Senate President Joe Negron waded into the Republican Primary for Attorney General Tuesday, announcing his support for former circuit court judge Ashley Moody.
“The next Attorney General of Florida should possess a keen legal mind, understand the rich history of Florida and protect the rights of all citizens of our State,” the Stuart Republican said in a press release.
“The best predictor of future success is past performance. Ashley Moody has excelled as a commercial litigator in private practice, a federal prosecutor and a state circuit court judge.
“I am enthusiastically endorsing Ashley Moody because I believe she has the background, experience and temperament to be an exceptional Attorney General.”
The Negron nod is another arrow in Moody’s quiver as she competes against state Reps. Jay Fant and Frank White to be the GOP nominee in the race to replace term-limited AG Pam Bondi.
Moody thanked Negron for the endorsement, adding that as the only candidate in the attorney general’s race having served as a prosecutor and judge, she would “continue to uphold the law by protecting the constitution and prosecuting criminals for a stronger, safer Florida on day one.”
In addition to the broad support among Republican elected officials, Moody has had plenty of success on the fundraising trail.
Through the end of March, she had more than $1.5 million on hand. White leads, however, with about $2 million banked for his campaign, including $1.5 million from himself, while Fant is in the No. 3 spot with about $863,000, including a $750,000 loan.
Ashley Ross is leaving the Senate President’s Office to become “senior finance consultant” for Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis‘ campaign for governor.
Ross has been Deputy Chief of Staff for Stuart Republican JoeNegron, advising him on commerce, tourism and veterans’ affairs, among other issues.
Before that, however, she had been a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida, joining the organization in 2009 to work primarily on Senate campaigns.
Negron soon brought Ross on to work with his political committee as he was sewing up support for his Senate presidency bid, which he clinched in late 2015. She then joined his leadership team in the Capitol.
As we predicted in last fall’s edition of INFLUENCE magazine, “it’s unlikely the move to policy will be a permanent one for Ross, (who) said she fully intends to get back into fundraising once her time with Negron comes to an end in 2018.”
“I’m honored to be chosen by Congressman DeSantis to lead his finance team of seasoned fundraising professionals,” she said. “Ron DeSantis is one of the top conservative leaders in the country and will make an outstanding Governor of Florida. I look forward to building on the strong foundation the finance team has already put in place to ensure we have the necessary resources to win in November.”
“Ashley Ross is one of the top political fundraisers in Florida,” added BradHerold, campaign manager for DeSantis and a former executive director of the state GOP.
“In every position she’s held she’s broken fundraising records and helped political candidates and organizations have the resources necessary to win races,” he said. “We’re excited to have her on the team as we continue our strong momentum and spread Ron’s conservative message to the entire state.”
Lawmakers have moved from informal talks to exchanging offers toward a SpecialSession on gambling, sources said late Monday.
That’s despite an agreement announced last week between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida guaranteeing that the Tribe will keep sharing gaming revenue from its casinos at least till May 2019.
The impetus behind the Special Session effort is a proposed constitutional amendment that polls show will likely pass this November. It would require a statewide vote to approve any future expansions of gambling.
Representatives for both chambers had no comment on developments Monday.
Industry and legislative sources, however, say Senate President-designate BillGalvano, a Bradenton Republican, and House Speaker-designate JoseOliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, have been sending proposals across the Capitol rotunda.
Those offers include, among other things, provisions to ensure the state doesn’t lose out on any gambling-related taxes or fees.
TheTribe paid alittle more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack. (“Exclusivity” essentially means freedom from competition.) If the Tribe considers its exclusivity broken, it’s entitled to reduce payments or stop them altogether.
Two sources specifically credited recent progress to Lisa Vickers, Galvano’s longtime senior policy adviser who is slated to become his chief of staff when he takes over the chamber after the 2018 election, assuming a Republican majority still holds.
As previously reported, here are some of the issues likely in play:
— Allowing slot machines in at least some of the eight counties that passed a local referendum allowing them. That could include St. Lucie County, which has a jai alai fronton and card room now known as Casino Fort Pierce and is in Senate President Joe Negron’s district.
— Allowing existing designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack, to continue at pari-mutuel card rooms now offering those games.
— Setting a new minimum guarantee in tax money from those pari-mutuels now offering slots in South Florida. Only the Tribe can offer slots outside that area.
— Figuring out a way to do all that while achieving a “true contraction” of gambling in the state, a prerequisite of House Speaker RichardCorcoran.
That almost certainly means a provision for pari-mutuel owners to surrender gambling permits at some locations to get slots in another, something that was considered this past Regular Session.
“Special sessions may be called by the Governor, or may be convened by joint proclamation of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” the Senate’s website says. “Special sessions may not exceed 20 days, unless extended by a three-fifths vote of each house.”
A 16-member commission on Tuesday will begin reviewing the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school, looking into the circumstances of the crime, the background of the alleged shooter and recommendations to prevent future tragedies.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created as part of a sweeping school-safety law (SB 7026) signed by Gov. RickScott last month, will hold its initial meeting at the Broward College campus in Coconut Creek.
AndrewPollack, a member of the commission whose 18-year-old daughter MeadowJade was one of the 17 students and staff killed at the high school in Parkland, said he wants to see a thorough review of the record of NikolasCruz, the former student who has been charged with the mass killing.
Pollack also said the commission should hold officials “accountable for their incompetence” that may have led to the tragedy.
“My daughter was murdered. So there is no bringing her back,” Pollack said in an interview with The News Service of Florida Monday. “But if I can feel some satisfaction that it won’t happen in another school….if we can use this and make it a preventative measure, it would make me feel like my daughter’s death wasn’t in vain.”
The law directs the commission, which will be headed by Pinellas County Sheriff BobGualtieri, to “investigate system failures” in the Broward shooting and prior mass shootings in Florida and to “develop recommendations for the system improvements.”
The commission will develop a timeline of the Stoneman Douglas shooting and the incident response “and all relevant events preceding the incident, with particular attention to all perpetrator contacts with local, state and national government agencies and entities and any contract providers of such agencies and entities.”
Cruz had a lengthy history of mental health problems, documented by dozens of interactions with educators, law enforcement, mental-health professionals and others. The FBI had received at least two alerts warning that Cruz posed a danger.
Pollack said he believes Cruz’s prior contact with law enforcement and school officials should have led to consequences or charges prior to the shooting.
“I really want to look into this kid’s record. And I think we’re going to find a lot of incompetency and a lot of covering up of records in this whole process,” Pollack said.
The commission, which is under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has the ability to subpoena records and witnesses.
“That’s all going to come out. No one is going to be able to hide from us,” Pollack said.
Other items on the commission’s agenda are a review of Florida’s policies for dealing with “active assailants” on school campuses, with a comparison to “best practices” policies around the nation.
The commission will also review the use of school resource officers on the campuses, with the goal of making a recommendation on the appropriate ratio of law enforcement officers to the student population and school facility.
After their regular meeting, the commission is scheduled to visit the Stoneman Douglas campus late Tuesday afternoon, although members will not be allowed inside the classroom building where the shootings occurred because it is still an active crime scene.
The commission, which is authorized to meet through 2023, will file its initial report and recommendations to Gov. Scott and the Legislature by Jan. 1.
A tentative schedule that will be reviewed by the commission on Tuesday includes the recommendation that its staff report key investigative findings and witness statements to the panel by June 1.
Commission members were appointed by Scott, House Speaker RichardCorcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, and Senate President JoeNegron, a Stuart Republican.
The commission includes three parents of Stoneman Douglas victims; seven members with law enforcement ties, including FDLE Commissioner RickSwearingen; three serving in school systems; a prosecutor; a mental health expert; and Sen. LaurenBook, a Plantation Democrat.
Jacqui Thurlow–Lippisch, an appointee of fellow Martin County resident Senate President JoeNegron to the Constitution Revision Commission, defended the bundling of topics in six of the eight amendments the 37-member panel agreed this week to put before voters in November.
With the issue poised to go before the Constitution Revision Commission, Florida’s state and community colleges are supporting a measure that would establish constitutional authority for the system of 28 schools.
In a teleconference with college presidents Thursday, MadelinePumariega, chancellor of the state college system, said the Constitution Revision Commission is scheduled to take up the proposal (P6002) when it begins meeting Monday to decide what constitutional changes to present to voters in November.
The college proposal, which was crafted by commission member NicoleWashington, would establish “a system of governance” for the colleges in the state Constitution. It would mandate that each college be governed by a local board of trustees and that the entire system be supervised by the Florida Board of Education, which is how the system works now under state law.
College advocates support the measure because they say it would put the state college system on an equal constitutional footing with the university system and public schools, which are already part of the Constitution.
Pumariega noted the college governance provision is part of a broader Constitutional Revision Commission proposal that includes two other measures. One measure would require supermajority votes by university boards of trustees and the university system’s Board of Governors when raising fees for universities.
The other measure would require the payment of death benefits when law enforcement officers, paramedics, correctional officers and other first responders are killed “while engaged in the performance of their official duties.” It also would apply to members of the Florida National Guard and active-duty military members stationed in Florida. The death benefit would also allow educational expenses to be waived for surviving spouses and children attending universities and other post-secondary institutions.
The Constitution Revision Commission meets every 20 years and has the unique power to place proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot. If the college governance proposal goes on the ballot and is ultimately approved by 60 percent of voters, it would resolve part of a challenge the colleges have faced the past two years in the Legislature.
The proposed amendment would keep the 28 colleges under the supervision of the Board of Education as opposed to a Senate bill (SB 540), which would have established a separate State Board of Colleges to oversee the system.
The Senate bill stalled during the 2018 Legislative Session, in part because of opposition from the colleges and Gov. RickScott, who vetoed a similar bill in 2017.
A key proponent of the legislation was Senate President JoeNegron, a Stuart Republican who is stepping down from his leadership post in November.
ChrisHansen, a lobbyist for the Association of Florida Colleges, told the college presidents Thursday that the system may not face as many policy challenges after the departure of Negron.
But he also warned that some of the other provisions in the failed Senate bill could be revived, although it is uncertain what those would be.
Outside the governance system, other policy changes pushed by the Senate included a cap on baccalaureate degrees awarded by the college system and a revision of performance standards for the schools.
Compared to the past two sessions, Hansen said he doesn’t expect the same scope of proposed policy changes under new legislative leaders, who will take over after the fall elections.
“Blue skies ahead, hopefully, on that matter,” he said during a teleconference of the college system’s Council of Presidents.
Predictions of bad weather are befouling plans for the annual Springtime Tallahassee festivities in the capital.
Organizers on Friday canceled the Jubilee in the Park, which usually features arts and crafts booths from hundreds of vendors, and rescheduled the parade for 10 a.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported late Friday.
The National Weather Service was forecasting “showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m.,” adding that “some of the storms could be severe.”
Before the bad weather reports, city officials had been expecting a crowd of more than 150,000 to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.
The celebration will affect traffic, a news release said. Below are the planned road closures for Saturday:
6:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Staging Area
— First Avenue eastbound at Duval Street.
— Thomasville Road between Monroe Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues between Adams Street and Thomasville Road.
6:30-10:30 a.m. for Springtime Tallahassee 10K (if it still goes on as planned)
— Monroe Street between Apalachee Parkway and Seventh Avenue.
— Call Street, Franklin Boulevard, Lafayette Street and various roads surrounding the Capital City Country Club and within the Myers Park and Woodland Drive neighborhoods will have staggered closures during the race.
9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Route
— Monroe Street between Gaines Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Jefferson Street, College Avenue, Park Avenue, Call Street, Virginia Street, Carolina Street, Georgia Street, Brevard Street and Tennessee Street between Adams Street and Calhoun Street.
— Madison Street between Macomb Street and Monroe Street.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State appeals ex-felon order — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are appealing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling that the state must devise a new system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Attorney General Pam Bondi has promised to continue to appeal Walker’s order to the highest court. Walker permanently blocked the state’s clemency system in March calling it “fatally flawed.” He then gave Scott and the Cabinet a monthlong deadline to revamp the system. Scott’s office contends that felon voting rights restoration should be determined by elected officials. Florida is one of few states that disenfranchise felons after they’ve completed their sentences and is home to roughly 1.5 million ex-cons whose voting rights are pending.
CRC ‘style’ committee wraps — The influential Style & Drafting Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission has drafted and approved 12 ballot items for consideration of the full commission. To appear on the ballot in November, each proposed amendment must win the approval of 22 members of the 37-person panel. The 12 items are a consolidation of 24 proposals that met the initial approval of the CRC. Six proposals were not combined with others, including four that did not meet the 22-vote threshold in the preliminary approval phase. Five other amendments already have reached the ballot, meaning Floridians could potentially consider 17 amendments in the general election. Sixty-percent voter approval is required for each to pass.
Leaders pressure feds for farm aid — Gov. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have recently ramped up efforts to get much-needed funding distributed to Florida farmers affected by Hurricane Irma. Tailing off Scott’s and Putnam’s talks with the federal government, Rubio and Nelson joined other senators in penning a letter this week to encourage timely distribution of a $2.3 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s office announced this week that sign-up and eligibility information should be available to affected farmers in the coming weeks. In total, it’s estimated that Hurricane Irma caused a $2.5 billion loss to Florida agriculture.
Gaming special session uncertain — Legislative leaders this week began zeroing in on a possible date for a special session to iron out gambling issues left unresolved during the 2018 Legislative Session — but the overtime might not be necessary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran alerted the possible need to reconvene legislators because of the potential loss of gambling revenue from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. However, the Tribe this week said it will continue paying its share to the state, which totaled a little more than $290 million last year. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, is asserting that the Tribe’s commitment should end further talks of a special session.
Scott ramps up exposure — Ahead of his widely expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Scott is appearing across the state for public bill signings. Scott this week visited Ponce Inlet to ceremoniously sign Ponce’s Law. The bill was crafted following the death of a nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, in Ponce Inlet last year. The dog’s owner, Travis Archer, allegedly beat the animal to death, but under Florida’s current animal cruelty laws, Archer does not face a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Ponce’s Law bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time. The Governor also signed a bill in Orlando that prohibits the state from doing business with Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime and a bill at Fort Walton-based software company Bit-Wizards that is expected to benefit military, veterans, and their families.
Scott touts Florida building codes
Florida took the top spot in a recent report ranking the residential building codes of hurricane-prone states, much to the delight of Gov. Scott.
“In Florida, we know how important it is to be prepared for hurricanes while doing everything possible to keep families safe. Florida’s building codes have consistently ranked among the strongest in the nation and I’m proud that we have now been ranked first for building code strength by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,” Scott said.
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Jonathan Zachem also praised the ranking, adding that “the importance of effective, well-enforced building codes was demonstrated in our state during the 2017 hurricane season. I’m extremely pleased that the state of Florida was ranked first in this landmark report.”
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report gave Florida’s codes a score of 95 out of 100, an improvement of one point over its score in the last iteration of the report, released in 2015. The bump was enough to move Florida past Virginia, which topped the rankings three years ago.
Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’
Clearing the final batch of bills off his desk this week, Gov. Scottvetoed a measure that would have, in part, encouraged the use of purified reclaimed water to replenish the aquifer — a provision that has led environmental groups to dub the measure the “toilet-to-tap” bill.
Citing potential creation of “confusion in our water quality and aquifer protection regulatory structure,” Scott said the “worthwhile provisions” in the bill do not outweigh his concerns of “protecting Florida’s aquifer.”
“Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The bill, HB 1149, was ushered by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who along with WateReuse argued that critics of the legislation overlooked that there is no such thing as “new water.”
Those against the measure, which included the lobbying force of the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, claimed it was tailored to benefit development interests.
The bill cleared the House with an 86-21 vote and the Senate with a 27-10 vote in the final week of the 2018 Legislative Session.
Board of Optometry — Dr. David Rouse, of Cooper City, is an optometrist with Rouse Family Eyecare. He succeeds Dr. Tamara Mule and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2021. Dr. Katie Spear, of Pensacola, is a practicing optometrist. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2018. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — DarcyDavis, of Palm Beach Gardens, is the chief executive officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and her master’s degree from Troy State University. Davis succeeds Charles Cross Jr. and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors — MarcDunbar, of Tallahassee, is a partner at national law firm Jones Walker. He was appointed by CFO Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Scott also appointed Dunbar to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, where he served from 2015 to 2018. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law. Dunbar succeeds Don Glisson and his term begins immediately, expiring on July 31, 2019.
Graham welcomes ‘overdue’ opioid suit
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham offered some tepid praise for Attorney General Bondi’s decision to go after pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.
“After months of inaction and years of sticking her head in the sand — I am glad that Pam Bondi is finally heeding my call to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” the former congresswoman said Friday.
“As governor, I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic. I will ensure that this case gets the proper support and resources — building a legal dream team like Governor Lawton Chiles and Bob Butterworth did to take down tobacco.”
Bondi announced the decision this week, saying it was important Florida file its own case rather than join another. She did not give a timetable for filing the suit.
League lauds lawmakers
The Florida League of Cities this week gave awards to 20 lawmakers in recognition of their “tireless efforts” to protect home rule.
“On behalf of Florida’s 412 cities and thousands of municipal officials, both elected and appointed, the Florida League of Cities and its advocacy team are proud to recognize these Home Rule advocates for their continued support,” said Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley.
“We believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life of the citizens they have been elected to represent. These hardworking legislators continually supported that ideal, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.”
Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder were named “defenders of home rule,” while the remaining lawmakers received appreciation awards.
The following lawmakers received Legislative Appreciation Awards: Sens. Daphne Campbell, George Gainer, Bobby Powell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Darryl Rouson, Wilton Simpson, Linda Stewart, and Perry Thurston as well as Reps. Joe Geller, Kristin Jacobs, Evan Jenne, Sam Killebrew, Larry Lee, Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski, Paul Renner, Richard Stark, and Wengay “Newt” Newton.
Shaw highlights failing grade from Florida Chamber
With an ironic spin and almost certainly in jest, Democratic state House Rep. Sean Shaw via Twitter touted an F grade on his Legislative Report Card from the Florida Chamber.
Over an image of his poor mark, Shaw tweeted, “Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!”
The Chamber released its annual rankings on Thursday. Each year the pro-business group arrives at scores for lawmakers after tabulating their votes on measures expected to make Florida a more competitive marketplace.
Shaw, who’s vying for the Attorney General seat this year, interpreted his grade as meaning he’s on the side of consumers and workers, rather than job creators.
Republican state legislators performed well in the eyes of the Chamber. Of the 15 “Distinguished Advocates,” recognized this Session, just one is a Democrat: St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond. He was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment — but he earned a C overall.
A panel charged with overseeing pharmacy professionals went a bit off script this week when its chair suggested that there should be more of a “concerted effort” for pharmacist-backed legislative initiatives.
“If we’re really interested in moving things through the Legislature, I honestly think that there has to be a better process to achieve a consensus,” said Jeenu Philip, chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy. He said it seems like legislators hear one thing from a pharmacist or association, and the opposite from a different pharmacist.
In recapping pharmacy-related bills, Philip spoke a bit about legislation that would’ve provided patients more access to flu remedies. Sponsored this year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, the bills (SB 524 and HB 431) would have let some pharmacies, under the guidance of a physician, test for and treat influenza.
Both pieces of legislation died in committee, something Philip questioned given the severity and uptick of recent influenza cases.
“In light of the past flu season, if there was any year that this bill should’ve passed, this was the year,” Philip said.
Volunteers spotlighted during April
The start of April may bring pranks for some, but for the state, it marks the start of Volunteer Month — and this year, it’s no joke.
Volunteer Florida, the lead service agency in the Sunshine State, is highlighting a Floridian volunteer every day this month as part of its newly launched #VF30in30 initiative.
In announcing the outreach campaign, Gov. Scott pointed to the public’s altruistic efforts to help the state bounce back from Hurricane Irma.
“I’m glad to recognize the service of volunteers across Florida who dedicate their time to make a difference in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians dedicated millions of hours during last year’s devastating hurricane season, and we are proud to honor them in April.”
Each day a new volunteer is spotlighted by Volunteer Florida. Kicking off the month was Steve O’Brien, a legendary history teacher in Miami who founded Castaways Against Cancer. The organization raises money each month by kayaking 160 miles from Miami to Key West.
Florida Council of 100 releases educational ‘beacons’
In an ongoing education-focused project tailored to “light the way” for America’s future, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a research-backed set of values for grades 4-8 over the next 25 years.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan group comprised of business, civic, and academic leaders is throwing its weight behind four pivotal topics, or ‘beacons’: nurturing adolescents’ academic growth, personalizing education to meet the unique needs of each adolescent student; minimizing the disruption caused by school transitions; and making the school like a second family.
“Adolescent students are unique — physically, intellectually, morally, psychologically, and especially social-emotionally,” said David Dyer, project leader and former chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee. “It takes a special kind of teacher to successfully reach these kids.”
The value-based approach intended for schools to model is the result of a culmination of studies, which included touring successful schools such as Miami’s inner-city Kingdom Academy, where fourth-grade students are learning how to budget, apply for jobs and maintain a bank account.
John Kirtley, chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee, noted that student success often declines in middle grades. “To reverse this, it is vital that we tailor instruction to the special needs of each adolescent, providing them with a portfolio of educational options,” Kirtley said.
Desloge tours areas still recovering from Irma, Maria
Leon County Commissioner BryanDesloge was among a small delegation of National Association of Counties (NACo) leaders who recently toured parts of Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history.
The delegation visited communities in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico that experienced loss of life, property and critical infrastructure as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“It’s important that we learn from one another and strengthen our capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” said Desloge, also Immediate Past President of NACo. “There is no higher priority than keeping our residents safe, especially in the face of devastating natural disasters.”
As communities across the country continue recovering from the historic 2017 hurricane season, NACo continues to work with local governments to ensure critical funding and assistance to help communities rebuild. As immediate past President, Desloge serves on the NACo Executive Committee and represents more than 3,000 countries across the nation.
NSF re-ups MagLab grant
The National Science Foundation is renewing its support for the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — the world’s most powerful magnet lab — with a $184 million grant.
The funding will head to National MagLab facilities over the next five years, bringing NSF’s total investment in the project to $867 million. In addition to the lab HQ at FSU, satellite facilities at the UF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will also get some support.
“This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s pre-eminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world,” said Gary Ostrander, FSU VP of research.
Anne Kinney, an NSF assistant director, added that the foundation “is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology.”
MagLab’s unique instruments include the world’s strongest continuous high-field magnet, which produces a magnetic field 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. More than 1,700 researchers a year use MagLab to advance their research.
FSU Great Give sets records
The Great Give, Florida State University’s 36-hour online giving campaign, recorded its most successful campaign to date, raising $413,147 for academic programs, student activities and scholarships, the school said this week.
The 7th annual event, which took place March 22-23, drew support from 3,376 donors, including 1,791 Florida State alumni.
“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support that was displayed during this year’s Great Give,” said RobynBertram, donor engagement officer for the Florida State University Foundation Office of Annual Giving. “This event has grown consistently since its inception, and the incredible response we received demonstrates a shared dedication toward advancing our university.”
Throughout the campaign, 12 incentive challenges totaling more than $23,000 fostered a friendly competition among FSU’s donors to give back and boost their chosen project’s chances to receive cash prizes. Departments and units could win incentives for meeting specific criteria such as most donors during a certain time period.
The FSU Marching Chiefs took the $7,500 grand prize with the most alumni donors (299) during the 36-hour campaign. The Student Veterans Center, Home Stretch Microgrants and the colleges of Music, Education and Communication & Information also claimed incentive wins.
Donors may still make a gift to Florida State by visiting give.fsu.edu or calling (850) 644-6000.
Tallahassee dubbed ‘Solar Star’
A new national report shows that the Sunshine State’s capital city is making good use of one its most prevalent resources.
Environment Florida released this week a new report, “Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” that highlights Tallahassee as a leading “Solar Star” for its commitment to harnessing the sun’s energy.
In terms of megawatts of solar energy per capita, the capital city edged ahead of Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando.
“Tallahassee stands out as an example for other cities to follow in Florida and throughout the South. The city is listening to local customers like me who want solar energy in their homes and their communities, and it’s giving different types of solar room to grow,” said Scott Thomasson, the southeast director with Vote Solar.
The ranking stems in large part from the 28-megawatt solar farm contracted by the city. The Tallahassee Solar program provided 20,000 slots for businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.
“Cities like Tallahassee are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.
Tallahassee Earth Day plans
Tallahassee announced a list of planned activities this week to celebrate “Earth Month,” most of which will be held when Earth Day hits on April 22.
“As we observe Earth Month in the City of Tallahassee, I encourage everyone in our community to make the commitment to reduce our negative impacts on the environment,” Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “If we are all more environmentally-conscious, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a clean, healthy community to grow up in.”
Planned events include “Cash for Trash,” where those with bulky items, electronic waste, paint, or batteries can drop it off at the Solid Waste Services facility, located at 2727 Municipal Way for a $5 credit on their utility bill.
The docket also includes the city’s Earth Day celebration to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, and the “In-Home Edition of Longest Table,” where at 6 p.m. over 100 dinners, each including six to eight guests, will take place simultaneously in homes, restaurants and public spaces throughout the community.
In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14, Marsy’s Law for Florida will light Florida’s Historic Capitol in purple lights all week “as a reminder that victims should be entitled to equal rights and protections under the law.”
Marsy’s Law for Florida is “an effort to place clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in Florida’s constitution,” the group said.
The old Capitol is at 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
The Tribe “confirmed” its decision Tuesday night, according to its outside counsel, BarryRichard of the Greenberg Traurig firm, who participated in a conference call. The Tribe pays $19.5 million monthly, with a balloon—or “true-up”—payment at the end of the fiscal year.
“There is no plan to stop the payments,” Richard said Wednesday morning. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them.
“It has never been in their mindset to stop or reduce payments just because they have a legal right to,” he said. “Now, they would have liked the Legislature to have corrected some of the problems that exist … but they will wait and see what happens.”
Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker RichardCorcoran raised an alarm over the potential loss of revenue share from the Tribe.
Moreover, a proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment on November’s ballot would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida. If that’s approved by no less than 60 percent, it could shut out lawmakers from having any sway over gambling.
“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away … jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a statement last week. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”
TheTribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack. (Exclusivity essentially means freedom from competition.)
Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.
The sides had been in a “forbearance period” that ended March 31, after which the Tribe was entitled to stop paying.
“Look, the assumption that they’re going to stop paying the state just because they can is based upon a belief that all they care about is taking advantage of the state,” Richard said. “That has never been their attitude. They have an interest in the health of the state’s economy; it affects them. They don’t want to do anything precipitously.”
Requests for comment have been sent to Corcoran and Senate President-designate BillGalvano, a Bradenton Republican and his chamber’s point man on gambling.
“They could have stopped paying as soon as they won the federal case, and the fact is, they are not now planning to do that,” Richard said.
In 2016, a federal judge ruled the Seminoles could continue to offer blackjack and other “banked card games” at its Hard Rock casinos, despite the expiration of a 5-year blackjack provision in the overarching gambling deal, or “compact,” with the state.
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said the state had broken the blackjack exclusivity promise, allowing it to keep its blackjack tables until 2030, the end of the larger compact. That was, in part, because state gambling regulators had OK’d certain kinds of “designated-player games,” similar to poker, that played too much like—if not identically to—blackjack.
Efforts to pass omnibus gambling legislation failed during this year’s Regular Session. That included an all-new deal with the Seminoles guaranteeing $3 billion from them over seven years for continued exclusivity. Only the Tribe offers blackjack in Florida, and slot machines outside South Florida.
Despite increasing calls for and against a Special Legislative Session on gambling, the Seminole Tribe‘s lawyer continues to back his client’s promise to keep paying millions to the state.
“They’re not just going to stop paying just because they have the right to,” said BarryRichard on Tuesday.
That said, if lawmakers come back with the same ideas as this past Regular Session, “that won’t fly,” Richard added.
POLITICO Florida reported Tuesday that top lawmakers were considering April 23 to begin a Special Session after House Speaker RichardCorcoran last week raised an alarm over the loss of revenue share from the Tribe.
Senate President-designate BillGalvano, a Bradenton Republican and his chamber’s point man on gambling, later said in a text message that “no date has been set.”
“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away … jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”
Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.
The sides had been in a “forbearance period” that ended March 31, after which the Tribe is entitled to stop paying.
“They’ll look at what happens with pending litigation,” Richard said. “If any of that fails to resolve the problem, and the problem becomes significant enough, then they might look at something. And that might not mean a complete termination of payments.”
For the Tribe, the issue has always been about getting what they pay for.
The Seminoles sued over the state allowing a hybrid of poker and blackjack they contended played too much like blackjack, for which they’re supposed to have exclusive rights to offer in Florida.
They’ve also filed suit against 25 operators of what’s called “electronic gambling parlors” in the Jacksonville area, saying they violate the Tribe’s deal with the state to exclusively offer Vegas-style games.
And an appeal is pending over pre-reveal games, video consoles at bars that the Tribe says look, play, and pay out like slot machines, which the Seminoles have exclusive rights to offer outside South Florida.
As to a Special Session, “I don’t think they care one way or the other,” Richard said. “The only thing they care about is what proposal is brought to the table.”
An attempt to pass omnibus gambling legislation failed during this year’s Regular Session. As part of that, the underlying new deal with theTribe would have guaranteed $3 billion into state coffers over seven years for continued exclusivity.
But the House and Senate came to impasse, among other things, over designated player games—the poker-blackjack hybrid that rakes in money for pari-mutuel cardrooms. The House has wanted to ban them; the Senate would allow them.
The Florida Greyhound Association; No Casinos, a anti-casino gambling group, and others still oppose a Special Session.
“If ever there was an issue that the Legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling,” No Casinos president John Sowinski wrote in a letter, released Monday, to Corcoran and Senate President JoeNegron.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.
Here’s a surprise the Easter bunny left in our basket: the latest edition of INFLUENCE Magazine, now available in digital format and coming soon in print.
We had planned for this issue to highlight the INFLUENCE 100, but so much is going on in the influence world (or, as the AP’s Gary Fineout likes to call it, the influence media), that we needed to get an issue out that captured what happened during the 2018 Legislative Session, as well as to many of the players who are part of The Process.
If one thing is clear post-Parkland, it’s that Florida Democrats — three decades removed from power — are gearing up for a monumental political and policy fight. The outcome of this fight will shape the influence industry for years to come. Several Democrats are on our list of Winners and Losers emerging from the Session, including our “Rookie of the Year” Lauren Book, a first-term state senator featured inside.
If Book is the newcomer to watch, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is the veteran lawmaker to listen to. If you read one thing in the magazine, make sure it’s her first-person thoughts on the state of The Process.
The rest of the magazine is filled with a barrage of news and notes about dozens of other players, including Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Rep. Chris Dorworth, Randy Enwright, Jim Rimes, and many others.
Some of those may well be in the INFLUENCE 100. Until then, ponder the contours of the new political landscape, coming to places — and pages — near you.
Reporting deadline for Q1 fundraising — 12; NFL Draft begins — 23; Avengers: Infinity War opens — 24; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 30; Mother’s Day — 40; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 52; Memorial Day — 55; Father’s Day — 75; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 80; Deadline for filing claim bills — 120; Start of the U.S. Open — 146; Primary Election Day — 147; College Football opening weekend — 151; General Election Day — 217; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 317; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 336.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***
— TOP STORY —
The Constitution Revision Commission’s Style & Drafting committee meets Tuesday to finish up its work on packaging 25 active proposals for the November ballot.
Committee chair BrechtHeuchan says he plans to finish work this week, beginning with ironing out legal technicalities, “then any needed amendments to individual proposals, then preliminary discussion on ballot summary language, then grouping (and) ordering.”
The full commission had cleared the proposals after a three-day Session last month.
They include measures to ban offshore drilling, greyhound racing and indoor ‘vaping,’ put term limits on local school board members, and create a ‘bill of rights’ for crime victims.
The finished proposals will go back to the full commission, where they must receive no less than 22 votes to be placed on the ballot.
Then they face a minimum approval of 60 percent of statewide voters to be added to the state constitution.
The commission’s final report is due to Secretary of State KenDetzner by May 10.
The body is constitutionally charged with forming every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“State GOP’s revenues dip; firm owned by committee member has consulting contract” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Facing increased competition from outside political committees, the Republican Party of Florida brought in the lowest amount of revenue last year in at least a decade, according to a party audit filed with state election officials. For the year ended Dec. 31, the RPOF collected $7.2 million in revenue, with $5.5 million coming from “campaign and political operations,” which includes fundraising. In 2015, the last year without an election, the party brought in $13 million in revenue. State parties typically bring in much more cash during an election year. The biggest hit to centralized state parties has been the increased use of political committees, which are controlled by specific candidates and can receive unlimited contributions. “The role of the formal party is not shrinking at all, but it has become more challenging with the role of PCs,” said RPOF spokeswoman Yohana de la Torre. “The party, however, is still the primary vehicle to ‘get out the vote,’ ‘chase absentees,’ register voters and sign up volunteers.”
“GwenGraham calls Donald Trump an ’embarrassment’ in digital ad” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Not only is the former congresswoman’s digital ad focused on Trump, but it is also first running in the Palm Beach market, an intentional move to target Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club where he frequently stays. It will later run on digital platforms across the state. “Donald Trump is an embarrassment,” Graham says in the ad. The ad is an attack on Trump but is done with a light touch, using soft music and does not feature a deep-voiced narrator that’s become common in attack ads.
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
“Personnel note: Bettina Weiss in as Graham press sec’y” via Florida Politics — Weiss is an alumna of Connecticut College, where she earned a bachelor’s in American studies, and Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a master’s in political communications. She moved over to campaign last month, relocating to Orlando from Washington, D.C. where she spent nearly two years working for Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super PAC that supports stricter gun laws, such as background checks for private sales and a ban on assault-style weapons. Weiss’ resume also includes work as a crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line, as a prevention coordinator for sexual violence resource center healingSPACE, and as a gun violence prevention reporter for Generation Progress, the youth-centered offshoot of progressive think tank Center for American Progress. Weiss’ addition signals the Graham campaign’s continued focus on gun violence in the four-way Democratic Primary for governor.
Ron DeSantis targeted in new radio, TV ads — The National Liberty Federation, a dark money group with ties to political consultant Roger Stone, is battering DeSantis in a pair of attack ads released this week. The group has plunked down more than $350,000 in ad buys on radio and TV, including more than $250,000 for a commercial airing on Fox News through Thursday. “It was supposed to be a revolution to take back Washington, but when Ron DeSantis got elected, it was like he couldn’t wait to be part of the in-crowd. Cozying up to two defense contractors, taking thousands of dollars in campaign donations, and even moving into a beachfront condo — you guessed it — owned by the same defense contractors,” the ad narrator says. “DeSantis didn’t throw the bums out of Washington; He moved right in with them. Is this the swamp creature we want to lead Florida?” The ad points to a website, RonDeSantisFacts.com, with a long list of gripes the group has with the Northeast Florida congressman, including “ties to the Republican establishment,” his net worth and his supposedly tepid support of Trump, an early backer in his bid for governor.
Assignment editors — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine will hold conversations with college students by kicking off a tour at the Florida State University beginning 12:30 p.m., Oglesby Union Room 314, 75 N. Woodward Ave., Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Assignment editors — Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” breakfast in Miami beginning 8:30 a.m. at the La Carreta Restaurant, 8650 Bird Road in Miami. He will be the keynote speaker at the DeSoto County Republican Executive Committee’s Lincoln/Reagan Day Dinner in Arcadia. That’s at 7 p.m., Turner Agri-Civic Center, 2250 NE Roan St., Arcadia. For news media: This is a ticketed event. If you plan to attend, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by noonTuesday.
Assignment editors — Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association will discuss plans for the General Election Debates for U.S. Senator and Governor in a media conference call beginning 10 a.m. at 1-888-392-4560; access code: 9979718. Hosts include Wendy Spencer, president and CEO, Leadership Florida; Beth Kigel, board chair of Leadership Florida; Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association; J. David Armstrong, president of Broward College and Caroline Taplett, president and general manager of WPBF TV.
Ashley Moody named a “Women to Watch” at Republican Women event — The Florida Women’s Political Network hosted its annual Celebration of Republican Women luncheon where it awarded Moody a “Women to Watch” award. This award goes to women who are “making strides in Republican politics and public service.” Moody said: “It was a privilege to stand alongside such strong women leaders from across our state who have spent their life fighting for Republican values. I look forward to continuing to fight for these values as Florida’s next Attorney General.” Following the lunch, Moody won the Attorney General straw poll with 74 percent of the vote.
“Mike Miller’s first ad in GOP congressional primary features Rick Scott” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — The ad for State Rep. Miller, running in the GOP primary for Congressional District 7 in Seminole and parts of Orange counties, entitled, “The Conservative,” touts Scott’s praise of Miller and includes audio of Scott saying, “I want to thank Representative Mike Miller for all that he’s done … He’s focused on making sure our taxes are low, everybody can get a job, that we have a great education system, and that people are safe,” Scott says over video of his meeting with Miller. Or, as the ad paraphrases Scott, “I like Mike.” In a statement, Miller said, “I appreciate his kind words about me recently, and I’m proud to call him my friend and my Governor. I’m fully supportive of whatever Governor Scott’s next step will be and look forward to working with him in the future.”
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
“Tim Canova drops Democratic bid to unseat Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will run as independent” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — “Even as independents, we are the real Democrats in this race,” Canova said at a news conference outside Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes’ office. “Even as we run as independents, I will run as a better Democrat. I did not leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left us.” Canova, whose 2016 bid received national attention after Sen. Bernie Sanders backed him over Wasserman Schultz, eventually lost the Democratic primary by 14 percentage points. Canova’s decision to run as an independent gives Wasserman Schultz a clear path to the Democratic nomination in 2018. Republicans Joe Kaufman and Carlos Reyes have also filed to run in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses portions of Broward County and northeastern Miami-Dade County.
David Richardson raises $410k in Q1 —Richardson, one of many Democrats running for CD 27,said Monday he raised about $411,000 for his campaign during the first three months of the year. “My race in District 27 is not just about electing a Democrat — it’s about electing the right Democrat, one who is driven by and committed to progressive ideals. That’s who I am, and our fundraising numbers demonstrate that’s what this district wants. I thank my supporters for believing in this campaign,” Richardson said. The announcement did not mention how much of the Q1 haul came in through loans, though it said when the final report is in it’ll show more than $1.4 million in total fundraising and $1.1 million in cash on hand since Richardson filed in July. By the end of 2017, he’d lent his campaign $500,000.
“Carrie Pilon files for SD 24” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Pilon announced Monday that she’s filed to run as a Democrat for the Senate District 24 seat currently held by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes. “I’m running for the State Senate because the legislature in Tallahassee is not working for Florida’s families. As a member of the State Senate, I’ll hold special interests accountable, and stand up to the Legislature’s Trump-style agenda,” said Pilon, a former prosecutor who now runs an injury law firm. … “As a small-business owner, I know firsthand the challenges of meeting payroll and providing health insurance for our staff and families. We deserve a state legislature focused on helping our small businesses grow, not handing out corporate welfare checks to their friends.” … So far, Pilon is the only challenger to file for SD 24. Brandes has been in the Senate since 2012 when he was elected to the pre-redistricting SD 22 … Republicans hold an advantage in voter registrations in the district, though the seat is far from a Republican stronghold. SD 24 would have gone for Barack Obama by about a point in 2012 and 2.5 points in 2008. In 2016, the district flipped and went plus-7 forTrump.
“Family feud: Ray Pilon endorses daughter-in-law’s political opponent” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — They might be family, but that isn’t stopping former Sarasota state Rep. Pilon from siding against his daughter-in-law in her bid for the state Senate. Ray Pilon is a Republican and his daughter-in-law, Carrie Pilon, is a Democrat … Shortly after Carrie Pilon made her announcement, Brandes sent out an email with the subject line: “Ray Pilon endorses Jeff Brandes.” … “Senator Brandes and I served in the Florida House and were both elected in 2010,” Pilon said in the news release. “We worked closely on many issues, and that continued when he was elected to the Senate. He is a person of high moral values, of integrity, honesty and fairness.” Carrie Pilon is the wife of Ray Pilon’s son, Chad Pilon. Ray Pilon also is running for office this year.
You know every family is different. But I can say with 100% certainty that if I or my spouse ever ran for office, even the most hard-line Republicans in my family would support, donate to, and knock on doors for me/them because family > politics. But that is just us. https://t.co/aCEX0INs2f
“Geraldine Thompson is back, filing to run in HD 44” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Thompson served four years in the Florida Senate, representing Senate District 12, and six in the Florida House, representing House District 39 before redistricting. She left the Legislature to run for Congress in 2016, losing the Democratic primary to now-U. S. Rep. Val Demings. “This [HD 44] was a district that previously had been so gerrymandered that a Democrat could not compete. After redistricting, people now will have a choice,” Thompson said. She hopes to take on incumbent state Rep. Bobby Olszewski. “I think I have solid name recognition in the district. I’ve served the district. I’ve worked with the mayors in the cities of the district, so I think that gives me an advantage,” Thompson said. “With regard to House District 44, I think this is a race where there is an opportunity break down years of history of exclusion. I’m interested in being a part of that.”
“Randy Cooper exits HD 71 race, will support Tracy Pratt” via Florida Politics — “I started running for this seat a year ago and have put my heart, soul, and a lot of sweat equity in this campaign but have to admit that it just was not enough,” Cooper, a Bradenton civil engineer and West Manatee Fire and Rescue District commissioner, said in a statement. Instead, Cooper is throwing his support behind Pratt, a Bradenton attorney who entered the HD 71 race Thursday. “Tracy Pratt is smart, young, and a wife and mother, who will put the interests of the citizens and business in the area first, not special interest groups,” he said.
Assignment editors — People in state House District 39 and House District 114 face a deadline to register to vote in May 1 special elections. Republican Josie Tomkow and Democrat Ricky Shirah face off in the special election in District 39, which includes parts of Polk and Osceola counties. Republican Andrew Vargas, Democrat Javier Fernandez and NPA candidate Liz de las Cuevas are running in Miami-Dade County’s District 114.
— STATEWIDE —
“As U.S. Senate race looms, a slew of personnel moves in Gov. Scott’s office” via Florida Politics — There are staff changes galore in Gov. Rick Scott‘s office as he positions talent in advance of an expected April 9 announcement of his U.S. Senate campaign. Director of Appointments Collin Lomagistro is leaving effective today (Friday) to join the soon-to-be-announced campaign. Environmental Policy Coordinator Julia Espy is becoming a Deputy Chief of Staff over transportation, housing and environment. Mary Beth Vickers, Policy Chief for Health and Human Services, will oversee all health and human services related areas. Chief Deputy General Counsel JackHeekin is becoming another Deputy Chief of Staff over emergency management and law enforcement. Deputy Chief of Staff MeganFay is leaving ScottWorld altogether to join Capital City Consulting. All this comes after an announcement earlier this week that Brad Piepenbrink was replacing JackieSchutzZeckman as Chief of Staff. She was said to be”pursuing other opportunities,” meaning also joining the campaign staff.
“Scott signs bills designed to keep Florida ‘military friendly’” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times — Scottsigned bills designed to reduce fees for Florida military, veterans and their families. The Don Hahnfeldt Veteran and Family Opportunity Act reduces professional licensing fees and requirements for certain military members, veterans, and their spouses. Scott also signed HB 75, authorizing state colleges to waive student fees for active duty military service members. This bill will also help make higher education more affordable for our military men and women.
Assignment editors — Gov. Scott holds a bill signing ceremony for legislation to strictly prohibit all state agencies from conducting business with any entity that benefits the Maduro regime in Venezuela. Event begins 9 a.m. at El Perdigon, 5748 International Drive in Orlando.
Adam Putnam gives wildfire update — Putnam said Monday that there are currently 41 wildfires raging across the state. Of the 34,539 acres on fire, more than half are in Collier County where a 17,957-acre fire is 90 percent contained. Other significant fires include a Gulf County blaze that spans 8,080 acres and is 80 percent contained; a 1,037-acre fire in Miami-Dade in a fire that is 90 percent contained; and a Polk County fire that covers 450 acres and is 60 percent contained. The Florida Forest Service urges residents to take the following steps to prevent the spread of wildfires: obey outdoor burning laws, avoid burning on windy days, keep water and other firefighting resources on hand, never leave a fire or grill unattended, and avoid parking vehicles on dry grass. In the event of a wildfire call 911 or a local Florida Forest Service field unit office immediately.
“Audit questions state anti-fraud efforts in Medicaid” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Florida’s Medicaid program has been rapped by auditors who questioned what the state got for millions of dollars spent with a company whose lobbyists included two former Republican House speakers and a former top health care regulator. State auditors additionally raised questions about how aggressive the Agency for Health Care Administration has been in trying to clamp down on fraud. The newly released audit said the agency’s Office of Medicaid Program Integrity never forwarded leads regarding potential fraudulent activity to 11 HMOs under contract with the state. The audit … questioned why Florida spent more than $5.5 million on an advanced data analytics system and renewed the vendor’s contract five times despite the company’s inability to include data on the majority of people enrolled in the Medicaid program. Between 2014 and 2017, when SAS Institute was working for the state, the company listed a cadre of well-connected Tallahassee lobbyists, including former Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary and Medicaid director Tom Arnold and former House speakers Dean Cannon and Larry Cretul.
“No Casinos on Special Session for gambling: Don’t do it” via Florida Politics — The head of a group that opposes casino gambling in Florida is telling lawmakers to take a pass on a Special Session for unresolved gambling issues. “If ever there was an issue that the Legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling,” No Casinos president John Sowinski wrote in a letter, released Monday, to House Speaker RichardCorcoran and Senate President JoeNegron. “Whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a ‘deal’ that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida,” Sowinski added. Legislative leadership late last week said it was considering a Special Session on gambling because of the end of a settlement agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state.
“Pharmacy panel weighs implementation of new opioid laws” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The Florida Board of Pharmacy, which is charged with updating administrative code to include the new opioid provisions reviewed statute changes passed and signed into law this year. The main concern: A package tailored to curb the state’s drug epidemic by targeting the practice of overprescribing opioids. Gov. Scott signed the legislation (HB 21) into law in March. The new laws provided in HB 21, which take effect in July, will limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply, and, when deemed medically necessary, a seven-day supply. Certain patients, such as those suffering cancer and other forms of chronic pain, will not be affected by the new prescription limits. The bill also mandates the use of a statewide database, or prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), which requires action from both pharmacists and doctors.
“Medical marijuana provider Trulieve sues state over store limits” via Florida Politics — Trulieve, a medical marijuana provider, on Monday filed a “constitutional challenge” against the state’s Department of Health over how many retail stores it can open, and where, under current law. An attorney for the company, which is seeking “non-monetary declaratory or injunctive relief,” provided a copy of the complaint by George Hackney Inc., the Gadsden County nursery that does business as Trulieve. The lawsuit follows a similar administrative action last year that sought to lock down its “dispensary rights” … Trulieve now is asking a court to declare its rights under law to open new stores. The case, for now, has been assigned to Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge JohnCooper.
“Mears investors to compete nationally with ride-share cabs” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — A South Florida company has purchased majority ownership of the firm with ambitious plans to merge Mears’ traditional service with ride-share business tactics. “In the near future we will be the first and only full-service transportation company in the country that can meet all the ground transportation needs of a customer, including demand response ride-share services,” said Charles Carns, chief executive officer, in a memo to its more than 1,000 employees. The investment deal closed late Thursday, days after Mears had revised its concession contract with Orlando International Airport to acknowledge the change in ownership.
“NRA takes aim at county gun law proposal” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat — The NRA’s top lobbyist in Florida is blasting a proposed Leon County ordinance designed to close the gun show loophole and require a five-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms. Marion Hammer … issued a written alert calling on members to oppose the measure. She was especially critical of County Commissioner Mary Ann Lindley, who proposed the move in February. County commissioners voted unanimously last week to set the ordinance for a public hearing April 10. “Mary Ann Lindley is so rabidly anti-gun she is determined to impose these restrictions on law-abiding gun owners and force the financial burden on the Sheriff’s Office and the taxpayers of Leon County,” Hammer said in a post on the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “Lindley doesn’t even pretend that she cares about crime, criminals or have any legitimate reason for passing it, she just wants to pass some gun control before she leaves office.”
“Scott Maddox spends campaign cash on lawyers” via Florida Politics — Maddox’s 2020 state Senate campaign showed its first signs of life in months: It helped him pay for lawyers. Maddox is one of the central figures in an FBI investigation into City Hall that’s been going on since 2015, and recent movement points toward the bureau laying out the case for mail fraud and bribery. With the investigation still ongoing, Maddox’s campaign account for the 2020 Senate District 3 race nearly zeroed itself out with a $125,000 payment to law firm Baker Donelson on March 23. Maddox’s attorney Stephen Dobson joined the firm’s Government Enforcement and Investigations Group in February.
Speaking of Tallahassee — “U.S. grant ensures record-setting magnet lab stays in Florida” via The Associated Press — The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is getting a large federal grant that will ensure it remains in the Florida state capital. The National Science Foundation is awarding $184 million to the lab, whose main location is at Florida State University. The foundation said that the grant would cover five years and is a 9 percent increase over the last round of funding. The lab has over the years set and broken various records for magnet technology.
“Duke seeks rate hikes for new power plant” via the News Service of Florida — With a new Citrus County power plant poised to start generating electricity in September, Duke Energy Florida on Monday asked state regulators to approve rate increases to pay for the project. Duke plans to begin operating the first unit of the natural-gas fired plant in September and the second unit in November. Duke said … that residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see a $3.61 bill increase in October and a $2.27 bill increase in December. Increases would vary for commercial and industrial customers. The state Public Service Commission will decide whether to approve the increases. Duke said the project, in part, would help reduce carbon emissions.
— D.C. MATTERS —
“Joe Biden to visit St. Petersburg in June” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Biden announced that he is adding St. Petersburg to his extended list of book tour dates this summer. He’ll visit the Mahaffey Theater June 4. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue this tour and hear from so many more people,” said Biden in the release. Biden has already made two Florida stops on the national book tour for his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose.” He visited Miami in November and Orlando in January.
“Marco Rubio offers hope for Irma-affected farmers” via the News Service of Florida — Federal disaster relief for farmers impacted by Hurricane Irma may be available “as early as next week,” according to U.S. Sen. Rubio. Florida citrus farmers have expressed increasing frustration as they await distribution of $2.36 billion in federal disaster aid … Citrus growers suffered at least $761 million in losses from the September storm, which caused an estimated $2.5 billion in losses to Florida’s agricultural industry. Rubio and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson have urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to release the agriculture aid, which was part of the $90 billion disaster relief package signed by PresidentTrump on Feb. 9. Rubio’s office did not say how the funds, once available, would be distributed. The federal legislation provides Perdue with wide flexibility in disbursing the disaster assistance, with the goal of helping farmers rebound from crop losses as quickly as possible.
“Rubio to move Miami office” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — But unlike when the Republican senator had to relocate his Jacksonville and Tampa offices last year, the move is being attributed to the office space, not to landlords getting frustrated with ongoing political protests outside the building. “We are in the process of relocating that office, but it was our decision, for a couple of reasons. We were not asked to leave by building management,” Todd Reid, Rubio’s state director, said. The current Miami office actually is in Doral, just west of the Miami International Airport, and is owned by the American Welding Society, which also has its headquarters in the building. Reid said the Rubio team has identified a new location in Miami but is not ready to move, nor announce the new location. However, he said the new location would continue to provide easy public access.
“Nelson tours Jacksonville’s Anheuser-Busch brewery, criticizes Trump over tariffs” via Ryan Benk of WJCT — Citing a study by the business-friendly Tax Foundation, Nelson said the import taxes the Trump administration announced last month would get passed on to employees and consumers. “This extra tariff, or tax, on steel and aluminum is going to cost 9 billion extra dollars for consumers in this country, and in Florida alone, it’s going to be a half-billion dollars,” he said. “That itself is not a good thing, but what it portends also is starting a trade war.” Nelson said the sudden import taxes, and retaliation by China with tariffs on 128 U.S. products, remind him of a dark time in America. “A trade war ultimately runs into a recession, which is part of the reason [for] going into the Depression in the 1930s. So, you always have to worry about that. Remember the Smoot-Hawley Tax,” he said.
“Florida lawmaker (Vern Buchanan) who helped craft new tax law stands to gain” via Richard Lardner of The Associated Press — Already one of the wealthiest lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Vern Buchanan could become even wealthier after he and other Republicans muscled a sweeping rewrite of the U.S. tax code through Congress late last year that includes breaks for the real estate and automobile industries that generate most of his income. The potential windfall for Buchanan — worth at least $80 million and perhaps much more — echoes on a smaller scale how favorable the new tax law is to President Trump, whose fiery populism won him support from struggling American workers and families. While Trump and Republican allies have billed the tax law he signed as a victory for a stressed middle class; the $1.5 trillion package provides the most significant tax cuts for corporations and the most prosperous Americans. Not a single Democrat in the House and Senate voted for the legislation, which they’ve depicted as a payout to the GOP’s largest donors. Seeking to convince voters otherwise, Republicans have trumpeted announcements from companies that credit the overhaul as the reason their workers are getting bonuses and wage increases. But the biggest winners are those who are already doing well.
Assignment editors — U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch will hold a town-hall meeting about preventing gun violence beginning 6:30 p.m. at Coral Springs City Hall, 9500 West Sample Road in Coral Springs.
— SALVADORAN STRUGGLE —
Putting a local face to a large-scale issue makes it feel closer to home.
A recent story by the Tallahassee Democrat’s NadaHassanein goes just outside the capital city to Quincy to illustrate the impact a federal plan to end Temporary Protected Status could have on certain immigrants only miles away from the state’s Capitol.
Quincy resident Gladis de la Cruz fled to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1990 during the Salvadoran Civil War and had been protected under TPS since 2001. Hassanein writes that Cruz may have to return to El Salvador, where “ruthless gangs” that killed her father and uncle remain intact. “They’re the reason she left. They’re the reason she never wants to return. But she may have to.”
Deadline: The Trump administration ended TPS for Haitians, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans because it alleges the countries have “improved conditions.” Salvadorans, the largest group protected by TPS, have until Sept. 9, 2019, to leave, or risk deportation.
Violence in peacetime: While no formal natural catastrophe or war plagues El Salvador “the chaos caused by nature was replaced by gang-related violence.”
Clearance at the Capitol: Ronal Vasquez, another Salvadoran who has worked on construction projects at the state Capitol, said he will have to return to Mexico or El Salvador, where “you have two options: Either you become a gang member, or you become a person who is against gang members — and then your life is always in danger,” Vasquez said.
— OPINIONS —
“Don’t be too quick to call race for governor” via Shevrin Jones for the Orlando Sentinel — Right now, the race for governor is wide-open. Voters are just learning about the candidates — and the more they learn about Andrew Gillum, the more they’re excited by his progressive vision. Florida’s Democrats are hungry for authentic progressives this year. They’re ready to vote for a leader who is fighting for higher wages for working families, expanding quality, affordable health care for all, defending our environment, protecting the rights of every Floridian, and taking meaningful action on gun safety. That’s why Gillum has emerged as the real progressive in the race for governor, and why the media has called him the “Democrat catching fire” who is “speaking from that true progressive playbook.” This year, Democrats know more than ever who’s really in their corner. They know it’s not someone who proudly declared she was a “very conservative Democrat” and they know it isn’t someone who said she was the only Democrat who could win statewide. I’m proud to stand with Andrew Gillum, and I deeply respect the other candidates in this primary. It has been a long time since we saw a field of gubernatorial candidates this diverse in their thinking, their backgrounds and their approaches.
“Save rural Florida. Here’s how to do it.” via Rick Dantzler for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — How would we do it? By charging a Cabinet-level elected official — the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture — with preserving as much of what remains of rural Florida as possible. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs would be reorganized to become just the Florida Department of Agriculture, and it would have just one mission: to save what remains of rural Florida. Every single day the Commissioner of Agriculture and Department of Agriculture personnel would wake up with one thing in mind: to keep open land arable and free from development … anything that affects the preservation of agricultural land and undeveloped spaces should go through the Commissioner of Agriculture. Regulating, policing and supporting farmers and ranchers would remain since the health of agriculturalists is key to preserving open spaces. After all, no matter how much land is purchased for conservation, most land will remain in private hands, and the support of these property owners is key to limiting urban sprawl. Someone needs to become the state’s primary advocate for sufficient conservation funding, protection of farm and ranch land, and smart growth. I’ve suggested that it be the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture because most of our undeveloped land is agricultural in nature and landowners trust the Office of the Commissioner of Agriculture.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
Ranging from dissecting a fieryTrump tweet about DACA to examining what can be done to help endangered species in Florida, there’s a lot to unpack in the latest episode of The Rotunda.
But for some, the most ear-catching moment of Trimmel Gomes’ wide-ranging podcast this week is a part about a private-sector backed, solar-energy utopia sprouting north of Fort Myers: Babcock Ranch.
Alongside developer Syd Kitson, whose company Kitson & Partners is completing Babcock Ranch with Florida Power & Light, Gomes gives listeners a glimpse of the future.
It’s in the name: “I think the state of Florida really over the past several years realized that it’s the ‘Sunshine State’ and that [solar energy] is a great opportunity for a renewable energy source,” Kitson says in the interview, explaining what led him to build “the most sustainable new town in the country.”
The numbers: According to Kitson, Babcock Ranch will have just under 20,000 homes and 6 million square feet of retail space. FPL has built a solar facility capable of powering the town and what Kitson claims is the world’s largest solar-to-battery storage unit. Ninety-percent of the initial purchase is dedicated to preservation, and 250 families are expected to move into the community this year. Home prices range from the high $100s to $1 million to attract multiple generations.
More context: Gomes brings up Trump-imposed tariffs on solar panels as a possible deterrent to solar in the state, but Kitson says that private utilities should be capable of keeping costs low. In Babcock Ranch, homeowners will pay rates equivalent to FPL customers elsewhere, “the only difference is that … [when Babcock Ranch owners] turn on a light switch in their home, it’s solar energy.”
— MOVEMENTS —
“Marc Dunbar to join Citizens Insurance board” via Florida Politics — Dunbar, the Tallahassee-based lawyer and gaming lobbyist, will become the next member of Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s board of governors. Dunbar, a partner in the Jones Walker firm’s Government Relations Practice Group, interviewed in February with CFO Jimmy Patronis for a vacancy on the state-run insurance concern’s board of governors. Citizens is the state’s insurer of last resort. Dunbar, who described himself as “an outsider with no insurance ties,” has said he was “honored to be considered.” He replaces Don Glisson Jr., an insurance executive who stepped down last August.
“Scott Shalley joins VISIT FLORIDA board” via Florida Politics — Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation, has been selected to join the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors effective immediately, the group announced Monday. “I’m honored to join the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, and I want to thank Chair MaryannFrenec and the rest of the board members for this opportunity,” Shalley said in a statement. “Retail and tourism go hand-in-hand, and having Florida continue to set records for the number of tourists, almost all of whom leave our state with more than what they came with, is great news for our members and our industry as a whole.”
“Personnel note: Megan Fay joins Capital City Consulting” via Florida Politics — Fay, who until recently was Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Scott, is heading to Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting, the firm announced Tuesday. Fay will come on board in mid-April, said NickIarossi, a founding partner of the firm. “Megan’s policy knowledge and political instincts impressed us for years,” Iarossi said in a statement. “We are happy she can apply those skills to help our clients in Tallahassee. She will be a valuable addition to our expanding team.” As deputy chief of staff, Fay oversaw key state agencies, such as the departments of Education, Lottery, VISIT FLORIDA, and Business and Professional Regulation, as well as the Florida Housing Finance Corporation and CareerSource Florida.
“Cesar Fernandez to join Uber’s Latin America public policy team” via Florida Politics — “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with public stakeholders all over Florida on embracing ride-sharing,” said Fernandez. “I’m excited to shift my focus to advocating for safe and reliable mobility solutions in Central America and the Caribbean.” Fernandez’ new job will be focused on government relations in several countries in Central America and the Caribbean. Uber currently operates in Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Puerto Rico. The new position will keep him in the Sunshine State at the ride-hailing company’s offices in Miami.
Jonathan L. Williams to Lash & Goldberg — The firm added Williams, a former Deputy Solicitor General, as a “senior counsel” in Tallahassee. His practice includes state and federal administrative and constitutional law, product liability, health law, environmental, tax, gaming, and consumer protection. He helped represent Florida before the U.S. Supreme Court in a long-running dispute with Georgia over a multistate river system. “Jonathan’s addition to the firm highlights Lash & Goldberg’s commitment to expanding the depth and experience of our team to better serve our clients,” said Alan D. Lash, founding partner at Lash & Goldberg. “His exceptional and diverse legal skills will be a tremendous asset to our firm.” Williams got his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and a law degree from Duke University.
Spotted in POLITICO Magazine — “(Brian) Ballard is a veteran Florida lobbyist who’s been in Washington for barely a year — the blink of an eye in an industry in which many of the top practitioners have spent decades inside the Beltway. But Ballard is closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town. He’s parlayed that relationship into a booming business helping clients get their way with the Trump administration — and his clients and even some of his rivals say his firm has a better grasp of what’s going on in the West Wing than almost anyone else on K Street … Ballard’s relationship with Trump has helped him solve a lucrative puzzle that has frustrated more established players … He’s a Trump-friendly out-of-towner who can connect with the establishment — he is a close ally of Senator Marco Rubio as well as Charlie Crist, the former centrist Republican governor of Florida who is now a Democratic congressman — and make corporate clients comfortable.”
— ALOE —
“Ecologists hopeful after strong year for Everglades wading birds” via Greg Stanley of the Naples Daily News — Many of the birds produced some of their healthiest nests in a decade, fledging tens of thousands of chicks, according to South Florida Water Management District’s annual wading bird report out this month. It remains to be seen how lasting the uptick will be. And while the birds did well in the refuge of Everglades National Park and in a handful of water conservation areas immediately north of it, they still struggled in their ancient breeding grounds, in the disappearing shallow wetlands near the Big Corkscrew Swamp and coasts of southern Florida, according to the report. It’s important not to read too much into one-year population jumps or drops, said Mark Cook, the water district’s lead scientist, who helped put together the report. But last year’s numbers compared to 10- and 20-year averages are a sign for hope, Cook said.
Welcome to the world: John Hansen,the fifth addition to Riley and Nick Hansen‘s family. Mom and baby are doing great, says Dad.