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Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 4.8.19

Here’s your AM rundown of people, politics and policy in the Sunshine State.

Several Florida politicians and activists flew to Las Vegas this weekend for a Republican Jewish Coalition conference. The event included a speech by Gov. Ron DeSantis, with Florida Democrat-turned-Republican activist Jill Weinstein also taking the stage.

State Rep. Randy Fine, a Brevard Republican, said the event showed the growing significance of Jewish voters to the GOP.

“We have the ability to move the needle,” Fine said.

Florida proves that, Fine figures. He pointed to a Fox News poll showing 5 percent of voters in the gubernatorial election last year identified as Jewish. Of those, 35 percent voted for DeSantis. That’s 7 percent more than voted for President Donald Trump in Florida in 2016 or who supported Rick Scott for Governor in 2014. And that jump in voters roughly equates with the 32,463-vote lead that delivered victory to DeSantis over Democrat Andrew Gillum.

Weinstein, who supported Bernie Sanders for president four years ago but now talks glowingly of Trump, said she felt embraced at the event. She will spend her time over the next year and a half enticing other Jewish voters to break with tradition and vote GOP.

“At this point, I plan to talk to other Jews who are feeling betrayed like I did but are willing to make that step,” she said.

Spotted — At the RJC held at Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Venetian resort: DeSantis; CFO Jimmy Patronis, U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, Reps. Chris Sprowls, Paul Renner, and Fine, former Sen Ellyn Bogdanoff; Jeff FeingoldNick Iarossi; Fred Karlinsky; Kyle KashuvAndrew PollackScott Ross; Derek Silver; and Matt Spritz.

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And then there were four.

Thousands voted for their favorite TallyMadness stars over the weekend, sending Rhett O’Doski, Tracy Mayernick, Darrick McGhee and Steve Shiver to the semifinals.

No. 6 seed O’Doski of McGuireWoods Consulting earned his spot by defeating No. 8 seed Hayden Dempsey of Greenberg Traurig in the closest of the Elite Eight games. Only a few points separated the two at the buzzer.

No. 3 seed Mayernick is the highest-seeded lobbyist still in the mix. She earned her Final Four berth with a solid W over No. 4 seed Jim Daughton of Metz Husband & Daughton, keeping the “Year of the Woman” storyline alive after it suffered a major blow in the third round.

McGhee has had perhaps the most impressive run of the tourney — the 10-seed out of Johnson & Blanton beat a 3-seed, 2-seed and 1-seed in back-to-back-to-back games. His latest victory was over No. 1 seed Matt Bryan of Smith Bryan & Myers, the top-seeded competitor standing.

No. 9 seed Shiver of The Advocacy Group is one rung up, and his run has been the most exciting. He beat No. 14 seed Scott Dick of SKD Consulting Group to earn his spot in the quarterfinals.

Round four of TallyMadness, sponsored by Table 23, ends Monday at 11:59 p.m.

The #TallyMadness Final Four (clockwise from top left): Steve Shiver, Rhett O’Doski, Tracy Maynerick and Darrick McGhee.

— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —

@Fineout: News orgs slash jobs, slash coverage of state gov. — even though those reporters had been pointing out time & time again how special interests get the Leg to do what they want — now BREAKING NEWS — special interests get the Legislature to do what they want & write the bills.

@JohnThompasonFL: Effective, inclusive, common sense leadership is extremely rare in politics and has been missing for so long in FL. It is refreshing to watch this regular guy from Sarasota (Joe Gruters), a true people person with an ability to relate to a president or a plumber the same way, get things done!

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@HipHopLobbyist: Swear this is the only industry where losing is rewarded! … You mean to tell me people can lose local, regional, statewide campaigns (back-to-back-to-back) and still get hired to do a job they have clearly failed at?! … It’s a reason Paul Silas (NBA), Eric Mangini (NFL), Barry Melrose (NHL) and other losing coaches don’t have jobs now … but Democrats will hire the first nonblack (with at least 3 big campaign L’s) for a job everybody knows they aren’t qualified for

@GNewburn: Dear Deep State: when I search for things like “How much cocaine can you buy for $50?” and “How do I activate a stolen gift card?” it’s exclusively for work, I promise.

@RichardCorcoran: @JamesGrantFL @KevinCate @JayerWilliamson @jaytrumbull Sorry guys. Might be one of the worst #FinalFour️ calls of all time. If mild body contact was worth the call for UVA how wasn’t it on Auburn’s final shot. RIDICULOUS.

@SydneyRidley88: Seeing women play competitive golf at Augusta National May be the coolest thing ever!!

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— DAYS UNTIL —

Masters Tournament begins — 3; Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 6; Deadline for federal candidates to report what they raised during Q1 — 7; Easter — 13 Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 14; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 15; “Avengers: Endgame” opens — 18; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 25; Mother’s Day — 34; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 45; Memorial Day — 49; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 61; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 71; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 79; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 113; St. Petersburg primary election — 141; “Joker” opens — 179; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 203; Scott Maddox trial begins — 210; 2019 General Election — 211; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 213; Iowa Caucuses — 301; Florida’s presidential primary — 344; 2020 General Election — 575.

— TOP STORY —

Donald Trump blocks three Florida congresswomen from visiting Homestead child detention center” via Monique Madan of the Miami Herald — U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDonna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell were verbally denied entry by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS confirmed the denial. “To ensure a facility visit does not interfere with the safety and well-being of our [children], we require a minimum two-week notification at the convenience and availability of the facility. This has been policy since 2015,” the department told the Miami Herald. But Schultz, Shalala and Mucarsel-Powell said their denial is “illegal,” referencing Section 234 of bill 115-245, which was amended this year to say members of Congress can’t be prevented from “entering, for the purpose of conducting oversight, any U.S. facility used for maintaining custody of or otherwise housing unaccompanied alien children.”

Blocked: Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Shalala, and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell say Donald Trump denied them permission to enter the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Alien Children. They are going to try Monday morning again. Image via the Miami Herald.

Assignment editors — U.S. Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Mucarsel-Powell and Shalala will again attempt to tour the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Alien Children, 9 a.m., 960 Bougainville Boulevard, Homestead.

— THE ADMINISTRATION —

Ron DeSantis calls for Scott Israel’s appeal to head straight to Supreme Court” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — First a judge dismissed a lawsuit from former Broward Sheriff Israel alleging his suspension by DeSantis was improper. Then, Israel announced he would appeal. Now, DeSantis is calling for that appeal to head straight to the Florida Supreme Court. “Scott Israel continues to live in denial,” DeSantis said of Israel’s decision to appeal. “The court has recognized my authority as Governor to suspend him for neglect of duty and incompetence and this appeal is just his latest delay tactic. I have filed a request with the Fourth DCA asking for expedited consideration to move this case to the Florida Supreme Court for a final ruling so that the Senate can resume the process of formally removing him.”

DeSantis presides over changing of the guard ceremony for Florida National Guard” via Amy Hollyfield of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis presided over a changing of the guard ceremony for the Florida National Guard, installing Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert as adjutant general. Eifert takes over for retiring Major General Michael Calhoun barely a week after reports emerged on ongoing investigations of Florida National Guard leaders over allegations of sexual misconduct and cover-ups. At the ceremony in Starke, DeSantis said Eifert “brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that includes multiple staff and command assignments at the state and national levels supporting combat operations over the skies of Iraq and state emergency response operations throughout Florida. His vast experience and aptitude for leadership will be critical to discharge the duties of the Florida National Guard.”

Changing of the guard: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Major General Michael Calhoun, Major General James Eifert.

DeSantis at Women’s Final Four: ‘If you like marquee sporting events, Florida’s a great place to be’” via Kelly Parsons of the Tampa Bay Times — DeSantis said he expects the economic impact of the weekend to be nearly $25 million. And the success of the events, he added, only makes it seem more likely that Tampa Bay could play host to others like it in the future. “We’ve got a lot of marquee events throughout our state coming up. We’ve got the two Super Bowls coming up; we’ve got the NCAA college football. We just had all these golf tournaments. We had a great spring training,” he said. “If you like marquee sporting events, Florida’s a great place to be.”

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.”

Assignment editors — DeSantis will deliver an address at the Sun City Center, joined by Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, state Sen. Aaron Bean, and Rep. Tom Leek, 9:15 a.m., 1910 South Pebble Beach Blvd., Sun City Center.

— SESSION —

Plans for massive toll road projects raise concern” via John Kennedy of the GateHouse Capital Bureau — House leaders are joining Senate President Bill Galvano’s push for three major toll roads, which he says will bring jobs and fresh opportunity to overlooked regions of Florida. Environmentalists and many planners warn the move threatens waterways and will promote sprawl. But those in the paths of the proposed roads have been mostly left out of the debate in Tallahassee. Some aren’t sure if mass ribbons of asphalt will equal prosperity. “I think a lot of people here aren’t sure about the idea that if you build it, they will come,” said Wilbur Dean, coordinator of Levy County, through which a lengthy expansion of the Suncoast Parkway is likely to course under the plan.

Applause, boos, Trump chants and a big divide on immigration at Joe Gruters town hall” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Shortly before state Gruters kicked off his town hall a man wearing a leather vest that identified him as a member of Bikers for Trump unfurled a big Trump flag in front of the crowd and was met with loud applause and almost equally loud boos. People started chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” while others in the crowd of roughly 200 gathered at the Venice Community Center continued to boo. The battle lines were set well before Gruters began to speak, and on the most divisive issue of the day — immigration — there was little agreement. Gruters is sponsoring legislation that would prohibit local governments from adopting so-called sanctuary policies that prevent them from fully cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Cheers, boos, chants: Things got a little rowdy at Joe Gruters’ town hall event this weekend. Image via Zac Anderson/Twitter.

Senate fracking ban faces challenges — A bill by GOP Sen. Ben Albritton to ban certain types of fracking may be stalling out over complaints it doesn’t go far enough, Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida reports. SB 7064 would ban two types of fracking — hydraulic and acid fracturing. Matrix acidizing, a process in which chemicals are used to enlarge rock pores, wouldn’t be banned. Oil groups, which opposes a ban on fracking, says matrix acidizing is safe and is a common practice for well cleaning, as does Albritton. “I think there is a misconception by some people about what that [matrix acidizing] really is,” Albritton said. “I think the average person thinks it’s creating huge caverns.” The bill next goes before the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Committee Chair Bill Montford, a Democrat, has his own fracking bill that includes a ban on matrix acidizing.

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To view the video, click on the image below:

Lawmakers look at adding judges” via the News Service of Florida — The House approved a plan to add two new county judges, while the Senate is considering the creation of two circuit-judge positions. The House plan (HB 5011), sponsored by Rep. Paul Renner would lead to one additional county judge in Flagler County and one additional county judge in Citrus County. The House voted 112-0 to approve the plan. Meanwhile, the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled Tuesday to take up a proposal (SB 7072), sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley that would add one circuit judge in the 9th Judicial Circuit and one circuit judge in the 12th Judicial Circuit.

— MORE SESSION —

GOP legislative blitz aims for complete control in Tallahassee, Democrats warn” via Gray Rohrer of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Democrats and liberal activist groups fear that grip is about to get tighter. Republicans in the Legislature are advancing bills this year that would make it harder for citizens to push ballot measures or for liberal groups to challenge GOP-inspired laws in court. “It’s called consolidation of power. I think that’s what the emperor in Star Wars called it,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon. Republicans, though, say they’re following the will of the voters, responding to the hiccups of the last election and recount and giving flexibility to the courts.

First on #FlaPol —House plan would shift AOB savings to policyholders” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — An amendment to the House assignment of benefits reform bill would block Citizens Property Insurance Corp. from raising rates this year unless its filings pass along savings from AOB reform. “We are consistently told that AOB reform is necessary and will halt skyrocketing insurance costs in some areas and prevent those same forces from taking root elsewhere,” House Speaker José Oliva said. “Florida House Republicans believe that if these reforms are successful, the ratepayers should receive the benefits. I commend Chairman [ChrisSprowls, Chairman [PaulRenner, and Chairman [BobRommel for this legislation and hope the Senate will join us in this endeavor.” AOB allows homeowners to sign over their insurance policy benefits to contractors and attorneys in exchange for a quick repair.

Ka-Ching: Speaker José Oliva is cheering a House bill amendment that will have savings from assignment of benefits reform go directly to policyholders. Image via Colin Hackley.

ICYMI — “Concealed carry won’t move” — There’s zero momentum behind a legislative push to shift the state’s concealed firearms licensing program to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That’s OK, according to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lauren Book. She acknowledged that the bill is likely dead. “We’re running a little short on time,” Book told us at the halfway point of the 2019 Legislative Session.

Abortion bill would require minors to obtain consent” via Ellis Rua of The Associated Press — Florida, a state that provided 1,472 abortions to minors in 2017, is one of the few states that require a parent or guardian to be informed 48 hours before the procedure in person, over the phone, or within 72 hours by certified mail. A bill proposed by Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall would flip Florida’s status as a notification state to a consent state, where legal guardians have deciding power over an abortion. It would require physicians to obtain notarized written consent and government-issued proof of identification from a parent or legal guardian before any procedure.

Gun bill regarding churches with schools under consideration” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Should guns be in churches? How about schools? Florida law under certain circumstances allows them in either place. But state law won’t allow gun owners to bring weapons to religious institutions with schools on property. A new bill by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, however, could change that. Legislation (SB 1238) would let concealed carry permit holders bring firearms to religious institutions sharing property with schools. The measure will be discussed today at a Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting.

Legislature proposes changes to make it easier for teachers to pass certification tests” via Travis Gibson of the St. Augustine Record — Two bills attempt to address the ongoing teacher shortage around the state by making it easier to pass the general knowledge test required to become a certified teacher. Senate Bill 1576 aims to give teachers more time to pass the general knowledge exam required to become a teacher. For teachers unable to pass the exam, a change proposed in House Bill 7061 would give teachers the chance to enter into a mentorship program that would give school principals or fellow teachers the ability to deem teachers qualified for certification, among other proposed changes.

Take an Uber and call me in the morning: Ride-hailing service wants in on Medicaid transport” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Two bills (SB 302, HB 411) would allow Medicaid recipients to use transportation network companies like Uber to get to and from nonemergency medical care. It could be a financial boon to ride-hailing companies as it opens up an entirely new customer base. The service would be curb-to-curb, but rides would be scheduled differently, appealing to customers who might not have used such services otherwise. Instead of hailing a ride directly through an app on a user’s phone, patients would schedule trips through their managed care provider. Patients could still track their car’s arrival through an app, if they have it, or through a webpage. And they wouldn’t pay for it.

This bill names roads after fallen police officers — and an FPL lobbyist” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times — A bill moving through the Legislature has a nice idea: name roads after police officers killed in the line of duty. There’s a stretch of I-10 that would be named after Highway Patrol Trooper Sherman Scott, who was shot and killed by an escaped convict in 1965. A part of I-95 in Miami would be named after Trooper Owen Bender, who was struck and killed by a car while manning a roadblock during Hurricane Betsy in 1965. And a bridge on Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale would be named after former Democratic Sen. Chris Smith, a lobbyist for Florida Power & Light. Wait, what?

Florida Competes still pushing for Competitive Workforce Act” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Florida Competes, a driving force behind the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, said a record 73 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors. That includes 56 House co-sponsors for the bill (HB 485) and 17 Senate co-sponsors for companion legislation (SB 430). Recently, Lighthouse Point Republican Chip LaMarca and Doral Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez signed on as House co-sponsors. “As a Broward County Commissioner, I strongly supported our Human Rights Ordinance to protect everyone in our workplace,” LaMarca said. Rodriguez said the bill would be important in recruiting major companies to Florida. The legislation would extend the same workforce, housing and service protections to LGBTQ Floridians that exist against racial and ethnic discrimination.

Bill to legalize recreational marijuana gets no hearing, no vote” via Steve Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — “Smith’s bill would have allowed those age 21 and older to use marijuana for personal use in limited amounts, as well as license establishments to manufacture and sell it. It would have also provided limits on the number of such stores and allowed cities to ban them if they chose. But the bill did not get a hearing, despite the Legislature moving quickly on allowing smokable medical marijuana, along with the growing strength of the medical marijuana industry as a whole.”

No more ‘butcher shops’: Bill on cosmetic surgery centers slated for this week” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — After being bumped from a scheduled hearing Thursday due to time constraints, a bill to crack down on dangerous plastic surgery clinics will be heard Tuesday by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. The bill (SB 732) aims to curb medical malpractice among plastic surgeons. A USA Today and Naples Daily News investigation detailed eight women who died after undergoing cosmetic procedures at South Florida facilities overseen by the same doctor over six years. The measure, filed by Sen. Anitere Flores, was scheduled to be heard by the subcommittee April 4. It’s already been approved by the Health Policy Committee. After Tuesday’s rescheduled hearing, assuming it clears, it will be considered by the Appropriations Committee.

Today’s legislative committee hearings:

The Criminal Justice Estimating Conference will hold what is known as an “impact” conference, which typically involves estimating potential costs of legislation, 9 a.m., 117 Knott Building.

The Senate Health Policy Committee will consider a proposal (SB 1774) that would require parental consent before minors can have abortions, 12:30 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will take up a bill (SB 1640) that would eliminate or reduce regulations on several types of professions, including interior designers, hair braiders and auctioneers, 1:30 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will consider a proposal (SB 1238) that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry guns at churches and other religious institutions that share property with schools, 1:30 p.m., 37 Senate Office Building.

The House State Affairs Committee will take up a proposal (HJR 57) that would make it harder to pass constitutional amendments, 2 p.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will take up a bill (SB 714) that addresses a wide range of insurance issues, a type of measure known as a legislative “train,” 4 p.m., 412 Knott Building.

The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will receive a presentation about suicide prevention, 4 p.m., 301 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up a bill (SB 7086) that would carry out Amendment 4, 4 p.m., 110 Senate Office Building.

The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will meet to schedule a list of bills heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after committee meetings, 401 Senate Office Building.

— STATEWIDE —

Nikki Fried, lawmakers eye hurricane damage” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Agriculture Commissioner Fried continued to push for state and federal hurricane relief for the Panhandle as she led a bipartisan group of lawmakers and staff members through rural communities still struggling from deadly Hurricane Michael. Saying farmers are “suffering,” Fried said the trip to see Calhoun County timberland, where decades-old slash pines reaching maturity were wiped out in a single day by the October storm, was intended to deliver a message about the need for state lawmakers to meet her agency’s request for $39 million in storm-related funding. A major priority in the region is helping growers remove downed trees so they can replant and prepare for anticipated wildfires.

‘Farmers are suffering.’ Nikki Fried tours Hurricane Michael damage in Calhoun County, where decades-old pines reaching maturity were wiped out in a single day. Image via Twitter.

Survivors of Michael fear they have been forgotten” via Patricia Sullivan and Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post — The stretch of the Florida Panhandle east of Panama City is known as the Forgotten Coast because it’s so rural and undeveloped. That moniker has become more searing in the aftermath of the fourth-strongest hurricane, as measured by wind speed, ever to hit the mainland United States. Government agencies have cleared the roads and utilities have restored power, water and communications, but thousands of people are still desperate for permanent housing, competing not only with one another for the scarce supply of rental units, but with construction workers who have come into the area. Residents here wonder if their fellow Americans understand their ongoing struggle. Charitable donations flowing into the area have been modest.

FEMA housing program ending Tuesday for most Bay residents” via Patrick McCreless of the Panama City News-Herald — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to extend its Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program another 60 days for only 17 out of 278 area families — the rest will be asked to pay the hotel room rates or be evicted as early as Tuesday. Philip Griffitts, chairman of the Bay County Commission, said more time is needed for all residents in the program, given the lack of available housing in the area since Hurricane Michael. He also said the state is helping to appeal FEMA’s decision. “FEMA, you’re wrong on this … you’re wrong,” Griffitts said.

— “Flooding continues to plague Washington County six months after Hurricane Michael” via Kate Landeck of the Panama City News Herald

Rural hospitals devastated by Michael could suffer from Medicaid cuts” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — A House plan to reduce Medicaid reimbursement rates could pull the plug on rural hospitals hit hardest by Hurricane Michael and already on life support. Hospitals designated as rural or impacted by Michael in Florida Senate districts 1, 2 and 3 would lose an additional $1.8 million under the House spending proposal while Tallahassee hospitals facing a surge in patient care from communities impacted by Michael would lose an additional $1.5 million under the proposed House budget. That’s a total loss of $3.3 million for the region’s rural hospitals and a $3.8 million hit statewide.

Florida’s latest timeshare battle pits developers against relief companies. Are there any winners?” via Graham Brink of the Tampa Bay Times — There are so many disappointed timeshare owners that a counter-industry sprung up to help them. The timeshare exit providers charge thousands of dollars for their services, and lots of people are quick to pay. But too many of the companies are calculating, criminal in some cases. They are happy to prey on the uninitiated. “It’s frustrating that both developers and relief companies don’t always have customers’ best interests in mind,” said Brian Rogers, who runs Timeshare Users Group, a network of about 100,000 timeshare owners across the nation. The dissatisfied complain of high-pressure sales tactics and lying salesmen who offer paradise but fail to deliver. The investment will increase in value, they’re told.

Department of Health emails show agency struggled to manage algae crisis” via Amy Bennett-Williams of the News-Press — As red tide devastated wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico from Sarasota to the Ten Thousand Islands, a simultaneous outbreak of blue-green algae contaminated the Caloosahatchee watershed. Images of bloated dolphin carcasses and people jet-boating through algae blooms filled news reports. Social media seethed with rumors and petitions. Former Gov. Rick Scott declared two states of emergency – one for each bloom. Yet through it all, the Florida Department of Health stayed largely in the background. It refused The News-Press’ interview requests and delayed responding or outright ignored emailed questions. To try to understand its internal workings, The News-Press obtained more than 2,500 emails from May 25 to Sept. 26. They reveal a hunkered-down agency scrambling to keep its message straight as the environmental calamity deepened.

Algae plaguing Florida’s iconic springs triggers legal fight” via Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — For environmentalists taking on the state over springs in a costly legal challenge, politics haven’t tipped in their favor. Clay Henderson, executive director at Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, said authorities, with a nod from the new governor, could regroup and revise their springs strategy. Otherwise, environmentalists say, what remains is a do-or-die fight. The trouble is excessive growth of algae feeding on — as documented by authorities — pollution seeping into groundwater from septic tanks, sewage systems, agricultural and lawn fertilizer and stormwater. Their legal challenge, to be conducted in September as a state hearing, will be immersed in pollution rates, sources and remedies, Floridan Aquifer dynamics and nature’s limits.

Environmental groups reach tentative settlement with FPL over Turkey Point plant” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Environmental groups reached a tentative settlement agreement with Florida Power & Light over a lawsuit involving the Turkey Point nuclear plant. Organizations suing include Friends of the Everglades, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Tropical Audubon Society. “The parties in the Clean Water Act lawsuit (FPL, FOE, SACE, TAS) have reached a settlement in the suit and have requested a stay in the legal proceedings to allow the parties to present joint recommendations to DEP regarding permit conditions,” a joint statement reads. “The settlement also addresses water quality in Biscayne Bay in a manner that will be good for Florida and the natural environment in and around FPL’s Turkey Point generating facility in Miami-Dade County.”

’Massive’ 17-foot long python found in Florida preserve. It was carrying 73 eggs” via Joel Shannon of USA TODAY — The female reptile is the largest ever caught at Big Cypress National Preserve, according to a social media post by the preserve. It was carrying 73 developing eggs at the time. Smithsonian Magazine says an invasive Burmese python hybrid is now found across more than 1,000 square miles of South Florida. The snakes — which can grow to 23 feet in length and weigh 200 pounds — are causing significant ecological problems in the area. The Big Cypress snake was caught using new tracking technology. Authorities used radio transmitters to track male pythons; the males’ locations are then used to find breeding females.

That’s a big-un: Hunters with the Big Cypress National Preserve captured a record-setting female python. She was over 17 feet long, weighed 140 pounds, and contained 73 developing eggs. Image via Big Cypress National Preserve Facebook page.

— ‘FLORIDA SHUFFLE’ —

Predatory drug rehabs are a dangerous byproduct of the opioid crisis.

Addicts, reports Julia Lurie for Mother Jones, get caught up in a vicious cycle of being incentivized to go to rehab and relapse again to keep facilities full.

It’s called the “Florida shuffle,” or “a cycle wherein recovering users are wooed aggressively by rehabs and freelance ‘patient brokers’ in an effort to fill beds and collect insurance money.”

Breaking the rehab cycle: Palm Beach County State Attorney is making several arrests in major drug treatment fraud case, where former users are urged to relapse to go back into lucrative drug rehab centers.

Scheme: Rehabs are taking advantage of insurance companies that cover substance abuse. “The rehabs themselves exist in a quasi-medical realm where evidence-based care is rare, licensed medical staffers are optional, conflicts of interest are rampant, and regulation is stunningly lax.”

Recourse: It’s now a felony in Florida to “give or receive kickbacks for referring patients to drug treatment.” Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg and a special team have arrested 66 people to date for brokering that type of insurance fraud.

Bigger picture: The story points toward a need to reassess how policymakers view drug addiction and substance abuse treatment. “Drug policy experts often wryly point out that the basic rules of medicine don’t seem to apply to addiction treatment.”

— THE TRAIL —

Trump, guns and Nancy Pelosi liberals: GOP candidates go on the attack in House District 7” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat — It was a battle of conservative credibility as Mike Watkins and Jason Shoaf traded jabs in a Tallahassee Democrat editorial board forum for candidates of the House District 7 seat. Sneads City Manager Lynda Bell and registered nurse Virginia Fuller, the other candidates in the race to replace former Rep. Halsey Beshears, mostly focused on their campaigns, while the two front-runners with their six-figure campaign war chests launched pointed attacks. The bickering over who is more pro-Trump and had deeper North Florida roots prompted Bell, the President of Florida Right to Life to join the race. “I just want to say sometimes, “boys, boys, boys, come on: Let’s just talk about the issues,’ ” said Bell.

Boys, boys: Four candidates in the House District 7 special election attended a forum sponsored by the Tallahassee Democrat. The two GOP candidates immediately went on the attack over who was the biggest Trump supporter. Image via the Tallahassee Democrat.

— “Jason Shoaf, Mike Watkins splurge ahead of Tuesday’s HD 7 primary” via Dan McAuliffe of the Tampa Bay Times

Ruth’s List gives an early endorsement to Allison Tant in House District 9” via Jacob ogles of Florida Politics — Tant, a Tallahassee Democrat, so far remains the only candidate in the field to succeed state Rep. Loranne Ausley. “Our early endorsement of Allison is the result of her impressive campaign launch showing leadership in both financial support and community leader support. She has paved a strong path to victory that is exemplary for any candidate,” said Pamela Goodman, Ruth’s List Florida President and CEO. “Allison is a longtime advocate for women and families in Tallahassee, with a track record of community engagement to find solutions to a wide range of issues, with a particular focus on people with disabilities. The Ruth’s List community — now tens of thousands of members strong — is excited to support her candidacy.”

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.

— LOCAL —

Ex-Congresswoman Corrine Brown cites Brett Kavanaugh in appeal” via the News Service of Florida — Brown, whose case is pending at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial after he made statements such as the “Holy Ghost” told him Brown was not guilty. In a filing at the appeals court, Brown’s attorney cited a recent opinion by Kavanaugh in a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution because a Buddhist inmate was not allowed to have a spiritual adviser present in the execution room. Kavanaugh wrote a concurring opinion that said, in part, “governmental discrimination against religion — in particular, discrimination against religious persons, religious organizations, and religious speech — violates the Constitution.

EPA announces nearly $100M in loans for Miami-Dade water treatment” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Andrew Wheeler, head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was in South Florida Friday to announce a $99.7 million loan to Miami-Dade County for improving the county’s wastewater treatment plants. “Our mission at EPA is to ensure that all Americans, regardless of their ZIP code, have clear air, clean water and clean land,” Wheeler said. “We can’t accomplish our mission with outdated or ineffective infrastructure, which is why modernizing our nation’s infrastructure and protecting our water resources is a top priority for President Trump.” The money goes to Miami-Dade as part of the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA).”

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler visits Miami- Dade to announce $100 million in loans for water treatment.

How the FBI got a flashy lobbyist to wear a wire to bring down a Mayor” via Susannah Bryan of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The investigation — dubbed Operation Red Chip — would span several years and net only one fish: Joy Cooper, the Mayor of Hallandale Beach from 2005 until her arrest in January 2018. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering, official misconduct and campaign finance violations. Agents got their tip from an unlikely source: A woman with whom lobbyist attorney Alan Koslow, 64, had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship for years. The FBI set up the meeting to inquire about a Hollywood official. She directed them to her ex-lover instead. By October 2011, Operation Red Chip was born. Two undercover FBI agents posing as out-of-town developers involved in organized crime hired Koslow to represent them.

Report: Miami is 7th least affordable city in world” via The Associated Press — The recent report by urban researchers Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo says the Miami region’s housing unaffordability crisis reinforces its high levels of inequality. The report says only Hong Kong, Sydney, Los Angeles, London, Toronto and New York are more expensive than the Miami area. It also says that 6 in 10 employed adults in Miami are spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing. That is the highest rate of any large metro area in the United States. A resident is considered “housing cost-burdened” at that threshold or higher.

Stoneman Douglas commission’s next mission: false crime stats and sheriff’s officer training” via David Fleshler of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will hold hearings in Sunrise. Here are some of the significant items on the commission’s agenda: Has active-shooter training improved at the Broward Sheriff’s Office? School districts continue to issue false information about on-campus crime. Broward County hasn’t fixed its 911 and emergency radio problems. Some school districts still haven’t complied with the state school safety law passed after the shooting. Some families felt death notifications were handled badly.

Almost $500,000 swiped in city of Tallahassee payroll hack” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — Hackers attempt every day to breach the city’s security, officials say, but this week’s operation netted about $498,000. The employees have all been paid and officials are working to determine the hack’s origins. The out-of-state, third-party vendor that hosts the city’s payroll services was hacked and as a result, the direct deposit paychecks were redirected. Employees throughout the city’s workforce were affected.

Fired Apopka official Richard Anderson still costing the city thousands in legal fees” via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel — The city had racked up more than $70,000 in legal costs in a lingering lawsuit over his contract, which had paid him $440,000 being terminated in the wake of the crash. “It’s crazy,” said Mayor Bryan Nelson, concerned about the legal fight’s growing cost to Apopka taxpayers. “There’s a principle. I get it. But I’m fighting for taxpayers.” Nelson said he hopes to have an announcement soon about the case — whether to stay in the fight or pay Anderson the $60,000 he has demanded to end the dispute. Apopka’s legal fees in the case totaled $73,199.44 through the end of March, according to a tally provided by Edward Bass, chief administrative officer in Nelson’s administration.

— FLOOD WATCH —

Sea-level rise is a growing concern in places like Miami Beach.

But, reports Sarah Miller for Popula, the phenomenon isn’t reflected in the city’s booming and pricey real estate arena.

Miller posed as someone interested in purchasing a condo in Sunset Harbour, where residents can expect between 13 and 34 inches of sea-level rise by 2050.

‘It’s fixed’: Pumps and raised sidewalks have helped curb the effects of flooding, which can happen on sunny days.

But: Berkeley urban ecology professor Kristina Hill points out the quick fixes for sea-level rise would do nothing in the case of a “big event,” which “would not just flood everything and cause damage and then retreat. It could unearth septic systems, which could lead to terrible disease, or industrial waste, which could poison people.”

Berkeley urban ecology professor Kristina Hill says quick fixes on sea-level rise would be useless in the case of a major event, like hurricane flooding. Image via Jane Haley.

Avoiding the obvious: Miller discovers that everyone has their own version of the truth about what’s happening in Miami Beach. “It’s amazing that people in these situations tell you what they think. I think bread actually takes twenty minutes to bake, she said, removing the doughy mass from the oven. I think I can drive a car after I’ve run out of gas, he said, as he rolled silently into the breakdown lane.”

— D.C. MATTERS —

Poll: Trump approval numbers have fallen further in Florida than any other state” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A new survey from Morning Consult shows Trump‘s approval ratings have fallen further in Florida than any other state in the country since Trump took office in 2017. Overall, Trump’s net approval rating in Florida has dropped a total of 24 percentage points in that span. Trump earned 56 percent approval and 34 percent disapproval among Florida voters upon taking office, for a net approval rating of +22 points. Now, he sits at -2 net approval, with 47 percent of voters approving and 49 percent disapproving. Those approval numbers remain unchanged since the last version of the Morning Consult poll.

The harder they fall: New polling shows Donald Trump’s approval numbers have dropped more in Florida than any other state.

Mar-a-Lago arrest exposes national security challenges at Trump’s private club” via Anthony Man and Lois Solomon of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — “The deficiency of security at Mar-a-Lago is a threat to our national security. Mr. Trump’s refusal to give up his customary lifestyle puts the country in jeopardy,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said. Though she’s a Democrat, Frankel knows more about the setup at Mar-a-Lago than most in her party. The Trump-owned resort is in her district, which includes most of Palm Beach County, and she was instrumental in securing federal money to reimburse local governments for what they spend helping to provide security for presidential visits. National security concerns flared anew because a Chinese woman was found on the Mar-a-Lago grounds with a thumb drive containing malware that potentially could have affected computer systems.

Trump’s health care brain trust says no thanks” via POLITICO — “Sen. Rick Scott says any new plan has to come from the White House — and that he had no warning Trump planned to make him part of the health policy group.”

Rick Scott demands faster answers on Boeing 737 Max” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — The Florida Republican sent a letter to acting Federal Aviation Administrator Daniel Elwell urging faster information. “Last year alone, more than 126 million visitors traveled to Florida, with nearly 94 million of those visitors coming through one of our 18 airports,” Scott wrote. “The safety and security of these visitors, and the millions of Florida families, needs to be a top priority for all of us.” The FAA in March grounded the family of planes after two deadly 737 crashes in five months. Circumstances for the crashes appeared to be similar. Scott now serves on the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee.

Up in the air: Rick Scott is calling on FAA Administrator Dan Elwell to speed up the investigation of safety issues plaguing the Boeing 737 Max.

Assignment editors — Scott will hold a roundtable with Venezuelan community leaders and Romy Moreno Molina, the wife of Roberto Marrero, interim President Juan Guaidó‘s chief of staff, on the United States continued support for Venezuela, 9 a.m., Las Vegas Restaurant, 8552 NW 53 Street, Doral.

Marco Rubio was asked about Trump’s false wind turbine cancer claim. Here’s what he said” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio stopped in Ybor City on Friday for a hearing on the premium cigar industry. While there, he spoke with reporters on a variety of topics. He was asked about two recent falsehood by President Donald Trump getting a lot of attention: That his father was born in Germany (he was born in New York) and a conspiracy that wind turbines can cause cancer.”

’There’s no way to comply’: Florida cigar makers get congressional hearing on new federal tobacco rules” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times — Sen. Rubio held a hearing in Ybor City on the future of the premium cigar industry. In 2016, the FDA said premium cigar makers would have to abide by federal rules that require a Surgeon General’s warning to cover 33 percent of a product’s packaging and submit reports of the ingredients and manufacturing processes of cigars put on the market after February 2007. Cigar makers, like J.C. Newman of Ybor City, say their premium, handcrafted offerings are lumped in with mass-produced, convenience store cigarillos, blunts, vaporizers and e-cigarettes. “There’s no way to comply with the rule as developed,” said Drew Newman, general counsel of the J.C. Newman Cigar Co. “If there was a way for us to comply, we would.”

Hungry people and ‘abandoned hospital: Puerto Rico waits as Washington bickers” Patricia Mazzei of the New York Times — A newborn’s cries rarely echo anymore through the hallways of what passes as a hospital on the ravaged island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico. ‘We miss it,’ said Dennisse Bermudez Colon, a nurse.

Happening today — Former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer will speak to the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida and the Palm Beach County Trump Club, 12:30 p.m., Citrus Club, 255 South Orange Avenue, #1800, Orlando. Also, 7 p.m., Palm Beach Kennel Club, 1111 North Congress Ave., West Palm Beach.

— 2020 —

Pro-Trump Republicans plan big-money play for the Jewish vote in 2020” via Alex Isenstadt of POLITICO — Spearheading the push is the Republican Jewish Coalition, which receives substantial funding from casino mogul and GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The group’s board members — many of them prominent Republican Party donors — gathered in a conference room at Adelson’s Venetian resort, where they were briefed on plans for a $10 million-plus blitz geared toward attracting Jewish support for Trump. The investment will far surpass what the group has spent in past presidential elections. With Democrats embroiled in a wrenching internal debate over anti-Semitism and support for Israel, Republicans are moving to capitalize with an aggressive campaign painting Trump — who himself has at times faced accusations of stoking anti-Semitism — as a fierce and unapologetic defender of the Jewish state.

Donald Trump supporters filled the Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas on Saturday. Image via Getty.

’It got real gay real quick’: Pete Buttigieg’s rise electrifies the gay community, but he could face a rocky road” via Chelsea James of The Washington Post — “Man,” said Buttigieg, taking in the rainbow-hued signs and colorfully dressed passers-by that signaled he had entered West Hollywood, Los Angeles’s de facto gay neighborhood. “It got real gay real quick out there.” Few Democratic presidential candidates could assess their surroundings so bluntly without seeming painfully out of line. But Buttigieg is not like any other Democratic presidential candidate — in part, if not exclusively, because he is gay. He was also a Rhodes scholar, a McKinsey & Co. consultant who pored over grocery prices and a military officer in Afghanistan. He was a mayor at 29 and reelected at 33. Buttigieg will almost certainly have to navigate anti-gay sentiment as his campaign continues.

Quote of the Weekend — “There are two ways to get in a cold pool: Toe by toe, or take a tequila shot and do a cannonball.” — Orlando attorney/entrepreneur John Morgan, in a NYT article on Joe Biden’s “tortoiselike strategy” for 2020.

With the most diverse presidential field ever, black voters ponder the best odds against Trump” via Sean Sullivan and Dave Weigel of The Washington Post — The rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders, ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden in a field with historic diversity has caused dismay among some Democrats, particularly African-Americans and women hoping for a mold-breaking nominee who reflects the changing face of the party and the country. Black voters, particularly black women, have the potential to play a decisive role in the Democratic Party’s attempt to defeat Trump in 2020. An inability to earn their support has dealt severe blows to past candidates — most recently Sanders in the 2016 primaries and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Take notice: Long-ignored black women voters gaining power in Florida” via Chris Persaud of the Palm Beach Post — Black women in Florida turned out at a rate nearly equal to that of white women in 2016 and 2018. While not as numerous as white women, Democratic Party officials across the country, as well as Andrew Gillum campaign officials and political organizers, acknowledge that black women are the bedrock of the party. Non-elderly black women also cast ballots at higher rates in Florida’s 2018 midterm than black men and Hispanic men and women, voting records show. Gillum’s campaign, backlash to Trump’s presidency, and an unprecedented effort to reach black women drove turnout among this heavily Democratic voting bloc. More than four of five black women registered as Democrats in Florida, state records show.

— OPINIONS —

DeSantis chose well on Office of Drug Control and chief science officer.” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — DeSantis reestablished the Office of Drug Control, which was created by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999. Scott eliminated it soon after he took office in 2011. DeSantis is smart to bring it back. In another forward-thinking move, the governor appointed Thomas Frazer to the newly created job of chief science officer. Frazer is the director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and is on the faculty advisory committee of the school’s Climate Institute. Week by week, DeSantis continues to distance himself from his predecessor and responsibly restructure state government in tone and substance.

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.

Anne Rawley: I didn’t serve to see lawmakers undermine the will of the people” via Florida Politics — Although the ballot language of Amendment 4 contained no mention of a role for the legislature in enacting the measure, legislative leadership decided differently. Bills have now been introduced that would require returning citizens to pay fines and court fees that no judge ever ordered them to pay before they can regain their ability to vote. The amendment covered all felonies, except murder and felony sexual offenses, but the measures before the legislature would also expand the definitions of such crimes in order to preclude even more people from voting. As a retired U.S. Navy captain and Florida resident I am absolutely opposed to spurious measures meant only to deny our citizens the ability to vote. I did not serve my country in order to see basic freedoms violated by our lawmakers. The pending legislation creates financial barriers to voting that were not considered a part of a person’s sentence as handed down by the judge.

Should ballot initiatives have warning labels?” via Bill Cotterell for the Pensacola News Journal — You may not like the way Florida lawmakers try to thwart the public will when implementing mandates from the people, but we can almost admire the resourceful way they do it. Almost. Last week, they took a different approach. Instead of waiting for a petition initiative to pass, then enacting implementing laws to limit its effectiveness, a new proposal seeks to make it harder to get one the ballot — and then to scare away voters who might support them. The House Judiciary Committee voted along straight party lines for legislation requiring petition gatherers to certify that they’re Florida residents. They couldn’t be paid per-signature, either, and canvassing operations would have to identify the sponsors behind proposed amendments.

Keep public notices where people will see them — in newspapers and on their websites” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board — It’s back. The relentless effort to end the requirement that city commissions, school boards and other public entities publish legal notices in newspapers is back like a bad penny before the Florida Legislature this year. What they don’t say is that it will come at a high cost: less open government and less-informed citizens. These notices help you keep an eye on government. We still hear from a lot of readers — many of a certain age — who don’t even use computers. The bundles of letters to the editor we receive by snail mail stands testament to that. And that’s OK. Public notices also serve the vital purpose of alerting people, including journalists, about meetings where big decisions will be made.

— MOVEMENTS —

Meredith Charbula appointed to 4th Judicial Circuit — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he had elevated Charbula from Duval County Judge to circuit judge. She’s been on the bench since 2017. Before that, she was Director for Legal Divisions in the Jacksonville State Attorney’s Office, as well as a Military Police Officer in the U.S. Army. She received her bachelor’s degree from Tarleton State University, her law degree from Florida State University and her “Legum Magister” degree from The Judge Advocate Generals School. Charbula fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge John Skinner.

Personnel noteAli Schmitz joining NBC’s “Meet The Press” — The outgoing Stuart-based TCPalm politics writer announced the move on Twitter. “To say I’m excited is an understatement,” she wrote. “Like so many political reporters, my first exposure to politics and policy was watching Tim Russert. I am so grateful for this opportunity.” The Volusia County native also has been a reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.

This sucks:

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Matt Brockelman, Rachel Cone, Southern Strategy Group: Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens

Carolyn Donald-Alston, DDC Public Affairs: Society of Neurointerventional Surgery

Mathew Forrest, Ballard Partners: Florida A & M University Foundation

Taylor Hatch, Department of Children and Families

Todd Lewis, Lewis Consulting: Alex Bail Bonds

Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: CGI Technologies & Solutions

Mark Murray: Classy Cycles

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: Corizon Health

Ashlee Tising, Akerman: Record Buck Farms

— SUNSHINE SPORTS —

Hockey Bay USA — The Tampa Bay Lightning were by far the best team over the 82-game National Hockey League regular season. Yay. Now the Bolts must prove their greatness by surviving the gauntlet known as the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’ll play the Columbus Blue Jackets, coached by John Tortorella who, remember kids, led the Lighting to its only Cup raising 15 years ago. The first two games are at Amalie Arena on this Wednesday and Friday, both at 7 p.m.

This weekend, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the NHL record with 62 regular-season victories, a feat only accomplished one other time, by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1995-96 season. Image via NHL.com.

See you again soon … We hope — The Women’s Final Four wrapped up Sunday night with the championship game between Baylor and Notre Dame at Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. It is the third time Tampa Bay has hosted the premier event in women’s college basketball. Legendary U-Conn Coach Geno Auriemma suggests Tampa become a regular host. We agree. “I think it’s one of the best hosts in the country. The people are fantastic. The hotels are fabulous. The location is so that you’re not far from anything. Who wouldn’t want to come down here for five days in late March, early April?” — Geno Auriemma

Rays up! — And as we transition out of the sport played with the big leather ball to the horsehide and stitched baseball, it’s worth noting that the Tampa Bay Rays lead the American League East. OK, it’s early, but who is to say this young, scrappy, and hungry team can’t make it last?

— ALOE —

Postal Service reveals stamp honoring George H.W. Bush” via the New York Post — The 41st president, who died Nov. 30 at age 94, will have his picture on a commemorative Forever stamp, the U.S. Postal Service said. The portrait was painted by artist Michael J. Deas, who also created stamps honoring, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Carey Grant and Edgar Allan Poe. The first-day-of-issue ceremony for the new stamp will be held on the president’s birthday, June 12, at his presidential library in College Station, Texas.

The United States Postal Service is rolling out a stamp to honor the 41st President, George HW Bush.

From Johnnie Walker to Oreos, brands are going ham on ‘Game of Thrones’ merch” via Tim Forster of Eater.com — With days to go, fans can invest in a range of GoT-branded products that have absolutely no relevance within the world of Westeros whatsoever. Game of Thrones Oreos, with insignias from the show? You got ‘em. A Raven Symoné-approved Mountain Dew can that is just regular Mountain Dew but with words from the show printed on it? Sure thing! Then there’s sneakers, a $2,700 leather jacket, underwear, and even GoT wine and Johnnie Walker whiskey, which at least have a very tenuous connection, given that alcohol actually exists in Westeros (as compared to Oreos).

‘Westeros Playbook’” via POLITICO — As Game of Thrones enters its final act, “Westeros Playbook is the must-read guide to what’s happening on the Continent.” As the battle for the Iron Throne (and for the living) heats up, POLITICO offers everything you need to know to get you up to speed and who to watch with POLITICO-style bits such as “Snow’s support melting?” and the hottest rumor in town (“Jon Snow isn’t such a bastard after all.”) as well as a “Reunion Watch” that includes all of the pairings expected in the final season.

— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —

The best of birthday wishes to former Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. Also celebrating today is Miami Man and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck ToddJim Cordero of the Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida and Elizabeth Hirst, a deputy chief of staff at Florida State University. Belated happy birthday wishes to Sen. Annette Taddeo and Lori Ann Costantino-Brown

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, Joe HendersonDan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, and Drew Wilson.

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 Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also 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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Publisher: Peter Schorsch

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