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A general view of the Florida Capitol early in the morning Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo by Phil Sears)

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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 2.28.18

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

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

Happiest of birthday wishes Michelle Todd Schorsch, the woman who changed my life seven years ago after a toast on a pirate ship. She is strikingly intelligent and thoroughly considerate and caring. She is the most loyal person I have ever met, with a strong sense of purpose and deeply-held convictions. She is as honest as a photographer’s white balance.

Michelle is better than the Facebook posts or the Instagram pictures you may read or see of her. She is that good of a wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Yet, she has none of the ego that could easily accompany such wonderfulness.

She is my best friend, my soulmate, and the love of my life. There is no better day than Michelle’s birthday because she spends the other 364 days of the year making so many other people’s days better.

Wherever you are today, join me in raising your glass (preferably bubbles) to toast this amazing woman.

Now, on to politics…

Nine out of 10 regions in the state “continue to have a deficit of (special needs shelters) in 2018,” according to a study going to Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet next week.

That’s one finding in the report, the “Statewide Emergency Shelter Plan,” that is on the agenda for the Cabinet aides meeting today, to prepare for the March 7 Cabinet meeting.

“The (special needs) shelter space deficit situation is projected to continue through 2023,” says the report, by the Division of Emergency Management (DEM).

But the “projections do not assume addition of new space to regional inventories through 2023,” it adds. “Addition of new shelter facilities and/or local designation of new space could significantly reduce or eliminate the projected deficits.”

The Department of Health defines special needs shelters as “designed to meet the needs of persons who require assistance that exceeds services provided at a general population shelter.”

“As Florida’s hurricane vulnerable population continues to grow, it is vitally important that construction of hurricane evacuation shelters and retrofitting of existing buildings be considered a priority,” the DEM report says.

“If Florida is to meet its goal of eliminating the hurricane evacuation shelter space deficit in every region of the state, the incorporation of public shelter design criteria into new construction, retrofitting of suitable existing buildings, and continued use of improved hurricane evacuation studies and new technologies must continue to be accomplished.”

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @RepJohnLewis: 58 years ago today, I was arrested for the first time as a participant in the sit-ins at lunch counters in downtown Nashville. Walking out to the paddy wagons, I tried to walk with a sense of pride & dignity. I felt free, I felt liberated. I felt like I crossed over.

— @HillaryClinton: We should all care about how social media platforms play a part in our democratic process. Because unless it’s addressed it will happen again. The midterms are in 8 months. We owe it to our democracy to get this right, and fast.

— @GBennettPost: For only the 3rd time in 7 years, @FLGovScott gets a positive approval rating in a @QuinnipiacPoll

— @SenBernieSanders: Thank you to the students from Parkland, Florida, who are doing everything they can to prevent another mass shooting like they experienced. These really are incredibly bright young people. Because of them, I think it’s possible we are going to see real change.

— @SteveBousquet: Elise Claprood, mother of Parkland student, tells legislators: “Our children have a right to live”

— @Jay_Fant: .@voteashleymoody has not taken any positions on the Second Amendment since the Parkland massacre. Me? I support the Constitution and defend it readily. Tune in Thursday for our debate!

@MahoneyIsTheName: There is an average of one school psychologist for every 1,983 students in the state. Meanwhile, there are 1,518 total campus police officers in Florida’s more than 4,000 schools. So as one law enforcement put it, Florida has “a long way to go.”

— @Fineout: Always fascinating to watch the meeting behind the meeting – Sens. Bradley, Galvano and Simpson just went off to huddle in a corner. Senate rules allow conferencing within meetings that do not require public access

— @MDixon55: No policy done yet. That will be for conference, and we’ve not yet set an opening meeting date. Inching closer to a budget, but miles to go I’ll see you all this weekend at the beautiful Florida Capitol.

— @MDixon55: .@Rob_Bradley says state will sweep affordable housing trust funds this year. Senate did not want to after Irma whacked Florida’s affordable housing stock, but he said there was not enough money to fund post-Parkland legislative packages without it.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Last day to take up Special Order Calendar – 5; Sine Die (maybe) — 9; St. Patrick’s Day – 17; March For Our Lives gun violence protest – 24; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 29; Easter – 32; NFL Draft begins – 55; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 65; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 84; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 114; Primary Election Day — 181; College Football opening weekend – 185; General Election Day — 251; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 349.

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— PARKLAND —

Nikolas Cruz refused mental health services once he reached 18, Runcie says” via Scott Travis of the Sun-Sentinel — When Nikolas Cruz turned 18, he refused to let the school district continue providing him with crucial mental health and other services — and there was nothing officials could do about it, Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said Monday. Federal law tied their hands, he said, and also prevented them from forcing Cruz to attend a school for special needs students. … “You can’t make someone do something when the law says they have the right to make that determination,” Runcie said. … Even if the school believed he posed a danger to others, they couldn’t remove him based on what he did previously, experts say. As a special needs student, Cruz had certain federal protections. … When he gave them up, the school still had to wait for a new reason to transfer him to an alternative school or to expel him. … Stoneman Douglas finally decided to remove Cruz after unspecified behavior problems in February 2017. He was told his only option was an alternative school, Runcie said. Cruz attended alternative schools sporadically until the shooting.

Stoneman Douglas gets advice on school reopening from Columbine’s principal” via Terry Spencer of the Associated Press — After school shootings like the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, administrators reached out to former Columbine High principal Frank DeAngelis for advice, since there is no book to teach what he learned after gunmen killed 12 of his students and a teacher in 1999. There should be no balloons at Stoneman Douglas’ welcome-back ceremony, he told the school’s administrator. The reason: Some balloons popped at Columbine’s reopening, sending students diving for cover. Have substitutes on hand in case teachers need time to compose themselves. Change the sound of the fire alarm, which got pulled at both Columbine and Stoneman Douglas during the shootings, or it will cause some to panic. DeAngelis, who has spoken to Stoneman Douglas’ principal, said everyone must understand that the staff and students will never return to what they were before the shooting. “It really is a marathon and not a sprint,” he said … “One of things people asked me right after Columbine is ‘When is it going to be back to normal?’ I said it never really gets back to normal.”

Panel to help disburse $3 million raised for Stoneman Douglas victims” via Lois K. Solomon of the Sun-Sentinel — A panel of Broward community leaders will decide how to distribute more than $3 million in donations received since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre … The committee will also decide when to stop accepting contributions. Officials at the Broward Education Foundation… said money continues to pour in. … Money is also coming in through the foundation’s website and the National Compassion Fund Parkland, run by the National Center for Victims of Crime. Jeffrey Dion, the center’s deputy executive director, said his organization will help advise the steering committee, which the education foundation is still putting together. … The committee likely will develop categories of victims, such as those killed, those injured and those suffering from psychological trauma. He said there are typically no restrictions on what the recipients do with the benefits.

Shooting survivor’s father admits email changes in CNN spat” via The Associated Press – The network says Glenn Haab, the father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas junior Colton Haab, doctored emails to push a claim that the network told his son what to say at the forum. Colton Haab backed out of the Feb. 21 event. CNN denies scripting any remarks and released an email exchange between a CNN producer and Glenn Haab that it says Glenn Haab altered. The altered email was sent to other news outlets, including Fox News. Haab acknowledges omitting some words from the email but says he didn’t do it on purpose.

Student passes NRA in Twitter followers” via Jason Schwartz of POLITICO Florida – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma González now has more than a million Twitter followers, more than both the National Rifle Association and its spokesperson Dana Loesch, as González and her fellow students continue to use the platform to drive attention to their cause. It’s now been nearly two weeks since the attack in Parkland, and — in a break from the usual grim routine of mass shooting coverage — it continues to dominate the news. One big reason for that has been savvy social media use by González, who first tweeted from her account Feb. 18, and her fellow students, several of whom have also amassed large Twitter followings. As of Tuesday morning, David Hogg had 352,000 followers, Cameron Kasky 240,000 and Sarah Chadwick 237,000. All of those accounts appear to be rapidly gaining users by the thousands, as all four students push their campaign for stronger gun laws.

UConn gives posthumous admission to school shooting victim” via Pat Eaton-Robb of The Associated Press – UConn officials say they learned through news reports that 14-year-old Alex Schachter had dreamed of going to the university. UConn admitted the young trombone player as a music major after learning about his passion for band. “We were touched by his love for music and for his love of UConn,” wrote Nathan Fuerst, the school’s director of undergraduate admissions, in a handwritten note of condolence that accompanied the formal letter of acceptance. “Alex will always be remembered, and for us, forever a UConn Husky.”

— THE POLITICS OF PARKLAND —

White House promises to outline gun safety proposals ‘by the end of the week’” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida – Trump has floated a wide range of ideas to combat gun violence in the wake of the Florida high school shooting earlier this month, but his administration has yet to outline detailed policy remedies it believes would make schools safer. “We expect that there will be some policy proposals that will be out by the end of the week,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. Sanders mentioned two measures the White House supports, including the “Fix NICS” bill spearheaded by Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, which seeks to improve how states report to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will highlight his action plan for major changes in student safety, including a $500 million investment in school safety and mental health. News conference begins 9:15 a.m. at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, District 2, 520 N. Falkenberg Road in Tampa.

House panel OK’s bill to arm teachers, defeats assault weapons ban” via Arek Sarkissian a POLITICO Florida – The powerful Florida House Appropriations Committee approved a sweeping proposal to tighten gun controls in response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but it did not approve an amendment to ban assault weapons. The committee also gave the green light to a controversial program to train and arm school teachers, despite pleas from relatives of those slaughtered at the Parkland school who called the proposed “Marshal” program misguided and dangerous. Under the program, teachers would be trained in using firearms and carry them as concealed weapons in school. The proposed committee bill, PCB APC 18-06, sponsored by state Rep. José Oliva, overwhelmingly cleared the committee with a 23-6 vote. It now moves to the House floor for a vote.

Janet Cruz explains why she missed Appropriations Committee meeting – The panel on Tuesday heard legislation in response to the mass shooting at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In an email, the House Democratic Leader said she’s allowed to designate one member of her caucus to sit on a committee in her place. Cruz, of Tampa, gave her seat to Democratic Rep. Kristin Jacobs, whose district includes the high school, she said. “Since the shooting, Rep. Jacobs has spent time in her district with the families and victims,” Cruz said. “She deserves the opportunity to sit on the committee and be a voice for the people of her community … I am committed to working towards a solution that will save lives throughout the state and plan to fully question and debate the final version of the bill on the House floor to ensure our students’, parents’, and teachers’ concerns are voiced.”

Marco Rubio bill would let young adults in D.C. purchase the AR-15” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Last week, Rubio stared into the eyes of a father who lost his daughter during the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and made an announcement: Young adults should not be able to purchase guns. … But one of Rubio’s own bills, which he has introduced twice, would overturn an assault weapons ban and legalize gun sales for young adults in the nation’s capital … After introducing the bill for the first time in 2015 while seeking the Republican presidential nomination, Rubio’s National Rifle Association’s grade went from a B+ to an A. … “If passed, this bill would bring D.C. into compliance with federal law,” [spokesperson OliviaPerez-Cubas said… “If federal law is changed on the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles, then D.C. law would be changed as well.” The NRA opposes Rubio’s position on preventing young adults from purchasing guns.

Paul Ryan throws cold water on gun-control push” via Rachael Bade of POLITICO – Speaker Ryan told reporters at a news conference that “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens” but “focusing on making sure that citizens who shouldn’t get guns in the first place, don’t get those guns.” Ryan — who said arming teachers was a “good idea” but a local issue that Congress should not infringe upon — touted a House-passed bill to reinforce background checks under current law. But that bill also loosens gun laws by allowing gun owners with concealed-carry weapons permits in their state to take their firearm into other states — an idea going nowhere in the Senate. Ryan wouldn’t say whether he would allow the House to decouple so-called Fix NICS language from the more controversial concealed-carry reciprocity provisions.

DCCC advised candidates not to discuss gun control policy right after Vegas shooting” via Daniel Marans of the Huffington Post – “You and your candidate will be understandably outraged and upset, as will your community. However, DO NOT POLITICIZE IT TODAY,” DCCC regional press secretary Evan Lukaske wrote to candidates in the Northeast. “There will be time for politics and policy discussion, but any message today should be on offering thoughts/prayers for victims and their families, and thanking first responders who saved lives.” The email reflects the careful balance that Democrats have tried to strike as they strive to advance modest gun safety regulations and shield candidates in swing districts from the political price that could accompany comments about guns.

Carlos Curbelo on the defensive over gun control flips” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In the wake of this month’s Florida school shooting, Curbelo renewed his calls for a better background-check system to keep firearms away from the mentally ill, but said nothing of his two votes opposing restrictions on gun purchases by some people deemed unfit by the federal government. The Miami Republican said that his two votes — concerning some veterans and Social Security recipients — sought to protect constitutional rights, and he pointed to a slew of gun-control legislation he has either co-sponsored, drafted or talked up, including an assault weapons ban, which has gained traction after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Curbelo’s shifting and nuanced positions on guns has drawn the same criticism from completely opposite quarters: the National Rifle Association and his top Democratic opponent, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. Both describe Curbelo as an opportunist, with Mucarsel-Powell saying he votes like a right-wing Republican in Washington while campaigning like a moderate in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, a swing seat. … Curbelo said that wasn’t fair to seniors and the disabled.

What explains U.S. mass shootings? International comparisons suggest an answer” via Max Fischer and Josh Keller of The New York Times – The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns. Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama. Adjusted for population, only Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings among countries with more than 10 million people … Yemen has the world’s second-highest rate of gun ownership after the United States. If mental health made the difference, then data would show that Americans have more mental health problems than do people in other countries with fewer mass shootings. Whether a population plays more or fewer video games also appears to have no impact.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

No more baby deliveries’: Rural hospital affected after state’s Medicaid cuts” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics — As the House and Senate begin final budget negotiations, one of the biggest Medicaid funding differences will be cuts to hospitals, an area that was slashed last session and is already having a real-life impact on one rural hospital in DeSoto County. No more baby deliveries. The Medicaid cuts to all hospitals sustained $521 million in cuts last session — $11.4 million affecting rural community hospitals. “Last session was the highest total amount of cuts to Florida’s Medicaid program in memory,” said Bruce Rueben, the president at the Florida Hospital Association. Hogan said the decision to slash obstetrician care from the hospital’s services was a result of a “perfect storm” that arose from an estimate $840,000 in cuts to his hospital this year. Other factors that played a role in the decision: a drop in baby deliveries and paying patients.

Millions at stake for South Florida safety-net hospitals as budget negotiations begin” via Elizabeth Koh of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau — Both the House and Senate had rolled out plans earlier this month that diverged on healthcare spending, primarily how to compensate hospitals for Medicaid care. The House plan would preserve additional Medicaid payments, known as automatic rate enhancements, to 28 hospitals that currently serve a larger percentage of Medicaid patients. But the Senate plan would redistribute the $265 million in additional inpatient funds to all of the state’s hospitals instead, decreasing the amount of money those 28 hospitals receive. The Senate’s proposed shift would disproportionately affect some of South Florida’s largest institutions … But major for-profit hospital chains would see their reimbursements rise under the redistributions.

Bradley says no budget deal yet on conservation landsvia Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

Senate adds ‘union-busting,’ charter provisions back into massive education bill” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesdayadded back in controversial language that labor advocates have described as “union-busting” a week after another Senate committee stripped the bill of the provision. The move came as massive, omnibus education legislation originating in the House, FL HB7055 (18R), was working its way through its final committee stop before a floor vote. The broader bill has drawn the ire of Florida’s largest teachers’ union, not least because of the language that would require that teachers’ unions that see their total dues-paying membership fall below half of those eligible would be forced to petition the Public Employee Relations Commission for recertification, which means new elections and the risk of losing the contract the union had already negotiated. Another contentious amendment the committee OK’d Tuesday reworks the system for how school districts terminate charters for charter schools for reasons like insolvency or breaking the law, among other charter school-related changes.

Broward teacher on new union requirements: “My friends just got slaughtered for saving kids’ lives”” via Emily L. Mahoney of The Tampa Bay Times — A proposal to require teachers’ unions to have at least 50 percent of all eligible union members pay dues or risk being decertified …  took on new meaning after the Parkland shooting, during which three teachers were killed protecting their students….”My friends just got slaughtered for saving kids’ lives,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, after the vote. “And then they want to sit up there and act like it’s not … about busting our union.” The union rule was voted out of the bill in its previous committee stop in the Senate, while Parkland students were visiting the Legislature … Sen. Perry Thurston gave an emotional speech about the teachers who had “jumped in front of the gunman,” and he forced committee members to voice their votes individually.

Don’t block me, bro: ACLU sues lawmaker over social media Heismanvia Florida Politics – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says it’s suing state Rep. Chuck Clemons, a Newberry Republican, “for blocking a constituent from the representative’s official social media accounts.” Clemons fired back Tuesday that the suit was “frivolous and a waste of taxpayer time and money.” The constituent, Morgan Attwood of Gainesville, tweeted at Rep. Clemons asking why he voted against a motion to take up debate on a bill to ban assault weapons. In response, Clemons blocked Attwood from Clemons’ official Twitter and Facebook accounts. “I was just trying to understand why my state representative didn’t support the assault weapon ban,” Attwood said. “I was shocked when he responded by blocking me from his accounts.”

— MORE FROM THE CAPITOL —

House backs rule for nursing home generators” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – The House Health & Human Services Committee voted unanimously to introduce a bill that would ratify a rule issued by the state Agency for Health Care Administration, which regulates nursing homes. The proposed rule, which was hammered out by the Scott administration and the long-term care industry, would require nursing homes to have alternative power sources, such as generators, on-site and 72 hours of fuel. The generators would need to be able to keep cool an area of no less than 30 square feet per resident at a temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for at least 96 hours. The rule is estimated to cost nursing homes $121.3 million over the first five years, and about $66 million can be offset by Medicaid, according to a staff analysis.

Florida Politics gets results: Cities drop opposition to workers’ comp changes” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida – Hours after a top state Republican blasted the group for “knowingly peddling a deceptive report,” the Florida League of Cities said it no longer opposes a workers’ compensation insurance bill that could provide expanded benefits to first responders with job-related post-traumatic stress disorder. Florida League of Cities lobbyist David Cruz told members of the House Government Accountability Committee that an amendment added to the bill (HB 227) quashed his group’s concerns with the proposal. Cruz’s announcement came hours after state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sent an email to members of the House Government Accountability Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee blasting the report.

Workers’ comp bill aiding injured immigrant workers likely dead, sponsor says” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – A bill intended to stop companies from dodging worker’s compensation benefit payouts to undocumented workers who are injured on the job is likely dead, state Sen. Gary Farmer, the bill sponsor, said Tuesday. “I hate to wave the white flag, but it looks like I will,” the Fort Lauderdale Democrat said. Under current state law, workers who are injured on the job and use a fake ID face felony workers’ comp fraud charges. Farmer’s bill (SB 1568) would have changed that. But on Tuesday, he said the effort may have to wait until next year.

Senate pitches health care alternative for veterans” via the News Service of Florida – A Senate proposal would authorize Florida to begin negotiations with the federal government to see if the state could offer managed health care programs to veterans and their families as an alternative to the health system provided by the federal Veterans Affairs. The Senate could vote on the proposal (SB 440) as soon as Wednesday. Sponsor Rene Garcia agreed to add an amendment to make clear the proposal is not designed to expand Medicaid for veterans in Florida. Instead, he said the proposal would authorize discussions with the federal government to discuss opening access to the Medicaid managed-care infrastructure of health plans and physicians. The bill would authorize the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Children and Families to jointly negotiate with federal agencies to seek approval for a waiver, a state-plan amendment, or other approval for federal funding for the “Florida Veterans Care” program.

Mike Fernandez leads letter signed by scores of business leaders opposing sanctuary cities bill” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Miami health care magnate and longtime Republican supporter Fernandez and more than 100 other business leaders and other prominent figures have signed and published online a letter declaring the “sanctuary cities ban” effort in the Florida Legislature to be a “misguided and potentially dangerous path.” The letter is addressed to Gov. Scott, Speaker Corcoran, and President Negron, declaring opposition to House Bill 9, and its counterpart Senate Bill 308, but its appearance is mainly a rebuttal of Corcoran, the principal power, money, and face behind the effort to ban sanctuary cities in Florida. With Corcoran’s backing of it as a top priority, HB 9 was approved along party lines in the House in early January. The Senate version, though, is close to dead this Session.

Pre-arrest diversion program proposals head to Senate and House floors via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – With three minutes left in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, a bill mandating each judicial district in the state to implement pre-arrest diversion programs headed to the Senate floor. There was no debate on the bill (SB 1392) that would set up diversion programs with the intent of giving local law enforcement agencies a tool that can serve between a warning and an arrest for low-level offenders. The goal: to spare primarily first-time offenders who commit minor crimes from the consequences of entering the criminal justice system. The bill does not set up a blanket set of rules for jurisdictions and provides language that gives them latitude on the fees each can charge to program participants. The program is voluntary for qualifying offenders and the bill would not get rid of diversion programs that are already operating in Florida. While proposals in the Senate and the House (HB 1197) have moved ahead in the Legislature, they have come under fire by some in the bail bond industry who say diversion programs are “flawed” without uniformity statewide.

AFP-FL praises senators who voted down film incentives” via Florida Politics – Americans For Prosperity-Florida on Tuesday thanked lawmakers who voted against film industry incentives bills (SB 1604 and SB 1606) sponsored Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo. … “Floridians know film incentives are a bad deal for the state of Florida and taxpayers. The money we send to Tallahassee should be spent on core government services, and not used as handouts for Hollywood,” the group said in an email. … AFP-FL said it’s commendation of senators who stood against SB 1604 will include a bit of advertising by way of a direct mail campaign within their districts. The mailers say the individual senator “is fighting for taxpayers” and that they “voted NO to creating a taxpayer funded bank for Hollywood executives.”

Florida boaters closer to peace of mind on the water – Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison’s price transparency bill for Florida boaters cleared its final committee stop Tuesday with a 20-1 vote in the Judiciary Committee. HB 469 would require salvage operators to make sure customers know the costs of a salvage job before they get hit with an invoice that can makes them lose their sea legs. The typical charge for salvage work, such as pumping water out of a boat and towing it in from open waters, is between 5 to 10 percent of the value of the vessel saved. While based on age-old maritime customs and law, that practice has led to boaters being charged tens of thousands of dollars for relatively simple assistance and claims that the salvage industry is tantamount to “modern-day piracy.” The Senate version of the bill, SB 664 by Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, passed its final committee stop last week.

#SuitsForSession brought in the goods – The annual event on the Capitol’s plaza level encouraged lawmakers and others to drop off ‘gently-worn’ professional attire at the Volunteer Florida and Uber display. Items donated go to the Chapman Partnership, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries, Bridges of America and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program.

Assignment editors – Substance abuse treatment providers and law enforcement officials will hold a media conference call urging the Florida House to restore funding for opioid treatment programs. The Senate has maintained the base funding of $7 million for extended-release injectable naltrexone programs in the Office of the State Court Administrator, Department of Children and Families, and Department of Corrections budgets, while the House budget eliminates all such programs. That’s at 9:30 a.m. (The call-in number was provided to invited news media.)

It’s Golf Day at the Capitol – The Golf Florida Alliance is hosting “Florida Golf Day at the Capitol” on Wednesday. A welcome reception was held Tuesday night on the 22nd floor, and Golf Day will host exhibits, putting demonstrations and an opportunity to see the TPC Players Championship Trophy. Golf Florida, represented by lobbyists Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl, is made up of top leaders from the PGA of America, PGA Tour, LPGA as well as statewide golf associations. Florida is home to more than 1,200 golf courses, golf communities, and associations, and the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Governors Club Wednesday lunch buffet menu – Mixed green salad with assorted dressings; beat an apple salad with horseradish vinaigrette; wheat berry and toasted sunflower seed salad; beer cheese soup; BBQ chicken; rainbow trout; roasted wedge potato; corn on the cob; broccolini; s’mores for dessert.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

To protect Florida policyholders, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is launching a video campaign encouraging Floridians to contact their lawmakers to vote NO on SB 150.

“Transitioning from a no-fault system to a tort system with mandatory medical payments coverage would hurt Florida consumers,” said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for PCI. “Without addressing fraud, bad-faith, and other legal environment challenges, the passage of SB 150 could actually wipe away years of cost-saving reforms and further increase the cost of auto insurance for Florida consumers.”

In the video, PCI talks about Florida motorists already paying the price for rampant lawsuit abuse and fraud, as well as seeing a major increase in car crashes due to distracted driving that is also putting pressure on insurance costs. “The bottom line is that SB 150 does nothing to fix the real, underlying problems. Instead, the passage of SB 150 could end up costing Florida consumers even more,” concluded McFaddin.

Senate Bill 150 by Brandon Republican Tom Lee is on the agenda to be heard this afternoon in the Senate Health & Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Click on the image below to watch the video:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Trump names Brad Parscale as 2020 campaign manager” via Jonathan Swan of Axios – Trump has tapped his longtime digital strategist Parscale, who served as the digital media director of his 2016 campaign, as his campaign manager for 2020. This decision reflects Jared Kushner’s continued influence inside Trumpworld. Nobody has promoted Parscale more than Jared, and during the campaign he was Parscale’s biggest advocate. It also shows that Trump wants somebody adept at digital campaigning to run his campaign

How Republicans can win the midterms” via Charlie Mahtesian of POLITICO magazine – As dire as the situation seems for Republicans, the elements of a skin-of-their-teeth escape are coming into focus. Beginning in late December, both the generic congressional ballot and Trump’s approval ratings began ticking upward. These numbers, apparent across almost all polls, were enough to curtail growing talk of a Democratic wave election on the horizon. Even Priorities USA, the biggest Democratic super PAC, took notice. … The snapback in the polls may be short-lived. Over the past two weeks, the generic ballot numbers have moved slightly in a Democratic direction. The Republican uptick in the polls could represent a sign that the president and his party are beginning to get credit for the economy and tax cuts, or it could be simply a dead cat bounce. Either way, if the party can keep the generic ballot deficit under about 9 percentage points and the president’s approval ratings can remain in the mid-40s, the GOP is in the range of where it needs to be to have a fighting chance of holding its House majority.

Is Governor’s race a witness protection program option?” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Adam Putnam has won two statewide elections and has spent $3.7 million on his 2018 campaign for governor — but 75 percent of voters in a new Quinnipiac University poll say they haven’t heard enough about him to form an opinion. And Putnam is the best-known candidate in the race. Other candidates for governor are unknown to between 81 percent and 93 percent of the state’s voters, according to the poll. “In the governor’s race, none of the candidates is well-known. Florida voters can expect massive – and probably nasty – TV advertising as the candidates for governor try to introduce themselves, and their opponents, to the electorate,” said Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

Email insights: Gwen Graham slams Ron DeSantis for ‘sounds of silence’” via Florida Politics – Graham sent out an email attacking Republican foe DeSantis for his silence in the post-Parkland policy debate. While DeSantis was the target, Gov. Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Putnam weren’t spared in the “Sound of Silence Alert.” … “Ron DeSantis is the only candidate running to lead our state who refuses to support any sort of gun safety. If the Congressman can’t endorse his own Republican governor’s proposals after Parkland, he will never support common sense gun safety laws in our state — no matter how many children are killed.”

’Manners’ time: Republican John Houman still running for SD 20” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – With Thonotosassa Republican state Sen. Tom Lee widely expected to leave his Senate District 20 seat in Hillsborough County sometime after the Legislative Session ends to run for Chief Financial Officer, who will take his place? Tampa’s Shawn Harrison and Zephryhills’ Danny Burgess are two names that have been floated. But there’s already a Republican in the race: Houman. You may know him by his nickname: “Mr. Manners.” Houman ran two years ago as a Republican in the heavily Democratic Senate District 19, where he received over 55,000 votes before losing to Democrat Darryl Rousonby 63-37 percent. After that drubbing, he came back and filed in January 2017 for the SD 20 seat, where he has raised no money despite being an official candidate for the past year. Houman writes on his website that for most folks, manners “means no f–ting or picking your nose.”

Democrat Joy Goff-Marcil enters HD 30 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Goff-Marcil is the second Democrat in the race, joining Clark Anderson of Winter Park, seeking to take on Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs … A lawyer working primarily in probate law, she’s been a Maitland resident since childhood. She was first elected to the Maitland City Council in 2013 and re-elected in 2016 without opposition. Before running for office, she’d been a longtime advocate for school and health care issues in the area. She served as regional coordinator for the Florida Department of Health’s “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” program.

Ray Pilon will challenge Margaret Good for his old state House seat” via Zac Anderson of the Herald-Tribune – A familiar face in Sarasota politics will try to win back the District 72 state House seat that flipped from Republican to Democratic representation this month. … Pilon – a Sarasota Republican who held the District 72 seat from 2010 to 2016 before deciding to run for the state Senate and losing – told the Herald-Tribune in an interview Tuesday that he will try to win his old seat back. Pilon, 73, said he is running because his “purpose in life” has been public service. He is a former sheriff’s deputy and Sarasota County commissioner. Democrat Margaret Good won the District 72 seat – which covers much of northern Sarasota County – in a special election against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall. … Pilon may face a GOP primary. Buchanan has not decided whether he will run for the seat again. And Pilon said former School Board candidate Teresa Mast is exploring a run for the seat. “She seems pretty firm that she wants to run,” he said. “We’ll see. That’s why we have elections.”

— STATEWIDE —

Striking at Vladimir Putin’s ‘continued aggression,’ Rubio helps honor murdered dissident Boris Nemtsov” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Calling it an “enduring reminder to Vladimir Putin,” Rubio helped designate a street outside the Russian Embassy in honor of opposition leader Nemtsov, who was gunned down on a Moscow bridge in 2015. “This street sign directly outside of the Russian embassy will serve as an enduring reminder to Vladimir Putin, to those who support him, that they cannot use murder, violence, and intimidation to silence the voices of freedom and dissent. The voices of the defenders of liberty will live on,” Rubio said. “To continue to honor Boris’ legacy, we must never stop calling out Vladimir Putin’s repressive policies in Russia, but also his continued aggression around the world. His support for war criminals, like Assad in Syria, and we must never stop speaking out or guarding ourselves against his efforts to interfere in our democratic process here in the United States and in nations across the world.”

Wait, what? – “Man arrested after Twitter threat against David Jolly” via Alex Leary of The Tampa Bay Times — A 55-year-old Clearwater man faces a felony charge for threatening former Congressman David Jolly on Twitter, writing “shoot David jolly shoot him.” Gerald Patrick McGuire… wrote the tweet on Feb. 18 and has made other charged remarks about Jolly and Scientology. … Court documents show he was ordered to have no direct or indirect contact with Jolly. He was being held Tuesday in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $10,000 bail. McGuire was also ordered to surrender all firearms and ammunition to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. … “This is a matter for law enforcement and the judiciary,” Jolly said in response to the arrest. “They have my full confidence.”

Is Beckham’s Miami stadium receiving ‘secret discount’ from taxpayers? Lawsuit says yes” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald — In granting David Beckham and partners a no-bid deal to pay $9 million for three acres of government land for a soccer stadium, Miami-Dade County gave the venture “a secret discount from the taxpayers” by avoiding the chance for better offers, lawyers fighting the proposed Overtown complex said in court papers filed late MondayBruce Matheson, a wealthy activist who helped drive professional tennis out of Key Biscayne, is suing Miami-Dade to block Beckham’s proposed 25,000-seat stadium … In 2017, Miami-Dade commissioners agreed to sell the Beckham partnership the three-acre county truck depot for $9 million without seeking other offers, citing the state’s economic-development law to justify the no-bid arrangement. A judge endorsed the deal in an October ruling, but Matheson appealed. … Miami-Dade agreed to a sales price of about $74 a square foot for the stadium property … The Matheson appeal noted that one of the nearby properties used in the 2015 appraisal to determine the value of the Beckham land in 2017 had since soared in value, selling for $142 a square foot in 2016.

— OPINIONS —

Baby-step gun bill needs Governor’s direction” via Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It’s clear the Florida Legislature will do nothing to ban the sale and possession of military-style, high-velocity, semi-automatic rifles — the weapon of choice in America’s epidemic of mass shootings. … President Ronald Reagan, the standard-bearer of conservative Republicans, supported such a ban. Yet the Republicans who control Tallahassee won’t even discuss it. … That said, for the first time in about 20 years, the Republican-led Legislature appears poised to take some baby-step reforms on gun laws. And for this they deserve some credit. … But what African-American lawmakers consider a “poison pill” emerged Tuesday, when a change was made to the provision to arm teachers under a “marshal program.” … More than most, black lawmakers worry that armed teachers might pull a gun in an altercation with a student. They’re especially concerned because black students face disproportionately more discipline in schools. … Whether the Senate agrees to let teachers carry concealed weapons into classrooms remains to be seen. Most teachers don’t want it. Most superintendents don’t want it. Most school boards don’t want it. Neither does Gov. Scott, whose daughter is a teacher, want it.

Don’t let the absurd ploy to arm teachers distract you” via Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post – The deliberately outrageous idea of arming classroom teachers is nothing more than a distraction, a ploy by the gun lobby to buy time for passions to cool … The National Rifle Association and its vassals in the Republican Party would like you to exhaust your outrage on a possibility that is, from the start, impossible. … Imagine a loaded gun in there somewhere. Even on an average day, without an active shooter stalking the halls, the question is not what could go wrong. It is how many dead or wounded … ‘Up to States’ means abdicating the federal government’s responsibility and urging state legislatures to waste time and effort debating whether to mandate that instruments of death be introduced to classrooms.

USFSP gets better protections” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board – With 10 days left in the legislative session, the effort to phase out USF St. Petersburg’s separate accreditation and fold it back into the major research university appears virtually certain to succeed. An improved plan for the merger moved forward that offers better protections and potentially a brighter future for the St. Petersburg campus. Among the positive changes: The plan for phasing out separate accreditation would be developed by a 13-member task force appointed by the chair of the Board of Governors, which oversees the state university system; legislative leaders; and USF leaders. Only two of the seats appear guaranteed to represent USFSP, those held by the regional chancellor and an appointee by the chair of the campus board. USFSP would keep its name and continue to be led by a regional chancellor. Even better, the five-member campus board would be expanded to seven members, and the chair of the faculty senate and the student body president would be ex-officio members. The biggest concern that remains unaddressed is student access. There remains a lack of commitment to ensure that raising all campuses to a single admissions standard will not shut out good Pinellas students who should have the opportunity to go to a four-year public university in their home county.

— MOVEMENTS —

Florida Supreme Court reprimands Tampa lawyer Natalie K. Khawam” via Anastasia Dawson of The Tampa Bay Times — The Florida Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded Tampa lawyer Natalie K. Khawam, the sister of Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite who helped expose the 2012 sex scandal that led to the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus. The Florida Bar said Tuesday that Khawam acknowledged charging a client excessive fees. … real estate agent Ronald Mastrodonato filed complaints against Khawam, 42, after he hired her to represent him … By the time Khawam filed an initial appellate brief and related documents, she had billed about $95,000 in fees and collected about $65,000 … She is now required to reach a settlement with Mastrodonato with a Florida Bar-appointed Fee Arbitration Coordinator, the order said.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Jason AllisonRobert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: PCM-G

Chip Case, Capitol Advocates: CYA Concealment/Mobile Marksmen

Charlie Dudley, Floridian Partners: Anheuser-Busch Companies

Marnie GeorgeMichael HarrellTimothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Guardian Group

Gary Hester: Florida Police Chiefs Association

Leonard Joseph: Airbnb

Sean Pittman, Pittman Law Group: Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers

Van Poole, PooleMcKinley: Apollo Education Group, Comcast, General Motors, Motion Picture Association of America, PooleMcKinley, Port Everglades Pilots Association, Seminole Tribe of Florida, United Technologies Corporation, Universal City Development Partners

William RubinMelissa AkesonAmy BiscegliaErica ChantiChristopher FinkbeinerMatthew SaccoHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Samaritans 365 Foundation

Trevor Wayne Santos: National Shooting Sports Foundation

Clifton Wilson: Criminal Conflict & Civil Regional Counsel

— ALOE —

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby unexpectedly departs from struggling company” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel –  … after less than three years on the job. “I didn’t see that coming,” said Tuna Amobi, a SeaWorld analyst with CFRA Research. “The timing was something that certainly caught me off guard.” The leadership change was announced as the company announced fourth-quarter earnings — including an attendance drop of nearly 3 percent year-over-year. Attendance for all of 2017 dropped to 20.8 million, down 5.5 percent year-over-year. SeaWorld’s total revenues fell to $1.26 billion, a 6 percent drop from the prior year.

What Alan Suskey is reading –St. Petersburg’s historic Vinoy hotel could soon be for sale again” via Susan Taylor Martin of the Tampa Bay Times – RLJ Lodging Trust, which acquired the Vinoy in August as part of its $1 billion takeover of a Maryland company, is expected to put the venerable hotel on the market this summer. “RLJ’s portfolio does not align with complex upscale resorts, so it is very likely they will sell us off,’’ Barbara Readey, the Vinoy’s general manager, said. “But the most important thing is Marriott will still manage it under the Renaissance flag.’’ According to its website, most of RLJ’s holdings are single-building, moderate-priced hotels like Embassy Suites, Holiday Inn and Hampton Inn.

Happy birthday to Rick Fernandez and our friend, Matthew Weidner.

Written By

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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