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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.1.18

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

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

Tuesday is Election Day in two Florida state House districts.

It’s a foregone conclusion that Republican Josie Tomkow will cruise over Democrat Ricky Shirah in House District 39, which was vacated by former Republican Rep. Neil Combee over Thanksgiving.

Josie Tomkow, with the man she hopes to succeed, Neil Combee.

Tomkow has built a more than 10-to-1 lead in fundraising, and the Osceola/Polk County district is a GOP stronghold even a “blue tsunami” couldn’t topple.

House District 114, on the other hand, likely won’t be decided in the first minutes after polls close.

Democrat Javier Fernandez and Republican Andrew Vargas are squaring off for the Miami-Dade seat once held by Democrat Daisy Baez, who resigned last year after pleading guilty to perjury in a case relating to her residency.

HD 114 is a true swing seat.

Fernandez and Vargas have both raised substantial sums for their campaigns, and outside spending on ads is more akin to a general election than a sleepy special. Voters are surely tired of the spurious assaults on the lobbying career of Fernandez, AKA “Javi Lobby.” Ditto for the rote attacks on Vargas filing “scam lawsuits” against insurance companies.

Less of an issue is Baez’ perjury conviction. While such a scandal would normally be ripe for election ads, she was elected to replace Republican Rep. Erik Fresen, who was also convicted of a crime committed while he was in office.

Also running is unaffiliated candidate Liz de las Cuevas, whose performance at the polls could be a deciding factor in a tight race.

Both special elections will serve mainly as another seismogram ahead of the 2018 elections. The recent announcement that there will be no special session on gaming all but guarantees the winners will not vote on any legislation before they must run for re-election on the November ballot.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

— @realDonaldTrump: The White House is running very smoothly despite phony Witch Hunts etc. There is great Energy and unending Stamina, both necessary to get things done. We are accomplishing the unthinkable and setting positive records while doing so! Fake News is going “bonkers!”

— @Slade: Dinners, ranked, in terms of people not shutting tf up about them 1. The Last Supper 2. WHCD 2018 3. Sopranos finale 4. The First Thanksgiving 5. Thanksgiving 2016 6. That time I came out to my parents 7. Winner Winner Chicken

— @GBennettPost: .@adamputnam, elected official for 20+ years, introduces himself at @ForumClubPB as 5th-generation Floridian, small business owner & farmer.

— @MCIMaps: With Alan Grayson planning to announce a congressional run tomorrow, its worth noting how poorly he did in his last Democratic primary. He lost the primary in the #FL15 (a seat he’s hinting he will run for) 58-15, and only won his former #FL09 by a 39-36 margin

— @RepCurbelo: Glad to announce @fema is awarding nearly $8 million to @FLHSMV for emergency protective measures and operations taken as a result of #HurricaneIrma.

— @FLGovMajority: This morning, law enforcement leaders from across the state gathered to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our safety. Their courage and commitment to community will never be forgotten. Now more than ever, we honor our heroes and defend the #ThinBlueLine.

— @RepJNunez: Today’s statewide council on human #trafficking meeting begins w/ an incredible story that reminds us why we work tirelessly to combat human trafficking. #FL is at the forefront of this issue & I am grateful to witness our continual progress in keeping vulnerable Floridians safe.

— @CarlosGSmith: Days after the shooting, @richardcorcoran fired a GOP staffer for insulting MSD survivors. SO YESTERDAY! Now, @FloridaGOP is rolling out the red carpet to feature this scumbag (Dinesh D’Souza). Is disrespecting gun violence survivors now part of the Republican platform?

— DAYS UNTIL —

Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 3; Mother’s Day — 12; Deadpool 2 release — 17; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 24; Memorial Day — 27; Father’s Day — 47; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 52; Deadline for filing claim bills — 92; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debates — 92; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debates — 93; Start of the U.S. Open — 118; Primary Election Day — 119; College Football opening weekend — 121; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 175; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 176; General Election Day — 189; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 289; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 308.

— TOP STORY —

Bill Nelson qualifies as congressional candidates line up” via The News Service of Florida — Florida’s lone statewide elected Democrat formally qualified to run for a fourth term Monday as he faces a challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Meanwhile, 17 of the state’s 27 incumbent U.S. House members also qualified when the period opened, with three — Republicans Brian Mast of Palm City and Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Democrat Val Demings of Orlando — facing primary challenges.

Bill Nelson qualifies, while Congressional candidates line up.

Scott did not qualify Monday. Instead, his campaign team touted raising $3.2 million since Scott announced three weeks ago that he was entering the Senate race.

While almost every congressional seat is expected to be contested, the first day of qualifying set up 11 Republican-Democrat clashes in November, with Democratic challengers in place for incumbent Republicans Neal Dunn, Ted Yoho, Bill Posey, Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan and Carlos Curbelo. Also, incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist faces a Republican challenger.

Two potential high-profile candidates for congressional seats continued Monday to keep the pundits waiting.

State Sen. Tom Lee has said he is looking at Ross’ seat but did not immediately qualify.

Also, former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Orlando, has been making noise about running but did not file paperwork Monday.

Tweet, tweet:

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Assignment editors — Gov. Scott will join Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón for a significant announcement in both Kissimmee and Tampa. Events begin 10 a.m., El Cilantrillo Café & Restaurant, 3628 W. Pine St. in Kissimmee and 2:15 p.m., La Casona Restaurant, 5709 N. Armenia Ave. in Tampa.

Bob Graham believes in civics education, but he’ll vote against it in November” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Come November, Graham said he plans to vote against a constitutional amendment that promotes civics education in Florida. That’s because Graham doesn’t like that civics education was paired with a proposal that would allow the state to certify charter schools, bypassing local school boards. “I’m going to end up voting against an amendment that I feel strongly about because it’s surrounded by what I think is bad policy,” Graham said during an interview with the Herald-Tribune. Graham criticized the Florida Constitution Revision Commission for bundling separate policy proposals into single amendments. The education amendment that includes civics education, charter school changes and term limits for school board members is one of the more controversial examples of the CRC’s bundling. The commission also paired a ban on offshore oil drilling with a ban on vaping in workplaces.

Who’s ad is it anyway?” via Gary Fineout of The Fine Print — Adam Putnam hit the airwaves this month with a biographical ad … Putnam’s campaign isn’t bankrolling the ad. Instead Florida Grown, a political committee organized and controlled by the agriculture commissioner, has already paid nearly $1 million to Smart Media Group to purchase television time for the ad … has a disclaimer saying it was paid by the Adam Putnam for governor campaign. So why is this important? Florida Grown can accept unlimited amounts from anyone, including corporate donors, while Putnam’s actual campaign can only accept donations worth up to $3,000. The state’s Division of Elections put out a very interesting opinion in 2016 that could have ramifications for the Putnam campaign. Well-known attorney Ron Meyer, who does work on behalf of entities aligned with the Florida Education Association, asked about what kind of ads a political committee could undertake — including running television ads that refer or depict “a clearly identified candidate for office” that do not “expressly advocate” for that candidate but have no other reasonable interpretation “than an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.” In that opinion, there are ads that fall outside the normal definition of what constitutes a regulated ad … Since these ads don’t fall under the normal definition, then a committee that does such ad could be contributing to a campaign. If this opinion were applied to the Florida Grown ad, then it could be a problem especially since $1 million is way beyond the $3,000 contribution limit.

‘Swamp Creature’: Tea party members and those with the National Liberty Federation protested Congressman Ron DeSantis Monday in West Palm Beach after the GOP congressman and candidate for governor skipped a scheduled debate.

Chris King lands big fish to help pull in money and support” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times — King‘s new state chairman is business leader Harold Mills of Orlando, whose management strategy that turned a workforce management company, ZeroChaos, into a multibillion-dollar global business and one of America’s largest black-owned firms, is taught to business students at Harvard. Each of the major Democratic candidates courted Mills, but the 47-year-old entrepreneur said King’s substance and deeply thought out agenda won him over, particularly his ideas on community colleges, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform. Mills just stepped down as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Jacksonville branch so he can devote full attention to King’s campaign.

Assignment editors — King will speak to the Martin County Democratic Club on the Treasure Coast. The event begins 6:30 p.m. at the Best Western, 1209 SE. Federal Hwy. in downtown Stuart.

Philip Levine video ad touts progressive record” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The ad features news reports on Levine’s time as mayor of Miami Beach and in his post-mayoral campaign in Tallahassee as he pursued a living wage ordinance, police reform, marijuana decriminalization, a plastics ban, addressing sea-level rise, and gun reform. The campaign reported it is putting a five-figure buy behind the ad. “Floridians are tired of the same old talk — they want a leader who has taken action on the issues our state is facing, and Mayor Levine has that record,” Christian Ulvert, senior adviser to the campaign, stated in a news release.

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

Early out of state money already fueling CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Like most incumbent members of Congress, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy is already finding love for her re-election from California to New York, with more than half of her campaign’s money coming from outside Florida, through the first quarter of 2018 … leading Republicans Scott Sturgill and state Rep. Mike Miller are getting nearly 90 percent of their cash from inside the Sunshine State. At least 63 percent of the $1.77 million that Murphy’s campaign has raised has come from out of state. It includes $763,174 in political action committee money, making up the vast majority of the PAC money she has received; plus $362,439 in itemized contributions from individuals, making up about half of those itemized personal contributions. Just under 13 percent of Sturgill’s money is identified as coming from outside of Florida. Miller has enumerated only about $21,000 in personal checks from outside of Florida plus another $11,000 in PAC money from outside Florida.

Mike Miller ad charges that Scott Sturgill was not ‘lifelong Republican’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The new ad, “Democrat,” charges that Sturgill first registered to vote, in 1998, as a Democrat, and did not change his party affiliation to Republican until 2008. In the new digital ad, and a news release, Miller’s campaign focuses on an interview Sturgill gave to the Orlando Sentinel editorial board in 2014, when he faced state Rep. Bob Cortes in a primary battle for the Florida House District 30 seat, which Cortes won. In the interview, archived on YouTube, Sturgill states, “I’m a lifelong Seminole County resident; I’m a lifelong Republican.” Miller’s ad contends that voter registration records do not back that up. And the ad states that while Miller was supporting Republicans, Sturgill was voting for Democrats, and it concludes with a plea for Republican primary voters to “stop Sturgill.”

Click on the image below to watch the ad:

CNN shifts CD 16 to ‘Likely Republican’ – Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is still the favorite in his re-election campaign in Florida’s 16th Congressional District, but CNN thinks his battle against Sarasota attorney David Shapiro will be tougher than his past two elections. The news network cited Shapiro’s solid fundraising efforts – $400L raised in Q1 – in moving the seat from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican” Monday night. It was one of 12 seats moved in the update, and the only one from Florida. The Point’s Chris Cillizza and Brenna Williams wrote after the new rating that “If districts that Trump won in 2016 by 10 to 15 points are competitive this fall, the GOP House majority is as good as gone. The only important question will be how many seats Democrats can pick up.”

Patrick Murphy endorses Lauren Baer for CD 18 — Former Democratic Congressman Murphy is endorsing Baer for his old seat in Florida’s 18th Congressional District. Murphy said: “Lauren has the drive and passion to want to get into public service because she cares about solving problems. She has spent her career finding common ground to solve some of the toughest problems, and she’ll take that experience and fight for the residents of Florida’s 18th every day.” Baer responded: “I look forward to following in Patrick’s footsteps and to representing everyone in this district with the honesty and integrity that they deserve.”

Brian Mast says ‘no thanks’ to Mark Foley’s money” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Foley sent a $2,000 check last month to the re-election campaign of Mast, but Mast’s campaign refused to cash it. Friends of Mark Foley for Congress dates back to before Foley, of West Palm Beach, resigned in 2006 under allegations that he’d sent sexually-explicit text messages to teenage boys serving as House pages. That committee’s latest campaign finance reports … shows that it still has more than $1 million left on hand and that among numerous checks it mailed out earlier this year, it sent a $2,000 check to Mast’s campaign on March 27. A spokesman said Mast’s campaign did not and will not accept Foley’s money, adding that Mast has been outspoken in his calls for stronger workplace protections against sexual misconduct. Mast’s committee also noted that he believes that after a candidate is no longer pursuing public office, the money remaining in the campaign account should be distributed back to the community, “rather than kept by the politician.”

Carlos Guillermo Smith endorses David Richardson in CD 27 primary — In a video, state Rep. Guillermo Smith announced his endorsement of state Rep. Richardson to succeed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. Guillermo Smith is the chair of the House Progressive Caucus and is the first openly gay Latino to serve in the Florida Legislature. Smith said: “I’ve known David for years, first as an advocate for LGBTQ Floridians, we worked together to protect our community from discrimination. David has taught me that one person can make a difference, and I know that he’s going to stand up for our progressive values in Washington.” To date, Richardson has received endorsements from over 25 percent of the Democratic Caucus in the Florida Legislature. To watch the video, click the image below:

Polk grassroots Democrats pick up the slack in HD 39” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics — While the hapless state Democratic Party has done almost nothing for the underdog campaign of Shira of Lakeland in preparation for the special election to fill a vacancy in Florida House District 39, local grassroots organizations did. At the last minute, Shira received $280 in in-kind services from the state. But the county party, along with Democrats from Osceola and even Hillsborough County, volunteered for their “Weekend of Action” canvassing in Lakeland, Davenport, Auburndale and Osceola precincts and also manning a booth Saturday at Band-Aid 4 Puerto Rico, at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. Katherine Sutherland, Membership and Precinct Organizing chair for the Polk Democratic Party said in a campaign release “Hopefully, it (the District 39 race) is the beginning of a Florida Blue Wave.”

Anna Eskamani jumps on Scott Plakon’s warning, ‘we’ve got to stop Anna’” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — State Rep. Plakon spoke at a fundraiser for Republican District 47 candidate Mikaela Nix … Plakon said he told state Rep. Guillermo Smith at a charity event, “‘We’ve got to stop Anna from getting in there. She’s going to be worse than you’ … ‘We have got to go all in. We cannot have her in that seat. And you and her together? Oh my god, can you imagine that?’” Plakon then jokes if Smith and Eskamani did serve together, it would be “from the back row. Yeah, we make the Democrats sit in the back.” Eskamani jumped on the comments for use in a campaign fundraising email. “Just like Representative Smith, I am steadfastly committed to our progressive values, as well as working with those across the aisle on issues where we align,” Eskamani writes. “At the same time, we know all too well that Republican leaders are out of touch, and this latest attempt to use fear as a tactic for fundraising is a prime example.”

Shaq endorses John Mina in Orange County Sheriff race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Shaquille O’Neal, an analyst on “NBA on TNT,” called Mina the “person best qualified to be our next sheriff,” in a video released by Mina’s sheriff campaign. O’Neal also has dabbled in law enforcement himself, having gone through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy, and been sworn in “I know John Mina personally,” O’Neal said in a video recorded on the set of “NBA on TNT.” … “He has proved himself in times of crisis. He has shown he can keep our community safe.” as a reserve officer in Miami Beach, and participated in several publicity efforts for law enforcement. Mina faces retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez.

Shaq gives John Mina the nod.

Mike Suarez to join race to be next Tampa mayor” via Florida Politics — Suarez, a third-generation Tampanian, faces term limits in his citywide District 1 council seat and has long been thought to be eyeing a run for mayor. He was elected to the city council in 2011 and served as its chair in 2016 and 2017. Now that the election is less than a year away, it looks as if he’s ready to announce the next step for his political career.

Judicial Campaign Conduct forums scheduled for May 10, 11 — The standards governing judicial elections will be explained to candidates, campaign managers, staff, the news media, and others in several public forums. They’re scheduled in ten cities throughout the state, each drawing additional participation from one or more adjacent circuits. Chief judges will open the forums with brief remarks emphasizing the importance of integrity and professionalism among candidates and the potential impact of campaign misconduct on public trust and confidence in the courts. Representatives of The Florida Bar’s Board of Governors will speak briefly regarding the Bar’s role in judicial elections … All judicial candidates are encouraged to attend. All forums are open to the public and the press, and will begin at 1 p.m. Locations listed here.

— WTF —

Dinesh D’Souza mocked Parkland survivors. Now he’s speaking at a Florida GOP event.” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — When Parkland students traveled to Tallahassee a week after the nation’s deadliest high school shooting to demand a ban on assault weapons, lawmakers from both parties listened to them. D’Souza chose to make fun of them. “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” D’Souza tweeted in response to a photo of emotional students when an assault weapons ban failed in the Florida House. “Adults 1, kids 0,” he added. On Monday the Republican Party of Florida announced that D’Souza, who apologized for his comments, will speak at the 2018 Sunshine Summit in Orlando on June 28 and 29.

Controversial author and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza.

Reax:

— Scott campaign: “His comments were disgusting and unacceptable. The governor has spent a lot of time with the Parkland victims and their families and will always stand with them.”

— Putnam campaign: “What Dinesh D”Souza said was extremely insensitive and offensive to a community who had just lost their friends, fellow students and teachers in a horrific massacre by a troubled individual.”

— Carlos Curbelo: ” I hope the Republican Party of Florida rescinds his invitation.”

— Bill Galvano: “You know how important the Parkland response was this session. It was very valuable to have the voices from the young people heard. It’s concerning that those comments were made, so I am not sure that makes for a very welcoming speaker.”

— Andrew Gillum: “I often have strong disagreements with Florida’s Republicans, but I know that many of them are decent, hardworking people. I hope they join me in demanding the Florida GOP un-invite this bitterly divisive selection.”

— STATEWIDE —

Judge sides with insurers in SB 966 lawsuit via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A Tallahassee judge has ruled that life insurance companies doing business in the state don’t have to track down beneficiaries under a 2016 law (SB 966) championed by former Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, in an order granting summary judgment for the plaintiffs filed April 20, said such a requirement can only be applied “prospectively,” that is, after the law’s passage. Summary judgment allows a party to win a case without a trial … Lewis agreed (with the insurers), saying the law creates “new obligations or duties” that violate the companies’ due process rights. “This office has fought hard for Floridians in this case,” current CFO Jimmy Patronis said in a Monday statement. “It is a common sense, consumer protection law … We will continue to look into options for next steps.”

Putnam points to increased fire dangers” via the News Service of Florida — The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which includes the Florida Forest Service, said 56 wildfires last week burned 3,780 acres and shut down a portion of Interstate 95 for several hours. “Our wildland firefighters will likely battle a steady increase of wildfires in the coming weeks as the dry and windy conditions continue,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. “Citizens can do their part by keeping preventable human-caused wildfires at bay and preparing their families and homes for wildfire.” Since January, 1,325 wildfires have burned 74,427 acres in the state, according to the department.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is warning about about increased fire danger statewide.

Death penalty decision for airport shooting suspect to be announced Tuesday, feds say” via Paula McMahon of the Sun-Sentinel — Federal prosecutors now say they will announce Tuesday whether they’ll seek the death penalty for Esteban Santiago, the man accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at Fort Lauderdale’s international airport. On Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said prosecutors will make their announcement during a previously scheduled court hearing Tuesday morning in federal court in Miami. Santiago has pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment in the mass shooting … Ten of those charges carry a potential death sentence or life in federal prison. Federal prosecutors rarely seek a death sentence and it is even rarer for jurors to endorse their requests. In federal cases, the jury’s decision is binding on the sentencing judge. A 12-0 verdict in favor of death is required.

Marion Hammer: YETI stuff too expensive to blow up!” via the News Service of Florida — It might come as a surprise that NRA Florida lobbyist Hammer, a former president of the national gun lobbying group, sent out an alert urging gun owners to drop their assault on YETI equipment. “Don’t blow up your Yeti cooler. Don’t shoot your Yeti cooler full of holes. Don’t chain your Yeti cooler to the back of your pickup truck and drag it down the highway. Don’t glue a toilet seat to Yeti cooler. Don’t hang your Yeti cooler in a tree and beat it with a baseball bat,” Hammer wrote … “Put a big ‘I stand with the NRA Foundation’ sticker on your YETI cooler and keep using it. They cost too much money to destroy to make a statement. Let a sticker make your statement,” … YETI coolers start at $200 and can run upward of $1,200 for boaty brand-conscious buyers. The NRA will be handing out stickers to cover YETI labels in Dallas at its annual convention in Dallas this weekend. The stickers will be available at the “NRA Foundation Wall of Guns” raffle, according to Hammer’s alert. President Donald Trump is expected to attend the convention.

Woman keeps to keep anonymity in NRA lawsuit” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — In court filings seeking a federal judge’s permission to proceed with the pseudonym “Jane Doe” for the woman, the NRA relied heavily on a sworn statement by Hammer, who said she has received “scores” of threatening phone calls and emails following a February mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 14 students and three faculty members dead. “After news of the Parkland shooting broke, I received numerous harassing emails and phone calls threatening my life and physical well-being. Those threats continue to this day,” Hammer wrote in a statement … According to Hammer’s declaration, the 79-year-old great-grandmother has received “scores of threatening and harassing phone calls from individuals who have used offensive and derogatory language” and made threats on her life … Another warned Hammer, “there is a special place in hell for nasty old rednecks like yourself.”

Marion Hammer gears up for battle, this time for privacy rights.

‘False advertising’ lawsuit against John Morgan continues — A federal judge in Philadelphia has ordered motions for summary judgment to be filed by May 18 over a false advertising claim against Morgan and his Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan law firm. Such motions allow a party to win a case without a trial. A complaint was filed last September by the competing Rosenbaum & Associates personal injury firm. Its suit says Morgan’s well-known advertisements, also running in southeastern Pennsylvania, were “misleading” potential clients. The ads, ubiquitous on billboards and buses in the Sunshine State, wrongly give the impression that the firm “actively litigate(s) claims in Pennsylvania” when its personal-injury practice there is actually “nonexistent or minimal,” the suit said. In a statement last year, Morgan called the lawsuit “utter nonsense.” “This guy doesn’t like competition. Sorry, it’s the American way. We look forward to delving into his financials and deposing his staff and clients,” Morgan said.

Disney is fighting in court over taxes this week” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel — The dispute is over the 2015 tax bill for Disney Yacht and Beach Club resorts. Orange County Property Appraiser Rick Singh valuated the resorts at $353 million, while Disney is pushing for the value to drop to $180 million … “This trial is about the county utilizing unfair methodology that is wholly inappropriate and not based on economic reality,” a Disney spokeswoman said. “A prime example is the tax assessment for Yacht & Beach Club Resorts that went up 118 percent in one year, which is why we — and many other property owners in Orange County — are fighting this in court.” Singh has previously said he vowed to fight such tax disputes in court adding, “We hold their feet to the fire.”

Court rejects Keys residents’ challenge to Citizens rates” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An appellate court has rejected a community group’s challenge to premium levels for Citizens Property Insurance Corp. customers in Monroe County. State law provides no avenue for the formal administrative challenge sought by Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe Inc., a unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee concluded on Monday. The suit named the Office of Insurance Regulation and involved rates for Citizens policyholders that regulators OK’d effective on Feb. 1, 2017 — over complaints by Monroe County property owners that they drew upon unreasonably pessimistic calculations of the potential risk there.

Florida now requires schools to have armed protection. Districts and counties must make that a reality.” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting and the state’s new law that requires armed security on every campus, some superintendents worry districts will now be competing for the same personnel. For the 2016-2017 school year, Florida’s Department of Education counted about 1,500 officers. But there’s more than twice as many public schools — about 3,800. The Times/ Herald sent a survey to all 67 school districts in the state this week and heard from 23 districts or their local sheriff’s office, who described their progress seven weeks after Gov. Scott signed the bill. Nearly every county that responded has a shortfall of funding compared to what it will cost to properly secure the schools compared to how much the state provided — just as sheriffs and superintendents warned before the bill was passed. At least two counties, Monroe and Hernando, are considering raising their local property taxes to pay for the costs. The Orange County School District went as far as paying $60,000 to a consulting firm to help them decide how to best secure their schools.

High school seniors flood Florida colleges with applications” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — At UF and Florida State University, which received record numbers of applicants this year, slightly fewer in-state students are getting in, while more of their out-of-state peers are receiving acceptances. Applications were up at other state schools, too. The University of Central Florida, which has a rolling admissions policy, received about 34,338 applications by mid-April, up about 16 percent from the same point last year, and also on track to set a record. The growing number of applications is tied to more out-of-state students applying to the state’s most prestigious universities. Guidance counselors say students are applying to more schools, with some moved by fears they won’t get into their dream schools and others lured after seeing images of distant campuses on social media. Many Florida universities use forms that can be submitted to multiple schools, making it easier for students to send in a few extra applications.

What Chris Sprowls is reading –Cloverplace Condos suit settles during appeal” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has settled a lawsuit against it over sinkhole damage in Pinellas County’s Cloverplace condominium community. The settlement, disclosed after a public records request, came Monday — a little more than a month after the state’s insurer of last resort was hit with what the Tampa Bay Times called “one of the largest verdicts ever against state-run Citizens” — $12.7 million. “That’s the estimated amount it would take to stabilize 83 of the homes,” the paper reported last month. The case was settled after Citizens decided to appeal. Details of the settlement, however, were not immediately available. A request for information to Citizens spokesman Michael Peltier was pending as of Monday evening.

Duck, duck, chlamydia? Parents fuming over Pinellas Co. sex ed program in schools” via Sara Hollenbeck of ABC Action News — A handful of parents are fuming over a sex ed course being taught in their children’s school and the religious group that’s teaching it. Mona Mangat, the mom of an 8th grader at Thurgood Marshall Middle School, says she and other parents are “angry about this, upset about this and trying to figure out how this is possible.” Mangat knew one thing for sure: Her daughter would opt out of a sex ed course being taught by the Christian faith-based group More2Life. Mangat worries the curriculum is biased especially since the group is linked to a pro-life crisis pregnancy center in Largo called New Life Solutions. The More2Life group focuses on abstinence in their presentation to local schools … while speaking about the high rate of STDs, a leader told students, “Have you ever played duck, duck, goose? Now it’s like duck, duck, chlamydia.”

Happening today — John Thrasher to debut Jim Moran Building in Tallahassee — Florida State University President Thrasher will lead a ribbon cutting celebration and open house of the new Jim Moran Building later this morning at 10:15 a.m., 111 S. Monroe Street in Tallahassee. The 20,000-square-foot structure will house the new Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship and Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, made possible by a record $100-million donation from the Jim Moran Foundation. To inspire students, the building’s interior is decorated with the story of Moran, an automotive business legend. Event speakers include Thrasher; Professor Susan Fiorito, founding director of the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship; Randy Blass, executive director of the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship; and M. Hays Layerd, creative director at Architects Lewis + Whitlock.

— D.C. MATTERS —

‘Who the hell is this person?’ Trump’s Mar-a-Lago pal stymies VA project” via Arthur Allen of POLITICO — A West Palm Beach doctor’s ties to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago social circle have enabled him to hold up the biggest health information technology project in history — the transformation of the VA’s digital records system. Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, an internist and friend of Trump confidant Ike Perlmutter, who advises the president informally on vet issues, objected to the $16 billion Department of Veterans Affairs project because he doesn’t like the Cerner Corp. software he uses at two Florida hospitals, according to four former and current senior VA officials. Cerner technology is a cornerstone of the VA project. With the White House’s approval, Moskowitz has been on two or three monthly calls since November with the contracting team responsible for implementing the 10-year project, according to two former senior VA officials. Perlmutter, the Marvel Entertainment chairman, has also been on some of the calls, they said.

Who the hell is Dr. Bruce Moskowitz?

With Ronny Jackson out, former congressman Jeff Miller emerges as possible pick for VA secretary via Ledyard King of USA Today — Former Florida congressman Miller, who as a lawmaker pushed for greater privatization of health care at the Department of Veterans Affairs, might once again make the short list of candidates President Trump is considering for VA secretary. Miller’s name has been circulating as a possible successor to former VA Secretary David Shulkin now that Adm. Jackson has dropped out over allegations of misconduct. Reached via email Monday, Miller — now a lobbyist in Washington — declined to comment about whether he’d been contacted by the White House about possibly heading the VA. But the congressman who once represented the Pensacola area, expressed his interest in the post shortly after Trump won the election in 2016 because he saw the opportunity that needed reforms could occur. Miller’s biggest hurdle to confirmation might be his lobbying work. He represents a number of clients doing business with the federal government, including Steven A. Cohen whose philanthropic network of private clinics provide mental health services for veterans.

Marco Rubio: No proof tax cuts poured money back into American workers” via Alayna Treene of Axios — Republican Rubio acknowledged in an interview with The Economist that the GOP tax cuts may not be as beneficial to the American worker as Republicans are painting it to be. “There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact, they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.” This is a message that several Democrats have been pushing hard, and getting backlash for, in an attempt to detract from the GOP’s lead play ahead of the midterm elections. Republicans are betting on the positive effects of the tax law to retain their congressional majority. If other GOP lawmakers join Rubio in pointing out that the bill may not be as helpful to the average American worker as the party is portraying, it could have a massive impact on Republican voter sentiment in the lead up to November.

>>>Reax from Americans for Prosperity: “It’s disappointing to see Marco Rubio echo some of the false rhetoric of tax reform opponents, and we hope he clarifies his remarks. Before tax reform, America had one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, and it was driving businesses overseas. Now, America is a top destination for jobs and investment, more than 400 companies have invested directly in their workforce as a result, and millions of Americans are already seeing benefits like higher wages, bonuses, more take-home pay and more job opportunities. There’s no doubt that the full potential of tax reform will be realized over the long-term, but there’s also no denying the positive impact it’s already having on American workers, businesses and families across the country.”

Rubio recommends onetime Trump critic for Cuba broadcast job” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Rubio is backing former Miami mayor and Cuban exile leader Tomas Regalado to lead the troubled federal office that oversees Radio and TV Martí in its attempts to counter Cuba’s state-run media on the island. But even with his recommendation from Rubio, Regalado, he has a mark against him in an administration that prizes loyalty: Regalado had been critical of President Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric before and after the campaign. Still, Regalado was supportive of Trump’s Cuba policy reversing Obama’s rapprochement with the island’s totalitarian regime. Rubio and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart helped shape the policy, and Regalado worked with the White House on the venue for the announcement last June at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami. Regalado sat in the front row. “I was very critical of Obama’s policy toward Cuba,” Regalado told POLITICO in a text message, adding that “since I do agree with this president I thought I should apply and I did.”

Florida leaders blast White House changes to oil drilling” via the News Service of Florida — The Interior Department labeled the proposed changes to what is known as the 2016 Well Control Rule as “our common-sense approach,” which “could reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens while ensuring that any such activity is safe and environmentally responsible.” But Florida lawmakers pointed to the economic damage that the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill inflicted on the state’s tourism industry and environment, particularly in the Panhandle. Those lawmakers questioned if the risk is worth reducing safety regulations. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, co-chairman of the state’s congressional delegation, criticized the proposal by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement as “reckless and unacceptable.” The proposal would alter 44 provisions and delete another 15 involving well-control regulations. “Have we learned nothing from the worst environmental disaster in American history?” Buchanan said in a prepared statement. “These safeguards should remain in place.”

Lockheed Martin opens new Pinellas facility to support F-35 production — The Pinellas Park manufacturing facility will create more than 80 new jobs by mid-2019, in addition to the 30 Lockheed Martin jobs added last year to support the expansion of the F-35 project. The facility will be fully operational by mid-May. Congressman Crist said in a statement: “The Lockheed Martin Pinellas facility exemplifies that dynamic, a center of excellence for manufacturing in our own backyard. We’re proud of the men and women who work here, producing key components for the most powerful fighter jet the world has ever seen.” Lockheed Martin employs about 270 people in Pinellas Park; the new facility will assemble canopies and bulkheads for the F-35 Lightning II program.

Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist attends the formal opening of a new Lockheed Martin manufacturing plant in Pinellas Park to support the increasing F-35 production rate. It’s expected to create more than 80 new jobs by mid-2019.

All Aboard Florida defends its bond status for railroad money” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — All Aboard Florida’s $1.75 billion in tax-exempt private activity bonds are not only in sync with the law and regulations, they’re not without precedent in federal funding of railroad projects, the company stated … In a letter to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Government Operations, All Aboard Florida’s general counsel Myles Tobin laid out the case for why the privately-owned and -operated higher-speed passenger railroad’s federal financing should be above reproach. Tobin also noted that Brightline, the name for All Aboard Florida’s passenger train project now running in South Florida and intended to eventually connect to Central Florida, is not the only railroad in this country to qualify for such bonds under the terms applied.

— OPINIONS —

Anthony Pedicini’s only goal is win against cancer” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics — In at least one area Pedicini … is an emotional, eye-dabbing, teddy bear. The subject is cancer, specifically the kind of cancer that attacks children. On that issue, Pedicini welcomes everyone willing to support the eradication of that disease under the big tent of humanity. When it comes to fighting cancer, especially in children, he is strictly NPA — no party affiliation. That explains why he has stopped shaving while the Tampa Bay Lightning are in the National Hockey League playoffs. It follows a leaguewide tradition the league calls “playoff beards” — it’s one of those hockey things. The Lightning Foundation capitalized on the craze as a fundraiser, and that’s where Pedicini got on board. He is a serious hockey fan and joined the beard-a-thon as a way to raise money and awareness for the disease. “I thought it would be fun,” he said. His younger brother, Thomas, had battled Hodgkin lymphoma. Although he is cancer free, the aggressive treatment needed to cure the disease left Thomas in need of multiple surgeries.

— MOVEMENTS —

Personnel note: Carol Bracy to managing partner at Ballard Partners” via Florida Politics — Bracy, who once served as chief of staff to former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, has been promoted to managing partner of Ballard Partners’ Tallahassee office, the firm announced Monday. In her new role, Bracy will continue to service clients with senior-level political, strategic and policy direction while overseeing all aspects of the office’s day-to-day operations, according to a news release. “The expansion of my role at Ballard Partners is an exciting opportunity,” she said in a statement. “I’m honored to be part of a successful organization that values and recognizes diverse talent and hard work.”

New Ballard Partners managing partner Carol Bracy.

Sarah Rumpf says she’s still at RedState, denies ‘ideological purge’ ” via Florida Politics — Rumpf says she’s still writing for the conservative RedState website after nearly a dozen other contract writers were shown the door last week. Rumpf and others also took to social media Friday to debunk reports that the layoffs were an “ideological purge” against those opposed to President Donald Trump. “I just spoke with management and confirmed no new editorial philosophy. Told to keep writing as I have. No new restrictions,” she tweeted, adding, “I am NOT pro-Trump. And I was not fired. Several other writers who were also kept were also Never Trump, or are at least Trump-skeptical.”

Spotted: Florida Senate Democrats raising money Monday at Jarvis Winery in Napa Valley. Among those in attendance were Floridian Partners Charlie Dudley, FPL’s Danny Martell, the Florida Justice Association’s Jeff Porter, and Screven Watson.

Florida Senate Democrats hope to emerge from the political bunker this November.

— FOR YOUR RADAR —

The latest episode of The Rotunda, “High Laughter,” gives listeners a breakdown of what happened at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an update on marijuana and more on Gov. Scott’s recent clemency victory.

Host Trimmel Gomes ties the Correspondents’ Dinner back to Tallahassee’s own Press Skits, then defends comedian Michelle Wolf’s set as a whole.

Gomes said he expected brash jokes, but didn’t expect the backlash. When he listened to Wolf’s entire set, he said it seemed par for the course. “It’s a roast toward an administration that has declared war on the press,” explained Gomes.

The Florida angle?: Noting criticisms of Florida’s Press Skits, Gomes mused, “Maybe we should hire Michelle Wolf to headline next year.”

Recreational rebrand: Speaking with Christopher Cano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Gomes notes that Cano deliberately is choosing to say “adult use” rather than “recreational use” when discussing marijuana. “Changing the lexicon … is important,” explained Cano.

Felon rights restoration: Lakey Love, of the Campaign for Prison Reform, told Gomes in a critical segment that the Governor and Cabinet’s fight to maintain the current clemency system is a “strategic attack” on communities with higher rates of conviction.

— ALOE —

A new app for Disney World and Disneyland could be a game changer” via Rick Munarriz of The Motley Fool — The media giant will be introducing the Play Disney Parks app for iOS and Android devices, giving visitors location-specific activities that interact with the surrounding environment — presumably through augmented reality. “With the touch of a button, wait time turns into play time with family and friends at certain locations,” according to the official Disney parks blog. “And the more you explore in Disney parks, the more there is to discover on the app. This is just the latest way we are making a visit to our parks even more fun and memorable in new and innovative ways.” Disney just rightfully — and brilliantly — wants to take the time-eating app choices in-house.

Free beer is back this summer for Busch Gardens visitors” via Sharon Kennedy Wynne of the Tampa Bay Times — Beginning Tuesday through Aug. 5, visitors can get two free 7-ounce beers from a rotating list of brews. Calling it a return to its roots, the park also unveiled a club for craft beer fans and a new Oktoberfest-themed festival. For 50 years, free beer was a Busch Gardens signature. The Tampa park opened in 1959 as a marketing vehicle for former owner Anheuser-Busch, and the park’s Hospitality House gave out samples of Anheuser-Busch products. But after the Blackstone Group bought SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, the park announced in 2009 that the pavilion would be converted to a restaurant with no more freebies. Now that the beer is back for the summer, could it be here to stay? Busch Gardens leaders were noncommittal. “We are going to run this all the way through Aug. 5, and then we’re going to see where it goes from there,” park President Stewart Clark said.

Happy May Day birthday to Stephen Lawson of Visit Florida and Sarah Rumpf, who you can read more about here.

Can’t wait for Baby Spencer to arrive — congrats Gina and Chris!

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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