A decade-old interview with CNN is showing Adam Putnam’s past may be a little harder to shake in his bid for Florida Governor.
The recently unearthed video shows then-Congressman Putnam defending his “friend and mentor” Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history.
At one time, Hastert was one of America’s most powerful politicians, but now the Illinois Republican is a felon, branded a “serial child molester” by the judge who found him guilty of illegally structuring bank withdrawals for hush money to a former student he sexually abused.
After serving 13 of a 15-month sentence in Federal prison, Hastert was forced to undergo counseling for sex addiction and pay $250,000 in fines. He has kept a low profile since being released into a halfway house last year.
Putnam’s extensive history with Hastert is being revisited once again in the wake of a tweet Friday of a photo of the gubernatorial candidate with Mark Foley, the disgraced Florida congressman who stepped down a dozen years ago for sending sexually suggestive texts to teenage boys.
Putnam and Foley (shown chatting up Donald Trump Jr.) were attending the Republican Party of Palm Beach County’s Lincoln Day Dinner last week at Mar-a-Lago.
Becoming the youngest person ever elected to Congress in 2001, Putnam quickly rose through the Republican ranks, thanks in large part to Speaker Hastert’s tutelage.
“He really caught the Speaker’s eye,” fellow Florida Republican Rep. Clay Shawtold The Weekly Standardin 2006, without a hint of irony.
“He has a very good manner with members,” Hastert praised Putnam at the time. “He has the ability to talk to them and communicate with them, and the ability to do that with the press.”
Within five years of his election, the conservative Putnam was serving as chair of the Republican Policy Committee, one of most powerful positions in GOP House leadership. In 2006, Hastert sent Putnam as his point man to speak with U.N. officials, including U.S. allies, about strategies for building a coalition toward actions to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
The relationship between Hastert and his protege only grew closer during their time in Congress. Hastert appointed Putnam to lead key efforts, including crafting energy policy. In 2004, the Speaker tapped Putnam — 29 years old and serving his second term — to keynote Hastert’s annual spring fundraiser in Aurora, Illinois, speaking to a crowd of 1,500 supporters.
And, as POLITICO noted in 2008, Putnam developed as Hastert’s top confidant and beneficiary: “Hastert at one point tapped Putnam to serve as his eyes and ears for rank-and-file members, and the Florida Republican inherited his top staff from the longest-serving GOP speaker in House history.”
By 2009, Putnam also emerged as the prime heir to Hastert’s legacy.
“Putnam stayed close to the speaker throughout Hastert’s tenure and hired many of his former aides when the Illinois Republican relinquished his post atop the party when the GOP lost control of the House after the 2006 elections,” POLITICO wrote.
These qualities that attracted the Speaker’s attention were in full display in the CNN interview, where Putnam staunchly defended his friend who the day before had apologized for not doing more in the House to punish Foley, telling reporters: “The buck stops here.” CNN was reporting on calls for Hastert to step down.
Hindsight being 20/20, Putnam’s defense now sounds a little awkward: “First of all, the Speaker dedicated his life to being a teacher, a coach, a role model and mentor for children and high school students for his entire life.”
Looking back, that statement is more than a little disturbing.
But the CNN interview was far from the first (or last) time Putnam would stand tall on Hastert’s behalf.
According to US Fed News, after Hastert announced in 2008 he would not seek re-election, Putnam issued a lengthy statement praising the accomplishments of his friend and mentor.
“Ever the coach at heart, he was never anything less than generous with his time and genuine in his concern for the viewpoints of his colleagues — both Democrat and Republican,” Putnam wrote. “I look forward to working with him over the next 16 months to address the highest priorities of the American people, and wish him, his wife, Jean, and their entire family nothing but the best.’”
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce lost a battle Tuesday as its favored proposal at the Constitution Revision Commission tanked — at least for now.
In a nutshell, the proposal would require 60 percent of voters casting a ballot in an election to approve a constitutional amendment, rather than 60 percent of those who vote on the particular ballot question.
But, after several commissioners complained the measure (P97) was “too complicated,” sponsor BelindaKeiser moved to “temporarily postpone” it. That means it could come back at a later date, or eventually withdrawn.
Commissioner LisaCarlton had raised the specter of Florida’s 2000 presidential election recount, and the proposal’s seeming intent of counting non-votes as votes: “You can’t count votes that are not intentionally there,” she said.
And Commissioner BillSchifino asked, “You think the public is going to understand this?” He added: “I never heard one person raise this issue (except) a few phone calls from paid lobbyists.”
That stoked the interest of some on Twitter, with Florida Chamber policy director Christopher Emmanuel stepping forward to disclose the organization’s interest. “Happy to show our support for good policy,” he tweeted.
The Chamber’s website explains that Proposal 97 “creates consistency for the passage of constitutional amendments.”
Now, “Article XI calculates the percentage for passage of a constitutional amendment differently based on whether or not it is a taxing amendment … The Florida Chamber of Commerce believes this proposal seeks to create consistency by the way that votes are tallied and eliminates confusion.”
“Constitution panel won’t consider tax measure” via the News Service of Florida — The sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit the ability of the Legislature to increase taxes and fees is withdrawing the measure from consideration by the state Constitution Revision Commission. The Legislature has decided to place an identical proposal (HJR 7001) on the November ballot. In light of that decision, Constitution Revision Commission member Fred Karlinsky of Weston said he would withdraw his motion (Proposal 72), which had been scheduled for consideration by the commission this week. The Legislature’s ballot measure, which was supported by Gov. RickScott, and Karlinsky’s proposal would require two-thirds votes by the House or Senate to pass tax or fee increases in the future. Under current law, taxes and fees are generally subject to majority votes — an easier standard than requiring two-thirds votes.
“Greyhound racing ban inches closer to ballot” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — A proposed constitutional amendment to end greyhound racing in the state is one step closer to appearing on the November ballot. The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) approved the amendment (Proposal 67) in an 18-14 vote late Tuesday night, sending it to the Style and Drafting Committee for ballot preparation. It will still have to win the approval of 22 members of the 36-person panel charged with drafting amendments to revise the state’s governing document before being sent to the 2018 ballot. Sen. Lee sponsored the proposal, which was amended on Tuesday night to extend language to also ban the “racing of” greyhounds. When the proposal was filed, it only banned betting on the dog races. Commissioner ChrisSmith spoke in opposition to the proposal before the vote, saying it should be up to the Legislature to regulate gaming and related issues.
“‘Marsy’s Law’ wins initial OK as state constitutional amendment” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A proposed constitutional amendment to give equal rights to crime victims won preliminary approval from the fullConstitution Revision Commission (CRC) on Monday. Commissioners voted 30-3 to send the measure (P96) to the panel’s Style and Drafting Committee for preparation as a ballot question … It would approve a Marsy’s Law for Florida, named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas. The California woman was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, the accused murderer confronted Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, at a grocery store. The family was not informed that the accused was released on bail … The amendment, if OK’d for the 2018 statewide ballot and passed by no less than 60 percent of voters, creates rights for victims or their surviving family members to be heard during certain court proceedings and to “full and timely restitution,” among others.
“CRC advances proposal to require civic literacy in public education” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The one sentence item would add to Article IX this language: “As education is essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the legislature shall provide by law for the promotion of civic literacy in order to ensure that students enrolled in public education understand and are prepared to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a constitutional democracy.” Sponsor Don Gaetz … acknowledged that Florida already has a civic education requirement and test, which are helping improve children’s understanding of the issues that undergird the nation and state. But he argued that the knowledge needs to be permanent value, to allow Florida’s system of governance to continue, and not subject to the whims of lawmakers. “The Legislature changes its mind,” Gaetz said. “Especially education issues go in and out of fashion. … The constitution enshrines what we don’t change our minds about.”
“Panel rejects added duty for Lieutenant Governor” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Members rejected, in a 20-12 vote, a proposed constitutional amendment (Proposal 66) that would have required the lieutenant governor to oversee a department within the executive branch. “We spend about $1 million a year on support services and salary for the lieutenant governor,” said Sen. Lee. “It was just an idea to get not only a bigger bang for our buck, but at the same time also create some added value and some self-actualization for the individual.” In the past, Lee called the money spent on the office “wasteful” … he said the position is one of the weakest in the nation and simply designed to “help elect a governor at election time.” But several members of the commission noted the governor already could appoint the lieutenant governor to run an agency and that some agency-head positions have required qualifications.
“Jeanette Nuñez yanks CRC proposal to change Tobacco Free Florida” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — After nearly an hour of discussion, a proposal that would affect the state’s efforts to reduce smoking was postponed Tuesday. CRC member and House Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nuñez, who filed the measure (P94), pulled it from the floor after several commissioners questioned its necessity. Tobacco Free Florida, the state’s tobacco prevention and cessation program, now gets 15 percent of the annual proceeds from the historic 1995 settlement between Florida and major cigarette companies. Nuñez told commissioners her motive for removing a funding requirement for anti-smoking marketing — already in the constitution — is because the amount is “an arbitrary number.” That’s one-third of the money the group gets.
“Vaping could be added to state smoking ban” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Former state Sen. Lisa Carlton, the main backer of the proposal, said Floridians had been subjected to secondhand vapor when they attend movies or restaurants and other public places since the devices started proliferating. The Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted 26-6 in favor of the vaping ban and placed it one step closer to the 2018 ballot. A final vote must come before early May when the commission is required to finish its work. Armed with a 2016 surgeon general’s report on electronic cigarettes that shows secondhand aerosol exhaled into the air from vaping can expose others to potentially harmful chemicals, Carlton said now is the time to have voters consider the ban.
ICYMI from last night’s “Last Call” — After a surprise Tuesday announcement from sponsor BrechtHeuchan that he was withdrawing his proposed constitutional amendment to add a nursing home and assisted-living residents’ bill of rights, the industry took a victory lap. Florida Health Care Association executive director Emmett Reed quickly issued a statement thanking “Heuchan and the entire Constitution Revision Commission for withdrawing Proposal 88.” The association represents the state’s long-term care providers … “We believe the Legislature is the proper place for these types of discussions and look forward to working together with Florida lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders on policies that prioritize resident care.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @FLGovScott: Florida continues to stand with the people of Puerto Rico on the six-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria. We will continue to do everything we can to help Puerto Ricans fully recover and move forward
— @AndrewGillum: If @adamputnam was any closer to the NRA, he’d be sleeping with both Smith & Wesson. I’m not in bed with the gun lobby — I’m in court with them, and I’m winning.
— @Jay_Fant: The actions … by the Maryland school resource officer show that fast reaction by law enforcement can make all the difference in an active shooter situation.
— @NewsbySmiley: BSO gives us a Friday news dump on a Tuesday: 1) Parkland students arrested for bringing knives to school 2) Parkland student arrested for threatening social media post 3) Parkland deputy found asleep in his car — on campus
— @SchmitzMedia: In @TCPalm editorial meeting, Senate President @joenegronfl says he’s grateful for prior support from the NRA. “I consider Marion Hammer to be a friend.”
— @SVDate: Good lord — CRC? again?? Haven’t you people had enough?
— @CHeathWFTV: The best way to watch the @FloridaCRC is to watch the @fineout @Mdixon55 @JimRosicaFL Twitter feed roll by with its mix of consternation and bewilderment
— @TroyKinsey: Observation by Tallahassee veteran @LevesquePat during @FloridaCRC debate on building naming proposal: “If you follow the legislative process, it’s disgusting.”
— @DennisBaxley: Today (it was yesterday) is National #AgDay! We are so happy to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American and Floridian agriculture. Happy #AgDay!
— @KelliStargel: I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He taught kindness and respect for all people. We need a little more of that these days.
— DAYS UNTIL —
March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest — 3; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 8; Easter — 11; NFL Draft begins — 36; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 43; Mother’s Day — 53; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 65; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 93; Primary Election Day — 160; College Football opening weekend — 164; General Election Day — 230; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 330; 2019 Legislative Session — 349.
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Richard Corcoran has spent $3-million to reach 3 percent; Gwen Graham slips to third place” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — A new robopoll of Florida’s gubernatorial primaries by Gravis Marketing (grade of B- by fivethirtyeight.com) has ominous results for Democrat Graham and Republicans Adam Putnam and Corcoran. In the Democratic primary, Gravis has Philip Levine at 13 percent support, Andrew Gillum at 11, Graham at 9, and Chris King at 2. In the GOP primary, Ron DeSantis enjoys support from 19 percent of likely Republican voters, Adam Putnam 17 percent and Corcoran 3 percent. The Democratic primary is essentially a three-way tie, and the Republican a two-way tie between Fox News regular DeSantis and Putnam, according to the poll taken over an usually long period, Feb. 26 to March 19. Gravis’ February poll of the race also showed those candidates within the margin of error.
“Graham says she’d support local governments defying 2011 gun laws pre-emption” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Such a position could put Grahamat odds with the Florida Legislature and also potentially with the Attorney General over who takes which sides, should legal battles begin over local gun ordinances. In 2011, Florida passed a law, signed by Gov. Scott, that pre-empts all local gun laws to the state, and sets stiff penalties, including personal fines, legal liability and threats of removals from office for local officials who seek, retain or vote for local gun laws. “Following the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, cities and counties across the state want to act where the Legislature and Rick Scott have failed — but Tallahassee politicians have trampled on home rule in an outrageous attempt to block local governments from banning weapons of war from our streets and protecting their citizens from gun violence,” Graham said. “As Governor, I will work with cities and counties to restore local control and their ability to protect their communities by directing my Office of General Counsel to assist local governments challenging the state’s pre-emption law.”
Philip Levine hires Adrienne Bogen as statewide field director —The former Miami Beach mayor and Democratic candidate for governor campaign tapped Bogen to lead “an aggressive grassroots field program in all 67 counties,” it said Tuesday. She led organizing efforts for U.S. Rep. CharlieCrist‘s 2014 gubernatorial race, Hillary Clinton‘s 2016 presidential bid, and most recently, managing the field program for St. Petersburg Mayor RickKriseman‘s successful re-election campaign. “As our campaign moves full steam ahead to the primary and on to victory in November, Adrienne possesses the talent, leadership and local expertise to build our movement in every corner of our state, from the Panhandle down to the Keys,” campaign manager Matthew Van Name said in a statement.
“Putnam doubles down on criticism of Florida gun law in interview with NRATV” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam… does not support raising the gun purchasing age from 18 to 21, nor does he back a mandatory three-day waiting period for all firearm purchases. “If you are 18 you can fight and die for this country,” Putnam said in the interview with the network’s Cam Edwards. “And yet, you wouldn’t be able to be trusted at the same age to go to the sporting goods store and purchase a shotgun to go dove shoot.” … It is noteworthy that Putnam took to the NRA’s broadcasting outfit to express his views. The gubernatorial candidate has become a target of liberal scorn because of his cozy relationship with the gun rights group. The NRA thanked Putnam in February for opposing the new gun buying age.
Assignment editors — Putnam will host a roundtable in Jacksonville, the second stop on a statewide tour focusing on Florida’s opioid crisis. Roundtable begins 2:30 p.m. at the Gateway community services, 555 Stockton St. in Jacksonville. Interested media can email firstname.lastname@example.org by 10 a.m. for access.
Lois Frankel backs Lauren Baer for Congress — The West Palm Beach Democratic Congresswoman is endorsing fellow Democrat Baer in her campaign for Florida’s 18th Congressional District. “Lauren was raised in FL-18 and understands firsthand the challenges facing the district and our country. Her passion, experience, and deep roots in our community set her apart and will make her a great Representative for the district.” Frankel said in a statement. “From day one, Lauren will work hard every day to find meaningful solutions. I am proud to stand with Lauren and look forward to serving together in Congress.”
“Donna Shalala’s GOP contributions bashed as she campaigns to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Scott Fuhrman said he chuckled at the “gall” of Shalala when her campaign emailed him an invite to her Wednesdaycampaign kickoff fundraiser in Miami. Two years ago, Fuhrman ran for the same seat, but Shalala didn’t contribute to her fellow Democrat. And she did something even worse for Fuhrman. So he let the campaign know it. “You do know that she donated to my opponent, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, last cycle? Are you seriously asking me for money? GFY,” Fuhrman emailed the campaign of Shalala. Turns out that Rep. IleanaRos–Lehtinen, who is retiring, isn’t the only Florida Republican who received contributions from Shalala … In all, Shalala has personally contributed $21,500 to Florida Republicans running for office in Miami-Dade County, Tallahassee or Washington over the past decade. Her campaign notes that the money’s a pittance compared to the nearly $230,000 she has personally contributed to Democrats nationally in her career. When Fuhrman told the two campaigns about Shalala’s fundraiser, they pulled her political contribution data and discovered 13 donors listed on Shalala’s Wednesday night fundraiser gave $785,000 more to Republicans than Democrats.
“’Mystery’ Democrat seeking Gayle Harrell’s HD 83 seat swears Jensen Beach, not Jax, is home” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Tiffany Parisi, a Democrat perhaps better known in Jacksonville than on the Treasure Coast, filed papers Feb. 26 to run for the House District 83 seat Harrell is vacating … Parisi is something of a mystery to many in the District. She and GOP opponent Toby Overdorf, a Palm City business owner, are the only two declared candidates in the district that represents Martin County and most of eastern St. Lucie County. In papers filed with the Florida Division of Elections, Parisi listed a Jensen Beach box number as her address, yet just weeks earlier was a candidate for the Duval County Soil and Water District. On her Facebook page she calls herself “a Jensen Beach native” who has “spent every summer snorkeling at Bathtub Beach, hiking in the Savannas, and fishing in the Indian River Lagoon” — yet admits she was born in Broward County, in Hollywood, and lived there until she was 6, when the family moved to Jensen Beach. “This is what happens when you’re in a military family,” she said. “You move a lot and home is where you’re based, even temporarily.” She said her husband, a Michigan native, is stationed at NAS Jacksonville, but the both of them are anxious to be in South Florida permanently. “My mother still lives in the same house in Jensen Beach where I grew up and lived until I finished Indian River Community College,” she said. “It’s the most permanent home I’ve ever known.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Jeff Sessions to visit Tallahassee, talk opioid epidemic” via the Tallahassee Democrat — While at the Federal Courthouse, Sessions is expected to talk about the White House’s response to the crisis in which thousands of people are dying daily from overdoses of prescription medications. His visit comes days after Donald Trump called for drug traffickers to get the death penalty. During his Monday speech, Trump pledged to reduce over-prescription of opioids used to treat pain, research for less addictive painkillers and suggested the federal government may join state attorneys general in suing drug companies found to have used deceptive sales practices to push addictive medicines.
“Florida sets another tourism record in 2017” via Florida Trend — Florida set another tourism record in 2017 by welcoming the highest number of visitors in any year in the state’s history with 116.5 million visitors, according to VISIT FLORIDA. This represents a 3.6 percent increase over the 112.4 million visitors in 2016. This number breaks down to 102.3 million domestic visitors, 10.7 million overseas visitors and 3.5 million Canadian visitors … Total enplanements at Florida’s 18 major airports in 2017 increased 4.1 percent over the same period the previous year, with 87.2 million passengers. The number of hotel rooms sold in Florida during 2017 grew by 4.6 percent compared to quarter four 2016. During the same period, Florida’s average daily room rate (ADR) increased by 2.6 percent and occupancy by 3.2 percent … a record 28.5 million visitors traveled to Florida in the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase of 5.5 percent over the same period last year.
“Scott signs bill on power transmission lines” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott signed a bill dealing with the approval of electric transmission lines, an issue that stemmed from a legal battle between Florida Power & Light and local governments in Miami-Dade County. During the Legislative Session … the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved the transmission-line bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Jayer Williamson, Rep. Bobby Payne and Sen. Tom Lee. The bill was rooted in a 2016 ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in a dispute involving a proposed FPL project that would add two nuclear reactors at the utility’s Turkey Point complex in Miami-Dade. Scott and the state Cabinet approved the project in 2014 in their role as a state power-plant siting board. But the appeals court overturned that decision, with a key part of the ruling saying Scott and Cabinet members erroneously determined they could not require underground transmission lines as a condition of the project approval.
“Scott signs bill establishing coral reef conservation area” via Florida Politics — HB 53 forms the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Ecosystem Conservation Area, which contains a stretch of coastline starting from the St. Lucie Inlet in the north to the northern boundary of Biscayne National Park in the south. The bill doesn’t contain an appropriation for the conservation area, but the designation could make the area eligible for federal funds to protect the reef and allows it to be bracketed for water quality monitoring. The area in recent years has been wracked by coral bleaching and has seen 21 of its 35 coral species die off.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scottwill highlight the anti-trafficking funding as part recently signed state budget with a 10 a.m. ceremony at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home — One More Child Headquarters, 1015 Sykes Blvd. in Lakeland.
“Joe Negron disagrees with NRA lawsuit, but supports gun rights” via Ali Schmitz of the Tallahassee Democrat — Negron showed skepticism toward a lawsuit the National Rifle Association filed over legislation drafted after the mass shooting at a Broward County high school, but … did not criticize the gun-rights group. Negron, an attorney, is proud of the legislation and doesn’t think it violates the state constitution … Negron cited the state’s handgun law, which prohibits people younger than 21 from purchasing those firearms. “I don’t begrudge that at all. I think that’s part of our process,” Negron said of the suit. Unlike his colleagues, the NRA has not criticized Negron by name in the wake of the law’s passage. The NRA’s chief Florida lobbyist and former president, Marion Hammer, criticized Speaker Corcoran for his involvement in crafting the bill in an email alert, calling it a “betrayal” to gun owners.
“Christian Bax defends MMJ rulemaking process“via Florida Politics — Seventy-one percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 2 in 2016, yet nearly two years later, the Office of Medical Marijuana Use is still workshopping rules. The road show came to Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon, to a Southside hotel in the absolute doldrums of renovations … Bax, the director of the program, noted that the rule-making process would go through the spring and summer … He said that he didn’t think that the department needed further guidance from the Legislature. The department continues to notice and workshop rules at an acceptable pace, with 13 rules noticed last month, Bax said. That said, he understands why the Legislature would withhold pay for senior staff in DOH next fiscal year. Bax says the “department shares frustration with the timeline.”
“Noor Salman trial: FBI agent who told widow about Pulse gunman’s death testifies” via Gal Tziperman Lotan and Krista Torralva of the Orlando Sentinel — FBI Special Agent T.J. Sypniewski walked into a room at the bureau’s Fort Pierce office the morning of June 12, 2016, and told Salman that her husband “died in a violent incident in Orlando.” He did not immediately say what else happened — that 49 people were dead and dozens more injured, or that Omar Mateen pledged his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State group. “She broke eye contact with me,” Sypniewski said on the witness stand on the 12th day of Salman’s trial. “She looked away.” Salman’s behavior before the massacre, and her reaction to the news of her husband’s death, is important to the case against her because prosecutors say Salman knew in advance about her husband’s intention to commit mass murder — and helped him carry out the attack. Initially, Salman “was silent,” Sypniewski said. “She didn’t ask any follow-up questions.” But soon she began giving reasons why her husband would not have carried out an act of mass violence, or why she couldn’t have known he planned to do so. He’d just paid their bills and had recently bought airline tickets for a family trip. She had recently bought him a Father’s Day present. “How could I have known he was going to commit a violent act if I just bought him a Father’s Day gift?” she said, according to Sypniewski.
“A first look at Telemundo’s new Miami HQ” via Sara Fischer of Axios — NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises will unveil new state-of-the-art headquarters, Telemundo Center, on April 9 … The Spanish-language broadcaster will be consolidating several of its business units under one roof for improved collaboration and efficiency. The $250 million facility is being moved into the backyard of its biggest rival, Univision. The new digs, which will include 13 studios, two digital production studios, seven fully-capable production control rooms, and 40 conference rooms, shows Comcast and NBCUniversal’s commitment to growing its Hispanic and international footprint. The multimedia production facility brings under one roof the Telemundo Network (news, sports, entertainment), Telemundo Global Studios, Universo, Digital Media operations, and NBCUniversal International Latin American headquarters.
— PARKLAND —
“Slain Florida students’ dads to serve on commission into mass-shooting ‘failures’” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Three dads of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students were tapped to sit on a special fact-finding Florida commission to investigate the failures and circumstances that led up to the Feb. 14 mass shooting, and make recommendations to prevent further such tragedies. The 16-member commission, which has subpoena power, will meet by June 1 and be chaired by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who was chosen by Gov. Scott along with two Parkland parents who helped pass the new law that called for more school safety measures, gun control regulations, and created the commission. The two parents are Ryan Petty, father of Alaina, and Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow. State House Speaker Corcoran appointed the third Parkland parent, Max Schachter, father of Alex, to the commission. Corcoran had wanted one of the parents to chair the commission, but officials thought it best to leave the administrative responsibilities to a career law enforcement official.
“Two students arrested at Stoneman Douglas on weapons charges; deputy suspended for sleeping” via Scott Travis and Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Two students were arrested for bringing knives to school and the third is being evaluated for making online threats. Meanwhile, a school deputy has been suspended for sleeping on the job after being caught by a student … The student notified a sergeant patrolling the school that Deputy Moises Carotti was asleep in his patrol car … The sergeant knocked on Carotti’s window to wake him up, she said. Carotti was suspended with pay while an internal affairs investigation is launched.
“Scott wants armed police at Stoneman Douglas after disturbing incidents at Parkland school” via Alexandra Glorioso and Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Responding to terrified parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Gov. Rick Scott asked Broward County authorities to temporarily post an armed law enforcement officer at “every point of entry” at the school after a series of disturbing events in recent days. Scott’s announcement capped a wild — and frightening — day at Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. Two students were arrested for bringing knives to school in separate incidents, a deputy was suspended for sleeping on the job at the school and a third student was hospitalized under the Baker Act after posting menacing messages of himself, armed with a BB gun, on Snapchat while also using the gamer name NickCruz, a reference to the Feb. 14 shooter, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. On Monday, the shooter’s 18-year-old brother, Zachary Cruz, was arrested at the school for trespassing. Recent events at the school have demonstrated the need for additional security measures to be implemented,” Scott wrote in his letterTuesday to Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent Robert Runcie. “Parents, students and teachers have recently endured one of the worst tragedies in Florida history. They must be assured that every necessary step is being taken to increase safety and ensure no unauthorized people are allowed on campus.”
“After Parkland shootings, a post-Columbine generation finds its voice” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in cities around the world for an anti-gun violence rally conceived by a small group of Parkland students who suddenly find themselves at the helm of a well-fueled political machine. By the time crowds gather on Pennsylvania Avenue for the March for Our Lives, their effort will have evolved from a protest to the unlikeliest of movements — one that aims to either change the country’s gun laws or change the people who make them. “I haven’t seen a movement like this, period,” Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, whose district includes Parkland, said last week after an estimated 1 million U.S. students walked out of class. “I think it can be a critical turning point in the politics of this country.” The numbers say he could be right. As far as generations go, voters younger than 30 have as much firepower as any demographic in the nation. Voting-eligible Millennials now rival Baby Boomers as the country’s largest voting bloc by age.
“Parkland families push for progress in Washington before the March for Our Lives” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Lawmakers from both parties are willing to rearrange their schedules for an in-person meeting with a group of people who have already successfully shepherded a gun bill through the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature that was opposed by the National Rifle Association. But the Florida Legislature is a part-time body, bound by time constraints to pass bills within a few weeks. Congress is under no such pressure, so many bills that have strong support from both parties can still languish for years. “We don’t move as fast as Florida legislatures do,” Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said. “This Congress, with 500-something members, represents a vast and diverse country and as a result, there are people in different parts of the country that have different views on these issues.” Victims’ families are united behind three bills in Washington, and they’re pushing to get two of them passed before the March for Our Lives … The families are discussing legislation through Slack, an instant messaging application that allows users to break different topics into channels of discussion.
“As kids prepare to march in Washington, Ted Deutch is facilitator and consoler” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — He’s met with the families of victims and survivors dozens of times, and he’s also devising a political game plan that turns upset parents and students across the country into single-issue voters capable of changing elections. “We have student activists who have inspired a lot of adults, who because of them are now single-issue voters, Republicans and Democrats,” Deutch said. “We’ve seen some big-name Republicans come together to form groups to say if you aren’t committed to keeping our communities safe by getting weapons of war off our streets, then we’re not going to support you. My colleagues now have been doing events in their districts, town hall meetings, where they tell me that for the first time there are high school kids who are coming out and they’re coming out in droves.”
— FIU BRIDGE —
“Key design change stymied bridge cost, schedule” via Jennifer Kay and Jason Dearen of The Associated Press — Documents show that the Florida Department of Transportation in October 2016 advised Florida International University and its contractors to move one of the bridge’s primary support structures 11 feet (3 meters) north to the edge of a canal, widening the gap between the crossing’s end supports and requiring some new structural design. It is still unclear if the design change contributed to the failure. But emails between the school, contractors, Sweetwater city officials and permitting agencies show a project that was behind schedule, which had officials worried that further delays could jeopardize the federal funding. After weeks of back and forth, it was decided to move the pylon 11 feet to the north, sitting near the edge of the canal. According to documents, initial costs for the new design were $204,540, with another $402,723 for construction changes. The final cost was not divulged.
“Flags at half-staff for FIU bridge collapse victims” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott has ordered flags at half-staff “in honor and remembrance of the victims of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse” in Miami. His office made the announcement Tuesday. The U.S. and state flags will be flown at half-staff sunrise to sunset Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee, “and at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout Miami-Dade County,” the announcement said.
— OPINIONS —
“Florida looks tough on opioids because Trump looks so weak” via Randy Schultz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — In Florida, we got action on the opioid epidemic. In New Hampshire, we got ranting on the opioid epidemic. Guess which will help more? The action came from the Florida Legislature. Gov. Scott toured the state to sign House Bill 21. The ranting came from Trump. He was in New Hampshire trying to head off talk of a primary challenge there in 2020. Since the state has the third-highest drug overdose rate, Trump also chose to announce what the administration had billed as the president’s long-awaited “plan” for the epidemic. Indeed, for all the justified focus on Florida, this state ranks 15th in the rate of overdose deaths. The Overdose Death Belt includes Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia — all of which Trump won. We must place even Florida’s new law in perspective. It may help to reduce the number of new addicts, but it could have done much more several years ago when Palm Beach and Broward counties were closing down pill mills with little or no help from the state. In 2011, Attorney General Pam Bondi had to prod Scott into creating the drug database. His first budget sought to repeal it. Scott said he worried about patient privacy.
“Florida should not move to daylight saving time year-round” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Yes, kids would have more time to spend outdoors in the evenings. They’d also be going to school in the dark. In January, sunrise would be as late as 8:22 a.m. Restaurants could see a benefit with people more inclined to go out when there’s still some sunlight. But other industries would suffer, such as construction businesses that start the day on the job site at 7 a.m. Some proponents say the roads would be safer in the evenings — but more dangerous conditions in the mornings would offset this. Perhaps most disruptive of all would be the impact on interstate business and travel. Florida would be out of sync even with states in the Eastern time zone. If Scott doesn’t veto the bill, Rubio should withdraw his and push the other one he filed, which would move the whole country to a single time standard, if he really wants to play with time.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Gus Corbella, Greenberg Traurig: 2C Media
Violet Anne Gonzalez: MACtown
Stephen Metz, Metz Husband & Daughton: American Lung Association
Rick Minor: America’s Second Harvest of the Big Bend
John Schillo: Lundbeck
— ALOE —
“Growers optimistic for Florida peach crop” via Ashley Nickle of The Packer — Flavor of the fruit is always great, but getting those chill hours means yield will be better, said Al Finch, president of Dundee-based Florida Classic Growers. He expects that some cool weather could delay the start of harvesting by a week or so. Harvesting will begin in a limited way the week of March 26, with the most substantial volumes coming available the last two weeks of April and the first week of May. The Florida peach deal has grown rapidly in the last decade, filling the void between when Chile exits the market and before Georgia, California and South Carolina enter the market. “This is not just a local (or) regional program anymore,” Finch said. “We’re taking it out of the Southeast.” Florida peaches are unique in that they are smaller than others and tree-ripened, so they are ready to eat rather than needing a couple of days to ripen after purchase. “Consumer awareness is beginning to really take off on these peaches,” Finch said.
“Falling revenues, lagging interest may force Downtown GetDown to take a knee” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — With area construction expected to continue through the fall, some members of the Downtown Improvement Authority think it might be a good idea to place the Friday night football festivities on the sidelines this season. “This is an opportunity with Adams Street closure to figure out what to do next,” Paige Carter-Smith, CEO of the authority, told DIA board members at their monthly meeting … At least one member was receptive to the idea of retiring Downtown GetDown. “Paige is right,” County Commissioner and DIA member John Dailey said. “I don’t think there’s a problem, especially if Downtown GetDown has run its course.” The board will revisit the issue at its April 9 meeting.
“Who’s the highest-paid person in your state?” via ESPN — Sit with this fact for a bit: In 2017, 39 of the 50 states’ payrolls were topped by a football or men’s basketball coach. … Believe it or not, no governors made the list as the highest-paid public employee in their state. When you add up the salaries of all 50 governors, it’s $19.2 million less than just the four coaches (Alabama’s Nick Saban, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney) who made the College Football Playoff this year.
“Marvel-themed land heading to Disneyland Resort” via WFLA — According to the Disney Parks Blog, Disneyland will soon invite guests to “become part of a bigger universe filled with epic heroes and adventure.” The blog says the superhero-themed land will “begin recruiting guests” at Disneyland in 2020 and will feature The Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and the Avengers. Marvel-themed areas will also be built in Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.
“Twitter: ‘Black Panther’ is most tweeted about movie ever” via The Associated Press — Twitter said that Ryan Coogler’s box-office smash had been tweeted about more than 35 million times. That pushes it ahead of the previous record-holder, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The most recent “Star Wars” installment, “The Last Jedi,” ranks third. Over the weekend, “Black Panther” became the first film since 2009′s “Avatar” to top the box office in North America five straight weekends. It has grossed more than $607 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide. In the next week, it’s expected to pass “The Avengers” as the highest grossing superhero film ever, not accounting for inflation.
Happy birthday to state Rep. Paul Renner, Lance Clemons, the generous Richard Gonzmart, the incredible Francoise Haasch, Chuck Hinson, and the legendary Mary Repper.
Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
After a surprise Tuesday announcement from sponsor BrechtHeuchan that he was withdrawing his proposed constitutional amendment to add a nursing home and assisted-living residents’ bill of rights, the industry took a victory lap.
Florida Health Care Association executive director Emmett Reed quickly issued a statement thanking “Heuchan and the entire Constitution Revision Commission for withdrawing Proposal 88.” The association represents the state’s long-term care providers.
“We appreciate the CRC for affording our members numerous opportunities — through committee meetings and public hearings — to share concerns about the proposal, as well as stories of how these caregivers go above and beyond to provide high-quality care and comfort for each of their residents,” he said.
“We believe the Legislature is the proper place for these types of discussions and look forward to working together with Florida lawmakers, regulators and other stakeholders on policies that prioritize resident care.”
LeadingAge Florida, which also represents nursing home and assisted-living facility (ALF) operators, added in an email that the “proposal would have done nothing to improve the lives of nursing home and ALF residents.”
Instead, “it would only have served to benefit trial attorneys and divert already scarce resources that should be spent on the care of frail seniors,” said president and CEO SteveBahmer.
“We are grateful to our members for speaking out during this process, expressing their deep and ongoing commitment to providing the highest quality of care to their residents.”
“I have ordered the lowering of the flags this Thursday in remembrance of the victims of the bridge collapse at FIU. Our state continues to mourn and we offer our sincerest condolences to their families.” — Gov. RickScott, in a Tuesday statement.
Bill Day’s Latest
Wake Up Early?
First Lady AnnScott will read to students and “share her passion for reading and literacy at elementary schools in Clay County,” a news release said. At 8:45 a.m., she will be at Charles E. Bennett Elementary School, 1 South Oakridge Avenue, Green Cove Springs; at 10:25 a.m., Doctors Inlet Elementary School, 2634 County Road 220, Middleburg; at 1:15 p.m., Grove Park Elementary School, 1643 Miller St., Orange Park.
The full Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will convene. That’s at 9 a.m., Senate Chamber, The Capitol.
The Florida Citrus Commission will meet. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida Department of Citrus, 605 East Main St., Bartow.
The Public Service Commission will begin hearing proposals to build power plants in Putnam and Pasco counties. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.
Tallahassee state lawmakers Sen. Bill Montford and Rep. Loranne Ausley will hold a news conference highlighting a $1 million state appropriation for Second Harvest Big Bend. That’s at 10 a.m., Second Harvest Warehouse, 4446 Entrepot Blvd., Tallahassee.
The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund Advisory Council will convene and likely consider the 2018 premium formula. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Hermitage Centre, 1801 Hermitage Blvd., Tallahassee.
The CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee will meet. That’s 15 minutes after the full body ends its floor session.
Sometimes you get a glimpse into the future that gives you a pretty good sense of what the closing arguments of a political campaign might look like.
That epiphany usually comes after carefully observing what a candidate says and does on the campaign trail well before the final push for votes. You listen for the lines in speeches or debates that seem to be best rehearsed, and most crisp. You pay attention to messages he or she uses repetitively – almost like a wind-up toy – on the campaign trail. It gets to the point that you can close your eyes and envision the ads that they will be running on TV, digital and social media.
There’s one proposal that the Florida Constitution Revision Commission doesn’t have to wonder about what they’re in for if it goes to the ballot. It’s Proposal 97, the latest item on the menu of the business community’s crusade against citizen groups who want to put amendments on the ballot via citizen petition initiatives.
It was filed by BelindaKeiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University and an appointee of Gov. RickScott.
Proposal 97 wins the prize for being the first CRC proposal with ads already running against it, even though it’s not yet assured a place on the ballot.
That there are ads against a proposal being kicked around in Tallahassee is nothing new. But there are a couple of things that make this more interesting.
First, the ads are being run by groups that are from opposite sides of the political spectrum. They’re members of Florida’s environmental community that successfully passed Amendment 1, the 2014 Land and Water Conservation Amendment, and a groupled by one of America’s most well-known ballot box advocates who has led campaigns across the country to enact term limits on legislators and cut taxes.
What also makes this more interesting is that, unlike other proposed amendments, the CRC can and will combine an untold number of unrelated proposals into a handful of big, confusing ballot questions. So if you’re a CRC member who wants to pass something that doesn’t stoke a hornet’s nest, you have to worry about your proposal going down the tubes as collateral damage if it is bundled with, or appears on the ballot in the same vicinity as, Proposal 97.
I say this because according to a poll we published last week, P97 is not popular with voters and now appears to have opponents who are well organized and funded. That’s when Darwin enters the process, as sponsors of proposals that polled well, like Marsy’s Law, will work overtime to separate their proposal from those that are politically weak, or in the crosshairs of a “Vote No” campaign.
But P97’s collateral damage extends beyond the election. That’s because if it were to actually pass, statistics show that amendments put on the ballot by future legislatures, CRCs and Tax & Budget Reform commissions would be derailed by it more often than citizen initiatives.
Proposal 97 raises the margin of passage for a constitutional amendment from the already-highest in America threshold of 60 percent — to the nearly impossible 60 percent of all those casting ballots in that election.
“Proposal 97 would make it harder for Florida voters to approve proposed constitutional amendments, by essentially recording a ‘No’ vote any time a voter skips voting on a statewide ballot issue,” is how Proposal 97 is described in opponents’ joint press release.
The amendment is so confusing that after a 45-minute debate amongst CRC members, commissioner and Jacksonville attorney Hank Coxe literally stood up and said if he had a gun he would shoot himself, referring to the confusing and complicated debate.
Opponents’ ads wisely avoid trying to explain the confusing proposal and jump right to the motive behind it, and remind voters of some of the popular measures that would have failed or never been attempted under Proposal 97.
Think term limits, tax cuts for disabled military and surviving spouses of military or first responders killed in action, tax cuts for low-income seniors, and measures to protect the water we drink and environmental habitat.
And these are just the low-hanging fruits. They’d be crazy not to make more ads reminding voters popular changes Floridians have made by citizen initiative: legalized medical marijuana, banned indoor smoking, reduced class size, and other widely supported measures that voters enacted when legislators were too stubborn to oblige public opinion. Every new ad about a popular old initiative would add to opponents’ coalition and vote count.
All this political risk, pursuing so little reward. Changes in recent years have made the citizen initiative process extremely difficult. Florida’s passage requirement for amendments is the highest in America at 60 percent. The legislature recently cut in half the amount of time citizen groups have to gather signatures to put something on the ballot, the number of signatures needed goes up automatically every four years and laws severely restrict where petition circulators can gather voter signatures.
It seems we’ve almost “reformed” the citizen initiative to death already.
Are CRC members willing to risk their other priorities by putting on the ballot a proposal to “fill the swamp” when the prevailing sentiment from people across the political spectrum – from conservative tax cutters to liberal environmentalists – is to drain it? Especially when it appears that they’ve come together to mount a campaign that we don’t have to spend much time reading tea leaves to imagine.
Updated 9 p.m. — After much head scratching, Keiser’s proposal – the last one of the day considered Monday by the CRC – was temporarily postponed.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Before we dive into the action from the first session of the Constitutional Revision Commission, let’s start the day with a major scoop from the campaign trail …
First on #FlaPol — Amid an increasingly competitive GOP primary for governor, Republican candidate AdamPutnam is naming BretPrater as his new campaign manager, sources confirmed Monday night. In 2016, we called him “the steadiest, calmest, most accessible, friendliest, best-natured individual who has held the role he played in many, many years. He operates under the radar and likes it that way. Never asks for credit, always makes others look good, even when the news is bad.” Prater was the Republican Party of Florida’s Director of Party Development before joining the Florida House as Staff Director for then-Speaker Designate SteveCrisafulli. He became deputy chief of staff before leaving in mid-2016.
The news about Prater’s hiring drew universal acclaim on social media Monday night, with even Ron DeSantis‘s campaign manager, Brad Herold, lauding the pick by tweeting, “Bret is as good as they come and a good choice by @AdamPutnam.”
OK, so what’s breakfast without two good scoops? Our second comes from the arena of public affairs.
Moore Communications Group is announcing a comprehensive rebranding today that “showcases its expansion and reputation as the creative agency of choice for clients across the country.”
“We’ve had tremendous success over the past 25 years, and it was time to evolve our brand to reflect the agency we are today,” said Moore. “We’re looking ahead to a new Moore, one that will remain true to its roots and exhibit the type of confidence that can only come from a history of creative, award-winning work that moves the needle for clients.”
Moore’s name and brand identity demonstrate what the agency says is a “belief in the power of simplicity.” The logo, consisting of the Moore “M” and the color magenta, one of the primary colors used in printing, speaks to the company’s “assuredness and convictions.” All involved in the rebranding insist that while Moore has a new name and a fresh look, the agency’s values remain the same.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @TroyKinsey: .@FLGovScott is announcing he’s directing @MyFDOT to suspend additional payments for the now-collapsed #FIU bridge. “Before another dollar is spent on this bridge, we must know exactly what happened,” he says.
— @CarlosGSmith: Weak. For @adamputnam to say Dems are “politicizing tragedy” at MSD comes straight from his thoughts + prayers playbook. REAL story is Putnam is panicked the Gov’s race he thought he’d locked up by calling himself an ‘NRA sellout’ has slipped thru his gun-loving fingers.
— @LizbethKB: Thank you @FLGovScott for signing the comprehensive opioid bill that we passed this year. I’m proud to have worked with you and @RepJimBoyd to have passed meaningful legislation aimed at stemming the tide of addiction in our state.
— @Fineout: Evergreen tweet — “Why isn’t the Legislature capable of dealing with this?” — Fla. CRC member Hank Coxe
— @MDixon55: First time I’ve heard “vig” used on the Senate floor. That’s what Former Senate President @TomLeeFL calls it when lobbyist gets commission for getting a member project through legislature, then is expected to turn around and give a political contribution to those who have helped
— @Fineout: “Thank goodness not everybody is @mattgaetz,” said his father, Don Gaetz, former state Senate president
— @RTemplin: I’m having intellectual and emotional whiplash. A terrible legislative session really ended over a week ago but my attention is still focused on the Florida Senate Chamber. Why, dear god, why!!
— @NWSMelbourne: Melbourne Airport has hit 90F so far this afternoon. This is the first time reaching 90F or higher since September 30 of last year!
— DAYS UNTIL —
March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest — 4; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 9; Easter — 12; NFL Draft begins — 37; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 44; Mother’s Day — 54; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 66; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 94; Primary Election Day — 161; College Football opening weekend — 165; General Election Day — 231; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 331; 2019 Legislative Session — 350.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***
— CRC —
The long arm of special interests reaches even into the panel now meeting to review and offer changes to the state constitution, one member said Monday.
CRC member ChrisSprowls, a Republican House member from Palm Harbor, warned fellow commissioners to go back through the 36 active proposals and “find things that are pushed by special interests.”
He didn’t name any, but “I guarantee you (that) you will find some,” said Sprowls, appointed by Speaker RichardCorcoran.
Commissioner HankCoxe, a Jacksonville-based attorney and appointee of Chief Justice JorgeLabarga, said he expected “37 different analyses on why something should go into the constitution,” referring to the 37 members of the commission.
Making a policy part of the constitution should require a “major stroke,” adding he doesn’t define that “by what’s popular.”
And ArtheniaJoyner, a former Senate Democratic Leader from Tampa and also a Labarga appointee, said members should ask of any idea, “Is this a fundamental right?”
“Why did we put pregnant pigs in the constitution?” she said. “The people did that, because the legislature didn’t.”
The proposal (P49) went on to win approval 25-7. It now goes to the panel’s Style and Drafting Committee and will come back to the full commission for a final vote.
As of the end of Session on Monday, the panel had cleared eight proposals.
“Proposal would make it harder to change constitution” via the News Service of Florida — Voters who decide not to mark ballots on proposed constitutional amendments would be counted as “no” votes, under a measure that the state Constitution Revision Commission began taking up Monday. The proposal, which the commission is expected to consider again Tuesday, would make it harder for constitutional amendments to win voter approval. Currently, constitutional amendments pass if they receive 60 percent support from voters who mark ballots on those issues. Constitution Revision Commission member Belinda Keiser described her proposal (Proposal 97) as a “way to encourage more voters to express their opinion.” But groups that have passed constitutional amendments contend the proposal would “silence” voters. Keiser, the vice chancellor of Keiser University and an appointee to the commission by Gov. RickScott, noted that of 22 constitutional amendments approved by Florida voters during the past 12 years, 12 would have failed under her proposal. She also noted that in 2014, Amendment 1 would have been approved with about 70 percent of the vote if her proposal was in place.
“Amendment to button up ‘write-in loophole’ gets nod from CRC” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A plan to close what’s known as Florida’s “write-in loophole” won a preliminary OK from the Constitution Revision Commission on Monday. Commissioners voted 21-12 to send the proposal (P11) to the body’s Style and Drafting Committee for preparation as a ballot question. The proposal would still face a final vote afterward. Commissioner SherryPlymale, who filed the measure, said the current write-in system is responsible for “delegitimizing elections.” Her measure would “let all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation,” vote in a primary election “if all the candidates … have the same party affiliation and the winner will be opposed only by one or more write-in candidates in the general election” … A Florida primary is open to all voters if candidates from other parties don’t qualify to run. But state elections officials have opined that a write-in candidate qualifying for a general election in a race keeps a primary closed.
“Proposal takes aim at hospital ‘certificates of need’” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Commission member Frank Kruppenbacher initially proposed a constitutional amendment (Proposal 54) that would have prevented the state from limiting hospitals, nursing homes, hospices or intermediate-care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities through the granting of certificates of need. The proposed amendment was subsequently altered to make clear that while the so-called CON laws would be repealed, laws that restrict or limit the ownership of facilities would remain in effect. Kruppenbacher is now offering a revision, under the description “access to quality health care.” Under it, the state could not prevent hospitals from entering counties if any existing hospitals in those counties have infection rates higher than the statewide average. The CON program is a regulatory process that has long required hospitals, nursing homes and other health providers to get state approval before adding new facilities or offering expanded services.
‘Marsy’s Law’ delayed at CRC till Tuesday — A proposed constitutional amendment to give equal rights to crime victims is on hold at the Constitution Revision Commission. The plan had been called on Monday, but was ‘temporarily postponed.’ Commissioner TimCerio, who is sponsoring Marsy’s Law for Florida (P96) said he wanted to wait to present the measure until co-sponsor DarleneJordan is in Tallahassee; she had an excused absence for Monday. The amendment, if OK’d for the 2018 statewide ballot and passed by no less than 60 percent of voters, includes the right “to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release,” and “full and timely restitution in every case.”
AARP supporting nursing home bill of rights — The AARP is sending letters of support for a proposal (P88) before the Constitution Revision Commission that would amend the state’s governing document with a bill of rights for nursing home (NH) and assisted living facility (ALF) residents. AARP has “nearly 3,000,000 Florida members,” it says. The letter was sent to CRC members, asking them to vote for the proposed amendment. “Establishing such rights in the Constitution would preclude them from diminishment by actions or omissions of NHs, ALFs and state policymakers.”
“Bipartisan coalition targets CRC proposal 97” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Citizens in Charge, which has backed initiatives imposing term limits on politicians, and Florida Conservation Voters, which pushed the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, both railed against CRC Proposal 97 in a Monday news release. In the 2016 election, Floridians cast nearly 9.5 million votes yet only 9.1 million marked “Yes” or “No” on the medical marijuana amendment. Under Prop 97, the amendment would need to achieve 60 percent support among the 9.5 million voters who participated in the election rather than the 9.1 million who voted for or against it — a difference of nearly a quarter million votes. Citizens in Charge and Florida Conservation Voters said in the joint news release that the change would make it harder for Florida voters to approve proposed constitutional amendments, by essentially recording a “No” vote any time a voter skips voting on a statewide ballot issue. The groups also announced a trio of ads … to make their opposition known to Florida voters. A recent poll from Clearview Research found 55 percent of voters are in support of the changes, while 27 percent were opposed and 18 percent were unsure.
Click on the image below to watch one of the group’s ads:
CFO Jimmy Patronis is swimming in support of a long line of Florida political all-stars backing his re-election bid for the Cabinet seat.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, Patronis’ term-limited colleague, led the pack of recent endorsements and, per a release first shared with Florida Politics, is joined by former Florida House Speakers Crisafulli, Will Weatherford, Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul and Allan Bense.
“I have seen firsthand what an impressive job Jimmy is doing as our Chief Financial Officer,” Bondi said in her endorsement of Patronis, who last year was chosen by Gov. Scott to replace former CFO Jeff Atwater.
Nods from superiors: Patronis served in the House under Republican Speakers Cretul, Cannon, Weatherford and Crisafulli — and they all sang praises of his leadership, fiscal responsibility and value-based approach to government. Weatherford said: “I’ve known him for years and his tremendous work ethic along with his heart for his job and genuine care for the well-being of Floridians make him an excellent Chief Financial Officer for our state. I’m looking forward to helping him secure another term in this job.”
Predecessor approval: Patronis took over when Bense left his seat in the Legislature. The former Speaker had this to say of Patronis: “He addresses each issue he encounters with Floridians’ best interest in mind. He truly understands the needs of Florida families.”
That, too: Patronis, who serves as the state’s fire marshal, helped champion a legislative victory this year for first responders in a bill that extended workers’ comp to cover PTSD and related mental health injuries. Both Bondi and Cretul acknowledged his work for police, paramedics and firefighters in their endorsements.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“NRA lobbyist accuses Corcoran of ‘treachery’ for supporting gun bill” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist and the past president of the gun rights group, sent out an email blast to NRA members Monday that accuses Corcoran of “treachery” for backing a bill that raises the age for purchasing long guns in Florida to 21, institutes a three-day waiting period for purchasing such guns and bans so-called “bump stocks” that simulate fully automatic fire. Hammer’s email states that Corcoran added “insult to injury” during an interview with the Herald-Tribune last week. During that interview, Corcoran said the gun legislation is a major victory for gun rights supporters because it also includes a provision that creates a pathway for school districts to arm certain employees, including some teachers. “Corcoran tried to justify his treachery by ignoring the damaging gun control he supported and then claimed the effort to arm school employees makes it ‘one of the greatest Second Amendment victories we’ve ever had’ because it ends ‘gun free zones on school campuses,’” Hammer wrote, adding: “That is complete nonsense.”
“Ted Deutch, Jared Moskowitz blast Putnam, DeSantis on guns” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — The Florida Dems — who aren’t running for governor, as far as we know — spoke to reporters during a conference call Monday morning, with Moskowitz challenging both “empty suit” Putnam and DeSantis to a debate on the issue. “I’ll meet in Taylor County, if that’s what they want,” Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat who graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 14 students and three staff were slaughtered on Feb. 14. Moskowitz condemned Putnam, who has said he would not have signed the bill into law, for failing to visit the school, something Scott and the other members of the Florida Cabinet did, and for not meeting with students who traveled to the Capitol to lobby for school safety measures and stricter gun regulations. “He hid in his office on the ground floor while everybody else was trying to figure out how we work together to keep kids safe in schools,” Moskowitz said during the conference call. DeSantis, too, “did not bring anything to the table,” according to Moskowitz.
Assignment editors — Former Miami Beach mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor PhilipLevine will speak at multiple events at Florida International University. He will address climate change activism at 8:15 a.m., give a keynote address on ‘resiliency,’ 9:10 a.m.; and participate in the FIU Climate Resiliency Panel Discussion, 9:50 a.m.; all at FIU’s Ernest R. Graham University Center, 11200 S.W. 8th St., Miami.
Attorney General Pam Bondi endorses Patronis for CFO — Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Patronis got Bondi’s endorsement in his bid for a full elected term: “I have seen firsthand what an impressive job Jimmy is doing as our Chief Financial Officer,” Bondi said in a statement released Monday. “He is dedicated to fighting insurance fraud and scams that hurt Floridians. He is also an unwavering advocate for our firefighters and first responders. I am honored to support Jimmy.” Patronis was appointed to the position by Gov. Scott to serve the remainder of former CFO JeffAtwater’s second term when he left early to become CFO for Florida Atlantic University.
“Al Lawson on defense over gun record in Democratic primary“via Emily Goldberg of POLITICO — Lawson has found himself on defense over his gun record in his Democratic primary as opponent Alvin Brown has made firearms a central issue in the wake of last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Brown, the former mayor of Jacksonville, has scoured Lawson’s record and criticized everything from his 2005 vote in the Florida Legislature for the controversial “Stand Your Ground” bill to accepting $2,500 in “blood money” from the National Rifle Association. Lawson said the alleged NRA donation was a clerical mistake, in which his staff entered a code for the wrong organization. The donation no longer appears on the Federal Election Commission’s website. But the bitterness isn’t going away in what has quickly become the state’s most brutal Democratic congressional primary, which is unfolding in a minority-heavy seat that stretches across half of North Florida. The winner is all but certain to win in November because nearly 60 percent of the district’s registered voters are Democrats.
“Mike Miller, Scott Sturgill pick up endorsements in GOP congressional primary” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Miller, a Winter Park Republican, was backed Monday by fellow state Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, also Florida chair of Donald Trump’s campaign. Meanwhile, businessman Scott Sturgill was endorsed Monday by former state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican, now the owner of consulting firm MJH Consulting. Gruters said he was supporting Miller “because I know he will work with President Trump to protect our borders, ensure tax reforms, and bolster our military.” Haridopolos’ endorsement of Sturgill comes after the Sanford businessman picked up the endorsements this month of Altamonte Springs Mayor Pat Bates, Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere and Longwood Mayor Benjamin Paris and the four other Longwood commissioners.
“James Buchanan running for House again” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Looking to bounce back from his loss in the District 72 state House special election, Sarasota real estate professional James Buchanan announced Friday that he will run for the District 74 House seat being vacated by Rep. Julio Gonzalez. Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, lost to Siesta Key Democrat Margaret Good in the closely watched District 72 contest last month. But District 74 leans significantly more Republican. While President Trump carried District 72 by less than five percentage points, Trump carried District 74 by 23 percentage points. District 74 encompasses the communities of Nokomis, Venice, North Port and Englewood in southern Sarasota County, and eastern Sarasota County south of Clark Road.
“George LeMieux endorses Matt Spritz for HD 89” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Spritz announced Monday that he’d picked up an endorsement from LeMieux, who served as a U.S. Senator from 2009 through 2011. “I proudly endorse Matt Spritz for State Representative,” LeMieux said. “Matt’s a natural leader, whose energy and commitment to community is refreshing. He’s not afraid to take on tough issues and understands that pro-business policies are absolutely critical to create more jobs for hard-working Florida families.” … Spritz faces Delray Beach accountant Michael Caruso in the Republican Primary for the seat, which is currently held by termed-out Republican Rep. Bill Hager. … Through February, Spritz was in the No. 2 spot in money race behind Caruso. He had nearly $106,000 on hand including $40,000 in loans. … HD 89 leans Republican.
“Rob Panepinto’s fundraising success gains attention in Orange Co. mayor race” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — His initial $100,000 self-contribution kicked off a fundraising bonanza that led to the newcomer keeping pace with Demings, a prolific money raiser himself, in a campaign to lead a county with more than 1 million people and a budget of $4 billion. Panepinto’s campaign raised more than $37,000 in February to reach a total of $300,000, according to the Supervisor of Elections office, while Demings raised about $35,000 in February to reach $385,000. The PAC supporting Demings raised more than $28,000 in February to total $155,000, while Panepinto’s related political committee raised an additional $22,000 in February and $116,000 overall. Money isn’t everything in a campaign, of course. Bill Segal outraised Teresa Jacobs with more than $1 million to her $558,000 in the 2010 mayoral race, and yet Jacobs defeated him in a runoff. But Panepinto’s success so far has already had a major impact. (Bill) Sublette, the Orange County School Board chairman, was one of the biggest names running but lagged behind Panepinto in raising money and dropped out in January.
— STATEWIDE —
“Nikolas Cruz’s brother arrested, accused of trespassing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas” via Tonya Alanez of the Sun-Sentinel — Zachary Cruz, the brother of the man who killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was arrested Monday for trespassing at the Parkland school, officials said. The Broward Sheriff’s Office said Zachary, 18, rode his skateboard at 4:30 p.m. across the campus where his older brother, Nikolas, went on a shooting spree with an AR-15 rifle. Zachary Cruz told deputies he visited the school “to reflect on the school shooting and to soak it in,” according to the arrest report. He had been warned by school officials to keep away from the school. Zachary Cruz has been living with a family friend, Rocxanne Deschamps, in Lantana since the death of his mother in November. “I don’t want to be alive. I don’t want to deal with this stuff,” Zachary Cruz told Deschamps on the night of the shooting, according to a report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Two days after the shooting Zachary Cruz told a deputy that he felt “somewhat responsible and guilty about the incident and that he could have possibly prevented [it],” that report said. He also told the deputy that he “doesn’t understand why his brother would have done this.”
“Rick Scott signs opioid bill into law, signifying Florida’s first major response to crisis” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Gov. Scott signed a bill into law on Monday that represents the state’s first wholesale Legislative response to the crisis that kills about 16 Floridians per day. The new law sets aside about $53 million, in addition to funds in the budget signed last week which brings the total to about $65 million, used to enhance opioid treatment, law enforcement response and provide the lifesaving overdose reversal drug Naloxone to first responders … It creates a three-day limit on powerful opioids for patients with acute, short-term pain, with some exceptions for a weeklong supply. Some people, like cancer patients, will not be affected. It also requires prescribers and pharmacists to use the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a statewide database of controlled substance prescriptions and ramps up penalties for doctors that give out drugs without proper medical justification. The opioid bill nearly died in the Legislature this year, after a last-minute dispute broke out between the House and Senate over which types of drugs could be purchased to treat addiction. But lawmakers settled on three drugs and it was passed late on the final night of the Session.
“Florida to replace Confederate statute in U.S. Capitol” via The Associated Press — Gov. Scott signed the bill (SB 472) making that step official Monday. The bill removes a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith and replaces it with a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune. She founded a school that would eventually become historically black Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. Bethune’s statue would be the first African-American woman in Statuary Hall.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott has two events Tuesday: He will announce Florida’s 2017 tourism numbers and “highlight VISIT FLORIDA’s $76 million funding level for the coming year” at the Naples Zoo. The announcement is 9:30 a.m. The zoo is at Lagoon Loop (1590 Goodlette-Frank Road), Naples. Scott also will attend the Ardie R. Copas State Veterans’ Nursing Home groundbreaking ceremony. That’s at 2 p.m., 10700 SW Tradition Parkway, Tradition.
“Restraining order issued against stalker of Lauren Book” via Florida Politics — The 17th Judicial Circuit Court last week approved a permanent restraining order to keep Derek Logue away from Democratic state Sen. Book, according to documents obtained by Florida Politics. According to the petition filed by Book’s attorneys, Logue has targeted Book since at least 2009 through obscene YouTube videos and a website dedicated to “exposing” her and her father, lobbyist Ron Book. Logue, a convicted sex offender, used often obscene language and blasted Book in those videos for playing the “victim card” to advocate for Lauren’s Kids, her charity focused on stopping child sexual abuse. In April 2017, Logue traveled to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York to heckle Book during a question-and-answer session … A few months after his Tribeca outburst, Logue posted a video on Twitter entitled “You are a C**t” that included lyrics saying he would “f**k up [Book’s] face.” That video was deemed a credible threat to Book’s safety … The court approved the restraining order, which requires Logue to stay at least 500 feet away from Book’s house and car, 1,000 feet from her person, and prohibits him from contacting her directly or indirectly in any way.
“Voters want taller buildings for Key West affordable housing. Here’s what happens next” via Gwen Filosa of the Miami Herald — Key West voters did what Mayor Craig Cates wanted them to do in last week’s referendum: Approve a measure to raise the allowable building height on a Stock Island property up to 40 feet. The referendum means as many as 104 units of affordable housing can be built on the College Road property, about 30 more homes than if the height limit had stayed at 25 feet. Cates says the next step is to prepare a request for proposals, or a bid, to see which construction companies or developers want in on the project. “I hope to have it ready for the April 3 [City Commission] meeting, for us to approve it and discuss it,” Cates said. “We don’t have to approve it to go out but I think we all want to be on the same page since it’s so important.” Tuesday, 16 percent of registered Key West voters participated in the referendum and it passed 58.4 percent to 41.6 percent (1,383 votes for, 986 votes against).
Appointed — Dr. Rolando Montoya to the Miami Dade College District board of trustees.
— FIU BRIDGE —
“Scott orders halt to federal funding to collapsed FIU bridge project” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida — Gov. Scott ordered the Florida Department of Transportation to halt the flow of more than $13 million in federal funding toward the construction of a bridge at Florida International University that collapsed last week, killing six people. In a statement Monday, Scott said no additional money should go toward the project until the National Transportation Safety Board completes its investigation into the cause of the Thursday collapse. The NTSB has said it could take months to finish the investigation. “Before another dollar is spent on this bridge, we must know exactly what happened,” said Scott. “FDOT is working hand-in-hand with the NTSB in its investigation and until it’s completed, all taxpayer dollars will be withheld.” FDOT acted as “a pass-through” for federal funding to FIU. FDOT was quick to distance itself from the project … FDOT serves as a pass-through for the $13.6 million in federal cash set aside for the bridge project. Less than $11.4 million of the money comes from a federal grant created to fix crumbling infrastructure around the country.
“FIU president: University ‘followed all proper procedures’ on bridge project” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Florida International University’s president on Monday defended the school’s handling of a project to build a pedestrian bridge that collapsed onto traffic Thursday, killing six and leaving behind questions about what exactly went wrong. “FIU has a thorough process for hiring contractors for building projects and works with all appropriate authorities to follow the legal and regulatory requirements,” President Mark Rosenberg said Monday in a letter to the “university community” released through a university spokeswoman. “We are confident that FIU followed all proper procedures and protocols.” Rosenberg said FIU is working with the National Transportation Safety Board — the federal agency leading the investigation into what happened — and has “a sense of urgency about getting to the bottom of the incident.” In close coordination with the state, the university acted as the lead agency on the bridge project, pushing for a federal funding grant, selecting a developer and conducting inspections.
“Orlando law firm files first suit against FIU bridge builders” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando law firm Morgan & Morgan filed Monday the first lawsuit against the companies that built the pedestrian bridge that collapsed near Florida International University in Miami last week, killing six people. The suit was filed on behalf of Marquise Rashaad Hepburn of Miami, who was riding his bicycle to work and passing beneath the south end of the bridge when it crumbled. Amid the chaos, a driver hoping to avoid the wreckage veered into Hepburn’s bicycle, tossing him to the ground, attorney Matt Morgan said at a news conference Monday. The suit, filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, names FIGG Bridge Engineers Inc., Munilla Construction Management LLC., Networking Engineering Services Inc., Bolton Perez & Associates and Louis Berger U.S. and alleges negligence. It seeks in excess of $15,000 in damages. In Orlando, Morgan said litigation could take years and speculated legal claims filed by all of the victims could soar.
“Where did their Twitter go? FIU bridge builder MCM deletes social media accounts” via Monique O. Madan of the Miami Herald — Munilla Construction Management, the construction firm behind the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed last week, has deleted its Twitter account. It’s unclear when the company did away with the page, along with content that once boasted about the state-of-the-art bridge. The company’s Facebook and Instagram pages also have been deleted. MCM’s website and LinkedIn page are still active. Just a week before the bridge collapsed at the center of Southwest Eighth Street and 109th Avenue, killing six people, MCM tweeted about the mammoth structure’s weight. “#FunFact: The new pedestrian bridge connecting @FIU to the @CitySweetwater weighs 950 tons, equivalent to approximately 271 elephants! #WeAreMCM,” the company posted … An MCM spokesman said Monday that the company temporarily deactivated the accounts “out of consideration to the families of victims.”
— OPINIONS —
“The details of health care regulation don’t belong in the Florida Constitution” via the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board — There are some proposals among the three dozen or so the commission is scheduled to consider this week and next that don’t belong anywhere near the constitution. They deal with evolving areas of policy and regulation, rather than enduring governing principles. One misplaced proposal could have a large, lasting — yet uncertain — impact, particularly in Central Florida: Proposal 54, which would eliminate the state’s certificate of need requirement for hospitals. Commissioners would be foolish to sideline legislators and regulators in this area. Gov. Scott, a former private hospital executive, is not a CON fan. So one of the governor’s 15 appointees on the 37-member commission, Orlando lawyer Frank Kruppenbacher, has sponsored a proposed amendment that would effectively eliminate CON for hospitals in many Florida counties. While most states have CON requirements, 14 don’t. It’s difficult to draw general conclusions from their experiences — each state is different — but CON supporters and opponents specialize in cherry picking data to bolster their positions.
— ALOE —
Actual news release from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — “April 15 marks start of Florida’s bat maternity season”
“Spring break pushing gas prices higher” via John Hielscher of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Local gas prices ended their brief retreat, rising 2 cents over the week as demand spiked and supplies tightened. The trend higher is expected to continue. “The national average now stands at its highest level in over a month and is likely to continue moving higher in the weeks ahead as demand continues to recover from the winter blues and the transition to summer gasoline kicks into high gear,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for price-tracking website GasBuddy. “Overall, gas prices this spring will come in some 10 percent to 25 percent higher than a year ago, removing billions of dollars from other areas of the economy that will instead be funneled to the pump.” Prices at the pump had declined slightly for several weeks, but analysts expected them to rebound due to several factors. “Gasoline supplies took a sharp dip last week, as exports rose and refineries began to switch from summer- to winter-blend gasoline,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman at AAA in Tampa. “In addition, demand in the Southeast — especially in Florida — is strong, as Americans hit the road for spring break.”
“Jacksonville man sees beach one last time before going blind” via Deanna Bettineschi of WJAX — Woody Parker, who is suffering from glaucoma, wanted to catch perhaps his final glimpse of Fernandina Beach. Wish of a Lifetime, a wish-granting organization for seniors, and Brookdale Senior Living got together to help Parker’s dream come true. With his wife, Genie Parker, by his side, he was able to take in all the sights of the beach one last time. “I love it. I love the beach,” Parker told WJAX. “There’s nothing like the sound of the beach with the waves crashing.”
“Proof Brewing relocating to former Coca-Cola building” via TaMaryn Waters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Tallahassee’s first and largest craft beer distributor — is leaving its Railroad Square location and moving a quarter mile away to the south side. The former Coca-Cola Bottling Company, located at 1320 S. Monroe St., allows Proof to drastically upgrade its production capacity from 6,000 barrels to 30,000 barrels per year. Proof first opened in 2012. Owners Byron and Angela Burroughs are pioneers in the city’s increasingly popular beer scene. The new location features a larger tasting room and an outdoor area, a retail store, space for private events, a full kitchen and a beer garden.
Happy birthday to Rep. (soon Judge) Larry Metz, our friend Bill Helmich, as well as Jacob Engels, Chris Licata, Melissa Ross, and Aakash Patel.
Up until the moment a special master’s report found credible evidence of Jack Latvala‘s sexual misconduct, I was a defender of the Republican state Senator’s right to due process and, to some extent, an opportunity to confront his accusers.
But after former Judge Ronald Swanson issued a report that Latvala inappropriately touched a top Senate aide and may have broken the law by offering a witness in the case his support for legislation in exchange for sex acts, there was no way anyone could still stand by Latvala’s side, especially since he kept many of those close to him in the dark about the full extent of his legal vulnerabilities.
Yet, apparently, there are still a few people not related to Latvala taking up his cause, namely the editorial board of the Tampa Bay Times.
Yet, inexplicably, if not mind-bogglingly, the editorial board writes that “the rhetoric from many lawmakers about changing a toxic work environment in the state Capitol appears to have been cover for ousting a moderate Republican who made too many enemies.”
I don’t write this lightly, but are you f*cking kidding me?
Is the Times really suggesting that Richard Corcoran, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Matt Caldwell and others spoke out loudly about “the toxic work environment in the state Capitol” as a ploy to sideline Latvala?
Wasn’t it rather that they, like Latvala’s attorney Steve Andrews, almost threw up when they learned about the extent of Latvala’ serial abuse?
A former lobbyist whose name was redacted in the released copy of Swanson’s report said Latvala would touch her inappropriately, including touching the outside of her bra and panties, every time they were alone in his office.
She said he “intimated to her on multiple occasions, that if she engaged in sexual acts or allowed him to touch her body in a sexual manner he would support legislative items for which she was lobbying,” Swanson wrote. That included explicit text messages sent to the woman.
But if you go by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Latvala’s problem was not forcing a lobbyist to engage in a quid pro quo for sexual favors, it’s that he was a “moderate” who “made too many enemies.”
— It’s inexplicable that the Times editorial board can criticize the Legislature for failing to take sexual harassment seriously, yet criticize some lawmakers for investigating “its hometown Senator.”
— The Times editorial board “continues to refer to Jack Latvala as a ‘moderate Republican who made too many enemies’ and not a former Senator who resigned in disgrace after two independent investigators concluded he likely sexually assaulted and harassed women.”
This is an interesting point because on the same weekend this editorial ran, the Times published a story about former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, whom it describes as “disgraced” even though his sins were, arguably, not as consequential as Latvala’s.
If you read between the lines of this editorial and the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald’s coverage of L’Affaire Latvala writ large, it’s that – darn it – Florida would have been a lot better off if Latvala had been around to stick up to Corcoran’s House, etc., on the hometown issues the Times feels passionately about (consolidation of the USF system, for example).
Think of it as some sort of victim shaming in which the few lawmakers who spoke out (early) against Latvala are now being editorialized against for having done so.
And one final note: As Glorioso notes, editorials of the Tampa Bay Times are unsigned and “represent the institutional opinion of the newspaper.”
Accordingly, this editorial brings shame to the entire institution.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this post.
Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
With its Session having started Monday, the deluge of press releases about Constitution Revision Commission proposals has begun.
Here’s one: “Advocates of term limits and tax cuts, and advocates of water and land conservation have banded together to urge the defeat of CRC Proposal 97,” a Monday release announced.
The proposal “would make it harder for Florida voters to approve proposed constitutional amendments, by essentially recording a ‘no’ vote any time a voter skips voting on a statewide ballot issue.”
The somewhat confusingly worded plan (that further perplexed commissioners) would require 60 percent of voters casting the ballot in an election to approve a constitutional amendment, rather than 60 percent of those who vote on the particular ballot question.
It was filed by BelindaKeiser, vice chancellor of Keiser University and an appointee of Gov. Scott.
“Proposal 97 is a brazen effort by Tallahassee special interests to silence voters,” said Citizens In Charge President PaulJacob, a term limits advocate.
Added AlikiMoncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters: “Florida voters have a good track record of enacting sensible changes when politicians ignore the will of the people … Commissioners should recognize Proposal 97 for the power grab that it is, and defeat it.”
After much head scratching, Keiser’s proposal – the last one of the day – was temporarily postponed.
“He hid in his office on the (Capitol’s) ground floor while everybody else was trying to figure out how we work together to keep kids safe in schools.” —state Rep. JaredMoskowitz, a Broward County Democrat, on Agriculture Commissioner and GOP candidate for governor AdamPutnam. (His press office later in the day pointed out Putnam visited Parkland within a week of the shooting.)
Bill Day’s Latest
Wake Up Early?
GOP candidate for governor AdamPutnam will host an “Up & Adam” Breakfast in Marianna. That’s 8:30-9:30 a.m. Central Time, at Gazebo Coffee Shoppe & Deli, 4412 Lafayette St., Marianna. It’s a ticketed event; if you plan to attend, please email email@example.com by 10 p.m. tonight.
The Constitution Revision Commission will meet to continue considering proposed constitutional amendments. That’s at 9 a.m., Senate chamber, The Capitol.
The Office of Medical Marijuana Use will workshop rules governing testing-lab certifications and testing standards. That’s at 1 p.m., Icon Hotel, 4700 Salisbury Road, Jacksonville.
The Medical Care Advisory Committee, charged with working out issues in the state Medicaid program, will meet. That’s at 2 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.
The Style and Drafting Committee of the CRC will convene. That’s 15 minutes after the end of Tuesday’s full commission meeting.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
It’s hard to believe that just as one “Session” is ending, another is beginning.
The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) kicks off its own Session this morning at 10 a.m.
The panel is expected to meet through May 4; on May 10, it must file a report with Secretary of State KenDetzner.
There now are 36 “active” proposals being considered as additions to the state’s governing document.
They run the gamut from banning dog racing to raising the retirement age of judges, also from a crime victims’ bill of rights to a clean-up proposal that would “delete an obsolete provision regarding the development of a high speed (rail) system.”
Commissioners also criss-crossed the state in the last year, holding public meetings to discuss ideas, including a final meeting in St. Petersburg that attracted about 1,200 people.
The full commission meets in the state Senate chamber in the Capitol all this week.
The CRC convenes every 20 years. Any proposals it approves to change the state constitution still must be approved by at least 60 percent of voters on this November’s statewide ballot. (There’s even a proposal that would tweak that.)
“Gun control among issues teed up for CRC” via the News Service of Florida – The debate over gun control is ready to move to a new forum, as the Constitution Revision Commission … begins the process of deciding what issues to place on the November ballot. … One measure (Proposal 3), sponsored by Commissioner RobertoMartinez of Miami, is likely to generate debate, as it has attracted several amendments related to gun control in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. … Meanwhile, Commissioner ChrisSmith of Fort Lauderdale has another proposed amendment that would ban assault-style weapons. Also, Commissioner HankCoxe of Jacksonville has filed an amendment that would raise the age of buying a firearm to 21 and would impose a 10-day waiting period. It also would ban bump stocks. Commissioners ArtheniaJoyner of Tampa, SherryPlymale of Palm City and Frank Kruppenbacher of Orlando are supporting Coxe’s amendment.
“With a ban under consideration, greyhound racing brings out surprising defenders” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — … as legislators consider a proposed constitutional amendment asking voters to phase out greyhound racing by 2021, the people who love the dogs on both sides of the issue worry about their future. It is the dogs’ apparent contentment that has caused even die-hard racing opponents to say the situation is nuanced. Of the 18 dog racing tracks in America, 12 are in Florida, with an estimated 7,000 greyhounds working in the state. If racing ends, what happens to all those dogs? … “I think they just don’t understand that the dogs are bred for this, that we love the dogs. The trainers love those dogs. They aren’t in that business because they hate them. You aren’t going to win if you have an underfed dog or a hurt dog. It wouldn’t make sense.” … Stuck in the middle of the detractors and the supporters is Greyhound Pets of America. … Adopting a greyhound is unlike adopting any other pet. Dogs that have worked at a track may be so unfamiliar with everyday household features that they walk into a swimming pool or balk at stairs. … “It’s like a 70-pound house cat,” GPA volunteer Don Koppin said.
“Anti-smoking group continues to oppose constitutional amendment” via Florida Politics – Despite a proposed tweak to a constitutional amendment, the Protect Tobacco Free Florida coalition says it still opposes the underlying measure. The proposal (P94), filed by Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) member and House Speaker pro tempore JeanetteNuñez, originally would have redirected dollars from tobacco-prevention efforts to cancer research. Nuñez on Wednesday filed an “amendment to the amendment” deleting the section about cancer research funding, however. That change would have to be adopted by the commission, which meets in Session beginning Monday in Tallahassee. “Despite this change, her proposal would still remove the requirement that one-third of Florida’s tobacco prevention funding be dedicated to countering Big Tobacco’s massive marketing efforts in the state,” the coalition said. “Because the one-third provision is required to follow CDC best practice standards for tobacco prevention programs, the Protect Tobacco Free Florida coalition still opposes Proposal 94.”
Assignmenteditors – Representatives of Constitutional Officer Resource Experts (C.O.R.E.) will hold a press conference to support Proposal 13 being considered by the Constitution Revision Commission. The proposal would amend language already in the Florida Constitution to state that the offices of Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser and Supervisor of Elections must be elected, and counties cannot eliminate these positions. That’s at 1 p.m., Plaza level rotunda, The Capitol.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @Comey: Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.
— @RepDeSantis: Our pets are not simply another piece of cargo, they are members of our family. @RepMarkMeadows and I sent a letter to the CEO of United Airlines demanding answers regarding their troubling record of pet safety.
— @JaredEMoskowitz (replying to DeSantis): Oh really? Never seen you at any of the animal friendly group meetings. That’s right, we meet! Would you have written the letter if the dog was killed by a gun? We already know the answer.
— @SenReneGarcia: As I stood in front of the bridge collapse yesterday I was confronted with the reality of how fragile life is and that tomorrow is not a given. This weekend I will make it a point of saying “I Love You” to those I care about and will start with you my twitter family. I Love You!
— @PatriciaMazzei: FIU President Mark Rosenberg has called for a universitywide moment of silence at 1:47 p.m. Monday to commemorate victims of collapsed bridge, per email to FIU community.
— @AGlorios: Also the TBT editorial writers continue to refer to Jack Latvala as a “moderate Republican who made too many enemies” & not a former senator who resigned in disgrace after 2 independent investigations concluded he likely sexually assaulted & harassed women
— @JoseFelixDiaz: Took my kids to a speaking engagement and the only thing that they retained was that I was a bouncer in a nightclub in Argentina once
— @JoeReedy: I can’t wait for the 30 for 30 film on UMBC
— DAYS UNTIL —
March For Our Lives/#NeverAgain gun violence protest – 5; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 10; Easter – 13; NFL Draft begins – 38; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 45; Mother’s Day – 55; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 67; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 95; Primary Election Day — 162; College Football opening weekend – 166; General Election Day — 232; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 332; 2019 Legislative Session – 351.
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“Rick Scott signs new budget, uses veto pen sparingly” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott acted quickly on the annual spending plan that had been approved by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature just days earlier. Heading into a crucial election year, Scott spared many individual projects from line-item vetoes. Instead, he vetoed a modest $64 million in projects and spending decisions – the lowest amount he has vetoed during his time in office. … Scott approved a budget that is 29 percent higher than the one he signed his first year, when the Great Recession had hammered Florida’s economy and the governor and legislators responded by ordering deep budget cuts. The budget approved by Scott includes $100 million for Florida Forever, the state’s environmental land buying program, which has received minimal money since the Great Recession. Legislators also set aside $50 million to help deal with the state’s opioid crisis and agreed to expand the amount paid to 100,000 college students eligible for the state’s popular Bright Futures college scholarship program.
Scott’s vetoes touched primarily on projects sprinkled through the budget that he said bypassed the normal process or were local projects. The vetoes included $1.5 million to study extending an existing toll road from north of the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia state line. Legislators backed the idea because the road could be used for future hurricane evacuations, but Scott said the study could be done without extra money. The Governor also vetoed $750,000 legislators set aside to look at reversing the flow on major highways during a storm. Scott said the money isn’t needed because state officials have already concluded reversing highways is not effective.
Scott keeps $2M hostage over marijuana rules – Included in the $88.7 billion budget signed by Gov. Scott on Friday was provision that puts a hold on $2 million appropriated for top-level Florida Department of Health employee salaries until the department implements all the rules required in the Legislature’s 2017 bill implementing the medical marijuana amendment. DOH’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use is far behind in in the process, including missing an Oct. 3 deadline to issues 10 licenses. The office has also been slammed for repealing a long list of emergency rules, an action lawmakers say violates state law. “Perhaps we will now see some meaningful movement in the implementation of the new law,” said Rep. Jason Brodeur, who filed the $2 million carveout.
“No quilts for you: Scott vetoes museum money” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Out of $64 million in budget vetoes issued, Gov. Scott killed $270,000 slated for the acquisition of the Florida Quilt Museum building in tiny Trenton, the county seat of Gilchrist County. That gladdened Rep. EvanJenne, a Dania Beach Democrat who inveighed against the money during debate on the state’s spending plan … StephanieMetts, the museum’s founder and a board member, first learned of Scott’s line-item veto from a Florida Politics reporter … “What a shame for this little community that is so struggling,” she said. The museum is “not funded by anybody; my husband and I are the only ones putting any money into this.”
Tucked in vetoes from @FLGovScott – he cut $5 million that was in the back of the budget for charter school maintenance. He said they didn’t need it because they were receiving $145m in the education portion of the budget
“Quick budget turnaround cuts TaxWatch off at the pass” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Talk about pre-emption. With Gov. Scott speedily approving the 2018-19 state budget and issuing line-item vetoes just two days after it hit his desk, Florida TaxWatch was prevented from holding its signature event: The annual presentation of “Budget Turkeys.” “This historically, exceptionally fast turnaround time did not allow Florida TaxWatch to fully complete the meticulous review of all appropriations required to produce our annual Budget Turkey Watch report,” said Dominic M. Calabro, TaxWatch President and CEO. The group defines turkeys as “legislatively directed projects, usually local member projects, … added to the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized by the public.”
Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will sign HB 21, which includes provisions limiting most new opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply, during a 9:30 a.m. stop at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Bradenton, 616 67th Street Circle East. The governor will also spend time highlighting state funding to help combat the opioid crisis.
— JOE NEGRON REFLECTS ON PAST, LOOKS TO FUTURE —
In a brief ‘exit interview’ with Florida Politics, the outgoing Senate President said lawmakers over the last two Sessions “made tremendous progress” on goals he set out in his 2015 designation speech, “a blueprint of things I tried to accomplish.”
Among those, beefing up higher education “with world class faculties,” addressing pollution in Lake Okeechobee, and “decriminalizing adolescence” with pre-arrest diversion programs and making it easier to expunge juvenile arrest records.
— What “didn’t get a lot of attention” last year, the Stuart Republican said, was reforming eyewitness identifications in criminal cases “to reduce the chance of wrongful convictions.”
— The Constitution Revision Commission, on which he has nine appointees, starts its Session Monday. Negron, an attorney, said he favors proposals that would raise the retirement age for judges and help with K-12 education “flexibility.” He’s had “general conversations” with his appointees on his “guiding principles,” but added he trusts their “good judgment.”
— Though redistricting has afforded him an extra two years in the Senate after his 2016-18 presidency, he said he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll serve that bonus time. “I’m going to take a few weeks to think about it,” he said. “Term limits are there for a reason.”
— Negron now is focusing on his business litigation work for the Akerman firm in its West Palm Beach office: “I’m a lawyer first, a legislator second. This was one part of my life that I greatly value … but my primary professional identity is as a lawyer. I’m back in the office. I enjoy what I do.”
— When asked what advice he’d give to future legislative candidates, he said he’d repeat the advice given him by former House Speaker AllenBense in 2000: “He told me in order to be strong in Tallahassee, be strong at home. (Candidates’) political efforts and philosophy should be grounded in their community.”
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Bill Nelson targeted by pro tax reform ad campaign” via Florida Politics – Americans for Prosperity this week announced a national campaign extolling the benefits of the tax reform package passed by the Republican-led Congress last year, and U.S. Sen. Nelson, who voted against the plan, is one of the targets. The Nelson ad features a black and white photo of the Senator and reads “Senator Bill Nelson voted against putting more money in your pocket.” AFP said its “American Pay Raise” campaign is designed to thank lawmakers who voted for the tax plan and hold accountable those who were against it, though the group so far has only released sample ads it’s running against lawmakers.
A copy of the ad is below:
Richard Corcoran to announce week of April 16? – Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times has the (possible) scoop here.
Oppo dump on Ron DeSantis – Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida has all of the details here.
“Adam Putnam posts photo of him at Mar-a-Lago with disgraced congressman Mark Foley” via Amy Hollyfield of the Tampa Bay Times – Putnam … attended the Republican Party of Palm Beach County’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Friday night at Mar-a-Lago. The sold-out event was headlined by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Putnam tweeted thanks to host Donald Trump Jr. last night with a photo that included Foley, the Florida congressman forced out more than a decade ago for sending texts to teen boys.
— American Bridge’s Josh Karp: “Embracing the support of a sexual predator who abused his power to prey on teenage boys is a new low for Adam Putnam. Floridians ought to be disgusted by Putnam’s behavior, there’s no excuse for this.”
— Florida Democratic Party’s Kevin Donohoe: “It’s despicable that Adam Putnam is so desperate to sell out to Donald Trump that he would hang out with a sexual predator accused of harassing children.”
Assignmenteditors – Democratic gubernatorial candidate AndrewGillum is set to speak at a meeting of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee. That’s at 6 p.m., IBEW union hall, 966 North Liberty St., Jacksonville.
First on #FlaPol – “Democrat Catherine Price files for Senate District 26” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics – Price announced Friday that she would run for the Senate District 26 seat being vacated by Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner in the fall. … Price is a Lake Wales native and first-time candidate for public office. Price said the bulk of her career has been helping people get access to affordable healthcare, including organizing a successful half-cent sales tax ballot initiative that currently generates $36 mllion annually for indigent health care in Polk County.
Save the date:
“Democrat files for Julio Gonzalez House seat” via the News Service of Florida – With state Rep. JulioGonzalez, a Venice Republican, running for Congress, a Democratic candidate has taken the first step toward running for his Florida House seat. North Port Democrat Yves Junior Chery opened a campaign account Thursday to run in Sarasota County’s House District 74 … Chery joined North Port Republican NicholasTrolli, who opened a campaign account Feb. 28 to try to win the seat in November. Gonzalez, who was first elected to the state House in 2014, is running for a congressional seat that is being vacated by U.S. Rep. TomRooney.
>>>Also Thursday, Deltona Democrat CarolLawrence opened a campaign account to try to unseat state Rep. DavidSantiago, a Deltona Republican, in Volusia County’s House District 27 … Santiago had raised $114,445 for his re-election bid as of Feb. 28, a finance report shows.
“Kevin Rader endorses Tina Polsky in HD 81 race” via Florida Politics – HD 81 candidate Tina Polsky picked up an endorsement over the weekend from Democratic state Sen. Kevin Rader. “I have been tremendously impressed by Tina’s background and her candidacy. I know that her professional training as a mediator will serve her well in Tallahassee – and ultimately provide many benefits to the people of Palm Beach County,” Rader said. “She’ll be a fighter for our community on important issues including gun safety and a woman’s right to choose, as well as an effective advocate for the Glades. I can’t wait to work with Tina on the issues important to all of us.” The Boca Raton Democrat is a lawyer and mediator and is so far the only candidate running for HD 81, currently held by Democratic Rep. Joe Abruzzo. … Abruzzohas only held the seat for one term but announced last month he would forego re-election to focus on spending time with his young son.
“Broward votes could see straw poll on assault rifle ban” via the Associated Press – Some officials in a Florida county where a school shooting left 17 people dead were considering a referendum to ban assault weapons but they feared possible fines and the state’s power to overturn it. So instead, they will ask Broward County commissioners to add a straw vote to the ballot. A straw vote would give voters a voice but wouldn’t be binding. Several students from Fort Lauderdale High School and a handful of other Broward residents spoke in favor of banning assault rifles at Friday’s Charter Review Commission meeting. A county attorney cautioned against a referendum. Others in favor of a ban feared such a move by the county would be overturned by the state and possibly bring a hefty fine.
— FIU BRIDGE —
“Crack on bridge was discussed in meeting hours before collapse” via Nick Madigan, Patricia Mazzei and Christina Caron of the New York Times – Hours before the collapse … the engineering company for the bridge held a meeting to discuss a crack on the structure, according to a statement from the university released early Saturday. The engineering company, Figg Bridge Engineers, delivered a technical presentation on the crack, and “concluded there were no safety concerns and the crack did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” the statement said. The construction manager on the project and representatives from the university and the state Department of Transportation attended the two-hour meeting, which was led by Figg’s lead engineer on the project, W. Denney Pate. Two days earlier, Pate left a voice mail message for the Transportation Department about “some cracking that’s been observed on the north end” of the bridge, according to a recording from the department released on Friday. At both the meeting and in his message, Pate said the cracking did not present any safety issues
“State played key role on FIU bridge, despite efforts to distance itself after collapse” via Mary Ellen Klas, David Smiley and Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald – In the hours after the collapse of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that killed six on Thursday, the Florida Department of Transportation quickly attempted to publicly distance itself from liability, calling its role “limited.” But documents of meetings from FIU and the city of Sweetwater over the past three years, and interviews with industry experts who asked that their names not be used because they still work with the agency, show FDOT’s involvement on the design and construction of the bridge was much more significant. … Since the accident that killed six, the department and Gov. Rick Scott have rushed to absolve the state from any liability in the cause of the collapse.
In a rare late-night statement, FDOT released the audiotape and transcript of a voicemail left by an engineer of the design firm, FIGG Bridge Group, warning that the bridge had experienced cracking. The FIGG engineer dismissed the significance of the problem, but the document FDOT sent to the media said the employee didn’t receive the voicemail until Friday when he returned to the office after being on assignment for three days. … Many have read the state’s narrative as directing blame at both FIU and the design-build team of FIGG and contractor Munilla Construction Group. … Although the Friday night statement disclosed the existence of the voicemail from the FIGG engineer, FDOT did not acknowledge that its project manager, Alfonso Reyna, was also aware of the cracks. That revelation didn’t come until Saturday, when FIU released a statement about it.
#flgov candidate @GwenGraham tonight is excoriating @FLGovScott over #FIUBridgeCollapse: “The governor must answer why his administration ignored warnings of cracks in the bridge. If the state had acted on these warnings…they may have been able to prevent this tragedy.”
“Bridge collapse victim’s uncle rages at ‘incompetence’” via Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press – As crews began removing bodies from beneath a collapsed pedestrian bridge Saturday, a victim’s uncle raged against what he called the “complete incompetence” and “colossal failure” that allowed people to drive beneath the unfinished concrete span. “Why they had to build this monstrosity in the first place to get children across the street?” said an anguished Joe Smitha, whose niece, Alexa Duran, was crushed in Thursday’s collapse at Florida International University. “Then they decided to stress test this bridge while traffic was running underneath it?” … Smitha can’t help but believe that this tragedy could have been avoided. “This was a colossal failure of the system,” he said. “This was complete incompetence from the top … I want someone to step up and say, ‘The buck stops with me.’”
“Rapid building technique gets scrutiny after bridge collapse” via Jason Dearen of the Associated Press – The pedestrian bridge on the edge of the Miami-area campus was a signature achievement of the school’s Accelerated Bridge Construction University Transportation Center, a research group set up with federal funding a few years ago to show how spans could be built faster and cheaper in the U.S. “FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg boasted that day. “We are filled with pride and satisfaction at seeing this engineering feat come to life and connect our campus to the surrounding community.” While it’s not yet clear what caused the failure of the unfinished span Thursday, the disaster has cast a spotlight on a rapid construction technique widely used around the U.S. Accelerated bridge construction, or ABC, involves assembling large sections of a span offsite, then moving the massive pieces into place all at once. The technique eliminates the lengthy road closings and other traffic disruptions that can result when a bridge is built out over a highway piece by piece. It is also considered by some engineers to be safer for hardhat workers and motorists because much of the construction isn’t done in the middle of traffic.
Civil engineering experts who viewed photos of the planned structure and the collapse have raised questions about how FIU and its contractors approached the project. To some bridge engineers, the decision to install the span’s main concrete segment over a busy road before building its main support tower was puzzling. Traditionally, the tower is constructed first, and the walkway or roadway is anchored to it with cables. “It’s odd,” said Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering at Duke University and a leading authority on engineering failures. “That’s probably why they used this so-called ABC method, so they could get the span over the roadway in one operation, because if you do it incrementally, you have to interrupt traffic.”
“Marco Rubio criticizes timing of Andrew McCabe firing” via Louis Nelson of POLITICO – Attorney General Jeff Sessions should not have fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Rubio said Sunday morning, casting doubt on a decision that has been celebrated by President Donald Trump. McCabe, long a target of criticism from President Donald Trump, was fired late Friday over a yet-to-be-released inspector general’s report expected to say the former deputy FBI director lacked candor in interactions with investigators examining his disclosures to the media. McCabe, who has claimed to be the target of a smear campaign because of his role in the bureau’s Russia investigation, had been scheduled to retire as of Sunday. “I don’t like the way it happened,” Rubio told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He should’ve been allowed to finish through the weekend.”
“Some wanted Nikolas Cruz committed in 2016” via Curt Anderson of the Associated Press – Officials were so concerned about the mental stability of the student accused of last month’s Florida school massacre that they decided he should be forcibly committed. But the recommendation was never acted upon. … documents in the criminal case against Nikolas Cruz and obtained by The Associated Press show school officials and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation. There is no evidence Cruz was ever committed. Coincidentally, the school resource officer who recommended that Cruz be “Baker Acted” was Scot Peterson — the same Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred.
“Stoneman Douglas student says arming teachers ‘stupid’ idea on ’60 Minutes’” via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – Emma González, the outspoken Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior who has turned into a national gun reform activist, is taking a swipe at the Florida Legislature for wanting to arm teachers, calling the idea “stupid” in an interview with CBS’ “60 minutes” [that aired] Sunday. “Douglas ran out of paper for, like, two weeks in the school year, and now all a sudden they have $400 million to pay for teachers to get trained to arm themselves? Really? Really?” González tells “60 Minutes” correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi. The Parkland student was referring to the $400 million school safety and gun reform bill signed into law March 9 … It included one provision to arm school personnel, but the measure was watered down so that it’s voluntary and doesn’t apply to front-line, full-time classroom teachers. Most large urban counties in Florida have announced or are expected to announce they won’t participate. Republican Gov. Rick Scott, along with many Democrats, rejected the idea.
“Shifting money to school officers could be option” via The News Service of Florida – President Negron told The News Service of Florida he believed the Joint Legislative Budget Commission could reappropriate leftover funds but said it’s too soon to say when that might happen. Many school superintendents and school boards have said they will not implement the guardian program, which would allow school employees, including some teachers, to bring guns to school if they are specially trained and deputized by sheriffs. “Let’s see what happens. I hope school boards will consider it, but I accept the fact that many of them may not participate and I think … some of those surplus funds could be redeployed toward school resource officers,” Negron said. “That’s something I would support but I would encourage school boards to evaluate what they believe is best for their students, and that’s all we ask. This (the guardian program) is an option.”
“Release of tourism numbers delayed again” via the News Service of Florida – Gov. Scott’s office said Friday that a planned release of 2017 tourism numbers would again be postponed because of the collapse Thursday of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami. Scott had been expected to release the tourism numbers Friday in Naples. His office did not immediately give a new release date. Scott also had planned to release the tourism figures last month but put the announcement on hold because of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
— OPINIONS —
“FDOT can’t shirk its role in the bridge-collapse deaths – or its responsibility to protect us” via Miami Herald editorial board – (T)his much is clear: State and local construction protocols putting people’s safety first must be rethought, reinvigorated and reinforced. In the ongoing war between safety and convenience, safety lost last week. Six people died tragically, needlessly, because we live in an overbuilt community that loathes traffic jams, yet continually makes them worse; that is sick and tired of negotiating orange traffic cones and detours; that endangers pedestrians trying to cross a river of vehicles — the whole point of the pedestrian bridge that fell; and where time wasted stuck on the road costs money. Thursday, all the things we hate cost six lives.
“Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris: Fight to protect property rights far from over” via Florida Politics – Though legislation to create statewide standards for vacation rentals did pass committees in both the Florida House and Senate, ultimately time ran out and Senate Bill 1400 and House Bill 773 did not make it across the finish line this Session. Some special interests are promoting this as a win—I challenge that narrative. Continuing to trample the private property rights of Floridians seems, to me, like anything but a victory. The truth is, it is far too early for anyone to declare success just yet—we are only in the midst of this discussion. As president, I personally guarantee the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FL VRMA) will continue to bring forth education and a fierce determination to fight for the rights of property owners across the state of Florida.
Personnel note: Lorena Holley joins Florida Retail Federation – The trade association announced Friday that Holley, general counsel to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, will become its new general counsel and vice president effective March 26. “With her years of experience in both the public and private sectors, Lorena brings extensive knowledge on business issues that impact almost all of our members in some way,” said R. Scott Shalley, the federation’s president and CEO. “Whether its food safety, small business, utility regulation or legal issues, Lorena will be an invaluable resource to our members.” Holley previously was with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), serving as a Senior Attorney with the Office of General Counsel Division of Appeals, Rules and Mediation. She received her law degree from the Texas Tech School of Law in Lubbock, Texas. Originally from Chile, she grew up in Austin, Texas.
New and renewed lobbying registrations:
Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: StopItSolutions.com
Christopher Chaney, Stephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Kyra Solutions
Leonard Collins, Broad and Cassel: Campbellton-Graceville Hospital Corporation
Jim DeBeaugrine, RFJ Governmental Consultants: CBC
Don DeLoach, DDGov Consulting: Sungard Availability Services
Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Guardian Group
Jeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: AFI Associates, Lee County, Tech Choice
Pete Murray, Colodny Fass: G4S Secure Solutions (USA)
Shannon Segers: Department of Revenue
“Black Almanac’s Dr. Edward James II passes away” via WWSB – Dr. James dedicated his life to making the Suncoast a better place to live for families now and future generations. (He died March 13 at the age of 78.) Dr. James joined ABC7 in 1972 as a weekend news anchor. He also spent the past 46 years as the producer and host of “Black Almanac,” which airs Sunday mornings on ABC7. “Black Almanac” is the longest airing, locally produced, public affairs program in the Southeastern United States. Before coming to ABC7, Dr. James served as a columnist and governmental reporter for the Sarasota Journal. He was also the writer/associate producer of “Positively Black,” a weekly half-hour public affairs program on New York’s WNBC-TV. James also worked as an editorial assistant at the New York Post.
Happy birthday belatedly to Rep. Sean Shaw, St. Pete City Councilman Steve Kornell, Conversa’s Kelsey Frouge, our friend Christian Minor, Robert Weissert, and to two principled activists on the opposite ends of the education debate, Ron Matus and Andy Ford. Celebrating today is our very good friend Eric Johnson, as well as Johanna Cervone, Allison North Jones, and Justin York.
Mark Foley is my friend. Let me be very clear about that.
I knew him while he served in Congress. And I stayed in touch with him after he resigned after it was revealed that he sent sexually suggestive emails and instant messages to high school boys in the page program for years.
And while many people — understandably — have shunned/shun Foley, I am not one of those people. I believe in the power of redemption. Hell, I am the embodiment of why you give people not just a second chance, but a third and fourth one.
On Friday night, Foley was photographed accompanying Republican gubernatorial candidate AdamPutnam to a GOP event at Mar-a-Lago.
“It’s despicable that Adam Putnam is so desperate to sell out to Donald Trump that he would hang out with a sexual predator accused of harassing children,” said FDP spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.
For right now, let’s put aside the issue of Foley’s history, Putnam’s friendship with him, and the vulnerability Putnam has because of his connection to disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. I know, I know … it’s difficult to look past that, but let’s do it just for the moment.
The question being asked this Saturday morning is who at Putnam campaign HQ thought it was a good idea in the first place to post the picture of Foley and Putnam?
“It’s like their social media people are trying to get fired,” remarked one top-level political strategist not affiliated with any of the GOP campaigns.
“Single greatest piece of political malpractice I’ve ever seen,” observed a Republican supporting DeSantis.
To call it the greatest piece of political malpractice is probably a stretch, but the point remains: why did the campaign post a picture of the candidate with a politician who was forced to resign from Congress because of a predatory sex scandal?
It would have been bad enough if some third-party actor, like another guest at Mar-a-Lago, had posted the picture of Foley and Putnam. But this is an unforced error.
What’s really troubling for the Putnam campaign is it’s the second major unforced error committed by Putnam JUST THIS WEEK.
On Tuesday, Putnam spoke with Fox 13’s CraigPatrick, in what was rightly described as a “cringe-worthy interview,” repeatedly dodged Patrick’s questions and refused to walk back his “NRA sellout” comments. He also announced that he would not have signed the new gun bill being challenged in court by the NRA.
That interview may endear him with Republican primary voters, but Putnam can also count on footage from it being used against him in October and November when he is trying to win the votes of swing voters.
But that’s six months away. Right now, Putnam needs to fire the social media wizard who posted that pic of him with one of Florida’s most infamous politicians.
The official portrait of Senate President Joe Negron was unveiled last week, but not without some observers asking: “What the heck is that in the background?”
As senators and his wife Rebecca applauded and cheered when the work was revealed, some curious onlookers in the chamber’s galleries were left guessing what the three images looming behind Negron were.
But then Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta explained.
Let’s start with the books in the bottom left corner. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott and “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Why those? Because those books were read to Negron and his brothers by his parents when they were growing up.
The blob on the top right corner? That’s Lake Okeechobee. And it is meant to represent his commitment to reducing harmful discharges into communities east and west of the lake. That includes his home community.
Last but not least, the two images standing by the Stuart Republican are meant to show his vision for the Florida state university system. The top image is Florida State University, which one of his sons attended, and the bottom is the University of Florida, where his daughter went.
So there you have it. Mystery solved.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Rick Scott signs budget, sans line-item vetoes—Gov. Scott signed his final state budget Friday, two days after the Legislature sent it to him to review. The $88.7 billion fiscal plan – the largest in state history – landed on Scott’s desk Wednesday, but the governor did not approve it all Friday. He vetoed $64 million worth of line items, the smallest being a $25,000 trust fund appropriation to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. for “affordable housing programs.” The budget approved by lawmakers included the $400 million school safety plan crafted after the Parkland mass shooting with $67 million for a controversial program that would arm school staff and train them for active shooter situations. No funding in that plan was chopped from the 2018-19 blueprint for state spending.
Scott tours the Sunshine State—Gov. Scott is touring the state of Florida and touting a tax cut package that was recently approved. The package includes $10.5 million in tax cuts to the 2018 property tax assessments that will benefit the hard-hit citrus industry after Hurricane Irma, an increase in corporate income tax credit that businesses wanted and a .1 percent tax reduction on the commercial rent sales tax.
Governor signs education bills—Before session concluded Sunday, Gov. Scott signed two big priorities of Senate President Joe Negron (Senate Bill 4) and House Speaker Richard Corcoran (House Bill 7055). The Legislature’s sweeping education bills will reform the K-12 and higher education systems in the state. This includes changes that will strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its accreditation and will decertify teachers’ unions that do not have 50 percent of their membership paying union dues.
CRC to consider assault weapon ban—A new effort to ban assault weapons is heading to the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to consider changes to the state constitution. If the proposal were to be adopted by the CRC panel and voted favorably by 60 percent of Florida voters, it would ban the sale or transfer of tactical semi-automatic rifles, something the Legislature could not do. If the amendment is rejected, the intent is to draft a new proposal for the November 2020 ballot.
Reverberations from Parkland—Exactly a month after the worst school mass shooting in the state took place, students across the country demanded action on gun control by walking out of class. The mass protest was held at 10 a.m. in each time zone and lasted 17 minutes, symbolizing the 17 students and teachers who were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. Organizers said the purpose of the protest was to highlight Congress’ inaction to prevent school mass shootings.
Adam Putnam priorities get Scott’s signature
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam thanked Gov. Scott for supporting his priorities in the state budget, which was signed into law Friday afternoon.
“I thank Governor Scott for continuing to cut taxes for Florida’s families and businesses and for supporting our budget priorities, including increasing pay for our first responders. The department’s first responders are the best of the best and keep Floridians and visitors safe when lives and property are on the line. They’ve earned this,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.
The budget includes a 7 percent pay bump for all law enforcement officers at the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or 10 percent if they’ve been in the job for at least a decade. It also includes a $2,500 pay raise for state firefighters, effective next year.
“With the Governor’s support, this budget also helps our department protect Florida from wildfire, promote Florida’s agricultural products, support our citrus industry, preserve our natural resources, and much more.”
The week in appointments
Ryan Estevez to the Florida State Boxing Commission —Estevez is a 44-year-old physician with Tampa Bay Neurobehavioral. He will succeed Wayne Kearney for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019.
His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
JoAnn Rooney to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board — Rooney, is a 60-year-old Palm Harbor resident and branch manager for NFM Lending, Inc.
Rooney will succeed Joshua Harris to serve a term ending Oct. 31, 2021. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Larry Metz to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court—Metz, is a state representative for District 25 and is currently in solo practice.
The 62-year-old is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Florida State University.
Metz will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge William G. Law.
Chad K. Alvaro to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court—Alvaro is board-certified in construction law and is a shareholder with Mateer & Harbert, P.A.
The 41-year-old received his bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and his law degree from Capital Law School. He will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Christi L. Underwood.
James “Lee” Marsh to the Second Judicial Circuit Court—Marsh currently serves as chief assistant attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General. He previously served as a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Navy.
He received his bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and his law degree from the University of Florida.
He will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Charles A. Francis.
Tarlika Nunez Navarro to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court—Navarro is a 35-year-old Fort Lauderdale attorney who serves as managing partner at Tarlika Nunez Navarro PLLC.
She previously served as an assistant state attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit. Navarro fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Alfred J. Horowitz.
Nursing homes on the up and up
The Agency for Health Care Administration said this week that quality of life for Florida nursing homes residents is improving.
National data shows that since 2011, nursing homes in the state have seen gains in a number of categories affecting residents lives.
“Our Agency’s top priority is providing the highest level of quality for patients in Florida. Florida nursing home residents today are less likely to fall, less likely to wander, less likely to suffer infections, less likely to exhibit unhealed pressure ulcers, and less likely to be chemically restrained than they were at the beginning of the decade,” AHCA Secretary Justin Senior said.
“Florida tends to do well compared to national averages on these measures as well. This achievement is the product of high standards, consistent regulation, and the hard work of dedicated nursing home employees in the state. It is also the product of swift enforcement action whenever a nursing facility fails to meet Florida’s high standards.”
James Madison Institute chimes in on Session results
The James Madison Institute was pleased to see some measures pass the Legislature this session that covered criminal justice reforms and eliminated free speech zones on public university campuses.
“The policy team at The James Madison Institute worked overtime in Tallahassee and beyond to inform state policymakers on efforts to advance limited government, free markets, and economic freedom,” said J. Robert McClure, the president and CEO of the James Madison Institute.
McClure said JMI was glad to see the Legislature expand school choice through the Hope Scholarship, reforming the state’s criminal justice system by passing a new data-collection system and expanding pre-arrest diversion programs.
“We thank Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and House Speaker Corcoran for their continued leadership and commitment to the Sunshine State’s future,” McClure added.
Dana Young gives measured defense of school safety package
Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young admits the school safety package passed by lawmakers isn’t perfect, but at least it’s something.
“My office received hundreds of emails and phone calls from constituents and concerned Floridians. Many think the school safety bill did not go far enough, while just as many believe that it went too far,” Young said in an email to her constituents. “However, the consensus across the State from constituents, families, parents, and students alike was simple: we must not let a tragedy like this happen again.”
Young said she thinks the bill, which has already been signed into law by Gov. Scott, “will make a significant difference in preventing the senseless violence that took place in Parkland from happening again.”
She pointed to $69 million in mental health funding, $400 million for school security, upping the age for gun purchases, the bump stock ban and the 3-day waiting period for all guns as positive things accomplished by the bi-partisan bill.
“Quite simply, without this legislation we would have done nothing to prevent the violence that occurred in Parkland from happening again,” Young said.
“Whether you believe the legislation went too far, or not far enough, I urge you to carefully consider all that would have been lost had we not acted decisively. We could not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
Randy Fine wants to mandate lagoon repairs in Brevard County
After the Brevard County government dumped 22 million gallons of raw sewage in a lagoon in a span of a little over a month, state Rep. Randy Fine worked to craft a consent order mandating reports to the Lagoon.
“These illegal releases are no longer uncommon, and in order to get the local politicians to take their responsibility to protect the Lagoon seriously, I asked the [Department of Environmental Protection to take the strongest possible action to compel them to do what is necessary and right,” Fine said in a statement.
The proposed Consent order would requires the county commission to complete three projects by the end of 2020. That includes a $1.9 million clay pipe rehabilitation project in seven collection basins in the South Beaches and completing smoke testing of sewage pipes in Satellite Beach.
Fine said he worked with the DEP for more than six month to craft the consent order. If the county commission votes to accept the order, the county will further have to report to the state on its progress and actions moving forward.
Appeals court strikes down gun convictions
A Sarasota man who was convicted of illegally carrying a concealed firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon got his convictions thrown out this week by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.
Lamarcus Slydell was charged and later convicted of the crimes after police approached and searched him based on a tip they had received from a confidential informant.
Slydell’s legal team argued that the tip alone shouldn’t have been enough to stop him, and the court agreed.
“No matter how reliable the confidential informant or how detailed the description of Slydell and the guns, the tip did not allege any criminal activity, and in particular it did not reveal Slydell’s status as a felon nor did it say whether he had a concealed weapons permit,” the ruling said.
St. Pete CRC hearing draws 1,200
More than 1,200 Floridians showed up at the USF St. Petersburg campus this week for a public hearing held by the Constitution Revision Commission.
The Tampa Bay area stop marked the sixth and final hearing slated for the CRC’s 2018 “Road to the Ballot” tour. Past stops on the 2018 tour included Cape Coral, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Melbourne and Fort Lauderdale.
The CRC said 430 attendees filled out speaker cards to give commissioners their opinion on some of the proposals being considered for the 2018 ballot. Everyone who filled out a card had the chance to speak, and it took more than 10 hours to make it through the list.
A long list of faith leaders signed on to a letter this week urging the Florida Constitution Revision commission to drop proposals they say would cripple religious freedom in the Sunshine State.
At issue are a proposal that would allow state money to be used to fund religion, and another that would allow public money to be funneled to private and religious schools.
“As leaders in our faith communities in the State of Florida, we believe taxpayer dollars should never be used to support private religious organizations or schools—not even our own. Therefore, we urge the members of the Constitution Revision Commission to reject Proposals 4 and 45, which would allow public funds to benefit certain faith communities over others,” the clergy group said in the letter.
“Together, these two proposals would strip away fundamental and longstanding religious freedom protections and threaten the integrity and autonomy of our houses of worship and religious schools.”
The CRC is meeting Monday to begin deliberating all of the proposals it is still considering for the 2018 ballot.
Florida Dental Association does $1.9M of pro bono work
The Florida Dental Association Foundation hosted its fourth “Florida Mission of Mercy” event on last week at the Lee County Civic Center, and provided more than 1,900 Floridians with free dental care valued at over $1.7 million.
“We are honored to have the opportunity to serve Floridians who may have otherwise had to seek temporary care at hospital emergency departments,” said Bob Payne, DDS and president of the FDA Foundation. “The Florida Mission of Mercy brings together over 1,500 dentists, dental professionals and other volunteers from across the state to help relieve pain and restore smiles, while promoting oral health awareness and education.”
FLA-MOM is a two-day event aimed at treating patients who lack access to dental care. Past iterations have been held in Tampa, Jacksonville and Pensacola.
In all, 6,200 patients have been served since FLA-MOM got its start in 2014.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to have good oral health,” said Michael Eggnatz, DDS and president of the Florida Dental Association. “We need to collaborate and work for solutions to leverage Florida’s robust dental workforce to provide oral health education, prevention and comprehensive care to Florida’s underserved and rural communities.”
Hurricane heroes honored
The Florida Municipal Electric Association handed out awards last weekend to each of its member utilities in honor of their work helping Floridians – as well Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders – get their power back on during the 2017 hurricane season.
“This past season’s Hurricane Irma was a powerful and massive Category 4 hurricane when it made landfall in the Keys. The second strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, Irma was wider than the Florida peninsula leaving few parts of the Sunshine State spared,” said FMEA President Chip Merriam.
The public utility group said 827,000 of its member utilities’ customers lost power in the wake of Irma, and their crews were able to pull together to get the lights back on to more than half of them within 48 hours, and to 98 percent within a week.
“We are incredibly grateful to all of the out-of-state and even out-of-country utility crews who came to our aid after Hurricane Irma. We’re also incredibly proud of our members who sent their crews to other communities in Florida to help out the areas most affected by Irma, as well as the linemen who left Florida to help our neighbors in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, many of whom left their families and homes during Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Amy Zubaly, FMEA Executive Director.
Florida history gets 3D treatment
Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced this week the launch of a new online museum exhibit showcasing Florida archaeology, history and innovation in 3D.
“‘Florida History in 3D’ allows worldwide access to some of the most significant and interesting artifacts in Florida’s Archaeology collection. Using state of the art three-dimensional photogrammetry techniques, users can discover and examine artifacts from their computers or mobile devices normally only seen in museums,” Detzner said.
“The artifacts in the State of Florida’s archaeological collection belong to the citizens of our state. FloridaHistoryin3D.com allows us to share these unique, historical artifacts and their stories to students, educators, the public and interested individuals around the world.”
The site launch is part of the “Florida Archaeology Month” and “March of Museums” events, and the first set of museum collection to get digitized in three dimensions were artifacts from the Spanish Plate Fleets lost off the coast of Florida in 1715 and 1733.
Artifacts from the “Plate Fleets,” so named for the plata (silver) coins they carried, are presented within three themes: arms and armor, daily life, and trade.
Gators and Noles compete on education scholarships
The education colleges at the University of Florida and Florida State University have schemed up a new way for the two flagships to compete – scholarships.
“The Duel of the Schools” competition will pit the two rivals in a two-week competition starting Monday to see which can get wrangle the most alumni support for student scholarships at their education colleges.
For the past two years, FSU’s College of Education has awarded more scholarships than any other college at FSU and more than any other public College of Education in Florida. FSU said it aims to keep that momentum going.
“When our students graduate, we want them to be able to focus on their careers, not worrying about how they will pay back student loans,” said Kevin Derryberry, assistant dean for development at FSU’s College of Education.
“Nationwide, we see declining enrollment in education programs, low teacher pay and young people who leave the field after only a few years. In response, Florida State’s education alumni and friends have taken action and created the most robust education scholarship program in Florida.”
Those looking to chip in toward either school’s fund – or both funds – can drop by dueloftheschools.com.
Cascades Park, FIU bridges designed by same company
After a Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapsed, the Tallahassee-based company that designed it—and the local Cascades Park bridge—said it was “stunned,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why,” officials with Figg Bridge Engineers said in a statement.
“In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before,” they added. “Our entire team mourns the loss of life and injuries associated with this devastating tragedy, and our prayers go out to all involved.”
The span of the $14.2 million pedestrian bridge, still under construction, was installed at the Miami university Saturday morning.
FIU officials said the bridge was uniquely constructed along the side of the road using so-called Accelerated Bridge Construction methods. It was mounted atop the eight-late road during a six-hour operation on Saturday. It collapsed Thursday afternoon.
City seeks input on Urban Tree Forest plan
The city of Tallahassee is gathering citizen input as it develops its Urban Forest Master Plan, which will establish an action plan to ensure there is proper tree managements citywide.
“There are many elements to consider when looking at the overall vitality of a community’s trees from species diversity to human impact and so much more,” said Mindy Mohrman, the city’s urban forester.
Tallahassee is covered with iconic canopy, which has grown significantly over the years. The plan is to make sure the urban forest is healthy and properly managed for future generations by including efforts to preserve, plant, remove and maintain trees.
To gather input, the city will hold two public meetings later this month. The first will be March 27 at Jack McLean Community Center from 6-8pm and the second will be on March 28 at the Frenchtown Renaissance Center from 6-8pm. Citizens can also complete a online survey until mid-April available at Talgov.com/TallyTrees.
Long-time Tallahassee airport employee honored
Tallahassee city officials and staff at the Tallahassee International Airport on Friday hosted a ceremony in honor of longtime airport employee Ervin “Mr. J” Johnson.
Johnson, who will soon celebrate his 80th birthday, has worked as a skycap at the airport since 1991. Johnson is described by colleagues as someone who has an “infectious smile, friendly demeanor, incredible work ethic and outstanding customer service.”
Despite recent health scares, Johnson has continued to work and remain engaged in his career. In honor of his years of dedication, the city will proclaim March 17, which is his birthday, as “Ervin Johnson Day” in Tallahassee.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions: