Sunburn for 6.6.16 – WWMD (What will Marco do?)

Rubio AP photo 01.25.16

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.

TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY of candidate qualifying in Florida. It’s the first day that candidates for federal or state office can submit their official paperwork.

DAYS UNTIL: Federal candidate qualifying closes – 18; State candidate qualifying closes – 18; Domestic absentee ballots go out in primary – 50; Early voting begins in primaries – 75; Primary elections – 85; Deadline to register to vote in Primary Election – 56; Deadline to register to vote in General Election – 127; Absentees sent in General Election – 120; Early voting begins in General Election — 145; General Election – 155


Who do you believe? Political reporter Marc Caputo or U.S. Rep. David Jolly?  

Caputo said last month that Marco “Rubio’s headed to the private sector, but I don’t know where.”

Jolly, hoping to succeed Rubio in the U.S. Senate, told the Times/Herald on Friday that “… all signs are pointing to him running.”

Will he or won’t he?

Caputo has become something of a Rubio whisperer with deep sources in the Miami Republican’s inner circle. Jolly told the Times/Herald he has no direct knowledge from Rubio himself, but said he expects the pressure on Rubio to only increase when the Senate is back in session next week. So if you’re betting, you may want to stick with Caputo.

However, Jolly’s evidence that Rubio will run — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appearing on national television to talk about his efforts to draft Rubio to run for re-election, plus Rubio’s continued refusal to outright endorse his “friend” Carlos Lopez-Cantera in the Senate race — is compelling.

Whether you want to see Rubio run for re-election or not, the voters of Florida practically deserve a referendum on Rubio’s first term. Consider these numbers:

Rubio won election in 2010 against Charlie Crist, running as an independent, and Kendrick Meek, arguably one of the least-known statewide Democratic candidates. Rubio won in a Tea Party wave election against two candidates who were splitting the Democratic and progressive vote.

Running in the Republican presidential primary, Rubio received just 27 percent of the vote against Donald Trump.

The latest Quinnipiac poll showed 42 percent of Florida voters approve of Rubio’s performance and 49 percent disapprove — putting him in negative territory for the first time since he was elected to the U.S. Senate. A Gravis Marketing poll showed that only 20 percent of Florida voters said they approved of his job performance while 56 percent said they disapproved.

Sure, if he runs for re-election, Rubio would very likely win a GOP primary. But just the fact that there would be a primary could be an issue for Rubio. Carlos Beruff and Todd Wilcox have both said they are staying in the race no matter what Rubio does.

In a general election, Rubio is probably a slight favorite over U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson or Patrick Murphy, but in a presidential election year and one in which the GOP nominee has yet to build a presence in the state, is Rubio even in charge of his own fate?

NOTE TO RUBIO: DON’T RENEGE ON YOUR VOW TO LEAVE SENATE via the Palm Beach Post editorial board – After suspending his presidential run after attracting a mere 27 percent of the vote in the Florida primary, [Rubio] is suddenly industrious and conscientious on Capitol Hill. He’s pushing for money to fight the Zika virus (weeks after Sen. Bill Nelson plunged in), weighing in on Lake Okeechobee discharges, trying to strip automatic federal benefits for Cuban refugees and attacking substandard federally funded housing in Jacksonville. Is it possible Rubio could keep this up in a second term and become an effective advocate for Florida? Maybe, but why take the chance? Frankly, this sudden enthusiasm for the job makes it clearer what a dud performance he gave us in the previous five years. For Rubio to seek re-election now would confirm all the worst that people hate about politicians. He’d be forgetting everything he’d ever said about integrity — his own or that of his party’s standard bearer. Just say no, Mr. Rubio.

RUBIO SENATE RUMORS UNDERCUT GOP CAMPAIGNS IN FLORIDA via Kevin Robillard of POLITICO – The Republican campaigns already running for Rubio’s seat complain that the improbable move to lure the senator into the race has paralyzed donors during a crucial stretch of the electoral calendar. And it doesn’t help, they say, that leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are proclaiming that only Rubio can win in November, essentially warning donors not to waste their money — or that outside groups, including Senate Leadership Fund and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have indicated they might sit Florida out unless the sitting senator is on the ballot. Meanwhile, Democratic groups are lining up to pour money behind their favored candidate, Rep. Murphy, who they believe has the chops to beat anyone the GOP puts forward, even Rubio. the Republican senators and operatives who want Rubio to run say the five current GOP Senate campaigns have failed to become well-known throughout Florida, which is split among 10 expensive media markets. No candidate appears on the way to raising the tens of millions needed to fund television ads for either the state’s late August primary or the two-month general election sprint. In other words, the existing candidates have failed thus far to clear a high bar — one that may now be getting harder to reach because of the Rubio hoopla. Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already reserved $10 million in Florida TV airtime for the fall, while Senate Democrats’ flagship super PAC, Senate Majority PAC, is planning to spend another $10.5 million. The NRSC left Florida out of its initial ad buy, and it’s unclear if the GOP Senate committee has any plans to spend in the expensive state.

DAVID JOLLY RESIGNS HIMSELF TO RUBIO RUNNING AGAIN FOR THE U.S. SENATE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – He said by next Friday, he expects Rubio will signal what he plans to do. He has to decide by June 24, the last day to qualify in Florida to be on the ballot. If Rubio gets in, Jolly said he’s dropping out of the Senate race. He said he got into the race originally because it was an open seat. He said he has no interest in taking on an incumbent like Rubio.

MEANWHILE … RUBIO BLOCKS CONFIRMATION OF JUDGE HE RECOMMENDED via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – The Florida lawmaker, who is leaving Congress in early January, has conspicuously left undone one legislative item: clearing the way for the Senate confirmation hearing of Miami lawyer Mary Barzee Flores. She is a former state judge who was nominated by President Barack Obama to a vacancy on South Florida’s federal bench more than a year ago. This past week, his office made it abundantly clear for the first time that Rubio — who along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson had recommended her for the judgeship — is blocking her nomination for reasons critics say boil down to “extreme political partisanship.”

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RICK SCOTT CONTINUES TO SHOOT DOWN SPECULATION HE’LL BE DONALD TRUMP’S RUNNING MATE via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – “I am going to pass on that,” Scott told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Think about it: I’ll have two years left when Donald gets elected president. I want to finally have a federal partner who will focus on jobs.” Scott is set to meet with Trump in New York City … which had fueled speculation he could be on a short list for vice president. The trip is being funded by Let’s Get to Work, the Scott-controlled committee that coordinates his political activity. Though Scott was an early supporter of Trump, he has repeatedly said he does not want to be vice president. Scott said the meeting is to discuss Trump’s Florida strategy.

SCOTT CALLS OFF MEETING WITH DONALD TRUMP TO FOCUS ON TROPICAL STORM via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott has called off his meeting in New York with Donald Trump so he can monitor the tropical storm, an aide said. Scott was to meet with Trump to discuss strategy for the general election and Florida.

IF YOU READ ONE THING — 8,491 PAGES RAISE MORE FLAGS ABOUT PAM BONDI’S DONALD TRUMP MONEY via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – Bondi … decided not to act on similar complaints [over Trump U] filed by Floridians. She, however, did take money from Trump — while her office said it was “reviewing” the complaints against him. Bondi’s office always claimed there wasn’t enough evidence to make a case. So I asked to see her office’s investigative reports for myself … Her office took about four weeks to respond and then finally did so with a massive document dump — thousands of pages … All told, they provided 8,491 pages of records … [with] lots of troubling things and inconsistencies. For instance, Bondi’s office originally claimed it had received “no complaints” about the Trump University (Page 3,229) since she took office. Later, a staffer said: “Under this administration, we have received one complaint regarding Donald Trump, Trump University or Trump Entrepreneur Institute (page 4,268). Later still, a staffer said two (page 5,142). Yet another wrote: “Just so everyone is aware, we have 100 complaints about The Trump Group.” (Page 1,733), though that August 2013 message didn’t cite a timeframe. It goes on like that for hundreds of pages. Most importantly … what I did not find among those 8,491 pages — much evidence that Bondi’s investigators had actually probed or investigated the complaints that had come her way. There were lots of letters from Bondi’s staff — and from the staff of the previous administration, under Bill McCollum, which fielded even more Trump-related complaints — telling people who felt like they were ripped off that they should hire their own attorney or complain to another government agency.

ONE DMB CONCERT RICH HEFFLEY WON’T BE ATTENDING: Dave Matthews Band is playing a GOTV concert for Bernie Sanders, according to Jambase.

GOP SEIZES ON OBAMA’S FUNDRAISER FOR PATRICK MURPHY AS SIGN OF ‘DISUNITY’ via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –“As President Obama attempts to calm the rising tide of Democratic disunity through speeches and fundraisers, Floridians continue to distrust the failed policies that the president and Hillary Clinton are promoting,” wrote Republican Party of Florida spokesman Wadi Gaitan in a statement. Gaitan’s hit on Democrats’ unity hit stems from the fact that the president is picking sides in the Democratic primary as Murphy battles it out with fellow Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson — a race that has so far been a nasty festival of mudslinging. Also jumping into the fray ahead of the fundraiser — being held at the Miami Beach home of Steven Green, the former ambassador to Singapore, and his wife Dorothea Green — is the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is hoping Grayson emerges as the general election candidate.

DEMOCRAT PAM KEITH REMAINS DETERMINED TO BREAK THROUGH IN U.S. SENATE RACE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Miami labor lawyer rarely appears in polls and is virtually never mentioned by the two Democrats who are viciously battling each other at the top of that contest, U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson  But she is taking the road of former state Sen. Nan Rich, whose 2014 gubernatorial campaign established her as the heart and soul of a Florida Democratic Party even as that party backed, and then nominated, former Republican Charlie Cristfrom the start. Crist then lost an election the Democrats thought could be an easy win. But this year, voters across the board are saying they want an outsider, and she’s still waiting to earn that label. “People are more hungry now for candidates who speak plainly and connect to the heart, who can relate to their daily existence, and are not part of the inside political agenda that is Washington, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat,” she said during a stop in Orlando over the weekend. “And so, I fit the mood. I fit the times.”

HAPPENING TODAY: David Jolly will give a speech to the Hispanic Republican Club and Outreach of Pinellas County at 6 p.m., 401 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Rocks Beach.

TODD WILCOX WAS ARRESTED IN TAMPA AT AGE 18 via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – He spent a night in Hillsborough County Jail. Then a recent graduate of Robinson High School, Wilcox and two others were arrested after a baseball bat went through the window of a home on his family’s South Tampa block. “Obviously I turned that around,” Wilcox said. “I got a top-secret security clearance and served in the CIA. That taught me a lesson but didn’t hold me back.” The charges were later dropped by prosecutors. Police and court records of the 1985 arrest aren’t clear about what happened. They say that a neighbor heard a noise, came outside to investigate and saw people breaking into his condo. They swung at him, he said, so he went inside. He later found a wooden baseball bat near his window, the arrest report says. But when the state attorney’s office contacted the neighbor for an interview, he twice skipped an interview appointment. Years later, in 1993, he had one more run-in with police. Police in Melbourne Beach ticketed Wilcox for an open beer in his car.

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: So you’re saying he was like everyone else who has ever visited Ybor City?

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Wilcox will be in Broward County.

LIBERTARIAN ENTERS CD 2 RACE via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The congressional District 2 primaries will be closed. Libertarian … Rob Lapham lived in Alaska for 35 years where he ran an IT company before moving to Texas in 2010, according to his website. There he served on the Texas Libertarian Executive Committee and ran for Congress in 2014. In that race he pledged to downsize the military, eliminate the federal income tax and end the war on drugs. Lapham received 1.9 percent of the vote in a three-way race for the 22nd Congressional District of Texas. “I expect to get a better result this time,” he quips. “It’s an uphill climb, but if you believe in your platform then you should run.” Lapham is a deficit hawk and believes the U.S. needs to get spending under control. Lapham and his wife Cheryl retired to Port. St. Joe last year and helped organized the Gulf County Libertarian Party.

— “Democrat Dena Grayson enters public phase of her CD 9 race as Zika threat looms” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

BOB POE MAKES PITCH AS PROGRESSIVE OUTSIDER via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel – In the crowded primary field for Florida’s 10th Congressional District …  [BobPoe is pitching himself as a friend of the downtrodden and an alternative to the establishment. In recent weeks, Poe has pledged to pay his campaign’s staffers no less than $15 an hour, to encourage reformed felons to apply for those jobs and to accept a labor union’s challenge to live on the minimum wage … He loaned his campaign more than $1.2 million in the year’s first quarter. The former communications executive says his wealth allows him to be independent of outside influences. He has pledged to match supporters’ donations dollar-for-dollar. “I’ve seen the ugly part of this system and how it works … and I know that it doesn’t have to be that way,” Poe said. “I’ve had the benefit of seeing it from both sides.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Francis Rooney will officially announce his congressional run at 10 a.m. at Mel’s Diner, 4820 Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers.

IN MIAMI, POTUS PRAISES DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Obama described Wasserman Schultz as “somebody who I don’t know how she does it, because she’s everywhere all the time, nonstop, and she’s a mom and a wife and has been just incredibly supportive of my agenda … She’s taken tough votes when they’re the right thing to do, and she’s somebody who I have counted on consistently … She’s had my back. I want to make sure we have her back.” The about 90 donors gathered at the dinner gave her a standing ovation. Obama also gave shout-outs to several other attendees, including former Gov. Charlie Crist … “a great friend,” Obama said.

SCOTT FUHRMAN TO CHALLENGE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN via Sergio Bustos of The Associated Press – Fuhrman … running for Florida’s 27th Congressional District … outlined his plans in a two-minute campaign video. He talks about running his family’s juice bottling company, being a husband and father and making “some bad decisions” as a younger man … “I drove too fast. I raced cars, and I broke the law … too many politicians hide behind the truth. I won’t be one of them.” … Fuhrman acknowledged his campaign will be “an uphill battle.” He said he’ll spend $250,000 of his own money to fund his campaign … he says that as a businessman employing 75 people he doesn’t lose sight that “this isn’t just a business; it’s people’s lives and their families.” On his campaign website, Fuhrman released detailed information about his brushes with the law, along with his driving record dating back to when he was a teenager. It included a DUI and weapons conviction in 2009 in Boulder, Colorado, and two alcohol-related arrests as a student at Florida State University between 2001-04. His family owns the Florida Bottling Co., which bottles and distributes fruit juice to retailers in the U.S. and abroad.

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SD 19 CANDIDATES ADDRESS MINIMUM WAGE AT ST. PETERSBURG CANDIDATE FORUM via Caitlin Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times – Rep. Ed Narain … Betty Reed … and Rep. Darryl Rouson … spoke on issues facing the black community during the St. Petersburg Candidate Forum organized by the Childs Park Neighborhood Association and Florida Fight for 15, the state branch of an international movement that focuses on the struggle of low-wage workers. The candidates fielded a broad slew of questions, ranging from Medicaid expansion to early learning programs to the role of public records laws. But one that hit close for the organizers and attendees — and that drew one of the most significant distinctions among the candidates — was that of raising Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Both Reed and Rouson said they would support raising minimum wage to $15 across the board for all industries. But Narain separated himself from his fellow Democratic contenders by instead calling for an incremental increase. While he supported a $15 minimum for some jobs, such as those related to caring for children and the elderly, he said the minimum wage for the fast food industry and others should start at $12. “At the end of the day, in the state of Florida, all working class and middle class people deserve a raise, so I do support the increase,” Narain told the crowd, many sporting brightly colored Florida Fight for $15 T-shirts. “And I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I think all fast food employees should make $15 tomorrow.”

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT TOM LEE’S POLITICAL FUTURE — EXCEPT TOM LEE via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Lee has two choices: He could remain in the state Senate, which would mean moving to run for a seat in another district in east Hillsborough; or he could jump into the Republican primary for the Hillsborough County Commission’s District 6 seat. That’s assuming he won’t mount a primary challenge to the GOP majority leader, Sen. Bill Galvano … whose District 26 now includes Lee’s home because of redistricting. Were Lee to enter the commission race he would upend it — Republicans Jim Norman and Tim Schock are battling each other, while four Democrats face each other — and set off a flurry of falling dominoes among local House members interested in his Senate seat … Then there would be a scramble for those interested in any vacated House seats … those closest to him say he simply hasn’t made up his mind. The hard deadline is coming up: it’s the June 20-24 qualifying period. Some are voicing this thought: If Lee were going to cause the kind of shake-up that will result if he doesn’t run for re-election, he probably would have done it sooner to allow fellow Republicans more time to make their own plans.

SAVE THE DATE: Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano is hosting a fundraiser Thursday, June 9, supporting state Sen. Anitere Flores and her bid for the newly drawn Senate District 39. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at Gio, 4805 Cortes Road W. in Bradenton. For more information and to RSVP contact Nicole Hagerty at 850-508-2464 or [email protected] or Heather Barker at 954-461-7201 or [email protected].

JEFF BRANDES SEEDS STATE SENATE RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN WITH $200K OF HIS OWN MONEY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – That brings the St. Petersburg Republican’s total raised to nearly $480,000 for this year’s election. He has cash-on-hand of more than $310,000. As of Friday, he is running unopposed. His area has been considered a swing district. “This contribution reflects Sen. Brandes’ continued commitment to serving his constituents and marks over $850,000 contributed by himself to his election efforts since 2010,” said Chris Spencer, his campaign manager.

— “Dem Tracie Davis files to run in HD 13” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Byron Donalds not running for Congress, focusing on HD 80 race” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

EMAIL INSIGNTS: RAQUEL REGALADO BLASTS CARLOS GIMENEZ OVER PGA DECISION TO LEAVE DORAL via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics — In an email to supporters SaturdayRegalado said Miami-Dade County Mayor Gimenez didn’t do enough to keep the PGA tournament in Doral. In her email, Regalado said “everybody knows that the PGA’s and its sponsor’s decision to leave Miami-Dade centers on the golf course’s association with Donald Trump” and his controversial comments. She also said Gimenez is the “only person claiming this has nothing to do with Donald Trump.” Regalado, a Miami-Dade County school board member, told supporters the county can do “better than someone who has time to golf every Friday but not time to do his job.”

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold media availability to talk about the tropical depression at 11:15 a.m. at the State Emergency Operations Center, 2555 Shumard Oak Blvd. in Tallahassee.

REVIEW SAYS IT’S MOSTLY SUNNY FOR STATE TOURISM AGENCY, VISIT FLORIDA via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – State officials have given a good review of Florida’s tourism marketing agency and a second outfit that promotes the aerospace industry. Gov. Scott earlier this year called for the reviews of both Visit Florida and Space Florida … after the Orlando Sentinel reported taxpayers paid thousands of dollars for Chinese and other foreign journalists to vacation in the Keys. The state also paid unknown amounts to celebrities, race car drivers and soccer teams to promote the Sunshine State. The Department of Economic Opportunity concluded that Visit Florida had a “sound business operation.” Department officials, however, did recommend some changes, including capping the amount of state money spent on salaries. The review also said Visit Florida should make more information about its operations public.

END TAXPAYER FUNDING OF ENTERPRISE FLORIDA, RICHARD CORCORAN SAYS via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Corcoran … will lead the charge to strip taxpayer funding from Enterprise Florida, saying he believes the agency has consistently failed the state …  Would rather see money like the $23.5 million already in next year’s state budget due to take effect next month go toward the state’s secondary schools, colleges and universities. He pointed to failed incentive deals and reports … of gross overspending by Enterprise Florida President Bill Johnson as only the latest reasons why the agency should not receive public money. “We’re discussing whether Enterprise Florida needs to exist in its current function,” Corcoran told the Daily News … “Handing out corporate welfare checks is not something we should be engaged in.” Incoming Senate President Joe Negron said he and Corcoran spoke about plans by the House to slash public money from Enterprise Florida, but the Senate has not yet come to its own decision. Negron still needs to speak with his team of senate leaders.

HAPPENING TODAY: Republican state Sen. Aaron Bean will provide a wrap up of the 2016 legislative session and other political issues at the “We the People” forum beginning 6 p.m. at the Amelia Island Plantation, 201 Sea Marsh Road in Amelia Island.

TOM ROONEY PARTS WAYS ON GAY RIGHTS VOTE via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Rooney, whose sprawling district was redrawn last year to encompass southern Sarasota County, recently supported a hotly debated gay rights amendment to an appropriations bill. The amendment prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Rooney was not happy that the amendment was attached to unrelated legislation having to do with funding for energy and water projects. But he said he wanted to be on the right side of history. “It’s one of those ‘look in the mirror 20 years from now am I on the right side of this issue,’” Rooney said. “There are gay people in my family, gay people who work for me. You can have your religious belief, the beliefs you follow in your faith, but constitutionally I don’t think you can discriminate and keep somebody from getting a job.” Rooney added that he wanted to “set an example for my children that regardless of who you are in this country you can get a job if you want one.”

STRICTER LOBBYING AND ETHICS IN HOUSE RULES? via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran … says he’s “absolutely” planning to add the controversial changes to the House rulebook at the start of his two-year term starting in November. They could include requiring lobbyists to publicly disclose every bill and amendment they seek to influence and to extend from two to six years the ban against legislators becoming lobbyists after they leave office. (Some lobbyists claim Florida’s “trade secrets” law protects their right to keep secret which bills they’re trying to pass or defeat). When the Legislature reorganizes every two years, one of its first (and often overlooked) acts is to adopt a set of rules, in an up-and-down vote by the 120 members during a one-day, feel-good organizational session set for Nov. 22, two weeks after America elects a new president. The rules govern day-to-day operations, from filing and amending bills to the conduct of lawmakers and lobbyists. Corcoran said he plans a rules rewrite if his leadership team, which includes a number of Miami-Dade members such as Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo, agrees with him (which they surely will).

PERSONNEL NOTE: LARRY OVERTON & ASSOCIATES HIRES JIMMY CARD, FORMS ALLIANCE WITH CAPITOL SOLUTIONS via Florida Politics – Card, the former government relations director for Coral Gables-based HMO Preferred Medical Plan, joins Larry and Joel Overton as a senior associate. He had been with Preferred for 12 years. Card previously served as legislative aide to House Majority Whip Gaston Cantens, playing a role in the 2002 election cycle … In addition to the Card’s hire, Overton & Associates also announced a new alliance with Patrick Bell’s Capitol Solutions lobbying shop to boost service for the firm’s A-list clients. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Patrick Bell and my team to join forces in bringing our well-established and well-respected firms together,” Larry Overton said in a statement. “The ability to provide our long-term clients the depth and breadth of experience before the Florida Legislature, executive branch and Cabinet allows for a strategic approach for continued success.”

BRYANT MILLER OLIVE APPEALS $50 FINE — AND LOSES via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – … lost its appeal of a $50 fine for late-filing one of its lobbying compensation reports. The Florida Commission on Ethics made its decision to enforce the penalty … Commissioners, though, were split on whether to waive the fine. Some wondered why the firm was fighting a one-day fine; others asked why commission staff bothered to pursue it. An Ethics Commission staff report shows a legal assistant at the firm tried to file the compensation report electronically Feb. 12, a Friday, after business hours. The report was due that Sunday. After getting an error message, the assistant tried a password reset but didn’t get an email with the new password … The reset email instead went to an attorney who set up the account, and that person was “traveling” and couldn’t be reached. The assistant tried “call(ing) the system help desk, but there was no answer” … The report was not filed until Monday … staff recommendation was that the explanation for the firm’s failure to file on time didn’t rise to the level of “unusual circumstances” warranting a waiver of the fine. Foyt T. Ralston, a lobbyist with the firm, said it “made every attempt to submit our report … They don’t have the funding for a 24-hour help line even though they have a 24-hour (filing) system … We understand that and completely respect the job they do with the resources they are given.” As to the $50 fine, he added, “for us, it’s really not that big of a deal.”

ETHICS PANEL WAIVES FINE AGAINST BEN PARKS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Parks had been automatically fined $50 a day for late-filing his third-quarter lobbying compensation reports last year, according to a proposed order. State law provides for a one-time fine waiver for a late report, but Parks already used that in 2013 … commissioners were swayed by the string of misfortunes the 62-year-old said he suffered in recent months. He suffers from “depression, anxiety and high blood pressure” and his home had been burglarized the previous November, causing a loss of his documents. Parks also said his bank account was frozen this May after fraudulent checks had been written on his account. Those and other reasons constitute “unusual circumstances” that merited a waiver of the fine, staff said. He recently pleaded no contest to a charge that he ran a drug house out of his Tallahassee home.

CHAIR OF BROWARD HEALTH CRITICIZES SYSTEM FOR WITHHOLDING RECORDS via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – … criticizing the system’s refusal to provide documents to a watchdog group hired to ensure that the hospital district is complying with a settlement agreement for health care fraud. Rocky Rodriguez, the board chairman … wants the system to give the review team access to information it requested in a letter. J Scott Newton, a former federal prosecutor who is leading the review team, says chief compliance officer Donna Lewis is refusing to provide him access. “I don’t know how much they have given him,” Rodriguez said, adding “I think we should be complying with the [watchdog] 100 percent.” Rodriguez tried to have the board of commissioners discuss the issue at its last board meeting but Newton’s request for documents was not on the agenda. When he attempted to have the issue added to the agenda he couldn’t muster enough support from the other commissioners. Former Broward Health chief executive officer Alan Levine said the board of commissioners is “playing with fire” by withholding the documents that Newton has requested.

GUESS WHAT WEST PALM POLITICIAN IS BACK IN THE FIGHT FOR EVERGLADES? via Tony Doris of the Palm Beach Post – Her father made it to the moon. Can’t top that. But down on Earth, Kimberly Mitchell has taken on another lofty mission — fixing the Everglades. Mitchell, a former West Palm Beach commissioner, has re-entered politics as executive director of the Everglades Trust. The nonprofit’s goal: to change opinions of Florida’s governor and lawmakers, to get them behind investing in a reservoir, whose water can be cleaned of pollution and redistributed to the Everglades, an expanse so thirsty it’s in danger of ecological collapse. The task is daunting, she told a meeting of the South End Neighborhood Association … because U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals own most of the land south of Lake Okeechobee that could be used for the reservoir. They’re not in a hurry to give it up, she said. “That Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir is the one, single thing you can do that has the most benefit moving forward,” Tom Van Lent, an engineer who is Director of Science and Policy for The Everglades Foundation, told the association members … Mitchell, the daughter of late Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell … is a Republican who finds herself confronting a Republican governor and senator reluctant to go up against Big Sugar. Nor are the state’s lawmakers — Republican or Democrat — anxious to confront the generous contributors. But it’s not a partisan ecological crisis, she said.

SUPREME COURT CASE COULD DETERMINE IF SLOT MACHINES COME TO WEST PALM via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – A decision by justices — likely months away — also is certain to send tremors through Tallahassee and across the state’s vast gambling landscape. The court will consider whether Gretna Racing, a small horse track west of Tallahassee, is allowed to add slot machines. The track, in one of Florida’s poorest counties, argues it should because voters there approved slots in a 2012 referendum. The same year, Palm Beach County voters also gave the kennel club on Belvedere Road near Palm Beach International Airport the go-ahead to add slot machines. All told, six counties that year passed slots referendums, with all now seeing a Gretna win as clearing the way for the machines. Many, though, say a Gretna victory will add a fresh layer of chaos to Florida’s already contentious gambling scene. Indeed, if justices side with Gretna Racing, Jacksonville Kennel Club is already pushing for a vote in November in Duval County. More counties likely would follow. But the spread of slot machines across the state — most agree — will imperil the state’s chances of renewing its gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which was poised to pay the state $3 billion over the next seven years in exchange for lawmakers limiting games elsewhere. Two different three-judge panels of the 1st District Court of Appeal have offered conflicting decisions — one saying Gretna should get slots, and the other concluding that lawmakers still have to decide. Frustrated, the appeals court asked high court justices to settle the matter.

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ARTHENIA JOYNER NOTES PASSING OF “THE GREATEST” via Florida Politics – Joyner recalls Muhammad Ali, who died Friday, as a man “who never backed down, who fought the good fight” … Joyner first met Ali in the early 1970s, when the boxer spoke at a convention of the National Bar Association, the nation’s leading organization representing African-American attorneys, judges and legal professionals. “I saw him in the ring for the first time at Madison Square Garden January 28, 1974,” the Tampa Democrat wrote in a statement … “And I had the opportunity to watch his boxing prowess again the following year when he defeated Ron Lyle in Las Vegas … Throughout his career, the same courageous heart that carried him to win 56 of his 61 fights reached far beyond the ring … He was a civil rights hero who stood up for what he believed at a time when civil rights were not always championed, and even though, many times, he stood alone. As we mourn his passing, let us celebrate that legacy of the man who never backed down, who fought the good fight, for himself and for so many others.”

CATTLE RANCHERS WANT MORE FLORIDA GROWN BEEF ON DINNER TABLE via Lauren Delgado of the Orlando Sentinel – Making Florida-grown beef more available is the hope of 13 cattle ranchers who have formed Florida Cattle Ranchers LLC. Among its members is Lightsey Cattle Co., which owns several ranches including one in Osceola County. Demand for local beef inspired the ranchers to join together, said Cary Lightsey, co-owner of Lightsey Cattle. People called his ranch looking for beef products. Most were millennials, he said, or 18 to 34 year olds. Florida-grown beef is a departure from the relatively recent practice of sending young cattle to feedlots in Western states before slaughter. “We want it homegrown,” Lightsey said. Consumers want food that they perceive as natural and fresh, said David Portalatin, an analyst with market researchers NPD. The trend is one of the biggest movements in the way consumers eat today. “The word fresh specifically carries a lot of power,” he said. People in their 20s and 30s, he said, are eating and demanding fresh foods earlier in life than past generations.

DAN MARKEL, WENDI ADELSON SPARRED UP TO THE END via Sean Rossman of the Tallahassee Democrat – Florida State University law professor Dan Markel returned home from a September 2012 business trip to find his wife of six years, his two young boys and most of the couple’s possessions gone from his Betton Hills home … While he was away, his then-wife and fellow FSU College of Law professor Wendi Adelson, moved out of the house, taking the toddlers with the help of her parents. Twenty-two months later … Markel would be shot in the head while sitting in his black Honda Accord in the garage. Police would use the keys, still in the ignition, to gain access to the empty home. The next day, July 19, 2014, the 41-year-old died. Two years later, Tallahassee Police and FBI investigators point to the couple’s sparky divorce and her wealthy family’s eagerness to move the children to South Florida as the motive for the crime. In the arrest affidavit for 34-year-old Sigfredo Garcia, a North Miami man charged with first-degree murder in Markel’s death, details of the divorce are listed under the heading “Motive for Murder.” TPD and FBI investigators summed up their theory in the probable cause statement for Garcia’s arrest — which they say is the first of several to be made in the case. “Investigators believe motive for this murder stemmed from the desperate desire of the Adelson family to relocate Wendi and the children to South Florida, along with the pending court hearing that might have impacted their access to the grandchildren.”

MIAMI’S CONDEMNED HOPE FOR NEW SENTENCES AS FLORIDA SUPREME COURT WEIGHS DEATH PENALTY via David Ovalle of the Miami Herald – Forty years have passed since William Lee Thompson raped a young woman inside a North Miami-Dade motel, torturing her for two days until she died. Thompson today remains the longest serving Miami prisoner on Florida’s Death Row. Now, the Florida Supreme Court is weighing whether longtime Death Row inmates such as Thompson should be afforded new sentencing hearings. The so-called “retroactivity” question will likely be answered in the coming months, and is one of several legal battles that have delayed two executions and kept the state’s death penalty in legal limbo. For relatives of the murdered, the ongoing legal battles are dredging up years of frustration with the pace of the justice system, while death penalty critics believe the court might soon fix a flawed, if cruel, system of capital punishment.

WHY SOME GIFTED THIRD-GRADERS ARE BEING HELD BACK FROM FOURTH GRADE via Sonja Isger of the Palm Beach Post – Two Palm Beach County families with four third-graders among them are poised to join a statewide push-back against the system that threatens to bar their children from fourth grade because they defied Florida’s testing protocols. It’s not just that they refused to take the Florida Standards Assessment in English and language arts this spring – something that at least a couple of hundred third-grade students across the state appear to have done. These families also refused to take the alternate route of proving their children read adequately with a portfolio of work – because school administrators are demanding portfolios be filled with what these parents describe as dozens of “mini” standardized tests. Exactly what they were trying to avoid in the first place. These are not students who struggled with reading all year. To the contrary, they’ve excelled and have the report cards to prove it. And yet, all got notes home from Sunrise Park Elementary in Boca Raton that their children must be remediated over the summer and then prove they’re adequate readers on another test or repeat third grade in the fall.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to a slew of great Florida politicos: state Reps. Amanda Murphy and Richard RangelBrad BurlesonJulie FessMatthew Hunter, Southern Strategy Group’s Seth McKeelHeidi Otway. Celebrating today is state Rep. Charles McBurney.

Peter Schorsch

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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