Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Joe Henderson, Mitch Perry, and Jim Rosica.
BOB BUCKHORN SAYS NO
Buckhorn is a gregarious, ambitious and determined man, and we think he would have made a fine governor for the state of Florida. He certainly ranks among the best mayors the city of Tampa has ever had.
But we also believe he made the right call when he announced in an email to supporters Thursday morning that “I am not planning to be a candidate for Governor in 2018.”
Now, saying “I am not planning …” does leave a little wiggle room in case Democrats come storming to his door, but that is not likely to happen.
But Buckhorn wasn’t kidding in that email when he said, “I have a job I love.” In his case, that was not the usual politician-speak for “I’ve sized up the field and decided I have no chance.”
Tampa has had some fine mayors dating back more than 40 years – people like Dick Greco, Bill Poe, Sandy Freedman, Bob Martinez, Pam Iorio – and none of them wanted the job more than Buckhorn. He loved saying that Tampa had its “swagger” back. Trust me on this; no one has more swagger than he does.
And Buckhorn came along at the right time, too. When he assumed office in 2011, the city’s knees were buckling from the Great Recession (Iorio deserves credit for how she guided Tampa during that time). But Buckhorn moved ahead with an ambitious plan to reshape downtown from a dead place where the streets didn’t wait until 5 p.m. to roll up.
There are so many things going on now that the biggest downtown problem is a lack of parking.
Buckhorn was an out-front supporter of Hillary Clinton for president, so there was speculation that he would have been off to Washington had she won. We’ll never know that for sure, just as we’ll never know if as Governor he could have successfully worked with what likely will remain a Republican legislative majority in Tallahassee.
Here is what we can say, though. This decision not to run clears a lot of things off his plate and allows him to concentrate on the city he loves.
And barring something unforeseen that can’t be controlled, he will hand the next mayor a city that has changed for the better. Not a bad legacy, eh?
— @GwenGraham: @BobBuckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities.
— @EricJotkoff: @BobBuckhorn is a good man and a great leader, who has transformed Tampa into a world class city & economic powerhouse.
— @MikeGriffinFL: One thing is certain – @BobBuckhorn statement was from his heart. He loves his family and city. We are lucky to have him finish strong!
— @KyleSimon: Is it just me or has @BobBuckhorn’s roll ‘out’ of the 2018 #Florida Governor race been better than anyone’s roll in so far?
— @CommBranchSays: This problem for FLA Dems persists: our best candidates are big city mayors, but it’s better to be king of their castle.
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— MORE FROM THE 2018 TRAIL —
STATE ATTORNEY WILL INVESTIGATE ANDREW GILLUM EMAILS via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Leon County Sheriff’s Office will investigate whether Mayor Gillum’s office broke the law when it used taxpayer funded software to send emails with political messages. It was a bombshell development in a story that could have implications for both City Hall and the Florida governor’s race. “We are going to review it, investigate it and see if it has sufficient probable cause,” Sheriff McNeil said. “And once we’ve completed an investigation, (we’ll) submit it back to the State Attorney’s Office to see if there is sufficient probable cause to indicate that a crime has occurred.” Gillum responded by saying the state attorney has a duty to follow up on complaints his office receives.
SUGAR LOADS UP ADAM PUTNAM’S POLITICAL COMMITTEE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – U.S. Sugar and a railroad the company runs called South Central Florida Express, Inc. sent $200,000 in donations in late February to a political committee that Putnam runs called Florida Grown. U.S. Sugar has now given Florida Grown $465,000 since 2015, making it among the top 5 givers to Putnam’s committee. His top donor is The Voice of Florida Business, a political action committee run by Associated Industries of Florida. They have given $605,000. That doesn’t count $525,000 that AIF has given Putnam’s committee through another committee called Associated Industries of Florida PAC. Yet another committee with ties to AIF called Floridians for a Stronger Democracy gave $150,000 to Putnam’s committee since 2015. Each of those AIF PACs get lots of support from the sugar industries. Since the start of 2016 those three PACs have raised $4.2 million. But nearly $1.3 million of that comes from donations by U.S. Sugar, based in Clewiston, and Florida Crystals, a sugar producer based in Palm Beach County.
FORMER LAKE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR RANDY WISEMAN TO RUN AS LIBERTARIAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Wiseman, a small-business owner from Mount Dora and the former chairman of the Lake County School Board, will formally announce his run for governor on the Libertarian ticket in 2018 this Saturday in Lakeland. Wiseman served as the Lake County School Board chairman from 1994 to 1998, while also running for Mayor of Mount Dora and Florida State House. He changed his party affiliation from Republican to Libertarian (LPF) in 2016.
DENISE GRIMSLEY POSTS BIG FUNDRAISING NUMBERS FOR AG COMMISSIONER BID – Between her announcement February 1 to the March 7 opening day of the Legislative Session, the Sebring Republican brought in more than $735,000 – with $295,000 to her campaign and $440,000 for her political committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland. “Denise is so very honored by the support she received in these first 35 days, and while she is working during the Session to represent her constituents and work for a greater Florida, her campaign team will focus on the road ahead to the primary,” said David Johnson, who is serving as the general consultant to Grimley’s campaign.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will hold a press conference to discuss the wildfire in Collier County at 9 a.m. at the Collier County Emergency Management Office, 8075 Lely Cultural Parkway in Naples.
RICK SCOTT DEMANDS MEDICAID FAIRNESS UNDER HOUSE GOP PLAN via Rachana Pradhan of POLITICO Florida – Scott is worried about Florida being treated unfairly under the Obamacare repeal bill, which phases out the expansion of Medicaid but gives a funding bump to the 19 mostly Republican-led states that shunned it. Scott … didn’t say he opposed the House bill. But he raised the issue of financial fairness for states like his and the need to give governors new flexibility to run their Medicaid programs, an issue the bill is nearly silent on. “States like Florida which didn’t expand [Medicaid] can’t get treated unfairly,” he said. “I think it’s a work in progress,” Scott said of the House bill. “It’s just the beginning.”
SCOTT NOT TAKING STAND ON POLLUTION NOTIFICATION BILL NOW MOVING IN SENATE via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – A Senate bill that passed its first committee stop this week requires DEP to issue the notification rather than those responsible for the spills. That’s what Associated Industries of Florida and other industry groups along with utilities pushed for last fall during DEP workshops on the proposed rule. … A spokeswoman for the governor’s office didn’t say whether Scott is supporting the bill. “The governor will review any legislation that makes it to his desk,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.
THE BANDIT SPEAKS – BURT REYNOLDS BLAMES GOV. FOR FLORIDA’S FLOUNDERING FILM INDUSTRY via Peter Burke of Local10.com – The 81-year-old “Smokey and the Bandit” star was critical of Gov. Scott when he met with the media before a March 3 Florida Music Awards kickoff party in Fort Lauderdale. Reynolds … criticized Scott for not doing more for Florida’s struggling film industry, which has faltered since the state’s tax incentive program was allowed to sunset last year. “More films should be shot here,” Reynolds said. “It’s not Florida’s fault, because Florida’s got everything, you know? It’s the governor. I remember I went in to see him and I said, ‘You know, we ought to be shooting more movies down here.’ And he said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘How did you get to be governor?’ He’s dumber than a peach orchard sow.” His last line drew laughter from the crowd, but he was only half-joking.
JAY FANT IS DOWN ON BILL THAT WOULD END ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – He said he doesn’t “like going against leadership on a vote, and I stick with them on just about everything, but this just isn’t one of those things.” The Jacksonville Republican had asked critical questions of bill sponsor Paul Renner, a former political rival, in the floor session. Fant … said killing Enterprise Florida “will hinder our ability to bring businesses to Florida.” He instead favors heightened scrutiny of the agency, which is funded mainly with public dollars. The entity is “the right thing at the right time,” he said.
BIG TROUBLE ON CAMPUS: RICHARD CORCORAN TARGETS FLORIDA UNIVERSITIES FOR FOUNDATION SPENDING via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – He’s raising questions about how the foundations that grow endowments for the universities pay for worldwide travel, spend on lavish salaries and use public money to raise donations. Corcoran‘s chief budget-writer, Rep. Carlos Trujillo, invited officials of all 12 universities to the Capitol to justify their spending, laying the groundwork for what’s expected to be a bipartisan House strategy to slash their spending — a year after giving them tens of millions of dollars for new projects. The House is going in the opposite direction of the Senate, which wants to increase university spending by $1 billion next year to make them more prestigious. A three-hour hearing by Trujillo’s House Appropriations Committee followed his demand in January for records showing that universities spend taxpayer money to hire people who in turn raise money for the schools’ foundations.
SENATE SAYS YES TO MORE HELP FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS via The Associated Press – The Florida Senate voted 35-1 for an overhaul of the state’s higher education system that is a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron. The bill (SB 2) would require the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a state university or college. Florida used to pay 100 percent of tuition for those eligible for the top Bright Futures scholarship, but it was scaled back during the Great Recession. It’s not clear, however, if the Florida House will pass the bill.
OOPS! JOE NEGRON INITIALLY DIDN’T VOTE FOR HIS HALLMARK HIGHER ED LEGISLATION via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – When the final Senate floor vote was announced for SB 2 at 1:22 p.m., there was no vote recorded for Negron, even though he was present and overseeing the chamber at the time. The result was announced by the Senate secretary as 35-1 … But when the vote was first recorded and uploaded to the official Senate website, it changed. The result was time-stamped as the same time of the vote but it was published as 36-1 with Negron’s “yes” vote included. “He voted after the roll call,” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said … there was “miscommunication” between Negron and the Senate secretary and the voting “board locked before he could record his vote.” Senate rules specifically state “an original roll call shall not be altered,” but senators can change their votes or cast their votes afterward and, if no senator objects that same day, the official daily Journal can reflect that revised vote.
PARENTS, ADVOCATES BEG LAWMAKERS NOT TO CUT MENTAL HEALTH FUNDING via Kate Santich of the Orlando Sentinel – While Gov. Scott’s budget has proposed adding $25 million to the annual base budget for mental health, Senate leaders are weighing a $50 million cut in those funds, which could wipe out most of the gains in community-based programs made in the past two years. … In 2016, the Legislature pushed through an additional $58 million — a 6 percent increase — for some of the state’s most pressing needs, including staffing for state mental hospitals and programs that divert nonviolent offenders with mental illness to treatment instead of jail. Still, Florida lags far behind the nation’s top states, which spend over $300 per person in mental health funding, Marzullo said. The average state spends $127 per person. Currently, Florida spends $37 per person.
SENATE RULES PANEL TEMPORARILY POSTPONES PREJUDGMENT INTEREST BILL via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Senate bill that would allow plaintiffs to recover prejudgment interest on noneconomic claims, including pain and suffering, was suddenly postponed during its final review panel … Sen. Rob Bradley moved to yank the bill (SB 334) from consideration during its public comment period before the Rules Committee. When done during a hearing, such a move suggests a lawmaker has counted votes and determined a measure isn’t going to pass. The bill is being pushed by Sarasota Republican Greg Steube. A companion bill is in the House.
DANA YOUNG LOOKING FOR ‘SWEET SPOT’ WITH POT BILLS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Senate Health Policy Committee Chairwoman Young will hold a workshop to try to reach consensus on how to implement a constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients. Young said she’s hoping to find the “sweet spot” between patient access and appropriate regulation to use as the basis for the ultimate proposal. Five separate marijuana measures (SB 406, SB 614, SB 1388, SB 1758, SB 1666) now are floating in the Senate, including one co-sponsored by Young (SB 406), and the House released its version of the implementation bill (HB 1397) on the opening day of session.
— “Medical marijuana plans stacking up in Legislature” via Dan Sweeney of the Sun-Sentinel
DARRYL ROUSON, LORI BERMAN URGE FLORIDA TO BECOME A ‘TOBACCO 21’ STATE via Florida Politics — Two Florida lawmakers want to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco in the Sunshine State. The proposals (SB 1138 and HB 1093), lawmakers said, would help lower the number of young adults who become addicted to tobacco and cut down on the state’s leading cause of preventable death. “I’ve seen many struggles with addiction and its consequences,” said Rouson. “I believe we should firmly protect the youth and teens of this state from the dangerous addictive properties … in tobacco. Protecting them, their welfare, and their health is essential.”
— “Democrats Tracie Davis, Darryl Rouson file Dozier School apology bill” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics
DWAYNE TAYLOR, FORMER HOUSE REP FROM DAYTONA BEACH, INDICTED via Seth Robbins of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Taylor, a former Daytona Beach city commissioner and four-term member of the Florida House of Representatives, was charged with nine counts of wire fraud, according to the nine-page indictment. The indictment accuses Taylor of withdrawing thousands of dollars from his campaign accounts and then depositing the cash, within minutes or hours, into his personal account. According to the indictment, he withdrew money eight times from ATM machines and cashed one check in Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach and Tampa. The withdrawals, which ranged from $100 to $400, came to $2,440, and prosecutors are seeking a forfeiture $62,834 from the entire scheme, officials said. He also faces 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud, according to a news release.
FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF HEALTH PLANS LAUNCHES VIDEO SERIES via Florida Politics – … to highlight how help plans help Floridians. “As the 2017 Legislative Session gets underway and discussion and debate on the health care environment in our state continues, FAHP is launching the ‘Florida Patients Matter’ campaign and video series to showcase how health plans truly have a positive impact on the lives of their patients,” said Audrey Brown, president and CEO of FAHP. “In the midst of debate, policy questions are often the focal point, but health plans understand that what is really of critical importance is ensuring Florida patients get the best quality health care that is both accessible and affordable.” FAHP membership includes more than a dozen health insurance providers, though the first part of the ‘Florida Patients Matter’ campaign will feature Community Care Plan, Molina Healthcare and Sunshine Health.
STATE LAWMAKERS APPLAUD FLORIDA TAXWATCH DURING ANNUAL STATE OF TAXPAYER DINNER via Florida Politics — The taxpayer advocacy group hosted its State of the Taxpayer dinner Wednesday. The annual event is meant to highlight issues affecting the average taxpayer, and features speeches from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Attorney General Bondi, Sen. Jack Latvala, Rep. Jim Boyd and Rep. Manny Diaz. While speakers used the event as a chance to promote the work they’re doing, some took a few moments to show their support for Enterprise Florida, one of Gov. Rick Scott’s top priorities. … “I believe the way we do that, just like the governor believes, is by growing the economy organically,” said Latvala. “We need to bring in high paid employees and get them in to the Florida economy, get them buying homes. And that’s been a function that’s been performed admirably by Enterprise Florida.”
***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***
FLORIDA MAKING PROGRESS ON LATEST FIX TO DEATH PENALTY LAW via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – The proposal – the second attempt in two years to address court decisions that found the state’s capital punishment law unconstitutional – is expected to go to Gov. Scott after the House votes on it. It’s a fix that people on both sides of the death penalty issue see as needed, but few on either side are entirely happy with. Many death penalty proponents were OK with a majority jury vote determining a death sentence and are frustrated the courts forced them to move to a unanimous decision. Opponents would prefer to abolish the practice altogether. “I still think there is work to be done on the death penalty,” said Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy, the bill’s sponsor. “One of them is that the death penalty has been unevenly applied. Depending on where you are in this state – (and) sometimes unfortunately, the color of your skin – it can determine whether you get the death penalty or not.” But he called the measure a good first step.
PAM BONDI TOUTS $165 MILLION RECOVERED BY STATE’S MEDICAID FRAUD UNIT via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed Florida recovered more than $165 million in otherwise lost funds through fraudulent Medicaid cases during fiscal year 2015-2016 … The report shows Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) is working, according to the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services. “My Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators work tirelessly to stop Medicaid fraud and recover stolen funds for taxpayers,” Bondi said in the statement. “This report sends the strong message that we will continue to aggressively pursue anyone trying to defraud Florida’s Medicaid program.” Florida ranked only second in the nation in total funds recovered for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with New York raking in the most at nearly $229,000,000.
FDLE CONSULTANT ARRESTED IN FRAUD SCHEME via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – John Leland Goelz, a non-sworn technical consultant to the FDLE for 23 years, oversaw the cellphones used by agents and employees throughout the agency, said FDLE spokeswoman Gretl Pessinger. Investigators believe Goelz purchased cellphones for himself and his family using FDLE’s mobile device contract, a violation of ethics … FDLE began examining Goelz after a member reported not being able to get an older cellphone upgraded, and went to a supervisor about it. As part of its mobile device contract, FDLE is eligible for a certain number of mobile device upgrades at discounted rates each year. Goelz purchased 10 mobile devices for his personal use that should have been used to upgrade FDLE member phones … By using FDLE’s contract, he could receive steep discounts on the phones he purchased. The value lost to the agency was nearly $5,000.
ENGINEERS GIVE FLORIDA A “C” GRADE FOR INFRASTRUCTURE via The Associated Press – That’s still better than the grade of “D+” given to the nation overall. An American Society of Civil Engineers report card says investing in infrastructure must be a top priority in Florida given its growing population. Florida’s best score was on bridges, for which it received a “B.” The report card says only 1.7 percent of Florida’s bridges are structurally deficient. Florida’s worst scores were for coastal areas because of beach erosion and schools. The report card faulted Florida schools for not keeping pace with a growing student population, as well as its aging school buildings.
ORANGE, GRAPEFRUIT CROP FORECASTS TAKE ANOTHER HIT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The forecast for Florida orange production has dropped again, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, down a whopping 3 million boxes. The March report projects a reduction in the state’s orange crop to 67 million boxes. “2 million of that comes from the early and mid-season varieties, which are now fully harvested,” it said. In more bad news, grapefruit crop expectations were “reduced by 100,000 to 8.9 million boxes.”
***Sen. Jack Latvala is fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Stacy Arias, Jerry McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Jacksonville Multispecialty Group, LLC
Keith Arnold, Brett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: City of Fort Myers
Slater Bayliss, Chris Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: American Board of Medical Specialties
Amy Bisceglia, Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Caregiver Services, Inc; The Corradino Group; Patients for Fair Compensation, Inc
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Venetian Condominium, Inc.
Melanie Shaanks Bostick, Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: 8Minute Energy Renewables, LLC
Dave Ramba, Allison Carvajal, Evan Power Ramba Consulting Group: Smart, LLC
Mike Haridopolos: Floridians for Access to Health Care Inc
Douglas Mannheimer, Broad and Cassel: George Hackney, Inc d/b/a Trulieve
Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Tampa
Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Florida East Coast Industries LLC
Robert Stuart, GrayRobinson: Dewberry Engineering
Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: EH Mitigation Management, LLC; Florida East Coast Industries LLC
‘GAME OF THRONES’ LITERALLY ENCASED ITS SEASON 7 PREMIERE DATE IN A BLOCK OF ICE via Chelsea Tatham of the Tampa Bay Times – Apparently, someone in the Game of Thrones PR department thought freezing an object (A long brick? A really thick piece of cardboard?) with the show’s premiere date on it would be a good idea … the Game of Thrones Facebook page posted a live feed of a very large block of ice sitting in a stone chamber surrounding by flames. Inside was a dark object with the premiere date etched on it. Viewers were supposed to comment FIRE on the feed so phantom blow torches would appear to help the ice along. At any point, there were more than 100,000 people watching a block of ice melt. Creative? Yes. Weird? For sure. Punny? Most definitely. The seventh season of Game of Thrones comes back July 16 on HBO.
HAPPENING SATURDAY: The Tallahassee Irish Society is hosting the eighth annual St. Patrick’s Festival and Jack Madden Memorial Parade from noon to 9 p.m. at Kleman Plaza, 306 South Duval Street in Tallahassee.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Doug Broxson, as well two pretty good dudes, Shawn Foster and Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News.