Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
Some keep U.S. holidays on their calendars; others keep birthdays, anniversaries and other temporal signposts.
Those in the Process, let’s admit it, keep bill filing and other deadlines. And a big marker has arrived as a usual sign of impending Sine Die: The 50th Day rule.
(Though, with no allocations yet released, whether Sine Die happens as scheduled this year remains to be seen.)
In the Senate, “unless approved by the President, no committee shall meet after the fiftieth (50th) day of a regular session except the Rules Committee.”
For some, that’s a sigh of relief. For others, a surefire signal their bill isn’t getting heard.
“Better luck next year,” colleagues will say. “What did I pay you for?” clients will mumble.
For now, Parkland-related bills and the state budget conference process — whenever that starts — will start sucking more and more oxygen out of the legislative process.
Mind this story, from our Ana Ceballos: With two weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session, a package of Parkland bills “hijacked” a three-hour Senate Rules Committee meeting.
“There were 25 other bills on the agenda, mostly on their final committee stop, but (committee chair Lizbeth) Benacquisto said the committee would likely not get to hear them as the focus would be on the recently filed proposals.”
That’s the kind of development that strikes fear in the hearts of lobbyists. Keep your powder dry …
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @LearyReports: Interior Secretary [Ryan] Zinke maintains stance on Florida drilling, that moratorium in effect already and there’s widespread political opposition in the state. Sen. Bill Nelson, he says, should be thanking him, not criticizing.
— @MarcACaputo: National TV media already pivoting away from gun control. There’s Russia stuff to be mined and it’s easier to do pieces on Congress doing nothing rather than on what states like Florida are doing
— @RepTedDeutch: I’m heading back to Washington and ready to get to work. The voices of the Stoneman Douglas community matter; the voices of gun corporations do not. The ground is shifting, and the time for action is now.
— @AndrewGillum: It’s incredibly sad that Florida’s legislators refuse to listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ students. They want an assault weapons ban, and we all deserve one. #NeverAgain
— @GwenGraham: I told the NRA hell no during my first campaign and beat the gun lobby when they spent almost $300,000 against me. Running for governor, I’m proud to say @noNRAmoney because I’m ready to beat the gun lobby again in 2018. With YOUR help, we will pass common sense gun safety laws
— @Rob_Bradley: I support @FLGovScott’s order for an independent investigation into law enforcement’s actions in Parkland. Determine the facts then hold accountable those who are found to have failed in their duties. The victims and their families deserve answers and accountability. #NeverAgain
— @CarlosGSmith: FL GOP tripping over itself to demand accountability, suspensions, resignations, special committees, investigations, + more after Parkland. Don’t remember anything like this after Pulse! Why only now? Where was their outrage after FL’s LGBTQ community was ripped apart?
— @Wunulub: If you are a police officer and you think to yourself for even one second that you will not be able to run toward the gunfire … please quit now. We won’t be mad. Innocent lives depend on us to act #dontletthemdown
— @Fineout: In non-gun related Tally news: @BillGalvano maintains that a lot of “progress” was made on allocations over the weekend & he predicts that budget conference could be starting soon. Legislators have 8 days to wrap all work on a budget and end session on time
— @Phil_Lewis: 6 years ago on this date, #TrayvonMartin was killed. His legacy lives on.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Disney Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival — 1; Last day to take up Special Order Calendar — 6; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program termination begins — 6; Sine Die (maybe) — 10; St. Patrick’s Day — 18; March For Our Lives gun violence protest — 25; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 30; Easter — 33; NFL Draft begins — 56; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 66; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 85; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 115; Primary Election Day — 182; College Football opening weekend — 186; General Election Day — 252; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 350.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***
— THE VICTIMS —
“Citing ‘systemic failure of government,’ House launches Parkland probe” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — At the urging of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a legislative committee approved a formal investigation of how local governments responded before, during and after the Parkland mass shooting. If the full House approves, as expected, the House will issue subpoenas as soon as Wednesday to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward County School Board, Broward County government, city of Coral Springs and Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. But the committee, which is controlled by Republicans, rejected a request by a Democrat that it also subpoena records of the Department of Children and Families, an agency under the control of Gov. Rick Scott.
“Broward legislators call for ‘patience’ and ‘examination of facts’ on shooting before demanding suspensions” via The Miami Herald — Statement from several Broward legislators: … Broward County lawmakers ask for patience and a thorough examination of the facts and circumstances before anyone, at any level of government, is publicly scorned or accused of dereliction of duty. We have heard cries for the removal of the head of the FBI, the head of DCF, the Governor and even the Sheriff of Broward County before most of the facts and circumstances surrounding the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are even known … we understand that many in the political process are looking for solutions or someone to blame … What concerns us is that there are some who call for removals or suspensions simply to divert the focus of the efforts to protect our students away from the root common denominator of all mass shooting incidents — the use of military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines to murder large numbers of people … Raising the age to purchase an assault weapon from 18 to 21 is a no-brainer … but we need to do more … We must include in the debate limits or the elimination of these weapons going forward.
“Attorney: Deputy thought gunfire was from outside school” via Kelli Kennedy, Brendan Farrington and Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Scot Peterson has been called a coward and worse for failing to act during the massacre … The criticism intensified as President Donald Trump blasted the deputy and other officers who were there, saying they “weren’t exactly Medal of Honor winners.” Peterson’s attorney, issuing his first public statement about the attack, said it was “patently untrue” that the deputy failed to meet sheriff’s department standards or acted with cowardice at the scene of the Feb. 14 assault. He resigned after Sheriff Scott Israel said he felt sick to his stomach over his deputy’s failure to intervene. “Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need,” attorney Joseph DiRuzzo said in the statement.
Students at @VBHSNation in Mr. Boccia’s class came up with the idea of memorializing the victims at Stoneman Douglas High School with 17 empty desks. Throughout this week and next, they will be leaving messages and tokens of love at these desks on the senior patio. pic.twitter.com/ycLJgExXxz
— Indian River Schools (@IRCSchools) February 22, 2018
“Parkland shooting survivor Maddy Wilford, once in critical condition, is expected to make a ‘full recovery’” via Brian Ballou of the Sun-Sentinel — When Lt. Laz Ojeda of the Coral Springs Fire Department reached Maddy Wilford at Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, he thought she was dead. … Maddy had been shot three times and was barely clinging to life. One bullet pierced her chest, another her torso and the third traveled through her right arm. On Monday morning, Maddy’s arm was heavily bandaged, but her cheeks were rosy and she smiled. … “I’m Madeline Wilford,” she said, and then paused for about 15 seconds. “And I’d just like to say that I’m so grateful to be here.” … Maddy’s recovery after three surgeries, according the doctors, is remarkable. They expect her to make a full recovery and go back to school next week.
“Parkland student survivors to hold candlelight vigil at Capitol” via Jeffrey Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — About 50 Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors and family members will hold a candlelight vigil at the Capitol Tuesday evening for the 17 students and teachers slain on Valentine’s Day, organizers said. The “Light the Night” vigil will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Waller Park dolphin statue.
“Parkland shooting survivor urges spring break boycott of Florida” via Jennifer Sorentrue and Alexandra Clough of the Palm Beach Post — A survivor of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is urging that tourists boycott Florida during spring break to pressure state lawmakers to debate gun control in the final weeks of the legislative session. … David Hogg … asked spring break travelers to skip the Sunshine State this year and instead consider traveling to Puerto Rico, which was hit hard by hurricanes last year. “Let’s make a deal DO NOT come to Florida for spring break unless gun legislation is passed,” Hogg wrote to his 330,000 followers in a tweet … Hogg later urged vacationers to spend their spring break in Puerto Rico. “They could really use the economic support that the government has failed to provide,” he wrote in another tweet.
“Okaloosa GOP committeewoman apologizes for ‘crisis actors’ post” via Tom McLaughlin of the NWF Daily News — Sandra Atkinson said she recognizes now the post to her personal page helped perpetrate a cruel fiction about students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have chosen to speak out against gun violence in the wake of a Valentine’s Day shooting that took 17 lives. “The posts I’ve seen were so convincing. Even the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., liked a similar post. I, unfortunately, got fooled,” Atkinson said. “Maybe I was too quick to jump to conclusions.” Atkinson’s post, which showed a photo of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students with a group of smiling people, read, “Crisis actors and production team take a group selfie just before they have to go out and tell their heartwrenching stories on TV.” Atkinson added her own statement: “Crisis actors hired who didn’t even go to Broward County school.”
“Media companies sue for security videos from exterior of Stoneman Douglas building” via Paula McMahon of the Orlando Sentinel — The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald and CNN filed the lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court, citing Florida’s public records law. The lawsuit names the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the School Board of Broward County, as well as Sheriff Israel and Superintendent Robert Runcie, in their official roles, as defendants. The lawsuit seeks access to video from cameras outside the Parkland school on the day of the shooting and cites the “extreme public interest” in figuring out precisely what happened. Attorneys wrote that the shocking nature of the crime, which left 17 people dead and 16 injured, has sparked “fervent discussion about school safety, gun violence, and gun safety.”
“Investigators hunt through social media accounts of Nikolas Cruz” via Rafael Olmeda of the Sun-Sentinel — Detectives have filed more than a dozen search warrants hoping to get a better look at Nikolas Cruz’s social media activity in the months leading up to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. … The warrants are aimed at Instagram, Snapchat and Google, which owns YouTube. Cruz had multiple accounts on each platform, and investigators want to know what he was posting, whether he was telegraphing an intent to commit an act of violence, and what he was telling his friends. … The warrants show police are looking through cellphones, laptops, a personal computer and an Xbox owned by Cruz and seized in Palm Beach County. … Investigators are also seeking information from the ride-sharing service Uber, which Cruz reportedly used to travel to the high school the afternoon of the shooting. … The State Attorney’s Office filed a records request of its own Monday, asking the Broward Clerk of Courts to turn over any records of Baker Act mental health proceedings or restraining orders filed against Cruz.
— THE POLITICS —
“Trump on Florida: ‘I’d have run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon’” via Lauren Meier of Axios — Trump believes he would “run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” referencing the officer on-duty at Stoneman Douglas High School who allegedly stood outside of the school while a gunman killed 17 people earlier this month. “I really believe I would have,” he added, “you never know until you’re tested.” The president was speaking at a meeting with Governors at the White House and suggested — again — that teachers and school staff should be armed in schools. After the president opened the floor to suggestions, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington stood and objected, “We need a little less tweeting, a little more listening.”
“Trump campaign emails photo of Parkland survivor, asks for donations” via Devan Cole of CNN — The email contains a photo of 17-year-old Madeleine Wilford in a hospital bed surrounded by her family, Trump and the first lady. The president visited Wilford Feb. 16, two days after the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School … “The nation has turned its attention to the senseless school shooting in Parkland, Florida,” the email reads. “Trump is taking steps toward banning gun bump stocks and strengthening background checks for gun purchasers,” it says. “The president has made his intent very clear: ‘making our schools and our children safer will be our top priority.'” Near the end of the message, there’s a link to the campaign’s donations page.
“Trump to Gov. Scott: ‘Rick, please stand up. You’re doing a great job. Really great job.’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Trump, during a black-tie dinner, singled out Gov. Scott for doing a “really great job” and told a group of governors that guns and violence top his agenda. “I want to thank Governor Rick Scott of Florida. Rick, please stand up. You’re doing a great job. Really great job … And that will be one of the subjects. And I think we’ll make that first on our list, because we have to end our country of what’s happening with respect to that subject. So we’ll be talking about that and many other things.”
“Scott gets gun control makeover” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Scott broke with Trump over the question of gun-toting educators. He’s ticked off the NRA. Suddenly, he’s in good graces with the state teacher’s union, his longtime adversary. Scott’s reaction to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting is making Democrats wonder if they’re witnessing a broader general-election makeover — one that could make him a far more potent challenger to Sen. Bill Nelson … In his broad, $500 million proposal in reaction to the shooting, Scott — a governor who once signed every NRA gun bill he could — advocated for a gun-control measure that particularly stoked the powerful lobby’s ire: a requirement that buyers of rifles and shotguns be 21 years old … The reality is that Scott hasn’t actually moved very far on the issue of gun rights. The governor … never seriously considered an assault weapons ban. When such a ban was proposed Monday — Nelson and every major Democrat running for governor has called for it. … “Rick Scott gets a great headline but he isn’t giving up very much,” said Republican consultant Roger Stone.
“Ivanka Trump says arming teachers ‘needs to be discussed’” via Rebecca Morin of POLITICO Florida — White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump did not fully advocate arming educators — but didn’t break with her father, saying it’s “an idea that needs to be discussed.” … “Obviously, there would have to be an incredibly high standard for who would be able to bear arms in our school,” Ivanka Trump said in an interview with NBC News that aired during her trip to the closing ceremonies at the 2018 Winter Olympics.” But I think that there is no one solution to creating safety.” Trump didn’t break from her father though, and continued to say that qualified educators who are capable of carrying guns “is not a bad idea.”
Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Ted Deutch and John Rutherford join Derek Kilmer of Washington and Hal Rogers of Kentucky for a news conference at 3 p.m. at the House Triangle in Washington D.C. to talk about their bipartisan legislation titled “Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018.”
“Philip Levine and a thousand protesters descend on Capitol” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — An estimated crowd of 1,200 from all corners of the state had filed into buses and cars in the middle of the night to answer a call to be at the state Capitol by 11 a.m. and demand change. Republican leaders responded to the Valentine’s Day massacre at a high school with a package that seeks to arm teachers, make it easier to take someone into custody on suspicion of mental illness, and create a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases under most circumstances. But it was clear from last week’s protest organized by student survivors of the Parkland killings many want an assault weapons ban and began organizing. “Floridians are tired of seeing the lives of innocent people taken, the majority of people polled are for the banning of assault weapons,” said the Rev. Joe Parramore, of Florida Clergy United. “When is this body going to listen to their constituents?” Parramore was among the retirees, mothers, grandfathers and teenagers who answered Democratic gubernatorial candidate Levine’s call to meet him on the Capitol and pressure lawmakers to change state gun policy.
“Big donor: ‘I will not give 1 cent’ to candidates who don’t support gun policy changes” via Tom Hudson of the Miami Herald — “I will not give one cent to anyone who does not support major change regarding military-type weapons being sold,” said Mike Fernandez, chairman of MBF Healthcare Partners. Fernandez was the top donor to Scott’s 2014 campaign after the Governor himself. He and the companies he controls gave at least $1.3 million to the Scott campaign or the political action committee supporting it. Fernandez gave thousands more to the Florida Republican Party and state GOP lawmakers, many of them from South Florida. Fernandez, who is an NRA member but doesn’t plan to renew, also voiced support for raising the age limit to buy rifles and limiting magazine capacity. “It’s impossible not to be touched by what happened and moved into action,” he said.
— THE DEBATE —
“CNN poll: Seven in 10 favor tighter gun laws in wake of Parkland shooting” via Jennifer Agiesta of CNN — Support for stricter gun laws has spiked to the highest level since 1993, and almost two-thirds say government and society can take action to prevent future mass shootings, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Seventy percent of Americans now back tougher gun laws, up from 52 percent in October after the shooting in Las Vegas. Republicans account for a sizable chunk of this movement. After 58 people were murdered during a country concert, only 30 percent of GOP voters favored stricter gun laws. After 17 were killed at a high school in Parkland, that number is 49 percent.
“Poll: Americans support tougher gun laws, don’t expect Congress to act” via Susan Page and Marilyn Icsman of USA TODAY — Advocates of gun control and others wonder if the outcry sparked by students who survived the shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland might shake the political calculations that have stymied significant new limits on guns for decades. On guns, a nation that is often divided on issues is remarkably united: By almost 2-1, 61%-33%, they say tightening gun-control laws and background checks would prevent more mass shootings in the United States. By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, they say semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15, used by the Florida shooter, should be banned. By more than 6-1, 76%-12%, they say people who have been treated for mental illness should be banned from owning a firearm. Even gun owners are inclined to support those three measures.
“Gun legislation — without assault weapons ban — moves forward in Florida Senate” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Democrats tried to attach a series of gun control amendments to a sweeping bill on school safety, mental health and gun access meant to address the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Other amendments included a trigger lock requirement and the removal of part of the bill that would allow some teachers to carry firearms. But it was the proposed assault weapons ban that drew hours of testimony from dozens of speakers … The amendment banning assault rifles failed 7-6. Voting against the amendment were state Sens. Benacquisto; Rob Bradley; Jeff Brandes; Bill Galvano; Tom Lee; Keith Perry and Wilton Simpson. Voting in favor of banning assault weapons in the state were state Sens. Oscar Braynon; Lauren Book; Anitere Flores; Bill Montford; Jose Javier Rodriguez; and Perry Thurston. The hundreds of people who had packed the room to voice their support began chanting “vote them out” as Benacquisto, the Rules chairwoman, attempted to restore order.
Facebook status of the day:
Breaking overnight, first on #FlaPol — Senate budget chief Rob Bradley announced that a deal between the House and the Senate on budget allocations has been reached. Budget conferencing can now begin. No numbers were released Monday night, but a top source offered these three nuggets: $400 million in school safety initiatives, record funding for K-12 and higher education, and close to $100 million in tax cuts.
Oh, look. The House version of the big higher ed bill — a top priority for @joenegronfl — is now scheduled to be heard at its final committee stop. It had been stuck there for last 20 days.
— Gary Fineout (@fineout) February 26, 2018
“All or nothing: House gambling bill moves to floor” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A House panel on Monday cleared the chamber’s gambling legislation for 2018, making it available for the floor. But the bill (HB 7067) still is far from the Senate position. And it continues to bother Democrats by devoting money from gambling to the “Schools of Hope” backed by Speaker Corcoran, which the minority party sees as a giveaway to privately-owned charter schools. Time is running out: The 2018 Legislative Session ends in less than two weeks. Moreover, a proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot; if approved, it would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida. If they don’t get something done now, lawmakers may well be frozen out of influencing gambling.
“All nominations clear Senate Ethics and Elections Committee” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — With little opposition raised — except for Democrats’ votes against three recent appointments to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee recommended Monday that the chamber back all 89 appointments and nominations awaiting confirmation. … favorable recommendations include Florida Secretary of Environmental Protection Noah Valenstein, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Phillip Eric Sutton, Secretary of the Department of the Florida Lottery Jim Poppell, Florida Secretary of Management Services Erin Marie-Geraghty Rock, and Florida Secretary of Transportation Michael Dew. Valenstein received a bit of grilling from Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez … and from Democratic Sen. Victor Torres … Dew was grilled by Torres and Rodriguez … and particularly hard by Republican Sen. Tom Lee. … Torres, Rodriguez, and Oscar Braynon all voted against supporting the appointments of Gary Lester, vice president of community relations at The Villages; Gary Nicklaus, 48, son of golfing great Jack Nicklaus; and Sonya Rood, 53, wife of developer and former Bermuda ambassador John Rood, who is also former chief financial officer of the Republican Party of Florida. They each got 5-3 approvals from the committee.
“Jimmy Patronis: League of Cities’ opposition to benefits for first responders is ‘disgraceful’ ” via Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer Patronis, also the state’s fire marshal, called the Florida League of Cities “disgraceful” for “attempting to derail” legislation that would allow first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) access to mental health benefits. Patronis issued a news release Monday. “Florida League of Cities lobbyists have, at every step of the legislative committee process, vehemently opposed a measure that would allow Florida’s first responders to seek treatment for PTSD,” he said in a statement. “Their opposition comes despite the fact that this measure has passed every House and Senate committee unanimously.” The League has raised concerns over the cost that expanding workers’ comp would have on local governments.
What Greg Holden is reading — “USF consolidation bill slated for stop in final House committee” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times — The House Education committee will meet for a few hours starting at 1:30 p.m. to discuss House Bill 423, among a few other things … those familiar with the legislation expect to see some amendments aimed at appeasing those in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County who’ve expressed distrust of the powers that be in Tampa. The bill would require USF St. Petersburg and USF Sarasota-Manatee to phase out their separate accreditation and unite with USF Tampa under one accreditation umbrella. Should the bill pass through the committee, it would then head to the House floor. House lawmakers would begin negotiating with the Senate, which has already passed its version of the higher education package without any specific language related to USF.
“Bail bond industry, Brandes spar over sweeping justice reform bill” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — The Legislature is considering sweeping criminal justice reform measures that have come under fire by the bail bond industry, but the sponsor of one of the bills said he is “not in the business of making bail bondsmen money.” … “They are in the business of writing bonds, and their business will go down if more people get diverted to civil citations,” said Sen. Brandes, who is sponsoring SB 1392 and SB 1218, the duo of bills at the heart of the fight. One of the bills (SB 1218) would require the state to invest in a computer program that uses algorithms to determine the risk of each offender for flight risk and their overall danger level. The bail bonds industry opposes it, arguing it is safer to rely on their expertise than on a computer. The other bill (SB 1392) would require each judicial district in the state to create diversion programs for adults and juveniles, with the intent of giving local law enforcement agencies a tool that can serve between a warning and an arrest for low-level offenders.
“House bill could make it legal to sell puppy mill dogs statewide, even if local ordinances ban it” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — A last-minute tax package amendment could take away local government’s ability to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs, while also voiding existing ordinances in communities such as St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County. The $350 million tax package doesn’t even include the words “pet store,” but animal activists say no other industry would be so affected by House Bill 7087’s vague language. It bars local governments from prohibiting the sale of taxable personal property that may lawfully be sold in the state … “I think the wording is broad as to not tip off any particular rights group,” said Lindsay Larris, an attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “I think it’s also suspect this comes about in a tax bill, buried in an amendment that’s one paragraph of a 108-page document.” The measure could also affect ordinances that control adult video and alcohol sales … Michele Lazarow, vice mayor of Hallandale Beach, one of the first municipalities to ban puppy mill sales, called the amendment “sneaky.”
What Will Weatherford is reading — “House advances proposed Water Street Tampa special district” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The House Government Accountability Committee unanimously approved HB 1393 that creates the Water Street Tampa Improvement District. Advancing the proposal are Strategic Property Partners and Cascade Investments. Tampa Republican Jamie Grant is sponsoring the bill. The special improvement district allows an appointed board to levy special assessments on commercial properties. The five-member board could also levy a millage rate up to one mil. Amenities could include bus shelters, enhanced landscapes and bike paths.
“New plan offered to buy ‘Bo’s Bridge’” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida — In a 16-0 vote, the Government Accountability Committee approved a bill (HB 1281) that would pay bondholders about 38 cents for every $1 of the $135 million owed on the Garcon Point Bridge, a 3.5-mile toll facility located near Pensacola. The bill would also cut the toll rate from $3.75 for a one-way trip to $2 on the span, which is widely known as Bo’s Bridge, after former House Speaker Bolley “Bo” Johnson, who pushed the project. The bridge ended up in default because not enough motorists use the facility. Rep. Jayer Williamson, a Pace Republican sponsoring the bill … The new plan seeks to acquire the bridge by taking the $135 million owed, as of last July, and then deducting a $7.9 million loan from the state and some $25 million in operations and maintenance costs that have been covered by the state Department of Transportation. That would leave $102 million, with Williamson saying the state would pay half of that, or $51 million.
“Panel backs Auburn, Georgia specialty plates” via the News Service of Florida — The bill (HB 1359), sponsored by Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican and Auburn alum, is ready to go to the House floor after being approved by the Government Accountability Committee. The measure would make a series of policy changes to laws dealing with specialty plates, including setting a limit of 125 plates and taking steps to weed out plates that have relatively few sales. But in proposing to create Auburn and University of Georgia plates, the bill would add to the long-standing plates of Florida colleges and universities. It would require that fees collected from the Auburn and Georgia plates go to scholarships for Florida residents attending those schools.
Worth the click — “Kim Daniels prays for Donald Trump, against warlocks and witches” via A.G. Gankarski of Florida Politics
AFP-FL thanks lawmakers for “standing up to union bosses” — Americans for Prosperity-Florida announced Monday they had launched a direct mail campaign to “thank Florida House and Senate members who have supported a policy initiative that would create more accountability and transparency requirements for government unions.” The group backs a bill (HB 7055) that also “include(s) important education reforms to expand access to quality education options and increases administrative flexibility for educators to succeed.” “Florida has excellent teachers, and they deserve the right to choose who represents them,” said AFP-FL state director Chris Hudson. … “The FEA (Florida Education Association) exercises a top-down approach to dealing with its membership, which often means the union is pursuing aims that benefit the union bosses instead of the teachers they are supposed to serve. Florida teachers deserve better accountability and transparency from their union, so we commend the Florida lawmakers that are fighting to give teachers their power back.”
Here is an example of the mailers:
Hits keep coming for perennially embattled Miami-Dade Expressway Authority — The latest came in an unnoticed amendment tucked into a bill to ensure law enforcement vehicles don’t have to pay tolls. It would give MDX customers a new civil cause of action to actually sue the Authority for excess toll charges. Under the new provision, quietly amended on to HB 141 by Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Tampa Republican, in the House Government Accountability Committee last week, an MDX driver will be able to bring “a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction against a toll authority for the value of the toll credits.” One snag: Republicans in the typically conservative Legislature don’t like expanding the number of legal causes of action, or right to sue. Previous legislation reduced the number of members on the board, and revised qualifications to be a member, for example.
Volunteer Florida, Uber co-Host #SuitsForSession — The annual event will be 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on the Capitol’s plaza level. Legislators, staff, the private sector, local nonprofits, state agencies, and others can drop off ‘gently-worn’ professional attire at the Volunteer Florida and Uber display. For those unable to come in person, Uber will pick up and drop off clothing donations for free. Simply tap the GIVE option in the Uber app on Tuesday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Items donated to #SuitsForSession will be distributed to the Chapman Partnership, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries, Bridges of America and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program.
Governors Club Tuesday lunch menu — Mixed green salad with assorted dressings; carrot raisin salad; tomato, red onion, parsley; tomato basil soup; fried chicken; blackened redfish; mashed sweet potatoes; spicy orange carrot; green beans; and banana foster bread pudding for dessert.
— FOR YOUR RADAR —
“Coalition enlists consumer testimony in support of AOB reform” via Florida Politics — A business group pushing the House version of assignment of benefits reform is releasing video testimonials by consumers who feel they were harmed by AOB abuse. … “For anyone who doesn’t believe AOB abuse is causing hardship and stress for consumers, these videos should change their mind,” said Edie Ousley, vice president for public affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, lead member of the Consumer Protection Coalition. “Senators often say they want to hear from real consumers on these issues — here they are.” … The coalition is pushing HB 7015 by Panama City Republican Jay Trumbull, which includes modifications to one-way attorney fees to consumers, and contractors, suing carriers. … “Floridians need to understand the risk they face with the continuation of Assignment of Benefits abuse,” said Liz Reynolds, Southeast regional vice president for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. “Our hope is that these videos not only get their attention but drive home the seriousness of the situation. This has been going on for too long, and it is time the Legislature does something about it.”
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Adam Putnam backs 2nd Amendment in Volusia stop” via Mark Harper of The Daytona Beach News-Journal — Putnam … isn’t disavowing a tweet he wrote last year describing himself as a ”#NRASellout.” Putnam … favors many of the approaches being taken by Gov. Scott and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including limiting those with demonstrated mental illness access to guns, making school grounds safer and inviting retired law enforcement and military officials into public schools as added security … Asked Monday whether he made a mistake by calling himself an NRA sellout, Putnam did not retreat … “Look, I am a proud Second Amendment supporter, and I reject the notion that the millions of law-abiding citizens who exercise their Second Amendment rights should be conflated with this monster who murdered 17 people at that high school.” … He said [Parkland] changed his views on protecting schools, if not enacting stricter laws on guns … He also said “lessons learned” include addressing funding shortages in school-based law enforcement and making school buildings safer. Putnam said he supports an investigation into the Broward County Sheriff’s Office … But he stopped short of the rhetoric of Speaker Corcoran … who called for Broward County Sheriff Israel to be suspended.
Assignment editors — Former state Sen. Jeremy Ring, a Democrat running for Chief Financial Officer, will appear at the Democratic Club of Boca Raton & Delray Beach at 7 p.m., South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road in Delray Beach.
“Greg Steube is running for Congress” via Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune — The big shake-up in Southwest Florida politics that was expected after U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney decided not to seek re-election began Monday, when state Sen. Greg Steube announced he will seek Rooney’s congressional seat. … “As a pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, anti-illegal immigration fighter for our constitutional rights, I will proudly support Trump and his agenda in Washington,” Steube said in announcing his campaign Monday. … His decision to run for Congress could create a domino effect that significantly reshapes the region’s legislative delegation. … A number of state House members may look to move up to the Senate instead of running for re-election in their House districts, leading to new representation in those districts. … Rep. Joe Gruters also is contemplating running but said he is more likely to seek Steube’s state Senate seat. … “The interesting thing is Sarasota will likely have a brand new delegation in every single seat across the board,” Gruters said.
What the Governor’s Office is reading — “Survey says: Florida business owners’ optimistic after tax reform” via Malena Carollo of the Tampa Bay Times — According to the recent JPMorgan Chase Business Leaders Outlook survey … about 91 percent of owners of the state’s small- and medium-sized businesses expect local economic conditions to be favorable in 2018. Nationally, the level of business optimism about local economies was 75 percent … the vast majority — 92 percent — of participating Florida companies expect to see a boost from last year’s tax reform, with 20 percent anticipating to benefit “to a great extent.” About 43 percent of Sunshine State businesses plan to use their savings on capital expenses, while 40 percent will put the funds toward debt. Another 34 percent said they’ll use the tax break to increase wages.
Greyhound advocates plan storytelling at constitutional review meeting — Opponents of greyhound racing plan to tell the stories of dogs who died during and after racing, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Constitution Revision Commission. A proposed constitutional amendment (P67), backed by Thonotosassa Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, aims at banning dog racing in the state. The commission, which is considering changes to the state’s governing document, meets in Pensacola, at the University of West Florida Conference Center and Ballroom. Advocates organized by GREY2K USA, an anti-racing group, gathered the stories of 11 dogs, including how they lived and died, with large photos of the animals. The group said speakers will tell commissioners all 11 stories while holding the photos.
What Kevin Sweeny is reading — “Joseph Joyner inaugurated as Flagler College president” via Teresa Stepzinski of the Florida Times-Union — Joyner, a respected veteran Florida educator … officially began the presidency in July but the inauguration is the college’s formal ceremony installing and celebrating a new leader. “I have no [intention] of letting you down and I kept the stewardship of Flagler College my highest priority,” Joyner told the audience. “While I may be an unworthy servant, I possess a great deal of passion and determination. It is my firm intention to bring continued greatness to this wonderful college.” Joyner previously served as superintendent of the St. Johns County School District — a position he had held since July 2003. Under his leadership, the school district was recognized as the highest achieving of Florida’s 67 school districts.
“Howard Saltz out as Sun-Sentinel editor and publisher” via Brittany Shammas of the Miami New Times — Just after noon … writers and editors at the Sun Sentinel received an email with the vague subject line “Staffing Announcements in Southeast.” Sent by Tim Knight, president of the Broward County newspaper’s absurdly named parent company, Tronc Inc., the message didn’t get to the big news until nearly the end: The Sun-Sentinel’s editor, Saltz, was out. Almost no details were given, except that his departure was effective Feb. 28 — only two days from now. “We thank him for his contributions and wish him well,” Knight wrote. It was an unceremonious end to Saltz’s seven-year reign at the paper.
— D.C. MATTERS —
Assignment editors — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver remarks at the unveiling of Boris Nemtsov Plaza beginning 12:10 p.m. in front of the Russian Embassy, 2600 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Block in Washington D.C. Nemtsov was a slain Russian opposition leader and dissident.
“Koch-backed group launches ad to pressure Congress to protect ‘dreamers’ ” via Michelle Ye Hee Lee of The Washington Post — A group backed by the influential Koch network on Monday launched a digital ad pushing for permanent relief for undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children, as the group increases pressure on Congress to protect “dreamers.”The ad, titled “We Are Patriots,” will run on Facebook, Twitter and Google. It highlights “dreamers” as Americans and patriots and incorporates messages of economic and family values as an appeal to conservative audiences. This is the first ad campaign specifically on the fate of dreamers by the LIBRE Initiative, one of a constellation of groups funded through the Koch network, and its first major immigration ad push since the Gang of 8 immigration negotiations in 2013.
Click on the image below to watch the ad:
“Why your pharmacist can’t tell you that $20 prescription could cost only $8” via Robert Pear of The New York Times — States are moving to block “gag clauses” that prohibit pharmacists from telling customers that they could save money by paying cash for prescription drugs rather than using their health insurance. Many pharmacists have expressed frustration about such provisions in their contracts with the powerful companies that manage drug benefits for insurers and employers. The clauses force the pharmacists to remain silent as, for example, a consumer pays $125 under her insurance plan for an influenza drug that would have cost $100 if purchased with cash. Much of the difference often goes to the drug benefit managers. Mark Merritt, the president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which represents benefit managers, said he agreed that consumers should pay the lower amount. As for the use of gag clauses, he said: “It’s not condoned by the industry. We don’t defend it. It has occurred on rare occasions, but it’s an outlier practice that we oppose.”
“A Florida provocateur has his day before the U.S. Supreme Court — again” via Robert Barnes of The Washington Post — The many descriptions bestowed on Fane Lozman over the years include political gadfly, relentless opponent of public corruption, and bored rich guy always spoiling for a fight. So remarkable are his battles with the political leaders of this town of 35,000 people that they have drawn the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court. Not once, but twice. The latest rendition of Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach has grown from a ham-handed attempt to cut him off at a city council meeting into a major free-speech showdown that will have nationwide implications for citizens arrested — as Lozman was — by government officials they criticize. The court will hear arguments in the case Tuesday. “He’s a formidable citizen-activist,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. This time, Lozman says, the fight is bigger than him. “If I lose this case, it will be a sad day for our democracy,” Lozman said recently. “Our country will slide further into a police state … It sounds hokey, but this is kind of a noble battle to fight.”
— OPINIONS —
“Gwen Graham: Politicians must choose: our children or the NRA” via the Tallahassee Democrat — We need new leadership in Tallahassee, and as governor, I will work with the Legislature to strengthen background checks, ban large-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and invest in mental health. And if the Legislature won’t work with me, I will veto every one of their priorities until they come to the table, ready to protect our children. I’m running for governor, but I met with the student survivors of Stoneman Douglas as a mother. And as a mother, I promised them I will do everything in my power to fight for and pass common sense gun safety laws.
“Joe Henderson: NRA boycott shows pressure can work both ways” via Florida Politics — The National Rifle Association grew into an organization with outsized influence because it keeps lawmakers in line with the threat of political and economic pressure. Its leaders have long understood that politicians can be controlled with those strong-arm tactics. In recent days though, the reverse is becoming reality. In the wake of the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, major sponsors are disassociating with the NRA and even some political leaders — most notably Gov. Scott — offered proposals they wouldn’t have made a month ago … A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Americans favor tougher gun laws by 66-31 percent, the highest level ever. It is also telling that gun owners also support that by 50-44 percent. Will it work? Well, if any gun restrictions get through the Florida Legislature, mild as they probably will be, that’s a start. Democrats will be running hard for state offices and congressional seats on anti-gun theme, and that really could change things. If the NRA boycott spreads, it could impact the organization’s ability to distribute pro-gun literature and send campaign donations to favored politicians. The seeds of change are there.
“Stephanie Smith: Florida Senate should vote to fix auto insurance laws” via Florida Politics — Why is Florida ranked among the five most expensive states for car insurance? The answer is, in part, because of a broken statutory system that does not require the purchase of third-party bodily injury coverage (BI) but does require the purchase of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage laden with high costs and pervasive fraud. The goal of PIP was to eliminate lawsuits over minor injuries and lower overall auto insurance rates. The reality is PIP continues to be a cottage industry devoted to extracting money from insurers, even when there is no merit to the claims. The Florida House has already passed HB 19 by Rep. Erin Grall. This bill repeals PIP and requires the purchase of BI coverage at a limit commensurate with average amounts across the country. If enacted, this bill would make our public roadways safer and would lower premiums for the average Floridian statewide by more than 8 percent for mandatory coverage. We applaud Rep. Grall and the Florida House for their good work, and we urge the Florida Senate to act on this issue.
— ADAMS ST. —
“Ballard Partners tops in lobbying compensation for 2017; SSG, Ron Book round-out Top 3” via Florida Politics
“Becker & Poliakoff brings in $530K in Q4, $2.75M in 2017” via Florida Politics — The Q4 numbers capped off a year that saw the firm bring in an estimated $2.75 million — $1.97 million lobbying the Legislature and $780,000 lobbying the governor and Cabinet. The Ft. Lauderdale-based firm ended the year with 105 legislative clients and 57 in the executive, including Florida Memorial University, Isle Casino parent company PPI and Ygrene Energy Fund Florida, topped the Q4 list with payments of $25,000 each. Those three principals topped the 2017 legislative list as well, with Florida Memorial University paying an estimated $100,000 over the course of the year, followed by PPI at $90,000 and Ygrene at $75,000. PPI and Ygrene also topped the executive compensation list, paying $90,000 and $75,000 last year, respectively.
“Capital City Consulting compensation passes $9M in 2017” via Florida Politics — Capital City Consulting was paid an estimated $2.3 million from its legislative and executive clients in the fourth quarter, making for $9.1 million in 2017 compensation … The Q4 report showed $1.57 million from legislative clients and $730,000 in the executive, closely matching the firm’s quarterly average for the year. Capital City Consulting’s top Q4 principals on the legislative side included Aetna at $45,000, followed by The Everglades Foundation, Jacksonville Greyhound Racing and Melbourne Greyhound Park at $35,000 apiece. The top executive clients in Q4 were Accenture, BRIDG and Pollard Banknote Limited, each of which paid an estimated $25,000 during the three-month span. Jacksonville Greyhound Park looks to be the top client for the year, paying a combined $185,000 for executive and legislative lobbying in 2017. Aetna followed close behind with $180,000 for the year.
“Louis Betz & Associates earns $520K in 2017” via Florida Politics — Louis Betz and Travis Mitchell received $130,000 in lobbying compensation between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 to finish out the year with an estimated $520,000 in earnings. Top principals included Waste Management Inc. of Florida, which paid $30,000 for executive and legislative lobbying, followed by red-light camera company American Traffic Solutions, Tampa Taxi Coalition and Ygrene Energy Fund Florida, each of which paid $15,000 for representation in the Legislature. Top clients across all four quarters were mostly mirrored the Q4 list, with Waste Management leading the pack at $95,000 paid last year.
“The Mayernick Group received $3.3M in lobbying pay last year” via Florida Politics — The boutique firm’s 59 principals in the Legislature paid $580,000 in the fourth quarter, while Mayernick’s 43 executive branch clients contributed $140,000 to the Q4 haul. Overall, the firm brought in nearly $3.3 million in 2017, with $2.7 million coming in through legislative lobbying. The firm’s biggest contracts in the new report were Floridians for Access to Health Care and MCNA Dental Plans, each of which paid an estimated $35,000 for legislative lobbying. Following the top two was a long list of clients who paid $30,000 during the three-month stretch: Alkermes, Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL), Eldorado Resorts, GTI Florida, HCA Healthcare and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing.
— REAL ESTATE —
“Tallahassee house used by Jack Latvala on sale for $1M” via Florida Politics — The four-bedroom, five-bathroom, 4,554-square-foot abode was recently listed for $1 million by Armor Realty of Tallahassee … The owner of record is listed as his wife, Connie Prince, who bought it in 2004. She married Latvala in 2015. Built in 1985, the house has “a dramatic foyer and beautiful hardwood floors, and “beautifully-crafted cabinetry” in the kitchen, which has “a DCS gas range, Sub-Zero refrigeration system, a wine cooler, granite countertops, a generous pantry (plus a 6′ x 8′ butler’s pantry), double ovens, and more.”
“Ex-FSU president wants $10.7M for 984 acres near Tallahassee, next to Ted Turner” via the Atlanta Business Chronicle — The property, called Oak Hill Plantation, has an 8,000-square-foot house and large populations of quails, doves, turkeys and deer. It also has a 15-acre lake fed by a spring and live oak trees that are 200 to 300 years old … It’s a hunting plantation owned by T.K. Wetherell and his wife Virginia Wetherell, a former secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Wetherells’ plantation in the Red Hills region of the Florida Panhandle is adjacent to Avalon Plantation, owned by Turner … In addition to the five-bedroom, four-bathroom main house … the property comes with a 1,600-square-foot guesthouse and a gathering lodge with a living room, kitchen and loft bedroom, plus an attached workshop and barn.
— ALOE —
“Apple plans giant high-end iPhone, lower-priced model” via Mark Gurman and Debby Wu of Bloomberg Technology — With the new lineup, Apple wants to appeal to the growing number of consumers who crave the multitasking attributes of so-called phablets while also catering to those looking for a more affordable version of the iPhone X … Despite months of breathless hype, the iPhone X hasn’t sold as well as expected since its debut last year. Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the final quarter of 2017, below analysts’ projections of 80.2 million units. Some consumers were turned off by the iPhone X’s $1,000 price despite liking the design even as they wanted something more cutting-edge than the cheaper iPhone 8. With its next lineup, Apple is seeking to rekindle sales by offering a model for everyone.
“All the key news from the big cellphone trade show” via Ina Fried of Axios — The entire cellular industry, from phone makers to chip providers to carriers, are in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. Sony introduced its latest models … also debuted a pair of “open-ear” earbuds designed to help you hear sound from phones as well as the world around you. Samsung unveiled its Galaxy S9 and large-screen S9+ … featuring a bunch of new camera tricks. HMD, which sells phones under the Nokia brand, announced a slew of new smartphones ranging from the entry-level Nokia 1 to a high-end model dubbed the Nokia 8 Sirocco. Huawei launched a pair of new Android tablets along with the MateBook X Pro, an ultrathin 14-inch laptop with an edge-to-edge screen and very Apple-sounding name. Sprint, Airbus, Delta, OneWeb and Indian carrier Bharti Airtel are teaming up on an effort to improve in-flight internet access. and Bra
What Javi Coresco and Brad Nail are reading — “Despite year of scandals, Uber driver satisfaction is up” via Kia Kokalitcheva of Axios — Uber had a tumultuous year in 2017, but drivers’ satisfaction with the service is at 58.2 percent, up by 9 percent a year ago, according to a new survey compiled by The Rideshare Guy blog. The media (including Axios) spilled a lot of ink over Uber’s scandals and inside drama, but drivers don’t seem to care. Instead, Uber’s “180 Days of Change” — the addition of tipping and its decision not to cut fares in January as it had in previous years — likely had a bigger effect on drivers … Lyft drivers appear to be more satisfied that Uber’s, according to the survey, which found that 75.6 percent of drivers are satisfied with the service.
“Disney chief: Multiday peak pricing coming end of 2018, Star Wars Land will be ‘big’” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — Walt Disney Company expects to roll out multiday peak theme park tickets around the end of this year so the crowded dates cost more, the company’s CEO and president Bob Iger said Monday. Earlier this month, when Walt Disney World raised its prices, a company spokeswoman had said the Orlando theme parks would sell multiday tickets with the prices posted in advance as part of its strategy to help even out crowds. … Disney plans to increase prices more during peak times compared to the emptier park days … “You’ll see more of that in the years ahead,” Iger said. … He also touted Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which will open in California and Florida in 2019. “They’re the largest lands we’ve ever build,” Iger said. “They are big. They are big in terms of footprint, and they’ll be big in terms of experience.”
“Will ‘Frozen’ succeed on Broadway with a British director and a different ending?” via Peter Marks of The Washington Post — The puzzles the Tony Award-winning British director Michael Grandage has to sort out in his latest project are not the kind they train you for in a high-toned London drama school. But when the project is “Frozen,” a stage version of the 2013 animated Disney film that made $1.3 billion … you sure as heck better have beloved figures such as Olaf the Snowman down, er, cold. So, in a ritual developed over the 17 months that Grandage and his team have been working on the musical — whose cost he hasn’t even wanted the entertainment company to tell him — much back-to-the-drawing-board discussion revolved around giving flesh to the movie’s whimsical creatures. As well as a thousand other design and dramaturgical elements to satisfy the legions of fans who Disney hopes will storm the ramparts of Broadway’s St. James Theatre, where performances began Thursday. No pressure!
Happy birthday to a slew of Florida politicos, including state Rep. Kathleen Peters, former St. Pete City Councilman Bill Dudley, U.S. Sugar’s Ryan Duffy, PCI’s Logan McFaddin, our own Mitch Perry, and former reporter Kathleen Haughney Rohrer.
Welcome to the world, Agnes Jude Hoppe Kilman, the beautiful baby girl of Jessica and Jonathan Kilman.