Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Lloyd Dunkelberger, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
DALLAS SHOOTINGS PROMPT RARE RESTRAINT, CALLS FOR UNDERSTANDING FROM CANDIDATES
The shootings marked the second time the fledgling general election campaign has been upended by violence. Just one month ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump also scrambled their schedules following mass killings at an Orlando gay nightclub.
The political response to that attack was almost instantly contentious, as Republicans and Democrats debated whether the shooting argued for stricter gun laws or tougher anti-terror policies. The gunman had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, but law enforcement said there were no indications he had direct ties to extremist groups.
Trump was widely criticized, even by his own party, for taking credit for “being right” on terrorism after the Orlando attacks and for saying he appreciated “the congrats.” He was noticeably more measured in his statement Friday but reappeared on Twitter late in the day, taking Clinton to task for her answers to questions in a TV interview about her email practices.
“Isn’t it sad that on a day of national tragedy Hillary Clinton is answering softball questions about her email lies on @CNN?” he tweeted.
The response to the shootings from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans was also notable. While GOP officials are often seen as siding with the police in recent altercations with black men, some high profile Republicans were pointed Friday in acknowledging racial disparities in policing.
“All of us need to acknowledge that this is about more than just one or two recent incidents,” Sen. Marco Rubio said of this week’s shootings. “The fact is that there are communities in America where black families tell us that they are fearful with interacting with local law enforcement. How they feel is a reality that we cannot and should not ignore.”
SHOOTING OF DALLAS OFFICERS SPURS ACTS OF KINDNESS TO POLICE via Kantele Franko of The Associated Press – Around the country, people have showed up at local departments with flowers, sent social media messages or called to say thanks. They delivered coffee, pizzas, cakes and moments of solace for officers grieving after the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks … John Fife, with his ball cap in hand, passed a red rose to an officer sitting in a vehicle guarding those headquarters. In another corner of the country, a Seattle officer accepted a matching flower from Jasen Frelot, one of several people from the faith community there who set out to show police support. Still others simply stopped officers on the street to chat or offer hugs. “It’s just been amazing. Our guys can’t go out this morning without getting stopped by people wanting to thank them,” Dustin Dwight, a spokesman for Louisiana State Police Troop L, told NOLA.comThe Times-Picayune … In Ballwin, Missouri, where a suburban St. Louis policeman was shot and critically hurt during a Friday traffic stop, Andrew Kulha brought the investigators water. He told KMOV-TV he thought it had “been a rough few days to be an officer.”
DENNIS BAXLEY AND NEIL COMBEE TO PROPOSE ‘BLUE LIVES MATTER’ LEGISLATION via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The proposal was announced separately by Ocala House Republican Baxley, who is running for the state Senate in District 12, and Polk City House Republican Combee, running for re-election in House District 39. Both men say they would file their bills in their respective chambers later this year if they win office … The legislation is modeled on a Louisiana law … expands the state’s hate crime statute to include the targeting of police officers, firefighters and EMS personnel. Opposing it was the Anti-Defamation League, who claimed that it weakens existing hate-crimes laws by adding more categories of people who are already better protected under other laws. Combee, whose father was a Lakeland police officer and father-in-law worked for the Polk County Sheriffs Department, said there are too many people on social media who think it’s OK to attack or kill police. “I’m not going to stand by and not do something,” he said. Combee blasted the mainstream media’s coverage of the violent encounters between the police and citizenry, such as the incidents in Minnesota and Louisiana that took place this week.
FOLLOWING DALLAS, BOB BUCKHORN SAYS IT’S AN “UGLY TIME IN AMERICA” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Buckhorn and Police Chief Eric Ward expressed their sorrow and condolences … In discussing the breakdown in the relationship between the police and people of color nationally, they both maintained that Tampa is in better shape than in many other parts of the country. However, the mayor acknowledged it wouldn’t take much to disrupt that alliance. “On any given night in America, something like this could happen,” he said at a news conference at the Tampa Police Department headquarters. In reaction to Dallas, Ward said he had implemented new deployment strategies for his officers, but refused to say what they were. “When you put out that information it’s kind of defeating the purpose,” he said. The mayor also said that the events of this week had provided a challenge he has never observed in all his time in public office. “It is an ugly time in America for a lot of reasons,” he said. “There is a dynamic that I haven’t seen in this country in the thirty-plus years that I have been in public life. There are reasons for that, but ultimately as a nation, we’ve got to understand that violence is never the answer, and the only way to combat violence is with love.”
POLICING TAKES CENTER STAGE AT DEMOCRATS’ CD 10 DEBATE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Four Democrats running for Congress in the Orlando-based 10th Congressional District shared plenty of outrage, yet disagreed on key points when pressed in a debate about the two recent police shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota. (The deadly police shootings in Dallas occurred after the debate.) Several questions about law enforcement, inspired by the fatal shootings the past two nights and the June 12 massacre at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, brought the most heat in a debate sponsored by the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee, and attended by a couple of hundred people at the Dr. James R Smith Center in Orlando. The questions should have played into the hands of presumed front-runner, Val Demings, considering she spent 27 years in the Orlando Police Department, retiring as police chief, and happens to be married to current Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. Yet Demings’ resume, including the line about being her being the presumed front-runner, put a target on her, and businessman Bob Poe, lawyer Fatima Rita Fahmy and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson fired away. The three elicited strong applause with emphatic statements that in Congress they would support the Black Lives Matter movement, gun control, outside investigations of police shootings, banning of military police equipment in police departments, and “sending the right message,” while Thompson made an impassioned appeal for more equitable policing.
CHARLIE CRIST SEEKS BLACK MINISTERS’ COUNSEL ON RECENT VIOLENCE via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – “Sometimes there are no accidents,” said Crist, the former governor who is seeking to relaunch his political career by winning the 13th Congressional District seat. “It’s such an overriding topic and overwhelming. Your thoughts would be most important to me.” For the first half of the hourlong meeting at St. Matthew First Missionary Baptist Church, in the predominantly black North Greenwood community, the ministers preferred to talk about bread and butter issues. Restoring lost summer jobs for youth. Lowering fees in local recreation centers so children from the neighborhood could use them more often. Providing more mentoring to at-risk teens. Then Shawn McCoy, whose SRM Ministries is based in Clearwater, said he wanted to address the elephant in the room. What would you do about the violence that has claimed seven lives in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas this week, he asked Crist. Crist said “common sense” gun control measures and better policing were needed. Assault weapons in civilian hands, 30-round magazine clips and more stringent background checks were necessary reforms, he said … Why would anyone oppose those limits … “It doesn’t make sense to me,” Crist said.
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TWEET, TWEET: @ScottforFlorida: New FL statewide survey of LVs pegs Trump with a 2 point lead over Hillary Clinton, 47-45. More to come Monday!
DONALD TRUMP, HILLARY CLINTON RUN ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF A FRACTURED AMERICA via Shane Goldmacher and Annie Karni of POLITICO – This week’s outbreak of violence … laid bare a country deeply fractured along racial lines, and political leaders who are each relying on those divisions, now baked into the American political system … “[Y]ou feel that there’s nobody that represents the whole,” said Peter Hart, who has been a Democratic pollster for 50 years. “That Trump has his constituency. That Clinton has her constituency. And they are talking to their part of the world, and neither is really talking about how you knit a country back together.” Both Clinton and Trump paused their campaigns Friday. But even as they pledge healing and unity, … the presumptive … nominees are assembling competing political coalitions with so little overlap that it will be hard for either to emerge as a unifying figure. … [I]f Clinton is to win; she will have to do it lifted by a tide of nonwhite voters. If Trump is to win, he’ll have to do it with a dramatic surge in turnout among the white electorate. The resulting campaign has left the country hurtling toward the most racially divisive and acrimonious election in at least a generation.
CLINTON CAMPAIGN MANAGER PROMISES MAJOR FLORIDA EFFORT, WARNS THAT DONALD TRUMP COULD WIN STATE via Anthony Mann of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – “Trump can win Florida. Donald Trump can win the presidential election. Donald Trump can be sworn in next January as our next president,” said Robby Mook, Clinton’s national campaign manager. “So everyone needs to do everything they can. I feel a tremendous sense of urgency.” Floridians can expect to see “a lot — a lot” of Clinton between now and Election Day, Mook said in an interview with the Sun Sentinel. He said the Clinton effort would include an enormous ground operation that might ultimately surpass the massive — and winning — Florida efforts mounted by Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. A major part of the effort will be in South Florida — especially Broward, the second-largest county in the state, the biggest source of Democratic votes, but also a place where the party sometimes struggles to get its voters to turn out. Floridians can expect to see President Obama campaign on behalf of Clinton. Mook said the campaign sees the president as an asset and he “would certainly not be surprised if he chose to come here.”
MASSIVE FLORIDA ALGAE PROBLEM SHAKES UP SENATE RACE via Annie Snider of POLITICO – Rubio, whose re-election bid could determine which party controls the upper chamber, toured the hard-hit Treasure Coast last week, viewing the scum by air and by boat. A disaster it may be, but it isn’t a surprise – stews of toxic algae have struck the coasts repeatedly in recent decades as federal engineers frantically dump polluted runoff out to sea from Lake Okeechobee, the huge water body in the middle of the state. Preventing these kinds of outbreaks was one aim of the $7.8 billion Everglades restoration plan that Congress approved 16 years ago, with the fervent support of both the Clinton White House and then-Gov. Jeb Bush … The crisis has sparked a new level of public outcry from residents of coastal communities like Stuart on the Atlantic coast and Fort Myers and Naples along the Gulf of Mexico – home to wealthy, moderate Republicans who turn out in high numbers for elections … Rubio’s main challenger, Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy, has cast himself as a champion of the Everglades and called generally for additional land acquisition, but hasn’t taken a stand on a specific major land purchase that activists want the state to complete.
KOCH-BACKED GROUP RESERVES $2M FOR FLORIDA SENATE TV ADS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Since Rubio announced his plans, more than $5 million in TV time has been reserved by national groups supporting Republican Senate candidates. The group making the most recent buy, Freedom Partners Action Fund, was founded in 2014 by David and Charles Koch to spend $15 million in that year’s midterm elections. The group has raised $20.5 million through May 31 and has more than $13 million cash on hand. Earlier this year, the Koch brothers outlined a plan to spend more than $40 million supporting Republican Senate candidates, and has already reserved more than $30 million in air time nationally. This cycle, Freedom Partners Action Fund has received a $3 million check from both Charles Koch and the Charles G. Koch 1997 Trust, its two largest individual contributions. After Rubio announced he would seek re-election, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reserved $1.5 million in air time, while the Senate Leadership Fund placed ad buys for the same amount.
MARCO RUBIO RAISES $2.1 MILLION IN LESS THAN 2 WEEKS via Anna Palmer of POLITICO – The Florida Republican’s fundraiser sent an email to supporters … “Thanks to a tremendous effort lead by Amb. John Rood and several others, we’re thrilled to tell you we raised over $2.1M in just nine days!” wrote Anna Rogers. Rogers noted that Murphy raised $2.4 million during the “entire” first quarter. “This is a great story for us to tell and is a testament to Marco and to you, the supporters driving this campaign,” Rogers wrote.
CORRINE DELIVERS. BUT TO WHOM? via Mark Woods of the Florida Times-Union – The late Tom Slade, former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, once made a comment about Congresswoman Brown that was both highly critical and complimentary. “She may be the most ethically challenged member of the U.S. Congress, but when that sign board went up that said, ‘Corrine Delivers,’ she did,” he said. During her 23 years in Congress, that often has been Brown’s reputation … at the federal courthouse in downtown Jacksonville, it became something else. Her indictment. The federal government unsealed a 53-page, 24-count indictment that says that Brown and her chief of staff were so ethically challenged that they used a noble cause — helping underprivileged children with education costs — to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bogus charity in Virginia. The indictment basically says that Corrine delivered all right. To herself. In a defiant, meandering statement — with detours about the construction of the courthouse, the federal investigation of the Orlando shooter, and more — she made it clear that she believes she isn’t just being prosecuted. She’s being persecuted. She is the victim of a political and racial “witch hunt.” Some have said she is playing the race card. But that’s only part of it. She also is playing the religion card and others. In a fight for her political life and more, she is playing a whole deck of cards. In doing so, as she has often done in the past, she is doing a disservice to true persecution, true racism. Which is a shame. Because we certainly still have plenty of that today.
DESPITE CHARGES, BROWN MAY CONTROL HER OWN POLITICAL DESTINY via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – The indictment of Brown and her longtime chief of staff reinforced what many people already think about the congresswoman, for better or for worse. For some, it is proof that she is a career politician driven by greed and criminal behavior. But others — especially in Jacksonville’s African-American community that Brown has represented since 1992 — say the charges are indicative of a criminal system that treats minorities unfairly and a political apparatus that has tried for years to take Brown out. This narrative has been stoked by the congresswoman herself, who says everything from the criminal charges to her redrawn district is at least partially motivated by racism and animosity toward her. The difference now is that Brown is running for re-election in a reconfigured district that now stretches from Jacksonville toward Tallahassee and includes counties and towns that she has never represented before.
BROWN’S LEGAL WOES OFFER OPENING FOR AL LAWSON IN CD 5 RACE via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Politics – Attending a grand opening of his campaign headquarters — a few blocks from Florida A&M University where Lawson played basketball and now has the school’s basketball arena named after him — Lawson said he was stunned by the scope of charges against Brown, a Democrat who has held a Jacksonville-based congressional seat for nearly a quarter-century. But Lawson said he will not shy away from talking about it and expects the topic to constantly emerge as he heads to Jacksonville this week for a series of campaign events. “In the Duval area, we see that as an opportunity for a lot of change,” Lawson said. “They’re looking for a different kind of leadership. I think we represent a leadership that is totally inclusive of everyone. I think that is the kind of leadership they need in Duval.” Lawson acknowledged the challenge but said part of his strategy is based on historical data showing a higher turnout in the district toward Tallahassee, with lower numbers in Jacksonville. Brown holds a money advantage, having raised more than $350,000, with about $71,000 unspent. Lawson said his fundraising total will top $200,000 in new reports filed in the coming week and he expects to have more cash on hand than his opponent.
HAPPENING TODAY: Congressional candidate Dena Grayson will speak to the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee at 6:15 p.m. in the Polk County Commission Building, 330 West Church St. in Bartow.
MARK BIRCHER SAYS DAVID JOLLY’S LATE DECISION TO FILE MADE HIM “DIG IN” via Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times – Jolly‘s late decision to run for the GOP nomination in the 13th District strengthened his resolve to continue his long shot candidacy. “It made me want to dig in,” said Bircher, a 63-year-old Seminole resident, who is also a pilot and attorney. Bircher criticized Jolly on the Affordable Care Act, border security and fiscal issues, but spend most of his time talking about his own political philosophy. That philosophy in a nutshell? A radical downsizing of the federal government. Bircher returned repeatedly to his theme that Washington, D.C. should be concerned primarily with national defense and foreign policy. Call it states’ rights on steroids. Health care, in which the federal government currently plays a large role through Medicare and Medicaid? Turn it over to the states. Social Security? Protect it, but turn it over to the states. Education? Ditto. Social programs? That’s not a federal responsibility. Let the states decide. Bircher compared the federal government to the Wizard of Oz, playing perilous games with taxpayer money. It’s run on money taken from the states or by floating debt, he said. “We’ve traded our liberty for our entitlements and been blinded,” Bircher said.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Bircher will make a major announcement at the Pinellas County Republican executive committee meeting 7 p.m. at the Feather Sound Country Club, 2201 Feather Sound Dr. in Clearwater.
HAPPENING TODAY: Florida’s 19th Congressional District candidates Dan Bongino, Chauncey Goss and Francis Rooney are scheduled to attend a meeting of the Lee Republican Women Federated. Event begins 11:15 a.m. at Pinchers, The Marina at Edison Ford, 2360 West First St. in Fort Myers.
GLOVES OFF, DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ RESPONDS FORCEFULLY TO CHARGE FROM CHALLENGER TIM CANOVA via Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – With less than eight weeks until the Aug. 30 primary, Wasserman Schultz is changing her approach, at least on one issue, calling a charge by Canova “laughable” and pledging she’ll continue to work “while my opponent just continues to talk.” The congresswoman’s comments came via her campaign spokesman in response to Canova’s charge that she bears some responsibility for the blue-green algae disaster along the Treasure Coast because received campaign contributions from the sugar industry. Environmental activists blame the sugar industry for conditions ultimately lead to this kind of crisis.Canova sent out a fundraising email linking Wasserman Schultz and Republican Gov. Scott on the issue. He wrote that both “have taken large contributions from corporate special interest groups in the Big Sugar industry. Wasserman Schultz’s response: “My opponent’s suggestion that because he lived near a body of water in another state, that is a substitute for the more than two decades I’ve fought for Everglades restoration and for toughening water quality standards is laughable.”
‘MISTAKES WERE MADE,’ JOE GARCIA SAYS OF PAST CAMPAIGN TROUBLE via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Garcia can’t escape questions about his past campaign troubles. And his Democratic primary rival, Annette Taddeo, appears to be relishing the fight. “People pay a huge price,” Garcia said … referring to the jail time served by his former chief of staff. “Clearly, mistakes were made.” Jeffrey Garcia, no relation, went to jail over submitting unlawful absentee-ballot requests in 2012. He also received probation after acknowledging he put up a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010. Joe Garcia was never charged with any wrongdoing — and won’t be, since the statute of limitations has expired. “We corrected those mistakes when we found them,” he said at the forum, according to video obtained by the Miami Herald. “We fired the people, and we moved forward.” But Taddeo reminded forum-goers that an email discovered by federal prosecutors in the 2010 case suggested Joe Garcia might have known about the ringer candidate. “I have to tell you, I’m someone that actually supported Joe Garcia strongly, because I wanted to get rid of David Rivera,” Taddeo said, referring to the Republican ex-congressman Garcia ousted in 2012. Rivera is suspected of orchestrating a ringer candidate of his own that year. “To find out that after he’s elected he had done the same thing two years prior!” Taddeo said of Garcia.
WORKMAN SENT TAXPAYER-FUNDED MAILER TO VOTERS IN SENATE SEAT HE’S RUNNING FOR via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – A vendor hired by Workman has to reimburse the state more than $3,500 after sending a taxpayer-funded newsletter to the state Senate district he is campaigning for, not the House seat he currently represents. Members are allowed to send taxpayer-funded newsletters, but only to the constituents of their current districts. Workman said the mistake was made by Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting, an outside vendor hired to do the post-session newsletter. After learning about the mistake, Workman, who chairs the House Rules Committee, says he reached out to House Director and Special General Counsel Steve Godwin, who told him the money needed to be reimbursed. The reimbursement was written as a personal check from Foster. “While the mistake was Foster’s, it was a product of my office and I accept full responsibility,” Workman said in a statement. “When the check arrives in Tallahassee … the taxpayers of Florida will be made whole and this unfortunate error will be corrected.” The statement said Foster accidentally sent to the printers a database containing Senate District 16, which is why a larger number were printed and paid for.
SD 23 CANDIDATES AT ODDS ON GUNS, BEARS via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – No to an assault weapon ban. Yes to more public school funding. No to allowing Syrian refugees into the country. Yes to limiting special interest influence. These are a few areas where all five GOP candidates running for the District 23 state Senate seat covering Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County agreed during a Sarasota Tiger Bay debate. Where they disagreed: Carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, abortion, economic incentives and hunting bears, among other issues. Some of the most intense exchanges were about guns, a topic that has risen to the forefront after the recent massacre at a nightclub in Orlando … Greg Steube said the term “assault weapon” is a misnomer and argued that certain pistols are just as effective at inflicting mass casualties as semi-automatic refiles … Ray Pilon and Nora Patterson quickly agreed with that assessment, although Patterson said it might be worth looking at the amount of bullets allowed per magazine … Patterson and Steube were on opposite sides of another gun question: Whether to allow concealed carry on college campuses. Steube has sponsored such legislation in recent years; Patterson said guns and young people consuming alcohol don’t mix. Steube and Doug Holder were at odds on the economic incentive argument, with Steube opposing taxpayer-funded incentive packages to lure businesses and Holder touting their job-creation potential. Some of the candidates seemed stumped or confused on certain questions. Asked to name two special interests he would stand up to, Holder could only think of one: Planned Parenthood.
SCENES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
— Darryl Rouson (@darrylrouson) July 9, 2016
— Dana Young (@repdanayoung) July 9, 2016
Team Lizbeth volunteers knocking on doors across the district today! Thanks to everyone who joined me in Three Oaks! pic.twitter.com/6XnJKnuDaL
— Lizbeth Benacquisto (@lizbethkb) July 9, 2016
— Frank Artiles (@Artiles40) July 9, 2016
— Ross Spano (@RossSpano) July 9, 2016
REGGIE FULLWOOD’S FEDERAL TRIAL GETS PUSHED BACK UNTIL OCTOBER via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – Fullwood, facing federal charges for 10 counts of wire fraud and four counts of failure to file federal tax returns, received yet another continuance in his federal trial last week, at the request of both the prosecution and the defense. “A continuance of the trial (here 60 days more or less) would promote the interests of justice and would be without prejudice to either party. Hence, the request for continuance is jointly made.” The trial for the Jacksonville Democrat now will be pushed back to Oct. 3, and so will not be a backdrop for the closing days of his competitive campaign for his re-nomination in House District 13. Why? In part, because the prosecutor has vacation time scheduled. Assistant U.S. Attorney “Mark Devereaux … lead counsel in the case … has an extended itinerary of international travel beginning in July and continuing throughout the month of August. Specifically, he will be out of the country from July 21, through Aug. 2, 2016, and from Aug. 9, through Sept. 1, 2016. That itinerary would not allow time for the preparation and trial of this matter,” read the filing. Fullwood, who pushed for a continuance already for the purposes of discovery, also pushed for continuance here.
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VAST MAJORITY OF FLORIDA VOTERS SUPPORT MEDICAID EXPANSION via Kelsey Oates of WJCT – A new survey from the Texas Medical Center’s Health Policy Institute shows where Florida voters stand on the issue of expanding Medicaid to the state’s low-income residents … 68 percent of Florida voters are in favor of Medicaid expansion and 71 percent would vote for a candidate in favor of Medicaid expansion. One question on the survey asked if people have ever gone to the emergency room with non-emergency injuries or conditions. Half of those who replied said yes.e
FEWER SCHOOLS RECEIVE ‘F’ AND ‘A’ LETTER GRADES IN 2015-2016 REPORT via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida Department of Education … said the number of schools earning the lowest possible letter grade — an “F” — dropped by approximately 50 percent from 204 in 2014-2015 to 103 in 2015-2016 … 58 percent of schools that earned a “D” or “F” in 2014-2015 improved by at least one letter grade in 2015-2016. In total, over 1,130 schools held on to their “A” grade or increased their grade in 2015-2016, but fewer schools actually received an “A” letter grade than last year, with only 741 schools receiving that letter grade. Miami-Dade School District, which serves nearly 400,000 students each year, saw over half of its schools — 53 percent — receive an “A” or a “B” letter grade this year. Smaller districts like Monroe County had no schools receive a “D” or an “F” letter grade this year.
FLORIDA “DOUBLE F” CHARTER SCHOOLS FACE SHUTDOWNS via Travis Pillow of redefinED.com – Four Florida charter schools could soon be shut down after receiving multiple F’s under the state’s grading system: Richard Allen Leadership Academy (Miami-Dade County); Somerset Eagle High School (Duval County); Just For Girls Academy (Manatee County); University Preparatory Academy Charter School (Pinellas County). These schools now have 15 days to petition the state Board of Education for a waiver of the automatic shutdown rule. If they can show their students are making greater learning gains than those in nearby schools with similar demographics, they can get an extra year to improve. The automatic closure rule has been praised by some charter school advocates as a way to ensure accountability for the lowest performing schools, but it’s also faced criticism because it’s more likely to ensnare schools that target academically struggling areas. Other F-rated charter schools, such as St. Johns County’s St. Paul School of Excellence, have already been shut down, even though the automatic closure rule would not have applied to them school this year.
EFFICIENCY PANEL’S PLANS MAY COST STATE EMPLOYEES via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat – The state’s Government Efficiency Task Force recently issued 29 recommendations it says would save taxpayers $2 billion a year. Among them are at least two that public employees would feel in their wallets – that oft-rejected idea of making all new Florida Retirement System members join the investment plan, and dramatically hiking health-insurance premiums. The House has voted a couple of times to make all new state employees join the “defined contribution” retirement plan, instead of the traditional “defined benefit” system favored by most FRS members. The Senate has balked, but not by much. In a DC plan, employers put pension payments into funds directed by the employees, who can take the money with them when they move to other jobs. The ultimate payout is supposed to be greater, but depends on market factors. In a DB plan, pensions are calculated on a percentage of an employee’s earnings, multiplied by years of service. It may be less than an investment portfolio would have produced (or it might not be), but it’s guaranteed to be there. “It is clear that, over the past decade, the state has paid more and more of employee health insurance annual premiums, and the amount the state pays continues to increase each year,” says the task force report. There’s a reason for that. Employees haven’t had pay raises, year after year, and FRS members took a 3 percent salary reduction for the pension system when Scott came into office. Even conservative Republican legislators didn’t want to raise insurance premiums for state workers in years when they got no raises. We’ll see a lot of turnover in the House and Senate this fall … many of the members who blocked pension and insurance changes in recent sessions will be gone. The task force recommendations will be tempting for lawmakers wanting to free up revenue for purposes more popular than state employee issues, back in their districts.
HAPPENING TODAY: The Economic Estimating Conference will meet to discuss the national economy at 1:30 p.m., 117 Knott Building in the Capitol.
STATE AGENCIES HAVEN’T APPEALED JUDGE’S ABORTION RULING, WON’T SAY IF THEY PLAN TO via Michael Auslen of the Miami Herald – A week after U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkleblocked controversial new abortion restrictions, the state has not filed an appeal. The injunction, requested by Planned Parenthood and granted late June 30, prevents two parts of a law signed this spring by Gov. Scott from going into effect … the Department of Health and Agency for Health Care Administration — the two agencies responsible for enforcing the abortion law and named in the Planned Parenthood lawsuit — won’t say whether the state plans to file an appeal later. “The department is complying with the judge’s ruling and is reissuing the contracts that expired June 30. No services will be interrupted” … AHCA spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman said the agency is “still reviewing the judge’s order.”
2 YEARS AFTER PROMISE, STILL NO CHARLOTTE’S WEB via Will Isern of the Pensacola News-Journal – Since passage of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, the path to marijuana-derived treatments becoming available in Florida has been mired with political gamesmanship and legal challenges. As a result, medical marijuana treatments have yet to debut on the Florida market. “Two years later, parents have to do what they have to do,” Holley Moseley said. Before quitting the post to push for medical marijuana full-time, Holley Moseley was the president of the Epileptic Society of Northwest Florida. She said parents of epileptic children in Florida have either left the state or begun treating their children illegally, ordering Charlotte’s Web treatments online. “They’re either relocating to Colorado, doing what they have to do here in Florida,” she said. “Or they’re waiting and their kids are suffering.” The latest legal challenge came … when the Moseleys found themselves in a Tallahassee courtroom as witnesses in a case brought by their would-be growing partner, Jacksonville’s Loop’s Nursery & Greenhouses. Loop’s is suing the state’s Department of Health for a license to grow. Unless the judge approves Loop’s Nursery’s petition to be granted a license, the sought-after Charlotte’s Web strain may never take hold in Florida soil. “The truth is if this organization doesn’t get a license, it pulls up that product from entering the program here in Florida,” said Joel Stanley, one of the Colorado developers of the Charlotte’s Web strain. “Which is really sad because we looked at every applicant throughout the state and chose (Loop’s) for good reason, because they were the most capable.”
QUIET HARVEST: FLORIDA’S FIRST MEDICAL MARIJUANA CROP CUT UP AND STORED via Frank Gluck of the Fort Myers News-Press – Florida’s first legal harvest of marijuana is stored in multiple vacuum-packed, 441-gram bags in a freezer on the outskirts of Tallahassee … one of two production facilities operated by Surterra Therapeutics, the first of six companies to win state approval to grow and harvest medical marijuana for those who have serious or terminal illnesses. It is part pharmaceutical production facility, part grow house. Its operators say it is just the start of new business they hope will bring high-quality, and formerly unavailable, medicine to patients who need it the most. Since Surterra won approval to harvest its product last month, Florida has allowed four other companies to do the same: Chestnut Hill Tree Farm in Alachua County, Hackney Nursery in Gadsden County, Modern Health Concepts in Miami-Dade County, and Knox Nursery in Orange County. Such businesses are poised to expand considerably if the required 60 percent of voters in November cast ‘Yes’ ballots for Amendment 2, which would legalize full-strength marijuana for an estimated 450,000 Floridians with debilitating illnesses … Surterra, an Atlanta-based startup that partnered with the 30-year-old Homestead-based Alpha Foliage, plans to be among the state’s largest producers. The company operates a 6,000-square-foot facility in rural Tallahassee to grow the non-euphoric strain; another slightly smaller facility outside of Tampa grows the full-strength variety. Each is expected to supply medicine for 2,000 to 4,000 patients per month. Twenty-five states, the District of Columbia and Guam allow comprehensive marijuana use for medical purposes, and several others are considering it this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
SUPREME COURT SCHEDULES ARGUMENTS ON GAMBLING CONTROL AMENDMENT via Lloyd Dunkelberger of Florida Politics – The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 2 on a proposed constitutional limit on gambling … will hear about 40 minutes of arguments over the Voter Control of Gambling amendment that seeks to give Florida voters a larger role in decisions to expand gambling. The measure is opposed by gambling interests, which believe the amendment would have “significant ramifications” for existing dog tracks, casinos, arcades and other gaming activity. The court review of the ballot proposal was triggered when the group supporting the amendment, Voters in Charge, collected more than 10 percent of the 683,000 voter signatures necessary to place the measure on the 2018 ballot. Opponents, which include the Jacksonville Kennel Club, Melbourne Greyhound Park and West Flagler Associates, argue the measure violates the one-subject mandate for amendments to the state constitution and that the ballot title and summary are misleading. Former state Sen. Dan Gelber, representing the pro-amendment group, defended the measure’s wording in a brief filed with the court. “The ballot summary follows the amendment’s principle language nearly verbatim, so it fairly informs voters of the amendment’s chief purpose,” Gelber wrote.
FORMER AIDE: MARIA SACHS PLAYED DRESS-UP IN FRONT OF ME via Jose Lambiet for the Miami Herald – A young former legislative assistant to Florida state Sen. Maria Sachs has filed a sexual harassment complaint against the senator in which he claims she routinely undressed fully in front of him in her office … Matthew Damsky, 28, of Boca Raton, filed his complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in late May or early June … Damsky said that his boss of about one year, who is known in Tallahassee for numerous changes of clothes during the workday, showed off her nude body while they were alone in her offices while she switched outfits. Sachs … said Damsky is the one under investigation, for “crimes against her and the state of Florida … I don’t want to comment about any of this stuff, especially since there’s an active criminal investigation involving the FBI,” said Sachs, 67. “But I can confirm they are investigating Matthew Damsky, and that makes me sad” … Damsky is accused of using Sachs’ personal credit card for his own purposes in addition to making Sachs’ travel arrangements.
MY TAKE: INSURANCE COMMISSIONER DAVID ALTMAIER HAS RARE CHANCE TO BUST FLORIDA WORKERS’ COMP CARTEL via Florida Politics – Just three months into his tenure in one of the most consequential jobs in Florida, state Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier can flex his regulatory muscle and prove his determination to stand up for working Floridians and those who employ them. The solution is simple, established by precedent and long-overdue: Altmaier can bust up the insurance cartel that is the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), ensuring real price competition within Florida’s workers’ compensation system. NCCI, the organization that proposes workers’ comp rates for Florida, recently filed a request for a 17.1 percent rate increase — then hiked it to nearly 20 percent, its second-largest rate increase request since 1999 … Altmaier should follow the example of the South Carolina Insurance Department, which challenged NCCI’s requested 23.7 percent rate hike in 2007 and ultimately settled on a much more reasonable 9.8 percent increase. That move saved South Carolina businesses approximately $130 million. Here’s a no-brainer: What if Florida just says no? How about taking NCCI out of the rate-making driver’s seat, opening up Florida to real rate competition as other states have done; calling NCCI’s bluff? That would make Altmaier a hero to both injured workers who depend on a properly functioning workers’ compensation system and employers who need their labor force to get back to work.
NEW LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS
Alexandra Abboud, Florida Dental Association
Travis Blanton, Jon Johnson, Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton, International Speedway Corporation
Paul Bradshaw, Chris Dudley, Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group, International Speedway Corporation
Glenn Kirkland, Jonathan Menendez, Kaleo Partners: Gartner Consulting
Nick Matthews, Unconventional Strategies: American Clinical Solutions
Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: Urban League of Broward County
Matt Blair, Corcoran & Johnston, CGI Technologies
WHAT RYAN WIGGINS IS
READING WRITING – BLUE ANGELS MUCH MORE THAN ENTERTAINMENT for the Pensacola News-Journal –What they are doing is not a performance. It’s not artistic and it’s not just for our entertainment. The vast majority of the maneuvers they perform are used in combat in one way or another. What they are doing is giving you, a taxpayer, a taste of what your money supports in the defense budget. It’s open government at its finest. As taxpayers, we have the right to see the precision, training, dedication, and discipline of our military and the capabilities of our fleet. The F/A 18s and C-130 they fly are not stunt planes, and, in fact, can be made combat-ready in 72 hours. The Blue Angels are not just 16 officers in brightly colored blue and gold flight suits. It’s not even the approximately 110 enlisted Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers you never see who provide support and maintenance to the team. The Blue Angels and their dedicated crew ARE our military. They are representatives of the excellence and professionalism found throughout our fleet. They are the service member who just left their spouse and newborn to serve a 12-month deployment on an aircraft carrier. They are the fighter jet pilot who just took out an ISIS cell with a guided missile. They are the engineer who works all hours to make sure that when freedom is in jeopardy, we are ready to go. No, our Blue Angels are not just entertainers, they are the physical, tangible representation of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated servicemen and women serving our nation all over the world.
***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***
CONGRATULATIONS to newlyweds Jenna and Arek Sarkissian.
FACEBOOK STATUS OF THE DAY via Jeff Atwater (as Robert DeNiro):
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to former Rep. Gary Aubuchon, Sen. Rene Garcia, Beth Gosnell, congressional candidate Brian Mast, April Salter, Jon Shebel, Bob Sparks. Celebrating today are our friends Brett Cyphers and James Harris.
WORST STORY OF THE DAY — FLORIDA MAN CHARGED WITH BURNING BUNNY THAT BIT HIM via The Associated Press – The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged 22-year-old Manasseh Walker with setting the rabbit named Thumper on fire last month … witnesses said Walker claimed he’d been bitten by the bunny and moments later was seen chasing the rabbit while it was on fire. The Sarasota Sheriff’s office used a social media appeal to track down Walker, using the hashtag #JusticeForThumper and posting photos of the injured rabbit. Walker was arrested in Punta Gorda this week.