Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
Did I hit a nerve?
My cellphone and email blew up Monday after a column in which I asked which “Florida politician(s) (will be) laid low by the kind of sexual assault and harassment scandal that dethroned one-time Hollywood king Harvey Weinstein?”
“Please don’t tell me there is no equivalent in Florida politics to Weinstein,” I wrote. “After all, politics is show business for ugly people.”
Well, I was reminded of (relatively) new language in the House Rules, rewritten after the ascent of Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Under the section titled “Obligations of a Lobbyist,” there’s this sentence:
“Each lobbyist shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes a professional environment in the House, exemplifies proper conduct in public meetings, promotes lawful conduct by all involved in the legislative process, and contributes to an environment free from harassment and discrimination (emphasis added).”
And this: “Each lobbyist shall respect and support the honorable conduct of the members of the House and discourage unlawful conduct.”
Let’s not overlook this, from the rule on grounds for impeachment: “Failure to maintain a professional environment in the administration of the office free of unlawful discrimination and free of harassment or abuse of employees or members of the public served by the office (emphasis added).”
Indeed, lest you forget, as I wrote, “One lawmaker ON THE VERY NIGHT I proposed to my wife (who worked in the Governor’s office), wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her because he wanted to ‘feel her breasts one last time.’ ”
Yes, I still throw up in my mouth every time I reread that.
The upshot: Maybe the Speaker was on to something? Stay tuned.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @WFTSisabel: MASSIVE LINES outside the @in Lakeland as people wait to get food assistance following Hurricane Irma
— @LedgeKing: .@Karen Pence to visit .@ Wednesday for an announcement about her art therapy initiative. School runs a nationally acclaimed art-therapy graduate education program.
— @SchmitzMedia: Sen. President Joe Negron now up — references Hamilton, says he always wanted to be in “the room where it happens” to fight for his district.
— @BenDiamondFL: Proud to file the FL Competitive Workforce Act. Lets work to protect LGBT rights & make our state more competitive in the global economy.
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Florida’s 2 main political parties could pay hefty fines” via The Associated Press — State officials this month levied a $110,000 fine against the Republican Party of Florida. The party turned in a campaign finance report dealing with a South Florida House race 11 days late. Republicans are appealing the fine … The Florida Democratic Party could also get hit with a large fine. The state Division of Elections notified the party Oct. 9 that Democrats had failed to turn in a report associated with a central Florida House race. Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the state Republican Party, said it was an “oversight” that the report wasn’t filed on time. But he contended state officials did not follow the law because they didn’t immediately notify party leaders. Ingoglia said the fines should be waived.
“Bill Nelson wants Puerto Ricans newly arrived in Florida to register to vote” via Patricia Mazzei of the Tampa Bay Times — “If they will register to vote, which I’m certainly going to encourage, because I can tell you among the Puerto Rican community in the greater Orlando area, they have been very embracing of my public service,” he said at a San Juan news conference after Puerto Rican reporter asked him about the post-storm migration. “The question is how many will want to register, and how many will want to return.” Standing next to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Nelson took pains to say he wasn’t encouraging Puerto Ricans to depart forever. Puerto Ricans worry an exodus of working professionals — on the heels of years of emigration during the island’s financial crisis — will only make it more difficult for the economy to get going again. “It could be a while coming before things get back,” Nelson said, referring in particular to the island’s destroyed power grid. “I will certainly encourage our fellow citizens to return home.”
The Caputo Primary – “In money race for governor, Democrats losing badly to Republicans” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida >>>What better way to justify Caputo’s preferred candidate – Phil Levine – entering the race than to dog the current candidates for their lackluster fundraising. Levine can self-fund, so he won’t have that issue.
Assignment editors — Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum will be speaking with South Dade Democrats at their monthly meeting, beginning 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, 7700 SW. 76th Ave. in Miami.
Ashely Moody to campaign in Sarasota — The Republican Attorney General candidate will give a speech to the NOVA Republican Club, beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Nokomis Community Center, 234 Nippino Trail in Nokomis.
“Scott Sturgill raises $200K in CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, sits well behind Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in the early money race toward the 2018 election. Last week Murphy reported that her fundraising had topped $1 million toward her re-election bid. However, Sturgill leads state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park heading toward the 2018 Republican primary. Miller reported raising $156,000. Sturgill’s big showing came in part through his own wallet. The chief executive officer of Durable Safety Products contributed $100,250 through a personal loan to his campaign. His total came in at $206,395. After expenses, he reported having $177,499 going into October.
“Miami politician says aliens took her on a spaceship. Now she’s running for Congress.” via Alex Daugherty and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera says she’s been aboard a spaceship too. But this one was crewed by aliens. As in extraterrestrials. Three blond, big-bodied beings — two females, one male — visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says. (Sen. Nelson served as payload officer aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. All seven people aboard were from Earth. As far as is known.) Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.
“Miami commissioner Ken Russell joins race to replace Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The current Miami city commissioner, who once traveled around the world to showcase his yo-yo skills, is officially joining the crowded Democratic primary to replace Ros-Lehtinen. “I love my job as city commissioner, and once Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement it started a new conversation,” Russell said. “It’s almost serendipity that [her retirement] is coinciding with what’s going on with the federal government. Instantly, I felt inside this is something I want to do.” Russell set up an exploratory committee in May to gauge his electoral prospects and begin fundraising. After conducting internal polling, Russell concluded that there was a path to victory, even though other Democrats jumped in the race.
Happening tonight — State Sens. Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson and Dana Young, along with former House Speaker Will Weatherford and others are hosting a fundraising reception for Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper in his bid for Senate District 16; VIP reception begins at 5:30 p.m., general reception at 6 p.m. at the University Club of Tampa Harbour Room, 201 N. Franklin St., Suite 3800 in Tampa.
“Matt Nye announces run for HD 52 seat against Thad Altman” via Brevard Times — Nye organized the Brevard Tea Parties and currently serves as the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, the national parent organization of the local Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida, which he founded back in 2008. “The citizens of Florida deserve a state representative who will work to reduce, not expand, government, and who will not use the position as leverage for personal gain,” Nye said. “From his earliest days on the County Commission to his most recent position as a State Representative … Altman has a consistent record of placing the interests of lobbyists and special interests above those of his constituents. When one is drawing a $160K annual salary for a do-nothing position without qualifications one is obligated to carry water for other folks whose votes are needed to keep your own bread buttered.” Nye is a citizen watchdog and outspoken critic of government spending and waste.
Matt Spritz campaign kickoff — Spritz launches his 2018 bid in Palm Beach County’s HD 89 beginning 6:30 p.m. at Biergarten Boca Raton, 309 Via De Palmas, #90, in Boca Raton.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Rick Scott calls for more funds to secure Jewish Day schools across Florida” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Scott announced that he would propose $1 million in funding to boost security for Jewish Day Schools across the Sunshine State. That’s up from last year when $654,000 was used for security at these schools. “Every Florida student deserves to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and comfortable setting,” Scott said. “After Florida’s Jewish community received hateful threats last year, we saw the need to provide additional security so the children that attend Jewish Day Schools can learn without having to worry about feeling threatened. While last year’s investment will make a huge difference, we must continue to do more. I look forward to working with the Legislature to provide this important funding and will continue to work with our federal partners and members of Florida’s Jewish community to ensure the safety of families and students.”
“Richard Corcoran says ‘enough is enough’ in new video” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Call it the House of Representatives’ Greatest Hits — so far. House Speaker Corcoran took to YouTube Monday to highlight his chamber’s work in last week’s first legislative committee week. An enthusiastic Corcoran, sporting a blue blazer-no tie look, sat in front of a bookcase stuffed with Florida Statute books, a miniature Liberty Bell, and an “It CAN Be Done” sign. “We hit the ground running,” he said, jabbing his finger in the air.
Click on the image below to watch the video.
“Bob Cortes heads for Puerto Rico on relief mission organized through Speaker’s office” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Cortes went to Puerto Rico to oversee a disaster relief effort arranged by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and coordinated by him and other members of the Seminole County Legislative Caucus. Cortes is overseeing the delivery of about four tons of supplies headed for the hard-hit eastern part of the island commonwealth. Puerto Rico is his family home, where he still has numerous family members struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation … Cortes expressed hope to get supplies through to some of the 3.5 million people who lost so much, most still without power, many without running water, and all struggling. He also expects to meet with officials there, possibly including Gov. Ricardo Rossello, to talk about future cooperative efforts between Florida and Puerto Rico.
“Danny Burgess announces veterans legislation” via Florida Politics — Burgess announced he filed a trio of veterans bills for the 2018 Legislative Session to address mental health and licensing issues. “I believe our most solemn responsibility as a state is to serve those who have served us,” said Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, in a statement. “Veterans are Florida’s VIPs, and these bills together constitute its own Veterans Improvement Package (VIP) that will drastically improve the lives of veterans all throughout Florida. I am eager to discuss these critical pieces of legislation and will work tirelessly to see them pass in the 2018 Session.”
“Ben Diamond files bill to ban LGBT discrimination” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — Diamond filed the Competitive Workforce Act to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Florida law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital status or disability. State Rep. Rene Plasencia will co-sponsor the bill. The Competitive Workforce Act is supported by Florida Competes, a coalition of nine Fortune 500 companies and more than 450 small businesses from across the state, Diamond said. “Florida businesses are strong supporters of this bill,” Diamond said. “Our businesses recognize that we must update our state’s civil rights laws so we can compete in recruiting top talent to our state. Most importantly, this bill affirms the basic human rights of our LGBT community. In Florida, it should be illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Look for Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican, to file legislation today to allow “true self-driving vehicles in Florida by updating the sections of the motor vehicle laws that require or presume there is a human driver behind the wheel.”
“Don’t fear the debate” — In a commitment to openness and transparency, the House Democratic Caucus is providing a rundown of bills that have been placed on the agenda in House committees. As of Monday, October 16, 16 bills have been placed on committee agendas in the Florida House. Of those, 10 are sponsored by Republicans, 3 are sponsored by Democrats, and 3 bills have bipartisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 62.5% of the bills that have been considered are Republican bills, 18.75% are Democratic, and 18.75% are bipartisan.
“Former House page director also facing embezzlement charge” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The former director of the Florida House page program was convicted in federal court last month of attempting to entice a minor. Now Michael Chmielewski is facing charges he embezzled money from the program … accused of using his state-issued debit card to pay for out-of-town trips, an Amazon.com membership, Comcast bills and other unauthorized purchases to bilk more than $5,300 out of the account. He was charged with organized scheme to defraud in April and has pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in the federal case in February. Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators identified 149 total charges and cash withdrawals made starting in June 2015 and ending in January, just before Chmielewski was nabbed in connection with a weeklong child sex sting.
Constitution Revision Commission, Rules Committee meets — The full Florida Constitution Revision Commission will meet after a meeting of its Rules and Administration Committee. Committee meets at 11 a.m., followed by the whole CRC meeting at 2 p.m. Committee meet in Room 401 Senate Office Building; Commission meets in the Senate Chambers.
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— STORMS —
“Power in Puerto Rico: Only 30 percent will be restored this month, governor says” via CNN — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he plans to restore power to 95 percent of the island’s energy grid by December after Hurricane Maria devastated the infrastructure … As of Sunday, 85 percent of the island still had no electricity. Rosselló set a goal to restore power by Dec. 15. “This is an aggressive agenda, but we cannot be soft of passive in the face of Puerto Rico’s challenges,” Rosselló said. “We are going to need all hands on deck.” Rosselló said his goal is to have 30 percent of the island’s power restored by the end of the month. Then, the target would be to restore 50 percent by Nov. 15 and 80 percent by Dec. 1. Authorities had estimated it could take them between six months to a year to restore power.
“50,000 line up outside Tropical Park seeking post-hurricane food assistance” via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald — “We’ve been dealing with about 10,000 people a day,” said Ofelia Martinez, the Miami site manager for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). “But when we opened the doors this morning, the police told us there were already 50,000 people waiting outside.” The Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program, as the program is formally known, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and operated by DCF, is designed for people in 48 counties across the state who aren’t ordinarily eligible for food stamps but suffered losses during Hurricane Irma last month. It opened up shop in Miami-Dade and Broward counties Wednesday and drew steadily bigger crowds through its Sunday finale. The throngs were so large and rowdy Saturday that five of the distribution points closed down early in the day — in some cases, before serving even a single client. DCF said Sunday they would be holding more in-person sign-ups in the future, but a spokeswoman would not specify when the agency would announce dates and locations.
“Farmers may get loans to help with Irma damage” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida farmers in 44 counties may be eligible for federal loans to help cover damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced. Still, Florida might have to wait months for broader federal assistance to the agriculture industry, which sustained more than $2.5 billion in losses from the storm. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue notified Gov. Scott that the federal agency determined that Florida had sufficient production loss to warrant a “secretarial natural disaster designation” for most of the peninsula. The designation makes farmers eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency programs, including emergency loans, Perdue wrote in a letter to Scott. Farmers have eight months to apply for the loans.
“3 appeals for hurricane aid pending in Florida since 2004” via The Associated Press — Dozens of requests for reimbursement from FEMA are still pending, including at least three cases in Florida pending for over a decade. The Escambia County School District and the Community Action Program Committee, a nonprofit organization in Pensacola offering utility and education assistance to low-income families, each have multiple projects that followed Hurricane Ivan in 2004 still being reviewed by FEMA. Also still under review: work completed by the Archdiocese of Miami after Hurricane Katrina hit the state in 2005 on its way to the Gulf Coast.
“Hundreds of boats removed after Irma” via the News Service of Florida — More than 850 vessels impacted by Hurricane Irma have been removed from state waters, the U.S. Coast Guard announced. The majority of the 858 boats that have been removed were in the Florida Keys, where 637 vessels have been taken out of the water. The Coast Guard said the boat owners themselves had removed many of the boats … A total of 19 ships have been removed from Miami-area waters, while 160 have been taken out of waters from Collier County to north of St. Petersburg. In the Northeast, 42 boats have been removed, and Coast Guard crews were overseeing the removal of a 55-foot recreational fishing vessel at Fort George Island Marina in Jacksonville.
“’She’s not breathing’: 911 calls capture chaos at Hollywood nursing home” via Megan O’Matz and Rafael Olmeda of the Orlando Sentinel — After a court hearing, the city immediately released nine calls regarding the incident. Some portions were redacted to protect the names of patients and callers. The times of the calls are not noted. They show the chaos that quickly engulfed the nursing home as patient after patient experienced difficulties. The nursing home’s staff seemed stressed and had difficulty relaying basic information, including the nursing home’s phone number, address and ages of the patients. “Oh my God, this is crazy,” a staffer says while trying to locate the age of a patient in respiratory failure. “I’m trying to load up the computer. The computer is slow. I’m downstairs, but the patient is upstairs with the nurse. So kind of bear with me.” At least one of the calls was made while paramedics were already in the building, tending to another resident.
“How the Florida Keys are coming back to life” via Nick Madigan of The New York Times — Some of that resilience comes through in hand-painted signs posted along the Overseas Highway: “Can’t Drown a Conch,” says one in Key Largo, using the term by which some Keys residents are known. “After a Hurricane Comes a Rainbow,” says another sign nearby. The reality is infinitely harsher, even weeks after the storm. On both sides of the road that connects the Keys, which reopened to regular traffic Oct. 1, large piles of debris — palm trees, pieces of houses, vehicles and boats, soaked couches and mattresses, mangled refrigerators and kitchen cabinets — still await removal by the rumbling excavators, backhoes and trucks that have become ubiquitous in the area. In some marinas, lopsided, half-sunk cabin cruisers and sailboats stick out of the shallow water, their fate left to insurance adjusters and salvagers. On the positive side, electrical power is back in most places, while the Overseas Highway and its 42 bridges are open all the way to Key West, the island chain’s crown jewel and the primary draw for most of the people who visit the Keys — 3.8 million last year. Although pummeled by winds and left flooded in some parts, the town was largely spared the kind of damage seen only a few miles to the northeast, and all but three of its hotels — the Inn at Key West, the Bayside Inn & Suites and the Parrot Key Hotel & Resort — have reopened.
— STATEWIDE —
Rick Scott, Cabinet to meet — The agenda for Scott and his Cabinet includes a possible $5.7 million deal on more than 2,500 acres of land in Okeechobee County. Meeting begins 8 a.m. at the Cabinet meeting room in the Florida Capitol.
“Some want to change Florida education — by amending the state constitution” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — One Floridian wants the Bible and prayer in the state’s public schools. Another seeks to prevent state funds from going to any institution that promotes religion. One resident calls for all school district superintendents to be appointed, while another says they should all be elected. A third would do away with the job altogether. These were among the more than 700 public proposals for changing Florida’s Constitution … dozens of them weighing in on how the education system should change. The input is part of the process for the Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to consider what amendments — if any — to send to voters. At least one person has proposed a state-level charter authorizer, an idea the state Supreme Court struck down in 2010. And the Florida Charter School Alliance has called for added protections to charters.
Just off embargo — Florida voters oppose banning sale of assault weapons, UNF poll finds — A new poll of registered voters in Duval County found 52 percent of registered voters oppose prohibiting the sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, with 42 percent supporting the prohibition. Registered Republicans were 55 percent opposed, with a little under half of registered Democrats opposing a prohibition of assault weapon sales (47 percent). The poll, by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory (PORL) at the University of North Florida of registered voters in the state of Florida, is similar to results of a PORL poll conducted earlier this spring. When asked about open carry for licensed permit holders, 54 percent oppose and only 40 percent support. Political parties are more divided on open carry as 69 percent of registered Democrats oppose, but registered Republicans who responded support open carry legislation at 57 percent. For concealed carry on college campuses, the opposition is high at 59 percent, with 37 percent in support. The overall resistance has decreased slightly since the spring results, in which 64 percent opposed and 35 percent supported concealed carry at colleges and universities. Large portions of registered Democrats (78 percent) oppose this policy, while a slight majority (54 percent) of registered Republicans support concealed carry at colleges and universities.
“2010 oil spill funds remain elusive for coastal counties” via John Henderson of the Panama City News-Herald — Jim Muller’s typical day is full of details. Muller is one of the several players in a governmental waiting game. Seven years after the BP oil spill, Bay County — along with others on the Gulf Coast — has yet to receive millions of dollars promised to the Panhandle for projects to restore the region’s economy and environment. Bay County falls into two pots of money: that from the RESTORE Act, which includes all 23 Gulf Coast counties in Florida, and Triumph Gulf Coast, which includes only eight Panhandle counties most affected by the spill. The RESTORE Act provides about $308 million through the Gulf Consortium, with $231 million of that slated for the eight counties most affected. That includes Bay County, which anticipates $34.9 million (15 percent) over 15 years. The other 15 coastal counties will split about $77 million over 15 years via the consortium. Triumph Gulf Coast, a separate entity, is slated for $1.5 billion through 2033 for the eight disproportionately affected counties. Locally, county officials are frustrated, noting they have done everything in their power to bring the money here, but they can’t beat the ever-changing bureaucratic system full of red tape involving the federal government.
State of emergency declared for white nationalist speech via The Associated Press — Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech that white nationalist Richard Spencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida. Scott warned in an executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus this Thursday. Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August. Scott’s order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The governor said he is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed.
“New Florida driver’s license, ID card expanding statewide” via Florida Politics — The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) said it was expanding its issuance of a new, more secure Florida driver’s license and ID card. Through December, DHSMV will add the more than 200 remaining service centers to the list of offices offering the new credential throughout Florida, according to a news release … The new design includes nearly double the fraud protection measures compared to the previous design, the department said, and provides the most secure over-the-counter credential on the market today. Security features on the new credential include redundant data, ultraviolet (UV) ink and optically variable features.
“Supreme Court sets arguments in red-light camera battle” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in February in a battle about a red-light camera program in the city of Aventura that could have broader implications across the state. The court issued an order that scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 7. The case, like others, focuses on whether Aventura gave too much authority to a private company that contracted to help run the red-light camera program. The 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld the Aventura program in a decision involving a motorist who received a ticket for improperly turning right at a red light. In challenging the ticket, motorist Luis Torres Jimenez contended the city had illegally given “unfettered discretion” to a red-light camera company to review images of potential violations and to print and send out citations.
Pre-reveal appeal lives on via Florida Politics — An appellate court has combined appeals in the case over a lower court’s decision that entertainment devices known as “pre-reveal” games are in fact illegal slot machines. The 1st District Court of Appeal consolidated appeals over the games, played in bars and taverns and resembling slots. Gator Coin II — the Jacksonville company that distributes the games — is pressing forward, dockets show. Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper had reversed his previous ruling, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.” That was after further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games — as its maker prefers to call them — actually play. The case got started, records show, when Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”
“’Just a joke’: Students’ social media threats are disrupting schools” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News-Journal — There have been two threats in as many weeks at Navarre High School, and a third in Fort Walton Beach, as three different students made threats on social media that prompted their peers and peers’ parents to call the schools concerned. A student posted to Instagram referencing certain cliques, saying “I hope you all have fun in hell because I’m going to drag you down with me.” That student was suspended as a result of the post. “I think people take it more seriously now than ever, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, and it’s justly so,” said Jason Weeks, Santa Rosa County School District director of high schools. Weeks said threats over social media are increasing and they disrupt the education system. “Sometimes, not always, it escalates into a major disruption on campus,” Weeks said. “Students start checking out of school, parents call, it’s logical, but the parents are scared.”
“Brightline derails, causing extensive damage; ‘definitive’ cause in question” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — A Brightline train derailed during testing earlier this year, causing more than $400,000 of damage, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The derailment occurred At 5 p.m. Feb. 11 as one of Brightline’s five passenger trains returned to the railroad’s West Palm Beach maintenance facility, according to the incident report … The train had just finished performing signal tests … As the train entered the yard, the locomotive truck — the part of the train that supports the locomotive and provides propulsion and braking — derailed, taking two axles off the track. Damages to the train were about $408,000; damage to the track was negligible, according to Brightline. In its report to the agency, Brightline said the February derailment was caused by irregular track alignment, but noted its assessment is not “definitive.” The railroad said it found a few “anomalies” that could have been contributing factors.
“In the shadow of Disney, living life on the margins” via Richard Luscombe of The Guardian — These days, Tommy Delgado barely notices the helicopter flights full of affluent tourists coming and going just across the street from the Magic Castle Inn and Suites. Delgado and his family are part of Kissimmee’s hidden homeless, those living paycheck to paycheck, or in many cases on no paycheck at all, in cramped and semi-permanent accommodation in cheap motels behind the neon-lit, tourist attraction-laden facade of Highway 192, the pathway to Disney. Most will never be able to afford the price of theme park tickets, far less a helicopter ride above it. It is a dark existence brought vividly into focus by director Sean Baker in his gritty movie The Florida Project, which tells of the day-to-day struggles of two residents of the Magic Castle, a six-year-old live wire named Moonee and her mom Halley, a single mother who turns to prostitution when waitressing falls through … the scenes of poverty, depression and deprivation it conveys, and the juxtaposition of living in the direct shadow of Disney World, the self-proclaimed happiest place on earth, are all too real to Delgado. He has been a stay-at-home dad to his toddler, Mason, since leaving his last job as a trucker three months ago. “Some of the stuff in the movie, this really does happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who live in these rooms with their kids; there’s a lot of drug addicts that need help, they don’t get that help here.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
Karen Pence to visit Tallahassee this week — Second Lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, will visit Tallahassee Wednesday to announce her art therapy initiative. Her first stop is the campus of Florida State University, which is home to a nationally acclaimed art-therapy graduate education program. After that, she will head to Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center on Mahan Drive. There, Mrs. Pence will meet with an art therapist and meet with clients who will share their experiences with art therapy.
“Florida developer with ties to Jared Kushner’s family gives big to Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nicholas A. Mastroianni II gave Trump Victory $100,000 on Sept. 27 and $50,000 Aug. 31, reports show. Of that, the maximum $5,400 went to Trump’s re-election campaign, which raised $10 million from July through September. The rest goes to the Republican National Committee and an array of state parties. Another major donor to Trump victory was Thomas Peterffy, a billionaire from Palm Beach who is CEO of Interactive Brokers. He gave $250,000 on Sept. 11, FEC records show. Mastroianni is chairman and CEO of U.S. Immigration Fund, a significant player in the controversial EB-5 program, which has been a favorite of the super-rich in China, and offers visas for $500,000 in U.S. investment. (Nicholas Mastroianni III is president of U.S. Immigration Fund and has been linked to Jared Kushner.) According to reports, Mastroianni connected the Kushner family with a Beijing immigration company Qiaowai as it sought to finance various projects.
“Bob Menendez faces critical moment in bribery trial” via John Bresnahan and Matt Friedman of POLITICO — U.S. District Judge William Walls stunned federal prosecutors last week when he expressed doubts over whether the Justice Department’s bribery charges against Menendez should move forward in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision throwing out the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. That ruling impacted the legal definition of bribery, including the “string of benefits” theory used by prosecutors to charge Menendez. Walls openly questioned whether Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen, had engaged in a bribery scheme in light of the McDonnell ruling. But Walls said he would allow the jury to decide whether Menendez made false statements when he failed to report gifts from Melgen on his annual financial disclosure form filed with the Senate. “I know the prosecution had a heyday before McDonnell, and now they have a doomsday after McDonnell,” Walls said.
“Vern Buchanan glad to see DHS adopt his proposal to screen visa applicants’ social media” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Back in December 2015, U.S. Rep. Buchanan teamed up with U.S. Sen. John McCain to offer a bill ensuring the federal government screens the social media of everyone who applies for a visa to visit the United States. Pointing to reports noting the terrorists behind the San Bernardino attacks posted messages in support of Islamic jihad on Facebook, Buchanan urged the Obama White House to show more leadership in monitoring social media. Since that time, Buchanan has continued calling for the federal government to monitor the social media posts of foreigners visiting the U.S. Last September, Buchanan showcased his proposal in the aftermath of accused terrorist Ahmad Rahami whose social media posts included links to videos supporting Islamic terrorism and jihad. Rahami is accused of being responsible for bombs which injured more than 30 people. With DHS announcing it will start screening the social media posts of international visitors this week, Buchanan welcomed the news. “Checking social media is standard practice for thousands of employers.” Buchanan said Monday. “We need to make sure the individuals entering the U.S. are not here to harm Americans.”
“Florida TV tax fight taken to U.S. Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Pointing to “protectionism,” a major satellite-television company is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a constitutional challenge to a Florida law that sets different tax rates for cable and satellite TV services. The long-running battle focuses on the state’s communications-services tax, which is 4.92 percent on the sale of cable services and 9.07 percent on the sale of satellite-TV services. Dish Network contends the different tax rates are a form of protectionism that violates the “dormant” Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars states from discriminating against interstate commerce. “In particular, it forbids a state from taxing or regulating differently on the basis of where a good is produced or a service is performed,” said the Dish Network petition … “That’s exactly what the unequal Florida tax does. It puts a heavier duty on pay-TV programming that is assembled and delivered without using massive infrastructure within the state.” But the Florida Supreme Court, which sided in April with the state Department of Revenue and the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, rejected the notion that cable was an “in state” interest that was being protected by the law.
— OPINIONS —
“Melissa Larkin-Skinner: State resources are needed to address the opioid epidemic” via Florida Politics — Our state legislature has an opportunity right now to enhance its response to this growing epidemic by increasing funding for prevention and treatment programs. This is an opportunity that we must take to ensure a healthy future for all of Florida for generations to come … No one is immune from this crisis. We have an opportunity in front of us to set a national example for the proper response to opioid addiction, and we must take it. The Florida legislature should allocate funds to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. This will help individuals on their personal paths to recovery and put our state on the path to economic recovery from funds that are now being allocated to additional spending in the wake of the epidemic.
— MOVEMENTS —
Appointed — William Snyder, A.J. “Tony” Smith and Robert Hicks to the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council; Rabbi Yosef Weinstock and Rabbi Pinchas Taylor to the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council.
Good read about Deirdre Macnab via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend — The 2010 election … marked the beginning of the league’s emergence as one of the most influential interest groups in Florida politics. Following the Fair Districts campaign and litigation, the league supported a campaign to pass a constitutional amendment funding land preservation and another to defeat an amendment giving the state’s big utilities more control over the future of solar power. It helped defeat legislation to expand gun rights in places such as college campuses. And it’s now pushing to prevent Scott from appointing three Supreme Court justices on his final day in office … The transformation is largely the work of one person: Macnab, a 61-year-old former marketing exec who occasionally shows up at public events dressed as Susan B. Anthony.
“Personnel note: Elizabeth Boyd named state’s Deputy CFO” via Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Monday announced that the Department of Financial Services’ longtime legislative affairs director, Elizabeth Boyd, has been promoted to Deputy Chief Financial Officer. In this new role, Elizabeth will oversee the Department’s legislative affairs, research and planning, cabinet and communications offices, as well as the Division of Consumer Services and the Division of Unclaimed Property, according to a news release. “For six years, Elizabeth has advanced the Department’s legislative priorities and secured great success on initiatives important to enhancing the lives of all Floridians,” Patronis said in a statement. “Her expansive knowledge on insurance, finance and regulatory matters, as well as a broad understanding of the legislative process, makes her well-suited to lead our Department in this capacity.”
Florida Capital Group announces new board members — The holding company for Florida Capital Bank announced that Ander Crenshaw and Buck Jones had joined the board of directors as of Sept. 27 … Crenshaw, a banker, attorney and politician, is a Jacksonville native who served as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 4th Congressional District from 2001 to 2017 … Jones serves as CFO of Financial Information Technologies (Fintech) in Tampa. His financial career spans more than 40 years in roles such as founder, partner-in-charge and vice president at several finance-focused companies across the country … He now serves as Chairman of the Audit Committee, and Crenshaw serves on the Credit Committee … “Both men mirror our ambitions and harbor the experience needed to continue growing Florida Capital Bank through responsive and comprehensive solutions designed to best serve our customers,” said W. Andrew Krusen Jr., Florida Capital Group’s chairman.
— ALOE —
“Gas prices falling across Florida in aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — On average, Floridians paid $2.47 per gallon Sunday, down from $2.54 a week before. While that average stood 22 cents higher than where it stood last year, in the aftermath of the hurricanes impacting Florida and oil production, last month, drivers in the Sunshine State paid, on average, more than $2.70 per gallon. Miami had the most expensive gas in the state with an average of $2.62 per gallon followed by Bacon Raton at $2.61 per gallon and Fort Lauderdale at $2.56 per gallon. The Tampa Bay market had the least expensive gas in the state with motorists paying $2.34 per gallon followed by Orlando at $2.37 per gallon and Fort Myers and Cape Coral at $2.40. The Tampa Bay and Orlando markets saw a drop of 10 cents per gallon over the past week. Drivers in Punta Gorda experienced a drop of 9 cents per gallon in the past week. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said he expected prices to continue to drop across the Sunshine State.
“Stone crab season off to solid start in Southwest Florida” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News — “We didn’t set the world on fire, but we did all right,” said Patty Kirk, with Kirk’s Fish Co. Hurricane Irma had little effect on the amount of stone crabs hauled in, said Kelly Kirk, Patty’s daughter and fellow owner. “All the fishermen said the crabs looked healthy and were moving around,” she said. “It’s a very good thing.” Sunday marked the official opening of stone crab season, letting fishermen haul up their traps in hopes of a good catch. Some people worried that their local seafood favorite wouldn’t make it to their dinner plates after Irma plowed through Southwest Florida more than a month ago. Goodland, a small coastal town south of Marco Island, was hit hard by the storm but rebounded quickly, Kirk said. Several of the Kirk fishing boats were setting traps Oct. 5, the semi-official opening of stone crab season. If Kirk’s Fisheries is anything to go by, there shouldn’t be worry of immediate claw shortages.
“Epcot announces narrators for candlelight processional” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Disney has announced this year’s celebrity narrators for the 2017 Candlelight Processional, which include Disney legend Kurt Russell, who has grown up in Disney films from the 1960s through this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Other big-time celebrities who agreed to read the Christmas story are gold- and silver-medal-winning gymnast Laurie Hernandez, daytime television host Pat Sajak and Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The processional is at 5, 6:45, and 8:15 p.m. nightly at the America Gardens Theatre. Dinner packages, available on select nights, include a meal and a guaranteed seat for one of the performances.
Happy birthday to Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, Mark Hollis, former Rep. Scott Randolph, and Ray Seaman.