Takeaways from Tallahassee — Run This Town

Blue Tally Takeaways (4)
It’s not just all about the Top 5.

Honorable mentions

The state’s biggest lobbying firms may be scooping up well over $2 million a quarter, but there’s still plenty of work to go around for the rest of the lobby corps.

In fact, many of the firms lingering just outside the Top 5 are putting up numbers that could go toe-to-toe with the bluebloods if team size is considered. Here’s a rundown of how the rest of the firms in the Top 15 fared in legislative lobbying revenues last quarter.

But first, a primer. Florida Politics estimates how much firms earn based on the middle number of the per-client ranges they list on their compensation reports. Contracts are reported in $10,000 increments. Compensation reports also include firm-level ranges, which can give outsiders a rough idea of their minimum and maximum earnings.

Florida lobbyists and lobbying firms faced a Aug. 14 deadline to file compensation reports for the period covering April 1 through July 31. Compensation reports for the third quarter are due to the state on Nov. 14.

The following firms made a name for themselves, too, this past quarter.

No. 6: Greenberg Traurig

The team at Greenberg Traurig represented 90 clients and earned an estimated $1.1 million in the first quarter.

The team of Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Elizabeth Dudek, Samantha Ferrin, Fred Karlinsky and Timothy Stanfield submitted a legislative compensation report that was topped by five clients that paid $45,000 apiece: Baptist Health South Florida, Centauri Specialty Insurance, the Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers and Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance Company and Risk Management Solutions.

A half-dozen other clients were marked down at $35,000 on the legislative side. One of those clients was the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which is still battling the federal government over the new Gaming Compact allowing them to oversee sports betting in the state. The Tribe saw progress on that front this week when the U.S. Department of Interior filed a brief in support of the deal.

Two clients followed at the $25,000 level, and 30 at the $15,000 level. The remainder of Greenberg Traurig’s legislative clients were listed in the up-to-$10,000 range.

The bottom line of the firm’s legislative report shows the firm earned at least $1 million lobbying lawmakers, but the firm may have earned as much as $1.48 million.

No. 7: Metz Husband & Daughton

The eight-member team at Metz Husband & Daughton also posted a $1 million-plus report for Q2.

Warren Husband and James Daughton worked alongside lobbyists Doug Bell, Leslie Dughi, Allison Liby-Schoonover, Aimee Lyon, Andy Palmer and Karl Rasmussen to represent 88 clients, including one who broke through the cap on range reporting.

Amscot Financial paid the firm $51,000 for help in the Legislature. The Tampa-based company is best known for its check cashing and payday loan products, though it offers a range of other financial services such as money orders, wire transfers and notary services.

The firm’s No. 2 client was Attorneys’ Title Fund Services, which paid $35,000. It was followed by 10 clients at the $25,000 level, including Disney and General Motors.

Several well-known brands were also among the 39 clients listed in the $15,000 bracket. They included Avis Budget Group, Bristol-Myers Squibb, eBay, Microsoft, TikTok and StubHub.

The overall range listed on MHD’s report shows it earned at least $1 million in legislative lobbying pay. At the top end, the firm could have earned $1.4 million.

No. 8: Corcoran Partners

The team at Corcoran Partners netted just shy of $1 million lobbying the Legislature last quarter.

Michael Corcoran and lobbyists Jacqueline Corcoran, Matt Blair, Helen Levine, Bethany McAlister, Will Rodriguez, and Andrea Tovar juggled 87 clients during the three-month reporting period, including a pair that crossed the $50,000 mark.

The team’s top contract was with Fontainebleau Development, a South Florida-based luxury real estate development company behind the eponymous Fontainebleau Miami Beach and several other well-known hotels and resorts. It paid Corcoran Partners $68,000.

The No. 2 spot belonged to Merlin Law Group, a Tampa-based law firm that represents property owners in insurance claim litigation nationwide.

The Florida Optometric Association, one of the belligerents in the long-running “Eyeball Wars,” as well as The Big Easy Casino, a South Florida gaming venue, each chipped in $35,000 for the quarter.

Several major corporations — including some Fortune 500 companies — were listed further down on the report. Walmart, Verizon and Coca-Cola are but three examples.

Corcoran Partners’ overall range shows it collected between $500,000 and $1 million in legislative lobbying fees, and contract sizes indicate it was closer to the ceiling than the floor.

No. 9: Rubin, Turnbull & Associates

Lobbying firm Rubin, Turnbull & Associates tallied an estimated $886,000 in legislative lobbying fees during the reporting period.

Led by Bill Rubin and Heather Turnbull, the firm represented 78 legislative clients in Q2 and reported earning between $500,000 and $1 million for its efforts.

In addition to the named partners, Rubin Turnbull’s second-quarter team included Melissa Akeson, Jacqueline Carmona, Erica Chanti, Jodi Bock Davidson, Chris Finkbeiner, Zach Hubbard, Matthew Sacco and Sharonda Wright-Placide.

Their legislative report listed 78 clients. HCA Healthcare was at the top on the list with $56,000 in pay, which exceeds the cap on range reporting.

Agriculture powerhouse Florida Crystals and Charter Communications, the No. 2 cable TV and internet provider behind only Comcast, followed at the $35,000 level alongside The Richman Group of Florida and Twelvetrees Three.

Other major companies represented by Rubin Turnbull & Associates include health insurer Aetna, cruise giant Carnival Corporation, both of which paid $25,000 for the quarter.

No. 10: Smith Bryan & Myers

Smith Bryan & Myers rounded out the top 10 with an estimated $815,000 earned lobbying the House and Senate.

Led by Matt Bryan, the firm’s roster includes Teye Carmichael, David Daniel, Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley and Jim Naff. They represented 84 clients in the Legislature, where they earned during the April-through-June reporting period.

The top of SBM’s legislative compensation report showed two clients that paid $35,000 apiece — the Hillsborough County Commission and JM Family Enterprises.

Three clients followed at the $25,000 level, including The Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, which led the opposition to this year’s alimony reform bill, which was vetoed by the Governor in late June.

Another 30 contracts measured in at $15,000. Several of those companies hailed from the health care industry, including the Florida Health Care Association, the Florida Hospital Association and Johnson & Johnson.

Other notable clients at the $15,000 level last quarter included the National Football League, Publix and the University of Florida.

Overall, SBM reported between $500,000 and $1 million in incomes lobbying the Legislature. Per-client pay ranges indicate it may have come close to the upper limit.

No. 11: Anfield Consulting

The half-dozen lobbyists at Anfield Consulting cracked the top-15 with second-quarter earnings of $725,000.

The report filed by Al Balido, Frank Bernardino, Rosanna Manuela Catalano, Brett Cyphers, Natalie Fausel and Edgar Fernandez lists 56 contracts, with their representation of claims-bill client Kareem Hawari being the most lucrative.

In 2010, a 13-year-old Hawari was wrestling in a school tournament in Osceola County. His opponent slammed him to the mat and Kareem suffered brain damage, according to a relief bill that sought $3.5 million in compensation. It was approved in the 2022 Legislative Session.

The Polk County Commission and WSP showed up at the $35,000 level with an additional seven clients dishing $25,000 to the lobbying firm in Q2.

That set included the Indian River County Commission, Premier Manufacturing Products, Resource Environmental Solutions, Sea and Shoreline and Thriller Tours. Despite the Halloween-esque name, the latter client offers speedboat tours of the Miami area.

Anfield Consulting reported earning between $500,000 and $1 million for the quarter. Top end estimates show it may have earned as much as $940,000.

No. 12: Johnson & Blanton

Johnson & Blanton finished the second quarter with $660,000 in legislative earnings.

Led by Jon Johnson and Travis Blanton, the firm’s Q1 team also included lobbyists Diane Wagner Carr, Darrick McGhee and Eric Prutsman. They represented 80 clients last quarter.

Team J&B’s top legislative clients last quarter were Advent Health and the Florida Hospital Association.

Advent Health and FHA both stand to benefit from a budget item in the 2022 Legislative Session that directs $125 million to training and recruitment programs addressing the nursing shortage in Florida. Both paid J&B $35,000 for the quarter.

Team J&B represents several other health care interests and has cultivated a reputation as one of the top health care lobbying firms in the state.

The firm also represents several major non-health care interests, such as Bank of America, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Retail Federation.

The bottom line of Johnson & Blanton’s report shows it earned between $500,000 and $1 million in Q2. Using the top end of per-client ranges, the firm could have earned the full $1 million.

No. 13: Becker & Poliakoff

Becker & Poliakoff also reported $660,000 in legislative lobbying revenues across its 75 contracts.

The team of Ellyn Bogdanoff, Bernie Friedman, Jose Fuentes, Yolanda Cash Jackson, Jason King, Max Losner, Nicholas Matthews and LaToya Sheals handled a pair of contracts in the $35,000 range.

The first was Miami’s municipal government and the other was Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a Boston-based company that is a component of the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100. Atlantic Sapphire USA, Bethune Cookman University, Florida Memorial University and Homesafe1st followed at the $25,000 level.

Two dozen other principals were listed in the $10,000 to $20,000 pay range, including a cohort of local governments in South Florida such as the city governments for Cape Coral, Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale and South Miami.

Some recognizable names were also listed among Becker’s set of up-to-$10,000 clients. They included AT&T, Florida Poly and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

Becker’s legislative report fell into the $500,000 to $1 million range. Based on per-client ranges, the firm could have earned as much as $940,000.

No. 14: Floridian Partners

The six-person team at Floridian Partners earned an estimated $655,000 lobbying the legislative branch last quarter.

Lobbyists Jorge Chamizo, Charles Dudley, George Feijoo, Cory Guzzo, Gary Guzzo and Melissa Ramba represented 74 clients in Q2.

Two $35,000-level clients topped their report: the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida Internet & Television, a statewide trade association that represents several telecommunications providers including Charter Communications, Comcast and Cox.

A half-dozen clients followed at the $25,000 level. They included Allstate Insurance Company, Florida Gulf Coast University, the Florida Insurance Council, Hart InterCivic, Total Wine & More and Rock Central.

Other well-known clients on their list included Anheuser-Busch, Anthem, the Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Realtors, Liberty Mutual, Uber, Duke Energy and U.S. Sugar.

Floridian Partners’ overall earnings fell within the $500,000 to $1 million range, with their top end estimate coming in at $880,000.

No. 15: The Mayernick Group

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick and Rob Johnson represented 53 clients in the House and Senate last quarter, pulling in an estimated $605,000 in legislative lobbying pay.

The trio represented 53 clients in the Legislature. The biggest payday came from Burrell Diversified Investments, which paid $35,000 for the quarter. Alkermes, Citrus Health Network, the Florida State University Foundation, HCA Healthcare and The Home Depot each provided The Mayernick Group with $25,000 in retainers.

Just over half of the clients on the firm’s legislative report were listed in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. The set included major corporations such as AT&T as well as a handful of statewide professional groups such as the Florida Behavioral Health Association, Florida Health Care Association and Florida Medical Association.

Other notable names on the list include Anheuser-Busch Companies and bestbet Jacksonville, a gaming outlet that offers poker, simulcast wagering and other pari-mutuel fare.

Firm-level ranges show The Mayernick Group earned between $500,000 and $1 million in the Legislature. The firm’s top-end estimate for Q2 is $810,000.

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Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Aimee Sachs, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Florida makes voter fraud arrests — In the first major development out of Florida’s new elections investigation unit, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced charges and arrests against 20 individuals over voter fraud allegations. The announcement comes just days ahead of Florida’s Primary Election. The suspects are felons who had previously been convicted of murder or sexual assault and had their right to vote removed, DeSantis said. The measure immediately received public outcry from Democrats, and Sen. Jeff Brandes, the St. Petersburg Republican who helped craft Amendment 4, said his intent was for the state to grant “some grace” to felons if they registered without intent to commit fraud.

Andrew Warren challenges suspension — The Hillsborough County State Attorney, who DeSantis suspended from office this month, is suing to be reinstated. In the suit, Warren claims DeSantis is violating his First Amendment rights and overstepped his authority by suspending him. It also notes Warren hasn’t received an abortion-related case to prosecute and claims DeSantis’ action is political retaliation for signing a petition saying he wouldn’t prosecute abortion-related cases. The lawsuit puts the Senate’s review of his suspension on pause. Senate rules state suspension reviews must be put on hold while any legal case surrounding the suspension plays out.

Judge blocks workplace portion of ‘Stop WOKE’ — A federal judge flayed a measure supported by DeSantis, likening the court’s decision to Eleven, the kinetic teen seeking to save her hometown from supernatural forces in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued a preliminary injunction Thursday on a portion of the new “Stop WOKE” law that deals with workforce training, citing First Amendment concerns. In his ruling, Walker compared Florida to a “new upside down” — an alternate universe populated by demons and monsters in the blockbuster show — in a ruling stopping enforcement of a new law, dubbed the “Stop WOKE Act” by DeSantis and its supporters.

State economists push revenue forecast up $5.3B — Continued strong sales tax collections led Florida state economists to increase their predictions for how much revenue the state will receive over the next two fiscal years by $5.3 billion. That’s despite fears ballooning inflation and higher interest rates will put a significant crimp on the economy next year. The increase still reflects a decrease in anticipated revenues for the current fiscal year by nearly $1 billion. With fears of a looming recession, economists struggled with when that downturn will hit, how deep it will go and how swiftly the state will rebound.

DeSantis: IRS expansion is ‘middle finger’ to Americans — Florida’s Governor says Washington Democrats are “going after you” with plans for 87,000 new IRS employees as part of the Inflation Reduction Act President Joe Biden signed Tuesday. “Of all the things that have come out of Washington that have been outrageous, this has got to be pretty close to the top,” DeSantis said. “I think it was basically just the middle finger to the American public, that this is what they think of you.”

Michael recovery

Northwest Florida is getting another $3.8 million for Hurricane Michael recovery thanks to a new distribution from DeSantis and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

The funding covers five projects through the department’s Rebuild Florida Hazard Mitigation Grant Match Program. The projects will construct, rehabilitate and expand critical infrastructure impacted by Hurricane Michael in October 2018.

The Michael recovery money keeps on rolling for the Panhandle.

“Northwest Florida has worked hard to recover since Hurricane Michael struck nearly four years ago, but there is more work to be done to help these communities strengthen their resiliency,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Through the Rebuild Florida Hazard Mitigation Grant Match Program, communities in the Panhandle are able to harden their infrastructure and take another step toward a complete recovery.”

The bulk of the funding goes to Bay County, which received $2.5 million to pave and install drainage for 22 unpaved roads for safer emergency evacuation routes. More than 100,000 residents drive those roads.

The next tranche goes to Chipola College, which received $1.2 million to harden infrastructure for an emergency shelter and housing for emergency responders.

Cottondale earned two rounds of spending for new generators. One is $45,000 to install generators at three critical facilities while the second is $20,000 for a generator at the city’s Sprayfield Pump Station.

Havana also drew down $27,000 for a generator to provide backup power to lift stations, the fire department and the police station.

“Governor DeSantis is committed to helping communities recover from Hurricane Michael and strengthen their infrastructure to withstand future storms. These efforts will keep their residents safe and drive economic development,” DEO Secretary Dane Eagle said. “DEO is proud to work alongside our federal, state, and local partners to secure available resources to help Florida communities recover and remain strong for generations to come.”

Drag him to jail

A Tallahassee caregiver was arrested and charged with one count of abuse of an elderly or disabled adult this week for allegedly dragging an adult with developmental disabilities by the hair.

According to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office, Makala Malcolm’s actions tore several braids from the victim’s head leaving a bald spot as well as a red, bloody scalp.

Ashley Moody is appalled by the caregiver’s actions.

The patient lived in an intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled that was owned by Sunrise Community Inc. There are seven ICFDDs in Tallahassee that are owned by Sunrise Community, Inc. according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

Malcolm was arrested by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office Aug. 17 for the alleged assault. If convicted of the charge, a third-degree felony, Malcolm could face up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

“This is appalling. Caregivers are supposed to nurture their patients, not rip out their hair,” Moody said in a prepared release. “Thankfully, my Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigators and local law enforcement stopped this suspect before more harm could be done.”

Located in the AG’s office, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates and prosecutes providers that intentionally bilk Medicaid, a safety net health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled funded jointly by the state and federal governments.

The MFCU also investigates patient abuse, neglect, and exploitation in facilities receiving payments under the Medicaid program. Three-quarters of the $27.7 million to fund MFCU, comes from the federal government. Florida covers about 25% of the costs which amounts to just under $7 million.

According to the release, the MFCU has obtained more than $138 million in settlements and judgments since January 2019, when Moody took office.

Kudos

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried praised Biden this week for signing sweeping legislation to lower drug prices, combat climate change and lower the federal deficit.

“I applaud Democrats of both chambers and President Biden on this momentous occasion. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act is a victory for all of us. With significant investments in clean energy, forestry, agriculture, rural communities, and more — it is the largest, most meaningful step our country has ever taken to confront the climate crisis,” Fried said in a news release.

“We all know Florida is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This legislation is necessary for the safety of all our communities, the immediate protection of our coastal communities, and the continuation of our state’s unique biodiversity.”

Nikki Fried says the Inflation Reduction Act did a lot of good. Image via Scott Powers.

The Inflation Reduction Act will direct $370 billion toward efforts to tackle climate change, including funding for clean energy manufacturing jobs and tax credits for clean energy development and electric vehicles.

The spending will be offset by an expected $737 billion increase in tax collections, including through a 15% minimum tax on corporations and stricter IRS tax enforcement — a provision that has drawn harsh criticism from Republicans, including CFO Jimmy Patronis.

An additional $64 billion will be used to extend the Affordable Care Act. Notably, that section of the law is expected to make an additional 543,000 Floridians eligible for Obamacare policies. The legislation will also limit co-payments for insulin to $35 starting next year and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain prescription drugs starting in 2026.

Work comp fraud

Thirteen unlicensed contractors in Pasco County were arrested as part of a workers’ compensation sting operation involving Patronis’ office, the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

John Walden, Hector Vasquez, Jason Norris, Daniel Parenti, Wayne Loveless, Leonard Bame, Ratko Saranovic, Christopher Casey, Avery Briggs, Stacey Briggs, Michael Workman, Raimundo Vargas and Gary Wright were booked into the Pasco County Jail on charges that include failing to obtain workers’ compensation coverage and unlicensed contracting.

Jimmy Patronis and federal and local partners are helping bring fraudsters to justice. Image via CFO’s Office.

The charges carry up to a five-year prison term.

“Workers’ compensation fraud places employees, customers, and businesses at unnecessary risk. Fraud also affects everyone’s rates and increases costs. This type of fraud is unethical and dangerous and absolutely will not be tolerated in our state,” Patronis said in a prepared release.

“Cracking down on fraud is my top priority and my dedicated fraud detectives have made more than 1,500 arrests for workers’ compensation fraud since I’ve been in office. I applaud the great teamwork between my fraud team, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the NICB, and the State Attorney’s Office on this successful sting operation and for holding these fraudsters accountable.”

The sting operation was conducted between April 18 and April 28.

“The primary focus of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office is keeping our community safe and reducing victimization. This includes keeping our citizens safe from those who perpetuate fraud. As the Sheriff of Pasco County, my department and I will continue to fight fraud and bring these unscrupulous actors to justice,” Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

Instagram of the Week

The Week in Appointments

Florida Center for Nursing Board of Directors — The Governor named 10 new members to the board in a bulk announcement. Annmarie Chavarria is the chief nursing officer at Tampa General Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Holy Family University, her master’s degree in nursing from Drexel University, and her doctorate in nursing practice from LaSalle University. Kristina Cloversettle is nurse manager at Advent Health Dade City Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing and psychology from the University of South Florida. Julianne Colle is a surgical specialist at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Florida State University. Mary Anne Enns is a practical nursing instructor with the School District of Lee County. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Winnipeg Bible College, her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Viterbo University, her master’s degree in nursing from Chamberlain College of Nursing, and is currently completing her doctorate in nursing practice at Post University. Michele Heston is the Dean of Health Science at South Florida State College. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from USF, her master’s degree in nursing from Clarkson College, and her doctorate in educational leadership and higher education administration from Barry University. Robert Keiser is the Chancellor and CEO of Keiser University and owner and vice chairman of Southeastern College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in international affairs and his MBA from The George Washington University and his doctorate in higher education leadership from Capella University. Louisana Louis is the Dean of the College of Nursing at St. Petersburg College and owner of Prestige Health and Wellness. Louis earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from USF, her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Phoenix, and her doctorate in nursing from Chatham University. Robin McGuinness is the senior executive officer and chief nurse executive of West Florida with AdventHealth. McGuinness earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, her master’s degree in nursing from the University of Hartford, and her doctorate in nursing from FSU. Jacqueline Munro is the VP of nursing systems and resources with BayCare Health System. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Tampa and her master’s degree and doctorate in nursing science from USF. Suzanne Wilson is the practical nursing director and instructor for Riveroak Technical College. Wilson earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Excelsior College and her master’s degree in nursing education from Western Governors University.

Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County — DeSantis appointed Melissa Raburn and Stacie Wardto the Coalition. Raburn, of Lithia, is a real estate agent for Fischbach Land Company. She was previously an Agriculture Teacher for the School District of Hillsborough County and currently serves as a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Realtors Land Institute, and the Florida Farm Bureau Federation. Raburn earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and communication from UF. Ward, of Odessa, manages Vitreo Retinal Surgeons. She has also served as a substitute teacher at elementary and middle schools. She earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from UF and her law degree from the University of California.

Pinellas County Housing Authority — DeSantis has placed Chloe Firebaugh, Veronica Hickey, Wayne Mineo, and Alen Tomczak on the Authority. Firebaugh is the senior director of land acquisition for M/I Homes of Tampa. Firebaugh earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UF and a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from USF. Hickey is an Attorney with Englander Fisher. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from West Chester University and her law degree from Stetson University. Mineo is the owner of Mineo and Associates and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Canisius College, his law degree from California Western School, and his master of laws degree in trial advocacy from Temple University. Tomczak is an account executive at Cellebrite and a U.S. Army veteran who currently serves in the Florida National Guard. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USF.

Holmes County Hospital Corporation — DeSantis appointed Amanda Eldridge and Martha Robertson to HCHC on Friday. Eldridge, of Ponce de Leon, is the director of operations for School Financial Services, VP of the Holmes County Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Holmes County Council on Aging. Goodman, of Bonifay, is a pharmacist at Golden Drugs, a member of the Florida Pharmacy Association, and previously served as a member of the Chipola Junior College Board of Trustees. She earned her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of Florida. DeSantis also reappointed Martha Robertson, a former consultant nurse for Sun Health Care and Clear Choice who previously worked for the Collier County and Bay County health departments. She earned her nursing degree from Gilfoy School of Nursing.

That’s a lot of money

More than $400 million is available to expand broadband in communities across the state and DEO wants to know what people think about its proposed rule to distribute the funds.

To that end, the DEO’s Office of Broadband has scheduled regional workshops next week in Polk, Sarasota and Glades counties to hear from the public on how the funding can be used to expand broadband services in unserved communities across the state.

How is the broadband rollout going? Dane Eagle wants to know.

The Florida Legislature in 2021 directed DEO to establish and conduct rulemaking for the Broadband Opportunity Program.

“Broadband infrastructure is vital to strengthening local communities as it plays a critical role in how we connect to our jobs, health care, and education,” Eagle said in a prepared release. “We encourage community stakeholders to join us at the upcoming workshops on rulemaking for the Broadband Opportunity Program to share their insights.”

The first workshop is scheduled for Aug. 22 in Polk County at the UF/IFAS Extension Office at the Stuart Center in Bartow. A second workshop will be held Aug. 25 at the UF/IFAS Extension Office Santa Rosa County in Milton. The third workshop will be on Aug. 29 at the Doyle Conner Building of the UF/IFAS Extension Office Glades County in Moore Haven.

The workshops begin at 3 p.m. and end at 6 p.m.

Preserve and restore

In the coming weeks, the Museum of Florida History will temporarily close as part of ongoing renovations at the Department of State’s R. A. Gray Building.

The renovations are part of a repair project on the plaza level above the Museum’s exhibit galleries, with full closures beginning after Labor Day.

Get ready to wave goodbye to the Museum of Florida History, for now. Image via Museum of Florida History.

“As Florida’s official state history museum, we take great pride in preserving our artifacts and sharing them with the public,” Secretary of State Cord Byrd said in a statement. “Artifacts in the Museum’s collection are an important part of Florida’s irreplaceable heritage. They will be removed from the exhibit galleries as a precautionary measure and will be back on display for the public when the museum reopens.”

Special care is being taken to preserve and protect the artifacts on display in the Museum. As a result, the Museum must remove all artifacts from beneath the construction area.

Certain areas will remain open through Labor Day, including Florida’s First People, the Waterways exhibit featuring the recreated steamboat, Grandma’s Attic, and the special temporary exhibit The Lure of Florida Fishing. However, some exhibits in the Museum have already closed in preparation for the project, and artifacts have been removed in other areas.

Other Tallahassee history sites like the Mission San Luis Historic Site and The Grove Museum will remain open, and the Museum of Florida History will continue its virtual programming.

Small systems, big problems

Small water and wastewater utilities face some big problems, members of the Public Service Commission were told this week.

Florida Rural Water Association Executive Director Gary Willams told the PSC members about the challenges FRWA members face — including aging infrastructure and tougher regulations — and how the association assists them in delivering quality water to their customers’ taps.

The PSC is concerned about your water quality.

Williams said the FRWA provides technical assistance and training and has ten professional water field personnel who provide onsite assistance with water treatment, distribution, quality, and compliance issues. Water equipment — such as chlorine meters, fire hydrant gauges, backflow test kits, and ground penetrating radar units — is also available to members at no charge, Williams told the PSC Tuesday.

“Water utilities rely on their infrastructure and water treatment facilities to provide customers with safe drinking water,” PSC Chairman Andrew Giles Fay said in a prepared release. “The FRWA continues to work with many of the state’s small public water and wastewater utilities to help ensure system reliability in every phase of their operations.”

The Commission also discussed the recent implementation of the Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP). This federally funded program, administered by DEO, assists low-income-qualified families with water and wastewater costs.

Lawmakers and order

The Florida Police Chiefs Association named eight Republican lawmakers as 2022 Legislators of the Year.

The honors, gifted during an awards banquet during the FPCA’s 70th Annual Summer Training Conference and Exposition, recognize lawmakers who helped deliver the organization’s top priorities this year.

Wilton Simpson has been a major asset for the Florida Police Chiefs Association. Image via FPCA.

“Every year, the Florida Police Chiefs Association honors those legislators who, through hard work and dedication, demonstrate their commitment to the betterment of law enforcement and public safety in Florida,” said FPCA President and Fellsmere Police Department Chief Keith Touchberry.

“This year, we applaud each of these Senators and Representatives for passing legislation that improves officers’ lives and their families’ lives by recognizing the hard work of law enforcement, and expanding the time to seek and receive potentially life-changing mental health treatment.”

The awardees are Senate President Wilton Simpson, Sens. Jennifer Bradley and Danny Burgess, House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Reps. Mike Giallombardo, Jason Fischer, Tom Leek and Josie Tomkow.

Bradley, Burgess, Giallombardo and Fischer sponsored FPCA’s top legislative priority (HB 689). The measure expands the time for a first responder to report post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits and treatment.

Leek and Tomkow helped carry measures (HJR 1/HB 1563) to provide an additional $50,000 homestead property tax exemption for first responders. The constitutional amendment must be approved by voters this November.

As the two top legislative leaders, Simpson and Sprowls helped pass all those measures and more, including a measure to boost law enforcement recruitment and retention (HB 3). FPCA has also endorsed Simpson’s bid for Agriculture Commissioner.

“I’m honored that as one of my last acts as president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, I gave our Legislator of the Year awards to this distinguished group of public servants,” said FPCA Immediate Past President Stephan Dembinsky, director of the Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department.

Recovery summit

The Florida Association of Managing Entities and Floridians for Recovery assembled this week to discuss the role of peer specialists in helping others recover from substance use disorder.

The organizations met in Orlando on Tuesday to discuss best practices for the community support of individuals in recovery.

Jennifer Webb, managing entities and Floridians for Recovery are teaming up to benefit vulnerable Floridians.

“Floridians for Recovery looks forward to working alongside the Florida Association of Managing Entities,” said Floridians for Recovery Executive Director Jennifer Webb, a former state Representative. “This collaboration is important toward our efforts to increase access to peer-based recovery services, reduce barriers to further integrating recovery into our system of care, and ensure bills like the peer specialist bill are integrated with the spirit of connection and the impact of empathy fostered when one person in recovery works with another person newer on their pathway of recovery.”

Florida’s seven local Managing Entities work with a network of over 300 behavioral health care providers who deliver services to approximately 300,000 of Florida’s most vulnerable residents, including children, expectant mothers, veterans and the homeless. Providers meet patients’ diverse needs with “wraparound services” that not only address mental health issues and substance use disorder, but also assist with housing, transportation, and employment.

“By meeting with Floridians for Recovery, we’re able to share best practices for recovery and how to help people stay on their pathway of recovery through various efforts,” said Natalie Kelly, CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities. “The peer specialist bill last Session went a long way toward supporting those in recovery by removing barriers for more people to become peers. The peer model of support provides both understanding and inspiration to those who need it most.”

Enviable position

Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro says Florida is in an “enviable” position based on its latest economic outlook rewrite.

“The latest general revenue forecast shows that Florida is in an enviable financial position, with general revenue collections having significantly exceeded estimates for 22 consecutive months,” Calabro said.

TaxWatch believes consumer spending, inflation and the implementation of Florida’s e-fairness “Wayfair” bill is driving increased revenue.

Dominic Calabro hopes lawmakers give back a little to taxpayers with their extra cash. Image via Florida TaxWatch.

“Overall, this is good news for taxpayers, as these funds will keep our bond rating high and bolster the Florida Legislature’s efforts to craft a 2023-2024 budget that addresses education, housing, health care, workforce and other critical needs,” Calabro said. “What’s more, it should give our elected leaders another opportunity to return some of this windfall back to taxpayers.”

He also teased BudgetWatch findings his organization will release next week. The report will provide more detail and analysis of the new revenue forecast and what it means for the state’s 2022-23 budget outlook.

“Moving forward, Florida TaxWatch will continue to monitor and analyze these developments, working closely with elected officials to avoid wasteful spending and ensure taxpayers’ best interests are being served, particularly now, when record inflation, housing challenges, and much more are directly impacting their pocketbooks,” Calabro said.

Job well done

SalterMitchell PR has been named one of the fastest growing private companies in America on the annual Inc. 5000 list.

The Tallahassee-launched public relations firm earned a national ranking of 2,700 and a Florida rank of 217.

“It is a tremendous honor to be among such a prestigious group of U.S. businesses and to be recognized for our growth,” said April Salter, SMPR founder and CEO. “When I started this company 23 years ago, I had no idea of the thrills and rewards that owning a company would bring. I’m grateful for the mentors and business owner colleagues who have advised me and helped our firm grow. The SMPR team is stronger today than ever before thanks to our firm’s leadership, especially our president, Heidi Otway.”

SalterMitchell has more than two decades of experience.

Salter founded the Herrle Communication Group in 1999 which eventually evolved into the SalterMitchell firm.

“This is a major achievement for SalterMitchell PR and the result of our firm’s mission, our clients, and more importantly, our dynamic and diverse team of communication and marketing professionals,” Otway said. “We thank our clients for trusting us to be their advisors and partners, and we look forward to what the future holds as we continue to grow, evolve and help more good causes win.”

The rankings are based on the percentage of revenue growth between 2018 and 2021. To qualify for the list it must be a privately held, United States-based for-profit company. To be considered for the list a company’s revenue had to have been at least $100,000 in 2018 and $2 million for 2021.

Founded in 1979, Inc. initially launched as a business magazine. Through its multi-platform, which features a website, podcasts, magazines and newsletters, Inc. has published its 5000 list since 1982.

“The accomplishment of building one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S., in light of recent economic roadblocks, cannot be overstated,” says Scott Omelianuk, editor-in-chief of Inc. “Inc. is thrilled to honor the companies that have established themselves through innovation, hard work, and rising to the challenges of today.”

Ad wars

Tallahassee City Commission Seat 3 candidate David Bellamy filed an election violation complaint against incumbent Commissioner Jeremy Matlow over radio ads he says wrongfully suggest he is a Republican.

The filing comes after the Bellamy campaign sent Matlow a cease-and-desist letter.

The original 30-second spot features the voice of Pastor Lee Johnson calling Bellamy a “Trumpite” and saying he voted for former President Donald Trump and DeSantis.

David Bellamy says Jeremy Matlow incorrectly calls him a Republican.

In the complaint, Bellamy contends the ad’s claims are false and that he’s been a registered Democrat since 1988. He added that because it’s a nonpartisan race, directing voters not to elect someone based on party affiliation is a violation of state election laws.

The Matlow campaign pulled the ad and replaced it with another one of Johnson calling Bellamy a “Trumpite” and again advising listeners not to vote for Bellamy because he “acts like a Republican.”

“It is unclear why Matlow continues to label me a ‘Trumpite’ when I have publicly stated I did not vote for Donald Trump and did not want to see him elected as President again in 2024,” the complaint states.

Bellamy employs the same St. Pete based consultant, Reggie Cardozo, as Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey. He was also behind Dailey’s elections complaint against his opponent, Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, over mailers.

Prints for the Primary

During this busy campaign season, make time to break from the barnstorming and read a book in honor of National Book Lovers Day.

This week, the Florida Association for Media in Education invited elected officials and candidates to pick up a book from the organization’s summer reading list.

“We have plenty of recommendations for the K-12 students, but we also wanted to make sure elected officials and candidates who put themselves forward for public services have something great to encourage them while they are on the campaign trail for our great state,” the Florida Association for Media in Education wrote in a statement.

In honor of the recent National Book Lovers Day, take a break and read a chapter or two.

Unlike politicians, librarians are some of the most trusted professionals, according to recent surveys of the K-12 school system.

“FAME’s librarians across the state are passionate about the freedom to read based on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Library Bill of Rights created by ALA,” they wrote.

The organization’s list includes three Florida-themed books and six leadership-themed books.

On Florida, they suggest “The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise,” by Michael Gunwald; “Weird Florida,” by Eliot Kleinberg; and “Finding Florida,” by TD Allman.

On leadership, they list “Hard Times: Leadership in America,” by Barbara Kellerman; “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age,” by Dale Carnegie; “Extreme Ownership,” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin; “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” by John C. Maxwell; “The Mentor Leader,” by Tony Dungy; and “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins.

Busted

A Tallahassee man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for offenses connected to drug trafficking, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida Jason Coody announced.

William K. Gordon Jr. pleaded guilty to multiple charges connected to the distribution of methamphetamine after evidence showed he was obtaining the drug from Georgia and selling it in Tallahassee.

Federal officers led by U.S. Attorney Jason Coody made a recent arrest on drug trafficking. Image via Twitter.

“Methamphetamine distribution is a scourge on large and small communities of our district,” Coody said. “We are committed to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and aggressively prosecute recidivist offenders who continue to distribute such (as) these addictive, controlled substances. This sentence is further proof of this resolve.”

The case stemmed from a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the North Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Capital Area Drug Response Evaluation Initiative along with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and Tallahassee Police Department.

“The arrest and conviction of William K. Gordon is a major step in getting some of the most addictive and deadly drugs out of Leon County,” said Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil. “I am grateful for the hard work of our deputies and detectives who assisted in this case. LCSO and our law enforcement partners will continue to work closely to identify, arrest and prosecute these dealers to keep our communities safe.”

After serving his sentence, Gordon will be on 15 years of supervised release.

Capitol Directions

Ron DeSantis — Down arrow — The Broward news conference was a nothing burger. Next time, do it in Sumter.

Ron DeSantis — Down arrow — The WOKE act got worked.

Stranger Things — Up arrow — Now we wanna know what Mark Walker thinks about Eddie Munson.

Ron DeSantis — Up arrow — He scored a court win. It was over an Alachua County School Board suspension, but it’s still a win.

Florida Senate — Up arrow — Andrew Warren saved them from spending a week in hot-ass Tally during summer.

Hedge fund managers — Crossways arrow — They’ll still get Florida’s cash; they just won’t have to read as much about where they put it.

Heather Barker — Up arrow — She’s not a good fundraiser; she’s a record-breaking fundraiser.

Jimmy Patronis — Up arrow — In-N-Out, Tesla, Twitter, and now the IRS. The CFO knows how to get a headline.

State Coffers — Up arrow — We don’t have time to worry about a “downshift,” we’re too busy counting cash.

Seminole Tribe — Up arrow — Even the Biden administration knows a good bet when they see it.

Dana Young — Up arrow — The VISIT FLORIDA CEO knows how to get people to visit Florida.

James Bush — Down arrow — He wasn’t calling you a female dog, bro.

Jonathan Martin — Up arrow — Can we still call him Sen. Phone Snatcher next year?

Robert Cassanello — Up arrow — Is it safe to say he caused the state’s attorneys to feel anguish over actions committed by a Governor of their same race, color, national origin or sex?

Shannon Bream — Up arrow — The Florida State alum is giving up the night shift for the Sunday slot at Fox News.

Taylor Tannebaum — Up arrow — Is FSU a pipeline to national network hosting gigs or something?

Fred Piccolo — Up arrow — Welcome back to the world of controversial comms director positions.

Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce — Down arrow — A late-August weekend at the Ritz is nice, but there are cheaper ways to GOTV for Jeremy Matlow.

Governor’s Square Mall — Up arrow — For half a day, the mall was as happenin’ as it was in the 90s.

Gators — Down arrow — Wally World isn’t open 24 hours, but hunting season is.

Staff Reports



#FlaPol

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

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