Florida – Florida Politics

Last Call for 5.22.18 — 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 League of Women Voters of Florida says the state’s decision to not allow early voting on college campuses is unconstitutional, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Tallahassee.

The League and six students — one from FSU and five at the University of Florida — sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner in his role as Florida’s chief elections officer.

The 49-page complaint (available to read here) seeks a court order barring Detzner from “enforcing his interpretation of the Early Vote Statute” that doesn’t allow early voting in buildings on campus.

In 2014, the city of Gainesville sought guidance from Detzner over whether UF’s student union building could be used as an early voting site.

He said no, “opin(ing) not only that the student union was not a permissible early voting site, but that no ‘college- or university-related facilities’ could be used as early voting sites,” the complaint says.

It adds that in doing so, Detzner — who reports directly to Republican Gov. Rick Scott — “acted with the intent, at least in part, to suppress the vote of young voters in Florida.”

Nope, said Scott spokesman John Tupps: “In fact, students at the University of Florida can vote at multiple locations on campus …” (True, they just can’t vote early on campus.)

“The political organization and the partisan D.C. lawyers that filed this frivolous lawsuit know that under Gov. Scott’s leadership, he’s made it easier for Floridians to vote,” Tupps added. “This political group waited four years to challenge this interpretation. This is obviously an election year gimmick to distort the facts.”

Evening Reads

Donald Trump’s team gets payback for Marco Rubio on Venezuelan assassination plot” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Dramatic bodycam footage shows gunbattle at Trumps’ Doral hotel” via David Ovalle and Charles Rabin of the

What Florida Democrats can learn from tonight’s Georgia governor primary” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times

Chris King shakes up Democratic primary in governor race” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel

Bloody Democratic primary looms in race to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

Congressional candidate John Ward is under fire for saying Puerto Rican evacuees shouldn’t vote in Florida” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Brian Mast, Bill Posey, others urge feds to suspend bonds for Brightline” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Judge faces discipline for racially derogatory remarks” via the News Service of Florida

Void the warrant and destroy the records. So says lawyer of Hernando County commissioner up on prostitution-related charges” via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times

Pest alert triggered in Florida after rare fruit fly find” via Pal Rusnak of Growing Produce

Quote of the Day

“It is agriculture, (a) cow pasture for 60 years. This comes up every election.” — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, after the lodging of a complaint that undeveloped property he owns in Brevard County is being undervalued for tax purposes.

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The Florida Commission on Offender Review will meet in Charlotte County and consider numerous parole cases. That’s at 9 a.m., Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, 7474 Utilities Road, Punta Gorda.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold events in Hillsborough County to provide information to senior citizens about issues such as energy conservation, applying for the Lifeline program and avoiding utility scams. That’s at 10 a.m., Brandon Senior Center, 612 North Parsons Ave., Brandon. Also, 1 p.m., Ruskin Center, 905 Sixth St. S.E., Ruskin.

The Revenue Estimating Conference will hold a post-session “impact” conference related to lottery operations. That’s at 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

A “Governor’s Veterans Service Awards” ceremony will be held in Pinellas County. That’s at 2 p.m., C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center, 2081 Grand Ave., Pinellas Park.

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 6:45 p.m. Central time, St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church, 1 St. Francis Dr., Gulf Breeze.

Bill Nelson blasts government of Florida for not expanding Medicaid

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday blasted “the government of my state, the state of Florida,” for not expanding Medicaid, during a speech on the Senate floor.

Nelson did not name names beyond that, but his reference to the government could be directed at his opponent in this year’s U.S. Senate election, Gov. Rick Scott, who once, briefly, supported the federal offer to expand Medicaid in Florida under the Affordable Care Act, then backed down, and then turned against it.

In 2015 Florida rejected the offer that would have provided billions of dollars to Florida on a matching and sliding scale, to cover an estimated 800,000 residents who make too much money to qualify for existing Medicaid programs and not enough to afford insurance.

“There’s almost $5 billion a year that is sitting on the shelf,” Nelson said, “that is Florida taxpayer money that is going elsewhere.

“In my state of Florida, that is 800,000 people, almost a million people, poor people, disabled folks that would be getting health care,” Nelson continued. “What do they do? They end up going to the emergency room.”

Nelson’s blast came in a friendly exchange with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat elected last fall in a special election, who began by criticizing his own state’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion.

Nationally, 18 states including Florida and Alabama turned down the federal expansion program authorized through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Kerri Wyland, spokeswoman for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, responded, “If Bill Nelson is truly concerned about healthcare services for Floridians, he should propose real solutions instead of campaigning from the Senate floor.”

Delegation for 5.22.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation in the middle of farm bill fiasco

Last Friday, Capitol Hill was rocked by the unexpected defeat of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, otherwise known as the Farm Bill. The 213-198 final vote includes all 183 Democrats voting against it, joined by 30 Republicans.

The bill went down due to significant mistrust of House Republican leadership by the House Freedom Caucus. Conservatives demanded a vote on an immigration bill sponsored by Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, which funds a border wall while also addressing the DACA fix.

When they did not get what they wanted, they torpedoed a major bill Speaker Paul Ryan and his team wanted. Sifting through the wreckage of the doomed legislation reveals the Florida delegation is in the middle of all the political intrigue.

Paul Ryan gets torpedoed on Farm Bill.

Conservatives wanted the vote because a discharge petition championed by Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo is nearing enough signatures to force a vote on the Goodlatte bill and three others (including the DREAM Act). In an email to his constituents, Curbelo described his activities as “leading the renegades.”

The farm bill was the sacrificial lamb, despite it having enough conservative provisions to cause Democrats to lament “cuts” to food stamp benefits and requirements for able-bodied beneficiaries to work for the aid. Democratic Rep. Al Lawson, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, described the bill as “denying food to those who struggle with hunger each day.”

Lawson, fellow Agriculture Committee colleague Darren Soto of Orlando and 181 other Democrats were joined by some Florida Republicans in rejecting the bill. Freedom Caucus members Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Bill Posey of Rockledge also voted no.

It probably would not be a good idea for someone running for governor to vote against a bill involving a major component of the state’s economy, no doubt prompting Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Marineland — a Freedom Caucus member in good standing — to vote “yes.”

Ryan himself voted “no,” but only to have the ability to bring up the bill later. A switch of 7 votes, including a yes from Ryan, would have brought the bill to passage.

Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City, also a member of the Agriculture Committee, voted for the bill and express his disappointment. He said in a statement “the swamp swallowed a bill that President (Donald) Trump supports and America’s farmers depend upon.”

It is anyone’s guess as to what is next, but the odds are growing the House will eventually vote on DACA bills. Most observers are confident the Goodlatte bill would have failed last week and will fail when it comes up again.

The DREAM Act, which the Freedom Caucus describes as total “amnesty,” has some Republican support and could eventually pass, especially in an election year. It has 203 co-sponsors, but very little of what Trump wants, making its future uncertain even if it clears the House and Senate.

While the next steps on immigration will take shape in the coming days, the future for those depending on the farm bill is far less certain.

Democratic PAC to fund Nelson TV ad buy

With Gov. Rick Scott already on the air with numerous TV ads, Nelson was falling behind in the air wars. On Monday, he received a bit of missile defense with the announcement the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC would shell out $2.2 million to help offset Scott’s early advantage.

The 30-second ad, which will air in several Florida markets, is titled “Served.” It will focus on Nelson’s service in the military, his mission as an astronaut and his service as an “independent” Senator.

To view the ad, click the image below:

“Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service every day as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” Senate Majority PAC Chris Hayden stated in a news release. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight.”

While the ad is designed to remind voters who Nelson is and what he is done, Scott’s campaign mocked the intent and the ad’s focus “on things Nelson has opposed, but not a single thing he’s accomplished.”

“After a half-century in office, shouldn’t Floridians know who Bill Nelson is?” asked Scott’s campaign communications director Ryan Patmintra. “It looks like Democrat party boss Chuck Schumer has had to come to the aid of his struggling foot soldier Bill Nelson.”

Rubio trolls China, sheds ‘not one tear’ for Chinese telecom companies

Venezuela has been a frequent target for criticism during Rubio’s tenure in the Senate, but he is now focusing on the Eastern Hemisphere, specifically China. The two-term Republican is a frequent commentator on the actions of the largest economic, if not military, rival of the U.S.

While Venezuela was having what Rubio and most observers believe were sham elections over the weekend, he was trolling China by promoting the interests of Taiwan. The U.S. considers Taiwan an ally that needs protection and support, while China considers the island a rogue, breakaway province.

Democrat Bob Menendez, Republican Marco Rubio team up to protect U.S. airlines against China.

First, Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez, led a bipartisan group of Senators reaffirming their support for U.S. airlines, who are being pressured by China to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites. In letters to the airlines, the Senators asked them to stand tough and not buckle to Chinese pressure as other American companies have previously.

Also last week, Rubio and Mendez led another group of Senators to write to the World Health Organization (WHO) asking their leadership to extend an invitation to Taiwan to fully participate in the upcoming World Health Assembly and future meetings.

“We urge you to restore Taiwan’s meaningful participation at the upcoming WHA and in the broader work of the WHO,” they wrote. “With so many emerging global health challenges, it is not only in Taiwan’s interest but also critical to the WHO’s mission of building a better and healthier future for people all over the world to include Taiwan in the 2018 World Health Assembly.”

At the same time, Rubio went on Fox News to comment on an apparent lessening of sanctions on the Chinese telecom giant, ZTE. He criticized Trump’s apparent decision to accede to a request by Chinese leader Xi Xinping to soften the U.S. sanctions on ZTE as part of a trade deal.

“I do not shed one tear” for ZTE or Chinese telecom companies, he said.

Gaetz medical marijuana bill topic of discussion on Capitol Hill

The push by Gaetz to federally authorize medical marijuana research took another step forward when House Judiciary Committee members heard testimony from a Florida company licensed to produce medical cannabis. Gaetz recently launched the Medical Cannabis Research Act.

Jake Bergmann, Founder and SEO of Surterra Wellness of Ft. Lauderdale, told research should go forward with the help of the private sector for one simple reason. “The private sector grows better pot than the government,” he said.

Matt Gaetz’s medical marijuana bill has the ear of Capitol Hill.

Bergmann said passing the bill would provide the impetus for “hundreds of additional research studies,” and that existing “studies show cannabinoids as a substitute for opioids.”

“I implore everyone to support the Medical Cannabis Research Act and help us discover the secrets of the most powerful medical plant on the planet,” Bergmann added.

Gaetz has broken with many members of his party on the issue. His bill does not change federal or state laws, which he believes can help sell his bill to skeptics.

“The federal government has lied to the American people for a generation about the medical properties of cannabis,” Gaetz told the Tampa Bay Times. “We have a moral obligation to democratize access to research so that innovators can unlock cures to improve quality of life for millions.”

Lawson names Wounded Warrior Fellow 

Thanks to a program designed to create more employment opportunities for those who have served during wartime, a North Florida veteran will be working for his Congressman. Christian Cochran of Quincy has been selected as a Wounded Warrior Fellow for Lawson in his district office in Jacksonville.

“As a veteran, Christian has firsthand knowledge of the needs of our servicemen and women,” Lawson said. “His extensive military experience will prove to be a strong asset to our staff. I look forward to working with him during this fellowship.”

Al Lawson names a Wounded Warrior Fellowship for his district.

Cochran, who served in the United States Army Reserve, will assist with casework and provide support for veterans, active service members, and their families.

“What drew me to this Wounded Warrior Fellowship opportunity was that it is in the Fifth District — my home,” Cochran said. “There are several veterans in the area who need our assistance, and I will do my part to assure their needs are met. I look forward to serving our community.”

The Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program was established by the House of Representatives to provide employment opportunities for wounded and disabled veterans within member offices. The ultimate goal is training a new generation of veteran leaders for government service.

Curry backing Waltz in CD 6

One of the Republican candidates in the highly competitive Republican primary for Congressional District 6 bagged a key endorsement on Monday when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry came out in favor of Michael Waltz. Curry, the former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, praised Waltz’s past as well as his qualifications to succeed DeSantis.

“Michael Waltz is a leader and a warrior with a servant’s heart,” said Curry. “From the battlefield to the halls of power, Mike has already demonstrated a deep reverence for the Constitution and a willingness to fight for the conservative values we share. Washington needs people who instead of saying what they want to do will simply get things done.

Michael Waltz gets the nod from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

Both Waltz and businessman John Ward are raising large sums of money for what will be an expensive primary covering markets such as Jacksonville, Daytona and Orlando. Ward, a Ponte Vedra businessman, was the first quarter cash leader with $709,340 on hand compared to $653,354 on hand for Waltz.

But Waltz has lined up some key endorsements besides Curry. Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville is backing Waltz, along with Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, St. John’s Sheriff David Shoar and Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.

Waltz expressed his gratitude to Curry for supporting him by throwing compliments back at Curry.

“Mayor Lenny Curry is a true leader, visionary and champion for real conservative reform,” said Waltz. “He has worked tirelessly to enact a positive conservative agenda with real results for the people of Northeast Florida. I am humbled by Mayor Curry’s support and look forward to working together in the months ahead.”

After 3 years of trying, Demings announces anti-terror grant funding

Elected representatives relish the opportunity to tell constituents federal funds are coming their way. On Monday, first term Orlando Democrat Val Demings had that chance.

Demings, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced $1.5 million in Department of Homeland Security grants to help with anti-terrorism planning, organization, equipment, training and exercises in urban areas. Despite a major terror attack at the Pulse Nightclub in 2016, the Orlando area had not received any anti-terror grants for more than three years.

Val Demings celebrates the return of counterterrorism funds to the Orlando area.

“I am gratified that Orlando is back on the list to get the vital anti-terror funding we need and deserve,” Demings stated in a news release. “Our community thrives on tourism and travel. Enormous recreational hubs are magnets for economic activity and make us a world destination, but they also make us a potential target.”

Demings and other Orlando delegation members have tried different avenues for the funding, especially after the Pulse tragedy. Her colleagues shared in proclaiming the good news.

Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy said, “as one of the nation’s most popular destinations, Orlando needs and deserves federal support to keep residents and visitors safe.” Soto, also of Orlando, said: “these federal funds are critical to strengthen public safety in central Florida.”

Crist bill supporting Israel gaining support

Back in February, Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg filed a bipartisan bill designed to help Israel defend itself from drone attacks. Joining with Republican Rep. Mike Johnson from Louisiana, the two lawmakers proposed the United States-Israel Joint Drone Detection Cooperation Act.

The bill authorizes the White House “to enter into a cooperative project agreement with Israel to counter unmanned aerial vehicles that threaten the United States or Israel.” It is now part of other pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill.

Charlie Crist’s bill supporting Israel is gaining steam in Congress.

Less than one week later, a Senate companion bill with 46 co-sponsors was filed by Rubio. In March, the Crist-Johnson measure was included in the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, which now has 233 co-sponsors.

Last week, the bill was also included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which cleared the House Armed Services Committee last week.

“To see our bipartisan proposal continue to receive broad support and swiftly move through Congress speaks to the urgent need to address the growing threat of drone attacks to U.S. and Israeli security,” Crist said in a news release. “This new partnership will further our vital alliance on defense and foreign policy strategy, greatly benefiting both our countries and keeping our people safe.”

Deutch, Curbelo, seek rejection of anti-climate provisions

The leaders of the House Climate Change Caucus are urging the leadership of the Appropriations Committee to reject any appropriations that would undermine efforts to combat climate change. Caucus co-chairs Curbelo and Deutch wrote to Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Ranking Member Nita Lowey of New York.

Ted Deutch, Carlos Curbelo make headwinds in the House Climate Change Caucus.

“Climate change is already a threat to life and property, rising temperatures, sea levels, and worsening impacts from severe weather events,” they wrote. “The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, of which we are all members, is engaged in developing market-based solutions to address the critical issue of climate change.”

The caucus is made up of 78 members from both parties. Last week, five new members joined including three Republicans and two Democrats.

Delegation members in addition to Deutch are Curbelo are Democrats Crist of St. Petersburg and Murphy of Orlando, as well as Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City, Ros-Lehtinen and Gaetz.

Deutch and Curbelo are also co-founders of the caucus.

EMILY’s List supports Shalala in CD 27

The race to succeed the retiring Ros-Lehtinen in District 27 has drawn more than a dozen hopefuls, but for EMILY’s list only one candidate stands out. The pro-choice PAC has announced former Health & Human Service Secretary and University of Miami President Donna Shalala is their choice.

“Donna is running to fill retiring Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat — a seat that is considered a key pickup opportunity for Democrats in our fight to take back the House,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

EMILY’s List is going all in for Donna Shalala.

“She is a proven leader who is prepared to take her breadth and depth of experience fighting for others to the halls of Congress. EMILY’s List is proud to stand with Donna and show her the full support of our community to turn this red seat blue.”

The Cook Political Report has the seat “leaning democratic” despite being held by a Republican for more than two decades. Hillary Clinton won the district by 19 points in the 2016 election.

Schriock also argued Shalala’s previous government experience helps her stand out in the CD 27 primary. The group passed over another pro-choice Democratic woman candidate in Miami Beach city Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

In addition to Rosen Gonzalez, Shalala also faces former Knight Foundation Program Director Matt Haggman, current state Rep. David Richardson, and former University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn in the primary.

EMILY’s List has also recommended Mary Barzee Flores in her challenge to Republican Mario Diaz-Balart; Nancy Soderberg, who is trying to win the open seat currently held by DeSantis; Murphy of Winter Park, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Curbelo in District 26.

Roll Call analysis: 19 seats all trend toward Democrats

Despite a narrowing in the polling for the generic ballot, Roll Call has updated 19 House races that have all shifted toward Democrats. One of those 19 involves Crist’s Pinellas County seat.

Roll Call points to two districts held by Democrats that can no longer be described as competitive. Crist’s 13th Congressional District has moved from “Likely Democratic” to “Solidly Democratic,” the same movement seen by California Democrat Ami Bera.

California’s Ami Bera and 18 other seats moved closer to Democrats.

While Democrats should be pleased with any movement toward their candidates, they should not chalk up all 19 seats to their column. More than half are switches from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.”

At the same time, there is room for some comparison to previous wave elections. In 2010, there were 68 vulnerable Democrats and 11 Republicans, leading to a 63-seat GOP pickup that year.

In 2006, there were 42 vulnerable Republicans and 11 vulnerable Democrats. Republicans lost 30 seats that year and control of the House.

According to Roll Call’s analysis, Republicans have 68 vulnerable seats in 2018 to only 10 for Democrats. For them to regain control, Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats.

One bright spot for the GOP is the trend in the generic ballot. Once down by double-digits, the Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Democrats with a four-point advantage.

On this day in the headlines

May 22, 1964 — Senate Democratic Whip Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, confident he “will have the votes for cloture,” said the bipartisan package of civil rights amendments probably will be introduced in the Senate on Monday. He said it was “premature to say we have the votes,” but was confident the filibuster against the legislation could be broken.

Democratic Sens. Spessard Holland and George Smathers of Florida blocked a move by Illinois Democrat Paul Douglas to hold a vote on amendments involving jury trials. Holland said it would be “discourteous” to have such a vote while a compromise was being brokered. Smathers said he was “delighted” to object as well.

May 22, 1973 — President Richard Nixon acknowledged the existence of an apparent wide-ranging Watergate cover-up attempt by subordinates who he conceded could have misconstrued his national security directives. Nixon said he “should have been more vigilant.”

But he disclaimed personal knowledge of “unethical, as well as illegal, activities” that he said took place in his 1972 presidential campaign. Those implicated include his now-departed Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman and Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs John Ehrlichman.

Obamas reveal their next gig

Exactly 16 months after leaving office, former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have accepted a new challenge. They will be joining forces to produce films and series for Netflix.

The content will include scripted and unscripted series, documentaries and features. There should be plenty of ideas to keep them busy.

The Obamas’ new gig — Netflix.

One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” Obama said in a statement. ‘That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”

The Obama’s production company will be called Higher Ground Productions.

 

Last Call for 5.21.18 — 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 bipartisan panoply of political stars came out this past weekend for the 22nd annual “Phil Galvano Golf Classic,” held at the Longboat Key Club and Resort.

The event is held in memory of Senate President-designate Bill Galvano’s late father — golf pro Phil Galvano — and raised $600,000 for the Manatee Education Foundation.

Spotted on the attendee list were Outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Speaker-designate Jose Oliva, and past Senate President Andy Gardiner.

Joining them were Sens. Aaron Bean, Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, Anitere Flores, Denise Grimsley, Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Darryl Rouson, David Simmons, Perry Thurston, and Dana Young.

Also, House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues, Rep. Joe Gruters, former Sens. Chris Smith and Nancy Detert, former Speakers Dean Cannon and Lee Moffitt, and former Reps. Susan Goldstein, Doug Holder, Ed Hooper and Rob Schenck.

Legal and lobbying behemoth GrayRobinson was the title sponsor.

The elder Galvano, who died in 1996, wasn’t your run-of-the-mill golf pro. For a story on his background and achievements, check out this post from last year.

Evening Reads

Bill Nelson gets $2.2M in air support from Senate Democrats” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Ron DeSantis committee gets $200K from large Democratic donor” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Did Gwen Graham vote against President Obama 52 percent of the time?” via Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida

Patrick Murphy, David Jolly going national with TV appearances as speculation of bipartisan ticket grows” via Emily Mahoney of the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau

Attorney General hopefuls disagree on opioid lawsuit timing” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida

Price tag for restricting felons’ rights after prison put at $385 million a year” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

School boards continue battle over controversial law” via News Service of Florida

FPL parent to buy Gulf Power in multibillion-dollar deal” via Jim Sauders of the News Service of Florida

Airbnb a boon for Florida seniors” via Chris Wille of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Rainy season arrives in full force in Sunshine State” via the Associated Press

Quote of the Day

“You just wake up one day and realize that you’re running in place, and that’s when we got together and said it’s time to take this step.” — U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, on filing a “discharge petition” in a showdown over DREAMers.

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Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, will discuss the 2018 legislative session during a meeting of the Jacksonville Oceanside Rotary Club. That’s at 7:30 a.m., Atlantic Beach Country Club, 1600 Selva Marina Dr., Atlantic Beach.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold an event in Hillsborough County to provide information to senior citizens about issues such as energy conservation, applying for the Lifeline program and avoiding utility scams. That’s at 11 a.m., Tampa Baptist Manor, 215 West Grand Central Ave., Tampa.

Gov. Rick Scott will honor Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award. That’s at 2:45 p.m., National Guard Armory, 401 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand.

Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican running in Congressional District 17, is slated to speak to the North Port Area Republican Club. That’s at 5 p.m., Olde World Restaurant, 14415 Tamiami Trail, North Port.

A campaign kickoff event will be held for Delray Beach Republican Mike Caruso, who is running in state House District 89. The Palm Beach County seat is open because GOP Rep. Bill Hager faces term limits. That’s at 6 p.m., Museum 66, 2051 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley is slated to attend the Miami Young Republicans Meeting. That’s at 6:30 p.m., Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, Suite 106, 1465 SW 8th St., Miami.

Democratic candidate for Governor Chris King will address Broward County Democrats on reforming criminal justice in Florida. That’s at 7 p.m., Edwin F. Deicke Auditorium, 5701 Cypress Road, Plantation.

Enterprise Florida has secured space for a Florida section within the USA Pavilion for Hospitalar 2018, a health fair that is one of the largest in South America. That’s Tuesday through Friday in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Senate Majority PAC launches Bill Nelson commercial

The pro-Democrats Senate Majority PAC is launching a new statewide commercial for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that largely counters the attack ads he’s been facing from his opponent Gov. Rick Scott and his New Republican PAC.

The new 30-second spot, “Served,” portrays Nelson as someone who has served in the military and as an astronaut and who has worked across party lines and fought hard to protect programs such as Social Security and health care benefits. It essentially counters two spots that Scott and his PAC have out seeking to paint Nelson as a do-nothing and as highly-partisan.

Nelson’s campaign and his political action committee, Moving America Forward, have not yet launched any commercials, so the Senate Majority PAC TV commercial appears as Nelson’s first broadcast defense from the many attack ads that Scott and New Republican PAC have been running  against him for weeks.

Senate Majority PAC‘s initial buy is for $2.2 million, and the ad is running statewide, said SMP spokesman Chris Hayden.

“Bill Nelson’s life has been about service to others and to his country, and he continues that tradition of service everyday as he fights and advocates for Floridians,” Hayden stated in a news release. “Nelson is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with powerful interests. From protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization to standing up to insurance companies by stopping them from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, he never backs down from a fight. Bill Nelson delivers for Florida and there is no question he is the only candidate in this race that puts Florida first.”

As pictures and video appear of Nelson in his U.S. Army captain’s uniform and of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Capitol Hill, Nelson speaking at a town hall, and seniors, a narrator says, “He served his country as an Army captain. An astronaut on the shuttle Columbia. And as one of America’s most independent senators, Bill Nelson has delivered for Florida. When some tried to privatize Social Security and Medicare for millions of Floridians, he stopped them, stopped insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions too. We need a Senator who serves all of us. Who puts Florida first. That’s Bill Nelson.”

Rick Scott’s campaign communications director Ryan Patmintra responded that the ad “focuses on things Nelson has opposed, but not a single thing he has accomplished.”

“After a half century in office, shouldn’t Floridians know who Bill Nelson is? It looks like Democrat party boss Chuck Schumer has had to come to the aid of his struggling foot soldier Bill Nelson. It’s ironic that a liberal SuperPAC is going out of its way to claim that Bill Nelson is independent,” Patmintra said in a written statement. “Nelson’s voting record is anything but moderate and nothing can hide his own record of voting in lockstep with his party bosses in D.C. Not surprisingly, the ad focuses on things Nelson has opposed, but not a single thing he has accomplished. Clearly, Nelson’s own base can’t even come up with real results worth sharing.”

Delegation for 5.18.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Re-election races bringing out ‘bipartisanship’

This week, two issues began to break through the fog of personal “collusion” between Stormy Daniels and President Donald Trump, as well as the still unproven “collusion between Trump and Russia. Both issues involve some bipartisanship, but tough re-election battles have placed two prominent Floridians at the center of the action.

The first issue surrounds the confirmation of CIA Director nominee Gina HaspelOn Wednesday, she earned a positive bipartisan referral from the Senate Intelligence Committee with a 10-5 vote, sending her nomination to the Senate floor.

Break out the bipartisanship: Senate Intelligence Committee gives the nod to Gina Haspel.

Despite the announced defection of Arizona Republicans Jeff Flake and John McCain, along with Rand Paul of Kentucky, Haspel was confirmed on Thursday by a 54-45 vote. Those defections were more than offset by the support of a handful of Democrats representing red or purple states.

Among those was Bill Nelson, who announced his support on Tuesday. Nelson, in a tough re-election fight with Gov. Rick Scott, said: “the brave men and women who work at the CIA deserve a career professional, like her, to lead them.”

After attacks from Scott’s campaign that called Nelson a party line guy, the reason for the three-term Democrat’s support is obvious. At the same time, he runs some risk that his Democratic base will have a hard time swallowing a seat-saving vote.

In an AP story titled “Confirmation vote for CIA chief brings out Democratic rift,” a spokeswoman for a liberal activist group said any Democrat voting for Haspel is “a vote they’re going to have to explain for a long time to come.”

The far left may also want Nelson to explain his being one of only five Democrats to vote for the confirmation of Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State. In addition, he was criticized by liberal activists in January for voting to end the brief government shutdown without a fix for undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers.

While Democrats are in a rift over Haspel, DREAMers are creating a schism within House Republicans. A prominent Florida Republican is at the center of an effort to force a vote on DACA, which would legalize this group of immigrants.

In a story published in The Hill titled GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team, House Speaker Paul Ryan is trying to fend off an intraparty insurgency trying to force a vote on DACA.

Three weeks ago, Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo was not even a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, but has since signed on and is now a leader in the effort to get 25 Republican signatures on a discharge petition that would force a vote on that bill and three others.

Curbelo is classified as one of the more endangered Republicans in 2018, which helps explain his decision to take on his party leadership in a big way. According to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, if the discharge petition goes forward, Republicans could lose the majority in the fall. Leadership is working on an alternative plan.

“Clearly we have had a positive impact on leadership and on this institution because now this issue is being taken seriously,” Curbelo told reporters following a Wednesday meeting in Ryan’s office. “We have our plan, we’re sticking to it, but we’re willing to see what theirs looks like.”

As of Thursday, Curbelo and his allies had 20 Republican signatures. If five more sign on and all Democrats join, the four competing DACA bills will be forced onto the floor.

If that happens, some real incumbent protection will break out. Stay tuned.

Nelson applauds Senate vote on net neutrality

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules. The 52-47 vote was as narrow and partisan, percentage-wise, as the commission’s 3-2 vote in December.

This was good news to Nelson, who has long railed against the FCC for even contemplating such action. He said the rules had been established for a reason. Before the vote, he addressed Senators from the Senate floor on the need to repeal.

Bill Nelson approves of the Senate vote protecting Net Neutrality. (Image via Getty)

“The public understands how vital it is to have a free and open internet,” Nelson said. “They do not want to have websites blocked or internet access slowed. And they certainly don’t want internet providers making these decisions.”

The House is not expected to take up the repeal, meaning the Senate vote will have no lasting impact. Democrats are hoping at least for some political gain.

Many Americans do not understand what net neutrality means, but younger voters, who spend far more time on the internet than older voters, know more about what is at stake. Democrats are counting on this being an issue that will help drive millennials to the polls.

Rubio goes after State Department nominee

More than 6 months after her nomination as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Susan Thornton is yet to be confirmed. If Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has his way, she never will be.

Reports are emerging that Thornton’s nomination is in trouble and could be withdrawn. She is coming under fire for taking conciliatory positions on China, something sure to draw the ire of Rubio, who has indicated he plans to place an indefinite hold on her in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If Marco Rubio gets his way, Susan Thornton will not be confirmed.

“During the confirmation hearing and in written answers, the current nominee obfuscated or evaded when answering important questions about her troubling record of undermining America’s allies like Taiwan, failing to stand up to China’s efforts to impose its authoritarian will beyond its borders, including in the United States, downplaying human rights abuses in China, and favoring smooth relations with Beijing over ‎a bilateral relationship grounded in reciprocity and reality,” Rubio told the Washington Free Beacon.

On Thursday, things got worse when reports surfaced Thornton was responding to North Korean threats to pull out of the summit with Trump by indicating a partial surrender of nuclear weapons would be sufficient to keep progress going. Rubio was having none of that.

“She is in Tokyo undermining (Trump) by advocating for partial surrender for partial surrender of nukes is unacceptable,” Rubio said.

If Rubio was ready to put a hold on her nomination over China, he made it clear late Thursday that her chance to be confirmed had all but disappeared.

“This is why I will do all I can to prevent Susan Thornton from ever being confirmed as Asst. Secretary of State for E. Asian & Pacific Affairs,” he tweeted.

Calls among other Republicans for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to pull her nomination are likely to grow.

Delegation Democrats call Scott to take action on health care

Florida Democrats are bringing health care back into the 2018 campaign season by calling on Scott to use his authority to increase access to coverage for Floridians that have lost, or will lose, health coverage due to rising costs.

In a letter to Scott, led by Kathy Castor of Tampa and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton signed by all 11 House Democrats and Nelson, they point to six areas where the governor can take action that does not directly involve expanding Medicaid. The lawmakers are anticipating the announcement in the coming weeks of insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that may put health coverage out of reach for many Floridians.

Kathy Castor joins Ted Deutch and other Florida Democrats in blasting Rick Scott for a failure to expand Medicaid.

“There are a number of actions at the state level that you can take to help increase health coverage and increase the affordability of care for families that will mitigate the harm and higher costs facilitated by Republicans in Washington,” they wrote. “We urge you to work to implement some or all of these options to help ensure stability and lower costs for our neighbors.”

They pointed out that 1.7 million Floridians are enrolled in health care through exchanges under the ACA, with 9 out of 10 of those receiving assistance to pay premiums. They closed the letter with a pledge to work with Scott and “thank you for your consideration.”

Wednesday a big day for Rutherford

Wednesday was a busy day for the first-term Republican from Jacksonville. Not only did Rutherford get a high-profile bill passed in the House, he was appointed to one of the chamber’s high-profile committees as well.

The Protect and Serve Act, sponsored by Rutherford and co-sponsored by Orlando Democrat Val Demings and Panama City Republican Neal Dunn, increases penalties for those who target law enforcement officers for injury or death.

It was a big week for John Rutherford.

On the House floor, Rutherford noted 87 law enforcement officers have been shot this year, 28 fatally.

“For this reason, I introduced bipartisan legislation with my good friend and former Orlando Police Chief, Representative Val Demings, that will ensure that there are the strongest possible penalties for anyone who decides to target and harm not only federal law enforcement officers but also local and state officers.”

The bill passed the House by a large bipartisan majority of 382-35. Among the delegation, only Democrats Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel voted against it.

Earlier on Wednesday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, announced Rutherford’s appointment to the committee. He currently serves on the Veterans Affairs, Judiciary, and Homeland Security Committee.

“With the retirement of one of our great Subcommittee Chairmen, Charlie Dent, we needed to bring a new Member on board, and have made additional changes in Subcommittee leadership as well,” Frelinghuysen said. “We welcome Rep. John Rutherford to the Committee, and I look forward to working closely with him over the next weeks and months to complete all 12 Appropriations bills in the House, and to fulfill our fiscal commitments to the country and the American people.”

Biden weighs in with CD 6 endorsement

Earlier this week, Democratic Congressional hopeful Nancy Soderberg received her biggest endorsement to date. As she tries to win the nomination in District 6, Soderberg was endorsed by former Vice-President Joe Biden.

Biden said he is supporting Soderberg after knowing her for 30 years, dating back to her service as a staffer in the Senate. He also pointed to her service in the White House and the State Department as an Ambassador to the United Nations.

Joe Biden gives his approval for Nancy Soderberg, a former ambassador in the Bill Clinton’s White House.

“I’m supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver, and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education,” Biden said. “She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”

Soderberg has one plausible Democratic opponent in the primary, making Biden’s support a big plus among intraparty voters.

“I am honored to have the support of Vice-President Biden, who has dedicated his life to standing up for American men, women and children,” Soderberg said in a statement.

Soderberg has raised nearly $1 million and had $595,000 cash on hand as of March 31. Her primary opponent, Stephen Sevigny, has $227,000 on hand.

The winner will likely face either John Ward or Michael Waltz, both well-funded, in the general election. District 6 is a GOP-leaning district currently represented by Republican Ron DeSantis of Marineland, who is leaving the seat to run for governor.

Soto nabs endorsement of civil rights icon

A civil rights legend has weighed in on the District 8 Democratic primary between former Rep. Alan Grayson and first-term incumbent Darren Soto. Georgia Democrat John Lewis revealed on Thursday he is backing Soto, calling Soto “a champion of civil rights.”

Civil rights icon John Lewis of Georgia is standing with Darren Soto.

 

Darren Soto is exactly the kind of leader we need in our country today,” Lewis said in a statement. “He brings a passion for fairness, justice, and equality for all. Against a tide of hatred, Darren knows that only love can save our country,”

Lewis was one of the leaders of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and has served in Congress since 1987. He called Soto a “rising star.”

“He has my full support and I hope the people of Central Florida will send him back to Congress because we need him,” Lewis said.

The winner of the Soto-Grayson primary will face Republican businessman Wayne Liebnitzky.

Mast joins Veterans Affairs Committee

Last week, rumors circulated that Palm City Republican Brian Mast was under consideration to be the new Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). A “White House official” confirmed Mast was under consideration to lead the agency with 360,000 employees serving 9 million veterans.

That now seems unlikely because, on Wednesday, Mast was tapped for a seat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee. He will continue to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee as well as the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Brian Mast meets with acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

“Brian is already a tireless advocate for veterans, and — as a veteran himself — is keenly aware of the challenges our nation’s heroes face,” said committee chairman Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican. “Representative Mast will be an excellent addition to the committee, and I look forward to working with him to reform VA.”

While not serving on the committee during his first 16 months, Mast has been active in issues involving veterans. He has been involved in the Warriors Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members who have served in combat.

On Thursday, caucus members welcomed acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to Washington, where they met to discuss ways to improve service to veterans. They also discussed the bipartisan VA MISSION Act of 2018, which passed overwhelmingly Wednesday.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to serve our veterans on the Veterans Affairs Committee,” Mast said in a news release. “Our first-of-its-kind office in the West Palm Beach VA has resulted in more than 100 new cases that we’re taking a look at to help veterans in our community, and being on this committee will give me an even better platform to advocate for my fellow veterans.”

Diaz-Balart touts Everglades funding in water project appropriations 

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a $44.7 billion funding bill that would provide significant funding for the Everglades and Florida water-related projects. Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, a senior member of the committee, could not be happier.

With the committee’s approval of the 2019 Energy and Water Development funding bill, projects within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan totaling $67.5 million would receive federal funding. Another $96 million would go toward funding necessary repairs on the Herbert Hoover Dike on Lake Okeechobee.

Mario Diaz-Balart, shown here at a House Appropriations Committee meeting this week, touts new funding for the Everglades.

“The Everglades is the heart of the Sunshine State’s ecosystem, and we must do everything we can to preserve it for future generations,” said Diaz-Balart in a news release. “Not only will these projects sustain the Everglades and the tourism it supports, but it will also protect Floridians’ access to clean drinking water and mitigate against future floods.”

The bill provides $200 million for flood and storm damage reduction, along with another $140 million for maintenance and improvements for Florida waterways.

Other delegation members on the committee are Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Shalala Center will be minus one Shalala on Saturday

While some Congressional races garner more news than others, District 27 covering Miami is getting a lot of attention this week. The biggest news involves a Democratic debate scheduled for Saturday.

In one of those you-can’t-make-this-up moments, the scheduled debate is slated for the Donna E. Shalala Student Center on the campus of the University of Miami. Most of the contenders will be there with the exception of Donna Shalala.

A Democratic candidate forum at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center Saturday will be short one Donna Shalala.

This will mark the second consecutive debate the former Clinton Administration official and president of the University of Miami has missed. She skipped another debate Tuesday night to attend a film screening.

“Donna ‘No-Show’ Shalala is consistently disrespecting the people of this district by missing these debates, especially one at a building named after her,” said state Rep. David Richardson, one of her opponents. “Donna Shalala says she’ll be ‘ready on day one,’ but she is not even ready to debate the other candidates. This is not how elections should be run.”

Shalala, who pledged to attend a July debate, dominated a February poll where most respondents were unfamiliar with the other candidates.

One of the candidates who is attending the debates, has another issue besides Shalala. Kristen Rosen Gonzalez has been accused of defamation for public comments she made last year.

Last fall, Rosen Gonzalez accused former Miami Beach Commission candidate Rafael Velasquez of exposing himself to her. He confirmed the lawsuit this week.

More than a dozen candidates from both parties are running to succeed retiring Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Wishlist

It’s infrastructure week (again), and some trade groups across the nation are asking for something unique from Washington: money for park maintenance projects.

In a Tuesday letter to Congress, 12 Florida trade groups joined a national coalition of 40 organizations asking members to dedicate funding to the National Park Service’s $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. The ask comes as White House officials and Congress consider a nationwide infrastructure spending plan.

Florida trade groups join a coalition calling for ‘rebuilding and fixing the National Park System.’

“Rebuilding and fixing the National Park System will help to employ thousands of American workers, support continued tourism and economic development in hundreds of park gateway communities, and ensure that our national treasures are preserved for generations to come,” the letter reads.

Don’t take their word for it: A study commissioned in 2017 found that investing in maintenance projects could create or support more than 2,467 jobs in Florida, and 110,169 jobs nationwide.

Numbers talk: The more than 10 million visitors to park sites in the Sunshine State in 2017 spent $613 million in nearby areas.

Signatories include: The Florida chapters of the American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association and American Society of Landscape Architects, along with the Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida, Inc., Associated Builders & Contractors, the Florida Engineering Society, Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Florida Surveying and Mapping Society, Florida Transportation Builders Association, National Association of Women in Construction of Greater Palm Beaches, National Association of Women in Construction – Tampa Chapter #36, and the Suncoast Utility Contractors Association.

On this day in the headlines

May 18, 2001 — President George W. Bush released a blueprint plan that calls for the U.S. to find and develop new sources of energy. The plan prompted fears of new oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coast.

Democratic Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa said if the administration seeks to move oil rigs closer to the coast, “they have a huge fight on their hands.” Republican Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young of St. Petersburg said, “There will be a bit of a battle if there is an attempt to rescind the Florida moratorium” on drilling.

May 18, 2011 — The vehicle that will usher the shuttle program into retirement was given a rock star-like escort in Cape Canaveral. Flanked by hundreds of Kennedy Space Center workers and led by its four-man crew, shuttle Atlantis made a final trip from its processing hangar to the vehicle assembly building.

The crew and KSC employees took their time admiring the last shuttle that will fly in orbit. The shuttle program will officially end following the mid-July mission.

Last Call for 5.17.18 — 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 Shot

Note from Washington: The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies approved a measure to “renew protections for state medical cannabis programs when the current spending budget expires in September.”

That’s according to a news release from The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), which bills itself as “the largest cannabis trade association in the U.S.”

The amendment was introduced by Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican. It prevents the Department of Justice from using any resources to target medical cannabis patients or providers who are in compliance with state laws.

As of April, “30 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Florida is one of the states.

Selling marijuana is still a federal crime, but an initiative begun under the Obama administration suggested federal prosecutors not pursue people, particularly ‘the seriously ill and their caregivers,’ who distribute and use medical marijuana in compliance with an existing state law.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has opposed any form of marijuana legalization, though his boss, President Donald Trump, has indicated sympathy to medical use.

Evening Reads

U.S. has spent $2.8 trillion on terrorism fight, study finds” via Jessica Donat of The Wall Street Journal

Must-do for Florida’s midterm candidates: A stop in Puerto Rico. Or three” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times

Union-funded super PAC set to give Bill Nelson first round of TV ad support” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Ron DeSantis: Sorry Adam Putnam, but Trump is solidly behind me” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

Adam Putnam promotes voc-ed, bashes ‘liberal elites’ in new ad” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics

‘Millions of dollars committed’: Patrick Murphy enters new phase of bipartisan bid with David Jolly” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida

Chris King backs Orange County children’s initiative” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez now faces defamation lawsuit” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics

All Children’s Hospital now under federal review” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times

Two years after it swallowed 215M gallons of polluted water, Mosaic sinkhole finally corked” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times

Quote of the Day

“As the text reads, ‘The humane treatment of animals is a fundamental value of the people of Florida.’ If the members of the Florida Greyhound Association disagree with this premise, they are free to vote ‘no’ in November.” — Kate MacFall, Florida State Director of The Humane Society of the United States, on a lawsuit seeking to block a dog-racing ban from the November ballot.

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Wake Up Early?

The Florida Board of Dentistry will meet at 7:30 a.m., Four Points by Sheraton Tallahassee Downtown, 316 West Tennessee St., Tallahassee.

The Forensic Interview Protocol Task Force, which works on issues related to forensic interviews of children suspected of having suffered abuse, will meet at 9 a.m., Embassy Suites Orlando, 8978 International Dr., Orlando.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is slated to release April unemployment figures at 10 a.m.

Denise Grimsley, a Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, will speak at a luncheon of the Lakewood Ranch Republican Club. That’s at 11:30 a.m., EVEN Hotel Sarasota-Lakewood Ranch, 6231 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota.

The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida will start a conference, continuing through Sunday, at 6:30 p.m., Hippodrome Theatre, 25 S.E. Second Place, Gainesville.

Political commentator and 2012 presidential candidate Herman Cain will speak during the Orange County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. Social hour begins at 6:30 p.m., with dinner at 7:45 p.m., Disney’s Contemporary Resort, 4600 North World Dr., Lake Buena Vista.

GOP candidates for Governor Putnam and DeSantis are expected to be among the speakers during the Broward County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner. That’s at 7 p.m., Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, 1881 S.E. 17th St., Fort Lauderdale.

Looking Ahead

The Villages Democratic Club will hold a forum for candidates for governor, with King, Philip Levine and Andrew Gillum expected to take part. That’s at 10 a.m. Saturday, Savannah Center, 1575 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.

Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate, will speak during the Hillsborough County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday. Reception at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., Pepin’s Hospitality Centre, 4121 North 50th St., Tampa.

Last Call for 5.16.18 – 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

Supporters of the proposed ban on greyhound racing have landed a top dog: Republican political consultant and lobbyist Marc Reichelderfer has joined the team.

Reichelderfer, president of Landmarc Strategies, will serve as a Senior Advisor to the “Protect Dogs–Yes on 13” campaign, the organization announced Wednesday.

He’s worked for a bevy of Florida lawmakers, including former Sen. and now FSU president John Thrasher and Sen. Aaron Bean, to name two. And he was the “resident guru” on Attorney General Pam Bondi’s 2014 re-election campaign.

Bondi, a member of the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, supports Amendment 13, which would outlaw the racing of dogs and wagering on such races. Amendments need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

“There are few big races that this guy is not somehow a part of,” SaintPetersblog once wrote of Reichelderfer.

“This is long overdue,” Reichelderfer said in a statement. “We have seen overwhelming support from voters wanting to end dog racing. I’ve been a part of the effort to protect greyhounds in Florida for nearly 20 years. It’s exciting to be a part of this winning campaign.”

The campaign also announced it had chosen Deno Seder Productions of Maryland for its “media production, strategic counsel, and messaging.” The firm has worked on successful animal welfare campaigns and ballot measures in 11 states, including a 2008 initiative that outlawed greyhound racing in Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, the campaign said it had hired the firm of Trippi Norton Rossmeissl. The Democratic-aligned team worked on Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory in Alabama, the “first Democrat to win the U.S. Senate in Alabama in 25 years,” the group noted.

Evening Reads

Russia meddled with goal of helping Donald Trump, Senate Intel Committee says” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

Top Dem presidential hopefuls audition for 2020” via Edward-Isaac Dovere of POLITICO

John Morgan: ‘If I was Bill Nelson, I’d be worried’ ” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida

Publix clarifies: We support Adam Putnam, not the NRA” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott earmarks federal Hurricane Irma block grant for housing, infrastructure” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

Scott says he can’t strip ex-Parkland deputy of pension” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Clerks ‘appreciate’ Scott funding request, but want permanent fix to gun background check gap” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

Judge hears patients’ challenge to state ban on smoking medical marijuana” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida

TECO to be target of criminal probe if this Democrat is elected Attorney General” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times

College may not be worth it anymore” via Eileen Shell of the New York Times

Quote of the Day

“Enough is enough. Let’s stop the politics. Let’s let these people live.” — John Morgan, speaking after Wednesday’s trial on his lawsuit to allow the smoking of medical marijuana in Florida.

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Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works to protect and enhance military bases, will meet at 9 a.m., Residence Inn Marriott Tallahassee, 600 West Gaines St., Tallahassee.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will participate in the Manatee Fraternal Order of Police’s Memorial Service. That’s at 9 a.m., First Baptist Church of Bradenton, 1306 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton.

Florida TaxWatch will host the Prudential Productivity Awards program, which honors state workers who reduce government costs and improve services. That’s at 10 a.m., Florida TaxWatch, 106 North Bronough St., Tallahassee.

The Gulf Consortium Board of Directors, which works on issues related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is scheduled to meet in Bay County. That’s at 10 a.m. (Central time), Edgewater Beach Resort Conference Center, 520 Richard Jackson Blvd., Panama City Beach.

The Florida Supreme Court is scheduled to release its weekly opinions at 11 a.m.

With the annual hurricane season ready to start June 1, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund Advisory Council will meet to discuss issues including claims-paying capacity. That’s at 1:30 p.m., Hermitage Centre, 1801 Hermitage Blvd., Tallahassee. Call-in number: 1-888-670-3525. Code: 7135858151.

A “Governor’s Veterans Service Awards” ceremony will be held in Jackson County. That’s at 2 p.m. Central time, National Guard Armory, 3645 U.S. 90 West, Marianna.

Newly elected Sen. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, will hold an office-opening event. Berman, a longtime House member, was elected in an April 10 special election in Palm Beach County’s Senate District 31. That’s at 5:30 p.m., Children Services Council Building, 2300 High Ridge Road-Suite 161, Boynton Beach.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, will take part in the annual “Motor Officer of the Year” ceremony in Volusia County. That’s at 6 p.m., Duff’s Original Buffet, 2667 North Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach.

Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, will deliver the keynote address during the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce 70th Annual Dinner. The dinner begins at 5:30 p.m.; Wilson is scheduled to speak at 7:30 p.m. That’s at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, 2600 Tiburon Drive, Naples.

Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican, will discuss the 2018 legislative session during a dinner meeting of the Republican Women of Cape Coral, Federated. That’s at 6 p.m., Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral.

 

Last Call for 5.15.18 — 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

Mosaic Fertilizer, the world’s largest phosphate mining company, announced it had won at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, affirming a judgment in its favor.

The plaintiff, Rhonda Williams of Tampa, had sought over $60 million in damages from the company, which also operates in Florida, in a “toxic tort” suit. She lives three miles from Mosaic’s Riverview plant.

“Williams alleged that toxic substances emitted from (the) factory … caused or exacerbated various medical conditions from which she suffers, including pulmonary hypertension, obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung and non-lung-related conditions,” the opinion explained.

But a trial-court judge wouldn’t allow her expert witness testimony, her “only evidence as to general and specific causation,” and granted Mosaic’s request for a summary judgment, which allows parties to win without a full trial.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the appellate court this week agreed with the lower judge, saying her expert’s analysis was “deeply flawed.”

The federal courts follow the Daubert standard, named after a court case, in deciding whether to admit expert testimony. Daubert is scientifically strict and usually requires a kind of ‘mini-trial’ before an expert can appear in front of jurors.

Mosaic was represented by a litigation team led by David Weinstein, who chairs Greenberg Traurig’s national environmental and toxic tort practice.

Evening Reads

Pam Bondi files lawsuit against five large manufacturers of opioids” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times

AP, Fox News launch new exit polling project” via Steven Shepard of POLITICO

Hispanic group launches voter registration drive in Florida via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida

Donna Shalala’s opponents needle her for skipping candidate forum” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald

It’s abundantly clear who is supporting Carrie Pilon’s SD 24 bid via Florida Politics

NRCC, DCCC exchange shots in South Florida congressional race” via Kevin Derby of Sunshine State News

A decade after scandal, Ray Sansom plots comeback” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Nursing home records dispute ratchets up” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida

All Children’s never told state about needle left in baby” via Kat McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times

Twitter is going to limit the visibility of tweets from people behaving badly” via Alex Kantrowitz of BuzzFeed

Quote of the Day

“I don’t want Alyssa’s life to be in vain. I’m doing this because I don’t want another parent to go through the pain and anguish that I have to go through every day.” — Lori Alhadeff, mother of the late Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Alyssa Alhadeff, on running for the Broward County School Board.

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Breakthrough Insights  

Wake Up Early?

The annual Florida Coastal Management Program will begin in Pinellas County, with speakers expected to include Noah Valenstein, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Edge Hotel, 505 South Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach.

The CareerSource Florida Board of Directors will meet at 8:30 a.m., World Golf Village Renaissance Resort, 500 South Legacy Trail, St. Augustine.

The Board of Education will meet and consider a series of issues, including the designation of KIPP New Jersey and Democracy Prep Public Schools as “hope operators.” That’s at 9 a.m., Pinellas County School Board office, 301 Fourth St. S.W., Largo.

The Florida Citrus Commission will meet at 9 a.m., Florida Department of Citrus, 605 East Main St., Bartow.

The Florida Public Service Commission will hold a customer-service hearing on a proposed rate increase in Monroe County for K W Resort Utilities Corp. That’s at 9:30 a.m., DoubleTree by Hilton Grand Key Resort, 3990 South Roosevelt Blvd., Key West.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers is slated to hear arguments in a lawsuit challenging a state ban on smoking medical marijuana. It begins at 10 a.m., Leon County Courthouse, 301 South Monroe St., Tallahassee.

Attorney General Pam Bondi will present the 2017 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award in Tallahassee. That’s at 10 a.m., Cabinet Meeting Room, The Capitol.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will join the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida and treatment providers and law enforcement to announce a donation of Deterra Drug Deactivation Pouches to the United Way of Lee County by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. They “safely dispose of unused medications to deactivate drugs, thereby preventing drug misuse and protecting the environment,” a press release explained. That’s at 11 a.m., United Way-Lee County, 7273 Concourse Dr., Fort Myers.

Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner Denise Grimsley will speak at the Walton Republican Women Federated Luncheon. That’s at 11:30 a.m., Cantina Laredo, 585 Grand Blvd., Miramar Beach.

The Criminal Justice Estimating Conference will hold what is known as a post-session “impact” conference. That’s at 1 p.m., 117 Knott Building, the Capitol.

Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam continues his ‘Florida Jobs First’ tour. At 3 p.m., he’ll be at VOXX Automotive, 2351 J Lawson Blvd., Orlando.

Democrats Lee Mangold and Darryl Block, running for Seminole County House seats, will take part in a meet-and-greet event. Mangold is running in House District 28, which is an open seat, while Block is trying to unseat Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, in House District 29. That’s at 7 p.m., Celery City Craft, 114 South Palmetto Ave., Sanford.

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