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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.2.19

Florida politics — and more — you can read in as much time as your first cuppa joe.

Despite news that lawyer-lobbyist and former House Speaker Dean Cannon is ascending to the presidency of GrayRobinson, he doesn’t plan to make any significant immediate changes at the powerhouse law firm.

“I don’t intend to change our character. Charlie Gray instilled it into our DNA that we believe in excellence and agility in the practice of law, in strong civic involvement, and in strong political involvement. That formula has worked for almost 50 years, and I don’t intend to change it.”

Mayanne Downs is passing the baton of leadership to Dean Cannon.

Cannon will continue to be based in the firm’s Tallahassee office, although his current practice involves frequent travel to all the firm’s offices, something he plans to continue.

“I intend to be just as politically involved going forward as I am today, but with the broader emphasis on setting the strategic direction and leadership of the firm. Charlie used to say that if you build your community, you build your law firm. I believe that still holds true today.

“So staying connected to the government leaders of our state and the leadership in the communities where GrayRobinson attorneys practice is something I expect to continue.”

For the rest of the story, click here.

— “GrayRobinson President and Managing Partner Mayanne Downs to step down” via Dylan Jackson of Daily Business Review

Sen. Lauren Book is set to kick off a three-day, 42-hour walk Tuesday to honor survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Her foundation, Lauren’s Kids, will conduct the awareness campaign.

In addition to survivors, advocates and community members who will be on hand, Sen. Book will also be joined by Gov. Ron DeSantis at the launch Tuesday morning at 11:45 a.m. He’ll be joined by Division of Emergency Management Director and former South Florida Rep. Jared Moskowitz.

The three-day “42 Hours for 42 Million” advocacy walk will honor the estimated 42 million-plus survivors of childhood sexual abuse within the U.S. In addition to Tuesday’s news conference at the Capitol; the Historic Capitol will be lit up in teal Tuesday and Wednesday night to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Several lawmakers and state officials have also confirmed they’ll be participating in the walk.

Senate President Bill Galvano, Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Patricia Williams will be joining from the Legislature. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, FDLE Commissioner Richard Swearingen, DCF Secretary Chad Poppell and VISIT FLORIDA President & CEO Dana Young will also be walking.

Book, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself, established Lauren’s Kids back in 2007 as a resource for fellow abuse victims. The three-day event will take place from April 2-4.

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Assignment editors — Hundreds of crime survivors from across the Sunshine State will be traveling to the Capitol to advocate for policy changes that make communities safer and meet the needs of crime victims, a news release said. Survivors Speak is hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a network with over 25,000 crime survivors in states across the country, including chapters across Florida. At the event, survivors — including Parkland and Pulse survivors — will share stories, honor loved ones, and advocate for policy solutions.

A 2018 poll of Florida crime survivors found that they supported more spending on prevention and rehabilitation over longer prison sentences by a margin of three-to-one. Over 80 percent supported investing in education, the health of neighborhoods, job training and workforce development over more spending on prisons and jails. In terms of other safety priorities, 77 percent of crime survivors surveyed supported limits on using prison for people who may violate a technical rule of probation.

That’s at 11 a.m., 4th Floor Rotunda.

Congratulations to Gannon Hunt and Josh Cooper on their engagement. Josh popped the question Sunday at Maclay Gardens in Tallahassee.

Josh Cooper proposes to Gannon at Alfred B. Maclay State Park in Tallahassee. Photo via Mark Wallheiser.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@RafaelCarranza: CONFIRMED: President Trump will be visiting the US-Mexico border at #Calexico on Friday. The White House says he will tour the section of the border fence with this plaque, marking the “completion of the first section of President Trump’s #BorderWall.”

@MarcoRubio: #Florida #Panhandle needs disaster relief funds. #PuertoRico SNAP program is out of money. Democrats in the Senate just voted to prevent moving toward passing a bill that provides relief for both problems. Even disaster relief gets politicized.

@JebBush: On behalf of the millions of Floridians personally affected by this issue, I thank @GovRonDeSantis for bringing the Office of Drug Control back to the EOG. I know his efforts will go a long way in helping Florida fight this growing and heartbreaking crisis.

@AGAshleyMoody: I want to thank @GovRonDeSantis for appointing me Chair of the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Drug Abuse. I am honored to help lead this mission & look forward to bolstering our ongoing efforts against this deadly crisis claiming 17 lives a day in Florida

@Fineout: So the @FlChamber and GOP senators are backing the petition changes in the name of “transparency” over who is backing amendments. Yet the @JoeGruters bill to require transparency in campaign donations is … going nowhere this year

@Mike_Greico: Bad news is that the likelihood of the School Guardian Bill passing in the House is very high. Good news is that many districts (including Miami-Dade) have already committed to opting out …
@MearKat00: Nobody, and I mean nobody can pull off April Fool’s pranks like @JimmyPatronis. He once submitted appearance cards and had unsuspecting chairs read the most amazing names of people — that do not exist.

@JeffSolocheck: April Fool’s! Marcia Brady, Jan Brady and Greg Brady all sign up to speak at the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. Chairman @ChrisLatvala asks his aide to check the handwriting on the comment cards, for retribution later. 

@MeCookieMonster: April Fools jokes make me one stressed monster. Me need cookie.

— DAYS UNTIL —

Masters Tournament begins — 9; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 12; Deadline for federal candidates to report what they raised during Q1 — 13; Easter — 19; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 20; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 21; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 31; Mother’s Day — 40; Memorial Day — 55; First Democratic debates in Miami — 85; Scott Maddox trial begins — 216; 2019 General Election — 217; Iowa Caucuses — 307; Florida’s presidential primary — 350; 2020 General Election — 581.

— TOP STORY —

FBI agent may testify in ethics case against Andrew Gillum” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO Florida — The lead state lawyer tasked with proving that Gillum broke the state’s ethics laws by accepting gifts from lobbyists asked an administrative judge to let undercover FBI agent “Mike Miller” testify in the case. Lawyer Elizabeth Miller, who works for Attorney General Ashley Moody, asked the court in a filing to keep Miller’s real identity secret and to let him testify by phone. The state’s ethics commission concluded in January that there was probable cause that Gillum violated Florida’s ethics law while he was Tallahassee mayor. Gillum contends he has done nothing wrong and is challenging the findings in an administrative hearing.

— THE ADMINISTRATION —

Ron DeSantis names Scott Rivkees as Surgeon General, rolls out opioid plan“ via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — DeSantis laid out the beginnings of his opioid crisis programs by announcing the re-creation of the Office of Drug Control, as well as a task force led by Attorney General Moody, and the nomination of a new state Surgeon General. DeSantis named Dr. Scott Rivkees, a pediatric endocrinologist and the physician-in-chief at University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville as the state’s new top medical officer, to succeed former Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip, who left with former Gov. Rick Scott.

At a news conference in Sanford, DeSantis announced he is signing an executive order to continue his efforts to address Florida’s substance abuse crisis and opioid epidemic. Image via Governor’s Office.

Tweet, tweet:

DeSantis taps UF environment director Tom Frazer as Florida’s first chief science officer” via Ali Schmitz and Tyler Treadway of TCPalm — Frazer wanted the job because of his “deep-rooted concern” for sustainable actions between people and the environment, he wrote in his cover letter, which the Florida Department of Environmental Protection provided. “In Florida, a burgeoning human population, thriving tourism-based economy and globally important agricultural enterprise can place tremendous stress on our natural systems and may, in some cases, create undesirable environmental changes that translate into significant management challenges,” he wrote in the letter. Frazer said his priority is water-quality issues, including advising a blue-green algae task force DeSantis is expected to form.

Assignment editors — DeSantis will hold a news conference with First Lady Casey DeSantis and Department of Children and Families Secretary Poppell, 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, Governor’s Large Conference Room, The Capitol. Later, the Governor will speak at Enterprise Florida’s Spring Board Meeting, 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, Al Lawson Center, Florida A&M University, 1800 Wahnish Way, Tallahassee.

— SESSION —

For your radar — The Florida House is rolling out a sweeping tax package this morning that would give businesses a $113 million a year tax cut, add computers to the annual back-to-school sales-tax holiday and rewrite tax laws to steer more money to charter schools and private school vouchers, reports Jason Garcia of Florida Trend. The House tax package also potentially *raises* taxes: It includes a provision, sought by House Speaker Jose Oliva, that would restrict property-tax exemptions for non-profit hospitals. State economists predict that the hospital provision would have a “positive” impact on local government revenues — meaning hospitals would pay more in property taxes. Although they have no idea idea how much more. The biggest single provision in the package would cut the sales tax on commercial lease payments from 5.7% to 5.35%. Getting that tax reduced is a top priority for the state’s business lobby. It would save businesses, and cost governments, roughly $113 million a year.
>>>House spokesman Fred Piccolo says: “No tax cut package has been finalized. Today’s workshop will examine potential changes in tax policy And present members with options for a future tax package.”

Proposed ballot rules could hurt efforts to legalize pot, raise minimum wage in Florida” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The proposal (SB 7096) would require paid petition gatherers to be Florida residents and register with the Secretary of State. It also would bar paying the people who gathered the signatures based on the number they collect. Sen. David Simmons said the measure is intended to prevent fraud and stop wealthy special interests from “hijacking” the process. He said the bill would also provide more transparency to voters about who is backing ballot initiatives. But Democrats say the bill would make it harder for Floridians to bypass the special interests that dominate Tallahassee and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Republican David Simmons wants to make it a little more difficult to change the Florida Constitution. That could be a problem for popular Democratic issues such as legalization of marijuana and raising the minimum wage.

Certificate-of-need repeal starts inching forward again in Senate” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — The Senate Health Policy Committee voted 9-1 to advance SB 1712, with only Sen. Janet Cruz dissenting — it would remove a requirement that general hospitals apply and obtain approval from the state to build or expand. Healthcare facilities including hospitals, nursing homes and hospices are currently required to obtain certificates of need from the state Agency for Health Care Administration before they can build new facilities or add beds or specific services. Florida is one of nearly 40 states in the country that has a certificate-of-need, or CON, process. Supporters of repealing the approval process have said the certificate of need system unfairly chokes potential competition and allows existing facilities to keep raising costs.

PIP repeal clears Senate insurance committee over GOP dissents” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — An effort to repeal Florida’s no-fault insurance mandate cleared its review panel, though at least one lawmaker opposing it worried the measure wouldn’t protect insurance companies against dodgy claims that they handled claims in bad faith. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee cleared the legislation (SB 1052) by a 5-3 vote. “This conversion needs to happen. Everybody agrees it needs to happen,” St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes said, one of the ‘no’ votes. ”But in the absence of addressing third-party bad faith before we pass PIP (personal injury protection) repeal, we will go years and years before that issue ultimately gets addressed.”

Senate panel backs retroactive relief for criminals awaiting sentences” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Tom Lee, introduced the new language last week. He suggested it’s “consistent with the spirit of Amendment 11.” Lee’s bill would pave the way for revised sentences to apply to people currently serving time but would require such a change to be explicitly addressed in laws passed by the Legislature. Lee said a “great legal debate” looms on whether the legislative branch even has the constitutional authority to change a sentence retroactively. Clemency, Lee pointed out, is an executive power.

Bill to teach students about dangers of human trafficking passes second House panel” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill to add human trafficking education to Florida’s public school curriculum is moving on to its final panel after it was approved Monday by the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. The legislation (HB 259) had already been approved unanimously by the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee. It will now move on to the House Education Committee. The bipartisan bill was filed by GOP Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, of Orlando, and Rep. Patricia Williams, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat. “This bill will actually shine a spotlight on the darkness of human trafficking,” Williams said. “This bill will also be able to help children learn the signs of dangers that are in their neighborhoods and in their schools.”

Financial literacy, Bible class bills in limbo as House education budget committee holds likely final session” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — At the end of a 70-minute meeting, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations chair Chris Latvala had a scheduling message for his members: “This will probably be our last committee meeting.” If so, that decision places some high profile bills and ideas currently assigned to the panel on life support. Among them: HB 73, establishing a financial literacy high school graduation requirement; HB 195, requiring public high schools to offer elective courses studying the Bible; HB 123, creating a trust fund for victims and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting, and HB 1037, designing a high school civics course that encourages student community projects.

Proposed ban on use of DNA tests hits a snag” via the News Service of Florida — State Sen. Aaron Bean has postponed a vote on a proposal that would ban life-insurance companies from using genetic testing information when deciding whether to sell policies to customers. Bean asked Senate Health Policy Committee Chairman Gayle Harrell to delay a vote on the measure (SB 258) until next week, so he can have more time to work on the issue. The proposal is a high priority for House leaders, and the move to scuttle the Senate committee vote came after a House insurance panel signed off on a companion bill (HB 879) last week.

House panel approves vacation rentals bill destined to change“ via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A bill to pre-empt local government regulation of vacation rental homes was approved by a House appropriations subcommittee after its sponsor state Rep. James Grant promised there would be some major changes before the next stop. Grant assured the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Government Operations and Technology that he intends to make major changes to the bill to give the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation authority to oversee vacation rentals, particularly to enforce rules against “bad actors.” With that, despite much of the opposition that had helped kill similar vacation rental bills in recent years, from local governments, hotel interests, and others, the panel voted with a split vote to move HB 987 along to the Commerce Committee.

One more hurdle: A bill seeking to pre-empt local regulation of vacation rental homes made it through a House subcommittee after sponsor James Grant promised major changes before its next stop. Image via Colin Hackley.

Bill to require utilities to plan underground lines gains approval“ via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — A House Appropriations subcommittee gave its blessing to HB 797, which would require power companies to make plans to get their power lines buried over the next 20 years. The bill drew some heat from both big power users and broader consumer advocates who worried that it would shift costs to consumers. But it also drew bipartisan support from the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Government Operations and Technology because it would force utilities to commit to approaches to harden Florida’s electricity grid against hurricanes. Sponsor Republican state Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County bristled against suggestions that power companies should be required to absorb the costs in their current rate structures, arguing that they still must get any requested rate increases approved by the Florida Public Service Commission. If there are rate increases, they’ll be worth it for the savings Floridians will see with smaller hurricane-caused power outages, he argued. “This bill is a no-brainer for the long-term fiscal health of the state of Florida,” Fine insisted.

— MORE SESSION —

Keith Perry’s bill helping injured workers or his business?” via Steve Andrews of News Channel 8 — A Gainesville lawmaker plans to reintroduce a bill that could force injured workers to wait up to nine weeks to receive medical care and benefits. It could also end up lowering workers’ compensation premiums that Republican Sen. Perry‘s company currently pays. Perry claims Senate Bill 1636 is his issue. He is no stranger to workers’ comp claims. Perry owns a roofing company. Records show since 1997, 22 workers’ comp claims were filed by employees hurt at Perry Roofing. Perry’s legislation puts a $150 an hour cap on what attorneys representing injured workers can earn.

Keith Perry’s bill to make injured workers wait longer for benefits, cap attorney’s fees — and lower premiums for employers — could have a direct benefit for his own roofing company. Image via Colin Hackley.

Central Florida, worst in nation for affordable housing, gets no housing money in House budget” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — In a spending plan set to pass the House this week, affordable housing programs would receive $123.6 million, but the money would be steered to areas of the Panhandle damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Michael. “Orange County, Osceola County, Seminole County, is getting crushed by the affordable housing crisis,” said Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, during a House budget panel meeting last week. “I support the money that’s going toward the victims for Hurricane Michael, but it’s a false choice to have to pick between recovery for Hurricane Michael victims and funding affordable housing. We have zero money from affordable housing … for Central Florida. That’s a problem.”

Proposal to probe elder deaths receiving little pushback in Legislature” via Ryan Mills of the Daily News — Proposals to create teams to review deaths of the elderly when abuse or neglect is suspected and to prevent future deaths are moving forward with little pushback in the Florida Legislature. Elder advocates say establishing elder death review teams in Florida could help cut down on the number of cases of nursing home neglect and mistreatment like those identified in a recent USA TODAY NETWORK — FLORIDA investigation.”

Moms bring petitions to Capitol demanding background checks for all gun buyers” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix — The group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America brought the petitions to the offices of Senate President Galvano and House Speaker José Oliva. While Florida does require background checks for people who buy a gun in a store, anyone can buy a gun from an online seller without facing a background check. “We just want to keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories,” said Kate Kile, a member of the Tallahassee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “Background checks are not intrusive. They’re generally instant for 90 percent of the people who go through them. We don’t feel that it’s an enormous burden.”

Today’s legislative committee hearings:

The Senate Education Committee will consider a proposal for more money to Northwest Florida school districts that lost enrollment because Hurricane Michael displaced students, 10 a.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will take up a bill that would create a public-records exemption for information about 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds who preregister to vote, 10 a.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee will hold confirmation hearings for Public Service Commission members Julie Brown and Gary Clark, 10 a.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider a bill that would create a state hemp program, 1 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider a bill to revise the requirements governing when and how law enforcement can search cellular phones and other electronic devices such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo “smart speakers,” 1 p.m., 306 House Office Building.

The House Transportation & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee meets to consider several bills, including one on the Alligator Alley Toll Road, 1 p.m., Reed Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee will take up a bill that would prevent the state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. from raising rates in Monroe County by more than 5 percent a year, 2 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will receive an update about a legal battle between Florida and Georgia about the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, 2 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee will consider a proposal to repeal laws allowing the use of red-light cameras, 2 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The House Appropriations Committee meets 3:30 p.m., 212 Knott Building.

Governors Club Tuesday lunch buffet menu — Italian minestrone; mixed garden salad with dressing; buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad; Caesar salad; deli board, tomato, lettuce, cheeses and breads; Ronnie’s fried chicken; roast Mediterranean pork loin; seafood Newburg; mashed potatoes; green beans amandine; yellow squash casserole; apple cobbler for dessert.

— STATEWIDE —

Ashley Moody rejects county E-Verify proposal” via the News Service of Florida — Moody has weighed in about whether a county can require businesses to use the E-Verify system to screen potential illegal workers before the businesses can get proof that they have paid taxes. The answer: no. “This office has concluded in prior opinions that the Legislature has the ‘exclusive prerogative’ to regulate the levy and collection of the local business tax … and that [prohibit] local governments … from modifying existing regulation,” Moody wrote in an opinion. Moody added that nothing in state law authorizes counties to require compliance with the federal E-Verify program before issuing tax receipts to businesses.

Assignment editors — CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis will conduct the ‘Ringing of the Bell’ ceremony to recognize Florida firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. That’s at 8:30 a.m. in the Capitol courtyard.

CFO and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis joined Attorney General Ashley Moody, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Joint Council of Fire and Emergency Services to unveil and dedicate the new Firefighter Memorial Monument on Monday. Image via Twitter

Group pushes to expand offshore drilling — including off Florida’s coast” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Florida voters may have spoken out against offshore drilling in 2018. But Explore Offshore, a group created by the American Petroleum Institute (API), is pushing to expand the practice throughout U.S. waters, including in the Gulf and the Atlantic. Explore Offshore has set up a bipartisan leadership team consisting of former Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson and Democratic former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia. Nicholson also is a former Republican Party head. “We’re talking here about federal waters, the outer continental shelf,” Nicholson said, saying they’re asking for exploration in the range of 80 to 120 miles off the shore. “There is absolutely no possibility of visual access to any of this activity,” he added.

SACE shows skepticism toward Energy choice amendment” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy won’t support a proposed Florida Energy Choice amendment. In fact, the group says the ballot measure could ultimately reduce solar power use in the Sunshine State. “Our ‘thread the needle’ philosophy here is to advocate for deep reform, but in a way that does not derail Florida’s current solar development pipeline,” write SACE executive director Stephen Smith. While the organization remains concerned about utility monopolies in Florida, Smith writes the proposed constitutional amendment won’t cure that problem. “The proposed ballot amendment would force open the utility power market (creating a ‘wholesale market’) and give customers a choice of electricity suppliers (creating a ‘retail market’),” he writes.

Publix stopped giving to politicians after NRA controversy. But now they’re back in business.” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — The Lakeland-based grocery chain donated $33,000 to Florida lawmakers in February, the company’s first contributions since halting all political giving last year during a national firestorm related to the Parkland shooting. … Publix spokesman Brian West declined to comment on any changes to the company’s policies, but he acknowledged company money was flowing to campaign coffers again. “The important work done by our elected officials has significant impacts on Publix, our associates and our customers,” West said. “As such, Publix has made the decision to reengage in the political process.”

When it comes to school safety, the question is: Where are all the school counselors?” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — Today’s school counselors have broader responsibilities, including being trained to recognize mental health issues in students before a crisis occurs. The counselors play an integral role, but they’re in short supply and woefully unrepresented in schools, state data show, even as violence has shattered the notion that schools are safe and students remain stigmatized by mental health problems. On average, school counselors statewide have double the caseload recommended by experts in the field. Rebecca Schumacher, executive director of the Florida School Counselor Association, called the situation both alarming and inequitable. “[Some schools don’t] have any school counselors,” she says.

State forester: “We aren’t ready’ for upcoming fire season as millions of tons of fuel litter forests” via Katie Landeck of the News Herald — “A 678-acre warning smoldered behind Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Monday morning, confirming her call for more federal and state support to deal with what promises to be an active, dangerous fire season in hurricane-impacted areas.”

Florida gas prices hit 5-year high in March” via John Hielscher the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The average price for a gallon of regular gas in the Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice market was $2.74 on Monday, AAA reported, up 15 cents for the week. Local drivers are now paying 24 cents more for regular unleaded than a month ago. Prices are 13 cents higher than this time last year. “Florida drivers experienced another round of rising prices last week, as fuel supplies continued to tighten due to refinery issues,” said Mark Jenkins, the spokesman at AAA in Tampa. Gas prices throughout Florida averaged $2.75 per gallon on Monday. The U.S. average was $2.69. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton reported the most expensive gas in Florida, at $2.85. The cheapest gas was in Pensacola, at $2.62.

Lottery readies for vending system changes” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida Lottery officials say they don’t anticipate problems as a multimillion-dollar upgrade of a vending system goes into place this month. But rather than press their luck, players are urged to buy earlier than normal as the new system is expected to require the main office to go offline for several hours April 15. “The vast majority of the upgrade will occur overnight on the 15th, causing minimal inconvenience,” lottery spokeswoman Keri Nucatola said. “Still, we are encouraging our frequent players who would normally buy tickets on that morning to get their tickets ahead of time.” Lawmakers approved the change as part of a $54-million line-item in the state budget last year.

Trulieve can expand to 49 dispensaries under agreement with DOH” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — The agreement ends a lawsuit Trulieve filed against DOH, coming two months after Circuit Judge Karen Gievers ruled the cap unconstitutional. The state will drop its appeal of Gievers’ ruling. The medical marijuana company released the statement this morning that it has settled its lawsuit with DOH, which was filed in April 2018, a year after legislation was approved imposing the statutory cap after voters overwhelmingly approved the expansion of medical marijuana. The mutual settlement states that only dispensaries established after the cap will be counted for Trulieve. CEO Kim Rivers said it was not a victory for her company, but for all Florida patients.

Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers says her company’s most recent legal victory was a win for all Florida patients. Photo by Jacob Ogles.

What state “Director of Cannabis” Holly Bell is reading — “Where are the black hemp farmers?” via Pew Stateline — Clarenda Stanley-Anderson will be the featured farmer of Hemp History Week, an educational campaign in June focused on a newly legal crop that’s at the center of a risky, potentially billion-dollar industry … It’ll be the first time that the Hemp Industries Association annual initiative, which boasts celebrity endorsements and events across the country, will feature a nonwhite farmer. Stanley-Anderson wants to expand the representation of hemp farmers, even if she’s far from the average industry insider. Black farmers are a mere 1.4 percent of the country’s 3.2 million farmers, according to the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture.

Catholic Bishops of Florida give Raoul G. Cantero III the Distinguished Catholic Leader Award — The former Florida Supreme Court justice, now a lawyer with White & Case, was given the Thomas A. Horkan Jr. Distinguished Catholic Leader Award, the group said. The award was presented at the annual Catholic Days at the Capitol luncheon attended by the bishops, current justices, lawmakers, and nearly 400 Catholics from across the state. The award goes to “a Catholic Floridian whose life and work has deepened respect for life and increased appreciation for the human dignity of the people of Florida.” The award is named for (and first presented in 1995 to) Horkan, founding executive director of the Florida Catholic Conference. Cantero is the eighth recipient since the award’s inception.

Christian Bax, former director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, guests on newest “Fluent in Floridian” — The fastest growing sector in the U.S. job market isn’t technology or real estate: It’s marijuana. On the latest Fluent in Floridian podcast, Bax — now a private consultant — sits down with SalterMitchell PR President Heidi Otway. In their conversation, they discuss the growth of Florida’s medical cannabis industry from zero patients to over 250,000 in two years and the takeaways that Florida can learn from other states and the industry’s future in the Sunshine State. Listen to the podcast here.

— LOCAL —

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava to announce mayoral run” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Levine Cava is slated “to share an important announcement about the future of Miami-Dade County,” according to the release. “It would mean the world if you join and stand by my side,” Levine Cava added. Cava has reportedly been considering a run for Mayor in 2020. She’s served as a liberal voice on the Commission since elected in 2014. Levine Cava secured a second term representing District 8 in the last election cycle. Several high-profile lawmakers with ties to South Florida have been rumored to join the race including fellow Commissioner Xavier Suarez, former Mayor Alex Penelas, and former U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Former Commissioner Juan Zapata has already filed paperwork to run.

Commissioner Daniela Levine Cava is expected to announce her bid for Miami-Dade County Mayor.

In Miami-Dade, scared immigrants may not answer the census. That could be costly” via Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald — “As the Trump administration prepares to insert a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, Miami-Dade is urging all residents not to let fear of a government survey stop them from participating.”

Jacksonville police will no longer tell you where some crimes occurred or who the victims are” via Andrew Pantazi of The Florida Times-Union — Marsy’s Law, passed last fall, triggered the drastic change in records policy. Law enforcement in other parts of the country with similar laws say a restriction on identifying victims makes it harder for police to solve crimes. This also means Jacksonville residents will have a harder time finding out what crimes are occurring in their neighborhoods. Police will no longer identify a crime’s location if it happens at a victim’s address, and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office crime map shows no new local crimes since Friday. While Florida has long had records laws that are more transparent than other states, that changed when voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment Six, also known as Marsy’s Law.

Naples candidates brace for Tuesday special election” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — More than $100,000 has been raised for a rare special election for Naples City Council. Now it’s up to voters. Most dollars went to two candidates: former Ethics Naples director Ray Christman and former Naples City Manager Bill Moss. Christman raised $47,636 and Moss took in $45,225. But retired finance professional Ted Blankenship also had $5,010, largely self-funded, and retired attorney George Dondanville raised $4,494. In a city of less than 22,000, that’s a lot of money for an unexpected election with a low expected turnout. The contest seeks a replacement for Councilwoman Nancy Penniman, who resigned in January over a family health issue. Election debate centered largely around water quality issues and redevelopment in the affluent city.

Rick Kriseman removes three St. Petersburg housing agency board members for lax oversight” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times — Chairman Harry Harvey, a board member since 1996, Delphinia Davis and Ann Sherman White will be given until Tuesday to resign, according to a memo Kriseman sent to city council members. Failing that, they will be removed from office. That means Kriseman will have replaced five of the seven-member board after he decided last month against reappointing Basha P. Jordan Jr., and Jo Ann Nesbitt to second terms. Kriseman directed City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch to look into the performance of the board after a Tampa Bay Times investigation found that it approved a 7 percent pay raise for agency CEO Tony Love in 2017 even though some board members said they hadn’t seen his evaluation.

If Orlando is picked to host 2026 World Cup soccer matches, the price tag could be $50 million” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — In February, Orange County’s tourist-development tax sports incentive committee unanimously approved a request for $1 million in hotel-tax dollars for a marketing campaign to boost Central Florida’s chance to host games. The estimated extra costs could range between $16 million to $42 million safety and security; $12 million to $32 million for traffic and transportation; $2 million to $4 million for “beautification;” $1 million to $45 million for “fanfest” activities. The stadium, formerly known as the Citrus Bowl, underwent a $207-million renovation about five years ago and Central Florida leaders recommended in September spending another $60 million on new upgrades to the sports-entertainment venue.

— D.C. MATTERS —

Trump considering naming an ‘immigration czar’” via Jill Colvin of the Associated Press — As he threatens to shut down the southern border, President Donald Trump is considering bringing on a “border” or “immigration czar” to coordinate immigration policy across various federal agencies, according to four people familiar with the discussions. Trump is weighing at least two potential candidates for the post: former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, according to the people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the conversations publicly.

Assignment editors — Scott will hold a news conference to discuss his sponsorship of the Transparent Drug Pricing Act, which attempts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, 9 a.m., Senate Radio-TV Gallery, U.S. Capitol, S-325. RSVP to press@rickscott.senate.gov.

Senate barrels toward showdown vote on disaster relief” via Andrew Taylor of The Associated Press — A fight between Trump and Democrats over hurricane relief for Puerto Rico is imperiling a widely backed disaster aid bill that’s a top priority for some of the president’s Southern GOP allies. The amount of money in dispute is relatively small, but Trump feels antipathy toward Puerto Rico’s government and Senate Republicans are taking a hard-line — for now — in denying Democratic demands for more aid for the U.S. territory. Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York appears confident that a successful filibuster won’t kill the bill outright, but drive Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell toward compromise.

Matt Gaetz is a congressman liberals love to loathe. It’s all part of the plan.” via Glenn Thrush of The New York Times — Gaetz came to Washington in 2017 with a reputation for bipartisan deal-cutting in the State Legislature, then spent a year idling behind the slow-moving minivans in the House Republican Conference. So, he decided to go the full Trump. With a near-constant presence on the president’s favorite network and a penchant for own-the-libs outrageousness, Gaetz has, in short order, become the lawmaker Democrats love to loathe. “In a world where the body politic has the attention span at times of a goldfish, yep, you’ve got to have the ability to reinvent yourself in this game many times,” said Gaetz, who in his second term has emerged as one of Trump’s fiercest and most frequent defenders on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

Owning the libs: Being a thorn in the side of Democrats and liberals is all part of Matt Gaetz’s master plan. Image via NWF Daily News.

The only story that matters — “America would run out of avocados in 3 weeks if the U.S.-Mexico border closed” via Bobby Cherry of WPBF — Say goodbye to your guacamole and tequila for margaritas if Trump shuts down the U.S.-Mexico border. “You couldn’t pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100 percent of the avocados in the U.S. right now,” Steve Barnard, president and chief executive of Mission Produce, Fox News reported. “California is just starting, and they have a very small crop, but they’re not relevant right now and won’t be for another month or so.” About half of all vegetables imported into the United States comes from Mexico, according to the Department of Agriculture, Reuters reported. The department reports that 40 percent of all imported fruits also come from Mexico.

— 2020 —

Connecticut woman says then-Vice President Joe Biden touched her inappropriately at a Greenwich fundraiser in 2009” via Neil Vigdor of the Hartford Courant — “It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head,” Amy Lappos told The Courant. “He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.” Lappos, who is now a freelance worker with nonprofit agencies, said she felt extremely uncomfortable when Biden approached her at the 2009 fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes where she was volunteering. At the time, Lappos was a congressional aide to Himes, who she said was not in the room when the incident took place.

Joe Biden’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Image via the Chicago Tribune.

Pete Buttigieg dashes to catch up with his newfound fame” via Elana Schneider of POLITICO — South Bend Mayor Buttigieg raised more than $7 million in the first quarter. The Buttigieg campaign said it expects to double the size of its staff to 40 people in the coming weeks, adding workers to its finance, communications, digital and political teams. It’s also recruiting state staffers in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as courting consulting firms. But Lis Smith, the campaign spokeswoman, said it “won’t be [a] consultant-heavy” team.

Lawsuit: Howard Schultz sent unwanted texts to promote book” via The Associated Press — A Florida woman is suing former Starbucks CEO Schultz after she says she and others on the national do not call list got automated text messages promoting his book tour. Schultz is considering an independent bid for president and launched a tour in January for his latest book, “From the Ground Up.” Cassandra Vallianos of Sunrise says even though she’s on the no-call list, she received two unsolicited text messages promoting his appearance in Miami. Vallianos says she believes she and other voters were targeted if their registrations didn’t list a party preference. The lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Seattle seeks class-action status and damages of $500 to $1,500 per text.

— OPINIONS —

Investing in families now is a down payment in our nation’s future” via Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Ann Wagner and Dan Crenshaw for FOXBusiness — To ensure a better future for generations to come, we must align our economic policies to support strong communities, strong families, and dignified work. That is why we are making an investment in our families — in our nation’s future — and introducing a national paid family leave policy. The New Parents Act will empower new parents by giving them the financial security and flexibility they need to start a family. Unlike other approaches, our plan does not raise taxes on working families — the very people we are trying to help — nor does it place burdensome mandates on small businesses.

The worst possible choice to craft a Senate health care plan? Rick Scott” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — Quick resume reminder: Florida’s rookie Senator once ran a hospital company that got fined $1.7 billion by the federal government for Medicare fraud. He was governor for eight years and had little to show when it came to improving the quality or cost of health care for Floridians. In fact, he spent most of his energy leading the charge by conservative governors to undo Obamacare, including protections to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions like cancer and diabetes can’t be turned down for coverage by insurance companies. So, yeah, perfect choice to lead the effort to come up with a bipartisan plan to lead America out of the Obamacare desert and into the health care promised land. That was sarcasm.

R. Scott Shalley: Let us compete” via Florida Politics — Our state now has the opportunity to eliminate a legal loophole that will ensure fair competition. The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair reversed a decision permitting out-of-state retailers to evade the collection of sales taxes when shipping goods into states where the retailer had no presence. Most states immediately amended their sales tax rules which subsequently forced out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes. Florida is the largest state that has failed to make this modification. As a result, our members are burdened with a 6-8 percent tax that out-of-state retailers do not collect and have thus far been hindered by a loss in sales. The importance of closing this loophole cannot be underemphasized. The retail environment has evolved and so must the laws that govern it.

House-proposed Medicaid cuts would hurt hospitals in Tallahassee, statewide” via Martha Barnett for the Tallahassee Democrat — As chair-elect of the board at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, I’m proud to say our hospital has successfully overcome many of these challenges and continues to serve as Leon County’s leading provider of Medicaid and charity care. The House budget proposal would provide Medicaid “rate enhancements” to a select group of just 28 hospitals, excluding Tallahassee Memorial and every other hospital in our region. Who wasn’t left out of the House’s budget largesse? South Florida. Hospitals in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties provide only one-third of our state’s Medicaid care, so why are most of the hospitals that benefit from the House budget concentrated in that one region?

Dan Fucarino: Legislators should vote no on dangerous prescription drug import legislation” via Florida Politics — The monetary rewards of Canadian prescriptions are just not worth their safety risks. I urge Florida legislators to listen to health care experts on this issue rather than the understandable populist appeals and vote no on this dangerous legislation — and then get back to working on more productive ways to lower drug prices for Floridians. Thousands of Americans have been injured or killed by imported prescription drugs. These safety problems aren’t an indictment of genuine Canadian drugs. Rather, they are a reflection of the fact that many “Canadian” prescription drugs aren’t Canadian at all. While marketed as “Canadian,” they often actually come from developing countries where the World Health Organization estimates one in 10 drugs are counterfeit.

Sam Garcia, Cindy Polo: ‘Anti-sanctuary cities’ bill will hurt Florida” via Florida Politics — SB 168 has within it a paragraph that effectively gives “a state entity, local governmental entity, or law enforcement agency” the option to turn over information regarding a victim or witness to a federal immigration agency. Adding the possibility of deportation will cause crime reporting to decline sharply among immigrants. Texas passed an “anti-sanctuary” bill in 2017. SB 4 did not end up making Texans safer. In the same year that SB 4 passed, domestic abuse in Houston dropped by 16 percent among the Latino community. The police have attributed the drop in domestic abuse reporting to SB 4’s passing and increasing hostility to illegal immigration. How can people be safer when crimes go unreported?

Susanne Homant: Don’t let The Able Trust be collateral damage this Session” via Florida Politics — If Senate Bill 172, by Sen. Aaron Bean, and House Bill 6001, by Rep. Sam Killebrew, don’t pass this year, The Able Trust will cease to exist. Right now, both bills have made little to no progress. The Able Trust is a nonprofit organization, and our mission is to be a key leader in providing Floridians with disabilities opportunities for successful employment. We’re passionate about helping Floridians with disabilities succeed, and it’s something we’ve been committed to for nearly 30 years. It’s not pretty, and I certainly don’t like writing these words, but it’s a reality we might have to face. Please don’t let this important legislation get lost amid the high-profile issues.

— MOVEMENTS —

Former Rep. Jeff Miller to lobby for Salesforce” via POLITICO Influence — Software giant Salesforce has hired Miller of McDermott Will & Emery to lobby on “access to customer relationship management (CRM) platform at the Department of Veterans Affairs,” according to a disclosure filing. Miller is a former chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Salesforce spent $2.1 million on Washington lobbying last year and also retained Crossroads Strategies and the Franklin Square Group.

Personnel note — Omar Khan appointed Director of New York City Mayor’s Public Engagement Unit and Senior AdviserKhan was campaign adviser to Democratic candidate for Governor and Lt. Gov. Chris King. He most recently worked at Mercury Public Affairs as a Senior Vice President in the New York City Office. He also was National Associate Political Director in President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and campaign manager for Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Khan will now advise Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio “and City agencies on policies and practices that will make even more of the City’s services accessible to New Yorkers. He also will support the City’s 2020 Census outreach efforts,” a release said.

Tweet, tweet:

— ALOE —

Space Florida seeking deal with lunar lander manufacturer“ via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Space Florida is pursuing a deal to have moon landers built in Florida. Florida’s space development corporation’s board of directors gave the go-ahead Monday for the staff to negotiate a deal with Orbit Beyond, to build lunar landers in Florida. This deal would set that up, with Space Florida set to lease space in its office building at Exploration Park outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center, and to lend up to $1 million to the company, for a term of four years, at market interest rates. In exchange, according to Space Florida Executive Vice President Howard Haug, Orbit Beyond would commit to establishing a lunar lander assembly and integration operation somewhere in Florida, and to hire at least 10 Florida employees with an average salary of $75,000.

Winning design for “Conserve Wildlife” license plate announced — After more than 4,400 votes were cast by the public for their favorite plate through Sunday, March 31, the top vote-getter was Mara Whelan’s design of a Florida black bear emerging from palmettos. The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and The Collaboratory at Ringling College of Art and Design announced the winner and runners-up. Ringling College faculty chose the top five plates, and the Foundation chose the winning design. The Foundation will now begin working with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on a final, state-approved design. “We can’t thank Ringling’s students and faculty enough for their enthusiasm, professionalism, and enormous talent,” said Foundation CEO Andrew Walker.

Mara Whelan’s ‘Conserve Wildlife’ license plate design is the winning entry from the competition sponsored by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida and The Collaboratory at Ringling College of Art and Design.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

Best wishes to our good friends Danny Kanner and Gary Yordon. Also celebrating today is Karen McAllister, formerly of AT&T and the Tampa Bay Times, but soon setting up her own public affairs shop.

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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