Florida – Florida Politics

Last Call for 7.19.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

The 4th District Court of Appeal shot down an appeal over whether slot machines can be expanded to “charter” counties that OK’d them in local referendums.

The company that owns Palm Beach Kennel Club had sued, seeking to add slots. A trial judge found against the track, and the appellate court affirmed without explanation in a 1-page ruling.

Last May, a unanimous Supreme Court denied slot machines to a track in Gretna, Gadsden County, and in other counties that passed local referendums authorizing slots. The opinion by Justice Charles Canady found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The opinion said the “general power of non-charter counties to ‘carry on county government’ does not constitute authorization to conduct a referendum to approve slot machine gaming.”

Palm Beach, however, is a charter county. (“Charters are formal written documents that confer powers, duties, or privileges on the county,” according to the Florida Association of Counties.)

But state gambling regulators said all counties’ slots referendums weren’t allowed under a constitutional amendment narrowly passed by statewide voters in 2004.

John Lockwood, the Tallahassee-based lawyer for the Investment Corporation of Palm Beach, said he and his client “are reviewing our options.” The next stop would be the state Supreme Court.

Evening Reads

Florida accepts election security money. Now counties await their checks” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott PAC’s massive fundraising gets a controversial assist” via Lachlan Markay of The Daily Beast

Chris King’s health care plan expands Medicaid, boosts telemedicine” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco endorses Denise Grimsely for Ag. Commissioner” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Despite privatization, Florida prison health costs continue to rise” via Julia Ochoa of Health News Florida

How the Florida insurance industry hopes to rein in AOB crisis” via Amy O’ Connor of Insurance Journal

How dirty is Miami real estate? Secret home deals dried up when feds started watching” via Nicholas Nehamas and Rene Rodriguez

Could giant ads and parks named after corporations solve Miami Beach’s budget woes?” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald

A veterans organization was having a fundraiser at Publix. Then a man took off with their money” via Samantha Putterman

Florida scientists discover deepwater shark species ‘Genie’s Dogfish’” via Wayne Price of Florida Today

Quote of the Day

“This is not a man who cares about our environment.” — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, on Gov. Rick Scott.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

Gov. Scott holds a news conference to highlight job growth. That’s at 10 a.m., Hull’s Seafood Market and Restaurant, 111 W. Granada Blvd., Ormond Beach.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will release June unemployment numbers at 10 a.m.

State Sen. Dana Young, a Republican seeking re-election to Senate District 18, begins a get-out-the-vote “Super Weekend.” That’s at 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 809 S. Albany Ave., Tampa. Volunteers are asked to wear comfortable shoes for door-to-door visits.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican, is expected to take part in a “coffee with the candidate” event in Lake County. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Lake County Republican Party office, 212 West Main St., Tavares.

The Panhandle Tiger Bay Club is slated to hold a debate in Florida’s 1st Congressional District. Candidates in the race are Republican incumbent Matt Gaetz, Republicans Cris Dosev and John Mills, and Democrats Phil Ehr and Jennifer Zimmerman. That’s at noon, Skopelos at New World, 600 South Palafox St., Pensacola.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will join supporters for a Sarasota County “meet and greet.” That’s at 3 p.m., Historic Venice Train Depot, 303 East Venice Ave., Venice.

State Rep. Amber Mariano holds a fundraiser as she seeks re-election to House District 36. That’s at 6 p.m., Kickin Wingz, 8702 State Road 52, Hudson.

Candidates for statewide offices and political committees face a Friday deadline to file reports showing finance activity through July 13.

Last Call for 7.18.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

He’s not going anywhere, a Tallahassee judge told lawmakers.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this week denied a request from House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to take himself off an environmental funding lawsuit.

On June 28, Dodson had granted a “final (summary) judgment for (the) plaintiffs” in a case over how lawmakers fund environmental conservation. Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial.

The legislative leaders later asked Dodson to disqualify himself, saying he violated their constitutional rights “in multiple ways, and over repeated objections.”

The suit, first filed in 2015, was over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1, passed by almost 75 percent of voters the year before.

The measure requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years.

Advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

Dodson agreed, declaring a laundry list of 2015 and 2016 appropriations unconstitutional.

Lawmakers have since asked for a rehearing in the case, which Dodson will likely deny, setting the case up for appeal.

Evening Reads

Amid cyber-worries, election tensions persist between counties and state” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Pam Bondi to campaign for Adam Putnam in Orlando” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Weeks after allegations surfaced, Ron DeSantis still silent on Jim Jordan” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene sinks millions into campaign” via The News Service of Florida

Philip Levine and business partner sell properties for $69 million” via Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald

Matt Gaetz says he’s done appearing on Alex Jones’ show” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Carlos Curbelo set to introduce carbon tax bill Monday” via Amy Harder of Axios

FDOT internal SunPass emails reveal attempt to hide problems” via Noah Pransky of 10 News

Teen allegedly raped by University of Miami football players sues school” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New Times

MLB player poll: Rays (and Marlins) fans are the ‘worst’” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“(Adam) Putnam’s own self-inflicted wounds have left him exposed.” — Liberal activist group American Bridge, in a mailer out this week on the GOP candidate for Governor.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

 

Wake Up Early?

The Economic Estimating Conference will discuss interest rates used in appropriations. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on preserving and expanding military installations, will meet. That’s at 9 a.m., Hampton Inn and Suites Miami South-Homestead, 2855 N.E. Ninth St., Homestead.

The Economic Estimating Conference will discuss Florida economic issues. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission will meet and take up a series of issues, including a proposal to set aside nearly $13.3 million to help fund operations of the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use. That’s at 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The Florida Transportation Commission will hold a conference call, with the agenda including a discussion of the state’s most dangerous roads and highways. That’s at 10 a.m. The call-in number is 850-414-4978 and the participant code is 181217.

Attorney General Pam Bondi will join her fellow Florida Cabinet member, Republican gubernatorial candidate Putnam, for the grand opening of Team Putnam Orlando Campaign Office. That’s at 2:30 p.m., 660 W. Fairbanks Ave., Suite 1, Winter Park.

Democratic candidates in Florida’s 27th Congressional District are slated to debate in Miami-Dade County. That’s at 6 p.m., St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 2750 McFarlane Road, Miami.

Last Call for 7.17.18 – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shots

Click here for the (surprising) results from our poll of the GOP primary for Florida governor.

Even nudity needs a lobbyist in Florida.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported Tuesday that officials at VISIT FLORIDA were clutching their pearls after The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) Florida “tout(ed) a partnership with (the agency) to increase a niche marketing effort.”

The state’s tourism marketing agency was shocked – shocked – to learn that the ‘naturalism’ group was promoting itself as a VF partner.

“It was embellished. We are not participating in any marketing collaboration with this organization,” said VF spokesman Stephen Lawson.

Lawson “downplayed” the relationship, saying “the nudist group is a partner in that it paid $395 to VISIT FLORIDA for a ‘small business partner’ designation,” the Democrat reported.

Ramon Maury Jr., the lobbyist for AANR Florida, told the newspaper his client received a grant “to produce an electronic magazine for the purpose of promoting Florida naturalism to the globe.”

“It wasn’t an embellishment,” Maury said. “All we wanted to do was … attract more visitors to the state of Florida.”

Evening Reads

Rick Scott campaign promise to return phone calls draws criticism” via Skyler Swisher of the Sun Sentinel

How guns are weighing down Adam Putnam’s bid for Florida governor” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Andrew Gillum sees his path in five-way primary” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Koch-backed group creates new Florida political committee” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Tom Steyer’s ‘NextGen Climate’ opens state-level political committee” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

Can Democrats flip this Florida congressional seat? Fundraising suggests…perhaps?” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

The Florida Legislature keeps stomping on local laws” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix

Details emerge of Volusia juvenile center rot: ‘We got all 3 officers trapped in there’ ” via Patricio Balona of the News Journal

FSU will relocate statue of slave owner, seek to rename law school” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

MLB commissioner confident Rays owner is ‘going to get’ stadium deal done” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“He’s been a hypocrite.” —Rick Scott, referring to Bill Nelson, over Nelson using contractors instead of employees to run his campaign and thereby avoid payroll taxes and benefits costs.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The State Board of Education will meet in Central Florida and discuss issues such as the new “hope scholarship” program, charter-school cases from Palm Beach County and turnaround option plans for schools. That’s at 9 a.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

The Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors, which helps administer settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, will discuss a series of proposals. That’s at 10:30 a.m. Central time, Walton County Commission chamber, 571 U.S. 90 East, DeFuniak Springs.

Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to appear at a campaign event with Republican candidate for governor Ron DeSantis. Also expected to appear are U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. That’s at 2 p.m., B.B. King’s Blues Club, 9101 International Dr., Orlando.

The Villages Republican Club, Villagers for Trump, the Sumter County Republican Executive Committee and the Republican Federated Women of The Villages will hold a forum for GOP gubernatorial candidates. Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam will participate. That’s at 3 p.m., The Savannah Regional Recreation Center, 1575 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody holds a Gulfport fundraiser. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Pasadena Yacht & Country Club, 6300 Pasadena Point Blvd. S., Gulfport. Recommended contribution is $500.

Former Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican, will hold a campaign event in his bid to return to the Legislature in Sarasota County’s House District 72. Pilon is trying to unseat Rep. Margaret Good, a Democrat. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Extra Innings Sarasota, 717 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will hold a meeting about shore-based shark fishing. That’s at 6 p.m. State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Library and Learning Center, 5840 26th St. West, Bradenton.

The Women’s Foundation of Florida will hold a “Women on the Run” event in Palm Beach County to help mentor and train women to run for office. That’s at 6 p.m., Mandel Public Library, 411 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.

The five major Democratic candidates for governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Palm Beach real-estate investor Jeff Greene, Orlando-area entrepreneur Chris King and former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine — will debate at 7 p.m., Florida Gulf Coast University, Cohen Center, 10501 FGCU Blvd. South, Fort Myers. The debate will be aired in Southwest Florida on WINK TV and will be streamed online at winknews.com.

Delegation for 7.17.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Q2 fundraising shaping congressional races

Most of the campaign finance reports for the second quarter are in. While it will take some time for the Federal Elections Commission to compile and make all of them public, some interesting results are known.

The numbers show that most of the races under the microscope earlier this year remain that way. For example, Gov. Rick Scott’s $10.7 million quarter was $6.1 million better than incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, but Nelson still has $13.7 million in the bank for the stretch run.

Bill Nelson, Rick Scott: among the more interesting cash races in 2018.

As many as nine congressional races are worthy of special attention.

Four open seats

In the Republican-leaning District 6 seat being vacated by Ron DeSantis, Democrat Nancy Soderberg has nearly $1 million cash on hand while Republican Michael Waltz has just over $600,000.

Republican John Ward has seen a controversial remark cost him dearly. A slow quarter, helped by calls to drop out of the race, dropped his cash on hand from over $700,000 to under $500,000 in the second quarter.

The GOP-leaning District 15 open seat held by Republican Dennis Ross shows Democrat Kristen Carlson outpacing everyone with a total of $247,000 raised and $192,000 on hand followed by another Democrat, Andrew Learned with $223,000 raised and $65,000 cash on hand. Among Republicans, Ross Spano has raised $157,000 with $108,000 on hand followed by former Republican state Rep. Neal Combee, who reported raising $128,000 with $86,000 cash on hand.

Two Republicans are fighting it out for the solid red District 17 seat of Tom Rooney. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez and state Sen. Greg Steube have both raised over $400,000 since announcing their candidacy and both have over $300,000 cash on hand. No one else in either party is close.

While not all figures were yet available, Democratic state Rep. David Richardson, the well-known Donna Shalala and foundation executive Matt Haggman, have all raised more than $1 million in District 27. Those numbers for Richardson and Shalala are aided by $500,000 in self-loans from each candidate to their respective campaigns.

Republicans are led by Maria Elvira Salazar with nearly $600,000 cash on hand, while Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is down to less than $180,000 cash on hand.

Two Democratic primaries

Two Democratic primaries also bear watching. In the solid blue District 5, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown raised $165,000 for the quarter and over $332,000 in all, while first-term incumbent Al Lawson of Tallahassee brought his total to $455,000. Lawson has $219,000 cash on hand, while Brown’s total was unavailable.

The solidly Democratic Orlando region District 9 race between incumbent Darren Soto and former Rep. Alan Grayson had Soto with $364,000 cash on hand and Grayson with nearly $700,000 as of March 31. Second quarter figures were not yet available.

Three Democratic targets for flips

Democrats believe they have a chance to knock out three GOP incumbents this fall. In GOP-leaning District 16, Republican Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key has raised $2.1 million with $2.5 million cash on hand. Democratic challenger David Shapiro has raised more than $1 million and has $785,000 cash on hand.

In Republican-leaning District 18, Republican Brian Mast of Palm City has raised nearly $4 million and has nearly $2 million in the bank. Democrat Lauren Baer has raised a respectable $1.5 million with $1 million cash on hand.

Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s Democratic-leaning District 26 is a prime target for Democrats. He has raised $3.6 million and has $2.6 million still available. Democratic challenger Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has raised $1.6 million and has $1.26 million still on hand.

Trump’s refusal to call out Putin brings strong reactions

Going into Monday’s summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, delegation members had two pieces of advice for Trump. Several Democratic members said he should cancel the meeting, while Republicans urged caution.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian military officials for election meddling, a group of Democrats said the meeting should not go forward.

“I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.”

In a tweet, Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch ticked off the Russian transgressions, then added Trump “should cancel his meeting with Putin. Democratic Rep. Val Demings of Orlando expressed the same view during a segment on MSNBC.

Rubio did not call for Trump to cancel the meeting but warned the president to be “clear-eyed” about who he was dealing with. By Monday afternoon in the U.S., Democrats were outraged when Trump would not call out Putin for meddling, instead laying blame for deteriorating U.S./Russian relations as the feet of both countries.

“The president’s refusal to acknowledge that Putin interfered in our elections should alarm us all,” tweeted Nelson. “Putin is a threat to our democracy and our upcoming election, that’s a fact. The president’s unwillingness to stand up to him and defend our nation is unacceptable and embarrassing.”

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park said, “While every patriotic American wants to see U.S.-Russia relations improve in a way that advances U.S. interests, that will only happen if President Trump holds Putin’s Russia accountable for its reprehensible actions around the world, including its interference in our democracy.”

Floridians’ response seemed tame when compared to former CIA Director John Brennan, who called Trump’s comments “nothing short of treasonous.”

 Rubio, Nelson hope snowbirds can stay longer

Both U.S. Senators from Florida want to keep the welcome mat out for Canadians who visit the state and stay for the winter. In fact, they like them so much, both Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio want to allow them to stay longer without restrictions.

Part-time Canadian residents, often referred to as snowbirds, may visit the U.S. without visas and stay for up to six months before being considered residents and being charged income taxes. Rubio and Nelson jointly filed the Canadian Snowbird Act, which would extend non-taxable stays in the U.S. to eight months.

Calling all snowbirds: Bill Nelson, Marco Rubio back bill to help Canadians stay a little longer in Florida.

“It’s no secret that Canadians love to visit Florida in the winter,” said Nelson. “The millions of Canadian snowbirds who visit our state each year play an important role in our state’s tourism-driven economy. Allowing them to stay even longer is a win for them and for the local economies they visit.”

If the new bill becomes law, Canadian citizens over the age of 50 could stay here for 240 days, or eight months, though they would be expressly prohibited from working for American employers or seeking public assistance in the U.S.

A similar bill was filed nearly a year ago in the House by Republican Elise Stefanik of New York and joined by Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and Duncan Hunter of California. The bill, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 11 members of the delegation, has not had a hearing.

 

Delegation outraged over Nicaraguan violence

Government crackdowns of protesters in Nicaragua has killed more than 270 people over the last few months, but the killing of two students over the weekend has caused international outrage. Several members of the delegation are calling for Marxist President Daniel Ortega to face consequences.

Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called Ortego a coward, while Rubio said: “if his violence leads to a bloodbath, he will face consequences.” Nelson expressed fear Nicaragua could be following the path of Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro.

Members of the delegation are calling for Marxist Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega to face repercussions.

Senior members of the delegation have been trying to rally a response for weeks.

In June, Ros-Lehtinen led a Congressional effort urging the Trump administration to strongly support the Nicaraguan people resisting totalitarianism. She and U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, a New Jersey Democrat, penned a bipartisan, bicameral letter calling for action.

Both Florida Senators were signees to the letter along with Republican Representatives Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo, along with Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Ortega has been in power since 2007.

Gaetz celebrates passage of ‘Reef Assassin’ amendment

To combat the damage being done by invasive fish species, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz introduced the “Reef Assassin Act” last year to provide incentives to the public in the effort to eliminate lionfish from coastal areas. Last week, Gaetz’s bill became an amendment to a larger fisheries bill, which passed the House 222-193.

The Gaetz proposal allows individuals to exchange lionfish for tags authorizing fishing for certain species in addition to the number of such species otherwise authorized to be taken by such individuals, and for other purposes.

Matt Gaetz is celebrating the passage of ‘Reef Assassin’ bill. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The lionfish population has exploded over the last three decades; they can now be found throughout the Atlantic coast, the Bahamas, and the Gulf of Mexico. A single female lionfish releases 30,000 eggs every two to four days — two million eggs per year.

In a news release, Gaetz says lionfish “have caused billions of dollars of economic damage. If nothing is done to mitigate the lionfish infestation, fisheries throughout the southeastern United States will be forced to close.”

While Gaetz had 11 co-sponsors for his stand-alone bill, five delegation Republicans were among the 15 Republicans voting no on the larger measure. Those members included Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart, Francis Rooney, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Rutherford receives security association’s ‘Legislator of the Year’ award

One of 2018’s high profile pieces of legislation, the Stop School Violence Act, has led to its House sponsor receiving a national award. The Security Industry Association has named the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville as a winner of its annual award.

John Rutherford, shown with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

The award is presented annually to members of Congress and other elected officials who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in advancing legislation and policies that encourage the effective use of technology solutions to enhance public safety and security and protect critical infrastructure.

Rutherford’s bill earned 100 co-sponsors, including 17 bipartisan members of the delegation. It passed the House on March 14 by a vote of 407-10.

Other recipients included Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who sponsored the Senate version of Rutherford’s bill. In addition, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan, and GOP Rep. Dan Donovan of New York were cited.

The winners were honored at the industry’s “government summit” held in Washington.

Soto lands endorsement from Social Security, Medicare advocates

Another endorsement for re-election has come to Soto for his re-election bid. Last week, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare gave a thumbs up to the first term Congressman in his bid for a second term against Grayson.

Darren Soto is recognized for his work with Medicaid, Social Security advocates. 

“You are a key ally in the effort to serve the needs of seniors and their families,” committee president Max Richtman said in an endorsement letter. “National Committee members know they can continue to count on you in the United States House of Representatives.”

Many groups, including the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood, have opted to back Soto over Grayson in the primary race, though Grayson this week landed an endorsement from Our Revolution Orlando, a local chapter of Our Revolution, a national group that traces its roots to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign operation.

Grayson and Soto have agreed to two debates, the first on Aug. 2 and the second on Aug. 8. The primary election is Aug. 28.

Mast continues on ‘war’ footing for Lake O discharges

Since discharges of highly polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie, then the Caloosahatchee River began, Mast has been a loud voice against the action being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Last week there was a period of reassessment of the strategy for the St. Lucie, and a moratorium dumping into the Caloosahatchee. All of that is off now.

Brian Mast girds for the battle over Lake O discharges.

“The water quality is getting worse. It’s now 15 times more toxic than is safe for human contact,” the first-term representative from Palm City told constituents. ”And discharges have resumed.”

Mast has described his efforts as a “war” for the “health and safety” of the local community.

“War is one thing that I can speak about very well,” the Army veteran said. ”In any war, there are many battles. Sometimes you win the day and sometimes, even when you’ve done absolutely everything possible, you don’t.”

Mast also praised the White House for approving the southern reservoir that will eventually remove the option of the algal bloom-creating discharges from the lake.

Curbelo talks issues at gathering of Latino entrepreneurs

Over the past few months, Curbelo has raised his profile on several contentious issues facing Congress. He recently had an in-depth interview with Bob Cusack, Editor-in-Chief of the Hill newspaper to discuss several of them.

The interview was part of the program for an event called Latino Entrepreneurship and the American Dream held in Washington. Jobs and the economy were only part of the agenda.

On the growing “trade wars’ surrounding Trump’s imposition of tariffs, Curbelo said that the actions taken against China “are justified,” but other actions will “hurt our growth and the economy” as well as strain relationships with allies.

Carlos Curbelo is talking issues with the Hispanic entrepreneur community. (Image via Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The second-term Congressman continues to support the tax reform bill that he actively promoted. Citing it as one of the factors, he says “it is a really good time economically in our country.”

Curbelo is probably best known for leading a small group of Republicans to try and force votes on lagging immigration bills. After a conservative, then a centrist bill he co-sponsored was voted down, he criticized both sides.

““The problem is too many of our colleagues in Congress — on both sides — prefer the politics of immigration, rather than the solutions for immigration,” he said “What we ended up putting on the floor was a bipartisan bill and the evidence is that 121 Republicans voted for it and 112 of them voted against it, and I guarantee you that wasn’t because the bill was too conservative. It’s because it was a very centrist bill.”

He also had the chance to talk about climate change. As co-chairman, along with Deutch, of the Climate Change Caucus, Curbelo described the issue in Florida as one that “is not a theoretical exercise, it’s actually a real concern.”

On this day in the headlines

July 17, 1992 — Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party as their candidate for President of the United States. Clinton asked for the trust of millions who know more about his sins than of his virtues.

He told delegates at the Democratic National Convention in New York, and millions watching on television, that “it’s time to heal our country.” Clinton’s acceptance speech sought to reassure Democrats and persuadable voters about himself and provide a new direction from that of President George H.W. Bush.

July 17, 2004 — President George W. Bush was in Tampa to discuss the issue of human trafficking. Accompanied by his daughter, Barbara, and brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, the president said “giving life is the gift of our creator and is not for sale.”

Bush dropped by a conference hosted by the Justice Department and Attorney General John Ashcroft. In a media conference call arranged by the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Sen. Bill Nelson accused Bush of cutting human trafficking programs and waiting too long to submit an international protocol in the Senate.

All-Star Game to provide welcome respite to DC dysfunction

Tuesday night Washington will host the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game. At least for a night, hardball politics will take a back seat to just regular hardball.

With all of the vitriol going back and forth up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, even the politicos can join baseball fans for a night of watching professionals play a different kind of game than that which occurs on Capitol Hill.

A brief respite.

Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib summed it up perfectly.

“The need for such a refuge has only grown in a summer of raw emotions over immigration, Supreme Court vacancies and Russian election meddling. So, as baseball’s mid-summer classic, the All-Star Game, takes place in Washington on Tuesday, this is a good time to pause and reflect on the role — perhaps small, yet undeniable — that baseball and the Nationals play in bridging the increasingly stark divides in Washington.”

Play ball!

Last Call for 7.16.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Activist Gary Stein says he’s “saddened and concerned over the response from the Governor’s Office” to rallies he organized last week to encourage Gov. Rick Scott to drop appeals of lawsuits involving medicinal cannabis.

The state is appealing two high-profile cases: Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner’s circuit court win to grow and juice his own medicinal cannabis, and plaintiffs backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan who won a decision allowing them to smoke medical marijuana.

Both rulings have been challenged by the state’s Department of Health, which regulates the drug through the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and reports to Scott.

A statement from Scott’s office called Wednesday’s protests in Tallahassee, Orlando and West Palm Beach “disingenuous,” adding that “more than 130,000 patients have access to (medical marijuana) treatment by more than a thousand doctors.”

But, in his own statement, Stein said he stands by his position that “qualified patients across Florida need homegrown and smokable medical cannabis.”

The governor’s position is itself “disingenuous,” Stein said, adding it was “mean-spirited” and “misleading.”

As held by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, “the constitutional amendment … does not allow the government to exclude any form of the medical herb, including the right to use in smokable form and home-grow to juice the plant,” he said.

Moreover, “the number of patients mentioned — 130,000 — has already been discredited by the OMMU … as being inaccurate.

“The most recent number of active, qualified patients released by the OMMU is 109,163,” he said. “Had the registry number been an accurate reflection of the number of patients, the OMMU would have been mandated to release applications for new Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs) as early as April 20, which did not occur.”

Stein said he “hoped that our respectful rallies would open a dialogue that would result in the governor reconsidering his position on the appeals of these cases. They are life and death situations for … hundreds of thousands of Floridians, who desperately await these cases to be resolved.”

Evening Reads

Ron DeSantis calls Trump-Putin appearance a missed opportunity — to blame Obama” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

Ex-supervisor in Adam Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement” via Steve Bousquet and Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

How one man owned the libs and the establishment — and took over the Florida Republican Party” via Henry Gomez of BuzzFeed

Florida’s constitutional amendments are a mixed bag” via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend

Florida suspends payment to SunPass contractor until tolling system is fixed” via Hannah Denham of the Tampa Bay Times

Court to move forward with ‘Jane Doe’ issue in gun case” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

A Miami Democrat heads to Cuba on the congressional campaign trail” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

GOP environmentalists today: As rare as a Florida panther” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Conspiracy theorist QAnon promoted, then deleted, by Hillsborough County GOP” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida’s coral disease outbreak is most ‘extensive’ ” via Sean Kinane of WMNF

Quote of the Day

“Just as I would not seek an endorsement from Emily’s List or the ACLU, I do not wish to receive yours.” — Republican candidate for governor Frank White, declining an invitation to be interviewed by the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

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Wake Up Early?

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss bond rates in the Public Education Capital Outlay (PECO) program. That’s at 8:30 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

The 1st District Court of Appeal will hear arguments in a dispute about whether Gov. Scott has properly complied with the state’s financial disclosure requirements. That’s at 9 a.m., 1st District Court of Appeal, 2000 Drayton Dr., Tallahassee.

The Florida Department of Children and Families will help host meetings in Central Florida that are part of an effort to better coordinate behavioral-health services. That’s at 9 a.m., Titusville Library, 2121 South Hopkins Ave., Titusville. Also, 1 p.m., Valencia College, School of Public Safety, 8600 Valencia College Lane, Orlando.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will discuss issues related to unclaimed property. That’s at 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Gov. Scott will join small business leaders in Orlando for an undisclosed announcement. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Restaurant Equipment World, 2413 N. Forsyth Road, Orlando.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Republican Club of West Volusia’s monthly meeting. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Fan Central Station, 614 South Alabama Ave., DeLand.

The Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council will interview a short list of candidates for two seats on the Public Service Commission. That’s at 1 p.m., Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Orlando International Airport, 1 Jeff Fuqua Blvd., Orlando.

Marili Cancio, a candidate in state Senate District 40, and Maria Elvira Salazar, a candidate in Congressional District 27, are slated to speak to the Old Cutler Republican Women’s Club. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Brio Tuscan Grille, 8888 S.W. 136th St., Miami.

Democrat Joy Gibson, running in state Senate District 20, is slated to speak at a meeting of the Rainbow Ridge LGBTA Democratic Caucus of Polk County. That’s at 6:30 p.m., The Rib House, 2918 South Florida Ave., Lakeland.

Democratic candidate for Governor Jeff Greene and state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, are expected to speak at the Rusty Gordon LGBTA Democratic Caucus. That’s at 6:45 p.m., Compass Community Center, 201 North Dixie Highway, Lake Worth.

Rep. Javier Fernandez will hold a town-hall meeting on gun safety. That’s at 7 p.m., Riviera Presbyterian Church, 5275 Sunset Dr., Miami.

Delegation for 7.13.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Nelson has work to do with Hispanic voters

It is still a bit too early for Florida voters to engage in the 2018 midterm elections fully, but the results of recent polls indicate Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson should have taken that step long ago. The polls indicate Nelson has more work to do among Hispanic voters, a voting bloc that will play a major role in helping to determine if he gets a fourth term.

Nelson knows that to defeat Gov. Rick Scott, he will need a significant portion of Hispanics to turn out and vote for him. History would show about two-thirds of the vote is required.

Bill Nelson has an uphill climb to attract Florida Hispanic voters.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton earned 62 percent of the Florida Hispanic vote compared to Donald Trump’s 35 percent, and we all know how that turned out. Clinton dominated the Puerto Rican vote, while Trump earned 51 percent support from Cuban-Americans.

In a recent Florida International University survey among Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida since 2011, nearly 75 percent have a favorable opinion of Scott, while only 18 percent view him unfavorably. Nelson, an 18-year incumbent, has a 62 percent favorable rating while 26 held an unfavorable view.

A more recent survey, conducted by Mason Dixon for FIU, shows Scott with a slight 42-39 percent lead among South Florida Hispanics. Scott is doing well among Cuban-Americans with Nelson is running below what he needs among non-Cuban Hispanics.

“It’s typical Nelson,” said Mason Dixon pollster Brad Coker. “He goes to Washington, and he (more or less) blends in for five years; you don’t hear much from him. And then comes back a year, or a year-and-a-half before the election and he starts putting his coalition together. He has been able to get away with that because he has had historically weak opponents. Not now.”

Scott is receiving credit for his activities as governor following the devastation brought by Hurricane Maria last year. He has made numerous trips to the island and is viewed as trying to help those affected.

At the same time, Scott is not being tied to Trump, who is deeply unpopular in the Puerto Rican community over his administration’s response to Maria. Nelson and his team plan to make that connection as well as identify the true friend of the Puerto Rican community.

“We’re highly motivated to vote based upon the mistreatment of those in the island after Hurricane Maria,” said Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat of Puerto Rican descent. “It’s a combination of continuing to educate voters on Sen. Nelson being a longtime friend of the Hispanic community, while Scott has been a Johnny-come-lately to a lot of these issues in a huge election makeover.”

The Nelson camp rightly believes that having a favorable opinion of someone and voting for that candidate can be two different things. When it comes to the 1.3 million Puerto Ricans living in Florida, Nelson and his team are counting on tarnishing their view of Scott and touting Nelson’s efforts on their behalf.

“At the end of the day, what we want to make sure is that our Puerto Rican friends understand that elections have consequences,” Nelson told The Hill newspaper. “They know how they’ve been treated by President Trump. So, we’re going to remind them of that.”

Nelson has less than four months to get that done.

Rubio endorsement draws ire of former RPOF chair

In the race for Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio decided to endorse one Republican over three others competing for the seat. On Wednesday, Rubio revealed he is backing GOP Rep. Matt Caldwell.

“As the most conservative candidate in the race for Commissioner of Agriculture, Matt Caldwell has been an unwavering supporter of the Second Amendment, consistently voted to cut taxes and reduce the size of government and is a staunch supporter of the right-to-life,” Rubio said.

Endorsing Matt Caldwell for Agriculture Commissioner, Marco Rubio draws wrath of some Florida Republicans.

The endorsement did not escape the attention of former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Al Cardenas, one of Rubio’s early Miami mentors. Cardenas, an influential lobbyist, tweeted his displeasure.

“This is not right. Both Marco Rubio and Denise Grimsley served jointly in the Florida House,” said Cardenas, who is also the former chairman of the American Conservative Union. “Rep. Grimsley actively supported and campaigned for Senator Rubio for Speaker of the House in 2006-which he won. The least he could do is to stay neutral in this primary.”

In addition to Grimsley, a state Senator from Sebring, Rubio chose Caldwell over former state Rep. Baxter Troutman and retired Army Col. Mike McCallister.

Nelson bill to cap prescription drug costs

Nelson joined with fellow senators to introduce legislation designed to lower the costs of prescription drugs for individuals and families across the country by placing a monthly cap on their out-of-pocket drug costs.

Bill Nelson files a bill to help lower prescription medication costs.

The legislation comes as more than a quarter of Americans taking prescription drugs struggle to afford the costs of their medicine. The Capping Prescription Costs Act of 2018 would place a limit on the amount of money many consumers have to pay each month for their prescription drugs.

 “We have to do more to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” Nelson said. “As prices continue to rise, more and more Floridians are finding it difficult to afford the cost of the medications they need.”

If approved, Nelson’s legislation would cap prescription drug copays for individuals across the country at $250 per month and $500 per month for families. The bill would apply these caps to group health plans and individual market plans.

After White House signoff, Lake O reservoir ready for next step

With another round of algae outbreaks due to water releases from Lake Okeechobee, state and local officials are scrambling for short-term solutions. A plan for long-term answers could become a reality in the future.

A reservoir to hold the lake discharges, approved by the legislature last year, now has the support of the White House. The plan, which would cost approximately $1.6 billion, now heads to the U.S. Senate for possible inclusion in water infrastructure funding.

Lake Okeechobee is ready for the next step.

“This project, spearheaded by state Sen. (Joe) Negron and coupled with existing efforts, will greatly reduce the harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges once again threatening our coastal communities,” Rubio said in a news release. “I am encouraged by the administration’s continued engagement on Florida’s water issues, and I look forward to working with the president to fund the expedited construction of these critical Everglades restoration projects.”

Nelson made no statement on the plan, but earlier in the week asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the long-term effects of toxic algal blooms.

Palm City Republican Brian Mast, who has spoken loudly on the latest lake discharges, praised the White House action but urged his colleagues to approve the project quickly.

“Congress must authorize this project as soon as possible because every day that goes by without it means more business being forced to close, more animals dying and more people getting sick,” Mast said in a news release. “Lives are quite literally hanging in the balance, and I will continue doing everything I can to get this across the finish line. Failure is not an option.”

Scott tweeted support for the project’s goal of moving more water south of the lake without sending vast amounts into other waterways. The state is looking for the federal government to pick up half of the project’s cost.

Florida representatives involved in contentious hearing

FBI Agent Peter Strzok, whose derogatory text messages about Trump made him the scourge of Republicans, testified on Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It began as a volatile exchange between Strzok and Republicans as well as between Republicans and Democrats.

Five delegation members of the Judiciary Committee had their chance to ask questions of Strzok or to console him. Republicans Matt GaetzRon DeSantis and John Rutherford were joined by Democrats Val Demings and Ted Deutch.

Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, Washington. (Image via Time.com)

Gaetz tweeted as the hearing was underway, saying: “The Democrats are acting like children in Committee, raising weird procedural objections to our basic oversight questions. I’m not going anywhere for awhile. Send a @SNICKERS

DeSantis tweeted “Peter Strzok was biased, and his bias affected his action. He still refuses to answer questions about the genesis of the so-called collusion investigation.”

When the hearing concluded, Republicans threatened to hold Strzok in contempt. Democrats gave him a round of applause.

Demings tweeted “The GOP’s conspiracies about Strzok have been debunked. The Mueller investigation is real …”

“The attacks on Mr. Strzok, the attacks on Rod Rosenstein, the attacks on our FBI director — I wish there was even a slight degree of that same fervor directed against what the Russians did in 2016!” said Deutch.

Throughout the day, Strzok forcefully argued that his texts represented a bias in his work on the investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails or possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Gaetz welcomes new Coast Guard cutter to Pensacola

The U.S. Coast Guard now has a stronger presence in the Panhandle with the arrival of the cutter Dauntless. With the new arrival, the Naval Air Station at Pensacola now has three cutters in service.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter “DAUNTLESS,” a 210′ Medium Endurance Cutter, will arrive at its new homeport of Pensacola Naval Air Station.

“I am pleased to congratulate the U.S. Coast Guard on the delivery of “DAUNTLESS,” the second 210-foot cutter, to its new home port of Pensacola Naval Air Station,” said Gaetz, who represents the area in Congress. “Just this week, the Coast Guard seized 35 kilos of cocaine in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola. The continued growth of the Coast Guard’s presence in Northwest Florida will help the nation’s fight against illegal drugs coming into America.”

The Coast Guard indicated last year that the Dauntless and the Decisive would be relocating not later than August 2018. The Dauntless moves from Galveston, Tex., following the Decisive’s arrival earlier this year from Pascagoula, Miss.

Along with the Cypress, already based at NAS Pensacola, the cutters will focus on search and rescue missions, stopping drugs, maritime law enforcement and immigration operations.

Pelosi to join Lawson in Jacksonville

With nothing to fear from a Republican challenger, Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee is pulling out all stops to get through next month’s primary against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown. On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will join Lawson for a media availability at Lawson’s campaign headquarters in Jacksonville.

While Pelosi has come under increasing intraparty fire from some of the younger members, Lawson was in full support of her last election as party leader last year. She is now returning the favor by publicly supporting Lawson’s re-election an event in Brown’s backyard.

Nancy Pelosi to visit Jacksonville, helping Al Lawson.

The race has featured an aggressive Brown, who has claimed that Lawson’s missed votes in the House prove Lawson “does not show up for work.” Lawson responded by listing his legislative accomplishments during his first term.

Lawson is under some pressure to show better fundraising strength when both candidates release their finance reports over the coming days. Last quarter, Brown outraised Lawson by a nearly two-to-one margin, leaving Lawson with $160,000 cash on hand and Brown with $127,000.

Pelosi’s visit will have no impact on second-quarter finances, but Lawson will have something to put into third quarter fundraising efforts. Friday’s event kicks off at 5 p.m. with a meet-and-greet, followed by the availability.

Buchanan’s poorly timed yacht buy

According to a recent financial disclosure filed by Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, the veteran lawmaker spent between $1 million and $5 million purchasing a yacht on Nov. 16, 2017. The date coincides with the passage by 226 Republicans and zero Democrats of the first draft of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, otherwise known as the GOP tax cuts.

The Senate passed the final bill December 20.

Poorly timed yacht patron Vern Buchanan.

There is no question Buchanan can afford the yacht. According to a Roll Call report, his net worth is $73.9 million, which makes him the eighth wealthiest member of Congress and by far the wealthiest from Florida.

Estimates by Tax March, a progressive tax group, say the bill would save him up to $2.1 million on his taxes. Buchanan dismissed the linkage.

“It’s no coincidence that this partisan smear comes at the same time a dark money group is airing a TV ad against Vern that is so dishonest one newspaper called it ‘stunning in its deception.’ Vern has owned boats for more than 20 years, and it’s no secret to his constituents that he has lived the American Dream,” said Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan.

Mast opponent sits on $1 million war chest

Democrat Lauren Baer is making a serious run for the Congressional District 18 seat held by Mast, a first-term Republican. Before the release of official campaign reports, Baer’s campaign announced she had raised more than $500,000 for the second quarter, bringing her to more than $1 million cash on hand.

“I’m in awe of the outpouring of support we have received since launching our campaign in September,” Baer said. “Thank you to everyone who has donated, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and registered voters. This campaign will always be about you and your interests, not special interests, and together we will be victorious in November.”

Lauren Baer war chest cracks the $1M mark.

Baer is a former U.S. Department of State official, serving under both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. She added that none of her contributions came from corporate political action committees.

Mast is responding to the challenge. He announced that he raised more than $1 million in the second quarter and had nearly $2 million cash on hand.

“Congressman Mast’s laserlike focus on the issues that matter most to our community — water quality, protecting Medicare, lower taxes and supporting veterans — are driving incredibly strong grassroots support,” said campaign spokesman Brad Stewart.” While other candidates have been forced to choose hyper-partisanship in pursuit of Nancy Pelosi’s support, Congressman Mast’s independence and leadership continue to deliver results for our community,” said campaign spokesman Brad Stewart.

Political analyst Larry Sabato, who produces “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” tabs the race as likely Republican. Trump won the district by nine percentage points in 2016.

Baer is facing Pam Keith in the Democratic primary next month. Keith had not yet announced second-quarter fundraising totals.

Deutch, Frankel seek transparency, resumption of Middle East aid

Democratic members of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, led by ranking member Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, are urging full transparency in the Trump administration’s review of assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. Deutch, Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach and other committee members seek to resume aid to the area and “to ensure no U.S. assistance is diverted from its intended purposes.”

Ted Deutch joins Lois Frankel in calling for more transparency in Middle East aid.

In their letter addressed to “The President,” the lawmakers urge the release of assistance for the region currently on hold.

“It is our understanding that all U.S. assistance, including lifesaving humanitarian aid, has been frozen since January 2018,” they wrote. “Gaza is already suffering a critical food shortage, due in part to the Administration’s withholding of $65 million to the United Nations’ Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which distributes lifesaving medical and food aid to the people of Gaza.”

The letter also places blame on “Hamas’ failure to provide for the most basic needs while directing significant resources to acts of terrorism has only exacerbated the emergency.” Transparency will “ensure that no U.S. assistance is diverted from its intended purposes, or even worse, inadvertently benefiting the terrorist organization Hamas.”

On this day in the headlines

July 13, 2007 — As the war in Iraq approached its fifth year, delegation members were either urging more patience, or demanding an end to U.S. presence. “It’s time to bring them home,” said Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor, a sentiment shared by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Republicans, including Rep. Adam Putnam of Bartow, sought to wait on a report from Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. “We certainly owe it to our brave men and women putting their lives on the line every day to give their commander the time and resources he needs to succeed in this crucial mission.”

July 13, 2010 — The Senate Judiciary Committee met Tuesday to consider Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court but put off a vote for one week at the request of its Republicans. She is expected to win the support of all 12 committee Democrats while all Republicans, with the possible exception of South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, are excepted to vote no.

Republicans also called for Kagan, if confirmed, to recuse herself from any case coming before them involving the Affordable Care Act due to her position as Obama’s Solicitor General.

(NOTE: The Senate confirmed Kagan by a 63-37 vote, but she did not recuse, voting with the 5-4 majority to uphold the law on June 28, 2012)

Plane crash survivor named to key NASA post

Trump is nominating James W. Morhard to be the deputy administrator at NASA. He currently serves as the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms for the U.S. Senate.

James Morhard survived the crash that killed U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Morhard previously served as a senior aide to the late Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. While serving as staff director for the Appropriations Committee, he oversaw portions of the budget that oversaw NASA. In his current role, he has focused on administrative issues within the Senate.

In 2010, he was on an airplane with Stevens that crashed in the mountains of Alaska. Morhard survived, but Stevens and four others died.

Morhard will serve under NASA administrator and former Rep. Jim Bridenstine.

Last Call for 7.12.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Another self-imposed deadline, another delay.

The federal government has again asked a Tallahassee judge to delay any rulings while it decides whether to get involved in a lawsuit over records on March’s pedestrian bridge collapse at Florida International University that killed six people.

U.S. Attorney Christopher P. Canova of the Northern District of Florida filed a notice Wednesday saying that although he expected to make a decision this week, “the review process is still ongoing.” The notice was not made available online until Thursday.

“The government will provide a further status update on or before July 25,” he added, “and respectfully requests that the court continue to defer ruling.” Federal law authorizes him to “attend to the interests of the United States in (any state) lawsuit.”

The case, which had been before Circuit Judge John Cooper, was reassigned to Circuit Judge Kevin Carroll as part of a routine judicial rotation by Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom of the 2nd Judicial Circuit.

The Miami Herald; its Capital bureau chief, Mary Ellen Klas; and Tallahassee correspondent Elizabeth Koh have sued the state’s Department of Transportation in Leon County Circuit Civil court, seeking “emails, meeting minutes and other records relating to the bridge’s design and construction.”

Some of those records “are the subject of a pending accident investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB),” Canova previously said. The March 15 collapse of the then-recently erected bridge killed six midday motorists or passengers, and injured nine others.

The bridge, spanning Tamiami Trail, was meant to connect the campus to student housing in Sweetwater. It happened “just days after cracks had been observed in the $14.3 million structure,” The Herald has reported.

In another letter, NTSB assistant general counsel Benjamin T. Allen explained to Cooper that his agency has “prohibited” FDOT from releasing certain investigative information “absent NTSB approval.”

At a previous hearing, Cooper called the NTSB an “indispensable party” and declined to dismiss the lawsuit. “He … ordered FDOT to send (a) letter asking NTSB to join the lawsuit as a party or file an amicus brief to defend its legal reasoning,” The Herald reported.

If NTSB declines, Cooper added, the state will tell it “we’re going to continue the party without you.”

The Herald is represented by Sandy Bohrer, a partner in the Holland & Knight law firm in Miami and co-chair of the firm’s National Media Team.

Evening Reads

In Senate race, Florida governor in balancing act with Donald Trump” via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press

Date set for Donald Trump, Jr. to campaign in Florida for Ron DeSantis” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Mom outlines Philip Levine agenda in latest TV ad” via Mark Skoneki of the Orlando Sentinel

New White TV ad blasts Ashley Moody as ‘liberal judge’” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Despite legal challenge, appointed Jacksonville City Councilors sworn in” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

State urges dismissal of challenge to gun law” via the News Service of Florida

League of Women Voters sues over education amendment” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics

Final forecast brings close to gloomy citrus season” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics

Lake Okeechobee discharges to St. Lucie River to resume Friday, Army Corps says” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm.com

Federal judge dismisses red-light camera class action against Florida municipalities” via Zach Schlein of Law.com

Quote of the Day

“When you get up over $250 billion, you will see an impact … Based on what we know today, that’s probably overly optimistic.” — Amy Baker, the Legislature’s chief economic adviser, on estimates of how much tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump will affect the national economy.

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Guest speaker Susan Glickman, David Hastings and Yvette Arellano will discuss “Tampa’s Vulnerabilities in Facing Climate Change-Fueled Hurricanes” at the next Café con Tampa. Admission is $12, which includes a breakfast buffet. That’s at 8 a.m., Upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

The Association of Florida Colleges and the state Division of Florida Colleges will continue a two-day campus safety symposium in Volusia County. Titles of sessions are expected to include, “Developing Emergency Training, Exercises and Drills Within Your Community” and “Recognizing, Responding and Referring Students in a Mental Health Crisis.” That’s at 8:30 a.m., Daytona State College, Mori Hosseini Center, 1200 West International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach.

The Florida State Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) will make a special announcement with Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis at a news conference. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30, 5530 Beach Blvd, Jacksonville.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will make an announcement relating to military and veterans, and be joined by Admiral Robert “Bob” Natter (Ret.) and others. This latest announcement comes after Putnam said he would create a new Veterans Task Force. That’s at 10:30 a.m., Five Star Veterans Center, 40 Acme St., Jacksonville.

First Lady Ann Scott and Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart will announce the 2019 Teacher of the Year at an awards gala. That’s at 7 p.m., Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, 1500 Masters Blvd., ChampionsGate.

State political candidates and committees face a Friday deadline to file reports showing finance activity through July 6.

Looking Ahead

State Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat running for attorney general, and Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo are expected to take part in a meet-and-greet event before a meeting of The Villages Democratic Club. Others expected include legislative candidates Gary McKechnie and Oren Miller and congressional candidate Dana Cottrell. That’s Saturday at 9 a.m., Colony Cottage, 510 Colony Blvd., The Villages.

Young continues her get-out-the-vote “Super Weekend.” It begins Saturday at 10 a.m., 809 S. Albany Ave., Tampa.

Fox News host Mark Levin joins Republican candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis for a meet-and-greet this weekend. That’s Saturday at 4 p.m., Trump National Jupiter Golf Club, 106 Bears Club Drive, Jupiter.

Last Call for 7.10.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

A trio of rallies tomorrow will call for Gov. Rick Scott “to retract the state’s appeals on two medical marijuana constitutional challenge cases,” the organizer said in a news release.

Three protests will take place simultaneously Wednesday at noon — in Tallahassee, on the Historic Capitol steps; in Orlando at Lake Eola Park; and at Game Day Sports Bar in West Palm Beach, said Gary Stein, cannabis activist, author and producer of the “CannaFight Tonight” internet broadcasts.

Invited speakers include Democratic candidate for governor and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in Tallahassee and Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith in Orlando, Stein said, and Democratic candidate for Attorney General Ryan Torrens has confirmed his attendance in Tallahassee.

“Video screens will also broadcast statements from Cathy Jordan, the ALS patient being kept alive by smoking cannabis for over 30 years,” and from Democratic candidate for Governor Philip Levine, he added.

The state is appealing two high-profile cases: Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner’s circuit court win to grow and juice his own medicinal cannabis, and plaintiffs backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan who won a decision allowing them to smoke medical marijuana.

Both rulings have been challenged by the state’s Department of Health, which regulates the drug through the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and reports to Scott.

“The governor continues to state that he is only following the law,” Stein said in a statement. “But what if the law has been deemed unconstitutional by a learned Florida circuit court judge? Is that blind faith in the legislative action that created those statutes still truly following the law?

“The plain language of the amendment that is now part of the Florida Constitution clearly states that these patients have a constitutional right to this lifesaving medicine,” he added. “For our governor — who swore to uphold that document — to appeal these decisions and put the lives of people like Cathy Jordan and Joe Redner in jeopardy is a breach of that duty.”

Scott “is going to have to hear the cries of his constituents and see their faces,” Stein said.

Evening Reads

Democrats’ Senate dream slips away” via Alexi McCammond of Axios

Koch-backed super PAC endorses Ron DeSantis for governor” via Emily L. Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times

Gwen Graham’s health care plan includes Medicaid expansion and eliminating wait-lists for seniors” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times

Rene Plasencia campaign fires back over data theft allegation” via Florida Politics

Rush to establish residency for Rick Scott’s Jacksonville City Council appointee” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Nursing home records ruling put on hold” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

Parkland panel wants PROMISE Program changed” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Final investigation into Eastpoint fire could take weeks; contract says vendor responsible” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat

FPL customers to receive Hurricane Matthew recovery fund” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Rays reveal Ybor City stadium details, including $892 million price tag” via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“Regrettably, Senate Democrats made up their minds to oppose this nomination long before tonight’s announcement.” — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, on President Trump’s nomination of conservative appellate judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bill Day’s Latest

Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Astronauts Memorial Foundation will host the first of what is anticipated to be an annual Space Port Area Conference for Educators (SPACE). The three-day event begins at 9 a.m., Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Center for Space Education, M6-306, 405 State Road, Merritt Island.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, will continue a three-day meeting. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Florida Department of Financial Services will hold one in a series of “Be Scam Smart” workshops to help seniors avoid financial scams. That’s at 10 a.m., Hollywood Hills United Methodist Church, 400 North 35th Ave., Hollywood.

CareerSource Florida and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will partner with groups and companies such as the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to hold a job fair for careers in the manufacturing and construction industries. That’s at 10 a.m., Broward County Library Lauderdale Lakes branch, 3580 West Oakland Park Blvd., Lauderdale Lakes.

Democratic candidate for Governor and former Tallahassee congresswoman Gwen Graham will hold a news conference to discuss “the future of women’s access to reproductive health care” following President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee. Reporters interested in attending are asked to RSVP to Matt Harringer at matt@gwengraham.com. That’s at noon, 299 NW 25th St., Miami.

Republican candidate for Governor Adam Putnam will make an announcement relating to veterans and military. He will be joined by Maj. Gen. H.D. “Jake” Polumbo (Ret.) and others. Media planning to attend are asked to email meredithb@adamputnam.com by 8 a.m. tomorrow. That’s at 3 p.m., 2730 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala.

Delegation for 7.10.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Supreme Court fight will lead to strife among some Democrats 

The political world can exhale now. President Donald Trump has made his choice for the United States Supreme Court.

Once Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh was named, the reactions began to pour in from both sides. Trump described Kavanaugh as an “originalist” in the mold of “the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

Democrats, as expected, are critical of the selection, but would have been no matter who Trump picked. The two Floridians who will have a say in Kavanaugh’s confirmation gave differing, but respectful statements.

Donald Trump’s appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is sure to set off a battle with Democrats.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio said “Brett Kavanaugh is a qualified, mainstream jurist who possesses the right temperament and experience for the position, and I’m pleased to see his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” Rubio said in a statement. “Regrettably, Senate Democrats made up their minds to oppose this nomination long before tonight’s announcement. I would remind them that just over a year-and-a-half ago the American people elected the president and a Republican-controlled Senate.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, who earlier said he would likely vote “no” on any Trump nominee, said Monday night he looked forward to discussing with Kavanaugh his “views on several important issues … I will make my decision after that.”

Nelson is one of 10 Democrats running for re-election in states won by Trump. He must weigh the political calculation of appealing to moderates while infuriating his base with a “yes” vote, highlighting cracks in the unity among Democrats.

Other Senators in bright red states may not be able to keep their seats with a “no” vote, but that does not seem to matter to Democratic Minority Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.

While Durbin called the potential of losing Democratic Senate seats “a dilemma in one respect,” it is a trade-off Democrats are willing to make. He does not explain how a smaller minority helps the Democratic cause. Perhaps those with their seats on the line might be thinking more clearly.

Delegation members in the House offered their views soon after the announcement. Orlando Democrat Val Demings may have previewed an attack line during confirmation when she said: “It is troubling (Trump) has nominated a potential Supreme Court Justice who has questioned whether presidents can even be questioned while in office.”

Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, said: “The Senate now has the responsibility to protect Americans from an ideologically-driven nominee whose confirmation would create a Supreme Court bent on setting America decades back in time.”

Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings said, “Judge Kavanaugh’s support for Congressional Republicans’ obsession with cutting off access to women’s health care is insulting, dangerous, and intrinsically disqualifying.” Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, tweeted “Trump #SCOTUS nominee is far outside the mainstream. Our hard-fought civil rights are at risk.”

Panama City Republican Neal Dunn said, “President Trump has taken another tangible step to secure the Constitution and ensure that the people of the United States remain pre-eminent, not the government.”

Left-leaning pundits like Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt believe Democrats are in a bind in the efforts to block Kavanaugh because they have botched the politics of Supreme Court nominations. Hunt opines Democrats should not have filibustered Supreme Court nominee Neal Gorsuch last year, which paved the way for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change Senate rules to require only a majority vote for confirmation.

“Democrats are compounding their past miscalculations by making today’s fight almost exclusively about abortion,” Hunt wrote. “This diminishes other critical issues like voting rights, affirmative action, partisan gerrymandering, disability rights and a check on executive excesses.”

In the end, Trump is likely to get his second justice seated on the court. A less than united Democratic Party likely dooms any chance of blocking the Kavanaugh nomination.

Florida Progressives say SCOTUS pick could harm everyone

Progress Florida isn’t too happy with Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And while Progress Florida is a left-leaning, progressive advocacy group, it’s of the belief that if Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate, his actions as a justice will affect everyone.

“President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court should concern every Floridian,” said Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo on behalf of the Florida Why Courts Matter Coalition.

The organization fears that Kavanaugh could walk back the nation’s stance on several issues, many of which — health care, consumer protections, voting rights, environmental protection, LGBT equality, and criminal justice reform — transcend party lines.

“I don’t see these as progressive values, just as values,” added Progress Florida Communications Director Damien Filer.

Nelson visits Miami, talks gun violence

The three-term Democrat was in Miami on Friday to visit with law enforcement and residents to discuss the issue of gun violence. In addition to new gun laws, Nelson heard suggestions that included greater community involvement to prevent the recent rise in shootings.

To view Nelson’s Facebook video from the visit, click the image below:

 

One of the areas of focus was Liberty Square, which has seen its share of problems. Following the launch of Operation Blue and Brown following two fatal shootings on April 8, no further incidents have occurred.

The initiative by the City of Miami Police Department and the Miami-Dade County Police Department placed a police command center in the area. Despite its success, Nelson said it would take more than police presence to solve the problem.

“You can’t solve a community’s problem until you attack it comprehensively,” he said.

At a roundtable with community leaders and residents, Nelson heard suggestions that included education as well as gun control.

“That’s why I’m here, to let them know that somebody cares, and somebody is trying to do something about it,” said Nelson.

Despite action on Hoover Dike, politics remain

The much-needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee have been the source of a lot of talk over the years, but no real action. With last week’s announcement that $514 million in federal funding was on its way, the chance that Elvis Presley’s famous call for “a little less conversation, a little more action” may be coming to pass.

This is excellent news to those living in the region as well as those who represent them in Washington. The 30-foot high structure surrounds the lake, but fears remain of the catastrophic damage that would occur if a hurricane ravaged the dike.

Money is on the way for Lake Okeechobee’s Herbert Hoover Dike.

Combined with the $100 million approved by the state over the past two years, the project is now reported to be on track for completion in 2022.

Both Nelson and Scott celebrated the announcement, but issues involving the lake remain part of the increasingly bitter campaign for Nelson’s seat.

“In April 2017, I announced my goal of fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022,” Scott said in a statement from his campaign. “I’m glad to see that Bill Nelson finally supports my plan.”

For his part, Nelson has been pushing for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up the project. While campaigning in the region late last week, he called the announcement “huge news.”

After Rubio complains, Trump administration halts Lake O discharges plan

South Florida water issues are a regular part of the policy and political discussions among those representing the area. An ugly reminder from a 2016 ecological disaster is back.

With algal blooms developing in the Caloosahatchee River after weeks of water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and further plans for another dump into the St. Lucie River, Rubio called on Trump to have the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stop the practice.

Marco Rubio joins Florida state Sen. Joe Negron and others in 2016 to examine the algae pollution in the St. Lucie River. (Image via TCPalm)

The two-term Republican wrote to Trump asking him to “re-evaluate” the discharges into the Caloosahatchee and halt the planned releases into the St. Lucie.

“I respectfully urge you to use your authority to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately include the impacts of harmful algal blooms and poor water quality on downstream communities and ecosystems as a major factor for consideration when planning and conducting Lake Okeechobee discharges,” Rubio wrote.

“This should include an emergency re-evaluation of the flows currently entering the Caloosahatchee River and the reconsideration of the decision to once again begin discharging flows to the St. Lucie River (Monday).”

Rubio’s pleas were the same as those coming from Palm City Republican Brian Mast, who began railing against the discharges almost as soon as they started. Rubio seems to have more clout.

Within hours, the Corps halted plans to begin discharges into the St. Lucie.

“After speaking with the Administration earlier today, I’m thankful that the Army Corps has listened to our concerns for communities downstream and announced it would delay (Monday’s) scheduled discharges,” Rubio said in a statement. “While this is just a temporary reprieve, it is a sign of a newly responsive federal government. South Florida faces major water issues that must be addressed.”

Scott raises $10.7 million in Q2

Coming into his race against Nelson, most thought that money would be no problem for Scott, whose personal fortune exceeds $230 million according to reports. As it turns out, he may not need to extensively tap into that wealth as he seeks to end the incumbent’s 18-year hold on his Senate seat.

According to the Scott campaign, the governor raised an eye-popping $10.7 million in the second fundraising quarter that ended on June 30. In a release, the campaign took pains to explain that the total “does not include any candidate contributions.”

Rick Scott posts some big Q2 fundraising numbers.

Nelson has raised more than $13 million for the campaign and had more than $10 million cash on hand, according to his last fundraising report released in April. Nelson’s totals reflect all money raised and spent beginning shortly after his 2012 re-election victory.

Scott, who entered the race on April 9, reported 11,000 donors in the second quarter with 80 percent living in Florida and 75 percent contributing $500 or less. Releasing these figures before the actual reporting date is meant to blunt any narrative of Scott either self-funding or depending on large donors from around the country.

“We look forward to continuing this unmatched success,” said Tom Hicks, the campaign’s national finance chairman. Hicks is the former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club, where Scott was once a former part owner.

Gaetz, Curbelo endorsed by Humane Society; delegation gets mixed reviews

Two Republican delegation members earned support for their re-election bids from the political arm of a leading animal rights group. Both Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall received the backing of the Humane Society.

“Matt Gaetz is a trailblazer for animals in the U.S. Congress,” said Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “Congressman Gaetz is fighting to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to harm animals, and western Panhandle voters should re-elect him.”

Matt Gaetz, Carlos Curbelo get high praise from the Humane Society; others in the delegation, not so much.

“Voters in Florida’s 26th congressional district who care about building a more humane society should support his re-election,” Amundson said. “Carlos Curbelo is a consistent supporter of animal protection legislation in the 115th Congress.”

 Curbelo and Gaetz are among the three Republicans who scored the highest on the HSLF’s annual scorecard. Both earned scores of 75, which was slightly behind that of Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key, who earned an 83.

Delegation Democrats scored between 83 and 100, except for Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, who earned a 50. Hurting his mark was failing to co-sponsor four of the seven targeted bills.

Used to calculate scores were a member’s cosponsorship or prime sponsorship of legislation of importance to the group, their votes on other targeted bills, their votes (Senate only) on confirming the recently-resigned Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and membership in the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus (House only).

In the Senate, most Republicans earned zeros, including Rubio, with Maine’s Susan Collins winning the party’s only perfect score. Among Democrats, 22 were given scores of 100, while Nelson earned a 42.

Rutherford announces millions in disaster recovery cash

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is coming to Northeast Florida to make storm-related repairs and prevent future occurrences. Republican Rep. John Rutherford announced late last week the USACE would invest $36.8 million for a major beach renourishment project at Vilano Beach in St. Johns County.

Also, the Corp will invest an additional $2 million in St. Johns, as well as in Duval and Nassau County for flood and storm damage reduction projects to make the areas “more resilient against future storms.”

John Rutherford is announcing disaster relief for Northwest Florida.

“Hurricanes Matthew and Irma hammered Northeast Florida’s coastal communities, causing severe flooding and erosion, so I am pleased to see the Army Corps invest in making Northeast Florida more resilient,” said Rutherford. “These funds will allow for rebuilding and recovery for Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties, strengthening our communities in the face of future storms.”

Congress provided funding for these USACE initiatives in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law February 9, 2018. These funds are part of the USACE Long-Term Disaster Recovery Investment Program and will be used to construct flood and storm damage reduction projects.

Murphy to speak at ‘Democratic Majorities’ event

A group billed as a coalition of moderate Democrats trying to re-establish ties with middle America, is hosting an event on Thursday in Washington. One of the featured speakers for “Building New Democratic Majorities,” sponsored by New Democracy, will be Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park.

The group was formed by current and former Democratic governors, mayors and federal officials to “expand this party, and make it a bigger tent,” according to Will Marshall, a Democratic policy official who is running the group. Founders seek to appeal to more voters “between the coastlines.”

Murphy is a member of the revitalized House Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats that seek to create common ground with moderate Republicans on significant issues.

Joining her at the event are other members of Congress from across the country. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave. N.W.

New Soto ad touts accomplishments, calls out ‘bullies’

A new ad released Friday by first-term Democratic Rep. Darren Soto talks about getting “real results” without being loud or mean. Considering Soto is running in a primary race against someone known for his bombastic nature, one might think Soto is talking about Alan Grayson.

If the voter is not watching the ad, he or she might take away that impression. However, the ad’s video shows clips of Trump, whom no one will ever accuse of being a shrinking violet.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

 

The spot is titled “Hired,” and opens with reference to “bullies” featuring Trump, but gets into Soto’s commitment to “fully fund Social Security and Medicare and pass real gun reform. That’s what you hired me to do.”

While Soto would have preferred to save his resources for the fall election, it allows him to remind voters of his stances and accomplishments before next month’s contest against Grayson, Soto’s predecessor. Toward the end of the ad, Soto recounted his efforts to help “countless families in Central Florida and Puerto Rico to recover from hurricane storm damage.”

Combee called ‘Never Trumper’ in CD 15 race

When Lakeland Republican Rep. Dennis Ross announced he was leaving Congress, the race to replace him did not take long to develop. No fewer than five Republicans, including former state Rep. Neil Combee, announced their intention to run.

Combee is perceived as the GOP front-runner, since he previously served the area in Tallahassee. Another sure sign of his status is a recent attack on his loyalty to Trump.

Neil Combee is being branded a ‘Never Trumper’ by CD 15 opponents.

A group registered in Virginia launched an anonymous website and Twitter account that describes Combee as a “Never Trumper,” a dangerous moniker in a GOP primary these days.

Combee is running as a disciple of Trump, but the website drudged up Combee quotes from 2016 where he described Trump as a shallow thinker, deep in debt, given to “vindictive insults” toward opponents, and an egocentric, “telling everybody how pretty he is, how rich he is, how much everybody loves him.”

In response, Combee blasts those behind the attacks, saying they were “cooked up by my opponents because they know I am the ONLY candidate trusted and appointed by President Trump.” That refers to Trump’s appointment of Combee to a Department of Agriculture post eight months ago.

“They know that connection makes me head and shoulders the best and most conservative choice for Congress” Combee pledged to be Trump’s “strongest ally in Congress.”

While the district leans Republican, Democrat Andrew Learned has raised more than $120,000 and had $38,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Combee is among several candidates who will be filing their first report in the coming days.

Curbelo latest lawmaker refused entry at Homestead facility

The Homestead detention center that houses immigrant children is proving to be an equal opportunity offender when it comes to visits by members of Congress. Count Curbelo among the latest to be denied entry to the facility when he was denied entry Friday.

Last month, Democratic Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston were also turned away. Nelson and Wasserman Schultz announced their intention to visit the facility the day before but were temporarily refused entry when informed protocol required the facility to be given a two-week notice.

Carlos Curbelo is latest Florida lawmaker denied entry to the Homestead immigration facility.

Curbelo expressed his displeasure via Twitter saying the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) excuse of “protocol” in blocking the Democrats doesn’t work because he followed agency guidelines.

Was disappointed when this happened to colleagues last month & @HHSGov excuse was protocol,” he said. “Outraged today given my office followed ‘protocol.’”

In response, an HHS spokeswoman said the Congressional visits place “an unnecessary strain on grantee shelters’ staff, whose first and foremost priority is providing for the safety, security, and care of youth at their facilities.” She urged lawmakers to “fix our nation’s broken immigration system.”

The two-term Republican did not take the response well.

“I don’t feel sorry for them at all,” Curbelo said. “We fund all of their operations and all of their salaries, so they should make the time and effort to allow us to see the work they’re doing, especially if they’re confident in the work they’re doing.”

Curbelo has become one of the leading moderate Republican voices on immigration issues. He has worked to forge a consensus among Republicans that would include citizenship for the undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers as well as funding for Trump’s border wall.

On this day in the headlines

July 10, 1996 — The Senate took an election year issue off the table by voting to increase the minimum wage by 90 cents an hour over the next year. If adopted by the House and signed by President Bill Clinton, workers earning the minimum wage would see an increase from $4.25 to $5.15.

“We cannot get our work done without dealing with this issue,” said Republican Sen. Connie Mack, who was one of the 24 “no” votes. Democratic Sen. Bob Graham was among the 74 who voted for the raise.

July 10, 2013 — Republican Rep. Steve Southerland of Panama City made a strong fundraising showing for the second quarter. From April through June, the first term Congressman raised $461,000, his best quarter ever.

In her first quarter since announcing a 2014 challenge to Southerland, Democrat Gwen Graham of Tallahassee pulled in $375,000. In South Florida, Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia raised $440,000 (with $800,000 cash on hand) as Republican Carlos Curbelo announced he would challenge the first-term lawmaker.

Youthful uniters

This week’s issue began with a high-profile issue that is seriously dividing Americans. It ends with a group of youngsters bringing us together, if only for awhile.

Mission accomplished: All members of the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave for 17 days have been rescued safely.

Politicians and parties are at each other’s throats, but the members of the Thai youth soccer team trapped in an underground cave, have had Americans on the same side for days. As each one of the members of the Wild Boars was pulled to safety, cheers could be heard around the country and the world.

All of us agree we wish the boys a quick resumption to their normal lives.

Last Call for 7.9.18 — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics

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

First Shot

Tampa Bay-based radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge settled a more than 2 ½-year-old federal lawsuit brought by a company that does radio ratings.

The case, filed by Nielsen Audio, was reported settled Friday after mediation last Monday, court dockets show. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, and the case was closed by U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore of the Middle District of Florida’s Tampa Division.

Bubba, born Todd Alan Clem, and his Bubba Radio Network had been sued for “fraud, violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, tortious interference with contractual and business relations and conspiracy,” an amended complaint shows.

The complaint blamed Bubba and his company for “purposeful efforts to manipulate the radio audience estimates and station rankings … by, among other things, paying members of the Nielsen Audio survey panel to distort the radio audience estimates in their favor.”

Bubba “is a radio personality who appears regularly on a nationally syndicated radio show including in Tampa, Florida on WBRN Bubba 98.7 FM and in other markets,” the suit said.

He was last in the legal news in mid-2016, when the Florida Supreme Court disbarred three Florida lawyers who had represented him after they faced accusations of orchestrating the arrest of a rival attorney, The Associated Press reported.

Those lawyers were partners in a firm that represented him in a slander suit brought by another radio personality, Todd “MJ” Schnitt. During the trial in 2013, Schnitt lawyer C. Phillip Campbell was arrested on a DUI charge.

Reports later surfaced that Bubba’s attorneys conspired to set up Campbell to get arrested, having encouraged their female paralegal to go undercover and drink with Campbell at a downtown Tampa bar.

Evening Reads

Marco Rubio to push paid family leave this week” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott declares state of emergency over algae bloom” via Victoria Ballard of the Sun Sentinel

Jeff Greene says Democratic opponents ‘not electable,’ generate ‘no excitement’” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

Adam Putnam in new ad: ‘Deport violent criminals now’” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Brian Mast to Army Corps: Use Emergency Measures to Prevent Lake Discharges” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

Pension fund keeps positive streak alive” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida

Scary green monster attacks South Florida” via Julie Hauserman of the Florida Phoenix

Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood tops off guitar-shaped hotel” via David Lyons of the Sun Sentinel

Windshield lawsuits drop statewide; now barely a blip in South Florida” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel

Banning the beach? Locals start enforcing new access law” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

Quote of the Day

“The state has also maintained consistently low debt and pension liabilities that compare well with other Aaa-rated states.” — Moody’s Investor Service, which gave Florida a top-level credit rating, citing the pension fund as a sign of the state’s fiscal responsibility.

Bill Day’s Latest

 

Breakthrough Insights

Wake Up Early?

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, will begin a three-day meeting. That’s at 8:30 a.m., BB&T Center, Chairman’s Club, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise.

The Legislative Committee of the Florida Commission on Ethics is expected to discuss the commission’s legislative recommendations. That’s at 9 a.m., 325 John Knox Road, Tallahassee.

The Florida Public Service Commission will take up a series of issues, including a proposal for a new 689 area code in parts of Central Florida. That’s at 9:30 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.

The Public Service Commission will hold an internal-affairs meeting to discuss a draft report about hurricane preparedness and restoration efforts of electric utilities. Also, the commission will review an annual report about competition and trends in the telecommunications industry. That’s immediately following the 9:30 a.m. commission meeting, Gerald L. Gunter Building, 2540 Shumard Oak Blvd., Tallahassee.

Gov. Rick Scott will host a “Let’s Get to Work” rally in his campaign for U.S. Senate. That’s at 2:30 p.m., Crystal Chevrolet, 1035 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa.

Democratic candidate for governor and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will open his campaign’s new Miami-Dade office, adding to offices in Tallahassee and Broward County. That’s at 4:30 p.m., 16190 NW 27th Ave., Opa-locka.

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