Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
In case you thought the biggest clash in Florida this past Thanksgiving break played out on the college football field, think again.
In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Associated Industries of Florida announced a star-studded legal team to take on Proposal 23, which has been proposed in the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).
The legal team includes a host of Gunster attorneys well-versed in Florida’s environmental laws, and former Florida Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell.
Along with AIF, the Florida Chamber also recently sent a letter to CRC commissioners highlighting the threat Proposal 23 would pose against Florida businesses. The letter warns that the proposal could impose “opaque demands on Florida’s sustainable growth” and strongly urges the commissioners to oppose it.
In a process where these business groups sometimes draw a line in the sand and oppose each other in the scapital, it’s notable that both business groups are united behind ensuring the proposal’s demise. It’s a whole lot of muscle to defeat a proposal that would certainly have an unwelcome impact on Florida’s business climate.
The groups cite the proposal’s vague language establishing a citizen’s right to a “clean and healthful” environment. If adopted, anyone, including non-Floridians, would be able to “enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations, as provided by law.”
Both the Chamber and AIF predict the amendment, if adopted, would lead to millions of dollars in litigation costs for Florida businesses. Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson warned, “The creation of legal liability contained in this proposal is far too expansive, which could lead to out-of-state billionaires with agendas bringing damaging lawsuits against community consensus projects.”
AIF also argues Florida law already has existing avenues for protecting clean air and water. In a statement, AIF President Tom Feeney said, “This amendment circumvents existing avenues to address concerns over air and water quality and instead encourages frivolous lawsuits, which would inevitably drive up business costs and threaten future economic development and expansion in Florida.”
Florida’s business community is no stranger to environmental fights. In 2010, the Florida Chamber joined other business groups in defeating the Amendment 4 “hometown democracy” amendment. The measure was rejected by a whopping 67 percent of Florida voters. The Florida Chamber, builders, and Realtors spent nearly $6 million to defeat the amendment.
Florida’s business community is hoping Proposal 23 will never make onto the ballot. Judging by the force with which they are opposing it, that is shaping up to be a safe bet.
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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
Morning must-read – “Florida lawmaker’s former company used Manafort to pitch Russian-developed technology to U.S. government” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – House freshman Don Hahnfeldt ran a company in the early 2000s that hired Manafort — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief who was recently indicted — to try to sell Russian-developed nuclear containment foam to the U.S. Energy Department. At one point, a Manafort-directed company bought more than 2 million shares of company stock. The story of the now-defunct, Virginia-based EuroTech Ltd. doesn’t just involve Russia — it’s also ingrained with other obscure plot elements worthy of the silver screen, including officials with known ties to the mafia and an untraceable cash flow from Cayman Island investors, according to thousands of pages of regulatory filings.
“Tax exemption proposed for nursing home generators” via the News Service of Florida — The proposal (HB 803), filed last week by Rep. Rick Roth of Loxahatchee, came as Gov. Scott‘s administration moves forward with generator requirements for nursing homes and assisted living facilities after the deaths of residents of a Broward County nursing home that lost its air conditioning system in Hurricane Irma. The exemption would be limited to a maximum of $30,000 for each facility. The bill also would provide an exemption for generators used by farms.
“Lawmakers seek tax credit for baby-changing tables” via the News Service of Florida — The proposal (HB 809), filed last week by Democratic Rep. Nicholas Duran of Miami, is similar to a bill (SB 236), filed in September by Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat from Plantation. Under the proposal, a restaurant that purchases and installs a baby-changing table could receive a tax credit equal to the cost of the table or $300, whichever is less.
— STATEWIDE —
“DACA’s economic hit to Florida looms large, proponents say” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics –Proponents of the Obama-era program say its demise could mean a $1.5 billion blow to Florida’s economy. If Congress does not pass a replacement for DACA by March — a top priority for Democrats before the year’s end — the Trump administration will begin to wither away protections that shield some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from immediate deportation, including an estimated 372,000 in Florida. According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, 87 percent of DACA recipients in the state are in the workforce. If the program goes away, so would their legal work permits and the tax dollars they contribute to government coffers.
“Florida paid millions settling harassment cases” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Taxpayers have paid more than $11 million in the past 30 years to settle more than 300 cases that alleged that state workers were sexually harassed, or forced to work in a hostile work environment. Amounts ranged in size from a $5,500 payment to a Florida State University student who alleged harassment from a supervisor to a $1.3 million payment to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by nurses who worked at state prisons. The report detailed only one payment made to settle an allegation made by a legislative employee, back in the 90s. But the report does not include a $47,000 secret payment made to a legislative analyst in 1988 to keep her from filing a lawsuit against a powerful state legislator. That case never went to court, but became public after a grand jury released details, which ultimately resulted in a reprimand against the legislator. Since 1987 the state has paid more than $74 million to settle nearly 2,100 employment related claims including the more than 300 sexual harassment claims.
“Rick Scott visits Tampa to push his education plan” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — Scott made a brief stop at Tampa’s Mitchell Elementary School, seeking to generate additional support for his “record” education funding plan in advance of the looming 2018 legislative session … Scott talked about his effort to increase per-student spending by $200, as part of a plan to bring Florida’s public education budget to its highest dollar amount ever. He encouraged the small audience of school district and other area education leaders, as well as those watching news reports, to do their part if they back his ideas. “We’ve got to make sure we’re all focused,” Scott said. “Talk to your House and Senate members. I can advocate for this budget, but they actually pass the budget.”
When a governor holds a news conference to tout an education spending plan already declared dead by Fla. House is it like a tree falling in the forest & no one around to hear it?
— Gary Fineout (@fineout) November 27, 2017
Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will visit Kissimmee to highlight money for K-12 education investments in his proposed budget. News conference begins 2 p.m. at Kissimmee Elementary School, 3700 W. Donegan Ave. in Kissimmee.
“Textbook challenges grow in Florida under new law” via Terry Spencer of the Associated Press – Under a bill passed by the Legislature this year, any district resident — regardless of whether they have a child in school — can now challenge material as pornographic, biased, inaccurate or a violation of state law and get a hearing before an outside mediator. The mediator advises the local school board, whose decision is final. Previously, challenges could only be made by parents to the school or district. There was also no mediator and fewer mandates. Districts must now also post online a list of all new books and material by grade level to make monitoring easier. The Florida Citizens’ Alliance, a conservative group, pushed for the change, arguing that many districts ignored challenges or heard them with stacked committees, and didn’t consider residents who don’t have children in the schools. Members say boards rejected complaints over sexually explicit novels like Toni Morrison‘s “The Bluest Eyes” being issued to middle school students. They also don’t believe evolution and global warming should be taught without students hearing counterarguments.
“Constitution revision would allow retroactive criminal law changes” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Constitution Revision Commission Proposal 20 would repeal Article X, section 9 of the Florida Constitution, which dates back to 1885. Called the “Savings Clause,” the law prohibits the Florida Legislature from applying reduced sentencing requirements and other criminal law changes to people who committed crimes before the new laws went into effect. An example is CS/HB 135, which eliminated the requirement for minimum prison sentences for people convicted of aggravated assault under various circumstances, including with firearms. With the Savings Clause, anyone who committed such assaults before CS/HB 135 went into effect still faced the old minimum sentences, even if they were charged and tried long after the bill was enacted. A repeal of the cause, as proposed by CRC Proposal 20, could allow those defendants to face sentences under the lighter guidelines of the new law.
“Medical malpractice records battle brews” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – Voters more than decade ago overwhelmingly agreed that what are known as “adverse medical-incident reports” should be made available to patients, but now there’s a move underway in Tallahassee to limit access to them. Tim Cerio, a member of the state Constitution Revision Commission and former general counsel to Gov. Scott, has filed a proposal that would amend the state Constitution to place limits on what types of records could be used in lawsuits filed against doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. The proposal would make it clear that access to adverse medical-incident reports does not “abrogate attorney-client communications or work product privileges for patients, health care providers, or health care facilities.” Moreover, the amendment would exclude from adverse incident reports documents that are “protected by federal laws or regulations relating to patient safety quality improvement.” Cerio said he doesn’t want to thwart the public’s access to the records, which play a key role in medical malpractice cases, and said he is considering altering his proposal to narrow it.
Happening today — The Florida Chamber Foundation holds its inaugural Less Poverty, Through More Prosperity Summit, where Florida’s business community will lead discussions around understanding poverty in Florida and how businesses can help create economic prosperity for all Floridians … Event begins 10:30 a.m. at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel, N. Ashley Dr. in Tampa. The summit will also be live streamed at FloridaChamber.com/
Rest in peace – “Jefferson County Sheriff David Hobbs passes away” via Sascha Cordner of WFSU – In addition to his role as sheriff, Hobbs has served in various law enforcement roles, including the Florida Highway Patrol for 11 years. He’s been Jefferson County Sheriff since 2004 and has been re-elected since. Attorney General Bondi released a statement, following Hobbs’ death. She says she remembers the former U.S. Marine Corps vet as a devoted lawman and a friend.
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Bill Nelson for governor? Nah” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — In announcing he would not run for governor as a Democrat, John Morgan said Sen. Nelson should. But that’s not going to happen. “Nelson is running for re-election,” a spokesman flatly says. Morgan suggested Nelson would be “happier” as governor and is the Democrats’ best chance. “In the Senate he accomplishes nothing,” he told POLITICO. “As governor, he could have a legacy.” Currently, Nelson is the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee and second on Armed Services.
“Florida GOP to appeal $110,000 fine tied to campaign finances” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — The head of the Republican Party of Florida, Blaise Ingoglia, is appealing $110,000 in fines the party accrued for not filing state campaign finance reports on time. The reports are tied to the House District 116 Special Election, which state Rep. Daniel Perez won with the help of $30,950 in contributions from the party. The party is appealing the hefty fine because it claims it did not receive any notification from the Division of Elections that it had not yet filed its report when it was due Sept. 22. A hearing on this matter will be at the Capitol on Nov. 28.
Union County Sheriff endorses Ashley Moody for AG — Union County Sheriff Brad Whitehead is backing Moody for Attorney General. “Like me, Ashley Moody follows a long family tradition in service to the rule of law,” Whitehead said. “Her background as a prosecutor and judge and her passion for justice set her apart. Florida needs the continued leadership of a strong conservative experienced Attorney General and I am honored to support Ashley Moody.”
“With or without Ron DeSantis, race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District will heat up” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – What does 2018 hold? Even with the seat not open at this point, jockeying — and pushback — have begun for candidates. The field of potential candidates in the post-DeSantis era includes a number of compelling names on both sides of the aisle. One potential GOP hopeful, former Special Forces Lt. Mike Waltz, already is taking heat from a St. Augustine Republican activist named Bob Smith. Waltz … has an impressive resume with data points that took him far beyond Northeast Florida, including stints as Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior adviser for South Asia and Counterterrorism and director for Afghanistan policy within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. An email Smith sent this weekend eschews those details, instead spotlighting a video that Waltz made during the 2016 presidential primaries for the American Future Fund. Waltz excoriated President Donald Trump, who did not serve in the military, for “never having served this country a day in his life.” “All Donald Trump has served is himself,” Waltz said. “Don’t let Donald Trump fool you. Look into his record, and stop Trump now.”
“In FEC lawsuit, David Rivera blames straw candidate for not disclosing him as donor” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Rivera says that he did nothing wrong as part of a 2012 campaign finance scheme, blaming lies by the straw candidate federal prosecutors say he helped prop up. The protracted legal saga that has led to jail time for two people is now the subject of an FEC lawsuit that says Rivera illegally paid vendors to help Democratic congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad in his failed primary run against Joe Garcia. The scheme involved recruiting Sternad as a straw candidate used to weaken Garcia, a longtime political rival of Rivera. Garcia went on to win the race. The FEC filed its lawsuit after federal prosecutors declined to file charges against Rivera. His two co-conspirators — Sternad and GOP operative Ana Alliegro — both served jail time as part of the scheme. In its lawsuit, the FEC identified nearly $70,000 that Rivera secretly gave to Sternad’s campaign.
“Nancy Ann Texeira to lead Senate GOP fundraising team” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — Senate President-designate Bill Galvano announced Monday that Texeira would oversee next year’s fundraising efforts for the main committee supporting GOP state Senate campaigns. Texeira had done consulting work in the past for the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee including during the last quarter when it raised more than $3.2 million. “Nancy has consulted on both sides of the aisle, which gives her unique perspective and experience that I believe will help us meet and exceed our fundraising goals,” Galvano said.
“Terry Power will challenge Jamie Grant in HD 64 primary” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — Power, a 59-year-old Oldsmar-based certified financial planner, is launching a 2018 primary challenge against House District 64 incumbent Grant. “I’m running for the Florida House because I am the best candidate in the race to serve the residents of our District,” the Republican said in a statement released Sunday. “I’ll let the voters decide how corrupt, unethical, and ineffective my primary opponent is, as a legislator, and whether he needs to find another line of work outside of Tallahassee.” Grant was cleared in 2014 of ethics violations regarding his involvement in a project to bring high-tech jobs to a rural Florida county.
Happening Wednesday — The Sarasota County Medical Society hosts a fundraiser for state Rep. Julio Gonzalez from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Sarasota County Medical Society headquarters, 4153 Clark Road in Sarasota.
— A WARNING FOR DEMS EYEING SD 24 —
After the somewhat surprising success of Rick Kriseman, who edged out former Mayor Rick Baker, Florida Democrats are starting to think a “blue wave” will give them a legitimate shot at Jeff Brandes, the incumbent Republican in SD 24.
They may have to rethink that strategy … first, a few facts.
— Republicans make up 38 percent of SD 24, and hold a five-point advantage over Democrats (33 percent), while ‘Other’ and no-party-affiliated voters make up the rest (29 percent). Republicans make up 38 percent of SD 24, and hold a five-point advantage over Democrats (33 percent), while ‘Other’ and no-party-affiliated voters make up the rest (29 percent).
— Republicans hold a 5 percent registration advantage over Democrats in SD 24 but outperform them by much higher numbers. In the 2014 Governor’s race, Republicans turned out +9 over Democrats, giving Brandes a victory by nearly 14 percent.
— As a family man with four young children (including a newly adopted daughter), an Iraq War Veteran, businessman and Republican who leans libertarian, Brandes appeals to a Republican base as a fiscal conservative. He is a staunch believer in limited government and Second Amendment rights.
— But even more importantly, especially to a broader electorate: Brandes isn’t afraid to shake things up in Tallahassee.
— OPINIONS —
“Michelle Dennard: Growing apprenticeships will strengthen economy” via Florida Politics — Yet we know we still have construction companies in need of skilled workers, hospitals in need of health care technicians and manufacturers in need of production technicians. The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® data series found more than 46,000 health care openings in Florida in September. In the same month, we had more than 64,000 construction jobs open, 42,000 information technology positions available, and more than 9,000 manufacturing jobs open. Apprenticeships are a great way to get tomorrow’s talent ready for the demand we know is here, and constantly growing. We believe this renewed focus and the fresh insights of industry, education and workforce experts will further strengthen and diversify Florida’s already robust economy. The collaboration and commitment to build and grow strong apprenticeship programs throughout our state is a testament to Florida’s leadership on a critical national issue.
— MOVEMENTS —
Personnel note: FWC Executive Director Nick Wiley leaving agency — Wiley announced Monday he was taking a new position as Chief Conservation Officer of Ducks Unlimited, a national organization “with a mission to conserve, restore and manage wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl as well as other wildlife and people.” He’ll start in January. Wiley’s departure follows that of Brian Yablonski, FWC Chairman, who is also starting a new job in January as Executive Director of the Property and Environment Research Center, a national conservation research institute in Bozeman, Montana. Wiley, a Certified Wildlife Biologist, began his service in 1987 to the then-named Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. “A big part of my heart will always be in Florida with my FWC family,” he said in a statement. “I know this agency will continue to do great things for fish and wildlife conservation and the people of Florida.”
Appointed — Patrick Kilbane and Giselle Carson to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority; Sheldon Suga and Stephanie Scuderi to the Florida Keys Community College District board of trustees.
Appointed – Judge Michael Scott Williams to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Cynthia Sullivan Oster to the Hillsborough County Court.
— ALOE —
“Florida State student who died after frat party remembered” via The Associated Press – Some 500 people attended a memorial service for a Florida State University fraternity pledge whose death after a party led to the indefinite interim suspension of all Greek life on campus. Family, friends and former classmates attended the service at Pompano Beach High School to honor 20-year-old Andrew Coffey. Coffee attended a Nov. 3 off-campus party and was found unresponsive hours later. Authorities still haven’t determined his cause of death but believe alcohol may have been involved. After his death, FSU president John Thrashersuspended Greek activity, saying time is needed to “review and reflect on the loss of a young life and to implement serious changes.”
“Florida gas prices dip slightly over Thanksgiving” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — According to a report from AAA released, gas prices across the Sunshine State averaged $2.46 per gallon. The national average stood at $2.51 per gallon. At the start of last week, the average price stood at $2.49 per gallon. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said he expected gas prices to increase slightly in Florida over the next week as OPEC countries and other oil producing nations meet to discuss reducing their output by 1.8 million barrels a day. The West Palm Beach-Boca Raton market has the most expensive gas in Florida with motorists paying an average of $2.58 per gallon followed by Miami, where the average stood at $2.56 per gallon, and Homosassa Springs which had an average of $2.54 per gallon. Pensacola had the least expensive gas at $2.37 per gallon followed by Jacksonville where the average was $2.40 per gallon.
Check-A-Charity before donating this Giving Tuesday, Adam Putnam says — The state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services is offering tips to help Floridians make the most of their charitable contributions in advance of Giving Tuesday, nationally celebrated the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. That includes using the department’s Check-A-Charity tool at FloridaConsumerHelp.com to view a charity’s financial information, how contributions are being spent and current registration status. Residents also can call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352). Putnam’s department is the state’s clearinghouse for consumer complaints, protection and information. “All charities soliciting within Florida, excluding religious, educational, political and governmental agencies, are required to register and file financial information with the department,” according to a Monday news release. “If a professional solicitor is requesting a donation on behalf of a charity, the solicitor also must be registered with the department and should be able to provide their registration number.”
Happy birthday to Rebecaa De La Rosa and Joel Searby.