Sunburn for 4.14.17 – Happy Easter Weekend

easter in florida

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


Grab your bonnet, pull out the seersucker and get ready for a good-old-fashion Easter egg hunt.

Americans are expected to spend about $18.4 billion on Easter this year, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey. That projection is 6 percent higher than last year’s record of $17.3 billion, and marks an all-time high in the 14 years the national organization has conducted the survey.

The increase in spending is likely due to how late the holiday falls on the calendar this year. The springtime celebration is nearly three weeks later than it was in 2016, giving folks essentially an extra month to prepare for the holiday.

According to the survey, about 61 percent of consumers plan to visit family and friends to celebrate the holiday. And since Florida a prime winter location for Northeastern and Midwestern grandparents, you can imagine flights to Florida will be jam-packed this week with children and grandchildren hoping to soak in some rays and spend some quality time with their nonnas and papas.

While folks are looking for good deals on airlines like JetBlue, Southwest, American and Delta to celebrate Easter and Passover with their families, those companies have hired top-notch government affairs teams to look out for their interest during the 2017 Legislative Session.

American Airlines has hired Mike Corcoran, Jeff Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, and Amanda Stewart with Corcoran & Johnston to work with Dawn White, the company’s in-house lobbyist, on behalf of its interests in front of the Legislature. Delta Air Lines has Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Ron LaFace, and Chris Schoonover with Capital City Consulting fighting for its interests this year.

The legacy airlines aren’t the only ones hiring the big-wigs to fight for their rights before the Legislature, so they can help get you to grandmother’s house in time for the Easter Bunny’s arrival.

Southwest Airlines has hired Bill Rubin, Melissa Akeson, Christopher Finkbeiner, and Heather Turnbull with The Rubin Group and Bo Rivard with Harrison Rivard Ducan Buzzett Chtd. to work with Sherri Hull, its in-house lobbyist, during the 2017 Legislative Session. JetBlue has the team of Slater Bayliss, Sarah Busk, Al Cardenas, Christopher Chaney, Justin Day, and Stephen Shiver at The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners on its side this year.

Once you’re here, you’ve got to eat. The National Retail Federation survey found 57 percent of consumers said they planned to cook a holiday meal and 17 percent said they planned to go to a restaurant.

Regardless of how you celebrated Passover — which began at sundown on Monday — or will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, it’s likely a trip to Publix was in order for the fixings for your meal. When the Florida-based grocery chain needs a hand in Tallahassee it turns to Charlie DudleyJorge Chamizo, and Teye Reeves with Floridian Partners. The threesome works with the in-house team of Lindsey Napier and Thomas Culligan to advocate for the store in the capital city.

Need a dinner recommendation? Oscar Anderson, David Browning, Christopher Dudley, James McFaddin, and Sydney Ridley might be able to come up with one. The Southern Strategy Group team works with Amanda Conochalla, the in-house lobbyist for Darden Restaurants, to represent the restaurant giant’s interests before the Legislature.

The National Retail Federation Survey found 52 percent of consumers said they planned to go to church on Easter. That’s got to be good news to the Florida Catholic Conference and the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This year, the Florida Catholic Conference celebrated its 42nd annual Red Mass on April 5, and Reps. Kathleen Peters and Danny Burgess gave readings. When the bishops need an extra hand in the capital city, they turn to Ingrid Delgado, James Herzog, Michael James McQuone, and Michael Sheedy, the organization’s executive director.

Easter isn’t the only springtime holiday being celebrated this week, though. Passover began at sundown on Monday and memorialize the emancipation of Israelites held captive in Egypt after 400 years, culminating with the Exodus and Covenant of Moses.

Florida lawmakers are known to stand with Israel, and this year is no exception. In March, the House adopted a resolution objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. That U.N resolution, among other things, said Israel’s settlement activities constituted a violation of international law. The House resolution (HR 281) proclaimed the House’s opposition to it, and called for the repeal of the U.N. resolution.

The Senate adopted a similar resolution.

The Florida Association of Jewish Federations has an active presence in Tallahassee, tapping Mario Bailey, Ellyn Bogdanoff, Bernie Friedman, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Nicholas Matthews, and Jeremy Shir with Becker & Poliakoff to help advance its causes in front of the Legislature.

With several threats made against the Jewish community in recent months, you can imagine the Ant-Defamation League is working overtime to combat anti-Semitism. The organization acts as “the 9-1-1 for the Jewish community in Florida” and the ADL Florida Office is on the “frontline of ensuring the safety of the Jewish community” in the state.”

Look for David Barkey, the southeastern area counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, to be working on behalf of the organization in Tallahassee.

However you celebrate this springtime, take a moment to enjoy the long weekend before the final stretch of session.

Chag pesach, to all! And a very Happy Easter, too.

RETAILERS EXPECT RECORD-SETTING EASTER SPENDING via Florida Politics – A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation is predicting record-setting Easter spending this year with a projected total of $18.4 billion in spending for the Christian holiday. The prime date for Easter this year … will cause a 6 percent hop in spending over last year when shoppers spent $17.3 billion. The per-person average will also jump 4 percent from the previous year to $152. Nearly nine out of 10 shoppers will pick up food or candy, while 61 percent plan to pick up gifts, and half say they will buy clothing, up from 45 percent last year. About two out of five shoppers plan to buy flowers, decorations or greeting cards. A little under half of those customers will visit department stores, while about a quarter plan to shop small at a local business. Online shopping is also expected to get a 6 percent bump over last year, when 21 percent of consumers made their purchases from the comfort of their home … Overall, food will make up the biggest piece of the pie with a projected $5.8 billion in spending — and that’s not including the expected $2.6 billion spent on candy. Clothes follow at $3.3 billion, gifts at $2.9 billion, then $1.2 billion in flowers and $1.1 billion on decorations.

HAPPENING TODAY – FARM SHARE HOSTS FOOD DISTRIBUTION EVENT IN QUINCY — The non-profit organization will be distributing food and providing health screenings to residents of Leon, Gadsden, Liberty, Jefferson, Franklin and Wakulla counties from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the North Florida Farm Share, 18212 Blue Star Highway, #5 in Quincy. The event is free and open to the public. This year, nearly 40.5 million pounds of food has been made available to families, children, the elderly, the disabled and veterans in Florida through Farm Share distribution programs.

THE LATEST TEST FOR THE WHITE HOUSE? PULLING OFF ITS EASTER EGG ROLL via Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times – “FYI manufacturing deadlines for the Easter eggs are near,” said a Twitter post directed at Trump; the first lady, Melania Trump; and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump. “Please reach out!” The message came from Wells Wood Turning & Finishing, the company that supplies commemorative wooden eggs for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, the 138-year-old celebration that has drawn 35,000 people to the South Lawn in recent years. The staff of the company, based in Buckfield, Maine, wondered whether the Trumps planned to continue distributing the wooden eggs as party favors, or whether they were even going to have a White House Easter egg Roll at all. By early March, the White House announced that the roll was on — Monday, to be exact — and soon followed up with a rush order for the wooden eggs.

WORTH THE CLICK: “John F. Kennedy’s last Easter in Palm Beach” via the Palm Beach Post

PROGRAMMING NOTE: So that the staff of Florida Politics can fully enjoy the Easter holiday, there will be no Sunburn on Monday. We will resume publication on Tuesday. 

DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 13; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 20; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 20; MLB All-Star Game – 88; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 141; Election Day 2017 – 206; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 244; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 268.

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AFP-FL RELEASES DIGITAL AD CALLING ON SENATE TO ‘END CORPORATE WELFARE’ via Florida Politics — Americans for Prosperity-Florida is continuing its efforts to try to put an end to economic incentives in Florida. The organization launched a 60-second digital ad campaign Thursday, urging Floridians to “contact (their) legislator and tell them the game’s over: end this corporate welfare.” The release comes one day after the Florida Senate approved its 2017-18 budget, which included money for Enterprise Florida and economic incentive programs. The House budget does not include funding for Enterprise Florida, and the House earlier this year voted to eliminate the agency. “We’re glad that under Speaker Richard Corcoran’s leadership the Florida House is making good stewardship a priority this year so that we can ensure that our hard-earned tax dollars are going to their best possible use,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement.

— “Florida Poly cancels contract paid with secret state appropriation” via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News

— “Here are millions in tax cuts that Florida lawmakers are considering. Do any save you money?” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

FSU RETURNS $200,000 AMID QUESTIONS ABOUT CONTRACT WITH NASSAU COUNTY PROVIDER via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Records from FSU indicate that Fernandina Beach-based Florida Psychological Associates has only screened 358 students through March despite receiving $590,192 in state dollars. Benchmarks in the contract indicate that 3,800 screenings were supposed by be completed by that time. The contract is worth $800,000 to FPA, which set a goal for its first year of screening 4,500 students plus 2,600 adults involved in the court system in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

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HOUSE APPROVES ‘SCHOOLS OF HOPE’ BILL TO SAVE FAILING FLORIDA SCHOOLS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Legislators approved the “Schools of Hope” bill by a vote of 77-40. Democrats unanimously voted against the bill. HB 5105, sponsored by Reps. Chris Latvala and Mike Bileca would speed up the time for school districts to turn around failing schools in Florida. The proposal would also set aside $200 million in startup costs to attract new charter schools for students attending failing schools statewide. The allotted funds would pay for teacher recruitment and extending school days. It would affect 77,000 Florida students stuck in 115 “D” and “F” schools statewide. HB 5105 would … give districts only two years to fix “failure factories.” Members debated the proposal for hours, disagreeing over how effective the bill would be and how much ‘hope’ HB 5105 would actually give to students trapped in failing schools. To opponents of the measure, the proposal was too risky — and the rewards were less than certain.

— “LIBRE Initiative says it supports ‘Schools of Hope’ ” via Florida Politics

HOUSE, SENATE BILLS TO REPEAL PIP CLEAR COMMITTEES DESPITE QUESTIONS, DIFFERENCES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 8-1 to approve a bill (SB 1766) that would repeal the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, replacing the PIP mandate with a requirement that motorists carry bodily injury protection. The Senate proposal, sponsored by Hillsborough County Republican Sen. Tom Lee, would create a medical payment, or MedPay, coverage mandate of $5,000. That system, according to a staff analysis, would provide “substantially similar coverage to current PIP medical benefits.” That provision is not included in the House proposal (HB 1063) which cleared the House Commerce Committee … That bill, sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, also repeals the portion of the state law that requires motorists to obtain and maintain PIP coverage. Like Lee’s proposal, the House bill replaces the PIP mandate with a requirement to purchase bodily injury protection. The bill increases the minimum bodily injury coverage limits to $25,000 of injuries to another person, and $50,000 of injuries for two or  more people.

SENATE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILL ACQUIRES FIREFIGHTER CANCER AMENDMENT via Florida Politics – The Senate’s workers’ compensation bill moved out of the Appropriations Committee Thursday after picking up an amendment declaring two forms of cancer occupational hazards for Florida’s 40,000 firefighters. The amendment … names multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. … Sen. Jeff Brandes objected that a bill to the same effect has been stuck in the Community Affairs Committee, and that Senate rules would steer the bill back there rather than to the Rules Committee and the floor. … That’s true only for a “substantial change” to a bill,” amendment co-sponsor Jack Latvala said. He’d offered only a small amendment. “I guess we’ll let the Rules chairman make that determination,” he continued.

SENATE VOTES TO CLEAR UP ‘MISTAKES’ IN SELF-DEFENSE LAW FOR HOMEOWNERS via Florida Politics – A bill clarifying that one need not wait to be attacked in one’s home before resorting to defensive force advanced passed the Senate Thursday. CS/CS/SB 1052 would reconcile conflicting statutes involving self-defense, correcting drafting errors muddying the legal situation made in 2014 legislation, bill sponsor David Simmons said. … A provision in existing law says one must wait to be attacked before using force. But other provisions hold that the right of self-defense begins when one “reasonably” believes it is necessary. … “They must actually believe — not only reasonably, but subjectively believe — that their lives are in danger, and they must reasonably act,” Simmons said at one point in the debate. “How much more do you want to impose upon a homeowner?”

PUBLIC-RECORDS EXEMPTION FOR MURDER WITNESSES HEADING TO GOVERNOR via Florida Politics – The Senate met the two-thirds requirement Thursday to send Gov. Rick Scott a bill creating a public-records exemption for identifying information about murder witnesses. The vote was 34-3 to accept the CS/CS/HB 111, the House version of legislation sponsored in the Senate by Ocoee Democrat Randolph Bracy. Exemptions to Florida’s stringent public-records laws require two-thirds votes in both Houses. The House overwhelmingly approved the measure on March 30. … “It’s long overdue,” Hialeah Republican Rene Garcia said. “Back in our community, the biggest problem we have is that people don’t want to speak up when they see a crime. This bill is going to go a long way to ensure that people’s voices are heard and their identities are kept private.”

SENATORS REVERSE POSITIONS ON TRI-RAIL, PUSH BILL TO LET CONTROVERSIAL CONTRACT STAND via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Just a few weeks ago, both Gainer and Brandes were hostile critics of the contract and Tri-Rail. Brandes … sponsored an amendment that strips away language that he and Scott had pushed for earlier that would have forced Tri-Rail to rebid the $511 million, 10-year contract. Tri-Rail’s operating agency, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, awarded that contract in January after rejecting five lower bids for technical issues that the companies are contesting. The award brought, from Scott, Brandes and Gainer, harsh rebukes, demands for investigations, vows of new state control, as well as demands to rebid the contract. Gainer, a Panama City Republican, introduced Senate Bill 1118 to require those things. Yet Brandes’ new amendment, introduced at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, which he chairs, reverses the demand for the rebid. The amendment was adopted unanimously, then Gainer’s amended Committee Substitute for SB 1118 was approved unanimously.

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CHAMBER ANNOUNCES GAMBLING CONFERENCE MEMBERS via Florida Politics – In alphabetical order, they are Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II, House Commerce chair José Félix Díaz, Senate President pro tempore Anitere Flores, Sen. Bill Galvano, House Tourism and Gaming Control Democratic ranking member Joe Geller, Senate Regulated Industries chair Travis Hutson, House Tourism and Gaming Control chair Mike La Rosa, Rep. Larry Metz, House Appropriations Democratic ranking member Jared Moskowitz, Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nuñez, and Sen. Perry Thurston. The conference committee will meet next week to iron out differences between the House and Senate’s competing gambling bills. Both include a renewal of exclusive rights to blackjack for the Seminole Tribe of Florida in exchange for $3 billion over seven years. But the chambers differ in many areas, including whether to allow “designated-player games” that are similar to banked card games, like blackjack.

LEGISLATURE MAKES SLOW PROGRESS ON MEDICAL POT RULES via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – Bills in the Senate and House don’t agree on the details of expanding access to the drug, from adding pot distributors to deciding whether doctors can prescribe marijuana to people who haven’t been their patients for at least three months. The Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley (SB 406) is seen as more permissive and has drawn support from medical marijuana advocates, while the House bill sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues (HB 1397) is widely considered more restrictive and is backed by the Drug Free America Foundation. The Senate measure would eliminate a current requirement that a patient be under a doctor’s care for more than 90 days before being able to get a prescription for marijuana — a restriction that would be kept in place under the House version. The Senate bill would immediately expand the number of licenses issued for marijuana distributors in the state, while the House version would require that 150,000 patients sign up for medical marijuana use before expanding the existing pool of distributors.

PAUL RENNER ON ROPES AS PHANTOM 2022 SPEAKER’S RACE GRINDS ON via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Proposed rules changes, quiet caucus meetings, and a series of Wednesday night dinners around Tallahassee are the latest palpable byproducts of a phantom 2022 speaker’s race that is not supposed to be happening — but is in full swing. It has reached a point where there is potential that Speaker Corcoran “takes a look” to ensure the race is not violating new House Republican caucus rules designed to block speaker’s race jockeying until June 30. … Renner held an abrupt meeting of House freshman Republicans Thursday, just 15 minutes before the House was set to take the floor to pass its $81 billion proposed budget. The Jacksonville Republican wanted to address his colleagues about his speaker’s bid, according to several members who attended the meeting.

SUPREME COURT OKS TAXING SATELLITE TV HIGHER THAN CABLE via Florida PoliticsSatellite-television service can be taxed at a higher rate than cable TV, the Florida Supreme Court decided Thursday. Satellite companies had challenged the state’s Communications Services Tax (CST), which now taxes cable service at 4.92 percent and satellite at 9.07 percent. Those concerns, led by DirecTV, said that difference was unconstitutional and asked for a refund. But the high court reversed the 1st District Court of Appeal’s 2-1 decision, whose majority said that taxing the two services differently was wrong.

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION WILL MEET ON UF’S CAMPUS via Florida Politics – The panel that reviews and suggests rewrites to the state’s governing document will meet in Gainesville on the campus of the University of Florida on Wednesday, April 26 at 5 p.m. The public hearing is at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 3201 Hull Road. The event will also be live-streamed by The Florida Channel on Future dates include April 27 in Jacksonville-Duval County; May 3 in Bay County; May 10 in Lee County; and May 17 in Hillsborough County.

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GOOD READ – UNIVERSITIES EYE ONLINE TUITION BEYOND FLORIDA – FINALLY via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida — Public higher education institutions … have struggled for two decades to attract students from other states and countries. Administrators have identified the schools’ limited reputations outside their regions and relatively unattractive tuition policies, as well as other states’ regulatory burdens, as hindrances to their success. …But as the State University System aims to dramatically expand online education over the next several years, administrators are renewing their hopes for gaining national traction. They’re lowering out-of-state tuition and betting on a new national network that allows students to register in online programs across state lines more easily. It’s hardly a new idea: Florida would actually be one of the last states to enter the compact, known as the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, or SARA. Skeptical politicians and policymakers have long questioned whether participating would be cost effective for institutions and expressed hesitance to surrender regulatory discretion over how schools based elsewhere operate here. Despite delays, the Legislature looks likely to pass a bill soon authorizing the Sunshine State to join.


 Oscar Anderson, Southern Strategy Group: Apple

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Ocean Summit Association, Inc.

Kevin Marino Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Court Clerks and Comptrollers

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Florida Sportsman’s Land Trust

Timothy Meenan, Sarah Niewold, Joy Ryan, Meenan PA: Agrimed Industries

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Nuvve

Steve Schale, Schale Communications: Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Ed Brodsky will continue last week’s discussion with Dr. James on Gov. Rick Scott’s reassignment of cases from 9th Circuit State Attorney Airamis Ayala to 5th Circuit State Attorney Ben King.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include former Republican consultant Mark Proctor, Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, Manatee County Democratic Party Chair Sheryl Wilson and former Rep. Paula Dockery.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: This week Republican Sens. Dana Young and Jeff Brandes will be interviewed by Al Ruechel, while the Common Ground segment will feature Holly Gregory, Ed Narian, and Chris Ingram discussing the Electoral College and whether the country should switch to a popular vote for the presidency. The PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will tackle House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s claims about a jobs contract with Lockheed Martin.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Former Florida State University President and lawmaker Sandy D’Alemberte joins hosts Steve Vancore and Gary Yordon on this week’s episode.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Congressmen Al Lawson and Ted Yoho will be on the show to talk recess, town halls and Syria. HandsOn Jacksonville CEO LeAnn Daddario will also come by to talk about Florida Volunteer Month.

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CHEESY MOVIE LOVERS, REJOICE: ‘MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000’ RETURNS via Robert Ito of The New York Times – After one of the largest Kickstarter campaigns so far, the series is being revived on Netflix with 14 new 90-minute episodes. Joel Hodgson, the creator of the series and one of its first hosts, who has worked as a magician, ventriloquist, stand-up comic and toy designer over the years, said he can’t quite believe his show has reached the big time. “Our show has never been on prime time, and now it kind of is,” Hodgson said. “We were always on at 2 in the morning on cable, or Saturday mornings. Now people can watch at 7 in the evening, if they want.” Hodgson’s original (and ridiculous) conceit is still intact on “Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return.” A hapless pilot aboard an orbiting spacecraft (the Satellite of Love) is forced to watch the endless parade of B-movies as part of a diabolical experiment conducted by mad scientists. To keep himself company (and to stave off madness), the pilot creates two robot pals, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, who join him in tossing incredulous zingers at the screen as the movies unspool.

SEAWORLD TO ADD NEW RAPID RIVER RIDE ‘INFINITY FALLS’ via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – … the centerpiece of a new themed rainforest attraction. Infinity Falls is scheduled to debut in the summer of 2018. The ride’s 40-foot drop is the world’s tallest river rapid drop … Inspired by the South American rainforests, riders will rush through the feel of an exhilarating Class IV rapids. Guests will sit atop a family-style raft that will wind through a lush jungle setting. A vertical elevator will lift each raft to the top of the ride. The new ride is just another example of how SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment is moving away from animal shows, which have been criticized by animal rights groups for keeping wild animals captive. The company stopped breeding orcas last year and has vowed to focus on education and conservation.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
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