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.
REST IN PEACE, BOB LEVY
Robert M. “Bob” Levy, a longtime lobbyist and campaign consultant in Tallahassee and South Florida, died on Tuesday.
Levy had just turned 67, having celebrated his birthday on March 27. Levy’s died of cancer, with several friends telling Florida Politics it was caused by Levy’s exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Levy, president of Robert M. Levy & Associates, “worked as a political consultant and developed hundreds of campaigns since 1977,” his online bio says.
Tributes poured in to his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, calling him “a most special man” and a “helpful mentor to so many.”
Levy’s energy was seemingly unabated up to the end: For 2016, he was registered to lobby for 42 clients, including the Florida Movers & Warehousemen’s Association, Florida Nurses Association, Miami-Dade County Clerk Of Courts and even the National Guild of Hypnotists. “I wouldn’t trade our client list for anyone’s – truthfully – because of the nature of our work,” Levy said in a 2012 interview. “Our clients become our friends and we work as closely as possible with them to achieve their goals. I’m very happy with those who have entrusted their fate in the process with our firm.”
He represented an array of cultural and social interests, such as Miami’s Actor’s Playhouse; The Arc, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged. Levy focused on health care lobbying and campaigns of judicial candidates. “We support candidates on both sides of the aisle and try to not get bogged down in the politics of the process,” he said in an edition of The 4th Floor Files.
Levy was a Vietnam veteran and was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, The Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts, his bio says. He attended Valley Forge Military Academy and Penn State University.
READ BOB’S 4TH FLOOR FILE here.
— “Bob Levy a decorated war hero and one of Florida’s most respected lobbyists, died Tuesday” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida
— “Lobbyist Bob Levy, fixture at state Capitol for decades, has died” via Steve Bousquet and Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald
State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz: “Bob was one of the first people I met in Tallahassee. He was old school. He cared more about substantive discourse than about one upping anyone in the process. He was one of the good guys.”
State Rep. Holly Raschein: “My heart is broken. Bob taught me so much about public service, and I will always credit him for any successes enjoyed in my professional life. I worked in his office while I was an undergraduate at Florida State. It is because of his patient teaching, encouragement and belief in me and the good mentor he was to so many of us who were blessed to work with him that this day we are so very sad, and will miss Bob so very much.”
Ron Bilbao: “My boss, my mentor, my confidant, my friend. He believed in me when he took me on as a headstrong 17 year old. And he taught me how to be an ethical, honest, and hardworking lobbyist. More than that, how to be a compassionate human being. My life is fuller because Bob Levy came into it. The world is better because Bob Levy made it so.”
Susan Goldstein: “I love you and will miss you dearest Bob Levy. Thank you for your kindness and special friendship over the past 20 years. I have never met a more giving, caring, hard-working, and loyal friend. Nothing will be the same in Tallahassee without you. Rest peacefully my dear Wolf and look for our Santa to meet you in Heaven with open arms, a Pina Colada pie, and a bottle of Kettle. Watch over your pack as you always have and know that so many people love you and will miss you more than words can express.”
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Bright House Networks for Business, your trusted provider of industry leading communications and networking services for any size business – from startup to enterprise, and everything in between. We offer a full portfolio of products and services, including Business Phone and cloud-based Hosted Voice, Business Internet at speeds up to 350 Mbps to fiber-based Dedicated Internet Access, several tiers of high-quality HD Video programming, and an array of advanced cloud and managed IT services. Our solutions are customized to fit your business, your budget and your industry. We own, manage and maintain our network, which means we are 100% accountable; and we’re locally based, which allows us to be immediately responsive to our customers. Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Bright House Networks. Learn more.***
JEB BUSH TO SKP GOP CONVENTION via The Daily Beast – “Governor Bush has no plans at this time to attend the Convention,” Kristy Campbell said in an email. CNN earlier reported that Bush flatly said “no” when asked, joining a list of other Republicans taking a pass on what is likely to be a wild convention.
HAPPENING OVERNIGHT — REPORT: ANDER CRENSHAW WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION via NEws4Jax: U.S. Rep. Crenshaw will not be running for re-election in November … Crenshaw has represented Florida’s 4th Congressional District for the past eight terms.
TWEET, TWEET: @MDixon55: Short list (to replace Crenshaw) would include: Aaron Bean, Jerry Holland, Lenny Curry, Travis Hutson, Janet Adkins, Richard Clark. Hypothetically, of course
RICK BAKER DECIDES NOT TO RUN FOR CD 13 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – After months of contemplation, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said Tuesday that he will not run for the Republican nomination for the CD 13 seat being vacated by David Jolly. “After a significant amount of thought, prayer and review, I have decided not to run for Congress this November,” Baker said in a statement. Baker’s announcement would seem to freeze the field of candidates competing for the Pinellas County congressional seat for the 2016 election, with former Governor Charlie Crist the distinct frontrunner. Two polls showed Crist leading Eric Lynn, a former Defense Department official in the Obama administration, by more than 50 points.
CRIST REAX: “Rick Baker is a good man, a good friend, and an influential part of our community here in St. Pete. I wish him nothing but continued success.”
DAVID SANTIAGO SET UP HIS FEDERAL PAC BEFORE DISSOLVING STATE PC via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – Some questions have risen about Santiago’s PAC coordination, which led to a few weeks where his federal PAC and his state PAC existed concurrently. Santiago’s now-closed state PC — “Floridians for a Good Economy” — lists Randall Woodruff as Chair, Treasurer and Registered Agent. On Feb. 4 that PC moved the entire remaining balance of $87,487.84, noting the purpose as “disposition of funds due to dissolution.” The funds were then disbursed to an Ocala-based group, also named “Floridians for a Good Economy.” On Jan. 13, Woodruff filed a Statement of Organization Form for a federal PAC, also with the name “Floridians for a Good Economy.” The exact same name and address of Santiago’s state PC were used to open the federal PAC. As of April 12, there were no reports of contributions or expenditures.
GYROCOPTER PILOT DOUG HUGHES ENDS CHALLENGE TO DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times – Citing a lack of time to organize a campaign and raise funds, Hughes has thrown his support behind Tim Canova, a law school professor and political activist who has become a serious contender in the Democratic primary. Hughes pleaded guilty in November to flying his gyrocopter without the proper license and is scheduled to be sentenced next week. He faces a maximum of 10 months in prison.
SPOTTED at a Tampa fundraiser for George P. Bush: Will and Drew Weatherford, Dick Beard, Tyler Cathey, Jim MacDougald, Sandy Murman, Kathleen Shanahan, Anne Duncan, John Kirtley, Joe Williams.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates, winner of eight 2016 Reed Awards and 60 industry awards overall. Jamestown’s TV, radio, mail and digital advertising helps clients in Florida and across the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. See how Jamestown Associates wins tough campaigns at JamestownAssociates.com***
SOLAR GROUP LAUNCHES NOVEMBER CAMPAIGN: ‘YES ON ONE FOR THE SUN’ via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Consumers for Smart Solar, unveiled its campaign … called “Yes on 1 for the sun.” Its constitutional amendment will appear as Amendment 1 on the ballot … backers are billing it as a consumer-friendly expansion of solar power. “Because of the potential and positive benefits, solar can play a very important role in Florida’s energy future, but we have to do it in the right way, a way that protects consumers from scam artists, long-term contract traps and rip-offs,” said Jim Kallinger, the campaign co-chair and a former Republican state representative. For the most part, it maintains the status quo, writing language into the constitution that allows government to regulate solar companies.
MEANWHILE … MICKEY MOUSE-SHAPED SOLAR FACILITY UNVEILED AT DISNEY WORLD via the Associated Press — It’s only fitting that solar panels that will help with the power needs of Walt Disney World are shaped like the famous ears of the mouse that started the whole Disney enterprise. Officials with Disney World, Duke Energy and Disney’s private government on Tuesday flipped on the switch to a Mickey Mouse-shaped solar facility located on 22 acres near the Epcot theme park. The facility is made up of 48,000 solar panels and is operated by Duke Energy.
SENATE CANDIDATES BOOST CAMPAIGN COFFERS DESPITE RUNNING UNOPPOSED via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Senate District 5 — Rob Bradley has created one of the largest campaign war chests this election cycle … raised $466,606 since filing … Senate District 26 — Denise Grimsley … raised $370,000 since filing … Senate District 16 — Jack Latvala … raised $275,552 a piece toward his re-election campaign … Senate District 18 — Dana Young decided to forgo re-election to the Florida House … Since jumping into the contest, the House Majority Leader has raised $264,687. Senate District 22 — Kelli Stargel … raised $232,000 since filing … Senate District 3 — Bill Montford is the only Senate Democrat who has raised more than $200,000 since announcing his bid for re-election … raised $225,695 since January 2013. Senate District 2 — Republican George Gainer hasn’t been running unopposed for long … built up a substantial campaign account, raising $206,625 since jumping into the race … gave his campaign a $500,000 loan.
KEITH PERRY’S SOLID MARCH FUNDRAISING IN SD 8 PALES COMPARED TO DEMOCRAT ROD SMITH via Florida Politics – March clocked in as one of the best fundraising months in Gainesville Republican Rep. Perry’s political career. However, it paled in comparison to his opponent’s first-month haul in the race for the new Senate District 8. [Perry’s report shows] just over $53,000 in contributions, nearly all of it from within the borders of the Alachua County-based district, and only spent $156 … Smith … had raised nearly $283,000 between his campaign account and his political committee, Independent Leadership for Florida, in the first month of his campaign. Smith’s burn rate was relatively small, too: campaign expenditures added up to just under $9,000, and his PAC spent a little over $5,000, leaving the former state senator with more than $270,000 on hand across the two accounts.
CAMILLE GARDINER’S POTENTIAL CANDIDACY HAUNTS DEAN ASHER’S EFFORTS TO SUCCEED ANDY GARDINER IN SD 13 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Camille Gardiner‘s continuing but unannounced interest in running for the Florida Senate to succeed her term-limited husband, Senate President Andy Gardiner, has haunted his longtime friend Asher, the only Republican in the race. Asher got into the Senate District 13 race November without Gardiner’s support, but with, Asher said, the Senate president’s tacit nod, because Camille Gardiner still was a long way from deciding what she wanted to do. She’s still undecided. So now Asher, a Realtor with a conservative business platform, a lifetime of political contacts in Central Florida, and an industry that is strongly fueling his campaign with donations, is pushing forward, still wondering whether he might get public support or direct opposition from one of Florida’s most powerful politicians. Asher does so, and Camille Gardiner considers doing so, in a district that now leans Democratic since last fall’s redistricting, and which has drawn two or three strong Democrats. “I hope that Andy and Camille do what they feel is best for their family,” Asher said.
“Gardiner set to help allies in 2016 as he ponders his future” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO
KATHLEEN PASSIDOMO, MATT HUDSON GET A BOOST TO THEIR SD 28 CAMPAIGN COFFERS via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Passidomo may have raised more campaign cash in March than her opponent, but the Naples Republican’s war chest is still significantly smaller than Senate District 28 hopeful Hudson. State records show Passidomo raised $16,145 in March. Top donors during the one-month fundraising period included The Florida Justice Reform Committee and the Universal Insurance Managers. Both of those groups gave $1,000. Hudson raised $175 in March, according to campaign finance reports. Since opening his state Senate campaign account in January 2015, Hudson has raised $418,724. Passidomo has raised $260,300 since opening her state Senate campaign account in November 2014.
SAVE THE DATE: State Sen. Bill Galvano hosts a re-election campaign kickoff fundraiser in Sarasota April 21. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Dolphin Aviation, located at 8191 N Tamiami Trail, and will be preceded by a half-hour VIP reception. For more information about the fundraiser, or to RSVP for the event, contact campaign staffer Nicole Hagerty at 850-508-2464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPOTTED at fundraisers in Pensacola for Frank White (HD 2) and Jayer Williamson (HD 3): Alan Suskey, Ryan Wiggins, Katie Ballard, Trey McCarley, Paul Renner, Todd Thomson, Janice Gilley, Lumon May, Rusty Branch.
— Lenny Curry PAC breaks $600K barrier in March” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
***Make your next event delicious with catering from The Edison! Our internationally-inspired cuisine is sure to make for an unforgettable experience for your guests. Choose from our appetizing menu, and we’ll take care of the rest. Learn more here.***
RICK SCOTT APPEALS BROWARD HEALTH CHAIR’S REINSTATEMENT via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – Scott suspended Di Pietro, who was appointed to the board in 2011, and Commissioner Darryl Wright after Chief Inspector General Melinda Miguel expressed “grave concerns” that board members might be interfering with her investigation on all of Broward Health’s contracts since July 2012. On Tuesday, Gov. Scott appealed the decision to reinstate Di Pietro. Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office will handle the appeal. On Monday, Di Pietro called on the governor to lift his Executive Order against Wright, but Tuesday’s appeal of the decision left the future of the two men uncertain. Di Pietro challenged his suspension in a lawsuit four days after Scott suspended him. Di Pietro said he was confident the original decision would be upheld and called Scott’s appeal nothing more than a “stall tactic.”
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a bill signing ceremony and announce new jobs at 10:30 a.m. at Novolex, 500 Ellis Road North, #A in Jacksonville.
WHAT COLOR IS BILL JOHNSON’S PARACHUTE? via Tina Jensen of Fox 13 News – The tab for Florida Commerce Secretary Johnson’s short tenure could top $500,000 for compensation and benefits. That doesn’t include tens of thousands of state dollars used to create his brand-new presidential office. When … Scott appointed Johnson to take the reins as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce, the Miami-Dade County employee landed one of the most lucrative jobs in the state. Technically that position pays him nothing, but in this state, the gubernatorial appointment comes with the dual title of CEO and President of Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI), the mostly taxpayer-funded entity charged with luring jobs to the state. Just over a year ago, Johnson signed a contract worth $265,000 a year, plus benefits — a $600-per-month car allowance, for instance. There was also a $100,000 per year bonus potential; in August, he got half of it — a prorated amount, EFI’s board members said, since he’d only been on the job for a few months. An analysis of hundreds of pages of EFI ledgers and receipts … reveals EFI used at least $170,000 in state money to expand its Miami office, rather than have Johnson move to EFI’s headquarters in Orlando.
LEGISLATURE GETS HIGH MARKS FROM BUSINESS ADVOCACY GROUP via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – In their annual report card on the recently completed legislative session, Associated Industries of Florida gave 101 of the 120 Florida House members the equivalent of a “A” grade … those 101 lawmakers voted at least 90 percent of the time with them on issues before the House. That group includes 35 members – all Republicans – who voted 100 percent of the time with AIF. The perfect scores included House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and House Majority Leader Dana Young … “AIF thanks the Governor and the Legislature for once again making decisions that promote a healthy and competitive business climate in the State of Florida, and is proud to work with a Legislature where 35 of the lawmakers voted in favor of the business community 100 percent of the time,” said Tom Feeney, President & CEO of AIF. The scores come in a year in which AIF and political action committees they control have donated more than $1.7 million to elected officials in state government, the political parties and other political action committees, many of which are affiliated with state legislators. The average score for House members was 94 percent.
IF YOU READ ONE THING — WIDOW DISCOVERS WHO STRUCK, KILLED HER HUSBAND ON BIKE: FORMER REP. ROBERT SCHENCK via Barbara Behrendt of the Tampa Bay Times – On a clear morning in September 2014, Lyle Swanson‘s happy life as a retiree ended when a black Lincoln MKZ cut a corner on a left turn in Spring Hill, crashing into Swanson’s bicycle. The 74-year-old Swanson had severe injuries that sent him from one health care facility to another over the next six months. Those injuries cost him his life in March 2015. What few people knew, including Swanson’s wife of 53 years, Sharon, was that the driver of the vehicle was Schenck. A former Hernando County commissioner from Spring Hill, Schenck was finishing his final term in the Florida House of Representatives when he collided with Swanson’s bicycle. Sharon Swanson expressed surprise and then anger when the Tampa Bay Times told her who had hit her husband’s bike and caused his death. Now saddled with about $1 million in medical bills she cannot pay, she said she feels as if there was a cover-up and that politicians do not understand that whatever they try to hide will eventually become known. The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the crash. FHP spokesman Steve Gaskins said everything was done by the book. “The driver was ticketed for the traffic violation, which resulted in the crash occurring,” Gaskins said in an email. “Not every crash that FHP investigates results in a press release being issued.”
TWEET, TWEET: @GrayRohrer: So the last FL House Rules chair accidentally ran over and killed a guy and the current Rules chair is an Uber driver.
ALIMONY, CUSTODY CHANGES TRIGGER YELLING AT CAPITOL CLASH via The Associated Press – Scott has until next week to act on a bill that would end permanent alimony payments and urge judges to enforce equal time-sharing with children of divorcing parents. Supporters and opponents held dueling press conferences at the Capitol … in an effort to sway Scott. But they both collided in the lobby outside of Scott’s office. Those seeking a veto went there to speak to Scott’s staff. They were followed into the office by proponents of the bill who held signs and then started yelling. Some of the bill proponents urged those opposed to the bill to get a job. Scott vetoed similar legislation two years ago.
LEGISLATURE ANNOUNCES FIRST ORGANIZATION SESSION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The first organizational session for the 2017 Legislative Session is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 22. At that time, the House will choose its new speaker, and the Senate its president. Land O’Lakes Republican Rep. Richard Corcoran is speaker-designate for 2017, as is Stuart Republican Sen. Joe Negron for Senate president, contingent on their respective reelections. Also on the agenda is various procedural rules on committees, debate, ethics and more.
NEW FLORIDA LAW REQUIRES LIFE INSURERS TO DO MORE TO FIND BENEFICIARIES via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – The new law requires life insurers to search the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File for all of their policyholders retroactively to 1992 and every year going forward to identify beneficiaries. If a beneficiary cannot be found, the insurance company must turn the policy over to the State of Florida’s Unclaimed Property Program, currently overseen by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, where the state will continue to look for rightful beneficiaries. Atwater … said too many life insurance companies are sitting on billions of dollars in overdue, unpaid life insurance benefits. He said some companies were doing little to track down families whose loved ones paid their premiums for years.
FLORIDA ZIKA VIRUS UPDATE via FloridaHealth.gov – As of Tuesday, there were no new cases reported, with six cases still exhibiting symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days. There are now 85 total cases in Florida; by county (number of cases): Miami-Dade (33), Broward (13), Orange (5), Alachua (4), Lee (4), Osceola (4), Palm Beach (4), Hillsborough (3), Polk (3), Brevard (2) and a single case each in Clay, Collier, Santa Rosa, Seminole and St. John’s and five cases involving pregnant women. The DOH recommends women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to Zika affected areas. The CDC has put out guidance related to the sexual transmission of the Zika virus. This includes a recommendation that if you have traveled to a country with local transmission of Zika you should abstain from unprotected sex. The department also urges Floridians to drain standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Residents and visitors also need to use repellent when participating in any outdoor activity.
FLORIDA LEADS NATION IN ZIKA AS CDC CONFRONTS THREAT via Ledge King of the Tallahassee Democrat – Florida health officials have been pretty successful controlling recent outbreaks of Dengue fever and the chikungunya virus. Zika is shaping up to be far more challenging … the virus’ broad health consequences and ability to spread through sexual contact make it much harder to combat than other mosquito-borne diseases. “Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.” As of Wednesday, the CDC reported 346 confirmed cases of Zika, all associated with people traveling to the U.S. Florida leads the nation in confirmed cases with 85 as of Monday, or nearly one of every four cases nationwide. Fifteen counties have reported at least one case, according to the Florida Department of Health.
ZIKA ‘SCARIER THAN WE INITIALLY THOUGHT,’ U.S. OFFICIALS SAY via Alexandra Sifferlin of Time magazine – The situation surrounding the Zika virus appears more complex and difficult the more experts learn about it, federal health authorities reported … During a White House press briefing, Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters, “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought.” In the update, Schuchat said experts have learned that the virus is linked to a broader set of health problems beyond microcephaly — where babies are born with underdeveloped heads — including premature births and vision problems. Health complications from Zika infection seem to be a risk for most of a woman’s pregnancy and not just her first trimester. The U.S. has also learned that the mosquito that transmits the virus, “Aedes aegypti,” is present in more states — current count is 30 — than previously thought.
ZIKA IS TIED TO SECOND ADULT BRAIN DISEASE, DEEPENING FEARS OF VIRUS’S UNKNOWN DANGERS via Ariana Eunjung Cha and Lena H. Sun of The Washington Post – Brazilian scientists studying 151 patients who recently sought help at a hospital for symptoms similar to those caused by Zika have made a worrisome discovery – that the virus may be associated with a second serious brain issue in adults … two of the patients experienced swelling of the brain and spinal cord that involved the myelin, or coating, around nerve fibers. They were diagnosed as having acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, or ADEM, which is so similar to multiple sclerosis that many practitioners have trouble distinguishing between the two. The brief but intense attack often follows viral or bacterial infections. The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that the long-term prognosis is “generally favorable.” However, some patients may have mild to moderate lifelong impairment, including cognitive difficulties or loss of vision. In rare cases, the condition can be fatal. Maria Lucia Brito Ferreira, a doctor at Restoration Hospital in Recife, Brazil … was cautious in interpreting her findings, emphasizing that most people who experience nervous system problems with Zika do not have brain symptoms and that a definitive causal link between Zika and the ADEM has not been made. “However, our study may shed light on possible lingering effects the virus may be associated with in the brain,” she said.
APALACHICOLA RIVER NAMED MOST ENDANGERED IN NATION via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel – A report by American Rivers said the Apalachicola system is at a “breaking point” because of obsolete management and competition for waters that flow through Georgia, Alabama and Florida. The group has published endangered-rivers reports since 1984, naming St. Johns, Suwannee, Peace and others in Florida, but never before has a state river topped the annual lists. “American Rivers is calling on the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia to swiftly act to form a water-sharing agreement,” the group said. The Apalachicola River forms where the tributaries of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers join at the Florida-Georgia line. The river then flows south more than 100 miles to oyster-rich Apalachicola Bay. Conflict between the three states over the three-river basin has persisted since the late 1980s, with Florida raising alarms over declines in the bay.
CEASE FIRE: HCA AND FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE REACH TAX BATTLE TRUCE via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend – Under the terms of the settlement … the revenue department has stopped pursuing $28.1 million in back taxes that it once said HCA illegally evaded. At the same time, Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA has dropped claims for $32.4 million in refunds for taxes it said it had mistakenly overpaid. The dispute involved three lawsuits and covered more than a decade of HCA’s Florida tax returns, from 2001 to 2012. It centered on various strategies HCA has used to lower its Florida tax bills, including passing billions of dollars between subsidiaries – in the form of intra-company insurance premiums, loans, management fees and more – in order to reduce the percentage of its profit that Florida could tax.
JUDGE DISMISSES INVESTOR LAWSUIT AGAINST SEAWORLD via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – A judge in southern California has dismissed a securities fraud lawsuit brought by investors in SeaWorld Entertainment … who claimed company officials misled them about the impact of the documentary “Blackfish” on the company’s financial performance and attendance at its parks. U.S. District Judge Michael Anello said the investors failed to show that SeaWorld officials had deliberately made false statements that “Blackfish” alone caused attendance declines and that SeaWorld officials knew “Blackfish” had caused attendance declines. The lawsuit was brought by pension retirement programs for Arkansas state workers and Danish workers on behalf of all investors who had purchased shares in the company after its initial public offering April 2013 until August 2014. The documentary chronicled the life of SeaWorld’s killer whale, “Tilikum,” who has been linked to the deaths of three people, including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. The film suggested that captivity provokes mental distress and violent behavior in the enormous marine mammals. Attendance declined after the film’s release.
PETITION DEMANDS REMOVAL OF “ISLAM BLOODY ISLAM” BILLBOARD IN ST. AUGUSTINE via Melissa Ross of Florida Politics – The billboard reads “Islam Bloody Islam: Doomed by Its Doctrine,” and is directed at St. Johns Outdoor Advertising. Petition creator Becky Williams says she started the drive because “We should always stand up for those in our community who are shown hatred and intolerance. We should be outraged that a billboard with this message could in any way represent our community as a whole. It is of the utmost importance that we stand against messages and movements that isolate, judge and threaten an entire sect of people who share our same hometown.” So far, 1,976 supporters have joined the petition, including signers from Europe and Africa.
***Situated in the heart of Downtown Tallahassee, 101 Restaurant combines southern hospitality with big city style. Through Executive Chef Jason Bruner, 101 Restaurant adopted the Farm-to-Table approach where they use products from farmers and fishermen found within a 100-mile radius of their downtown restaurant. These locations include Quincy, Thomasville, Apalachicola, Panama City and many others. The goal at 101 Restaurant is to give guests a fine dining experience in a luxurious, casual environment. Plus, if you stop by any day from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. or 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., you can enjoy their Double Happy Hour! Call them today to make your reservation! (850) 391-1309.***
PERSONNEL NOTE — Allison Aubuchon is departing The Foundation for Excellence in Education, the Jeb Bush-founded conservative think tank, as its Communications & External Affairs Director after four years. She’ll be starting her own business. “I will now be working independently as a communications consultant,” she says. “I am grateful and proud to have played a role in the Foundation’s important student-centered mission, and am thrilled it will continue on a part-time basis as I step into this new chapter.” Jaryn Emhof, the Foundation’s VP of communications, says, “We are thrilled she is still working with us and that the Foundation will continue to benefit from her communications skills and expertise.” Before joining the Foundation, she was Press Secretary for the Florida Senate Majority Office under then-Majority Leader Andy Gardiner. She also has been Public Relations Manager for Tallahassee’s Capital City Bank and worked for Kidd Group public relations. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in public relations and from Florida State University with a master’s degree in media and communication studies.
FACEBOOK STTUS OF THE DAY via Christine Sexton: “In typical fashion the Tampa Bay Times did not give POLITICO Florida credit for first reporting this story.” (The Times later updated the story to credit POLITICO Florida. The attribution can be found in the seventh paragraph of Mary Ellen Klas’ story.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Chris Chaney of The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners.