Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.25.18

Florida Capitol 2 (Large)

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Daniel McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Drew Wilson.

Families of the “Groveland Four” still are waiting, and have heard nothing about any expedited clemency review, let alone the granting of full pardons.

A year ago, the Florida Legislature apologized for the grave injustices perpetrated against Charles Greenlee, Walter Irvin, Samuel Shepherd, and Ernest Thomas. 

It’s a Jim Crow era horror story, which resulted in the deaths of Shepherd and Thomas, and imprisonments of Greenlee and Irvin. Florida Politics’ Scott Powers notes that families are angered, particularly at Gov. Rick Scott and the Clemency Board’s slow pace in providing closure. 

From Scott’s spox: “Governor Scott is aware of the Groveland Four case and is strongly against any form of racial injustice or discrimination. Currently, the families of Walter Irvin and Charles Greenlee have applications pending with the Commission on Offender Review … After the Commission concludes clemency investigation, their findings are presented to the four-member Board of Executive Clemency.” 

Urgency: Family members want official pardons, and for some time is ticking. Irvin’s nephew Eddie Lee Irvin Jr. said, “My Dad’s sister, Henrietta, she’s very sick right now, and she’s been battling for this [justice] a long time. Before she leaves this Earth, I would like to see something done, so she can go and be at peace.”

Sponsors of the apology Rep. Bobby Dubose and Sen. Gary Farmer did not respond to inquiries, nor did other members of the Florida Cabinet. 

Click here for an important read worthy of your time.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @LearyReports: President Trump meeting (today) with Tim Cook, per sked.

— @HoarseWisperer: CBS News reporting that Trump’s joke of a doctor, Ronny Jackson, is under investigation for drinking on the job and doling out meds improperly. Well, the drinking might explain the press conference where he described Trump like a young Michael Phelps.

@DavidJollyFL: We shouldn’t have a Secretary of State supported by only half of the Senate. Nor a VA Secretary unfit to run the Department. Nor an EPA Administrator conflicted by self dealing. That’s just this week.

— @Hannahdreir: Hospitals, schools and whole towns in Venezuela have been cut off from running water amid the country’s economic crisis. Yesterday, a governor with the ruling socialist party went on Twitter to complain that his swimming pool is empty and demand the state water company fill it.

— @RepDeSantis: Over 100 years ago, the Ottoman Empire forcibly deported and killed over 1 million innocent Armenians. Today we remember the tragedy of the Armenian Genocide and the men, woman, and children who were subjected to the brutality of the Ottoman forces.

— @RepCurbelo: Glad to see @usedgov moving forward with grant program to help schools in #Florida & other states with the unexpected cost of educating students displaced by natural disasters. Great news for school districts like @MDCPS.

— @Fineout: First off – a candidate for governor “designates” a person to run as their lieutenant governor. There is nothing in that part of the law that says the LG has to have the same party affiliation.

— @BruceRitchie[email protected]FrancisRooney calls the FL Petroleum Council “a front” for the American Petroleum Council on offshore drilling issues. Actually API is upfront in identifying FPC as a division of API. No secret there.

— @MarcACaputo: The head of the MSDHS shooting commission, @SheriffPinellas Bob Gualtieri, sounded shocked that the classroom doors would only lock FROM THE OUTSIDE. So teachers had to go into the hall to try to lock them with a key “That’s messed up, no matter how you slice it,” Gualtieri said

@NewsBySmiley: Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killled by Nikolas Cruz, is calling Cruz “18-19-58.” Says “I can’t call him by name. That’s his prison ID number.”

— @UpshotNYT: More CEOs of major U.S. corporations are men named James than are women, of any name. Another way to think about the glass ceiling.

— DAYS UNTIL —

NFL Draft begins — 1; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 9; Mother’s Day — 18; Deadpool 2 release — 23; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 30; Memorial Day — 33; Father’s Day — 53; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 58; Deadline for filing claim bills — 98; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 98; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 99; Start of the U.S. Open — 120; Primary Election Day — 123; College Football opening weekend — 127; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 181; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 182; General Election Day — 195; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 295; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 314.

— TOP STORY — 

Fearing court action, Rick Scott calls emergency meeting of clemency board” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott called an emergency meeting of the Cabinet for Wednesday in anticipation of a federal court not approving a delay in adopting a new system of granting the right to vote to convicted felons. Scott acted in the absence of a decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has not acted on the state’s request to stay a lower court decision that struck down the state’s system of restoring voting rights to felons and ordered a new system to be instituted by April 26. “This meeting will be open to the public, who will have an opportunity to provide input at the beginning of the meeting,” Scott’s office said in a statement released Tuesday night. “If a stay is not issued, the meeting agenda will be for the board to consider how to respond to the lower court’s decision.”

— NELSON V. SCOTT —

U.S. Chamber places 6-figure ad hitting Bill Nelson on economy” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The group is backing Republican Gov. Scott‘s Senate bid, and uses the ad to hit Nelson on economic issues, while praising policies Scott pushed for during his eight years in the governor’s mansion. “After 40 years in politics, what has Bill Nelson actually done?” the ad opens. It features a series of people lamenting Nelson’s record on taxes and the growth of government. The six-figure buy has the spot running in Tampa and Orlando markets starting Tuesday. So far, $249,000 has been placed on broadcast in the Tampa market and another $32,000 has been placed on Spanish language buys in the same city, according to media buying figures. The ad was funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but at the end of it, the Florida Chamber of Commerce also endorses Scott. The move is no surprise. The group, one of Florida’s biggest business lobbies, has long been one of the governor’s biggest donors.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Ricardo Rosselló pushes to empower Florida Puerto Ricans to support the island” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Governor of Puerto Rico came to Orlando to launch an effort aimed at getting island migrants in Florida and throughout the other states to register and vote for the territory’s interests … Rosselló expressed the same frustration that he brought to a controversial speech he gave in Kissimmee in January when he essentially accused the federal government of letting down the island commonwealth and its residents during their times of need, the 2016 economic collapse and the 2017 Hurricane Maria devastation. This time Rosselló came with the plan to rally Puerto Ricans stateside. It involves a newly incorporated, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization called Poder [Spanish for power, or for to act] established to lead stateside efforts to organize the estimated 5.6 million Puerto Ricans to register, identify political candidates willing to support Puerto Rico, and vote. Poder will pursue both traditional grassroots efforts and internet strategies to seek and organize Puerto Ricans in Florida and the rest of the mainland, Rosselló said. Luis Figueroa, formerly Rosselló’s regional director for Puerto Rico’s Federal Affairs Administration, will be Poder’s Florida director. They will be endorsing candidates, Figueroa said.

Story you won’t read in Sunburn – “Florida Democratic Party’s undocumented line of credit raises questions among leaders” via Ana Ceballos of the Naples Daily News – When Nikki Barnes is the only source quoted raising questions, our eyes begin to glaze over.

Tammy Duckworth endorses Gwen Graham” via Florida Politics – Graham says she’s gotten the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Duckworth of Illinois … “No one is better equipped to defend Florida against Donald Trump and his harmful policies than Gwen Graham,” Duckworth said in a statement released by the Graham campaign. Duckworth, who lost both legs in a helicopter crash in the Iraq War in 2004, is the first disabled woman and the second Asian-American woman in the Senate, and first female senator to give birth while holding office. Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient, and Graham served together in Congress. Graham “will take on Trump to defend the Affordable Care Act and expand healthcare for Florida families. Gwen will protect Florida’s waters from Trump’s dangerous oil drilling plans. And she will put people — not special interests — first by passing an increased minimum wage,” Duckworth said.

Save the date — Graham will host the grand opening of a statewide campaign headquarters Saturday, May 5, at 3 p.m., 1516 E. Colonial Dr. in Orlando. RSVP with Bettina Weiss at [email protected]com.

“Despite placing fourth in recent polls, Chris King releases new campaign spot and claims the race is still ‘wide open'” via John Lucas of The Capitolist – King … has released another campaign ad (see below). The spot is called “Fresh Vision” and features clips of King’s comments made during last week’s debate at WTVT in Tampa. … The spot will be targeted at Democratic voters on Facebook. … A memo from David Binder Research … says a new poll shows there is still a high number of undecided voters and that the nomination is still a toss-up. But the memo did not include the actual voter percentages each candidate received.

Click on the image below to watch King’s ad:

Philip Levine ramps up outreach efforts in Governor bid” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Levine rolled out the hire of Manny Orozco as the new Statewide Youth Outreach Director and the promotion of Robert Julien to Statewide Outreach Director. Per campaign manager Matthew Van Name, Orozco’s “organizing experience will be an asset as we implement a youth-driven and college outreach program to engage with millennial voters on the issues that matter.” Julien “is vital in implementing our plan to connect with voters and community leaders in all of Florida’s 67 counties,” he added. Orozco, previously Florida Campus Director for the left-leaning NextGen America, has worked on some high profile campaigns, including Jon Ossoff‘s congressional bid and presidential campaigns for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Assignment Editors – Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam will host an “Up & Adam” Breakfast in Jacksonville. That’s at 8:30 a.m., Beach Diner Mandarin, 11362 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville.

Former U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams backs Scott Sturgill in CD 7” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — “Congress is broken, and it will take a new approach to fix it. Scott Sturgill has the real-life experience as a successful businessman that will be necessary to cut through government red tape and let the American economy grow,” Adams stated in a news release. “We need real conservatives like Scott in Congress to hold the line on spending, help the private sector create jobs, stand up to the Washington special interests, and enact policies to help get our economy moving again. I would ask all Central Florida conservatives to stand with me and help elect Scott Sturgill.” Adams, of Oviedo, served one term, 2011-’13, representing Florida’s 24th Congressional District which included much of eastern Seminole County before the last redistricting. CD 7 now covers all of Seminole County, plus north and central Orange County.

Save the date — Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa will appear at a meet-and-greet event Saturday, May 12, to support Andrew Learned for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Event will be held in the Bloomingdale neighborhood in Valrico, with details upon RSVP at activeblue.com.

Here’s a clue that Tom Lee is about to announce a run for Congress” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Lee announced last week that he won’t run for state chief financial officer, as he has been planning to … instead considering running for the Congressional District 15 seat being vacated by Rep. Dennis Ross … Lee hasn’t announced a decision on that race, but he filed a letter with the state Division of Elections withdrawing as a fundraising solicitor for his political committee, The Conservative. One possible reason for Lee to do that: It would present legal hurdles for a candidate for federal office to solicit money for a state political committee, which routinely accepts corporate and large-dollar contributions not allowed under federal law. That doesn’t necessarily mean Lee has made a decision. Friends say he’s still deciding, with qualifying for the office starting Monday and running through May 4.

Happening today — Venice Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez, who is running for Congress, will speak during the Republican Club of South Sarasota County’s annual Reagan Patriot Day Dinner. Event begins at 7 p.m., Elks Lodge, 401 North Indiana Ave., Englewood.

Happening tonight:

Brandes fundraiser 4.25.2018

Chris Sprowls says Pinellas’ future is bright in new ad” via Florida Politics — “The United States. It is more than a place. This nation is an idea, an experiment, and an example for those whose destiny is freedom,” Sprowls says in the ad over a video montage that included a shot of North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho attending the 2018 State of the Union address. “We don’t all look the same, we don’t all sound the same, we don’t all vote the same. But no matter how much we’re told that we’re coming apart, more and more each day, person to person, neighbor to neighbor, we’re coming together.” Sprowls then thanked volunteers, teachers, police officers and “ordinary Floridians” for serving the northern Pinellas County community he represents in the Florida House. Sprowls is running for a third term in House District 65 … The 34-year-old attorney is in line to succeed Miami Republican Rep. Jose Oliva as House Speaker following the 2020 elections. So far, only Democrat Alex Toth has filed to challenge him in the 2018 cycle.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Happening tonight:

— ORLANDO REVISITED —

If Central Florida’s history is any indicator, statewide Democratic landslides aren’t probable in 2018, and photo finishes are likely. 

Democratic strategist Steve Schale dropped a must-read analysis on Tuesday that puts major demographic changes to the Orlando area — fueled by the influx of Puerto Rican immigrants — into a historical perspective. The result? More doubt of an all-out ‘blue wave.’ 

As the mantra goes, it takes a lot to move the needle. And as Schale wrote, “I suspect the average [Hurricane] Maria migrant, having upended their life, is focused on everything other than registering to vote.” 

The ‘urban’ bloc: Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties went from giving President George Bush a 9,000 and 34,000 vote margin respectively in 2000 and 2004, to giving Hillary Clinton a 166,000 vote margin in 2016. Still, Clinton lost the state, and voter rolls remain at the same ratio currently. 

The ‘exurban’ bloc: The Orlando media market also includes Lake, Marion, Sumter, Flagler, Volusia and Brevard, and rivals the urban counties in voter numbers. Barack Obama lost the exurban counties by a smaller margin than Clinton. 

The strategy: The exurban counties have turned out for Bill Nelson and Rick Scott. They also could go “a long way” in determining the gubernatorial race. Per Schale, “If my party can figure out how to claw back a few points of white support on a regular basis, both this market, and Florida start to look a lot more “‘blue.’” 

— STATEWIDE —

Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will attend the Florida National Guard deployment ceremony for the 3rd Battalion, 116th Field Artillery Regiment at 10:30 a.m., Plant City Strawberry Festival Grounds, Milton E. Hull Armory, 2202 W. Reynolds St. in Plant City. Then, the Governor will recognize staff and law enforcement at Forest High School who intervened in an April 20 shooting. Medal presentation begins 2 p.m. at the Marion County Emergency Operations Center, 692 NW. 30th Ave. in Ocala.

Happening today — The Brevard County legislative delegation will discuss the 2018 Session at a breakfast hosted by the Space Coast Economic Development Council and the Dean Mead law firm. Meeting begins at 7:45 a.m., Hilton Melbourne Rialto, 200 Rialto Place, Melbourne.

Happening today — Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill will discuss the 2018 Legislative Session at a meeting of the Space Coast Republican Club. Meeting begins at 11 a.m., Red Lobster, 215 East Merritt Island Causeway, Merritt Island.

Happening today — Loxahatchee Republican Rep. Rick Roth will discuss the 2018 Legislative Session At a meeting of the Republican Club of the Palm Beaches. Also slated to speak is former Rep. Baxter Troutman, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner. Event begins at noon, Holiday Inn Hotel and Conference Center, 1301 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach.

Dana Young: Let’s get the medical marijuana licensing train rolling” via Florida Politics – Sen. Young is pressing the Department of Health to ramp up efforts to issue more licenses for medical marijuana providers. Young, a Tampa Republican, sent a letter to Office of Medical Marijuana Use director Christian Bax on Tuesday. She referred to the state’s cracking the 100,000 mark last Friday – coincidentally on April 20, or 4/20 – in the number of registered medicinal cannabis patients. Lawmakers, as well as patient and provider advocates, have been complaining about Florida’s supply of medicinal cannabis not keeping up with what they say is the burgeoning demand. “Given the indisputable fact that patient demand for medical marijuana is quickly increasing, my strong recommendation is that the Department award the additional four contingent MMTC (medical marijuana treatment centers) licenses in the upcoming review cycle to be activated once the number of qualified patients reaches 200,000,” Young wrote.

State names nine Medicaid health plans but challenges loom” via Christine Sexton of the News service of Florida –The decision is not final, though, and Molina Healthcare of Florida and Positive Healthcare – both of which currently have contracts, but would be shut out of the Medicaid program between 2019-2024 – have said they plan on challenging the Agency for Health Care Administration’s decision … the contracts could be the largest ever awarded by the state and could be worth more than $90 billion over a five-year period. If the agency’s decision stands, Sunshine Health Plan will operate in all 11 regions of the state. Sunshine Health would offer Medicaid beneficiaries access to a traditional plan as well as a separate “child welfare” specialty plan. Simply Healthcare Plans will offer a specialty plan for people with HIV and AIDS in all 11 regions. Humana was picked as a provider in 10 of the 11 regions … but failed to win a bid in Medicaid Region 1 … WellCare of Florida, which will operate under the moniker of Staywell Health Plan of Florida, will offer access to a mental health specialty plan in all 11 Medicaid regions. Florida Community Care will be offered in every region but North Florida Region 2 … Best Care Assurance will operate under the name Horizon Health Plan and will be made available in Medicaid Region 8.

State ban on advance FEMA payments ties up billions for state cities, counties” via Arek Sarkissian of POLITICO Florida – FEMA had only issued $38.7 million as of Monday through its Public Assistance Grant Program, which provides reimbursements to municipalities and some private nonprofit groups impacted by natural disasters. The amount paid is less than 1 percent of the $3.6 billion in requests made after Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. City and county leaders attributed the nearly stagnant flow of federal dollars to a Florida Division of Emergency Management ban on any advance payments for storm recovery projects before they go through an already time-consuming FEMA approval process. Previously, cities and counties could ask FEMA to provide cash for projects before they’re approved. But some projects submitted after previous hurricanes received too much cash, prompting FEMA to demand money back, DEM spokesman Alberto Moscoso said.

Workers’ compensation appeals board parses risk for thousands of companies” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Daytona Aircraft Services had a beef with its workers’ compensation carrier — it believed the insurer had misclassified its operations, and that the mistake was costing $18,000 per year in inflated premiums. The company presented its case Tuesday before the Florida Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, an independent forum overseen by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. It was one of two appeals the panel took up during a two-hour meeting in a Tallahassee hotel conference room.

First in Sunburn – Immunize Florida formed to support ‘science-based immunization policies’ – A new statewide coalition has formed to support science-based immunization to protect Floridians from vaccine-preventable diseases, a Tuesday press release said. Immunize Florida is a grassroots network uniting parents, educators, students, healthcare professionals, and community leaders dedicated to achieving and maintaining full immunization. “Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from potentially harmful diseases,” said Angie Gallo, Legislative Chair of the Florida PTA. “I’m proud to join Immunize Florida to educate our parents and policymakers on the life-saving benefits of immunizations.” Immunize Florida will work to address new vaccine-preventable diseases, such as meningitis, which “can spread quickly in closed environments, like a classroom, college dorm, or military barracks.”

Investigators: School design contributed to massacre” via Terry Spencer and Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — Broward Sheriff’s Office Detective Zachary Scott told the Marjory Stoneman High School Public Safety Commission that teachers trying to lock down their students as the gunman began his attack couldn’t lock classroom doors from the inside, but had to grab a key, open the door and turn the lock from the outside. The doors also had small windows that enabled the suspect, identified by police as former student Nikolas Cruz, to fire into locked classrooms, killing several people, Scott told the commission. The commission also learned that the Broward sheriff’s office and Coral Springs police department had different radio systems, preventing the primary agencies responding to the shooting from exchanging information, and that attempts to merge the channels have failed.

YETI spin doesn’t sit well with Marion Hammer” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — NRA Florida lobbyist Hammer gave a little more detail about the intensifying battle between hipster cooler company YETI and the National Rifle Association. According to Hammer, YETI cut off its affiliation with the NRA Foundation in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School … Here’s what Hammer said about the origin of the spat: “YETI severed ties with the NRA and is now engaging in damage control after a backlash from many of its customers. In early March, YETI refused to place a previously negotiated order from NRA-ILA, citing ‘recent events’ as the reason — a clear reference to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. YETI then delivered notice to the NRA Foundation that it was terminating a 7-year agreement and demanded that the NRA remove the YETI name and logo from all NRA digital assets, as well as refrain from using any YETI trademarks in future print material. While YETI is trying to spin the story otherwise, those are the facts.”

Advocates ask sheriff to stop ticketing and fining pedestrians. He says no.” via Ben Conarck of the Florida Times-Union — Sheriff Mike Williams that racially disparate pedestrian ticketing by his officers has dropped significantly since January, but he had a hard time finding true believers at a criminal justice reform event. About 1,400 people at the annual Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation & Empowerment Nehemiah Assembly heard the sheriff unveil a new statistic: that just 34 percent of pedestrian citations from January through March this year went to blacks … the Times-Union and ProPublica reported that Williams was using misleading data to generate another figure — that 45 percent of tickets went to black pedestrians in a six-year span. To get there, the sheriff included a criminal misdemeanor for panhandling that skewed the results. In the face of questions … the sheriff could not point to any evidence to support that tickets with fines improve safety. In fact, Times-Union and ProPublica reporting showed fatal pedestrian crashes have risen at nearly an identical rate as ticketing has climbed in the last five years.

Tampa Bay area agency’s typo overprices transportation project by over $7 billion” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority misprinted a line in its 2019 draft Transportation Regional Incentive Program priority project list, indicating an $8.1 billion estimate for Tampa Bay Next and right of way acquisition from the Howard Frankland Bridge to Lois Avenue. The document was later updated to reflect an $817 million project for “interstate modernization,” not Tampa Bay Next. Stephen Benson, a government liaison with the Florida Department of Transportation, emailed TBARTA asking where the agency got the $8.1 billion figure. TBARTA’s Senior Planner and project coordinator Anthony Matonti replied someone had mistyped the cost estimate and added an extra zero. “Please be extra careful when describing these projects since a lot of people are watching them,” Benson wrote.

St. Augustine planning board member charged with FEMA fraud” via Sheldon Gardner of the St. Augustine Record — Authorities believe Deltra Long, 66, made a false application for Federal Emergency Management Agency funds between Nov. 5, 2016, and April 21, 2017, to restore a rental property in St. Augustine that was damaged by Hurricane Matthew, according to the indictment from U.S. District Court in Jacksonville. According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida: “Long allegedly sought funds to restore rental property, which she did not occupy when Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Florida October 3, 2016.” Long is the vice chair of St. Augustine’s Planning and Zoning Board and serves on a group that meets with City Manager John Regan monthly to help increase black employment in the city’s workforce. If convicted, Long faces up to five years in federal prison on the theft count, and up to 10 years’ imprisonment on the false claims count.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Marco Rubio challenges legitimacy of Brightline financing” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — Rubio cast doubt on Brightline’s approval for $1.75 billion of tax-exempt bonds, crucial financing for the Miami-to-Orlando passenger railroad. Rubio’s letter to transportation Secretary Elaine Chao follows a Capitol Hill hearing last week during which congressmen blasted Brightline and the U.S. Department of Transportation — which approved the bonds — for possibly circumventing federal law and defying congressional intent regarding the financing. Rubio’s letter followed up on those themes and called for “increased transparency” on the issue. “When federal financing mechanisms are utilized, it is critical that the utmost transparency is provided to taxpayers,” Rubio wrote. Brightline “has raised questions regarding whether federal financing was appropriately used. I urge the Department of Transportation to provide clarity.”

Law firm quietly lobbying Congress on FIU bridge collapse” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –A former top official at the National Transportation Safety Board has been hired by a Florida-based law firm to lobby Congress on undisclosed issues related to the collapse of a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University that left six dead last month. It’s unclear, however, who the firm that hired the Washington, D.C., lobbying team is working with, or what specific issues they are lobbying Congress about. Lobbying disclosure forms filed March 27 show that Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer PA, a firm with 10 Florida offices, hired O’Neill and Associates, a Washington-based lobbying and crisis communications firm. Among the lobbyists from O’Neill and Associates leading the effort is Peter Goelz, who served as the NTSB‘s managing director … “He is widely hailed as one of the country’s most experienced coordinators in disaster situations,” read Goelz’s bio on the firm’s website.

Local fishing leaders hit Washington to advocate for Everglades restoration” via Jaclyn Bevis of NBC 2 — Local fishing captains descended on the nation’s capital to fight for federal funding to pay for the Everglades Restoration Project. The estimated $16 billion project is the only one of its kind in the world, according to the Sanibel Director of Natural Resources James Evans. “The world is watching,” Evans said. “They’re taking notes.” The Everglades restoration plans are made up of dozens of smaller projects to help restore the natural southward flow of water into the Everglades, giving Florida’s coast less excess water. “We get too much water when we don’t need it,” Evans explained. “And we don’t get enough water when we do need it.” Members of the Captains for Clean Water, fishing guides, business leaders, and community leaders plan to explain the problems in Washington D.C. at the Everglades Summit. In meetings with lawmakers and decision makers, the Captains hope to push for support and funding to help move the projects forward, considered by many as a vital part of the process.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

Atlantic magazine’s longtime national correspondent James Fallows published something we all want to read: despite everything else, segments of America are on the up and up. 

Accompanied by his wife, Fallows traversed the country and dwelled in locales overlooked by the media. He documented the American dichotomy of progress and dereliction, from tech start-ups to defunct coal towns, but overall found indicators of hope. 

To Fallows, cascading stories of federal woes accurately depict national politics, but they don’t represent America. He wrote, “For us the American story was of a country that is still capable of functioning far more effectively than national-level paralysis would indicate or than most people unaware of the national patterns we are reporting would assume about the parts of America they’re not in.”

Observations: At the local level, civic governance, immigration, talent dispersal, schools, libraries, manufacturing, downtowns, and conservation are progressing.

Correcting perceptions: Fallows offers a to-do step: “Subscribe to local publications … The most urgent place to start would be with local and state-capital newspapers, which have been even harder hit than national publications by the evaporation of journalism’s late-20th-century economic base.”

If you’re a hopeless skeptic: “Through the next year, go to half a dozen places that are new to you, and that are not usually covered in the mainstream press. When you get there, don’t ask people about national politics … Instead ask about what is happening right now in these places.”

— OPINIONS —

Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — Decades of research and evidence show that capital cases consume inordinate time and money, depriving victims’ families of closure. The death penalty does not act as a deterrent, is applied arbitrarily and is too vulnerable to racial bias and error. Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations with 27, a shameful record that means there surely have been innocent people executed. Yet Republican leaders and many prosecutors still insist the death penalty is appropriate in “the worst of the worst” cases. But empaneling 12 people on a jury who all agree on what that constitutes has proved difficult for prosecutors. Last year, just three death sentences were handed down in Florida, compared with 22 five years earlier. At the time of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hurst decision, Florida had 389 inmates on death row, and four out of five were sent there by non-unanimous juries. The system was an unconstitutional quagmire then, and under the new system, the death penalty is slowly fading away rather than being abruptly repealed.

It’s time to dump Florida’s policy on plastic bags” via Eve Samples of the TC Palm – The typical plastic shopping bag has a useful lifespan of about 20 minutes. You pack your groceries in it, you bring it home. Maybe you stash it in the pantry for later use picking up dog poo or holding wet bathing suits.  It may eventually head to the landfill, where it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.  Worse, it may end up drifting into the ocean and breaking into small pieces that are eaten by marine animals. In turn, we humans eat some of those animals. Plastics can remain in the ocean for hundreds of years in their original form, and even longer in small particles, according to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum which estimated there is more than 150 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean. “Without significant action, there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean, by weight, by 2050,” the report stated.

Mixed messages abound in gun control debate” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — While survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre got headlines and lots of support in the weeks following the murders there, the National Rifle Association was raking in cash. Lots of cash … the NRA’s Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million in March. For perspective, that is $1.5 million more than the NRA raised in the same period a year ago. The NRA’s Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million in March. For perspective, that is $1.5 million more than the NRA raised in the same period a year ago … all but $500,000 of the $2.4 million haul came from people writing checks of $200 or less. That’s the kind of grassroots action that keeps gun-friendly politicians in line out of fear for the jobs. It tells everyone else that the eternal quest for “common-sense gun laws” is futile. There apparently is no middle ground.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Justin Sayfie to President’s Commission on White House Fellowships – In a Tuesday press release, the White House announced President Donald Trump’s “intent to appoint” Sayfie to a “key position in his Administration.” To wit, Sayfie – publisher of The Sayfie Review and DC-based lobbyist for Ballard Partners – is slated to be a member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Sayfie held the same position under President George W. Bush, serving 2007-09. Also named to the commission Tuesday were Lisa Nelson of Virginia and Philip J. Montante Jr. of New York.

— PIC DU JOUR —

Don’t mess with the ​bird of prey: Garden & Gun magazine features this classic “damn (Florida) nature, you scary” pic of an osprey clutching, yes, a shark with a fish in its mouth. The magazine called it a “once-in-a-lifetime moment of predator-predator-prey.​”​ ​As ​the photog​, ​nature photographer Doc Jon, said, “I take pictures all the time, but I don’t know how I’ll ever top this.”​ Us neither. ​

— ALOE —

Amazon has a top-secret plan to build home robots” via Mark Gurman and Brad Stone of Bloomberg — The retail and cloud computing giant has embarked on an ambitious, top-secret plan to build a domestic robot, according to people familiar with the plans. Code-named “Vesta,” after the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, the project is overseen by Gregg Zehr, who runs Amazon’s Lab126 hardware research and development division based in Sunnyvale, California. People familiar with the project speculate that the Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices. Prototypes of the robots have advanced cameras and computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car. Former Apple executive Max Paley is leading the work on computer vision. Amazon has also hired specialized mechanical engineers from the robotics industry.

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car” via Sara DiNatale of the Tampa Bay Times — The online retailer has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in 37 cities, including Tampa and St. Petersburg. Deliveries can be placed in customers’ locked cars through the new “Key In-Car” service. Prime members that have OnStar in their 2015 or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac vehicles or those with 2015 or newer Volvo vehicles with an active Volvo On Call account can use the new service. Shoppers will have to download the Amazon Key App, where they can link their connected car to their orders. The deliveries will be placed inside cars parked in accessible areas — such as the home driveway or workplace parking lot — then secured.

How Disney World is making DinoLand more ducky” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — The DinoLand U.S.A. area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is getting a makeover, and you have Donald Duck to thank. “In the conceit of the storyline, Donald just found out he’s a descendant of dinosaurs. He’s thrilled,” said Mark Renfrow, show director with Disney Parks Live Entertainment. D.D. proceeds to go to DinoLand and create a festival called Donald’s Dino-Bash. It kicks off May 25. Translation for parkgoers: There’s going to be a bigger meet-and-greet presence in DinoLand, something the park has been short of since Camp Minnie-Mickey closed in early 2014 to make room for Pandora — The World of Avatar. There will be eight stations, seven of them brand-new, Renfrow said. You might see Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad McQuack characters. “Even Pluto’s in the Boneyard,” he said. “It’s full of bones, man — dog heaven.”

’Underrated’ St. Petersburg gets its due” via Frances McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — “With 35 miles of white-sand beaches, St. Petersburg is the most blissed-out vacation spot you didn’t think to book,” the Travel Channel said on its website. St. Pete is “sunny 361 days of the year here (yes, really), but there’s plenty else to do besides work on your tan. Check any of the 30 craft breweries in town, art-centric museums and emerging food scene, or opt for out-there activities like nighttime paddle boarding on glow-in-the-dark boards and swimming with horses.” The Travel Channel summarized what brings tourists to St. Pete, even as nearby Clearwater Beach sometimes seems to get all the attention after being voted the No. 1 beach in the United States by TripAdvisor for the second time in three years and also being ranked No. 7 in the world.

Happy birthday to state Rep. David Richardson, as well as one of the best Democratic political consultants in the state, Tom Alte, Kristin Seidel Lamb, Brian Lowack, and Democratic activist Susan Smith.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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