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5 things I think I think about Jeff Vinik going into business with the Tampa Bay Times

As we suspected the moment we read about the Tampa Bay Times refinancing plan, Jeff Vinik has been revealed to be one of four ‘secret lenders’ to the newspaper company.

A week ago, Times CEO Paul Tash explained in a column that the media company has accepted a $12 million loan made in part by anonymous lenders as part of a larger refinancing by the newspaper company. Of the eight local lenders to The Tampa Bay Times, only four were named; Tash and his wife, Karyn, are among the named investors, along with three other philanthropists and business executives.

This left many wondering who are the other four investors, described by Tash as all having “big investments in the Tampa Bay region.”

In a blog post, SPB first questioned if the investors might be developer/philanthropist Bill Edwards or Jeff Vinik.

Turns out that not only were we right, but its our probing which prompted Vinik to announce his role in the Times’ refinancing.

Here are five things I think I think about this blockbuster revelation.

1. Please don’t construe anything here as criticism of the Times refinancing its debt or Vinik jumping at the opportunity to play a role in that. Hundreds of Times employees are better off by this capital infusion, so unless the money was coming from Vladimir Putin, the deal itself is a good thing.

2. The biggest winner in all of this is Vinik. His plans for world domination, err, redeveloping downtown Tampa depend on a viable newspaper to broadcast the ‘good news’ about what’s happening there. Two million dollars is a small price to pay for a world-class propaganda machine that doubles as a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization.

3. Tash owes his readers an explanation about how the entire refinancing deal came about. Did the lenders approach him or did he approach the lenders? If he approached the lenders, how long ago did he do that? Did he approach certain lenders first? How exactly did Vinik come on board?

Tash insists that the lenders will not have any input into the editorial direction of the newspaper. But we know that’s fake news because it was the lenders who insisted they remain anonymous and Tash obliged.

3a. Times editors need to quickly explain how it will now cover all of Vinik’s enterprises. Will there be a disclaimer at the end of stories? If not, why not?

3b. If you don’t think a deal like this will impact news coverage, someone please direct me to the first story from the Tampa Bay Times that is critical of Vinik’s decision to brand his project “Water Street Tampa.”

4. I never, ever, ever want to hear another word again from Mary Ellen Klas or Craig Pittman or Michael Van Sickler or Adam Smith or any of my other critics at the Times/Herald about what they think about my business dealings. The Times publisher a) entered into a company-saving business deal with not just a subject the newspaper covers but arguably the top newsmaker in the region and b) attempted to keep it a secret. At least the political clients who do business with me have to disclose to the state what they pay our company.

5. I previously teased that, with this deal, Tash was now swimming in my end of pool. That’s inaccurate. What he is doing — remember three of the lenders are still secret — is on par with how Sunshine State News operates because it also does not disclose its ownership. Remember when the Times’ Lucy Morgan took a hatchet to SSN for its mystery ownership?

 

Takeaways from Tallahassee — You gotta know when to fold ’em

Talk about being “busted.”

A Tallahassee attorney who fronted “large sums of money” to a professional poker player is suing after the player lost over $22,000 of that bankroll in unauthorized side gambling, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Hal Lewis is a name partner in the Fonvielle Lewis Messer & McConnaughhay personal-injury law firm and a poker aficionado.

Poker player Maurice Hawkins of South Florida has posted lifetime earnings of nearly $3 million, according to the Hendon Mob online poker database.  

The suit, filed in Leon County, is also a glimpse into the world of “staking” in professional poker.

“A poker investor (‘the backer’) puts up money on behalf of a poker player (‘the horse’) in exchange for a cut of the profits,” explains an Upswing Poker article from last October.

“The backer typically assumes all the risk: Any money the horse loses is on the backer,” the article continues. “But if the horse wins, the profits are shared according to the terms of the poker staking contract between the parties (usually, the cut is around 50/50).”

That was the deal cut by Lewis and Hawkins, whom Lewis said he met at a tournament in Jacksonville last March.

“It’s a roller coaster,” Lewis said of his poker investing in a Friday interview. “These guys win and lose, but you keep going, and you hope that your player eventually wins big,” even up to a million-dollar payoff.

Lewis’ suit said he “deposit(ed) various large sums of money” into Hawkins’ wife’s bank account so Hawkins could play last summer’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. (By the way, Hawkins on Friday was listed as a “trending player” on the WSOP website with $1,854,866 in wins.)

Hawkins played—and lost, the suit says. He told Lewis he wanted to quit the staking deal and give back $22,788 that was left.

That is, he wanted to but couldn’t, because he lost that money on bets outside of the deal, according to the suit.

“I just busted,” Hawkins said at first, according to copies of text messages from last June that Lewis attached to his complaint. “I owe you 22,788.”

But Hawkins later texted he had gotten a “feeling of despair” that “caused me to gamble, which caused me to lose and that’s why I lost all the money … I lost the 22,788… I am really emotional … I will make it right.”

He didn’t, Lewis said.

A complaint in a lawsuit tells one side of a story. Reached by phone, Hawkins disputed Lewis’ account, saying he owed the attorney nothing and that Lewis was being a “big bully.”

“Do I get a court date?” Hawkins said, avoiding a question about the texts. “Because the truth will come out then.”

Lewis now says he’s “very soured” on staking: “I still like playing, but I guess of all the people you shouldn’t trust, it’s probably those who lie, or ‘bluff,’ for a living.”

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

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

Rental relief — Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week her office reached an out-of-court settlement with Avis Budget Car Rental System – which owns Avis, Budget and Payless car rental companies – over claims consumers were charged excessive fees at toll booths in Florida. The Attorney General’s Office investigated allegations that the company didn’t disclose to consumers there would be a daily fee for the company’s e-Toll service, on top of the cost the customer would incur for a toll on a cashless toll road. The settlement agreement, according to Bondi’s office, requires Avis, Budget and Payless to clearly and conspicuously disclose its $3.95 a day charge to customers. It also calls on the company to train employees to ensure they aren’t telling consumers that the only way to pay for tolls in Florida is through the e-Toll system or telling consumers that all toll roads are cashless. The announcement of the Avis settlement came one day after Bondi was ordered to file a written response to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to donate millions to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week her office reached an out-of-court settlement with Avis over claims consumers were charged excessive fees at toll booths in Florida. (Photo by Phil Sears.)

Back to court — The Florida Supreme Court dismissed a challenge of Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of reimbursements to homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were torn down by the state. The homeowners had asked the court to undo Scott’s veto of more than $37 million by filing a petition for writ of mandamus, an order to an elected official to perform a certain action. The Republican-controlled Legislature agreed to pay homeowners in both Broward and Lee counties whose trees were torn down in a failed attempt to eradicate citrus canker, “a bacterial disease of citrus that causes premature leaf and fruit drop,” according to the state’s Agriculture Department. But Scott vetoed the money, ignoring an order by the court that the state pay up. In a 6-1 decision, the court declined to nullify the veto, mentioning lower court actions that had been filed. “Because the governor’s constitutional line-item veto authority at issue in this case is a part of the process that results in ‘an appropriation made by law,’ we hereby dismiss this petition without prejudice to seek redress in pending circuit court actions,” the order said.

Rejected — Brevard County Commissioners shot down a request by Commissioner John Tobia, a former state representative, to request Congress reject statehood for Puerto Rico. Tobia argued that Puerto Rico’s debt issues would impact all taxpayers if it became a state. But his proposal faced significant opposition, with none of his fellow commissioners backing him up and many residents expressing outrage over the request. Some state lawmakers also sounded off about Tobia’s proposal. Rep. Bob Cortes sent a letter to the Brevard County Commission requesting them to vote down the resolution, telling members that support for the resolution would send “a message that our exclusive club doesn’t need any new members, that the United States is finished accepting applications for statehood, and that even though Puerto Ricans are Americans, the land they live on is not good enough to be included in our United States.” Ouch.

Rep. Bob Cortes  told Brevard County commissioners that supporting a resolution to oppose Puerto Rican statehood would send “that even though Puerto Ricans are Americans, the land they live on is not good enough to be included in our United States.” (Photo via the Florida House.)

Mo’ money — Being an elected official might not be bad for your pocketbook. According to annual financial disclosures filed with the state, lawmakers have an average net worth of $2.14 million, and there are at least 45 millionaires. An analysis of available reports also found more than 100 lawmakers got richer this year; while 22 saw their net worth decrease. While neither House Speaker Richard Corcoran nor Senate President Joe Negron were among the dozens of millionaires in the Florida Legislature, their likely successors are. Senate Republican Leader Wilton Simpson, who is in line to be President in 2020 if the GOP keeps control of the chamber, reported a net worth of $22 million; while Rep. Jose Oliva, who is expected to succeed Corcoran, reported a net worth of $13.4 million. At least eight lawmakers, reports indicated, are underwater.

Slow going —The Republican Party of Florida posted not-so-stellar second quarter fundraising numbers this week. The state GOP raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30, which covered the second half of the 2017 Legislative Session and a three-day special session. The three-month fundraising period paled in comparison to previous quarterly reports, and forced top officials to put their fundraising efforts into context. Blaise Ingoglia, the chairman of the Florida GOP and a Spring Hill state representative, told state committee members in an email that the state party has more than $4 million cash on hand in its federal and state accounts and fundraising is ramping up. “Last election cycle, we ignored all the noise, completed the task at hand, and finished the election with millions left in the bank,” he said. “This election cycle will be no different!” The low fundraising numbers led at least one top Republican to step up to the plate and pledge to help raise money in the final months of the year. Sen. Jack Latvala pledged to raise $50,000 over the next two quarters — $25,000 each quarter — to help the party, and encouraged fellow Republicans to do the same.

After raising just $339,000 in the second quarter, Blaise Ingoglia, a Spring Hill representative and the chairman of the Florida GOP, told state committee members the state party has more than $4 million cash on hand in its federal and state accounts and fundraising is ramping up. (Photo via the Florida House.)

Lost and found

Call it a quarter of a million dollar month.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced recently it recovered more than $250,000 for Florida consumers during June.

The department recovered $250,256 total on behalf of Florida consumers during the one-month period. The agency received 3,629 complaints, initiated 230 investigations and arrested 10 individuals during the same time frame.

The department also provided assistance to 21,545 consumers through the consumer hotline, online chats and emails. It also added 17,354 telephone numbers to the state Do Not call List.

Last year, the Department recovered nearly $3 million for Florida consumers from moving companies, vehicle repair shops, pawn shops, health studios, and telemarketers.

Awards season

Top teacher — Hip, hip, hooray: Tammy Jerkins has been named the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education (DOE) Teacher of the Year!

Jerkins, a secondary mathematics teacher from Leesburg High School in Lake County, was presented the award this week during a ceremony at Universal Studios Orlando. She was selected by a DOE-appointed selection committee for her superior ability to teach and communicate knowledge in her field from a pool of 195,744 public school teachers.

“Teachers generously give of themselves every day to educate, inspire and motivate their students. By doing this, they elevate and empower future generations to achieve great things,” said Dennis White, Macy’s executive vice president and regional director of stores, in a statement.

“Macy’s is thankful to have the opportunity to celebrate and honor Tammy Jerkins for the contributions she is making by ensuring our students are equipped with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are vital to Florida’s success.”

Tammy Jerkins, a secondary mathematics teacher from Leesburg High School, has been named the the 2018 Macy’s/Florida Department of Education Teacher of the Year. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

Macy’s has sponsored the Florida Teacher of the Year program for 29 years. Jerkins received a $25,000 check, a $1,000 wardrobe, a $1,000 check for her school and an all-expense paid trip for four to New York City to attend this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“First Lady Ann Scott and I are proud to join Macy’s and the Florida Department of Education to recognize the 2018 Teacher of the Year, Tammy Jerkins,” said Gov. Scott, who presented Jerkins with the award. “I’d like to thank all of these educators for their incredible impact on Florida students and I applaud their commitment to preparing them for higher education and successful careers. The workers and leaders of tomorrow are in our classrooms today and every day, and Florida teachers go above and beyond to ensure their success.”

Best of the best — Kudos, Sandra Marquez!

The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) announced that Marquez, a detective with the Aventura Police Department, has been selected as the Florida Retail Federation Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. The 10-year veteran will receive a cash award and a custom-crafted medal. Her name will also be added to an official plaque that lists each of the winners since the program’s inception in 1974.

The FRF said Marquez was instrumental in the success of her city’s new economic crimes unit, as well as having a positive impact on retail crimes and fraud investigations.

Joseph Leserra with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office was selected as runner-up. Leserra is a senior detective in the financial crimes unit, a certified fraud examiner, and a task force officer with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

“The men and women of Florida’s law enforcement community … keep Florida’s 270,000 retailers, their employees, customers and merchandise safe,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “We are thankful for their dedicated service to protecting all of us, and we are honored to be able to recognize both Detective Marquez and Detective LaSerra on behalf of the thousands of law enforcement professionals throughout our state.”

Two other detectives — Lazaro Daniel with the Miami-Dade Police Department and Ismael Hau with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office — received honorable mentions, and will be recognized locally.

What a legacy — Atta boy, Sen. Jack Latvala!

The Florida Association of Counties (FAC) presented the Clearwater Republican with the Legacy Award during the recent 2017 FAC annual conference and exposition in Palm Beach County.

“It is critical to have partners in the legislature who understand the importance of home-rule and fight for their communities,” said Ginger Delegal, the association’s executive director, in a statement. “We are proud to recognize Senator Latvala’s partnership and his steadfast dedication to putting policy above politics.”

The Florida Association of Counties presented Sen. Jack Latvala with the Legacy Award, honoring his “steadfast dedication to putting policy above politics.” (Photo by Phil Sears)

The award is presented to legislators who have demonstrated a commitment to local governments throughout their career in the Legislature. The organization represents the diverse interests of Florida counties, emphasizing the importance of home rule.

“I was very honored to receive this prestigious award from county commissioners who are in the front lines in keeping government responsible and responsive to the people of Florida,” said Latvala, a multiple FAC award recipient.

Elderly champion — Give Rep. Daisy Baez a round of applause next time you see her.

Baez was recently named a “Champion of the Elderly” by the Florida Health Care Association. The Miami Democrat was recognized for her efforts to support older Floridians and work toward improving the state’s long term care.

“Working on behalf of older Floridians, especially in the sense of health care, is one of the main things that drove me to run for public office; I was done with watching from the sidelines as health care decisions that I did not agree with were made, decisions I felt would ultimately hurt people in our state,” she said in a statement.

“I see it as my responsibility to be a true representative of my community and ensure that they, as well as all Floridians, have the opportunity to fairly access the care they need,” she continued. “I am beyond grateful to be chosen for this honor and I am eager to keep working to improve our health care system on behalf of elder Floridians.”

The association is the state’s largest advocacy network for long term care providers and the elderly community they serve. Baez will receive her award, and address the association, during the organization’s annual conference during the week of July 31 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando.

Safety star — Rock on, Raymond Mowen!

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) named Mowen, a Royal Palm Beach resident, the 2016 Volunteer Hunter Safety Instructor of the Year at its commission meeting this week. The award recognizes volunteers who advance the cause of safe hunting through extraordinary service in training and education.

“Ray is doing his part to continue the heritage of hunting in Florida by developing safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunters. He is dedicated to making sure his students learn about safe, responsible hunting as well as teaching them about conservation,” said Bill Cline, FWC’s section leader for hunter safety and public shooting ranges. “He also is securing the future of FWC’s hunter safety program by recruiting others to become hunter safety volunteer instructors. We cherish volunteers like Ray.”

Bill Cline presents Ray Mowen with the Hunter Safety Instructor of the Year award. (Photo via FWC.)

Mown, who spent six years’ active duty as an airborne parachute rigger with the U.S. Marine Corps, has volunteered to teach the state’s hunter safety course for 24 years. He was the program’s top producer in 2016, volunteering 289 hours to teach 21 classes.

“Being a hunter safety instructor is very rewarding,” he said in a statement. “At the end of the class, when a student looks me in the eyes, thanks me and shakes my hand – I know they got it and will be taking this safety knowledge home and to the field. That’s why I do it.”

Service honored — Call him a humanitarian; the folks at the Urban League of Broward County are.

The Urban League of Broward County announced this week it will present Rep. Shevrin Jones with the 2017 Margaret Roach Humanitarian Award at its annual gala in September. The West Park Democrat said he was “incredibly humbled to be recognized” by the Urban League.

The Urban League of Broward County has selected Shevrin Jones to receive its 2017 Margaret Roach Humanitarian Award. (Photo via the Florida House)

The award is given to community members who have demonstrated ongoing leadership in the areas of social justice, race relations and community service.

“Our communities are stronger when we embrace our diversity as people and work together for the common good,” he said in a statement. “While I am proud of the work that I and others have done, we must never be satisfied until true equality for all has been achieved. We must march on.”

What a woman — Drum roll, please. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced this week that Martha Rhodes Roberts has been selected as the 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture.

Roberts dedicated 35 years of service to the Florida Department of Agriculture, where she championed policy changes to advance the state’s agriculture industry, trade and production practices.

“I’m honored to name Dr. Roberts the 2017 Woman of the Year in Agriculture,” said Putnam in a statement. “During her tenure with the department, Dr. Roberts advanced Florida agriculture.”

Born in Oxford, Mississippi, Roberts joined the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food Safety in 1968 as a microbiologist/chemist. She was appointed assistant commissioner in 1984, and was the first woman in the United States to hold such a position.

She served as the department’s deputy commissioner from 1991 until 2003, and played a key role in shaping agricultural policies to improve practices in each stage of production. Beginning in 2003, she served 13 years as the director of industry relations and then the special assistant for government affairs for the University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).

The award will be presented during the 2018 Florida State Fair in Tampa.

Flying high

We’re No. 2, and that’s a good thing.

Gov. Scott announced recently that Florida’s airports ranked second in the nation for airline passenger volume, according to preliminary data from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The state, Scott said, handles more enplanements than Texas, placing it second in the nation, behind California.

“Florida’s airports are critical to the economy of our state and Governor Scott has demonstrated that by investing over $1 billion in our airport system,” said Florida Transportation Secretary Mike Dew.

Several airports — including the Daytona Beach International Airport, St Pete-Clearwater International, and Jacksonville International — received federal Airport Improvement grants. The fiscal 2017-18 budget includes more than $263 million for aviation improvements.

“Florida’s airports help welcome millions of visitors, business leaders and families to our state each year, and have a significant impact on supporting job creation and growing our economy,” Scott said. “That is why I am proud that we have invested more than $1 billion in state funding in our airports over the past six years.”

‘Open carry’ goes to feds

Dale Lee Norman is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the state’s ban on the open carry of firearms.

In a 4-2 decision this March, Florida’s highest court said the state’s open carry ban does not violate a person’s constitutional right to self defense.

Norman had been arrested by Fort Pierce police in February 2012 after having gotten his concealed weapon license earlier that day, according to a brief.

“A concerned citizen noticed Mr. Norman’s firearm on his right hip and called police,” the brief said. “The State’s sole allegation in this case is that Mr. Norman carried a firearm conspicuously and openly rather than concealed.”

His attorney, gun-rights activist Eric Friday, has said the ban should be stricken because it “infringe(s) on the fundamental individual rights of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, and the State.”

The latest filing says the “issue is whether a prohibition on peaceably and openly carrying a lawfully-owned handgun infringes on ‘the right of the people to . . . bear arms’ protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The court has yet decided whether it will consider the appeal, filed earlier this week.

Veteran appreciation

Thank you for your service — Gov. Rick Scott tipped his hat to Florida veterans, spending a few days on the road thanking them for their service.

The Naples Republican presented Governor’s Veterans Service Medals to Floridians in Panama City, The Villages, Cocoa and Wauchula. All told, Scott presented more than medals to more than 700 Florida veterans.

“It is important that we continue to appreciate and honor the members of our Armed Forces not just on holidays, but every day,” said Scott, following a stop in Panama City. “I’m incredibly proud to recognize these American heroes who dedicated their lives to our great nation and present them with the Veterans Service Medal today.”

Gov. Rick Scott presents veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medals in Cocoa. Scott recently handed out medals to more than 700 Florida veterans.

Scott awarded 49 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Medal during his Panama City stop, including Staff Sgt. William Yaeger Brookes, who enlisted in the Florida Army National Guard in 2002; Sgt. Taylor Smith, who began his military career in 2006 as Calvary Scout in the Florida Army National Guard; and Maxine McIlroy Mann, who joined the World War II women’s branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve after its founding in 1942.

In The Villages, Scott awarded 268 veterans with the Governor’s veterans Service Medal. He also honored Staff Sgt. Irving Locker, a 93-year-old who was drafted into the Army and served in World War II from 1943 until 1945, and Cpl. John Trongon, a 94-year-old who was drafted into the Army when he was 18 years old and served in the amphibious operations during World War II from 1943 until 1946.

Scott recognized Army Capt. Donn Weaver, Army Spc. Sebastian Padilla, and Army Spc. Marcus Birkenmeyer during an event in Cocoa. During that stop, Scott handed out Governor’s Veterans Service Medals to 274 Floridians.

The governor ended his swing in Wauchula, where he handed out 127 medals to Florida veterans. He also honored Master Sgt. Jeremy St. Clair, who enlisted in the Florida Army National Guard in 1997; Staff Sgt. James Compau, who enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2005; and B.J. Norris, a 99-year-old who served in the Army from 1942 until 1945.

Minding military consumers — Attorney General Pam Bondi is doing her part to protect military members and veterans from scams.

Earlier this year, Bondi launched a program — the Military and Veterans Assistance Program — aimed at serving the unique consumer protection needs of Florida’s military and veterans’ communities.

The program is meant to educate service members and veterans on the types of scams that target their communities, what they can do to protect themselves, and how they can help protect others by reporting scams and deceptive business practices.

“Although we will never be able to fully thank the men and women of our military and the loved ones who support them, my office will continue to protect them from unscrupulous businesses and individuals here at home,” Bondi said in a statement.

Get healthy

The list of schools earning a “healthy” designation keeps on growing.

Ag. Commissioner Putnam announced 37 more schools earned the HealthierUS School Challenge designation during June. That brings the total number of schools with the designation to 313. That’s up from 27 schools in 2012, when the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services took over responsibility of the state’s school nutrition programs.

“A healthy lifestyle is the foundation for academic success, and these schools have gone above and beyond to give their students the fuel they need to excel in the classroom,” Putnam said in a statement.

The HealthierUS School Challenge is a joint effort with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The voluntary certification initiative recognizes schools’ efforts to improve food and beverage options, offer nutrition education and promote physical activity.

Book lovers’ paradise

#BringABook boom — Call it a success; Volunteer Florida and Leadership Florida are.

The two organizations recently announced that the second annual #BringABook service project collected 1,100 books for Florida students. The event — which was co-hosted by Leadership Florida and Volunteer Florida — was held in conjunction with Leadership Florida’s 2017 annual meeting in Palm Beach County.

Volunteer Florida and Leadership Florida collected 1,100 books for Florida students at its second annual #BringABook service project. (Photo via Volunteer Florida.)

“Volunteer Florida was thrilled to host a #BringABook service project at the 2017 Leadership Florida Annual Meeting,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman. “Leadership Florida members donated a record number of books for the event, and we are grateful for their generosity and support of literacy and student success.”

The books will be donated to the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.

“Leadership Florida is grateful to have partnered with Volunteer Florida to host #BringABook and collected over 1,100 books this year at our Annual Meeting,” said Wendy Spencer, the president and CEO of Leadership Florida. “As statewide leaders, our members are dedicated to taking a stand for children and value ensuring all Florida students have an opportunity to read at home!”

Summer reading winners — Give these kiddos a round of applause.

Forty-five students from Alachua County are improving their reading skills thanks in large part to the Winning Reading Boost program.

Developed through a partnership with University of Florida College of Education’s Lastinger Center for Learning and Sue Dickson, an award-winning author and publisher, the program teaches students how to read using a variety of engaging and effective strategies. The University of Florida selects, trains and certifies a team of energetic and passionate educators to deliver the Winning Reading Boost program.

Leaders from AT&T, the Education Foundation of Alachua County and Alachua County Public School District celebrate AT&T’s contribution.

The six-week program is being administered at Lake Forest Elementary School, and this week former Tampa state Rep. Ed Narain, the regional director for AT&T, presented a $25,000 check to leaders from The Education Foundation of Alachua County for the program.

On the board

Kahn joins EFI board of directorsKen Kahn is taking a seat on the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors.

Senate President Joe Negron announced he appointed Kahn to the board for a term ending July 5, 2021.

“Ken understands firsthand the opportunities available to businesses seeking to locate or expand here in Florida,” Negron said. “He has a strong educational background and the diverse business and community service experiences needed to excel in this position. I am confident Ken will be a strong advocate for Florida businesses, and I am grateful that he has agreed to join the Enterprise Florida Team in this important capacity.”

Kahn is the president of LRP Publications, a legal and professional publishing company. He serves on the Palm Beach County Education Commission, the Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness, and the executive committees of Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, and Kravis Center Corporate Partners.

Kahn graduated from Cornell University and Harvard Law School. He has five children, and currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens with his wife and two daughters.

Britt reappointed to West Orange Healthcare DistrictWard Britt is sticking around.

Gov. Scott announced this week he re-upped Britt, a 76-year-old retiree and Windermere resident, to the West Orange Healthcare District board. The U.S. Air Force veteran was reappointed to a term ended Sept. 30, 2020.

Scott also appointed Gerald Jowers to the board for a term ending Sept. 24, 2017. Jowers, a 69-year-old Winter Park resident, is the president of G.J. Batteries, Inc. & U.S. Lead, Inc.

Established by the Legislature in 1949, the West Orange Healthcare District is governed by a board of 16 trustees who aim to address the health and wellness needs of their community.

Combating anti-Semitism

It’s time to appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism at the State Department.

That’s the message a bipartisan coalition of Florida lawmakers recently sent to President Donald Trump when they signed onto a letter authored by the National Association of Jewish legislators calling on the president to fill the position.

“The United States’ role in combating anti-Semitism and in the fight for human rights worldwide is unquestionably of the utmost importance,” said Rep. Richard Stark, a Weston Democrat, in a statement. “That is why it is vital that President Trump fill this vacant position as quickly as possible so that America remains a leader the rest of the world can look to on these issues.

“All nations must be assured that the United States will not tolerate and will work to end anti-Semitism wherever it is found.”

The special envoy position was created in 2004 to document abuses against Jewish communities abroad, as well as “develop and implement approaches to fight anti-Semitism.”

The letter was signed by legislators in 26 states, including six members — Reps. Stark, Lori Berman, Randy Fine, Joe Geller and Emily Slosberg, and Sen. Kevin Rader — from Florida.

Money back guarantee

Missing moolah? Time to check the Division of Unclaimed Property.

CFO Jimmy Patronis announced this week that the division returned $313 million during fiscal 2016-17, the highest annual return figure in the program’s 56-year history. According to Patronis’ office, more than 513,000 claims were paid out last year, a double-digit increase over the previous fiscal year.

“I am impressed with the incredible accomplishments of the unclaimed property program, and I look forward to its continued success in the future,” Patronis said in a statement. “It’s easier than it might seem to lose track of an account, and I want all Floridians to know that we’re working to return their hard-earned funds back to them.”

Nearly 5 million claims have been paid since the program was created in 1961. The most common type of unclaimed property, according to the department, are dormant accounts from financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, and securities and trust holdings. Unclaimed property can also include tangible property like watches, jewelry, coins and other currency.

Signed, again

Fighting a crisis — The state’s battle against opioids was in the limelight this week, as Gov. Scott held ceremonial bill signings in Sarasota and West Palm Beach.

Scott ceremonially signed legislation (HB 477) that creates new penalties and enhances existing penalties when it comes to synthetic opioid drugs, including fentanyl. The bill, which Scott officially signed on June 15, goes into effect on Oct. 1.

“This bill gives our agency more resources to combat opioid abuse and keep vulnerable Floridians safe from harm,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight in a statement. “We appreciate the support of Governor Scott and our state leaders as we continue to work together fight the national opioid epidemic.”

Gov. Rick Scott ceremonially signs a bill creates new penalties and enhances existing penalties when it comes to synthetic opioid drugs in Sarasota. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

The governor also used the events to highlight more than $27 million federal grant funding made through the Public Health Emergency declaration earlier this year. The Florida Department of Children and Families allocated $375,000 to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for Naloxone so first responders can have access to the lifesaving drug to respond to overdoses.

“I appreciate the Governor being here today to highlight this important issue in our community,” said Senate President Joe Negron in a statement after the West Palm Beach event. “My Senate colleagues and I are thankful for the Governor’s leadership, and we are very grateful to the law enforcement officers who are on the front lines and see the real impacts of the opioid crisis day in and day out. We want to make certain these brave men and women have the tools they need to keep our communities safe, and this legislation is a step in the right direction.”

Pay bump — The state’s law enforcement officers will see a little extra cash in their pockets.

Gov. Scott highlighted pay raises for the state’s sworn state law enforcement officers, correction officers and state employees during stops in Fort Myers and South Florida this week. The governor in June signed the bill (SB 7022) providing pay raises.

The measure, which went into effect July 1, authorizes a 5 percent pay increase for sworn law enforcement officers with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Department of Financial Services, and State Attorney offices.

Gov. Rick Scott highlighted a 5 percent pay increase for law enforcement officers in Fort Myers. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

“I am proud to highlight the raises that our hard working state employees and law enforcements officers will receive in our Fighting for Florida’s Future budget,” Scott said in a statement. “With a 46-year low in crime, Florida’s law enforcement officers and state employees help make our state the best place in the nation to live, work and raise a family. I am proud of all they have accomplished for Florida families.”

Despite the increase, pay for state troopers still lags behind surround states.

‘Fess up

Heading to Denver later this month for the ALEC meeting? Common Cause wants to know.

Liza McClenagan, the state chairwoman of Common Cause Florida, said in a letter to Republican Reps. Neil Combee and Mike La Rosa that “Florida voters have a right to know who is attending and paying the way for this secretive special interest conference.”

“Transparency and accountability are a cornerstone of American democracy,” wrote McClenagan. “If legislators think they can go to these secret meetings funded by some of the largest corporations in the world without public notice, they are wrong. The people are watching and want to know who is paying their way.”

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, brings state lawmakers and corporate representatives together to create and lobby for the passage of model bills, which legislators then bring back to their respective states. Combee and La Rosa are the organization’s Florida state chairs.

Common Cause Florida also wants Combee and La Rosa to release who is pay for travel, lodging and registration fees to the annual conference.

Need a volunteer

Help is on the way for the state’s volunteer fire departments.

CFO Patronis launched the Florida Firefighter Grant Assistance Program this week, delivering a check to the Monticello Volunteer Fire Department. The grant program aims to help volunteer fire departments across the state by making funding available to purchase fire safety equipment.

“Florida’s firefighters lay their lives on the line every day to protect our friends and family, and I’m proud to lead a program that will help them purchase better protective gear,” Patronis said in a statement. “As this new program grows, we’ll keep working until every fire department across Florida has the resources they need to keep themselves and our citizens safe.”

CFO Jimmy Patronis recently launched a new program to help volunteer fire departments across the state by making funding available to purchase fire safety equipment. (Photo via the CFO’s Office.)

An estimated 12 million Floridians depend on the services provided by volunteer firefighters; however, a wide variety of the departments lack the resources needed to supply firefighters with current safety equipment and training.

During the first year, nine fire departments will receive a total of $150,000. The Legislature increased second year funding to $1 million.

“I’ve seen the needs of volunteer fire departments first hand, and I know this program will save lives by offering better protection to the first responders who run straight into dangerous situations,” said Rep. Halsey Beshears, the Monticello Republican who sponsored the 2016 legislation that created the program. “I thank CFO Patronis for offering me the opportunity to join him in delivering the very first grant funds.”

Ideas please

The money is in the bank; now economic development leaders are looking to spend it.

Gov. Scott announced this week that Enterprise Florida and the Department of Economic Opportunity are accepting economic development project proposals for the newly created Florida Job Growth Grant Fund.

“With more than 1.37 million jobs created across our state since December 2010 and the lowest unemployment rate in nearly 10 years, it is clear that Florida’s economy has experienced incredible growth. However, we are competing against other states and countries for new jobs, and we must aggressively fight to make Florida the best destination for business,” said Scott in a statement.

“That is why I worked with the Legislature to establish the new $85 million Florida Job Growth Fund, which will invest in infrastructure and workforce training needs across the state- two major factors that job creators consider when choosing an ideal location.”

The $85 million fund was created during the recent special session. The program, according to the Governor’s Office, will be used to promote publican infrastructure and individual job training. The DEO will work with Enterprise Florida, and other state and local organizations, to identify projects for funding.

“Communities across Florida have so many opportunities for economic development and job growth,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the DEO, in a statement. “The Florida Job Growth Fund allows DEO to provide needed flexible funding to enhance infrastructure and develop a strong workforce across the state.”

Main Street, Fla.

Nice street, Venice!

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the Venice MainStreet program was designated the July 2017 Florida Main Street Community of the Month.

“Venice is one of our oldest Main Street organizations and its impact on the community is reflected in all of its great successes,” Detzner said in a statement. “Venice is home to many community events, concerts and fairs, and has become a model for Main Street programs in Florida.”

Created in 1988, the Venice MainStreet program has been designated as the July 2017 Florida Main Street Community of the Month. (Photo via the Department of State.)

The Venice MainStreet program was started in 1988, and has resulted in the development of nearly 1,000 jobs, 300 businesses and 31,000 hours of volunteer support.

The district includes a variety of restaurants, bars and shops, many of which are in historic buildings. The organization also organizes arts, community and musical festivals, including juried art shows, craft festivals and blues festivals.

—Editor’s Note: Because of a typing error, we misspelled Rep. Randy Fine‘s name in the last edition of Capitol Directions. Our apologies to him, and to all the “Randy Finr”s out there. And now, this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

 

Sunburn for 7.14.17 – Latvala’s Maine event; Blaise breaks down the numbers; Paul Renner backing Jay Fant for AG; Tom Grady to CRC; Game of Thrones weekend

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

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

La Fête Nationale. Joyeux Quatorze Juillet. More than 50 cities in the United States will celebrate France’s national holiday, Bastille Day. But there’s no such thing as Bastille Day in France. Why not? Because in France, July 14th is simply known as la fête du 14-juillet (the July 14th holiday) or more officially, la fête nationale (the National Holiday).

So if you happen to run into any French natives this year during your July 14th celebrations, don’t wish them a “Happy Bastille Day”—chances are you’ll be met with the same reaction as if someone wished you a “Happy Declaration of Independence Day” on July 4th.

 — LATVALA’S MAINE EVENT —

Lobsters and Latvalas.

For some in Florida politics (we’re looking at you Pete Dunbar, Lisa Hurley and Alan Suskey) that’s all they may ever need.

Today these folks will be in beautiful Boothbay Harbor, Maine for an old fashioned pig roast (we’re not sure if there will be delicious Maine lobsters on the menu) and to raise money for state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s main political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee.

The gathering in Maine has become an annual tradition, where those close to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee gather for a couple of days to enjoy each other’s camaraderie — and hear Latvala’s plans for the year ahead.

In years past, those in attendance discussed the Pinellas Republican’s efforts to win the Senate presidency.

What Latvala has to say this year is especially important. He’s expected to share with his closest political friends and supporters his plans for 2018.

For months, speculation has pointed to Latvala announcing a maverick’s run for Governor. In February, Latvala told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times that he would not be making a decision about 2018 until the Legislative Session was over.

Well, Session has come and gone. There even was a Special Session. So is Latvala ready to throw his hat into the ring and challenge Adam Putnam (and probably Richard Corcoran) for the GOP nomination?

Latvala might be ready to run. And today he might tell his friends and supporters he intends to run. But don’t expect him to launch a campaign officially before September 1.

This is because Latvala is counting on public campaign finance to bolster his war chest and any money raised before that date does not count towards the figure that can be matched.

Florida’s public financing law was established in the 1980s as a way to help overcome the rising cost of running statewide.

Payments are doled out under Florida law that allows gubernatorial candidates to seek public financing for their campaign. If candidates agree to limit their spending, the state matches contributions up to $250. Contributions above that amount also receive a $250 match.

Because he’s running against a candidate (Putnam) with nearly a $10 million head start, Latvala will likely rely on public financing to level the field.

And, to be frank, there’s not much Putnam can say about that.

This is because, while running for re-election as Commissioner of Agriculture in 2014, Putnam took more than $400,000 from the state in public financing even though he was running against a tomato can.

Why a fiscal conservative like Putnam who was facing no threat of being defeated would accept public campaign financing — even if he was entitled to it — is a good question.

Putnam’s spokesman told Matt Dixon that Putnam doesn’t support the taxpayer-financing policy, but it would have been “absurd” to turn down the money.

It’s unclear if Putnam will accept public financing — and the cap that comes with it — in 2018. His campaign and committee have raised a combined $13.4 million through May 31.

Although Latvala is himself a prolific fundraiser, he probably doesn’t have the capacity or time (he won’t be able to fundraise during the 2018 Legislative Session) to raise Putnam-esque money. And to be honest, if Latvala is to pull off an upset and defeat Putnam, Corcoran, etc., he will have to catch fire with the Republican grassroots to do so. A couple of million dollars on top of the $25 million limit won’t make a difference towards that.

So while much of the Florida political universe is eager to see Jack Latvala on the campaign trail, they’re probably going to have to wait a little longer.

In the meantime, enjoy the lobster rolls.

State GOP’s use of Richard Corcoran pollster draws Latvala’s ire” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The newly hired pollster for House Speaker and likely gubernatorial candidate Corcoran did work for the Florida GOP last quarter, a move that’s sparking tension with at least one of his potential 2018 rivals. “I didn’t know about the polls. I’ll probably call [Republican Party of Florida Chairman] Blaise [Ingoglia] about it,” said state Senate budget chief Latvala, who is considering a run for governor. Latvala has been involved with the party since the 1970s and this week pledged to donate $50,000 over the next two quarters to RPOF, which has recently struggled to raise money. His comment came after POLITICO Florida asked him about the nearly $50,000 RPOF paid last quarter to Tony Fabrizio, whose firm was recently hired by Corcoran through his political committee, Watchdog PAC. “As far as Jack is concerned … my response is #LiberalLatvala,” Fabrizio said in a text message when asked about Latvala’s criticisms.

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— BLAISE INGOGLIA EXPLAINS Q2 FUNDRAISING NUMBERS —

Blaise Ingoglia wants to put the Florida GOP’s second quarter fundraising numbers into context, telling state Republicans that a number of factors, including the possibility of special sessions, contributed to the mediocre haul.

Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a Spring Hill state Representative, acknowledged that second quarter fundraising numbers “were not great,” but told committee members that those numbers were “not inconsistent with what has been raised in similar situations.”

“What was completely glossed over in media reports (as well as detractors of our Party) is that in addition to legislative session, there was the prospect of AT LEAST one elongated special session this reporting period,” said Ingoglia in a July 12 email to state committee members obtained by FloridaPolitics.com. “Therefore, fundraisers weren’t scheduled during the second quarter for fear of the events having to ultimately be canceled and then losing deposits. It was simply not good fiscal policy to risk canceling events and then lose money.”

“Last election cycle, we ignored all the noise, completed the task at hand, and finished the election with millions left in the bank,” Blaise Ingoglia writes in an email to the Florida GOP. “This election cycle will be no different!”

State records show the Florida GOP raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30. Ingoglia said the prospect of multiple sessions didn’t just have an impact on the state party, but also the Florida Republican Senatorial Committee, which raises money for state Senate races. That committee raised $720,000, down from $1.4 million in the first three months of the year.

Ingoglia also warned that comparisons to the Florida Democratic Party’s reported $3.5 million haul are not accurate, since those comparisons compare a quarter to “their year-to-date number.”

“The bottom line is this … as of yesterday the Republican Party of Florida has more than $4 million cash-on-hand between both its federal and state accounts, and fundraising is starting to ramp up.  By comparison, it has been reported that the Florida Dems are low on cash, as evidenced by them having to take out a $200K line of credit to make ends meet,” wrote Ingoglia, before telling members it was unfortunate that people within the party appear to be rooting for failure by spreading “erroneous information on social media and via email.”

“Last election cycle, we ignored all the noise, completed the task at hand, and finished the election with millions left in the bank,” he continued. “This election cycle will be no different!”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Brian Mast campaign says it raised more than $700K in Q2” via Florida Politics — The Mast campaign said Thursday it raised $733,964 between April 1 and June 30. That three-month fundraising haul brings his total raised to more than $1.12 million this cycle, according to the campaign. “While national Democrats desperately dump money into the 18th District with lies to undermine Brian Mast’s service to our country, people obviously aren’t buying it,” said Brad Stewart, a spokesman for Mast, in a statement. “With 92% of all donations being small dollar and a median donation of $25, it’s clearer than ever that there is broad grassroots enthusiasm for Brian’s agenda to upend the status quo in Washington and restore fiscal sanity to our country.” … Mast is one of 59 Republicans the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee identified earlier this year as incumbents the group will try to oust in 2018.

Save the date: Linda Jack will kick off her House District 36 campaign with an event at 7 p.m., Aug. 8 at Rose’s Bistro, 6238 Grand Blvd. in New Port Richey. The campaign kick-off is hosted by Rep. Sean Shaw, New Port Richey Mayor Rob Marlowe, former Rep. Amanda Murphy, and Frank Starkey of People Places LLC.

HD 44 Republicans offer differing views on Obamacare via Scott Powers of Orlando RisingThe four Republicans seeking to win the Aug. 15 primary for the open Florida House District 44 seat in Orange County differed sharply on their views of the Affordable Care Act and what, if anything from it should be salvaged. In a debate sponsored by the West Orange Republican Women’s Club Thursday, John Newstreet declared that about 80 percent of it was good, but the rest was so bad that it was like sugar and manure. His allowance for good parts in the deal Republicans typically deride as Obamacare drew sharp contrasts with the other candidates, as Bobby Olszewski and Bruno Portigliatti declared the whole law to be bad, while acknowledging a couple of positives; and Dr. Usha Jain, an urgent care physician, replied, “Obamacare is not for me. I never accepted Obamacare.”

Four of the five individuals who qualified as candidates in the upcoming House District 44 special election shared their opinions on topics pertinent to West Orange County.

Bobby Olszewski calls political flyer ‘slanderous’” via Terry Roen of Orlando RisingOlszewski said he has hired a lawyer to address “a slanderous mailer” that slams his involvement in a felon reform program. The two-page flyer, paid for by the Small Business Advisory Council in Tallahassee, urges voters to “contact Olszewski and tell him his scheme to fleece the taxpayers is wrong and not fiscally conservative.” Ironically, the flyer says the Republican is “caught in a Democratic for-profit tax scheme.” The flyer criticizes Olszewski’s work with Certified Second Chance Inc. (CSL), a corporation formed in February with Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer and a third partner, Allan Chernoff, CEO of the City of Life Foundation. The corporation requested state funding to help felons get jobs. The corporation was formed just days before State Sen. Randolph Bracy, who represents Apopka, requested $500,000 in the state budget for CSL, a for-profit social purpose corporation.

— ENDORSEMENT WATCH —

Paul Renner, Clay Yarborough back Jay Fant for AG — Reps. Paul Renner and Clay Yarborough have endorsed Jay Fant for Attorney General. The two join a growing list of House members from Northeast Florida and across the state who have thrown their support behind Fant. “I’m honored to have the support of strong conservatives like Paul Renner and Clay Yarborough,” said Fant. “Their effective leadership in Tallahassee serves their constituents and our entire state well. I look forward to continuing to work with them to limit government and increase opportunity for hardworking Floridians.”

Scott Fuhrman backs David Richardson in CD 27 — Scott Fuhrman announced he was endorsing state Rep. David Richardson in his race to replace Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. “David is the kind of Democratic standard-bearer we need in the race right now. I know that we can count on him to fight for progressive and responsible solutions to the problems we face as a nation, as well as to stand up to the Trump administration’s harmful policies and alarming rhetoric,” said Fuhrman in a statement. “In Tallahassee, David has been on the right side of everything from equal rights to prison reform to gun safety to the environment. I’m excited to see him take a courageous stand for single-payer health care on day one. David gets thing done.” Fuhrman challenged Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, and gained national attention by running an extremely competitive campaign. “When Scott ran for this seat in 2016, he took on the daunting task of challenging a well-funded, long-entrenched incumbent,” said Richardson. 

Berny Jacques picks up endorsement from Seminole Vice Mayor Chris Burke in HD 66 race” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – “As a Law Enforcement professional, I fully support Berny Jacques to represent District 66 in the Florida House of Representatives,” Burke said. “Berny spent years at the State Attorney’s Office protecting innocent victims and prosecuting some of Pinellas County’s worst criminal offenders. Who better to protect the interests of our residents and represent us than someone with a solid foundation in protecting the community and his commitment to public service!” Jacques said he was “honored” to pick up Burke’s support. Jacques is currently the only candidate in the HD66 race — for now.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Assignment editors – U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the former law school dean at Florida International University, will visit Florida Polytechnic University, 4700 Research Way in Lakeland. Tour begins at 10:30 a.m. at the school’s Innovation, Science and Technology Building, after which he will having lunch with Poly’s President Randy Avent and Frank Martin, chair of the University’s board of trustees, during which there will be a discussion of the school’s SunTrax facility, a joint project between the University and the Florida Department of Transportation to research innovation in tolling and autonomous driving.

Marco Rubio will vote yes on motion to proceed with Obamacare repeal bill” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – The bill … was satisfactory to Rubio after he tweeted three provisions as conditions for his support … The provisions included more Medicaid payments to hospitals that serve a large number of low-income people, an option to choose catastrophic coverage plans with low monthly payments but high deductibles and flexible Medicaid caps for public health emergencies like Zika. Rubio said that despite his support on the motion to proceed with the bill, he will introduce an amendment that ensures Florida, which chose not to expand Medicaid, isn’t locked into a baseline “that puts us at a disadvantageous position.” “It depends what the final bill looks like, if Florida’s not treated fairly it’ll be a problem,” Rubio said. “But ultimately, I campaigned to repeal and replace Obamacare and that’s what I want to but I want to do it in a way that’s positive for the country and fair for Florida.”

Bill Nelson tries to raise money off Trump’s controversial ‘voter fraud commission’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “This is downright ridiculous,” reads the subject of a Nelson fundraising email. “President Trump‘s so-called voter fraud commission has requested that states turn over the names, addresses, birth dates, voting history and, in some cases, even partial Social Security numbers of every voter in the country. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, but putting all that information in one centralized location is an open invitation for hackers to come in and steal it. That’s why dozens of states have already refused to fully comply. But Florida’s governor, Rick Scott – whom Trump has personally recruited to run for Senate against me – hasn’t said a peep, while his appointed Secretary of State has already agreed to send the info.” Separately, Charlie Crist issued a fundraising appeal touting his efforts as governor to restore voting rights for felons who paid their debt to society.

Conservative group targets Nelson and Carlos Curbelo in tax reform ads” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a conservative group, is targeting Nelson and Curbelo in digital ads urging them to support tax reform. The ads target House Ways and Means lawmakers who have expressed support for comprehensive tax reform, but who have yet to take a stand against the Border Adjustment Tax on imported goods, according to Freedom Partners. The ads, which also target key Senate members, target members from both parties and in Florida also includes U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan. Freedom Partners supports a series of changes to taxes including lowering individual and corporate rates, eliminating most tax credits and deductions and the estate tax and taxes on gifts.

Assignment editors: Sen. Nelson will hold a round table discussion with local graduates about legislation to cut student loan interest rates at 3 p.m. at his office in the U.S. Court House Annex, 111 North Adams Street, Suite 208.

Another flood insurance crisis? Washington rancor threatens progress” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Despite the rancor consuming Washington, bipartisan work is happening on an issue that affects Florida more than any other state: flood insurance. But the fight over health care and controversy over Russian interference in the election — not to mention an August recess of some length — threaten to impede that work, stoking renewed fears of uncertainty in the real estate market. “It’s not exactly been the most productive Congress,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group that is part of a broad coalition working on flood insurance. “It’s getting closer and closer to the deadline.” The decades-old, debt-plagued National Flood Insurance Program expires at the end of September. It covers about 5 million homes and businesses, 1.8 million of those in Florida. If the program lapses, the policies would remain but new ones could not be sold, potentially disrupting sales of homes that carry federally backed mortgages requiring flood insurance.

“Ted Deutch: The House must take up Russian sanctions, put Trump to the test” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “That’s a policy matter that will put the president to the test of whether or not he’s willing, as he says, to be tough with Russia or whether he’s really the president that we saw during the campaign as the candidate who kept talking about wanting to be friends with Russia,” Deutch said on CNN. “This is a serious matter. Russia interfered with our election. Congress is trying to toughen sanctions. That’s what the American people want and expect. That’s what the Speaker ought to allow us to vote on so the president has a chance to sign it.”

Mario Diaz-Balart made backroom deal in favor of horse slaughter, insiders say” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State NewsDiaz-Balart turned heads when he voted in favor of allowing horse slaughter in the United States, voting against his fellow Florida congressmen in what appears to have been a vote deal made behind closed doors with several southern Republican lawmakers. Diaz-Balart’s vote was one of two to sway the measure in the opposite direction in the Appropriations Committee vote. Every vote mattered in the end, with the bill passing with 25 voting against repealing the ban and 27 in favor. Horse slaughter hasn’t always been permitted in the U.S. In fact, it was banned in 2007 when Congress eliminated the funding for inspection of facilities carrying out horse slaughter. The issue has repeatedly come up for votes and Diaz-Balart raised eyebrows … since he was initially against horse slaughter, voting for the ban in 2014. Diaz-Balart then began to vote in favor of horse slaughter in 2015, but some say he was swayed by other enticements this vote.

Spotted in a piece by Mark Leibovich on his impressions of a post-Trump D.C. for the Sunday New York Times Magazine: #FloridaMen Tom Rooney and Rick Wilson.

– STATEWIDE –

Florida’s response to Trump voter fraud commission remains on hold” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – … due to litigation … July 10, the commission asked states to hold off due to litigation in Washington D.C. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner‘s spokeswoman Sarah Revell told the Miami Herald that the state’s plan to provide data is  on hold. “The commission that made the public records request asked the department not to submit the requested information,” she said in an email July 12. “As with any public records request, if the requester indicates they no longer wish to receive the information, we do not process their request.” On July 10, the ACLU of Florida along with other plaintiffs filed a federal lawsuit in Miami seeking to stop the work of the commission and to prevent Detzner from handing over data. The ACLU filed an updated motion seeking a temporary restraining order.

“Squeezed: Supreme Court denies challenge of citrus veto” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida Supreme Court Thursday dismissed a challenge of Gov. Scott’s veto of reimbursements to homeowners whose healthy citrus trees were torn down by the state. The homeowners had asked the court to undo Scott’s veto of more than $37 million. In a 6-1 decision, the court declined … Justice Barbara Pariente “reluctantly” agreed, saying … undoing a veto “is not legally permissible” (but) Justice R. Fred Lewis dissented: “(F)ull and complete compensation when private property is taken by a government is a foundational cornerstone of this democracy … This is not a game and our citizens should not be toyed with as if a yo-yo, and yet that is exactly what this veto accomplishes,” he wrote.

“Appeals court officially puts Lottery case on hold” via Florida PoliticsThe 1st District Court of Appeal Thursday agreed to a 30-day stay in an appeal of a lower-court decision in favor of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. He had won a challenge of the Florida Lottery’s $700 million contract for new equipment, saying the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year. “If the case has not been dismissed in the interim, the parties shall file a status report no later than August 31, 2017, advising the Court of the need for any further proceedings,” the court’s order says. Both sides have agreed to work on an out-of-court resolution.

Review of horse park highlights issues” via Carlos Medina of Ocala.com – The new leadership at the Florida Agricultural Center and Horse Park conducted a detailed review of the facility and uncovered issues that need immediate attention. Among the issues presented to the board during their meeting were an enormous stockpile of horse muck — manure and urine-soaked shavings — and an occupancy designation that renders the covered arena unusable. The review came after a majority of the board fired executive director Shawn Doherty at the behest of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the horse park. In the wake of Doherty’s firing, several board members resigned, including the board chairman and its two vice chairman. After the resignations, the board elected longtime board member Carol Dover as chairwoman.

Public Service Commissioners exempt FPL from seeking alternatives for Broward facility” – The PSC approved a proposal exempting Florida Power & Light from issuing a request for proposal, a large step in advancing a new 1,163-megawatt plant two replace older generating facilities in Dania Beach. While the utility still needs other approvals, including a crucial “determination of need,” the decision offers an exemption for “requests for proposals,” or RFPs, that would determine cost-effective alternatives “This request, if granted, will enable us to expedite a great project,” attorney Will Cox, who represents FPL, told regulators. “It will bring cost savings to our customers, result in lower emissions and lower, on a systemwide basis, our natural-gas usage.” In a letter to the PSC, the Sierra Club called for commissioners to reject the exemption, saying it “effectively asks for permission to ignore other options,” such as solar and other renewables.

Parent company of All Aboard Florida announces train-oriented housing towers” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Florida East Coast Industries, parent company to the All Aboard Florida company … is developing two luxury housing towers in West Palm Beach and Miami adjacent to its train stations. The projects, being developed with the big Miami developer Lincoln Property Co. under the brand, “Park-Line,” gives Florida East Coast Industries a significant revenue opportunity, perhaps one answer to a question long raised by critics of the planned, private Brightline train service: how will it ever make money? The projects would be consisted with what urban planners have long preached, development of city centers around transit corridors. But the bigger problem for All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast Industries, which also owns Florida East Coast Railway, may involve the company’s attempts to find about $1 billion in financing for the northern route. All Aboard Florida has suspended its timetable for construction and operation of the project.

Report: Broward Health overpaid marketing firm by $1.7M” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – A top executive at Broward Health helped orchestrate nearly $1.7 million in overpayments to a public relations and marketing firm that was founded by a Republican operative with family ties to the health system, findings that could trigger more charges of health care fraud against the beleaguered South Florida health care system. According to a 63-page independent report … Broward Health’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, Doris Peek, and Outside Eyes founder Ben Porritt spent three weeks in the spring of 2015 devising a “scheme” to execute a marketing contract along with a “secret side agreement” that the marketing firm would later bill the health system for additional services. In all, the firm — which is now named BHP Jumpstart — was paid more than $1.9 million for a $246,000 contract, submitting 77 invoices for payment, many of which were duplicative … more than $500,000 in payments were made to the marketing firm after the contract expired and that Peek sought the assistance of several Broward Health executives, including interim CEO Pauline Grant, to pressure staff into continuing to pay the marketing firm, according to the “independent review organization,” or IRO, that was contracted to monitor the health system.

SFWMD: Farmers achieve 70 percent phosphorus reduction in Everglades Agricultural Area” – A program to improve Everglades water quality by ensuring the water flowing from farmlands in the Everglades Agricultural Area has far outperformed its state-mandated goals. Through improved farming techniques, known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), produced a 70 percent phosphorus reduction in the 470,000-acre EAA farming region south of Lake Okeechobee for the Water Year ending April 30. “No matter the challenges we face – whether it’s historically high levels of rainfall, drought or even hurricanes – farmers have more than met the stringent water quality standards required under the 1994 Everglades Forever Act,” said Carl Perry, owner of Perry Farms. “Our efforts are making a big difference in cleaner water for the Everglades.”

How Julie Jones got it completely wrong with GEO Group ‘Continuum of Care”’ via Florida Politics – Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Jones recounted a visit to Graceville Correctional Facility two years earlier; Graceville is a North Florida correctional facility operated by Geo Group … the Secretary describes seeing a paperweight with the words “Continuum of Care” with a Geo Group logo. “Continuum of Care?” Jones thought, a bit angrily. “You SOB’s … we thought of that first!” (Or something similar to that.) Jones’ anecdote referred to the Geo Continuum of Care Training Institute, an enhanced, in-prison training program to reduce inmate recidivism. While it may be certainly noble to think that Jones and the Florida DoC alone innovated a structured pre- and post-release program, that’s simply not the case. Geo had been using “Continuum of Care” as far back as 2010. In Dec. 21, 2010, a news release announcing the acquisition of electronic monitoring services company B.I. Incorporated said the purchase makes Geo “uniquely positioned to deliver full continuum of care for correctional, detention and behavioral health clients.” If just using the words “continuum of care” of wasn’t convincing enough for Jones, Geo Group had also trademarked “Geo Continuum of Care”— filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Oct. 5, 2011, with a final registration of Jan. 21, 2014, … it is disingenuous for Jones to think that the Florida DoC was first (or only ones) to come up with the idea of “Continuum of Care”— a structured program years in the making — to help prison inmates transition successfully into the outside world.

— MOVEMENTS —

“Rick Scott names Tom Grady to constitutional review panel” via Florida Politics – Former state Rep. Grady will take Jimmy Patronis‘ place on the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), Gov. Scott announced Thursday evening. In picking Grady, a Naples attorney and a friend of Scott’s, the governor passed over the three alternates he previously selected to fill an empty seat on the commission, which will review the state’s governing document for possible changes. “As a former member of the Florida House of Representatives and a member of the State Board of Education, Tom understands the importance of fighting for Florida families and students,” Scott said in a statement.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, LLC.

Gregory Black, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart PA: South Florida Museum

Matt Bryan, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Andrea Reilly, Smith, Bryan & Myers: Employer Direct Healthcare

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: The Dan Marino Foundation

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Dr. James will discuss “Greatness Beyond Measure – ninth annual summer Teen Empowerment Program” with executive director Melanie Thomas.

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: Panelists include Manatee County Democratic Party chair Sheryl Wilson, WTSP investigative reporting Noah Pransky, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos an independent journalist Joe Brown.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion about scams that target senior citizens. Guests include Brandon Republican state Sen. Tom Lee; Iara Norwood, who was targeted by scammers; Tasha Carter, Division Director of the Department of Consumer Services & Operation S.A.F.E., Be Scam Smart and Allison Bryant, Statewide Elder Abuse Prevention Coordinator for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

Sen. Tom Lee answers a question about the HJR 7105: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption bill on the Senate floor Friday, April 28, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit Phil Sears.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: U.S. Rep. Val Demings of Florida’s 10th Congressional District will discuss her first six months in office, as well as several bills she introduced, including a counter-terrorism bill. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about NAFTA.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon will speak with Chuck Mitchell on animal therapy legislation.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, Justice will host three segments: State Rep. Paul Renner; philosophy and English teacher Dr. Nicolaus Michaud of Florida State College Jacksonville; Bobby Farah, son of 1974 murder victim Freddie Farah, who will speak about the arrest of the man charged in the 43-year-old case, joined by Ryan Backman, founder of “Project Cold Case, Inc.,” which Bobby Farah credits for helping find his father’s killer.

— ALOE — 

DraftKings, FanDuel call off daily fantasy sports merger” via Philip Marcelo of The Associated Press –… about a month after federal regulators sued to block it. The two companies said they were moving forward separately in the best interests of their customers, employees and investors. Neither directly addressed the federal government’s concerns with the deal. FanDuel CEO Nigel Eccles said in his statement that his company still believes the deal would have increased investment and product development, benefiting consumers and the broader industry. But DraftKings CEO Jason Robins in a separate statement touted his company’s rapid growth, a possible signal that the once-bitter rivalry between the two companies has resumed. “We have a growing customer base of nearly 8 million, our revenue is growing over 30 percent year-over-year, and we are only just beginning to take our product overseas,” he said.

Men and Republicans are the best tippers” via Polly Mosendz of Bloomberg — Hoping to get a good tip? Seek out the table with the most conservative men from New England. A new survey finds men, Republicans, and residents of the northeast are the best tippers. Women tip a median of 16 percent, while Democrats and southerners leave a median 15 percent at a restaurant, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 American adults conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of CreditCards.com. That’s compared with the median 20 percent that men, Republicans, and northeasterners leave. Those who pay with plastic leave a median 20 percent, compared with 15 percent for those who pay in cash.  … “I was definitely surprised by how many people tip over 15 percent, but I was also surprised by how many people never tip at all at a restaurant,” Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst, said in a statement. “I’m guessing they don’t get very good service on their next visit.”

Raccoon breaks into car to give birth” via Ryan Callihan of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — On Wednesday morning, a pregnant raccoon crawled into a car in Manatee County and gave birth to two cubs in the backseat. Devon Straight, who works with Wildlife Inc., a non-profit rescue and rehabilitation organization based in Manatee, was called out to rescue the raccoon and her newborns from the vehicle. He said the experience was an unusual twist on his other daily rescues. “It was quite an interesting and challenging rescue,” said Straight. “It’s just one of those calls that’s different and stands out.” The babies’ birthplace was an automotive detailing shop. Seeking refuge, the mother raccoon entered through a plastic cover on the car’s window.

The world’s biggest super soaker is powerful enough to shatter windows” via Andrew Liszewski of Gizmodo – Last summer, Mark Rober built the world’s largest Nerf dart gun, capable of blasting foam at 40 mph …  it doesn’t even come close to Rober’s latest bonkers creation: a giant Super Soaker that fires water at 243 mph. At 7 feet long, Rober’s super-sized Super Soaker officially holds the Guinness World Record, but you’ll never, ever, want to find yourself caught in a water fight with it. The water gun’s giant green reservoir can be pressurized to 2,400 PSI, producing a stream of water that blasts out of the barrel with enough pressure to shatter windows—and take down anyone who dares reach for the garden hose.

Happy birthday to Melanie Bostick of Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Justin Homburg, Holly Tomlin, and Mike Vasilinda. Celebrating this weekend are Reps. Mike Grant and Ross Spano.

— COUNTDOWN TO GAME OF THRONES PREMIERE —

George R. R. Martin on the one Game of thrones change he ‘argued against’” via Daniel D’Addario of Time magazine – What was the hardest moment to write in the series? “The Red Wedding, without a doubt. I knew the Red Wedding was coming and I’d been planning it all along, but when I came to that chapter, which occurs two-thirds of the way through A Storm of Swords, I found I couldn’t write that chapter. I skipped over that chapter and wrote the hundreds of pages that followed. The entire book was done, except for the scene with the Red Wedding, and even all the aftermath of the Red Wedding, It was just so hard to write that scene, because I’d been inhabiting Catelyn for so long, and of course I have a lot of affection for Robb, too, although he was never a viewpoint character, and even for some of the minor characters. They’re minor characters but you develop a relationship to them too, and I knew they all were going to die. It was some of the hardest writing I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever done.”

In celebration of the new season of “Game of Thrones,” White Walkers were led by the Night King on horseback as they posed outside Buckingham Palace, marched the streets of Oxford Circus, and patrolled Tower Bridge.

– “Game of Thrones: The 10 burning questions that must be answered” via Paul MacInnes of the Guardian

– “Game of Thrones’: The forces of House Stark, ranked

Why ‘Game of Thrones’ has no Emmy nominations this year” via Kelly Lawler of USA TODAY – This year not a single member of the team was listed when the nominations were announced … It’s not because of a drop in quality or hate for the show amongst the TV Academy, but rather the rulebook. In order to qualify for this year’s race, a show must have premiered between June 1, 2016, and May 31, 2017. Thrones’ seventh season won’t hit HBO until Sunday, July 16. It will be eligible for the 2018 Emmys.

The Delegation for 7.13.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Russia issue not yet hurting GOP fundraising or giving Dems advantage

The saga regarding Donald Trump – Senior and Junior – and Russia continues with no end in sight. It began in January and now, following the latest “bombshell,” the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice-president, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, is throwing out the word “treason.”

To their credit, the Florida delegation is showing greater restraint. Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz did call Donald, Jr. “a liar” and that his actions represent “the definition of collusion,” but the t-word remained in the holster.

Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch took the opportunity of the latest revelations to urge the House to vote on a sanctions bill against Russia already passed by the Senate 98-2. Deutch said in a release that “failure to act on this sanctions bill makes the Speaker complicit in the White House’s apparent efforts to repay Russia’s political favors.”

All of this this has got to be killing GOP fundraising, right? Or, at the very least, Trump must be providing sufficient fodder for Democrats to raise a ton of campaign cash to bludgeon Republicans with rhetorical vodka bottles.

Second quarter fundraising reports are due later this week, but the first two months show Trump is actually helping Republicans raise money. While the Russia story percolated, the Republican National Committee set a record in the first quarter.

The RNC raised more than $20 million in May and June, more than twice the amount of the Democratic National Committee. The National Republican Congressional Committee and Republican National Senatorial Committee also set first quarter records.

To be fair, the new administration at the DNC is not yet up to speed, but the message is clear that the Russia issue is not hurting the Republicans on the money end.

Russia will also have little effect on federal races in Florida. In addition to Bill Nelson’s re-election race, a few competitive districts will focus – and raise money – on the usual kitchen table issues.

Nelson is expected to report another strong quarter. Late Wednesday evening, the Orlando Democrat’s campaign announced he will report raising more than $2.1 million between April 1 and June 30. The $2.13 million haul, according to the campaign, comes on top of raising nearly $2.1 million during the first three months of the year. Nelson, according to his campaign, now has more than $5.1 million in the bank.

Candidates in swing districts have either released or leaked their second quarter numbers. Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a target of national Republicans, raised $410,000 between April 1 and June 30, according to her campaign.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy reportedly raised more than $410,000 in the second quarter of 2017.

Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, targeted by national Democrats, had a big haul with $705,000 in the second quarter, leaving him with $1.1 million cash on hand, according to the Miami Herald. St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist, also a target of national Republicans, hauled in $550,000, according to Florida Politics.

The Herald also reported Bruno Barreiro, one of those seeking the seating of the retiring Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, raised $176,000 since his entry into the race in May. Numbers for Barreiro’s opponents were not available.

The old saying, “all politics is local” is likely to be true in all areas of the country, but especially in Florida.

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

VP: Touched NASA equipment because “Rubio dared me”

The viral image of Vice President Mike Pence touching some NASA equipment that he wasn’t supposed to touch now has an explanation from Pence himself: Florida’s junior senator dared him to, reports Brandon Morse of The Blaze.

Pence tweeted out from his official Twitter account on Friday that while he and Rubio were touring NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Thursday, the Florida senator had dared him to touch the surface of “critical space flight hardware” that had a sign saying “DO NOT TOUCH” taped to it.

Vice President Mike Pence gets a tour of the Orion spacecraft clean room with Sen. Marco Rubio at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. (Photo via AP)

Rubio responded jokingly that he had warned Pence that if he broke it, he owned it. NASA’s social media account tweeted back at Pence, telling him that touching it wasn’t a big deal, as they were going to clean it later anyway.

The vice president wasn’t done with the jokes, however.

“Okay…so this isn’t exactly the first time this has happened,” Pence tweeted, posting a photoshopped picture of himself touching a porcupine.

Tweet, tweet:

Air Force backs moratorium on drilling in the Gulf

The U.S. Air Force supports extending a moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, according to a recent letter from David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, to Sen. Bill Nelson.

In the June 27 letter to Nelson, Goldfein said he was writing in “whole-hearted support of a proposal seeking to extend the moratorium on leasing, preleasing or any other related activity in the area east of the Military Mission Line in the Gulf of Mexico.” Goldfein said the Air Force fully supports the development of domestic energy resources, so long as it is compatible with the military testing, training and operations.

“The moratorium on oil and gas leasing, pre-leasing, and other related activities ensures that these vital military readiness activities may be conducted without interference and is critical to their continuation,” he wrote.

“The moratorium is essential for developing and sustain the Air Force’s future combat capabilities,” he continued. “Although the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act’s moratorium does not expire until 2022, the Air Force needs certainty of the proposed extension to guarantee long-term capabilities for future tests. Emerging technologies such as hypersonics, 5th generation fighters, and advanced sub-surface systems will require enlarged testing and training footprints, and increased Air Force reliance on the moratorium far beyond 2022.”

Nelson, a long-time opponent of drilling near the coast, filed legislation earlier this year to extend the moratorium until 2027.

Rubio joins Coons in highlighting need for pediatric medical research

A briefing featuring experts from Nemours Children’s Health System and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia aimed to highlight the urgent need to include children in cancer research and precision medicine initiatives.

Sen. Rubio and Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, co-hosted and spoke at a policy briefing this week to highlight the need for pediatric medical research. The policy briefing came as the House was poised to take up a package in the coming days that could close a research loophole.

“Even though our technical capabilities have caught up to enable researchers to pinpoint similarities in adult and childhood cancer genomes, the law that prompts companies to examine the drug’s safety in children has not been updated,” said Rubio. “The pace of innovation is moving much faster than the ability of a republic to keep pace with.”

Sen. Marco Rubio said lawmakers need to work together to close a loophole to “enable researchers to pinpoint similarities in adult and childhood cancer genomes.” (Photo via Sen. Rubio’s office.)

Rubio said the House could take up a package that included legislation — the RACE for Children ACT — to close what he called an “unintended loophole” this week.

Rubio — along with Republican Cory Gardner, and Democrats Michael Bennet and Chris Van Hollen — reintroduced the RACE for Children, or Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act, in February. According to Rubio’s office, the bill would update the Pediatric Research Equity Act to reflect the latest advances in drugs, and has the backing of Nemours Children’s Health System, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, MD Anderson Cancer Institute, and more than 100 pediatric cancer advocacy programs.

“Now what this is, this is the result of a lot of hard work from a number of stakeholders, including our hosts here today. So this is an exciting step forward, but it is only one piece of the puzzle,” Rubio said this week. “With the launch of the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot and the All of Us Precision Medicine initiatives, we have a real opportunity to close the gaps between public policy and research with today’s technology. And we must all work together to ensure that as we close that gap, pediatric medicine in general and pediatric oncology in particular are not left out.”

Kate’s Law draws some bipartisan support within delegation

Just before the House and Senate went on their July 4 recess, two contentious bills came up for final votes in the House. One is Kate’s Law, named after the murdered San Franciscan Kate Steinle, which calls for strict penalties for criminal aliens who return to the U.S. after being deported.

Virginia Republican Bob Goodlette was the bill’s sponsor with Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan among 17 co-sponsors. The bill passed 257-167 with 24 Democrats joining all but one Republican (Justin Amash of Michigan) voting in favor.

Among the 24 Democrats voting aye was Val Demings of Orlando, Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park and Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg.

That same day, the House also passed the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act which, among other things, would withhold federal grant money for “sanctuary cities.” Goodlette was also the sponsor of that bill, while Gaetz and Buchanan were also co-sponsors.

Jim Steinle, second from left, father of Kathryn Steinle, testifies next to Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department. Chief J. Thomas Manger at a Senate Judiciary hearing to examine the administration’s immigration enforcement policies. (Photo via the Associated Press)

It passed on a more partisan vote, 228-195. All Florida Republicans voted for it and all Democrats voted against it.

“Taxpayer dollars should not be going to jurisdictions that provide safe harbor to dangerous criminals,” Buchanan said while noting Steinle’s alleged killer was on the street because of sanctuary policies. “These two bills ensure we prioritize public safety.”

Also adding voice to his yes vote on both bills was Naples Republican Francis Rooney.

“It’s tragically too late to save the life of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by a 5-time deported criminal illegal alien with 7 prior felony convictions,” Rooney said in a statement. “We must deter illegal immigrants who have been convicted and deported, from re-entering our country.”

Both bills are now in the Senate.

— “Kate Steinle’s father: We didn’t coin ‘Kate’s Law’” via Julia Manchester of The Hill

Single-payer health care becoming more popular with delegation Democrats

While Republicans try to unite on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are not solidly behind a plan themselves. One idea floated in 2010, but gaining some traction recently, is the idea of single-payer health care.

Six members of the delegation have signed on to the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act sponsored by Michigan Democrat John Conyers. They are among 113 co-sponsors of the bill.

Those signing on are Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Darren Soto of Orlando, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Kathy Castor of Tampa.

While such legislation has almost zero chance of passing a Republican Congress, Castor told Florida Politics that now is the time to look for alternatives to bring down escalating costs of health care in America. The idea is polling better than in the past.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in June found 53 percent, the highest ever, support single payer. The number of Democrats supporting it represents 52 percent of the Democratic caucus, but that is watered down by zero support from Republicans.

Gaetz’s beach ownership bill heads to House floor

Legislation overturning decades of federal government restrictions in the Florida Panhandle is headed to the House floor, after the House Committee on Natural Resources recently OK’d it.

Sponsored by Rep. Gaetz, the bill gives leaseholders in Santa Rosa Island the option to acquire fee simple title to their land. Melissa Nelson Gabriel with the Pensacola News Journal reports the bill would overturn restrictions put in place by the federal government when it deeded a portion of Santa Rosa Island to Escambia County after World War II.

The federal government transferred land that was part of the Santa Rosa Island National Monument to Escambia County in 1947. Since then, according to Gaetz’ office, Santa Rosa Island resident have been ineligible to own their land, only lease it. While businesses and residents of Santa Rosa Island initially only paid lease fees, Gaetz’s office said the rules have changed and residents are now required to pay both lease fees and property taxes.

“Residents of Santa Rosa Island have suffered under double taxation for years,” said Gaetz in a statement. “My bill will help lift this unfair tax burden, and will finally give Santa Rosa Island residents the ability to obtain titles to their property. As a Republican, I believe land ownership is a cornerstone of the American dream — and now, for Santa Rosa Island residents, it’s finally within reach.”

The bill would require Escambia County to turn over to Santa Rosa County the land it owns there within two years, thus eliminating confusion around county land ownership, said Gaetz’s office. It also calls on Escambia to preserve the areas of the conveyed monument land that are dedicated for conservation, preservation, public recreation access, and public parking.

Sen. Rubio has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.

“This is a team effort on the part of federal, state, and local governments,” said Gaetz. “This is how legislation is supposed to work. I am happy to hear that the bill will come to a vote soon, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to make this long-anticipated goal a reality at last.”

Yoho defends Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting

Rep. Ted Yoho came to Donald Trump Jr.’s defense this week, saying a meeting with someone who might have information helpful to a campaign isn’t out of the ordinary.

“Keep in mind, she wasn’t an official for the Russian government, the way I understand it. She’s a lawyer — a Russian lawyer — and if somebody comes to us and says, ‘Hey, we’ve got information on an opponent,’ yeah, I think that’s an appropriate thing to do,” the Yoho Republican told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room this week. “I don’t think it was inappropriate for what he did. If you’ve got information about an opponent running against you, wouldn’t you want that information to vet it, to see if it’s real information, and to use it accordingly? And you can’t do that if you don’t have the initial meeting.”

Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged this week that he met with a Russian lawyer, who he had been told might have information helpful to his father’s presidential campaign. The statement was issued in response to New York Times reporting that Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about then-candidate Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya.

CNN reported that Veselnitskaya is a Russian lawyer who represents Russians who want to see an end of U.S. sanctions.

Yoho told CNN that he also would have probably taken the meeting.

“Do I think it’s appropriate? I think I probably would have done the same thing,” he said. “I mean, it’s opposition research and, you know, anybody that’s been in an election — you’re always looking to get the upper hand.”

Tweet, tweet:

 

— DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter responds: “Congressman Yoho’s admission that he would have taken opposition research from Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin is outrageous. Sadly, Yoho is taking his cues from fellow Florida Republican, Congressman Brian Mast, who called Russian hacked material ‘open source,’ and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which actually used material hacked by Russians in their 2016 attack ads. Voters are looking for leaders, not opportunists who are willing to sell out the sanctity of our Democracy for cheap political points.”

Murphy, T. Rooney join West Point oversight board

Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Tom Rooney have joined the board overseeing the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, reports Scott Powers with Orlando Rising.

The two members — Murphy, a Winter Park Democrat, and Rooney, an Okeechobee Republican — were appointed in May to congressional seats on the academy’s Board of Visitors, which in many ways is the equivalent of a Florida university’s board of trustees.

The U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors keeps an eye on and considers the morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters relating to the academy.

Both were appointed by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and have indefinite terms. They join the board’s chair, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, and six presidential appointees.

Crist named co-chair of economic task force

The St. Petersburg Democrat has been named a co-chair for the Blue Dog Coalition Task Force on Economic Growth for the 115th Congress. He is joined by Lou Correa of California.

The mission of the task force is to advocate policies that focus on creating a positive economic climate geared toward boosting economic growth and creating jobs. Among the goals are advancing policies that accelerate the economic recovery, create good job opportunities for middle class Americans and assisting small business owners as they work to grow their companies.

Rep. Charlie Crist, who was recently named co-chair for the Blue Dog Coalition Task Force on Economic Growth for the 115th Congress, said it’s “Congress to work together” to address economic issues.

“While our economy continues to recover from the great recession, too many hardworking Americans still struggle to find good-paying jobs and entrepreneurs still face difficulties to secure loans needed to start or expand their own businesses,” said Crist in a statement. “It’s our job in Congress to work together to address these challenges, creating an environment that fosters economic growth.”

Blue Dog Democrats, who advocate some fiscally conservative policies, have not held much influence in recent years following the defeat of several prominent members, including north Florida’s Allen Boyd. By re-filling the pool with new members such as Crist and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, coalitions with moderate Republicans may be possible – if leadership permits.

“The Blue Dogs are continuing their tradition of strong leadership on economic growth, fiscal responsibility, government reform and accountability, and national defense,” said Daniel Lipinski, the group’s co-chair for policy of Illinois.

Diaz-Balart tours Herbert Hoover Dike

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart toured the Herbert Hoover Dike with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and Hendry County officials to get an update on rehabilitation efforts.

“The rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike is a key step towards restoring the Everglades,” said the Miami Republican, who is the founder and co-chairman of the Everglades Caucus “In Congress, I will continue to work with our federal and local partners to ensure that critical rehabilitation projects like the Herbert Hoover Dike remain a priority and are adequately funded.”

Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, was able to secure nearly $50 million for repairs this year. Diaz-Balart was able to include $82 million for the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation project and $76.5 million for Everglades restoration in the energy and water bill for fiscal 2018.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart said the “rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike is a key step towards restoring the Everglades.” (Photo via Rep. Diaz-Balart’s office.)

“Florida is fortunate to have so many diverse natural treasures that have significant impacts on our local community” he said in a statement this week. “These funds will go towards the ongoing Everglades restoration work that is vital to the ecosystem’s preservation. Continued funding for the Herbert Hoover Dike is critical to the timely rehabilitation of the waterway.”

Diaz-Balart was joined by Col. Jason Kirk, the commander and district engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District; Clewiston Mayor Mali Gardner, LaBelle Mayor David Lyons, and Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner.

“I’m glad that Mayors Gardner and Lyons and Commissioner Turner were able to join me on this tour to get a first-hand look at the progress being made,” said Diaz-Balart. “I particularly want to thank Colonel Kirk for his unwavering and steadfast leadership.”

Lake O Rural Health Network gets federal rural health grant

The Lake Okeechobee Rural Health Network has received a federal grant to improve health care delivery.

Rep. Diaz-Balart recently announced the health network received a $297,408 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. The Rural Health Network Development Program grant can be used to “provide support for networks of rural providers to integrate administration, clinical, technological and financial functions to improve health care delivery.”

“This grant will allow LORHN and local medical professionals to deliver a higher quality of care to its patients in Florida’s rural communities,” said Diaz-Balart in a statement. “I look forward to continue working with LORHN as they serve Southwest Florida.”

LORHN serves rural parts of Southwest Florida, including LaBelle, Clewiston and other areas of Hendry County.

Ros-Lehtinen calls on Germany to do more for Holocaust survivors

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen wants German officials to do more for Holocaust survivors, calling on officials to “comprehensively address the medical, mental health and long-term needs of survivors.”

Last year, Ros-Lehtinen and other members of the Florida delegation called on Germany to provide more financial assistance to Holocaust survivors. Kevin Derby with Sunshine State News reported the group cheered with the country announced it would lift caps on assistance to survivors for home care.

Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement that last year both the House and Senate “unanimously agreed that Germany must do more to ensure that all Holocaust survivors can live their remaining years in the comfort and dignity that they deserve.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen recently German officials to do more for Holocaust survivors, calling on officials to “comprehensively address the medical, mental health and long-term needs of survivors.”

“We urged our partners, Germany, to reaffirm its commitment to comprehensively address the medical, mental health, and long-term care needs of survivors by guaranteeing full funding to meet those needs. Now Germany has an opportunity to step up when it concludes its upcoming negotiations with the Claims Conference, and the Claims Conference leaders must recognize that Germany can do more for survivors,” she said in a statement ahead of annual negotiations between the government and the Claims Conference.

“Those leaders at the Claims Conference must not accept anything less than a comprehensive, permanent, and accountable commitment to fully fund survivors’ medically prescribed needs,” she continued. “Allowing once again for a modest increase when so much more is needed is not consistent with Germany’s past statements of responsibility, would defeat the purpose of the Claims Conference, and would tragically force tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors to continue to suffer when we all know the resources exist to provide the care and dignity that survivors worldwide deserve.”

Ros-Lehtinen urged the two sides to “do the right thing and not settle for anything less than what is really and truly needed.”

Paulson’s Principles: Election Trends Favor Democrats

The good news for Republicans in the 2018 Florida Congressional elections is that Republicans have dominated not only the congressional elections, but also most elections statewide. The Republicans currently hold a 16 to 11 advantage in congressional seats.

The bad news for Republicans is virtually everything else. Most of the important election factors favor the Democrats.

Money has always been the lifeblood of politics, and Republicans have dominated partisan fundraising for over two decades. This is why the recent fundraising report is bad news for the Republicans. The Democrats raised $1.3 million more than the Republicans in the second quarter ($1.67 million for the Democrats and $338,00 for the Republicans). The total raised for the first six months of 2017 find the Democrats leading Republicans $3.5 million to $2.4 million for the Republicans. This is almost an apocalyptic sign.

The president’s approval rating is directly related to election success. President Trump started with the lowest approval ratings in modern history, and the only direction his ratings have gone is down. Trump’s approval is now in the mid-30’s, which will drag down many Republicans.

Trump’s poor ratings are tied to three primary events. His firing of FBI Director James Comey, his alleged ties of Trump and Administration officials to the Russian government in trying to impact the 2016 election results, and the strongly negative reaction by the public to the Republican effort to, “repeal and replace Obamacare.” Combine this with the failure of the Trump Administration to pass a single major piece of legislation, it is easy to see the dilemma facing Republicans in congress.

Another obstacle confronting Republicans is the impact of midterm elections. Since 1952, the president’s party has won majorities in only four of 16 midterm elections. Each of those four elections where the president’s party won contained unique circumstances that do not now exist.

In 1964 and 1976, Democrats won enormous majorities in the House that almost guaranteed losses in the next midterm election. LBJ racked up a large House majority as a reaction to the extreme positions of Goldwater and, in 1976, Democrats won a huge majority due to the reaction against Nixon and Watergate.

In 1962 and 2002, the majority party maintained control due to the popularity of their president. In 1962, President Kennedy’s popularity hovered around the 70% range due to the Berlin and Cuban missile crises. In 2002, President George W. Bush’s popularity rose to 60% due to 911 and the Afghanistan invasion. Presidential popularity almost always increases when there is an international crisis.

Since the Republican Party does not have a 2 to 1 majority like the Democrats had in 1964 and 1976 and, since the Republicans do not have a president with high approval rates such as occurred in 1962 and 2002, the conditions are good for a Democratic victory.

Finally, the generic ballot finds Democrats with a 7-point advantage, 44 to 37%. If the Democrats can maintain at least a five-point lead in the generic ballot, they should be able to flip the 24 seats needed to regain a house majority.

The opportunity is there for the Democrats. It was also there for them in the 2016 election, and look what happened. Opportunity does not guarantee success.

Naples Democrat to challenge F. Rooney in ‘18

David Holden has announced he will challenge Rep. Francis Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2018, reports Alexandra Glorioso with the Naples Daily News.

While the 58-year-old Naples Democrat has the backing of local Democrats and activists, he will face an uphill battle in the Southwest Florida congressional district. Rooney, the former ambassador to the Holy See, handily won his election in 2016, and the district — which covers part of Collier and most of Lee County — is a Republican stronghold.

Still, Holden isn’t letting that stop him. He told the Naples Daily News he plans to attack Rooney on health care and the environment.

The Naples Daily News reported Holden’s political activism stretches back to his parents, who were civil rights activists and were against the Vietnam War. He helped flip a City Council in White Plains, New York, through a series of campaigns and as the local Democratic party chairman during the late 1980s and ‘90s.

Holden moved to Naples two years ago.

Gov. candidate Chris King weighs in on “Trumpcare”

We know how the delegation Democrats feel about the GOP health care bill. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, both candidates for governor, make no bones about their distaste for the effort to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”

This week the other Democratic candidate, Winter Park Businessman Chris King, went on the record with a detailed critique of the legislation that is dividing Republicans. While the message is similar to what is heard in Washington, King presents his case in simple terms.

Chris King, an Orlando Democrat running for governor, called the Senate GOP health care proposal an “attack on Florida seniors” this week.

“First, it’s not a health care bill. It’s a massive tax cut bill paid for with huge cuts to health care,” he said in a release issued by his campaign. “Trumpcare is an attack on older Americans. Anyone over 50 will feel the draconian cuts most acutely.”

King makes the case the bill will allow “insurance companies to charge older Americans 5 times the amount they charge everyone else.” The Affordable Care Act allowed those companies to charge older Americans 3 times the amount.

“As governor, I will do everything I can to protect affordable, quality health care coverage for all Floridians,” he said.

Save the date

Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice president, will attend a fundraising reception for his re-election campaign at The Francis in Sarasota on July 23.

The event is being billed as a chance to meet Kaine and hear about strategies to “combat the policies coming out of the Trump administration.”

Watchdog looks into rapid rise by Ballard Partners DC operation

The Center for Public Integrity recently profiled the continuing rise of Ballard Partners’ Washington, DC office, as well as founder and President Brian Ballard. Stories featuring Ballard’s ties to President Trump are not new, but this one comes from an organization dedicating to “revealing abuses of power; corruption and betrayal of public trust by powerful public and private institutions using the tools of investigative journalism.”

Ballard “must ply his trade in the nation’s capital without looking as if he’s selling access to a president who has promised to stand up to special interests – a tricky course to navigate that has quickly tripped up other Trump alumni such as former campaign manager-turned-lobbyist Corey Lewandowski,” the story reads.

The Center for Public Integrity is the latest news organization to profile Ballard Partners’ rise in D.C.

“There’s a lot of blurred lines, you know,” Ballard said. “It’s easy to say ‘oh, you’re a Trump person, you get this and that,’ but I don’t think it works out that way.”

Among the many interesting revelations from the article involves Ballard client Univision. Following the hostile relationship between the network and Trump (he threw out correspondent Jorge Ramos from a campaign press conference), Univision has retained Ballard to “help mend the rocky relationship between Trump and the network.”

The Center for Public Integrity is led by Chief Executive Officer John Dunbar, the former chief investigative reporter for the Florida Times-Union and a graduate of the University of South Florida.

Murphy to lead Future Forum Foundation

Former Rep. Patrick Murphy has been tapped to serve as the chairman of a new political non-profit organization, which aims to identify solutions to the challenges facing millennials.

Dubbed the Future Forum Foundation, the group will raise and deploy resources to provide advocacy organizations, elected leaders and other forward-thinking individuals a platform to explore the changing dynamics facing young Americans. The group is expected to conduct research, hold events, and create partnerships with the private sector, young professionals and students.

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said the newly formed Future Forum Foundation will help “empower a new generation of leaders to find solutions.”

“Now is the time for the next generation of leadership to step up and take the lead. I’ve seen first-hand the disconnect between the leaders who serve us and our changing young workforce. Millennials are at the heart of every critical issue facing our nation,” said Murphy, a Palm Beach County Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2016.

“They are defining the future of work. By gaining a better understanding of the economic uncertainty and the disruption caused by technology and automation, we can empower a new generation of leaders to find solutions.”

Trump nominates #FloridaMan as ambassador to Italy

President Donald Trump will nominate Vero Beach resident Lewis Eisenberg as the ambassador to Italy, reports Kristina Webb with the Palm Beach Post. Eisenberg will also serve concurrently and without additional compensation as the ambassador to the Republic of San Marino.

Eisenberg is the co-founder and managing partner of Ironhill Investments in New York, and is the former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Eisenberg also served on Trump’s inaugural committee and donated more than $35,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign.

He now faces Senate confirmation.

Backlash against bourbon?

The nation’s bourbon industry could take a hit if the European Union acts on a threat to respond to a blanket steel tariff being mulled by the Trump administration.

Amanda Holpuch with The Guardian reported recently that EU officials confirmed one of the targeted products could be bourbon, 95 percent of which comes from Kentucky. According to The Guardian, U.S. spirit exports to the EU were valued at $654 million in 2016, 20 percent of which was from bourbon.

Bourbon has historically been popular in Europe, and US distilleries have recently been looking to grow their export market in Asia and Australia. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

Camila Domonoske with NPR reported that a tariff on bourbon wouldn’t just be symbolic. It’s experienced a big boom in global popularity over the last few years, and Roxanne Scott with WFPL in Louisville reported that 59 percent of the country’s bourbon exports went to EU member countries last year.

“Any efforts to impose retaliatory tariffs on US spirts exports to the EU will harm consumers, producers and the US and EU sprits sectors,” the Distilled Spirits Council on the United States said in a statement.

But hooch isn’t the only thing EU officials are targeting. Ivana Kottasova with CNN Money reported the EU is also considering hitting imports of orange juice.

Blaise Ingoglia puts Florida GOP fundraising efforts in context

Blaise Ingoglia wants to put the Florida GOP’s second quarter fundraising numbers into context, telling state Republicans that a number of factors, including the possibility of special sessions, contributed to the mediocre haul.

Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a Spring Hill state representative, acknowledged that second quarter fundraising numbers “were not great,” but told committee members that those numbers were “not inconsistent with what has been raised in similar situations.”

“What was completely glossed over in media reports (as well as detractors of our Party) is that in addition to legislative session, there was the prospect of AT LEAST one elongated special session this reporting period,” said Ingoglia in a July 12 email to state committee members obtained by FloridaPolitics.com. “Therefore, fundraisers weren’t scheduled during the second quarter for fear of the events having to ultimately be canceled and then losing deposits. It was simply not good fiscal policy to risk canceling events and then lose money.”

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Sunburn for 7.13.17 – On the road with Phil Levine; Bill Nelson’s Q2 numbers; Jack Latvala’s pledge; Latest on SD 40 & HD 44 special elex; Geeking out on Dunkirk & #GOT

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

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

— A BAREFOOT PYTHON HUNTER, SPONGE HARVESTERS, AND A WEALTHY RADIO HOST WHO MAY WANT TO BE GOVERNOR —

Phil Levine is getting a lot of mileage out of his deal to be a satellite radio show host this summer.

The Miami Beach mayor who’s raising money and organizing for a possible Democratic gubernatorial run insists his SiriusXM Radio show being tapped now on a rambling bus tour of Florida has nothing to do with politics, but rather with sharing the real spirit of Florida with the satellite service’s listeners.

A barefoot python hunter in the Everglades, a cigar roller in Tampa, a sponge harvesting family in Tarpon Springs, rocket launch “pad rats” at Kennedy Space Center.

And in Orlando Wednesday, Levine met with OnePulse Foundation Board Chairman and lawyer Earl Crittenden to interview him about how the gay nightclub massacre June 12, 2016, affected Orlando. And they met at Orlando’s new soccer stadium, the city’s newest good-feeling monument.

Miami Beach Mayor (and radio host) Philip Levine talks with OnePulse Foundation Board Chair Earl Crittenden for “A Day in the Sun,” a statewide bus tour and five-part audio documentary for his weekly SiriusXM radio show.

But this has nothing to do with running for governor, said Levine, whose political committee All About Florida already has $4 million [including $2.3 million from his personal fortune,] more than any of the official Democratic candidates has been able to raise.

“I’m enjoying meeting unique Floridians who truly shape our state, from all walks of life, from all geographical areas of the state. I think what it does is it gives myself, and even our listeners on SiriusXM even a greater understanding of what makes up this truly unique state of Florida,” Levine said.

The five-day bus tour, with his name splashed on the side, includes some of his political committee staff, but also a radio audio engineering team rolling to 22 stops in five days, from Miami to Pensacola.

“I don’t look at this as anything political,” he said. “This really truly is for our listeners. Of course, I’m getting educated at the same time. But It’s all about Florida. It’s all SiriusXM listeners. It’s not about politics. There’s no politics being discussed. There are no politicians being interviewed.”

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

— RICK SCOTT’S SHADOW CAMPAIGN —

Gov. Scott hasn’t officially said he is running for the U.S. Senate, but with just over a year until the primary it seems as though the mere thought Scott jumping into the race has cleared the field.

Adam Smith with the Tampa Bay Times reports that even though the Naples Republican hasn’t publicly confirmed he is going to challenge Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in 2018, he has already scared away credible challengers. That’s likely because, as GOP consultant Brian Burgess told Smith, “nobody sane wants to run in a primary against Scott because he’s just going to bury them.”

While Smith notes that Scott doesn’t have “sky-high popularity, great charisma nor keen political instincts,” he does have three of the most important assets any statewide candidate can have “money, money and money.”

As Smith notes, here’s some of the things working in Scott’s favor if … OK, when … he decides to get in the race:

— Scott starts out with virtually universal name recognition, which in a massive state like Florida would cost millions upon millions of dollars in TV ads for most candidates. Despite his long history in the Sunshine State, Nelson isn’t as well-known, and would have to hustle to boost name recognition.

On Wednesday, Gov. Scott highlighted pay raises in the Fighting for Florida’s Future budget for Florida’s sworn state law enforcement officers, correctional officers and state employees.

— Sure, Scott is worth beaucoup bucks, but he is also a major money raiser. He’s OK with spending hours dialing for dollars, which many top-tier candidates aren’t. Since January he has raised more than $3 million for Let’s Get to Work, his state political committee. He also launched a super PAC, New Republican, led by Melissa Stone, his former campaign manager and chief of staff.

— Scott’s deep pockets could come into play at any moment. As the governor proved in 2010, when he first ran for office, he is willing to cut a check for his own campaign. And that, Smith points out could be what is scaring off potential rivals more than anything else.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Bill Nelson raises $2.1M in second quarter — Sen. Nelson’s campaign announced Wednesday it will report raising more than $2.13 million in the second quarter of 2017. The second quarter fundraising haul comes after the campaign raised $2.1 million in the first three months of the years. According to numbers released by the campaign Wednesday, Nelson received more than 25,000 donations from nearly 21,000 individual contributions during the three-month period. That’s up, according to the campaign, from 4,500 donors who contributed to Nelson in the first three months of the year. Nelson, according to the campaign, has more than $5.1 million in the bank.

Disney donates big in early days of governor’s race” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – The Walt Disney Co. is betting big on Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the early days of the 2018 race for governor but also is backing other potential GOP hopefuls considering the race. Since 2015, Disney has given $400,648 to Florida Grown, a committee supporting Putnam, but has also donated $70,000 to a committee run by state Sen. Jack Latvala and $35,000 to a new committee set up by House Speaker Richard Corcoran … Latvala and Corcoran have both said they are seriously considering runs. Apart from Disney, other large companies such as U.S. Sugar Corp. and Duke Energy have given to Putnam, Corcoran and Latvala’s committees, as well.

“Gwen Graham now taking on Adam Putnam over drilling” via Florida PoliticsGraham is now making offshore drilling an issue in the race, calling out Putnam for not opposing President Trump’s efforts “to expand drilling off Florida’s beaches.” “Representing the Gulf Coast in Congress, I saw the long-lasting negative effects the BP oil spill had on our state’s economy,” she said in a statement. Graham represented the state’s 2nd Congressional District in 2015–17. “It cost us jobs and hurt real Floridians,” she said. “Can you imagine a spill closer to our coasts? Banning drilling off our beaches is vital to our military, economy, and environment.

Jack Latvala pledges to raise $50K over next six months to Florida GOP” via Florida Politics — The Clearwater Republican took to Twitter on Wednesday to say he plans to raise $25,000 to the Florida GOP in both the third and fourth quarter, for a total of $50,000 in the final six months of 2017. … On Wednesday, Latvala, who is mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid, tweeted that Ingoglia called him to ask for money for the state party. After he read the party raised the lowest amount in decades, Latvala wrote that he decided to do his part. “I’m stepping up,” he tweeted. “$25K this quarter. $25K next quarter. Challenge others to match.

Tweet, tweet:

Tallahassee man shuts down web names aimed at Democratic candidates” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel – Until Wednesday, when you typed in Morgan2018.com, Graham2018.com or Gillum2018.com, your browser took you to the webpage of Putnam. Putnam campaign officials say they didn’t do it, and they don’t know Joe Mizereck, the man who registered the web addresses. Mizereck said he is just a fan of Putnam having some fun with potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates. But after being interviewed, he took down the sites, and now they’re for sale. “I thought it would be best for everyone,” he said, adding none of the campaigns asked him to shut down the sites. He guessed the three Democrats were likely candidates for the governor’s seat and purchased the domains for about $9 apiece.

Panhandle House delegation backs Matt Caldwell for Ag Commissioner — Rep. Caldwell announced he received unanimous support of House members from Florida’s Panhandle. Caldwell’s campaign announced that Reps. Brad Drake, Clay Ingram, Mel Ponder, Frank White, Jay Trumbull, and Jayer Williamson were throwing their support behind his bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018. “I am excited and truly humbled to receive endorsements from an exceptional group of leaders in the Florida Panhandle,” he said in a statement. “I hope to have the opportunity to serve the people of the great State of Florida as the next Commissioner of Agriculture and it is with God’s blessing, and the outpouring of support we have received, that our campaign will be successful.” The campaign billed the endorsements as the first wave of Panhandle endorsements.

Transgender Jacksonville vampire fiction writer running for Congress” via Jenna Bourne Action News Jax – She’s running for the seat currently held by Republican Representative and former Sheriff John Rutherford. Monica DePaul is an adjunct English professor at University of North Florida … “No one like me has ever run in this area before,” said DePaul … She was also the first transgender Florida delegate at the Democratic National Convention last year. “Going to the convention and just seeing how – for lack of a better term, how dumb it was, just listening to the same thing over and over again,” said DePaul. DePaul is running for Congress in 2018 as a Democrat, but she said voters should not expect her to toe the party line. A video game and anime enthusiast, DePaul has authored two novels about vampires. DePaul is an unconventional candidate, but she thinks that’s just what Washington needs.

Jacksonville’s Monica DePaul, a transgender woman, has filed to run for Congress against incumbent John Rutherford. She’s an adjunct English professor at the University of North Florida and writes vampire novels.

Nancy Soderberg files for Ron DeSantis’s seat” via Greg Giroux of Bloomberg – Former United Nations Ambassador Soderberg filed as a Democratic challenge in Republican DeSantis’s 6th Congressional District. Soderberg, a former deputy national security director to President Bill Clinton and aide to former Sen. Edward Kennedy, lost a 2012 race for the state Senate. National Democrats are targeting the district, which Trump carried by 17 points.

“Stephanie Murphy raises $410K in Q2” via Florida Politics — The first-term U.S. Rep’s campaign will report raising more than $410,000 in second quarter of the year, according to POLITICO’s Morning Score. She ended the first quarter, according to federal campaign reports, with $256,688 cash on hand.

Carlos Curbelo campaign reports $1.1 million cash on hand, $705,000 raised in second quarter” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – The cash keeps flowing for Curbelo … Curbelo’s campaign announced that the second term Republican from Miami raised $705,000 during the most recent fundraising quarter from April 1 to June 30. The Republican has $1.1 million cash on hand with 15 months remaining until the 2018 election, according to his campaign. Curbelo’s fundraising haul ranks among the best for House members of both parties. After the first quarter of 2017, Curbelo ranked 32nd nationally among all House members and challengers in money raised.

Dennis Baxley draws Republican primary challenge in SD 12” via Orlando RisingKeasha “Kay” Gray filed for the Ocala-area seat in 2018. Gray runs an Ocala multimedia corporation called TBNB Inc. She elementary ‎education in college and worked as an educator before becoming a stay-at-home mother who home-schools two of her four children. In 2013, Grey founded TBNB, a certified Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise. The company is the home of Black on Black Records, family-friendly Rainbow Heart Productions, and TBNB Television, an online television network designed for girls … TBNB also provides media, advertising and consulting services to government entities. Grey served on the Ocala Municipal Arts Commission in 2016.

Spotted at a fundraiser for Sen. Dana Young at Kingfish in The Big Easy: Patrick Bell, Jose Gonzalez, Jon Rees, Richard Reeves, Greg Smith, Alan Suskey, Kyle Ulrich, Cameron Yarbrough.

Charlotte officials back Ben Albritton in SD 26 — Several Charlotte County officials, including Rep. Mike Grant and former state Rep. Ken Roberson, have endorsed Ben Albritton in his bid to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. “I have worked with Ben and know his integrity and commitment to doing public service the right way,” said Grant. “With Ben in the Florida Senate, his constituents can be confident they have someone in Tallahassee who will always put their best interest first.” Albritton’s campaign announced Grant, Roberson, county Commissioners Ken Doherty, Joe Tiseo and Bill Truex, and Punta Gorda Mayor Rachel Kreesling have thrown their support behind Albritton. “Charlotte County is fortunate to have such fine men and women in public service,” said Albritton. “I am honored to have their support, and I look forward to working with them on policies that will strengthen families and our economy.”

In Miami Senate race, mailer says Donald Trump endorsed Jose Felix Diaz — but read the fine print” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald — A mailer in a Miami Senate race says that Trump has only backed one of the candidates, but voters will have to read the fine print to figure out when Trump supported state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. It appears that Trump supported Diaz in his previous bids for state house years before Trump’s successful bid for president. “Only one candidate in Senate District 40 has been endorsed twice by Donald Trump,” states one side of the mailer, showing a photo of Trump and Diaz smiling together giving the thumbs up sign.  The other side of the mailer states “Jose Felix Diaz supports Donald Trump” and shows a photo of Diaz, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The mailer displays a note written by Trump on an invoice: “Jose — Good Luck — we are all proud of you — you will win!” If you read the fine print of the invoice, it shows a date of June 2012. State campaign finance records show that Trump donated $500 to Diaz’s house race in July 2012 (as well as an earlier race in March 2009.)

Flip Florida calls Jose Felix Diaz position on the Affordable Care Act “Pepi-Dismal” — (T)he Jeff Clemens-led initiative, is targeting Rep. Diaz over his position on the Affordable Care Act. In a fundraising email this week, the group said Diaz has consistently voted to undermine the federal health care law and cut healthcare to millions of people. “His longstanding opposition to Medicaid is so nauseating, it makes you want to bathe in Pepto-Bismal. You can say its Pepi-Dismal,” reads the email. “In short, if you have anyone in your family that ever gets sick, injured, dead or similarly afflicted, this is not a guy you want as your State Senator.” The email goes on to ask supporters to donate to Flip Florida so it can communicate to undecided voters in Senate District 40; donate again; and “donate a third time if you’re really keen on this whole thing and want to have someone in the Senate who thinks more like you do than Donald Trump.

Miami-Dade Mayor drops out of Diaz fundraiser” via David Smiley of the Miami HeraldCarlos Gimenez has dropped his support for the campaign of Diaz over what he says is his disgust with the tenor of the Republican primary for the special Senate District 40 election … the county mayor has withdrawn as the “special guest” of Diaz’s July 18 Biltmore event due to back-and-forth attacks between the campaigns of Diaz and former Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla. Gimenez, who tapped Diaz de la Portilla to help with his underdog 2011 mayoral campaign, will not support any campaign … “He believes that the tone of that particular race has been unnecessarily negative and will not be endorsing any candidate in that primary.”

AFL-CIO backs Annette Taddeo in SD 40 — The Florida AFL-CIO has endorsed Taddeo in Senate District 40. “The members of the South Florida AFL-CIO were proud to recommend to our State Federation a full endorsement for Annette and now we are ready to move forward in the primary campaign and beyond,” said Andy Madtes, president of the South Florida AFL-CIO, in a statement. “Florida’s labor movement knows that she will fight every day for working families in the Florida Senate. This is an important election and we are proud to join her efforts to deliver a strong victory for the families in senate district 40.” Taddeo faces Ana Rivas Logan in the July 25 Democratic Senate District 40 primary.

HD 44 special election money race has three $50K candidates, John Newstreet leading” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsNewstreet, president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, reported raising $67,379 including in-kind contributions … He also reported spending $20,026, with most of that going to campaign consultants at Millennium Consulting and Synergy Campaign Solutions, both of Orlando. Winter Garden businessman Bobby Olszewski, a former Winter Garden city commissioner, reported raising $54,330, including in-kind and a $1,000 personal loan he gave his campaign. He spent $6,699, with most of that going to himself and consultants at Strategic Trade Management of Tampa and Your Brand Voice of Orlando. Orlando businessman Bruno Portigliatti reported raising $51,012 including $25,000 from himself and at least $7,000 from his family and his family businesses. He spent $12,791, with $3,742 of that going to EM Campaigns of Tallahassee.

Republican primary candidates for HD 44 debate at the monthly Orlando Tiger Bay Club meeting (from left): Dr. Usha Jain, an emergency clinic medical director; John Newstreet, CEO of the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of Commerce; Bobby Olszewski, a former Winter Garden commissioner and Bruno Portigliatti, executive vice president of Florida Christian University.

What Mike Ertel is reading –Local elections officials trying to convince some registered voters to stay registered” via News-Press.com – Fears about data breaches and identity theft – or flat-out aversion to what many perceive as a Big Brother-ish information gathering activity – continued even as a representative of the commission told state officials not to provide the voter data previously requested. The Lee County Supervisor of Elections has received a handful of calls and several emails regarding this specific issue … A couple of people came in the main office Monday to remove themselves from the voter rolls … they are telling callers that the Secretary of State is releasing only the information that is already available under the Florida Public Records Law, Chapter 119 of Florida Statute. They will not release driver’s license information and Social Security numbers. They will not release any information that is exempt or confidential under Florida law, including certain information regarding law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors, and victims of stalking a domestic violence. While many voters were aware of the situation “long before the presidential commission” … the recent focus on Trump’s efforts to gather voter data have made people even more upset. Voters aren’t the only ones who are riled, however. County elections officials are also ticked off.

Robert Stuart talks about compassion and community service” via Terry Roen of Orlando RisingStuart is executive director of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida and is running for his fourth term as city commissioner for the District 3 seat in Orlando: “As a member of the Orlando City Council, my service through the Center reminds me that the decisions we make have a lasting impact on every part of our community, especially the ‘least of these.’ I believe that a community can be defined by how we treat our most vulnerable, and so each decision I make is tempered with this thought. For us to be a great community, we must address issues like attainable housing, poverty, unemployment and transportation for all. With that in mind, I was honored to help in the formation of ‘Orlando Blue Print,’ an initiative that includes the training and hiring of low-income and formerly homeless individuals for the building and operation of our downtown venues.”

–STATEWIDE–

Spotted: Florida in a Brennan Center for Justice report looking at partisan bias resulting from gerrymandering abuses in battleground states. The report found just seven states — including Florida, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania — account for almost all of the bias. It also found court ordered modifications to maps — which Florida, Texas and Virginia underwent — have “reduced, but not entirely curbed these states’ partisan bias.”

Report: Florida students face higher barriers to learning outside school compared with nation” via Annika Hammerschlag of the Naples Daily News – The Teacher & Principal School Report found Florida educators are more likely to report inadequate access to the internet and other learning resources outside school than educators from other states. The report, the first of its kind conducted by Scholastic, surveyed roughly 5,000 pre-K to 12 teachers and principals nationwide, including 250 from Florida. Florida teachers cited poverty, lack of access to English language learning support, and family and personal crises as some of the major factors impeding learning outside school. Other factors included lack of mental health and other health care services, going to school hungry and homelessness. Fifty-six percent of Florida teachers reported a lack of family involvement in student learning versus 48 percent nationwide.

Pam Bondi settles consumer complaints against three rental car firms” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Attorney General Bondi announced an out-of-court settlement with three major rental car companies that were targets of complaints by consumers about being charged excessive fees at “cashless” toll booths in Florida. Bondi said Avis, which also owns Budget and Payless rental car companies, have agreed to “clearly and conspicuously” disclose that it charges customers $3.95 a day to consumers who rent their cars and who encounter toll booths that allow only electronic payments. An announcement from Bondi’s office said the three companies also must disclose on their websites and in online reservation paths and at the rental car counter the fee and how consumers can avoid it. For years, rental car companies have charged fees to their customers who rent cars and drive on toll roads but who can’t or don’t pay tolls because they only accept electronic payments, such as with a transponder on a car’s windshield. The complaints have escalated in Florida as the state has increased the number of all-electronic toll roads.

The battle between AIRBNB and hotels is getting dirty — and FIU is caught in the middle” via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – In April, leaked documents from an American Hotel and Lodging Association board meeting revealed a detailed national campaign to curb the growth of the short-term rental industry. Miami, one of the top cities in the country for Airbnb, was listed as a critical market. Also mentioned in the five-page document was Florida International University, one of four universities in the country working on research the association planned to use in its anti-Airbnb campaign … FIU’s research on safety and security in the hospitality industry would “support our fundamental argument about the harms that short-term rental companies pose to consumers and communities, and provide data to buttress testimonial campaign.” Meanwhile, Airbnb was working on a campaign of its own, funding a watchdog blog, the Checks and Balances Project … to investigate the hotel industry’s campaign against home sharing (Airbnb would not say how much it gives the blog in funding). “New documents raise question of what role hotel lobby’s chair played in Penn State pay-to-play scheme,” a recent blog entry headline reads, referring to a pair of Pennsylvania State University studies funded by the hotel association about the growth of full-time short-term rental operators.

“Orange production up a bit, latest estimate shows” via Florida Politics – Squeeze ’em while you got ’em: Florida’s orange crop “increased slightly while grapefruit production held steady,” the Florida Department of Citrus announced Wednesday. That news is according to the final forecast for the 2016-17 season by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. “The July report projected the state’s orange crop increased by 200,000 boxes to 68.7 million for the 2016-17 season,” a news release said. “The grapefruit crop held steady at 7.8 million boxes.”

“Tallahassee hands over 90,000 pages to feds over CRA deals” via Florida Politics – A spokeswoman Wednesday said the city of Tallahassee and its Community Redevelopment Agency has turned over thousands of pages’ worth of material regarding the FBI’s investigation of the CRA’s business deals. Two grand jury subpoenas went out last month seeking information, which spokeswoman Alison Faris said took staff “more than 100 hours” to gather, including “emails, reports, applications, financial data, and other documents.” … The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in north Florida are looking into redevelopment projects that involve the agency. A lawyer with knowledge of the investigation told Florida Politics he expects charges to be filed “in the next few months.”

– “First CRA meeting since FBI probe came to light nixed” via Jeff Burlew and Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

– “Nick Maddox recalls ‘strange’ meeting with ‘Mike Miller’” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

John Morgan and Ray Rodrigues spar over future of smokable medical marijuana” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News On Monday, Florida House Majority Leader and primary sponsor for the bill to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry Rodrigues, took a swipe at Morgan’s newly-filed lawsuit to allow smokeable medical marijuana in the Sunshine State. Citing studies showing smoking is an ineffective way to ingest the drug, Rodrigues said the majority of Florida voters don’t support recreational medical marijuana — and neither does he. Under Florida’s new medical marijuana law, vaporizing, edibles and oral capsules are some of the ways patients can ingest cannabis, but smoking is prohibited. When Amendment 2 author John Morgan caught wind of the comments, he wasted no time firing back, addressing Rodrigues directly in a series of tweets … “Your constituents will need #MedicalMarijuana more than most,” Morgan wrote. “I’m fighting for them while you’re fighting against them.”

Legislators quietly dish no-bid, $3 million contract to private prison group” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – In March 2016, legislators approved $330,000 for The Geo Group to operate a pilot program to be run at Blackwater Correctional, using the ideas [DOC Secretary Julie] Jones said [Abe] Uccello had developed for Florida’s state-run prison system. This year, lawmakers expanded the program to $3 million, with the money going exclusively to four of The Geo Group’s five private prisons in Florida — Bay, Moore Haven, South Bay and Blackwater — “for the provision of enhanced in-prison and post-release recidivism reduction programs.” “They got it with no competition and no guarantee of performance,” said Rep. David Richardson, who has been a critic of the state’s failure to determine if the private prisons are saving tax money as required by law. Geo Group spokesman Pablo Paez said he wasn’t aware of Jones’ concerns about the company appropriating Uccello’s “white paper.” He said the company has been using the “Geo Continuum of Care” term since 2010, trademarked the idea in 2011, is financing the program at its Graceville prison with its own funds, and was “transparent” in its request for the $3 million.

Tech funders, startups already feeling sting of state budget cuts” via Nancy Dahlberg of the Miami Herald – The Florida Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research was slated to receive $5.5 million to provide seed funding to startups. That was one of the $409 million in local items vetoed last month … The Florida Institute bridges early funding gaps for companies spinning out of Florida-based universities and research institutions by matching investments up to $300,000 … The result has been more than 4,000 jobs paying an average salary of $76,000 … The idea is to build tech companies that stay in Florida and create high-paying jobs, said Jackson Streeter, CEO of the Institute. The Institute was not the only tech casualty of the line-item vetoes. Startup FIU was slated to receive $1 million to help fund its new campuswide entrepreneurship program that includes several accelerators, including one focused on technology being developed. Florida Atlantic University’s Tech Runway, also a campuswide and community accelerator, was slated to receive $1.2 million to help fuel its young program. “Hopefully we will soon be back in the business of Florida innovation and getting companies formed with Florida technology and keeping them in the state,” Streeter said.

“Keith Perry demands Alachua County let him buy Camp McConnell – or he’ll sue” via Cleveland Tinker of the Gainesville SunPerry has threatened to sue the Alachua County Commission if it does not sign over to him the contract to purchase Camp McConnell, a 211-acre property near Micanopy … Perry, accompanied by Patrice Boyes, a Gainesville-based land-use and conservation real estate attorney, asked the commission to give him the right to purchase the land from the YMCA for the $1.03 million bid the county secured at an on-site auction June 22. The first-term Republican senator from Gainesville, who owns a roofing business, claims the county did not follow its own rules in deciding to make the purchase.

Mike La Rosa, Neil Combee and John Cortes defend attacks on VISIT FLORIDA” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Republican state Reps. La Rosa and Combee and Democratic state Rep. Cortes described surviving a 2017 Legislative Session and Special Session that Combee declared had “a lot of Republican-on-Republican violence” and Cortes said was no fun for Democrats. But La Rosa pointed out that in the end, after the Special Session, Floridians got what they needed. In the end, the Florida Legislature gave VISIT FLORIDA what it and Gov. Scott wanted, $76 million, but both Republicans and the Democrat representing parts of Osceola County in the Florida House said that was not before they and the House leadership extracted accountability and transparency assurances and reforms. That crusade ended with full funding during the Special Session, but the message had been sent, Combee said.

— OPINIONS —

Promoting civility and practicing the Golden Rule every day” via Charlie Crist for The Hill Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, recently released a report on the state of civility in America. It found that incivility has reached “crisis levels” in our country. These findings, sadly, are not surprising. Particularly disappointing was that a majority of Americans believe incivility in our politics encourages general incivility in society, which deters citizens from engaging in public service. Incivility can lead to intimidation, threats, harassment, cyberbullying, discrimination and violence … To try and disrupt this troubling trend, we have put forward bipartisan legislation, H. Res 400, creating a National Day of Civility. It’s one small way to give this issue greater attention and spark greater awareness in communities across the country, and in Washington. The bill has overwhelming bipartisan support, introduced with the backing of nearly every member of our 50 plus person freshman class. As public officials, we have a responsibility to lead by example.

The Herald recommends Annette Taddeo, Jose Felix Diaz in state Senate District 40 primaries” via the Miami Herald – Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla is a non-starter. He refused to be interviewed by the Editorial Board … The candidates agree on many issues affecting the district, traffic chief among them. [Lorenzo] Palomares is a staunch believer in free enterprise and its ability to improve Floridians’ quality of life. But Diaz has a more practical outlook, along with solid legislative experience. For instance, he sponsored bills to give immigrant children medical coverage through KidCare and cosponsored successful legislation creating a tax exemption for homes with solar panels. Diaz is the strongest candidate. Taddeo … remains the stronger candidate here. She has been chair of the Democratic Party of Miami-Dade, vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party and committeewoman for the DNC. While both candidates know the district well, Taddeo is better versed in overall state issues, which is important. She knows policy and, unlike [Ana] Rivas Logan, her commitment to the Democratic Party is clear. Taddeo has earned this chance to serve.

— MOVEMENTS —

Donald Trump’s Italy ambassador is Florida man, former GOP finance chair” via Kristina Webb of the Palm Beach PostTrump will nominate a Florida resident and former Republican Party finance chair to be his ambassador to Italy … Lewis Eisenberg of Vero Beach also will be nominated as Trump’s ambassador to the tiny Republic of San Marino, a position Eisenberg will “serve concurrently and without additional compensation” … The former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey served on Trump’s inaugural committee, and donated more than $35,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Patrick Murphy named chairman of new Future Forum Foundation” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald –… a new political nonprofit group aimed at “better identifying solutions to the challenges facing millennials in our economy, across society and in government.” The Future Forum Foundation … is an off-shoot of the U.S. House Future Forum caucus, which was founded two years ago and is comprised of 26 of the youngest Democratic members of Congress. Registered as a 501(c)4 organization, the new Washington D.C.-based foundation is what’s often referred to as a “dark money” group that will not have to disclose its donors … the foundation declined to share the exact source and amount of its initial funding but said the dollars “are coming from a mix of private individuals and businesses.” Murphy, one of the first millennials elected to Congress, said in a statement: “Now is the time for the next generation of leadership to step up and take the lead.”

“Ethics panel could approve ex-Rick Scott official’s consulting work” via Florida Politics – Can Melinda Miguel, formerly Gov. Scott’s inspector general, do consulting work involving a nonprofit doing business with the state’s child-welfare agency if she worked on a whistleblower’s report against that same concern? Yes, according to a staff recommendation of the Florida Commission on Ethics released Wednesday … She asked for the opinion because she wants to do consulting for a foundation that works on foster care and child welfare issues. The project at issue includes an “assessment” of Our Kids, the nonprofit that provides child services in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties under agreement with the Department of Children and Families. But Miguel was concerned about a potential conflict because she “played a role in 2011 in issuing a final whistleblower’s report” against Our Kids.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Gregory Black, Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart: United States Sugar Corporation

Timothy Meenan, Karl Neis Rasmussen, Meenan PA: The Everglades Foundation, Inc.

–ALOE– 

SEC faces strong challenges as college football’s top dog” via John Zenor of The Associated Press –When LSU’s Ed Orgeron matter of factly declared the SEC as “the best conference in the United States,” he was mostly preaching to the choir in the league’s backyard. But the Southeastern Conference’s once-undisputed status as college football’s top league is facing strong challenges from both the ACC and Big Ten despite Alabama’s best efforts. The Crimson Tide certainly remains formidable as ever, if not invincible, at the top. Beyond that, there’s plenty of uncertainty — and in some cases mediocrity — in a league that won seven straight national titles from 2006-12. The Big Ten finished with four teams ranked in the Top 10 in the final AP poll. The league did go 3-7 in bowl games … the difference comes down to the head coaches. The ACC has national championship coaches in Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, along with ex-SEC head men Mark Richt (Miami) and Bobby Petrino (Louisville). What is concrete: The ACC held the upper hand last season. That league went 10-4 against SEC teams and won four of five postseason games.

Why Hollywood should pay attention to ‘Dunkirk’” via David Sims of The Atlantic – The biggest, and most successful, bet in the last 10 years was made on 3-D movies—reviving a gimmick from Hollywood’s golden age … But even that approach is beginning to falter. Despite an increase in 3-D releases, the box-office market for that particular upcharge is falling as 3-D has gone from being a special experience to a perfunctory feature for every blockbuster. But this summer brings another potential savior from cinema’s yesteryear—the wide release of the director Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk on 70-millimeter film. Dunkirk, which runs 106 minutes, was entirely shot on large-format film and will be released in 70-mm projection in 125 theaters around the country—the biggest such release in decades. It’s a major gamble on an old-fashioned way of shooting and projecting movies, one that was standard for epics like Lawrence of Arabia but has long since passed into near-oblivion as theaters transferred to digital-projection formats.

Happy birthday to Ballard Partners’ Sylvester Lukis, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, and Sean Pittman‘s better half, Audra.

— COUNTING DOWN TO THE PREMIERE OF GAME OF THRONES —

Did a Game of Thrones star just confirm a favorite fan theory?” via Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair – HBO is playing a bit coy when it comes to Jon Snow’s dad. Cast members like Isaac Hempstead-Wright were still out there last year after the finale, saying things like: “We still are pretty clueless as to the father, I think. And at this stage, it could even be Ned. There could be a Cersei and Jaime thing going on there.” But nobody seemed to have told Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau that hints about Jon Snow’s dad are off limits. While explaining to Jimmy Kimmel last night why Coster-Waldau told the host that Jon Snow was dead in advance of Season 6, the actor who plays Jaime Lannister reasoned: “Well Jon Snow is dead. Jon Stark-Targaryen has risen from the dead.” This casual re-naming of Kit Harington’s character would seem to confirm the most popular theory: that Jon’s father is Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, aka Daenerys’s dead brother … Yep, the Mother of Dragons is also an aunt. Sadly, Coster-Waldau’s comment doesn’t dispel the other bonkers Jon Snow parentage theory going around, i.e., that the mad king Aerys Targaryen is actually Jon’s father.

Yes, Game of thrones has a horse mistress. And yes, she’s a badass” via Daniel D’Addario of Time magazine – A medieval world relies on horses — and the woman who’s trained them. Camilla Naprous is horse mistress for Game of Thrones; part of the stunt horse company The Devil’s Horsemen, she provides the equine component of a show that increasingly hinges upon great horseback battles. Q: In season 5’s “Battle of the Bastards,” were all 100 working? How did you accommodate them all? “Yes, they are, because they’re also doing lots of other movies at the same time. They’d just got off Exodus, the Ridley Scott movie. ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was great. If we have over 30 to 40 horses, we stable everything on the location, so we cut down on the horses’ time that they work.” Q: When you say you’ve gotten more toys to play with — does that just mean more horses? “Yes! A lot more horses. Because VFX is coming more and more into our world, on average if you do a battle, you get 50, 60 horses and they can add on for the rest. It was nice they actually said, let’s get 100 … Let’s challenge the feature films. And I think it’s great, and that’s what TV is doing so well. TV’s taking over where the movies aren’t.”

– “A complete guide to the religions of Game of Thrones” via Beth Elderkin of Gizmodo

– “’Game of Thrones’: The forces of House Targaryen, ranked” via Josh Wigler of the Hollywood Reporter

– “A psychologist diagnosed ‘Game of Thrones’ characters as if they were his patients — here’s what he came up with” via Madeleine Sheehan Perkins of Business Insider

– “Game of Thrones season 7 premiere photos released” via James Hibberd of Entertainment Weekly

A scene from the first episode of the 7th season of Game of Thrones: Daenerys Targaryen approaching the throne at Dragonstone.

Scott Arceneaux: The Eddie Mush of Florida politics

“Eddie Mush was a degenerate gambler. He was the world’s biggest loser. He was “Mush” because everything he touched turned to mush.”

Now that Andrew Gillum has fired his campaign manager and finance director, a good question is who is steering his gubernatorial campaign?

There are many good people (Kevin Cate among them) still aboard that ship, which may or may not be sinking. And then there’s one person who seems to turn everything he touches in Florida politics to mush.

I am, of course, referring to Scott Arceneaux.

Arceneaux has not done anything newsworthy to warrant this column, but with yet another campaign turning to mush, it’s a good time to remind everyone that he is, without a doubt, the Eddie Mush of Florida politics.

In 2009, Arceneaux left his beloved Louisiana for the executive director gig at the Florida Democratic Party after being hired by then-Party Chair Karen Thurman. Being ED of the FDP is probably the worst, most thankless job in state politics. It’s sorta like being the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers — no matter what you do, you’ll never be as good as the Lakers, or in this case, the Republican Party of Florida.

Arceneaux’s inability to judge the headwinds was evident early in his stint as executive director. In his first strategy report to Democratic leaders in 2009, Arceneaux wrote: “The chaos in the Republican Party of Florida, combined with Floridians looking to throw the metaphorical ‘Republican Bums’ out of office, confirms that the national anti-incumbent environment works to the advantage of Florida Democrats.” (H/t to Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News for hanging on to that gem.)

How did Arceneaux’s strategy work for Gov. Alex Sink or U.S. Sen. Kendrick Meek?

In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment aimed at preventing political gerrymandering, yet Republicans dominance of Florida politics only increased under “Arcenmush.” Democrats hold only 41 of 120 state House seats, 15 of 40 Senate seats and are outnumbered in the U.S. House 16-11.

The 2010 “fair districts” constitutional amendment was aimed at preventing gerrymandering. It requires lawmakers to draw maps that don’t benefit incumbents or political parties and try to keep communities from being divided for political purposes.

With Democrats, part of the problem is institutional, Democratic political consultant Steve Schale said in an Associated Press report about how Republicans dominate Florida politics. For Schale, the party has no discipline and doesn’t recruit candidates as aggressively as it should.

If the Democrats’ problem is institutional, isn’t it fair to point fingers at the one person who has been atop the institution for seven-and-a-half-years?

Yet, it’s not just his time at the Florida Democratic Party which makes Arceneaux a mush.

Arceneaux was a senior strategic adviser to the Hillary Clinton campaign, for which he helped to direct the in-state operations of a staff of over 600.

President Hillary Clinton did as well in 2016 as Governor Sink did in 2010.

And now Arceneaux is attached to the Andrew Gillum campaign, which has gone from being the party’s “best hope” (as described by the Tampa Bay Times Adam Smith) to its current state, rudderless and spending more money than it raises.

It’s worth noting that during his time in Florida, Arceneaux moonlighted for the Democratic Governors Association, where he helped John Bel Edwards win the Louisiana governor’s race.

Because a true mush is not someone who loses ALL of the time. If they did, they would eventually have to give up playing.

Florida Democrats would be best served taking handicapper Joe Fortenbaugh‘s advice: Once you know who the mush is backing, go the other way.

Sunburn for 7.12.17 – Why not Matt Gaetz?; Trouble at the RPOF; Ron DeSantis’ newest mega-donor; B-CU prez steps down; Is Jamie Grant pro-duel?

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

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

— WHY DOESN’T MATT GAETZ RUN FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL —

Why doesn’t Matt Gaetz run for Attorney General in 2018?

Increasingly, this is a question buzzing from the Panhandle to the Potomac.

The din about Gaetz entering the 2018 AG field is only getting louder now that it appears that Ron DeSantis will run for governor and not the top law enforcement post.

Matt Gaetz answers questions during an “Open Gaetz Day” event at Grover T’s BBQ in Milton.

So far only former circuit court judge Ashley Moody (definitely a comer) and state Rep. Jay Fant (not exactly a household name) are in the race. This leaves a lot of room for another candidate from the conservative wing of the Republican party to join the fray.

For much of his career, the first-term Republican congressman has proved adept at getting traction for significant issues and his pet projects. In Florida politics, Gaetz earned his reputation for oratory skills, pointed humor and blunt talk, as well as mastering social media and the internet to get things done.

Having the last name Gaetz doesn’t hurt either, being the son of North Florida political scion Don Gaetz. Name ID is definitely a commodity that could serve him well, particularly compared to those now in the AG race.

And he certainly isn’t afraid to make waves, especially when he proposed a bill February to “completely abolish” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

While the proposal didn’t play well in some circles, it certainly solidified his base in the Panhandle. That, and the fact that he didn’t shy away from holding (occasionally contentious) town halls with constituents in several not-at-all-ironic “Open Gaetz Days.” He certainly isn’t afraid to play a possibly unfriendly room, unlike some of his congressional colleagues.

No doubt, moves like that take a courage of conviction, as well as more than a little chutzpah – another plus for a statewide run.

So tell us again why shouldn’t Gaetz throw his hat into the ring?

“On the road with Matt Gaetz” with Kelly Humphrey of the Northwest Florida Daily News

Tweet, tweet:

“Jay Fant tops $68K in June for AG race” via News4Jax – Fant, whose money came predominantly from Jacksonville and Tallahassee, had raised an overall total of $147,815 for his campaign account as of June 30, while spending $2,260. A report for Fant’s political committee known as “Pledge This Day” posted a single $1,000 donation in June from Gate Petroleum Company of Jacksonville. … Meanwhile, Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, reported raising $17,935 in June, bringing his overall total to $21,552. Most of Torrens’ June money came from the Tampa region, including $3,000 from the Consumer Protection Firm in Tampa, a law firm that specializes in fighting “robo-bullies.”

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

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Florida GOP raises nearly $339K in second quarter of 2017; figure marks one of lowest totals in two decades” via Florida Politics — State records show the Republican Party of Florida raised $338,942 between April 1 and June 30. The fundraising period covered a portion of the 2017 Legislative Session and a three-day special session, during which state lawmakers are prohibited from raising money. … The three-month fundraising period pales in comparison to previous fundraising periods by the Republican Party of Florida. The Florida GOP raised more than $4.1 million in the second quarter of 2016; one year earlier it raised more than $1.9 million in the same three-month fundraising period. State campaign finance records dating back to 1996 show this year’s quarterly numbers are the the lowest in more than two decades. Records show the next lowest fundraising period was Nov. 1, 1996 and Dec. 31, 1996, when the party reported raising $572,531. There were three fundraising periods, state records show, where the state party reported raising no money.

Facebook status of the day via former RPOF chairwoman Leslie Dougher:

Florida state Senators raise $720K in Q2 of 2017, doubling state party” via Florida Politics — State records show the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $720,000 between April 1 and June 30. The top contributor to the committee during the three-month period was Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee, Innovate Florida. Galvano’s committee gave the FRSCC $160,000. Records show AT&T gave the committee $55,000; while six organizations — Arda-Resort Owners Coalition, Duke Energy, Teco Energy, American Traffic Solutions, Florida Medical Association PAC, and The Geo Group Inc. Political Contribution Account — gave $50,000. … The three-month haul is more than double what the Republican Party of Florida reported during the same fundraising period.

– “Rick Scott committee collects $146,000 in June” via the News Service of Florida

GOP megadonor gives $250K to Ron DeSantis-aligned committee” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein in June gave $250,000 to a state committee that appears to be collecting money to support Republican Rep. DeSantis’ next political move. Uihlein is CEO of Wisconsin-based Uline, a distributor and shipping company, and has long been a rainmaker for Republican candidates and causes. During the 2016 election cycle, Uihlein gave more than $22 million to federal candidates, including $75,000 to a super PAC that supported DeSantis’ failed U.S. Senate bid. Uihlein’s contribution to the political committee Fund for Florida’s Future is his first state-level contribution to a Florida candidate or committee.

Jeremy Ring nets $44K in 1st month of CFO bid” via Florida Politics – CFO and other executive candidates can accept up to $3,000 per contributor during their campaigns, and the Broward County Democrat brought in nine such checks. Max donors include three companies tied to Fort Lauderdale businessman Jeff Roschman, each of which chipped in $3,000. Alachua author and Temple of the Universe founder Mickey Singer also gave $3,000, as did Jeff Keith, an Indiana resident who is an executive at venture capital group Sterling Partners. In all, the former Yahoo! executive brought in 63 contributions totaling $43,997. About half of his donors chipped in $100 or less.

Bruno Barreiro raises $176,000 in first quarter after declaring bid for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald Barreiro declared his candidacy May 10, meaning he wasn’t raising money throughout the entire fundraising quarter, which lasted from April 1 to June 30. “I raised $176,000 in five weeks, that’s a good amount,” Barreiro said. “I’m just chugging along.” Barreiro said all of his donations apply only to the Republican primary, meaning none of his donors maxed out on their $5,400 federal contribution limits and can donate again for the general election. Barreiro will face off against former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate and school board member Raquel Regalado and Maria Peiro in the Republican primary. Regalado and Peiro have not released fundraising totals for the quarter.

– “Shawn Harrison brings in more than $36,000 in June for re-election bid” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Florida doctors backs Daniel Perez in HD 116 — The Florida Medical Association PAC has endorsed Perez in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Daniel Perez for House District 116,” said Dr. Mike Patete, the president of the FMA PAC, in a statement. “Living in the district, he has a keen understanding of the issues of importance to the community and the patients and physicians in the area. We look forward to working with him in the Florida House.” Perez faces Jose Mallea in the July 25 special election to replace Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26, to run for the Senate District 40 special election.“

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Republican Keasha “Kay” Gray has challenged Sen. Dennis Baxley in Senate District 12. Gray is the president and CEO of TBNB Inc., a multimedia corporation. Democrat Francine Shebell has filed to run in House District 33 in The Villages, a massive Central Florida retirement community. Republican Rep. Don Hahnfeldt current represents the district, but has not yet filed to run for re-election. Democrat Jason Montgomery has filed to run for the House District 40 seat. Montgomery is the Manatee County supervisor of athletics, and is the second Democrat to enter the race. He’ll face Shandale Terrell in the primary. The winner of the primary will face incumbent Republican Rep. Colleen Burton. Rep. Jayer Williamson is currently running unopposed, after Democrat Preston Bartholomew Anderson dropped out of the House District 3 race. And the race to replace term-limited Rep. Tom Goodson in House District 51 is down to three Republicans, after Cocoa Beach Mayor Tim Tumulty announced he was withdrawing from the race.

— STATEWIDE — 

Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio press Donald trump on search for missing FBI agent” via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – Nearly two dozen lawmakers are urging the Trump administration to continue to search for the whereabouts of former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago and was believed to be either imprisoned or dead. The bipartisan group, led by Nelson and Rubio, sent a letter pressing administration officials to “maintain pressure on Iran to see that [Bob] is returned as soon as possible” … “Bob is still not home, and despite repeated promises, Iran has yet to cooperate in any meaningful way,” the lawmakers wrote. “Iran is responsible — if Iranian officials don’t have Bob, they know where to find him.”

Secretary of state defends release of voter information” via Arek Sarkissian of the Tallahassee Democrat Ken Detzner said he complied with parts of a request he received from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity because he had to follow state law. Detzner spoke of the two laws in a letter he sent last week to commission Vice Chairman Kris Kobach. “Once again, this information is already regularly given out to anyone who makes a public records request to the Department of State as required by Florida law. As my letter stated, the responsibility of the accuracy and fairness of our election process in Florida lies with us, not with the federal government in Washington, D.C.” Detzner said the request from Kobach is identical to others that his office processes every year. “As my letter stated last week, Florida will absolutely not provide any information that is not already available to the public,” Detzner said.

Rick Scott puts spotlight on opioid problem during Sarasota visit” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-TribuneScott came to Sarasota to highlight a new law sponsored by two Southwest Florida legislators that cracks down on fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug. Scott and local officials touted an array of efforts to address the opioid problem, even as some drug treatment experts have been complaining that the state did not do enough this year to fund programs that fight addiction. Scott officially signed the fentanyl bill last month. It becomes law Oct. 1. It establishes mandatory minimum sentences for possession of various amounts of the drug — which is often laced with heroin — and makes it possible to charge dealers with murder when an overdose results in death.

Just say no: Rick Scott, here in Palm Beach County, ceremonially signed a bill boosting penalties for synthetic opioid drugs, including fentanyl. With him (at left) is Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican.

– “Mental health advocates say lawmakers failing to address treatment for opiod addicts” via Jake Stofan of WCTV

– “Palm Beach County considering suing drug companies over opioid epidemic” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

– “Tampa Bay officials criticize Legislature for failing to tackle opioid epidemic” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will highlight the 5 percent increase for sworn state law enforcement officers during an event at 11 a.m. at Florida Highway Patrol Troop E Headquaters, 1011 NW 111th Ave in Miami.

Assignment editors: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will hold a press conference about skimmers on gas pumps at 11 a.m. at Orange County Sheriff’s Office Central Operations Mel Martinez Auditorium, 2500 W. Colonial Drive in Orlando. He will be joined by Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Deputy Chief Orlando Rolon.

What CFO Patronis is reading –Florida tops ranking of states’ fiscal strength” via Jeff Jeffrey of the Tampa Bay Business Journal –… according to a study by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. The group ranked Florida as the state with the strongest fiscal condition based on data collected from each state’s most recent audited comprehensive annual financial report. This year’s study, the center’s fourth, looked at reports from fiscal year 2015. Florida’s No. 1 ranking ends Alaska’s three-year reign atop the leaderboard. Florida ranked No. 1 in fiscal solvency because of the high levels of cash it kept in reserve — between eight and 10 times the cash needed to cover the state’s short-term obligations. Florida also benefited from revenue that exceed expenses by 7 percent and from having a low liability-to-asset ratio compared to other states. Florida’s liabilities were 34 percent of total assets, much lower than the state average of 61 percent, the study said. Additionally, the study noted that Florida has relatively low unfunded pension obligations – 22 percent of state personal income – and a total debt of $24.5 billion, which represents just 3 percent of state personal income.

B-CU president Edison Jackson steps down amid mounting money woes” via Seth Robbins and T.S. Jarmusz of the Daytona Beach News-Journal –Bethune-Cookman University President Jackson told the school’s board of trustees he will be retiring as president — ending his term about a year before his contract is set to expire. Board members accepted Jackson’s early retirement, which will be set at a later date … Jackson’s departure comes in the wake of consecutive stories that investigated B-CU’s troubling finances, including that it suffered increasing operating losses because of spending and mounting debt from the financing of its newest dorm, which will cost the school more than $306 million over 40 years. For more than two years, a small group of alumni and former trustees have raised questions about the dormitory’s cost, which originally was projected to be $72.1 million and actually has amounted to $85 million.

John Tobia’s Puerto Rico anti-statehood resolution dies in Brevard, then he gets grilled” via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsTobia, a former state representative from Brevard, withstood 10 public speakers – some Puerto Ricans living in Brevard or Orange County, some non-Puerto Ricans – accusing him of being “a little politician,” of overstepping his authority as a county commissioner, of seeking to further his career at the cost of Puerto Ricans, and of introducing a resolution “with an air of racism about it.”… “This resolution is inflammatory, misleading and disrespectful to the people of Puerto Rico,” said Dr. Jorge Perez de Armas, a retired U.S. Army major and hematologist born in Puerto Rico and living in Brevard County. One speaker spoke in favor of the resolution. Tobia sat respectfully and did not seek to reply to the speakers, and Board Chairman Curt Smith did not ask him to. Before the speakers, he introduced the resolution, read it, and moved for its adoption. No one seconded. Smith declared it dead. A large number of people at the meeting applauded.

“Judge files order after ruling ‘pre-reveal’ games are illegal slots” via Florida PoliticsAs expected, a Tallahassee judge has entered a written order following his decision last month that he had gotten it “wrong the first time” and said games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge John Cooper filed a “final declaratory judgment,” which allows Gator Coin II — the Jacksonville company that distributes the games—to now appeal. In March, Cooper issued a previous judgment that “pre-reveal” games weren’t slots because … if the outcome of a game is known, it’s not a game of chance, he said then. Cooper’s new order, in part, says that “to have a chance to receive an outcome other than what is currently displayed by the preview feature, the player must commit money to the machine to be privy to the next preview.” That “play pattern” is an “illegal gaming scheme designed to circumvent gambling prohibitions,” the order says.

Prison officials, disabled inmates reach settlement” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – Under the settlement agreement finalized last week, the state promised, among other things, to provide sign-language interpreters for deaf inmates and to remove architectural barriers for prisoners who use wheelchairs. “It will be a game changer for them,” Florida Justice Institute Executive Director Randall Berg, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Disability Rights Florida and more than 30 inmates last year, said during a telephone interview when asked about the impact of the settlement agreement on disabled prisoners. The complaint laid out a plethora of woes encountered by deaf inmates.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Affordable housing remains an issue for Florida, legislators say” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Floridians who want affordable housing might have to move inland because coastal property is too expensive, a Naples state senator told a real estate group … Sen. Kathleen Passidomo said she wants to take a “holistic approach” to the problem of affordable housing by looking to build units inland, fixing roads and investing in public infrastructure to support the development. She also said the state should consider building apartments on top of certain commercial properties. “We can’t guarantee that our workers are going to live next door to us,” said Passidomo, while speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Real Estate Investment Society at the Pelican Preserve in Fort Myers. “It’s just not going to happen.”

“Court clerks funding case continues in capital” via Florida Politics – A lawsuit over how the state funds its clerks of court still is trudging along in Tallahassee, court dockets show. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers set a case management conference for Sept. 7, after lawyers for plaintiff Howard Forman alerted the court of possible “additional or substituted parties.” Forman, a Democrat and former state senator, was Broward County Clerk of Court when he filed the suit last May; he since retired and was replaced by his wife, Brenda Forman, elected last November. But lawmakers this year made several changes to the way clerks get money from the state, including “requiring certain filing fees for trial and appellate proceedings be deposited into clerks … funds, rather than into the General Revenue Fund,” one of the points of contention in the suit.

Tweet, tweet:

2017 Session in review — Missing the good old days of the 2017 Session? Don’t worry, Sachs Media Group has you covered. The firm released a 2-minute and 30 second session-in-review video, highlighting some of the key stats – like how many bills were filed during the 2017 Session; which bills had a higher passage rate; where bills died; and which members had the highest passage rates – from the most recent regular session.

Click the image below to watch the video.

 

— MOVEMENTS — 

Appointed Gerald Jowers and Ward Britt (reappointed) to the West Orange Healthcare District.

“Personnel note: Five join Florida Bar’s Citizens Advisory Committee” via Florida PoliticsFive new members have joined The Florida Bar‘s Citizens Advisory Committee, including recently retired St. Petersburg College president Bill Law, the organization announced Tuesday. Law had been the state college’s leader since 2010. Before that, he was a college president in Springfield, Illinois; The Woodlands, Texas; and in Tallahassee, as head of Tallahassee Community College. The committee is “an advisory group of 12 citizens with varied interests and backgrounds who provide two-way communication between the state’s major citizen constituencies and the Bar’s Board of Governors,” a press release said.

Personnel note – The Suwannee River Water Management District has picked senior project manager Hugh Thomas as its new executive director. Thomas’ has been with the district since 2016 and his background includes more than a decade at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He replaces Noah Valeqstein, who was appointed to head up the Florida Department of Environmental Protection back in May. Thomas will take over for current interim director Darrell Smith on July 17.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Stacy Arias, Chris Dudley, Jerry Lee McDaniel, James McFaddin III, Southern Strategy Group: Alliance for Safety and Justice, a project of the Tides Center

Brian Ballard, Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: The Pharm, LLC.

David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff, Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: NTT Data, Inc.

Hayden Dempsey, Greenberg Traurig: Accredited Surety & Casualty Company, Inc.

Danny Jordan, Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Omniangle Technologies, LLC.

Wansley Walters, Ballard Partners: TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, LLC.
— ALOE —

Naples’ nude swimmers need to keep the neighbors in mind” via Harriet Howard Heithaus of the Naples Daily News – Naples and Collier County law enforcement officials say local residents are relaxed about private property nudity. They haven’t had many calls in the last several years complaining about indecent exposure. “In monitoring radio traffic, I can say that these types of complaints do not occur on a weekly basis,” wrote 1st Lt. of Patrol Drew Lee of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office … “Normally, the calls stem from public beach areas where foreign visitors not familiar with our customs/laws are sunbathing. Also, we occasionally receive after-hours calls from unauthorized nude bathers in hot tubs at condo/apartment complexes.” Collier County and Naples extend their blessing on your buff bathing, Godivas, but with a few precautions. Florida statutes govern nudity, and its primary suggestion is that intent counts: Exposure in a “vulgar or indecent manner” in “public or on the private premises of another, or so near thereto as to be seen from such private premises,” is a violation of Florida Statute 800.03 regarding nudity.

SeaWorld offers ‘up close’ tours of orcas” via The Associated Press – The new “Killer Whale Up-Close Tour” is another move by the theme park toward education and away from orca shows. During the 45-minute tours, visitors will also watch husbandry demonstrations and learn the whales’ health care and feeding habits. Reservations are required for the tours, which cost $79 per person and aren’t included in the regular admission ticket.

Happy birthday to former AG Bill McCollum.

— COUNTDOWN TO GAME OF THRONES PREMIERE —

Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss: ‘We know what happens in each scene’ of Season 8” via Daniel D’Addario of Time magazine – What about life after Game of Thrones are you looking forward to? WEISS: Drinking less. The only upside I can see of spending less time with Kit [Harington] and Alfie [Allen] is we will be drinking less. BENIOFF: It’ll be fun to do something new. This is the only thing I’ve worked on where I could imagine working on it for 10 years — it’s the only thing that’s maintained my interest for that long. But it’ll be fun to write for different characters at some point, it’ll be fun to write in a different world, maybe in a world where we don’t need horses and swords and — WEISS: — It’s funny because there’s so many… shooting people on horses is challenging in so many ways and there’s a whole different set of skills. It is a visual language of doing that. And so we’ve become pretty good of knowing what works with that and what doesn’t, and having specific ideas about that. We haven’t shot a single conversation in a car — when it’s done, it’ll be 10 years without one conversation in an automobile. I have to go back and watch other movies to find out how people shoot people talking in cars, because we’ve never done it. It’s a simple thing that anybody who shoots almost anything deals with on every show and movie in existence almost, but that’s not our show.”

Some ‘Game of Thrones’ stars are better than others at keeping secrets” via Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post – It’s really something to behold: the way these performers answer all sorts of questions from reporters without accidentally divulging the goods. But the trick with these interviews isn’t just secrecy. It’s making them interesting — giving people some morsel that might appear relevant, even if it’s not. Some of the actors are better than others. Here’s a look at how well they deliver, on a scale from one to five dragons. Rolling Stone interviewed Emilia Clarke … for a story titled “Emilia Clarke, the Queen of Dragons, Tells All.” Of course, she didn’t … she also revealed that she’d be around for another season. So she makes it through Season 7!? That’s not the kind of thing she was probably supposed to reveal, even if we already figured as much. Score: Three dragons. Aidan Gillen … used an interesting tactic designed to both generate headlines and give us nothing in the way of new intel. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he revisited a scene from Season 2 in which he bumped into a disguised Arya Stark, who had somehow managed to score a gig as Tywin Lannister’s servant. “It was unclear if he recognized her or not, but I have my own thoughts on that,” he said. “Yes, I did recognize her — I just didn’t say anything or do anything about it.” Score: Four dragons. Lena Headey was delightfully Cersei-ish when The New York Times asked her about next season. “Um, she’s not having a good time — there you go,” she told the interviewer. “Apparently winter is really coming, finally.” Score: Five dragons.

Watch Kit Harington audition to be Harry Potter and fellow ‘Game of thrones’ characters” via Luke Morgan Britton of NME.comHarington showed off his acting range on Jimmy Kimmel Live, “auditioning” for other Game Of Thrones parts as well as Harry Potter. The British actor – who plays Jon Snow in the HBO show – dressed up as Cersei, Daenerys, Arya Stark and more Game Of Thrones characters for the skit, as well as Harry Potter. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” Harington said as Cersei Lannister. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to have sex with my brother.”

Sunburn for 7.11.17 – Phil Levine’s time; Bob White gets a look; Endorsements and finance reports galore; More Game of Thrones

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

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

TIME TO GIVE PHIL LEVINE A LOOK

Unless Andrew Gillum quickly turns his fledgling campaign around, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor will soon be down to two candidates: Gwen Graham and Chris King.

Or maybe not.

Miami Beach mayor Phil Levine just announced that his political committee has $4 million in the bank. And on Monday, he launched a statewide, Sirius/XM radio-backed bus tour.

Nobody tours the state in a highly-publicized tour simply because they just want to hear what “alligator wranglers” and “NASA engineers” think (OK, how cool would it be if that were the same person?) and nobody raises the kind of money he has (in case you missed it, he is now the financial front-runner) unless that person is serious about running.

For months, many Democrats have dismissed Levine and his chances. We have heard the echoes — that he’s “too South Florida” (whatever that means) to win statewide.

C’mon people, the man is sitting on a cool four mil, has the capacity to write a check for a lot more, and is about to garner some serious press. Whether he runs as a Democrat or an independent, Levine could make a serious impact.

The days of poo-pooing Levine’s candidacy are over. The time to sit up and take notice is now.

Assignment editorsLevine continues his “A Day in the Sun” statewide bus tour beginning 9:45 a.m. at Chief Creole Café, 901 22nd St. S. in St. Petersburg; at 11:15 a.m., he will be at Service Source (Warrior Bridge Program), 2735 Whitney Road in Clearwater. Then, at 2 p.m. Levine will be at the Tarpon Sponge Company, 735 Dodecanese Blvd., #57 in Tarpon Springs. At 4 p.m., the mayor finishes the day at JC Newman Cigar Co., 2701 N. 16th St. in Tampa.

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

— BOB WHITE: AN ALTERNATIVE CHOICE FOR GOV? —

For Florida Republicans unsure who to support for governor in 2018, Bob White wants to give them a staunchly conservative alternative.

White, the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida, said recently that Republican primary voters don’t want the “same old” type of candidates. And that desire for a different perspective, White believes, could make him a serious player in the 2018 GOP primary, reports Mitch Perry with Florida Politics.

“I’m predicting that somebody’s going to win the Republican primary with less than 30 percent of the vote,” he said Friday in Tampa. “And that means anything can happen. So we just gotta find a way to organize the grassroots to get them motivated to get out there and help us.”

Bob White speaks to the Liberty Caucus of South Florida in June.

Rock-solid conservative on issues like abortion, Medicaid expansion, and the escalating national debt, his platform is serious about campaign finance reform. That’s not something you’re likely to hear from political insiders Adam Putnam, Jack Latvala or Richard Corcoran.

“I’m not going to be one of the big money candidates in this race, and that’s intentional,” he said. White is focusing on running against dark money and special interest contributions that he believes are fundamentally destroying the voice of the people in Florida’s legislative process.

“We’ve got to find a way to make that message, to get that message out because it resonates everywhere we go, every person we talk to about that issue agrees with us 100 percent and they become very fast supporters of ours,” he said.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Eye on governor bid, Richard Corcoran hires former Trump, Scott pollster” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaAs in 2010, the GOP movers and shakers in Tallahassee are rallying around a gubernatorial candidate … Adam Putnam who has about $10 million in the bank between his campaign and his Florida Grown political committee. And as happened seven years ago, Fabrizio said the establishment favorite could have trouble with his right flank. … Fabrizio is being paid through Corcoran’s new Watchdog PAC — an indication that the Speaker we’ll run for the state’s highest office in 2018. “It’s great to have someone of Tony’s experience in helping us push forward an agenda that helps Floridians,” Corcoran said.

– “Why shouldn’t Matt Gaetz run for Attorney General?” via Peter Schorsch

Naples Democrat David Holden says he’ll challenge Francis Rooney” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily NewsHolden, 58, has backing from local Democrats and liberal activists who have been more organized lately in the Republican-heavy district Donald Trump won handily. A financial adviser through Wells Fargo, Holden has a degree from Harvard and a record from New York of helping flip a few city council seats from red to blue. And he hopes to repeat that feat in Florida’s blood-red congressional District 19. “We are planning for a robust, serious campaign,” said Holden, describing himself as a “capitalistic” Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton and who wants to make Trump’s presidency a campaign issue. “Rooney is stuck with his terrible administration.”

Former Doral Councilmember may run for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat” via Amy Sherman of the Miami HeraldBettina Rodriguez Aguilera, a former Doral City Council member and Republican, said she is seriously considering a bid for Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in 2018. Rodriguez Aguilera was a council member from 2012 to 2014 when she lost to former councilman Pete Cabrera. She previously worked as the city’s economic development director. Rodriguez Aguilera owns Bettinara Enterprises, a company that assists people in understanding how government works. She also created a women’s leadership certificate program which she teaches at Miami Dade College. … “I am a Republican — I had to look at the choices,” she said. “I voted for who I believed at that point was the person that I needed to vote for but I would like to consider the issues and problems that the community has. Money and economic development do not have a Republican or Democratic stamp on it.”

Miami Senate district forum will be skipped by at least one major Republican candidate” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, one of the Republican rivals in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles, will not appear at a candidate forum at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus Wednesday night. “I spend my time with my voters not with elites,” he told the Miami Herald in a text confirming that he won’t attend. State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz said he will try to attend part of the forum, but it is scheduled the same evening when he will appear at a Univision event about the condo reform bill that he shepherded through this session along with a few other Miami-Dade lawmakers. Diaz and Portilla didn’t appear at a forum June 1 due to scheduling conflicts. The forums provide the rare opportunity for voters to hear multiple candidates at once before the July 25 primary in District 40.

More legislative hopefuls file for 2018 LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Democrat Olysha Eva Magruder has filed to challenge Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, in Senate District 8. Magruder has a Ph.D in education from the University of Florida and has held teaching positions at Alachua public schools, Santa Fe College, and the University of Florida. Republican Bibiana “Bibi” Potestad has filed to run in the race to replace Rep. Jeanette Nunez in House District 119. Potestad attended Barry University, where she studied political science and Spanish. She went to Ave Maria School of Law and worked for the 20th Judicial Circuit public defender’s office as a certified legal intern. Republican Enrique Lopez has also filed to run for the seat. Nunez can’t run for re-election because of term limits.

Save the date: Matt Caldwell will hold a fundraiser for his Agriculture Commissioner bid at 5 p.m. on July 24 at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, 2235 1st Street in Fort Myers.

Save the date: House Majority will hold a fundraiser for Rep. Mel Ponder at 6:30 p.m. on July 27 at Emerald Grande, 10 Harbor Blvd. in Destin. The fundraiser is hosted by Speaker Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

— ENDORSEMENT WATCH —

Randolph Bracy backs Andrew Gillum — State Sen. Bracy is endorsing the Tallahassee mayor for governor. “Orlando and Central Floridians can trust that Mayor Gillum will fight fiercely for the issues that matter most to us, from rebuilding our economy, fighting for healthcare as a right, standing up for public school students and teachers, and confronting our climate change crisis,” said Bracy in a statement. “He’s a true champion for all of us, and I’m excited to campaign with him this fall all the way through next year!” 

Clovis Watson backs Gwen Graham  — State Rep. Watson is endorsing the former U.S. Representative for governor. “Gwen Graham knows what’s at stake in this election. I’m inspired by her heart, passion, and dedication to defending our shared principles. Gwen is working to build a Florida that educates the young, cares for the sick, and embraces the persecuted,” he said in a statement. “And Gwen Graham is the best candidate in this race to bring together the broad collation necessary to win in Florida.” 

Bernie McCabe backs Ashley Moody in AG race — The Pinellas-Pasco state attorney is endorsing Republican Ashley Moody in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “Having spent decades prosecuting criminals in court, I know firsthand how important it is we have an Attorney General who knows how to prosecute criminals to keep their community safe,” said McCabe in a statement. “Ashley Moody’s experience as a federal prosecutor and a circuit court judge makes her the most qualified candidate to keep us safe.  Her knowledge and expertise in the law will be an asset to each and every Floridian.  I’m confident in her ability to use her impressive background to continue to strengthen our criminal justice system for generations to come.”

Chris Nocco backs Ed Hooper in SD 16 — The Pasco County Sheriff is endorsing Republican Ed Hooper in the race to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in Senate District 16. “I have known Ed Hooper both as a member of our community and when I worked as the Deputy Chief to Speaker Marco Rubio over ten years ago.  Ed Hooper will do an outstanding job representing all Pasco residents,” said Nocco in a statement. “As a career first responder, Ed clearly understands the need to protect our community. As I have seen firsthand in the past, Ed will ensure public safety will be a top priority in Tallahassee. His service and record demonstrate he will be an effective leader in the Senate.”

Sheriff Chris Nocco, one of the most popular politicians in the Tampa Bay region, is endorsing former state Rep. Ed Hooper for Senate District 16. Here, Nocco speaks at a March 2016 press conference.

Bob White backs Bill Gunter in HD 37 — Former Pasco County Sheriff Bob White is endorsing Republican Bill Gunter in the race to replace House Speaker Richard Corcoran in House District 37. “My friend Bill Gunter is an honorable man. He is an inspirational leader with the kind of conservative wisdom we need in Tallahassee. I know he will passionately protect our 2nd Amendment rights,” said White in a statement. “Bill understands the struggles families face every day. He will work to lower our taxes, reduce government regulations to help small businesses thrive, and defend our borders.” Gunter is one of three Republicans vying to replace Corcoran, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits. He’ll face George Agovino and Elle Rudisill.

John Newstreet gets Central Florida hotel group backing in HD 44 raceJohn Newstreet has received another major business association endorsement in the special election race for the open seat in Florida’s House District 44, with nods from two political committees representing the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association. Both the CFHLA political action committee and the CFHL political committee gave unanimous endorsements to Newstreet, president and chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, his campaign announced Monday. “Throughout this campaign, I have been consistently humbled by the outpouring of support given to my campaign,” he said in a statement. “I determined to go to Tallahassee and focus on growing our economy and look forward to working with the leaders of CFHLA and the other groups who have also endorsed this campaign.”

Retailers backs Jose Mallea in HD 116 — The Florida Retail Federation PAC is endorsing Jose Mallea in the special election to replace Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in House District 116. “As a brewer, accomplished small business owner, and someone who has signed the front of a paycheck, Jose is familiar with the changes that need to be made in order to strengthen and enhance Florida’s business community,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “We’re eager to see the impact Jose will make as the representative of House District 116, as we work with him on supporting Sunshine State businesses and retailers.”

— THE MONEY CHASE —

Florida Democrats report $3.5M haul, likely raised much less” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – FDP would not comment on the funding breakdown, but almost certainly including $607,000 in contributions from political committees run by the party’s highest priority campaigns, which is money not raised by the party and is generally spent on the specific campaign that raised the money. Each campaign’s aligned political committee is giving money to the party. That money, though, quickly flows through the party and is in turn spent on the campaigns, not other races or FDP expenses. It’s a common practice for campaigns, especially at the statewide level, to send money through the party to fund things like staff. Because statewide party’s have human resources departments, they are better positioned to be the entity to actually fund staffers for a campaign. If that money is removed, the party raised roughly $2.9 million, which is slightly more than the $2.6 million raised during the first six months of 2013. That’s the most comparable timeframe because it was a non-election year headed into a gubernatorial — not presidential — election cycle.

Jack Latvala committee posts more than $410K” – “Florida Leadership Committee” raised $410,649 during June, with nearly $3.55 million cash-on-hand. Latvala has been considering a bid to replace term-limited Gov. Scott. June contributions include $40,000 from Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer, $25,000 each from Eastern Shipbuilding Group of Panama City and TECO Energy.

– “Matt Caldwell raises $160K in June” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

– “After winning Speaker’s race, a quiet month of fundraising for Paul Renner” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

Big June haul for Clay Yarborough’s re-election campaign” via Florida PoliticsYarborough was not the establishment choice in the 2016 GOP primary in House District 12, as an incumbent the former Jacksonville City Council President continues to find traction with the donor class. The latest evidence for that claim: the June campaign finance report, which shows Yarborough bringing in $22,375 — by far, his biggest haul since filing for re-election months back. Some reliable Northeast Florida donors ponied up: among them, names like Robert Shircliff, J.B. Coxwell, Ty Petway, 4th Circuit Public Defender Charles Cofer, and Mac McGehee. Yarborough, defending a safe, deep-red seat on Jacksonville’s Southside, entered July with roughly $35,000 on hand.

Jason Fischer hauls in nearly $55K in June for re-election bid” via Florida Politics – Between Fischer’s campaign account and the account for his political committee, “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville,” Fischer brought in almost $55,000 for his 2018 re-election effort. Of that new money, a full $32,700 went into Fischer’s campaign account — pushing it over $51,000 on hand. Among the donors to the campaign account: some familiar campaign committees, including Sen. Travis Hutson‘s “Sunshine State Conservatives,” Rep. Travis Cummings‘ “First Coast Conservatives” and Rep. Paul Renner‘s “Florida Foundation for Liberty.” As well, the “JAXBIZ” committee of the Jax Chamber ponied up. Also on board: Peter Rummell and Michael Munz, via “RummellMunz Partners.” And the Gary Chartrand Trust.

— STATEWIDE — 

Rick Scott on GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare: ‘They can’t stop’” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — Gov. Rick Scott said federal lawmakers need to keep their word, and continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “They can’t stop,” said Scott following a stop in Fort Myers on Monday. “They all promised they were going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and they got to do it. … Scott has been vocal in his opposition to the current health care law, and has made several trips to Washington, D.C. to talk with federal lawmakers about repealing and replacing the law. He was last in the nation’s capital to talk with lawmakers about health care on June 27, the same day McConnell announced he would be delaying a vote on the bill. “The way I always look at it is … until you get results, you’re just working hard every day,” said Scott when asked whether he thought his discussions with federal lawmakers were productive. “It’s like the legislative process this session. We worked hard to get the money for Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, the money for schools. You work every day. Until it’s all done, you always wonder.”

At ease: Rick Scott, shown here in Fort Myers, talks state employee pay raises with law enforcement and correctional officers.

DSCC spokesman David Bergstein reacts: “First Scott bragged that he helped craft the toxic GOP healthcare plan that pikes costs by 20 percent, imposes an age tax on older Floridians and strips coverage for pre-existing conditions — all to give himself a big tax break. Now he’s demanding to ram this unpopular plan through Congress, even though the consequences for middle class Floridians would be expensive and horrific. It’s just another reminder that Scott is only ever looking out for himself — while Floridians who actually work for a living are paying the price.”

New York boots Armor Correctional; In Florida, Armor boss named to powerful commission” via Dan Christiansen of the Florida Bulldog – Armor Correctional Health Services paid $350,000 in penalties and agreed not to bid on or enter into any contract to provide jail health services in New York state for three years, settling formal charges brought in July 2016 by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The lawsuit was filed after a dozen inmates died since Armor was hired, including five found to have received inadequate medical care, Schneiderman’s office said. Five months later, however, Florida Gov. Scott appointed Armor Correctional founder and president Dr. Jose “Pepe” Armas to a coveted seat on the powerful Constitution Revision Commission that will recommend changes next year to the Florida Constitution. Armas and companies he controls have contributed nearly $300,000 to Scott’s election campaigns, his Let’s Get to Work political committees and to the Republican Partyof Florida.

“Pam Bondi ordered to respond to lawsuit over unregistered charities” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi on Monday was ordered to file a written response to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to donate millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, sitting in Tallahassee, also granted a request from Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith to seek “discovery” in the case—that is, to get information from Bondi’s office in preparation for a possible trial. Smith filed a petition for a “writ of quo warranto,” which demand government officials to prove their authority to perform a certain action. He did not attend Monday’s hearing. Russell Kent, Bondi’s special counsel for litigation, … also said he intends to ask the court for summary judgment in the case, allowing Bondi to win without a trial.

FPL installs first of 1 million new Treasure Coast solar panels as part of major statewide solar expansion” – Florida Power & Light Company installed the first of nearly 1 million new solar panels along the Treasure Coast at the future FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center in Indian River County. In all, FPL is installing more than 2.5 million solar panels across eight new 74.5-megawatt solar power plants by early 2018 – one of the largest solar expansions ever in the eastern U.S. Combined, the new solar power plants are comprised of more than 2.5 million solar panels with nearly 600 megawatts of solar capacity – enough energy to power 120,000 homes.

The first solar panel is lifted into place by (clockwise, from top right) Air Force Col. Martin Zickert (ret.), State Rep. Larry Lee, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy and Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss at the future FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, under construction in Indian River County, Fla., July 10, 2017. FPL is installing a total of more than 2.5 million solar panels across eight new solar power plants this year. Looking on are (from left) Peter D. O’Bryan, vice-chairman of the Indian River County Commission; Rev. David Newhart, pastor of St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Sebastian, Fla.; Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida; and Travis Baukol, senior project manager for FPL.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a ceremonial bill signing for a bill (HB 477) that created new penalties and enhanced existing penalties relating to synthetic opioid drugs, including fentanyl at 1 p.m. at the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center, 6050 Porter Way in Sarasota. He will hold a similar event at 3:45 p.m. at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, 3228 Gun Club Road in West Palm Beach.

“Now cancer-free, Dorothy Hukill says, ‘I’m back’ ” via Florida PoliticsAfter being pronounced cancer-free earlier this year, the state senator says she “feel(s) great” and already is “excited” to return to Tallahassee for next year’s Legislative Session. She’s also back in the saddle in her district. The Port Orange Republican’s schedule is packed this week: There’s a grand-opening event for a Titusville space-supplies firm, a speech at the Titusville Chamber of Commerce, and post-Legislative Session round-ups before the Lake Helen City Commission and at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce … “I am back,” she said Monday. “Through the grace of God, friends and family, a great medical team, and a great Senate family, I am feeling wonderful.”

Lawmakers blast Brevard move to oppose Puerto Rican statehood” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Republican Reps. Bob Cortes and Rene “Coach” Plasencia and Democrats John Cortes and Shevrin Jones … all four identify themselves as being of Puerto Rican descent and say the county’s proposal is unnecessary, improper and counter-productive. “Your constituents elected you to tend to county matters,” their letter reads. “Not only is the issue of Puerto Rican statehood outside your jurisdiction, but it is improper for you to attempt interference in the democratic process in Puerto Rico. Ninety-seven percent of the island’s voters supported statehood. You should be focusing on Brevard County issues, not attempting to thwart the will of the Puerto Rican electorate.” The resolution, to be voted by the county board, is sponsored by a former Republican state legislator, John Tobia of Melbourne Beach, who’s one of five Brevard commissioners. His resolution says the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico faces $123 billion in debt that is “in large part a result of socializing private industry,” and that making the island the nation’s 51st state would shift much of that financial burden to American taxpayers.

Hate late report cards? New Florida law could make them later next spring” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – One of the delays in the area and across Florida was the delivery of state test results, which factor in to several marks. The end-of-course exams for Algebra II, geometry, U.S. history and biology, for instance, count for 30 percent of the course grades. Once districts get the data, they have to run it through their systems and then create the report cards, either online or printed. This year, the statutory deadline for the state to deliver that information was the week of June 8. Beginning next year, that deadline moves back three weeks. As part of HB 7069, lawmakers heeded educators’ call to push the state testing window closer to the end of the school year. By pushing back the tests, though, the state also pushed back their scoring. The law now gives the Department of Education until June 30 to deliver the test results, with the exception of third-grade language arts, which has a May 31deadline. That change in turn will postpone the completion of report cards

Tampa Bay officials criticize Legislature for failing to tackle opioid epidemic” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – A health official in Tampa said he hopes lawmakers don’t cut state funding just because the feds kicked in $1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic gripping the country. Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act during its lame duck session, which includes the billion dollars toward anti-opioid efforts. In the state budget that started July 1, “Florida actually reduced by $11 million for what is spent on mental health and substance abuse funding,” said Joseph Rutherford, the CEO of Gracepoint, a nonprofit behavioral health organization in the Tampa Bay-area. Rutherford was one of more than a dozen local health care officials who met with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor at the offices of DACCO (Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office) in East Tampa. “We fought hard on a bipartisan basis in Washington thru the 21st Century Cures Law to provide extra dollars for states and communities to fight the opioid epidemic,” the Tampa Democrat told reporters. “It never would have crossed my mind that the state of Florida, that is last in funding substance abuse and mental health, would take that as a cue to reduce their state commitment, so we need to look for ways to make sure that doesn’t happen when the federal dollars flow back home.”

New College of Florida to request $3.6M from state as part of three-year growth plan” via Florida Politics — The New College of Florida board of trustees on Monday voted to approve its fiscal 2018-19 legislative budget request. The 2018 request includes a single item — more than $3.63 million to fund the second year of a three-year plan to grow enrollment to 1,200 and increase four-year graduation rates. Founded in 1960, the Sarasota college had a total enrollment of 861 students in the fall of 2015. While the school is recognized as one of the nation’s leading liberal arts schools, New College officials have said the school’s small size could be hampering its success. “Outside the Claremont consortium, ever liberal arts college ranked in the top 40 has at least 1,200 students,” according to a staff report to the school’s board of trustees. “With fewer students, it becomes difficult to sustain the broad range of academic disciplines common to high-quality to sustain the institutions and the activities to student development.” The requested funding, according to a staff analysis, will “support strategic initiatives in three key areas: academic excellence, student development and infrastructure. … The Legislature approved $5.4 million as part of the fiscal 2017-18 budget to implement the first year of the growth plan. The first year of the three-year growth plan was unanimously approved by the Board of Governors as a system-wide priority last year, and school officials said Monday they are hopeful the second year of funding will be a system-wide priority this year.

— WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? —

Florida lawmakers must submit an annual financial disclosure report; this year, those reports were due July 3. Among the highlights from the reports.

– Although the state pays them less than $30,000 a year, lawmakers have an average net worth of $2.14 million, with at least 45 millionaires.

– More than 100 lawmakers got richer this year, and 22 decreased in net worth.

– Of the 35 reports yet to be filed, nine are from members worth more than $1.5 million as of last year, led by Michael Bileca, one of the founders of Towncare Dental Partnership, who reported a net worth of about $18.4 million.

– Last year, a dozen members of both chambers reported negative finances, with Zephyrhills Republican Rep. Danny Burgess topping the list with a negative $253,100, mostly in student loans.

– Of reports already turned in, eight lawmakers are underwater.

– Several lawmakers turned their finances around, including St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton, who went from a negative $17,473 to a positive $24,445. Newton is a professional photographer.

— OPINIONS —

Thank our Legislature and Governor for putting students first” via Collier County School Board Vice Chair Erica Donalds for the Naples Daily News – Here are a few questions for readers to ask themselves to determine their own opinion on HB 7069. Are you in favor of fully funding the parent-lauded Gardiner Scholarship so that Florida students with special needs and serious, rare diseases can continue to have access to a customized education? How about expanding access to virtual education to all students, saving taxpayers more than $300,000 by letting students continue participating in Florida Virtual School? Do you want teachers to have more time to teach by pushing back testing to the last few weeks of the school year? How about getting students off the screens and going back to paper and pencil testing in elementary schools? The governor has taken advantage of a great opportunity in HB 7069 by expanding educational opportunities for students, rewarding hardworking teachers and ensuring parents have the tools they need to help their children succeed.

New sober-house laws are good, but we need bigger plan” via the Palm Beach Post – The new law is a great step forward: Sober-home telemarketers have to register with the state — a curb against patient brokering. There’s a clearer legal definition of kickbacks. Owners, directors and clinical supervisors of treatment centers must undergo background checks. This is not a time for officials to take a bow, however. It’s time to use these fresh tools and crack down. And it’s time to ask, what do we tackle next? Because this plague is getting worse. Opioids, mainly fentanyl and heroin, have killed 2,664 people in Florida in the first six months of this year – an average of 14 people per day. At this rate, fatal overdoses will outpace last year’s count by 36 percent. In Palm Beach County alone, overdoses spiked to 311 in the first five months of this year, 20 percent more than the first five months of 2016. That’s more American lives than were lost in the Vietnam War. It’s five times more Americans than are killed each year in gun homicides. The pace of destruction is stepping up. And so must our response.

Legislative pre-emptions give more power to the powerful” via Rich Templin for the Tallahassee Democrat Wage theft has become an epidemic nationally and the numbers are especially high in Florida. The Legislature refused to act on this crisis so local governments have stepped in, establishing wage recovery programs all over the state. For years now, the Florida Retail Federation have tried, and failed, to have the Legislature ban these local programs. What some local governments have done is enact living wage ordinances for themselves and their contractors who perform public services with the public’s money. These ordinances are part of local economic development strategies that pump dollars into local cash registers, ensuring that the taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck for publicly funded projects and services … That’s what these pre-emptions are about, shifting power away from the government that is closest to the people to the geographically and psychologically remote halls of the Capitol. This situation is becoming increasingly dire as legislation was filed this year that would remove all authority from local governments to regulate businesses. The voices pushing back on these pre-emptions are vital and should be encouraged.

— MOVEMENTS —

New and renewed lobby registrations

Brian Ballard, Ballard Partners: Florida Juvenile Justice Association; TelePharm, LLC.; Crown Castle USA Inc.

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Estate of Eric Tenner; Saferenting.org

Colleen Castille, Colleen Castille, Inc.: Village of Key Biscayne

Chris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Crown Castle USA, Inc.

Rosanna Manuela Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: Marsy’s Law for All

Chris Hansen, Ballard Partners: TelePharm, LLC.

Danny Jordan, Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Telaforce

Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Florida Electric Cooperatives Association

Personnel note – Nabilah Islam, one of the Florida Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, got called up to the majors last week. The FDP Finance Director resigned her post on Friday and those in the know said she was taking a new position at the Democratic National Committee. FDP hasn’t announced whether it will bring in new blood to replace Islam or turn to someone already in their ranks.

“Personnel note: Ken Kahn named to EFI board” via Florida PoliticsKahn was appointed to the Enterprise Florida (EFI) Board of Directors, Senate President Joe Negron announced Monday. The appointment begins immediately and expires July 5, 2021. “Ken understands firsthand the opportunities available to businesses seeking to locate or expand here in Florida,” Negron said.

Personnel note – Lewis, Longman & Walker announced that attorney Fredrick Aschauer, Jr. will join the firm’s Tallahassee office as Of Counsel next week. LLW said Aschauer will bring expertise in matters governed by Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Clean Water Act. Aschauer, an FSU law school alumnus, previously served as General Counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Education.

Personnel note – Republican Mary Thomas, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress against freshman U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn last year, has picked up a job in the Office of Justice Programs. Thomas was appointed to the position last month according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Before running in the new CD 2, the FSU law school alumna held a pair of positions in the Scott administration, including serving as general counsel for the Department of Elder Affairs.

— BUDWEISER UNVEILS FLORIDA-THEMED CONTAINER —

New state-themed cans and bottles pays tribute to the 12 Budweiser breweries across the country. Packaging is specific to Florida, California (with two Budweiser breweries), Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

On shelves from July to September 2017, each of the 11 states will enjoy custom packaging, with custom copy changes such as: “Budweiser” on cans and bottles being replaced with each state name; the center medallion “AB” monogram updated with state initials; “King of Beers” swapped to include each individual state motto and “Anheuser-Busch Inc.” replaced with each state nickname.

In addition to packaging, local Budweiser breweries will celebrate with a variety of events including: Host brewery open houses – inviting homegrown communities to experience the brand firsthand alongside local food, music and custom merchandise. The World-Famous Budweiser Clydesdales will also be making appearances at each brewery open house throughout the summer. Radio spots in each market, will featuring local Budweiser brewmasters and/or brewery general managers.

— ALOE —

Disney dropping controversial bride auction scene from Pirates of the Caribbean ride” via Sarah Rumpf of the Orlando Political Observer – The scene involves animatronic female characters who are tied up in front of a banner that says “Auction: Take a Wench for a Bride.” A redheaded woman who is taking her turn on the auction block smiles and twirls back and forth in a brightly colored dress as a pirate calls out “We want the redhead!” The scene was designed to play on pirate tropes but has long been criticized for being sexist. Another scene that showed pirates chasing after women was changed a few years ago to have the women carrying trays of food, implying that the pirates were just hungry, instead of the original rape-and-pillage context, and some of the women chasing the men … the scene will be redesigned with the redheaded woman taking the role of auctioneer instead of chattel to be sold, inviting the townspeople to “surrender yer loot” At   a more traditional auction.

Disney’s newest timeshare opens with a rustic railroad theme” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The theme pays homage to Walt Disney’s passion for trains. Copper Creek Villas & Cabins open July 17 as the 14th Disney Vacation Club option and the second at the Wilderness Lodge. The “rustically elegant accommodations” include lakeside cabins with hot tubs and 2,400-square-foot grand villas that sleep 12. The 26 cabins sleep up to eight and feature two bedrooms, two baths, stone fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Bay Lake. The 1,300-square-foot cabins have wrap-around screened porches and hot tubs with views of the Electrical Water Pageant. Decorations include reclaimed glass and reconstructed art pieces from Carolwood Pacific Railroad, the train that Walt Disney had in his California backyard. Beamed ceilings and distressed wooden floors, which were hand-scraped to look like they came from a sawmill, give that pioneer feel in the three-bedroom grand villas. Deluxe studios and one- and two-bedroom villas round out the five accommodation options.

Happy birthday to Rep. Cynthia Stafford and our friends Brett Cyphers and James Harris.

COUNTDOWN TO THE PREMIERE OF GAME OF THRONES — 

– “I have waited 20 years for this season of Game of Thrones” via Alex Cranz of Gizmodo

Why Jon Snow’s Season 5 fate still matters going forward” via Josh Wigler of the Hollywood Reporter – The King in the North cheated death once before, and here’s why we think he’ll face it again in the next season of ‘Thrones.’ It’s even unclear what form Jon will take when Martin’s next novel, The Winds of Winter, eventually comes to light. There are those who believe Jon transferred his consciousness into his direwolf Ghost shortly before succumbing to that fourth knife from his traitorous brothers in black; earlier in the same novel, someone observes that Snow’s gifts as a warg are far more powerful than Jon understands. Clearly, the show went a different way, with Melisandre (Carice van Houten) responsible for breathing fire back into Jon’s lungs. But even if we assume that the book’s Jon will return in his same mortal vessel, it won’t be without some serious scars. The show’s version of the character has more or less moved on from his visit to the great beyond. The book’s version stands to be a bit more physically traumatized by the experience, certainly, and potentially on an existential level as well — and right now, the show has a way of getting the two Jon Snows on the same page.

Game of Thrones costume designer reveals two game-changing meetings in Season 7” via Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair – According to costumer Michele Clapton, the game in Westeros is about to significantly change. Everyone is dressing like their ancestors, whether it’s Cersei giving a nod to Tywin, Daenerys finally donning the Targaryen colors of red and black, or Jon Snow looking more like Ned Stark than ever. “That’s a big, heavy cape,” she says, referring to Jon’s new fur-lined Season 7 look. “And yes, it is him as Ned, but he’s actually not Ned.” The newly crowned King in the North is taking his more practical, cozy fashion cues from “over-the-Wall” Wildling style as well. After all, winter is here. Intriguingly, Clapton also says that Jon won’t always be wearing furs and capes this season. Jon will be meeting not one queen, but two this season—and the second time, he’ll be wearing that regal Northern cape. “When he went to see Cersei,” Clapton says, “we put it on.”

Fans created an animated Game of Thrones prequel to get HBO’s attention” via Kwame Opam of The Verge – “Doom of Valyria” is an animated pilot specifically created to get HBO’s attention. It follows characters in the Freehold of Valyria, the ancient civilization where Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors hail from, right before its collapse. Taking place centuries before Game of Thrones, we get to see what life among the dragonlords was like. (It turns out, it was just as dramatic and incestuous as anything in the TV show!) The pilot is the work of YouTube’s Patrick McCarthy, the animator behind the Family Guy parody series “Stewie Potter.” “Doom of Valyria” took two years to complete, and it shows, from the style to the research pulled from A Song of Ice and Fire and The World of Ice and Fire. It’s hard to imagine HBO going out of its way to buy this effort, but it’s pretty clear that the period around the Doom is rich and full of potential stories. It would honestly be great to see something like this adapted into a live-action series.

Why shouldn’t Matt Gaetz run for Attorney General?

Why doesn’t Matt Gaetz run for Attorney General in 2018?

Increasingly, this is a question buzzing from the Panhandle to the Potomac.

The din about Gaetz entering the 2018 AG field is only getting louder now that it appears that Ron DeSantis will run for Governor and not the top law enforcement post.

So far only former circuit court judge Ashley Moody (definitely a comer) and state Rep. Jay Fant (not exactly a household name) are in the race. This leaves a lot of room for another candidate from the conservative wing of the Republican party to join the fray.

For much of his career, the first-term Republican congressman has proved adept at getting traction for significant issues and his pet projects. In Florida politics, Gaetz earned his reputation for oratory skills, pointed humor and blunt talk, as well as mastering social media and the internet to get things done.

As we noted in 2015: “Even those who disagree … concede that the only place Gaetz is more brilliant than he is when delivering a speech on the floor of the Florida House is when he is at a keyboard or on his smartphone and broadcasting to his friends and followers.”

Having the last name Gaetz doesn’t hurt either, being the son of North Florida political scion Don Gaetz. Name ID is definitely a commodity that could serve him well, particularly compared to those now in the AG race.

And he certainly isn’t afraid to make waves, especially when he proposed a bill February to “completely abolish” the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans,” he wrote. “It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently.”

While the proposal didn’t play well in some circles, it certainly solidified his base in the Panhandle. That, and the fact that he didn’t shy away from holding (occasionally contentious) town halls with constituents in several not-at-all-ironic “Open Gaetz Days.” He certainly isn’t afraid to play a possibly unfriendly room, unlike some of his congressional colleagues.

No doubt, moves like that take a courage of conviction, as well as more than a little chutzpah – another plus for a statewide run.

So tell us again why shouldn’t Gaetz throw his hat into the ring?

 

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