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Sunburn for March 22 – Fla’s congressional delegation in play; Marco rejects unity ticket; Rick Scott names new CoS; Duke Energy loves pig poop

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

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

In yesterday’s Sunburn, we urged you to start paying attention to the interesting, multi-faceted race to replace Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate. As a follow-up to that piece, we’d like to point out just how intriguing the 2016 cycle is shaping up to be for congressional races.

“This election cycle has the potential to profoundly weaken the Republican Party nationally in congressional races, and Florida is at the center of this political storm,” says Dr. Darryl Paulson, political science professor emeritus at the University of South Florida – St. Petersburg. “Directly impacting the Florida races are three factors: Retirements of incumbents, the reapportionment decisions based on “fair districts” which are anything but fair, and the potential impact of a Donald Trump campaign on down ticket races. Trump would devastate the Party at both the presidential and congressional level not just for 2016, but for decades to come.”

With Jeff Miller forgoing re-election, a back-of-the-napkin count has at least 9 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts as truly up for grabs, whether it be in the primary or the general election.

In CD 1, you can expect the winner of the Republican primary to emerge as Miller’s successor. CD 2 is currently held by Gwen Graham, but it’s almost certain to flip to either Republican Neal Dunn or Mary Thomas. CDs 3 & 4 are quiet, but CD 5 is where you’ll see a fierce Democratic primary between Corrine BrownAl Lawson and, maybe, Graham.

The congressional districts in north central Florida won’t see much action, but once we get to those near I-4, there are a slew of competitive races. CD 9 has A-list Democrats Susannah Randolph and Darren Soto pitted against each other, while CD 10 is where Bob Poe hopes to defeat Val Demings (and maybe Geraldine Thompson) in a primary in the newly redrawn, now Dem-leaning seat currently held by Republican Dan Webster.

Webster is now running in CD 11 in what is, right now, a competitive Republican primary against Justin Grabelle, the former Chief of Staff of the current occupant, Richard Nugent. Republican incumbent Gus Bilirakis is ensconced in CD 12, but the race for CD 13 is an open seat which already has Charlie Crist vs. Eric Lynn on the Democratic side and, soon we predict, Rick Baker for the Republicans.

CDs 14-17 will likely return their incumbents to D.C., but CD 18 is a wide-open affair that could be the most expensive congressional race in the state. Another expensive race will be the match-up in CD 26, where Republican Carlos Curbelo hopes to hang on against whichever Democratic contender – Joe Garica or Annette Taddeo — emerges.

“The next few cycles will reshape Florida’s political future,” predicts Democratic consultant Steve Schale. “With a third of the congressional seats, nearly half the Legislature and the entire Governor and Cabinet changing hands, the next two cycles will be some of the most consequential in recent state history.”

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BOB GRAHAM ENDORSES PATRICK MURPHY FOR U.S. SENATE SEAT via Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post – “I’m confident that Patrick, with his knowledge, energy and his demeanor, will be a very effective representative for Florida interests in Washington.” Graham said … as he and Murphy conducted a conference call with reporters. Murphy “bring[s] his experience as a lifetime Floridian, and his now-experience in the U.S. Congress, to increase his ability to be effective in those areas that are critical to the future of our state,” including restoration of the Everglades, Graham said.

ALAN GRAYSON SAYS PATRICK MURPHY HAS BEST ENDORSEMENTS “MONEY CAN BUY” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – At this point, Grayson isn’t surprised that yet another Democrat has endorsed Murphy in their battle for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Florida, even if it’s the much-lauded Bob Graham. “If you take a look at the polling for those who pitted his daughter against me and Patrick, his daughter came in a very, very poor third in that hypothetical race, so I don’t think that a lot of voters would be influenced by that at all,” Grayson said. A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon last summer had Gwen Graham, the first-term congresswoman from Tallahassee and daughter of the beloved Democratic icon, a distant third to Murphy and Grayson in a three-way Democratic race for Senate. “The establishment endorses the establishment” has been Grayson’s response to the cavalcade of prominent Democrats coming out to support Murphy … instead of his candidacy. “We have a situation where Patrick has the best endorsements that money can buy,” Grayson charged. “We have many, many, many cases now of Patrick buying his endorsements, and corrupting the political system. In much the same way that he’s been corrupted by money … Patrick’s vote is for sale and he systematically tracks down other elected officials whose endorsements are for sale.”

FRANCIS ROONEY ATTRIBUTES DONALD TRUMP’S RISE TO “ANGER AND FRUSTRATION” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Rooney, a Naples Republican and former ambassador to the Holy See, said the “amount of anger and frustration over the last … seven years and two months of President Obama have brought out some forces that I don’t believe we fully understand … Trump seems to be reflecting a lot of them,” said Rooney, who has been mentioned as a possible 2016 U.S. Senate contender. “What I hope are more moderate voices that have more thought through policies would also be considered by the electorate as a way to deal with the problems we face.” Rooney supported Jeb Bush‘s presidential bid, and is a top fundraiser for the Bush family and other Republican candidates. But … it did not appear that Trump could be counting Rooney as a backer any time soon.

HAPPENING TONIGHT — D.C. FUNDRAISER SET FOR CARLOS LOPEZ-CANTERA via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Lopez-Cantera plans a $500-per-person fundraiser in Washington, D.C. … The pitch is that Lopez-Cantera is the “best candidate to fill Marco Rubio‘s seat.” The invite cites him being endorsed by half the Legislature, “over 200 grassroots leaders,” the Lieutenant Governor, and three Miami area Congress members: Carlos CurbeloIleana Ros-Lethinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Carlos Beruff will attend the Winter Park Republican Women Federate Meeting at 11 a.m. at the Winter Park Racquet Club in Winter Park. Beruff is also scheduled to speak a the NOVA Republican Club meeting at 6 p.m. at the Nokomis Community Center. 

IT’S OFFICIAL — MATT GAETZ LAUNCHES BID FOR CONGRESS via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Gaetz announced his congressional campaign this morning with a 30-second Facebook video and a rebranded mattgaetz.com, with the slogan: “Fight Washington, Restore America” … “It isn’t too late for America to get back on track,” Gaetz says on his website. “We’ve taken some hits with Obamacare, the Iran deal and illegal executive actions, but I know we can reverse those decisions and get real solutions. I will work hard to bring back the conservative principles this country was founded on, and I won’t stop working until it happens.” [Gaetz] is seeking Jeff Miller‘s seat to represent Florida’s 1st Congressional District, which includes the western Panhandle … [His] departure from the Senate contest all-but hands the Republican-heavy seat to Gainer.

TWEET, TWEET: @RogerJStoneJr: I am 100% behind @mattgaetz for Congress. Go Matt Go !”

DAVID STAFFORD WILL NOT RUN FOR CD 1 h/t Rick Outzen: “After considerable thought and prayer, I’ve decided to forgo the race at this time. I have tremendous confidence in the voters in Escambia County and northwest Florida and have faith they will choose our next member of Congress wisely.”

KEN SUKHIA JUMPS IN TO CD 2 via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – Former U.S. Attorney Sukhia confirmed that he was planning to enter the race. Currently in private practice, Sukhia is well-known in Florida legal and political circles. President George H.W. Bush named Sukhia as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida. Sukhia also represented George W. Bush during the Florida recount back in 2000 and helped independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader stay on the ballot after the Democrats tried to remove him. Sukhia has also been active in Tallahassee, representing Gov. Charlie Crist when he was in office, serving Gov. Jeb Bush as criminal justice coordinator and representing him and working for Senate Presidents Tom Lee and Ken Pruitt to defend the Lobbyist Disclosure Act. During his almost 30 years in legal practice, Sukhia was also a law clerk for the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals.

CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS ENDORSES SUSANNAH RANDOLPH IN CD 9 RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “Susannah is a true progressive Democrat with a lifelong commitment to grassroots organizing and helping Democrats win,” caucus Co-Chair U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who had individually endorsed Randolph earlier … “As a community organizer, who has dedicated her career to protecting our environment, Susannah knows how to be a strong advocate for our natural resources and our community,” stated the other caucus co-chair U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who also had previously individually endorsed her. The caucus endorsement brings a heavy load of 70 Democratic congressmen as a group into Randolph’s camp, though there is no direct implication that each individually endorses her.

FEDERAL JUDGE RULES AGAINST NORTH FLORIDA “PRISON GERRYMANDERING” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – In a first-of-its kind decision, a federal judge in Tallahassee has ordered that local voting districts in nearby Jefferson County be redrawn, saying their boundaries are unconstitutional because of a system critics call “prison gerrymandering.” U.S. District Judge Mark Walkerruled against the county on a motion for summary judgment, effectively disposing of the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute, a nonprofit law group specializing in prisoners’ rights cases. Walker’s 86-page opinion … prohibits Jefferson County from using current districts for county commissioners and school board members. The judge ordered new districts submitted to him by April 4 that comply with state and federal law. Jefferson County neighbors Leon County, home to Tallahassee, immediately to the east. It had an estimated population of just over 14,000 in 2013, according to Census figures.

MARCO RUBIO REJECTED ‘UNITY TICKET’ WITH TED CRUZ via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO – Cruz’s campaign has been exploring the possibility of forming a unity ticket with ex-rival Rubio — going so far as to conduct polling looking into how the two would perform in upcoming primary states. The motivation, hashed out in conversations among Cruz’s top aides and donors: to find a way to halt Trump’s march to the Republican nomination. It’s unclear whether Cruz’s campaign brass views a partnership with Rubio as realistic or quixotic. In Rubio’s orbit … it’s seen as an outright non-starter — with Rubio telling his team that he isn’t interested. Yet in recent weeks, within Cruz’s camp, talk of a joint ticket has run rampant. Utah Republican Mike Lee, one of two senators to endorse Cruz, has emerged as an outspoken supporter of a unity ticket — and as a potential broker. The freshman senator, according to several sources briefed on the talks, has reached out repeatedly to Rubio to gauge his interest, but has been rebuffed.

COMPLAINT FILED OVER DONALD TRUMP FOUNDATION’S TIES TO PAM BONDI via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, asked the Internal Revenue Service to “investigate whether the Trump Foundation violated federal law.” The group also said the foundation failed to disclose the contribution in its annual financial disclosure. In September 2013, the foundation gave $25,000 to “And Justice for All,” an electioneering communications organization (ECO) that supported Bondi’s re-election. Under state law, ECOs can only pay for things such as television, radio or digital ads. The donation came about the same time that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for $40 million, citing dozens of complaints about the now-defunct “Trump University.” Schneiderman alleged the program enticed students with a get-rich-from-real-estate scheme, then socked them with expensive and sub-par seminars. Bondi did not get involved with that suit, which is still pending.

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RICHARD CORCORAN, JOSE OLIVA OUTLINE ‘GUIDING PRINCIPLES’ FOR HOUSE GOP CAMPAIGNS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The top elected officials heading up Republican House campaigns headed into the 2016 session laid out their “guiding principles” for key races in an email sent to party supporters … signed by House speaker-designate Corcoran, who as the incoming presiding officer is in charge of coordinating Republican House campaigns, and Oliva, a future speaker and close Corcoran ally. One of the bullet points is that they will “make campaign decision collaboratively,” which includes the creation of an Election Coordinating Team that which was created using a set of criteria, including geographic diversity, fundraising expertise, and those who have won in swing seats. The team is comprised of Reps. Michael BilecaTravis CummingsBen AlbrittonJeanette NunezCarlos TrujilloJason BrodeurJim BoydJose DiazMatt CaldwellElizabeth PorterChris Sprowls and Ray Rodriguez. The remaining principles includes “maximizing” campaign spending, and that they will contest key House races “early and aggressively.”

GARY SIPLIN ENTERS SENATE DISTRICT 11 RACE, FACES BOB SINDLER AND CHUCK O’NEAL via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Former state Sen. Siplin is trying again to return to the Florida Senate, this time, for the moment, without his rival state Sen. Geraldine Thompson in the race. Siplin filed to seek another term in the Senate, after having served the area in the Senate District 19, before redistricting that pushed the 11th District into the area of west Orlando west Orange County and communities such as Apopka, Winter Garden, Ocoee and Oakland. Thompson, an Orlando Democrat who is the incumbent in the seat, is running for Congress instead of re-election. She and Siplin faced off in state Senate Democratic primaries twice: once when Siplin was incumbent and won, and once when Thompson was incumbent and won. Thompson also beat Siplin’s wife Victoria Siplin in a primary once. This time, however, Siplin, an attorney, will be facing Bob Sindler, a veterinarian who is a former Orange County commissioner and former member of the state House.

SAVE THE DATE: The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee is hosting a Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Orlando April 9-10 to benefit the Senate Majority & House Majority 2016. Event begins Saturday, April 9, with a 9:30 a.m. VIP tour of Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure, followed by an 11:45 a.m. lunch. At 6 p.m., there will be a City Walk Dinner Reception and a VIP viewing of the Universal Mardi Gras Celebration Parade and Concert at 7:45 p.m. On Sunday, April 10, is a 10 a.m. Farewell Breakfast Buffet. RSVP through Ashley Ross (Senate) at (850) 980-0421 or aross@FRSCC.org; and Will Rodriguez (House) at (305) 904-1672 or wrodriguez@RPOF.org.

SAVE THE DATE: Clearwater Republican Sen. Jack Latvala is inviting friends and supporters for a fundraising event Friday, April 1, at the 4G ranch, 22501 FL-52 in Land O Lakes. A spot on Latvala’s Florida Leadership Committee is $5,000, which offers a private VIP reception beginning 5:30 p.m. An invite to the general reception, which begins 6 p.m., is $1,000.

HAPPENING TONIGHT: Former state Rep. Doug Holder hosts a fundraising reception for his Senate District 28 campaign. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the home of Katie and Jesse Biter, 1233 North Gulfstream Ave., Penthouse 1, in Sarasota.

2 MORE FILE IN HD 21, SETTING UP 4-WAY GOP PRIMARY via Florida Politics – To replace Gainesville Rep. Keith Perry in the Alachua County seat: Pharmacist Tim Rogers filed as a Republican… school teacher Marihelen Wheeler, a Democrat … Republicans Chuck Clemons and Wenda Lewis … Rogers is a longtime Gainesville resident who graduated from the University of Florida in 1975. He currently works for the university as a pharmacist in the veterinary hospital and has served as the president of the Florida Pharmacy Association since June 2015. Rogers faces stiff competition in Clemons, a vice president at Santa Fe College, and Lewis, the CEO of family-owned Lewis Oil.

2ND DEMOCRAT FILES TO REPLACE ED NARAIN IN HD 61 via Florida Politics – Businesswoman Dianne Hart announced she would run for the seat, joining former insurance consumer advocate and fellow Democrat Sean Shaw in the race. “I was born and raised in District 61 where I have also owned and operated my current business, Ms. Dee’s World of Beauty, for over 30 years,” Hart said. “But the heart of my ties in the district comes from my work in this community.” The Tampa Democrat has served as the CEO of the East Tampa Business and Civic Association, a board member of the Hillsborough County Children’s Advisory Center and as a member of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund Task Force.

CHRIS LATVALA DRAWS DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGE IN HD 67 via Florida Politics – Attorney David Vogel filed for the Pinellas County seat and is currently the only candidate running against Latvala … Vogel is an alumnus of the Roger Williams University law school in Rhode Island and has been a member of the Florida Bar Association since 2013. According to voter registration records, Vogel moved to Clearwater from Palm Beach Gardens in late May 2015, though his law practice still lists its primary office in West Palm Beach. HD 67 could be somewhat competitive in 2016. Voter statistics from 2014 show 33,430 registered Democrats and 32,600 Republicans in the district, with an additional 29,000 voters not belonging to a major party.

SARASOTA BUSINESSWOMAN ALEX MILLER RUNNING FOR STATE HOUSE SEAT via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Miller became CEO of her family-owned company Mercedes Medical at just 31 and has since become a well-known figure in Southwest Florida business and philanthropic circles, all of which should serve her well as she takes on her next challenge … The Sarasota Republican filed paperwork last week for the District 72 seat being vacated by state Rep. Ray Pilon, who is running for the state Senate. Miller will go up against another accomplished young candidate, 25-year-old Sarasota Democrat Edward James III. Miller, 42, has long harbored an interested in politics. She won a seat on the Sarasota County Public Hospital Board in 2012 and has considered running for the state House in the past. She resigned from her hospital board seat to run for the House.

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RICK SCOTT NAMES VETERAN BUREAUCRAT KIM MCDOUGAL AS CHIEF OF STAFF via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – McDougal, 53, most recently served as Scott‘s legislative affairs director and education policy coordinator. She has been in state government for nearly three decades and has spent much of that time in the Department of Education. McDougal has very deep roots in Tallahassee, a rarity in an administration where many in Scott’s inner circle are under age 35 and from out of state. She began working for the state in 1989, was an adviser to former Gov. Bush and served as an adviser to several state commissioners of education. She has a Ph.D. in education from Florida State University.

>>>On Facebook, Sen.Jack Latvala writes, “An exceptional appointment by the Governor!”

SCOTT TO RECEIVE SARASOTA COUNTY GOP’S “STATESMAN OF THE YEAR” AWARD via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – The statesman event is one of the party’s largest annual fundraisers. The award has been used to lure a number of major GOP figures to the region in recent years, most notably the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald TrumpScott has not had a great year. The state Legislature rejected his proposal for a $250 million economic incentive fund and greatly scaled back his other top priority, a proposed $1 billion tax cut. But a press release announcing the award notes the state’s declining unemployment rate during Scott’s tenure and the corresponding increase in jobs. The dinner … will be at 7 p.m. April 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota.

COLUMN OF THE DAY — FLORIDIANS DESERVE TO KNOW WHICH TRUMP STATEMENTS SCOTT SUPPORTS via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – When a public official endorses another public official, he or she is implicitly signing off on that person’s policies, platform and character. No one expects two people to agree on everything, but we won’t know where Scott disagrees with Trump until he tells us. Does Scott endorse Trump’s language toward women, calling them names like fat, ugly and bimbo? Does the governor endorse the view that Mexican immigrants are bringing drugs and crime to America and should be kept out by the construction of a wall along the border? Does Scott endorse Trump when he encourages audience members to “knock the crap out of” protesters at his rallies? These are all yes-or-no questions. And, yes, I sent an email to his representatives asking for him to answer before this column’s publication. The response I got was links to clips of recent cable TV interviews, but in them Scott didn’t provide clear answers to my questions. At most, Scott says that he doesn’t agree with everything political candidates say. But he hasn’t provided specific examples of where he and Trump’s views diverge.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to highlight job growth at 10 a.m. at VOXX International, 2351 J. Lawson Boulevard in Orlando. Scott will then attend a veterans award ceremony at 3 p.m. at the U.S. Army National Guard Armory, 656 Avenue C. Southeast in Winter Haven.

BIG BILLS STILL AWAITING SCOTT’S SEAL OF APPROVAL via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – Medical marijuana … Abortion clinic regulation … Cohabitation … Rape kits … School Choice.

FLORIDA’S PASTOR PROTECTION ACT DOESN’T GO AS FAR AS GEORGIA’S — AND THAT’S A GOOD THING FOR NFL FANS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Scott signed the Pastor Protection Act [which] shields religious entities and individuals from any lawsuit if they refuse to administer same-sex weddings. Meanwhile in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal says he’ll decide by next month whether he’ll sign the Peach State’s version, which goes beyond Florida’s bill. Plus, critics contend the Georgia law allows for discrimination against LGBT people. The National Football League … opposes the legislation, and could yank Atlanta from consideration to host a future Super Bowl if Deal signs off on it. Deal said this month he’d veto any bill that legalizes discrimination. As written, though, the bill would protect clergy from performing same-sex marriages. It also would give faith-based organizations permission to deny use of their business for anything they find “objectionable. Businesses wouldn’t have to hire anyone whose religious beliefs are different from theirs. That’s entirely different from the Florida bill, said Carlos Smith, government affairs manager for Equality Florida. He said Florida’s bill sponsors … Scott Plakon and Aaron Bean – promised not to expand the bill beyond its initial intent.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce hosts the Volusia County legislative delegation for an Eggs & Issues breakfast reception to give its post-Legislative Session report. Invited speakers include Sens. Dorothy HukillDavid Simmons and Travis Hutson, as well as Reps. Fred CostelloDavid SantiagoDwayne Taylor and Paul Renner. Event begins 7:30 a.m.at the LPGA International Golf Course, 1000 Champions Dr. in Daytona Beach. Tickets are $20 at the door for Chamber Members, $30 for nonmembers.

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NEW 24,000-ACRE DEVELOPMENT ANNOUNCED FOR MORMON LANDS IN ORANGE, OSCEOLA COUNTIES via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Tavistock Development Co., which developed the nearby Lake Nona and Lake Nona Medical City projects in Orlando, submitted plans to Orange County to develop 4,787 acres off State Road 528 in eastern Orange County. In doing so, the company also announced the Orange County development would be part of a larger development known as Sunbridge that also will include 19,111 acres in Osceola County. All of the land is part of the massive Central Florida holdings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, the Orange County land Tavistock intends to develop is not officially part of the church’s Deseret Ranches empire in Central Florida, made up of more than 200,000 acres covering most of southeast Orange, northwest Osceola and west-central Brevard counties. The church has held most of the land as working cattle ranches for generations but has, in recent years, disclosed its long-term intentions to develop parts of it.

WHAT GUS CORBELLA IS READING — TV PILOT ABOUT MACDILL AFB BEING SHOT IN CALIFORNIA via Howard Altman of the Tampa Tribune – CBS has ordered a pilot called “Four Stars” that Variety describes as a “family military drama” that “follows two powerful rival families in the military community of Tampa, Florida, who make decisions at the highest levels of national security.” But the people who make decisions at the highest levels of national entertainment have decided to shoot the pilot entirely in California. If you say, “that figures,” you’d be close. The reason is actually seven figures. As in a one followed by six zeros, give or take some digits along the way. As in a tax credit reservation for an estimated $1.07 million, part of California’s Expanded Film & TV Tax Credit Program. That figure represents about a quarter of what the producers are expected to spend on the pilot, according to Erik Deutsch, spokesman for the California Film Commission, which doled out the incentive. So what does that mean, really? Well, apparently about $4 million that’s not being spent in Florida.

WHAT CHRIS FLACK IS READING — DUKE ENERGY SIGNS DEAL TO TURN PIG POOP INTO ELECTRICITY via The Associated Press – Duke Energy … announced a new excrement-to-energy project that could provide power to about 10,000 homes a year. The utility is partnering with Carbon Cycle Energy, which will build a North Carolina facility to take methane from pig and chicken waste and send it to four of Duke Energy’s plants to convert into energy. Carbon Cycle, based in Boulder, Colorado, said the site of the facility will likely be in Eastern North Carolina and it is expected to begin operations next year.

BOB BUCKHORN SIGNS ORDINANCE REDUCING MARIJUANA PENALTIES IN TAMPA via the Tampa Tribune – Buckhorn signed into law an ordinance that allows police officers to fine rather than arrest offenders found with up to 20 grams, roughly three-quarters of an ounce, of marijuana. The measure was passed by the Tampa City Council in a 5-1 vote. City leaders say the new law will prevent offenders from being saddled with the life-long stigma of a criminal record that can hinder job, scholarship and housing opportunities. They also hope it will free the resources of police and courts. Under the new law, offenders would be fined $75 for a first offense. That rises to $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third and $450 for subsequent violations. At least half a dozen Florida communities, including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, have adopted similar laws.

IN A FLORIDA PARTY TOWN, LAST CALL LEAVES A FINANCIAL HANGOVER via Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times – In instituting a crackdown, Panama City Beach … joined a roster of other more urban Florida beach towns that have for decades whipsawed from inviting, to rebuffing, to ultimately tolerating spring breakers. Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Miami Beach — they have all been there, taking in the money, but hating the mess and negative attention that comes with students who trash rooms, fall off balconies, assault each other and drink themselves to death … To fight the problem, officials stepped up law enforcement, and the city and county passed more than 20 ordinances. The new laws, mostly in effect only in March, required bars to close at 2 a.m., banned loitering and scooter rentals in the evening and, most important, made it illegal to drink alcohol on the beach. But business owners said the vast majority of spring breakers were good people who wanted nothing more than a good time with friends, and that the new laws have gone too far.

PROGRAMMING NOTE — I will be in Tallahassee today for a panel hosted by the James Madison Institute titled, “Legislative Wrap-up and Changing Media Landscape.” Although there are seven reporters on the panel, undoubtedly there will be a moment when I say something grandiose, yet insulting to the other panelists, and POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon upbraids me with some snarky one-liner, at which I get red-faced and turn over one of the tables. Of course I am joking, but not entirely.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Alan WilliamsAsh MasonPaul Mitchell, and Jason Unger.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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