Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 5.7.18

Florida Capitol 2

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

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

I wrote 1,100 words late Sunday afternoon on a possible “third way” for Richard Corcoran and his political career. It’s too long to aggregate into a Sunburn blurb, so please visit Florida Politics for the entire column.

Read the piece here.


@JebBush: Thanks for all of your prayers. Dad is doing well and headed home.

@AGGancarski: .@FrankLuntz clearly isn’t aware of how nasty and oppo driven primary is between @RonDeSantisFL @adamputnam. Also doesn’t seem to know much/anything about Florida issues.

@KevinSDonohoe: .@RonDeSantisFL is seen as more right-wing, but tonight @adamputnam was singing the far right’s tune: -Promised to sign a heartbeat bill -Went all in on transphobic rhetoric-Promised to “remove” pro-choice judges

@MDixon55: Unity message from @FrankLuntz inside @FloridaPolicy forum. But leave room and someone from anti-@RonDeSantisFL National Liberty Federation handing out oppo. DeSantis supporter asks security to boot him. Oppo rodent scurries. This is a primary. Let’s call it what it is

—@MaryEllenKlas: Smart ad placement by @adamputnam to run farm ad during Kentucky Derby. But why does the message have to be so divisive? Sad if division is our #sharedvalue

@Amy_Hollyfied: I’ve seen this @adamputnam commercial so many times my daughters can recite it

—@CarlosGSmith: I just want to make clear, for the record, that I DO NOT want @realDonaldTrump at my funeral either. Please DO NOT let him in but if you can make @IAMJHUD sing that would be great.

—@GNewburn: It takes an astonishing lack of commitment to evidence to review the relevant literature on drug treatment and mandatory minimums and then come to the conclusion that the latter is the one you really need to fund.

—@RepJimBoyd: So wonderful to see owner of Justify, Kenny Trout and jockey Mike Smith @KentuckyDerby first give credit to God for their tremendous blessings! Well done gentlemen, well done.

@MikeSisak: I dreamed I had this great idea for a story. Now I can’t remember it. Send help.


Mother’s Day — 6; Deadpool 2 release — 11; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 18; Memorial Day — 21; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in St. Petersburg — 33; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Miramar — 35; Time Warner/AT&T merger ruling — 36; Father’s Day — 41; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 46; Florida GOP Sunshine Summit starts — 52; Democratic gubernatorial candidates debate in Fort Myers — 62; MLB All-Star Game — 71; Deadline for filing claim bills — 86; ‘The Race for Governor’ Republican gubernatorial debate — 86; ‘The Race for Governor’ Democratic gubernatorial debate in Miami — 87; Start of the U.S. Open — 112; Primary Election Day — 113; College Football opening weekend — 115; NFL season starts — 122; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida U.S. Senate debate — 169; ‘Before You Vote’ Florida Governor debate — 170; General Election Day — 183; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 283; 2019 Legislative Session starts — 302.


Guns, bathroom bills and abortion: Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis take on social issues in first GOP guv forum” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Though he may have the money of an establishment candidate, Putnam sought to make clear in Orlando that he’s not ceding the “conservative” label to Rep. DeSantis in the race for Florida’s next governor. At the first Republican candidate forum, Putnam drew hard-line stances on some of the most contentious social issues, backing one of the country’s most restrictive abortion policies and staking a position on so-called bathroom bills that a state Democratic Party spokesman immediately denounced as “transphobic rhetoric.” He spoke early and often of his Christian faith and talked about growing up with guns in Bartow. Meanwhile, DeSantis demonstrated his conservative bona fides by insisting people on government assistance work and promising to nominate strict constructionist judges in the mold of the late-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Ron DeSantis was outflanked on his right by Adam Putnam during Saturday’s gubernatorial forum.

First Florida GOP gubernatorial forum ends in scuffle with anti-DeSantis activists” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — The event hosted by the conservative Florida Family Policy Council and moderated by GOP pollster Frank Luntz could not mask what is turning into a nasty Republican primary. … The coarseness of the campaign was on display outside the doors of the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando, where a young man in a red “Make America Great” hat handed out packets packed with opposition research on DeSantis. The packet, titled “Who is the Real Ron DeSantis?” carried the disclaimer “paid for by the National Liberty Federation.” It’s a group with ties to U.S. Sugar that has spent roughly $1.5 million in ads so far hammering DeSantis … the individual handing out the anti-DeSantis literature was Tyler Whyte, who describes himself as a leader of the Florida Chapter of Proudboys, a “western chauvinist organization” that refuses to “apologize for creating the modern world.” “I don’t know, I’m not sure where it came from,” he said about the documents link to the National Liberty Foundation. “I don’t know where that came from … I just printed them off the internet on my own.”


Rick Scott faces primary for U.S. Senate race” via John Kennedy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Senate filings top a qualifying week that ended with Democrats filing candidates for each of the state’s 27 congressional seats, including U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Kathy Castor who were elected unopposed to new two-year terms. The U.S. Senate race is expected to be one of the nation’s costliest, with Scott looking to unseat Nelson, who is seeking a fourth-term. But before that Nov. 6 contest takes place, Scott will have to get by businessman Rocky De La Fuente … a Republican who also has filed in the California Republican primary to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ran two years ago in Florida for the Democratic Senate nomination. De La Fuente drew just over 5 percent of the vote, well back of nominee Patrick Murphy … Five write-in candidates also have filed in the U.S. Senate race.

Meet Rocky De La Fuente, the long-shot primary opponent of Rick Scott

Bill Nelson, Scott battle for Orlando’s Puerto Rican vote” via Stephen Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — While Nelson holds a slim lead in recent polls, Scott has been relentless in reaching out to an important group — the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida, which has been dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the influx of evacuees. Before Maria, there were already more than 1 million people of Puerto Rican descent in Florida, including more than 400,000 in Central Florida alone. They’ve mostly registered as independent and vote Democratic, but the inroads Scott has made with the community means Nelson cannot take their vote for granted, even in a year in which many experts are predicting to be a “blue wave” of Democratic victories nationwide. “What we’re hearing is mixed,” said Betsy Franceschini, a senior state director for the Hispanic Federation. “Some are liking what Sen. Bill Nelson has been doing for Puerto Rico. He’s supported a lot of initiatives in the Senate to help the island.” On the other hand, Franceschini said, “Rick Scott has been on the front end here in the state, working to put together programs, putting together emergency centers and helping folks get their kids into schools.”

Scott attack mischaracterizes vote Nelson took in 2015” via Allison Graves of PolitiFact Florida — In 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a joint resolution known as the Hire More Heroes Act of 2015. This measure aimed to encourage small businesses to hire veterans. Scott said that Nelson “voted against requiring Iran to recognize Israel and release American hostages.” The attack is a misleading stretch. What really happened in 2015 was that Nelson voted no on a cloture motion. By voting no, Nelson voted to continued debate on an amendment that experts said would have defeated the Iran deal. The amendment would have prohibited the president from waiving sanctions unless Iran released detained Americans and formally recognized Israel. But the deal was focused on the nuclear issue, not an attempt to solve major issues with Iran. Also, Nelson has worked to urge the White House to continue pressing for the release of a U.S. hostage in Iran. We rate this claim False.

Adam Smith’s “Loser of the week” in Florida Politics is Nelson: “Anybody seen any sign of pulse on the Democratic Senator’s re-election campaign against Scott? Anybody seen any sign of a campaign at all, other than fundraising emails? Scott is already spending millions on TV to unseat Nelson, rolling out policy proposals to limit tax increases, and putting boots on the ground to mobilize voters.”


Is Richard Corcoran running for Governor or not?” via Steve Bousquet and Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Corcoran has twice postponed planned announcements … His poll numbers are dismal, and his fundraising has slowed to a trickle. The consensus among Republican strategists and experts is that Corcoran still has time, but that by waiting this long, he has made his job a lot more difficult. Amid prolonged indecision, Corcoran sought to attract attention Thursday night with a tweet promising a “big announcement.” Corcoran was invited to participate in a debate with his two rivals in Orlando Saturday if he was definitely going to run, but he is not scheduled to appear. “He needs to stop this Hamlet business and make a decision,” said longtime Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich. “Richard has a steeper hill to climb and the sooner he begins to climb it, the better.”

Women Democrats get fired up at national rally in DeLand” via Seth Robbins of the Daytona Beach News-Journal — Gwen Graham opened her campaign speech by dancing the electric slide to Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.” All her sisters were with her, too, as she was joined by some two dozen women who were eager to boogie alongside her. Graham’s moves, however, weren’t what they came to see at a rally in Earl Brown Park, put on by the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida. Cheers went up as Graham, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, described how she would improve public schools, spend more money on teachers, provide higher paying jobs, protect the environment, and advocate for stricter gun control after the mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Graham is the only woman in a crowded field of candidates for Florida governor — a fact that she impressed upon her audience. “This election is about women,” she told the crowd. “Everywhere I go, women are turning out in mass.”

Gwen Graham celebrated the opening of her statewide headquarters in Orlando with grassroots activists, supporters, and elected officials Saturday.

A bipartisan Patrick Murphy-David Jolly ticket: Is that legal?” via Steve Bousquet and Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Ron Meyer, a Tallahassee attorney with decades of experience in election laws, usually advises Democrats. He has not researched it but said he knew of no legal barrier to Murphy and Jolly running as a two-party ticket for governor and lieutenant governor. “I’m just not sure that there’s anything statutorily that prohibits it,” Meyer said. Meyer said it’s possible the Republican Party of Florida could block Jolly from forming a ticket headed by a Democrat but said party rules decide that. “It’s a party control issue,” Meyer said.

Happening today — Republican Mike McCalister, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner, will speak to the Palm Beach County Tea Party 5:30 p.m., Abacoa Golf Club, 105 Barbados Dr., Jupiter.

Ross Spano landing key Polk County endorsements —Polk County houses more than a third of the voters in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, and Hillsborough Republican Rep. Spano knows he needs to make some inroads into the Central Florida county if he’s to make headway in his congressional bid. Over the weekend he continued doing just that. Former Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey followed up Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew in endorsing Spano, who switched from the Attorney General race to the CD 15 contest shortly after U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross announced he would retire. “I am sincerely appreciative of the growing support I am receiving from Polk County,” Spano said. “As I share my message of conservative values and commitment to Polk County, I could not ask for a better response and I look forward to serving each and every resident in District 15.”

Save the date:

Another Democrat lines up for CD 15 race” via Bill Rufty of Florida Politics — Lakeland attorney Kristen Carlson has entered the Democratic primary for Florida’s 15th Congressional District. Carlson, 64, is a former General Counsel for the Florida Department of Citrus and still counsel of record for the Florida Citrus Processors Association and District 1 of the Florida Department of Transportation.

She’s back: Amanda Murphy to square off against Ed Hooper for north Pinellas state Senate seat” via Florida Politics — The former state Representative said she was “sick and tired” of what’s happening in Tallahassee and that she wants to be back there to “fight the good fight.” The move comes one week after sources close to Murphy, a Democrat, said she wouldn’t challenge former Republican Hooper in Senate District 16, the seat vacated by Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala earlier this year. Murphy held Pasco-based House District 36 from 2013 through 2016, when she lost her seat to Republican Rep. Amber Mariano by 691 votes. Murphy joins Hooper, Democrat Bernie Fensterwald and Republican Leo Karruli in the race. So far, only Hooper has made significant headway in fundraising.

Former state Rep. Amanda Murphy is back on the campaign scene.

First in Sunburn — Jeff Brandes releases first ad for SD 24 re-election — Brandes released his first ad of the 2018 election cycle Monday, touting his military service and accomplishments during the eight years he’s been a member of the Florida Legislature. … “He took an oath to protect us at home and defend us overseas. Jeff Brandes — U.S. Army veteran, caring family man, successful businessman,” the ad narrator states. … “A leader who brings people together, Jeff Brandes cut taxes, reduced job-killing regulations and worked to create schools of excellence. Jeff Brandes, serving country and community.” … the ad was paid for by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

To view the ad, click here.

Happening tomorrow — Kissimmee Democrat Barbara Cady, who is running for House District 42 against Republican Rep. Mike La Rosa, will speak to the Lake Wales Democratic Club at 7 p.m., Oullette Law Firm, 151 East Central Ave., Lake Wales.

Joe Abruzzo endorses Tina Polsky as his successor — Abruzzo has spoken up about the race to replace him in the House District 81. On Sunday the longtime lawmaker endorsed fellow Democrat Tina Polsky, citing her “tireless advocacy” and “dedication to the people of Western Palm Beach County.” … “Tina is a loyal Democrat, a passionate advocate for women’s rights, education and senior advocacy … Tina will be an incredibly strong champion for West Boca Raton, Delray Beach and the Glades communities in our state capital.” Polsky is running against Mindy Koch in the primary for HD 81, a Democratic stronghold. Abruzzo’s announcement follows nods from Sens. Kevin Rader and Lori Berman, Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner and Boynton Beach City Commissioner Justin Katz.

Tina Polsky has won the endorsement of Joe Abruzzo.

HD 98 candidate Andrew Dolberg brings in bevy of endorsements” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Among those giving the nod to Democrat Dolberg are Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, State Rep. Kristin Jacobs, and LGBT activist Michael Albetta. The young Dolberg got an early start in the world of business, founding an education resources company at the age of 19. That company, Champion Briefs, helped students with their public speaking skills. He went on to study Marketing at Florida Atlantic University and now, at age 24, holds a leadership position with the Broward Young Democrats. Dolberg also pulled in endorsements from Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, community activist Alan Ehrlich, and Broward County School Board member Dr. Rosalind Osgood.

What better way for a Florida politician to celebrate ending probation than a campaign?” via David Smiley and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald — Michael Grieco’s probation ended this week. What better way to celebrate than a run for public office? Three days after Grieco was cut free from the punishment levied last year for a series of self-inflicted campaign finance and ethics gaffes during his failed mayoral bid, the disgraced former Miami Beach commissioner announced his campaign for a coastal state House seat. He told the Miami Herald that he contacted the two Democrats already in the race to let them know he’s mounting his own bid after filing paperwork in Tallahassee. “With the encouragement of my family and supporters, today I humbly filed to run and fill the District 113 state House seat being vacated by David Richardson,” Grieco said. “We will be putting out a more formal statement in the next day or two.”

Javier Enriquez announces HD 114 candidacy” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Enriquez, a Miami native and attorney, is a lifelong resident of the district. He graduated cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law and now is a partner at Jeffrey and Enriquez, PLLC. His legal specialty is marital and family law, but Enriquez also has experience in election law, commercial litigation and employment litigation. “District 114 has always been my home,” said Enriquez. “It would be an honor and a privilege to serve my friends and neighbors in Tallahassee. I am committed to supporting policies that foster economic growth, empower the middle class, and help families and small businesses get ahead.” After Democrat Daisy Baez resigned last year, the HD 114 seat had sat vacant until a special election resulted in Democrat Javier Fernandez filling the seat. A new election will be held in November.

Javier Enriquez jumps into the fray for HD 114.

Appellate judges qualify for November ballot” via Florida Politics — As of the close of qualifying on Friday, 18 appellate judges had formally qualified for merit-retention elections in November. They include Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson, formerly a 5th Circuit Court of Appeal judge; Eric Eisnaugle, a former GOP state representative picked last year by Gov. Scott to replace Lawson; and the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal’s Allen Winsor. While Winsor qualified for the ballot, he also has been tapped by President Donald Trump to become a federal district judge; that selection remains subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

Most circuit judge races uncontested” via the News Service of Florida — 177 circuit-judge races drew only one candidate, while 33 races will be contested, according to a list posted on the state Division of Elections website. Many of the 177 candidates who do not face opponents are incumbents. Only seven incumbent circuit judges statewide face challengers. As an example, all 13 circuit-judge races in the 1st Judicial Circuit are uncontested, with incumbents running in 11 of those races, according to the Division of Elections … Among the candidates in contested races, former state Rep. Charles McBurney is running for a judgeship in the 4th Judicial Circuit. McBurney is running against Maureen Horkan for the post.

First in Sunburn — Tampa Mayor hopeful Jane Castor amasses $250K war chest in two weeks — since announcing her campaign April 19, the former Tampa Police Chief took nearly a quarter-million-dollars from more than 300 donors. “The numbers are humbling,” Castor said. “When I kicked off my campaign in April — only two weeks ago — I said that our citizens are our city’s strongest asset. This show of support only reaffirms that conviction for me … I am running for mayor … because our city needs a proven leader, who will maintain our progress while building a new foundation for shared prosperity.”


Following Facebook’s lead, Google recently became the latest tech giant to take steps toward preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections.

The company, reports David McCabe of Axios, on Friday announced election advertisers looking to use Google’s ad systems would have to prove U.S. residency or citizenship first, effective July 10.

Verification processes will begin this month, and the new rules will apply to federal officeholders and candidates. To be verified, advertisers will need to produce a government-issued ID, along with other information.

Issue advocacy: The new rules only apply to candidate-related ads. But, per Axios, Russian meddling in the 2018 election often focused on “politically contentious issues” rather than candidates. Expect Google to tighten restrictions on those ads later on.

Full disclosure: The new changes stipulate advertisers must clearly disclose who paid for the ads.

Data nerds rejoice: Google expects to release a “Transparency Report” on election ads this summer. The company also is building a searchable library “where anyone can find election ads purchased on Google and who paid for them,” according to Google General Counsel Kent Walker.


First on #FlaPol — “NTSB confirms local, federal criminal investigation into FIU bridge collapse” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A lawyer for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has told a Tallahassee judge that “at least two federal agencies” and Miami-Dade police are pursuing criminal investigations into March’s collapse of a pedestrian bridge at the Florida International University campus. The disclosure came in a letter sent last week to Circuit Judge John Cooper, who’s presiding over a public-records lawsuit filed Wednesday against the state Department of Transportation (FDOT) by The Miami Herald newspaper, Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas and capital reporter Elizabeth Koh. The March 15 collapse of the recently-erected bridge, spanning Tamiami Trail and meant to connect the campus to student housing in Sweetwater, killed six midday motorists or passengers and injured nine others.

State and federal investigators are looking into the FIU-Sweetwater UniversityCity Bridge, which collapsed five days after installation over Southwest Eighth Street.

Amendment 1 lawsuit still moving toward trial” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — As a May 25 deadline to complete discovery approaches, depositions continue in a lawsuit over how the state funds environmental conservation. Court dockets viewed Friday show a flurry of notices filed late last month for what are called “depositions duces tecum,” which compel witnesses to produce documents and be interviewed before a trial. Environmental advocacy groups filed suit in Leon County in 2015 over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change mandates state spending for land and water conservation … But advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued the state, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate.

Report targets AHCA over nursing home verifications” via the News Service of Florida — The state Agency for Health Care Administration failed to verify that nursing homes properly corrected deficiencies cited by agency staff in 2015, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general’s office. Federal officials are recommending that the state improve practices for verifying that deficiencies have been corrected. The Agency for Health Care Administration did not agree with the Office of Inspector General’s findings and asked that federal officials change the name of the audit titled, “Florida Did Not Always Verify Correction of Deficiencies Identified During Surveys of Nursing Homes Participating in Medicare and Medicaid.” The inspector general reviewed 100 deficiencies at nursing homes across Florida that were flagged by regulators in 2015 and found that the agency verified the correction of 82 deficiencies. According to the report, the state agency did not obtain evidence of correction — or sufficient evidence of correction — for the remaining 18 deficiencies.

State settles lawsuit by worker fired after ‘all caps’ email” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A former employee of state Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’Ron James has settled her wrongful termination lawsuit after a mediation conference, court dockets show. Camille Rawls had said she was fired for, among other things, “sending James an email in all capital letters.” A spokeswoman for state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, to whom James reports, released the terms of the settlement. It shows Rawls was paid $11,000 in compensatory damages and $11,500 in back pay. Former CFO Jeff Atwater appointed James as the state’s Insurance Consumer Advocate in August 2015, after which Rawls said her troubles began.

Florida’s medical marijuana program is attracting troubled doctors: ‘It’s like the Wild Wild West’” via Corey Johnson of the Tampa Bay Times — A Tampa Bay Times examination of the 1,432 doctors in the program reveals Florida’s new marijuana initiative has turned into a magnet for physicians with troubled pasts … In total, 262 of the doctors had some sort of blemish on their record — nearly 1 in 5 of the doctors allowed to prescribe marijuana. Marijuana doctors were 2.8 times as likely as other doctors to have been disciplined by the Board of Medicine, and 2.4 times as likely to have been charged with a crime. Altogether, 108 of them were responsible for $69.4 million in malpractice judgments and settlements, some for maiming or killing patients. Experts and marijuana advocates said they were surprised by the findings. Several faulted Florida’s system for being too discouraging to good physicians.

Florida’s municipal utilities go solar in big way” via Florida Politics — What’s called “the largest municipal-backed solar project in the nation” was announced Friday by the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA). In conjunction with 12 Florida municipal electric utilities and NextEra Florida Renewables, the large-scale solar energy project will “provide renewable energy for customers in the most cost-effective way,” a news release said. The project was announced at an event held Friday at the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa. Representatives from FMPA, NextEra Florida Renewables, and 12 municipal electric utilities took part in a ceremonial signing of the project agreement.

Hurricane Irma powers sharp increase in lawsuits against insurers” via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The top 20 property insurers in Florida, as ranked by policy count, were served with 10,933 suits between Jan. 1 and March 31. In the same quarter last year, those same insurers were sued 6,768 times. This year’s total was a 61.5 percent increase, according to an analysis of pending suits entered by attorneys into the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Legal Service of Process database. Increased costs to insurers from the suits won’t affect rates for hurricane insurance this year but could impact them next year, when insurers negotiate reinsurance contracts based in part on total losses from the September 2017 storm, the president of a large Florida-based insurer said. Fort Lauderdale-based Universal Property & Casualty Co., the state’s largest insurer, saw the largest increase both by overall numbers and percentage — from 1,095 suits in January through March 2017 to 2,829 during the same period this year — a 158.4 percent jump.

After Maria: Puerto Ricans find new home in Marion County” via Joe Callahan of the Ocala Star-Banner — For 136,000 Puerto Ricans, Maria was the final straw. A decade-long recession already had crushed the Puerto Rican economy. Then came Maria’s damage, which will take years to repair. It was time to start over on the U.S. mainland. Of those 136,000 people who fled Maria’s aftermath, 56,477 are in Florida, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. That migration number is nearly seven times higher than before the storm hit. Currently, more Puerto Ricans live on the U.S. mainland (5 million) than on the island itself (3.1 million). In Marion County, the school district has received 221 hurricane refugee students since last fall. Most are from Puerto Rico after Maria, though several dozen came from Texas after Hurricane Harvey and from South Florida after Hurricane Irma. Laura Byrnes, spokeswoman for CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, said her agency has been using state grants to help prepare Puerto Ricans for the job market. Byrnes said many of the Puerto Rico residents being served by CareerSource Citrus, Levy, Marion are professionals and “the biggest barrier they face is obtaining their professional license or certification in Florida so that they can work.”

Happening today — The South Florida Water Management District gives an update on the C-43 Reservoir, a major reservoir project in Hendry County part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Meeting begins 2 p.m., Palm Beach County Planning and Zoning Auditorium, 2300 North Jog Road, West Palm Beach.


Tired of gang violence, students walked out of class. Even that was dangerous.” via Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The first time that students at Miami Northwestern Senior High School walked out of classes to protest the shooting death of a sophomore named Kimson Lee Green, administrators urged them to stay on campus. The administrators did not disagree with the student’s cause or want more class time. It was just that going off school grounds was too dangerous. While the students wanted the freedom to protest gun violence, like other high schoolers in the fledgling national youth movement, the realities of their gang-plagued neighborhood kept getting in the way. But they were insistent. “We were just fed up,” said Destiny Robinson, 18, a senior and the student body vice president at the school of about 1,600. In the end, the Northwestern High walkout happened, it boldly proceeded off campus, and it was met mostly with support.

Miami Northwestern Senior High School students staged a protest, despite warnings it was too dangerous to leave the school. (Image via New York Times)

Grieving parents of teen killed in Parkland school shooting use ‘graphic activism’ to confront the NRA” via Molly Hennessy-Fiske of The Los Angeles Times — Manuel Oliver was grieving in front of a crowd, spreading red paint on what would become the latest portrait of his son, killed in the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland … Usually, when he paints, Oliver, 50, an artist with abundant salt and pepper hair, listens to music he shared with his son — the Ramones or Guns N’ Roses. But Saturday he listened to the crowd across from the National Rifle Association Convention in downtown Dallas. The demonstrators protesting the NRA’s presence were hushed at first. Occasionally, someone shouted encouragement. Then Oliver struck the mural with a hammer. Then again, and again, tearing 17 holes, one for each of the Parkland victims, including his son, Joaquin. He affixed the 17-year-old’s image to the center of the mural, inside a target. Oliver’s face was twisted, tortured, as he struck the mural. Each strike echoed like a shot. The crowd gasped. At least one girl sobbed.

Across the country, measures to arm teachers in schools stall” via Joe Heim of The Washington Post — In the two months after the Florida school shooting that left 17 dead, Republican legislators across the country introduced 25 measures to arm teachers and staff members in schools … just one of those efforts has succeeded, and there are few indications the others will be enacted. Trump and the NRA called on states to arm teachers as a front-line defense against school shooters days after the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Since then, Republicans have led the campaign for the measures in 14 states that would give teachers and staff members access to guns in schools or expand their ability to do so, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan nongovernmental organization. Nineteen of those bills were sponsored by Republican legislators, while the remainder were nonpartisan or sponsored by legislative committees. The only measure that has succeeded is in Florida. A school safety bill there stipulated that public-school staff members, including counselors and coaches, could become “marshals” — but full-time teachers would not be eligible to be trained and armed.

Orange County weighs closing gun-show loophole, reimposing three-day waiting period” via Martin Comas of the Orlando Sentinel — Nearly three months after the Parkland mass shooting … Wes Hodge of Orlando is pleased that Orange County leaders will consider reinstating a three-day waiting period on firearm purchases. “This is a no-brainer,” said Hodge, chairman of the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee. “We had the opportunity to do something about it after the Pulse shooting [in June 2016], but we didn’t. And it is disappointing that it took another tragedy to do something. … So I’m glad that the County Commission is looking at putting this back on the books.” The proposed ordinance effectively would close the so-called “gun show loophole” by requiring nearly all buyers of firearms — whether it’s an AR-15 rifle, which was used in the Parkland shooting, or a Smith and Wesson handgun — in Orange County to wait three days before receiving their weapon. The ordinance also would institute universal background checks on buyers of firearms and challenges a 2011 state law pre-empting local governments from passing ordinances regulating guns.


Mar-a-Lago events raise money for politicos, revenues for Trump” via Christine Stapleton and George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — In March, the Republican National Committee paid $224,857 to Mar-a-Lago — Trump’s private club in Palm Beach — to host fundraisers for his prospective 2020 re-election bid as well as the 2018 campaigns of other Republicans. The fundraisers are believed to have raked in about $5 million — a big chunk of the record $13. 9 million the national Republican Party raised during that month. While the oceanfront club has long been a venue for society fundraisers and destination weddings, political groups and candidates are increasingly booking events at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties. The result … Mar-a-Lago has emerged as a magnet for GOP political candidates while political fundraising appears to be a lucrative revenue stream for its owner, who happens to be the President of the United States.

Mar-a-Lago is a hit with Republican causes. (Image via Getty)

Marco Rubio to ‘target China’s tools’ of aggression” via Bill Bishop for Axios — Rubio will introduce the Fair Trade With China Enforcement Act “to guard the American people against China’s nefarious influence on national and economic security, directly targeting China’s tools of economic aggression.” According to an op-ed by Rubio in The Washington Post, the legislation would: Ban the sale of all sensitive technology or intellectual property to Chinese entities and impose a shareholding cap on Chinese investors in American corporations … impose a withholding tax on Chinese entities earning investment and dividend income in the United States … Impose duties on Chinese capital goods in the sectors targeted by the “Made in China 2025” plan … Raise taxes on the foreign income of multinational corporations if they enter into vulnerable “joint ventures” with Chinese firms. Bipartisan forces are aligning across D.C. to take a much tougher approach to China. Beijing may find a way to blunt some of the Trump administration trade threats, but Congress is even more hawkish toward the PRC.

Florida lawmakers in Washington: Newsprint tariffs would be a ‘grave mistake’” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Saying they are “extremely concerned” about the effect on Florida’s economy and public discourse, a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to take action to prevent steep newsprint tariffs. “At a time when credible and responsible reporting is needed most, a devastating new tax on the newspaper industry would be a grave mistake,” the Florida lawmakers wrote in a letter to Ross … “Not only would the tariffs cause severe economic turmoil in Florida and across the country but they would also make it harder for the public to get the information needed to sustain a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Fifteen Florida lawmakers signed the letter: Sen. Bill Nelson and Reps. Gus BilirakisStephanie MurphyDennis RossDarren SotoCharlie CristFrederica WilsonKathy CastorAlcee HastingsDebbie Wasserman SchultzAl LawsonTed DeutchLois FrankelVal Demings and Carlos Curbelo.

Betsy DeVos gets standing ovation from Ave Maria University grads after speech” via Annika Hammerschlag of the Naples Daily News — In her roughly 20-minute speech, DeVos focused on the teachings of religious figures, including Jesus Christ, former Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, and emphasized the importance of service to God, country and neighbor. The speech earned DeVos a standing ovation from the roughly 230 undergraduate students and their relatives and friends. The warm welcome was in stark contrast to the disapproving crowds DeVos encountered last year while speaking at the commencement ceremonies of Daytona Beach’s Bethune-Cookman University, where she was booed, and the University of Baltimore, where students turned their backs. Quoting Pope Benedict XVI, DeVos urged the room of graduates to harness their faith and push past life’s roadblocks.


Three newspapers confront one challenge: Sea-level rise is real, South Florida needs all hands on deck — now” via Miami Herald editorial board — No graver threat faces the future of South Florida than the accelerating pace of sea-level rise. In the past century, the sea has risen 9 inches in Key West. In the past 23 years, it’s risen 3 inches. By 2060, it’s predicted to rise another 2 feet, with no sign of slowing down … It’s not just a matter of how much land we’re going to lose, though the barrier islands and low-lying communities will be largely uninhabitable once the ocean rises by 3 feet. It’s a matter of what can be saved (and) how we’re going to manage the retreat. To that end, the editorial boards of the Miami Herald, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post — with reporting help from WLRN Public Media — are joining hands in an unprecedented collaboration this election year to raise awareness about the threat facing South Florida from sea-level rise. In drumbeat fashion, we plan to inform, engage, provoke and build momentum to address the slow-motion tidal wave coming our way.

Don’t risk Florida coast by changing offshore drilling rules” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board — The U.S. Interior Department seems to be confused when it comes to the question of allowing more oil drilling anywhere near Florida’s coast. The latest comes via a bipartisan tirade over plans by Interior officials to ease regulations and oversight of the 2016 Well Control Rule put in place by the Obama administration in the wake of the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill. Interior officials want to alter 44 provisions and delete 15 others in a “common-sense approach,” which “could reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens while ensuring that any such activity is safe and environmentally responsible.” This is not “common-sense.” Not when the Florida Panhandle is still recovering both economically and environmentally from the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The first BP settlement money — $18 million — was released only last week for regional economic development projects in that region.

Florida shoots itself in the foot on prison policy” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — To cover a $50 million deficit in its health care and pharmaceutical budgets, the state’s prison agency is slashing substance abuse, transitional housing and other re-entry programs … Of course, the programs on the chopping block are all intended to help inmates who are released reintegrate successfully into their communities and steer clear of crime and return trips to prison. “You can’t just let people out of prison without some type of transition back into society,” state Sen. Jeff Brandes, the Legislature’s leading advocate for criminal-justice reform … So the short-term savings will likely lead to higher expenses over the long term from increased crime and a larger inmate population. That makes the cuts a double-whammy to public safety and taxpayers’ wallets. Brandes and other criminal-justice reform advocates have been pushing these measures for years. They’ve run into resistance from legislators who are too timid to embrace smarter approaches to sentencing for fear of appearing soft on crime. As budget problems persist in Florida’s prison system, and the list of states succeeding with reform grows, this is an increasingly irresponsible and indefensible position.


Jason AllisonRobert Hosay, Foley & Lardner: Google

Christopher CarmodyChristopher DawsonKatie FluryMary Kim McDougalRobert Stuart Jr., GrayRobinson: ALETS

Megan Fay, Capital City Consulting: RELX, The School Board of Sarasota County

Damon Stewart, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe: DISH Network

— ALOE —

Elderflower soda and lavender lattes: Flowers are suddenly everywhere in food” via Maura Judkis of The Washington Post — Here’s an area in which florals are actually novel. The trend is also sprouting up in food and, especially, beverages. It’s a natural evolution of several previous trends, including our love for rainbow colors and all things pink. “Food, like fashion, is driven by trends, seasonality and the occasional gust of hype,” said food writer Lee Tran Lam in Australian Vogue. Floral flavors were one of the biggest trend predictions for 2018, and one that has borne out right on time: just as those April showers bring May flowers. Like spring crocuses, floral foods are starting to pop up in mainstream consumer products. The flavors you’re most likely to see are lavender, hibiscus and elderflower — each with its own distinct botanical flavor.

Elderflower soda, and other floral-based foods, are the newest trends for 2018.

One space between each sentence, they said. Science just proved them wrong.” via Avi Selk of The Washington Post — Three psychology researchers from Skidmore College … decided it’s time for modern science to sort this out once and for all. “Professionals and amateurs in a variety of fields have passionately argued for either one or two spaces following this punctuation mark,” they wrote in a paper published last week in the journal Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. The researchers … rounded up 60 students and some eye-tracking equipment, and set out to heal the divide … Turns out, 21 of the 60 were “two-spacers,” and the rest typed with close-spaced sentences … And the verdict was: two spaces after the period is better. It makes reading slightly easier. Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences. The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way. And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.

Happy birthday from the weekend to Laura Jolly, McKinley Lewis, state Rep. Tracie Davis and congressional candidate Scott Sturgill. Celebrating today are U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Jennifer Edwards and former state Rep. Ken Littlefield.

Peter Schorsch

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


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