL via Florida Politics — Cosmetic manufacturers are hopeful state lawmakers will take action this year to eliminate a policy requiring them to get approval before taking a product to market, a lengthy process that industry officials say goes above and beyond federal requirements. The industry has been pushing for the change for several years now, but think a recent report from the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability bolsters their calls for change. The report also included an industry satisfaction survey, which included responses from 57 of the state’s 129 permitted cosmetic manufacturers. The survey found 46 percent of respondents said they have considered moving their manufacturing facility to another state. The three reasons for wanting to relocate were regulatory requirements, skill of workforce and tax rates. … State lawmakers have taken note of the concerns, filing legislation for the third year in a row to remove the premarket approval requirement. The bills (SB 114 and HB 211) would remove the requirements that manufacturers must register products with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics.

HEALTH CARE WORKERS GET EXTRA PROTECTION ON THE JOB via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A person who attacks a nurse, doctor or other health care worker or volunteer while on the job could face stiffer charges and penalties under a bill that cleared a key legislative subcommittee … HB 1207 by Rep. Daisy Baez would provide more protection for health care workers by raising assault to a first-degree misdemeanor, battery to a third-degree felony, aggravated assault to a second-degree felony and aggravated battery to a first-degree felony if the crime occurs in the workplace. “As a former social worker and health care executive, I have seen health care workers subjected to many instances of on the job violence at the hands of those in times of great distress,” Baez said in a news release. According to the Florida Nurses Association, health care workers faced more than four times the rate of violence incidents than in private industry. About 80 percent of serious violent incidents are patient-related.

LOCAL BAR OWNERS SUPPORT FREE ALCOHOL GLASSWARE BILL via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Local bar owners support a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to receive free branded glassware from beer and malt beverage distributors — a position that pits them against at least one major brewery. “Glassware is a significant cost driver to my small business, especially when taking breakage and theft into account,” Mike Ferrara, owner of Cabos Island Grill and Bar in Tallahassee, said in a prepared statement. It would be too expensive to buy the different types of glassware for each type of beer served at Cabo’s, he said. HB 853, by Rep. Tom Goodson, would give Ferrera and other small bar owners an opportunity to get free glassware for the different beers they sell, up to three cases of 24 pieces of glassware for up to three malt beverage brands – or about 216 pieces of glassware a year.

TWEET, TWEET: @MichaelAuslen: The Florida House just cheered for themselves because all 120 members are here today. They’re all supposed to be here every day…

GWEN GRAHAM SMACKS FLORIDA LEGISLATURE OVER FRACKING via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesGraham is taking shots at Republican legislators over a bill that would allow Florida Power & Light to charge customers for investments in natural gas fracking operations in other states and also for not yet moving on a House bill that would ban fracking in Florida. “Out of touch politicians in Tallahassee are moving to allow fracking in Florida — and they want to make Florida families pay for it. I’ve spent years fighting to stop fracking because I know our water and state’s unique geology could be harmed by even limited fracking,” Graham said in a statement. “We must stop Republicans from passing this bill and finally ban fracking in Florida once and for all.”

TOP OP-ED: KEEP FLORIDA COMMUNITIES SAFE, PRESERVE FLORIDA’S STRONG BUILDING CODES via Craig Fugate for the Tampa Bay Times – While it was an incredibly difficult lesson to learn, Florida appropriately responded to this disaster by strengthening commercial and residential building codes across the state to make certain that, to the best of its ability, Florida prevented the type of devastation that was left in the path of Andrew in 1992 … I remember accompanying President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush on a tour of the state during 2004. The president asked the governor why one home was so badly damaged, while the one next to it, which was even more exposed, had minimal damage. The governor simply answered, “Building codes.” Right now, Florida remains a leader in the application of strong building codes and standards to protect families, businesses and visitors. But Florida must remain vigilant to ensure our communities are safe and resilient. Unfortunately, a set of bills, Senate Bill 7000 and House Bill 901, would significantly weaken the state’s current building codes. This regression would come at a steep and devastating cost — devastating to communities, families and businesses, as well as Florida’s economic well-being. With weaker building codes, after a natural disaster more families will be displaced and businesses will be closed for longer periods of time, preventing people from getting back to work. Not to mention the real problem of insurability. The total cost of homeownership is greatly reduced when a strong, unified code, such as the current one, is in place. Diminishing or weakening the codes will only serve to increase the price of insurance on consumers.

ON SO-CALLED FUNDING CUTS, ADAM PUTNAM DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH via Florida Politics Ag. Commissioner Putnam is shocked — shocked — that the House flatlined funding for his department’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. He also was gobsmacked over what he called a “political assault” on Fresh From Florida … “Our wildlife and open spaces can’t be just another chip on the political poker table,” he added. You might want to fold ’em, Commish. A House spreadsheet suggests that all the House is doing is returning funding to pre-Speaker Steve Crisafulli days.

WAS JACK LATVALA AGAINST ENTERPRISE FLORIDA BEFORE HE WAS FOR IT? via Florida Politics Latvala has backed Gov. Rick Scott in his defense of Enterprise Florida—but that wasn’t always the case. The Clearwater Republican, who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, had some choice words for the public-private economic development organization back in 2015 … “They’re asking for $85 million for ‘tools’ (but the) percentage of corporate contributions has declined and state budget allocations have increased … Why do they want (more state) money when others could use it, when other communities have very worthwhile projects?” Latvala said at the time. “It’s just irresponsible.” Click on the image below to watch Latvala’s comments from 2015. 

— “Can Susan Glickman ever shoot straight?” via Florida Politics

HAPPENING TODAY – CARD DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Families from the seven Center for Autism & Related Disabilities centers throughout Florida will in the capital city Thursday for CARD Day at the Capitol. The day-long event gives families a chance to meet with their local legislators to talk about their needs. There will be a staffed information table set up in the Senate Courtyard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a luncheon scheduled for 11:30 a.m.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER HAS GREAT ADVICE FOR RICK SCOTT — PART 2 via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay was the first public official to urge Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis. That was, and remains, the Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute, and McKinlay’s choir is, thankfully, growing. Last week, Palm Beach County’s Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath tossed his robe into the ring. In his plea to Scott, Colbath noted that last year’s local death toll was in the hundreds, and each overdose call to the Fire Rescue folks costs taxpayers about $1500. The price paid by first responders can run much, much higher. Colbath is no bleeding heart, big-government, soft-on-crime snowflake. Experience as a prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer shapes his view from the bench.

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with community leaders about economic development programs focused on the state’s military and defense communities at 9 a.m. at the VFW Post 424 Tampa, 105 West Broad Street in Tampa. He’ll then travel to South Florida where he’ll talk with community leaders about Zika preparedness during a roundtable discussion at 3 p.m. at the Florida Department of Health Palm Beach, 1150 45th Street in West Palm Beach.

WHITE HOUSE APPOINTS PAM BONDI TO PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION TO DEAL WITH NATION’S OPIOID EPIDEMIC via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – She … will be joining Trump and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the White House for an announcement regarding the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. “I am honored to be appointed to the president’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission,” she said in a statement. “Thousands of Americans each year die from drug overdoses. I want to thank the President of the United States, Governor Christie and many others for caring about this deadly epidemic.” Bondi is also hosting a “Women’s Empowerment” panel at the White House.

Pam Bondi attends a meeting on opioid addiction in the White House with President Donald Trump, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and others.

MIKE HUCKABEE’S MISSION: TO KEEP THE WORLD FROM ‘SPOILING’ via Florida PoliticsNow that he’s dispensed with the possibility of running for political office again, former GOP presidential candidate Huckabee says he just wants to be a cultural “preservative.” Huckabee – a Christian minister, former Arkansas governor and now Walton County resident – spoke to reporters before his appearance at Wednesday’s Legislative Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee … On Wednesday, he referred to a passage in Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Christians “seek to have an influence and a preservative effect on the culture,” he said. “Salt in the first century was a preservative” … “What (Jesus) meant was, if the world is rotting, putrefying, spoiling, you’re supposed to keep that from happening,” Huckabee said. “It’s not the secular world’s fault that things are going astray, it’s our fault. If the salt isn’t doing its purpose, to preserve, then things will get worse.”

PROGRESSIVE GROUPS SLAM CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL’S ‘LACK OF TRANSPARENCY’ via Florida Politics – A coalition of progressive interests, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, on Wednesday chided the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) for leaving the public in the dust—and in the dark. A CRC spokeswoman, however, later said its “No. 1 priority is to ensure that the public is actively involved and engaged.” Pamela Goodman, the League’s president in Florida, spoke at a news conference on the steps of the old Capitol in Tallahassee. The commission, which meets every 20 years to review and suggest rewrites to the state’s governing document, was throwing up “roadblocks to public engagement,” Goodman said. The first public hearing was Wednesday night in Orlando.

— “Crowd comes out for 1st Florida constitution hearing at UCF” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

STUDY: FLORIDA TAXPAYERS HAVE THIRD HIGHEST RETURN ON INTEREST via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – According to a study released by WalletHub, Florida residents pay relatively low taxes compared to the quality of government services they receive. The rankings were based on the caliber of each state’s services for its residents in categories including education, economy, health, infrastructure and pollution and safety. Based on the overall quality of services, Florida clocked in at a worse-than-average 34th in the country. Florida’s highest individual rank — 17 — was for education, which was judged on the quality of school systems, the state public university system and the graduation rate for public high schools. The Sunshine State’s lowest-ranked category — 41 — was for its economy, which was determined by the annual job growth rate, economic mobility, unemployment rate, underemployment rate, people living below the poverty line and the median annual household income.

CITIZENS INSURANCE WARNS OF $27.1 MILLION LOSS DURING 2016 via Florida Politics – Citizens Property Insurance Co. is losing money for the first time in a decade because of water loss claims, assignment of benefits abuse, and rising litigation costs, the company said Wednesday. Staff at Florida’s insurer of last resort told its board of governors that they expect to post a $27.1 million loss on the year. … Citizens is seeking legislation this year attacking assignment of benefits, or AOB, abuse. In the House, an AOB bill has passed its first committee test. Senate legislation is scheduled for a committee hearing next week.

BUSLOADS OF ‘HUNDREDS’ PLANNED FOR ARAMIS AYALA RALLY IN TALLAHASSEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The “Ride For Aramis,” events will conclude with a 12:30 p.m. rally on the Duval Road steps of the Florida Capitol. Organizers, which include the NAACP, Latino Justice, Florida Council of Churches, Orange County Black Voice, the Eighth Amendment Project, Color of Change, Equal Justice USA, and Let Your Voice Be Heard Orlando, said they will be bringing in busloads of Ayala supporters and death penalty opponents from Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

FCTA CAPITAL DATELINE ONLINE TALKS LEGISLATIVE SESSION WITH PETER SCHORSCH — FCTA President Brad Swanson talks with EEM President Peter Schorsch about key House and Senate dynamics, and what to expect as key differences are hammered out in the remaining weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session. The two men talk budget, beer glass legislation, the Seminole Compact, and the latest issue of INFLUENCE Magazine.


Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Public Information Notification Systems

Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Miami Worldcenter Holdings

Hayden Dempsy, Greenberg Traurig: UMB Bank n.a. solely as trustee for Santa Rosa Bonds, series 1996

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: City of Homestead

Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: Brandt Information Services, Inc

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Aviat U.S.

Jeremy Kudo, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: DISH Network

Tara Reid, Straegos Public Affairs: American University of Antigua (AUA)

Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, Inc.

Jeff Sadosky, Forbes Tate Partners: Adapt Pharma, Inc.

Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: CHSPSC, LLC

Larry Williams, Larry Williams Consulting: Nassau County Council on Aging

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at***

IOWA SENATOR WANTS ANSWERS ON FLORIDA ALF SEX TAPE via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The case of a Florida assisted living facility employee who was charged with shooting video of two residents having sex and posting it on Snapchat has caught the attention of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Grassley fired off a letter Wednesday to the Bristol Court Assisted Living Facility 3479 54th Ave. N in St. Petersburg, the ALF that formerly employed Alexis Gloria Rebecca Williams, 20. Williams, who was arrested last week, told detectives that she recorded the video of the two ALF residents engaging in consensual sex and posted it on the social media site “for her own amusement,” a Pinellas County sheriff’s spokesman said. “This reported behavior, perpetrated against one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, is absolutely abhorrent,” Grassley wrote to the administrator of the Bristol Court ALF.

SPACEX USED – ERR, ‘FLIGHT-TESTED’ – ROCKET SET TO LAUNCH via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – SpaceX is set to launch a recycled Falcon 9 rocket … marking the first time a rocket used once to put a spacecraft into orbit has been landed, refurbished and put on the launch pad to be used again. SpaceX’s first customer for such a rocket, the Luxembourg-based SES satellite company, prefers the term “flight-tested” to the word used. The Falcon 9 rocket with the SES-10 communications satellite is set to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, with a launch window that opens at 6:27 p.m. and running through 8:30 p.m.

DISNEY MOVING SOME METAL DETECTORS TO TRANSPORTATION AND TICKET CENTER via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel – The center, commonly known as the TTC, is a major hub for Magic Kingdom visitors. People driving to the Magic Kingdom park at TTC, then board monorails or ferries to cross Seven Seas Lagoon and reach the attraction. Currently, visitors can board the monorails and ferryboats without going through bag checks or metal detectors. Guests arriving at Magic Kingdom via the monorail or ferry won’t have to go through security once they get to the theme park itself. However, the Magic Kingdom will still have some bag checks and metal detectors for visitors arriving by other transportation, such as buses.

FANS CAN LOOK FORWARD TO SOME MAJOR CHANGES IN NFL GAMES via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press – At the busy league meetings … owners passed several rules changes, adopting resolutions they believe will speed the game and improve player safety. The team owners were apprised of ways the overall time of games can be shortened. Much of that will come through a reduction in the number of commercial breaks per quarter. But a change in handling officiating of video replays also will serve that purpose, as well as provide more consistency in making calls, the league believes. Referees will now watch replays on the field using Surface tablets, eliminating “going under the hood” to watch on television monitors. There are plenty of other things fans can look for in 2017: “Leapers” trying to block field goals or extra points have been outlawed. Made permanent was the rule disqualifying a player who is penalized twice in a game for specific unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion no longer are legal. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for committing multiple fouls during the same down with the purpose of manipulating the game clock will be instituted.

THE NEW ‘IT’ TRAILER IS HERE TO GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES via Michael Gold of The New York Times – “It,” for the unfamiliar, tells the story of a group of children in a town in Maine who come together after people in the neighborhood begin to disappear. This brings them in direct conflict with Pennywise, a clown who captures children and devours them. The new adaptation — due in September — appears to double down on the circus horror. The trailer offers a sense of foreboding almost immediately. Dark skies, a rainstorm and a muted color palette all suggest something ominous lurking just offscreen. Even if you know what’s coming, it’s terrifying when Pennywise, this time played by Bill Skarsgard, pops up from the sewers. The preview never gets less creepy. There’s always tension in the sustained string chords of the soundtrack, and it imbues everything with suspense and darkness. At one point, even a red balloon appears unbearably sinister. “What are you afraid of?” The trailer ultimately asks. As if it doesn’t already know.

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – It’s “Viva Italia” at the Governors Club Thursday with Italian wedding soup; grilled vegetable salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; Caesar salad – hearts of romaine, parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, Caesar dressing – baked ziti; chicken tetrazzini; tortellini marinara; broccolini and fave beans.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Pinellas Democrats chair Susan McGrath, and our friends Trent Phillips and Dywan Washington.


On so-called funding cuts, Adam Putnam doth protest too much

Short take: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is shocked — shocked — that the House flatlined funding for his department’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

He also was gobsmacked over what he called a “political assault” on Fresh From Florida.

“Gutting the Fresh From Florida program will hurt Florida’s small farms the most, their ability to raise awareness for the high quality of their locally grown products and compete against lesser quality products from foreign countries,” Putnam said in a statement.

And “zeroing out conservation funding is a giant step backward for keeping Florida special,” Putnam told POLITICO Florida. “The Rural and Family Lands Protection program is the best return on investment for future generations.

“Our wildlife and open spaces can’t be just another chip on the political poker table,” he added.

You might want to fold ’em, Commish.

Take a gander at this spreadsheet, which suggests that all the House is doing is returning funding to pre-Speaker Steve Crisafulli days.

Crisafulli has touted his “proud legacy as the head of his family’s local agribusiness.”

Maybe Putnam has some more research to do.

Was Jack Latvala against Enterprise Florida before he was for it?

Sen. Jack Latvala has backed Gov. Rick Scott in his defense of Enterprise Florida—but that wasn’t always the case.

The Clearwater Republican, who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, had some choice words for the public-private economic development organization back in 2015.

That’s when he was chair of the Senate’s Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations subcommittee.

That’s also when the agency, which the House now is trying to eliminate, was seeking more money for its business development efforts.

“They’re asking for $85 million for ‘tools,’ ” Latvala told reporters. “I helped create Enterprise Florida. My first observation is that at that time Enterprise Florida was supposed to be a public-private partnership and all of these corporations were going to contribute.

“Well, steadily, through the years, the percentage of corporate contributions has declined and state budget allocations have increased,” he said, echoing the current argument of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The speaker has called the group a dispenser of “corporate welfare.”

“Why do they want (more state) money when others could use it, when other communities have very worthwhile projects?” Latvala said at the time. “It’s just irresponsible.”

The entire clip is available on YouTube or watch it below:

Sunburn for 3.29.17 – Budget fireworks; Mid-Session thaw on gambling; Netflix & chill bill; Vanna White at The Villages!; Spider Man trailer!!!

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

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


So now the lines of negotiation are being drawn over the budget, the one bill constitutionally required to be passed every session, and already lawmakers are entrenched.

As our Michael Moline reported Tuesday, a House panel committed $25 million to VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

That’s far less than the $76 million recommended by its Senate counterpart earlier in the day.

And say goodbye to a plethora of business subsidies and Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development organization, if the House had the final say.

But it doesn’t.

Kudos to Rep. Clay Ingram for the money quote: “If we were to go to conference right this second, I have no idea how it would turn out.”

No kidding.

Even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is ticked off. He said the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee did a “political assault” on Fresh From Florida.

“Gutting the Fresh From Florida program will hurt Florida’s small farms the most, their ability to raise awareness for the high quality of their locally grown products and compete against lesser quality products from foreign countries,” Putnam said in a statement.

On the flip side, Americans for Prosperity-Florida is upset with the Senate for not being parsimonious enough.

Chris Hudson, its state director, opined in a press release that Enterprise Florida is in the “handouts” business.

“We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that Floridians know which members of the legislature support corporate welfare and the programs that give away their tax dollars to private businesses instead of better supporting real priorities like education and infrastructure,” he said.

Wait, isn’t that Gov. Rick Scott’s trick, going to members’ home districts and publicly shaming them for not voting his way?

So much stress! What’s the game plan to get to #SineDie in 60 days? Can we do it? Special session, anyone?

That’d be a lot easier to stomach if we still had our free candy and soda on the 5th floor. Alas, nothing—including shiny, happy feelings in the Rotunda—lasts forever.

FINEOUT EXPLAINS – THE LOOMING BUDGET BATTLE via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print — After listening to leaders in the House and Senate discuss their priorities, the expectations are that the rival budgets could be widely divergent in what they cut, what they keep and what they enhance. There are a multiple reasons for that, whether it’s Senate President Negron‘s push for increased money for state universities, or Speaker Corcoran‘s insistence that the state shutter its economic development agency Enterprise Florida.

But less noticed is that the House, Senate and Gov. Scott have chosen to include information that supports their arguments, while seemingly sidestepping other salient points. This could influence the tenor of the debate that is about to intensify. So it might be worthwhile and step back for just a second to recall how everybody got here and what’s important to remember for the budget battle that still lies ahead. …

DON’T CALL IT A DEFICIT: There is no budget deficit this year. Plain and simple. To understand the underlying budget situation, it’s important to realize this. In Florida a deficit occurs when the state collects less money than what is needed to pay for things that are in the budget. Florida’s tax collections are in fact growing. The main budget account – known as the general revenue account – is expected to grow in the current fiscal year by 4.4 percent, or $1.23 billion.  This same account, which relies on a variety of tax sources but primarily the state’s sales tax, is expected to grow $1.16 billion – or 3.9 percent – in the fiscal year that starts on July 1. …

THE SCHOOL TAX DEBATE:  If there is one item that could derail the entire budget process it’s the thorny annual dilemma over school property taxes. Here’s the problem: As property values rise, this translates into more money collected by local school districts that could be spent on public schools. In other words, if the value of your home goes up you will pay more in taxes in the coming year – unless the tax rate is lowered by an equal amount to offset the increase in values. Legislators don’t appropriate this local property tax money – BUT – they do draw up spending plans that assumes a mixture of both local and state funding. This is known as the Florida Education Finance Program or FEFP and districts that wish to draw down the state funding must collect a certain amount of money. (This is known as the required local effort or RLE.) … Scott has maintained that this isn’t a tax increase and his own budget recommendation relies on nearly $558 million in increased local school taxes to help pay for an overall 3 percent increase in per-student funding. …

BOTTOM LINE: Under the current schedule legislators are operating under the House and Senate are expected to pass their budgets during the second week of April. That week is already truncated because of religious holidays so it is highly unlikely that any negotiations or work can begin until April 17. That means legislators will have about 15 days to get everything worked out in order to get a budget finished on time. That’s because Florida law requires the budget to be finished 72 hours before the final vote. So that’s a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.

Besides the above-mentioned topics there’s other issues at play, including pay raises, more money for charter schools etc. The clock is ticking.

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HOUSE BUDGET WOULD ADD ‘EMERGENCY’ $200 MILLION FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS via Florida Politics – The House public education budget would be extra kind to charter schools next year, pumping $200 million into charters specifically targeting children stuck in persistently low-performing classrooms. The money would provide grants to “charter school networks with a proven track record of serving specifically low-income students and successfully closing the achievement gap,” said Manny Diaz Jr., chairman of the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. … “This is intensive care,” he said. “This is one of those intensive tools to go after that.” Diaz wants to give more money to teachers, too, including $200 million to make Best and Brightest Scholarship bonuses available to more teachers.

HOSPITALS FACE MEDICAID CUTS IN FIRST DRAFTS OF STATE BUDGET via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida state lawmakers proposed cuts to Medicaid that could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals next year. The proposals, put forward by the House and Senate health care budget subcommittees are meant to reduce the state budget, but they have hospitals on edge. In the House, Rep. Jason Brodeur recommended cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million. However, Medicaid is mostly funded by the federal government, so every dollar the state cuts has more than double the impact. The House proposal would take $621.8 million total from hospitals. Sen. Anitere Flores… recommended more modest cuts in the Senate: $99.3 million from the state budget, or a $258.6 million total hit.

LIBERAL GROUP ATTACKS ANITERE FLORES OVER BUDGET via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – A left-leaning political group is attacking Flores over potential state budget cuts moving through her legislative subcommittee. Florida Strong, a nonprofit that went after Flores and other Republicans during last year’s election, mailed some of Flores’ constituents, urging them to call Flores’ office and oppose the cuts. It’s Florida Strong’s first flier of the annual lawmaking session, spokesman Charly Norton said. “We are focusing on legislators’ priorities this session and plan to continue shedding light on misplaced priorities that run counter to Floridians’ best interest.” Flores chairs an appropriations subcommittee that considers budget proposals — in some cases, even if Flores isn’t the one behind them or doesn’t agree with them.

CARY PIGMAN CLEARED IN STATE ETHICS CASE, RESIGNS CHAIRMANSHIP via Florida Politics – State Rep. Pigman did not misuse his official position to retaliate against a school principal in his district, an administrative law judge ruled this week. In a 22-page order, Judge June C. McKinney recommended that the Florida Commission on Ethics dismiss its case against the Avon Park Republican, first elected in 2012. He still faces a DUI charge from an unrelated incident last week. Pigman, also a doctor of emergency medicine and Army Reserve physician, had been accused of “linking his efforts to obtain legislative funding for the Okeechobee School District … to retaliate or attempt to retaliate against an employee of the School District.” That employee was elementary school principal Tracy Maxwell Downing, the ex- sister-in-law of Pigman’s former secretary, Libby Maxwell, with whom he had been having an affair and to whom he is now married. In an unrelated move, Pigman stepped down Tuesday as chair of the House Health Quality Subcommittee, after being charged last week with drunk driving on Florida’s Turnpike.

HOUSE MARIJUANA BILL DRAWS SUPPORT FROM ANTI-MEDICAL MARIJUANA CROWD via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The House proposal to implement Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment cleared its first committee Tuesday by a 14-1 vote, drawing praise from some early critics of the amendment. “It is my concerned opinion that this bill should be advanced,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, a group funded by wealthy developer Mel Sembler, who has donated millions opposing medical marijuana constitutional amendments. She listed her worries about what implementation has looked like in other states and added “I want to see my state protected.” … (Ben Pollara) pointed to the bill’s backing by Drug Free America, which had vigorously opposed the amendment, as a clear indication that the bill is not what voters were looking for when they cast their ballots in favor of the amendment.

HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES WATERED-DOWN RECESS BILL via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – The Florida House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee passed a watered-down version of a bill to require recess in public schools … Lawmakers unanimously approved a committee substitute bill for the original proposal, HB 67, which would blend recess and physical education classes as part of Florida’s 50 minute per week requirement for physical education. The original proposal would have required school districts to provide a mandatory 20 minutes of recess each day when P.E. classes aren’t held — adding up to 100 minutes of recess time each week for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. That change to the bill is especially controversial among physical education experts, who say adding recess in addition to physical education has several benefits, including improving memory, attention and concentration.

DESPITE CITY AND COUNTY PROTESTS, VACATION RENTAL BILL GAINS GROUND via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Despite opposition from Miami and Miami-Dade and a group of beach communities, a Florida House subcommittee passed a bill that prevents cities and counties from passing any new ordinances that restrict vacation rentals of private homes. The 9 to 6 vote by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee sends the controversial bill to the 30-member Commerce Committee, which is top-heavy with lawmakers from South Florida where opposition to short-term vacation rentals has been most intense. The bill (HB 425), sponsored by Rep. Mike LaRosa prevents local governments from imposing new restrictions on vacation homes. Local ordinances that were in effect June 1, 2011, could remain, but restrictions adopted after that date, including laws based on a 2014 legislative compromise, would be declared “void and unenforceable” by the state and wiped off the books. “This industry has been under attack,” LaRosa testified. “Individuals’ private property rights have been violated.”

BILL JEOPARDIZING SFRTA FUNDING PASSES FIRST COMMITTEES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – An omnibus bill that in part dictates how the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority can be funded passed the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee. A provision in HB 865 would require the Department of Transportation to withhold funding for the SFTRA unless the transportation institution rescinds a $511 million contract it awarded earlier this year. An amendment was offered by Rep. Kristin Jacobs … that would have stripped the language in the bill relating to SFRTA funding. The amendment was initially adopted, but eventually failed after a second vote was taken.

COMMITTEE REJECTS BILL THAT WOULD STOP FUTURE EXPRESS LANES via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A bill seeking to end Florida’s practice of developing tolled express lanes was rejected by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. Various members of the committee cited some reasons why they would not want to see Florida stop developing special lanes that could give higher-speed options through typically congested areas to high-occupancy cars or drivers willing to pay tolls for that privilege, and House Bill 777 went down. Part of the debate centered on those who believe such tolled specialty lanes — dubbed HOT lanes, express lanes or Lexus lanes — are the only practical way to add capacity to crowded expressways, versus those who see them as unfair. But sponsor Rep. Matt Willhite argued that his bill was a safety measure, citing accident statistics and anecdotes suggesting that they’re a public safety hazard, more trouble than they’re worth.

FANTASY SPORTS BILL CLEARS FIRST PANEL via Florida Politics – With no debate, a bill to exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation was OK’d by a House panel Tuesday. The measure (HB 149), sponsored by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur, cleared the Tourism and Gaming Subcommittee. It would clarify that fantasy contests “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” and are not games of chance and thus potentially illegal gambling. The legislation specifically includes games based on “athletes in the case of sports events.” A Senate version goes further, creating a separate office to oversee fantasy sports companies operating in the state.

— “Mid-Session thaw: Gaming bill is headed to conference” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

NETFLIX, HULU TAX EXEMPTION BILL PASSES FIRST SENATE COMMITTEE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Internet video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube would not be subject to taxation under the communications service tax, a bill (SB 1636) that passed unanimously the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee …  A staff analysis said some states and cities are starting to apply taxes to streaming video to make up for decreasing CST revenues. The bill “exempts internet video service from the definition of ‘communications services,’ and therefore from the communications services tax.” Bill sponsor Sen. Frank Artiles, said there is a “tremendous amount of confusion” over which companies should be collecting CST tax of streaming video.

HOUSE ADVANCESPILOT PROGRAM TO TREAT MENTAL HEALTH VERSUS JAIL via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A House committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to begin the Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program in the Panhandle’s Okaloosa County. Rep. Mel Ponder, who sponsored HB 1051, introduced the measure to the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee. The bill intends to alleviate overcrowding in the state’s prison corrections system with a significant percentage of individuals with mental health needs. Often, those individuals go ignored while incarcerated. Ponder cited fully one-quarter of Okaloosa’s inmates had some sort of mental health need, with the county ranking first in the region for such an issue. “When I heard we were the No. 1 county in northwest Florida, it just lit my fire even more,” he said.

HOUSE POISED TO REINSTATE FEDERAL RESIGN-TO-RUN REQUIREMENT via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – The state changed the law in 2007 when Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, was in office and there was buzz that he could wind up seeking higher office. In essence the change meant that Crist or any other elected official didn’t have to resign from their current office if they planned to run for president, vice president, U.S. Senate or Congress. The argument at the time – which was when Marco Rubio was House speaker (but after Corcoran had left as his chief-of-staff) was that Florida should do what it could to help its rising stars seek higher office without forcing them to give up their existing posts. This is a practice common in many other states. … (The House) election bill doesn’t just stop there – it has a few other changes sure to draw fire, including a proposal to force cities to have their elections at set times instead of whenever the city wants to schedule it. The bill would also not allow someone to run as a independent candidate (technically NPA – no party affiliation) if they are actually registered with a party.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

‘RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES’ MEASURES DIVERGE, BUT ADVANCE via Kristen Clark and Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times – A fast-tracked bill in the Senate (SB 436) — one of President Joe Negron’s top priorities — passed its second and final committee Tuesday on a party-line vote, shortly before a House panel unanimously advanced its own version (HB 303). The House conversation was in stark contrast to the Senate’s discussions, where that chamber’s measure has polarized members. The bills were once identical, but the House Pre-K-12 Quality Subcommittee amended its bill to make it more narrow than the Senate’s — removing some of the more controversial elements, such as a requirement that school districts adopt a Florida Department of Education-crafted policy that “establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event.” Such a provision would allow students of different faiths to, for example, pray at school assemblies.

SENATE PANEL OKS FORMALIZING NON-ABORTION PREGNANCY CENTERS INTO LAW via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – After a brief but divisive debate, the Senate Health Policy Committee advanced a bill that would enhance an existing state pregnancy services program that excludes abortion referrals. SB 1130, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean … would for the first time place into Florida statute a program that provides state funds to a network of pregnancy centers. The program has been operating since 2005 outside of statute, with funding provided on an annual basis during budget negotiations. The Pregnancy Support Services program has fielded 5,796 hotline calls and provided 120,929 services to 24,184 women and families, Bean testified. “In statutes, we can further direct the Department of Health to firmly establish the program rather than relying on a proviso that could be changed every year,” Bean testified.

HAPPENING TODAY – FSBA DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The Florida School Boards Association will host its 30th annual FSBA Day in the Legislature from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The annual event is meant to enhance the organization’s advocacy on education issues under consideration by the Florida Legislature, and includes legislative briefings, advocacy training and the opportunity for education leaders to meet with state lawmakers.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a round table to discuss economic development programs aimed at Florida’s military and defense communities at 2:15 p.m. at the Florida Army National Guard Building, 13433 Crossover Street in Jacksonville.

MUST-READ: DID FLORIDA DCF CREATE MEDIA FRENZY AFTER FOSTER CHILD’S SUICIDE TO DISTRACT FROM AGENCY ERRORS? via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Naika Venant’s mother vehemently refutes narratives by the state agency in a March 13 report, including suggestion she ‘allegedly’ commented on Facebook Live thread taunting daughter while watching and did nothing; lawyer says agencies ‘abysmally failed’ Naika. Gina Alexiswanted to clear the air on many issues she claimed were misreported in the press or by the agencies tasked with the safety and well-being of her daughter through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) – Our Kids of Miami-Dade Monroe and the Center for Family and Child Enrichment (CFCE). She was frank in discussing her daughter’s gravitation toward age-inappropriate sexual behavior, her attempts at trying to rid her daughter of poor behavior picked up in foster homes when reunited with Naika and the frustration of being re-admitted to a system that controlled their every move and set unrealistic expectations at times. And Alexis was beholden to Naika’s rebelliousness, she said, which included sometimes lying about abuse to authorities when she wouldn’t get her way or when she was punished because she knew her mother was deathly scared of DCF.

EYE SPECIALISTS ARE SECRETLY SELLING PATIENTS, CRITICS SAY via Richard Minter and Joseph Hammond of the American Media Institute – The dark side of patient co-management or share-care, which some ophthalmologists and optometrists describe as dangerously inadequate. Rather than just the practice of an optometrist referring a patient to an ophthalmologist for care, co-management is a fee-sharing arrangement where ophthalmologists perform surgeries and optometrists provide post-surgical care. Co-management means big money for optometrists, who are not medical doctors. “In most places in the U.S., cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure,” says Jaime Membreno, a Kissimmee-based ophthalmologist. “If you say out of 100,000 cataract surgeries (which cost can cost between $600-$2000), that 20 percent are co-managed, that’s generating something like $50 million per year.” While referrals are commonplace across medicine, giving a fee to a professional making a referral (co-management) is not common outside of eye care. The practice is largely confined to postoperative cataract care, where optometrists refer patients to eye surgeons in return for getting a fee for supervising the patient’s recovery. The problem is that non-doctors, such as optometrists, often cannot treat surgical complications as doctors can. Optometrists and ophthalmologists … said that due to Florida’s large elderly population co-management is rampant — and the fee-splitting is usually not disclosed to patients.

FLORIDA LOTTERY APPEALS CONTRACT CASE via Florida Politics – As expected, the Lottery filed a notice Tuesday that it was appealing a decision against it earlier this month that invalidated a $700 million contract for new equipment. A Tallahassee judge agreed with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year. The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The Lottery is booming — it sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets last year, records show. But Judge Karen Gievers said the deal broke state law by going “beyond (the Lottery’s) existing budget limitations.” She faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

MEANWHILE … VANNA WHITE TO APPEAR AT THE VILLAGES FOR NEW LOTTERY SCRATCH-OFF TICKET via Jerry Fallstrom of the Orlando Sentinel – White will pitch the lottery’s new $10 Wheel of Fortune ticket. She will be on hand from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Spanish Springs Town Square to sign autographs, pose for photos and answer questions from audience members. There also will be live entertainment and giveaways starting at 10 a.m.White — a “Wheel of Fortune” mainstay since 1982 — drew crowds of fans during an appearance a year ago on a rainy Saturday at Lake Sumter Landing to trumpet a $5 Wheel of Fortune scratch-off ticket.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

HOW BILL NELSON SHOOK UP THE GORSUCH NOMINATION FIGHT via Marc Caputo of Florida Politics –  By announcing on Monday his intention to filibuster Gorsuch, Nelson raised questions about the judge’s path to 60 votes and revealed newly shifted political fault lines in the confirmation fight. Faced with the prospect of a primary challenge in the event he didn’t filibuster and the likelihood of a tough general election campaign against Gov. Scott either way, Nelson chose to lock down his left flank. … Nelson’s announcement on Gorsuch — more than 10 days before he had a chance to vote — was widely praised by liberal and Democratic activists as well as his three potential opponents. Those who follow Nelson closely say they’re not surprised by his decision. The party is shifting left and so is he.

HAPPENING TODAY – MIKE HUCKABEE TO KEYNOTE LEGISLATIVE PRAYER BREAKFAST — The former Arkansas governor is scheduled to give the keynote address at the annual Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition/Concerned Women for America annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Huckabee will hold media availability at 7:15 a.m. outside Meeting Room C.

POLL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR OPEN PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics – Robopolling from a coalition of groups that advocate creating an open primary system in Florida found strong support from voters having such an initiative on the ballot next year. The survey was conducted on behalf of three groups seeking an open primary system in Florida: Open Primaries, Tim Canova‘s Progress For All and Florida Fair and Open Primaries. It found 73 percent of respondents saying taxpayer-funded primaries should be open to all voters. Also, 72 percent support a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to individuals who have completed their sentences for nonviolent criminal offenses. The poll also found that 74 percent of Floridians want independent voters — 27 percent of the Florida electorate — included in primary elections.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS CONCERNED ABOUT CRC AHEAD OF FIRST MEETING IN ORLANDO via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – The League is a part of a coalition of groups along with Planned Parenthood, Equality Florida and others who “fear proposed rules and rushed meetings create roadblocks to meaningful public participation” and not that “The first public hearing of the CRC, set for Wednesday evening in Orlando, was scheduled with almost no public notice, without any coordination with commission members to determine their availability to attend, and before adoption of rules of procedure.” The first meeting of the CRC is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. at the University of Central Florida as part of its “Floridians Speak, We Listen” tour. Both Conservative and Progressive groups have been trying to mobilize supporters for a high turnout.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

KELLY MATHIS SEEKING REINSTATEMENT OF LICENSE, EXPUNGEMENT OF FLORIDA BAR DISCIPLINARY RECORD via Marilyn Young of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – Mathis’ record on The Florida Bar website shows the legal battle he has been in for four years. The word “suspended” is in blue type on the left side, while “Not Eligible to Practice Law in Florida” is in red on the right, directly above Mathis’ photo. Those declarations are the result of his October 2013 conviction in the Allied Veterans of the World case, in which prosecutors said he was the mastermind of a $3 million gambling ring. Mathis was sentenced to six years but allowed to remain free on bond pending his appeal. His conviction was overturned three years later by the 5th District Court of Appeal. This month, the Attorney General’s Office decided not to pursue a second trial. Brian Tannebaum, Mathis’ Bar attorney, filed documents last week to get his client’s law license back and his record expunged, the latter of which would be unusual. The Bar doesn’t object to either request.


David Ash, DLA Consulting Firm: Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council

Bill Rubin, Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Elite DNA Therapy Services

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Banyan House Condominium, Inc.

Jose Boscan, Boscan & Associated: Waste Management Inc of Florida

Sarah BuskAl CardenasStephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Florida Conference of Circuit Judges

Bryan Cherry, Adams Street Advocates: DataLogic Software, Inc.

Justin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc

Terry Deason, Radey Law Firm: Duke Energy Florida, Inc; Florida Power & Light Company; Tampa Electric Company

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: Optimum Software Solutions, Inc.

Gary Guzzo, Floridian Partners:  Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson: The Mayernick Group: Arizona Facilities Supply, LLC

Jeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: Government Services Group, Inc

Kathleen Maus, Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Allison Mawhinney, GrayRobinson: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Mark Maxwell, SCG Governmental Affairs:

John Stephen Menton, Rutledge Ecenia: HCA Healthcare

Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Elite DNA Therapy Services, National Busine

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at***

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Wednesday’s Governors Club buffet takes a Caribbean vibe with conch chowder soup; yucca salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; tomato salad; carne asada- beef; chicken a la plancha; BBQ grilled salmon; arroz con gandules and black beans.

ESPN WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS COMPLEX CELEBRATES 20 YEARS via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –Since it opened in 1997, the story of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort has been written through the athletes who have competed on its fields, courts and diamonds. Each year the complex hosts more than 100 annual athletic events. It has become a place where athletes challenge themselves, push their limits and make their sports dreams come true.

IRON MAN STEALS THE SHOW IN ‘SPIDER MAN: HOMECOMING’ TRAILER – Our latest look at the webbed hero prominently features Robert Downey, Jr.’s veteran superhero, guiding and scolding the young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) who may be eager, but clearly has a lot to learn. If you ever wanted to see Spidey and Iron Man save the Staten Island Ferry together, you are very much in luck. The trailer also introduced us to Michael Keaton‘s Vulture/Adrian Toomes, who is wreaking havoc all over New York. Click on the image below to watch the trailer.

UNIVERSAL ANNOUNCES CONCERT LINE-UP FOR ROCK THE UNIVERSE via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –  More than 14 Christian music artists will play Sept. 8 and 9 at Universal Orlando. This year’s line-up features GRAMMY award-winning singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin; two-time GRAMMY award-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae; and Casting Crowns, who’s held the position of Billboard’s top-selling Christian music act since 2007. The Coca-Cola Fan Zone returns with autograph sessions and opportunities to interact with Christian artists, such as Steve MalcolmHollyn and Kolby Koloff. Electronic Dance Music spins each night with GWAVI and DJ Promote. The event ends with a Saturday night candle lighting ceremony.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridians, Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge and lobbyist Louis Betz.

New three-part series unpacks ‘dark side’ of money, influence in Florida’s Eyeball Wars

Florida’s Eyeball Wars rage on in Tallahassee, as optometrists continue pushing a bill allowing them to perform laser surgeries despite a potentially dangerous lack of medical training.

Richard Miniter, the chief executive officer of American Media Institute, broke down the issue in-depth with a three-part series co-authored with Joseph Hammond, in which he describes how optometrists have lobbied lawmakers to perform eye surgery in Florida, as well as the pushback from ophthalmologists, who argue that only trained and licensed medical professionals should perform such intricate procedures.

All three parts, which examine the dark side of money and influence behind the Eyeball Wars, also appear in the Sunshine State News.

On his Politically Incorrect Podcast, James Williams of News Talk Florida spoke with Miniter about the attempt by optometrists to pass HB 1037, a measure sponsored by state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. currently making way through the Legislature. The bill, as well a Senate companion from Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala, seeks to give optometrists permission to perform certain types of laser surgery in Florida.

Miniter warns that the proposed state law could affect nearly all of Florida’s 20 million residents.

Kissimmee ophthalmologist Jaime Membreno tells Miniter: “If you live long enough, you will get cataracts and eventually need corrective surgery. Allowing optometrists to do this kind of surgical procedure is like allowing the mechanic to fly a fighter jet.”

Supporters of the bill disagree. As South Florida optometrist Salvatore DeCanio describes it: “The fact is we are the primary care for the optics of the eye. We know far more about optics and prisms in the eye than ophthalmologists. They have a different specialty.”

Nevertheless, optometrists insist passing the bill will result in a heightened risk to patients.

Dr. William Mallon of Vero Beach, a staunch opponent of the legislation, points out that even small mistakes during eye surgery can have devastating consequences, a risk that is minimized through proper training, education and experience.

“It takes a minimum 12 years of schooling and training to perform eye surgery,” Mallon says. “Medical school. Supervised residency … I know that if I lose focus for even a single second of surgery, my patient’s life could be permanently changed. I think about the stakes every time I walk into the operating room.”

Miniter also touches on possible motives behind this latest salvo in the Eyeball Wars: “Optometrists, who are now legally allowed to call themselves ‘optometric physicians’ in Florida, have long sought to put themselves on an equal footing with traditionally trained doctors. Ambition plays a role, too. Many optometrists have opened small chains — dozens of storefronts selling eyeglasses and eye care — that would further prosper with the added business. Ophthalmologists tend to have small practices and directly supervise all patient procedures; their boutique enterprises would suffer from big-chain competition.”

Also, optometrists have been the beneficiary of what Miniter calls “a complex web of dark money,” through “shadowy political organizations” behind their efforts, amassing nearly $2.1 million as well as the lobbying services of the brother of Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, among others.

“Optometrists greatly outnumber ophthalmologists in Florida, as they do in most states,” Miniter writes, “and usually outraise their doctor rivals by a large margin.”

“A lot of ophthalmologists in the state won’t join the Florida Society of Ophthalmology because they worry about losing their referrals from optometrists,” Mallon says. “We are having to go hat-in-hand to our national organization to get some money, but we can’t possibly catch up.”

Florida’s current Eyeball Wars are far from a new trend; the battle between optometrists and ophthalmologists has waged for decades.

“Optometrists have increasingly sought the prerogative to perform surgical tasks,” Miniter notes, “for which 47 states (including Florida) require a medical degree.”

The last truce in the Wars was in 2013, when a compromise was reached after years of lobbying by the Florida Optometric Association (FOA) and Nova Southeastern University’s College of Optometry, one of the largest optometry schools in the nation.

House Bill 239, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, expanded the scope of practice by allowing optometrists to prescribe a limited number of oral medications and expressly prohibits optometrists from performing surgery “of any kind.,” as well as setting up a precise definition of surgery modeled after the guidelines established by the American College of Surgeons.

But since then, politically active nonprofits in Florida has doubled from 67 to 155, partly as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.

“The Florida Optometry Eye Health Fund had the highest revenues during the previous tax year among 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations based in Florida,” ‎Laura Curlin tells Miniter. Curlin serves as data director at MapLight, a not-for-profit organization promoting political transparency.

In the final part of the series, Miniter also sheds light on the “dark side” of comanagement of care between ophthalmologists and optometrists, a high-stakes operation which some practitioners call “dangerously inadequate.”

“Rather than just the practice of an optometrist referring a patient to an ophthalmologist for care, comanagement is a fee-sharing arrangement where ophthalmologists perform surgeries and optometrists provide post-surgical care,” Miniter writes.

According to Kissimmee ophthalmologist Jaime Membreno: “If you say out of 100,000 cataract surgeries (costing between $600-$2000), that 20 percent are comanaged, that’s generating something like $50 million per year.”

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