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The Delegation for 05.18.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Great Flood of 2017 rocks Washington

Some political wordsmiths might call it the Great Flood of 2017 in Washington. No, the Potomac has not crested its banks. No water main has ruptured.

This is all about what began as occasional damaging leaks to the media involving President Trump. Those leaks have turned into a tsunami of stories and narratives that is paralyzing the executive and legislative branches.

Just this week alone, leakers set the detonators for two bombshells. On Monday, it was the Washington Post reporting on information slipped to them that Trump had given “highly classified information” to Russian officials.

Delegation Democrats voiced their outrage, while Republicans did not excuse the alleged breach, but were much more circumspect.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported, via another leak, that Trump had asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the investigation against former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch offered comments reflective  of the mood within his party.

“The President asked the FBI Director to shut down one investigation, then fired the FBI Director in order to shut down another investigation,” Deutch said in a statement as he further repeated the call for an independent investigation.

Everyone, Republican and Democrat, can agree the leaks have elevated the regular media revelations to flood stage. The trouble began with leaked information on Flynn’s call to Russian officials, as well as Trump’s conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to name just two.

Back-to-back, cycle-dominating leaked stories like never seen before leads to another analogy. Trump is being compared to Richard Nixon, who was desperate to stop the leaking within his administration.

History tells us how Nixon’s “plumbers” helped turn an uncomfortable situation into a catastrophe. His ultimate fate was determined by testimony before Congress and an aggressive special counsel.

With the appointment of respected former FBI Director Robert Mueller to that role late Wednesday, the leaks should slow to a trickle. For those that perpetrated illegal leaks of unmasked surveillance subjects, it would be in their best interests to turn off the spigot.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Delegation reacts to Trump’s revelations to Russians

Several of Florida’s delegation, mostly Democrats, reacted with disbelief to news reports — and later tweets from President Trump himself — that he shared classified, high sensitive ISIS information with Russian diplomats last week.

— “If the story is true, this is a serious breach of security and will have lasting and dangerous consequences for the U.S.” – Sen. Bill Nelson.

— “Reports of President Trump sharing highly sensitive information with Russian officials is extremely concerning. This underscores the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate this administration’s ties to Russia.” – Rep. Al Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat in a Facebook post

— “Trump betrays our country & allies when he leaks classified info to Russia.” – Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, in a Tweet

— “If these allegations are true, they are inexcusable and deserve immediate action from Congress. In leaking this kind of intelligence, the President would be putting lives in danger. Our allies need to know that they can trust us.” – Rep. Val Demings, an Orlando Democrat

— “The news that the president gave highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador in the Oval Office is deeply, deeply disturbing. His actions are indefensible. They delivered a self-inflicted wound to our national security, imperiling secret, sensitive operations overseas battling ISIS, putting the lives of our operatives in grave danger. Congress must exercise its oversight responsibilities immediately. The repercussions of the disclosure, and measures to prevent the President from repeating such a serious error, must be weighed.” – Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat

— “When you betray the trust of our allies and national security partners, it jeopardizes our safety and future intelligence sharing. As the former vice chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I can’t stress enough how serious of a blunder this is. It is imperative that Congress is given a full briefing on the extent of the damage that President Donald John Trump has caused in compromising highly classified code-word intelligence to the Russians.” – Rep. Alcee Hastings, Miramar Democrat

— “It is shocking that President Trump shared classified information reportedly obtained by Israel with the Russians. Not only does this endanger Israel’s intelligence network, but it puts highly sensitive information into the hands of Russia – a partner of Israel’s enemies Syria, Iran, and its proxy Hezbollah. Intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel has always been a cornerstone of our relationship, and to jeopardize this while boasting to the Russians puts America’s national security and Israel’s security at serious risk.” – Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, shown here in January 2016, said the disclosure of highly classified material would be “gravely dangerous.” (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

— “If true, news reports indicate that President Trump compromised America’s intelligence gathering operations and security, and possibly harmed a relationship with a key ally and put lives at risk. His disclosure would be a gravely dangerous compromise of classified information with an adversary. Congress needs an immediate and full briefing on what damage has been done.” – Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Weston Democrat

— “As president, Trump has the right to declassify anything he wants, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Russia is not our friend, and the sooner he realizes that, the better off our country will be.” – Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Gardens Democrat

— “Putin and the Russian regime are dangerous players in the global arena. They are not our allies and cannot be trusted with sensitive, classified information.” – Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican

— “No one should share classified information with nations like #Russia that have interests adverse to ours.” – Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican in a Tweet

Not all the responses were critical of Trump, though. Rockledge Republican Rep. Bill Posey argued that if the concerns are real and serious, the sources who brought the story forward need to be taking their concerns to Congress, not offering unnamed source tips to the media.

“The President has the authority to make decisions regarding our national security and work with other nations to combat international terrorism,” he said. “It’s time for these unnamed sources to come forward and inform Congress and the public of any specific allegations.”

Florida think tank urges Nelson, Rubio to reject GOP health care bill

A Florida-based think tank is warning the Republican-supported health care bill will severely harm those on Medicaid if enacted. The Florida Policy Institute touts a recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that claims if the American Health Care Act (AHCA) becomes law, 2.35 million women and girls would be harmed.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation by four votes on May 4. The Senate is now contemplating changes or a possible re-write.

“It’s not enough for the U.S. Senate to simply reject the House’s version of the ‘repeal and replace’ American Health Care Act – they need to reject any bill that does not preserve Medicaid expansion, institutes per capita caps or block grants or eliminates protections for essential benefits and people with pre-existing conditions,” said Joseph Pennisi, executive director of the FPI, in a news release.

Citing the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, FPI makes the case that Medicaid “covers 63 percent of all deliveries in Florida.” Of the women and girls on Medicaid, 37 percent are white, 33 percent are Hispanic and 25 percent are African-American.

“It is crucial for the U.S. Senate to protect this program, not cut it or radically restructure it,” said Pennisi. “I urge Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to protect the health of their constituents and accept only legislation that does not cap or cut Medicaid, fully protects vulnerable populations and preserves expansion.”

Crist, Rubio team up to unite Florida family

Last week, Florida’s junior senator tweeted out a story from the Tampa Bay Times about a St. Petersburg business owner struggling to get her son-in-law into the U.S. from Vietnam. The article, “Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio: A love story” was enough to attract political names when the words Rubio, Crist and love were used in the same sentence.

Working on behalf of the same constituent, both Crist and Rubio’s Orlando office helped facilitate the arrival of the son-in-law. Rubio learned of the collaboration at the first meeting of the full delegation in January, which was held in the Senator’s office.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Charlie Crist, once political nemeses, worked together to help bring a St. Petersburg business owner’s son-in-law into the United States from Vietnam.

“You may not know this, but your office in Orlando and I are working on getting a Vietnamese husband to be with his wife,” Crist told Rubio at the end of the delegation meeting.

Rubio’s office pressed harder and the family sent photos taken with Crist to Vietnam. One month later, the husband was in Florida.

“ ‘Good news’ story in turbulent time,” Rubio tweeted with a link to the story. “Neither party nor politics should keep us from helping Floridians.”


Local governments offer support for Gaetz’s military budget request

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the freshman Republican from Fort Walton Beach, has gained the support of five county governments on one of his signature issues. Gaetz is seeking $30 million to expand the training area of the northern portion of the Gulf Test Range, which is currently limited to a portion of the Gulf of Mexico due south of Eglin Air Force Base.

According to Gaetz, the resulting congestion has prevented numerous training missions and fighter aircraft from “undertaking mission-relevant training.” Last week the County Commissions in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes County signed resolutions supporting Gaetz’s efforts. All five counties are in the First Congressional District represented by Gaetz.

“We must expand and modernize the Gulf Test Range, so we can better train America’s next generation of heroes,” Gaetz said in a statement. “The more they prepare on the training field, the more effective they will be on the battlefield.”

While thanking the counties for their support, Gaetz added his commitment to the members of the military, many of which he represents in Congress.

“The brave men and women in our military don’t stop working until the job is done,” he said. “Neither will I.”

Dunn joins colleagues in urging repeal of sequestration

The Panama City Republican believes the time is now to end the defense budget restraints known as sequestration. Dunn joined with 140 of his colleagues in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan calling for an end to the budget practice.

“Sequestration diminishes our military’s readiness, impedes our ability to deter adversaries effectively, and ravages our defense communities across the country,” the letter said.

Among those joining Dunn in signing the letter were Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, Dennis Ross of Lakeland, Bill Posey of Rockledge and Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island.

The Republican lawmakers indicated sequestration is set to reduce national defense spending by $500 billion over the course of a decade. Dunn made his own case in a recent op-ed.

“We have hollowed out our armed forces, leaving them with tools and weapons that are decades old at a time when technology is leaping forward faster than ever,” he wrote. “Their vehicles, aircraft, and weapons systems were designed for another time, and they have been used relentlessly in battle, long past their designed lifespan.”

The lawmakers urged Ryan to schedule a vote on repeal.

After threats, Yoho’s Gainesville office changing procedures

Since the Gainesville Republican voted in support of the American Health Care Act, the congressman and his district staffers have been on the receiving end of hundreds of angry phone calls and threats, his spokesman says.

The Ocala StarBanner reports some constituents are said to have left piles of dog feces at the front door of his Gainesville office and even vandalized a staff member’s car. As a result, Yoho’s Gainesville office temporarily stopped allowing walk-ins, and his staff is now meeting with constituents on an appointment-only basis.

“We completely get the emotion involved in legislation,” said Brian Kaveney, a Yoho spokesman. “But when it starts getting to the point where you feel you’re in danger, you have to take precautions.”

Kaveney said the change only applies to the Gainesville office and was recommended by federal police. Anytime a member of Congress or their staff is threatened, Capitol Hill police must be notified, he said. Yoho’s Orange Park, Palatka and Marion County offices will maintain normal business hours and allow walk-ins.

According to Kaveney, some of the threats and vandalism include paint on a staff member’s car, the dog poop, a direct threat to a staffer and a chalk outline of a body outside the Gainesville office.

Paulson’s Principles: The jury delivers a fatal blow to Corrine Brown

In 1992, Corrine Brown was one of three blacks elected to the Florida congressional delegation, the first black members of Congress since the end of Reconstruction in the 1880s.

For 28 years, Congresswoman Brown’s campaign theme was “Corrine Delivers.” This time, it was a federal court jury that delivered a fatal blow to Brown’s political career. Combined with her electoral defeat in November, 2016 to Al Lawson of Tallahassee in a newly drawn district, there is little doubt that Brown has reached the end of along career.

The jury found Brown guilty of 18 of the 22 counts and potentially faces hundreds of years in prison and millions in fines. U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan did not set a sentencing date, but it will be handed down within 120 days.

Brown was accused of raising over $800,000 for her One Door Educational Foundation. Donors believed the Foundation was a properly registered 501(c)(3) non-profit. It was not.

In fact, only one $1,200 scholarship was handed out. Over $300,000 of the funds were used to promote Brown at concerts, football games and magazine ads. Another $141,000 in untraceable cash was funneled to Brown over the years. Funds were removed from the One Door account and deposited into Brown’s personal bank account.

Even with her $175,000 congressional salary and her Florida legislative pension, prosecutors showed that Brown was spending $1,438 more each month than she was earning.

Acting U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said Brown “chose greed and personal gain over the sacred trust given to her by the community that she served for many years.”

FBI agent Charles Spencer of Jacksonville noted that “corrupt public officials undermine the integrity of our government and violate the public’s trust, and that is why investigating public corruption remains the FBI’s top crime priority.”

Brown has long had the reputation of playing the victim. She called the charges and the trial a “half-truth witch-hunt.” She accused the U.S. Justice Department of racism in bringing the charges. With Obama in the White House and Eric Holder as the first black attorney general, the charge lacked credibility.

Brown’s attorney, James Smith, announced that “this is just the first quarter and there is plenty of time left.” Many would argue the clock has run out for Brown. Smith has promised to file a motion for a new trial, but Brown had to sell her beach house to pay for legal expenses for this trial.

Brown did deliver for Jacksonville and her Congressional District for 28 years. Former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney, a force in Republican Party politics, said a Lawson electoral victory or a Brown loss in her criminal case would be devastating for Jacksonville. “Lawson’s all about Tallahassee,” he said.

Brown lost her congressional campaign and criminal case and now may lose her personal freedom. Corrine may have “delivered” for Jacksonville for decades, but a federal jury delivered the death blow for Brown’s political career.

DeSantis wants IRS Commissioner to follow Comey out the door

The Republican from Ponte Vedra Beach weighed in on the controversial firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. While he agrees with President Trump on that high profile personnel move, he makes the point that one other high-level agency head should be on his way out as well.

After Comey’s ouster, Rep. DeSantis wonders why Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen is still at his desk. Despite “arrogance” and “incompetence,” Koskinen’s removal should have been “a no-brainer,” DeSantis argues.

“After all, this is the guy who presided over the stonewalling of the IRS targeting investigation and who made a number of false statements before Congressional committees,” DeSantis said in an email to constituents.

Despite his total agreement in the firing of Comey, with concurring opinions by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, DeSantis believes there is a fundamental difference between the two cases.

“Unlike Koskinen, Comey has been effective in a number of areas, such as his support of law enforcement,” DeSantis said.

Soto wants to declare Kissimmee River ‘Wild and Scenic’

Rep. Soto said he plans to sponsor legislation to protect the Kissimmee River with a designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

If approved, it would enact broad protections for the river, which starts in Osceola County’s Little Lake Tohopekaliga and, at least in its original bed, meanders 103 miles before emptying into Lake Okeechobee, and providing the Everglades with one of its largest sources of water.

Soto, speaking at a town hall meeting in Orlando focusing on environmental issues, called for widespread actions to address Florida’s natural environment, particularly the Everglades, and announced that as part of that he will introduce a bill to put the Kissimmee River into the class of the nation’s most protected and revered rivers.

“The Kissimmee River has an unusual windiness to us which allows the water to be cleaned. If it’s a Wild and Scenic River, that’ll limit what activities can be done on there, primarily recreational,” Soto said. “Right now there’s not much other than recreational happening there. But there is nothing in the law to stop that. So we want to enshrine it into law. And then we’ll be able to get federal funds.”

The Wild and Scenic River Act of 1972 has three designations: wild, scenic and recreational, with varying degrees of restrictions. Nationally more than 200 rivers are in the system, covering about 12,700 miles, representing less than one half of one percent of the nation’s rivers, according to the U.S. National and Wild Scenic Rivers Office.

In Florida, just two rivers are enrolled, the Wekiva River in Central Florida, and the Loxahatchee River along the Treasure Coast.

Demings, Ros-Lehtinen spend Mother’s Day with female troops in Middle East

The Orlando Democrat and Miami Republican made a week-long visit to visit troops in Afghanistan and Iraq this week, including a Mother’s Day visit at which Rep.  Demings was able to deliver cards from students in her Florida’s 10th Congressional District.

Demings and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen were part of a bipartisan group of members of Congress to make the tour to conduct oversight of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with a focus on the contribution, efforts, and concerns of women in the United States Armed Forces and local women.

Reps. Val Demings and Ilena Ros-Lehtinen pose with military moms during a recent stop in Afghanistan.

“This was my first trip to Afghanistan and Iraq, and it was such an honor to meet with our female troops and commanders, and see firsthand the difference they are making in Afghanistan and Iraq all while protecting our homeland,” Demings stated in a news release issued by her office.

The delegation met with U.S. female service members, toured local businesses, participated in roundtables with Afghan Female Police and Soldiers, met with Iraqi women leaders, and humanitarian leaders. Others in the group in clouded U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican; Susan Davis, a California Democrat; Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican; and members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Bilirakis makes futile plea to Trump to focus on Turkish human rights

Rep. Bilirakis had a request for President Trump before the latter met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House Tuesday. The Palm Harbor Republican called on the president to bring up the deteriorating state of human rights in Turkey during their sit-down talks.

“As it is a critical moment for Turkey and the U.S.-Turkish relationship, the United States must be candid and consistent in our support of democratic values and respect for human rights for the sake of Turkey’s future, as well as the long-term interests in the region of both the United States and our NATO allies,” Bilirakis and a bipartisan collection of colleagues said in a letter made available Tuesday afternoon.

“We, therefore, urge you to make support for Turkish democracy a priority, both in your meetings with President Erdogan and in U.S. policy toward Turkey thereafter.”

Also signing the letter, cc’d to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, was Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford, Orlando Democrats Darren Soto and Stephanie Murphy, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch, Gainesville Republican Ron DeSantis, and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Either Trump didn’t get the message or he ignored it. The Independent (U.K.) reports Trump “made no mention of human rights during a friendly press conference” with Erdogan.

After the talks, Turkish security staff roughed up protestors outside the country’s embassy in Washington. Some were left bloodied.

Bilirakis is the co-chair of the House Hellenic Caucus.

T. Rooney target of ethics complaint

The Okeechobee Republican drew the attention of a liberal interest group for publicly calling for the defeat of Sen. Bill Nelson. The American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint against Rep. Rooney with the House Office of Congressional Ethics for issuing a statement saying, in part, “I hope Florida voters replace (Nelson) next year in the 2018 election.”

“Rep. Rooney violated the House’s prohibition on the use of official resources when he issued a press release on his official House website announcing his opposition to Florida Senator Bill Nelson’s reelection and condemning his decision not to support cloture for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch,” the group said in announcing their action.

The American Democracy Legal Fund is a Washington, DC-based advocacy group founded by David Brock. Brock is well-known as the founder of the conservative media critic site Media Matters.

Rooney responded to the complaint when asked about it by the Tampa Bay Times.

“I in no way, shape or form endorsed any candidate,” Rooney said. “I merely said that Bill Nelson, in my opinion, for political reasons opposed a guy he supported 10 years ago and nothing has changed with (Gorsuch’s) judicial acumen or character, which is the standard by which senators are supposed to confirm Supreme Court justices.”

In the end, Rooney said “maybe I shouldn’t have used the word ‘election’ and maybe we should change it to ‘I hope he’s no longer the Senator if he is going to act in such a political way.”

Rooney has said he will not be a candidate for the Senate in 2018, but may run in the future.

House Majority PAC targets Mast in new ads

Rep. Brian Mast is among six Republicans being targeted by the House Majority PAC, a political committee aimed at helping Democrats win seats in the U.S. House.

The 30-second digital spot focuses on his vote to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, with the American Health Care Act. The ad claims the measure could allow insurance companies to charge older people five times as much as they charge younger people for premiums, citing an AARP report.

“It is critical that we expose House Republicans for their dreadful plan that includes an ‘age tax’ – charging people over 50 years old up to five times more for their coverage. All the while, these same House Republicans have taken six-figures or more in campaign contributions from insurance and financial interests,” said Charlie Kelly, executive director of House Majority PAC, in a statement. The American public deserves to know the truth about the House Republican plan, and we intend to hold them accountable delivering a clear and effective message in districts around the country over the coming weeks and months.”

Similar ads will air in districts targeting Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, Lee Zeldin and John Faso of New York, and John Culberson of Texas.

Deutch, Curbelo have joint praise for Rex Tillerson

It’s not the kind of headline readers expect to see very often, but the two south Florida lawmakers had kind words for the Secretary of State after he signed an international agreement acknowledging the threat posed by climate change to the Arctic region.

At a meeting of countries in the region, called the Arctic Council, Tillerson signed the agreement called the Fairbanks Declaration. The document notes that among other things, the Arctic region is “warming at more than twice the rate of the global average” and “resilience and adaptation to climate change are important to Arctic communities and ecosystems.”

“I’m surprised and cautiously pleased by the Secretary’s move,” said Rep. Ted Deutch said in a joint release. “If the administration is signaling that it is ready to get serious on climate change, the President should unequivocally reaffirm our pledge to the Paris Agreement and follow through with climate-friendly policies.”

“American leadership on climate stewardship is essential to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and by keeping a seat at the table, we have an opportunity to ensure our research, ingenuity, and innovation are part of global conversation and initiatives,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

Deutch and Curbelo are co-chairs of the House Climate Solutions Caucus.

In response to a question, Curbelo talks impeachment, obstruction of justice

The Republican from Kendall became one of the first among his party to discuss “impeachment” when responding to questions surrounding this week’s revelations concerning President Trump. Curbelo did not call for impeachment, but left open the possibility.

“Obstruction of justice in the case of Nixon, in the case of Clinton in the late 90’s, has been considered an impeachable offense,” Curbelo said on CNN this week.

He did not say Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice or any wrongdoing. “It may be very serious, it may be nothing,” Curbelo said. The key, Curbelo believes, is James Comey.

“We have to hear from Director Comey,” Curbelo told CNN’s Don Lemon.

Many of Curbelo’s Florida colleagues agreed for the need to have Comey testify.

Graham snags big endorsement in run for Governor

The former Congresswoman from the 2nd District picked up a huge endorsement in her run for the Democratic nomination for governor of Florida. Civil rights icon John Lewis is backing his former colleague.

“Only one Democrat for Governor of Florida —my good friend Gwen Graham — has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done,” the Georgia Democrat said in a statement. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida.”

Graham marched with Lewis and President Barack Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, joined him and other House Democrats in a sit-in to demand commonsense gun safety, and co-sponsored legislation to protect voting rights while in Congress.

“Congressman John Lewis’s support and friendship mean the world to me. Marching with him to mark the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, sitting in with him to demand commonsense gun reform, and fighting for voting rights with him are among my proudest moments while representing Florida in Congress,” the former congresswoman said in a statement.

Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, is one of three Democrats running for governor in 2018. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando businessman Chris King are also running.

Laura Bush returns to D.C. to push for women’s museum

The National Women’s History Museum tipped its hat to former First Lady Laura Bush, who said Americans need to redouble their efforts to “make sure there’s a women’s museum right here in our country,” reports Juliet Eilperin with the Washington Post.

The museum hosted its annual Women Making History Awards at the Carnegie Institute of Science this week. The 2017 event honored Bush, and featured a video introduction from former Secretary of State (and a former First Lady herself) Hillary Clinton.

Both women expressed the need for a museum on the mall. In her video remarks, Clinton, who ran for president in 2016, said she looks forward to a time when her grandchildren can visit the museum and “come away feeling a little braver, walking a little taller, knowing they stand on the shoulders of generations of history makers and trailblazers.”

“It’s really important to have a museum that focuses on women because half of the population is left out from American History,” said Bush. “We need to figure out how we can encourage women to run for office—and to run for President.”

The event also honored Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden (USMC, Retired), the 12th NASA Administrator and Henry Blackwell Award recipient; Dr. Faye Laing, a pioneering radiologist and professor; Diane Rehm, the former host of The Diane Rehm Show; the Honorable Rosie Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the United States; and Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught (USAF, Retired), the founding president, of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial.

“We all know there is a story that needs to be told to girls and boys,” said Rep. Ed Royce, who co-sponsored the bill to create the women’s history museum. “A national museum that focuses on women’s history is the best way to tell that story.”


Sunburn for 5.18.17 – Pam Bondi raising $$$; No word yet on special Session; Richard Corcoran’s op-ed; The secret Disney land deal

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

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

Good morning from the deck of the Disney Magic. The weather is now much more north Atlantic than tropical. Current location is 35.17.14 N, 39.16.13 W. Course is 80 degrees. The nearest land is Santa Cruz des Flores. The ship is 672 nautical miles from Ponta Delgado. It’s our fifth straight day at sea, but our mood is buoyed by the fact that today is Pirate Night.


Attorney General Pam Bondi had a good April, at least when it came to fundraising.

State records show Bondi raised $72,500 for her political committee, Justice for All, during the one-month fundraising period. The committee, which posts fundraising numbers on its website, has already raised $10,000 this month.

The numbers aren’t earth shattering. In fact, they barely rank among the Top 10 fundraising hauls the committee has reported to the state since 2013. But here’s why $72K in 30 days is notable: The April haul marks the first time in more than a year the committee has raised any money.

Dear Pam: What are you raising money for?

The committee, state records show, hasn’t raised any money since January 2016, when it reported raising $53,000. Prior to that, it reported sporadic fundraising throughout much of 2015 and late 2014.

Bondi, who won re-election with 55 percent of the vote in 2014, can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits. An early supporter of President Donald Trump, many speculated Bondi would leave her post early to join Trump administration. But none of the obvious jobs panned out, leaving many to wonder what comes next for Bondi.

While Bondi has said she won’t run for governor, the attorney general’s post has been a launching pad for gubernatorial bids in the past. And Bondi remains one of the most popular Republicans in the state.

According to a February survey conducted by Associated Industries of Florida, 54 percent of Republicans approved of the job she was doing as attorney general. She had the third highest approval rating at the time, behind only Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio.

It’s unclear what sparked the sudden surge in fundraising, but Bondi did secure some big-name contributors in April. Top contributors included Florida Phosphate Council; the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC, and Mosaic Global Sales. The committee ended the month with $222,587 cash on hand.

“Bondi wants to protect ‘military consumers’ ” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi on Wednesday announced a new consumer protection program “that will serve the unique needs of our military and veteran communities and directly assist with consumer protection-related issues.” The Military and Veterans Assistance Program (MVAP) is Bondi’s “most recent effort to spread awareness of and stop deceptive business practices affecting military service members, veterans and their families,” according to a press release. “Florida has more than 90,000 active duty and reserve military members and more than 1.5 million veterans,” she said in a statement. “To the men and women who have put on a uniform to protect our country, we will continue to do everything we can to protect you from these scammers.”

Stop f*cking with Pam, A**hole – “Bondi faces accused stalker in court” via Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times – When William Norman Wilkes first banged on her door at 3 one morning, Bondi said she thought he was a different stalker she has dealt with — a man from another state who thinks she can remove a chip from his brain. “When I called 911, I said, ‘My stalker is trying to get in the house,’” Bondi said, “because I thought he was someone else at the time.” But Bondi, flanked in court by statewide prosecutors Nick Cox and Rita Peters, said she didn’t know Wilkes. She said he showed up twice at her home and later sent her text messages expressing appreciation for her “physical attributes.” She has since learned that they attended the same high school. After Wednesday’s hearing, Bondi said Wilkes was taken to a mental health center in Tampa. He was cleared to leave days later, before he began sending text messages to Bondi through Facebook Messenger. “The system failed me and it failed him,” Bondi said.

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“Civil rights icon John Lewis endorses Gwen Graham” via Florida Politics — In a statement, the Georgia Democrat said Graham is the only Democrat for governor who has the passion and commitment, the track record and the leadership skills to stand up, speak out, protect our priorities, and get things done.” Graham marched with Lewis and President Barack Obama across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to mark the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, joined him and other House Democrats in a sit-in to demand commonsense gun safety, and co-sponsored legislation to protect voting rights while in Congress. “Gwen is a champion for the progressive values so many of us share, and I am proud to give Gwen Graham my strongest endorsement for Governor of Florida,” said Lewis.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with an “Up & Adam” breakfast at 8 a.m. at Tasty’s Fresh Burgers and Fries, 710 Centre Street in Fernandina Beach.

Adam Putnam supporters gathered for an “Up & Adam” breakfast at Wilke’s 14 Bones BBQ in Vero Beach.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

Matt Caldwell releases first campaign video — Caldwell, who formally launched his bid for Agriculture Commissioner on Monday, released a video explaining why he was running for the statewide office. “Running for office was about a choice,” he says in the 2 minute and 30 second campaign video. “I could sit idly by and shake my fist at the television screen or I could get out there and I could fight for what I knew right and just.” In the video, the North Fort Myers Republican urges supporters to help us get our message out to all 20 million Floridians in all 67 counties.” Click on the image below to watch the video.   

“Denise Grimsley introduces herself to Tampa Republicans” via Mitch Perry of SaintPetersBlog —The Sebring Republican used her stop in Tampa to introduce herself to local Republicans and explain why she’s the best candidate to succeed Putnam as Agriculture Commissioner. Like Putnam, she’s a fifth-generation Floridian, but unlike him, she had an entire career outside of politics before being elected in 2004 to represent Highlands County in the Florida House. Grimsley spent 17 years in the health care field. She also spent time as a citrus grower and rancher when she took over for her ailing father at the Grimsley Oil Company. “When I did that, I started seeing how government impacted our day-to-day life,” Grimsley told the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, which gathered at the River at Tampa Bay Church Tuesday night. Before that, she said, she had little interest in the workings of government.

“In Tampa, Jay Fant says House ‘out of whack’ for zeroing out funding for Enterprise Florida” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The Jacksonville Republican was back in Tampa, where he once again registered his disagreement with House Speaker Richard Corcoran over the House vote to zero out funding for Enterprise Florida. Speaking to the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, he said he gets along well with Corcoran … but disagrees with how the House handled the budget in relation to Enterprise Florida. “If I sound critical of the House’s approach in this method, then I am,” said Fant, who is running for attorney general. “We have education, health, transportation, many good programs that occur in our budget, and if we jeopardize it over a food fight over a meaningful smaller, legitimately debatable item, then I think we’re out of whack, and I think we need to come back and find a compromise, not jeopardize our funding from the state.”

“Audrey Gibson draws 2018 opponent” via Florida Politics — Lucretia Fordyce, a write-in candidate, has filed to run against the veteran Democratic senator and chairwoman of the Duval County Democratic Party. Fordyce, a customer service rep and an Army veteran, bills herself on her Facebook page as a “national recording artist and an author.” Among her books: Dare to Be a Diva in Bella Mafias.

Three Democrats now running to replace Janet Cruz in HD 62 — Michael AlvarezCarlos Frontela, and John Rodriguez have all thrown their hat in the race to replace Cruz in House District 62. Rodriguez served as Cruz’s first legislative aide; while Frontela is a businessman. Alvarez is a Marine veteran and a party activist who works for a local roofing company. Cruz, the House Democratic Leader, can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Two Democrats file to replace Lori Berman in HD 90 — Boynton Beach Commissioner Joe Casello and Adriana Gonzalez have filed to replace the Lantana Democrat in House District 90. Casello was first elected as a city commissioner in April 2013, and was re-elected in March 2014 to a three-year term. Gonzalez is a partner at Gonzalez & Cartwright PA, and an executive board member of the Palm Beach County Justice Association Berman can’t run for re-election because of term limits.


Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with one bill on Wednesday — HB 7109, the tax cut package. He has until Thursday, June 1 to sign it, veto it or let it become law without taking action.

Senate Democrats are ready to block override – under right circumstances” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Senate Democrats are prepared to work with Gov. Scott to block an override of a veto if he rejects the sweeping education reform bill pushed by House leaders in the final days of session and sold as a take-it or leave-it budget deal, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon [said]. “We have to have a reason to override,” Braynon said, referring to his Democratic colleagues. “It would depend on what the veto message looks like and if his vetoes include a bunch of things that matter to Democrats, then we’re not going to override. We’re willing to come back and work.” The Senate would need 26 votes to override the governor’s veto and, with Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala openly suggesting he would support a veto, plus the three Republican senators who voted against the bill, the numbers won’t add up if the Senate Democrats hold most of their 15 members.

“Still no decision from Joe Negron on marijuana Special Session” via Florida Politics – Senate President Negron has yet to decide to join House Speaker Corcoran in calling for a Special Session on medical marijuana implementation, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Negron, a Stuart Republican, is still “in the process of having discussions with senators in response to the memorandum he sent last Thursday,” Katie Betta said in an email. Negron had sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to guide state Health regulators on the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

— “Darryl Rouson wants lawmakers to take medical pot into their own hands” via the Miami Herald

Who dropped this oppo file? – “A tale of two homes: Does Miami lawmaker live in district she represents?” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Rep. Daisy Baez doesn’t appear to live in the House district she represents, a possible violation of the Florida Constitution that could haunt her Florida Senate candidacy. Her residence continues to be a prim Coral Gables house with a stack of her old campaign yard signs leaning against one of the porch walls … Baez wasn’t inside – but her two rescue dogs, Oso and Coco, were. So was her campaign team, working around the kitchen table. Baez was expected back a couple of hours later. The home is in House District 112. Baez, a Democrat, represents House District 114, whose boundaries begin about half a mile away. Florida requires lawmakers to live and vote in the districts they represent by Election Day. For Baez, a freshman, that was Nov. 8 of last year.

Assignment editors – Lawmakers and advocates will host a news conference and rally outside the Orange County Department of Health (DOH) office, 832 W. Central Blvd. in Orlando, to demand immediate action on medical cannabis, and continue calls for a special legislative session to pass an Amendment 2 implementation bill. News conference from 12 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.


Richard Corcoran:Don’t believe hyperbole, hysterics from budget critics” via Orlando Rising – If you can believe it, one newspaper even argued that Gov. Scott should veto the budget because it offered kids in failing schools hope, and because voters shouldn’t be able to choose another $25,000 homestead exemption on their property taxes. … I wish I were joking but I’m not. … From funding to clear out the backlog of sexual-assault testing kits to fully funding the KidCare program, to making feminine hygiene products tax exempt, this budget is tough on waste, generous to our kids, and prioritizes real people. For some, however, this wasn’t enough. It is this exact same logic and thinking that has put this country $20 trillion in debt and enriched insider elites at the expense of the hard-working, play-by-the-rules majority of we the people.

Gary Fineout fires back via @Fineout: Much was made this session about university budgets and how projects were rolled up before budget was sent to @FLGovScott … Guess what? $120 million for Florida’s 12 universities – with set amounts for each school – was rolled up into the overall SUS budget

Jason Fischer: “Our kids deserve hope” via Florida Politics – Over the past few days, many district superintendents and other defenders of the struggling status quo have attacked HB 7069, a bill focused on reforming and improving K-12 education. The notion that this bill will gut public education or undermine public schools is hogwash. Instead, it provides the reform and disruption our K-12 education system desperately needs. HB 7069 does several positive things: boosts K-12 funding to a record high $24 billion; rewards teachers and principals with bonuses; reduces standardized and computer testing; expands school choice access for special needs and virtual school students; implements mandatory recess for early grades; and provides the needed funding and incentives to attract nationally-proven charter school networks to Florida.  The bill also rewards Florida’s 165,000+ hardworking teachers and principals with bonuses for the next three years, ranging between $800 and $6,000, based on eligibility, placing more dollars directly in the pockets of our educators. What the bill does not do is cut funding to traditional public schools. Duval County will see an $8.3 million boost overall or $16 per pupil increase in funding.


Because we were first to tell you Mike Dew was a shoo-in to get the top spot at the Department of Transportation. Doubters noted that Dew was not on a list of recommendations to go to Gov. Scott—but then, surprise, he was added back on Wednesday. Did we also mention we were first to say Noah Valenstein would be the next Department of Environmental Protection Secretary? Again, on Wednesday, he was the only applicant—mirabile dictu—to be granted an interview at next week’s Cabinet meeting. Tell a friend: Look on the right-hand side of our main page to subscribe to SUNBURN and all our other newsletters.


Marco Rubio calls for patience in Donald trump issues” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Rubio on Fox & Friends: “I’m not saying the news articles are wrong. I’m not saying that they are right,” he said. “I’m saying that they raise an allegation, we have an obligation to look into them, but before we form opinions and advocate for action, we need to know what the facts are.” Any advice for the White House? “There is a value to convention … If the White House became more systematic in its approach to scheduling and messaging and the like, they would avoid some of the friction that you’re now seeing.”

“2,100 wildfires have burned in Florida this year” via the Associated Press – Ag. Commissioner Putnam said that more than 127 active fires were burning in Florida as of Tuesday. Putnam says drought conditions and high wildfire danger will continue for some time since May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year in Florida.

State will exhaust budget for agriculture conservation easements by year’s end” via Florida Politics — The state would run out of money to buy agricultural conservation land easements by the end of 2017 under the budget approved by the Legislature, the head of the Florida Forest Service said Wednesday. The service asked for $50 million and got $10 for the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, land program administrator John Browne told aides to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet. Combined with about $11 million for the current fiscal year, that would leave around $21 million for easement acquisition, Browne said. “So you’ll see easements at least until the end of this calendar year. After that, it’s kind of questionable,” Browne said. … Scott and the Cabinet have two acquisitions on their May 23 agenda — $7 million on 4,177 acres of the Triple S Ranch in Okeechobee County, and $1.5 million in state and federal money for 1,034 acres of the S.Y. Hartt Ranch in Highland County.

“Seminoles’ Jim Allen suggests putting Florida casinos up for bid” via Nick Sortal of the Miami Herald – Allen suggested that any expansion of commercial casinos in Florida should involve a competitive bidding process, rather than simply adding slots at more racetracks, reported James Kilsby for Gambling Compliance, the only media covering the event. “In my opinion and on behalf of the tribe, if the state wants to enhance revenue from gaming, then run a process … and attract great companies like Steve Wynn’s, like MGM, like Station [Casinos], Penn National Gaming, like LVS,” Allen told delegates at the International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) spring conference. “If we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right. … “Obviously our preference is for the Seminole Tribe to continue to enjoy our semi-exclusivity… and we’re happy to put billions into the state,” Allen added. “But if the state is at the point where they don’t want to do that, then we’re happy to move on.”

What Jack Cory is reading – “Greyhound owners sue to strike down Seminole County greyhound ordinance” via Florida Politics – Two racing dog owners are trying to strike down a county ordinance regulating greyhounds. Scott Bennett and Jimmy Goodman, in a suit filed in Seminole Circuit Court on Tuesday, say the local law—the only known one of its kind in the state—is preempted by Florida gambling statutes covering racing dogs and is thus “unenforceable.” They said they “have incurred, and will continue to incur, licensing fees that are otherwise not required by state law” and “subject to ongoing harm including inspections and potential fines from the County.” Their suit also says the ordinance was drafted by GREY2K USA, which bills itself as a “greyhound protection organization” and has long been an antagonist to racing dog breeders and owners. “The legal claims made in this lawsuit are flawed, and will be rejected,” said Carla Wilson, vice chair of the Committee to Protect Greyhounds, a political committee that backed the ordinance. The plaintiffs are represented by lawyer-lobbyist and former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who also represents the Florida Greyhound Association. Lawmakers considered but did not pass a bill this year banning the use of steroids on greyhounds. The Seminole County ordinance does not address steroid use on dogs.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at***

UM researchers find new way to measure hurricanes: ‘gravity waves’” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – Gravity waves are produced when air moving around the atmosphere gets pushed from one place to another. In a hurricane, those waves can come in quick, short bursts as powerful thunderstorms around the storm’s eye wall swish air up and down like a plunger in a toilet bowl. Scientists have long known they exist, measuring them in the stratosphere about 20 or 30 miles from a storm. Now, for the first time, University of Miami scientists have ventured into the heart of the storm, measuring the waves where they start. And early indications suggest wave power relates directly to storm power. “The waves are generated in the eye wall, where all the energy is released,” said David Nolan, who reported the findings with colleague Jun Zhang in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. “That’s why we think it’s telling us what’s going on with the storm. It’s like noise from the engine.”

What Kevin Sweeny is reading – “St. Augustine residents voice concerns over increased tourism” via Ethan Calloway of News 4 Jax – Even on a Tuesday afternoon, the streets of downtown St. Augustine are packed with cars and the sidewalks full of pedestrians. But those signs of a tourism boom in America’s oldest city aren’t sitting well with everyone. “I know it’s a good thing for the economy as a whole, but as far as quality of life, it’s definitely getting a little — you know, there are some days where you just have to bite your lip and just shake your head and keep right on going,” resident Gerard Shannon said. He said the presence of the tourists is much more noticeable, and not always in a good way. “People (are) ending up on scooters in spots that you would be surprised,” Shannon said. “I mean, you’ve got to look both ways to cross the sidewalk sometimes around here, and never mind the cars — they can end up almost anywhere.”


Appointed – Gary Wendt to Board of Trustees, Florida Polytechnic University.

“Florida TaxWatch announces winners of 2017 Prudential Productivity Awards” via Florida Politics – TaxWatch gave 203 awards to “state employees and teams from across the state for … cost savings ideas across state government,” according to a press release. “State workers are critical to the functions of Florida’s government and hardly get the praise and honor they deserve for a job well done. This program has ensured that the taxpayers are noticing the contributions of hard-working state employees,” said Dominic M. Calabro, President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch. The program encourages state agencies “to work together to replicate the savings across state government. Since 1989, thousands of individuals, teams, work units and partnerships have produced more than $9 billion worth of added value as a direct result of award winners’ achievements and the replication of those achievements, the group said. The full list of winners and more about the program is here.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stacy Arias, Christopher Dudley, Jerry Lee McDaniel, Jim Smith, Monte Stevens, Southern Strategy Group: 3M Company and Its Affiliates

Susan Goldstein, Susan Goldstein Consulting Inc.: CannaPharmacy Sciences, LLC

— ALOE —

The secret Florida land deal that became Walt Disney World” via the Miami Herald – On May 27, 1965, the Miami Herald published this headline: “Giant land deal near Orlando revealed.” But the buyer and the plans were a mystery. “A Miami law firm working with $5 million in cold cash has quietly engineered one of the biggest Florida land deals in years,” the story went on to report. So, what would the 30,000 acres be used for? Speculation focused on an atomic energy lab. Another guessed “Disneyland East.” As we all know by now, Walt Disney was secretly assembling the land for what would become Walt Disney World in Central Florida. In November 1965, he announced plans for the theme park. Six years later, the Magic Kingdom opened … The success of the Magic Kingdom led to a frantic scramble by developers to create competing theme parks in Central Florida. Circus World, Boardwalk and Baseball, Marco Polo World, Stars Hall of Fame and Splendid China opened but later failed. Among the parks proposed but never built were Bible World, Hurricane World and Little England.

Walt Disney World under construction near Orlando in Central Florida, on July 7, 1971. At center is the amusement park’s Cinderella Palace in the Magic Kingdom. Photo credit; Associated Press.

Happy birthday belatedly to President Toni Jennings. Celebrating today is Rep. Mike Miller, Trevor Mask, and my man, Mike Wickersheim.

Mike Dew is a shoo-in for Transportation Dep’t top job

Updated May 17 — The Florida Transportation Commission on Wednesday added Dew back to a list of three finalists going to Gov. Scott, replacing DOT District Secretary Phillip Gainer. Former deputy DOT secretary Richard Biter and Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse remain on the list.

The original story is below.

Mike Dew, the Florida Department of Transportation‘s chief of staff, is expected to be the department’s next Secretary.

Sources told Wednesday that Dew got a phone call from the Governor’s Office this week telling him the job was his.

Dew, who put in for the top spot the morning of this Monday’s deadline to apply, was Gov. Rick Scott‘s external affairs director in 2011-12.

The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, met Thursday to schedule interviews of applicants on May 11.

The finalists are Dew, Florida Transportation Commissioner Ronald Howse, FDOT district secretary Phillip Gainer, former FDOT assistant secretary Richard Biter, and former North Carolina Department of Transportation Gene Conti.

The panel will meet Wednesday, May 17 in Tallahassee to recommend three candidates for consideration by the Governor. The Secretary serves at the pleasure of the governor.

The open position was created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Dew also has been chief of staff for the Department of Corrections, and worked on John McCain‘s 2008 presidential campaign and President George W. Bush‘s 2004 re-election.

Noah Valenstein set to become next DEP head

Updated May 17 — Valenstein was the only person selected to be interviewed for the job, according to remarks at Wednesday’s Cabinet aides meeting. That means he is a virtual lock for the position. Shut out by the decision is interim secretary Ryan Matthews. The interview will take place at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

The original story is below.

Noah Valenstein, Gov. Rick Scott‘s former environmental policy coordinator, has the inside track to become the next secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, sources tell

Valenstein, now the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is the top pick over interim secretary Ryan Matthews.

Scott and the Cabinet in February OK’d Matthews to serve as interim department head to fill in for departing secretary Jon Steverson. He quit in January to join the legal-lobbying firm of Foley & Lardner.

Valenstein attended an August 2014 meeting in which Scott listened to a group of leading Florida scientists talk about climate change.

At the end of that meeting, Scott declined to say whether he had been convinced by scientific evidence that rising sea levels and warming temperatures merit government action.

Scott also later denied that his administration banned agencies under his control from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in public, in emails or in other official documents.

Valenstein, a Gainesville native, graduated with honors from the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and has a law degree from Florida State University.

He interned for both former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and past Senate President Toni Jennings in the late 1990s.

Valenstein has lobbied for the Department of Environmental Protection and worked for the Florida House of Representatives (including as deputy policy chief for environmental issues) before leaving for private legal practice.

He’s been a board member of the Everglades Trust, worked for the Everglades Foundation, briefly owned a polling and research company and consulted on policy for Scott’s re-election campaign, according to his resume.

The governor and Cabinet have agreed to aim on a DEP hire during the May 23 Cabinet meeting.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.17.17

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

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

Good morning from the deck of the Disney Magic. Current location is 33.44.05 N, 47.45.65 W. Course is 79 degrees. The nearest land is Santa Cruz des Flores. The ship is 1099.7 nautical miles from Ponta Delgada.


It’s time to talk about rules.

Nearly two months after the Constitution Revision Commission first convened, the Rules Working Committee will meet at 11 a.m. at Hillsborough Community College to begin hash out rules governing the 2017-18 commission.

The eight-member committee — made up of Tim Cerio, Brecht Heuchan, Don Gaetz, Carolyn Timmann, Tom Lee, Rich Newsome, Arthenia Joyner, and Roberto Martinez — has been tasked with identifying where “there is consensus and where improvements can be made,” according to an April 12 letter to CRC members. Once they’ve completed that task, changes to proposed rules will be submitted to the full commission for their consideration. CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff has said he hopes the rules finalized by early June.

The proposed rules have already caused some heartburn. The 37-member Constitution Revision Committee held its organizational session in March, but didn’t adopt rules after several members raised concerns that the proposal could dilute public input.

Watchdog groups — including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Florida Consumer Action Network, and the Florida AFL-CIO — have criticized the proposals, sending letters to commissioners and speaking out during public meetings across the state. In a recent letter, 16 groups warned of “the potential for leverage and influence over commission members” and an “unclear track for approval of proposals.”

So will their concerns be taken under consideration? Only time will tell. Members of the public will be allowed to weigh in on the rules during Wednesday’s meeting, but those wishing to speak better get their early. Due to the time needed to deliberate the rules, the public comment section of the meeting is scheduled to go from 11 a.m. to noon.

The Rules Working Committee meets from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hillsborough Community College’s Dale Mabry Campus in the DSTU Auditorium, Room 111, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd in Tampa. Can’t make the meeting? It will be live-streamed on

— “Powerful state panel needs public credibility” via the Sun-Sentinel editorial board

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Jackie Schutz Zeckman named Scott’s chief of staff — The Naples Republican announced Tuesday that Schutz Zeckman will serve has his chief of staff beginning July 1. She’ll replace Kim McDougal, Scott’s current chief of staff, who is departing to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

“Jackie has been on my team since my first year in office and has done a great job leading my communications efforts and conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses. Along with her work on my communications team,” said Scott in a statement announcing the promotion. “Jackie was an integral part of my reelection efforts and has continued to be a trusted advisor in all aspects of implementing our agenda for Florida. I have full confidence that she will do an outstanding job as my Chief of Staff.”

She joined Scott’s communications team in 2011, after nearly two years with CoreMessage. She worked her way through the ranks, serving as deputy press secretary and press secretary, before she was named the governor’s director of communications in 2014.

— 4 politicos who benefit from JSZ’s promotion:

> Melissa Sellers Stone, who will be able to continue to control the Governor’s Office from afar.

> Mat Bahl, who as Richard Corcoran’s chief of staff will continue to play chess while Scott’s office plays checkers.

> Brian Burgess, who now has his best source in the Governor’s Office with the best job in the Governor’s Office.

> Cory Tilley, who can rightly brag about working for him being a stepping stone to bigger and better things.


Florida school boards: Education bill ‘substantially flawed,’ ‘unworthy’ of Rick Scott’s approval” via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Add the Florida School Boards Association to the growing list of groups calling for a veto of HB 7069, the mammoth $419 million K-12 public schools bill Republican lawmakers unveiled and passed in the final days of their annual session. In a letter to Gov. Scott, the FSBA — which represents 64 of the state’s 67 elected county school boards — calls the bill “substantially flawed and unworthy of your approval to be enacted into law.” “One of our many objections to the bill is that, during a legislative session when leaders proclaimed to be the epitome of transparency in the legislative process, this massive bill was cobbled together behind closed doors,” wrote FSBA executive director Andrea Messina and FSBA president Tim Harris, a Polk County School Board member. “Because the bill was unveiled so late in the process, there was no realistic opportunity for members of the public and, by their own admission, some members of the legislature to even read the bill in full, let alone carefully evaluate its contents and repercussions,” they said.

“Thousands of acres of conservation easement on Cabinet aides’ agenda” via Florida Politics — The Triple S Ranch lies 15 miles north of Lake Okeechobee — a 7,000-acre cattle operation, relatively untouched by development, within the recharge zone for the Kissimmee River. Rare and endangered species, including a Florida panther, wander its streams and cypress swamps. On Wednesday morning, aides to Gov. Scott and the Cabinet will peruse a proposal to buy a conservation easement on 4,177 acres of the Okeechobee County property, for close to $7 million. The deal is scheduled to go before Scott and the Cabinet on May 23. … The Florida Forest Service has rated the property Tier One for easement acquisition under the Rural & Family Lands Protection Program, intended to keep valuable agricultural lands free from intensive development — and also to protect historical and environmental treasures.

The other ‘Derrick McGhee’ to give invocation at next Cabinet meeting – When the invocation is given at next week’s Florida Cabinet meeting, it won’t be Tallahassee lobbyist Derrick McGhee doing the honors, but his 11-year-old son, Derrick McGhee II. McGhee, with the Johnson and Blanton firm, said he had gotten a call from the Cabinet office asking if his son would be interested. McGhee, who was Gov. Rick Scott’s legislative affairs director, also is pastor of Tallahassee’s Bible Based Church on Woodville Highway. Young Derrick is active in the youth ministry. “I asked him; he was not pressured at all,” McGhee told Florida Politics. “He’s excited to do it.”

“Lobby firms bring in more than $35.7M in first quarter” via Florida Politics — The Top 5 earners during the three-month period were Ballard Partners, Southern Strategy Group, Ronald L. Book PA, Capital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig. Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack in the first quarter, reporting median earnings of more than $2.4 million and $2.3 million respectively. Book’s firm reported median earnings of more than $2 million in the first three months of 2017. Capital City Consulting reported median earnings of more than $1.6 million; while Greenberg Traurig reported media earnings of more than $1.2 million in the first quarter of 2017. GrayRobinson, which reported more than $1.1 million; The Rubin Group, which reported $936,000; Floridian Partners, which reported $935,000; Johnson & Blanton, which reported $910,000; and Metz Husband & Daughton, which reported $882,000 rounded out the Top 10 earners during the first quarter of 2017.

New and renewed lobby registrations

David Childs, Hopping Green & Sams: Farmland Reserve

Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: San Felasco Nurseries, Inc.


– “Adam Putnam brings ‘Florida first’ tour to Altamonte Springs” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

Assignment editorsAdam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour with a meet-and-greet at 1 p.m. at the Rohan Recreation Center, 850 Kristine Way in The Villages. He’ll then head to Jacksonville Beach, where he’ll attend a grassroots meet-and-greet at Angie’s Subs, 1436 Beach Boulevard.

“Three Leon County officials endorse Gwen Graham for Governor” via Florida Politics — Leon County Commissioners John Dailey and Kristin Dozier, and Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Tabitha Frazier have endorsed Graham for governor, her campaign announced Tuesday. In a statement, Graham said she was “proud to have the support” of the local leaders, and pledged to support “elected officials on all levels to diversify our economy, invest in our schools, and protect our land and water.”

Welcome to the world: 

“Jose Felix Diaz deletes photo of himself with Donald Trump to prep for state Senate run” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times  – if you supported Trump during his rise to power, you don’t get to wash that stink from your résumé. We’re looking at you, Miami State Rep. Diaz. Now that Diaz is officially gunning for a promotion and running for state Senate, the lawmaker has conspicuously scrubbed his Twitter page of an infamous photograph with himself and the Donald. On Jan. 19, 2017, Diaz tweeted out a photo of himself locking hands with Trump at an inaugural party. The tweet got a fair amount of press: “Just ran into the first guy who ever fired me,” Diaz tweeted. “The next president of the United States @realDonaldTrump #Apprentice #POTUS #ElPresidente” But now, the tweet and photo are both scrubbed from Diaz’s Twitter page. It’s not clear exactly when the photo was removed, but as of May 15, Twitter lists the post as “deleted,” and the post is no longer showing up on websites where it had previously been embedded.


Florida Supreme Court to rule on legality of red-light camera program” via Celia Ampel of the Daily Business Review –The high court accepted a case challenging Aventura’s red light camera program after two appellate courts seemed to disagree on whether Florida municipalities can legally allow private companies to review traffic images and choose which ones to forward to police. In the Aventura case, the 3rd District Court of Appeal ruled the program was OK as long as police officers actually reviewed the record in deciding to write a ticket, rather than just accepting the company’s call. But an earlier Fourth DCA opinion found Hollywood’s red light camera program unlawfully delegated police power to third-party vendors. The Florida Supreme Court did not believe the decisions conflicted; attorneys for Aventura argued the facts in the two cases differed significantly. But the justices agreed to take the case because the majority of them accepted the Third DCA’s assessment that it was a matter of great public importance.

Assignment editors: Hispanic business and civic leaders will discuss the economic contributions of immigrants in the Palm Beach area and the need for immigration reform during an event at 10:30 a.m. at Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant & Social Club, 7101 S. Dixie Highway in West Palm Beach. Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Roly Marante, with the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Lazaro Mur, an attorney with the Mur Law Group; Juan and Dina Rubio, the owners of Don Ramon Cuban Restaurant; and Andre Varona, the former CEO of the Palm Beach Hispanic Chamber of Commerce are expected to speak.

Stalking pythons: Carlos Lopez-Cantera joins Everglades hunt” via The Associated Press – South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith says Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera went hunting with one of 25 hunters hired to kill pythons on district property … Tom Rahill and Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch python. It was the 96th python caught by the district’s hunters since March 25. Rahill leads the “Swamp Apes” program taking veterans on hunts to remove invasive animals from the Everglades. The district is paying $8.10 an hour in a python-killing pilot program ending June 1.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Python Hunter – Florida’s Lt. Gov. was one of 25 hunters hired by SFWMD to kill pythons in the Everglades. Lopez-Cantera brought in a 15-foot-4-inch python, the 96th caught by the district’s hunters. Photo credit: Twitter.

“Despite lack of deal, Seminole Tribe still paying state millions” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida has given the state of Florida another multi-million dollar payday. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation reported that the tribe paid $19.5 million in gambling revenue share on Monday … That money includes revenue share from banked card games, specifically blackjack … It has Vegas-style and other gambling at seven casinos around the state, including Tampa’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, but has blackjack only in Tampa and Hollywood. Monday’s deposit brings the total amount paid by the Seminoles this year to $97.5 million, DBPR spokesman Stephen Lawson said. The cut of the money from blackjack, however, is being “administratively segregated” in the General Revenue Fund until the Tribe and state come to agreement on renewed rights to offer blackjack in Florida.

How profitable will medical-marijuana shops be? Very, says confidential pitch for investors” via David Smiley and Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald –A private equity firm’s confidential pitch deck … shows that only days ago Surterra Florida was seeking investors to buy a $10 million minority stake while also arguing against limits on the number of retail outlets any licensed operator can open. Some potential investors were lured with projections that show Surterra grossing $138 million in sales by 2021 thanks largely to the operation of 55 retail outlets — nearly four times the cap desired by the Florida Senate. The numbers may not be exact, as both Surterra and The Costera Group warned that neither company verified or authorized the projections. But the sensitive documents shed rare light on an industry shrouded in secrecy and show how much money is riding on how — and whether — the state regulates the number of medical marijuana retail outlets following the passage of Amendment 2.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

“George Sheldon, under fire in Illinois, also faces questions at home” via Florida PoliticsSheldon, a former Florida official now facing an ethics inquiry as director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, also ran into a spot of trouble at home this week. Property records show Sheldon, secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families in 2008-11, claimed a homestead exemption on his Tallahassee house while he was living and working in Chicago. He also was listed as “delinquent” on paying his Florida Bar dues, according to its website … He sent a copy of a lawyer’s opinion letter saying, in part, “mere absence for a protracted period of time is not of itself sufficient to establish abandonment of homestead.” … Also Tuesday, a Bar spokeswoman told that Sheldon “is no longer fee delinquent.” “His fees are current and he’s paid the reinstatement fee of $150,” the Bar’s Karen Kirksey said. He is, however, still listed as “not eligible to practice in Florida” because he had not yet returned a required form, she added.

FDOT selects Archer Western-de Moya for I-395 Revitalization” via Julie Caputo of Miami’s Community Newspapers –… and construct an iconic “Bridge for the Ages” that will redefine Downtown Miami and its connection to Miami Beach. When designing this bridge, Archer Western – de Moya Team had three primary goals in mind: 1) Alleviate the extreme traffic problems on I-395; 2) Connect the Overtown community with the Biscayne Boulevard and Downtown neighborhoods, and 3) Provide an iconic bridge that will be a signature for Miami. To accomplish these goals Archer Western – de Moya went above and beyond in their planning process. As a result, the Archer Western – de Moya design was voted #1 unanimously over other competitors in the area of traffic benefits by FDOT. The multi-arch “Miami Fountain of Light” design of the bridge, itself, will be like no other in the world and will serve as signature for Miami worldwide.

— ALOE —

It hasn’t been this hot in Florida to start the year since 1895, report says” via Samantha Putterman of the Tampa Bay Times – According to a climate report by the National Centers for Environmental Information, Florida recorded the hottest average temperatures for the first four months of the year since 1895. On April 29 and 30, for example, Tampa observed its highest and second-highest daily highs on record for the month, reaching 96 and 95 degrees. And Florida is only one of 14 states, stretching from the southwest to the mid-Atlantic, that experienced record-breaking temperatures in the first period of 2017, according to the NOAA report. January-April 2017 also unveiled the second-warmest average temperatures for the United States overall, falling closely behind 2012. The scorching temperatures come amid Florida’s most active wildfire season since 2011, the report states. The searing conditions prompted Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency April 11.

“Fresh off Atlantic City deal, Seminole Tribe now adding Hard Rock in Canada” via Florida PoliticsThe Seminole Tribe of Florida, which recently bought the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, is expanding its Hard Rock gambling and entertainment brand to Canada. A Tribe spokesman on Tuesday said that the Seminoles had won a bidding process to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. The deal with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., pending final approval by Canadian authorities, includes an investment by Rideau Carleton Raceway Holdings Limited, a Canadian horse racing concern. “This is a crucial first step towards a larger strategic vision of our world-class brand’s expansion efforts in Ontario and throughout Canada,” said Jim Allen, chairman of Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming CEO, in a statement.

Happy birthday to Rep. Bobby Payne, Becker Poliakoff’s Karen Skyers.

SalterMitchell launches ‘Fluent in Floridian’ podcast — The podcast launched Tuesday, with SalterMitchell releasing episodes featuring interviews with Florida State University President John Thrasher, Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, Tampa Bay Times Political Editor Adam Smith, and Sally Bradshaw, a longtime senior advisor to former Gov. Jeb Bush. “News is consumed so quickly now that it’s become hard to get to know our leaders and understand their motivations, so we’ve created a show that allows listeners to hear more than simply soundbites,” said Chris Cate, the podcast’s host and the senior public affairs director at SalterMitchell. “Fluent in Floridian is conversational, much like NPR’s Fresh Air, except we’re talking to Florida’s top leaders, innovators and influencers about their backgrounds and visions for our state.” Episodes are available on, or you can subscribe on Apple podcasts or on your Android devices.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.16.17

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

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

Good morning, especially to the lobbyists: At 11:59 last night was the deadline to submit 1st quarter compensation.

The latest reports, covering January-March, will capture roughly the first half of the 2017 Legislative Session. Many firms have already turned in theirs, and are posted on the state’s Florida Lobbyist website.

State law requires lobbying firms to report revenue, but it only requires them to do so in general ranges, not in precise amounts. Here’s a smattering:

Capital City Consulting posted $1 million in revenue, helped by a number of big ticket clients, including the Everglades Foundation ($30,000-$39,999), and insurers CIGNA ($20,000-$29,999) and Aetna ($40,000-$49,999).

Also reporting $1 million was lobbyist Brian Ballard’s Ballard Partners. Clients Tampa General Hospital, Uber, and slot machine manufacturer International Game Technology each helped move the needle at $40,000-$49,999 each.

Democratic operative Steve Schale’s Schale Communications put up $50,000 to $99,999 in total compensation, in part from clients AT&T, Mosaic Fertilizer and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, each at $10,000-$19,999.

At the opposite end of the lobbying pay scale was Capitol mainstay Barbara DeVane, longtime lobbyist for the Florida National Organization for Women. Her sole client paid somewhere between $1-$9,999, her report shows.

And veteran progressive influencer Karen Woodall reported $1-$9,999 each for the Florida Center for Fiscal & Economic Policy and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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“Kim McDougal to depart as Rick Scott’s chief of staff” via Florida PoliticsMcDougal is leaving as Gov. Scott’s chief of staff effective July 1, according to a Monday press release. McDougal, who’s been in the position since April 2016, “will be pursuing opportunities in the private sector,” the release said. “Over the last year, Florida had its fair share of tragic events including two hurricanes, the terrorist attack at Pulse Nightclub, and the shooting at Ft. Lauderdale Airport,” Scott said in a statement. “During these tough events, Kim has led my team through crisis and helped ensure we did all we could to help Florida families during these dark hours” … McDougal was Scott’s fifth chief of staff since his 2010 election, following, in order: Mike Prendergast, Steve MacNamara, Adam Hollingsworth, and Melissa Sellers (now Stone).

— Flashback from Florida Politics in March 2016: “Capitol veteran Kim McDougal selected as Rick Scott’s next chief of staff.”

Tweet, tweet: @MDixon55: And the EOG’s transformation into a total campaign arm is complete.

The announcement about McDougal’s departure caught many lobbyists and lawmakers off guard, especially coming so soon after the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. “I wasn’t aware that she was going to make this departure. I’m disappointed that she is,” Sen. Bill Galvano told The News Service of Florida.

Neither Scott nor McDougal gave any indication she is leaving because of the Governor’s legislative problems this Session.

I think Brian Ballard is wrong when he argues there wasn’t ‘much a staff person could have done’ to deal with Scott’s issues vis-a-vis the House; didn’t Scott and McDougal turn down a blockbuster deal (offered by Carlos Trujillo) that would have given the Governor a much betterresult than the one he ended Session with? McDougal’s job is to convince Scott to take that deal.

What does it say about the vaunted Florida Capitol Press Corps that no outlet, including this one, had an advance warning about Mcdougall’s departure? Some suggest the Scott administration’s aversion to the media is the reason the press knows so little about the Governor’s thinking and way of doing business, but Donald Trump isn’t very fond of the D.C. media and it seems like every day there is a tick-tock process story offering insight into how The White House operates. There’s very little of that kind of reporting in Tallahassee.

The question now for McDougal is Ballard Partners or Southern Strategy Group?

Brian Burgess of The Capitolist writes that Jackie Schultz is in line to succeed Mcdougall. But that could also be a case of Burgess doing a big favor for one of his key sources. Not that it matters; the people in charge of Rick Scott’s administration will continue to be political consultant Curt Anderson of On Message and Melissa Stone, his former Chief of Staff.


In feud with House over tourism money, Rick Scott hints at big education vetoes” via Marc Caputo and Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO FloridaScott dropped his strongest hint yet that he would veto a controversial education budget bill — and perhaps additional K-12 spending — because he doesn’t like how the GOP-led Legislature funded schools and tourism marketing. “This budget was done in secret. … I didn’t get to see anything until the end,” Scott said, noting he could veto the entire budget or parts of it as well as specialty types of legislation called “conforming bills.” As a likely candidate for U.S. Senate next year, Scott has used the fight over tourism marketing to campaign across the state, raise his profile and bash the “politicians in Tallahassee” — fellow Republicans, including House Speaker Corcoran — whom he labels job-killers for underfunding the Visit Florida agency. But if Scott wants to force Corcoran and the Legislature to the table to negotiate, he can’t veto the section of the budget that funds Visit Florida because then it would remain un-funded. Instead, Scott might veto education items that are chief priorities for Corcoran, who might run to succeed Scott in 2018, and force the Legislature to reconvene in a special session.

Jack Latvala was by Scott’s side when he made these comments via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – … “Wasn’t my call, or we’d still be sitting in Tallahassee today,” Latvala said. “I’m hopeful that the governor will exercise his prerogative, will call us back to Tallahassee and will make us do the right thing for economic development in Florida and for education in Florida.”

— What the Gov’s office is reading:As legislators cut job incentives, Tampa leaders fight perception Florida’s closed for business” via Robert Trigaux of the Tampa Bay Times

“Florida Family Action to followers: Tell Scott to veto ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ ” via Florida Politics – The group “is a cultural action organization that is a completely separate sister organization of the Florida Family Policy Council,” led by conservative morals activist John Stemberger of Orlando. It sent a ‘call to action’ email Monday, saying in part that the measure “would increase access to hard liquor which is likely to increase consumption, especially by alcoholics, teenagers, and others at-risk” and “hard liquor should not be sold on the shelves of ‘family-friendly’ stores,” such as Wal-Mart and Target. At last count, there were 2,572 emails, 173 phone calls and nine letters opposed to the bill. The legislation would allow retailers to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Opponents—including independent liquor stores—are calling the proposal a job-killer and asking Scott to veto it. The governor has till May 24 to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. His office has said Scott will “review” the legislation.

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will attend the ribbon cutting of Anheuser-Busch’s expanded Metal Container Corporation manufacturing facility in Jacksonville. Event begins 10:15 a.m. at Anheuser-Busch, 1100 Ellis Road North in Jacksonville.

State, districts look to scuttle ‘opt out’ case” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The State Department of Education and school districts are asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject an appeal in a case filed by parents opposed to standardized tests — an issue that involves what is known as the “opt out” movement … The dispute stems from parents who told third-grade students to put their names on a standardized test, then refuse to answer questions. A Leon County circuit judge issued a decision last year that seemed to support the “opt out” movement. But the 1st District Court of Appeal in March overturned that decision, prompting the parents to take the case to the Supreme Court. They argued, at least in part, that lawsuits should have been filed against the school boards in their home counties, rather than in Leon County. But in a brief filed last month, an attorney for the parents pointed to the statewide issues involved and said litigating the issues in different counties would “create judicial chaos because, in this case, no less than six separate trial court jurisdictions and three district courts will be required to adjudicate claims that share identical issues of law.”

Richard Corcoran: Federal government needs to act now; mosquito season is here” via Florida Politics – As we enter into the warm summer months, the threat of another outbreak is looming. That is why I have and will continue to urge the federal government to quickly authorize new strategies that can be used to both curb the spread of the virus and prevent additional outbreaks. I believe we should be taking a multi-faceted approach to put an end to the threat of Zika. This must include spraying programs, education awareness efforts, and the search for a vaccine. But more importantly, we must also look at new and science-based solutions that can control the growing population of disease-carrying mosquitoes in Florida. One example of the technology I’ve advocated for is the Oxitec genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito. When it is released into the wild, it doesn’t bite, it doesn’t transmit disease, but does transmit a self-limiting gene that makes its offspring die before reaching adulthood. This technology is being used successfully in some countries already. If we had it available in the U.S., many expectant mothers might have one less thing to be anxious about.

Not sure what this is all about:

Assignment editors – Lake Worth Democrat Sen. Jeff Clemens will give a speech to the the Rusty Gordon LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Palm Beach County. Event begins 6:45 p.m. at the Compass GLCC, 201 North Dixie Highway in Lake Worth.


Ron DeSantis for Governor? Don’t rule it out” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Sources very familiar with the thinking of DeSantis note that he is looking at a run for the state’s top job, with a decision to be made late in the summer. Were he to run, he would be a very serious candidate for the job — posing an existential threat to Putnam, as DeSantis could very quickly own the space to Putnam’s right. DeSantis, who was far and away the strongest fundraiser in the GOP primary race for Senate in 2016 (ended when Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election), has some advantages that others lack. Among them: name identification, as Team DeSantis asserts that the nationally-known Northeast Florida congressman has better name id than either Speaker Corcoran or Sen. Latvala. As well, DeSantis has $3M at his disposal already; were he to enter the race, that war chest would grow quickly. However, no decision is imminent — yet.

Spotted: Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, in a New York Times story on “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead.” Gillum, the story says, “has offered himself as a candidate of the left.”

Assignment editorsAdam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” Breakfast for supporters from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Wilke’s 14 Bones BBQ, 1500 US-1 In Vero Beach. RSVP here: Later, Putnam will hold a meet-and-greet from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Eastmonte Civic Center, 830 Magnolia Dr. in Altamonte Springs. RSVP here:

675 miles and counting: Adam Putnam bus tour highlights Putnam kicked off week two of a 10-day, 22-city bus tour through Florida with an “Up & Adam” breakfast in Riviera Beach … Putnam hit the road to visit grassroots supporters, small businesses, veterans, and first responders throughout Florida and to learn about the opportunities and challenges that they face. Putnam has already covered 675 miles from Polk County to Tampa Bay to Southwest Florida and then the Heartland.

Putnam-linked committee takes in $235K in first five days of May” – Florida Grown brought in at least $235,000 In the first five days of May, according to the committee’s website. Before that, the committee had nearly $8.24 million on hand. Contributions in May include $100,000 from A. Duda & Sons, Inc. of Oviedo, and $50,000 from a committee supporting the phosphate industry. Remaining May fundraising will be reported to the state in June. Putnam opened his personal campaign account May 1.

“Matt Caldwell makes it official ” via Florida PoliticsState Rep. Caldwell formally announced his candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner in an event that was livestreamed on his Facebook page. “I’m thrilled to kick off my campaign with all of you in my hometown,” he told the crowd at Sun Harvest Citrus in Fort Myers … The Republican Caldwell burnished his conservative bona fides, which he said “puts a bull’s eye on your back every single day,” mentioning his support of term limits, tax cuts, but also “the needs of our environment and our farmers.” He also talked about the importance of gun rights and Cabinet duties: The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees the issuance of concealed weapon licenses, and the commissioner sits on the Florida Cabinet with the state’s governor, attorney general and CFO. “With your help, and God’s blessing, we will come out ahead next year,” Caldwell said.


Tourists still coming to Florida in record numbers” via The Associated Press – Gov. Scott … [announced] 31.1 million people visited the state during the first three months of the year. That’s a 2.5 percent jump over the same time period in 2016. Nearly 113 million tourists – most of them from the U.S. – visited last year. Scott, however, will warn that potential cuts to Florida’s tourism marketing agency could doom continued growth. State legislators recently voted to cut funding to Visit Florida by 67 percent.

— Airbnb Florida director Tom Martinelli was one of the first to congratulate Gov. Scott on yet another record-breaking quarter for Florida’s tourism industry: “On behalf of Airbnb Florida and our 35,000 Florida hosts, we congratulate Governor Scott and the Visit Florida team for infusing economic development and jobs through increased tourism. We are so proud to have contributed to this progress, having welcomed a record-setting 657,000 guests in Q1 via our home sharing platform, representing 69% growth over Q1 2016. Governor Scott has our commitment that we will continue doing our part to grow the pie and help elevate Florida’s brand as a global, family-friendly tourism destination.”

“DOH orders sales stopped on cannabis product” via the Associated Press – The Department of Health on Monday ordered a Quincy-based dispensary to quit selling a medical cannabis product that could potentially be broken down and made into pot that can be smoked. Trulieve began selling its first whole-flower cannabis product meant for vaping last week at five retail dispensaries and through home delivery. The buds in the Entourage Multi Indica vaporizer cup, however, could also be used in joints, pipes or bongs. The Department of Health authorized Trulieve to sell sealed vaporizer cups containing marijuana. However, Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax said in a cease and desist letter to Trulieve that the mesh caps can be removed with minimal effort and cannot be reattached.

Trulieve’s Kim Rivers: “We were surprised by the letter, but are immediately and completely complying with the department’s wishes while evaluating our options.”

How religious mania changed the Corrine Brown jury” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Speculation about what a discharged juror (“Juror 13”) said in a closed-court session in the trial of Brown can now end, as a transcript of the session was released … Juror 8, the juror who complained about the comments — relating that the discharged juror spoke of “higher beings” saying that Brown was guilty — kicked off proceedings in closed court by registering concerns. The discharged juror had made such comments on the first day of deliberations and did not reiterate such comments … However, “Some of the jurors are concerned that that’s affecting his — his decision,” Juror 8 said. The discharged juror, for his part, didn’t reassure the feds: “I told them that in all of this, in listening to all the information, taking it all down, I listen for the truth, and I know the truth when the truth is spoken. So I expressed that to them, and how I came to that conclusion … I told — I told them that — that I prayed about this, I have looked at the information, and that I received information as to what I was told to do in relation to what I heard here today — or this past two weeks.” The juror’s tipster? “My Father in Heaven.”

Pam Bondi to convene human trafficking council in Tampa – The AG announced she will call a meeting of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking on Tuesday (May 16) at 1:00 p.m. Bondi chairs the 15-member council that “builds on existing state and local partnerships working to make Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking,” a release said. The meeting will be held at the Tampa Law Center of the Stetson University College of Law, 1700 North Tampa St. in Tampa.

Watchdogs critique Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed rules” via Florida Politics — Proposed rules for the Constitution Revision Commission could let members deliberate in secret, limit public participation, bottle up ideas in committee, or bog down debating proposals with little support, government watchdog groups warned Monday. Sixteen organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Florida Consumer Action Network, and unions, including Florida AFL-CIO, critiqued the proposed rules in a letter to the commission’s rules committee. “Transparency and a clear set of ground rules are essential to the credibility of the CRC. As members of the Rules Working Group, you have an opportunity to enhance public confidence in the work of the CRC,” the organizations wrote. They warned of “the potential for leverage and influence over commission members” and an “unclear track for approval of proposals.”

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at***

With the All Aboard Florida lawsuit dismissed, what’s next for the Treasure Coast?” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm – A major chapter in the Treasure Coast’s fight against All Aboard Florida ended when a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the legal challenges to the passenger railroad filed by Martin and Indian River counties more than two years ago. All Aboard Florida praised Judge Christopher Cooper’s decision as a “thoughtful review” of the law, and emphasized it still fully intends to run passenger rail between West Palm Beach and Orlando. But Martin and Indian River counties had a very different take on the court decision. Having the case dismissed is, in fact, a definitive victory in preventing Brightline service through the Treasure Coast, according to county officials and attorneys. Steven Ryan, Martin County’s outside legal counsel, said the counties’ cases were dismissed because All Aboard Florida’s financing plan changed, and that change only occurred because of the counties’ efforts. “You have to say we’re winning, because they don’t have the bonds,” Ryan said. “We got exactly what we sought. The case has been an enormous victory for us.”

Assignment editors – The State Board of Education will meet in Miami-Dade County; agenda includes performance-funding reports on Pensacola State College and Polk State College. Meeting begins 9 a.m. at Miami Senior High School, 2450 S.W. First St. In Miami.


“George Sheldon now taken to task by hometown paper” via Florida PoliticsSheldon‘s hometown newspaper now has weighed in on the former Florida politico, putting in newsprint the latest ethics woes of the now-director of Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services. The Tallahassee Democrat, with help from the Chicago Tribune’s estimable reporting of the last few weeks, documented Sheldon’s travails as head of Illinois’ DCFS. The lede, by the nearly 20-year Democrat veteran Jeff Burlew: “George Sheldon, a well-known figure in Florida politics who took over Illinois’ troubled child welfare agency in 2015, is embroiled in ongoing state ethics probes and facing scrutiny over contracts given to past campaign donors and consultants.” Sheldon, a Democrat who lost a challenge to incumbent GOP Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2014, was secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families from 2008-2011 under then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda — The wait continues as Gov. Scott reviews the Legislature’s $82.4 billion state spending plan. Despite passing a balanced budget, why is Florida still $9.9 billion in debt? On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, Truth and Accounting, a nonprofit that aims to educate taxpayers on government finances, releases the first analysis of Florida’s latest financial report showing each taxpayer would have to cough up $1,600 to help pay the bills. Gomes interviews Truth in Accounting founder, Sheila Weinberg. Also, what’s next for former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown?

AppointedRandy Schwartz to the Florida Real Estate Commission. Samuel Garrison to the District Board of Trustees, St. Johns River State College. Dr. Peter A. Wish and John Stafford to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority. David “Hunt” Hawkins and Thomas “Mac” McGehee to the District Board of Trustees, Florida State College at Jacksonville.

ReappointedFrancisco Pines to the Florida Citrus Commission.

Personnel note: Florida Virtual School gets a new president — The next president of the Florida Virtual School is Jodi Marshall, a veteran academic and administrator. She replaces Ronald Blocker, effective July 1, the school’s board of trustees announced. Marshall joined the school as a 10th grade English teacher in 2002 and rose through the ranks to become executive vice president for business and academic affairs. The state-sponsored school offers online courses to public, private, and homeschool students.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

Spotted at the 21st annual Phil Galvano Classic at the Legacy Golf Club at Lakewood Ranch: Sen. Aaron and Abby Bean, Laura Boehmer, Sen. Rob Bradley, Chana Cannon, Dean and Ellen Cannon, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Marty Fiorentino, Nichole Garganella, Ed Hooper, Ron LaFace, Sen. Jack Latvala, Frank and Tracy Mayernick, President Joe Negron, Teye Reeves, Sen. Darryl Rouson, Nancy Texeria and Katie Webb.

Spotted at this past weekend’s Mom 2.0 conference: Salter Mitchell’s Chris Cate, up for an award for his podcast, The Parent Normal.


Extensive Enterprises Media is up for three major journalism honors from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sunshine State Awards.

EEM’s INFLUENCE is among three finalists for best magazine single issue, up against the Sun Sentinel’s City & Shore Magazine, and Mirror Magazine.

Peter Schorsch is a finalist for best blog writing for his “SaintPetersBlog,” along with finalists from the Sun Sentinel’s “The Eat Beat Blog,” and the Tampa Bay Times‘ “The Buzz.”’s Scott Powers is a finalist for best blog in-depth writing, along with two entries from Florida Bulldog.

Winners will be announced at a later date.

— ALOE —

“Anheuser-Busch introduces the Office Bud-e” via Florida Politics – Don’t tell Matt Dixon, but the King of Beers is rolling out what it calls the latest in “bev tech”: a “smart, hassle-free beer refrigerator designed to enhance any office kitchen or common space,” according to a press release. Big Beer keeps rolling after its loss this Legislative Session in trying to get a free beer glass bill passed. Alas, for now, the Bud-e is only available in the Metro New York and Chicago areas. But oh, what a beer cooler it is (holds up to 180 bottles!), running on the ‘internet of things.’ It uses “vending machine-like sensored springs and a simple wi-fi connection to monitor the quantity of beers in stock at any given time.” It’s free to lease, but of course one has to stock it with A-B beers (Stella Artois, anyone?) … Is this available for home offices too?

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

Government scientist from DC wins Miss USA title” via Regina Garcia Cano of The Associated PressKara McCullough, a scientist working for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has been crowned Miss USA. McCullough, who represented the District of Columbia in the decades-old pageant, was born in Naples, Italy and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She said she wants to inspire children to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “I love science,” McCullough said after the event. “I look at this as a great opportunity to … get to experience worldwide culture, as well as just having the opportunity to be impacted by so many children, hopefully in the math and sciences.” This year’s top five finalists were asked questions that touched on the pros and cons of social media, women’s rights and issues affecting teenagers. McCullough was asked whether she thinks that affordable health care for all U.S. citizens is a right or a privilege. She said it is a privilege. “As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs.”

Marvel Universe LIVE!: Superheroes save the day in new show” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – For the first time, fans of Marvel comic book characters can see their favorite superheroes in one place in this live show, which will tour the U.S. and Canada through 2019. This is Feld Entertainment’s first new show since announcing the end of its iconic Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Feld Entertainment, the show’s producer, says audiences will be treated to characters from Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and the Avengers, as they defend the universe from evil. Among the villains: Nebula, Loki, Yondu and Green Goblin. All of the fan favorites are showcased, too: Iron Man, Thor, Black Panther, Wasp, Hulk and Black Widow. Captain America rides a motorcycle. Note to parents: there will be lots of explosions and grand battles to engage the 3-to-10 age set. “It’s sort of our modern Aesop’s fables. They’re the heroes of our time. Even though they have these unlimited powers, they are always fighting for what’s right and for what’s good,” [show director James] Hadley said. “That’s the message that’s important now. Even when it looks like they’re not going to succeed, they just keep pushing.”

Stone crab rebound continues as catch nears 3 million pounds” via Thomas Becnel of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The end of stone crab season marks the second year of a rebound with a harvest of about 3 million pounds of claws valued at $30 million. “This year, the preliminary data through April was that we’re approaching 2.5 million pounds,” said Ryan Gandy, a research scientist with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg. “So, we’re on track for this season to be pretty close to last year.” That estimate surprised Karen Bell at the A.P. Bell Fish Company in Cortez. “I think we had a better year this year,” she said. “This was a good year. It was pretty steady. One of the holidays, we didn’t have much — Christmas or New Year’s, I forget which one.”

Happy birthday to Matthew Ubben and Rick Watson.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 5.15.17

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

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


Lawmakers may not be sending “formal responses” to Senate President Joe Negron’s request for “ideas” on medical marijuana implementation, but they are taking to Twitter.

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, tweeted last Thursday: “We crafted a patient-centered #MMJ bill that delivers safe medicine to sick Floridians. It’s 95% done. Let’s finish the job! #SpecialSession”

Last week, Negron sought input from fellow senators after the 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill related to the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

As of Friday, Senate spokeswoman LaQuisha Persak said there had been no “other formal responses.”

There were, however, tweets.

On Wednesday, Bill Galvano — Bradenton Republican and Senate President-designate for 2018-20 — had tweeted: “I agree with @richardcorcoran. I support a special session to address medical marijuana implementation.”

Speaker Corcoran last week called for a Special Session during WFLA-FM radio’s “The Morning Show with Preston Scott.

“I do believe and support the notion that we should come back and address and finalize dealing with medical marijuana,” Corcoran told Scott. “Does that mean a special session?” Scott asked. “It would, absolutely,” Corcoran said.

Jeff Brandes is the latest Florida lawmaker to call for Special Legislative Session on medical marijuana implementation. The St. Pete Republican wants “ample time for public input, to implement the will of the voters, so that patients and entrepreneurs alike may access the marketplace.”

Others chiming in on social media for a Special Session include Sens. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican; Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican; and Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who also penned the only “formal response” as of Friday.

But let’s not forget the overriding reality: Nobody wants to come back before Memorial Day weekend, despite Negron telling reporters a special session theoretically could take place as early as this week.

Theories are easy; governing is hard.

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Rick Scott asks Donald Trump administration to extend protection for Haitians” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott has pressed the Trump administration to back off on timeline that could result in the deportation of thousands of Haitians, many living in Florida. Scott raised the issue in a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “Temporary protected status” for Haitians expires in July and they could be expelled in January. “The secretary has not made a decision on TPS for Haiti,” spokesman David Lapan[said]. “He and Gov. Scott did have a conversation about the program and the secretary listened to the Governor’s points about his desire for DHS to extend TPS.” About 50,000 Haitians have been allowed to live in the U.S. following the 2010 earthquake. The TPS program has been extended several times but now faces another deadline. The Trump administration has been examining the criminal backgrounds, but Lapan says that won’t be used to make a final decision about TPS.

Scott signs Lake Okeechobee bill in former critics’ territory” via Isadora Rangel of TC Palm — Standing in front of people holding signs that read, “Thanks Gov., you saved our farms,” Scott signed Senate Bill 10 at John Stretch Memorial Park on the southern bank of the lake, between Clewiston and Belle Glade. The park is about halfway between Lee and Martin counties, which receive the brunt of polluted excess lake water during the wet season. The park is adjacent to the Miami Canal, which might be used to direct water into the proposed reservoir. Scott already had signed the bill privately May 5. Some Treasure Coast activists said they wished the governor had signed Senate Bill 10 in Martin County, which is ground zero for discharges into the St. Lucie River, but are happy he signed it anyway.

Rick Scott visits Lake Okeechobee ahead of a ceremonial bill signing of SB 10, which authorizes a reservoir to collect runoff south of Lake O.

Scott at SB 10 signing: I am committed to dike rehabilitation” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Over the last several weeks, Scott has bonded with Glades farmers who fought to keep their towns and their lifestyle whole — and who live in the shadow of the deteriorating Herbert Hoover Dike. It’s a part of the Everglades’ infrastructure he remains determined to put on a fast track toward reconstruction. In his remarks, Scott said, “To have the opportunity to sign SB 10 and focus on how we are going to get storage south of the lake — that’s a big deal and long term, it is going to be a big opportunity. But every day we have to think what we are going to do next — that’s why it’s very important to me that we get the Dike fixed.”

Even after SB 10, enviro-lobbyists vow to wage ‘war’ on Florida farmers” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist — Senate Bill 10 is widely celebrated as a carefully-crafted solution designed to alleviate water storage problems that have led to algae bloom in coastal estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee. A compromise was ultimately struck that delivered what environmentalists wanted, without taking farmland. But even though the final version of the bill still delivers on what environmental activists all said would provide the relief they seek — a massive water storage reservoir of up to 360,000 acre feet of water, located south of the lake — extreme activist groups like and Friends of the Everglades … are already admitting they aren’t satisfied with a “momentous victory.” The activists want more. BullSugar recently sent an email to its supporters vowing to continue the fight … Compromise isn’t part of the vocabulary for elitist, extremist, environmentalist organizations. To protect their waterfront homes, they will continue to pursue the destruction of South Florida’s agriculture communities with religious fervor. Peaceful coexistence isn’t an option.

Scott should veto this deplorable budget” via Perry Thurston for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — As lawmakers, we are sent to Tallahassee with only one job that’s mandated by the state constitution: pass a balanced budget by the end of the annual 60-day legislative session. We barely did that, and it’s debatable if what we approved passes muster with our constituents. The Florida Legislature shouldn’t use the budget to undermine public schools and community colleges, to carve out special deals for special interests or pick winners and losers in the property tax valuations so that a favored few will pay less taxes while a majority suffer from less services. Yet, that’s what happened in Tallahassee, thanks to Speaker Corcoran who pushed dramatic policy changes into so-called “conforming bills” that are now hard-wired into the state budget. Give the Speaker credit. He held the session hostage until he received the Senate’s consent. The new spending plan is now in the hands of Gov. Scott, who is no fan of Corcoran’s and has hinted that he might veto the whole budget and call lawmakers back to the capitol for a special session. I urge the governor to do just that. Florida can’t afford what the speaker is selling.

Editorial: Gov. should veto bill that seals millions of criminal records ” via the Tampa Bay Times on, SB 118, cruised along for weeks with a narrow focus. Then the legislation exploded into something entirely different, and nobody noticed. Sen. ed one new paragraph last month shortly before the Senate unanimously approved his bill … requiring that Florida automatically seal all criminal history records of a minor or an adult arrested for a misdemeanor or felony when the prosecutor does not file charges, the charges are dismissed before trial, or the person is found not guilty at trial and all appeals are exhausted. There is no individual review of the record, no discretion, no exceptions and no limits on how many times the same person could have records sealed … That’s 2.7 million public files wiped out. This is not just a serious concern for the media. This should alarm anyone who runs a business, considers a new venture with someone they don’t know well, hires a landscaper at home or seeks a baby sitter for their children.

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will announce Florida tourism numbers for the first quarter of 2017 at a 9:15 a.m. news conference at Jungle Island, 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail in Miami. Media must park inside the Jungle Island parking garage found at the front entrance of the park. Please enter through the park’s main gate and park staff will be available for guidance to reach the news conference location.

Proposed Florida law would steer federal money away from poor students, districts say” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — With just 30 lines of text in a 278-page education bill, Florida lawmakers moved last week to significantly alter how schools and districts receive and use federal Title I funds, which provide extra educational resources to poor children. If signed into law by Gov. Scott, the measure would spread the money to more schools, including for the first-time charters, and reduce the amount available for district-level initiatives such as summer school. It further would cap the percentage schools may use for parent involvement programs at a level lower than what many schools currently spend. The proposals are unprecedented in Florida, and unwelcome to school district leaders. Proponents might like the idea of having the federal money “follow the students” into schools, said Hillsborough County superintendent Jeff Eakins, who oversaw federal programs in his district before taking the top job. But “this language is going to hurt the students that need (added support) the most,” he said. “This just really ties our hands.”

Florida House ‘sets the record straight’ in new video — The House has released a 2-minute and 30-second video to explain a sweeping-education bill passed on the final day of the 2017 Legislative Session. The video aims to highlight the bill, and aims to “set the record straight” when it comes to several provisions. “Recently, your Florida Legislature passed transformational and sweeping educational reform,” a narrator says in the video. “While we did that, the rumors and gossip started to fly, just like back in school. So class is in session, and it’s time to set the record straight.”

Joe Gruters bucks party line on state budget” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — It’s one of the biggest votes of the year. Loyalty is expected. Bucking party leadership and rejecting the spending plan is a risky move for any lawmaker. But that’s exactly what freshman GOP state Rep. Gruters did last week. Gruters voted against the budget because it included Speaker Corcoran’s proposal to eliminate the taxpayer-funded business incentives doled out by Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, and cut funding for Visit Florida, the tourism promotion agency. Gruters consistently has opposed the Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida cuts, voting against Corcoran’s proposal early in the legislative session. After defying leadership on such a high-profile issue, none of Gruters’ priority bills got a hearing. Continuing to oppose Corcoran and his allies could make Gruters a pariah, but he decided to double down anyway.

Texts: Fire station funding another budget fight waged behind closed doors” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The fire station funding battle was between state Sen. Denise Grimsley and state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, both Republicans who wrote their chamber’s government operation’s budget. At the end of session, it was their job to handle early budget negotiations over House and Senate disagreements on that $1.9 billion budget. Like most other areas of the budget, the final touches on the portion overseen by the two was almost exclusively hammered out behind closed doors. The subcommittee Ingoglia and Grimsley led held four public budget negotiating meetings totaling just 16 minutes. In none of the five meetings were any specific issues or sticking points discussed, and, in most, taking roll call for the 23-member subcommittee was more than half the meeting. In another example of closed door budget fights … text messages that showed a behind-the-scenes scramble as lobbyists worked to secure funding for a water storage program supported by politically-influential agriculture corporations.


Citizens Insurance CEO helped his boss sell his business, then got $100,000 in raises” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Citizens chief executive Barry Gilway confirmed he acted as a go-between for Christopher Burr Gardner, who was trying to sell his longtime Winter Park insurance agency, and a Chicago businessman who became its buyer. According to emails … Gilway sent Gardner’s contact information to Rick Gulliver, president of HUB International Limited, a Chicago insurance brokerage. “Thanks — calling Chris today,” Gulliver wrote Gilway two days later. Gilway said he and Gulliver became close associates nearly two decades ago when he was in charge of insurance operations for Zurich Canada. Gilway had more than four decades of senior level insurance industry experience when he joined Citizens in 2012. “This is called Networking 101,” Gilway. “I don’t think I did him any favors. All I did was make an introduction. It should be of no concern.” Three months later, in January 2015, Gardner, who as the board chairman of Citizens is listed as Gilway’s supervisor, approved a $50,000 pay increase for Gilway. That brought Gilway’s annual salary to $500,000 a year. Gilway received another $50,000 raise six months later, bringing his salary to $550,000.

“Leave Syria, visit Florida? Tourism agency makes error” via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressFlorida’s tourism marketing agency was forced to sign a new contract after a newspaper pointed out it hired a firm to advertise to potential Syrian tourists … VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson signed a $14,000 contract with a German advertising firm back in March that included Syria and nine other Middle Eastern countries. President Donald Trump included Syria on a list of countries covered by a temporary travel ban. A spokesman for the agency blamed the mistake on someone cutting and pasting a list of Middle Eastern countries into the contract. After The Naples Daily News asked questions, VISIT FLORIDA signed a new contract Wednesday that listed only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

“Transportation board settles on three for next FDOT head” via Florida PoliticsThe list of names to be the next secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation is down to three. The Florida Transportation Commission, the department’s advisory board, interviewed five applicants Thursday and is set to recommend three to Gov. Rick Scott. They are Richard Biter, a former assistant secretary of the transportation department; Phillip Gainer, FDOT’s District Secretary for northwest Florida; and Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse. The panel will officially vote to recommend those candidates next week. More than 120 people had applied for the open position, created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm.

Lyft sharpens attack strategy to battle Uber in coveted South Florida market” via Nancy Dahlberg of the Miami Herald — Lyft, the feisty archrival of Uber in the ride-hailing wars, is sharpening its attack strategy to go after more market share nationally and in South Florida. Nationwide, Lyft has seen new user activations rise 60 percent since news about sexual harassment claims, a #deleteUber movement, a trade-secret lawsuit, a Justice Department probe and executive departures hit ride-hailing titan Uber and its embattled CEO in the past couple of months. In South Florida, its largest and fastest-growing Florida market, Lyft ridership has grown more than threefold since 2014, said Sam Cohen, general manager of Florida for Lyft.

Body farm for researchers and detectives opens near Tampa” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press — Officials broke ground on the Adam Kennedy Forensics Field, a five-acre patch of land north of Tampa. It’s the seventh such facility in the nation and the first in Florida’s subtropical environment. Officials in Florida hope their farm, to be used at first by detectives and forensic anthropologists at the nearby University of South Florida, will draw scientists from other countries and grow to be the largest in the world … Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF, predicts that by studying how bodies react in Florida’s sweltering humidity, more evidence will be preserved and breakthroughs made in real-life-cases. The research also would benefit other countries with subtropical and tropical climates, she said. Bodies are obtained by donation. The first four will be buried next week, and in January, Kimmerle and other researchers will hold a course for detectives on exhumation. Later, other bodies will be exposed to water and buried during different seasons to determine how different factors affect decomposition and evidence. After the bodies are studied, the skeletons will be cleaned and preserved and made available for future research.

No dice: Miami Beach commission moves to ban casinos” via The Associated Press — The city’s commission voted unanimously for two preliminary ordinances banning casinos or any other gambling facility on the island. Commissioners will take a final vote July 26 … city leaders decided to push the ordinances after the state Legislature considered granting a new gambling license for South Florida. That plan eventually fell through Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine says the resort city has no need for casinos and cited opposition from operators of the annual Art Basel fair, which draws art lovers from around the world. There are also concerns about more crime, traffic and addiction to gambling.

Comedian Samantha Bee throws weight behind Florida felons’ voting rights” via Kate Payne of WFSU — Bee of the TBS show Full Frontal sat down with Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. Meade is behind a proposed ballot initiative that would automatically restore civil rights to felons … “In Florida, felonies can be things like buying weed, tampering with an odometer or disturbing a lobster trap. So basically Spring Break,” Bee joked. “And once you lose your rights, it’s nearly impossible to get them back.” Bee set up a new website for audience members to download and sign the petition if they’re Florida voters. For those who can’t vote in the state, Bee joked folks can mail it to a grandparent who is.


The North Fort Myers Republican will formally launch his 2018 Agriculture Commissioner campaign at 11:15 a.m. at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers. chatted with Caldwell ahead of his announcement about what he learned from his 2008 Senate District 27 bid, what prompted him to run for statewide office, and what distinguishes him from the rest of the 2018 hopefuls. On what lessons he’ll take from his SD 27 run: “Certainly it’s not ever going to be the same running in a district versus a state, but even then, as a novice, I appreciated that the seat was a real microcosm of Florida. It was basically a 50-50 seat, with a slight Democratic registration advantage. It had urbanized downtowns, it had cattle ranches and citrus groves, it covered part of Lake Okeechobee, and it had ocean on each side. It was quite literally a snapshot of every kind of venue you’ll encounter in the state of Florida. You had to learn to campaign in different environments. You always want to remain true to who you are and what your values are and what your goals are, but you do have to make sure you communicate and meet people where they’re at, and with such a diverse district, it was one of those educational lessons for sure.” On running for office: “Here’s an opportunity, from my perspective to keep pursuing the issues that I think are important, the ones I’ve had a chance to focus on and shape the policy outcomes. That’s what I’m always going to be looking to do, to be effective. … The God’s honest truth is, this gig takes a lot of a personally and certainly commands a lot from their family. A few years ago with those special sessions, I was gone 42 weeks of the year. To me, running for higher office is really a waste of time if you don’t have a real commitment to make a difference, to have issues and challenges you want to tackle. Just running for office because it’s cool or a nice title, I’ll never understand it. It’s just way too much of a personal investment and a sacrifice as part of a family to just to it for the popularity sake. You have got to want to do this gig because you think you can make a difference.” On what distinguishes him from other candidates: “Ultimately, that’s a question for the voters to decide. What I can commit to and offer is that I have a deep-rooted investment in the state of Florida. This is not about titles or the opportunity to put something on my resume. I honestly don’t care if someday my gravestone says anything more than ‘husband and father,’ that’s the only real job that I worry about being successful in my legacy. But this is really, to me, a chance to serve. You look at the things I’ve been able to work on over the last … seven years in the process and I think it demonstrates my ability to work with challenging issues, to work with a bipartisan coalition of folks, to work with folks across the aisle, to come together on some pretty tough things.”

North Fort Myers Republican Matt Caldwell kicks his bid for Agriculture Commissioner into high gear with an April fundraising haul of more than $412K.


Adam Putnam criticizes state budget deal during Sarasota stop” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Putnam, who had input on the budget as the state’s current agriculture commissioner, said during a stop in Sarasota that “I certainly have some concerns about the budget and how it was done.” Putnam was alluding to the fact that the final budget deal was largely negotiated behind closed doors, leading to criticism from Scott and others about a lack of transparency. Scott is particularly incensed that lawmakers eliminated funding for the economic incentives doled out by Enterprise Florida, and reduced the tourism promotion dollars awarded to Visit Florida. Asked about those cuts after his speech to the Sarasota GOP, Putnam said: “when you take job creation for granted it slips away.”

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will continue his 10-day, 22-city bus tour Monday with an “Up & Adam” Breakfast at 8 a.m. at Rafiki Tiki Riviera Beach Marina, 190 E. 13th Street in Riviera Beach. He’ll then head to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 2301 SE 17th Street in Fort Lauderdale.

Gwen Graham gets backing of Amy Mercado, Lori Berman, Barbara Watson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Mercado, vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus, said in a news release issued by Graham’s campaign that the congresswoman “stood up for our shared values in Washington … She voted to defend Obamacare, co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage, and worked to protect Florida’s environment,” Mercado continued. “She has the courage to fight for our priorities and the experience to get things done.” … “It showed me she cares about every student, regardless of their ZIP code or background. After years of Republican attacks on our public education system, we need a governor who will end high-stakes testing and the current system of demoralizing school grades,” Watson said.

***SUNBURN is brought to you in part by Bascom Communications & Consulting, LLC, a top-notch public affairs, political communications and public relations firm. Visit to read about their growing team, success stories and case studies.***

Look who’s shaved and ready to be a state Senate candidate:

Save the date: Florida Foundation for Liberty is hosting a fundraising reception for Rep. Paul Renner Thursday, May 25. Reception begins 5:30 p.m. at The River Club, 1 Independent Dr. #3500, in Jacksonville. RSVP to Katie Ballard at (954) 803-3942 or

“Daniel Webster endorses Bobby Olszewski in HD 44 race” via Florida Politics — Webster represented the area of HD 44 in southwest Orange County for decades, as a member of the Florida House, the Florida Senate, and a member of Congress, until congressional redistricting forced him to move a few miles into Lake County to run in another district in order to stay in Congress. His endorsement gives Olszewski’s campaign another shot of steam as other potential Republican candidates, including Will McBride and Scott Boyd, contemplate jumping into what will be a short campaign season. Olszewski, a former city commissioner in Webster’s former hometown of Winter Garden, also received the endorsement of former Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, to go along with dozens of endorsements from local officials in western Orange. “Bobby is a man of faith and a true conservative who truly sacrifices his time, treasure, and talents to serve west Orange County. He will be a great advocate for all of us in Tallahassee and I fully endorse his candidacy,” said Webster in a statement.

“David Rivera banks another $110,000 for April” via Florida PoliticsFormer state representative and congressman David Rivera banked $110,750 last month toward his 2018 run for House District 105, campaign finance records show. The April take follows a $100,000 loan. Rivera is looking to replace term-limited state Rep. Carlos Trujillo in the Republican-leaning district. His only competitor, Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, collected $36,800 for April, bringing her total to $51,425.


AppointedJoel Schleicher and Rebecca Smith to the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Joyce Brancato to District Board of Trustees, College of Central Florida. Dr. Sarvam TerKonda, Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos and Dr. Robert London to the Florida Board of Medicine.

Personnel note: Mike Sole appointed to fish and wildlife commission” via Florida Politics — Sole served at DEP from 2007 to 2010, then went to work for Florida Power & Light Co. and NextEra Energy, where he has been vice president for environmental services. He succeeds Charles Roberts III for a term ending Aug. 1, 2021.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Slater Bayliss, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC: Trafelet Brokaw & Co., LLC

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: WeatherSTEM

Lobbyist compensation reporting deadline — Compensation reports are due for the first quarter of 2017, Jan. 1 through March 31.

Spotted — At a Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association reception at the Key West Country Music Songwriters Festival: Adam BabingtonMelanie BeckerJim DaughtonCarol DoverNicole GarganellaAndy Palmer, Sen. Kathleen PassidomoKirk PepperHolly Raschein, Sen. Wilton Simpson and Marlene Williams.

Happy birthday to once (and future?) candidate Eric Lynn.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Opposition mounting to ‘whiskey & Wheaties’

The opposition to the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill has surged to 2,572 emails, 173 phone calls and nine letters, according to the latest tally from Gov. Rick Scott‘s office.

In support are 315 emails, 64 calls and six letters.

The legislation would allow retailers to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Opponents—including independent liquor stores—are calling the proposal a job-killer and asking Scott to veto.

The governor has till May 24 to sign the bill into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature. His office has said Scott will “review” the legislation.

The bill passed both chambers on close margins: 21-17 in the Senate and a razor thin 58-57 in the House. Also, five House members who missed the vote voted ‘no’ after the roll call.

Rep. Bryan Avila toasts with Rep. Scott Plakon on the House floor April 26, 2017, upon approval by just one vote of the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill. Plakon opposed the measure. (Photo via the Florida House)

Filed every year since 2014, it removes the 82-year-old ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other items enacted in Florida after Prohibition. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles.

Among other things, the bill requires miniature bottles to be sold behind a counter and allows for a 5-year phase-in. It further calls for employees over 18 to check customers’ ID and approve sales of spirits by cashiers under 18.

Big-box chains such as Wal-Mart and Target have pushed for the bill, while independent owner-operators—playing on Scott’s reputation as a job creator—say the legislation will kill jobs and even put some small businesses out of business.

Florida’s own ABC Fine Wines & Spirits also opposes the measure, as does the Publix supermarket chain, because of its investment in its many separate liquor stores.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Moline, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

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

Finally, sine die — The Florida Legislature adjourned Monday, three days after the 2017 Legislative Session was scheduled to end. Lawmakers called it quits after approving a nearly $83 billion state budget, which included an across-the-board pay raise for state workers, money to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, and $25 million for Visit Florida. The budget doesn’t include money for business incentives for Enterprise Florida, or the $200 million Gov.  Scott requested for the Herbert Hoover Dike. Lawmakers also approved a massive education bill that, among other things, sets aside money for the House’s “Schools of Hope” charter school proposal and teacher bonuses, addresses testing reforms and virtual learning, and mandates 20 minutes of recess at most public elementary schools each day. Lawmakers also OK’d an overhaul of the state’s higher education system, and a slimmed down version of the tax cut plan.

Russell Hosford, Sergeant at Arms for the House of Representatives, left, and Senate Sergeant at Arms Tim Hay, right, drop their handkerchiefs to signal the close of the 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die on Monday. (Photo by Colin Hackley)

Will he or won’t he — Now that lawmakers have passed the budget a big question remains: What will Gov. Scott do when it lands on his desk? Once lawmakers send the budget to Scott, he’ll have 15 days to sign, exercise his line-item veto power, or veto the entire budget. In a statement this week, Scott said he was disappointed lawmakers did not fund business incentives. “Once again, the Florida Legislature has turned their back on Florida’s ability to fund economic incentive deals that help our state outcompete our top competitors for important jobs,” he said in a statement. “This is very concerning to me and is an action that each member will have to defend as their local communities lose out on new manufacturing facilities, headquarter relocations and thousands of high wage jobs for families.” Scott also took a shot at lawmakers for slashing money for Visit Florida and not including money for the dike in the budget. The governor said he is reviewing his options, and has “the option of vetoing the entire budget.” If he does, lawmakers can override that veto with a two-third vote of present and voting. The budget passed each chamber with a veto-proof majority.

It’s a law — Gov. Scott signed 11 bills into law this week, including a bill (HB 221) that creates statewide regulations for ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft. The new law, which goes into effect July 1, creates minimum insurance standards and requires companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers. The law pre-empts local ordinances and rules on transportation network companies. “For Uber Florida, our priority is making safe and reliable rides easy and affordable — whether it’s for a mother needing transportation after a late work shift, or for a senior who needs to get to and from doctor appointments,” said Kasra Moshkani, the South Florida general manager for Uber. “With Governor Scott’s signature, we see the culmination of hard work and dedication by so many: from Uber driver-partners and riders to our diverse local partners and community leaders.” Scott also signed a bill (SB 10) to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron. The project is designed to stop discharges of toxic algae-infused overflow into streams and estuaries to the east and west by storing 78 billion gallons of water in a reservoir to the south, with treatment and ultimate discharge into the Everglades and Florida Bay. “After 20 years of talking, southern storage is finally becoming a reality,” Negron said. “We are well on our way to putting the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the pages of history, instead of the front pages of daily newspapers.”

Back to Tally — The annual 60-day Session had barely finished before some lawmakers and advocates began calling for special session to implement the state’s medical marijuana amendment. Senate President Negron on Monday indicated he was open to a special session to consider implementing legislation, telling reporters the Legislation has “a responsibility to be involved in that implementation.” Speaker Richard Corcoran called for a special session, telling a Tallahassee radio station that discussions have started and he would like to have a special session as soon as possible. The calls for a special session have also come from Sens. Bill Galvano, Jeff Brandes, and Dana Young and Rep. Chris Sprowls, among others. If a special session isn’t held, the Department of Health would need to come up with rules for Amendment 2 by July 3 and have them implemented by October.

Campaign season begins — Almost as soon as the hanky dropped on the 2017 Legislative Session, lawmakers began turning their eyes to the 2018 election. Rep. Jay Fant announced his bid for Attorney General this week, while Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez announced he was planning to run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. State Rep. David Richardson also indicated he was eyeing the spot; while Rep. Lori Berman announced she was running for Palm Beach County Commission in 2018. Agriculture Commission Adam Putnam formally launched his 2018 gubernatorial bid in Bartow, before embarking on a 10-day tour; and Rep. Matt Caldwell announced plans to formally launch his 2018 Agriculture Commissioner run early next week. Even Gov. Scott appeared to get in the action, announcing he would serve as chairman of the New Republican, a federal super PAC — raising eyebrows that he was laying the groundwork for a future U.S. Senate run. Can’t wait until 2018? Don’t worry. Scott his week set the special election dates to fill the Senate District 40 seat vacated by Sen. Frank Artiles. So far Democrats Daisy Baez, a freshman House member, and Annette Taddeo have filed to run; while the Republican field includes Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam officially kicked off his 2018 campaign in Bartow this week. (Photo via the Putnam campaign)

So long, farewell

There probably wasn’t a dry eye in the House when Rep. Jose Felix Diaz was done talking this week.

The Miami Republican has filed to run in Senate District 40 to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, but even before making that bid official, he wasn’t expected to return to the House in 2018. Diaz, an attorney at Ackerman, was been believed to be in the running for South Florida’s top federal prosecutor’s job.

So on the final day of Session, Diaz stood in the well and addressed his children — and his colleagues — and spelled out his hopes for them.

“I pray that you … are as blessed as I was,” he said. “I pray you find you center; I pray you realize helping others is everything.”

Rep. Jose Felix Diaz receives applause and hugs from a group of colleagues after making his farewell speech to the House on final day of the extended 2017 legislative session. (Photo by Colin Hackley)

He told his boys, who he calls his “tornadoes,” to “help the poor, help the disadvantaged, help the sick.” He told them to be thoughtful, and not to be afraid to cry because it “means you’re alive and feeling deeply, growing and learning.”

To his colleagues, he had a similar message: “I pray you never lose who you are, that you fight for things you believe in, that you use your words judiciously and never make a promise you can’t keep. Leave a lasting impact on this world by being yourself.”

After Diaz wrapped up his remarks, House Speaker Corcoran told Diaz that the chamber was losing “a great warrior, a great counselor and a phenomenal friend.”

For Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, the trip to Tallahassee this week might have been his last as a state lawmaker.

Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, was appointed to the Fifth District Court of Appeal by Gov. Scott on Monday, the final day of the 2017 Session. He fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge C. Alan Lawson to the Supreme Court.

In his farewell remarks on the floor, Eisnaugle told colleagues that he tried to explain what a judge did to his children when he applied for the post. They asked lots of questions, and Eisnaugle said he did his best to answer. One question that emerged pretty early on though, was whether being a judge meant he got to “come home.”

Reps. Julio Gonzalez and Rep. Jay Fant embrace Rep. Eric Eisnaugle after his farewell speech the the House on the final day of the extended 2017 legislative session. Eisnaugle was appointed to the 5th District Court of Appeal by Gov. Rick Scott. (Photo by Colin Hackley)

“When I said yes, I knew they’d be pulling for me,” said Eisnaugle.

The 40-year-old told members that he he was “eternally grateful” for the impact they had on his life, and wished them “the very best going forward in this process, in life and in your family.”

“Like anything else in life, there’s good days and there’s bad,” he said. “For me, there’s been a lot more good than bad. I’m proud to have served.”

And with that, he had just one more message for his children: “I’m coming home.”

We survived!’

Spotted in the Capitol rotunda following sine die: Lauren Book, fresh off her first session as a senator, and her über-lobbyist dad, Ron Book — each cradling one of her twin babies, Kennedy Grace and Hudson Lee Byrnes.

“We survived! It was just by the hair of our chinny chin chins, but we did it,” Book said.

Book had an impressive first outing, winning appointment as Democratic leader pro tempore and chairwoman of the Environmental Protection and Conservation Committee. So what if her proposed repeal of the sales tax on diapers died?

“You have to have a really good sense of humor, and you have take things in stride. Not every day is easy. There are a lot of crises at one time, and it’s how to navigate those,” she said.

Florida Senator Lauren Book, left, and her father, lobbyist Ron Book, hold her two twins, Hudson Lee Byrnes, left, and Kennedy Grace Byrnes during opening day of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida March 6, 2017. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser)

“Also, you have to be a really good collaborator. I grew up with somebody who taught be to be a bull in the china shop in a lot of different ways — you go in and get what you want, and the collateral consequences don’t matter, she continued. “Being a part of this process, I’ve seen first-hand how working together can bring about incredible things.”

Workers’ compensation compromise crumbled in final hours of session

A workers’ compensation fix looked possible within perhaps a few hours of the regular session’s close.

Bill Herrle, Florida director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the House delivered what was fated to be its last compromise to the Senate at about 2:30 p.m. on the last day.

“We were still working it through to about 5 or 6, when it became apparent the Senate was ready to look at the House’s offer,” he said. “We felt like we were making great progress in getting floor votes. We felt like we could have passed it.”

By then, the chambers were exactly $20 apart on the maximum hourly fee payable to attorneys handing claims appeals. “The House had offered $180, and the business community was ready to support that. The Senate didn’t look at that offer.”

Herrle hopes the issue gets folded into any special session held in advance of the regular session, scheduled to open in January. A 14.5 percent rate hike hits more businesses as they renew policies every month, he said.

“If the Legislature’s in Tallahassee, they should be looking at workers’ compensation,” he said. “It’s a major economic issue, and they’re so close to an agreement.”

NARAL looks for ally in Scott

The pro-choice organization is calling on Gov. Scott to oppose provision in the 2017-18 budget that would fund anti-choice organizations it says uses deceptive and high-pressure tactics to mislead women about their reproductive health options.

NARAL Pro-Choice America is asking Scott to veto a provision in the budget that allocates $4 million to crisis pregnancy centers. In a letter to Scott, the organization outlined its concerns and asked him “strike this harmful provision from this legislation.”

“It’s time for Gov. Scott to stand up for the women and families he represents,” said Joel Foster, NARAL Pro-Choice America national political director, in a statement. “At a time when families want leaders to focus on bringing in good-paying jobs and improving education, Gov. Scott seems more focused on pandering to a fringe element of his political base. These aren’t the priorities of hardworking Florida families and it’s time for the governor to do better.”

Celebrating legislative successes

Several bills anti-immigration bills were proposed during the 2017 Legislative Session. All of them died.

“In a moment where hatred and discrimination is being normalized, our immigrant, Muslim and communities of colors stood together fighting back nine bills seeking to criminalize our families and legalize racial profiling in Florida,” said Francesca Menes, the director of policy and advocacy for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Lawmakers proposed several bills this session that would have targeted undocumented immigrants by upgrading penalties for violent crimes committed by undocumented immigrants; stripping funding for local governments that don’t comply with federal immigration authorities; repeal a state law giving in-state tuition to some undocumented immigrants; increase background checks on refugees; and require employees to make sure employees are documented.

While the Florida Immigrant Coalition celebrated its victories, it also chastised Latino legislators for supporting legislation to strip local governments of funding if they don’t comply with federal immigration rules.

“It is good news that anti-immigrant bills did not pass this session but that does not excuse those representatives that voted for HB 697 in the House,” said Miguel Bernal, a FLIC board member.

“We will remember, and continue the fight to recognize the full human rights of the immigrant community.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran is congratulated by Russell Hosford, Sergeant at Arms, as he walks to the rotunda to meet the Senate after adjourning the extended 2017 legislative session Sine Die on Monday. (Photo by Colin Hackley)

The Florida Retail Federation is celebrating big wins in 2017.

Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, applauded the organization’s efforts during the annual 60-day — well, in the case of the 2017 Session, 63-day — Legislative Session. The organization successfully pushed for lawmakers to reduce the business rent tax, as well as for sales tax holidays for back-to-school shopping and disaster preparedness.

The association also opposed several proposals, Shalley said, that would have harmed the retail industry, like allowing pre-judgment interest on personal injury awards.

“I am extremely proud of the way our retailers, stakeholders, and association staff worked with the Legislature to accomplish so many of our goals this year,” said Shalley in a statement. “We continue to prove that our industry remains strong and continues to be a major economic contributor–leading in job growth and many other economic indicators.”

The FRF also backed a proposal that enhances penalties for people committing “skimmer fraud.”

A host of gun bills were filed this year, but when the 2017 Session ended this week very few even made it out of committee.

And that’s perfectly fine with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety. Volunteers with the organization applauded the defeat of several gun bills — including ones to allow guns on campuses, airports, or at public meetings.

“I am proud that our lawmakers listened to the concerns of Floridians and stood up to preserve public safety in Florida. Legislation that would have allowed people to openly carry handguns in public, allowed guns in airports and college campuses and punished our private businesses for exercising their right to prohibit handguns on their premises have no place in our state,” said Michelle Gajda, the volunteer chapter leader with the Florida Chapter of Moms Demand Action.  “Florida has a long history of responsible gun ownership, and because of gun sense champions like Sen. Anitere Flores, it will remain that way. Today’s victories are proof that gun safety advocates are a formidable force who can take on the gun lobby and win.”

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America isn’t the only group patting itself on its back for defeating gun legislation.

The Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence said this week it was encouraged by the failure of gun legislation, and was proud of the work its volunteers did to advocate against the proposals.

Created by the League of Women Voters after the Pulse night club massacre, the group helped set the course for legislation to be filed to restrict the sale and transfer of large assault weapons. It also advocated for gun legislation.

“Change is slowly coming to Florida, as we have worked successfully to beat back most of the regressive gun legislation over the past two years and have charted a course to save lives by gaining introduction of a ban on assault weapons and legislation for universal background checks,” said Andy Pelosi, the executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus and the co-chair of the coalition.

Senate President Joe Negron is joined by Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II as they wait to walk to the rotunda to meet their House counterparts after adjourning the extended 2017 legislative session Sine Die on Monday. (Photo by Colin Hackley)

It was a rough year for the insurance industry, but the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America is taking its wins where it can.

Logan McFaddin, the organization’s state government relations regional manager, applauded the Legislature for preserving the insurance premium tax credit and passing a ride-booking regulatory bill that protects “both rideshare drivers and passengers.”

McFaddin also thanked lawmakers who made assignment of benefits reform a “priority this session,” and commended the House for “sending a bill with commonsense reforms to the Senate.”

“As we approach another hurricane season, it’s unfortunate we were unable to pass reform legislation in the Senate to protect hardworking Floridians,” said McFaddin in a statement. “The Senate bill simply did not go far enough to protect consumers. Data shows skyrocketing litigation costs are a major problem, and now we will need to wait another year in hopes of stopping this abuse.”

Atwater reflects on final session wins

CFO Jeff Atwater is going out on top.

Atwater is expected to bid farewell to state government in the coming weeks to take a job as the CFO at Florida Atlantic University. While Atwater has already sent a farewell letter to Floridians, he shared some of his legislative successes with the Sunshine State in his weekly newsletter.

“During this year’s Legislative Session, I am pleased to say that we were successful on several fronts,” said Atwater.

CFO Jeff Atwater, center, claps along with the Tallavana Christian School as they sing during a prayer rally on the National Day of Prayer in April. Atwater applauded lawmakers for passing legislation to “improve the lives of Floridians” this year. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser)

Atwater highlighted several bills, including legislation by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Rep. Jake Raburn that clarifies the process the state puts in place for when insurance companies fail financially. The bill outlines the obligations the company has to cooperate with the Department of Financial Services, and clarifies deadlines for debtors to submit claims.

“Our Department continually strives to improve our processes and hone our techniques so that we are offering the best services to the people of Florida and being the best stewards of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “I feel that once again we’ve passed legislation that will improve the lives of Floridians, and I am proud of the team for their hard work and dedication.”

Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit gets top honor

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has something to celebrate about.

The unit was selected as the recipient of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s top Award for Excellence in Fighting Fraud, Waste and Abuse. The HHS nominated the unit because of its success in fighting Medicaid fraud and recovering millions of dollars in lost funds.

“This national award highlights the tireless efforts of my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators to stop fraud and recover funds for taxpayers. Since taking office, we have recovered more than $689 million in stolen Medicaid funds through settlements and judgments,” said Bondi in a statement. “This award sends a strong message, that anyone stealing Medicaid funds in Florida will be arrested and prosecuted.”

The unit also has been recognized for its collaboration with HHS and other federal agencies, including the FBI. Last year, the unit worked with HHS, FBI and the Justice Department to help execute the largest Medicare and Medicaid fraud takedown in U.S. history. As part of the takedown, the Medicaid Fraud Unit charged six people in schemes causing more than $17 million in fraudulent billings. The joint investigation identified more than $200 million in fraud resulting in more than 100 arrests in Florida.

The unit will be presented with the award during the 2017 Honor Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. in June.

Scott signs law protecting identities of murder witnesses

Witnesses will be protected under a new law signed by Gov. Scott this week.

Sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Stafford and Sen. Randolph Bracy, the law creates a public records exemption for the witnesses of a murder who choose to come forward. It puts witnesses in line with exemptions currently given to victims of sexual assault, child abuse and confidential informants.

“I am proud that we were able to give our law enforcement personnel another valuable tool in the toolkit as we seek to end the “stop snitching” culture and deliver justice to the victims of these horrific crimes,” said Stafford in a statement. “Too often, cases are going unsolved because witnesses are too scared for their own safety to come forward to testify. I am hopeful this legislation will encourage witnesses to come forward to work with law enforcement to help create safer communities throughout the state.”

McFaddin crowned senior living leader

It might be a while before James McFaddin enters his golden years, but the 38-year-old has been named a senior living leader.

Florida Argentum announced recently that McFaddin, a partner with Southern Strategy Group, has been named one of the company’s “Senior Living Leaders Under 40.” The organization, formerly known as the Florida Assisted Living Federation, represents nearly 400-professionally managed senior assisted-living, independent, continuing care and memory care communities.

“From the very beginning, James has worked tirelessly to advance the standards and professionalism for senior living and care,” said Gail Matillo, president and CEO of Florida Argentum, in a statement. “He’s always available to our board and our membership, and we consider ourselves fortunate to consider him a colleague and a good friend.”

McFaddin has worked with Argentum since its inception in 2012.  Due in large part to McFaddin’s work, Florida Argentum achieved legislative victories, including legislation to allow more services for residents living in the communities.

“James’ strategic advice on navigating the complex world of policy and politics has allowed Florida Argentum to establish meaningful relationships with legislators and policymakers who support the interests of seniors and providers,” said Maribeth Bersani, the chief operating officer for Argentum, in a statement. “We appreciate his dedication to the industry and our partners and congratulate him on this well-deserved honor.”

‘No end in sight’

Florida is on fire, with more than 130 active wildfires still burning.

The Florida Forest Service announced this week that more than 2,000 wildfires have burned over 150,000 acres in Florida this year. As of May 11, there were 138 active wildfires on 30,863 acres of state land burning. There were four wildfires on 167,875 acres of federal land burning.

“Florida is in the middle of its worst wildfire season in years – with no end in sight,” said Putnam. “With such an active wildfire season and much of Florida experiencing significant drought conditions, residents and visitors should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

More than 130 fires were burning on state land as of May 11. (Map via the Florida Forest Service)

May is traditionally one of the driest months of the year, and Putnam said that expectation holds true for this year. Putnam encouraged Floridians to create 3-feet of defensible space around their home. To do that, Floridians should make sure to keep the space free of tall, fire-prone plants and materials.

Gov. Scott in April issued an executive order to provide full resources to combat wildfires. The last time a similar executive order was issued was in June 2011.

As wildfires continue to rage on throughout the state, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America is urging Floridians to listen to first responders and contact their insurance companies if they need to evacuate.

“Insurers are prepared to help begin the claims process for residents located in areas impacted by the wildfires that are continuing to plague the Sunshine State,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI’s regional manager. “It is important to note homeowners’ insurance policies provide coverage for additional living expenses.  This coverage can help move policyholders out of shelters and into a hotel room or rental property if they are forced to evacuate.”

McFaddin said Floridians should evacuate if ordered; but before that they should make sure they read and understand their insurance policy, create an inventory list of what’s in their home; and have copies of their insurance and receipts for major purchases.

Scott recognizes state employees

Take a minute to tip your hat to government employees.

Gov. Scott issued a proclamation declaring May 7 through May 13 as “Public Service Recognition Week,” and declared May 10 as “State Employee Appreciation Day.” The proclamation was meant to recognize the federal, state and local public servants who work each day to make Florida a better state.

“Florida’s public servants span a wide spectrum of essential services statewide,” said Erin Rock, the interim secretary of the Department of Management Services, in a statement. “From education to emergency management and law enforcement to health care professionals, our dedicated employees touch virtually every area of Floridians’ lives.”

The proclamation recognized Florida’s federal, state and local employees for their work in providing reliable and accessible service that is responsible to the needs of Floridians.

“As the third largest state in the country, Florida has one of the lowest ratios of government employees to its population,” said Rock. “Florida’s state government is lean and efficient, making our state employees our greatest asset. We recognize and greatly appreciate their endless talents and commitment to serving the public.”

Adoption benefit bill heads to governor

More state employees who want to become adoptive moms and dads could soon get a little extra help from the state.

The Florida Legislature approved a bill (HB 749) that would expand the reach of the state’s adoption benefit program. The bill expands the definition of a qualifying adoptive employee to employees of charter schools and the Florida Virtual School who were employees on or after July 1, 2015.

“We, in the Legislature, are here to serve and assist our constituents,” said Sen. Kelli Stargel, who sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Stargel said she filed the bill after speaking to a local teacher, Daniel Lauk. He and his wife wanted to adopt a sibling group, but Stargel said when he applied for the incentive program, they were told “they didn’t qualify because they were charter school teachers.”

“Charter school teachers and Florida Virtual School teachers were not included in the benefit, even though they are public school teachers,” she said. “With the passing of this bill, all public teachers will be part of this great adoption incentive.”

The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.

“I believe we should do all we can to encourage adoption for families wishing to provide forever homes for these children in our state foster care system,” said Rep. Neil Combee, the sponsor of the House bill.

The bill now heads to Gov. Scott for his consideration.

Same day concealed carry renewal available at 41 tax collectors’ offices

Need to renew your concealed carry license in a pinch? Agriculture Commissioner Putnam announced same day services are now offered at 41 tax collectors’ offices across the state.

“My goal is to make applying for and renewing a Florida concealed weapon license as convenient as possible, and this new service gives license holders another option when renewing,” said Putnam in a statement.

Previously, license holders could submit renewal documents at participating tax collectors’ offices, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would then mail the renewal license if approved. Under the new system, participating tax collectors can now print renewal licenses on site.

The new service means Florida concealed weapons licenses can be renewed online, by mail or in person. While concealed weapons licenses are processed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, tax collectors have been given greater authority to accept renewal applications and print renewal licenses for eligible applicants because of rising demand.

There are currently more than 1.75 million active Florida concealed weapon licenses, and more than 204,000 of those will expire this year.

Economic development leaders applauded

Gov. Scott is usually the one handing out his “Business Ambassador Award,” but this week he was the one getting the award.

The Naples Republican was presented with the 2017 Business Ambassador Award during the Florida Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Fort Lauderdale. The governor was recognized, according to the organization, for his strong defense of economic development and tourism programs, as well as his work to bring “hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in capital investment to the state.”

The state organization also presented Crystal Sircy, the executive vice president of the Orlando Economic Partnership, with the Eunice Sullivan Economic Development Professional of the Year award. Given annually, the award recognizes the achievements of an outstanding economic developer within the state of Florida.

“She is a tireless advocate for economic development issues, and has testified many times in front of Florida House and Senate committees. Economic developers from around the state have relied on her to mentor them,” said Cathy Chambers, the 2016-2017 chair of the Florida Economic Development Council and senior vice president of strategy and business development at JAXUSA Partnership. “Her contributions to our state are too numerous to count.”

Kathleen Woodring, the executive vice president of CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, was presented with the Toni Jennings Workforce Professional of the Year award. The award honors and recognizes the former lieutenant governor’s leadership in revamping the state’s workforce system to respond to critical workforce needs.

“Ms. Woodring has set a new standard for excellence in managing relationships with community organizations and partners,” said Ed Peachey, the president and chief executive officer of CareerSource Tampa Bay. “Thanks to her leadership, extraordinary attention to detail, and devotion to educating our professionals to be the most innovative and effective in the nation, she has helped create a path to prosperity for thousands of at-risk Citrus, Levy and Marion County residents. Her impact on these communities will be felt for decades to come.”

2018 ‘Teacher of the Year’ finalists announced

Way to go, Michael Miller!

The Kissimmee Elementary School teacher was chosen as one of five finalists to compete for the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award, the Department of Education announced this week.

“Michael Miller has distinguished himself as one of Osceola’s most dynamic and well-respected teachers and has demonstrated a passion for helping students reach their full potential,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in a statement. “By setting high expectations and using data-driven instruction strategies, Mr. Miller has had a profound impact on his students, and I am pleased to announce that he is one of Florida’s 2018 Teacher of the Year finalists. The Millers are an outstanding family; just last year, his wife, Amy, earned this prestigious honor!”

Miller, a fifth grade math teacher, was teaching his class when Stewart made a surprise visit to his classroom to tell him he had been chosen as a finalist.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart surprised Michael Miller this week in his classroom to tell him he was a finalist for the 2018 Teacher of the Year. (Photo via the Department of Education)

Miller received a $5,000 check from the Department of Education and a $500 Macy’s gift card. Kissimmee Elementary School received a $1,000 check from Macy’s.

Macy’s, along with the state Department of Education, has honored exceptional educators in Florida for the past 29 years. The program recognizes and honors the contributions of classroom teachers.

“Teachers are some of THE most important people in our children’s lives,” said Dennis Witte, Macy’s executive vice president and regional director of stores, in a statement.  “To be a teacher is to be a mentor, a friend, a coach and a constant in the lives of their students. Teachers are life changers and this is what happens each day in Mr. Miller’s classroom. Throughout Macy’s sponsorship of this program, we continue to be humbled and proud to support the best educators in the Florida.”

Kudos, Katelyn Fiori!

The Vero Beach Elementary School teacher was chosen as one of five finalists to compete for the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year award, the Department of Education announced this week.

“Ms. Fiori’s passion for her students and the teaching profession as a whole sets her apart from the crowd,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “Her colleagues praised her for demonstrating perseverance and refusing to accept excuses – from herself or her students, a trait she honed while serving as a military wife. In her first year at Vero Beach Elementary, she has developed innovative approaches to tracking students’ progress, and I am thrilled to share that she is a 2018 Teacher of the Year finalist.”

The fourth-grade teacher was surprised while she was teaching her class this week.

Scott holds ‘Freedom Rally’ for Venezuela

Gov. Scott has joined South Florida leaders calling for the release of Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez.

Scott this week held a Freedom Rally at El Arepazo 2 in Miami to call for Lopez release. Lopez was jailed after being found guilty of inciting violence during 2014 protests. Last week, there were rumors circulating that he had been taken to a military hospital.

“We have seen the protests down there,” said Scott, according to CBS 4 in Miami. “People out of food, out of medicine. It is horrible what is happening in Venezuela.”

Gov. Rick Scott awarded Leopoldo López, who is jailed in Venezuela, with the Governor’s Freedom Award. The award was accepted by Carlos Vecchio, co-founder of “Voluntad Popular.” (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

Scott honored Lopez with a “Governor’s Freedom Award,” which was accepted by Carlos Vecchio, the founder of Voluntad Popular,” a Venezuelan social and political movement working to eliminate poverty and support democracy. He also spoke to Lilian Tintori, Lopez’s wife, by phone, according to the Governor’s Office.

Huzzah, history

These kids are serious students of history.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Museum of Florida History announced this week the winners of the annual Florida History Day competition. More than 60,000 students from across Florida participated in Florida History Day this year, and the top entries from each county competed at the state contest.

“The students and teachers who participated in this year’s Florida History Day are a shining example of the talent and creativity in Florida schools,” said Detzner in a statement. “I’d like to recognize all of the students who devoted time and energy to their projects and I want to congratulate the award winners who will represent Florida in the National History Day competition. I also applaud the teachers who were honored with awards this year for inspiring students and cultivating their interest in history.”

The top two placements in each category will go on to represent Florida at the National History Day contest in College Park, Maryland in June.

Harriet Beecher Stowe appears in sepia tone, a tiny figure indistinguishable from the crowd spilling down the steps of the Old Capitol. The date is 1874.

That photograph is the 200,000th image entered into the Florida State Library and Archives’ Florida Memory collection, selected from the 1 million in the Florida Photographic Collection.

Governor Marcellus L. Stearns greeting Harriet Beecher Stowe on the steps of the Capitol. (Photo via the State Archives of Florida)

“We are excited to celebrate this significant achievement for Florida Memory, which has digitized photographs that date all the way back to the earliest days of photography,” said Secretary of State Detzner.

Allen Morris, the legendary late clerk of the House, began the collection in 1952. Archives staff have been digitizing and offering images online since 1994. Morris’ wife, archivist Joan Perry Morris, became director and continued to build the photographic archive.

In addition to photographs, the project offers 300,000 archival documents, 250 videos and 2,900 audio recordings — all available for use without copyright restrictions — provided you credit the State Archives of Florida.

Love history? Then May is the month for you.

May is National Historic Preservation Month, and the Department of State is using this as a chance to encourage Floridians to explore and appreciate the historically significant places throughout the state.

“During National Historic Preservation Month, I invite all Florida residents and visitors to experience Florida’s historic sites to see firsthand how historic preservation benefits our economy and contributes to our understanding of our diverse heritage,” said Secretary of State Detzner. “Some of the nation’s most historically significant sites are located in the Sunshine State. I encourage all Floridians to join the Department of State in celebrating the preservation of Florida’s historic sites.”

Led by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the theme for the national campaign is #ThisPlaceMatters. The department is joining the national effort by showcasing ways it works year-round to protect, preserve and promote Florida’s historic places, including through the department’s Florida Heritage Trail publication series.

The department has produced 15 Florida Heritage Trail publications, including the Civil War Heritage Trail, the Seminole Wars Heritage Trail, and the Women’s Heritage Trail.


Donna Elam is keeping her seat on the Florida Commission on Human Relations

Gov. Scott announced this week he reappointed the 65-year-old Wellington resident to the Commission on Human Relations. Wellington, the president and CEO for the Elam Leadership Institute, received her bachelor’s degree from York College and her master’s and doctorate degree from New York University.

She was reappointed to a term ending Sept. 30, 2020, and her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

The governor announced the appointment of Karin Hoffman to the Board of Control for Southern Regional Education.

The 51-year-old Lighthouse Point is the vice president of Sonshine Educational Tours. She received her bachelor’s degree from Trinity International University, and was appointed to a term ending June 30, 2020.

Scott also appointed Richard Butler and James Millican to the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County.

Butler, a 59-year-old Pinellas Park resident, is the owner of Richard Butler Realty and is currently on the Pinellas Park City Council. He attended St. Petersburg College.

Millican, a 50-year-old Pinellas Park resident, is the district chief of Lealman Fire District of St. Petersburg. He received his EMT certification from St. Petersburg College and his firefighter certificate from P-Tech.

Both fill vacant seats for terms ending Aug. 11, 2020, and both are subject to confirmation of the Florida Senate.

Scott reappointed Maryke Lee, a 65-year-old Windermere resident; Rodney Talbot, a 60-year-old Winter Garden resident; and Dr. Denise Carter, a 56-year-old Windermere resident to the West Orange Healthcare District. He also appointed Dr. Peter Taylor, a 56-year-old from Windermere, to the board.

Division of Blind wraps up year-long 75th anniversary celebration

The Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services commemorated its commitment to fostering independence for individuals who are blind and visually impaired during a ceremony and expo in Pensacola this week.

Through the state agency, blind and visually impaired individuals have access to educational, social and recreational services beginning at birth. In addition to helping younger clients, the agency works with adults to attain independent living solutions and career vocations educational skills so they can accomplish goals.

Rep. Frank White with Division of Blind Services Director Robert L. Doyle, III, during the DBS 75th Anniversary Ceremony in Pensacola. (Photo via the Department of Education)

The regional ceremony and expo featured informational sessions, networking opportunities, a community and technology showcase and inspirational testimonials.

“I am very grateful for the Division of Blind Services and its resources that came to my rescue,” said Pamela Wirick, a child care resource and referral specialist for the Early Learning Coalition who was born with only 10 percent of her vision because of macular degeneration. “I am meeting goals and completing tasks that I never thought I could do. Thank you to the DBS staff who go beyond their job expectations to assist, teach, support and listen.”

Big money returned to Floridians

There might be two months left in the fiscal year, but the Florida Division of Unclaimed Property has already broken its annual fiscal year return record.

CFO Atwater announced this week that more than 425,000 individual claims worth a combined $275 million have been processed, surpassing the $271.8 million record reached in fiscal 2015-16.

“Month after month and year after year, our unclaimed property team has continued to raise the bar,” said Atwater. “Their dedication and commitment to putting these forgotten-about funds back into the hands of Floridians is unmatched, and I am proud to announce their latest feat. Millions more lays waiting to be claimed and I hope that all Floridians will take two minutes to look on our website for an unclaimed property account in their name.”

Since 2011, more than $1.57 billion has been returned to Floridians.

The Department holds unclaimed property from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. Unclaimed property also includes tangible property, like watches, jewelry, coins, stamps, and other miscellaneous items from abandoned safe deposit boxes.

The check is in the mail

The Florida Realtors Education Foundation awarded $166,000 in scholarships to help pay for higher education expenses for 104 students in 2017-18, the organization announced this week.

Since the program was founded eight years ago, Florida Realtors has awarded more than $1.3 million in scholarships. That money has helped 790 students go to colleges or university. All recipients are Florida residents who attend community colleges, four-year universities, graduate programs or law schools both in- and out of state.

“We’re proud to provide much-needed financial support to families often struggling to pay for their children’s college dreams,” said Vince Price, chairman of Florida Realtors Education Foundation Inc. These student scholarships are one way that Realtors across the state give back to the community. It’s our investment in the future.”

Scott signs ‘dogs in courts’ bill

A bill to expand the use of therapy animals in courts is now law.

Gov. Scott signed the bill (HB 151) sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur and Jason Moskowitz this week. The new law, which goes into effect on July 1, expands the use of therapy animals to court proceedings involving child abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The bill passed both chambers unanimously earlier this year.

Cosmo, an 11 year old border collie service dog rests during a Senate committee meeting earlier this year. The governor signed a bill this week to allow children testifying in abuse, abandonment and neglect cases to use service dogs.

“The emotional bonds formed with animals often bring comfort to children and lend others in terrible circumstances the strength and courage they need to confront past abuses,” said Moskowitz, who said he was proud to have worked with Brodeur and have Scott’s backing, in a statement. “Helping children, victims, and the vulnerable is a non-partisan issue and I’m honored by the leadership and support from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

Building better school report cards

Need a step-by-step guide to building online school report cards? Don’t worry, the ExcelinEd and a host of other education groups have you covered.

The organization released a State Guide to Building Online School Report Cards this week. The 12-month, step-by-step timeline and guide is meant to outline a process for states to generate a next generation report card under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Created by ExcelinEd, the Council for Chief State School Officers, Collaborative Communications Group, Data Quality Campaign, Learning Heroes and National PTA, the guide breaks down the process for creating report cards that are easy for parents and the public to understand.

Summit focuses on education and progress among African-Americans

A summit planned for next week in Tallahassee will explore the relationship between education and progress for the African-American community, including in public health.

Sponsoring “Black Brains Matter” are Tallahassee’s Institute for African-American Health and the Miles-Johnson Task Force.

“The data clearly show that if you don’t finish high school, you will take nine years off your life,” Dr. Joseph Webster, president of the institute, said during a news conference.

“Education is like vaccination. If the child is not educated, he is not immune to the evils of society and will never navigate through the world properly. If you denied one-half of the children vaccinations, would that be a good public health system? The answer is no. But we’re denying half of our children education.”

Friday’s events include a town hall meeting and a lecture by Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor.

Gloria Ladson-Billings, an education professor and theorist at the University of Wisconsin is to deliver a luncheon address Saturday. David Lawrence, a trustee at Florida A&M university and editor emeritus of the Miami Herald, will speak Saturday night.

The end is near

Get them while you can: The last day to harvest stone crab claws in Florida is Monday.

The commercial and recreational harvest of stone crab claws closes Tuesday, with the last day to harvest the tasty claws on Monday. Stone crab season will reopen on Oct. 15.

Commercially harvested stone crab claws can be possessed and sold during the closed season, but only if they were placed in inventory before Tuesday by a licensed wholesale or retail dealer. Stone crab traps must be removed from the water within five days of the close of the season, unless a special extension is granted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Stone crab claws can’t be harvested from traps pulled after the season. closes.

The five-month closure happens each year during peak spawning season, according to FWC, to help conserve and sustain Florida stone crabs.

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Seriously? Rick Scott’s New Republican web videos stumble on details

Sometimes, the devil is truly in the details.

Consider the latest video campaign from New Republican, the super PAC chaired by Rick Scott, presumably formed in advance of the Governor’s all-but-certain bid for U.S. Senate in 2018.

A pair of slickly produced YouTube videos – “If You Open Education” and “If You Open Opportunity” – talk about “opening up” education and small business. The campaign seeks to extol the New Republican agenda – to “rebrand and reinvent the Republican Party” – favoring an “open” economy, “open” education system, “open” health care system, among others.

But after looking at both videos, each shot in glorious art-house black-and-white, a few details (if you’re paying attention) also open the door for a few questions.

For example, “Opportunity” starts off with the line: “no more insider deals.”


It is a statement that rings more than a little ridiculous, considering Scott’s current budget battle with the Florida Legislature over the future of Enterprise Florida, the state’s business incentive program.

Using taxpayer money to lure businesses to Florida? Some would argue that is the definition of an “insider deal.”

New Republican is staffed by some top Scottworld veterans. Melissa Stone, Scott’s chief of staff and 2014 re-election campaign manager, is the executive director; finance director is Taylor Teepell, a longtime Scott staffer who also worked with former governors Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal.

This is a group of real pros, people not prone to unforced errors.

So, it would be reasonable to assume that Scott, Castellanos, et. al. would know better than not secure music rights before releasing a big-time super PAC campaign.

Why? If the background music in both videos sounds more than a little familiar, it should. It’s lifted nearly wholesale from Alan Silvestri’s Forrest Gump soundtrack.


According to the New Republic website, the groups talking points includes “doing things differently” to “appeal to and targeting young voters.”

Because nothing appeals to Millennials more than a video sampling unlicensed music from a 90s movie classic.


Vaping whole flower is a big deal? Oh, please!

Oh. My. God.

One of the medical cannabis licensees is now selling a product – meant for a vaporizer and consistent with similar products ALREADY on the market – that some say is smokable.

It may be. It probably is. So, what?

The truth is, so is most everything exiting the doors of any and all dispensaries currently operating in Florida. The truth is also that if you light it on fire and inhale it, that makes it smokable (kind of). You can take drops and put them on some leafy product and burn it while inhaling the smoke. You can break open a vape cartridge and smoke the contents. You can take a pill, remove the husk, and also smoke it. Not my bag, but if that’s what you want to do, so what?

Is it legal? I don’t know but I’m not going to suggest the state raid the home of some very sick people to see if they are doing this in the privacy of their homes or hospice beds.

How big of a deal is this?

Let’s step back for a moment and identify exactly what Trulieve is now selling. They are selling “whole flower” in a vape cartridge, clearly and unequivocally meant for a vaporizer. What you do when you get it home is your business. This has not changed since last week, before this product went on the market!

Is that allowable?

I am not practicing law here but embedded in our State Constitution is this language:

(4) “Marijuana” has the meaning given cannabis in Section 893.02(3), Florida Statutes (2014),

And state Statute Section 893.02(3) says;

“Cannabis” means all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds or resin.

“All parts.”

So, let’s boil this down. Trulieve is selling marijuana flower. That’s part of the “all parts” part.

Some people – some very sick people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, epileptic seizures, Multiple Sclerosis or from terminal cancer – may want to remove it from its vape cartridge and smoke it.

And this is news?

What I find interesting, is this product is WAY less expensive – by some measures as much as 60 percent less expensive – than comparable products.

We’ve heard a lot about competition and free markets related to the implementation of Amendment 2. One could argue this is the beginning of some soon-to-come price wars.

Now THAT is news!

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