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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 4.12.19

Get ready for an espresso shot of Florida politics and policy.

Jimmy Patronis — the state’s fourth Chief Financial Officer — is having a birthday this Saturday. (We won’t say which one.)

The Panama City Republican was first appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace the departing Jeff Atwater, who left government early to become CFO of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

As CFO, he oversees the Department of Financial Services. He won election last year.

Happy birthday to our well-regarded Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis.

But he’s also a successful Panama City Beach restaurateur: His family’s “Capt. Anderson’s has become a staple in the community, growing from a 90-seat restaurant that primarily served tourists going on fishing boats from Capt. Anderson’s Marina, to a 725-seat establishment serving more than 250,000 guests during its eight-month season,” according to the Panama City News Herald.

The CFO is head of a roughly 2,600-employee agency that includes the state treasury and insurance regulators, as well as being the state’s Fire Marshal. The proud FSU grad also is in charge of the state’s multi-billion dollar financial portfolio.

People in The Process wished Patronis, also a former House member and Public Service Commissioner, a happy birthday.

“Hope your day is great!” said Senate president Bill Galvano.

And Alan Williams, a Democratic former House member, lauded his “fellow Aries.”

“Because of you, as a Chair in the House, you allowed a bill I sponsored to re-open the Gadsden County Hospital to pass out of its major committee and ultimately become law … I will be forever grateful for the lives that have been saved, the babies that have been delivered there, and the access to quality healthcare for the residents of the county.

“Katie (his wife) & the boys are lucky to have a great husband & dad like you!” Williams added. “Happy birthday, dinner on me at Capt. Anderson’s!”

Ed. Note — In a Thursday morning Sunburn item on HB 1125, we neglected to mention that GOP Rep. Mike Hill of Pensacola is the prime sponsor. Democrat Nicholas X. Duran of Miami is a co-sponsor.


@WikiLeaks: This man is a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanize, delegitimize and imprison him. #ProtectJulian

@Snowden: Images of Ecuador’s ambassador inviting the UK’s secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of — like it or not — award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange’s critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom.

@BenSasse: This arrest is good news for freedom-loving people. Julian Assange has long been a wicked tool of Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence services. He deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison.

@NickKristoff: Some American liberals are instinctively sympathetic to the Venezuelan regime simply because President Trump is against it. That’s a mistake. The Maduro regime has been a catastrophe for ordinary Venezuelans.

@SenRickScott: Had a good meeting with @realDonaldTrump and some of my colleagues today at the White House on critical disaster relief. I’m working with Republicans and Democrats to get this done. The people of Florida and Puerto Rico can’t wait any longer.

@BillGalvano: Pleased to see SB 7068 advance to the @FLSenate floor. The time has come to prioritize these critical infrastructure enhancements and to combine those efforts with innovations that enhance surrounding communities, while providing new opportunities for job creation.

@Fineout: During debate @VoteRandyFine takes shot @SenAudrey2eet without using her name. Says legislators are in a building where someone can say anti-Semitism bill goes after “wrong enemy” and do it “without consequence.” Gibson yesterday dropped her opposition to bill

@FredPiccoloJr: Fact – people give money to elected officials that they agree with. Elected officials don’t agree with people just because they gave money. The “this person wrote a check; therefore, politician must’ve done X for that reason” Is laughable 98% of the time. PS. Also very lazy

@MearKat00: Bills are dying.


Final season of ‘Game of Thrones’ begins — 2; Deadline for federal candidates to report what they raised during Q1 — 3; Easter — 9; Frank Artiles is eligible to register to lobby the Legislature — 10; Tampa mayoral runoff election — 11; “Avengers: Endgame” opens — 14; White House Correspondents’ Dinner — 15; 2019 Legislative Session ends (maybe) — 21; Mother’s Day — 30; Florida Chamber Florida Business Leaders’ Summit on Prosperity and Economic Opportunity — 41; Memorial Day — 45; Florida Democratic Leadership Blue conference and fundraiser — 57; Florida Chamber Learners to Earners Workforce Summit begins — 67; First Democratic presidential debates in Miami — 75; Second Democratic presidential debates in Detroit — 109; St. Petersburg primary election — 137; “Joker” opens — 175; Florida Chamber Future of Florida Forum begins — 199; Scott Maddox trial begins — 206; 2019 General Election — 207; 3rd Annual Florida Internet and Television FITCon begins — 209; Iowa Caucuses — 297; Florida’s presidential primary — 340; 2020 General Election — 571.


José Oliva leaves open possibility of gambling deal” via the News Service of Florida — “It depends on what the nature of that agreement will be because some of that will require a lot of back-and-forth,” Oliva told reporters. “But I think that there is still time.” Oliva said he does not have any conditions on what he would like to see included in a gambling agreement, known as a “compact,” between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state. Senate President Bill Galvano was “encouraged” by the status of negotiations between the Senate and the Tribe but said, “we’re not there yet.” If the Legislature does not revamp a gambling agreement with the Tribe, which expires at the end of May, it could jeopardize annual $350 million payments the state gets from the Seminoles.

Speaker José Oliva says a new Sgamblinb deal for Florida is not out of the question. Image via Colin Hackley.

Compact is a sweetheart deal for the Seminoles because state is underpaid” via Florida Politics — If you believe the rumors, the Senate is negotiating a new deal with the Tribe. On their Florida properties alone, it’s estimated the Tribe rakes in more than $2.3 billion in gaming revenue every year. In 2009, the tribe inked a deal with the state of Florida that provides a revenue sharing agreement. The Seminole Compact pays the state somewhere north of $340 million annually, or about 12.5 percent of gross revenues. If they were subject to taxation in Massachusetts, their tax bill would be $575 million, in New York $713 million, in Ohio $760 million, in Pennsylvania, they’d pay $928 million. And in Illinois, the Seminole Tribe would have to fork over a whopping $1.1 billion.


It’s good to be Governor:

¡Votar! Ron DeSantis orders help for Spanish-speaking voters in 2020, beyond” via Florida Politics — Calling it “critically important,” DeSantis directed the Department of State “to address the availability of Spanish language ballots” for future elections. He called on the department to develop regulations that also would cover Spanish-language voter assistance, including for the 2020 election. “Spanish-speaking Floridians (must be) able to exercise their right to vote without any language barriers,” the Governor said in a statement. “Florida has a significant Spanish-speaking population, and our state is home to many Puerto Ricans who moved here after the devastation of Hurricane Maria,” he added.

Tweet, tweet:


Lawmakers mull power of ‘task forces’ in Bill Galvano’s highway plan” via Danny McAuliffe of Florida Politics — Lawmakers are corralling behind a plan to start saving money for three major highway projects, but they’re not sure the legislation would guarantee construction. A Senate plan to kick-start funding for three toll-road projects cleared its last committee stop Thursday. The bill is a priority for Senate President Galvano and it now heads to his chamber’s floor. Sen. Tom Lee, the bill’s sponsor, said the working groups would help recommend “where interchanges are located” and “how alignments are developed” to help the state avoid routes that could be economically or environmentally harmful. But the Thonotosassa Republican also suggested the project advisers could scrap one of the roads.

Tom Lee said that the task forces in Bill Galvano’s infrastructure highway plan would help plan interchanges and ‘how alignments are developed’ to determine the most economically sound choices. Image via Colin Hackley.

House backs lease tax cut, sales tax ‘holidays’” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A pair of sales-tax “holidays” for storm preparation and back-to-school shopping and a tax cut on commercial leases dominated a package that advanced out of a key House committee. But Democrats raised questions about part of the proposal dealing with charter schools and money raised by school districts through local referendums. The $102.4 million package (PCB WMC 19-02) was approved 14-2 by the Ways & Means Committee. The package is being set up for conference talks with the Senate, which has been rolling out potential tax-reduction measures in individual bills. However, several Democrats, including some who voted for the measure, expressed concern that the package goes beyond tax reductions.

House approves Canadian drug imports” via the News Service of Florida — The House voted 93-22 to pass the bill (HB 19), sponsored by Rep. Tom Leek. The bill would establish two programs to import FDA-approved prescription drugs into the state. One program, the Canadian Drug Importation Program would be established in the state Agency for Health Care Administration. Another program, the International Drug Importation Program, would be created in the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. A Senate version (SB 1528) cleared the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee this week. But the House and Senate bills are not identical.

Bill expanding armed teacher program goes to Senate” via Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press — The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 11-9 for a bill to revise a school safety law enacted last year after 17 people were fatally shot at a Parkland high school in February 2018. Repeatedly in the more than three hours of discussion, Democrats and Republicans praised portions of the bill, including provisions to require schools to report all violent incidents, an increased focus on properly assessing and responding to potentially threatening behavior and requiring schools to promote suspicious activity reporting tools.

Breaking overnight — “Could the Florida Senate remove arming teachers from the school safety bill?” via Emily Mahoney of the Times/Herald — Democrats in the Senate have an agreement with the Republican majority to at least consider not making all teachers eligible to have guns in the classroom, according to Sen. Perry Thurston, Jr. The chances are “60-40,” Thurston said, with the higher percentage going toward the idea that arming teachers would be removed. The Democrats withdrew several amendments related to the teacher portion of the bill during Thursday’s vote on the bill in the Senate Appropriations committee, citing their agreement. “If they take that out, there are quite a few (Democrats) who would be willing to vote for it,” added Thurston, a Democrat from Lauderhill.

House bill on anti-Semitism passes unanimously” via Florida Politics — Legislation aimed at cementing the fight against anti-Semitism — called the “most ancient form of hate” by its sponsor — easily passed the state House. Members approved the bill (HB 741) on a 114-0 vote. The measure would require public schools, colleges and universities to treat anti-Semitism the same way racism is addressed, and it adopts the same definition for anti-Semitism used by the U.S. Department of State.

House approves lowering prison guard age” via the News Service of Florida — Under a House bill passed unanimously, the minimum age to serve as a correctional officer in Florida would be lowered from 19 to 18 under the proposal (HB 7057). Officials with the Florida Department of Corrections say the agency has struggled to retain and recruit correctional staff across the state for years and say the bill would help increase the pool of candidates. “Properly staffed correctional institutions help strengthen public safety across the state, and this legislation directly assists the department by increasing the number of eligible candidates for hire,” said Michelle Glady, a spokeswoman for the department.

Local tax referendums targeted in House” via the News Service of Florida — The House voted 69-44 to pass a measure (HB 5) that targets local sales-tax referendums. Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Nick DiCeglie sales-tax ballot proposals would have to be approved by two-thirds of voters, up from the current majority. Also, such referendums would have to be held at the time of general elections instead of in lower-turnout elections. Critics of the bill said it would go too far in restricting the ability of local governments to meet infrastructure needs.

Having your say: Nick DiCeglie’s proposal would have any new sales tax approved by two-thirds of voters, as opposed to a simple majority. Image via Colin Hackley.

Paul Renner’s ‘Patient Savings Act’ passes House unanimously — The bill, Renner said in a statement, “gives Floridians greater information about the costs of health procedures and services, and the chance to reduce their premiums when they shop for and find high quality, lower-cost options.” Under The Patient Savings Act, patients can receive price saving options for lab tests, outpatient surgery, obstetrics and gynecological services, physical and occupational therapy, X-rays and other imaging, prescription drugs and more. “The Act simply allows patients to know the cost of a procedure before they receive care, and then directly rewards them with savings when they pick higher-value providers,” said Renner, a Palm Coast Republican.

Bill to allow Uber and Lyft to take Medicaid patients to docs passes House” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The bill (HB 411) would allow companies, through managed care providers, to take patients to and from doctors’ appointments that don’t require an ambulance. “Access to reliable transportation is a common challenge for Floridians trying to access Medicaid benefits. We thank Rep. Daniel Perez and the Florida House of Representatives for voting to remove transportation as a barrier to care for patients,” said Uber Senior Policy Manager Stephanie Smith. Uber is already transporting passengers for medical appointments in the private sector through its platform, Uber Health. The company contracts with Bay Care to provide services.

’Test and treat’ bill for flu, strep passes House” via Florida Politics — The legislation (HB 111), approved on a 99-16 vote without debate, heads to the Senate where a companion bill (SB 300) has not been heard. The measure would give pharmacists the authority to provide “point-of-care” testing and treatment for influenza and streptococcus, saving the sick from trying to squeeze in a doctor appointment before the treatment window flies by for prescription drugs such as Tamiflu. Florida law already allows pharmacists to provide a handful of treatments, such as giving vaccines, that were once reserved for doctors and nurses so long as they are certified by the Florida Board of Pharmacy.

House takes tough stance on genetic tests” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Amid privacy concerns and dramatic growth in genetic-testing products, the House passed a bill that would ban life-insurance and long-term care insurance companies from using genetic testing information in policy decisions. The House passed the measure (HB 879) by an 88-26 vote amid opposition from the insurance industry. Bill sponsor Jayer Williamson said the measure bill would help protect the private information of consumers as they apply for life insurance or long-term care coverage. Applicants are already required to provide health information when seeking such coverage, but supporters of the bill say genetic testing information should be shielded. “I think that’s the most private of private information,” Williamson said.

Lawmakers move toward raising smoking, vaping age to 21” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel — With the surprising support of big tobacco maker Altria, Florida lawmakers are moving forward with bills that would increase the minimum age from 18 to 21 to buy tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping products, but there’s a catch. A House bill (HB 7119) would raise the age limit with an exemption for active duty military members. But it would also prevent cities from adopting their own minimum tobacco age and preempt local regulations on tobacco sales and marketing, something the large tobacco companies want. And the bill also increases the age requirement for medical marijuana patients to get parental consent from 18 to 21. … But they are concerned about preempting local regulations because it would affect Tobacco Free Florida, which receives $70 million a year from the state through its settlement with big tobacco companies. It uses much of that money to produce anti-smoking media campaigns but also lobbies cities and counties for tougher rules.

Booze bills that favor distillers headed to House floor — Two bills focusing on craft distillers now have cleared their final committee and are available for consideration by the full House. The Commerce Committee this week cleared HB 1219 on a 16-7 vote, and HB 1229 by 15-7. The first bill, by Howey-in-the-Hills Republican Anthony Sabatini, would allow spirits makers to produce up to 250,000 gallons a year, instead of the current cap of 75,000 gallons, and still be designated a “craft distillery.” The second, by Key Largo Republican Holly Raschein, would remove the six bottle-limit on in-person sales and would OK out-of-state shipping, among other provisions.


What is the Legislature doing about the dangers of lead in schools? Not much” via Diane Rado of Florida Phoenix — Florida law doesn’t require schools to test drinking water for lead. And for the most part, there’s no federal requirement for such testing. As it stands now, little is being done across Florida when it comes to lead issues in schools: A “Get the Lead Out” study published last month gave Florida an “F” when it comes to protecting kids from lead exposure at school. State Sen. Janet Cruz, who represents parts of Hillsborough, has tried to push legislation this session to install filters in drinking fountains at older schools, meaning schools built before 1986. “I’m going to go talk to the (House) Speaker and see if we can move it forward. This bill is important,” Cruz said.

Hardening the electrical grid is the solution, despite shadowy fearmongering” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics — The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously advanced electric grid resiliency legislation by Joe Gruters, its final hurdle before the floor. The bill continues to receive bipartisan plaudits for requiring investor-owned utilities to submit long-term 10-year grid hardening plans to the Public Service Commission. But that hasn’t stopped the Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG) from fearmongering in committee. This murky big business group tried to throw every buzz word they could at lawmakers, raising the specter of subsidies and tax increases. All complete fabrications, of course. You know what is real? The $51 billion in damage caused by 2017’s Hurricane Irma. Hardening the electrical grid has been a proven success.

Joe Gruters is pushing to strengthen the state’s electric grid, as a precaution ahead of future storms.

New ad campaign highlights auto glass AOB victims” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Many Floridians sign assignment of benefits (AOB) contracts when they get the chips and cracks in their windshields patched up, but a new video ad campaign says a significant chunk aren’t aware of what those forms entail. The Consumer Protection Coalition, which supports reforms to curb AOB lawsuits, highlights the stories of several jilted policyholders unaware those contracts would result in court cases. “Business people who are doing business have rights … but not the right to take my rights away,” one consumer said. “I called my insurance company right away and told them I didn’t want to sue them.” The campaign launched Thursday as the House voted 96-20 to pass an AOB reform bill (HB 7065) after stripping it of all references to auto glass.

To view one of the ads, click on the image below:

Americans for Tax Reform asks lawmakers to ‘say no’ to import drugs” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — Conservative advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform has launched a new ad campaign urging lawmakers to think twice before allowing prescription drugs to be imported and sold in Florida pharmacies. “Don’t be a Bernie bro, Florida! Reject socialist price controls,” reads the banner on The campaign says drug importation bills “sound like a reasonable free market solution” but are actually “a clever ploy designed to trick proponents of limited government and free markets into supporting socialist policies.” The campaign says even though it’s a bitter pill to swallow, socialized health care in other countries forces drug companies to charge more in the United States to recoup their massive research and development costs. If those prices are undermined, AFTR says medical advances could grind to a halt.

JUUL backs bills raising smoking age to 21” via Drew Wilson of Florida Politics — JUUL Labs, an electronic cigarette manufacturer, is working to preserve its market, which it says is a steppingstone for traditional smokers looking to quit. In a recent op-ed, JUUL Labs CEO Kevin Burns says his company has stepped up following reports of vaporizer use among teenagers. The company has stopped selling flavored pods to retail stores, increased age verification measures online, and gone dark on social media. JUUL has also launched a “secret shopper” program to help ensure its retail partners are following the law — the initiative has already caught more than 700 stores selling to minors. Now JUUL is supporting state-level bills to raise the minimum-purchasing age for tobacco products to 21.


A Senate plan that would in part allow trained teachers to carry guns advanced from its last committee stop nearly along party lines.

The outlier? Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who has in the past diverted from party norms on issues like guns and immigration.

“I hope that ultimately it will be a lot more good that comes from this than bad, but I firmly believe that our kids’ lives should be protected by more than just hope, and for that reason, I can’t vote for this bill today,” Flores said.

Anitere Flores is an outlier among Republicans when it comes to armed teachers. Image via Phil Sears.

Entropy: “There are more things that can go wrong than can go right in that situation,” Flores said, referencing the introduction of more guns to schools.

Meanwhile: Democratic Sens. Lauren Book and Bill Montford picked out certain parts of the bill that they liked, such as boosts to threat assessments and more robust mental health programs.

Of note: Book, a member of a fact-finding panel that ultimately recommended arming teachers, ultimately asked to be shown as a “no” vote for the bill sometime after the official ballot.

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Michael insured losses topped $6.22 billion” via the News Service of Florida — The storm had spurred 144,938 claims and total estimated insured losses of $6,220,190,894 as of the end of last week. The most significant number of claims, 95,834, involved residential property, with 80.3 percent of those claims closed. Overall, 81.5 percent of claims had been closed as of Friday. Bay County, which includes Panama City, had produced the most insurance claims, with 86,983, according to the state website. Bay County was followed by Jackson County, with 13,843 claims; Leon County, with 9,944 claims; Gulf County, with 8,177 claims; Gadsden County, with 6,105 claims; Calhoun County, with 4,049 claims; Washington County, with 3,478 claims; Franklin County, with 2,290 claims; Wakulla County, with 1,397 claims; and Liberty County, with 1,161 claims.

Florida Virtual School faces leadership crisis after resignation, investigations, unexpected death” via Lesley Postal, Beth Kassab and Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel — Orlando attorney Frank Kruppenbacher’s ties to former Gov. Scott helped him amass authority at the state-run Florida Virtual School until a clash with its new leader led to his abrupt departure last summer, touching off a crisis at the school considered a national pioneer in online education. Six members of its board of trustees resigned in the past six months, including two last week, and a former executive has called on the state to investigate the administrative turmoil. Accusations against Robert Porter, who took over as the school’s top executive in June and died suddenly last month, have further complicated issues at the Orlando-based school, which received nearly $182 million in taxpayer money last year.

Mike Fasano: State not doing enough to warn drivers about REAL ID requirements” via Noah Pransky for Florida Politics — Pasco Tax Collector Fasano says the state’s tax collectors have been working on getting every Florida adult compliant with the federal REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005. REAL ID-compliant licenses in Florida are denoted with a star in the upper right corner. “It’s going to be a mess next year when people start realizing they have to start to get that gold star,” Fasano warned. “The tax collectors will take the brunt of it when people start realizing this.” Fasano says the state and its contractors stand to make a windfall from drivers who have to pay the additional fee next year to get the REAL ID-compliant license.

Florida is not preparing adequately for the REAL ID rollout, which may fall on the shoulders of tax collectors like Pasco’s Mike Fasano.

More ‘possible graves’ found at Dozier School for Boys” via Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times — The winds of Hurricane Michael might have uncovered another clandestine burial ground inside a thick pine forest on the campus of Florida’s oldest reform school. After clearing downed trees, a company doing pollution cleanup at the old Dozier School for Boys property in Marianna, 60 miles west of Tallahassee, has discovered 27 “anomalies” that could be possible graves about 165 yards outside the reform school’s Boot Hill cemetery. Gov. DeSantis directed Florida agencies to work with Jackson County officials “to develop a path forward,” according to an April 10 letter he sent to Jackson Commission Chairman Clint Pate, which was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.

Funding for court-appointed counsel dries up; JAC can’t pay bills” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Funding for private, court-appointed lawyers, court reporters and investigators handling indigent cases throughout Florida has run out due to a $17.5 million shortfall, Justice Administrative Commission officials said. Because of that statewide shortfall, payment of an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 bills that would have normally been paid over the next two months will not be paid until late May or early June, after the state budget is approved and signed into law. Meanwhile, lawyers and others providing due process services to people who cannot afford legal representation are being asked to continue working without pay.

DOE guard files federal complaint against state, former company, alleging workplace discrimination” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat — Timothy Hightower, who oversaw a small team of guards at the Turlington Building from January 2017 through February, filed a complaint against both the state and his former parent company, G4S Secure Solutions. Their DOE supervisor, Kim Sadler, “subjected his team members to race discrimination and national origin discrimination, creating a hostile work environment,” he said in the complaint filed with the EEOC in Tampa Thursday. Sadler has categorically denied all the allegations against her.

Changing lives: Lauren’s Kids earns 2019 Change Maker Award” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Lauren’s Kids, a foundation started by Sen. Book to give aid to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, is slated to receive a 2019 Change Maker Award from the Child Mind Institute (CMI). CMI is a nonprofit which works with children suffering from mental health or learning disorders. According to the group, the annual Change Maker Awards are given to “people and organizations that are creating real, meaningful change for children” struggling with those disorders. Book’s founding of Lauren’s Kids predates her time in the Legislature. The lawmaker, who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself, started the group in 2007.

Mac Stipanovich, longtime Republican operative, guests on newest “Fluent in Floridian” — He’s known throughout Florida as a Republican cognoscente, so when he penned an open letter to his fellow Republicans in 2016 imploring them to vote for Hillary Clinton, it came as somewhat of a shock. Now he’s left the Republican Party completely. Stipanovich explains why in the latest episode of Fluent in Floridian, with SalterMitchell PR President Heidi Otway. He discusses the state of political rhetoric in America, his involvement in Florida’s political history and the importance of voting (and knowing how to vote). The podcast can be heard here.


Florida GOP boasts 1st quarter fundraising of $5.1M” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — The Republican Party of Florida had a strong first quarter of 2019, bringing in $5.1 million to open the year and the 2020 election cycle. The haul, the first mostly under new Chair Gruters, swamps what the Florida Democratic Party did during the same three-month period. And perhaps more importantly for Gruters’ status, it returns the Republicans to a pattern of strong starts to election cycles after an unusually low performance, for the Florida GOP, in the first quarter of 2017. In the same period, the Florida Democratic Party reported raising $895,055 in cash. However, that’s a pretty typical start for Democrats in the first quarters of new election cycles.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell announces $450,000 raised in 1st quarter” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — In her first fundraising period since becoming a member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Mucarsel-Powell announced that her campaign had raised more than $450,000. Those totals cover the first quarter of 2019. Her campaign says Mucarsel-Powell’s committee, Debbie for Congress, has $420,000 still on hand. Jose Aristimuño, a spokesperson for the committee, issued a statement on the fundraising numbers. “We are thrilled to see that our campaign has kicked off so strongly and is gaining momentum as Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell continues to fight for the people of South Florida,” Aristimuño said.

First-year Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is posting some impressive 1Q fundraising numbers.

Kelly Smith needs to step up fundraising game for HD 38 special election” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — Smith is going to have to start making some significant progress on fundraising efforts if she’s going to have a shot at flipping House District 38 blue this June. The Pasco County Democrat has raised just $13,000 for her bid to replace Danny Burgess in the special election June 18. Her opponent, Randy Maggard, raised $170,000, according to the most recent campaign finance documents. Funding will be a significant issue for Smith this election. She’s running as a Democrat in a deep red district that hasn’t seen a Democrat elected to the Florida House this century, and then some. Smith will likely have to look outside her district for financial support.

Catch up: Democrat Kelly Smith has some ground to make up in fundraising for HD 38.

David Straz’s charitable foundation broke IRS rules on campaigning during Tampa Pride” via Janelle Irwin Taylor of Florida Politics — The David A. Straz Foundation was a presenting sponsor for the parade. That’s no big deal, but the people carrying the foundation’s banner are. A group of about a dozen people supporting Straz in his mayoral bid carried the sign clad in the neon green Straz for Mayor shirts. Some wore campaign buttons supporting Straz’s campaign. Per the IRS’s webpage explaining the restriction, “organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” The Straz campaign sponsored the annual event with at the $10,000 “bronze pirate” level, according to the Tampa Pride website. It could also be a campaign violation.

Disney and Dan DeVos back Buddy Dyer as incumbent opens fundraising advantage” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel — The incumbent mayor raked in $140,685 in campaign contributions last month and Orlando PAC, which is supporting his candidacy, pulled in $166,109. Top PAC contributors were Walt Disney World and Orlando Magic chairman Dan DeVos, the son of the late Amway co-founder Rich DeVos. With the surge of new money in March, Dyer opened up a more than $100,000 lead in contributions over the next highest fundraiser, and the gap widens when including committee funds. Aretha Simons, a Navy veteran and nonprofit consultant, has raised $34,059 and City Commissioner Sam Ings has $16,875, city records show.

Ric Bradshaw quietly raises $77,725 in bid for 5th sheriff term” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post — Bradshaw hasn’t made a formal announcement, but in February he opened a 2020 campaign to seek a fifth term as the county’s top law enforcement officer. He had collected $77,725 in contributions for his re-election campaign through the end of March. Bradshaw mentioned his re-election bid during an award ceremony for volunteers at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. The 71-year-old Bradshaw was first elected to the nonpartisan Palm Beach County Sheriff’s post in 2004. He won a fourth term in 2016 with 65.7 percent of the vote against three challengers.


Sam Mousa retiring as Lenny Curry’s top administrator” via David Bauerlein of the Jacksonville Times-Union — Mousa, the University of Florida alumnus who served in appointed positions for five Jacksonville mayors and wins praise as a master of city government’s inner workings, will be leaving City Hall after four years as chief administrative officer for Curry. “Sam is without question the most skilled city administrator Jacksonville has had in our history, and I believe Sam is one of the best municipal policy experts in the entire nation,” Curry said Thursday in announcing Mousa’s upcoming departure. After a three-month transition period, Mousa’s last day will be June 28. Brian Hughes, chief of staff for Curry, will then become chief administrative officer.

Ex-Port Richey mayor Dale Massad used crack cocaine and meth, new records show” via Justin Trombly of the Tampa Bay Times — The mayor of this small coastal city spent years smoking crack cocaine on a nightly basis and used methamphetamine, too, according to court records obtained by the Tampa Bay TimesDale Massad paid runners to bring him illegal drugs, the records show, and acted as the personal doctor for his pals, suturing their injuries on his kitchen table — all while he held elected office. Those records also reveal what launched the investigation that led to Massad’s arrest on Feb. 21 and his subsequent resignation as mayor: Port Richey City Manager Vincent Lupo and Police Chief Gerard DeCanio reached out to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement last year with reports that Massad was engaged in corruption, drug use and practicing medicine without a license inside his home. Massad had lost his medical license in 1992 over the death of a 3-year-old patient.

Orange teachers want better pay and police, not school employees, armed, poll shows” via Leslie Postal of the Orlando Sentinel — Most Orange County public school teachers are satisfied with the support they get on the job, but they want better pay and they want police officers, not school employees, to carry guns on campus, according to a new poll released today. The poll found 79 percent of teachers satisfied with the “professional and personal support” they receive from Central Florida’s largest school district. When asked what would keep them teaching in Orange schools, 66 percent cited increased pay.

Bay District Schools face massive layoffs of 600 employees without disaster relief from Tallahassee” via Genevieve Smith of the Panama City News Herald — Under a missing patch of ceiling panels in the Nelson Building board room, School Superintendent Bill Husfelt gave an emotional plea Thursday aimed toward Tallahassee representatives for Hurricane Michael relief funding. Without approval of Senate Bill 520, which addresses this year’s funding, and a guarantee for assistance next year, Husfelt said the district will be forced to implement mass layoffs of about 600 employees. The district is projecting a $37.2 million loss in operational cost revenue in addition to the $250 million cost to rebuild schools and repair damage incurred from the storm, with no plan for relief grants or loan programs from the state in sight. Now six months after the storm, Husfelt said the repeated failure of federal and state politicians to pass any major legislation for hurricane relief funds is “mind boggling.” He implored legislators for assistance.

Could Tampa Bay be the future location of Hallmark films? We traveled to a film set to find out” via Elizabeth Djinis of the Tampa Bay Times — The aptly-titled Love in the Sun is the second Hallmark film shot in the Tampa Bay area in the last two months. True Love Blooms, a Hallmark love story featuring Vinoy Park, First Avenue South and a cameo from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman premiered last weekend after a February shoot. The producer of both films, Elayne Schmidt, hopes to create even more films in the area in the next year, although she did not offer any definite details. So why film here? There’s the lush landscape and beautiful weather. But there are also incentives. “Pinellas County and Hillsborough County have been so generous and aggressive in trying to get us here and keep us here,” Schmidt said.

Camera crews in Pinellas County are filming Hallmark’s new movie, ‘ Love in the Sun.’ Could it be the start of a trend? Image via WFTS.

Surterra opens first marijuana dispensary in Monroe County” via Ryan Nicol of Florida Politics — Surterra celebrated the grand opening of a new Wellness Center in Key West Thursday, making it the first marijuana dispensary to open inside Monroe County. “We’re thrilled to officially open the doors to our Key West Wellness Center and further expand access to our first-class suite of products to customers seeking the benefits of medical cannabis,” said Levent Hamdemir, Chief Marketing Officer for Surterra Wellness. “With today’s grand opening, Key West residents will now have a convenient option in their own neighborhood to learn how they can empower their health and wellness through cannabis-based care.”

Assignment editors — The Able Trust will host the Central Florida Regional of its Annual Jeannie Amendola Speech & Research Competition, 10:30 a.m., Celebration Town Hall Room 104, 851 Celebration Avenue, Celebration.


Tweet, tweet:

Bills filed for federal ban on Venezuela contracts” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — New legislation carried by Florida Republicans in both Houses of Congress would stop federal agencies from engaging in … new contracts with companies that contract with current Venezuelan leadership. Existing contracts would be grandfathered in. Sens. Scott and Marco Rubio, each of whom has been vocal about their issues with disputed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, co-introduced the Senate version. U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz is the House sponsor.

Rick Scott spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on the future of Venezuela and ending Mickolás Maduro’s dictatorship.

Assignment editors —The Argus Foundation will host Scott at its Meet the Minds luncheon, 11:15 a.m., Michael’s on East, 1212 East Avenue, Sarasota.

Matt Gaetz taunts Adam Schiff with PENCIL Act” via Emily Kopp of the Daily News — Gaetz wants to codify one of Trump’s taunts into federal law. The Florida Republican filed a bill Wednesday that would boot Schiff from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Greg Steube seeks federal protection for veterans using medical marijuana” via Jacob Ogles of Florida Politics — Steube says veterans shouldn’t lose their benefits for using medically prescribed marijuana. The Sarasota Republican introduced federal legislation to eliminate the risk for former soldiers smoking legal cannabis. “As a veteran, I’m committed to ensuring that veterans receive the care they deserve, and I know that sometimes that care can include medical marijuana,” Steube said. … But President Donald Trump, signing a federal spending bill in February, issued a signing statement reserving the right to enforce federal laws on marijuana.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to stop Trump administration from deporting sponsors of immigrant children” via Anthony Man of the Sun Sentinel —  Wasserman Schultz wants to overturn a Trump administration policy under which potential sponsors of unaccompanied migrant children being held by the government are arrested and deported. Even without the policy, Wasserman Schultz said the children are languishing too long in government facilities.”

Roger Stone’s woes: He’s broke. Donald Trump doesn’t call. And his wife broke her ankle.” via Anthony Man of the Sun-Sentinel — In a wide ranging interview with SiriusXM’s “Jim Norton & Sam Roberts” on Thursday he said his living situation has plummeted, his savings are gone and his car was impounded. When money problems forced Stone and his wife to move from a Fort Lauderdale mansion to a one-room apartment the truck slipped out of gear and broke his wife’s ankle. And he’s no longer talking to his old friend, President Trump. … “I have to pay everything I have to lawyers. And I could no longer pay the rent in the property that I was in. I moved from a nine-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment. Had to do the move myself with my wife renting a truck. On the last day of the move in kind of a freak accident the truck slips out of gear and rolls over my wife’s ankle, breaking it.”

— 2020 —

Pete Buttigieg, gay and Christian, challenges religious right on their own turf” via Jeremy Peters of The New York Times — He is using the language of faith to confront the Christian right on territory they have long claimed as their own. Buttigieg has provoked a backlash from conservatives in the last few days after questioning the moral authority of evangelicals like Vice President Mike Pence who remain silent about Trump’s personal conduct yet disapprove of same-sex marriages and oppose gay rights. A devoted Episcopalian who fluidly quotes Scripture and married his husband, Chasten, Buttigieg is making the argument that marriage is a “moral issue.” In a speech to the Victory Fund, a group that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender politicians, he said his relationship had made him “more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware and more decent.”

Pete Buttigieg, at his wedding with husband Chasten. The South Bend, Indiana, Mayor is challenging the religious right, using their own terms.


Progressive billionaire Tom Steyer isn’t giving up on Florida. 

During a sit-down with the Miami Herald’s David Smiley, Steyer talked 2020 and beyond in the Sunshine State.

“Steyer acknowledges that the results in those two high-profile races were a let-down, calling losses by former Senator Bill Nelson and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum ‘the two most disappointing races in the United States,’” Smiley reports. “But he doesn’t view 2018 as a wash, and still sees Florida as the key to 2020.” 

Pretty penny: Steyer’s spent up to $30 million on Florida through the past five years. So, the fact he hasn’t given up on the Sunshine State should come as welcome news to Florida Democrats and Dem presidential hopefuls. 

Progress?: Steyer has focused his efforts on expanding the voting base. “According to NextGen’s elections analysis of the state’s November voter file, voters under the age of 40 went from casting 18 percent of the vote in 2014 to 24 percent last year, and at the same time supported Democratic candidates over Republicans by a 30-point margin.” 

Shots fired: Unlike some of his Democratic colleagues, Steyer is unhappy with Gov. DeSantis. “The idea that appointing a chief science officer is considered a step forward is ridiculous,” he told Smiley. “He’s a fake environmentalist.”


New Interior secretary should protect Florida from drilling” via the Tampa Bay Times editorial board — With David Bernhardt preparing to become the next U.S. Interior secretary, it falls to Florida’s congressional delegation to ensure Bernhardt’s agenda does not put the state’s coastline at risk. That begins by holding the former energy lobbyist to his predecessor’s promise that Florida would be exempt from the Trump administration’s broad new plan to vastly expand offshore drilling. Unlike other coastal governors at the time, Scott failed to oppose the Trump administration’s drilling plans when they were first proposed. Now he needs to be clear and forceful. Drilling off Florida is a threat to the state’s ecosystem, economy and essential role in maintaining the nation’s military readiness. The state’s congressional delegation needs to speak with a single voice on this point.

Tourism will plummet if anti-immigrant bills get nod from lawmakers” via Thomas Kennedy for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — Florida has a reputation as a top travel destination. Unfortunately, the state Legislature is close to passing a bill that would threaten the welcoming image that Florida has worked hard to foster. As a result, the Florida Immigrant Coalition alongside national partners like the ACLU, United We Dream, and Mi Familia Vota, have issued a travel advisory urging immigrants and people of color to use extreme caution when traveling in Florida. Florida businesses and the state’s economy cannot afford this. It could cost the state more than $3.5 billion in GDP in just one year and an estimated loss of 44,598 workers whose departure will reflect a $1.4 billion loss in wage earnings. State-wide, industries such as construction, food services, hospitality and agriculture will be greatly affected.

Crime survivors want smarter justice policies to make communities safer” via Agnes Furey for the Tallahassee Democrat — Crime survivors are the primary stakeholders in the criminal justice system, and our voices need to be heard in order to produce smarter, more effective public safety policies. I am happy to see that the Florida Legislature has been listening, and Rep. Renner introduced a new bill, JDC 19-02, which passed its first committee. This good bill will reduce wasteful spending in the criminal justice system and help stop the cycle of crime. The bill includes strong steps for strengthening communities and improving public safety. It would end the restrictions that prevent people from earning jobs in fields like barbering, construction and cosmetology after they have completed the terms of an old conviction. A job is a life-stabilizing opportunity that decreases a person’s likelihood to re-offend. Removing obstacles for people to work can reduce recidivism and create safer, stronger communities.


Political strategist Eric Foglesong arrested, accused of stealing $20K from pro-John Mina PAC” via Jeff Weiner and Michael Williams of the Orlando Sentinel — Foglesong co-founded the “Citizens for Safety and Justice” PAC, which supported former Orlando Police Chief Mina in his successful bid for sheriff. In what FDLE Special Agent Supervisor Daniel Warren described as a “very basic theft,” Foglesong is accused of taking two blank checks meant to be used to pay for election mailers — one worth $450, the other worth $3,000 — and making them out to a family member instead, and then cashing them himself. Foglesong, through his Focus Strategies firm, is also accused of submitting invoices to the PAC for digital campaign ads, which were supposed to be completed by a separate advertising contractor.

New and renewed lobbying registrations:

Barney Bishop, Barney Bishop Consulting: Citizens for Responsible Spending, Hendry County Sheriff’s Office

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: Monroe County Board of County Commissioners

Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: Florida Realtors

Richard Coates, Tidewater Consulting: Cigar Association

Marc Dunbar, Dean Mead: City of Panama City

Teye Reeves, Smith Bryan & Myers: United Healthcare Services

Chris Smith, Tripp Scott: Southern Citrus Nursery Corporation, Southern Gardens Citrus Groves Corporation, Southern Gardens Citrus Holding Corporation, Southern Gardens Citrus Processing Corporation, United States Sugar Corporation

Alan Williams, Meenan: American Property Casualty Insurance Association


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

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Moderator Rob Lorei hosts a roundtable panel with Tampa Bay Times Senior Deputy Editor for News Amy Hollyfield; University of South Florida St. Petersburg Emeritus Professor of Government Darryl Paulson; political consultant Mark Proctor; and Sheryl Wilson, immediate past chair, Manatee County Democratic Party.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion of tax transparency and an exploration of legislative proposals and potential implications on taxpayers in Florida. Joining Walker-Torres are state Sen. Gruters; state Rep. Anna Eskamani; Sean Snaith, director, Institute for Economic Competitiveness UCF; and Robert Weissert, executive vice president, Florida Tax Watch.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: This week’s show features the Tampa mayoral runoff election; state Rep. Susan Valdes will discuss her experience as a new member in Tallahassee. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter will rate a claim made by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris on tax refunds and the GOP tax law.

Politics on Your Side with Evan Donovan on News Channel 8 WFLA (NBC): Donovan speaks with Tampa mayoral candidate Jane Castor.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Gary Yordon speaks with Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests are Dr. Michael Binder of the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory; Jacksonville City Council District 14 candidates Randy DeFoor (Republican) and Sunny Gettinger (Democrat).


Lightning look for a reboot — The Tampa Bay Lightning may be overwhelming favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but color the Columbus Blue Jackets unimpressed.

Columbus spotted the host Lightning a 3-goal lead after one period in the opening playoff game at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, then roared back for a stunning 4-3 win. The Lightning, which tied a National Hockey League record with 62 regular-season wins, had not lost in the last 106 games where it held a 3-goal lead, according to the NHL Network.

Hopefully, the Tampa Bay Lightning will learn a lesson from Game 1 and apply that tonight.

“We have a 3-0 lead at home in the playoffs; it should be done and over with,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.

The Lightning came into the game with the best home-ice record in the NHL this season. They had beaten Columbus all three times they played by a combined 17-3 margin.

None of that mattered.

Game 2 is tonight at 7 in Tampa.

— ALOE —

How to get caught up on Game of Thrones — fast” via Chaim Gartenberg of The Verge — Watch “The Dragon and the Wolf.” The Season 7 finale is a good place to start if you want to remember where we left off. It’s less of a finale than a prologue for season 8. The internet’s cottage GoT industry is booming, and YouTube is full of helpful videos to remind you of where everyone is and what they’re doing. When in doubt, check Wikipedia or the Game of Thrones Wiki, both of which have extremely in-depth recaps of individual episodes and entire seasons. Or, just watch season 7 again. This isn’t technically “quick,” but the previous season is only seven episodes long, which means you should be able to make it through pretty quickly before Sunday night’s premiere of Season 8.

There’s still time to get caught up on Game of Thrones before Sunday’s premiere. Here’s how.

’Game of Thrones’ final season, 9 burning questions about the inevitable end” via Josh Wigler of the Hollywood Reporter — 1. Who will win the Iron Throne? 2. Will there even be an Iron Throne? 3. What if the White Walkers win? 4. What if Cersei Lannister wins? 5. How much heartache should we expect? 6. Wait a minute, dial it back: Zombie Hodor? 7. What are the odds we see Lady Stoneheart? 8. Are six episodes enough to finish the story? 9. But what if the ending is terrible? Honestly, for some fans, it’s going to be worse than terrible. When GoT concludes, there will be an inevitable contingent of viewers who are repelled by how GoT creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss ended the tale. Of course, there will be another contingent of fans, the ones who absolutely loved the ending.

How will George R.R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ really end, for readers?” via Andrew Dalton of The Associated Press — The plotlines of the show have long since shot past what’s in Martin’s books, whose own finale may be many years away. While the endings will likely be similar, Martin could take a very different path to get there, making the coming end of the HBO show with its showdown between the humans of Westeros and the invading White Walkers possibly just a preview. The show premiered in 2011, the same year Martin’s fifth book in his “A Song of Fire and Ice” series was released. Fans have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, for the sixth, “The Winds of Winter,” ever since, and many wonder whether the 70-year-old author will live long enough to finish all seven planned books in the series.

A guide to roasting Bran Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8” via Alison Foreman of Mashable — Look. It’s OK that you hate Bran. We all hate Bran. He’s a whiny, self-centered narrative time suck with the character depth of a wooden post who regularly threatens to unravel the very fabric of the GoT universe with his dumb bird powers. He sucks, full stop. Step #1: Be specific with your grievances: Don’t be boring. Bran is boring enough on his own! Step #2: Get creative with your Bran death fantasies. Step #3: Remember, Bran is not Isaac Hempstead-Wright‘s fault: Hempstead-Wright is a perfectly wonderful, blossoming actor destined for wonderful post-Thrones things. Step #4: Recall that Martin is 100 percent responsible for this monstrosity of a character. Step #5: Have faith that Bran will be dead soon enough.

Haters gonna hate: Bran Stark — the Game of Thrones character everyone loves to hate.

Was ‘Game of Thrones’ supposed to mean anything? Only if you wanted it to.” via Hank Stuever of The Washington Post — “Game of Thrones” will go down as the TV drama of our time (certainly of the 2010s), yet purists oppose any effort to contextualize a show that was conceived and launched in the early Obama years. How can something so long in the making, set so safely apart from our present reality, be misconstrued as topical? Usually, I might agree. It can also ruin the fun. As a critic, I encouraged people to watch however they like, so long as they watch it, so long as they give themselves a chance to be part of its moment. Watch it intellectually if you must, paying rapt attention to every detail. Watch it with arms folded, deploring its bloody violence, and sexual depravity triggers galore. Or watch it casually, as you would any TV show.


Also celebrating today are Kim RiversJared Rosenstein, the legislative affairs director at the Division of Emergency Management and former Rep. Joe Saunders. Early birthday wishes to Rep. Sam Killebrew, Chris Chaney of The Advocacy Group and political consultant Todd Pressman.

Sunburn is authored and assembled by Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, Dan McAuliffe, 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 Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Phone: (727) 642-3162
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St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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