Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.5.19

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Politics shouldn’t be pale. Get ‘Sunburn’ed — right now.

Breaking overnight — Jackie Schutz Zeckman was recognized by the American Association of Political Consultants as the Republican Campaign Manager of the Year for her work on Rick Scott‘s election to the United States Senate.

Do you know Scott Wong? I didn’t until he, well, broke news I already broke.

The Hill’s senior staff writer on Thursday “broke” a story we had Wednesday — that Florida GOP Congressman Matt Gaetz was mulling a run for U.S. Senate in Alabama — and didn’t give us credit. Not even a mention in passing.

No respect: Florida Politics had reported on Matt Gaetz’s possible Senate run in Alabama a full day before another media outlet picked up the story. But you wouldn’t know that by reading those outlets.

Did he know about our story and blow off crediting us? Did he not bother to use Google? Doesn’t matter.

I’m already sick of the multiple times we’ve had stories first and been ignored, then someone does the same story and declares, “News!”

It reminds me of a related complaint that the Orlando Sentinel’s Bianca Padró Ocasio tweeted just this week.

“National reporters, please stop contacting local reporters you don’t know to ask for access to their community sources for that one story you’re not going to follow. We have work to do and bills to pay.”

Was it just us, or did House Speaker José Oliva sound like he agreed with the Senate plan to get rid of Medicaid rate enhancements altogether?

We speak of his gaggle with reporters after Thursday’s floor session (you can watch that video here).

Seems as if he — heaven forfend — blamed his predecessors for committing to subjective rate enhancements and now finds himself handcuffed.

Tear down the wall: José Oliva gives a sense he be OK with getting rid of Medicaid rate enhancements.

He kept saying lawmakers, as we heard it, should tear down the whole system and rebuild it.

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s a transcript of what Oliva said:

“ … The truth is there’s a tremendous amount of spending that we do without justification. But then there’s a tremendous amount of extra spending — enhancements, we call them — that we do without a lot of justification.

“And so, when you add that kind of subjectivity to something, someone’s opinion is going to be vastly different from the other because no one can state a fact. The only thing we’re arguing is, these groups of people need these monies, no, these groups of people need these monies. It’s the complication of really what we’ve done throughout the years of creating a budget that has in it a tremendous amount of subjective spending.

“ … We’ve done it to help, but it puts future Legislatures, as we try to craft a budget, into conflict — and you can see it in that one thing, that there’s two very different ways of looking at it. We decided to just take a general cut because as a whole, we think that to really do that right, you have to tear it all down and rebuild it again.

“And as we even tried to do that here internally, what we started to realize was immediately this is going to be a problem with someone … this is going to be a problem — because they’re subjective. They were put there somewhat for subjective reasons based lightly on some facts.

“That part is always going to be an issue. And at the end of the day, regardless of your product, I don’t know I’ll ever be able to stand here and say, ‘We got the better deal,’ or whether they did. I can tell you the better deal would be to tear that whole system down and rebuild it … but I don’t see that happening.”

P.S. This Twitter account just popped up:

For your radar — “Parkland, Tree of Life survivors to meet” via Peter Smith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — A delegation from Parkland is scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh for a series of discussions, memorials and service projects conducted jointly by those affected by last year’s gun massacres at Parkland and the Tree of Life synagogue. Visitors will include five teenage survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, which claimed 17 lives. Also attending will be 13 adults directly affected by the Parkland shootings. They will take part in a series of public events Friday to Sunday. Activities will include a memorial at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill, where an anti-Semitic gunman killed 11 worshippers from three congregations.

Event of the weekend — State Sen. Joe Gruters holds a town hall on “issues facing the state,” including so-called sanctuary cities and red tide, Saturday, 9 a.m., Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave. South, Venice.

The third round of TallyMadness ends this afternoon, and the last few hours of voting could be the difference maker in several matches.

The matchup between 16-seed Alli Liby-Schoonover and 4-seed Jim Daughton is by far the closest — only a handful of votes separate the two. Whether Liby-Schoonover’s Cinderella run continues or Daughton hangs on, Metz Husband & Daughton is guaranteed a spot in the next round.

No. 13 Marc Reichelderfer of Landmarc Strategies and No. 9 Steve Shiver of The Advocacy Group have each had a magical tournament thus far. Reichelderfer felled (4) Mike Corcoran of Corcoran & Johnston in the first round and (5) Slater Bayliss of TAG in the second; Shiver is fresh off a win against top-seeded Nick Iarossi of Capital City Consulting. Lead changes abound in this one.

There are a couple of blue-bloods still in the mix: Matt Bryan of Smith Bryan & Myers and former champ Rhett O’Doski of McGuireWoods Consulting.

Bryan is the last of the 1-seeds standing, but his third-round competitor, No. 4 Heather Turnbull of Rubin Turnbull & Associates, isn’t letting him skate.

O’Doski, a 6-seed, is leading 7-seed Brewster Bevis but not by an insurmountable margin — both are coming off major second-round wins, and Bevis’ W over Travis Blanton of Johnson & Blanton was a come-from-behind victory.

Voting will commence on round four immediately after the Elite Eight contenders are announced at 1 p.m. The Final Four of TallyMadness, sponsored by Table 23, will be announced in Monday’s Sunburn.


@RealJacobPerry: Matt Gaetz > Roy Moore

@GlennThrush: Once you get a taste of Florida politics, man, the national stuff seems like instant decaf

@DeFede: In an interview Thursday with @CBSMiami, @LtGovNunez rules out running for the state senate in 2020. “I’m fully committed to being lieutenant governor for the next four and potentially eight years,” she said.

@AGAshleyMoody: I can’t hug all of you, but I can promote my local papers! It is #NationalHugANewspersonDay, so thank your local news by subscribing. I love my hometown @PlantObserver, and now as a Tallahasseean, I also read @TDOnline.

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@BruceRitchie: State Rep. @Kristin_Jacobs, ranking House member on environmental spending subcommittee, in debate congratulates strong budget on water and says there are “many priorities” in the state other than Florida Forever.

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@MearKat00: You need to view my tweets more like knock-knock jokes than deep philosophical statements. It will all start making sense after that.

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Masters Tournament begins — 7; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 9; Deadline for federal candidates to report what they raised during Q1 — 10; Easter — 16; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 17; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 18; “Avengers: Endgame” opens — 21; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 28; Mother’s Day — 37; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 48; Memorial Day — 52; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 64; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 74; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 82; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 116; St. Petersburg primary election — 144; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 206; Scott Maddox trial begins — 213; 2019 General Election — 214; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 216; Iowa Caucuses — 304; Florida’s presidential primary — 347; 2020 General Election — 578.


Florida House passes $89.9B budget; Senate negotiations next” via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press — The vote was 105-8 for the Republican-crafted plan, with the handful of no votes coming from Democrats. The GOP-led Senate unanimously passed its $90.3 billion version. Both legislative blueprints are below the $91.3 billion budget recommended by Ron DeSantis, also a Republican. Budget negotiations now will consume much of the remaining weeks of the annual legislative session, which is scheduled to end in May. Funding for education, health care, higher education reforms, the environment, school safety, and student mental health services, affordable housing and Hurricane Michael recovery are among the major topics of discussion.

—“Here are key differences in how Florida House, Senate want to spend your tax dollars” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel


Governor had the right to dump Sheriff Scott Israel, judge rules” via Rafael Olmeda and Anthony Man of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes did not indicate whether he agreed with the Governor, but he affirmed that DeSantis was legally justified when he replaced Israel with acting Sheriff Gregory Tony in January. “I am pleased that the court recognizes my authority as governor to suspend a public official for reasons of neglect of duty and incompetence,” DeSantis said in a news release. “Now, I will ask the Senate to move forward with the process of the formal removal of Scott Israel. “Broward County deserves professional law enforcement leadership that will safeguard the best interests of the community and work diligently for the protection of life.”

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Scott Rivkees submits late application for Surgeon General’s job” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Rivkees, DeSantis‘ pick to be Florida’s next Surgeon General, did not submit an application for the job until two days after the announcement of his nomination, and background checks have yet to be completed. Various news organizations had sought Rivkees’ gubernatorial application. It was released late Wednesday, the day it apparently was first received by the Governor’s Office. The application was undated. The Governor’s Office indicated Rivkees had been vetted beforehand, “demonstrating his outstanding qualifications.” The Governor’s Office also released an endorsement letter from Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, who expressed her “tremendous respect and admiration for the contributions of Dr. Scott Rivkees to the Alachua County community,” and called him “a great choice.”

Carlos Lopez-Cantera: Jeanette Nuñez’s plan to open an official Miami headquarters is unconstitutional” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Nuñez’s headquarters would share space with a regional office Gov. DeSantis maintains at Florida International University in Miami-Dade County. Her predecessor and fellow Miami-Dade Republican Lopez-Cantera did not maintain an office outside Tallahassee. He said the idea was researched, and it was concluded opening an office in South Florida could violate Florida’s Constitution. The Florida Constitution stipulates, “The seat of government shall be the City of Tallahassee, in Leon County, where the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, cabinet members and the supreme court shall be maintained.”

Ex-Trump official clears first confirmation hearing to become Florida’s new health care chief” via Elizabeth Koh of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida’s new health care chief, Mary Mayhew, cleared her first confirmation hurdle as a Senate committee advanced her nomination largely on party lines. The Senate Health Care Appropriations Committee voted 6-3 to recommend the former Trump Medicaid official, despite harsh questions from multiple Democratic senators about a federal audit that skewered Maine over the deaths of 133 people with developmental disabilities during her tenure as the state’s health care chief and her vigorous opposition to expanding Medicaid. She told lawmakers that she wanted to focus on data-driven improvements to the agency and move beyond what she termed a transactional focus on resources.

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Drug importation vote delayed” via the News Service of Florida — A Senate health care panel ran out of time and was unable to consider a measure aimed at allowing imported prescription drugs from Canada. The drug importation program is a legislative priority for DeSantis and House Speaker Oliva. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services held a confirmation hearing on Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mayhew and ran out of time before taking up the drug importation proposal (SB 1528). But Chairman Aaron Bean has included the bill (SB 1528) on the agenda for the panel’s next meeting, now scheduled for Monday.

House again approves texting while driving bill” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill allowing Florida drivers to be pulled over for texting while driving emerged from its final committee Thursday after the House State Affairs Committee approved the measure. Currently, texting while driving is only a secondary offense, meaning drivers can only be cited for the violation if pulled over for some other reason. The new legislation (HB 107) would make texting behind the wheel a primary offense. A similar bill died in the Senate last year after earning overwhelming approval in the House. Reps. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, and Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican, are reviving the effort in the House this year.

Prepare to put it down: Jackie Toledo’s texting-while-driving ban passed another House committee. Image via Twitter.

Florida could expand self-driving car law” via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press — Self-driving vehicles could be operated in Florida without a human backup under a bill approved by a House committee, which could pave the way for companies like Uber and Lyft to deploy fleets of driverless vehicles. Republican sponsor Rep. Jason Fischer said he wants Florida to be ahead of other states in allowing the vehicles on state highways as the technology continues to develop. His bill updates a current law allowing self-driving vehicles if there’s a person in the car as a backup. The House State Affairs Committee approved the bill on a 20-1 vote, and it’s now ready for a vote by the full House.

Licensing deregulation heads to House floor — over business interests objections” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Legislation loosening rules on everything from hotel interior designers to princess party practitioners moved one step further. The House Commerce Committee advanced an omnibus professional deregulation bill (HB 27). The fruits of Florida’s deregathon, state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia said it would reduce or completely remove licensing rules for barbers, auctioneers, landscape architects and numerous other professions. “There is a litany of economists on both sides of the aisle who agree: Occupational licensing is an impediment to employment,” the Spring Hill Republican said. But business leaders sounded caution on reducing standards for work.

Public financing repeal headed to House floor” via the News Service of Florida — The House State Affairs Committee approved a proposed constitutional amendment (HJR 613), sponsored by Rep. Rick Roth, that would place a repeal measure on the 2020 ballot. With approval from the committee, the proposed constitutional amendment is ready to be considered by the full House. A Senate repeal measure (SJR 270) has been approved by one committee midway through the annual legislative session.

Bill to exempt diapers from sales tax clears second Senate panelvia Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill that would exempt purchases of diapers and incontinence products from the state’s 6 percent sales tax is headed to its final committee stop. The bill (SB 60) was unanimously cleared Thursday 8-0 by the Senate Finance and Tax Committee. No companion bill has been filed in the House, however. Under the legislation, purchases of “diapers, incontinence undergarments, incontinence pads, or incontinence liners” would be exempt from the tax. Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, filed the bill back in November. On Thursday, Book testified to the committee that the bill would provide “much-needed relief to families caring for our state’s most vulnerable, including infants and the elderly.”

Veggie garden protections deepen roots in House” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Support for home gardeners in Florida took root in the Florida House on Thursday. The House Commerce Committee, in a unanimous 18-0 vote, advanced a bill (HB 145) pre-empting local laws prohibiting certain gardens on private property. “More neighborhood gardens have been shown to be a good thing,” state Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff said. She said the legislation was inspired by a Miami Shores couple who suddenly faced growing fines for keeping a garden. Even though the couple had been growing food on their property for 20 years, local code enforcement ruled that a violation.


Amendment 4 will likely cost ‘millions’ to carry out. Here’s why.” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — Restitution, the money that felons have to pay out to the victims of their crimes, must be repaid in full before they’re allowed to vote. There’s just one small problem, though: No one tracks restitution. County clerks don’t. Florida’s Department of Corrections doesn’t. Even felons sometimes don’t know how much they owe — or even who they owe. As thousands of felons register to vote, state officials might have to create a statewide system to verify one of the most complicated aspects of someone’s sentence. It’s not going to be cheap. If not done properly, it could delay or prevent thousands of felons from voting. “I think it’s going to be expensive,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes.

—“Amendment 4 issue causing barriers: Money, and what it means to finish a prison sentence” via Mitch Perry of Florida Phoenix

Senate bill could reduce prison time for some” via Andrew Caplan of the Ocala Star-Banner — The bill, sponsored by Brandes would give inmates an additional 60 days gain time to leave prison upon completion of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program. Senate Bill 642, if passed, would allow some inmates to leave prison earlier, under certain conditions. State Sen. Keith Perry who co-signed the bill with Republicans Gruters and Doug Broxson and Democrat Darryl Rouson, said the purpose is to ensure felons become model citizens upon their release. “I think it’s worth the debate that if you’re going to get out of prison at some time, we have a public safety duty to make sure that the prisoner is less likely to commit a crime,” Perry said. “That’s a public safety issue.”

Time off: Jeff Brandes is behind a bill that could give prisoners an opportunity for early release. Image via Colin Hackley.

Clock running out on ‘grand bargain’ between state, Seminole Tribe” via the News Service of Florida — The Senate has erased from its proposed budget about $350 million in annual payments the tribe makes under a 2010 gambling agreement, known as a “compact.” A key provision of the compact that gave the Tribe the “exclusive” rights to offer banked card games, such as blackjack, expired five years ago. Siding with the Seminoles, a federal judge ruled in 2016 that what are known as “designated player” games offered by numerous pari-mutuel facilities throughout the state breached the Tribe’s exclusivity over banked card games. Under a deal with former Gov. Rick Scott, the Tribe has continued to make payments to the state. But that agreement expires at the end of May, jeopardizing payments from the Tribe.

University president applicants could be kept secret under proposed legislation” via Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel — A bill that would hide the identities of candidates for president and provost positions — and make meetings where applicants are discussed closed to the public — won approval Thursday from the Florida House State Affairs Committee. Under the proposal, the identities of applicants “on whom a final action or vote is to be taken” would be released 30 days before a decision. If enacted, the law could affect UCF’s next presidential search, which is planned to start later this year.

House poised to take up ‘AOB,’ health bills” via the News Service of Florida — The so-called AOB fight is among numerous issues that House leaders plan to consider during a floor session. The insurance industry and business groups are lobbying for changes, contending AOB has become riddled with fraud and litigation, driving up insurance premiums. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and other groups argue AOB is important because it helps ensure that insurance companies pay claims properly. The House is slated to take up a bill (HB 7065), sponsored by Civil Justice Chairman Bob Rommel that would make a series of changes in AOB laws, including limiting fees paid to attorneys who represent contractors in disputes with insurers.


State proposes Medicaid cuts to services for children with autism” via Daylina Miller of WJCT — The state Agency for Health Care Administration proposed Medicaid reimbursement reductions for providers who treat children with autism. These reductions are for a few different behavior assessments and provider types, but most notable is a 51 percent cut to reimbursement rates for registered behavior technicians — the largest group of people who provide behavior analysis therapy to children on the autism spectrum. The Florida Association for Behavior Analysis called the proposal “a shortsighted plan” in a statement on their website that “has the potential to dramatically limit quality providers’ ability to render service” and encouraged members to reach out to their state representatives.

Aspen Prize is awarded to two Florida colleges for student accessibility and success” via Lily Jackson of The Chronicle of Higher Education — The annual prize once described by Barack Obama as “basically the Oscars for great community colleges” was awarded to two Florida institutions: Indian River State College and Miami Dade College. Florida has a history of winning the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The winners will receive $350,000 each, and the finalists $100,000 each. That track record is a testament to the remarkable work that all Florida community colleges are doing with students in mind, said Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost of Miami Dade College.


Seminole school board members back Jason Brodeur’s SD 9 run” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Brodeur‘s long-run candidacy for the opening Florida Senate District 9 has picked of several more local endorsements, from four members of the Seminole County School Board. Brodeur’s campaign announced Thursday he has received the backing of Seminole School Board Chair Tina Calderone and board members Karen Almond, Amy Pennock, and Abby Sanchez. They join the Republican former state representative’s growing list of endorsements from Seminole County elected officials, most of whom are fellow Republicans, that include all seven mayors.

Margaret Good hauls in $18,000 over four days in March” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — State Rep. Margaret Good raked in nearly $18,000 in March, coming in over just four days before the Legislative Session began last month. That money puts her total contributions for the 2020 cycle at $40,608. It also showed continued prowess at bringing in dollars after the Sarasota Democrat spent more than $1 million as she flipped House District 72 blue in February 2018 special election, then won re-election nine months later. “Fundraising is part of my job,” Good said. “It’s what enables me to get our message out and to serve the great people of House District 72.”

Jane Castor fights back against attacks in latest TV ad” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — “Lies and political attacks never created a job, fixed a problem or improved a life,” Castor says in the video. “Yet that’s what David Straz is choosing to spend his money on and he’s got plenty of it.” Straz’s most recent attack claim Castor manipulated crime data while she was police chief to make it look like crime in the city had drastically reduced. But the campaign failed to provide any evidence for its claims other than testimony from a former officer and an analysis from a law enforcement expert the campaign paid $5,000 and who didn’t look at Tampa’s crime data. “It’s unfortunate. The ads are untrue,” Castor said.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

Assignment editors — Castor will make a major campaign announcement, 10 a.m., Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library, 1505 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa.

An all vote-by-mail election? Volusia experiment will be biggest in Florida in decades” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “It’s coming to them, and everyone gets it,” said Volusia elections supervisor Lisa Lewis of the May 21 ballot measure to decide on whether to impose a half-cent sales tax to fund public works projects. “Drop it in the mailbox, and return postage is paid.” The Volusia experiment comes after Florida’s voting system received heavy criticism for the high number of rejected mail-in ballots in 2018. And while a bill is making its way through the Legislature to give voters more time to correct, or “cure” ballots with signature issues in regular elections, Volusia voters won’t be able to fix any mistakes once they mail back their ballots next month.

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign manager to keynote Seminole Co. GOP fete” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Seminole County Republican Party is throwing a “Trump Day Dinner” in May and has secured President Donald Trump‘s 2020 re-election campaign manager Brad Parscale as the keynote speaker. The event, the first of its kind, is set for Thursday, May 9. Parscale had been digital director of Trump’s successful 2016 campaign and is credited with raising more small-dollar donations than any Republican presidential candidate in history.

What Noah Pransky is reading — “He got upset during a call with SunPass over his bill. Now, he’s in jail.” via David Neal of the Miami Herald — A West Miami man didn’t deny threatening to blow up SunPass headquarters in Doral, police say. He said he didn’t mean it. He was just mad after dealing with SunPass customer service about what he described as a $500 mistake on his toll bill. And, 29-year-old Khambrel Dailey admitted, he’d indulged in “dope, weed and cocaine.” Dailey was arrested on one count of threatening to throw or place a bomb or destructive device. He remained in Miami-Dade County Jail on $7,500 bond. According to the arrest affidavit, Dailey told Doral police officers that SunPass called him about owing $500 in unpaid tolls, a balance he blamed on a mix-up with his license plate.

Miami OKs its first legislation to protect from sea level rise” via John Charles Robbins of Miami Today News — The Miami City Commission approved the city’s first piece of legislation related to protections from sea level rise. City officials’ first attempt at new rules with climate change and sustainability is an ordinance allowing new construction and redevelopment to raise habitable structures out of the flood plain with added “freeboard,” up to 5 feet above the Base Flood Elevation. The amendment will also allow additional first-floor height for ground floor retail establishments so that they may better respond to potential changes to public infrastructure in response to sea level rise.

Assignment editors — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler will hold a news conference to officially close a nearly $100 million WIFIA loan to the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department. Joining Wheeler is Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, 10 a.m. Eastern time, South District Wastewater Treatment Plant, 8950 SW 232nd Street, Cutler City.

Tampa City Council concerns about e-scooter safety delay program rollout” via Veronica Brezina-Smith of the Tampa Bay Business Journal — City council members approved a motion to move discussion and approval on the operating agreements from the April 4 meeting to April 18. The program was expected to start by April 1. The four vendors selected for the program are Skinny Labs Inc., known as Spin; Social Bicycles LLC, known as JUMP; Bird Rides Inc.; Neutron Holdings Inc., known as Lime. Several council members discussed safety concerns for the program. “Just acknowledge when you have scooters and walkers on the same sidewalk and street and the state doesn’t allow them on the street, there’s a problem,” Councilman Charlie Miranda said.

Illinois educator picked to lead Florida State College at Jacksonville” via the News Service of Florida — After an eight-month search, John Avendano has been tapped to become president of Florida State College at Jacksonville. Avendano is president and CEO of Kankakee Community College and has previously held positions such as president of the Illinois Council of Public Community College Presidents. The Board of Trustees of Florida State College at Jacksonville selected Avendano after he visited the Jacksonville school this week and was interviewed. “Dr. Avendano brings a fresh vision, shared values, industry expertise and a true passion for education that will lead our institution to new heights,” board Chairwoman Karen Bowling said in a prepared statement.

John Avendano has been selected as FSCJ’s next president.

UCF loses over $1 million in stadium agreement with Apollos, AAF” via Christopher Boyce and Lauren Seabrook of WFTV — Officials at the University of Central Florida are trying to figure out how they’ll be getting paid from a league that suspended its operations. UCF was in agreement with the Orlando Apollos and the Alliance of American Football for the Apollos to host home games at Spectrum Stadium, but it is unclear if vendors or staff will ever get paid after the league suspended operations and terminated all employees.

Jay Madara reappointed to Central Florida Expressway board” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Madara is the current chair of the authority’s ten-member board and was appointed for the remaining three years of the term. He previously served as vice chair. Madara is chief financial officer of the Golf Channel and has served on the board since 2014. A certified public accountant, he is also a member of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts board in Orlando. The authority builds and runs toll roads in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Lake counties, and has authority to do so in Brevard County as well. Seven of the other board members are elected officials from those counties.

Ocala mayor denies KKK ties, again” via Carlos E. Medina of the Ocala Star-Banner — Mayor Kent Guinn found himself in a familiar position on Wednesday as he once again stood in front of Ocala City Hall and denied he is racist. Back in 2015, Guinn was falsely accused of having ties to the Ku Klux Klan. The accusations came from a group claiming affiliation with Anonymous, a hacking collective.”

This is gonna be awesome — “Virgin Trains plans to link with Disney World, SunRail at same time as Orlando International Airport” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — The train that will run from South to Central Florida is slated to stop at Walt Disney World and SunRail’s Meadow Wood station at about the same time it opens its Orlando airport station, Virgin Trains’ president said. “It’s our expectation to get it done and to build out to Disney,” Virgin Trains President Patrick Goddard said of a time frame that hinges on permits and financing. “It is entirely conceivable that that can happen with the delivery of the Orlando station.” Virgin officials said their top priority is getting 30 to 36 months of construction started “imminently.”

What Melissa Seixas is reading — “Duke powers up new station” via Dave Schlenker Of the Ocala Star-Banner — It has been about six years since the energy giant started the planning process for the Citrus Combined Cycle Station and about six months since the facility has been generating power for customers. But oversized scissors cut an oversized ribbon after Duke executives flipped an oversized light switch on a clear April day to celebrate the new, $1.5 billion energy station. “This is what $1.5 billion looks like,” an elated Duke spokeswoman Heather Danenhower said during a tour. The Citrus Combined Cycle Station (CCCS) cycles natural gas sent to the site via the new Sabal Trail Pipeline that stretches from east Alabama to Florida’s west coast.

Duke Energy officially opens its new Citrus Combined Cycle Station, which had been providing energy for about 6 months. Image via

Able Trust announces North Florida regional winner of Jeannie Amendola speech & research competitionAudrey Thomas of the Gilchrist County High School High-Tech Program won. She will move on to compete with the other regional winners in the state finals on June 21 in Orlando and will be judged by The Able Trust Board of Directors. Ten students with disabilities from North Florida High School High Tech Programs, which the Able Trust has managed for more than two decades, competed at the regional competition. The Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition was designed to help give students with disabilities the speaking and research skills that will help in their career paths and future professional growth.


Florida Republicans and Democrats do damage control after Donald Trump rips Colombia President Ivan Duque” via Alex Daugherty of the Tampa Bay Times — Trump said Duque, the U.S.’s most important ally in the ongoing effort to oust Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, “has done nothing for us” in combating the flow of illicit drugs. The comments prompted at least three lawmakers, Republican Sens. Scott and Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell to speak with Duque directly. “I think that the president should extend an apology to the President of Colombia,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “Not only should we be supporting their efforts but there’s a lot more the U.S. can do to support Ivan Duque in his fight against drugs.”

After Donald Trump tore into Colombia President Ivan Duque for not doing enough to stop the flow of illicit drugs, Florida Democrats and Republicans came to his defense.

Why was Trump’s ex-chief of staff at Homestead detention center for migrant kids?” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — John Kelly, the former chief of staff for Trump and the former head of the U.S. Southern Command in Doral, was spotted at the Homestead temporary shelter for immigrant children. Protesters saw him entering the property on a golf cart. The retired Marine Corps general’s unexpected visit to the facility — which announced this week that it intends to expand and house as many as 3,200 kids at the “temporary” center — was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

What Matt Gaetz is reading — “Cory Gardner: Trump said he would sign pot bill” via Marianne LeVine a POLITICO Florida — Sen. Gardner said Trump told him he’d sign legislation to ensure states can decide for themselves whether to legalize marijuana, but that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs some more convincing. The Colorado Republican, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, reintroduced their bicameral bill. The legislation was introduced after the Trump Justice Department, under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, rescinded guidelines that limited the prosecutions of businesses or people who sold marijuana legally under state law. “I think we still have more work to do with Sen. McConnell,” Gardner said. “He got partway there with hemp but [he’s] not exactly the bastion of libertarianism on this.”

Gaetz: Rick Scott will give Trump ‘great advice’ on health care” via Robin Bravender and Allison Stevens of Florida Phoenix — Scott is among Trump’s picks to lead the Republican Party’s health care reform push. That strikes some critics as an odd choice, given Scott’s tenure at the helm of a company that later pleaded guilty to defrauding Medicare. Gaetz, a Trump ally, lauded that choice. He told the Florida Phoenix, “Sen. Scott did a lot to reform health care in the state of Florida, and we reduced cost as a consequence, so I think that he’ll be able to give the president great advice.” Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Scott has been “a stumbling block to affordable health care for Florida families,” in an interview. “I’d hate to see him do the same for families and businesses all across America.”

Assignment editors — Scott will hold a roundtable with Puerto Rican community leaders to discuss his continued support and the $13.6 billion disaster relief bill, 3:45 p.m., Mision La Cosecha Church Orlando Campus, 1732 North Goldenrod Road, Orlando.

Marco Rubio to host hearing on premium cigar regulation” via Andrew Nagy of Cigar Aficianado — For the first time ever, Congress will hold a hearing specifically on premium cigar regulation … Rubio will convene a field hearing called ‘Keeping Small, Premium Cigar Businesses Rolling’ to examine the current climate of overregulation of the premium cigar industry.

Stephanie Murphy declares herself ‘proud capitalist’ and rejects AOC vision: ‘I am offended by this whole conversation about socialism’” via Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner — “I am offended by this whole conversation about socialism,” said Rep. Murphy. “The idea that in the greatest democracy, the greatest capitalist system in the world, we’re having a casual conversation about socialism, offends me.” Murphy, speaking at the BakerHostetler conference in Washington, declared herself a “proud capitalist” in front of the 150 attendees. She did not name any of her colleagues. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are two prominent lawmakers who have touted socialist policies.

Mistrial in case of man accused of threatening to kill Brian Mast’s kids” via Will Greenlee of TCPalm — The trial against Laurence Key, 68, charged with one count of communicating a threat to kidnap or injure a person, began in Miami, but there was a hung jury and a mistrial was declared, according to records and Sarah Schall, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman. Key first was arrested by FBI agents June 18, hours after an intern in Mast’s office in Washington, D.C., reported a man later identified as Key threatened to kidnap and kill Mast’s children. Key “said something to the effect that he was going to separate the Congressman from his children by kidnapping and killing the children and said it will not be possible to find him,” records state.

The case against Lawrence Key — the man who threatened to kill U.S. Rep. Brian Mast’s children — ended in a mistrial. Image via TCPalm.

If Florida gains congressional seats, where would they go?” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — Less than a year out from the 2020 U.S. Census, analysts project the state to gain two additional seats in the U.S. House (and, correspondingly, the Electoral College). But the apportionment set by the federal government is only the beginning of the next step: redistricting. Florida’s Legislature is charged with drawing the new maps. That effort will depend on partisan demographics and political strategy. But at the heart of it, supposedly, is where people live. All Congressional districts are supposed to be “as nearly equal in population as practicable.” That means we should expect general areas with relatively more people than 10 years ago to get more representation. Geographically, we’re talking Central and Southwest Florida.

The congressman who turned the VA into a lobbying free-for-all” via Jasper Craven of POLITICO Magazine — What has not been publicly revealed until now is the extent to which the VA — a sprawling agency with a $180 billion (FY2017) annual budget that includes the nation’s single largest health care system — has become a massive feeding trough for the lobbying industry. The VA’s then secretary, David Shulkin, was at a previously undisclosed meeting, along with current and former members of Concerned Veterans for America, known as CVA, an advocacy network largely backed by conservative donors Charles and David Koch. But it was the presence of the most powerful lobbyist for the companies now trying to get a piece of the VA’s budget — former Congressman Jeff Miller — that would have raised the most eyebrows. A lobbying analysis from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found Miller has facilitated a gravy train of government largesse to his clients — a list that includes a disgraced hedge fund magnate pushing unproven treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and a trade group for proton beam therapy, an expensive radiation application.

What Stephanie Smith is reading — “Uber beefs up lobbying in pre-IPO makeover: The influence game” via Naomi Nix, Ben Brody and Lauren Leatherby of Bloomberg — Uber set its fifth federal lobbying spending record last year, focusing on issues central to its growth strategy: winning approvals for innovations such as self-driving cars and flying cars and fighting to ensure its drivers maintain their status as independent contractors. Even though Uber’s lobbying expenditure is still dwarfed by those of Facebook Inc., Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, it lobbied on 15 different policy concerns in 2018 and courted almost as many agencies as Facebook did. Uber spent $2.3 million on federal lobbying in 2018, up from about $1.8 million a year earlier. In 2013, the first year it lobbied in Washington, Uber spent a mere $50,000, the disclosures show.

— 2020 —

As 2020 nears, Puerto Rico statehood looms large in Florida” via Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — More than 80 percent of Puerto Rican likely voters in Florida said the island should be granted statehood and said the issue would be important to them as they weigh presidential candidates, according to a new poll. In the survey, conducted by ALG Research and funded partly by pro-statehood backers, nearly half of respondents said they would “resent” Democrats who push statehood for Washington, D.C. and oppose it for Puerto Rico. Boricua voters are set to play a crucial role in Florida, the nation’s biggest swing state and a must-win for Trump if he hopes to be reelected in 2020. The president has meager favorability among Puerto Ricans in the state, and Democrats so far haven’t taken advantage.

More Floridians are looking favorably at Puerto Rico statehood, which could become a substantial issue in 2020.

Vern Buchanan’s 2020 bid amasses $550K in Q1” via Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is off to a good start in his re-election bid for Florida’s 16th Congressional District. The Sarasota Republican announced Thursday that he reeled in more than $550,000 for his eighth congressional campaign during the first three months of the year. “I’m humbled by such a strong show of support so early in the campaign,” Buchanan said.” People are responding to my positive agenda to keep the economy strong, protect veterans’ benefits and safeguard Social Security and Medicare.”


Get the Governor a state plane, already.” via Lucy Morgan for Florida Phoenix — For Heaven’s sake, let’s buy the man an airplane. Florida would still have airplanes for the Governor and Cabinet if we had not elected Scott Governor. Scott took office and sold off the airplanes and put his own jet into service so he could trip around the country without disclosing where he was going or who went along for the ride. He didn’t want anyone to know where he was going or who else might be on board. For years, Florida Governors flew on state-owned airplanes and released daily copies of their schedules listing the names of everyone on the plane, travel times and destinations. We knew where the governor was back in those days. Florida can afford better.

Brenda Forman’s war with Broward’s legislative delegation” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — Chris Smith represented Broward in the Legislature for two decades and now does what a lot of ex-lawmakers do: He makes a living lobbying his former colleagues. While representing the county’s 19 legislators, Smith also was being paid to lobby lawmakers on behalf of Brenda Forman, the Broward court clerk who’s seriously at odds with lawmakers this Session. Amendment 10 requires every county to forever elect its sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of election and clerk of court. Worse, the amendment makes the clerk of courts the “custodian of all county funds,” work long handled by the county administrator, who reports to county commissioners. Under today’s structure, Broward boasts a AAA bond rating.

Josh Aubuchon: Threatening student scholarships a new low for beer distributors” via Florida Politics — Messages put forth by beer distributors insinuating that “help for craft brewers could hurt scholarship students” was a new low. My first thought, however, was how scared of change some distributors must be to bring scholarships for low-income children into a conversation about craft beer laws. House Bill 903, sponsored by Rep. Nick DiCeglie, is gaining real traction from lawmakers for good reason. The bill would permit craft breweries to engage in limited self-distribution; it would also reform the statute that strictly controls the contracts between breweries and their distributors. The benefits would be twofold: It would help the newest and smallest beers build their brand through self-distribution and become more economically viable for distributors to sign as partners.


Personnel note: Matt Harringer heading to DLCC — The former spokesman for Gwen Graham as a congresswoman and Democratic candidate for Governor now will be “National Press Secretary” for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington. It’s “the only organization exclusively committed to electing Democrats to state legislatures across the country.” He added in an email: “With redistricting ahead, winning control of state chambers is more important than ever.” Harringer also has been an aide to former state Sen. Paula Dockery, a Republican, and interned for Democratic Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg when he served in the Senate 10 years ago.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

George AndersonMatt BrockelmanDavid BrowningKevin Cabrera, Mary DeLoachNelson Diaz, Deno HicksErin Rock, Southern Strategy Group: 1211 Overseas, Avant-Garde Holdings Americas, Beer Industry of Florida Sogeti USA, Southern Regional Education Board, Synagro Technologies

Richard Anderson, RA Strategies: CD 83 Contractors Business Park

Brian BallardChristina BrodeurBradley BurlesonChris Dorworth, Mathew Forrest, Ballard Partners: Cornerstone Group Partners, Generational Capital Partners, Pondera Solutions

Kristen Barry: Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

Slater BaylissJeffrey Woodburn, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: K.M.C. Citrus Enterprises

Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Carfax

Andrew Brashier: Prison Fellowship Ministries

Mike Corcoran, Jeffrey Johnston, Anita Berry, Matt Blair, Amanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Phillies Florida

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: JATH Holdings

James Eaton, Capital Strategies: The Special Committee for Healthcare Reform

Cesar FernandezPaul LowellJon Yapo, Converge Government Affairs of Florida: Village of Palmetto Bay

Susan Harbin: Florida Association of Counties

Kari HebrankScott Jenkins, Wilson & Associates: PFS TECO

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: EMD Serono c/o MultiState Associates

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: The Special Committee for Healthcare Reform

Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Kronos Incorporated

Foyt Ralston, Capitol Advocates: Therap Services

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Employer Direct Healthcare

Scott Ross, Christopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Arcimoto

Bill RubinHeather Turnbull, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: JATH Holdings

Eliza Sweren-Becker: Brennan Center for Justice

Personnel note: Tim Burke, publisher of The Palm Beach Post, to step downBurke, also the publisher of the Palm Beach Daily News, announced that he will be leaving the papers, according to He was the publisher for almost 10 years, and before that was The Post’s executive editor, vice president of digital media, deputy managing editor, assistant managing editor and executive sports editor. “He told newspaper employees that he will be leaving to take a position at LRP Media Group in Palm Beach Gardens, a publisher that specializes in education, technology and law and publishes books, pamphlets, newsletters, videos and online resources,” the website reported.

Personnel note: Eve Samples becomes opinion and engagement editor for USA TODAY-Network Florida — “In this role, I’ll work with talented journalists in TCPalm’s sister newsrooms — the Tallahassee Democrat, FLORIDA TODAY (Melbourne), the Pensacola News Journal, The News-Press (Fort Myers) and the Naples Daily News — to make our state and local communities better places,” she wrote in a Thursday column. “At the end of the day, that’s the goal of local opinion journalism … Though I will no longer serve as the opinion editor of Treasure Coast Newspapers/TCPalm, I will remain a member of the editorial board.”

Personnel note: Michael Moline joins Florida Phoenix — The former Florida Politics writer starts at the Tallahassee-based progressive state government-news operation on Tuesday. “We’re happy to have another journalism veteran joining the Florida Phoenix state news team,” Editor-in-chief Julie Hauserman said. “We’re interested in how people’s tax dollars are being spent. We’re interested in how state policy gets made — who benefits and who loses. Hiring reporters with years of experience and expertise, like Michael Moline, helps us delve deep into the issues for our readers.” Moline, an FSU grad and Jackson County native, also is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal.


Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues affecting the region.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei will hold a Tampa mayoral runoff election debate between Jane Castor and David Straz.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of distracted driving and renewed efforts to curb the issue through legislation. Joining Walker-Torres are state Reps. Jackie Toledo and Emily Slosberg; Orange County Sheriff John Mina; and Glenn Victor, Florida Safety Council.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show will a have an update on the latest developments on the 2019 Legislative Session; former state Rep. and current Pinellas County Commissioner Kathleen Peters will discuss a new, deadly drug impacting local communities; and PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim about a U.S. Sen. McConnell donor.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC)Gary Yordonspeaks with pollster Steve Vancore, attorney Sean Pittman and Dara Kam, political reporter for the News Service of Florida.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are JEA chairman Alan Howard, Jacksonville City Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman and Tameka Gaines Holly, a Jacksonville City Council candidate

— ALOE —

Space fans descend from around the world for the launch of SpaceX’s powerful Falcon Heavy” via Chabeli Herrera of the Orlando Sentinel — SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket commands that kind of awe, the sort that will lure space enthusiasts from behind their computer screens for a taste of the real rumble of a rocket launch. More than 100,000 are expected to come out when Falcon Heavy is tentatively scheduled to attempt its first commercial launch Sunday evening. SpaceX held a demo flight for Falcon Heavy on a Tuesday in February 2018, an event that drew an estimated 114,000 people to the Space Coast, according to Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism.

The only story that matters — “Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Joker’ painfully details the character’s descent into madness” via Michael Blackmon of BuzzFeed News — Warner Bros. released the trailer for Joker, starring Phoenix as the titular character in a stand-alone origin story about one of Batman’s most iconic enemies. The trailer begins with a shot of the Joker sitting in a therapist’s office, where he’s asked, “Does it help to have someone to talk to?” “My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face,” he responds. The next few shots showcase the Joker’s beginnings and the violence that likely led to his insanity. “Is it just me or is it getting crazier out there?” he says.

To view the trailer, click on the image below:


Best wishes to three solid Tampa Bay politicos, Tampa Councilman Harry Cohen, Largo Commissioner Michael Smith, and Pinellas Property Appraiser Mike Twitty. It’s also former Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s birthday. Early birthday shout-outs to ace photographer Colin Hackley, the Florida Chamber’s Carolyn Johnson, criminal justice reform superhero Chelsea Murphy, and Chris Turner.

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.


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 @PeterSchorschFL

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