The only story that matters — For the first time in history, we know what a black hole looks like:
— National Science Foundation (@NSF) April 10, 2019
The odds have shifted.
With three and a half weeks left in the Legislative Session, the Senate is “getting closer” to putting forth a comprehensive gambling bill for 2019 that could include a new revenue-sharing deal with the Seminole Tribe.
The rumored deal would include craps and roulette and see the state hand the Tribe exclusive rights to online gambling.
The Seminole Tribe’s payments to the state would jump to $750 million a year, well over double the what they put into Florida’s coffers last fiscal year and infinitely more than the $0 the Tribe will pay when the current agreement expires at the end of May.
There are some kinks to work out, such as whether the federal prohibition on interstate online gambling would apply if all bettors were in Florida, but if the deal gets legislative approval it could create some breathing room in future state budgets.
Ready to give the clothes off your back for Hurricane Michael victims? — To help Hurricane Michael victims professionals at the Florida Capitol are willing to give them the clothes off their back.
Volunteer Florida and Uber will set up a Suits for Session kiosk Thursday on the Second Floor Rotunda. There, lawmakers, staffers, and anyone else in The Process can donate professional attire, whether new or gently worn.
It’s the fourth year for the annual clothing drive. Volunteer Florida leaders said the decision was made this year to direct all gifts toward the storm-struck region.
Please consider stopping by — I am invited to be the featured speaker at the next meeting of Capital Tiger Bay Club. That’s April 23, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee.
The main topic of this special program will be — “A Florida nightmare: Voters without a voice” — a recent op-ed where I focused on House Joint Resolution (HJR 57), a proposal that would dramatically change the way Floridians can amend our state Constitution.
While HJR 57 may not get as much play with the general populace, HRJ 57 has solicited some strong feelings among those in The Process. I will give my take, and discuss some of the main players — both politicians and media — on the issue.
An RSVP is required no later than Friday, April 19. For info on attending, contact Debby Kent at email@example.com or call (850) 320-2019.
Also, please listen to the new ‘He Said She Said’ — Our special guest is Education Commissioner and former House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who gives Michelle and I a deep-dive into school choice and the transformational changes to education expected under Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Additionally, Corcoran talks about working with school choice critics, naming one in particular — FEA President Fedrick Ingram.
“I think we have a great relationship,” Corcoran said. “I’ve gotten to know him really well. I think it was a great choice to have him picked for leadership. I think he brings a skill set that we haven’t seen in a long time. He’s very passionate about what he believes in, but he is absolutely willing to sit down and talk with anybody and think about a way to improve education.”
Moving to national politics; 2020 is coming fast! We reveal our first-look presidential picks; Michelle also explains why she is officially voting blue for Florida’s primary.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
—@DesiderioDC: Big: [William] Barr suggests that his redactions to protect privacy & reputation of ‘peripheral third parties’ would NOT apply to President [Donald] Trump.
—@SenRickScott: It’s been 6 months since Hurricane Michael devastated our Panhandle & Floridians are still fighting to rebuild. It’s time to show these families that they will never be forgotten & pass the Disaster Relief bill. This is necessary funding for FL & must get done NOW!
—@BurgessEv: Zero optimism in the Senate of getting a disaster aid bill this week, per Senators
—@DrNealDunnFL2: I am fighting every day in Washington to ensure that the victims of Hurricane Michael are never forgotten.
—@GovRonDeSantis: Had a productive conversation with @AmbJohnBolton today regarding Venezuela. Our support for the Venezuelan people’s quest to restore democracy and human and civil rights is unwavering.
—@DanTallahassee: .@JayTrumbull delivers an impassioned plea to colleagues in the Florida House to continue helping rebuild Northwest Florida. Today’s the six-month landfall anniversary of the near-Cat 5 Hurricane Michael.
—@Fineout: .@SenAudrey2eet just told Democratic caucus the FL Leg will not begin budget conference until after Easter. That’s April 21
—@ArekSarkissian: After yesterday’s heated House approps meeting, mmj advocates say @CaryPigman has refused to meet with any of them. Pigman, an Army vet and medical doctor, stormed out of the meeting after pot proponents called the committee members ignorant murderers.
—@JessicaBakeman: Police officers providing security at MSD commission meeting searched my purse and jokingly asked me if my wallet was a gun. I told them it was my wallet. They lamented to each other that I didn’t get nervous, and they were hoping to spook someone with that question.
—@MDixon55: Greg Pound vs. the tow truck industry is this session’s weirdest twist to date
—@HAltman: Thanks to my wonderful @TB_Times colleagues for the moving send-off. Keep kicking ass and shining the light. Glorious Tampastan is a better place for your efforts.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 3; Deadline for federal candidates to report what they raised during Q1 — 4; Easter — 10; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 11; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 12; “Avengers: Endgame” opens — 15; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 16; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 22; Mother’s Day — 31; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 42; Memorial Day — 46; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 58; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 68; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 76; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 110; St. Petersburg primary election — 138; “Joker” opens — 176; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 200; Scott Maddox trial begins — 207; 2019 General Election — 208; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 210; Iowa Caucuses — 298; Florida’s presidential primary — 341; 2020 General Election — 572.
— TOP STORY —
“Poll: 58 percent of voters approve of Trump’s handling of the economy” via NBC News — The national bipartisan survey of registered voters found that 59 percent of voters say they are very or somewhat worried about an economic downturn. Fifty-eight percent of voters approve of the job he has done on the economy. Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, said the Democratic Party will need to focus on the economy or “it will find itself in serious jeopardy for the 2020 election.” Lake has conducted the “Battleground Poll” since 1991 with Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group. Goeas sees the economy as a way for Trump “to win over voters who might be put off by his sometimes-abrasive personal style.”
— THE ADMINISTRATION —
“Florida board denies clemency for ‘White boy Rick’” via The Associated Press — The Executive Clemency Board sent a letter two weeks ago to Richard Wershe Jr.’s attorney, saying it has denied the request for a commuted sentence. The letter didn’t state a reason. Wershe’s current release date is in October 2020. Wershe is in prison for his role in an interstate car theft ring which operated while he was already imprisoned. At age 14, Wershe was an FBI informant in Detroit who helped convict a major cocaine trafficking ring, but he eventually got caught selling drugs himself. His story was the basis of the 2018 film “White Boy Rick.”
— Fla. AG Ashley Moody (@AGAshleyMoody) April 10, 2019
— SESSION —
“Bills to create a Parkland victims fund fail in Florida Legislature” via Skyler Swisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Families who lost loved ones in the Parkland school shooting likely won’t find monetary relief from the Florida Legislature this year. Bills seeking to avert litigation by creating a taxpayer-backed assistance fund haven’t gotten a hearing, and they aren’t likely to pass this Session, which ends on May 3.
“Constitution panel elimination teed up in Senate” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The Senate Rules Committee approved a proposal (SJR 362) that would ask voters in 2020 to eliminate the Constitutional Revision Commission. The full Senate has already unanimously approved a separate proposal (SJR 74) that would create a single-subject requirement for amendments placed on the ballot in the future. The single-subject requirement would require voter approval because it involves changing the Constitution. Sen. David Simmons voted to support the elimination proposal, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes to continue the debate on the role of the commission. “I think it can be saved, but I think that we need to add more than a simple rule that there is no bundling (of issues in single amendments),” Simmons said.
“School board term limits move in Senate, with some hesitation” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — During the debate in the Education Committee, though, a handful of Senators said they weren’t yet sold on the bill (SJR 274). And because a three-fifths vote is needed for adoption of resolutions proposing constitutional amendments, as this would be, the individual questions by members could provide critical. So far, just one Democrat — Sen. Daryl Rouson — has signed on as a co-sponsor, meaning if all 23 Republicans back the item, it would squeak by the 40-member chamber. But at least two Republicans indicated they had reservations, and asked sponsor Sen. Dennis Baxley to work with them as the bill moves ahead to the Rules Committee and perhaps to the floor.
“Vacation rental bill appears dead from inaction in Senate committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Legislative efforts to pre-empt local regulations statewide of vacation rental homes may have died again this year as the Senate bill seeking to do so was temporarily postponed in a committee that is not scheduled to meet again. Senate Bill 824 would pre-empt regulations and instead require vacation rental homeowners to register with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which could then regulate their uses. The bill got postponed at the Senate Committee on Industry, Innovation and Technology’s last scheduled meeting, meaning it’s not going to be heard there.
“Senate surplus line bill moves forward” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — A Senate committee voted to advance a bill that would modernize state law governing surplus lines insurance policies. SB 538 would remove obsolete paperwork requirements and extend a sunsetting provision allowing surplus lines insurers to offer flood insurance through 2025. The bill, sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, would also remove a $35 cap on fees surplus lines agents could charge for each policy. Replacing the specific limit is a requirement that the fee is “reasonable” and “itemized separately for the customer before purchase.” The vote earned the Senate committee praise from the Florida Surplus Lines Association, which said: “Florida without surplus lines insurance would look much different.” SB 538 now heads to the Appropriations Committee.
“Bill giving unemployment benefits to domestic violence victims clears final House committee” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — A bill providing unemployment benefits to domestic violence victims who are forced to leave their job is ready for the House floor after it advanced from its final committee Wednesday morning. The legislation (HB 563), introduced by freshman Rep. Dotie Joseph, cleared the Commerce Committee. The measure had already been approved by the Workforce Development and Tourism Subcommittee and the Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill attempts to provide those benefits in situations where a victim is forced to quit their job and/or relocate to avoid an abusive situation. Currently, voluntarily leaving a job for that reason does not allow a victim to collect unemployment. That can cause some victims to fear such a move.
“Scooter bill ready for House floor” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Jackie Toledo’s HB 453 received near unanimous support from the State Affairs Committee — Sarasota Democrat Margaret Good was the lone no-vote on the 24-member panel. The bill passed through its first and second committee stops with similar margins. The bill defines “micromobility device” in statute and would require county and municipal governments to treat such devices in the same manner as pedal-powered bicycles, which would allow them to be used in bike lanes, or other thoroughfares were bikes are permitted. It also creates a licensure process where rental platforms such as Lime, Jump and Bird, would have to get liability and workers’ compensation insurance before they could peddle their pedal-less devices.
“Lawmakers weigh Medicaid work requirements” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Members of a House health care panel this week approved the proposal (HB 955), which is now ready to go to the full House. While the Senate hasn’t considered the proposal this legislative session, the notion of a work requirement is supported by Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican in charge of crafting the Senate’s health care spending plan. “I would be interested in that,” Bean said when asked about the issue. The House is moving forward with the legislation after a pair of rulings by U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg that tossed similar work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas. Boasberg serves in the District of Columbia. Mandating work requirements has been a long-standing priority for conservatives.
“Vaping ban ready for approval in House” via the News Service of Florida — The House teed up for final passage a bill (SB 7012) that would carry out a November constitutional amendment that banned vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in indoor workplaces. The amendment was approved by nearly 69 percent of voters and directed the Legislature to implement the ban no later than July 1. “We clearly have the will of the Florida voters here,” bill sponsor Mike Beltran. The bill includes similar requirements as a long-standing law that bans smoking tobacco in indoor workplaces. It would allow vaping at places such as stand-alone bars, designated rooms in hotels and retail tobacco shops. The Senate has already approved it.
House panel kills bill regulating “tobacco products” — The measure (HB 1125) failed to win approval by the Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee, going down on a 3-8 vote. Sponsored by Democrat Nicholas X. Duran of Miami, it would have revised the legal definition of “tobacco products” to include “nicotine products, nicotine dispensing devices, and their components: e-liquid and nicotine gel.” Businesses that sell such products would have had to get a state permit and pay a $50 fee. The bill also would have required “direct, face-to-face” sales.
— MORE SESSION —
“‘I am not anti-Semitic’: Florida Democratic leader flip-flops on bill” via Gary Fineout of POLITICO — Senate Democratic leader Audrey Gibson said she has met with Jewish groups and Jewish legislators since her Monday vote and now supports the measure. … The Jacksonville Democrat on Monday was the lone vote against a bill that would require schools and colleges to treat allegations of anti-Semitism the same as they would allegations of racial discrimination. During a committee hearing, Gibson said the bill would give “special protections” to one religion as opposed to all religions. She questioned the motives of the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Gibson’s vote and comments have opened a rift among state Senate Democrats, several of whom are Jewish, and undercut her leadership at a critical time.
“Rob Bradley seeks to create ‘home away from home’ for Supreme Court” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — If Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez can have an “official headquarters” outside of Tallahassee, so can a Supreme Court justice, under a measure filed this week. Sen. Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, filed language to allow a “Supreme Court justice who permanently resides outside Leon County” to have an “official headquarters” elsewhere “as the justice’s private chambers” … It tracks similar language in the House’s proposed budget implementing bill, allowing for Nuñez to designate an “official headquarters” in Miami-Dade County that “may only serve as (her) personal office.”
“Lawmakers serve criminal justice reform with a side of horse meat” via Emily Mahoney of the Tampa Bay Times — Sen. Brandes has warned of a crisis in Florida’s prisons for years. Just last week, the House filed its long-awaited response. It’s a sweeping 259-page package that’s been praised by reform advocates from both the right and the left — not exactly typical in a conservative House that’s resisted softening tough-on-crime stances popularized in the 1990s. One key provision: It allows people with prior felony convictions to more easily get professional licenses to become barbers, cosmetologists and air conditioning contractors. The House bill would abolish a mandatory minimum sentence for only one crime. And it’s an obscure one: Illegally selling horse meat for human consumption that’s not labeled correctly.
“Bill in House would require school districts to share local referendum money with charter schools” via Emily Mahoney and Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — The bill, proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee, says that districts must share these funds with charter schools, or risk having other monies withheld. The bill would affect Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Broward and about a dozen other districts whose constituents have voted to raise property taxes in the past. Those districts will be required, starting in this upcoming budget year, to spread that wealth to charter schools, which are schools financed by taxpayers but managed by private entities. “We’re clarifying something the courts have had differing opinions on so for us as legislators our main responsibility is to make sure the intent of the law is upheld,” said Rep. Bryan Avila the chair of the committee.
“Affordable housing changes loom” via Florida Politics — A bill targeting mandatory county incentives to create affordable housing below market rates is ready for the House floor. HB 7103 would remove local ability to mandate a given amount of affordable housing units in a new development or to cap prices. Instead, the mechanism to drive affordable housing would be voluntary. The bill passed the committee. But not without objection from Democrats and local advocates. The Senate companion has one committee left.
Bob Rommel fixing cracks in auto glass AOB plan — An assignment of benefits reform bill aimed at curbing auto glass and home repair lawsuits is getting some last-minute changes. As reported by Alexandra Glorioso of POLITICO Florida, Rep. Rommel plans to amend his bill so insurance companies can’t direct all auto glass repairs to national companies such Safelite. The Ohio-based company has a monopoly on insurance referrals and generally subcontracts them out for 50 cents on the dollar. The low pay leads to those smaller vendors seeking the difference in court. Lobbyist Jeff Johnston, who represents the Florida Independent Glass Association, said the spike in auto glass AOB suits is “really a problem created by the insurance industry.” … “The independent auto glass companies would just like to be paid a fair and reasonable customary rate.”
On the Capitol events calendar — Florida Building & Construction Trades Council sponsors Apprenticeship Day at the Capitol. Also: Florida Highway Patrol 80th Anniversary Patrol Car Display, Capitol courtyard. And: The Florida Commission on Human Relations hosts a 50th Anniversary Press Conference. That’s at 10 a.m., 4th-floor Rotunda.
— LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE —
The House Ways & Means Committee will take up a proposed tax package, 9 a.m., Morris Hall, House Office Building.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up an array of bills, including one to create new judgeships, 9 a.m., 412 Knott Building.
The Senate Special Order Calendar Group will set a special-order calendar, which lists bills that will be heard on the Senate floor, 15 minutes after the end of the Appropriations Committee meeting, 401 Senate Office Building.
The House is scheduled to hold a floor Session at 1:30 p.m., House Chamber.
The House Rules Committee is set to meet 15 minutes after the floor Session, 404 House Office Building.
— PURPLE LIGHTS FOR VICTIMS RIGHTS —
A purple glow will line the Historic Old Capitol beginning Thursday evening through Saturday.
The hue honors National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Last year, it served as the theme color for Marsy’s Law for Florida. Voters ultimately approved Marsy’s Law by passing Amendment 6 in November.
According to advocates, there is still work to be done. That’s why this week’s theme is “Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future.”
Need for more: Ann Rowe, a sexual assault survivor, said Amendment 6 “laid the groundwork for victims’ rights in Florida.” But, she added, “now it’s time for Florida’s leaders to work on implementing Marsy’s Law for Florida in a way that is consistent across the state.”
The bill: Sen. Lauren Book has filed legislation (SB 1426) that “addresses some of the questions and concerns raised by justice system stakeholders.” But it’s yet to move through The Process.
— GOVERNORS CLUB BUFFET MENU —
Split pea and ham soup; mixed garden salad with dressings; marinated vegetable salad; tropical fruit salad; deli board, lettuces, tomatoes, cheeses and breads; BBQ chicken; beef Burgundy; grilled golden tilefish with orange citrus sauce; chipotle sweet potato mash; southern succotash; steamed cauliflower; bread pudding for dessert.
— STATEWIDE —
“Florida nears 2-millionth concealed weapon permit” via The Associated Press — Florida had a total of 1,971,997 currently valid concealed weapon permits as of March 31. The number grows about 17,500 each month. Additionally, 12,745 judges, correctional officers, military or law enforcement officials hold permits in Florida. At the current rate, Florida — with its population of 21.3 million people — was expected to surpass the 2-million mark for civilians before summer, said Stephen Hurm, director of licensing at the state agency that issues permits. Florida already leads the United States in the total number of currently valid permits, according to data from the Crime Prevention Research Center, a Virginia-based nonprofit. Texas has the second-highest number, at 1.36 million as of December.
“Security guards quit over claims of hostile work environment at Education Department, supervisor resigns” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Six security guards walked off the job after their complaints about derogatory language, racial slurs and other behavior creating a hostile work environment went unanswered. The contracted guards, led by Timothy Hightower, submitted a “unified resignation letter” on Feb. 27. “We had been going through some horrible working environment situations and harassment” by their DOE supervisor, Hightower said. She was dismissed a week after the guards turned in their resignation. He told the Tallahassee Democrat that the supervisor, Kimberly Sadler, allegedly called his African-American lieutenant “a gorilla” and made racial slurs at his two Asian guards, nicknaming one of them “Chopsticks.” “She categorically denies what they are saying,” said Gary Printy, Sadler’s lawyer. “That never happened.”
“State officials talking about disbanding VISIT FLORIDA” via Gail Levy of WJHG — At Bay County’s Tourist Development Council meeting, board members discussed the importance of VISIT FLORIDA and how it’s helped tourists know Panama City Beach is still open for business after Hurricane Michael. “VISIT FLORIDA is very important to us, as we are talking about how do we recover from the impact of the storm? So, we’re reaching out to the Speaker of the House, to the Senate President, to the Governor, and the Chief Financial Officer encouraging them, you know, to reauthorize Visit Florida,” said Dan Rowe, President of the Tourist Development Council.
— GIANTS —
“That’s a lot of subs: Publix made as much money as Nike in 2018” via Rob Wile of the Miami Herald — In its annual report for 2018, Lakeland-based Publix reported revenues of $36.1 billion — a 4.4 percent increase from 2017. Those sales put it about on par with Oregon-based global shoe giant Nike, which reported $36.4 billion in sales at the end of its most recent fiscal year. It shows Publix continues to boast impressive growth even into its eighth decade. The 2018 revenues translated into net earnings of $2.4 billion, up 3.9 percent from 2017. (Nike made $1.9 billion). Publix is listed at No. 88 on the Fortune 100 list of largest U.S. companies.
“Walmart plans estimated $173 million in Florida new store construction, store improvements and innovations in 2019” via Florida Trend — Building on its commitment to save customers time and money in new ways, Walmart expects to spend an estimated $173 million this year in Florida through the opening and remodeling of 34 stores, as well as the launch and continued expansion of several customer-focused innovations, which include grocery pickup and grocery delivery. Walmart Pickup Towers will be 16-feet tall, high-tech vending machines capable of fulfilling a customer’s online order in less than a minute once they arrive At the store. Autonomous shuttle scanners to scan shelves and help identify where in-stock levels are low, prices are wrong, or labels are missing. Autonomous floor scrubbers, to perform the task of cleaning and scrubbing the concrete floors and stores.
— THE TRAIL —
“John Morgan plows more money into minimum wage fight” via the News Service of Florida — The Morgan Firm PA in March contributed $373,259 to a political committee that is leading efforts to put the proposed amendment on the November 2020 ballot. Combined with earlier contributions from the firm Morgan & Morgan P.A., the latest contributions bring to nearly $980,000 the amount Morgan’s firms have provided to the committee Florida For A Fair Wage. Under the proposed amendment, the state’s minimum wage would go to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021, and increase by $1 each year until it hits $15 an hour on Sept. 30, 2026.
“Michael Waltz raised more than $300K in Q1” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — In his first full quarterly finance report since winning CD 6, the Republican congressman’s re-election campaign says it’s reeled in more than $300,000 in contributions. “I’m proud of the overwhelming response we are receiving for the work we are doing to secure our borders, support our veterans and gold star families and keep our economy going strong,” Waltz said. The full campaign finance report is not yet available, though that hefty a haul for a first-termer in the minority party isn’t typical. Waltz’ Q1 haul is an excellent first step in ensuring his message isn’t drowned out by seven-figure outside media buys backing whoever challenges him.
“Democrat Elizabeth McCarthy files to run in HD 28” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Democrat McCarthy is running for the Florida House District 28 seat in Seminole County, aiming to take on Republican state Rep. David Smith. McCarthy, 50, of Sanford, said she’s bringing both political and legislative understanding to the race, as she serves as both the legislative director for the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus and as the federal legislative chair for the Democratic Women’s Caucus. She also works in the medical profession. HD 28 covers northeast Seminole County.
“Ryan Williams garners $50K-plus in bid to topple Aramis Ayala” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orlando state attorney candidate Williams announced Wednesday his campaign for the top 9th Judicial Circuit post has now topped $51,000 in fundraising, meaning in two months he’s already raised more money than State Attorney Ayala raised to win the job in 2016. Williams was a JC 9 assistant state attorney when Ayala took office in 2017 but he quit and moved to Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit after she announced her controversial opposition to the death penalty. Ayala, a Democrat like Williams, has not yet filed for re-election. In 2016 when she won though campaign raised just $49,000 raised. But she didn’t need it. She was boosted by more than $1.3 million from a committee backed by billionaire George Soros.
— LOCAL —
“Parents of kids shot at Parkland school file more than 20 negligence lawsuits” via David Neal and Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald — Parents of students killed and injured in the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have filed more than 20 lawsuits, alleging negligence by the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Broward County School Board and Henderson Behavioral Health and “willful and wanton negligence” against former BSO school resource officer Scot Peterson and campus monitor Andrew Medina. Lawyers representing the victims’ families said they were forced to sue after BSO and the School Board reneged on their initial commitment to help resolve financial claims for their losses. They decided to go to court after learning that the School Board hired lobbyists in Tallahassee to thwart their efforts to collect damages in a claims bill before the Florida Legislature.
“All Children’s works to restore faith, but families struggle to forgive” via Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi of the Tampa Bay Times — Johns Hopkins wants to discuss settlements with the families of children who died or were injured at the All Children’s Heart Institute. In at least 11 cases, the health system has agreed to do so before the families file suit, “admitting our liability in most cases,” its leaders recently disclosed to investors in bond documents. That some parents are too angry to accept the overture is only the latest setback for All Children’s. In just a few months the region’s most-prestigious hospital has fallen into a state of near-constant turmoil. Most agree that what took a century to build will take more than a few months to restore.
“Largo to receive $1M for Hurricane Irma relief” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Recovery funds related to Hurricane Irma are still coming in from the federal government, as Congressman Charlie Crist announced a $1 million grant for the city of Largo. The funds come nearly two years after the hurricane narrowly missed the Tampa Bay area, but still caused widespread damage to homes and businesses throughout the area. “Though we were lucky enough to avoid a direct hit, many Pinellas County residents were still significantly impacted by Hurricane Irma, losing power, property, and millions of dollars in revenue,” Crist said. “This grant goes a long way toward helping the city of Largo and its residents recover from the damage caused by this disaster.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
Offshore drilling a loser for Donald Trump’s Florida chances — The Trump administration is toying with allowing oil drilling in Florida’s coastal waters, but Sunshine State Republicans have warned the White House that voters could see that as a deal breaker come November 2020. Zack Colman and Ben Lefebvre of POLITICO Florida list U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. DeSantis, and U.S. Reps. Ted Yoho and Brian Mast as among the pols warning POTUS that the move would threaten his re-election odds. “He would have a price to pay for that,” Yoho said. A recent Quinnipiac University Poll found 64 percent of Florida voters oppose offshore drilling. Florida voters also approved a constitutional amendment in November banning offshore drilling in state waters.
“Tom Steyer brings Trump impeachment effort to Boca Raton” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Steyer says the narrow Florida victories by DeSantis and Scott last November were the biggest national disappointments of the 2018 midterm elections, but he’s not giving up on the Sunshine State in the 2020 presidential election.
“Rick Scott donating salary to Puerto Rican relief efforts” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Scott is donating his first quarter U.S. Senate salary to two Florida organizations providing assistance to Puerto Rico refugees who fled to Florida after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in August 2017, his office announced. Scott’s Senate pay will go to the Legal Services Clinic of Puerto Rican Community Inc. of Orlando, and the Mujeres Restauradas Por Dios of Tampa. U.S. Senators are paid $174,000 a year, so a quarter of that would be a $43,500. Scott doesn’t personally need the money, as he might be the wealthiest member of the U.S. Senate, with a net worth most recently reported in the range of $232 million in 2017.
Assignment editors — Scott will give a speech on the future of Venezuela, 8:30 a.m., American Enterprise Institute auditorium, 1789 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C.
“Waltz key player in 21st-century space race” via Lara Seligman of Foreign Policy — Waltz’s business background is driving his push to nurture the budding commercial U.S. space launch industry amid a government effort to develop an all-American rocket ship to send national security satellites and other payloads to space. Waltz sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. “The 21st-century space race is on. I see as one of my mandates to continue to educate and explain not only to my constituents and Floridians but my national platform how reliant we are in our modern way of life on space, from real-time navigation to banking to how reliant we are on GPS, you name it,” Waltz says.
“Vern Buchanan, Ted Deutch back bill targeting scams of seniors” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Reps. Deutch and Buchanan are introducing a bipartisan bill aimed at tracking and preventing fraud targeting seniors. The Seniors Fraud Prevention Act was reintroduced Wednesday by Deutch, a Democrat representing Florida’s 22nd Congressional District and Buchanan, a Republican representing CD 16. Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont also co-sponsored the bill. “This bipartisan legislation would help protect seniors and their families by creating an office within the Federal Trade Commission charged with tracking fraud schemes targeting seniors and distributing the information to the public,” according to a news release on the legislation. “Scams set up specifically to go after American seniors and their hard-earned money are particularly despicable,” Deutch said.
“Deutch aims to save Social Security by soaking wealthy Americans” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Deutch joined U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii in introducing the “Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act.” The legislation would remove the annual contributions cap for the fund, which sits at $132,900 in 2019. Typically, Americans contribute 6.2 percent of their paycheck to Social Security. But that’s only for earnings up to $132,900. Deutch’s bill would remove that ceiling. However, the proposal is likely to meet stiff opposition from Republicans. “Social Security remains one of the most important programs for about 63 million Americans, including most American seniors who depend on it as their main source of income,” Deutch said.
“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell readies South Florida health care tour” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell plans to kick off a health care tour of South Florida with a roundtable discussion at her Miami office. Thursday’s event will focus on protections for pre-existing conditions as well as lowering health care costs. Mucarsel-Powell says she plans on meeting with community leaders and health care advocates who will discuss “navigating the broken health care system.” Mucarsel-Powell’s Miami office is located at 12857-31 SW 42nd St. Thursday’s meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. While Mucarsel-Powell has spoken out in defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), she says actions by the Trump administration are hampering the system.
— 2020 —
“Fighting Joe” via Mike Allen of Axios — The “personal space” uproar has left Joe Biden undeterred: He plans to announce his White House run toward the end of April (likely after Easter, which falls April 21), friends say. “Joe knows the field will try to crush him once he announces and he is totally prepared for it,” one associate said. Biden plans a couple of big speeches after his announcement, to build a substantive bulwark aimed at defusing claims he’s a man out of time.
“Elizabeth Warren brings in $6 million in first quarter of fundraising” via Rashaan Ayesh of Axios — About 135,000 people gave 213,000 contributions that average about $28 per donation. Warren has already spent nearly 85 percent of her funds campaigning. Warren is in the middle of the pack of the crowded 2020 Democratic field for reported first-quarter fundraising. So far, Sen. Bernie Sanders leads the way with $18 million, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris ($12 million), Beto O’Rourke ($9 million) and Pete Buttigieg ($7 million). And while Warren lagged behind other candidates, she still has $11.2 million on hand from her 2012 Senate campaign. Warren is keeping her pledge to stay away from big money fundraisers and accepting donations from PACs and super PACs, focusing instead on raising her campaign funds from grassroots donations.
“Fresh off the 2016 debacle, Facebook backs away from the 2020 election debates” via Maxwell Tani of The Daily Beast — The social networking giant has been notably absent from the first big events of the 2020 presidential primary, a significant contrast from the strategy it employed just four years ago. CNN and MSNBC aren’t working with Facebook for the first two Democratic debates, and there are no current plans for a significant role for the platform either. The DNC has received pitches to host debates from several digital media organizations, including NowThis. BuzzFeed News is also exploring a partnership with Twitter on a debate.
— OPINIONS —
“In the Senate, leadership on Amendment 4; in the House, not so much” via the Orlando Sentinel editorial board — We can say with a high degree of confidence that no one who voted in favor of Amendment 4 last fall thought attempted murder counted as murder. And yet, attempted murder was part of the Senate bill. Few voters were thinking of prostitution as the type of sex crime that should cost someone their right to vote. And yet, the Amendment 4 bill over in the Florida House would do just that, sweeping every type of sex felony into a big no-vote-for-you basket. That says a lot about the shortage of good faith as the Legislature decides the conditions for allowing former felons to cast a vote once again.
“Courtney Christian: Floridians share the cost — they should also share in the savings” via Florida Politics — For too long, Floridians have struggled to afford their medicines. Medicines are an important tool for patients to fight diseases. That’s exactly why America’s biopharmaceutical companies are eager to work with the Florida legislature on real solutions to the challenges Floridians are facing at the pharmacy counter. One way to do this is by sharing already negotiated discounts with patients. On average, 40 percent of the list price of a medicine is given as rebates or discounts to health insurance companies, the government, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other entities in the pharmaceutical supply chain. These rebates and discounts exceeded $166 billion in 2018 and are growing each year. But too often these discounts aren’t shared with patients at the pharmacy counter.
— LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS —
Nick Iarossi, Andrew Ketchel, Capital City Consulting: Atkins North America
Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Government Services Group
Benjamin Marcus, Yosher Strategies: READ USA
William Rubin, Heather Turnbull, Melissa Akeson, Amy Bisceglia, Erica Chanti, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, Rubin Turnbull & Associates: Verdigreen Life Sciences
Douglas Russell, D. Russell & Associates: Spark Therapeutics
Daniel Stanley: Twin Rivers Land and Timber
— SUNSHINE SPORTS —
Saying goodbye to a champion — First, the Miami Heat made sure that Dwyane Wade’s final home game Tuesday night would be special with a 25-minute pregame tribute. There were tears, cheers and an impressive video to sum up a Hall of Fame career that spanned 16 seasons.
Wade then returned the favor, scoring 30 points in Miami’s blowout win over Philadelphia before a sellout crowd at American Airlines Arena. He leaves as the Heat’s all-time leader in points, games, assists, steals, and both shots and taken.
He will go down as one of South Florida’s most popular and accomplished athletes ever. Wade helped engineer the arrival of LeBron James to Miami by agreeing to take a salary cut. Wade, James and Chris Bosh led the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals, winning back-to-back titles in 2012-13.
He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 with the so-called USA “Redeem Team.”
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) April 10, 2019
— ALOE —
“Where are Florida’s top chefs from?” via Chris Sherman of Florida Trend — A restaurateur with boundless energy and a gift for theater, Philadelphian Stephen Starr now includes four hot restaurants in South Florida. His first hit was Steak 954 at the W Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. The freshest Italian breeze to blow into Naples came from … Minneapolis. The Sicilian-rooted D’Amico family had opened Cucina, the Twin Cities’ breakthrough contemporary restaurant, in 1987, then Richard and Larry D’Amico followed the trail of Twins fans and winter golfers to Southwest Florida. America’s top Spanish chef, José Andrés’ U.S. home is Washington, D.C. He started at the pioneering tapas bar Jaleo in 1993 and now has nine restaurants there and a dozen others from Las Vegas and Mexico City to Florida.
— HAPPY BIRTHDAY —
Best wishes to top lobbyist Chris Carmody, Betsy Collins, Tom McNicholas, and Chris Steinocher, the president and CEO of the Greater St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, Dan McAuliffe, and Drew Wilson.