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Last Call for 6.12.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

At least three lawmakers from Florida have confirmed their attendance at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States’ (NCLGS) summer meeting next month in Cleveland.

Sen. Perry Thurston Jr., a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Reps. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat, and Halsey Beshears, a Monticello Republican, have said they will be there, organizers said.

Thurston currently sits on the Regulated Industries Committee, which handles gambling issues. Geller is Democratic Ranking Member of the House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee. That’s under the chamber’s Commerce Committee, of which Beshears is a member.

So far not attending is incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, immediate past president of the NCLGS, and the Legislature’s point man on gaming.

In an email this week, the NCLGS said “nearly three dozen legislators from a record 20 states are confirmed to attend” the conference, July 13-15 at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown.

The meeting agenda includes six legislative sessions on “Casinos, Emerging Forms of Gaming, Lotteries, Pari-Mutuels, Responsible Gaming, and State-Federal Relations;” two “master classes” presented by the International Masters of Gaming Law, and a special general session panel “examining the economic impacts of gaming.”

The NCLGS (pronounced “nickel jeez” by those in the know) is organized by Spectrum Gaming Group, the New Jersey-based consulting firm hired by the Florida Legislature in 2013 to review and analyze the state’s gambling landscape.

Evening Reads

The Donald Trump-Marco Rubio politics of hypocrisy: Cuba, no deal. North Korea? ‘Has great beaches.’” via Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson introduce Pulse remembrance resolution in U.S. Senate” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Two years after Pulse shooting, Sen. Bill Nelson calls on Congress to take up bipartisan bills” via Sascha Cordner of WFSU

Rick Scott ad spending hits $17 million” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida universities should charge ‘Chapel Hill’ prices for out-of-state students, Adam Putnam says” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Why does Florida’s agriculture department handle concealed gun permits? The NRA wants it to.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

Nikki Fried tries to parlay pot into Cabinet position” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

Mike Miller attending Miami fundraiser instead of Pulse ceremony in his district” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

In marking Pulse massacre anniversary, some politicians downplay LGBT community” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel

USDA predictions end 30 million boxes short of pre-Irma orange forecasts” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“It’s such a beautiful thing to know that your loved ones will never be forgotten, not here in Orlando, not in Florida, not in the United States, not just in Puerto Rico, everywhere, all over the world.” — Robin Maynard-Harris of the onePulse Foundation, in remembrance of the 49 people murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando two years ago.

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Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Bar will kickoff a three-day convention in which West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be sworn in as the group’s president and Vero Beach attorney John Stewart will become the president-elect. That’s at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando.

The Florida Chamber Foundation will continue its annual “Learners to Earners Workforce Summit.” That’s at 8:30 a.m., Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa.

Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet will meet and discuss numerous issues, including a proposal by Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for lobbyist-disclosure requirements at Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Also, Florida public power lineworkers will be recognized for their service and performance in state and national competitions that showcase their skills and craft. A resolution honoring them will be presented by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. That’s at 9 a.m., Cabinet meeting room, the Capitol.

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

The Board of Directors of the Florida Citrus Research and Development Foundation will meet following a meeting of its Box Tax Advisory Committee to discuss the assessment rate for the 2018-2019 growing season. That’s at 9:30 a.m. Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort, 5001 Coconut Road, Bonita Springs.

The Claims Committee of the Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors will hold a conference call. It will receive updates on litigated claims and the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund. That’s at 10 a.m. Call-in number: 1-866-361-7525. Code: 5219676193.

Ryan Torrens, a Hillsborough County Democrat running for Attorney General, is slated to speak to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., City Fish Market, 7940 Glades Road, Boca Raton.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, is expected to discuss the 2018 legislative session during a meeting of the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce. That’s at noon, La Cita Golf & Country Club, 777 Country Club Dr., Titusville.

Conservative columnist and author Jonah Goldberg will speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida. That’s at noon, Country Club of Orlando, 1601 Country Club Dr., Orlando.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, and Rep. Cord Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican, will present a $2 million state check to the Nassau County Ocean Highway and Port Authority for improvements to the Port of Fernandina Beach. That’s at 6 p.m., Nassau County Commission chamber, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will hold a meeting to take public comments about draft permits for the city of Clearwater to construct injection wells. That’s at 6 p.m., Clearwater Main Library, 100 North Osceola Ave., Clearwater.

Mike McCalister, a Republican candidate for state agriculture commissioner, is slated to speak to the St. Petersburg Republican Club. That’s at 7 p.m., St. Petersburg Community Church, 4501 30th Ave. North, St. Petersburg.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.12.18

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

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

Today and tomorrow, the Florida Chamber Foundation holds its annual “Learners to Earners Workforce Summit.”

The event asks the question: “Is Florida’s workforce ready?

“Talent is Florida’s best economic development tool,” an event description reads. “But how can businesses ensure Florida’s workforce is ready to meet a future need?”

“Join business leaders, industry experts, elected officials and community leaders for the 2018 Learners to Earners Workforce Summit, where you’ll be able to hear from and network with industry leaders looking for talent and those tasked with ensuring Florida’s students are ready for the future of work.”

It’s not surprising that one speaker expected during the two-day event is Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Others include Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega and university system Chancellor Marshall Criser.

Tony Carvajal, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber Foundation, also will share results from the “Florida 2030 Research Initiative: What We Found, What It Means, and What’s We Must Do Now.”

It all begins at 9 a.m. at Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa.

For more information, email Kat Bustamante here.


2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 2; Father’s Day — 5; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 10; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 16; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 26; MLB All-Star Game — 35; Deadline for filing claim bills — 50; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 50; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 51; Start of the U.S. Open — 76; Primary Election Day — 77; College Football opening weekend — 79; NFL season starts — 87; Future of Florida Forum — 106; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 133; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 134; General Election Day — 147; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 247; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 266.


’Disturbing’ state didn’t review concealed carry background checks, Rick Scott says” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott said it was “disturbing” and “concerning” that the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued concealed weapons permits to hundreds of ineligible people. “I expect everybody to be held accountable,” Scott said. … Scott said he still had not seen the results of that investigation. “People need to do their job. It’s as simple as that,” Scott said. “This is public safety.”

Senate Democrats call for investigation into state concealed weapons permit program” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — State Senators Linda Stewart of Orlando and Kevin Rader of Delray Beach said they also want to know why Putnam did not notify the public when he first learned about it a year ago. “The recent acknowledgment by the Department of Agriculture that it had wrongly issued hundreds of concealed weapons permits to non-eligible individuals over a period of approximately one year, and subsequently failed to promptly disclose that failure for at least one year after, has deeply shaken our trust in the agency’s ability to safeguard the people of Florida,” Stewart and Rader wrote in a letter to Senate President Joe Negron. “As more details have emerged since news broke of the scandal late Friday, questions have mounted as to the degree of knowledge within the agency, namely who knew what, and when?” Stewart and Rader also raised questions about whether the security breach in agriculture department was at all related to a push by Putnam to automatically approve any concealed weapons permit if no disqualifying information on the candidate was received in 90 days.


55 sheriffs from across Florida endorse Rick Scott for U.S. Senate” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri kicked off the endorsement at Federal Eastern International, a law enforcement supply store. Gualtieri pointed to what he said was a swift and effective response to the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as an example of Scott’s leadership. “He leads from the front … and that’s what we need in our next United States senator,” said Gualtieri, whom Scott appointed to lead a public safety commission tasked with reviewing all aspects of the shooting. “(We need) somebody that’s going to go to Washington, that’s going to break the mold, that’s not going to maintain the status quo.” About a half dozen other sheriffs joined the event, including Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis. Scott put the total endorsement at 55 sheriffs across the state. Locally, the endorsement will likely come as unwelcome news to at least some Democrats who are supporting Chronister in his race for Hillsborough sheriff.

Florida sheriffs endorse Rick Scott for U.S. Senate.

Democratic super PAC reserves airtime for Bill Nelson” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nelson will get a “seven-figure” advertising boost from Senate Majority PAC, which announced it had reserved $80 million in airtime in Florida and eight other states. “Our record fundraising this cycle has allowed us to both be on-air in several states now and increase our strategic investments,” said J.B. Poersch, president of Senate Majority PAC. “We are implementing an aggressive media strategy to combat the Republicans’ baseless, partisan attacks and promote our candidates that are fighting for higher wages and lower health care premiums.” … The super PAC in May spent $2.2 million for a bio ad about Nelson, and that was followed by a $600,000 digital campaign in partnership with Priorities USA Action.


Poll: Adam Putnam beating Ron DeSantis in Governor’s race” via Florida Politics — Republican primary election polling conducted at the end of a tough week of media reports shows Putnam leading DeSantis, according to the latest Florida Chamber of Commerce statewide poll. Putnam bested DeSantis 32 to 15 in the poll, which interviewed 501 likely Republican voters by phone. It was conducted June 7-9, and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 5.3 percent. Key findings show Putnam winning all major media markets except the Miami media market; winning among all age groups statewide, and winning among men (17 percent) and women (18 percent) who have decided on the candidate for whom they’ll vote.

DeSantis overplays link between the opioid crisis and southern border” via Allison Graves of the Tampa Bay Times — The statement: “The bulk of the problem with the opioid epidemic is the fentanyl and all the synthetic drugs coming across the southern border.” The ruling: This claim downplays the fact that synthetic drugs are smuggled into the country from locations outside of the southern border, especially from China. However, exact numbers to sort out how much comes from where were unavailable. Trump’s own commission seemed more concerned with China than Mexico when it comes to synthetic drugs. We rate the statement Half True.

New Putnam immigration ad features Grady Judd — Florida Grown PC, the committee supporting Putnam’s bid for Governor, released a new 30-second TV spot featuring Polk County Sheriff Judd, highlighting illegal immigration and his commitment to enforcing the law. “I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to keeping Florida families safe, and I know Adam Putnam has our back. Adam believes we have a responsibility to keep our borders, cities, and neighborhoods safe and secure,” Judd says in the spot, which will appear on cable and broadcast statewide. To view the ad, click on the image below:

Florida Democratic Governor candidates debate guns, minimum wage, sea level rise” via Teresa Frontado and Alejandra Martinez of WLRN — Democratic candidates for Florida Governor may have differences on some issues, but in Miramar, they all agreed that the state should increase salaries for teachers, take more action on sea-level rise, support Puerto Ricans moving to the state and push for the immediate resignation of Agricultural Commissioner Putnam for his office’s failure to complete background checks for concealed gun permits. The so-called Florida Freedom Forum debate was co-moderated by WLRN’s All Things Considered and Sundial host Luis Hernandez and PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor. You can watch the full debate here.

Graham raises more than $1M in May” via Florida Politics — The Graham team said it added more than $300,000 in contributions for the campaign and tacked on another $730,000-plus via Gwen Graham for Florida, an affiliated political committee. The seven-figure haul, her second in a row, brings the North Florida Democrat’s total fundraising to nearly $8.5 million. The campaign said it started June with more than $5.5 million of that cash in the bank. “This announcement is the icing on the cake of an extraordinary week for our campaign. We are on the air sharing our positive, progressive message, we gained national attention in Glamour magazine, we earned endorsements from Congressman Patrick Murphy and the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest union — and now we’re announcing another $1 million raised,” campaign manager Julia Woodward said.

Assignment editors — Graham will kick off a statewide public education tour beginning with a roundtable of public school advocates, educators and students, 2 p.m., United Way Tampa office, 5210 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 600, Tampa.

Jimmy Patronis continues piling up cash” via the News Service of Florida — Chief Financial Officer Patronis raised nearly $500,000 last month for his campaign and political committee, as he continued building a fundraising lead over Democratic challenger Jeremy Ring. Patronis’ monthly haul was bolstered by $76,000 from the health care industry and $20,000 from two of the state’s major energy providers, TECO Energy and Florida Power & Light … The incoming cash also included $25,000 from the Coral Gables-based political action committee Diversity … the Key to the American Dream, which was established by Mike Fernandez, a major Republican donor and founder of MBF Healthcare Partners. Patronis also received $10,000 from the Florida Prosperity Fund, an arm of Associated Industries of Florida that has given Patronis a total of $115,000, and $15,000 from the Florida Jobs PAC, a political wing of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has put $105,000 into the campaign. Patronis’ $463,251 in May contributions were broken into $217,601 raised for his campaign account and $245,650 for his political committee Treasure Florida.

Poll: Attorney General GOP primary anyone’s race at this time” via Florida Politics — One thing is clear at this point in the race for Florida’s next Attorney General: While former Circuit Judge Ashley Moody is enjoying a slight lead — within the margin of error — the GOP primary is anyone’s race. In a new St. Pete Polls survey, just ahead of when candidate qualifying begins, voters remain overwhelmingly unsure in this race. When asked which candidate they would vote for, 61.1 percent are undecided, 14.9 percent would vote for Moody, 13.7 percent for state Rep. Frank White and 10.2 percent for state Rep. Jay Fant. And concerning polling with a margin of error of 3 percent, this means that before candidates begin spending money on paid advertising, Moody and White are tied, and Fant lurks just below them. White currently has a large cash advantage over Moody, but that is boosted by $2.75 million of his own money, beginning with a million-dollar television ad buy last week. He says it will continue through Election Day. Moody has establishment support as well as an enviable list of endorsements (including AG Pam Bondi‘s), but she needs just a little more traction with primary voters, at least according to polling. As for Fant, his less-than-stellar showing in the poll coupled with significantly fewer resources than either White or Moody may only serve to stoke the ever-present rumors that he may not even make it to qualifying and could pursue a graceful exit.

Moody wins latest round with $450K month — In the latest monthly campaign finance report, Moody brought in $449,073 between her official campaign and the Friends of Ashley Moody political committee. In comparison, Fant raised $1,640 in May ($1,640 from the campaign and nothing from his political committee), while White (raised $97,074.77, not counting the $1.25 million personal contributions May 29 — $66,074.77 from the campaign and $31,000 from his political committee).

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Moody ‘special announcement’ with Polk County Sheriff — Moody will hold a news conference for a “special announcement” with Polk County Sheriff Judd starting 8:30 a.m., Polk County History Center/1926 Courtroom, 100 E. Main St., Bartow.

Water policy key for next Agriculture Commissioner” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Maintaining Florida’s water supply, while balancing the growing needs of residents, farmers, tourists and businesses, is a priority for the candidates seeking to replace Florida Agriculture Commissioner Putnam. The issue involves helping preserve diverse ecosystems, such as the Everglades and natural springs, without scuttling the economy. Republican candidate Matt Caldwell pointed to a need for a partnership between water management districts and local governments “to construct and operate regional water supply facilities, including reservoirs, desalination and reuse facilities.” Another GOP candidate, state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, echoes many other Florida Republicans in favoring the state, rather than the federal government, determining water-resource allocations. Republican candidate Baxter Troutman, a former state House member from Winter Haven, talked of a need to balance water usage and conservation, from “incorporating water usage when planning for future development” to using “reclaimed water for residential irrigation.” Mike McCalister expressed a need to get government agencies involved with water policy linked in the same system. Both he and fellow Democratic candidate David Walker, a biological scientist from Fort Lauderdale, talked of a need for more conservation, with the emphasis on educating Floridians.

Happening today — McCalister is slated to speak during an event held by Trump Team 2020 Florida, 5:30 p.m., Abacoa Golf Club, 105 Barbados Dr., Jupiter.

Alan Grayson launches new TV ad in CD 9 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new 30-second spot starts with a quick visit to Grayson’s roots, as he talks about “growing up in the tenements in the Bronx, surrounded by people who are different from me, and each other.” … “I’m proud to be one of the leading champions for equality of all kinds: social, political, economic and personal. This ad explains why,” Grayson said in a statement released by his campaign. The ad is Grayson’s second TV commercial, following “Progressive Warrior,” which kicked off his campaign last month. To view the ad, click the image below:

Former Polk County Sheriff endorses Neil Combee in CD 15 — Former Polk County Sheriff Lawrence Crow announced his endorsement of Combee of Florida’s 15th Congressional District. “I’ve known and worked with the Combee family for decades having served with Neil’s father in the Lakeland Police force. I can say without a doubt, Neil Combee has the honesty and integrity to represent the values of the hardworking people of this Congressional district. As a former Sheriff, I trust Neil Combee to uphold the Constitution, respect our sworn law enforcement officers and keep the United States a place where the rule of law matters.”

Progressive PAC to spend $350,000 to take on Carlos Curbelo” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Progressive Turnout Project (PTP), a liberal political action committee, is announcing it will spend $350,000 on voter turnout to oust U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo from his congressional seat in November. “When voter turnout is high, Democrats win elections,” said the group’s executive director, Alex Morgan. “Our team will be pounding the pavement every day between now and November 6 to replace Carlos Curbelo.” Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which Curbelo represents, is seen as a pickup opportunity for Democrats in 2018. Curbelo won re-election in 2016 by a comfortable margin of nearly 12 percentage points. But with polling showing the national atmosphere tilting toward Democrats, the Cook Political Report has rated Curbelo’s seat as a toss-up. That has motivated groups such as PTP to flood the race in an effort to turn the seat blue.

Happening today:

Happening today:

—“Jason Brodeur endorses David Smith as HD 28 successor” via Florida Politics

—“North Brevard Republicans favor Rene Plasencia in HD 50” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

—“Florida Hispanic Chamber endorses Rob Panepinto for Orange County mayor” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics


Jeff Brandes adds $187K for re-election, Carrie Pilon sputters” via Florida Politics — Brandes recorded another six-figure haul in his Senate District 24 re-election bid, while Democratic challenger Pilon saw a massive drop-off in fundraising in only her second month on the trail. The Brandes campaign celebrated raising nearly $187,000 in May, the third month in a row recording a six-figure haul. The Pilon campaign stayed quiet about their comparatively meager haul, a stark change from a month ago when the first-time candidate and her team were loud and proud about their slim April fundraising win. The trial lawyer indeed outraised Brandes by a few thousand dollars in her inaugurals, but her May reports measure in at a quarter the size of her April ones — $26,680 for her campaign and zilch for her committee, Moving Pinellas Forward. That brings Pilon to about $131,000 raised and $124,000 on hand 60 days into her campaign.

Jeff Brandes hits the fundraising trail running, while Carrie Pilon stumbles. 

Belinda Kaiser puts $500,000 into Senate campaign” via the News Service of Florida — Trying to capture a Treasure Coast legislative seat being vacated by Senate President Joe Negron, college executive Keiser loaned $500,000 to her campaign last month … Keiser, a Republican who is vice chancellor of Keiser University, entered the Senate District 25 race in early May after Negron announced he would vacate the seat in November when he leaves the presidency. Negron could have served in the Senate until 2020. In addition to loaning $500,000 to her campaign, Keiser also raised $54,390 from May 7 to May 31 … Keiser is expected to face Rep. Gayle Harrell in an August primary in the Senate District, which includes Martin, St. Lucie and part of Palm Beach counties.

May biggest fundraising month yet for Gary Farmer” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Democrat Gary Farmer just had his best fundraising month yet, earning more than $34,000 in contributions during May. That’s according to the latest information filed with the Florida Division of Elections. Those impressive totals leave Farmer with more than $65,000 cash on hand. The incumbent senator representing Senate District 34 is running unopposed in his re-election bid. The majority of donations to Farmer came from various law firms and attorneys throughout the state. Farmer, a longtime attorney himself, recently took a position at heavyweight law firm Morgan & Morgan.

Jason Pizzo now with more than $100,000 cash on hand in SD 38 race” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Jason Pizzo continues to power his primary challenge to state Sen. Daphne Campbell, as he now sits on more than $103,000 cash on hand. That’s according to new fundraising information filed with Florida’s Division of Elections. Pizzo, a former prosecutor, added more than $40,000 in May alone, though $25,000 of that came from a loan by Pizzo to his campaign. As highlighted last week by Florida Politics, Campbell is working hard to fight off Pizzo’s primary challenge. Campbell spent more money than she raised in May, taking in less than $13,000 while spending just over $15,000. That leaves her with under $30,000 available.

Jason Pizzo
Jason Pizzo breaks $100K in on hand cash for SD 38 race.

Ryan Petty pulling in big money in bid for Broward County School Board” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — It was a given that Ryan Petty, who lost his daughter in February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, would earn emotional support from the community after declaring his intention to run for Broward County School Board. Now, it appears Petty is earning financial support as well. Documents filed with the Broward Supervisor of Elections show Petty has raised more than $44,000 in May. And those donations have come in just about half a month, as Petty only declared his candidacy for the At-Large Seat 8 on May 15. Those are huge numbers for a school board race. To put them in perspective, no other school board candidate raised more than $35,000 all cycle. Petty’s opponents, incumbent school board member Donna Korn and challenger Elijah Manley, have raised around $10,000 and $15,000, respectively.

—“Clay Yarborough expands cash lead over Democratic challenger in HD 12” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

—“Anna Eskamani has more than $200K banked for HD 47 bid” via Florida Politics

—“Bob Rommel maintains fundraising lead over Democratic challenger” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“ Matt Spritz ends May with more than $150,000 cash on hand” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Kubs Lalchandani keeps up money lead over HD 113 opponents” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

—“Jerry Demings raises another $80K in mayor’s race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics


Spotted: Florida mayors in Quorum Analytics’ report, “Most Vocal Mayors on Issues Facing Cities in 2018” — The report “analyzes mentions of key issues facing cities by mayors on social media between the 2017 and 2018 US Conference of Mayors Annual Meetings (6/26/17-6/7/18). The analysis includes mayors for cities and counties of greater than 10,000 residents — a total of 3,395 mayors.” Tallahassee Mayor (and Democratic candidate for governor) Andrew Gillum was the fifth most vocal mayor on climate issues, with 54 mentions. Gillum was No. 1 on guns, with 176 public statements. He was third on guns, at 61 statements. Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters was No. 1 on “number of statements mentioning @realDonaldTrump or @POTUS,” with 416 comments. Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay was ninth in that category, at 21. Gillum was 10th most vocal mayor on the opioid epidemic, with 17 statements, second on health care with 194 statements, and third on education with 109 public comments. On Congress, Waters and Gillum were No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, with 39 and 38 statements each.

Seminole’s Leslie Waters is among the most vocal Florida mayors on Donald Trump.

Flags at half-staff for Pulse shooting victims” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott proclaimed Tuesday as “Pulse Remembrance Day” in recognition of the 49 people killed in the 2016 gay nightclub shooting. Scott “is asking all Florida residents to pause for a moment of silence at 9 a.m. and is directing all state flags in Florida to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset,” the Governor’s Office said in a news release. “I remain committed to making sure our state never forgets these brave 49 individuals, that we continue to express our profound sympathy to the families who lost loved ones during this tragic event, and always remember that Florida is resilient and will endure during times of great tragedy,” Scott said in a statement.

Florida cracks down on potential voter fraud” via Jillian Idle of WPTV — If you’re a registered voter in Florida your information will soon be entered in a national, universal system to make sure you are not double voting or registered in multiple states. The new statewide change doesn’t take effect until January 2019 but comes at a time other states like Ohio are wanting to purge its inactive voter lists. Florida is one of 24 states who have joined Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) in an effort to reduce the potential for voter fraud. The program will also have an impact on inactive voting lists in Florida … it cost the state $25,000 to enroll in ERIC. The state will have to continue paying annual dues based on numerous factors including our population … the initial price is far less than what it currently costs our state to send notifications by mail.

Julie Brown, Gary Clark seek another term on PSC” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Brown and Clark were among 11 people who had submitted applications for the $132,036-a-year positions on the five-member commission, which regulates utilities such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co. The nominating council, chaired by Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland, is expected to come up with a list of “most qualified” applicants on June 26 in Orlando. Brown and Clark currently hold the seats, but their terms expire Jan. 1. Scott will make appointments to four-year terms. Brown, an attorney from Tampa, has served on the Public Service Commission since January 2011. Scott reappointed her in 2014. Clark was appointed to his seat in September to complete the term of Jimmy Patronis, who was named by Scott to serve as Florida chief financial officer. Clark, previously a deputy secretary at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in his application called the Public Service Commission appointment “the pinnacle of my career.”

Growth pushes Florida Retirement System above $163 billion in assets” via Michael Moline, Florida Politics — The State Retirement System earned a clean bill of health during its regular checkup Monday by overseers on the Florida Investment Advisory Council. Assets have grown by 10.5 percent since the start of the fiscal year, reaching a balance of $163.3 billion — $9.8 billion ahead of last year. The state distributes benefits worth between $600 million and $800 million per month, said Ash Williams, executive director and chief investment officer for the State Board of Administration. That panel, comprising the governor, attorney general, and chief financial officer, oversees the council. Furthermore, the council is managing as much as 44 percent of its assets in-house, the result of a decade’s efforts to contain management costs, Williams said. “The pension plan in the state of Florida is in pretty good shape, being well managed,” said Gary Wendt, the former chief executive of G.E. Capital, who formally became the council’s chairman during the meeting in Tallahassee.

Judge in hotel stays case to get another look” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court has rejected proposed penalties for a Miami-Dade County judge who faces discipline after an investigation into free hotel stays in Miami Beach, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The Supreme Court, which in recent years has taken an increasingly tough stance on judicial misconduct, sent the case of Judge Maria Ortiz back to the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, which oversees investigations. The Supreme Court unanimously ordered the commission to hold a full hearing and to “fully develop the facts regarding any misconduct that occurred, so that the (Supreme) Court, in determining the appropriate discipline, will be apprised of all the facts and circumstances bearing on the alleged violations.” The commission recommended last month that Ortiz pay a $5,000 fine and receive a public reprimand from the Supreme Court for failing to properly disclose the 2015 and 2016 hotel stays. That recommendation, which the Supreme Court rejected in its order, came after Ortiz admitted she had not properly reported the information on financial-disclosure forms.

Leon legislative delegation gets A, B and Cs from business lobbying group” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — A pro-business lobbying group is out with its annual ranking of Florida lawmakers’ performance during the 2018 legislative session. When combined with an earlier rating by a teachers union, Leon’s statehouse delegation is somewhere in the middle — they’re mostly open to proposals from both business and labor. Sen. Bill Montford, a former high school principal, appears to have balanced the competing sides, with a B from Associated Industries of Florida to follow his C+ from a teacher’s union. “My votes reflect what I think my constituents want and what is best for my constituents and if that puts me right down the middle, then that’s where I should be,” said Montford. AIF, which bills itself as the “voice of Florida Business,” gave Rep. Halsey Beshears of Monticello, an A, the highest score among the four who represent Tallahassee at the statehouse.

Happening today — State Sen. Aaron Bean will attend the JAXUSA Partnership luncheon, noon, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 East Coastline Dr., Jacksonville.

Happening today — CareerSource Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, homebuilders and Uber will hold joint job fairs throughout the state for careers in the manufacturing and construction industries, 10 a.m., CareerSource Palm Beach County, 3400 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach; 10 a.m., Rockledge Career Center, 295 Barnes Blvd., Rockledge; 10 a.m., Manatee Technical College, 6305 State Road 70 East, Bradenton; 11 a.m., Crestview Public Library, 1445 Commerce Dr., Crestview.


Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un shake hands to open momentous summit” via Zeke Miller, Catherine Lucey, Josh Lederman and Foster Klug of The Associated Press — Before a row of alternating U.S. and North Korean flags, the leaders shook hands warmly at a Singapore island resort, creating an indelible image of two unorthodox leaders as they opened a conversation that could determine historic peace or raise the specter of a growing nuclear threat. Trump and Kim planned to meet one on one for most of an hour — joined only by interpreters. Then aides to each were to join for more discussions and a working lunch. But even before they met, Trump announced plans to leave early, raising questions about whether his aspirations for an ambitious outcome had been scaled back. Up early in Singapore, Trump tweeted with cautious optimism: “Meetings between staffs and representatives are going well and quickly … but in the end, that doesn’t matter. We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!”

Donald Trump meets Kim Jong Un in Singapore. (Image via AP)

Vern Buchanan ranked among most effective, bipartisan — The Center for Effective Lawmaking, run by the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, reviewed the record of 443 congressmen from both parties, ranking Buchanan No. 53 in effectiveness based on his legislative accomplishments in the 114th Congress. That puts Buchanan in the top 12 percent. Some accomplishments cited include Buchanan’s legislation creating a national ID card for veterans, his bill providing tax relief to Florida’s citrus farmers and his bill saving Medicare Advantage plans for seniors. The Lugar Center, run by the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University and former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, reported that Buchanan was the No. 67 most bipartisan member of the House in 2017, putting him in the top 15 percent. “Nothing is impossible when you work together,” Buchanan said. “People are tired of partisan gridlock — they want action and solutions to the challenges facing our country.”

Vern Buchanan is one of the top bipartisan members of Congress.

Supreme Court upholds Ohio voter purge. Here’s how Florida does it.” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s aggressive system of removing voters from the rolls if they do not vote in two consecutive presidential elections and in that time fail to respond to a written notice. All states are required to periodically comb the voter rolls for people who may have moved to another state — a process known as list maintenance. That work cannot be done less than 90 days before a federal election. Florida tried that in 2012 and a federal court struck down the purge as illegal. In Florida, voters are moved from active to inactive status if they do not vote in two consecutive general elections and if they don’t return a postage prepaid confirmation notice. Once inactive, a voter can still vote, simply by showing up on Election Day or requesting a mail ballot. After a Florida voter is placed on inactive status, he or she can be removed, or moved to ineligible status, after not updating their record, asking for a mail ballot or not voting in two general elections after being declared inactive.



Joe Henderson: Being front-runner now just makes Philip Levine top target” via Florida Politics — Democrat Levine, who is leading polls mostly (I believe) because he has been the only candidate from his party to put a lot of ads on TV, might want to go easy on the whole “I’m the front-runner” idea. Ask Adam Putnam how much it means to be ahead before most people have even begun to pay serious attention to the elections. Get real. Levine has reliably progressive ideas and the money to get his message out. And it’s not like his opponents don’t have their own obstacles to overcome. But even though this is his first statewide campaign, Levine surely must know that leading the polls — and he does, by a wide margin — only means his rivals will come at him with more pointed attacks. It doesn’t get easier from now through the August primary, and after that it gets ferocious. Get used to it.

Steve Schale: Florida — persuasion or turnout … or both?” — In the never-ending quest to simplify Florida, one of the ongoing debates about winning the state is whether Florida is a state won by winning persuadable voters, or whether it is all about turning out one’s base. I remember when I started with [BarackObama, I got a ton of advice — most of it unsolicited (much was helpful) … Here is the secret — all of it matters. Florida is neither a persuasion state or a turnout state. It is, in my honest opinion, both. It doesn’t matter if it is a presidential cycle or a midterm year, Florida is a state about managing margins, everywhere. Winning Democratic candidates typically do a few other things: win Pinellas, win St. Lucie, win a few North Florida counties like Jefferson, maintain reasonable margins counties like in Duval, Sarasota, Volusia, and Seminole. For Republicans, their math is a little different — they win a lot more counties, but by relatively smaller counties.

Putnam aside, agriculture department no place for concealed weapons licenses” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — There are issues specific to this incident that deserve more attention than they’ve received so far. Did anyone check to see whether any of those 291 people whose licenses were denied own guns they may not legally possess — for example, a felon whose rights haven’t been restored? Or someone with a disqualifying history of mental health commitment or criminal alcohol offenses? So far, the answer to that question appears to be no. “We have no oversight of whether a person has a gun or not, nor do we have a role in the purchase of firearms,” says Jennifer Meale, communications director at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The FDLE should ask the agriculture department for those 291 names, if it hasn’t already. Better yet, for the sake of public safety, Putnam should proactively send the names to FDLE to ensure people who shouldn’t own guns, don’t own guns.


Former GOP aide Nicole Wallace lighting it up for MSNBC” via David Bauder of The Associated Press — Wallace took over a time slot that averaged a million viewers a day and lifted it to more than 1.3 million this spring, the Nielsen company said. MSNBC used to run neck-and-neck with CNN’s Jake Tapper but has opened a lead that now approached a half-million viewers. Wallace’s show even beat Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto in March, the first time an MSNBC show had done that in the time slot since 2000. With Wallace and some other disaffected Republicans frequently on her show — commentators like Steve SchmidtCharlie Sykes and David Frum — some conservatives refer to her show as the “traitor hour,” said Tim Graham of the conservative watchdog Media Research Center. “We joke that she put paycheck ahead of party,” he said. The 4 p.m. hour for MSNBC is a key transition from daytime news programs to more opinionated nighttime fare, a time when many big stories break. Key to Wallace’s success is that her show is more about reporting than punditry, Griffin said. From her days in the White House, she knows many of the people who work there and tries to speak to someone who’s had contact with the president each day. She’s more apt to have active reporters as panelists.

Nicole Wallace makes her mark on MSNBC.

Appointed — Luz Weinberg and Leonard Boord to the Miami-Dade County Expressway Authority.

Nelson Mullins and Broad and Cassel to combine into super-regional law firm” via Florida Trend — Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough and Broad and Cassel have approved an agreement to combine effective August 1, 2018, to be known in Florida as Nelson Mullins Broad and Cassel. Both firms’ partnerships voted overwhelmingly to approve the combination, which will create a firm with over 725 attorneys and professionals operating in 25 offices across 11 states and the District of Columbia. The combined firm will have over 620 attorneys and professionals in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, with Atlanta continuing as the firm’s largest office with over 150 attorneys and professionals. The revenues of the combined firm are projected to result in a jump in the Am Law ranking to approximately 66 based on the most recent ranking.

— ALOE —

Airbnb grows, creates challenges for taxes, safety regulations” via John Henderson of the Panama City News-Herald — Airbnb hosts in Bay County cleared $12 million in revenues last year … For something that started in an environment as unstructured as an air mattress on the floor — and that can still be a simple as a spare bed or a tent in the backyard — taxes can be a confusing concept. “Some people honestly don’t know they have to pay them,” said Jennifer Vigil, the president and CEO of Destination Panama City. But in Panama City and Panama City Beach, Airbnb rentals are not excluded from the bed tax. Collections, however, have proved difficult … the county and Airbnb have yet to reach an agreement on how to go about paying the tax. Airbnb wants to collect the tax through their platform and then pay it to the county in a lump sum, as they do in 40 of Florida’s 63 counties, according to Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit. This is how they tell hosts to collect the tax on their help page. In most places, it works. Airbnb Florida said a recent news release that its vacation rental platform collected and remitted over $45.7 million in tax revenue to Florida state and local governments on behalf of its hosts in 2017, up from $20 million in 2016. But, Breit said, Bay County was among the 23 counties to reject the company’s offer to remit the bed taxes for Airbnb customers here.

Universal adding new ‘Jurassic World’ experiences” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — The first addition announced will give the Raptor Encounter photo-op at Universal Orlando’s Jurassic Park a more recognizable velociraptor: Blue, the raptor trained by Chris Pratt’s character, Owen Grady, and seen in “Jurassic World” and its upcoming sequel, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.” The meet-and-greet had originally debuted in May 2015, just ahead of the release for the first “Jurassic World,” which went on to become the highest-grossing film in Universal’s history by taking in more than $1.67 billion worldwide … Blue has been designed “employing the exact computer-generated model and images used to create her for the big screen.” Just like the previous raptors, Blue will be snapping and snarling at guests while her “handler” calms her down long enough for a photo to be taken. Outside the parks, Universal guests can now bring parts of “Jurassic World into their hotel stay. The Loews Royal Pacific Resort is now offering “Jurassic World”-themed kids’ suites. These 2-bedroom suites let kids sleep in their own dinosaur-themed room, with two twin beds modeled after the gyrospheres seen in the 2015 film.

Universal is updating its Jurassic World Experience.

Happy birthday to one of our favorite people, Sally Bradshaw. Also celebrating today is former Rep. Neil CombeeMatt Lettelleir of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, Margie MenzelRick Minor, and our dear friend, St. Petersburg City Councilwoman Darden Rice.

Correction: In an item in Monday’s edition of SUNBURN, we misspelled the name of the Miami Herald’s Jenny Staletovich. Our apologies.

Last Call for 6.11.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

A hearing on a Broward County nursing home’s contempt motion against the Agency for Health Care Administration over alleged public records violations is back on for Tuesday.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is slated to start the hearing at 2 p.m. in the Leon County Courthouse.

As previously reported, attorneys for the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills simply didn’t show up for a hearing scheduled last month.

Geoffrey Smith, of the Smith & Associates law firm in Tallahassee, called that a “misunderstanding related to the scheduling of hearings in several ongoing related matters.”

“We continue to look forward to the production of the public record information on the deaths that occurred in Florida during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” he said.

No harm: Lewis had said the parties likely would have needed more than the hour allotted anyway because they needed to present evidence: “It seems like there’s really a factual dispute.”

The nursing home was the site of resident deaths as Hurricane Irma knocked out its power supply, and with it, the air conditioning. Twelve eventually died, and the state later went after the facility’s license.

In the subsequent court fight, the facility filed a public records request for death certificates filed with the state between Sept. 9 and Sept. 16, during Irma and shortly afterward. In part, the facility objects to the state’s demand for nearly $6,000 before it produces the records.

Evening Reads

Reckless trade war? Donald Trump’s biggest Florida supporters say he’s just being savvy” via Alex Leary and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

John Rutherford, Marco Rubio spotlight federal money for JAXPORT dredge” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

New Republican PAC launches $3.5 million blitz against Bill Nelson” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Democratic super PAC reserves airtime for Bill Nelson” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald

‘Disturbing’ state didn’t review concealed carry background checks, Rick Scott says” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeremy Ring, too, reportedly had driver’s license suspended” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Medical cannabis supporters warn against campaign promises of legalizing pot” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

Julie Brown, Gary Clark seek another term on PSC” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Armed ‘guardians’ could be coming to Broward schools” via Scott Travis of the Sun Sentinel

These students will ‘die’ at Mar-a-Lago. They want to honor the Pulse massacre victims” via Elizabeth Finny of the Miami Herald

Quote of the Day

“The headlines and stories that say that there were no background checks for a year are flat wrong, misleading and must be corrected. Today I set the record straight.” — Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter, referring to reports his office failed to perform background checks on concealed weapon license applicants.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Republican candidate for Attorney General Ashley Moody will join Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd for a “special announcement.” That’s at 8:30 a.m., Polk County History Center, 1926 Courtroom, 100 East Main St., Bartow.

The Florida Chamber Foundation will start its annual “Learners to Earners Workforce Summit.” Speakers during the two-day event are expected to include Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, Florida College System Chancellor Madeline Pumariega and university system Chancellor Marshall Criser. That’s at 9 a.m., Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa.

Florida International University, the World Bank and Miami-Dade County will host Latin American and Caribbean leaders for a conference titled, “Building Better Communities: From Economic Development to Sustainability.” That’s at 9 a.m., Hilton Downtown, 1601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.

CareerSource Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, homebuilders and Uber will combine to hold job fairs throughout the state for careers in the manufacturing and construction industries.

— 10 a.m., CareerSource Palm Beach County, 3400 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach.

— 10 a.m., Rockledge Career Center, 295 Barnes Blvd., Rockledge.

— 10 a.m., Manatee Technical College, 6305 State Road 70 East, Bradenton.

— 11 a.m., Crestview Public Library, 1445 Commerce Dr., Crestview.

A presentation on the “multicounty benefits” of large economic-development projects will be presented to the Triumph Gulf Coast board by Becca Hardin, president of the Bay Economic Development Alliance. That’s at 10:30 a.m. Central time, Escambia County Commission chamber, Ernie Lee Magaha Building, 221 Palafox Place, Pensacola.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide its latest forecast for the citrus harvest. That’s at noon. The forecast will be posted at

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is expected to attend a JAXUSA Partnership luncheon. That’s at noon, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront, 225 East Coastline Dr., Jacksonville.

The Forensic Interview Protocol Task Force, which works on issues related to forensic interviews of children suspected of having suffered abuse, will hold a conference call. That’s at noon, (888) 670-3525, participant code: 7021700355.

The Florida Board of Pharmacy will meet in Lake County. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Mission Inn Resort & Club, 10400 County Road 48, Howey-in-the-Hills.

Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will hold a hearing on arguments by attorneys for an embattled Broward County nursing home that the Florida Department of Health should be held in contempt in a public-records dispute. That’s at 2 p.m., Leon County Courthouse, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.

Candidates for two seats on the Florida Public Service Commission face a 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline for submitting applications to the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council.

Republican Ray Pilon, who is running in Sarasota County’s House District 72, will hold a campaign event. Pilon, a former House member, is seeking to unseat Rep. Margaret Good, a Sarasota Democrat. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Gecko’s, 5585 Palmer Crossing Circle, Sarasota.

Republican Mike McCalister, who is running for agriculture commissioner, is slated to speak during an event held by Trump Team 2020 Florida. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Abacoa Golf Club, 105 Barbados Dr., Jupiter.

With Bob Gabordi, it’s one step forward, one step back

FLORIDA TODAY executive editor Bob Gabordi has been a study in contrasts since first coming to the Sunshine State in 2005.

That’s when he took over the editing reins of the Tallahassee Democrat after Gannett bought the paper from the now-defunct Knight Ridder.

There, the now four-time winner of the Gannett President’s Ring Award, for example, “helped create to better engage readers around health & fitness issues.”

(Or as Adam Weinstein, a former Democrat employee and now one of his fiercest critics, once wrote for Context Florida: Gabordi enjoyed “live-blogging his walking-laps around Lake Ella with the town’s ‘movers and shakers.’ ”)

In any case, OK, great idea. We all need more exercise.

But he also raised eyebrows inside his own shop when he ordered the renovation of the newsroom’s restrooms to include shower stalls.

As the late, great Democrat columnist Gerald Ensley wrote in 2015 after Gabordi departed, the editor “wanted a place to shower after taking his lunchtime walks.”

From a PR perspective, that’s one step forward, one step back.

So it is with Gabordi at FLORIDA TODAY.

One step forward: The end of publishing mugshots.

One (stupid) step back: The end of political endorsements in local races.

Earlier this month, Gabordi wrote that FT will no longer publish a gallery of photographs of people arrested.

Acknowledging that abandoning so-called mugshot journalism will likely cost FT clicks and web traffic, Gabordi said the “decision to drop the mugshot galleries is meant to add more fairness to the process.”

“We want the FLORIDA TODAY brand to stand for something more than the parading across your digital screens photographs of human beings at their lowest life moments,” states Gabordi.

Florida Politics has long advocated for an end to mugshot journalism, even going so far as to confront Tampa Bay Times publisher Paul Tash about why such a venerated newspaper as his engages in the practice.

Kudos to Gabordi for taking a strong, albeit overdue, stand on this issue.

That’s the step forward for Gabordi, now for the step back.

Last month, Gabordi declared that the newspaper will no longer make political endorsements.

“We don’t want to contribute to the political polarization, and it is clear endorsements can do that,” Gabordi contends.

Gabordi writes about how “many people insisted” FT was biased in favor of Barack Obama, even though the editorial page endorsed Mitt Romney. That’s a straw (newspaper)man comparison because what those people were mostly likely referring to was the newspaper’s OVERALL coverage, not its editorial stances.

Even if that’s not the case, Gabordi may have a point that there really is no upside in a local newspaper endorsing a presidential candidate.

As a political consultant for more than 20 years, I can’t remember one instance of a voter making their decision about who should be president based on what the local newspaper opined. As our Jim Rosica wrote back in his Scripps/Tribune days: “The more attention a race gets, the more minds are made up and the less important endorsements are.”

Nor do presidential candidates really care if they are endorsed by a newspaper that does not include the words “New York” in its masthead.

But as relatively meaningless as they are in a presidential campaign, newspaper endorsements can be a critical factor in a down-ballot race.

In local elections, such as for judge or school board, a recommendation from the editorial board can be the turning-point in a campaign. And, for the most part, those races are non-partisan and therefore an endorsement in them would not lead to an exacerbation of the partisan divide, as Gabordi fears.

A newspaper’s endorsement is one of the leading methods for the Fourth Estate to hold politicians directly accountable. Solid reporting comes first, but the real impact may not be felt until an editorial puts it all in context.

Now, at least in Brevard, local candidates have less reason to, um, fear the FLORIDA TODAY.

They don’t have to prep for their sit downs with the editorial board — the kind of meetings which nearly every candidate I’ve ever worked with takes more seriously than almost any other moment on the campaign trail.

Politicians don’t have to worry, if they do something particularly bone-headed, being called out by Gabordi and Co. Incumbents don’t have to worry, if they lose touch with their constituents, about a challenger receiving a coveted endorsement that tells voters it’s time for a change.

Even if you accept Gabordi’s rationale for dropping endorsements, it’s inexplicable why he as a publisher is unilaterally disarming.

So kudos, Mr. Gabordi, for doing away with the mugshots on the FLORIDA TODAY’s website, but it’s a mistake to de-fang your newspaper by eliminating candidate endorsements.

Time for Florida GOP to draft Pam Bondi?

Richard Corcoran must be kicking himself right now.

If the House Speaker knew a month ago what the rest of the state does now — that a former employee of Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services failed for more than a year to conduct national background checks on applications for concealed weapons licenses — would he have scrubbed his gubernatorial bid and endorsed the Bartow Republican?

Probably not. And with Putnam’s campaign imploding and calls for his outright resignation from Democrats reaching a fever pitch, a nervous Florida GOP establishment may have turned its desperate eyes to the Pasco lawmaker.

It’s not clear how much damage this scandal will do to Putnam. Will it drive him from the race? Will it keep him from winning the primary? If he wins the primary, does it hobble him in a general election? We probably need another 72 to 96 hours to see where Putnam stands. But one thing is certain. He is no longer the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He probably hasn’t been for a few weeks.

As Putnam stumbles, it’s increasingly probable that twenty years of Republican control of the Governor’s Mansion will come to an end this November.

Yes, Ron DeSantis can win the general election. The people who say he can’t just because he’s backed by Donald Trump are many of the same geniuses who had Hillary Clinton winning the Sunshine State on her way to The White House.

DeSantis can win, I just don’t think he will. I think the PredictIt Market that pegs it at about a three-to-two possibility that a Democrat will win in November feels right. Conversely, the Republicans — either DeSantis or Putnam — being given about a 40 percent chance also seems about right.

If Putnam does lose to DeSantis, the Florida GOP establishment will embrace the “outsider” DeSantis even quicker than it did Rick Scott after he defeated Bill McCollum in 2010.

DeSantis’ campaign manager is Brad Herold, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Florida. DeSantis’ finance director’s last job was for Senate President Joe Negron. DeSantis’ big donors are major donors to Trump, the party, etc. In other words, there are many more overlaps between DeSantis World and the Florida GOP than there were between Scott and the then-establishment.


Don’t for a second believe that The Establishment wants to see DeSantis beat Putnam. The heaviest of heavyweights — The Florida Chamber of Commerce, Disney, Florida Power & Light, the sugar industry, the mega-networked lobbying firms — have been investing in Putnam for more than a decade. For there to be zero return on this investment will be difficult to stomach.

The Establishment also hasn’t really liked the last eight years under Scott, at least not the way they liked it under Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist. Those were the salad days. Under Scott, the governing strategy has been to stay off his administration’s radar, stay out of the news, and cut $50,000 checks to his political committee whenever one of his fundraisers made an ask.

The Establishment hoped to strike back under Putnam. However, for the third time in eight years — McCollum losing in 2010, Bush flailing in 2016, and Putnam faltering now — its plans are being thwarted.

It can’t be overstated just how shocked many establishment figures and lobbyists were during DeSantis’ recent tour of Tallahassee, where he met with dozens of top lobbyists. It wasn’t just that these insiders were alarmed by the Ponte Vedra Republican’s lack of knowledge about issues facing the state, it was the indifference and disdain he displayed while meeting with them. Almost every one of the lobbyists I spoke with who met with DeSantis mentioned how often he checked his phone, as if they were on a bad first date. He asked few, if any, questions about what concerns or suggestions they had. Instead it was just Trump, Trump, and more Trump.

The Establishment has been licking its Scott-inflicted wounds for nearly eight years and in DeSantis it sees another four years of living under an absentee landlord who, if we’re honest about it, would rather be in D.C. than Tallahassee.

So the Florida GOP, which has held hegemonic control over the state since 1998, faces limited choices.

— It can grin and bear DeSantis. That’s what most will do. There are top-tier lobbying firms already positioned to thrive under a DeSantis administration.

— It can back-door its support for Gwen Graham or Philip Levine. This is what some — not many but some — will do. And they’ll keep their Republican bona fides by doubling-down on their donations to incoming legislative leaders Bill Galvano and Jose Oliva.

OR … and with thirteen days until candidate qualifying closes, this is crazy … The Establishment could Draft Pam Bondi.

The Attorney General chose not to run for higher office this cycle. And she didn’t get/take a position in the Trump White House, despite her ties to the president. She’s coy about what her plans are for when she leaves office, although many expect her to pursue a track in television, specifically with Fox News.

She’s also never expressed any real interest in being Governor.

But … if she wanted it … it’s there.

There hasn’t been recent polling, at least none that I’ve seen, but a survey last year from Associated Industries of Florida showed Republican voters giving Bondi high marks. Fifty-four percent approve of the job she was doing, while just 12 percent had an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion. She stood heads-and-shoulders above any Republican not named Scott, including Putnam.

Bondi would have some issues in the general election, especially because of a scandal linking a donation from Trump to a decision not to pursue a legal case against his “university,” but she also has a strong record she can run on, including her fight against pill mills.

Could she beat DeSantis in the primary? She probably has a better chance of doing so than Putnam does at this point. It would be a tall order to raise the kind of money she would need to win, but at least she wouldn’t be out-Trumped by DeSantis the way Putnam has been.

Meanwhile, the GOP Establishment would quickly transfer its support from Putnam to her because the devil you know (Bondi) is always better than the devil you don’t (DeSantis).

I don’t even know what a general election match-up would look like between Bondi and Graham or Levine, but Bondi probably has a better shot at keeping the moderate Republican women voters turned off by Trump in this so-called “Year of the Woman.”

Bondi is both incredibly telegenic and personable on a retail level, so she would give the Republicans their best chance at holding on to power. If she is the nominee, those PredictIt odds instantly move from three-to-two against to better than even money.

Only there’s just two weeks to convince Bondi that she’s the best candidate to help the party maintain control of the Governor’s Mansion through the next presidential election and redistricting process. She’d have to put on hold whatever those apolitical ambitions are that so many believe she has. She’d have to raise money 24 hours a day for the next four months. She’d have to convince Donald Trump not to weigh in too heavily in the Republican primary. And that only gets her to the general election, where a blue wave is supposedly building.

But it’s all there if Pam Bondi wants it.

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.11.18

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

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

If the November election were held today, only four of the 13 proposed state constitutional amendments would pass, according to new polling by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“However, this is before tens of millions of dollars are invested in information campaigns,” the Chamber said in a news release. “In other words, these numbers will change as November approaches.”

Chamber officials further said that with 13 amendments on the ballot — eight from the Constitution Revision Commission, three from the Legislature and two from citizen initiatives — “voter fatigue is certainly a concern.”

“In fact, some special interest groups have threatened a ‘vote no on all’ campaign,” they said. “But based on the latest polling data, that wouldn’t be a wise use of resources.

“ … Likely voters overwhelmingly say they plan to vote to consider each amendment. And 89 percent say they will vote on each amendment based upon its own merits.”

Here is how the amendments performed, according to the Chamber:

Amendment 1 — Increased Homestead Exemption: Yes — 67%, No — 22%, Unsure 11%

Amendment 2 — Limitations on Property Tax Assessments — Yes — 58%, No 20%, Unsure 22%

Amendment 3 — Voter Control of Gambling — Yes — 61%, No 23%, Unsure 15%

Amendment 4 — Voter Restoration — Yes — 40%, No 17%, Unsure 43%

Amendment 5 — Supermajority to Raise Taxes — Yes — 34%, No 36%, Unsure 30%

Amendment 6 — Victim’s Rights; Judges — Yes 51%, No 12%, Unsure 37%

Amendment 7 — First Responder & Military Member Survivor Benefits — Yes 80%, No 7%, Unsure 13%

Amendment 8 — School Board Term Limits — Yes 75%, No 11%, Unsure 15%

Amendment 9 — Prohibit Offshore Drilling — Yes 55%, No 31%, Unsure 14%

Amendment 10 — State & Local Gov’t Structure — Yes 31%, No 16%, Unsure 53%

Amendment 11 — Property Rights — Yes 38%, No 16%, Unsure 46%

Amendment 12 — Lobbying and Abuse by Public Officials — Yes 55%, No 18%, Unsure 27%

Amendment 13 — End Dog Racing — Yes 47% No 36%, Unsure 17%

What Jack Cory is reading — “Longwood artist goes political in defense of greyhound racing” via Brian Scott of WOFL/Fox 35 — Many know Jeff Sonksen for his tribute murals lining a fence on Ronald Reagan Boulevard in Longwood … Sonksen’s newest series line the road outside of the Seminole County Kennel Club. The paintings aren’t of people but of greyhound dogs that actually run races at the Longwood track, and bare messages defending that track and its sport. “There are so many times I drove by the track and went, ‘ooo the dreaded dog track!'” said Sonksen. “I never would have believed that six months later I’d be defending greyhound racing.” Sonksen said his change of heart came after an odd series of events that led him to an invite into the Seminole track. Also an avid social media user, he went in armed with a camera expecting to continue to expose the abuse he’d seen shown by so many animal rights groups, but he said he couldn’t. “I haven’t found an abused greyhound yet,” he said. All the people I’ve met, man, they’re just good, hardworking, animal loving people; they love these dogs.”

They love these dogs: One of Jeff Sonksen’s pro-racing artworks.


—@SenJohnMcCain: To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.

—@ScottforFlorida: I grew up in a poor family and that’s why I believe having a job is the most important thing for a family. No one should be dismissive about the fact that so many families are finding a job.

—@BradHerold: Even if you think @AdamPutnam’s record wasn’t disqualifying for him, let’s just list the scandals: 1. Hastert 2. Special Interest Funded Hunting Trips 3. Shady Land Deal 4. No Background Checks For a Year And @RonDeSantisFL can’t win a general because he supports Trump … Okay.

—@BobBuckhorn: Let’s get this straight. As AG Commissioner u have 2 basic jobs…….make sure the Citrus industry is healthy and to issue permits for concealed weapons. Results = dying citrus industry and more nuts and felons w guns.

—@LMower3: It’s a bit ridiculous that the Florida Democratic Governor’s debate isn’t streaming live on Facebook or Twitter.

—@NewsBySmiley: Debate gets heated when Levine is asked why he gave $2,400 to Marco Rubio. Gillum and King attck. “Sure feels good to be the front-runner” Levine says, drawing boos like a wrestling heel

—@MDixon55: In general, crowd was not traditional debate audience. They almost incentivized the onstage hostility. Compliments were ignored, aggressiveness was greeted with approval. Very colosseum stuff.

—@MDixon55: One day I’ll be asked where I was during 13th Triple Crown and I’ll get to say an auditorium in Pinellas Park High School

—@ZamirGotta (a close friend of Anthony Bourdain): I cannot make myself watch CNN tribute, it took me 24 hours to write my tribute 4 Hollywood Reporter, honestly it was the most painful one

—@DarrenRovell: How insane was Secretariat’s Belmont 45 years ago? The horse would have beaten Justify (based on time) by 25 LENGTHS.


Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 1; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 3; Father’s Day — 6; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 11; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 17; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 27; MLB All-Star Game — 36; Deadline for filing claim bills — 51; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 51; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 52; Start of the U.S. Open — 77; Primary Election Day — 78; College Football opening weekend — 80; NFL season starts — 88; Future of Florida Forum — 107; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 134; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 135; General Election Day — 148; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 248; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 267.


Adam Putnam blasts Times report, but acknowledges office’s failure to review background checks” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam said a Tampa Bay Times report that his office didn’t check backgrounds of concealed weapons applicants for noncriminal offenses for more than a year was “flat wrong and misleading.” But he acknowledged that an employee in his office failed to review the results of those background checks, which led to 291 people receiving permits who were not supposed to have them. Putnam’s office has since revoked those permits, he said. “This was a very serious issue,” said Putnam. “We took immediate action.” Putnam blamed the employee, who he called “negligent and deceptive” for not acting on the results of the background check. He said he ordered the inspector general investigation immediately after he was informed about the problem. That employee, a former mailroom worker, told the Times she was under pressure to quickly process applications and questioned why she was put in charge of this. “I’m here to solve problems,” Putnam said. “We didn’t wait on a bad story to solve problems. I initiated the inspector general and the review of processes and procedures upon learning of this breakdown.”

Tweet, tweet:


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Ron DeSantis says Putnam’s office missed background checks because Putnam was too busy campaigning” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — “Adam has spent years campaigning for governor, basically, in this position and the report was very concerning because it seemed like he wasn’t minding the store when we needed him to be there,” DeSantis told reporters after making a stump speech. “I also want to know why, if this report was done a year ago, why are we just now finding out about this?” DeSantis continued. “Why weren’t some of the deficiencies communicated to Gov. Rick Scott, to FDLE, to other people who would be interested in the fact you may have people who are not eligible getting permits to concealed carry? So that’s an unanswered question we need answers to.”

Calling it ‘political attack,’ NRA (wo)mansplains weapons permit snafu” via Florida Politics — “The media isn’t getting it right, and anti-gun Democrats don’t want to get it right,” says United Sportsman of Florida Executive Director Marion Hammer, a past president of the National Rifle Association and among the most powerful lobbyists in the state. “Truth and facts matter. So here is what really happened” … the Division of Licensing did perform background checks on applicants for licenses to carry concealed weapons or firearms. “Background checks were done through FCIC (Florida Criminal Information Computer system) and NCIC (National Criminal Information Computer system — the national FBI fingerprint database), and they also did a NICS check, which is the name-based background check system,” she says. Although those questionable applicants did indeed receive licenses to carry firearms, Hammer makes an important distinction: “They still would not have been allowed to purchase a firearm from a firearms dealer because the same NICS background check would have been performed by a dealer and would have stopped them from purchasing a firearm.” After the Division ran new background checks on those 365 applicants, Hammer says 74 were cleared and 291 still had disqualifiers. Their licenses to carry firearms were immediately suspended. “The facts don’t fit narrative being pushed by the anti-gun political opponents of the Commissioner of Agriculture, Putnam, who is a candidate for Governor.”

How #Concealment-gate is playing — POLITICO Florida, Gun background check failure haunts ‘proud NRA sellout’ Putnam — “The controversy — and Putnam’s slow-footed response in getting the facts out in a timely fashion — was the latest to haunt his campaign. Putnam was already a target of gun-control activists for having called himself a ‘proud NRA sellout.’” Lakeland Ledger, Putnam in crosshairs of controversy — “Now running for Florida governor as a Republican, Putnam’s campaign touts his expansion of concealed carry permits as one of his top accomplishments.” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Putnam: No more lapses in background checks — “The commissioner says ‘more seamless’ communication between his agency and law enforcement, and ‘extra eyeballs,’ are in place to make sure the problem never happens again.” Miami Herald, Putnam rips concealed weapons story, acknowledges failure to review background checks — “Putnam asserted that ‘no one’s safety was at risk’ because those 291 people would not have been able to purchase a firearm.” Orlando Sentinel, Putnam’s Florida office didn’t do gun background checks for one year: report — “I am extremely alarmed at the failure by Commissioner Putnam to disclose that his agency had failed to conduct these critical background checks — allowing possibly mentally disturbed individuals and others who should be disqualified, to be legally armed in Florida,’ said state Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat. ‘He needs to resign.’”

—“Time for Florida GOP to draft Pam Bondi?” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics


First on #FlaPol — “Poll: Rick Scott maintains edge over Bill Nelson” via Florida Politics — The poll, conducted for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, puts Scott ahead 48-43 with 5 percent undecided. That margin tracks with a May poll out of Florida Atlantic University that found Scott up 4 points, however undecided voters made up a much higher share in that poll. Those results put the race at 44-40 with 16 percent unsure. The party breakdown showed 86 percent of likely Republican voters would vote for Scott in the fall while 9 percent said Nelson was their pick. Likely Democratic voters were only slightly less unified, picking Nelson 80-13. The pair both had 44 percent support among NPA and third-party voters. The live interview phone poll was conducted May 25 through June 4. It took responses from 249 Democrats, 237 Republicans and 119 other party or NPA voters and has a margin of error of +/-4 percent.

Rick Scott is taking the lead.

Scott surges past Nelson with older Florida voters” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Scott is virtually tied with Nelson among Florida voters, but the Republican is dominating the Democrat by 9 points among those nearing or at retirement age — a group that casts the majority of Florida’s votes. The results, drawn from a forthcoming POLITICO/AARP poll delving into the policy views of Florida voters aged 50 and older, exposes a political divide that bodes relatively well for Republicans when compared to some nationwide polling that shows a more-favorable environment for Democrats. Overall, voters in the nation’s largest swing state are almost evenly split when it comes to opinions of President Trump’s job performance, with 48 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. But Trump’s job approval rises to 52 percent and his disapproval falls to 44 percent among voters older than 50 — a crucial demographic in the retiree-heavy state because they have historically cast about two-thirds of all the ballots in midterm elections.

Scott super PAC launches $3.5m ad blitz” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The New Republican PAC, run by Scott loyalists, started strong against Nelson by launching a $2.4 million ad campaign against the Democrat in May. Now it’s coming back bigger and meaner with a $3.5 million broadcast, cable and digital buy. The ads (a 30-second TV spot and 15- and 6-second digital pieces) feature pictures of Nelson’s face aging through the years, as a timeline on the right ticks off his time and votes in office since his first election win in 1972.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Assignment editors — Scott will join local law enforcement leaders from the Tampa Bay area and Southwest Florida in St. Petersburg on Monday to make a “major announcement,” according to a release. The event is at 2870 Scherer Drive, Suite 300. 9:30 a.m. Scott will then meet with leaders of South Florida’s Colombian community in advance of Colombia’s upcoming presidential election. The event is at 233 Aragon Avenue, Suite A, Coral Gables.

Save the date — Scott will speak at breakfast before the Second Annual Polk County Republican Clay Shoot, June 16, at Catfish Creek Sporting Clays near Haines City, according to Polk County Republican Chairman JC Martin.


Matt Gaetz goes after Putnam at campaign rally in Pensacola” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal — Gaetz also touted the DeSantis endorsement from Donald Trump and called him “a fellow swamp drainer.” Gaetz hit Putnam for not immediately voicing support for Trump in the 2016 primaries after Trump won the Indiana Republican primary, making him the presumptive GOP nominee. “I feel obligated as your congressman to share with you the reasons that I cannot vote for Putnam in the Republican primary,” Gaetz said. “The first reason: I actually support Donald Trump and Adam Putnam doesn’t.” Gaetz also went after Putnam on immigration, saying while Gaetz was in the Florida Legislature that Putnam, as agriculture commissioner, lobbied against passing a requirement for employers to use the federal E-Verify system to obtain workers’ immigration status.

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4 key moments from Saturday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — 1. Philip Levine: “It sure is fun to be the front-runner!” … to groans and even some boos. 2. The Gwen GrahamAndrew Gillum bad blood spills onto the stage … Gillum once again criticized Graham for voting against President Obama “52 percent of the time.” (That figure is somewhat misleading, per PolitiFact.) Graham defended herself, arguing that she’s happy to talk about her Congressional votes. 3. Chris King defends Gillum … “I have gotten to know Andrew Gillum over the last year pretty well. I’ve probably spent more time with Andrew than my wife,” King said to laughter. “And I can tell you, Andrew is a good and noble public servant.” 4. The candidates defended Trump … Ok, this one is only sort of true. But on what Trump has done right? Graham: “This audience.” Gillum: “When he takes a Twitter break.” Levine: Reiterated Graham’s point about the activist energy in the building. And then he gave this quote: “He’s a tragedy for our nation, and we’re living through a nightmare.”

Happening tonight — Democratic gubernatorial candidates will debate at an event hosted by several groups, including the Service Employees International Union Florida labor union. Expected to attend are Gillum, Graham, King and Levine. The debate will be livestreamed on Service Employees International Union Florida and PBS NewsHour digital channels; doors open at 5:30 p.m., the debate starts 7 p.m., Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Plaza, Miramar.

Philip Levine hears boos at Democratic gubernatorial debate featuring nasty exchanges” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Levine is increasingly perceived as the front-runner in the Democratic primary for governor, but a packed auditorium of party faithful during the race’s second debate Saturday night reacted brutally when he anointed himself the new leader: “boooo.” … “One thing I can say is that it is sure fun to be the front-runner,” said Levine, who quickly tried to transition as the auditorium filled with boos. The comment came as one of his opponents, King, was ticking off a series of what he deems as shortcomings in Levine’s record, notably the fact that he gave money to Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in his first race in 2010, an issue that again drew the ire from an audience that was vocal throughout the hourlong debate. “I, at this point, have given up to $1 million to Democrats,” Levine responded. He then tried to get back to his accomplishments as mayor, which prompted the crowd to yell “answer the questions.”

It was cordial, but not for long.

Levine holds double-digit lead in Democratic primary for governor, poll finds” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — Levine pulled 32 percent in a poll of 600 likely voters conducted this week by SEA Polling & Strategic Design — compared to 37 percent for the rest of the field combined. Graham pulled 16 percent; Gillum, 11; King, 6; and real estate tycoon Jeff Greene, 4 percent. Tom Eldon, the veteran pollster behind the numbers, said the poll was commissioned by an independent group that is not affiliated with any of the five campaigns in the primary. His findings appear to validate Levine’s internal numbers, which have put him ahead of the field for months now, significantly so in South Florida and Tampa. Eldon found Levine with 47 percent support in South Florida, and 37 percent in Tampa. Levine’s campaign has been touting its numbers for months in those areas — markets that have both high numbers of Democratic voters and high costs for advertising.

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Gubernatorial candidate Bob White campaigns in Lee County — White is scheduled to speak to the Lee Republican Women Federated, social hour at 5:15 p.m., followed by dinner, Pinchers, The Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 West First St., Fort Myers.

Homestead Mayor announces for Agriculture Commissioner” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News — Jeff Porter, who has served as mayor of Homestead since 2013 resigned his mayoral seat Thursday, effective on the same day, complying with Florida’s newly amended “resign-to-run” law. He will challenge South Florida environmentalist David Walker in the Aug. 28 Democratic primary. … Porter told The Miami Herald, “The agriculture industry has just been decimated. Over the last 20 or 30 years, farmers have gone out of business and I just don’t understand,” he said. “This area of the country, inside our borders, is the only place where we can grow produce in the winter to feed the nation, yet we’ve become totally reliant on food that comes from foreign countries. It’s almost like a national security issue.”

Jimmy Patronis leads Jeremy Ring in Florida Chamber poll” via Florida Politics — According to a new poll commissioned by the Florida Chamber, Patronis leads Ring 40-31 among likely voters and newly registered voters statewide. The Chamber endorsed Patronis last month … much of the gap between the two pols is attributable to Patronis’ strong support among GOP voters and Ring’s middling support among his base. Ring held a slight lead among unaffiliated and third-party voters, 27-26, with the remainder undecided. If that lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters does exist, it certainly isn’t unique to Ring.

Jay Fant campaigns in West Palm Beach — Fant, a Jacksonville Republican running for Attorney General, will speak to the Palm Beach County Trump Club, 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.

Happening today — Democratic candidates in Florida’s 6th Congressional District will speak to the Democratic Environmental Caucus of St. Johns County. Democrats John UpchurchStephen Sevigny and Nancy Soderberg are seeking the seat that opened when DeSantis decided to run for governor; 6 p.m., St. Johns County Democratic headquarters, 71 South Dixie Highway, Suite 6, St. Augustine.

He calls himself pro-labor. But he laid off campaign workers trying to unionize” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — David Richardson, the self-styled progressive Democrat seeking to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress, says he stands shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with his campaign staff after they became the first political campaign in Florida to unionize last week. But there are fewer campaign workers standing with Richardson today. That’s because he laid off eight paid campaign employees at the end of a contentious monthslong unionization effort. “David wanted to be able to fire anyone at will and that wasn’t acceptable to us,” said Isaiah Ghafoor, who worked as a field organizer for Richardson from March until he was one of eight Richardson staffers laid off two weeks ago. “Two days after a heated bargaining session, seven field organizers were laid off and the finance manager.” Though the unionization effort was ultimately successful, the timing of the layoffs and the Richardson’s campaign’s argument to staffers that existing Florida labor laws were sufficient enough to protect staffers’ rights contrasts with public statements by his campaign that he will “oppose efforts that are anti-union or that weaken the ability to organize and bargain collectively” if elected to Congress.

For someone claiming to be pro-labor, David Richardson is making some labor-unfriendly moves. (Image via Miami Herald)

Two more candidates to compete against Manny Diaz in SD 36” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Manny Diaz is (by all measures) the current front-runner to take the Senate District 36 seat. But that’s not stopping others from entering the race. Two more Democrats decided to run in SD 36. David Perez filed paperwork Thursday, while Imtiaz Ahmad Mohammad made his official entry into the race earlier today. The pair joins Muhammad Amin in the fight for the Democratic nod in SD 36. Only Diaz has filed to run as a Republican. SD 36 covers portions of Miami-Dade County. The race for the seat will be open as sitting Sen. Rene Garcia is term-limited.

Jason Brodeur endorses David Smith as HD 28 successor — “I’m proud to endorse David Smith in his campaign to serve the community I’ve been blessed to represent for the past eight years,” Brodeur said in a statement. “David is a natural born leader and a true patriot who I know will be a great Representative for our community.” Smith, a Winter Springs resident, served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed several times overseas, including a combat tour flying helicopters in Iraq. He retired at the rank of Colonel, and now works in Central Florida’s Simulation & Training industry.

Hillsborough school board member to seek HD 62 seat” via Patrick Manteiga of La Gaceta — reports that Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes will seek the House District 62 seat. House Minority Leader Janet Cruz currently holds HD 62, she is vacating the seat to campaign for Dana Young’s Senate District 18. Valdes, a Democrat, told Manteiga that she already received the endorsement of Cruz and Hillsborough Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, who at one time held the HD 62 seat. Her resignation will not take effect until Nov. 6.

Carlos Guillermo Smith draws challenger in HD 49” via Florida Politics — Ben Griffin, a Republican who works as a learning assistant at Valencia College, opened a campaign account to challenge the freshman lawmaker in the Orange County-based seat … In a news release, Griffin outlined his campaign platform, which includes “limited government, stronger education, and Christian values.” … “Our area needs a strong and steady leader that reflects our values in Tallahassee,” Griffin said. “I strongly believe that government that grows too large becomes a threat to our freedom. I will work diligently to make sure our focus remains on the Constitution and the principles of low taxes and limited regulation that keep our economy strong and growing. It’s also imperative that every Florida student has the opportunity to get the very best education possible.”

Tina Polsky rolls out heavyweight Democratic endorsements — Polsky announced a wave of endorsements from five current and former Democratic elected officials: Minority Leader of the Florida House Kionne McGhee, Palm Beach County Commissioners Mary Lou Berger and Melissa McKinlay, Rep. Matt Willhite, and former Palm Beach County Commissioner Burt Aaronson. Polsky is seeking to replace retiring Rep. Joe Abruzzo in western Palm Beach County’s House District 81. McGhee said: “I’m excited by the prospect of Tina joining the Democratic Caucus in Tallahassee as we continue our fight to implement an agenda benefiting the people — not the special interests. I look forward to working with her to fight for world-class health care, excellent public schools and universities, and high-paying jobs for all Floridians.” In late February, HD 81 opened after Abruzzo announced he is retiring to spend more time with his young son.

Hmmm — Tweet, tweet:


Lines being drawn in fight to succeed longtime Orange GOP chair” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Orange County GOP chair Lew Oliver is stepping aside after almost 20 years, resulting in what could be a heated fight to succeed him. One possible successor is the party’s vice chair, businessman Chadwick Hardee. Another is county Trump campaign chair Randy Ross, who has already made one unsuccessful bid for chair and has been a vocal critic of Oliver. “I’m not personally mad at him,” Ross said of Oliver. “He did what he thought was best for the party. I just think I’d do a much better job.” Oliver, though, was confident the party would continue in his image. “I don’t make a lot of decisions without some idea of what the consequences will be,” he said. “Frankly, I’d be surprised if [Ross] won. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. … I really do know how to count noses. I do it pretty well.”

Parkland shooting got young voters motivated, official says” via Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post — In the ten weeks after the school massacre in Parkland, nearly 4,000 youth under 21 registered to vote in Palm Beach and Broward Counties. While those numbers aren’t record-breaking, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the response to the shooting via voter registration was immediate. “I’ve never seen this level of interest before and I have been a public servant for 20 years,” said Bucher.


FAU/Florida Voices poll: economy, environment, school safety concern Floridians most” via Ali Schmitz of TCPalm — Florida voters said they think the biggest issues facing the state this election year are its economic, school safety and environmental policies — in that order. While one in four people said the economy is the most important issue, about 20 percent said it was school safety and about 12 percent said it was the environment. Most respondents — more than two out of three — said Florida is moving in the right direction, while about 37 percent said the state is on the wrong track. Republicans (79 percent) and independent voters were more likely to say the state was on the right track. Most Democrats disagreed, with about 51 percent saying the state was moving in the wrong direction. Voters had mixed opinions on their personal finances: about 40 percent said their finances had stayed the same over the last year; 34 percent said they’ve improved; 26 percent said they’ve worsened.

Scott, Cabinet set tight timetable to fill OFR spot — In a brief conference call Friday, the Governor and Cabinet agreed to accept applications to become the next commissioner of the Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) from today (Monday, June 11) through June 22. Depending on who applies, Scott and Cabinet members will conduct public interviews and select a new commissioner as early as June 27. Patronis — Gov. Scott’s friend and political ally — had recently told outgoing OFR Commissioner Drew Breakspear he “no longer ha(d) confidence” in Breakspear’s ability to lead the office, which acts as the state’s watchdog for the financial industry. Breakspear eventually said he was resigning effective June 30, the last day of the state’s fiscal year, to “ensure a smooth transition.” Beginning in 2015, Breakspear was one of three agency heads in Scott’s crosshairs to replace, including now-former Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and former Department of Revenue executive director Marshall Stranburg. He quit in December 2015, followed by McCarty in January 2016.

Lucrative Florida prison health care contract under increasing scrutiny” via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post — Deep cuts to drug treatment, mental health and community re-entry programs across Florida are heightening scrutiny of a lucrative, prison health care contract poised to be finalized this month. The $375 million deal now on the table with Centurion of Florida allows it to take an 11.5 percent “administrative fee” that cannot only cover a variety of costs but also be pocketed by the company as profit. Centurion, whose parent company, Centene, is a sizable campaign contributor to Gov. Scott and the Florida Republican Party, began treating the 97,000 inmates in Florida’s prison system two years ago. Centene, also is a major health care provider in the state’s Medicaid managed care program through its subsidiary, Sunshine Health. Centurion and DOC, though, seem happy together. And Florida Corrections Chief Julie Jones fought hard to make sure the company stayed on board. Jones last month ordered $50 million in department cuts and reductions to key community services in a scramble to find cash for the health care contract after state lawmakers lowballed funding for the prison system.

On Friday, Gov. Scott highlighted the importance of hurricane preparedness for Floridians in the Florida Keys as the 2018 Hurricane Season begins.

State faces increased costs for children’s Health insurance program” via Julio Ochoa of WUSF — A federal law providing 10 more years of funding for the national Children’s Health Insurance Program should help Florida continue to reduce its rate of uninsured kids. But the state’s taxpayers will have to pay millions more for the program starting in 2020. The program, known as CHIP, provides health insurance to 345,000 children in Florida. It’s helped the state reduce its uninsured among children to 6.2 percent in 2016, compared to nearly 15 percent in 2009. The Affordable Care Act provided a temporary 23 percent bump in CHIP funding starting in 2016, bringing the federal match for Florida to about 95 percent. But that match will drop to 84 percent in 2020 and return to about 72 percent in 2021. When that happens, the state will have to cover the portion of the match that the federal government is no longer funding. In Florida, it’s estimated to be about $75 million in 2020 and $150 million in the years following.

Regulators to convene on medical marijuana rules” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — State medical marijuana regulators are slated to hold three rule-making hearings Monday in Tallahassee. The Department of Health regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use. The first hearing, at 9 a.m., will cover a proposed rule on the “Medical Marijuana Treatment Center (MMTC) Supplemental Licensing Fee,” the “annual payment by a registered (provider) to cover the (state’s) costs of administering” the law governing cannabis. The fee has been set at $174,844. The second, at 11 a.m., is on change of ownership applications … and the third, at 1 p.m., is on an MMTC “variance procedure.”

Happening today — The Florida Department of Health’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use holds hearings on three proposed rules dealing with the medical-marijuana industry, addressing issues such as the transfer of ownership of medical-marijuana treatment centers, 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Department of Health, 4052 Bald Cypress Way, Room 301, Tallahassee.

Drug case overturned because of ‘good Samaritan’ law” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A Jacksonville man’s sentence on drug possession charges was struck down by an appellate court Friday because of the state’s “911 Good Samaritan Act.” A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal reversed Thomas John Pope‘s 15-month sentence on possession of heroin and marijuana charges … [Pope had called 911 and saved the life of a woman with whom he was using heroin, records show.] “The only issue on appeal is whether Pope acted in good faith in seeking assistance” under the law, the opinion said, finding that he did and thus should have been immune from prosecution.

Broward school district failing to report many campus crimes to state as required” via Scott Travis, Megan O’Matz and John Maines of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — On paper, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High looked like one of the safest high schools in Florida. The Broward school district reported to the state that no one was bullied or harassed, no one trespassed on campus, no one was violently attacked, no one broke into campus after hours and nothing expensive was stolen during the 2016-17 school year. It wasn’t true. The district reports only a portion of its actual crimes to the state, making it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety … Had school administrators reported every crime that actually happened at Stoneman Douglas, it might have raised an alarm that safety was a concern, said April Schentrup, whose daughter Carmen died in the Feb. 14 massacre at the school. “It might help them to say, ‘I need another [police officer] on campus. Look we have all these incidents,’” said Schentrup, who is principal of Pembroke Pines Elementary.

If only they reported all the on-campus crimes, there may have been more of a warning.

Orlando gun violence rally — Survivors of the Pulse nightclub and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings join representatives of several groups for a rally to protest gun violence, 6 p.m., Orlando City Hall, 400 South Orange Ave., Orlando.

Two years after Pulse: Nightmares, resolve, hope” via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel — Mass shootings — in which at least four people are killed — have taken the lives of 325 people in those two years. The most notorious of the crimes have unfolded at high schools in Parkland and outside Houston, a church in Texas, a Waffle House in Tennessee and a country music concert in Las Vegas … There was then — and there is still — a spirit of compassion and a call to action, leaders say, even in a time when partisanship, hostility and even hatred can dominate the national dialogue. Today, Orlando has more metal detectors, panic buttons, active-shooter drills, trauma counseling, public memorials and grief-stricken loved ones than it did two years ago. But for some, it also has more compassion and progress and purpose. For the first time, a nonprofit umbrella group — the One Orlando Alliance — has built a coalition among more than 30 Central Florida LGBTQ groups and those that support them. The partners come from health care and counseling fields to civil rights groups to the Orlando Gay Chorus.

High turnover of firm’s counselors at schools: Frail teens left behind” via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post — In several large school districts across the state, including Palm Beach County, turnover is high. Coaches say they aren’t getting paid and are forced to find other work, leaving vulnerable, sometimes sobbing teens with yet another adult who’s gone from their lives. In 2015, Palm Beach County opened the schoolhouse door to the company known as MCUSA and by 2016 inked a deal to put the counselors — people trained in therapy and social work — in 39 middle and seven alternative schools. In February, a dozen counselors in Palm Beach County quit. At least 10 have said they reluctantly stopped coming to work when MCUSA shorted them hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars or failed to pay them at all. Some schools have been through three or four coaches in two years. The district was aware of turnover problems for more than a year, but only in February, after so many counselors quit, did administrators seek answers from MCUSA. The company promised the school district no child would be turned away but told counselors they would be paid only for time spent with “sponsored” children — children with insurance.

Teachers union holds rally — The Florida Education Association, led by President Joanne McCall, host a rally and informational picket to support the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, 4:30 p.m., Plaza de la Constitucion 1 Cathedral St., St. Augustine.

Happening today — The state college system’s Council of Presidents will hold its annual meeting in Hillsborough County, starting 7:30 a.m., Hillsborough Community College, 4001 West Tampa Bay Blvd., Tampa, and at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa.

Lottery, agriculture officials cut ties with Charles Goston” via Andrew Caplan of the Gainesville Sun — Two state agencies gave nearly $250,000 of taxpayers’ money in a five-year span to a former Gainesville city commissioner, believing his monthly publication had a statewide reach to universities and thousands of black college-bound students. But that wasn’t the case. Both agencies have now cut ties with Goston and his publication, Black College Monthly. “After learning of the publication’s circulation discrepancy, the Lottery requested certified documentation to show Black College Monthly’s true circulation numbers, which we did not receive,” Florida Lottery spokeswoman Taylor Nash said. In March, The Sun wrote about then-Commissioner Goston’s publication after learning he told the Florida Lottery and state’s agriculture department that he had a statewide circulation beyond 300,000 and that his websites, which hadn’t been significantly updated in years, amassed 30,000 and 70,000 visitors every day. An audit of his website’s traffic, conducted by The Sun, showed that the figures were much lower than Goston had suggested. Goston also cited a lower figure for his newspaper, saying it was about 50,000.

Former Gainesville City Commissioner Charles Goston.

It was once part of the Everglades. Now Miami-Dade wants to use it for a highway” via Jennie Staletovich of the Miami Herald — On the western fringes of Miami-Dade County, street after street of barrel-tiled houses squeezed within shouting distance of one another come to an abrupt stop at a marshy basin that was once part of the Shark River Slough. The slough — the flowing heart of the Everglades’ famed River of Grass — was supposed to be the boundary to what a county plan anointed Miami’s “aggrandizing urban front.” But that front now threatens to march farther into the marsh. Miami-Dade County is pursuing a $650 million plan to extend the Dolphin Expressway, a logjam of a highway counted among the 50 worst in the U.S. The proposed path would pave a 13-mile-long stretch somewhere through the sprawling wetlands, formally known as the Bird Drive Basin. While county transportation planners are still trying to nail down the exact path — County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced that the road had shifted another third of a mile west — the proposal is drawing opposition from both environmental groups and smart growth advocates. Expressway officials said the latest route had not yet been posted on the project website and did not respond to a request for a copy.

North Miami Beach Mayor admitted payments from Trump-tied developers to his wife” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times — North Miami Beach Mayor George Vallejo pleaded guilty in April to a raft of campaign-finance violations, including diverting at least $5,000 in campaign money to shell corporations he and his family used to pay off personal expenses. Vallejo stepped down as mayor and received three months of house arrest plus probation. But in a previously unreported deposition, Vallejo admitted to perhaps an even greater ethical violation: He said in a sworn statement that, for virtually the entirety of his time in office, his wife was quietly employed by the infamous, Trump-tied Dezer family, who are among the city’s most prominent developers. Vallejo told attorneys in an April 5 interview that he and his wife created two shell companies, including one LLC headquartered in Wyoming, to hide the payments from the public. While his wife was taking publicly undisclosed payments from the Dezers, Vallejo voted on issues related to Dezer properties. “I wanted something that not everybody could sit there and look [it] up … and be all up in our business,” Vallejo told investigators probing the Wyoming LLC.


In the recent past, small crime and violence numbers reported to the state from the school district overseeing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School haven’t reflected the actual amount of incidents that have taken place.

A Sun Sentinel investigation found that the Broward County School District “reports only a portion of its actual crimes to the state, making it impossible to spot a school’s trouble spots and inform parents about safety.” The investigation was led by Scott TravisMegan O’Matz and John Maines.

Some of the unreported incidents took place at Stoneman Douglas, the site of the tragic Feb. 14 school shooting. That’s drawn the ire of at least one of the victim’s parents, too.

People brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. Small crime and violence numbers reported to the state from the school district overseeing the school hasn’t reflected the actual amount of incidents that have taken place. (Photo via Getty Images.)

‘No value’: The data is worthless if it’s wrong. “I don’t think you can fix problems in a school without knowing the real statistics,” Rebecca Dahl, a retired Broward County principal, told the Sentinel. “By not reporting correctly, you can’t go back and say, ‘Gosh, we had this many incidents, this many kids bullied.’ You can’t look at what’s really going on at the school.”

The numbers: The investigation found 10 instances of trespassing, 16 cases of bullying or harassment, six break-ins, and two cases of in-school battery that occurred at Stoneman Douglas and were unreported in the last three years.

Incentives unclear: There’s no direct consequence or reward for reporting skewed numbers, the Sentinel found. Though, it could be caused by a perceived need from administrators to keep kids from being withdrawn or perceived pressure to fudge numbers for job security.


Trump says he’d likely support bill to end federal pot ban” via Ryan Miller of USA Today — … and defer to states’ laws on marijuana legalization — a break from Attorney General Jeff Sessions stance on cannabis enforcement. Trump told reporters he “probably will end up supporting” the bill, which Sens. Cory Gardner and Elizabeth Warren unveiled Thursday … “I support Senator Gardner. I know exactly what he’s doing,” Trump said. “We’re looking at it. But I probably will end up supporting that.” Trump’s backing would signal a turn from his Justice Department’s stance on marijuana legalization. In January, Sessions rescinded an Obama-era memo assuring state-regulated marijuana dealers that federal prosecutors would leave them alone if they followed state regulations intended to keep pot out of the hands of kids and money out of the hands of drug cartels. Trump had indicated on the 2016 campaign trail that he’d support states’ laws on cannabis. In March, Gardner said Trump agreed to respect state-legalized pot, indicating a break from Sessions.

Nelson addresses algae blooms — Nelson and U.S. Rep. Bill Posey host a briefing on harmful algae blooms in Florida, 11 a.m., Capitol Hill Visitors Center, Room 203-02, Washington, D.C.

Amid protests, Gus Bilirakis touts female staff at summit” via Jonathan Capriel of the Tampa Bay Times — Bilirakis’s Women’s Summit was met with protesters who dressed as characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, a best-selling novel about a dystopia that uses women as breeding animals. It’s all politics, said the Palm Harbor Republican, who told reporters he had neither read the book nor seen the popular Hulu series. Bilirakis advertised the summit at East Lake High School as “an opportunity for women to learn about relevant topics that have a direct impact on their lives.” Those topics included gardening, weight loss and “a woman’s guide to financial planning.” Protester Lara Higgins said the themes were belittling to women. “This is a classic situation of a man telling women what topics are important to them,” said Higgins, 52. Bilirakis accused his detractors of taking the event title out of context. “You can only put so much on a flyer,” he said. The topics are no less relevant, he said. “My chief of staff is a woman,” Bilirakis said. “My deputy chief of staff is a woman; our head caseworker is a woman. I respect women tremendously, and they have enhanced my career and I’m a better congressman because of them.”

Women dressed like handmaids protest Gus Bilirakis at his Woman’s Summit. (Image via Bay News 9)

Charlie Crist, Bilirakis team up to fight newspaper tariffs” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Crist and Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican from South Dakota, have introduced the Protecting Rational Incentives in Newsprint Trade Act, which has gained bipartisan support, including Bilirakis … “An unnecessary trade war with some of our closest partners is already having real, negative consequences for our economy and the newspaper industry in particular. The Tampa Bay Times recently announced 50 employees would be laid off due to new tariffs — shrinking newsrooms at a time when thoughtful, credible reporting is needed most,” Crist said. The legislation, already introduced in the Senate by Susan Collins and Angus King, both of Maine, would suspend the import taxes on uncoated groundwood paper while the Department of Commerce examines the effects on the printing and publishing industry, according to sponsors.


A downturn in newspaper profitability and the need for traditional dailies to direct emphasis on digital products that drive traffic hasn’t been pretty for some outlets attempting to adapt to a new media landscape.

A story published Friday by the Columbia Journalism Review spotlights the Miami Herald, detailing through interviews with former and current employees some of the strife from within.

“The Herald has shed jobs intermittently since 2009, through layoffs and attrition, and one current Herald reporter described a feeling of ‘everlasting angst’ that remains, even a decade later, from the largest cuts in the paper’s history,” writes Rowan Moore Gerety for CJR.

A new report outlines past trouble, strife at the Miami Herald.

Consider the source: Sergio Bustos, a former politics editor at the Herald and now senior editor for POLITICO states, spoke with Moore Gerety, leading him to conclude that “despite their seniority or their perceived indispensability, many staffers at the Herald and similarly strained papers have left of their own accord.” Those reasons being financial worries, frustrations over digital ventures and professional ambition.

Caputo chimes in: Marc Caputo, who spearheaded the POLITICO Florida launch after leaving the Herald, said, “In general, large corporate ownership of newspapers linked to the stock market is worse than ownership by a benevolent billionaire with vision or a properly run nonprofit.”

Digital pressure: The story claims the Herald newsroom writers have “traffic goals,” internally regarded as “click quotas.” As well: a team specifically tailored to rewrite viral stories. But some see it as a necessary evil, one that could prevent cuts and perpetuate the Herald’s coverage.


Appointed — Jaymie Carter and Rod Thompson to the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota District Board of Trustees; Anne Patterson and Garry Lubi to the Daytona State College District Board of Trustees; Jill Danigel to Southeast Volusia Hospital District.

Lobbyists should not be needed to get state to pay up” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Floridians who have been harmed by their government should not have to hire a lobbyist to make the state pay up. And they certainly should not have to hire the brother of the speaker of the Florida House to have a better shot at getting lawmakers to allow them to collect the damages they are owed. But that’s the way it works in Tallahassee, where political influence trumps fairness and the talk of real reform is so much hot air. Particularly outrageous is how lobbyists are sometimes hired to defeat claims bill. The AP reported one instance in which an insurer for Volusia County hired a lobbyist to kill a claims bill filed on behalf of a Kansas woman. She is owed nearly $2 million after being injured and disfigured when she was run over by a county-operated truck on Daytona Beach. The answer to this long-running mess is not for the Legislature to refuse to consider any claims bill … The answer is real reform with an objective, clear set of procedures for approving payments to victims who have been injured by the government. If they win damage awards in court, they should not lose in the Legislature because they did not hire the right lobbyist.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: HealthSmart Holdings

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Embassy of the State of Qatar

David BrowningEdgar CastroNelson DiazKevin Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Pearl Holding Group (Ocean Harbor)

Makayla Anne Stilianou Buchanan, Wexford Strategies: Consumer Energy Alliance — Florida, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Allyce Heflin, Southern Strategy Group: The College Board

Will McKinley, Erik Kirk, PooleMcKinley: Sandy Hook Promise

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Kologik


Jacksonville-based lobbyist Jeff Whitson dies — Longtime lobbyist and campaign consultant Whitson, 59, died Saturday at home in Jacksonville. For the last ten years, he represented TECO/Peoples Gas in Jacksonville and NE Florida. Several decades prior, he worked throughout Florida running legislative and local government campaigns and lobbying in Tallahassee. Jeff was preceded in death by his father, James L Whitson. He is survived by his mother Carolyn Whitson of Grand Island; his loving wife of 29 years, Kathy; son, Jeremiah (JJ) Whitson and wife, HeatherZachary Whitson and wife, Marisa; stepdaughter Ibrey Hudgens and husband, Ryan; daughter, Caroline Marie Whitson-Portlock and husband, Justin; son, Jordan Whitson and six grandchildren. The family will receive friends at a Celebration of Life at the San Jose Country Club, Friday, June 15 at 7529 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. A private service with full military honors will be at the Jacksonville National Cemetery for the family. In lieu of flowers, please support the Northeast Florida Red Cross with a donation at, 1-800-435-7669 or mail to the American Red Cross at 751 Riverside Avenue, Jacksonville. You may also support The Ohio State University in his memory at

— ALOE —

A Florida city wants more retirees, and is going after them” via Elizabeth Olson of The New York Times — Tallahassee, which is not growing as fast as the rest of the state, is looking to attract new residents, including small-business owners who can generate jobs. A key part of the city’s efforts is expanding its population of retirees, and it has adopted some unusual tactics — including subsidizing a few people to move there. A community project is working to recruit baby boomers who are hitting retirement age and looking to move someplace warmer and more affordable but who may not have thought of Tallahassee as an alternative to destinations like Sarasota, Boca Raton or even Panama City, which is also on the Panhandle. About 191,000 people live in the city, whose downtown has popular pockets of restaurants as well as a large green space, Cascades Park. Like many college towns, Tallahassee draws a variety of speakers — Florida State University had Patti LuPone, the Broadway star, in March — and holds music events that would not always be available in a midsize city.

No early access to Toy Story land for passholders” via John Gregory of Orlando Rising — Annual passholders for Walt Disney World won’t get to experience Toy Story Land before its official opening June 30, with reporters and Disney workers set to be the only people to get an early look at the new area in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The lack of passholder exclusive access breaks with what Disney offered last year when opening Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom … Disney employees won’t get much time in the new land either, with cast members previews beginning as early as June 14 only for Slinky Dog Dash, the area’s new family coaster. The entire land should be available for additional cast member previews June 22. Members of the press will then get their first look at the finished Toy Story Land June 28, followed by a dedication ceremony June 29, a day before its opened to all Disney park guests. If passholders want to wait out the big crowds and long lines expected following Toy Story Land’s opening, they’ll have to wait until September to get exclusive access.

Passholders will get no special favors (just yet) for the newly opened Toy Story Land.

SeaWorld is finally getting rid of plastic straws and bags” via Paola Perez of Orlando Weekly — Orlando’s SeaWorld, Aquatica and Discovery Cove were listed among the participating parks, as well as Busch Gardens in Tampa. This new policy will apply to all 12 of SeaWorld’s theme parks. “This milestone environmental achievement is a testament to our mission to protect the environment, the ocean and the animals we share our planet with, which are currently threatened by unprecedented amounts of plastic pollution,” said interim chief executive officer for SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. John Riley in a news release The park says it is committed to other environmentally-friendly investments like renewable energy and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

SpaceX plans major expansion at KSC with futuristic launch control center” via James Dean of FLORIDA TODAY — It will be an operational monument to Elon Musk’s vision: a towering SpaceX launch control center, a 133,000-square-foot hangar and a rocket garden rising in the heart of Kennedy Space Center. According to plans detailed in a draft environmental review published recently by KSC, SpaceX will undertake a major expansion of its facilities at the space center sometime in the not-too-distant future. The review says SpaceX is seeking more room and a bigger presence “in its pursuit of a complete local, efficient, and reusable launch vehicle program.” The expansion would enable SpaceX to store and refurbish large numbers of Falcon rocket boosters and nose cones at the operations center down the road from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

Happy birthday to our dear friend, Mike Fasano, as well as Stuart Rogel, former state Rep. Neil Combee and state House candidate Joe Wicker.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Remembering Anthony Bourdain at FSU

First known for cuisine and later his storytelling, chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain had a knack for traveling the world and telling the world about it.

After news broke Friday that Bourdain tragically ended his own life in France, the world mourned and celebrated his work — which, we’ve learned, brought him to all the nooks and crannies of the planet, even Tallahassee.

Highlighted on Twitter by Gus Corbella of Greenberg Traurig, a clip shows Bourdain speaking with a group of prospective writers at Florida State University in 2011. It’s worth watching:

“I started writing at age 44 after 28 years spent standing in kitchens,” Bourdain tells the students. “Who would want to read about the squalid life of a not-particularly-good cook? This subculture of chefs and cooks and dishwashers …”

He offered tips to the students as well: “I never read what I’ve just written if I can avoid it.” And at least one student interviewed in the clip said she was inspired by how late he began to document his experiences through prose.

Even Bourdain, who at the time had reached stardom and notoriety, walked away from the lecture with something to gain. He said the writing students at FSU were likely more serious about writing than he is, and that speaking with them was flattering.

“It just feels good,” Bourdain said. “I’m walking around thinking like, ‘Damn, I’m a writer.’ ”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew WilsonDanny McAuliffeJim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

State gets election security money — The Florida Department of State received $19.2 million in federal election security money this week following pressure from county and state leaders to apply for the funding. The money is part of a $380 million package approved earlier this year by Congress to enhance election security in all 50 states. In May, supervisors of elections in Florida first raised concerns that the state had not applied for the $19.2 million set aside for it, as reported by Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson applied further pressure on the Department to apply for the funding before the midterm elections. The Legislature will need to unlock the funds before the Department of State can distribute money to each county’s election office.

Tourism on record track — The first three months of 2018 saw a record number of visitors come to the Sunshine State, according to Florida’s tourism-marketing agency VISIT Florida. An estimated 33.2 million visitors traveled to Florida from January through March. The previous three-month high was 30.9 million visitors. In 2017, the Legislature appropriated $76 million to VISIT Florida for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The same amount was appropriated during the 2018 Legislative Session. The public-private agency has recently led efforts to advertise Florida tourism in Canada, and the number of visitors from that country was up 2.5 percent during the last quarter.

Judge lifts stay on marijuana smoking ban — Following her ruling last month that Florida’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional, Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers lifted the stay, or hold, on the ruling following the state’s immediate appeal of Gievers’ initial ruling. Gievers’ order now will come into effect Monday. But while smoking the plant for medicinal purposes will be considered legal, patients still can’t get smokable marijuana until the Department of Health finalizes new rules for Gievers’ decision. An attorney representing the state said the rule-making process could take months to complete.

Parkland panel meets again — A group charged with unearthing facts and recommending improvements to prevent another mass school shooting met again this week to review the Feb. 14 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The fact-finding commission, which includes lawmakers, local authorities and citizens, was included in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed in the 2018 Legislative Session. Andrew Pollack, a former member of the commission, Thursday announced his resignation from the panel, citing the need to focus his efforts on electing members to the Broward County School Board. He is the father of one of the slain Parkland students. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who heads the commission, directed the conversation Thursday toward risk-assessment protocols that must be implemented ahead of the next school year, reports the News Service of Florida. Among them: Evidence-based youth mental health awareness and assistance curriculum, the Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool, and a student crime-watch program.

Scott’s disclosure set for appeal hearing — A lawsuit challenging whether Gov. Rick Scott properly disclosed his wealth will now be heard by the 1st District Court of Appeal. Scott’s office argues that the issue brought forward, which claims the Governor did not fully disclose the details of his personal wealth through the use of a blind trust, should be heard by the Florida Commission on Ethics. A circuit judge ruled otherwise earlier this year, and now the appeals court will have its say on what authority will consider whether Scott properly disclosed his finances. Filed in 2017, Scott listed a net worth at $149.3 million, including a blind trust worth $130.5 million.

Puerto Rico PD gets some backup

The Puerto Rico Police Department is now home to 25 Florida Highway Patrol vehicles.

“Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last year, I have visited the island six times to offer guidance, assistance and support. We’ve made it a priority in Florida to aid Puerto Rico in their recovery from this devastating storm,” Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.

Florida is giving some mobile help to the Puerto Rico Police Department.

“I’m glad that the Florida Highway Patrol, on behalf of Floridians, has stepped up and honored a request to provide additional surplus police cruisers to the island. These 25 vehicles will assist law enforcement efforts as they work to rebuild. We will continue to do all we can to support Puerto Rico’s recovery.”

The cache of cruisers each had more than 80,000 miles of service in the Sunshine State, and had been out of circulation and awaiting surplus auction before they were donated to PRPD.

“The Florida Highway Patrol is proud to continue assisting the Puerto Rico Police Department following Hurricane Maria,” said FHP Director Gene Spaulding. “These donated vehicles are another way Florida is supporting the people of Puerto Rico in their recovery.”

Though, as the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas tweeted this week, “Oh so many questions this election year … @FLGovScott says he’s sending 25 used FHP vehicles to Puerto Rico. But his prison system struggles to have working vehicles to transport inmates. It’s received half of what it’s asked for in vehicle replacement.”

Veterans honor Putnam for outdoor initiatives

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was recently recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.

Putnam, who also is vying for the Republican nod in the Governor’s race, was awarded the Military Order of the Purple Heart Distinguished Service Award.

Adam Putnam was recognized at the Jacksonville Purple Heart State Convention.

During remarks at the convention, the commissioner cited his work in Operation Outdoor Freedom, which gives certain veterans the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors at no cost.

Putnam said that camps across the state have served over 3,600 veterans so far, making it the only program of its “kind, size and scope,” at least to his knowledge.

“The therapy that’s taking place in those woods and around those campfires is extraordinary. We would not be able to continue to identify and promote this program without your help,” Putnam said. “We need to be able to let every veteran know that this is an opportunity for them and a small way for the State of Florida to say thank you for your service to our great country.”

Two camps currently operate: Camp Prairie and Peace River Camp. Both are overseen by the Florida Forest Service, which Putnam oversees. Putnam also has dedicated a Purple Heart Trail in the Withlacoochee State Forest.

Jimmy Patronis recognized for PTSD legislation

The Florida Professional Firefighters group this week honored Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis for helping champion a new law that gives first responders access to mental health care through the state’s workers’ compensation system.

Jimmy Patronis is being honored for PTSD legislation giving access to mental health care.

“I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish for our firefighters and other first responders. As Florida’s State Fire Marshal, I will keep fighting for those that serve and protect all of Florida. My goal is to also ensure cancer is a covered treatment, providing greater health care access to all first responders. I’m grateful that I was able to join the Florida Professional Firefighters this evening and receive this great honor,” Patronis said of the award.

Notably, the new law allows first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to receive care and treatment under workers’ comp provided by the state. First responders in Florida have suffered from PTSD as a result of their line of work. The disease has led many to take their own lives.

The CFO this week also presented more than $1 million in grant funding for firefighting equipment and facility updates across the state. The grants were awarded to Florida’s Firefighter Grant Assistance Program to Felda Volunteer Fire Department, Montura Volunteer Fire Department and Pioneer Plantation Volunteer Fire Department in the amounts of $55,414.60, and were accompanied by an additional $843,000 given to the City of LaBelle Fire Station.

“These grants will support our firefighters, improve their emergency response, and help them do their jobs safely and efficiently,” Patronis said in a prepared statement. “No matter the size of the community, fire service needs for families remain the same. Florida’s firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our friends and family, and we must do everything to support their heroic efforts.”

Instagram of the week

Light lunch. #Alsace

A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on

RIP Anthony Bourdain.

CFO commends SEC for enlisting crypto chief

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said he was a fan of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to bring on its first-ever cryptocurrency adviser.

“The SEC’s appointment of a cryptocurrency chief is a forward-thinking and bold move. My office has been closely following cryptocurrency, and as with all emerging technology, there comes a new risk for consumers to be defrauded,” Patronis said in a news release. “With the Seminole County Tax Collector now accepting bitcoin as a form of payment and Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami/Ft. Lauderdale ranking seventh and eighth in the top 10 bitcoin-friendly cities, it’s important we stay ahead of the game when it comes to consumer protection.”

The SEC named Valerie Szczepanik to oversee how securities laws apply to emerging cryptocurrencies.

The SEC announced the appointment of Valerie Szczepanik Tuesday. She’s tasked with overseeing how securities laws apply to emerging digital asset technologies, including cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum.

Citing the recent consumer alert his office put out on cryptocurrency scams, Patronis said he’s already directed his staff to set up a call with Szczepanik “to discuss how we can continue to protect consumers in our state.”

The week in appointments

Martin County Court

Jennifer Alexandra Alcorta Waters will fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Curtis L. Disque. The 41-year-old from Palm City is a partner at Fox, Wackeen, Dungey, Beard, Bush, Goldman, Waters, Robison, van Vonno & McCluskey, LLC. She received an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and received a J.D. at the University of Florida.

Florida Virtual School Board of Trustees

Dr. Lee Mandel fills a vacant seat for a term that began this week and ends Sept. 10, 2020. Mandel, 53, of Fort Lauderdale is a physician with the South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and Pursued medicine at the University of South Florida.

Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees

Robin Schneider, 55, of Springhill and Al Hernandez, 46, of Odessa were reappointed for terms ending March 31, 2022. Lee Maggard, 31, of Zephyrhills, was reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022.

New College of Florida Board of Trustees

Garin Hoover, 55, of Sarasota, fills a vacant seat for a term ending Jan. 6, 2023. He is the owner of Hoover Realty and a retired attorney.

Florida seniors earn National Merit Scholarship

The National Merit Scholarship Corp. announced this week that 4,000 students nationwide had earned a college-sponsored scholarship, including 300 Florida high school seniors.

“These students’ scholarship earnings clearly demonstrate that hard work pays off, and I am immensely proud of them for representing the State of Florida so well,” said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart. “I also want to commend their educators and parents whose support and encouragement over the years have contributed to their success.”

The scholarships provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution that awarded them.

It takes some work to earn a National Merit Scholarship — to make the grade, students must apply for the scholarship in their junior year, write an essay, score well on the SAT and lock down a recommendation from a high school official.

Mel Ponder recognized as Legislator of the Year

The Florida College System Council of Presidents (COP) and the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) named Rep. Mel Ponder, a Destin Republican, as its 2018 Legislator of the Year.

The groups said they “recognize an exemplary legislator annually when his or her contributions during the Legislative Session significantly enhance and support the Florida College System.”

Mel Ponder: Florida Legislator of the Year.

Ponder sponsored HB 75, which now allows Florida colleges to waive certain postsecondary fees, not covered by the Department of Defense, for active duty members of U.S. Armed Forces using military tuition assistance.

“This new law will further open access to college for the men and women of the military to attend Florida’s top-rated colleges in the nation,” the groups said in a statement.

Ponder will be formally presented the award at the Council of Presidents annual meeting in Tampa June 11.

Benacquisto launches local photo contest

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is encouraging photography enthusiasts in her area to submit local pictures to be displayed to the public.

An email distributed this week from the Fort Myers Republican asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots and submit them by Aug. 31.

Lizbeth Benacquisto asks Southwest Florida photogs to snap their favorite spots to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery.

Submissions will have a chance to be displayed at the Richard H. Rush Library Gallery, as well as other areas around Lee County. The pictures also have a chance to get sent out in Benacquisto’s monthly newsletter.

Text from an email advertising the event reads, “There are beautiful places and unforgettable moments that take place across Lee County each day: Show us the ones that mean the most to you!”

Take a hunter safety class this summer

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reminds Floridians if they haven’t completed the state’s hunter safety course requirement, now’s a good time to sign up.

Many of these classes, offered statewide, fill up fast. And people born after May 31, 1975, must complete the FWC’s hunter safety class before they can buy the type of hunting license that allows them to legally hunt alone.

In Florida, safe hunting is no accident.

If one is new to our state, these classes will make new residents aware of Florida’s hunting laws.

For those who just relocated from inside the state, the FWC says the classes are “a great way to meet other hunters. You can make some new hunting buddies or maybe even get a line on a great hunt club that’s looking for new members.”

Register for a hunter safety class by going to or by contacting your nearest FWC regional office.

Florida Forest Service announces Longleaf Pine program

The Florida Forest Service announced this week that the Longleaf Pine Landowner Incentive Program is now accepting applications from eligible, nonindustrial private forest landowners. Applications will be accepted through Friday, July 13.

The goal of the program is to increase the acreage of healthy Longleaf Pine ecosystems in Florida by helping nonindustrial private forest landowners make the long-term investment required to establish and maintain this valuable ecosystem.

Florida Longleaf Pines.

The program offers incentive payments for completion of timber stand improvement, invasive species control, prescribed burning, planting Longleaf Pine, native plant understory establishment and mechanical underbrush treatments.

The program is offered for private lands in Florida counties located west of the Aucilla River and several counties near the Ocala National Forest.

Application forms and more information on program requirements and procedures can be found by visiting or by contacting your local county forester.

DHSMV: Drive slower, stay cooler this summer

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has launched its Safe Summer Travel Campaign.

Partnering with the Florida Highway Patrol, Department of Children and Families, Department of Transportation, Florida Police Chiefs Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA, the team offers a wide variety of advice, but all agree safety begins with easing up on the gas pedal.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles wants all motorists to drive safe and always ‘Arrive Alive.’

“There are more travelers on Florida’s roads than ever before, so it’s critical to remember to slow down, stay cool and be safe,” DHSMV Director Terry Rhodes said.

Besides slowing down, the groups encourage prevention methods, like making sure proper child restraints are in place.

However, the first line of defense should be checking your tires, according to the DHSMV. Data recorded by the agency showed there were more than 3,306 tire-related crashes last year, resulting in 285 serious injuries.

And with the hot summer sun upon the state, the groups warn to never leave children or pets in vehicles unattended. Moreover, suspicious or aggressive behavior on the roadways can be reported by dialing *FHP (*347).

VISIT FLORIDA unveils cooperative marketing effort

The state’s tourism marketing agency is now allowing industry partners to ‘buy into’ over 200 shared marketing opportunities and small business programs.

Developed with Miles Partnership, the cooperative marketing idea is expected to extend the marketing dollars of the 12,000 industry partners associated with the public-private marketing agency.

“Our new offerings allow all of our small, medium and large partners across the state to buy into unique opportunities that fit their needs and maximize their budgets,” VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson said.


New programs include, per the agency, “nontraditional, such as a Google Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) content optimization program; North America, which includes tried and true sanctioned print and digital programs in publications such as AAA, Wall Street Journal and Golf Digest; International, which includes new Brand USA program packages; Regional, which focuses on brand development of regional parts of the state to build successful media plans; and Small Business, such as a video content production program to allow businesses to tell their own unique stories.”

News of the cooperative is timely, as it comes as businesses prep for the next fiscal year.

VISIT Florida and Miles Partnership designed the concept with the help of feedback and collaboration from industry partners at the agency’s Leadership Summit in December.

Florida Bar to hold convention in Orlando — with yoga

The Florida Bar will hold its annual convention June 13-16 in Orlando and will focus this year “on the importance of living and enjoying a balanced lifestyle.”

West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 70th president. Vero Beach attorney John M. Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect; he will become president in June 2019. The convention is being held at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

West Palm Beach attorney and Florida Bar President-elect Michelle Suskauer.

“Living Well, Working Well: The Balanced Lawyer,” the theme of this year’s convention, emphasizes the positive effects of learning to balance family, work, health and fitness.

This will be the first time the convention offers health and wellness activities including yoga, meditation and more. Mindfulness, stress-management and integrating work-life balance are key themes the discussions and programs will focus on.

Other highlights include:

Judicial Luncheon— Held Thursday, June 14, the luncheon will feature Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga presenting “The State of the Judiciary.” Lawyer, author and mindfulness instructor Jeena Cho will be the keynote speaker. Justice Labarga’s remarks (starting about 12:30 p.m.) and Cho’s presentation (starting about 1:15 p.m.) will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.

General Assembly— The centerpiece event June 15 will include installation of incoming Bar officers and Board of Governors members. Suskauer will be sworn in as the Bar’s new president, and Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect. The entire General Assembly from 9:30 a.m.-noon will be streamed live on The Florida Bar’s Facebook page.

50-year members — The Bar will honor 313 attorneys for 50 years of service at a special luncheon. Also honored will be 14 senior counselors, who have practiced for 50 years or more but have not been members of The Florida Bar for the entire time.

Harvard faculty to lead Executive Leadership course at Florida Poly

Business executives from all over Florida are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind leadership course developed by Harvard professors and taught at Florida Polytechnic University this Aug. 5-10.

The immersive weeklong Florida Poly Executive Leadership Course is designed for mid-career professionals looking to improve their leadership skills. Attendees will learn how to better understand their market, execute creative change, and grow their organizations through flexible and adaptive leadership.

Florida Polytechnic University welcomes Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Earl Sasser and Paul Marshall.

The course is led by Harvard professors emeritus Drs. Paul Marshall and Earl Sasser to provide participants with the most advanced leadership strategies through hands-on activities, real-world case studies, group breakouts and self-reflection.

“What makes this course unique is that it is led by Harvard faculty and modeled by what people can find at Harvard,” said Florida Poly’s president, Dr. Randy K. Avent. “It’s also a resident program which brings the opportunity to build valuable relationships with leaders from other companies.”

Attendees will spend their evenings in a residence hall. The registration deadline is July 22. For more information, contact or 863-874-8614.

AARP Florida tracks lawmakers’ votes

How state legislators voted in the 2018 Legislature on issues of interest to older Floridians can be seen with the release of AARP Florida’s 7th Annual Legislative Voting Record.

This year’s voting record contains detailed, vote-by-vote information on key legislation important to those age 50 and older.

AARP wants to know how Florida seniors are voting.

AARP said it alerted legislators that it would consider their votes on certain proposals to be key votes for this voting record.

And because key decisions often occur at several stages during the long process of legislative consideration of a bill, the voting record tracks legislative committees’ actions as well as final votes.

The voting record provides information about legislative votes based on broad topics, such as regulated utilities, the state budget, health care and supportive services, prescription drugs, consumer protections and livable communities.

“AARP Florida’s Legislative Voting Record makes it easy to track legislators’ decisions on key issues that matter most,” AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson said.

The complete version of the 2018 voting record can be viewed and downloaded here.

Ports group highlights promising data

A five-year mission plan released by the Florida Ports Council bears good news: Cargo and cruise activity is increasing.

The nonprofit’s strategic plan, “Connecting Commerce: The 2018-2022 Five-Year Florida Seaport Mission Plan,” provides a few insightful data points. Among them: a 4.9 percent increase in Florida’s waterborne trade, and a $4.3 billion increase in the value of containerized cargo moved.

Gov. Scott added commentary to the news, citing the state’s $1.4 billion investment in ports since December 2010 — the month before he assumed office.

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler.

“Florida’s hardworking businesses have created more than 1.5 million private sector jobs since December 2010. This job growth would not be possible without our incredible seaports,” Scott said.

Florida Ports Council President and CEO Doug Wheeler said continuing investments in ports will continue to contribute to economic growth.

“Now that Florida ports have the infrastructure to accommodate more cargo, we are seeing steady growth year after year in total cargo tonnage and value of cargo, as well as the number of cruise passengers,” Wheeler said.

“With $3.3 billion in capital improvements at Florida’s seaports identified over the next five years, we expect these numbers to continue to grow creating a stable economy for current Floridians and future generations.”

Florida Wildlife Federation praises ‘extraordinary generosity’

The Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) recognized philanthropists Sam and Betty Shine this week, after their donation of “a critical tract of land, over 6,000 acres in size, to the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge south of Tallahassee on the Gulf of Mexico.”

The land donated by the Shines will expand the Refuge northward to U.S. 98, “thereby protecting this environmental jewel from development and pollution,” the FWF said in a statement.

Philanthropist Sam Shine, founder and former CEO of Samtech. (Image via Christopher Fryer/News and Tribune)

As a habitat, it will “provide a perpetual home for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida black bear and the indigo snake.” The tract’s protection also affords increased water quantity and quality to the aquifer, which helps Apalachee Bay.

“This is the latest in a long line of environmental projects involving Sam and Betty, and the Florida Wildlife Federation greatly appreciates their altruism,” said Manley Fuller, FWF president.

Capital craft brewery gearing up for move

Renovations began this week at the new South Monroe Street home of Tallahassee’s Proof Brewing Co., the city’s first craft brewery.

The move is into a 70-year-old, 34,000 square-foot former Coca-Cola bottling plant a short drive from downtown. Proof outgrew its current location, a 7,500 square-foot former warehouse in the city’s Railroad Square Art Park.

Proof Brewing Co., Tallahassee’s first craft brewery, is making a big move.

“The support and encouragement we’ve received from our community about the news of our expansion has been incredible,” it said in an email. “It’ll be here before we know it.”

The company, owned and operated by Byron and Angela Burroughs, already has begun receiving new equipment, including 60-barrel fermenters, with more tanks slated for the future.

“Every square inch is getting positioned with something,” the email said.

“The new space will allow us to take on several fun new projects — from seasonal and year-round cans, to more barrel-aged beers.” It’s expected to be open no later than January 2019.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.8.18

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

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

Please, Democratic candidates for governor, don’t make us go all “dark” again.

Andrew GillumGwen GrahamChris King and Philip Levine are scheduled to take part in a gubernatorial debate in Pinellas County Saturday.

Don’t make us go dark again, Dems.

The debate will be televised by Spectrum Bay News 9 in the Tampa Bay area and Spectrum News 13 in the Orlando area. That’s at 6:30 p.m. in the Pinellas Park High School auditorium, 6305 118th Ave. North, Largo.

Now, recall that back in April we decided that SUNBURN, the state’s premier AM political newsletter, and our weekend “Takeaways from Tallahassee” newsletter, were “going dark” and not publishing.

That was a message to the four leading Democratic candidates after their last debate. Three of the four admitted they get their morning news first from The New York Times, which I noted was “a newspaper produced roughly 1,000 miles away from the Florida state line.”

And not one said they read SUNBURN, POLITICO Playbook, the Tampa Bay Times — the largest circulation newspaper in the state — or any state-centric news source.

Will the candidates finally cop to have changed their morning reading habits? We’ll see.

That’s one of the Top 5 Things to Look for in Saturday’s debate. Here are the others:

— Will anyone truly shine? April’s showing was, shall we say, lackluster.

— Why isn’t Jeff Greene showing up? He was invited, but “declined.” Has the billionaire candidate decided to forge his own way without resorting to a debate stage?

— Will there be another “Gwen and the men” moment?

— Will anyone, especially Levine, finally know what the state’s actual education budget is, and how education funding works?

Let’s hope the debate preppers have done their job this time.


@EmmanuelMacron: The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be. Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force

—@MarcoRubio: This “deal” with #ZTE may keep them from selling to Iran and North Korea. That’s good. But it will do nothing to keep us safe from corporate & national security espionage. That is dangerous. Now Congress will need to act to keep America safe from #China

—@MattKLewisMarco Rubio is doing something very interesting: Instead of trying to swim upstream & stand athwart the populist zeitgeist, he’s trying to co-opt it — to stress the positive aspects, and drop the pernicious ones.

—@SpeakerRyan: Great news → The House just started debate on the largest rescission package in history. This budget-cutting tool will allow us to cut nearly $15 billion in unused and unnecessary government spending.

—@FrankSharry: This notion that a Republican only bill in the House has anything to do with actually protecting Dreamers that Trump put at risk of deportation is silly. This whole exercise isn’t about protecting Dreamers, it’s about protecting incumbent Republicans.

—@SchmitzMedia: Jeff Greene has declined to participate in this weekend’s Democratic gubernatorial debate, according to @FlaDems release.

@AlanSuskey: [AndrewGillum won’t have to worry about ANY endorsements in a couple of months … maybe some days in court but that’ll be about it

—@Scott_Maxwell: During a @onePULSEorg event last night, Matthew Shepard‘s mother said she used to say she didn’t simply seek “tolerance” … she wanted acceptance. But over the past few years, she has gone back to thinking tolerance might be the best she can ever hope for. Let’s hope not.

—@JulieInJax: Pulse tragedy involved a Muslim shooter, Afghani parents, an ISIL narrative, homophobia, & LGBT victims. Lots of news angles to mine. With Parkland, the #MSD students quickly put the NRA on the defensive, (1 angle: Guns) & [DonaldTrump shifted the discussion to blame the police.

—@CortesBob: Strangest thing I heard today. Protesters in front of my office claiming I have not done anything to help #PuertoRicans here in Florida since #maria. Errrrrm. I’m at lost of words. #confused


Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 1; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 3; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 4; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 6; Father’s Day — 9; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 14; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 20; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 30; MLB All-Star Game — 39; Deadline for filing claim bills — 54; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 54; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 55; Start of the U.S. Open — 80; Primary Election Day — 81; College Football opening weekend — 83; NFL season starts — 91; Future of Florida Forum — 110; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 137; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 138; General Election Day — 151; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 251; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 270.


’You never want to run against a friend’: Patrick Murphy calls off governor’s campaign, endorses Gwen Graham” via David Smiley of the Tampa Bay Times — Murphy, a Jupiter Democrat who lost a 2016 bid to unseat Rubio in the U.S. Senate, had kindled speculation for weeks that he’d mount a late-blooming campaign for governor. He polled, raised millions in commitments and launched a media campaign with former Republican congressman David Jolly based around a call for civility and compromise in America’s increasingly polarized political world. But at a local political event in Pembroke Pines, Murphy said he decided against it. He said he raised enough money to mount a campaign but said “a combination of factors,” including a friendship with Graham born during their time together in Congress, swayed him in the opposite direction. “I did put a lot of thought into it. It was a very difficult decision. One of the toughest things that Gwen and I talked about was that personal relationship. You never want to run against a friend. That stinks,” he said. “I thought maybe bringing a Republican and Democrat together might be a unique way to actually solve problems.”

The better part of valor: Former Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy (right) appeared with, from left, former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Adele Khoury Graham, and Democratic candidate for Governor Gwen Graham to announce he will not run for governor and is instead endorsing Gwen Graham.

Tweet, tweet:


Timing of Rick Scott’s latest Puerto Rico announcement raises questions” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida is donating 25 used Dodge Charger police cars to Puerto Rico to help the storm-battered island. That piece of news came from Gov. Scott‘s office about 45 minutes after Scott’s campaign launched a digital ad that claims that he’s “the one public official who’s actually helping” Puerto Rico recover from the effects of Hurricane Maria. The timing of the messaging sure looked curious. Asked about the juxtaposition of the two announcements, Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said: “This isn’t about politics. This is about helping Puerto Rico during its time of need. The distribution of news releases to the media is done at the sole discretion of the communications office.”

First on #FlaPol — Pro-Rick Scott PAC names Ken Griffin national finance chair — New Republican PAC, which is working to help elect Scott to the U.S. Senate, named Griffin as national finance chair. “Like Gov. Scott, Griffin is a successful business leader and has a deep commitment to economic growth, job creation, and the future of our country. We are grateful for Mr. Griffin’s service, and we look forward to advancing our strategic independent campaign to elect an incredibly successful and accomplished Governor who will bring fresh ideas to Washington D.C.,” said New Republican Executive Director Blaise Hazelwood in a statement. Griffin, a Boca Raton native, currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is the CEO and founder of the investment firm Citadel and Citadel Securities, a leading global market maker.

Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin is taking the reins of a pro-Rick Scott Super PAC (Image via Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times).

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will highlight job creation at a grand opening ceremony, 11 a.m., VT MAE, 2701 Langley Ave. in Pensacola. At 4:30 p.m., the governor will hold a news conference to highlight the importance of preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, Key West City Hall, 1300 White St., Key West.


First on #FlaPol — “Greene pulling votes from Graham in South Florida, pollster says” via Florida Politics — The first poll since Palm Beach billionaire Greene entered the Democratic primary for Governor may indicate trouble for Graham’s chances among South Florida Democrats. The survey, conducted by respected pollster Tom Eldon, polled Broward County and Palm Beach County Democrats and found Greene pulling 6 percent support in his home county, and 3 percent support in Broward. Overall, Miami Beach Mayor Levine leads the two-county poll with 39 percent support, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Gillum at 9, Graham at 8, Winter Park businessman King at 5 and Greene at 4. The remaining third said they were undecided. Based on those numbers, it looks like Greene’s siphoning supporters from Graham, not Levine as some Democratic onlookers primary have theorized. Of course, the landscape could change substantially if Greene were to actually start campaigning — he’s still radio silent one week after filing his paperwork.

Jeff Greene’s campaign (if he actually campaigns) could be a draw on Gwen Graham in south Florida.

Adam Putnam unveils Trumpian public safety agenda focused on sanctuary cities, tougher sentences” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — At a time when some Republicans are leading efforts to scale back harsh sentencing laws, Putnam said the state needs to double down on mandatory minimums and maximum penalties to keep Floridians safe. That idea leads Putnam’s public safety agenda, a six-part proposal that is reminiscent of the tough-on-crime promises that Trump campaigned on as a candidate. On immigration, he vowed to prevent so-called “sanctuary” cities in Florida, to work closely with the federal government to deport undocumented immigrants and to “support President Trump’s effort to secure our borders.” Regarding opioids, another focal point of the current administration, Putnam said he would crack down on those who sell fentanyl, an especially dangerous synthetic opioid. “If we’re going to keep Florida’s crime rate at a 47-year low, then we can’t backtrack,” Putnam said. “What we’re seeing unfortunately on the left is an attempt to roll back many of the very policies that made that 47-year low in the crime rate possible.”

FEA backs Graham’s bid for Governor” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, is backing the gubernatorial campaign of Graham, who is in a crowded primary fight, according to FEA President Joanne McCall. The group is considered one of the last bastions of Democratic support in a GOP-dominated state government, and gives big money to Democratic candidates and committees each election cycle. Graham received overwhelming support from members of the FEA, which requires the approval of two-thirds of its membership for any statewide endorsement. The group has not endorsed any primary candidates in the past few gubernatorial races, but most have not been competitive. “It is kind of unusual,” McCall said when asked about her group endorsing in a primary election. “It has been awhile since we’ve had a contested” governor’s race.

Teachers union backing Sean Shaw for Attorney General” via Florida Politics — The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, said the Democratic lawmaker had “proven himself a friend of public education” during the two sessions he’s represented his Tampa-based district in the Florida House. Shaw was one of a dozen House Democrats to earn top marks in the FEA’s recent “report cards” measuring legislators’ support for issues affecting public schools. “We look forward to lending our support to an individual who believes in public education and will use the office of attorney general to support strong public schools,” said McCall.

The ouster of a top financial regulator just became a campaign issue in the race for CFO” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times – Democrat Jeremy Ring, who’s challenging incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis for the cabinet-level position, sent out a release calling for an investigation into the departure of former OFR Commissioner Drew Breakspear. On May 31, Breakspear announced he will resign from OFR at the end of June. Ring said he wanted the investigation because of a news report that showed how Patronis called for the resignation of Breakspear — the official charged with enforcing the rules of Florida’s finance sector — after receiving complaints about Breakspear’s performance from powerful figures in that industry. “The cabinet — and the CFO in particular — have a responsibility to look out for the best interests of all Floridians, not just their rich friends,” Ring said in the release. “Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that CFO Patronis has adjusted to the corrupt business and the pay-to-play atmosphere that Rick Scott has fostered over the last seven years.”

Drew Breakspear is now an issue in the CFO race.

CD 15 primary support puts Democratic groups at odds” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics — EMILY’s List, the progressive organization that supports women candidates for office, has recommended Kristen Carlson, Lakeland attorney and 11th-hour entrant into the Democratic primary, for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. The endorsement put two organizations that support Democratic candidates at odds with one another. At least one Democratic candidate, Greg Pilkington of Indian Lake Estates, withdrew from the race saying the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was sending aid to Andrew Learned of Valrico who had already had the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat. The Democratic Party won’t be split whoever wins the primary, Carlson said. “I certainly plan to support Andrew or Ray (Raymond Pena of Osceola County, who has not campaigned very visibly) if either should win,” she said.

Victor Torres endorses David Richardson for CD 27” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Another member of the Florida Legislature is endorsing Democrat David Richardson is his bid for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. State Sen. Torres, who represents Senate District 15, became the latest to support Richardson’s efforts for the Democratic nomination; it brings the total number of state lawmakers backing his congressional campaign to 18. In his announcement of the endorsement, Torres focused working with his colleague to draft universal health care bill. “This year, State Representative David Richardson and I worked on a Medicare-for-All bill for the State of Florida that we believed would change the lives of millions of Floridians,” Torres said.

Rick Tapia enters race to replace Manny Diaz in HD 103” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Cindy Polo no longer has a free path to the general election in House District 103, as Miami-Dade College professor Tapia has filed paperwork to challenge her for the Democratic nomination. The filing was first noted in a report from The News Service of Florida. Tapia has experience in local politics, serving on the Miami-Dade County Planning Advisory Board. He is a graduate of FIU and received a Master of Liberal Arts degree in government at Harvard.

Rick Tapia enters the race to replace Manny Diaz.

Oscar Ganem set for rematch against Richard Stark in HD 104” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Oscar Ganem is ready for round two as he has once again filed to run against incumbent House District 104 Rep. Richard Stark. The pair first faced off in 2016, with Stark easily defeating his Republican opponent 62-38 on Election Day. Ganem, who hails from Southwest Ranches, officially declared his candidacy Wednesday, with hopes this year’s election will be different. It will be a tough slog for Ganem, as Stark has had a fairly easy go in previous elections. Aside from his handy defeat of Ganem in 2016, Stark also won by more than 20 points in 2012. In 2014, the Weston Democrat ran unopposed.

Jerry Demings says polls show he could win in August” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orange County Sheriff Demings said his campaign’s internal polling suggests he could win the Orange County mayor’s office in the August preliminary election, a prospect that would indicate an impressive base in a contest with three major candidates. Demings made the statement as he was preparing to file his notice of resignation from the office of Orange County sheriff, a move he must make to qualify for the Aug. 28 ballot in the mayoral election. His notice indicates he would leave the sheriff’s post Dec. 4, the day the next mayor of Orange County is to be sworn in. That effectively ends his 37-year career in law enforcement whether he wins or loses the mayoral race. That action also formally opens a new election this year to be held for a new sheriff.

Paella-gate: How the tasty dish led to a criminal campaign investigation in Miami.” via David Smiley and Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald — Over the past three weeks, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has been sniffing out the story behind thousands of dollars in food and drinks purchased by Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo from a Little Havana restaurant. Carollo paid for the food from an office discretionary-events account and his staff hand-delivered the food last month to senior centers on the eve of a special election … prosecutors want to know if Carollo purchased the food and drinks from Paella y Pa Ti with public money as part of a delectable scheme to covertly cater campaign events for Alex Diaz de la Portilla, a former state senator who was running at the time for county commission. If Carollo did, it would be a violation of state laws that prevent elected officials from using public money to finance political campaigns — and a problem both for the commissioner and the candidate.

Happening this weekend:


Under Trump’s reign, local and state races across the country have had no choice but to make him a key aspect — either through supporting the commander-in-chief or opposing him — of their campaigns.

Matt Stout for The Boston Globe reported recently that across Massachusetts, “Trump has loomed large across the ballot in Massachusetts this year, permeating the dialogue and campaign messaging in races that are usually dominated by local, not federal, issues.”

In 2018, it’s Donald Trump 24/7. (Image via Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The same effect is illustrated in Florida as well, it can be seen from Graham’s digital ad bashing Trump to the president’s precocious endorsement of Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

From a Dem: “It’s Trump 24/7, and it’s very hard for the Democrats to get through the wall of noise,” a former chair of the state party told Stout.

Local races: One Democrat challenging a Republican incumbent for a state House seat is tying him to Trump as a tactic. “He is a Trump supporter, and the public knows about it.”

Effective?: One Democratic operative posits, “If I’m running for state rep and I’m using Trump for the sake of Trump, it could have voters scratching their heads.”


Slain student’s father resigns from school shooting fact-finding panel, launches ‘independent investigation’” via Marc Caputo a POLITICO Florida — Andrew Pollack abruptly resigned from a commission investigating the mass shooting because he said he wanted to spend his time campaigning for local school board candidates while conducting his own examination … Pollack said he still had “full faith” in the investigative panel, which includes two other parents of slain students. “I will be spending my time helping to elect individuals to the Broward County School Board that will ensure that our schools are safe. It is my intention to get individuals elected to our school board that will take preventive measures in keeping our schools safe,” wrote Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack, 18, who was one of 17 people killed Feb. 14 at her school. “I will also be spending my time and resources on an independent investigation that will get to the bottom of who was responsible for the atrocities that occurred in our school on Valentine’s Day 2018, the last Valentine’s Day that I would ever spend with my daughter … It is my intention to make sure that all of the individuals and agencies that are responsible for this massacre be held legally accountable.”

Parkland father, Andrew Pollack.

Parkland wants to replace sheriff’s commander who oversaw school shooting response” via Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — In a statement, Parkland City Manager Bob Payton said he has asked BSO to replace Capt. Jan Jordan with a commander who holds the rank of major as part of a series of changes to the way Parkland is policed. Jordan was in charge when Nikolas Cruz attacked the school on Feb. 14, killing 17 people in a span of just six minutes. Several of her deputies, most infamously the school resource officer, Scot Peterson, were unable to locate where the shooting was happening … Jordan also faced criticism from special teams of Coral Springs paramedics who were not allowed into the school to treat victims because Cruz was still on the loose, even though they had been trained to operate in active shooter situations. One Coral Springs deputy fire chief said Jordan’s command post was too crowded and chaotic to function effectively. And radio logs show Jordan focusing on ordering her deputies to set up a perimeter rather than enter the school and find Cruz or help victims. But a news release from Parkland mentions none of that.

—“Florida officials told student diversion programs often work” via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press

Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will meet in Broward County to discuss school-resource officers, among other topics, 8 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

Pulse nightclub shooting survivors sue Orlando, its police” via The Associated Press — More than 35 victims have signed on as plaintiffs, accusing the city and its officers violated the Constitutional rights of those who were injured and killed on June 12, 2016, when Omar Mateen opened fire at Pulse. Plaintiffs contend that officers should have more aggressively confronted Mateen to prevent mass casualties. The lawsuit names Orlando Police Department Officer Adam Gruler, who worked an extra-duty shift at the nightclub that evening. The lawsuit says that Gruler “abandoned his post” and, during that time, Mateen walked in, looked around, walked out to retrieve weapons and returned to the club. Gruler fired at Mateen from two spots outside the club after the shooting began. Officials estimated Mateen fired more than 200 rounds in less than five minutes. Gruler was later hailed as a hero. He was honored by the city and invited to Trump’s State of the Union speech. The suit will also list another 30 unnamed officers, some for not capturing the shooter and others for rounding up uninjured survivors and bringing them to Orlando police headquarters for interviews.

Water Resources Analysis Coalition tries to temper algae bloom fears” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Though multiple outlets are reporting blue-green algae sightings this week, the Water Resources Analysis Coalition (WRAC) has a message for the public. It’s not time to panic, just yet. Not all forms of algae are toxic, and it’s not yet clear whether the algae spotted by some is the same type that troubled Floridians during the bloom in 2016. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is taking samples of recent algae sightings to determine whether it is toxic. According to a DEP representative at Thursday’s meetings, no proof of toxic algae has yet been found, but testing is still ongoing.

Supreme Court hears arguments over judge’s Facebook friendship with attorney” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Florida Supreme Court justices on Thursday parsed the question of how being Facebook friends with an attorney involved in a lawsuit differs from actual human interactions between judges and members of the Bar. The justices suggested the wisest course is to steer clear of the social media site — as they do themselves. “It’s fraught with danger,” Justice Barbara Pariente said. “We’re not saying judges shouldn’t be on Facebook,” attorney Maury Udell said. “Just don’t be Facebook friends with lawyers who appear in front of you … It just doesn’t look right.” The Miami attorney represents the Herssein Law Group, which wants to disqualify Circuit Judge from a dispute over attorney fees, on the ground that she was Facebook friends with Israel Reyes, an attorney representing the U.S. Automobile Association, the company on the other side of the case.

Friend request denied: Miami-Dade Judge Beatrice Butchko.

PBA, YMCA leader left previous job for ‘moral’ indiscretions, report says” via Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post — Timothy Leuliette, a trustee at Palm Beach Atlantic University, has taken a leave of absence following a published report that he was forced to leave his previous job for allegedly soliciting prostitutes and downloading pornography on computers belonging to his employer. Leuliette, 68, is also board president for the YMCA of the Palm Beaches. The allegations against Leuliette were revealed by The Detroit News. Records obtained by the newspaper showed that Leuliette received a $16.7 million severance package from Visteon, an automotive electronics supplier based in Michigan, after he was pushed out as the company’s CEO in June 2015. If not for the allegations, Leuliette could have received a $61 million payout. An arbitrator, the report said, found that Leuliette’s firing was justified “based on his downloading pornography on to company computers, posting obscene messages and pictures on social media, storing obscene photographs on company devices, viewing websites concerning prostitution and soliciting prostitutes.”


NBC News/WSJ poll: Economic satisfaction under Trump isn’t helping his party’s 2018 chances” via Mark Murray of NBC News — By a whopping 25-point margin, voters say they’re more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on Trump … And by a similar margin, they say they’re less likely to vote for someone who has supported the president on most issues. At the same time, six-in-10 are satisfied with the U.S. economy, and a plurality of voters give Trump credit for the economic improvement. Despite that economic optimism, however, the poll shows that Democrats enjoy a 10-point advantage on congressional preference, with 50 percent of registered voters wanting a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 40 percent who want a GOP-controlled one.

Despite the improved economy, Donald Trump is no help for the GOP. (Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Trump: DOJ must not let Debbie Wasserman Schultz, aide ‘off the hook’” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida — Trump urged the Justice Department to not let Rep. Wasserman Schultz and one of her former aides “off the hook,” suggesting the imbroglio over IT staffer Imran Awan allegedly committing fraud on a home-equity loan is “a key to much of the corruption we see today.”… “Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook,” the president tweeted. “The Democrat IT scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today.” The remarks come amid reports Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, are poised to strike a plea deal over the investigation into their alleged conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Trump has publicly criticized his own Justice Department over the ongoing federal probe into Russian election meddling in 2016 and Russia’s ties to his campaign while questioning why they have not more aggressively pursued alleged crimes by Democrats. “The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues,” Trump tweeted of the investigation last week, adding, “Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?”

Trump breaks logjam, nominates Ariana Fajardo Orshan for South Florida prosecutor post” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Trump’s selection of Miami-Dade Judge Orshan — recommended by Rubio and supported by Gov. Scott — looked like a done deal months ago. The White House didn’t explain the delay. She is the first woman to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Behind the scenes, Rubio’s office had to fight off opposition to Fajardo’s nomination from the Department of Justice’s No. 3 lawyer, Jesse Panuccio, who left his post as the head of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity when the Florida Senate appeared ready to scuttle his nomination largely due to questions about his honesty and the agency’s mismanagement of an unemployment contract. Fajardo’s selection was also opposed by attorneys who practice in the federal system and made much of the fact that she had no federal prosecutorial experience. One source familiar with Trump’s initial thinking about the post said he viewed the Southern District of Florida because it encompasses Palm Beach and his Mar-a-Lago resort as well as his resort in Doral in Miami-Dade County, as his second-most important district behind New York’s Southern District. “The Trump Organization is in New York,” the source said. “But Mar-a-Lago’s in the Southern District. And he wants the right person for the job.”

Jeb Bush: ‘I can’t imagine having to attack someone to make yourself look strong’” via Max Greenwood of The Hill — Asked in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” whether he would consider mounting another bid for the White House, Bush said that he isn’t suited to compete in such a divisive political landscape. “I don’t know. I love policy. I love my country,” he said. “But this political environment right now I’m not suited for, to be honest with you. I’m a fish out of water. I can’t imagine having to attack someone to make yourself look strong.” Bush said that he doesn’t blame Trump for creating current political divisions in the U.S. but argued that “he’s a byproduct” of those divisions. “We have to be civil with one another. We have to embody some sort of character, I think, or this all falls apart,” Bush said on CNBC. “Politics is a mirror of our culture, and public leaders have the responsibility to fortify the culture not to make it worse.”

Gay candidate’s ad includes same-sex kiss, aims to ‘piss off’ Trump” via The Associated Press — State Sen. Richard Madaleno aired the ad in the Washington area on the Fox News show “Fox & Friends.” It was also posted on his campaign website. The ad includes the Maryland Democrat talking about how he has stood up to Trump’s agenda by defending Planned Parenthood and supporting an assault weapons ban. Madaleno caps the 30-second ad by asking “And what’s the No. 1 way I piss off Donald Trump and the Republicans?” before kissing his husband, Mark Hodge, on the lips while sitting on their front lawn. He then says: “Take that, Trump!” To view the ad, click the image below:

House OKs reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges; awaits Senate vote, Trump OK” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — The 2018 Water Resources Development Act the House approved by a 408-2 vote includes a “placeholder” for the reservoir. Once the Army Corps of Engineers signs off on the project, the placeholder will be replaced by language authorizing the reservoir. The Senate is expected to take up its version of the legislation, which also contains a placeholder for the reservoir, this summer. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the bill in May. The bill also will have to be signed by Trump. A White House statement said the House bill “could be improved,” noting a large backlog of projects that have been authorized but not started or completed. New projects, the statement reads, “should be limited to those most likely to provide high economic or environmental returns to the nation.”

Spotted — U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster thanking Trump in an online opinion piece for Fox News: “In a victory for veterans, President Trump signed a bill into law … I co-sponsored to enable more veterans to get medical care from doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system. The VA Mission Act was designed to address problems of long waiting lists that caused unacceptable delays in veterans receiving needed health care directly from the VA.”

Newt Gingrich talks culture wars in Palm Beach speech” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — To hear Gingrich tell it, America has a bright future just on the horizon, full of technological advances we never thought possible … if it wasn’t for those darn leftists. That was the brunt of his message Thursday as the former House Speaker spoke at the Palm Beach Republican Club during a luncheon at The Colony Hotel. “The moment we are in is among the most important in American history.” Gingrich describes the current moment as “a cultural civil war” thanks to the left’s efforts to push values that “are antithetical to a free society.”


Blame for Parkland killings spreads beyond Cruz” via Fred Grimm for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The community is thrashing about for others to blame and institutions to punish for the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As if Cruz is too slight, too twisted, too pathetic to bear the full weight of our collective wrath. We need other culprits. Indeed, we’ve learned that both the FBI and the Broward Sheriff’s Office failed to pursue explicit tips that Cruz was intent on becoming a “professional school shooter.” And the school resource officer on duty that afternoon has been labeled a coward for not rushing into the building where Cruz was blasting away with his AR-15. Then there’s the retroactive blame. Back in 2013, Cruz was referred to the Broward School District’s PROMISE program, designed to divert miscreant students into alternative education classes rather than jail. That provoked critics, especially in the right-wing media, who disparaged PROMISE as an Obama-mandated coddling of potential criminals. Except it appears that Cruz never actually enrolled in PROMISE. No matter … The inherent difficulty in persuading the likes of Cruz to submit to therapy is pretty damn convenient for us citizens of Florida, whose elected representatives regard mental health funding as an inessential nuisance. So, if you’re in need of more culprits to blame for the Parkland tragedy, add our own names to the list.


Appointed — Robin SchneiderAl Hernandez and Lee Maggard (each reappointed) to the Pasco-Hernando State College District Board of Trustees; Garin Hoover to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees.

Personnel note: Cameron Yarbrough joins Ramba Consulting” via Florida Politics — Yarbrough has joined the Ramba Consulting Group lobbying firm, led by David Ramba, bringing over his book of business formerly at the Gunster lobby shop. “We are excited to have Cameron join our team, blending our existing client base with his and adding his expertise to our firm,” Ramba said. “Cameron’s experience, relationships, and background all meld well with the philosophy of our firm and we look forward to continuing to grow together.” He joins Ramba Consulting as a partner, joining partner Allison Carvajal and associates Evan Power and Thomas Hobbs, rounding out their lobbying team. “I have enjoyed my time at Gunster and appreciate how my time there has led me to this new chapter,” Yarbrough said. “Ramba Consulting is known as a growing and dynamic lobbying shop, representing blue-chip clients and delivering results for their clients. I am proud and excited to join this team.”

J. Cameron Yarbrough.

Personnel note: Jason Rodriguez joins BayCareRodriguez, most recently director of external affairs for Attorney General Pam Bondi, announced on Facebook he had taken a post handling “state government relations for BayCare Health System.” The nonprofit system is headquartered in Clearwater and operates 15 hospitals in the state. Rodriguez also has been Bondi’s political director and was a campaign manager for former state Rep. Rachel Burgin. The Clearwater High School graduate got his undergraduate degree in political science from Florida State University and a law degree from Stetson University, his Facebook page says.

ZooTampa continues makeover, tapping Southern Strategy Group for lobbying assist” via Florida Politics — With rebranding and a host of upgrades, Tampa’s former Lowry Park Zoo is now adding a power player as its voice in Tallahassee. The newly christened ZooTampa at Lowry Park announced it is bringing on governmental relations firm Southern Strategy Group as a strategic partner. SSG has a regional office in Tampa led by managing partner Seth McKeel. “We are thrilled to partner with ZooTampa at Lowry Park, a crown jewel in the City of Tampa. The Zoo is a true leader in species conservation in our state … We look forward to playing a part in ZooTampa’s mission to protect animals both locally and globally.” After an extensive and comprehensive search, ZooTampa — one of 229 zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) — chose SSG to spearhead its government affairs efforts. “We are excited to welcome Southern Strategy Group as an integral partner,” said ZooTampa CEO Joe Couceiro, praising SSG for its “deep local roots and a statewide presence.”


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei host a roundtable with guests Bill Bunting, Pasco County state GOP committeeman; legislative assistant Jason Holloway; Tampa Bay Times Government and Politics Editor Michael Van Sickler and Amy Hollyfield, Tampa Bay Times’ Politics, Metro and Business deputy editor.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on summer literacy and how to keep kids reading as part of their routine throughout the school break. Joining Walker-Torres are Chancellor of Public Schools Hershel Lyons, Florida Department of Education; Wendy Feikert, Education Consultant from Capstone Publishing; Bethany Stone, youth services manager, Orange County Public Library System; and Glenda Lammers, Neighborhood Services Department, Manatee County Government.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will discuss Decision 2018: Democratic Debate airing on Spectrum Bay News 9; the latest from Tallahassee with Spectrum News Capital Reporter Troy Kinsey; and Attorney General candidate Ryan Torrens joins in studio to discuss his campaign. PolitiFact will rate a claim made against Sen. Bill Nelson.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks pollster Steve Vancore and Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Vice President Mike PenceJamie Shelton of bestbet Jacksonville and JTA CEO Nat Ford.

This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg hold a roundtable of the week’s latest political issues affecting South Florida.

— ALOE —

Here’s your chance to see drones, submersibles and other unmanned vehicles up close in downtown Tampa” via Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will make a pitch for showcasing Tampa as a city on the cutting edge of technology-based solutions at the kickoff for a local chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The event, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 8 on the Ulele lawn at 1810 N. Highland Ave., will feature live demonstrations of drones, robots and autonomous cars, said Andy Wilson, president of the local AUVSI chapter and president and CEO of Tampa defense contracting firm Quiet Professionals. AUVSI, a global nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., advises and advocates for the safe and ethical use of unmanned systems, drones, driverless cars and the artificial intelligence that is behind the technology.

Bob Buckhorn celebrates a new Tampa chapter of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

It’s a Bucs life? Tampa Bay football is a Republican stronghold” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — According to a survey distributed by FiveThirtyEight … the fanbase of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reported political affiliations that would give a 9.5 percentage point Republican lean over Democrats — a gap larger than that of any other National Football League team’s fan base favoring Republicans. That said, just six of the 32 teams in the League had fan bases favoring Republicans, and the results of the poll showed the average base for any given team gives Democrats a 6-point lean. There were 105 respondents who answered as Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars base came in with a 2.4 percent Republican lean and the Miami Dolphins fan base leans 7.7 percent more Democratic. The fan base of the San Francisco 49ers had the highest (22 percent) Democratic lean.

Welcome to the world Cora Wren Price. We’re a little behind on this as the daughter of Tara and Trey Price. Mom and baby are healthy and resting, according to Dad.

Happy birthday to two very intelligent, decent men, Chris Hand and Brad Miller, the executive director of PSTA. Early birthday wishes to two more good guys, Jay Revell (Saturday) and Nick Iarossi (Sunday). Also celebrating Saturday is former state Rep. Erik Fresen.

Last Call for 6.7.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.

First Shot

The Florida Commission on Ethics meets tomorrow. Among the items on the agenda: Discussing the panel’s 2019 lobbying efforts.

“It makes sense for the Commission to state its position on legislation affecting the Commission … and doing so would likely give the Commission a greater legislative presence,” says a memo from executive director Virlindia Doss to panel members.

“The only downside I can think of is that the Commission may be criticized for, or called upon to defend, its position,” she wrote. “For example, if it expresses a view that a proposal is too draconian, it may be criticized for being ‘soft’ on ethics.”

Among related topics for consideration:

— Whether the Commission should use social media. Doss said, however, the “unresolved accessibility and public records issues associated with those platforms make me really hesitant to do so.” Instead, she suggests a regular “Legislative Ethics Watch” newsletter posted online.

— Increasing staff time devoted to lobbying. “I think we will have to do so if the Commission opts to raise its profile in this area.”

— Working with “external organizations.” Doss mentioned Integrity Florida and the League of Women Voters. “The challenge is … not many groups are interested in our issues, and those that are interested don’t have a lot of sway with the Legislature.”

The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m., at the 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Drive in Tallahassee.

Evening Reads

More Americans are crediting Donald Trump with the strong economy, but that isn’t helping the GOP with voters” via John Harwood of CNBC

Florida gets its $19.2 million in federal election security money” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio on Donald Trump’s ‘very bad’ ZTE deal” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill Nelson meets with Puerto Rico evacuees in Washington” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

Patrick Murphy won’t run for governor, plans Gwen Graham endorsement via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Jeff Greene pulling votes from Gwen Graham in South Florida, pollster says” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Adam Putnam lists public safety plans if elected Florida governor” via The Associated Press

The ouster of a top financial regulator just became a campaign issue in the race for CFO” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Parkland parent resigns from state commission to investigate Stoneman Douglas shooting” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Bob Gualtieri: Lawmakers ‘got it right’ on school safety officer funding” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida

Pulse nightclub shooting survivors sue Orlando, its police” via The Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“I have decided not to enter the race for governor because there is one Democratic candidate already demonstrating the leadership Florida needs and fighting for the values we share — and that Democrat is Gwen Graham.” — Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created this year as part of a school-safety law, will meet in Broward County. That’s at 8 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Florida Board of Medicine will take up numerous physician discipline cases from across the state at 8 a.m., Marriott Tampa Airport, 4200 George J. Bean Parkway, Tampa.

The Florida State University Board of Trustees will take up a series of issues, including the school’s 2018-2019 operating budget. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Florida State University, Augustus B. Turnbull III Florida State Conference Center, 555 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will hold a conference call to discuss the appointment process for a new head of the state Office of Financial Regulation. Office of Financial Regulation Commissioner Drew Breakspear announced last week he was stepping down at the end of June. The call is at 4 p.m., to be streamed live on The Florida Channel.

Looking Ahead

The state will hold a “license-free” freshwater fishing weekend. Floridians and visitors will be able to go freshwater fishing without licenses Saturday and Sunday.

The Florida Federation of Teenage Republicans will hold its annual convention in Orange County at 10:30 a.m., Rosen Plaza Hotel, 9700 International Dr., Orlando.

Republican U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis, who is also a GOP candidate for Governor, will be holding a pair of joint campaign rallies in Pensacola and Valparaiso. The Pensacola event begins 10:30 a.m. Central time at Palafox House, 196 N. Palafox St. At 2:30 p.m. Central time, the pair will be at Compass Rose, 303 E Glen Ave., Valparaiso. Both events are open to the public, as well as national and regional news media.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Chris King and Philip Levine are scheduled to take part in a debate in Pinellas County. The debate will be televised by Spectrum Bay News 9 in the Tampa Bay area and Spectrum News 13 in the Orlando area. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Pinellas Park High School, auditorium, 6305 118th Ave. North, Largo.


Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 6.7.18

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

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

If there has been any suspicion that guns, student activists, and the National Rifle Association are going to fade into the background come October, this week is shaping up to suggest otherwise.

The NRA isn’t likely to go away. Certainly, Marion Hammer won’t allow that.

Marion Hammer ain’t going anywhere.

The students and others demanding gun law reforms continue driving, and all the Democrats seem eager to keep them in the spotlight.

When the NRA distributed its questionnaire to candidates it came with covert messages from Hammer: We’re still the force we always were, and we’re digging in. That mess the Florida Legislature called the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” is really a gun-control bill, and it’s gotta go. It’s also time to get serious about open carry, and allowing guns on campuses and in churches. And if you don’t think so, think again about that oath of office.

Democrats’ responses have been pretty universal, turned into a campaign commercial by Philip Levine Wednesday, essentially: Bring. It. On. Please.

Those NRA report card grades always have been campaign fodder, for or against. This fall, in competitive districts, some are going to wind up looking like Scarlet Letters.


—@SecPompeo: We’re watching reports that #Iran plans to increase its enrichment capacity. We won’t allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran is aware of our resolve. It’s another example of Iran foolishly squandering its resources. It should surprise no one if protests in Iran continue.

—@IvankaTrump: Today @realDonaldTrump commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson. This Administration believes in second chances for those, like Alice, who have paid their debt to society and we are working w/ Congress on #PrisonReform to benefit millions of America’s most forgotten women and men.

—@Evan_McMullin: Trump’s pardons are not only intended desensitize the electorate to frequent interventions on behalf of his political allies, but also to make a mockery of the federal justice system, to suggest that law enforcement and the courts are incapable and illegitimate to begin with.

—@FLGovScott: My father taught me what service to our country means. The lessons passed on to us from the Greatest Generation is nothing short of remarkable. We will never forget.

—@MaryEllenKlas: Oh so many questions this election year …@FLGovScott says he’s sending 25 used FHP vehicles to Puerto Rico. But his prison system struggles to have working vehicles to transport inmates. It’s received half of what it’s asked for in vehicle replacement.

—@JohnMorganEsq: Gary, here’s my offer to Florida. I would like to debate @FLGovScott on this issue so all of Florida can see his position and see the position of those who need it. If he’ll do this I’ll donate $100,000 to his @ScottforFlorida campaign for US Senate that night on air!


Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 2; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 4; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 5; 2018 FIFA World Cup begins — 7; Father’s Day — 10; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 15; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 21; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 31; MLB All-Star Game — 40; Deadline for filing claim bills — 55; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 55; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 56; Start of the U.S. Open — 81; Primary Election Day — 82; College Football opening weekend — 84; NFL season starts — 91; Future of Florida Forum — 111; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 138; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 139; General Election Day — 152; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 252; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 271.


Donald Trump seeks to reorganize the federal government” via Helena Bottemiller Evich and Andrew Restuccia of POLITICO Florida — The Trump administration is preparing to release a sweeping plan for reorganizing the federal government that includes a major consolidation of welfare programs — and a renaming of the Health and Human Services Department. The report seeks to move safety-net programs, including food stamps, into HHS … The plan would also propose changing the name of the sprawling department, while separately seeking cuts at USAID and the State Department. The $70 billion food stamp program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is run by USDA and makes up the vast majority of the department’s budget. The program helps more than 40 million low-income Americans buy groceries each month. It’s unclear exactly how HHS would be reshuffled, but sources said its new name would emphasize programs that provide assistance to low-income Americans, potentially restoring the term “welfare” to the title of the department. HHS — a sprawling Cabinet-level agency that spends roughly $1 trillion annually — already oversees the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which provides cash assistance to low-income people, as well as Medicaid, the health coverage program for the poor that insures more than 70 million Americans.


Trump tells Rick Scott he’ll do ‘very well’ in Senate race” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Here’s what Trump had to say: “We have a lot of people around and watching. You know, we’re on screens all over the country and I think beyond. But we have Gov. Scott of Florida is there, and he’s watching, and he’s done a fantastic job. He’s now running for the United States Senate. And I won’t get political, but I think you’re going to do very well, OK? That’s not political, is it?”

The price of beer could go up: How Trump’s ‘trade war’ may hurt Scott” via Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Anheuser-Busch has long had a big operation in Jacksonville … Since 1974, the king of beers has produced aluminum beer cans there, cranking out up to 2,500 a minute — a thriving operation that it says is threatened by Trump’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. A year ago, Anheuser-Busch opened a metal container plant that makes aluminum bottles, adding 75 jobs with the help of state incentives from Gov. Scott, who clutched scissors at a ribbon-cutting in May of last year and was on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony in 2015. Then came the tariffs. Trump on June 1 imposed a 25 percent steel tariff and 10 percent aluminum tariff on Mexico and Canada to reshape the North American Free Trade Agreement. Other tariffs were slapped on the European Union and other countries. In the middle of a U.S. Senate race, Scott is suddenly caught between the president he supports and the business community that has backed him for eight years but which staunchly opposes Trump’s trade policy as bad for jobs.

Scott’s new digital ad: ‘Bill Nelson is the federal government’” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Days after Nelson mocked Scott for saying “I don’t know what I would have done differently” than Trump’s oft-criticized federal response, Scott’s 60-second ad accuses Nelson of playing politics over Puerto Rico and of making false attacks. “Rick Scott leads. But Bill Nelson just complains about the federal government,” a female narrator says. “Remember that after a half-century in government, Nelson is the federal government. It’s time for Bill Nelson to go.”

To view the entire ad, click the image below:

Bill Cotterell: John Morgan makes marijuana appeal personal for Scott” via the Tallahassee Democrat — The Orlando attorney does not suffer fools gladly or couch his positions on issues in polite, lawyerly words. He can argue legal motions in the stilted language of the law on paper, then make his point on the courthouse steps in words Trump or Archie Bunker might use. Maybe there ought to be one of those fancy Latin legal dictums for “Oh, be serious.” You don’t need exit polls, just common sense, to know that when deciding how to vote on Amendment 2, no one was thinking about patients rubbing ointments into their skin or munching on cannabis-infused brownies. Morgan was predictably blunt in his public remarks about the case. He took to Twitter to tell Gov. Scott he should “follow the law & the will of 72 percent of the people,” and drop the appeal. “This is just plain old meanness,” Morgan said. “Will meanness and politics trump people and compassion and kindness?”


Two Democratic gubernatorial debates coming; will Jeff Greene participate?” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — “We wish we knew” whether Greene is participating, said Vickie Dunn, whose Indivisible FL 13 group is organizing Saturday’s forum along with Women’s March Florida and Fired Up Pinellas. “We’ve made all kinds of efforts to contact him. We’ve set up our logistics, so we can accommodate and we’re getting nothing back.” Saturday’s debate runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and can be viewed at or The Service Employees International Union and other groups are organizing Monday’s debate. The SEIU’s Eunic Ortiz said organizers had not heard from Greene.

Ron DeSantis’ May report included more than $1M in old money” via Florida Politics — DeSantis said his campaign and affiliated political committee “took in more than $3 million” last month, but that may have been a little misleading. When he made the announcement, partial month records for his committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, showed it had brought in about $1.27 million as of May 31, however those records have since been updated to include another $1.43 million worth of transactions on the last day of the month for a total “haul” of $2.7 million in May. The source of $1.1 million of that cash was a transfer from Ron DeSantis for Florida, the principal campaign committee for his now-defunct re-election bid for Florida’s 6th Congressional District. Lots of candidates twist words when it comes to fundraising, most often by finding euphemistic ways to spin self-funding. This is different. This money wasn’t raised in May. Most of it wasn’t even raised in 2018.

Spotted — DeSantis on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle,” talking to host Laura Ingraham about allegations of a “counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.” DeSantis said the FBI official timeline for the investigation is “clearly … not true.”

Andrew Gillum releases new video, highlights ‘Medicare for all’ — The Gillum for Governor Campaign released “One Percent,” a new 30-second campaign video, part of the six-figure digital ad buy. Gillum Communications Director Geoff Burgan said in a statement: “Mayor Gillum’s led the Democratic field on progressive issues, from being the only Democrat to back ‘Medicare for All,’ proposing a constitutional amendment to guarantee health care to all Floridians and being the first to call for legalization and taxation of marijuana to pay for teacher pay raises. ‘One Percent’ highlights the need for Democrats to run and win on a bold, progressive message — not Republican Lite.”

To view the video, click on the image below:

Gillum failed to disclose more than $400K in mortgage debts” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Gillum failed to disclose two mortgages on legally required financial disclosure forms going back to 2014, publicly available records show. Gillum said he would file amended financial disclosure reports after he was asked about the issue by POLITICO. “Like the vast majority of people, Mayor Gillum owes a mortgage on his home, and we’re going to file the updated forms shortly,” said Burgan … the mortgages were not disclosed because of an “accidental mistake.” Overall, Gillum failed to disclose two mortgages totaling $423,665, including one for his family’s home in Tallahassee. State ethics laws require state officials to report any debts worth more than $10,000. A complaint would have to be filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics for any formal penalties to be considered, said Kerrie Stillman, a commission spokeswoman. “There is nothing automatic” regarding candidate disclosure forms, she said.

Chris King invests another $400K in gubernatorial bid after raising $78K in May” via Florida Politics — Nearly $410,000 of the May money went to his official campaign account, while his committee, Rise and Lead Florida, took in the balance. All told, King has now brought in nearly $5.1 million since entering the race for Governor in March 2017. Including his $400,000 infusion last month, King has put more than $2.7 million of his own money on the line. The Winter Park businessman didn’t specify whether his May investment was marked down as a loan or a contribution, though he’s marked them down as loans for the past two months.

Philip Levine bashes federal school safety commission for ducking review of guns” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Following February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people, Trump set up the Federal Commission on School Safety. The commission, chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, was tasked with reviewing ways to keep students safe in light of recent acts of gun violence. One issue the commission apparently won’t examine? Guns. DeVos was asked yesterday by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy if the group would review “the role of firearms as is relates to gun violence in our schools.” She replied: “That is not part of the commission’s charge, per se.” “So we’ll look at gun violence in schools, but not look at guns? It’s an interesting concept,” concluded Leahy. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Levine pounced on the secretary’s remarks in a statement. “Betsy DeVos’ decision to not investigate the role of guns in school safety reflects the Trump administration’s continued disregard for our children’s safety. This year, more children are dying in our schools than servicemen and women on the battlefield.”

Assignment editors — Levine will host a Central Florida roundtable with Caribbean-American community leaders, speaking about issues in the 2018 election season, 9:30 a.m., Orlando Fashion Square, 3201 E. Colonial Dr., Orlando.

Put some Putnam on your pancakes: GOP candidate Adam Putnam “shared his vision for Florida’s future” at an Up & Adam breakfast at Three60 Market in Naples.

Assignment editors — Putnam says he will make a “major announcement regarding security and safety issues facing Florida.” He will be joined by Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight and Tampa Police Benevolent Association members. That’s at 2:30 p.m., Tampa PBA headquarters, 1302 W Busch Blvd., Tampa.

Baxter Troutman releases second statewide ad” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics — The ad for the Winter Haven businessman and grower is part of a $1.6 million television and digital ad package in his campaign for Agriculture Commissioner. The 30-second ad features the candidate himself discussing the issues facing agriculture and its importance to the state and nation. The ad has been pared down to 15 seconds to run on Facebook and Twitter.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Happening today — The Flagler County Young Republicans host a debate for GOP candidates in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, including Fred CostelloMichael Waltz and John Ward, 5 p.m., Pine Lakes Golf Club, 400 Pine Lakes Parkway North, Palm Coast.

New ad pumps up Carlos Curbelo’s efforts on climate change” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new ad is supporting Congressman Carlos Curbelo‘s work to address the effects of climate change. The 30-second spot, released by The Alliance for Climate Solutions, replays pieces of a speech the South Florida Republican gave on the House floor regarding the conversation around climate change. “Enough of the demagoguery. Enough of the fact-less conversation. Let’s focus on what’s happening in the world. And let’s try to make this situation better.” Curbelo added: “Neither the deniers or the alarmists have much to offer. It’s the men and women who are willing to sit at the table and have a sober conversation that can really help solve this problem.”

David Richardson adds Victor Torres endorsement in CD 27 bid — Democratic state Sen. Torres, who represents Orange and Osceola counties in SD 15, is the latest state lawmaker to endorse Richardson for Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Richardson served with him for four years in the Florida House before Torres’ election to the Senate in 2016. Torres said: “This year, State Representative David Richardson and I worked on a Medicare-for-All bill for the State of Florida that we believed would change the lives of millions of Floridians. Although the GOP refused to bring the bill to a vote, David has continued his fight by campaigning on Medicare-for-All nationwide. That type of progressive spirit and his history as an effective legislator demonstrate that he will be an effective congressman for FL-27. As such, I’m proud to endorse his campaign for Congress.” Torres joins 17 other state lawmakers backing Richardson for Congress.

Florida retailers back Dennis Baxley re-election — The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) PAC is endorsing Republican incumbent Baxley for Senate District 12 which includes portions of Lake County and a significant part of north-central Florida. “Senator Baxley has made tremendous strides in helping to protect retailers by supporting legislation on limiting organized retail crime and by not increasing the felony threshold limit,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley in a statement. “We’re eager to see the continued progress Senator Baxley makes in his return to the Florida Senate.” Baxley is a funeral director/consultant who served as principal owner and vice president of Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services.

Belinda Keiser campaign plays fast and loose with facts” via Florida Politics — From the outside, it looks like there’s a tough Republican primary brewing in the special election to replace Senate President Joe Negron in SD 15, but a closer look at Keiser’s campaign messaging raises a lot of questions. Cast aside the fact that she lives 80 miles south of the Martin- and St. Lucie-based district and her past financial support of Democratic Party politicians, and even still Keiser looks as if she’s undergoing a desperate and rapid shift to make herself palatable to Republican voters on the Treasure Coast. according to Keiser, she’s always been a conservative even though she hasn’t always been a Republican. After going through the spin cycle of her campaign she’s decided that she joined the GOP in 2001, though according to that timeline the flip would have come just months after she mounted a failed Democratic primary campaign for a state House seat. Talk about a sore loser. That explanation euphemistically sidesteps saying she “joined the Republican Party,” and is oddly contradicted by appearing under a title line that reads “Coming soon …”

Spotted — State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith at BellaBrava on Beach Drive at the St. Petersburg waterfront. The Orlando Democrat was fundraising for his House District 49 re-election bid.

Happening today — Democrat Tony Mowry holds a campaign kickoff event in Sarasota County’s House District 74, which opened when Rep. Julio Gonzalez decided to run for Congress, 5 p.m., Off the Wagon Brewery, 2107 South Tamiami Trail, Venice.


General revenue to be updated in August” via the News Service of Florida — Florida budget watchers should plug Aug. 16 into their calendars. A panel of state analysts has scheduled a meeting for that day to update general-revenue tax estimates. The meeting by the panel known as the Revenue Estimating Conference will be an initial step as lawmakers begin working on a budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Health plan to challenge Medicaid contracts” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Attorneys for Molina Healthcare filed a notice with the state announcing the HMO’s intention to challenge the agency’s decision to award contracts to Miami Children’s Health Plan and Lighthouse Health Plan. The HMO has 10 days to file a legal petition with the state. The Agency for Health Care Administration has gone through a lengthy process to award new contracts in the Medicaid system, which requires most beneficiaries to enroll in managed-care plans. In April, the agency announced a decision to award five-year Medicaid contracts, which one official has estimated to be worth upward of $90 billion in all, with nine HMOs. That decision drew challenges from a dozen health plans that were not chosen for contracts, including Molina Healthcare. Under a 2011 law that called for the statewide use of Medicaid managed care, AHCA is awarding contracts in 11 different regions. The number of contracts varies by region.

’All the signs were there.’ On video, guard says school knew Parkland shooter posed threat” via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — “Nikolas Cruz. I knew the kid,” security guard Andrew Medina told Broward detectives in a sworn video-recorded statement released by prosecutors … As soon as Cruz began walking “like on a mission” toward the building, Medina followed and began frantically texting fellow security guards. “We had a meeting about him last year and we said if there’s gonna be anybody who’s gonna come to this school and shoot this school up, it’s going to be that kid,” Medina told detectives on the day of the Feb. 14 shooting. “He was rebellious, you know … he had 666 on his book bag. He had the [anti-] Jewish swastika. He had all that crazy stuff. … All the signs were there, so they, they got rid of him,” Medina said. Medina’s testimony to detectives details what became alarmingly clear after the shooting: School officials long knew about Cruz’s bouts of rage, obsession with weapons and Nazi imagery and violent outbursts against fellow students.

–“’Swatting’ David Hogg wasn’t a ‘prank,’ it was attempted murder” via Matthew Fleischer of the Los Angeles Times

Happening today — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, established as part of a new state school-safety law, will meet in Broward County to discuss school discipline and diversion, 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

Deputies seize Broward bailiff’s 67 guns under new Florida law” via Linda Trischitta of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — A Broward Sheriff’s bailiff accused of threatening behavior toward courthouse colleagues was temporarily relieved of duty and his 67 firearms were taken by law enforcement … In court documents, Franklin Joseph Pinter was described as making threats toward other bailiffs. In May, one bailiff alleged that while delivering documents to Pinter’s courtroom, Pinter told him the defendants weren’t there and that he should “get the f— out of here” and “All you rats should be exterminated.” Six months ago, Pinter, 60, of Hollywood, was allegedly seen on the fifth floor of the courthouse, leaning over the atrium and pretending to hold a long gun and shoot at people, an affidavit said. Another bailiff alleged that Pinter told him he wanted to burn two other bailiffs with a blow torch.

Frank Pinter, right, pictured in 2009, discusses purchasing bang sticks during a gator hunting class at the IGFSA Fishing Hall of Fame. (Image via Michael Laughlin/South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Florida school officials seek clarity on rules for private-school scholarships to bullied students” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — “The way the statute reads, we would have to make the scholarship [notification] available even if the allegations were not merited,” Santa Rosa County assistant superintendent Bill Emerson said during an hourlong rule-making conference call. “What we’re asking is if we’ve interpreted that correctly.” State Department of Education officials couldn’t disagree. Adam Miller, executive director of the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, responded to Emerson by reading from the law, which was included in HB 7055 passed in the spring. It reads, in relevant part, “a student enrolled in a Florida public school in kindergarten through grade 12 is eligible for a scholarship under this program if the student reported an incident” listed in the law. Those include bullying, fighting, sexual harassment and several other offenses.

MedMen paying $53M to enter Florida medical marijuana market” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The country’s biggest medical marijuana provider on Wednesday announced it was buying its way into the Florida market. In a news release, MedMen Enterprises Inc. of Los Angeles said it had agreed to pay $53 million for what’s known in Florida as a “medical marijuana treatment center” license from Central Florida’s Treadwell Nursery. MedMen management says they will host a conference call about the deal, to be live streamed on their website, at 9 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday. State records show Treadwell, which has one of 13 active licenses in the state, has “cultivation authorization only.” Florida has a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana. A Treadwell representative reached Wednesday declined to comment. “As part of the transaction, MedMen will acquire Treadwell Nursery’s cultivation facility on 5 acres in Eustis, and the right to open 25 medical marijuana dispensaries,” the release said.

Horse interests end legal battle over money — Almost a year after a unanimous appeals-court panel said horse breeders could “challenge the annual plan for distribution of owners’ and breeders’ awards,” the parties have withdrawn their case in administrative-law court. A final order of dismissal was signed Tuesday by Administrative Law Judge G.W. Chisenhall, records show. Southern Cross Farm (SCF), an Ocala horse breeder; the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ And Owners’ Association (FTBOA); and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which regulates gambling, all agreed to dismiss the case. The resolution of the case was confidential. In a case about who controls the money and how much goes back to horsemen and breeders, SCF won a reversal of a ruling from state gambling regulators. DBPR had said SCF couldn’t challenge the doling out of dollars from a pool managed by the FTBOA, in part because the farm had let its membership in the association lapse. The association manages a pool created by lawmakers in 1977 to collect and distribute wagering-prize monies as awards.

Sources: Ethics Commission prosecutor recommends charges against Rick Fernandez” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — A prosecutor for the Florida Commission on Ethics is recommending that former Tallahassee City Manager Fernandez is charged with violating state ethics laws, according to sources close to the matter. The prosecutor, an assistant attorney general, recommended the commission find probable cause for some of the allegations and no probable cause for others. A probable cause hearing is set for Friday before the Ethics Commission to determine whether Fernandez will be charged in connection with a complaint filed last year by local businessman Erwin Jackson. A majority of the commission’s nine members must vote to find probable cause for Fernandez to be charged. The complaint alleged Fernandez accepted a nearly $5,000 catering discount from the city-backed Edison restaurant and solicited and accepted Florida State football tickets from the firm of lobbyist Adam Corey, a central figure in the FBI’s long-running investigation into local public corruption.


State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, of Fort Myers, had a big role in her chamber during the 2018 Legislative Session.

In a Q&A published in Gulfshore Life Magazine, she sheds light her efforts, which came as she’s transitioned from relative political obscurity more than a decade ago to perhaps the “most powerful politician in Southwest Florida’s most populous county,” writes Jonathan Foerster.

“Now one of Senate President Joe Negron’s most trusted allies, Benacquisto has been at the heart of several key battles in Tallahassee and become one of the most compelling figures in efforts to rid the state capital of sexual harassment.”

Lizbeth Benacquisto adds her story to the #MeToo movement.

#MeToo: Benacquisto came forward with stories of harassment from Ritch Workman, the now-resigned Public Service Commission nominee. “As soon as I brought the matter to light, (Workman) immediately resigned. So I think it was a good outcome, a good result,” she told Foerster.

Opioids: Benacquisto championed record legislation addressing the opioid crisis, which placed restrictions on prescriptions and focused on treating addicted Floridians. “Everybody has someone in their lives who is likely affected by this in some way,” she said.

Child marriage: The Senator also tackled the high-profile issue of child marriage, and succeeded to a notable extent. She labeled the victory a bipartisan one. “We are all on the same page. This is child abuse,” she said.


Trump considering inviting Kim Jong Un to Mar-a-Lago” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — If things go well in Singapore next week, Trump may invite the North Korean dictator to Mar-a-Lago … “The president is determined to walk out of the meeting if it doesn’t go well, two officials said. Alternatively, Trump is toying with the idea of offering Kim a follow-up summit at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida — perhaps in the fall — if the two men hit it off,” says Bloomberg News. “There could be more than one meeting, more than one conversation” between Trump and Kim, presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters, adding a nuclear deal may take “2, 3, 4, 5” meetings.

Donald Trump could invite Kim Jong Un to Mar-a-Lago.

Trump praises hurricane response amid demands for Maria death toll investigation” via Lorraine Woellert and Colin Wilhelm of POLITICO Florida — Meeting with his cabinet and disaster agency officials for a briefing on hurricane season, Trump said his administration “leapt into action to coordinate the response” to last year’s storms. “We’ve had three devastating major hurricanes,” Trump said. “America has never experienced so many large-scale disasters in such a short period of time.” As he spoke, Puerto Ricans displaced by Maria marched on Capitol Hill demanding housing aid and Democratic lawmakers, led by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called for an investigation of the response and the death toll from Maria. “Will Congress yet again do nothing? Will President Trump yet again do nothing?” Rep. Darren Soto said at a news conference. “If, God forbid, another hurricane hits that island they will have blood on their hands.” Trump gave himself a perfect score last fall for his administration’s response to last year’s storms. But as 2018 hurricane gets underway, Puerto Rico’s readiness and the government’s accounting for last year’s storm remain open questions.

Democrats want a 9/11-type commission to probe Puerto Rico hurricane controversy” via Christine Condon of the Miami Herald — But it’s unlikely Republicans, who control Congress and the White House, will sanction a special commission on Puerto Rico before the 2018 elections. Florida-based pollster Brad Coker said the caucus’ move, which it proposed at a Capitol Hill news conference, could be part of a larger effort among Florida Democrats to win more of the Puerto Rican vote in the hotly contested U.S. Senate and governor’s races this fall. About half those fleeing Puerto Rico in the hurricane’s wake landed in Florida. But Darrell West, director of governance studies at The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based research group, said while it’s unlikely the commission idea would go far in Congress before the 2018 elections, the push for it could prove influential in areas with large numbers of Puerto Rican migrants.

Sunshine Summit to offer insight into Puerto Rico’s challenges” via the Sunshine State News — The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) announced a “Puerto Rico Rising” panel on Friday as part of its 2018 Sunshine Summit in Orlando. On Friday, June 29, the four-person panel — Jose Carrión, chairman of the Puerto Rico Financial Oversight Board; Jose Fuentes, former attorney general of Puerto Rico; Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón; and Florida state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs — will discuss the island’s recovery progress and its plans for fiscal responsibility and integrity. “A little over six months ago, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. We saw this nation come together for the Puerto Rican community, and although many are still struggling to rebuild their lives, progress has been made,” RPOF Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said in a statement. “The Puerto Rican community has proved its resilience and together the people will continue rising. We look forward to an engaging discussion with these incredible Puerto Rican champions, and solidifying our commitment to aiding our fellow citizens on and off the island.” Cortes said he believes the Florida event is important for Puerto Ricans.

Tom Rooney blasts Trump over spy claim” via Kyle Cheney and Rachael Bade of POLITICO — Rooney, a top Republican lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee, is ripping Trump‘s unsupported claim that the FBI inserted a spy inside his campaign. “What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?” Rooney said in an interview. “You know what I’m saying? It’s like, ‘Let’s create this thing to tweet about knowing that it’s not true.’ … Maybe it’s just to create more chaos but it doesn’t really help the case.” Though Rooney isn’t the first GOP lawmaker to question Trump’s assertion, his comments were the most forceful repudiation to date from a Republican lawmaker. Rooney, a three-term Florida Republican who is retiring at the end of the year, was one of three GOP House members to lead the Intelligence Committee’s yearlong Russia probe after Chairman Devin Nunes stepped aside.

Tom Rooney blasts Donald Trump on “Spygate’ claims.

Mario Diaz-Balart votes against amendment barring offshore drilling” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Diaz-Balart may have just helped open the door to more offshore drilling in parts of the U.S. But Florida appears to be in the clear for now. Members of the House Appropriations Committee voted on an amendment to prevent the expansion of offshore drilling into new areas, including the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and Alaskan waters. The amendment was to be attached to an appropriations bill for Trump’s planned expansion of offshore drilling. The text of the amendment, proposed by Congressman Chellie Pingree of Maine, read, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to prepare a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing program that would schedule any Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale before 2022.” It would have been a temporary delay, but a delay nonetheless. Of the four representatives from Florida that serve on the Appropriations Committee, only Diaz-Balart voted against the amendment. John Rutherford and Debbie Wasserman Schultz voted in favor, while Thomas Rooney was not present.

Assignment editors — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference, approximately 12:30 p.m. Eastern, Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St. NW., Washington D.C. Rubio’s remarks will be live-streamed here.


Jeb Bush: Delaying immigration reform is a missed opportunity for Republicans” via Time magazine — There has been a wealth of news stories this month detailing concerns by various Republican leaders that a vote on DACA could cost the Republican Party our control of the House in the midterms. Fortunately, the data doesn’t bear that result out. In fact, a recent poll shows that nearly 70 percent of Republicans support a legal residency for children brought illegally to the United States through no fault of their own. The percentage of support in swing districts that will determine the next Congress’ majority is even higher. Despite the urgency of our nation’s immigration crisis, politicians on both sides of the aisle cynically employ immigration as a wedge issue, election after election, for their own benefit. Meanwhile, our inability to fix a broken system has tremendous real-world costs, both human and economic. As opposed to caucus infighting over a vote on the fate of DREAMers — just one of many issues that must be addressed — why not embrace conservative, comprehensive immigration reform now?


Shot — “Andrew Gillum and Tallahassee Democrat: ‘pay for play’ or good business?” via Florida Politics — Tallahassee Reports (TR) is best thought of as a conservative counterpoint to the Tallahassee Democrat’s coverage, particularly of City Hall. It’s no secret that its editor, Steve Stewart, has run and lost more than once for local office in the deep blue capital city.

— TR’s latest watchdogging of the city’s Gannett-owned paper of record says that “just one month after he announced he would run for Governor … Gillum’s office negotiated with the Democrat to publish 10 stories favorable to a Gillum initiative.”

— Those stories, penned by staff writer TaMaryn Waters, “highlighted Gillum’s Family Friendly Workplace initiative” begun in 2015, the paper reported. They appeared in the Democrat during the first two weeks of April 2017.

— Most saliently, TR says the paper billed the Mayor’s Office $10,000 for those stories last May — which, by the way, it didn’t pay. “Ultimately, (the paper) issued a $2,500 discount and Gillum’s office paid half of the discounted amount Jan. 8, 2018,” TR’s report says.

— Both Democrat editor William Hatfield and publisher Skip Foster declined to comment.

Chaser — “Note from the editor: Family Friendly-gate? Not so much. Here’s what really happened.” via William Hatfield of the Tallahassee Democrat — The newsroom drew up a plan to spotlight businesses that had taken part in a survey and were on track to receive “Family Friendly” certification.

— The advertising side of the house, meanwhile, drew up an outline with the city of Tallahassee … that laid out how we would spotlight the issue and how advertising would use its top-notch, multi-platform channels to promote the effort in print and online.

— There was no negotiation to publish 10 stories. And certainly, the gubernatorial campaign had no bearing on the project, which took shape months before he would announce.

— The stories weren’t sponsored content.

— Stewart himself points out that each story accurately included the following line: “The series is a partnership between the City of Tallahassee and the Tallahassee Democrat that stems from the Family First Initiative launched in 2015 by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.”

— Jamie Van Pelt, the mayor’s chief of staff, says that was a misstatement and an “oversimplification” of an admittedly complex partnership.


The rapid pace of the news cycle is having a fatiguing effect on Americans, new research shows.

The Pew Research Center recently released results of a study showing that almost seven out of 10 Americans are feeling worn out by the amount of news, and just three in 10 are content with the amount of news they get.

The results are in line with a similar study conducted during the 2016 presidential election, Pew writers Jeffrey Gottfried and Michael Barthel note. Only then, a majority actually expressed exhaustion.

Many Americans suffer ‘news fatigue’ in the age of Donald Trump.

You might be an outlier: You’re reading Sunburn, so this research might not apply to you. “Feeling overwhelmed by the news is more common among those who follow the news less closely than among those who are avid consumers.”

But: There’s a partisan divide in the results. “Roughly three-quarters … of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents feel worn out … compared with about six-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.”

Demographics: White Americans are more likely than others to feel news exhaustion, ahead of both Hispanic and black Americans. Women were more likely by a slight percentage to feel worn out than men were, and older people were slightly less likely to indicate exhaustion than younger folks.


Appointed — Steve Cona (reappointed) to Hillsborough Community College District Board of Trustees.

Michelle Suskauer to become the Florida Bar’s 70th president” via Florida Trend — West Palm Beach attorney Suskauer will be sworn in when the Bar holds its Annual Convention from June 13-16 in Orlando. She takes the oath Friday, June 15, at the General Assembly. Vero Beach attorney John Stewart will be sworn in as president-elect. Suskauer is the sixth woman to serve as Bar president and is the first former public defender to hold the office. Suskauer is a criminal defense attorney with Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A., practicing in state and federal courts. Suskauer has been a member of The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors since 2010 and has chaired the Board Disciplinary Review Committee, the Board Communications Committee and the Annual Convention Committee.

West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer.


Personnel note: Step Up for Students hires two new VPs — Anne Francis and Jillian Metz are now the organization’s vice presidents of development. Step Up For Students is a state-approved nonprofit scholarship funding organization that helps administer two scholarships for Florida schoolchildren: the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program for low-income families and the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs. “Francis and Metz lead a highly skilled team in both tax-credit and charitable fundraising initiatives that support scholarships for underprivileged students in Florida,” a release said. Last year, the group used $600 million in tax-credit contributions from corporations to give more than 105,000 scholarships.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Kaitlyn Bailey, RSA Consulting Group: US eDirect

Christopher DudleyAllyce Heflin, Southern Strategy Group: Apple, Bradford County School District, Sogeti USA, Study Edge, University of Central Florida Foundation

Michael Corcoran, Corcoran & Johnston: Wreckers Cay Apartments at Stock Island

Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: Florida Brewers Guild

Danny JordanSamuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Pondera Solutions

Brandon Tyler Peck, Flywheel Government Solutions: U.S. Green Building Council

William Stander, Whisper: Florida Life Care Residents Association

— ALOE —

Instagram could soon allow users to post long-form video” via Benjamin Mullen of The Wall Street Journal — The Facebook Inc.-owned photo and video sharing app is preparing to launch a new feature that will include long-form video, according to people familiar with the matter. The feature, which could allow videos of up to an hour in length, will focus on vertical video, or video that is taller than it is wide, one of the people said. Until now, Instagram hasn’t allowed users to post any videos longer than one minute. The people said the plans are tentative and subject to change. The decision to launch long-form video comes about two years after the launch of Instagram Stories, a feature that allows users to share photos and multiple short videos of up to 15 seconds uploaded within a 24-hour time-span. Instagram Stories is now one of the app’s most popular and fastest-growing features, according to the company, with about 300 million daily users.

Long-form videos could soon hit Instagram feeds.

What Marc Caputo is reading (not really, but he should) — “Sharp drop expected for Florida avocado volumes” via — Florida is feeling the effects of Hurricane Irma on this year’s avocado season, with expectations that the early crop could be at just a third of the normal level. Brooks Tropicals marketing director Mary Ostlund told Fresh Fruit Portal the storm … “did a number” on south Florida groves, stressing the trees. “Although the physical damage wasn’t major, we are seeing the impact in flowering and that impacts harvesting volumes,” she said. “The early crop is affected the most, with various grove estimates throughout the industry as low as 30 percent. Later season varieties — which have had more time to recover — appear to be as good as 60 percent.” She explained that the season, which typically kicks off around May, has had a slow start this year, but she expects it to run through this year and early into next year. Florida’s avocado volumes are expected to return to normal next year, she added.

Why are so many Florida honeybees dying?” via Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times — According to the Florida Department of Agriculture’s chief apiary inspector David Westervelt, Hurricane Irma drastically compounded the state’s ongoing problem of honeybee colony loss. He says at least 75,000 of Florida’s 600,000 honeybee colonies were affected by the storm: Bees drowned, were blown off course, or died of starvation due to the destruction of the nectar- and pollen-rich vegetation on which they forage. And it’s not just about honey. Honeybees are critical to pollinating Florida’s $4 billion blueberry, cantaloupe, cucumber, honeydew, raspberry and watermelon crops. Florida bees matter nationwide: Twenty to 25 percent of the nation’s honeybees pass through Florida, often wintering here to gain strength before or after pollinating California almonds. Beekeepers from New York, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan winter their bees in Florida to fortify the hives: In 2006, Florida had 1,000 registered beekeepers, now it’s 5,000. Let’s call them snowbees.

Happy birthday to Rep. Jason BrodeurThomas Grigsby, and Nancy Stephens.

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