Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
FLORIDIANS TO LAWMAKERS: KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OF MEDICAID FUNDING, NEW POLLING SHOWS
If there’s a budget crisis looming in Florida, voters sure as heck don’t know about it.
A new survey, commissioned by the Florida Hospital Association and shared exclusively with FloridaPolitics.com, finds 76 percent of registered voters did not feel the state budget was in a crisis. The results of the survey, conducted by the highly respected Public Opinion Strategies from March 1 through March 5, comes as state lawmakers issue their initial budget recommendations, which could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals in the coming year.
The House has proposed cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million, or a total of $621.8 million once the federal match is factored in. The Senate has recommended cutting $99.3 million, or a $258.6 million total cut.
But those cuts go against what Floridians want. According to the survey of 600 registered voters, Floridians have the most favorable opinions of both Medicaid and Medicare the association has recorded in six years. The most recent survey found 56 percent of Floridians said they had a favorable opinion of Medicaid; up from 47 percent in a November 2011 survey.
But voters just don’t want more money for Medicaid, it’s one of their top funding concerns. When asked about funding priorities, 61 percent of voters said they thought the funding for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to lower-income children, the disabled elderly and pregnant women, should be increase.
There is broad support for increased spending, with 57 percent of voters who live in House districts that went to President Donald Trump and 66 percent of voters living in districts that went to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying they supported increases to the program.
There’s also a strong consensus that state legislators shouldn’t shift funds that could be spent on Medicaid to other priorities, like the state’s colleges and universities, tax cuts for businesses, or tourism promotion. A solid majority of voters in each media market said the state Legislature should keep the money for Medicaid.
The highest support for keeping the cash for Medicaid came from the Jacksonville area, where 80 percent of respondents said they wanted legislators to keep money for Medicaid programs. The Fort Myers media market — which includes Gov. Rick Scott’s hometown of Naples — had the highest percentage of people saying they should shift the funds, with 20 percent of respondents saying they would tell their lawmaker to use it for something else.
So what about those folks who said Florida’s budget was in crisis mode? Even they think seem to think shifting state funds away from Medicaid isn’t a great idea. According to the survey, 69 percent of Floridians who said they thought the budget was a crisis said they would tell their legislator to keep funding for Medicaid.
With the House and Senate appropriations committees expected to vote on their proposed budgets next week, the question is this: How much impact will what Floridians say they want when it comes to Medicaid funding have on the state budget?
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HOUSE, SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEES TO VOTE ON BUDGETS APRIL 5 via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider its proposed budget for the next fiscal year April 5, Sen. Jack Latvala told members of the chamber … The House Appropriations Committee is also scheduled to vote on its budget April 5. The proposals will then go to the respective chamber floors for consideration by all members.
ENTERPRISE FLORIDA, VISIT FLORIDA AMENDS CONTRACTS WITH RICK SCOTT ADMINISTRATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The amended contracts Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida have with the Scott administration require the groups to post on their websites more detailed financial information, including tax returns, public records training for their employees, offer more procurement notice, and it puts in place salary caps for employees. Under changes to the Enterprise Florida contract, any intent to award a contract $1 million or greater must be posted on its website five days before execution. For Visit Florida, that threshold is $500,000. The amendments also don’t allow Enterprise Florida employees to have salaries higher than the governor, while Visit Florida can’t use more than $120,000 in taxpayer money to go toward any employee salary.
SENATE PLAN GIVES RICK SCOTT JOB INCENTIVE MONEY, BUT THERE’S A CATCH via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott would get the $85 million he has asked the Legislature for to continue to hand out job incentives to companies to move to Florida, but with a big caveat, under a plan the Florida Senate rolled out … the Senate would allow just $45 million of that to go to new job incentive projects. And on Visit Florida, the state’s embattled tourism marketing agency, the Senate would give $76 million, close to what they received this year. While not exactly how he requested it, Scott has to like the Senate plan more than the House’s plan which would eliminate all funding for the tax incentive programs and would cut Visit Florida’s budget to just $25 million.
EVERGLADES RESERVOIR PROPOSAL COMING BACK — WITH AMENDMENTS – Negron‘s proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir will be brought up next week before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Senate’s budget chief announced … But another senator, Rob Bradley, sponsor of the proposal in Senate Bill 10, said the legislation likely will undergo changes to address environmental groups’ concerns about the bill language. Environmentalists are concerned about language in the bill as rewritten by a Senate committee two weeks ago that would direct water and land conservation funding to water supply projects as some powerful interest groups want. Bradley said the bill language still is being reviewed but added, “There will be some amendments that address that, and I think some of the folks who were concerned will be pleased with.”
SENATE ISSUES DRAFT $3.8B ENVIRONMENTAL BUDGET, MILLIONS HIGHER THAN HOUSE via Florida Politics – Among the legislative asks from the Senate is $275 million for Everglades restoration – compared to $165.7 million from the House. Another $50 million for springs restoration, while the House is seeking only $40 million. There is also $22.6 million for Florida Forever for land acquisition under the Florida Communities Trust program, the same program would get $10 million from the House for local government grants to buy land for parks and wildlife corridors as buffer zones for water resources … Beach restoration projects would get $100 million — a priority project for Sen. Latvala — as opposed to $30.1 million in the House plan; $64 million would go to water projects versus $20 million from the lower chamber.
NO MONEY FOR LAKE O IN HOUSE BUDGET via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – The budget also would reduce Everglades and springs restoration funding compared with what the Legislature allocated last year. It also cuts money for the Florida Forever program, which buys land for habitat preservation and parks. There’s no money for muck removal in the Indian River Lagoon, either. However, the House would boost funding to get homeowners off septic tanks, which can pollute waterways, and to connect them to sewer systems with $25 million in aid to local governments. Gov. Scott has asked for $40 million for conversions in areas affected by algae blooms, such as the lagoon and St. Lucie River.
— “House chairman proposes killing funding for legal fight over water” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida
SENATE COMMITTEE SUGGESTS MORE THAN $600 MILLION IN HIGHER-ED MONEY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Higher Education Appropriations Chairman Bill Galvano outlined a Senate plan to increase spending for the 12 state universities by $313 million, or an 11 percent increase, while also boosting student scholarships and financial aid by $320 million, or 61 percent … This is a stark contrast to the deep cuts — $110 million from universities — suggested by the House earlier in the week. The Senate plan would provide $75 million to universities under a “world class scholars” program designed to attract top-level professors and researchers. Another $55 million would be distributed, recognizing top graduate programs in law, medicine and business. The Senate proposal includes a $180 million boost in the Bright Futures program, which would bring funding to $397 million in the 2017-18 academic year.
GAMBLING BILL READIED FOR FLOOR VOTE IN SENATE via Florida Politics – Sen. Bill Galvano on Wednesday took questions on this year’s omnibus gambling legislation (SB 8), which is now ready to voted out of the chamber. But the vast differences between the Senate and House bills guarantee the chambers will be going to conference, which Galvano alluded to on the floor. “There are negotiations that would have to take place going forward,” he said. The bill also was amended to remove language outlawing advance-deposit wagering (ADW), a kind of off-track betting in which the gambler preloads an account with money, like a prepaid card. The bill is among several on the agenda for the Senate’s Thursday session, set to start at 10 a.m.
— “No one is showing cards yet, but a gambling compromise could be coming” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald
BILL ON PUBLIC RECORDS ABUSES PASSES SENATE via Associated Press – A bill that would crack down on abuses of Florida’s public records law passed the Senate. The bill (SB 80) was approved 38-0 on Wednesday. It aims to target those who file numerous records requests in order to file lawsuits and receive attorney fees or settlements. But it keeps a provision that requires judges to award attorney’s fees if records are improperly withheld. And it gives judges latitude to award attorney’s fees against those who file needless lawsuits. The bill, which was sponsored by Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube, also has a requirement that those who file requests must notify an agency at least five days before filing a lawsuit for the purpose of obtaining attorney’s fees. A similar bill is moving in the House.
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RICHARD CORCORAN TALKS OF ‘CONSEQUENCES’ AT PRAYER BREAKFAST via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran spoke at the annual legislative prayer breakfast at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee. The yearly event is sponsored by the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition, part of the national conservative group founded and led by Ralph Reed and based in suburban Atlanta. “It’s that truth that you tap into and you say, ‘I will fight for truth,'” Corcoran said in a brief speech. “And I will stand, regardless of the consqeuences, and that doesn’t happen without your prayers and your support.” About a dozen legislators attended, as did two justices of the Florida Supreme Court, Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson. The coalition’s executive director, Tim Head, urged attendees to flood Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson with emails and calls to urge him to reverse course and support Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. The crowd applauded when Head predicted that Trump could appoint up to five justices if he serves two terms as president.
STATE MAY SHIFT STUDENTS AWAY FROM FAILING SCHOOLS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Calling it an “emergency,” Florida may agree to spend up to $200 million to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The idea crafted by Speaker Corcoran and other top Republicans in the House is this: Offer up money to help build “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods, many of them in urban and poor areas. The schools would be within 5 miles of or in the zones of existing traditional public schools that have repeatedly earned low grades under the state’s school grading system. “No longer will we rob children of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “Now every single child will be afforded an opportunity of a world class education.”
HOUSE AMENDMENT TURNS THE TABLES ON JUDGES IN REDISTRICTING CASES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee voted along party lines to change the implementation of the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the constitution, which subjected the Republican-led Legislature to years of litigation and an embarrassing admission that they intentionally drew districts that favored incumbents and parties in violation of the law. Under the amendment added to HB 953 by Rep. Larry Ahern, any challenges to a redistricting map would have to occur within 60 days after the maps are passed, effectively short-circuiting the time challengers can obtain records and documents to prepare a case. The bill also suspends any litigation that occurs 71 days before candidates qualify for election and freezes the districts in place until after the election. And, in an attempt to turn the tables on the judiciary if it must resolve a dispute over the maps, the bill subjects judges to cross-examination.
HOUSE PASSES 12-YEAR TERM LIMITS FOR JUSTICES AND JUDGES via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The measure, which would be the first of its kind in the country, has been criticized by business groups and conservative and liberal lawyers. To make it into the state constitution, it needs to pass the Florida Senate, where it has not been given a single committee hearing, and gain 60 percent of voters’ support. Rep. Jennifer Sullivan says the amendment (HJR 1) would give greater accountability to the judicial branch. Supreme Court justices and judges serve until they are 70 years old and face voters every six years in a yes-or-no merit retention election. “Today, we have a judiciary that is legislating from the bench,” Sullivan said. “It is not accountable to the people.”
— “Orlando Rep. Eisnaugle, up for judgeship, votes against term limits for judges” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel
TWEET, TWEET: @SShawFL: I personally know that # are bad. Judges are already accountable to voters via merit retention races – I lived thru 2.I personally know that # are bad. Judges are already accountable to voters via merit retention races – I lived thru 2.
COMMITTEE APPROVES PLAN TO CHANGE FRS via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – The Government Accountability Committee approved a measure that would place newly hired public employees in an investment 401(k) styled-plan if they fail to make a choice within six months of being hired. Now, when no decision is made the workers are placed in a traditional defined-benefit pension plan. The Florida Retirement system is the pension plan for state employees along with workers in 186 cities, independent hospital and special districts. It has about 630,000 active members. The House has explored ways to eliminate the defined-benefit option for new hires since at least 2011. The Senate has consistently backed the current plan.
HOUSE GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS BUDGET PROPOSES IT RESTRUCTURE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – House and Senate budget subcommittees on government operations released draft budget plans that both offered about $2 billion for the next fiscal year but differ on how to handle information technology. About $648 million would go to the Department of Management Services under the House plan, but comes with a substantial restructure of how the state handles information technology — terminating the Agency for State Technology — outlined in a conforming budget bill HB 5301. It creates a 7-member Office of Technology and Data Solutions within DMS instead and requires the state to privatize services with companies that offer cloud data storage services.
BILL TARGETING PUBLIC-EMPLOYEE UNIONS ADVANCES TOWARD FINAL HOUSE FLOOR VOTE via Florida Politics – A proposal that could decertify public employee union chapters across Florida moved closer to a final House vote Wednesday, as its sponsor denied it was “union busting.” Sponsor Scott Plakon, a Republican business owner from Longwood, argued his bill was about transparency and democratic principles. “This empowers the majority who may not be paying dues,” he said. “Should a very small minority be able to impose their will on people who don’t want to be a part of it?” he wondered aloud at one point in the debate. HB 11 would require the decertification of any public employee union unless at least 50 percent of the eligible workers in a unit pay dues. … Democrat John Cortes, a retired corrections officer from Kissimmee, was blunt. “Is this some kind of form of union busting?” he asked. … The bill would make unions more responsive to members, Plakon said.
BAN ON PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR PROFESSION SPORTS FACILITIES CLEARED FOR FINAL HOUSE VOTE via Florida Politics – Two days after the Oakland Raiders won NFL approval to move to Las Vegas, the Florida House set a final floor vote on a bill that would ban professional sports teams from building or refurbishing stadiums on public land. CS/HB 77, by Bryan Avila, says “a sports franchise may not construct, reconstruct, renovate, or improve a facility on public land leased from the state or a political subdivision thereof.” … The sale of public land for sports stadiums must be at fair market value. Furthermore, teams would have to assume public debt undertaken for their facilities if they move away.
DAVID RICHARDSON WINS NARROW APPROVAL TO SHIFT OVERSIGHT OF PRIVATE PRISONS TO A SINGLE AGENCY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – Numbers don’t lie and Florida’s private prisons are not saving money as promised, according to an investigation by legislator and retired forensic auditor Richardson. Part of the reason, he believes, is that the agency in charge of monitoring the contracts has no experience in prisons so the private prison vendors have for years “hoodwinked” the Department of Management Services, which supervises their contracts After nearly two years investigating and auditing state prisons, Richardson won a small victory and persuaded a House committee to shift oversight of the seven private prisons in Florida into a single agency to increase accountability and end what he says is a culture of finger-pointing when troubles emerge. “I want one agency accountable and we will call them when things go wrong,” said Richardson, as the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted 7-6 to move oversight of the state’s seven private prison from the Department of Management Services to the Department of Corrections.
‘WHISKEY AND WHEATIES’ BILLS STALLS IN HOUSE via Florida Politics – The House sponsor of the bill to allow retailers to sell hard liquor in the same store as other goods temporarily postponed its consideration Wednesday. The bill was set to be discussed during the daily floor session. “We’re still trying to work out some differences between the Senate and the House bill,” said Hialeah Republican Bryan Avila, adding “it’s still an ongoing conversation.” Avila explained that the sticking point was a provision relating to gas station convenience stores. Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami-Dade Republican, has complained that “thousands of local gas stations” who might want to sell spirits would be shut out by the bill because it requires 10,000 square feet.
ALIMONY LEGISLATION DEAD FOR 2017, SPONSOR SAYS via Florida Politics – Good news for opponents of this year’s alimony overhaul, and bad news for its supporters: The bills are dead for the year. Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, the Naples Republican who’s carrying the Senate version (SB 412), on Wednesday said the chair of its first committee of reference has refused to hear the bill. Rene Garcia chairs the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs. “Chairman Garcia determined that he was not interested in hearing it and I respect that decision,” Passidomo said. “I don’t think leadership weighed in on it.” … Passidomo also noted the House bill (HB 283), sponsored by Lakeland Republican state Rep. Colleen Burton, also has not gotten a hearing. And with House subcommittees wrapping up work this week, that virtually dooms the legislation there.
COSMETICS INDUSTRY HOPEFUL THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM FOR REFORM BILL via Florida Politics — Cosmetic manufacturers are hopeful state lawmakers will take action this year to eliminate a policy requiring them to get approval before taking a product to market, a lengthy process that industry officials say goes above and beyond federal requirements. The industry has been pushing for the change for several years now, but think a recent report from the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability bolsters their calls for change. The report also included an industry satisfaction survey, which included responses from 57 of the state’s 129 permitted cosmetic manufacturers. The survey found 46 percent of respondents said they have considered moving their manufacturing facility to another state. The three reasons for wanting to relocate were regulatory requirements, skill of workforce and tax rates. … State lawmakers have taken note of the concerns, filing legislation for the third year in a row to remove the premarket approval requirement. The bills (SB 114 and HB 211) would remove the requirements that manufacturers must register products with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics.
HEALTH CARE WORKERS GET EXTRA PROTECTION ON THE JOB via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A person who attacks a nurse, doctor or other health care worker or volunteer while on the job could face stiffer charges and penalties under a bill that cleared a key legislative subcommittee … HB 1207 by Rep. Daisy Baez would provide more protection for health care workers by raising assault to a first-degree misdemeanor, battery to a third-degree felony, aggravated assault to a second-degree felony and aggravated battery to a first-degree felony if the crime occurs in the workplace. “As a former social worker and health care executive, I have seen health care workers subjected to many instances of on the job violence at the hands of those in times of great distress,” Baez said in a news release. According to the Florida Nurses Association, health care workers faced more than four times the rate of violence incidents than in private industry. About 80 percent of serious violent incidents are patient-related.
LOCAL BAR OWNERS SUPPORT FREE ALCOHOL GLASSWARE BILL via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Local bar owners support a bill that would allow bars and restaurants to receive free branded glassware from beer and malt beverage distributors — a position that pits them against at least one major brewery. “Glassware is a significant cost driver to my small business, especially when taking breakage and theft into account,” Mike Ferrara, owner of Cabos Island Grill and Bar in Tallahassee, said in a prepared statement. It would be too expensive to buy the different types of glassware for each type of beer served at Cabo’s, he said. HB 853, by Rep. Tom Goodson, would give Ferrera and other small bar owners an opportunity to get free glassware for the different beers they sell, up to three cases of 24 pieces of glassware for up to three malt beverage brands – or about 216 pieces of glassware a year.
TWEET, TWEET: @MichaelAuslen: The Florida House just cheered for themselves because all 120 members are here today. They’re all supposed to be here every day…
GWEN GRAHAM SMACKS FLORIDA LEGISLATURE OVER FRACKING via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Graham is taking shots at Republican legislators over a bill that would allow Florida Power & Light to charge customers for investments in natural gas fracking operations in other states and also for not yet moving on a House bill that would ban fracking in Florida. “Out of touch politicians in Tallahassee are moving to allow fracking in Florida — and they want to make Florida families pay for it. I’ve spent years fighting to stop fracking because I know our water and state’s unique geology could be harmed by even limited fracking,” Graham said in a statement. “We must stop Republicans from passing this bill and finally ban fracking in Florida once and for all.”
TOP OP-ED: KEEP FLORIDA COMMUNITIES SAFE, PRESERVE FLORIDA’S STRONG BUILDING CODES via Craig Fugate for the Tampa Bay Times – While it was an incredibly difficult lesson to learn, Florida appropriately responded to this disaster by strengthening commercial and residential building codes across the state to make certain that, to the best of its ability, Florida prevented the type of devastation that was left in the path of Andrew in 1992 … I remember accompanying President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush on a tour of the state during 2004. The president asked the governor why one home was so badly damaged, while the one next to it, which was even more exposed, had minimal damage. The governor simply answered, “Building codes.” Right now, Florida remains a leader in the application of strong building codes and standards to protect families, businesses and visitors. But Florida must remain vigilant to ensure our communities are safe and resilient. Unfortunately, a set of bills, Senate Bill 7000 and House Bill 901, would significantly weaken the state’s current building codes. This regression would come at a steep and devastating cost — devastating to communities, families and businesses, as well as Florida’s economic well-being. With weaker building codes, after a natural disaster more families will be displaced and businesses will be closed for longer periods of time, preventing people from getting back to work. Not to mention the real problem of insurability. The total cost of homeownership is greatly reduced when a strong, unified code, such as the current one, is in place. Diminishing or weakening the codes will only serve to increase the price of insurance on consumers.
ON SO-CALLED FUNDING CUTS, ADAM PUTNAM DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH via Florida Politics – Ag. Commissioner Putnam is shocked — shocked — that the House flatlined funding for his department’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. He also was gobsmacked over what he called a “political assault” on Fresh From Florida … “Our wildlife and open spaces can’t be just another chip on the political poker table,” he added. You might want to fold ’em, Commish. A House spreadsheet suggests that all the House is doing is returning funding to pre-Speaker Steve Crisafulli days.
WAS JACK LATVALA AGAINST ENTERPRISE FLORIDA BEFORE HE WAS FOR IT? via Florida Politics – Latvala has backed Gov. Rick Scott in his defense of Enterprise Florida—but that wasn’t always the case. The Clearwater Republican, who now chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, had some choice words for the public-private economic development organization back in 2015 … “They’re asking for $85 million for ‘tools’ (but the) percentage of corporate contributions has declined and state budget allocations have increased … Why do they want (more state) money when others could use it, when other communities have very worthwhile projects?” Latvala said at the time. “It’s just irresponsible.” Click on the image below to watch Latvala’s comments from 2015.
— “Can Susan Glickman ever shoot straight?” via Florida Politics
HAPPENING TODAY – CARD DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Families from the seven Center for Autism & Related Disabilities centers throughout Florida will in the capital city Thursday for CARD Day at the Capitol. The day-long event gives families a chance to meet with their local legislators to talk about their needs. There will be a staffed information table set up in the Senate Courtyard from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a luncheon scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***
PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER HAS GREAT ADVICE FOR RICK SCOTT — PART 2 via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay was the first public official to urge Scott to call Florida’s heroin epidemic by its right name: a public health crisis. That was, and remains, the Very Best Idea in Florida Right This Minute, and McKinlay’s choir is, thankfully, growing. Last week, Palm Beach County’s Chief Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath tossed his robe into the ring. In his plea to Scott, Colbath noted that last year’s local death toll was in the hundreds, and each overdose call to the Fire Rescue folks costs taxpayers about $1500. The price paid by first responders can run much, much higher. Colbath is no bleeding heart, big-government, soft-on-crime snowflake. Experience as a prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer shapes his view from the bench.
ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with community leaders about economic development programs focused on the state’s military and defense communities at 9 a.m. at the VFW Post 424 Tampa, 105 West Broad Street in Tampa. He’ll then travel to South Florida where he’ll talk with community leaders about Zika preparedness during a roundtable discussion at 3 p.m. at the Florida Department of Health Palm Beach, 1150 45th Street in West Palm Beach.
WHITE HOUSE APPOINTS PAM BONDI TO PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION TO DEAL WITH NATION’S OPIOID EPIDEMIC via Sergio Bustos of POLITICO Florida – She … will be joining Trump and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the White House for an announcement regarding the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. “I am honored to be appointed to the president’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission,” she said in a statement. “Thousands of Americans each year die from drug overdoses. I want to thank the President of the United States, Governor Christie and many others for caring about this deadly epidemic.” Bondi is also hosting a “Women’s Empowerment” panel at the White House.
MIKE HUCKABEE’S MISSION: TO KEEP THE WORLD FROM ‘SPOILING’ via Florida Politics – Now that he’s dispensed with the possibility of running for political office again, former GOP presidential candidate Huckabee says he just wants to be a cultural “preservative.” Huckabee – a Christian minister, former Arkansas governor and now Walton County resident – spoke to reporters before his appearance at Wednesday’s Legislative Prayer Breakfast in Tallahassee … On Wednesday, he referred to a passage in Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Christians “seek to have an influence and a preservative effect on the culture,” he said. “Salt in the first century was a preservative” … “What (Jesus) meant was, if the world is rotting, putrefying, spoiling, you’re supposed to keep that from happening,” Huckabee said. “It’s not the secular world’s fault that things are going astray, it’s our fault. If the salt isn’t doing its purpose, to preserve, then things will get worse.”
PROGRESSIVE GROUPS SLAM CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL’S ‘LACK OF TRANSPARENCY’ via Florida Politics – A coalition of progressive interests, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, on Wednesday chided the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) for leaving the public in the dust—and in the dark. A CRC spokeswoman, however, later said its “No. 1 priority is to ensure that the public is actively involved and engaged.” Pamela Goodman, the League’s president in Florida, spoke at a news conference on the steps of the old Capitol in Tallahassee. The commission, which meets every 20 years to review and suggest rewrites to the state’s governing document, was throwing up “roadblocks to public engagement,” Goodman said. The first public hearing was Wednesday night in Orlando.
— “Crowd comes out for 1st Florida constitution hearing at UCF” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel
STUDY: FLORIDA TAXPAYERS HAVE THIRD HIGHEST RETURN ON INTEREST via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times – According to a study released by WalletHub, Florida residents pay relatively low taxes compared to the quality of government services they receive. The rankings were based on the caliber of each state’s services for its residents in categories including education, economy, health, infrastructure and pollution and safety. Based on the overall quality of services, Florida clocked in at a worse-than-average 34th in the country. Florida’s highest individual rank — 17 — was for education, which was judged on the quality of school systems, the state public university system and the graduation rate for public high schools. The Sunshine State’s lowest-ranked category — 41 — was for its economy, which was determined by the annual job growth rate, economic mobility, unemployment rate, underemployment rate, people living below the poverty line and the median annual household income.
CITIZENS INSURANCE WARNS OF $27.1 MILLION LOSS DURING 2016 via Florida Politics – Citizens Property Insurance Co. is losing money for the first time in a decade because of water loss claims, assignment of benefits abuse, and rising litigation costs, the company said Wednesday. Staff at Florida’s insurer of last resort told its board of governors that they expect to post a $27.1 million loss on the year. … Citizens is seeking legislation this year attacking assignment of benefits, or AOB, abuse. In the House, an AOB bill has passed its first committee test. Senate legislation is scheduled for a committee hearing next week.
BUSLOADS OF ‘HUNDREDS’ PLANNED FOR ARAMIS AYALA RALLY IN TALLAHASSEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The “Ride For Aramis,” events will conclude with a 12:30 p.m. rally on the Duval Road steps of the Florida Capitol. Organizers, which include the NAACP, Latino Justice, Florida Council of Churches, Orange County Black Voice, the Eighth Amendment Project, Color of Change, Equal Justice USA, and Let Your Voice Be Heard Orlando, said they will be bringing in busloads of Ayala supporters and death penalty opponents from Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
FCTA CAPITAL DATELINE ONLINE TALKS LEGISLATIVE SESSION WITH PETER SCHORSCH — FCTA President Brad Swanson talks with EEM President Peter Schorsch about key House and Senate dynamics, and what to expect as key differences are hammered out in the remaining weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session. The two men talk budget, beer glass legislation, the Seminole Compact, and the latest issue of INFLUENCE Magazine.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Public Information Notification Systems
Kimberly Case, Holland & Knight: Miami Worldcenter Holdings
Hayden Dempsy, Greenberg Traurig: UMB Bank n.a. solely as trustee for Santa Rosa Bonds, series 1996
Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: City of Homestead
Nick Iarossi, Capital City Consulting: Brandt Information Services, Inc
Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Aviat U.S.
Jeremy Kudo, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: DISH Network
Tara Reid, Straegos Public Affairs: American University of Antigua (AUA)
Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, Inc.
Jeff Sadosky, Forbes Tate Partners: Adapt Pharma, Inc.
Karen Skyers, Becker & Poliakoff: CHSPSC, LLC
Larry Williams, Larry Williams Consulting: Nassau County Council on Aging
***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are 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 and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***
IOWA SENATOR WANTS ANSWERS ON FLORIDA ALF SEX TAPE via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – The case of a Florida assisted living facility employee who was charged with shooting video of two residents having sex and posting it on Snapchat has caught the attention of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. Grassley fired off a letter Wednesday to the Bristol Court Assisted Living Facility 3479 54th Ave. N in St. Petersburg, the ALF that formerly employed Alexis Gloria Rebecca Williams, 20. Williams, who was arrested last week, told detectives that she recorded the video of the two ALF residents engaging in consensual sex and posted it on the social media site “for her own amusement,” a Pinellas County sheriff’s spokesman said. “This reported behavior, perpetrated against one of the most vulnerable populations in our country, is absolutely abhorrent,” Grassley wrote to the administrator of the Bristol Court ALF.
SPACEX USED – ERR, ‘FLIGHT-TESTED’ – ROCKET SET TO LAUNCH via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – SpaceX is set to launch a recycled Falcon 9 rocket … marking the first time a rocket used once to put a spacecraft into orbit has been landed, refurbished and put on the launch pad to be used again. SpaceX’s first customer for such a rocket, the Luxembourg-based SES satellite company, prefers the term “flight-tested” to the word used. The Falcon 9 rocket with the SES-10 communications satellite is set to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, with a launch window that opens at 6:27 p.m. and running through 8:30 p.m.
DISNEY MOVING SOME METAL DETECTORS TO TRANSPORTATION AND TICKET CENTER via Sandra Pedicini of the Orlando Sentinel – The center, commonly known as the TTC, is a major hub for Magic Kingdom visitors. People driving to the Magic Kingdom park at TTC, then board monorails or ferries to cross Seven Seas Lagoon and reach the attraction. Currently, visitors can board the monorails and ferryboats without going through bag checks or metal detectors. Guests arriving at Magic Kingdom via the monorail or ferry won’t have to go through security once they get to the theme park itself. However, the Magic Kingdom will still have some bag checks and metal detectors for visitors arriving by other transportation, such as buses.
FANS CAN LOOK FORWARD TO SOME MAJOR CHANGES IN NFL GAMES via Barry Wilner of The Associated Press – At the busy league meetings … owners passed several rules changes, adopting resolutions they believe will speed the game and improve player safety. The team owners were apprised of ways the overall time of games can be shortened. Much of that will come through a reduction in the number of commercial breaks per quarter. But a change in handling officiating of video replays also will serve that purpose, as well as provide more consistency in making calls, the league believes. Referees will now watch replays on the field using Surface tablets, eliminating “going under the hood” to watch on television monitors. There are plenty of other things fans can look for in 2017: “Leapers” trying to block field goals or extra points have been outlawed. Made permanent was the rule disqualifying a player who is penalized twice in a game for specific unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. Crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion no longer are legal. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for committing multiple fouls during the same down with the purpose of manipulating the game clock will be instituted.
THE NEW ‘IT’ TRAILER IS HERE TO GIVE YOU NIGHTMARES via Michael Gold of The New York Times – “It,” for the unfamiliar, tells the story of a group of children in a town in Maine who come together after people in the neighborhood begin to disappear. This brings them in direct conflict with Pennywise, a clown who captures children and devours them. The new adaptation — due in September — appears to double down on the circus horror. The trailer offers a sense of foreboding almost immediately. Dark skies, a rainstorm and a muted color palette all suggest something ominous lurking just offscreen. Even if you know what’s coming, it’s terrifying when Pennywise, this time played by Bill Skarsgard, pops up from the sewers. The preview never gets less creepy. There’s always tension in the sustained string chords of the soundtrack, and it imbues everything with suspense and darkness. At one point, even a red balloon appears unbearably sinister. “What are you afraid of?” The trailer ultimately asks. As if it doesn’t already know.
GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – It’s “Viva Italia” at the Governors Club Thursday with Italian wedding soup; grilled vegetable salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; Caesar salad – hearts of romaine, parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, Caesar dressing – baked ziti; chicken tetrazzini; tortellini marinara; broccolini and fave beans.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Pinellas Democrats chair Susan McGrath, and our friends Trent Phillips and Dywan Washington.