Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 1.25.18
State capitol building of Florida located in Tallahassee

florida state capitol building

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.

Just a reminder: Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit has another high-profile murder case, and a local Florida House member is again demanding the governor get involved, so proceed accordingly.

That could have been the summary message of the latest letter from the office of Gov. Rick Scott to Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala, if the two were on friendly terms.

Of course they’re not, after last year’s nasty court battles over each other’s power to decide how to prosecute under Florida’s capital punishment law.

Daniel Nordby, Scott’s general counsel, fired off a missive Tuesday to Ayala pointing out that the recent alleged murder-for-hire-gone-bad slaying of Janice Zengotita-Torres in Osceola County was “a senseless and horrific crime.”

Last week, Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs—arguably Ayala’s harshest critic—urged Scott to strip the case from Ayala, as Scott had done with 30 previous cases.

That was before the Florida Supreme Court told her in August that she must consider death penalty prosecutions, and she agreed to do so. Nordby’s letter reminded Ayala that the governor reserves that right.

“You have previously committed that your office will consider all potential sentences for capital murder prosecutions as required by Florida law,” he wrote. “Please confirm that this statement continues to reflect your position.”

On Wednesday, Ayala replied in a statement: “My position and process has already been made clear; if there are any changes I will make it known publicly.”

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Rick Scott hammers state Senate’s proposed cuts to VISIT FLORIDA” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Senate released a proposed spending plan that funded the mostly taxpayer-funded tourism marketing agency at $50 million, a drop from the entity’s $76 million current year budget. “I completely oppose the Florida Senate’s proposal to cut VISIT FLORIDA’s budget by a third,” Scott said in a statement. Scott has requested $100 million for VISIT FLORIDA, a number with which members in both chambers have concerns. The House proposed funding VISIT FLORIDA aat $76 million, which is current year funding, but has not been a vocal advocate of Scott’s request for a $24 million increase. State Senate budget chief Rob Bradley defended his chamber’s proposal, and in the process, took a shot at the House’s position change. “We are pleased that our friends in the House are no longer seeking to abolish Visit Florida and are now joining the Senate in support for VISIT FLORIDA,” Bradley said.

More than $600 million? That’s a key difference between Florida House and Senate higher education plans” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education introduced its budget proposal, calling for a 6.6 percent increase in spending for colleges and universities, or $383 million. Meanwhile, the House’s proposal proposes to cut $217 million from universities alone with about a $45 million net reduction for colleges. Sen. Bill Galvano, who chairs the subcommittee, said the extent of the House cuts caught him off guard. “The level of cuts proposed by the House was more than I expected,” he said. “It just means there’s a bigger delta that has to be negotiated going forward into conference. Because these plans or so different, higher education will likely become a major bargaining chip in the weeks to come if lawmakers want to approve a state budget by the time regular session ends March 9.

Jose Oliva favors local control of gambling – When asked Wednesday by reporters whether gambling should be allowed “county by county,” the House Speaker-designate said, “I do think so.” Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, said “it’s a moral issue for a lot of people. And there are statistical reasons to believe casinos create a certain amount of social — let’s not call them ills — but social aspects that some communities collectively don’t want.” He’s the lead negotiator for the chamber this year on producing a comprehensive gambling bill; Senate President-designate Bill Galvano is representing his side of the rotunda on the issue. Gambling is “at least in the tradition of the way we’ve treated other things that we consider, or the population considers, a moral dilemma,” Oliva added. He said the House has “no set timeline” for producing its own gambling bill this Session. “You have all of these interested groups that want to make sure that their sides are taken care of. The one thing we do know: You can’t take care of all things for everyone. But we’ll try to get something accomplished that tries to give some predictability.”

Jerusalem bill sparks Palestine-Israel conflict, assertion of terrorist threat” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Heat of the Israel-Palestinian conflict flared at the Florida House Government Accountability Committee when a pro-Palestine student charged that a resolution supporting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a threat to peace, and then the bill’s sponsor interpreted her comments as apparent threats of terrorism. “There will be no true peace and safety for any of your constituents as long as resolutions like this … are passed,” declared Reem Zaitoon, a Florida State University student who identified herself as an organizer for the FSU Students for Justice in Palestine. “I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anything as offensive as what we just heard,” state Rep. Randy Fine, one of the sponsors of House Resolution 1027, replied after Zaitoon concluded her testimony. “If I heard right, the previous speaker basically threatened our constituents with terrorism if we voted for this bill,” he added. Reached afterward, Zaitoon insisted she made no such threat. She said she was referring to peace and safety for Palestinian-Americans and Palestinian immigrants living in Florida, constituents in the lawmakers’ districts.

Senate proposes $500K to tackle backlog of clemency cases” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – As Florida voters prepare to decide whether to automatically restore the voting rights of about 1.5 million felons, the state is grappling with how to handle its lengthy backlog of clemency cases. More than 10,000 felons are currently waiting for their applications to be reviewed by the Florida Commission on Offender Review, which has to sort through the case before it can head to Gov. Rick Scott for final approval. On Wednesday, the Senate panel that oversees the commission’s budget proposed $500,000 in funding to help alleviate its workload with more staff.

Insurance bill with rideshare carve-out clears committee via LobbyTools – The House Banking and Insurance Committee OK’d a wide-sweeping insurance bill (HB 465) that makes changes to multiple types of insurance coverage, including auto and property. The bill revises auto insurance laws to allow passenger motor vehicle liability insurers to exclude coverage of transportation network company (TNC) activities, such as trips taken driving for Uber or Lyft. Also in the bill is a requirement that an insurer must notify a policyholder of changes to a policy upon a notice of renewal, as opposed to a separate document. The bill has two more committees to pass through before it can be heard on the House floor.

Legislature may expand Miami needle exchange” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – House and Senate health care-panels approved bills that would allow hospitals, clinics, medical schools and substance-abuse treatment programs to begin offering needle-and-syringe exchange programs to try to reduce the spread of diseases such as HIV, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated cost nearly $380,000 to treat over a lifetime. The House Health Quality Subcommittee tagged on an amendment to HB 579 that makes clear the Florida Department of Health wouldn’t “establish” the programs and only would be informed when they are created. The bills would expand the initial “Infectious Disease Elimination Act” or IDEA, which was passed by the Legislature in 2016 and authorized the University of Miami to operate a needle-and-syringe exchange pilot program in Miami-Dade.

Fantasy sports bill moves along in House” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The House panel charged with handling gambling issues unanimously OK’d a bill to exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation. The House Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee cleared the measure (HB 223) with little debate on Tuesday. One representative, Republican Randy Fine of Brevard County, voted for the bill despite his belief that fantasy sports play was “gambling.” Not so, said bill sponsor Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican. Playing fantasy sports is no different than a “fishing tournament” or a “dog show,” suggesting one needs talent to win. Around 3 million Floridians say they play some sort of fantasy sports.

Craft distillers get early win in Senatevia Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Let the spirit(s) flow: A Senate panel OK’d a measure to raise the amount of booze a Florida craft distillery can produce per year and still be considered “craft.” The bill (SB 296) by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes bumps that cap from 75,000 gallons to 250,000 gallons—a more than 233 percent increase. The distinction isn’t just a matter of pride: “Distilleries pay an annual $4,000 license tax and craft distilleries pay $1,000,” a staff analysis explained.

Members of the Consumer Protection Coalition and the Florida Association of Insurance Agents march from downtown Tallahassee to the state Capitol to raise awareness about Assignment of Benefits abuse and its negative impact on consumers. Photo: Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Senate, House ready to release full budget at the end of the week – Now that all the Senate appropriations subcommittees have rolled out their policy-specific budgets, Senate Budget Chairman Rob Bradley says the upper chamber is ready to release its full budget by the end of the week. Bradley said the full budget and implementing bills will be available online on Friday, on the same day the House is also expected to roll out its full budget. Gov. Rick Scott has already expressed opposition to the Senate’s proposal to cut VISIT Florida’s budget by $50 million. Senate President Joe Negron said it is very early on in the budget process and denied that the proposal was “deliberate posturing.” He said it was a reflection of House priorities.

House ready to pass measure to cap tax hikes – The House is set to vote Thursday on a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it more difficult to raise fees and taxes. It would require future fee and tax increases to be OK’d by a two-thirds ‘supermajority’ vote of both chambers of the Legislature. The proposal (HJR 7001) is supported by Gov. Scott. If approved this Session, it would be placed on the November 2018 statewide ballot. A Senate version (SJR 1742), however, has not yet had a hearing. But Rep. Evan Jenne, the House Democrats’ policy chair, said at a caucus meeting earlier in the day that his members were on “both sides of the issue.”

’CON’ repeal, direct primary care teed up in House” via the News Service of Florida – After repeatedly pursuing the ideas in recent years, the House could vote to repeal the “certificate of need” regulatory process for hospitals and encourage the use of direct primary-care agreements between doctors and patients. Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, sponsoring the repeal bill (HB 27), said getting rid of the so-called CON process could help spur competition in the hospital industry and improve patient access to care. But Rep. John Cortesraised a concern that new hospitals in affluent areas could “cherry pick” patients, hurting older hospitals that serve large numbers of indigent patients. The direct primary-care bill, meanwhile, involves agreements in which patients or their employers would make regular payments to doctors to provide primary-care services. The bill (HB 37), filed by Rep. Danny Burgess would make clear that the agreements are not insurance and would not be regulated under insurance laws.

Senate considers price transparency for boating services – At 10 a.m., the Senate Transportation Committee will hear SB 664, from Tampa Republican Dana Young, which seeks to give boaters added price transparency when they seek water towing and other services. Current law allows marine towing and salvage companies to overcharge for emergency services, sometimes amounting to more than the total value of the boat. If passed, salvage or towing companies must give written cost estimates, if requested, for work costing more than $500.

Governors Club Thursday buffet menu – The Governors Club buffet menu takes an Asian flair with mixed green salad with assorted dressings; Asian tuna salad; sweet and sour cabbage and bok choy salad; chicken wonton soup; General Tsao’s chicken; sweet-and-sour pork; fried rice; stir-fried vegetables; crispy fish (catfish); orange ginger and horseradish sauce; tapioca pudding for dessert.


Rick Scott’s office raps Broward’s ‘unacceptable’ ballot destruction in Wasserman Schultz race” via Marc Caputo – Gov. Scott’s office rapped Broward County’s election supervisor for giving an “insufficient response” to an official inquiry concerning her apparently “unacceptable” decision to destroy a congressional race’s paper ballots that were the subject of litigation. The ballots in question had been cast in the 2016 South Florida Democratic primary between Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and challenger Tim Canova, who later asked to inspect the paper trail because he was concerned about election integrity. Canova finally filed suit against Broward County’s election supervisor, Brenda Snipes, when he felt his public request to inspect a select number of ballots was not being honored in timely fashion. In the middle of the suit, POLITICO first reported, Snipes’ office destroyed the paper ballots but said it made electronic copies of them.

Facing a housing discrimination case backlog, state commission warned of suspension” via Ana Ceballos via Florida Politics – The Florida commission tasked with investigating housing discrimination cases is in peril of losing some operational funding if it does not quickly handle its work backlog of more than 300 cases. A federal policy change has strained the commission’s resources since 2015, prompting a backlog that as of last December amounts to 319 cases . HUD has already warned the commission that if it doesn’t alleviate the backlog, it will be suspended. This week, the House budget subcommittee that oversees the commission’s budget proposed $277,160 to help it tackle its backlog with “some manpower.” The money would fund five temporary positions through the state Department of Management Services. Measures that would help the commission have yet to move in the state Legislature.

Judge rules medical marijuana law may allow patients to grow own drug” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida – A Leon County Circuit Court judge ruled that the state’s medical marijuana law could arguably allow high-profile strip club owner Joe Redner to grow the plant on his own, and referred his lawsuit against the Florida Department of Health for trial. In an order, Judge Karen Gievers wrote that the medical marijuana law passed by the Legislature in 2014 could be interpreted to allow Redner the right to possess a live plant. “The statutory definitions from 2014 make clear that the plaintiff’s interpretation of the meaning of words used is supported, and justified, and the plaintiff has clearly stated a cause of action for declaratory and injunctive relief under Florida’s Constitution,” Gievers wrote. Gievers dismissed an argument made by a DOH lawyer at a Dec. 20 hearing.

‘Like’ this: Supreme Court will soon be on Facebook Live” via Florida Politics – There will be more ways to watch the Florida Supreme Court when it revs up Facebook Live broadcasts this week. The court will use the social media broadcasting service to televise Thursday’s Florida Bar Pro Bono Awards honoring lawyers who donate services to people in need, court spokesman Craig Waters said in a Tuesday email. After that, Facebook Live “will be used permanently for all oral arguments, starting with February’s, in addition to the live and archived video already available on the Court’s 20-year-old video website portal called Gavel to Gavel,” he added … The move makes it “one of the first courts in the world to use social media for official live video,” Waters said.

What Mark Puente is reading –Richard Corcoran orders House probe of Tampa Bay job placement programs” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran ordered a House probe of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, taxpayer-funded programs accused of paying excessive salaries to their top executive and inflating job placement figures in reports filed with Gov. Scott’s administration. Corcoran sent a letter to the agency’s chief executive, Edward Peachey, requesting all of CareerSource’s employment contracts, changes in Peachey’s salary, records of the actual number of people trained for jobs, annual audits, supporting documentation for state funding requests and email messages. Corcoran specified that he wants “unredacted” documents, which means CareerSource can’t buy time to remove confidential information such as employees’ Social Security numbers. The House will redact confidential information, Corcoran said. The investigation will be conducted by the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, chaired by Rep., Larry Metz.Four Tampa Bay lawmakers, all Republicans, are on the committee: Reps. Larry AhernLawrence McClureKathleen Peters and Jake Raburn.

Privacy expert says CRC proposal could lead to government intrusion in Floridians’ lives” via Florida Politics – A former lawmaker who was one of the authors wrote of the state’s 1980 privacy amendment said Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) proposal 22 could unravel privacy protections guaranteed to Floridians. Jon Mills said the measure could lead to legislative regulation or government intrusion in areas such as marriage, sexual relationships, parenting, personal activities in dwellings, or personal medical decisions. “Florida’s Privacy Amendment offers Floridians a shield to protect themselves in a future in which technology and government intrusions are not predictable and frankly, completely unknowable,” Mills wrote. “If Florida’s Privacy Amendment did not extend protections to personal autonomy and decision making, there is no doubt that Florida citizens would be subject to a higher possibility of governmental intrusion in their private lives.” The privacy proposal, sponsored by CRC Commissioner John Stemberger, is a priority for anti-abortion activists, who want the constitutional change in order to undo a 1989 Florida Supreme Court decision that struck down a state law that required parental consent before a minor could get an abortion. Organizations including the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida NOW, ACLU of Florida, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Anti-Defamation League of Florida have lined up against the proposal.


Gwen Graham throws a party – The former Tallahassee congresswoman and Democratic candidate for governor celebrates her birthday (we won’t say which one) next Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the Waterworks bar and restaurant, 1133 Thomasville Road in Tallahassee. It’s 5:30-7 p.m. This is a ticketed event. For tickets, go to

Jimmy Patronis names Paige Davis as campaign managerPatronis’ campaign for CFO announced that Davis, formerly the finance director for the CFO’s political committee, Treasure Florida, will serve as the manager of the CFO’s campaign. “Paige is a talented political operative and I am excited to have her leading my campaign,” Patronis said in a statement. “Her years of fundraising experience will also continue to benefit our team as we gain more and more support in 2018. We are all committed to working relentlessly from now until Election Day. We’re not taking one dollar or one minute for granted.” Davis, originally of Jacksonville, previously served as the finance director of Greg Gianforte’s Montana gubernatorial campaign in 2016. Before that, Davis served as the Major Donor and Regional Finance Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C. from 2013 to 2015. In that role she oversaw NRCC fundraising in 24 states and supported U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s events. She also previously served as the Finance Director for the Utah Republican Party in 2011-12.

AG candidates lassoed for Federalist’s Disney confab” via Jim Turner and Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida – Democrat Ryan Torrens and Republican Rep. Jay Fant, Rep. Frank White and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody have agreed to participate in a panel discussion Feb. 3 as part of the annual Federalist Society Florida Chapters Conference at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Report in Lake Buena Vista … State Reps. Ross Spano and Sean Shaw have also been invited, but have yet to reply … Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, appointed by Gov. Scott to the Cabinet post last year and seeking re-election to the job, will appear at the conference Feb. 2.

Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll endorses Baxter Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics – Troutman, the grandson of the late Ben Hill Griffin, noted citrus baron and a former Democratic candidate for governor, announced he was officially opening his campaign for the post. Carroll joined Troutman last week, introducing him to voters in Duval, Nassau and Clay counties. “Now, more than ever, we need an Agriculture Commissioner who will look out for Florida’s farmers, ranchers and consumers. I’ve known Baxter Troutman for 15 years,” she said in an emailed statement from the campaign. “His lifetime in the agriculture industry and his record of job creation make him undoubtedly the most qualified man for the job. He’s running to help the community he grew up in.”

Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter entering Agriculture Commissioner race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Porter, 58, is the second Democrat into the field, following South Florida environmentalist David Walker … Porter will kick off his campaign in Miami-Dade County in February, followed by immediate campaign stops planned in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee. Last fall Porter was elected to his third two-year term as mayor of Homestead, and previously had served one term as vice mayor and 10 years on the Homestead City Council. Porter is owner and president of World Wide Supply Solutions in Homestead, a supplier of building materials, which he founded 12 years ago. The announcement said Porter has “worked with both farm laborers and growers during many tough times including floods, hurricanes, frost warnings, and fruit-fly infestation. He has been encouraged by the support that has been pledged to him by many community leaders for his run for commissioner of agriculture and he will unveil his leadership team during the announcement tour.”

Republican District 39 candidates Jennifer Spath, Josie Tomkow square off in Bartow debate” via Mike Ferguson of the Ledger of Lakeland – Spath, 34, and Tomkow, 22, engaged in a debate in a mostly full commission boardroom. Despite a recent campaign flyer from Spath that slammed Tomkow as inexperienced and never being a resident of the district, the discourse was civil, but Tomkow did appear to reference it during her closing remarks. “When someone says I didn’t grow up here in Polk County, they’re lying,” she said. The controversy early on was in regard to Ricky Shirah, the Democratic challenger, being present for the debate. County Commissioner George Lindsey, a “proud Republican,” told the crowd that although the room was reserved by the Republican Party of Polk County, it was a public space. Both candidates said they were proponents of the “Greenbelt Law,” which taxes agricultural properties on use rather than development value. The two candidates had different stances on the proposed law that would allow homeowners to claim an additional $25,000 exemption on properties valued above $100,000. “Any opportunity to decrease taxes, we should,” Tomkow said.

New HD 72 polling puts James Buchanan, Margaret good in virtual tie” via Florida Politics – With about three weeks left in the race, Buchanan enjoys a three-point lead over attorney Good, 49 to 46 percent, in a St. Pete Polls survey of likely HD 72 voters conducted for Florida Politics Jan. 23. But since Buchanan’s lead is within the poll’s 3.7 percent margin of error, the race is a statistical tie. As expected, the race is falling mainly within partisan lines, with Good taking more the 81 percent of Democrats; Buchanan takes about the same number of Republicans (80 percent). Independents are breaking toward Good 54 to 34 percent. As for gender, Good does slightly better among males (49 to 47 percent), while Buchanan takes a more significant lead with women (51 to 44 percent). Buchanan also has a slight advantage with white voters (50 to 46 percent) and a 10-point lead with black voters (50 to 40 percent). He also does well with voters aged 30 to 49 (53 to 41 percent) and the elderly (54 to 42 percent for voters aged 70 and up). Good takes the lead with voters aged 50 to 69 (52 to 43 percent).

New candidates file to run against Chuck Clemons, Mike La Rosa” via Florida Politics – In Clemons’ Gainesville-based House District 21, Shreyas Amol Kumar Jethwani made it a two-way Democratic primary race to unseat the freshman lawmaker after he joined Jason Haeseler, who filed Jan. 11. In HD 42, La Rosa picked up a GOP challenger in Bienvenido Valentin Jr., which could set up a Republican Primary for the district if Valentin qualifies for the ballot. Valentin joins fellow challengers Barbara Cady, a Democrat, and Lonzell Ivory Jr., who has no party affiliation, in the race.

Second Democrat files in HD 29 to challenge Scott Plakon” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Darryl Block, a lawyer and former social worker from Lake Mary, has filed to challenge incumbent state Rep. Plakon of Longwood. Block, 37, a lawyer with Ownby Law who serves as a mediator and was a social worker, pledged to bring a sense of compassion, purpose and optimism to Florida politics. In a news release issued by his campaign, he said he has committed to helping the most vulnerable, including war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and citizens suffering with mental illnesses, individuals he said he had helped professionally through his work.

Is he or isn’t he? Website suggests campaign run, but Dustin Daniels won’t say” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Daniels, chief of staff to Tallahassee mayor and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, has launched an internet page that has all the makings of a campaign website, minus the political disclaimer. There’s a professional-looking, full-faced, color portrait photo. A short, moving bio of his humble beginnings and redemption after hints of trouble with the law. A glowing educational and work resume. A sponsored post on Facebook ensuring it was at the top of news feeds. “My name is Dustin Daniels, and I’m not supposed to be here. But I am. And I take that responsibility seriously every single day,” Daniels said in the Facebook post. When a reporter told him the site looked like he was planning to run for office, Daniels said, “Was that your takeaway? Interesting.”


Nancy Pelosi to join Debbie Wasserman Schultz for FAU town hall via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, returns to Florida later this week when she joins fellow Rep. Wasserman Schultz and others for a town hall on the recently enacted GOP tax reform plan. The event is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25 at the Student Union-House Chambers on the Florida Atlantic University campus in Boca Raton. President Donald Trump signed the $1.5 trillion rewrite of the tax code last month. It’s considered the biggest legislative victory for Trump and congressional Republicans since he took over the White House just over a year ago, and the lobbying for public opinion approval is well underway. Recent polls suggest that more Americans are supporting the plan than when it was being debated and voted on late last year.

Spotted – Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, along with other mayors from across Florida, in a meeting with at the White House with President Trump to discuss infrastructure, the economy and the state’s opioid crisis. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman wasn’t invited.


Charlie Crist: Protecting Floridians access to medical marijuana issue of compassion” via Florida Politics – Amendment 2 received the support of 71 percent of voters – surpassing the 60 percent needed for passage. Do you know how hard it is to get more than 70 percent of the people to agree on anything these days? But Floridians understood that medical marijuana is vital to alleviating the pain and suffering caused by serious illness, affecting people in their families, their friends and neighbors. That’s why it was so disturbing when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would rescind policies enacted under the Obama administration that discouraged enforcement of federal marijuana laws in states like Florida that legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. It is an attack on states’ rights, undermining the will of 6.5 million Floridians, and putting at risk the ability of sick children and adults to receive the medical care they need to get well and reduce suffering. I strongly oppose this change, and I want to tell you why … It would be cruel for the Trump administration to take this legal option of healing away from the hundreds of thousands of people – perhaps millions – that medical marijuana helps across the country. As a person of faith, to me, this is an issue of compassion. The Bible teaches us to recognize the suffering of others and act to help, similar to the “Golden Rule” that I try to live by every day.

Joe Henderson: Save us from spring forward, fall back” via Florida Politics – The ritual of spring forward, fall back has always seemed stupid to me. Just settle on a single time schedule and stick with it — daylight saving, Eastern Standard, whatever. The bouncing back and forth every few months is a pain in the neck, not to mention disorienting. You have to change all the clocks and watches in your house, car, and wherever. Schedules and sleep patterns get disrupted during the changeovers, and for what? That’s why I’m hopeful about a ploy from state Sen. Greg Steube to get Florida united under Eastern Standard Time, and then to observe daylight saving time all year. He attached an amendment to SB 585 to bring the western part of Florida, which is currently in the Central time zone, in line with the rest of the state. I wouldn’t raise a hissy fit if we just stuck with standard time. I’d prefer to stay under daylight saving, but it’s no big deal either way. I’ll also admit that those first few days when we “fall back” and it gets dark around 5 p.m. are really depressing. That’s not we need in the Sunshine State.

Terry Thomas: Having children direct their own attorneys could put them in harm’s way” via Florida Politics – I’m writing to voice my opposition to a measure now before the Constitutional Revision Commission: To amend the state constitution to establish the right of all abused, neglected and abandoned children to their own attorneys in dependency court. After more than 40 years in law enforcement — including 26 as the statewide coordinator of FDLE’s Crimes Against Children Program — I’ve seen too many cases where children and adolescents had their own attorneys, with the result that the dependency court could not adequately protect the child. Why? Because the truth is that children love their parents, and the vast majority of my child victims — no matter how badly they’d been abused — wanted to go home even if it placed them in danger. I’ve had kids say to me, ‘I love my dad. I just wish he’d stop doing what he’s doing.” And so, when you put an attorney in the midst of this, it’s not in the best interests of kids as far as I’m concerned. The truth is that abused children already have access to attorneys … he Guardian ad Litem Program acts as the judge’s eyes and ears, providing all the information they believe the judge needs to make decisions that are in the child’s best interest. I have investigated too many child homicides to allow dependent children to take still more risks. Vote NO on Proposal 40, and let the courts do their jobs.


James Madison Institute honors National School Choice Week As part of National School Choice Week, The James Madison Institute will be celebrating Dr. J. Stanley Marshall Day at noon Thursday to “raise awareness of all education options and advance non-partisan educational policy solutions for students,” a press release said. A luncheon will include a program addressing the current state and future direction of educational choice in Florida. Republican Reps. Michael Bileca and Byron Donalds have been invited to attend, as has T. Willard Fair, President of the Greater Miami Urban League. That’s at JMI’s offices in The Columns, 100 N. Duval St., Tallahassee.


Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: Carnegie Learning

Adam Blalock, Hopping Green & Sams: Association of Florida Community Developers

Donovan Brown, Suskey Consulting: Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers

Rachel Cone, Southern Strategy Group: City of Orlando

Patsy Eccles: Children’s Comprehensive Care Center, Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind

Candice Ericks, TSE Consulting: The Florida Sunshine Entertainment Association, Life Insurance Settlement Association

Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida State Oriental Medical Association

Christopher Kise, Foley & Lardner: TIKD Holdings

Allison Liby-Schoonover, William Schuessler, Metz Husband & Daughton: Donate Life Florida

Jerry McDaniel, Southern Strategy Group: Jacksonville Multispecialty Group

Foyt Ralston, Capitol Advocates: Axiom, BVG Holdings, Liberty Wilderness Crossroads Camps


FDP gets a new spokeswoman Caroline Rowland is the new communications director for the Florida Democratic Party, replacing Johanna Cervone who left this month to work for the University of Miami. Rowland has background working as a TV reporter – most recently with News 13 in Orlando – and Democrats running for Congress. In 2016 she helped elect Congresswoman Val Demings in Florida’s 10th Congressional District and later worked in her congressional office as communications director. Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said she was “confident” in Rowland’s enthusiasm for the party, which will “help turn Florida blue in 2018.”

Melissa Joiner Ramba selected as Florida House trustee –The Florida Retail Federation Tuesday announced that Ramba, its Vice President of Government Affairs, was recently selected as a Trustee for the Florida House on Capitol Hill. The Florida House serves as Florida’s embassy in Washington D.C., and its primary mission is to provide educational, cultural, economic and social resources to showcase the state’s rich culture, heritage and diversity. Florida is the only state to have an “embassy” in the nation’s Capital. “Melissa has been a tremendous advocate on behalf of Florida’s retailers in Washington D.C. for a number of years, and her selection as a Trustee to the Florida House is well deserved,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “We’re proud of Melissa, and we look forward to the impact she’ll have in enhancing the Florida House’s mission of promoting Florida to a global audience.”

Sean Pittman now in charge of Orange Bowl – The Florida attorney and lobbyist is now president and chair of the Orange Bowl Committee for the 2018-2019 season. Pittman, a double graduate of Florida State University, is senior partner of Pittman Law Group in Tallahassee, Miami, and Palm Beach. “Through growing up in South Florida and then attending Florida State, I became very familiar with the Orange Bowl,” he said in a statement. “It’s truly an honor that my colleagues have put me in line to lead the Committee during this interesting time in college football,” Pittman added, noting that most committee members are based in South Florida. “I (was) the first person living outside of Miami to be elected president.” During his presidency, he will oversee the Orange Bowl Committee as it hosts the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl for the second time.

Appointed – Tyler Cathey to the 2nd District Court of Appeal Judicial Nominating Commission; Jennifer Shoaf Richardson to the 4th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Tara Tedrow to the 9th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Lydia Zbrzeznj to the 10th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Richard McChesneyMichael Puto and George Wallace to the 16th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission; Christina Sanabria to the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission.

Happy birthday to a man who is the very definition of raconteur, Gus Corbella. Also celebrating today are Sen. Aaron Bean and Beth Kennedy.

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.


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