Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
The state’s ‘welcome center’ on I-95 will get a sprucing up.
The Marketing Council Steering Committee of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, announced the renovations during a conference call Wednesday.
The work on the 21-year-old building includes a new roof, air conditioning system, and landscaping.
Lawmakers set aside $750,000 for the repairs, according to VISIT FLORIDA spokesman StephenLawson.
The welcome centers also served a vital role after Hurricane Irma as residents who fled the storm came back into the state, officials said. The I-95 center reopened after being closed for five days around the time of the hurricane.
The centers, also on Interstates 10, 75 and U.S. 231, have long been known for greeting tourists and others with a complimentary cup of orange or grapefruit juice.
“Politics is seldom ever so clear cut, but this is truly a moment of moral clarity. Richard Spencer is a neo-Nazi, and his supporters are neo-Nazis … Make no mistake, they are coming to incite violence.” — Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel, on white nationalist Richard Spencer’s planned speech at UF on Thursday.
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Wake Up Early?
The Florida Defense Support Task Force, which works on issues related to military bases and missions, will hold a conference call. It starts at 9 a.m. Call-in number: 1-800-501-8979. Code: 1869945.
Congressman CharlieCrist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new ChenMed Dedicated Senior Medical Center. That’s at 10:15 a.m., 901 22nd Ave. South, St. Petersburg.
The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release weekly opinions at 11 a.m.
State Sen. JackLatvala, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is set to speak on community redevelopment issues during the annual conference of the Florida Redevelopment Association. That’s at 11 a.m., Hilton Daytona Beach Ocean Front Resort, 100 North Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach.
The Marion County legislative delegation will meet in preparation for the 2018 session. That’s at 1 p.m., College of Central Florida, Klein Center, 3001 S.W. College Road, Ocala.
The Agency for Health Care Administration will hold a working group meeting about changes in Medicaid nursing-home funding. The changes involve moving to what is known as a “prospective payment” system. It’s at 1 p.m., Agency for Health Care Administration, 2727 Mahan Dr., Tallahassee.
White nationalist RichardSpencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute, will speak at the University of Florida. His remarks begin at 2:30 p.m., University of Florida, Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 3201 Hull Road, Gainesville.
Republican U.S. Rep. FrancisRooney is set to speak to the Republican Women of Cape Coral, Federated. That’s at 6 p.m., Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral.
Latvala and Attorney General candidate JayFant are expected to appear at the Gold Coast Republican Club. That’s at 6 p.m., Galuppi’s, 1103 North Federal Highway, Pompano Beach.
Rep. JulioGonzalez, a Venice Republican, is expected to speak to the Sarasota Republican Club. He should begin at 6 p.m., Marina Jack Restaurant, 2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota.
A fundraiser is planned in Palm Beach County for Republican U.S. Rep. CarlosCurbelo at 6 p.m., 303 Evernia St., Suite 300, West Palm Beach.
Republican U.S. Rep. GusBilirakis is expected to speak to the North Pinellas Republican Club at 6 p.m., Leo’s Restaurant, 33286 U.S. 19 North, Palm Harbor.
The Pasco-Hernando State College Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m., Pasco-Hernando State College, West Campus, 10230 Ridge Road, New Port Richey.
Journalist SharylAttkisson will speak at a Capital Tiger Bay dinner event beginning 6:45 p.m., Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola St., Tallahassee.
For the Miami City Commissioner, it’s more than a simple yes/no question. It is a six-figure affair.
Perhaps Russell, a well-known toy enthusiast, is being as thoughtful and deliberate about his decision to seek Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat as he is choreographing epic yo-yo routines.
What else can explain the three-month process, raising over $300,000, and spending over $100,000, all to “explore” a run for Congress, even though it seems a foregone conclusion?
Indeed, in the increasingly crowded Democratic primary — now at seven candidates — Russell spent more than any of them: $100,866 in the last quarter.
On October 5, days after the close of the reporting period, Russell told the Miami Herald he was still “seriously considering [a run for Congress] in my heart.” Russell also told the Herald the exploratory committee raised enough money to “go to Washington and conduct polling.”
In the last three months, Russell spent almost $2,500 on travel, as well as more than $20,000 with The Kitchens Group, a longtime Florida-based pollster. So, that accounts for $25,000 — what about the other $75,000 to “decide” if he will run for Congress as Democrat?
For Russell, much of the money went to Republican consultants.
Over $47,000 in expenditures went to his campaign’s general consultant/manager, Fernando Diez. Diez is a Miami Beach-based consultant and lobbyist who helped manage Russell’s surprising victory in the Miami City Commission race.
It should be noted that on Facebook, Diez self-identifies as a Republican; before launching his own firm, he worked for prominent Republican consultant Steve Marin.
Russell’s high-priced “exploration” also included an $8,620 payment to Miami-Dade County fundraising guru, Brian Goldmeier.
While Goldmeier is a registered Democrat and veteran of Alex Sink’s 2010 run for governor, he’s mostly known these days as the money man behind Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a Republican. In recent years, Goldmeier also raised money for Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Francis Suarez, neither regarded as progressive champions.
Florida’s 27th Congressional District — like Florida writ large — is no bastion of ultra-liberalism. Hillary Clinton won the district 2-1 over Bernie Sanders, as she did the state. But even 2-1 means a third of the district was “feelin’ the Bern.” And just because a Democrat voted for Hillary does not automatically mean they will be OK with a Republican-lite candidate.
Remember, this is a closed Democratic primary in a district Hillary not only won, but took by 20 points.
Russell may be able to Split the Atom; he may even know the secrets of Cold Fusion. But you don’t need to go Around the World to know that Democratic voters aren’t longing for a congressional candidate surrounded by Republicans.
Legislators, aides and lobbyists in California, Rhode Island, and South Dakota are responding to the sexual predation of film producer Harvey Weinstein by saying they will no longer tolerate harassment in the political establishment.
For those working in Florida politics, the question now is, will the power-brokers here follow suit?
“Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces,” the women wrote. “Men have groped and touched us without our consent, made inappropriate comments about our bodies and our abilities. Insults and sexual innuendo, frequently disguised as jokes, have undermined our professional positions and capabilities.
“Men have made promises, or threats, about our jobs in exchange for our compliance, or our silence. They have leveraged their power and positions to treat us however they would like.”
I’ve probably heard from a hundred women engaged in Florida politics—state Senators and Representatives, powerful lobbyists, staffers, fundraisers—and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM has said I’m not wrong.
Several women have described on social media how they have been sexually harassed. Offline, the stories shared with me have been even more powerful.
One senior legislative aide shared, “The one and only time I came forward, the House Sergeant told me that I should get better security at my home (where the elected official was showing up uninvited and unwelcome) and that I should think about resigning if it was ‘really that bad.’ ”
No wonder women in Florida’s political process have yet to do what their counterparts in California have done!
Not that I am any more courageous. I haven’t named the lawmaker who described my wife’s breasts as “Monique and Unique.” I haven’t named the former lawmaker who stalked her from bar to bar.
(Let’s not forget the, ahem, unique look of the Florida Capitol’s tower and chamber domes, making it the winner of a 2003 readers’ poll by Cabinet magazine as “the world’s most phallic building.”)
What I’ve learned is, there is a difference—maybe not a bright line—but a difference in those who sexually harass women in The Process. These men can be dividing into the following groups.
— The “predators”: Legislators who actively seek out young females and coerce them into sex. I would also include those who know and don’t stop young females from allowing themselves to be used.
— The “frat boys”: They treat Session like spring break. Several sources have confided hearing about a group of mostly younger members keeping score of who slept with female lobbyists.
— The “dinosaurs”: Lawmakers and lobbyists who are stuck in the ’70s and have an Archie Bunker view of gender equality. Fortunately, this is a diminishing group.
— The “negotiators”: Those who reward affection with access to inside information and behind the scenes help.
The dilemma that many women face when sexually harassed or essentially groomed into stroking a member’s ego and accepting crude comments about their physical assets is that they fear being cut out of the inner circle, a place which is essential in The Process.
That’s why I doubt this issue will reach a critical mass like it has in Sacramento and Providence.
It will take someone braver than me to light the match that would burn the house down.
Even if that person does not come forward, the upside of this discussion is that it hopefully creates an atmosphere where women—aspiring and established—are appreciated and who advance professionally for their hard work, intellect and character, and not subjected to degrading behavior and groomed into thinking their greater value is in their body.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
What’s old is new again, as rumors re-emerge that Attorney General Pam Bondi could have a job in the Trump administration.
With a new twist in the nomination for the nation’s drug czar, Bondi returns to the spotlight, amid renewed speculation she could be headed to Washington.
U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, President Donald Trump‘s drug czar nominee, withdrew from consideration this week following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.
There is a good argument to be made for Trump to put Bondi at the top of the list: Her record on fighting drugs in Florida, and her overwhelming success in shutting down the state’s pill mills.
After Trump’s victory, many considered Bondi a sure bet to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly known as the drug czar.
As a friend of the president, Bondi had a role on Trump’s transition team. Earlier this year, the president appointed her to a White House panel on drug abuse – one of Bondi’s passions as attorney general.
But then, later in the day, came this twist: The Attorney General said she wasn’t sure the country even needed a drug czar.
“I don’t know,” she told reporters after a Florida Cabinet meeting. “I’m in D.C. a lot. I can tell you the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is doing great, all the executive offices are doing great … Everybody works well together.
“Whether that exact position is needed? I don’t know.”
— @MarcoRubio: Reminder situation in #PuertoRico remains dire as our fellow Americans struggle to find safe drinking water
— @JKennedyReports: Debris hauler Ashbritt boss Randy Perkins, a D who ran for Congress last yr, helped w/angry letter from Fla Cong D’s in battle w/@FLGovScott
— @JeffClemens: Florida SNAP event in John Prince Park today is an absolute nightmare. Traffic backing up for miles in all directions, and onto the highway. Feds, state totally unprepared for crowds.
— @MDixon55: .@Adamputnam wonders why he should take storm advice from @JackLatvala, who questioned if gov was being overly cautious ahead of Irma. Comment came post-Cabinet when asked by reporters. Latvala has been critical of those (Putnam) accepting campaign $ from utilities. Putnam also noted that Latvala has taken utility $ over his 16-year political career. Was most aggressive form of Putnam I’ve seen to date
— @LedgeKing: .@SunStateSurvey finds the environment among top 5 issues facing FL w/most pressing concerns being loss of land for wildlife (20%), invasive species (17%), water-related problems (16%), rising sea levels (15%), & hazardous waste/landfills (11%).
— @AdamSmithTimes: @FlaDems will hold “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres” Hallown Party at their state conference w @JulianCastro @keithellison, @JasonKander,
— @JeffSchweers: Tallahassee ethics board votes 4-1 to write letter admonishing City Manager for getting discount on daughter’s wedding reception.
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— D.C. MATTERS —
“Marco Rubio, Gus Bilirakis co-sponsored now-controversial drug bill” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Millions of TV viewers learned Sunday of a successful attempt by the drug industry to weaken federal regulations just as the opioid crisis was reaching its peak — and two Florida Republicans played a supporting role. Rep. Bilirakis and Sen. Rubio were among a handful of co-sponsors of the legislation, which sailed through Congress last year … signed into law by President Barack Obama. “The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market,” The Washington Post reported in conjunction with 60 Minutes. “Congressman Bilirakis hoped that this legislation would bring stakeholders at all levels together to discuss ways they could work together to prevent abuse while allowing really sick people like cancer patients, seniors, Veterans, and others with significant pain to get the relief they need with a legitimate prescription,” spokesman Summer Robertson wrote.
“How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA” via Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post —Emboldened by the Trump administration’s hostility toward foreign trade, a group of Southeast growers are pushing for tough new protectionist measures against their Mexican rivals — so tough, in fact, that their demands threaten to wreck the negotiations. Those include the demands of the Florida tomato growers, who say Mexico is selling tomatoes in the United States at artificially low prices … Florida producers are pushing for stronger anti-dumping measures — an idea that has been soundly rejected by the Mexicans. The problem, in a word, is humidity. Florida has a whole lot of it … growers can’t use greenhouses, which better protect the vegetables, and they have severe problems with pests and diseases … the Mexican greenhouse industry has taken off, they argue, only because the state helped subsidize it.
“Charlie Crist dropped by Salomon Melgen’s house, Melgen’s wife testifies” via Matt Friedman of POLITICO — In 2010, then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was an uninvited house guest of Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. That’s according to Melgen’s wife, Flor Melgen, who told the unusual story of how Crist showed up at her house unannounced during her testimony in the corruption trial of Melgen and Sen. Robert Menendez. “He was looking for my husband. He knew that my husband was Bob’s [Menendez] friend, and he was wondering if he might be with him,” Flor Melgen testified. “I didn’t know he was going to spend the night at my home and I wasn’t prepared.” The Crist visit happened on the weekend of Oct. 9, 2010 … Crist didn’t even see Melgen until later that night. Instead, he dined with Flor Melgen, her daughter and son-in-law … she had to pick up food from The Capital Grille. The next day, Crist wrote the Melgens a $100 check to cover his visit.
“State RNC committeewoman candidate claims ‘Never Trumpers’ within RPOF are undermining her campaign” via John Lucas of The Capitolist — Karen Giorno believes she has the record to be Florida’s next Republican National Committeewoman. “I know the Trump base better than anyone. I am the only MAGA candidate for national committeewoman in this race,” said Giorno. But, the West Palm Beach resident accuses state party leaders, specifically Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, of trying to undermine her candidacy because she is a Trump supporter. “There is a strange dynamic going on here which we saw throughout the campaign, in the primary process, in the post-primary process, going into the convention and then post-convention, and that there are still elements within the Republican Party who are ‘Never Trumpers,’” Giorno said. She claims that “dynamic” is alive in the leadership of the state party.
“Jaguars apologize to military for protest during anthem in London” via Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports — The Jacksonville Jaguars have sent a letter to Bill Spann, director of Jacksonville’s military affairs and veterans department, apologizing for the team’s demonstration. The team, including owner Shad Khan, locked arms during the anthem, with several players kneeling. Jaguars president Mark Lamping said the team was “remiss in not fully comprehending the effect of the national anthem demonstration on foreign soil has had on the men and women who have or continue to serve our country.” Lamping added, “This was an oversight and certainly not intended to send a message that would disparage you, our flag or our nation.” Jacksonville has a significant military presence, with this letter clearly aimed at bridging whatever rifts may have formed between the team and local military.
— STORMS —
“Desperate Puerto Ricans line up for water — at a hazardous-waste site” via Arelis R. Hernández and Brady Dennis of The Washington Post — Fencing around the area had been torn open, and a red and white “Peligro” sign, warning of danger, lay hidden beneath debris and dense vegetation. One after another, people attached a hose to draw water for bathing, washing dishes and, in some cases, drinking. They filled buckets, jugs, soda bottles. What many didn’t realize is that the well is one of nearly a dozen that are part of the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Superfund site — designated last year by the Environmental Protection Agency as among the nation’s most toxic sites … Hurricane Maria has brought desperation in many forms. In this corner of the island, many residents still have no reliable source of water and search for access wherever they can.
This is unacceptable. The state should’ve been prepared for this. I’m calling on USDA to send additional resources and expedite the process. https://t.co/JUq6tevcLq
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz continues to seek answers from Rick Scott about debris removal” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Wasserman Schultz, who last week confronted Scott in person over slow debris removal in Florida, today sent a letter amplifying those concerns. The letter, signed by several other Florida Democrats, involves Scott’s refusal to pass along to FEMA debris removal contracts at higher rates than had been negotiated before Hurricane Irma. Companies have been going with the most favorable rates. “Given these concerns, and your office’s unsatisfactory response to them, we were dumbfounded by reports that your administration, following nonpublic bidding, entered into contracts for debris removal in Monroe County at rates far higher than those negotiated before the hurricane,” the letter reads. “This action is clearly inconsistent with your office’s refusal to facilitate reimbursement of contracts at higher rates negotiated by local jurisdictions.”
“Disasters could push up insurance rates” via the News Service of Florida – Florida’s insurance commissioner said homeowners’ policies could face some “upward pressure,” as he was asked about the impact on rates from this year’s series of natural disasters. Commissioner David Altmaier said the state Office of Insurance Regulation hasn’t seen any indications that insurers are unable to meet claims from Hurricane Irma … But he said with Irma, Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and devastating wildfires in California, there may be a trickle-down effect from companies that provide backup insurance to insurers. “We would expect some upward pressure on reinsurance rates that might impact the direct rates that Floridians pay, but at this point in time the precise number is a little early to predict,” Altmaier told Scott and the Florida Cabinet.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Adam Putnam throws elbow at Jack Latvala — The two rivals in the GOP primary for governor have smacked each other around the past few weeks, with the most recent hook coming from the Latvala camp. The Pinellas Republican chided Putnam for utility money accounting for much his massive campaign and committee accounts and said that his own campaign for governor, as well as his political committee, would refuse any money from the literal power brokers. Latvala’s son, Rep. Chris Latvala, got a little more aggressive and was a little more direct in going after Putnam for his donor roll via social media. Putnam’s response: “For 16 years he has accepted their money, I’m not sure he is choosing to send all of that back.” Latvala has received about $100K from utilities since the 2012 cycle, during which Putnam collected more than $800K from the industry. In reality, Putnam’s total could be well into the millions due to many of the committees backing him forking over huge sums conspicuously soon after cashing a fat check from utilities.
“John Morgan pledges $1M for ‘living wage’ fight” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – A possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, Morgan said he understands that critics will say he’s using the “living wage” proposal to further his potential candidacy. Morgan, though, said he’s not sure he’ll run for governor, but he definitely wants a minimum wage increase on the 2020 ballot. … On Oct. 13, Morgan’s newly formed Florida for a Fair Wage political committee engaged University of Florida law professor Jon Mills to begin drafting a proposed “living wage” constitutional amendment. Mills drafted the medical marijuana initiative for Morgan previously.
“David Jolly wonders if ‘the Republic’ would be safer with Democrats taking House” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Jolly on MSNBC suggested the “Republic” might be safer if Democrats take control of the House in 2018 — therefore providing more of a check on President Trump. Jolly … is known for his open criticism of Trump but has gotten increasingly vocal about what he views as the GOP’s unwillingness to confront the president. Some Republicans scoffed at the remarks. Rob Simms: new quote This is a big deal from him? Same member who assisted 60 Minutes expose of colleagues. Even by DC standards, the self-serving is stunning.”
Brian Mast to appear at GOP HQ opening — The Palm City Republican is scheduled to attend the grand opening of the new Republican Party of Palm Beach County headquarters. Event begins 6 p.m. at 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500, in West Palm Beach.
“Carlos Curbelo outraises Debbie Mucarsel-Powell” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — Curbelo raised $431,580 from July 1 to Sept. 30 while Mucarsel-Powell raised $177,048 … The latest quarter is Mucarsel-Powell’s first fundraising total since announcing her bid for Curbelo’s Miami-to-Key West seat in August. Curbelo’s fundraising numbers were down this quarter, as many South Florida politicians chose to suspend fundraising for weeks due to Hurricane Irma. Last quarter, Curbelo raised $705,026. His campaign has raised over $1.7 million in the 2018 cycle so far … Curbelo, a second-term Republican, has garnered financial support from some local Democrats and is one of his party’s leading voices on climate change. Mucarsel-Powell has $161,762 cash on hand while Curbelo has $1.3 million.
Spotted on the Republican State Leadership Committee’s list of endorsed candidates: DanielPerez, a Miami-Dade Republican who defeated Democrat Gabriela Mayaudón to replace state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.
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— CAPITOL INSIGHTS —
“Cabinet approves protecting Okeechobee ranch land” via the News Service of Florida — Gov. Scott and the state Cabinet agreed Tuesday to spend about $5.7 million to conserve more than 2,500 acres of ranch land in a deal that nearly depletes this year’s funding for a program used to keep the agricultural property from development. The deal — known as purchasing a conservation easement — allows the owners of the Corona Ranch in Okeechobee County to continue using the land for cattle, but it prevents future development of the property, which drains into the Kissimmee River. Owned by the Corona family, the land, which is less than 5 miles south of Kissimmee Prairie State Park, houses species such as gopher tortoises, fox squirrels, and burrowing owls and has had three recent Florida Panther sightings … About 34 percent of the land is considered wetlands.
“Florida school districts file formal challenge to constitutionality of HB 7069” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — 13 Florida school boards including Pinellas County filed suit in Leon County court, challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of the law created by HB 7069. It argues that local school boards have authority over taxation for local schools, which the Legislature attempted to subvert by making requirements for how to use the revenue. It further contends that local school boards are charged with operating, controlling and supervising all free public schools within their districts, and that system of free public schools must be “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality” … “By creating independent charter ‘Schools of Hope’ in HB 7069, the State is fostering plural, nonuniform systems of education in direct violation of the mandate for a uniform system of free public schools.”
“Tom Lee may file constitutional amendment to ban dog racing” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — State Sen. Lee, who also sits on the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), has been gauging support for a constitutional amendment to end greyhound racing … Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican running for state Chief Financial Officer in 2018, has called some of the state’s dog track owners to “take their temperature,” said one industry lobbyist, who asked not to be named. “There’s not many people that know about that,” Lee confirmed after a CRC meeting Tuesday. “It’s something that has been on my mind … There’s no question I’m considering it.”
“Florida Bar aims to engage Floridians in constitutional review” via Florida Politics — With most Floridians not knowing what the Constitution Revision Commission is or does, The Florida Bar is trying to change that. The Bar launched “Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts,” a statewide public education program to fill the void in Floridians’ awareness of constitution revision and engage Floridians in this critical process, according to a news release. “Florida’s constitution determines how much power we the citizens give to our state government and what form that takes,” said Michael J. Higer, president of The Florida Bar. “It is therefore important that we all tune in, stay informed and educated as to any process to amend Florida’s Constitution. It is critical we stay engaged to make sure that we exercise great caution as to any proposed amendment.”
“Jason Fischer, Jeff Brandes introduce self-driving cars bill” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — HB 353 would allow for the safe and legal operation of “autonomous vehicles.” The bill also calls for updating sections of Florida’s motor vehicle laws that “require or presume” there’s a human behind the wheel. Fischer stressed the safety that autonomous vehicles would bring to Florida. “Every year in the United States, tens of thousands of people are killed in motor vehicle-related crashes, and more than 90 percent of those crashes are caused by human error,” he said. “Because autonomous vehicles have the potential to significantly reduce or even eliminate this error, I plan to do everything in my power to bring these lifesaving technologies to the Sunshine State.” The bill is being sponsored in the Senate by St. Petersburg Republican Brandes, who has been a champion for AV technology.
“Jeanette Nuñez, Rene Garcia file bill to ban state from investing in businesses with ties to Maduro regime” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – SB 538/HB 359 come on the heels of an announcement Scott made this summer when he threatened to introduce an agenda item before the Trustees of the State Board Administration in August which would prohibit the Sunshine State from doing any business with organizations supporting the Maduro regime. The SBA eventually voted unanimously to approve Scott’s proposed resolution — and now it’s headed to the Florida Legislature for another round of approval. Nunez and Garcia said proposals like theirs would be pivotal in helping bring a light of hope to the Venezuelan people. “This important legislation shows that Florida continues to stand strong against the brutal Maduro regime and any business that supports their oppressive leadership,” Garcia said. “We will continue fighting for human rights and democracy for our friends in Venezuela.”
“Tahirih Justice Center thanks lawmakers for bills banning child marriage” via Florida Politics — Republicans Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Reps. Jeanette Nuñezand Frank White filed identical bills in the House and Senate — HB 335 and SB 140 — that would outlaw marriage for anyone under 18. Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez filed a similar measure, HB 71, earlier this year in response to news reports of a Cutler Bay man who committed suicide rather than face possible legal repercussions for sexually abusing multiple girls — one of whom he married — lured into his home as foreign exchange students. “Allowing children to marry robs them of a childhood and forces them into mature situations for which they are not physically, emotionally or financially prepared,” said Jeanne Smoot, the senior counsel for policy and strategy at Tahirih.
Broward Delegation public meeting, votes on leaders — In a public hearing ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session, the Broward County Legislative Delegation choose its leaders. Meeting begins 9 a.m. At the Sunrise Civic Center, 10610 West Oakland Park. in Sunrise.
Lee County Delegation holds public meeting — State Sens. Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers, Kathleen Passidomo of Naples and Denise Grimsley of Sebring, will join Reps. Matt Caldwell of North Fort Myers, Dane Eagle of Cape Coral, Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers and Ray Rodrigues of Estero for a meeting in preparation for the 2018 Session. Meeting begins 9 a.m. at the Florida Southwestern State College Nursing Building, 8099 College Parkway in Fort Myers.
— STATEWIDE —
“State says law enforcement ready for UF speech” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — The commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said authorities are prepared to handle people who commit or encourage violence when a white-nationalist leader speaks Thursday at the University of Florida … Gov. Scott got backing from Cabinet members for the state of emergency he declared in Alachua County … issued at the request of Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, included putting the Florida National Guard on standby, in advance of the appearance by “alt-right” leader Richard Spencer. Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen … intends to be in Gainesville. “Those who show up to exercise their constitutional rights under the First Amendment, they will have no issues,” Swearingen said. “Those who show up to engage in or encourage violence, they are going to have problems. We will be prepared to deal with those folks.”
“State targets pharmaceutical company in stock case” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida— In a rare move, Florida is considering taking on a large pharmaceutical company, alleging the state’s pension fund lost some $127 million in stock value because of federal security violations by the company. The State Board of Administration … will decide next month whether to hire a New York-based law firm to pursue a “direct action” case against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., rather than joining a class-action lawsuit against the company. Valeant has been accused of violating federal securities regulations by marking up drug prices and then selling the drugs through a pharmacy network, without disclosing the full scope of the transactions to the stockholders. “In my view, if the SBA files a direct action, the SBA may be able to enhance its recovery above the class action recovery by double-digit millions of dollars,” Ash Williams, head of the State Board of Administration, said in a memorandum.
“Florida minimum wage rising 15 cents amid calls for $15 hourly” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel — Florida’s minimum wage will rise by 15 cents, to $8.25, starting in January, but it will have little impact on Central Florida because theme parks and many national chains — including Disney World and Target — are increasing minimum hourly pay to $10 and $11 this year. Target pledged to raise the minimum by 2020 to $15 hourly. A union coalition representing Disney workers also is aiming for that figure in ongoing negotiations — saying it represents a “living wage” that would also help boost the economy by sparking more consumer spending. But about 150 businesses in Florida said they would need to cut staff if the minimum wage rises to $15, among 300 businesses surveyed recently by the Employment Policy Institute. “Many companies are choosing to raise wages voluntarily. We’d argue that this suggests the lack of need for a broad mandate that some small businesses cannot absorb,” said Justin Bruneau, a spokesman for the institute.
“PSC regulators say no to FPL nuclear fees without financial analysis” via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post — Without a required feasibility analysis to show that two new proposed nuclear reactors are a good deal for customers, Florida Power & Light Co. cannot collect costs incurred after 2016, the Florida Public Service Commission decided … PSC commissioners unanimously agreed with a staff recommendation that because FPL failed to submit a required financial analysis, costs incurred for the two reactors from Jan. 1, 2017, going forward cannot be collected through nuclear power-related fees customers pay. Since 2009 Juno Beach-based FPL has sought an operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the proposed 2,200-megawatt Turkey Point 6 and 7 reactors which could cost as much as $21.8 billion. They might never be built, or no sooner than 2031, at the same facility where FPL already has two operating reactors overlooking Biscayne Bay south of Miami.
Happening today —Workers’ compensation rate reduction discussed — The Florida Office Of Insurance Regulation will consider a proposal by the National Council On Compensation Insurance to reduce the rates of workers’ compensation insurance In 2018. Meeting begins 1 p.m. in Room 412 of the Knott Building in the Capitol.
“Fentanyl fuels rise in drug deaths in South Florida” via Ryan Van Velzer of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — County medical examiners have compiled statistics for Florida’s upcoming report on 2016 drug overdoses, showing the cause of death from certain drugs doubled, tripled and, in some cases, quadrupled the number of fatalities in 2015, records show … Deaths from fentanyl leapt in Palm Beach County from 80 in 2014 to 324 in 2016. Broward County saw a similar rise, increasing from 44 in 2014 to 180 in 2016. Cocaine-fueled overdose deaths doubled in both counties last year, killing 214 in Palm Beach and 265 in Broward last year, records show. County medical examiners listed two or more drugs as the cause of death in about two-thirds of all overdose cases in Palm Beach and Broward counties in 2016. Often the death is listed as the “combined toxic effects” of drugs including fentanyl, heroin, morphine, cocaine, alcohol, oxycodone and alprazolam (an anti-anxiety medication commonly referred to by the brand name Xanax).
Look what Carlos Beruff is up to — “Manatee County homebuilder submits Amazon headquarters bid” via Mark Gordon of YourObserver.com — … a project that would include up to 50,000 employees and some $5 billion in capital investments. The bid, officially submitted by FedEx to Amazon’s original Seattle headquarters, comes from Sarasota-Manatee homebuilder Carlos Beruff. The site he proposed is 935 acres in north Manatee County, on the Manatee-Hillsborough County line, just off Interstate 75. Beruff, the founder of Medallion Homes, bought the land for about $5 million in 2013. “We can build a city for them here,” Beruff said. “They will have a blank palate.” Manatee County wasn’t in the national conversation until Beruff chatted with Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran, a longtime friend. Moran mentioned the Manatee land Beruff owned, and he put the builder in touch with Sarasota area urban planner Shay Atluru, president and CEO of engineering consulting firm DTC. Atluru, in turn, worked with planning firm Looney Ricks Kiss on the initial Manatee County-Amazon HQ2 proposal for Beruff and his team.
— OPINIONS —
“Tom Rooney: Still time for Senate to save Florida citrus” for The Hill — For the past decade, Florida’s citrus growers have been on the ropes battling a disease that causes their trees to produce yellowing leaves and small fruit … Greening has now spread to virtually every grove in the state and has decreased crop production dramatically. Over this past year, state and federal funding for greening research coupled with growers’ own investments in HLB therapies began to show promise. Growers’ trees were looking healthier, there was less fruit on the ground, and many longtime growers were projecting a rebound. It finally looked like they had turned a corner. That all changed when Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida. This storm is a potential deathblow to the Florida citrus industry. However, all hope is not lost. The federal government can provide Florida’s agriculture industry the lifeline it needs to survive this storm. One thing must be made clear: if the federal government does not do something immediately, I am afraid this crop, this way of life, this state treasure, could become a thing of the past. We must not let that happen.
“Carol Dover: Protect Florida tourists, neighborhoods by stopping illegal hotel operators” via Florida Politics – Far from the concept of “home sharing,” where homeowners welcome a guest into their residence on an occasional basis, this new phenomenon involves commercial operators acquiring and listing multiple units in the same residential neighborhood and/or listing these units in a “revolving door” fashion. In other words, these real estate speculators are operating de facto hotels without adhering to the common-sense regulations and tax obligations every other hotel or inn in the State must follow. As a practical matter, this means that when a short-term rental goes awry — by becoming a year-round party house in a sleepy residential neighborhood, or the site of a bedbug outbreak — impacted consumers and neighbors have little recourse, and the unscrupulous landlord can continue to operate their short-term rentals unchecked. Our lawmakers must take this new and growing trend seriously, as they will ultimately make the tough decisions on how to respect the property rights of homeowners while reining in those commercial operators operating outside of current law.
— MOVEMENTS —
“John Thrasher among veterans named to Hall of Fame” via the News Service of Florida — Florida State University President Thrasher, a former state House speaker who served in the Vietnam War, is among 20 members of the 2017 class of the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame. Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the class recommended by the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame Council. A display of hall of fame members is on a wall near the east entrance of the Florida Capitol. An induction ceremony is being planned for the week after Thanksgiving.
Reappointed – Mario Bailey to South Florida Regional Planning Council.
New and renewed lobbying registrations
Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Ocean Park Condominium Association, American Clinical Solutions
Ron Book, Rana Brown, Kelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Fort Myers Community Redevelopment Agency
Jennifer Braisted, Michelle Branham, Cyrena Duncan, Evan Holler: Alzheimer’s Association
Kevin Cabrera, Edgar Castro, Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Brightgray Solutions
Rosanna Catalano, Capitol Energy Florida: City of Punta Gorda, Poseidon Resources
Lisa Miller, Lisa Miller and Associates: Pier Associates
Allen Mortham, Sandra Mortham, Mortham Governmental Consultants: Sunstate Academy
Greg Parks, Parks Advocacy Group: BrightGray Solutions
Kirk Pepper, GrayRobinson: Florida Nurses Association
Joy Ryan, Meenan: Brighthouse Financial
Craig Wright: Office of Insurance Regulation
— ALOE —
“Alligators are out there eating sharks, no big deal” via Amy Wang of The Washington Post — The American alligator has long been known as a fierce apex predator, easily capable of taking down its typical freshwater prey — fish, crustaceans, wading birds — and very occasionally going after humans. But its diet may extend further than previously thought. When given the chance, these gators will travel into saltwater environments and feed on marine animals such as stingrays and sharks, according to a new study published in the journal Southeastern Naturalist. James Nifong, the lead author of the study, spent nearly a decade observing American alligator populations along the coasts of Florida and Georgia … Nifong and the teams he worked with temporarily caught more than 500 alligators and pumped their stomachs using a hose, a pipe and something of a Heimlich maneuver … alligators had consumed three new species of sharks and one new species of stingray, Nifong said. He estimated that the largest sharks eaten were 3 to 4 feet long, while the largest stingrays consumed were probably 2 to 3 feet long.
Happy birthday to GrayRobinson’s Tim Cerio, INFLUENCE 100 alum Marcus Jadotte, and the awesome Monica Rodriguez of Ballard Partners.
What’s not widely known are the direct ties between certain so-called “patient advocacy groups” and trial lawyers with dollar signs in their eyes, looking to capitalize on potentially lucrative opportunities.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, all this has bubbled back to the surface. There are lots of conversations on what could have been done better — in fact, House Speaker Richard Corcoran created a select committee to investigate how the state and private sectors can be better prepared for the next major storm.
The poster child for what went wrong during Irma was the preventable tragedy of 14 elderly residents who died at the Hollywood Hills Nursing Center. Lawyers on both sides will thrash through what happened, but just about everyone can agree there were significant mistakes made.
One isolated catastrophe does not mean the state must step in and set up regulation after regulation that would affect each of the 600+ nursing homes in Florida — not when the tragedy was confined to one home.
Yet even before the hurricane debris is off the streets, attorneys and lawmakers were hard at work trying to ride the media wave to pass legislation that would change the dynamic between nursing homes and trial attorneys.
There are entire law firms that focus solely on nursing home-related cases. Some of those cases are absolutely warranted as the Hollywood Hills case appears to be. But oftentimes the cases are clearly attempting to reap a huge payday and rack up high-dollar legal fees.
One of the groups purporting to “advocate for quality nursing home care” goes by the upbeat name Families for Better Care. Brian Lee, who previously headed Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program, leads the group.
Lee’s seemingly independent organization is advocating for more regulations and restrictions on nursing homes — and possibly changes to tort law — to make it easier to sue these homes.
It turns out, he has a good reason. Law firms make up a very significant portion of the contributions to Lee’s group.
For instance, from 2011 to 2015, Tampa-based law firm Wilkes & McHugh — whose website touts its experience suing nursing homes — gave more than a half-million dollars to Families for Better Care. That number doesn’t even include contributions from the last couple years.
While the folks at Wilkes & McHugh might explain it away as simply supporting a good cause, the reality is that Families for Better Care will almost certainly be a vocal advocate for legislation benefiting trial attorneys — particularly firms making a living by suing nursing homes and assisted living facilities statewide.
From now through Sine die in (hopefully) March, lawmakers need to take a close look at nursing home regulations. Things like requiring generators — with a reasonable timeline for implementation — seem like a good idea. But legislative leaders need to use a scalpel to modify the laws we already have on the books, not a hatchet to wipe away years and years of well-reasoned policies.
Regardless, as this issue — with its limitless “proposed solutions” — makes its way through the legislative process, follow the money and keep an eye out for groups purporting to be on the side of the consumer.
It’s entirely possible they’re really just looking to score a big payday for a handful of law firms.
Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
A Constitution Revision Commissioner now is raising questions on how “open” the panel is going to be when it comes to open meetings.
At the commission’s Rules Committee meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Bob Solari sought to clarify whether a CRC “meeting” that requires notice and be open to the public can be as few as two commissioners, or whether two commissioners can meet out of the “sunshine.”
The commission is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Any amendments it places directly on the 2018 statewide ballot still must be OK’d by 60 percent of voters to be added to the constitution.
“At this point, I don’t feel right talking too much about anything with any commissioner,” Solari said, adding a fellow member is proposing an amendment he believes is “fatally flawed.”
“I’d like to just to give (that person) a heads up,” added Solari, an Indian River County Commissioner. “But I believe that I can’t.”
Commission rule 1.23 on open meetings and records just says, “All proceedings and records … shall be open to the public.”
A coalition of progressive groups already has asked for clarification, urging the body to use the Sunshine Law standard that prohibits two or more commissioners from meeting privately.
Rules chair TimCerio has previously said his understanding is that the commission will use the Legislature’s standard, which allows no more than two members to meet privately.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Cerio told Solari to talk with general counsel William Spicola and “then we can discuss more widely publishing that advice.”
“There’s nothing wrong with getting transparency over what the rule is,” Cerio said. “I think we’re following exactly what was done 20 years ago,” when that commission followed the Legislative rule.
“This fentanyl and heroin crisis is more than you can even comprehend now. We’ve got to help our addicts, but on the same hand, we’re not doing them a service if we’re not locking up the dealers. They’re murderers, in my opinion.” — Attorney General Pam Bondi, on the opioid addiction crisis, speaking after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.
Bill Day’s Latest
Wake Up Early
The State Board of Education meets in Duval County at 9 a.m., Florida State College at Jacksonville, Advanced Technology Center, 401 West State St., Jacksonville.
The Broward County legislative delegation will elect leaders for the coming year and hold a public hearing as it prepares for the 2018 session. That’s at 9 a.m., Sunrise Civic Center, 10610 West Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise.
The Lee County legislative delegation will meet as it prepares for the 2018 session. That’s at 9 a.m., Florida SouthWestern State College, Nursing Building, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers.
The Able Trust will host a grant presentation at The Haven from its “Strategic Employment Placement Initiatives” fund to support the “Careers Without Limits” program. That’s at 11 a.m., 4405 DeSoto Road, Sarasota.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation will hold a hearing on a proposal by the National Council on Compensation Insurance to reduce workers’ compensation insurance rates in 2018. It’s at 1 p.m., 412 Knott Building, the Capitol.
The General Provisions Committee of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission will meet at 1 p.m., 401 Senate Office Building, the Capitol.
The Clay County legislative delegation, made up of Sen. RobBradley, Rep. TravisCummings, and Rep. BobbyPayne, will meet. It starts at 4 p.m., Clay County Administration Building, 477 Houston St., Green Cove Springs.
Sen. AaronBean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, is expected to be honored for his work involving the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center during the center’s “See the Girl” awards dinner. It begins 6 p.m., The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 829 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will hold a community meeting about rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee and the Herbert Hoover Dike. It begins at 6 p.m., Belle Glade Public Library, 725 N.W. Fourth St., Belle Glade.
Republican U.S. Rep. BrianMast is expected to take part in a grand-opening event for new Republican Party of Palm Beach County headquarters. That’s at 6 p.m., 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500, West Palm Beach.
Editor’s note: The Delegation will now be published twice per week to capture the latest happenings from Capitol Hill to Florida.
Look for it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Trump throwing big issues back to Congress
Another week, another series of big moves from President Donald Trump. Like them or not, he is doing what he promised to do if elected, which was basically to undo several critical initiatives of former President Barack Obama.
On Thursday, he reversed an Obama executive order that gave subsidies to insurance companies participating in the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. On Friday, he refused to certifyIranian compliance with the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama’s signature foreign policy agreement.
Republicans often talk about the Constitution and separation of powers between the branches of government. They have long said Obama had no authority to give insurance companies the subsidies; only Congress could appropriate those funds.
His actions did not officially pull the U.S. out of the Iran agreement but put another agenda item on the to-do list Congress to join DACA and others. It also designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, which was just fine with Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis, Chairman of the House National Security Subcommittee.
“More work needs to be done to put Iran back in a box, but sanctioning the (Revolutionary Guard) as [a] terror group is a major step in the right direction,” DeSantis tweeted.
“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said in his remarks announcing the move.
While Democrats offered a muted response to the president’s actions on Iran, his executive order on the insurance company subsidies was a far different matter.
Kathy Castor of Tampa called on Trump and his administration to “stand on the side of hardworking Americans and stop their cruel sabotage of our health care.” Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach referred to the president as a “one-man wrecking ball of the American health care system.”
Republicans would quarrel with St. Petersburg’s Charlie Crist’s description of the subsidies as “legally required payments under the Affordable Care Act.” Most would disagree with one of their own criticizing the president’s action.
“(Trump) promised more access, affordable coverage. This does opposite,” tweeted Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.”
Ros-Lehtinen, who supported Trump’s action on Iran, is correct. This puts Congress in the position of somehow, despite the rancor, finding some common ground on a health care solution. And Iran. And DACA. And Tax Reform.
And so on.
Trump’s NOAA pick faces storm of criticism
As AccuWeather CEO, Barry Myers has sought limits on what products the National Weather Service can offer the public, claiming it creates unfair competition for his business.
Now, as Trump’s pick to lead the parent agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationAndrew Restuccia of POLITICOreports that Myers could be in a position to make those restrictions mandatory — to the benefit of his private, family-run forecasting company.
Myers’ nomination faces a storm of criticism by those who feel it will restrict the weather service, which caused an industry backlash a decade ago when it began offering hour-by-hour forecasts, cellphone alerts, and other online data. A dozen years ago, Myers supported a bill from then-Sen. Rick Santorum, that sought enhance cooperation with the agency, despite some misgivings by critics.
“I fear that he’ll do irreparable harm to an agency whose primary mission is to save lives,” National Weather Service Employees Organization President Daniel Sobien, told POLITICO. “There seems to be a huge conflict of interest considering his business background and belief system.”
Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, called Myers’ nomination “questionable.”
“As the CEO of AccuWeather, Barry Myers views NOAA as a direct competitor that provides high-quality forecasts for free,” Schatz said last week. “Mr. Myers will have to work very hard to persuade me that he will run NOAA for the public good.”
Myers’ supporters cite his long experience in the weather forecasting industry as an opportunity to modernize NOAA, which has become a vital tool for fisheries, marine sanctuaries, climate research and satellite data.
“In past decade, AccuWeather has embraced ‘Big Data’ and become an advertising & digital innovation behemoth under Myers’ leadership,” tweeted Weather.us chief operating officer Ryan Maue. “I expect Myers to bring that same vision to NOAA and enhance collaboration with the private sector especially in the role of space-based remote sensing and satellites,” he told POLITICO.
Bill Nelson fundraises off Irma again; Republicans call it ‘disgusting’
After Republicans blasted a “tone deaf” email last month that sought to raise funds off Hurricane Irma, Florida’s senior U.S. Senator is at it again.
Nelson writes: “There’s been a lot going on in Washington recently, from finding ways to fund these massive hurricane recovery efforts to prevent the passage of yet another disastrous GOP health care bill.”
The senator then proclaims his focus on “one thing,” which is doing everything he can to fight for constituents, adding that it is his job to “make sure your voice is heard in the Senate.”
Since Hurricane Irma happened over a month ago (supposedly past its disaster expiration date), Nelson seems to think now would be the right time to “survey” Floridians on how he’s doing.
Along with a money pitch, of course. And once again, national Republicans are quick to this point out, saying it’s time he answers for his “disgusting” move.
“Bill Nelson needs to explain why he continues to fundraise off Hurricane Irma,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin in an email. “Floridians are still struggling to clean up from this devastating storm, yet all Bill Nelson cares about is filling his own campaign coffers.”
Politics can wait, says the GOP, calling for Nelson to resist the urge to raise money. There will always be time to fundraise later.
Five Floridians named to new House NASA Caucus
A newly appointed House NASA Caucus took off with five members of the Florida delegation.
U.S. Reps. Steve Knight, a California Republican, and Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur, launched the new group with over 25 members. Floridians on the caucus include Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Posey and Democrats U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, reports Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News.
According to Knight, the group was set up to “strengthen policymaker awareness of NASA’s many connections to our national security and economic interests, provide as a bipartisan forum to discuss the scientific and technological challenges to American flight and space exploration endeavors, and serve as a focal point for public and private sector air and space expertise that cover the full range of NASA’s initiatives.”
Knight explained why he helped start the new caucus.
“There has been a lack of representation in the educational activities on Capitol Hill for many of NASA’s most important programs,” Knight said. “Many of these programs that are critical to U.S. national interests, and there is an interest here to learn more and support them. But the current landscape does not yet support that level of interest.
Ross calls Disaster Relief Act a ‘down payment on reform’
The Lakeland Republican, who serves as Senior Deputy Majority Whip, issued a statement last week on the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act:
“Americans need a reformed flood insurance program, yet today’s vote reflects a strange political reality, where debt forgiveness takes priority. Floridians deserve certainty — both that the federal government will honor its debts, but also that it will manage the federal flood insurance program responsibly. We cannot do either of these things without reform. While I supported this supplemental aid package, I did so only because House leadership assured me that this will be a down payment on reform. I remain committed to ensuring that Congress institutes the reforms Americans expect and restoring fiscal sanity to the National Flood Insurance Program.”
The 353-69 vote approves $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief fund — including $4.9 billion for a disaster relief loan account — $16 billion to address National Flood Insurance Program debt and $576.5 for wildfire recovery efforts. The Act also has $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico.
Ross is a member of the House Committee on Financial Services, where he introduced legislation to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which seeks to reduce taxpayer burden for disasters.
Bilirakis speech to Pinellas GOP club — The Tarpon Springs Republican will speak to the North Pinellas Republican Club Thursday at 6 p.m., Leo’s Restaurant, 33286 U.S. 19 North in Palm Harbor.
Mast to appear at Palm Beach GOP HQ opening — The Treasure Coast Republican will appear at a grand opening event for the new Republican Party of Palm Beach County headquarters Wednesday, 6 p.m., 1555 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd., Suite 500 in West Palm Beach.
F. Rooney speech to Republican Party women — The Naples Republican will speak to the Republican Women of Cape Coral, Federated Thursday, 6 p.m. at Personal Touch Banquet & Catering, 1530 Santa Barbara Blvd. in Cape Coral.
Curbelo to hold West Palm Beach fundraiser — The Miami Republican will be in Palm Beach County Thursday for a 6 p.m. fundraiser at 303 Evernia St., Suite 300.
Ohio Democrat to keynote Miami-Dade Gala — U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is the scheduled keynote speaker at the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party’s “Blue Gala,” Saturday, 7 p.m. At the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.
Longtime Mario Diaz-Balart staffer moves to Amazon — After 13 years, Miguel Mendoza, deputy chief of staff and legislative director to Rep. Diaz-Balart is moving to Amazon’s transportation policy team. Mendoza handled transportation and housing issues for the Miami congressman, who serves as Appropriations Subcommittee chair. Diaz-Balart has also named senior legislative assistant Chris Sweet as legislative director, and Gisselle Reynolds, from his district office, to become a legislative assistant.
Paulson’s Principles: Democrats, don’t hitch your horses to the wrong wagon
I have called the upcoming 2018 election the best chance for Democrats to win control of the U.S. House in decades. All the stars are aligning for the Democrats.
I have also mentioned at least a half-dozen political factors favoring the Democrats including President Trump’s low approval ratings, midterms which favor the party not controlling the White House, and the generic vote which now has Democrats up by 11 points.
Having discussed all the things favoring the Democrats, they need to be cautious because they have blown many opportunities in recent elections. Does anyone recall the 2016 presidential election?
Democrats can’t afford to hitch their horse to the wrong wagon, as they have done in the past. They can’t expect to win simply because Trump’s approval rating is terrible. Trump’s approval rating was terrible going into the 2016 Republican primaries and the general election, and he won both.
Democrats are split with respect to strategy, and that could be potentially disastrous. Should Democrats go after white voters who have abandoned the party in droves? One-quarter of white working-class Democrats who voted for President Obama in 2012 defected to Trump in 2016.
John Judis, one of the authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority in 2012, now contends he got things wrong. Instead of focusing on minorities, Judis now argues the party needs to focus on economic justice appeals that will attract both minorities and white voters. A focus on just minorities will allow Republicans to exploit that as a wedge issue.
Another segment of the Democratic Party is calling on the party to focus on voters of color. Steve Phillips, the author of “Brown is the New White,” argues that “progressive people of color” combined with “progressive whites” make up 51 percent of voting-age Americans.
Other observers see Democrats as potentially repeating some of the same mistakes in their past. In 1968, the Democrats selected a more moderate candidate, Hubert Humphrey, over the more liberal Robert Kennedy and Gene McCarthy. Humphrey narrowly lost.
After losing in 1968, the Democrats moved far to the left and reformed the nominating process by requiring delegates to reflect the makeup of each state. They also adopted the most left-wing platform and selected the most liberal nominee for 1972, George McGovern.
Richard Nixon was able to easily tag the Democrats as the party of “acid, amnesty and abortion.” The amnesty referred to support for allowing deserters from the Vietnam War to return to America. McGovern lost 49 of the 50 states and only won 39 percent of the vote.
Will Democrats move further left after nominating the more moderate Hillary Clinton over the leftist Bernie Sanders. Sanders had never been registered as a Democrat until running for president. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Fred Logevall: “If the Democrats move to the left on free tuition for college and single-payer health care, I do get 1972 popping into my head.”
Doug Sosnik, a Democratic strategist, wrote a recent op-ed in The New York Times called “Trump is on track to win re-election.” Sosnik argues that Trump’s conservative populism is beating the Democrats liberal populism. Also, Trump’s support is personal, not ideological.
Almost everything is working to the benefit of Democrats heading into 2016. Democrats just need to learn the lessons of 2016 and learn what is really important to voters. If not, the Democrats will continue to be on the outside looking in.
Pinellas County’s premier leadership development organization, designed to promote a “diverse group” of up-and-coming leaders, appears to be missing something in its Class of 2018 – diversity.
Leadership Pinellas is the regional tax-exempt organization that offers a 10-month leadership-development program every year to a select group of local business, nonprofit and government executives.
On its website, Leadership Pinellas says the goal is to “develop and enhance community leadership by providing a diverse group of emerging and existing leaders with the opportunity to increase their community knowledge, civic network, and perpetuate their service to the community.”
“Our community leaders grow to be more well-informed, committed and passionately engaged in our community,” it adds. More than 100 people have completed the program since 1977.
But in August, when the Tampa Bay Business Journal published photos of the 48 members of the group’s Class of 2018, there seems to be a distinct lack of racial diversity — few faces were clearly African-American, and only a handful of surnames could be commonly identified as Hispanic.
In some ways, however, the class can be considered “diverse.”
A spreadsheet analysis by the legal website Baylawsuits found that precisely half of the 48 members of the class are women; 24 of them work at for-profit businesses, six at police or fire departments, 13 at other levels of government, three at nonprofit organizations, and two as volunteers.
Despite the group’s stated mission, though, the Class of 2018 appears far from representing the racial makeup of Pinellas County. While it is possible some members could self-identify as African-American, none are dark-skinned.
In an announcement, Leadership Pinellas’ Georgie Menkedescribed the groupas “some of the brightest movers and shakers in the area.”
As an alum of the Class of 2009, Menke serves as president of the group’s board of directors, and is vice president of operations at Advantage Group, a Clearwater-based consulting and risk management firm.
“And with the tools Leadership Pinellas will be providing them this year,” Menke added, “they will continue to assist growth and opportunity in our area by honing in on our community needs for years to come.”
That said, one can ask if Leadership Pinellas can truly address the needs of a community when it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect its demographics. The addition of even a handful of people of color could go a long way toward its stated goal of “diversity.”
According to the group’s 2015 tax returns, Leadership Pinellas spent $165,483 that year — $57,090 more than it took in revenue.
What is old is new again, as rumors re-emerge that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could have a job in the Trump administration.
With a new twist in the nomination for the nation’s drug czar, Bondi returns to the spotlight, amid renewed speculation she could be headed to Washington.
And there is a good argument to be made for Donald Trump to put Bondi at the top of the list: Her record on fighting drugs in Florida, and her overwhelming success in shutting down the state’s pill mills.
After Trump’s nomination, many considered Bondi a sure winner to head the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly known as the drug czar. As a friend of the president, Bondi had a role on Trump’s transition team. Earlier this year, the president appointed her to a White House panel on drug abuse – one of Bondi’s passions as attorney general.
However, in a news conference Monday where Trump announced he would declare a national emergency on the nation’s opioid epidemic sometime next week, the president showed a distinct lack of confidence in Rep. Tom Marino, his current pick for drug czar.
This non-support comes after a joint Washington Post/60 Minutes report blasted the Pennsylvania Republican congressman for steering legislation to make it harder to act against big drug companies – which would add a degree of difficulty in the battle against opioids.
The Washington Post wrote: “The president … said he had not yet spoken with Marino about the … report, but if he determines that Marino’s work was detrimental to the administration’s goal of combating opioid addiction, ‘I will make a change.'”
What apparently sealed Marino’s fate,Axios notes, was that the report “detailed how a targeted lobbying effort helped weaken the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to go after drug distributors, even as opioid-related deaths continue to rise.”
Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, herself seeking the Senate seat in one of the states hardest-hit by the opioid crisis, is also facing a backlash as “a lead sponsor of Marino’s bill.”
According to CBS Evening News, nearly 13 million people had watched the “60 Minutes” segment – an audience that included Trump, a known fan of the show. Trump confirmed Monday he “saw the report.”
Now that Marino’s nomination is dead, Bondi could be in contention for the job.
If she did accept a role in the Trump administration, Gov. Rick Scott will need to name a successor to fill Bondi’s remaining term through next year, adding a new wrinkle in the growing field of candidates to replace her in 2018.
“Please don’t tell me there is no equivalent in Florida politics to Weinstein,” I wrote. “After all, politics is show business for ugly people.”
Well, I was reminded of (relatively) new language in the House Rules, rewritten after the ascent of Speaker Richard Corcoran.
Under the section titled “Obligations of a Lobbyist,” there’s this sentence:
“Each lobbyist shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes a professional environment in the House, exemplifies proper conduct in public meetings, promotes lawful conduct by all involved in the legislative process, and contributes to an environment free from harassment and discrimination (emphasis added).”
And this: “Each lobbyist shall respect and support the honorable conduct of the members of the House and discourage unlawful conduct.”
Let’s not overlook this, from the rule on grounds for impeachment: “Failure to maintain a professional environment in the administration of the office free of unlawful discrimination and free of harassment or abuse of employees or members of the public served by the office (emphasis added).”
Indeed, lest you forget, as I wrote, “One lawmaker ON THE VERY NIGHT I proposed to my wife (who worked in the Governor’s office), wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her because he wanted to ‘feel her breasts one last time.’ ”
Yes, I still throw up in my mouth every time I reread that.
The upshot: Maybe the Speaker was on to something? Stay tuned.
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @WFTSisabel: MASSIVE LINES outside the @RPFundingCenter in Lakeland as people wait to get food assistance following Hurricane Irma
— @LedgeKing: .@SecondLadyKaren Pence to visit .@floridastate Wednesday for an announcement about her art therapy initiative. School runs a nationally acclaimed art-therapy graduate education program.
— @SchmitzMedia: Sen. President Joe Negron now up — references Hamilton, says he always wanted to be in “the room where it happens” to fight for his district.
— @BenDiamondFL: Proud to file the FL Competitive Workforce Act. Lets work to protect LGBT rights & make our state more competitive in the global economy.
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Florida’s 2 main political parties could pay hefty fines” via The Associated Press — State officials this month levied a $110,000 fine against the Republican Party of Florida. The party turned in a campaign finance report dealing with a South Florida House race 11 days late. Republicans are appealing the fine … The Florida Democratic Party could also get hit with a large fine. The state Division of Elections notified the party Oct. 9 that Democrats had failed to turn in a report associated with a central Florida House race. Blaise Ingoglia, chairman of the state Republican Party, said it was an “oversight” that the report wasn’t filed on time. But he contended state officials did not follow the law because they didn’t immediately notify party leaders. Ingoglia said the fines should be waived.
“Bill Nelson wants Puerto Ricans newly arrived in Florida to register to vote” via Patricia Mazzei of the Tampa Bay Times — “If they will register to vote, which I’m certainly going to encourage, because I can tell you among the Puerto Rican community in the greater Orlando area, they have been very embracing of my public service,” he said at a San Juan news conference after Puerto Rican reporter asked him about the post-storm migration. “The question is how many will want to register, and how many will want to return.” Standing next to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Nelson took pains to say he wasn’t encouraging Puerto Ricans to depart forever. Puerto Ricans worry an exodus of working professionals — on the heels of years of emigration during the island’s financial crisis — will only make it more difficult for the economy to get going again. “It could be a while coming before things get back,” Nelson said, referring in particular to the island’s destroyed power grid. “I will certainly encourage our fellow citizens to return home.”
The Caputo Primary – “In money race for governor, Democrats losing badly to Republicans” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida >>>What better way to justify Caputo’s preferred candidate – Phil Levine – entering the race than to dog the current candidates for their lackluster fundraising. Levine can self-fund, so he won’t have that issue.
Assignment editors — Democratic candidate for Governor Andrew Gillum will be speaking with South Dade Democrats at their monthly meeting, beginning 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, 7700 SW. 76th Ave. in Miami.
Ashely Moody to campaign in Sarasota — The Republican Attorney General candidate will give a speech to the NOVA Republican Club, beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Nokomis Community Center, 234 Nippino Trail in Nokomis.
“Scott Sturgill raises $200K in CD 7 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Sturgill, a Sanford businessman, sits well behind Democratic incumbent Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in the early money race toward the 2018 election. Last week Murphy reported that her fundraising had topped $1 million toward her re-election bid. However, Sturgill leads state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park heading toward the 2018 Republican primary. Miller reported raising $156,000. Sturgill’s big showing came in part through his own wallet. The chief executive officer of Durable Safety Products contributed $100,250 through a personal loan to his campaign. His total came in at $206,395. After expenses, he reported having $177,499 going into October.
“Miami politician says aliens took her on a spaceship. Now she’s running for Congress.” via Alex Daugherty and Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera says she’s been aboard a spaceship too. But this one was crewed by aliens. As in extraterrestrials. Three blond, big-bodied beings — two females, one male — visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says. (Sen. Nelson served as payload officer aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. All seven people aboard were from Earth. As far as is known.) Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.
“Miami commissioner Ken Russell joins race to replace Ros-Lehtinen” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald — The current Miami city commissioner, who once traveled around the world to showcase his yo-yo skills, is officially joining the crowded Democratic primary to replace Ros-Lehtinen. “I love my job as city commissioner, and once Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her retirement it started a new conversation,” Russell said. “It’s almost serendipity that [her retirement] is coinciding with what’s going on with the federal government. Instantly, I felt inside this is something I want to do.” Russell set up an exploratory committee in May to gauge his electoral prospects and begin fundraising. After conducting internal polling, Russell concluded that there was a path to victory, even though other Democrats jumped in the race.
Happening tonight — State Sens. Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson and Dana Young, along with former House Speaker Will Weatherford and others are hosting a fundraising reception for Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper in his bid for Senate District 16; VIP reception begins at 5:30 p.m., general reception at 6 p.m. at the University Club of Tampa Harbour Room, 201 N. Franklin St., Suite 3800 in Tampa.
“Matt Nye announces run for HD 52 seat against Thad Altman” via Brevard Times — Nye organized the Brevard Tea Parties and currently serves as the Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, the national parent organization of the local Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida, which he founded back in 2008. “The citizens of Florida deserve a state representative who will work to reduce, not expand, government, and who will not use the position as leverage for personal gain,” Nye said. “From his earliest days on the County Commission to his most recent position as a State Representative … Altman has a consistent record of placing the interests of lobbyists and special interests above those of his constituents. When one is drawing a $160K annual salary for a do-nothing position without qualifications one is obligated to carry water for other folks whose votes are needed to keep your own bread buttered.” Nye is a citizen watchdog and outspoken critic of government spending and waste.
Matt Spritz campaign kickoff — Spritz launches his 2018 bid in Palm Beach County’s HD 89 beginning 6:30 p.m. at Biergarten Boca Raton, 309 Via De Palmas, #90, in Boca Raton.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Rick Scott calls for more funds to secure Jewish Day schools across Florida” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Scott announced that he would propose $1 million in funding to boost security for Jewish Day Schools across the Sunshine State. That’s up from last year when $654,000 was used for security at these schools. “Every Florida student deserves to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and comfortable setting,” Scott said. “After Florida’s Jewish community received hateful threats last year, we saw the need to provide additional security so the children that attend Jewish Day Schools can learn without having to worry about feeling threatened. While last year’s investment will make a huge difference, we must continue to do more. I look forward to working with the Legislature to provide this important funding and will continue to work with our federal partners and members of Florida’s Jewish community to ensure the safety of families and students.”
“Richard Corcoran says ‘enough is enough’ in new video” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Call it the House of Representatives’ Greatest Hits — so far. House Speaker Corcoran took to YouTube Monday to highlight his chamber’s work in last week’s first legislative committee week. An enthusiastic Corcoran, sporting a blue blazer-no tie look, sat in front of a bookcase stuffed with Florida Statute books, a miniature Liberty Bell, and an “It CAN Be Done” sign. “We hit the ground running,” he said, jabbing his finger in the air.
Click on the image below to watch the video.
“Bob Cortes heads for Puerto Rico on relief mission organized through Speaker’s office” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Cortes went to Puerto Rico to oversee a disaster relief effort arranged by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and coordinated by him and other members of the Seminole County Legislative Caucus. Cortes is overseeing the delivery of about four tons of supplies headed for the hard-hit eastern part of the island commonwealth. Puerto Rico is his family home, where he still has numerous family members struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation … Cortes expressed hope to get supplies through to some of the 3.5 million people who lost so much, most still without power, many without running water, and all struggling. He also expects to meet with officials there, possibly including Gov. Ricardo Rossello, to talk about future cooperative efforts between Florida and Puerto Rico.
“Danny Burgess announces veterans legislation” via Florida Politics — Burgess announced he filed a trio of veterans bills for the 2018 Legislative Session to address mental health and licensing issues. “I believe our most solemn responsibility as a state is to serve those who have served us,” said Burgess, a Zephyrhills Republican, in a statement. “Veterans are Florida’s VIPs, and these bills together constitute its own Veterans Improvement Package (VIP) that will drastically improve the lives of veterans all throughout Florida. I am eager to discuss these critical pieces of legislation and will work tirelessly to see them pass in the 2018 Session.”
“Ben Diamond files bill to ban LGBT discrimination” via the Tampa Bay Reporter — Diamond filed the Competitive Workforce Act to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Florida law currently prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, marital status or disability. State Rep. Rene Plasencia will co-sponsor the bill. The Competitive Workforce Act is supported by Florida Competes, a coalition of nine Fortune 500 companies and more than 450 small businesses from across the state, Diamond said. “Florida businesses are strong supporters of this bill,” Diamond said. “Our businesses recognize that we must update our state’s civil rights laws so we can compete in recruiting top talent to our state. Most importantly, this bill affirms the basic human rights of our LGBT community. In Florida, it should be illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Look for Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. JasonFischer, a Jacksonville Republican, to file legislation today to allow “true self-driving vehicles in Florida by updating the sections of the motor vehicle laws that require or presume there is a human driver behind the wheel.”
“Don’t fear the debate” — In a commitment to openness and transparency, the House Democratic Caucus is providing a rundown of bills that have been placed on the agenda in House committees. As of Monday, October 16, 16 bills have been placed on committee agendas in the Florida House. Of those, 10 are sponsored by Republicans, 3 are sponsored by Democrats, and 3 bills have bipartisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 62.5% of the bills that have been considered are Republican bills, 18.75% are Democratic, and 18.75% are bipartisan.
“Former House page director also facing embezzlement charge” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — The former director of the Florida House page program was convicted in federal court last month of attempting to entice a minor. Now Michael Chmielewski is facing charges he embezzled money from the program … accused of using his state-issued debit card to pay for out-of-town trips, an Amazon.com membership, Comcast bills and other unauthorized purchases to bilk more than $5,300 out of the account. He was charged with organized scheme to defraud in April and has pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in the federal case in February. Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators identified 149 total charges and cash withdrawals made starting in June 2015 and ending in January, just before Chmielewski was nabbed in connection with a weeklong child sex sting.
Constitution Revision Commission, Rules Committee meets — The full Florida Constitution Revision Commission will meet after a meeting of its Rules and Administration Committee. Committee meets at 11 a.m., followed by the whole CRC meeting at 2 p.m. Committee meet in Room 401 Senate Office Building; Commission meets in the Senate Chambers.
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— STORMS —
“Power in Puerto Rico: Only 30 percent will be restored this month, governor says” via CNN — Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he plans to restore power to 95 percent of the island’s energy grid by December after Hurricane Maria devastated the infrastructure … As of Sunday, 85 percent of the island still had no electricity. Rosselló set a goal to restore power by Dec. 15. “This is an aggressive agenda, but we cannot be soft of passive in the face of Puerto Rico’s challenges,” Rosselló said. “We are going to need all hands on deck.” Rosselló said his goal is to have 30 percent of the island’s power restored by the end of the month. Then, the target would be to restore 50 percent by Nov. 15 and 80 percent by Dec. 1. Authorities had estimated it could take them between six months to a year to restore power.
“50,000 line up outside Tropical Park seeking post-hurricane food assistance” via Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald — “We’ve been dealing with about 10,000 people a day,” said Ofelia Martinez, the Miami site manager for the state Department of Children and Families (DCF). “But when we opened the doors this morning, the police told us there were already 50,000 people waiting outside.” The Food for Florida Disaster Food Assistance Program, as the program is formally known, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and operated by DCF, is designed for people in 48 counties across the state who aren’t ordinarily eligible for food stamps but suffered losses during Hurricane Irma last month. It opened up shop in Miami-Dade and Broward counties Wednesday and drew steadily bigger crowds through its Sunday finale. The throngs were so large and rowdy Saturday that five of the distribution points closed down early in the day — in some cases, before serving even a single client. DCF said Sunday they would be holding more in-person sign-ups in the future, but a spokeswoman would not specify when the agency would announce dates and locations.
“Farmers may get loans to help with Irma damage”via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — Florida farmers in 44 counties may be eligible for federal loans to help cover damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced. Still, Florida might have to wait months for broader federal assistance to the agriculture industry, which sustained more than $2.5 billion in losses from the storm. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue notified Gov. Scott that the federal agency determined that Florida had sufficient production loss to warrant a “secretarial natural disaster designation” for most of the peninsula. The designation makes farmers eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency programs, including emergency loans, Perdue wrote in a letter to Scott. Farmers have eight months to apply for the loans.
“3 appeals for hurricane aid pending in Florida since 2004” via The Associated Press — Dozens of requests for reimbursement from FEMA are still pending, including at least three cases in Florida pending for over a decade. The Escambia County School District and the Community Action Program Committee, a nonprofit organization in Pensacola offering utility and education assistance to low-income families, each have multiple projects that followed Hurricane Ivan in 2004 still being reviewed by FEMA. Also still under review: work completed by the Archdiocese of Miami after Hurricane Katrina hit the state in 2005 on its way to the Gulf Coast.
“Hundreds of boats removed after Irma” via the News Service of Florida — More than 850 vessels impacted by Hurricane Irma have been removed from state waters, the U.S. Coast Guard announced. The majority of the 858 boats that have been removed were in the Florida Keys, where 637 vessels have been taken out of the water. The Coast Guard said the boat owners themselves had removed many of the boats … A total of 19 ships have been removed from Miami-area waters, while 160 have been taken out of waters from Collier County to north of St. Petersburg. In the Northeast, 42 boats have been removed, and Coast Guard crews were overseeing the removal of a 55-foot recreational fishing vessel at Fort George Island Marina in Jacksonville.
“’She’s not breathing’: 911 calls capture chaos at Hollywood nursing home” via Megan O’Matz and Rafael Olmeda of the Orlando Sentinel — After a court hearing, the city immediately released nine calls regarding the incident. Some portions were redacted to protect the names of patients and callers. The times of the calls are not noted. They show the chaos that quickly engulfed the nursing home as patient after patient experienced difficulties. The nursing home’s staff seemed stressed and had difficulty relaying basic information, including the nursing home’s phone number, address and ages of the patients. “Oh my God, this is crazy,” a staffer says while trying to locate the age of a patient in respiratory failure. “I’m trying to load up the computer. The computer is slow. I’m downstairs, but the patient is upstairs with the nurse. So kind of bear with me.” At least one of the calls was made while paramedics were already in the building, tending to another resident.
“How the Florida Keys are coming back to life” via Nick Madigan of The New York Times — Some of that resilience comes through in hand-painted signs posted along the Overseas Highway: “Can’t Drown a Conch,” says one in Key Largo, using the term by which some Keys residents are known. “After a Hurricane Comes a Rainbow,” says another sign nearby. The reality is infinitely harsher, even weeks after the storm. On both sides of the road that connects the Keys, which reopened to regular traffic Oct. 1, large piles of debris — palm trees, pieces of houses, vehicles and boats, soaked couches and mattresses, mangled refrigerators and kitchen cabinets — still await removal by the rumbling excavators, backhoes and trucks that have become ubiquitous in the area. In some marinas, lopsided, half-sunk cabin cruisers and sailboats stick out of the shallow water, their fate left to insurance adjusters and salvagers. On the positive side, electrical power is back in most places, while the Overseas Highway and its 42 bridges are open all the way to Key West, the island chain’s crown jewel and the primary draw for most of the people who visit the Keys — 3.8 million last year. Although pummeled by winds and left flooded in some parts, the town was largely spared the kind of damage seen only a few miles to the northeast, and all but three of its hotels — the Inn at Key West, the Bayside Inn & Suites and the Parrot Key Hotel & Resort — have reopened.
— STATEWIDE —
Rick Scott, Cabinet to meet — The agenda for Scott and his Cabinet includes a possible $5.7 million deal on more than 2,500 acres of land in Okeechobee County. Meeting begins 8 a.m. at the Cabinet meeting room in the Florida Capitol.
“Some want to change Florida education — by amending the state constitution” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times — One Floridian wants the Bible and prayer in the state’s public schools. Another seeks to prevent state funds from going to any institution that promotes religion. One resident calls for all school district superintendents to be appointed, while another says they should all be elected. A third would do away with the job altogether. These were among the more than 700 public proposals for changing Florida’s Constitution … dozens of them weighing in on how the education system should change. The input is part of the process for the Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes every 20 years to consider what amendments — if any — to send to voters. At least one person has proposed a state-level charter authorizer, an idea the state Supreme Court struck down in 2010. And the Florida Charter School Alliance has called for added protections to charters.
Just off embargo —Florida voters oppose banning sale of assault weapons, UNF poll finds — A new poll of registered voters in Duval County found 52 percent of registered voters oppose prohibiting the sale of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, with 42 percent supporting the prohibition. Registered Republicans were 55 percent opposed, with a little under half of registered Democrats opposing a prohibition of assault weapon sales (47 percent). The poll, by the Public Opinion Research Laboratory (PORL) at the University of North Florida of registered voters in the state of Florida, is similar to results of a PORL poll conducted earlier this spring. When asked about open carry for licensed permit holders, 54 percent oppose and only 40 percent support. Political parties are more divided on open carry as 69 percent of registered Democrats oppose, but registered Republicans who responded support open carry legislation at 57 percent. For concealed carry on college campuses, the opposition is high at 59 percent, with 37 percent in support. The overall resistance has decreased slightly since the spring results, in which 64 percent opposed and 35 percent supported concealed carry at colleges and universities. Large portions of registered Democrats (78 percent) oppose this policy, while a slight majority (54 percent) of registered Republicans support concealed carry at colleges and universities.
“2010 oil spill funds remain elusive for coastal counties” via John Henderson of the Panama City News-Herald — Jim Muller’s typical day is full of details. Muller is one of the several players in a governmental waiting game. Seven years after the BP oil spill, Bay County — along with others on the Gulf Coast — has yet to receive millions of dollars promised to the Panhandle for projects to restore the region’s economy and environment. Bay County falls into two pots of money: that from the RESTORE Act, which includes all 23 Gulf Coast counties in Florida, and Triumph Gulf Coast, which includes only eight Panhandle counties most affected by the spill. The RESTORE Act provides about $308 million through the Gulf Consortium, with $231 million of that slated for the eight counties most affected. That includes Bay County, which anticipates $34.9 million (15 percent) over 15 years. The other 15 coastal counties will split about $77 million over 15 years via the consortium. Triumph Gulf Coast, a separate entity, is slated for $1.5 billion through 2033 for the eight disproportionately affected counties. Locally, county officials are frustrated, noting they have done everything in their power to bring the money here, but they can’t beat the ever-changing bureaucratic system full of red tape involving the federal government.
State of emergency declared for white nationalist speech via The Associated Press — Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency in advance of a speech that white nationalist RichardSpencer is scheduled to give at the University of Florida. Scott warned in an executive order that a “threat of a potential emergency is imminent” in Alachua County. Spencer is slated to speak at the campus this Thursday. Spencer participated in a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that led to deadly violence in August. Scott’s order will allow local law-enforcement authorities to partner with state and other law-enforcement agencies to provide security for the event. The governor said he is also activating the Florida National Guard to help with security if it is needed.
“New Florida driver’s license, ID card expanding statewide” via Florida Politics — The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) said it was expanding its issuance of a new, more secure Florida driver’s license and ID card. Through December, DHSMV will add the more than 200 remaining service centers to the list of offices offering the new credential throughout Florida, according to a news release … The new design includes nearly double the fraud protection measures compared to the previous design, the department said, and provides the most secure over-the-counter credential on the market today. Security features on the new credential include redundant data, ultraviolet (UV) ink and optically variable features.
“Supreme Court sets arguments in red-light camera battle” via the News Service of Florida — The Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in February in a battle about a red-light camera program in the city of Aventura that could have broader implications across the state. The court issued an order that scheduled oral arguments for Feb. 7. The case, like others, focuses on whether Aventura gave too much authority to a private company that contracted to help run the red-light camera program. The 3rd District Court of Appeal upheld the Aventura program in a decision involving a motorist who received a ticket for improperly turning right at a red light. In challenging the ticket, motorist Luis Torres Jimenez contended the city had illegally given “unfettered discretion” to a red-light camera company to review images of potential violations and to print and send out citations.
Pre-reveal appeal lives on via Florida Politics — An appellate court has combined appeals in the case over a lower court’s decision that entertainment devices known as “pre-reveal” games are in fact illegal slot machines. The 1st District Court of Appeal consolidated appeals over the games, played in bars and taverns and resembling slots. Gator Coin II — the Jacksonville company that distributes the games — is pressing forward, dockets show. Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper had reversed his previous ruling, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.” That was after further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games — as its maker prefers to call them — actually play. The case got started, records show, when Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”
“’Just a joke’: Students’ social media threats are disrupting schools” via Emma Kennedy of the Pensacola News-Journal — There have been two threats in as many weeks at Navarre High School, and a third in Fort Walton Beach, as three different students made threats on social media that prompted their peers and peers’ parents to call the schools concerned. A student posted to Instagram referencing certain cliques, saying “I hope you all have fun in hell because I’m going to drag you down with me.” That student was suspended as a result of the post. “I think people take it more seriously now than ever, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, and it’s justly so,” said Jason Weeks, Santa Rosa County School District director of high schools. Weeks said threats over social media are increasing and they disrupt the education system. “Sometimes, not always, it escalates into a major disruption on campus,” Weeks said. “Students start checking out of school, parents call, it’s logical, but the parents are scared.”
“Brightline derails, causing extensive damage; ‘definitive’ cause in question” via Lisa Broadt of TCPalm — A Brightline train derailed during testing earlier this year, causing more than $400,000 of damage, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The derailment occurred At 5 p.m. Feb. 11 as one of Brightline’s five passenger trains returned to the railroad’s West Palm Beach maintenance facility, according to the incident report … The train had just finished performing signal tests … As the train entered the yard, the locomotive truck — the part of the train that supports the locomotive and provides propulsion and braking — derailed, taking two axles off the track. Damages to the train were about $408,000; damage to the track was negligible, according to Brightline. In its report to the agency, Brightline said the February derailment was caused by irregular track alignment, but noted its assessment is not “definitive.” The railroad said it found a few “anomalies” that could have been contributing factors.
“In the shadow of Disney, living life on the margins” via Richard Luscombe of The Guardian — These days, Tommy Delgado barely notices the helicopter flights full of affluent tourists coming and going just across the street from the Magic Castle Inn and Suites. Delgado and his family are part of Kissimmee’s hidden homeless, those living paycheck to paycheck, or in many cases on no paycheck at all, in cramped and semi-permanent accommodation in cheap motels behind the neon-lit, tourist attraction-laden facade of Highway 192, the pathway to Disney. Most will never be able to afford the price of theme park tickets, far less a helicopter ride above it. It is a dark existence brought vividly into focus by director Sean Baker in his gritty movie The Florida Project, which tells of the day-to-day struggles of two residents of the Magic Castle, a six-year-old live wire named Moonee and her mom Halley, a single mother who turns to prostitution when waitressing falls through … the scenes of poverty, depression and deprivation it conveys, and the juxtaposition of living in the direct shadow of Disney World, the self-proclaimed happiest place on earth, are all too real to Delgado. He has been a stay-at-home dad to his toddler, Mason, since leaving his last job as a trucker three months ago. “Some of the stuff in the movie, this really does happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who live in these rooms with their kids; there’s a lot of drug addicts that need help, they don’t get that help here.”
— D.C. MATTERS —
Karen Pence to visit Tallahassee this week — Second Lady KarenPence, wife of Vice President MikePence, will visit Tallahassee Wednesday to announce her art therapy initiative. Her first stop is the campus of Florida State University, which is home to a nationally acclaimed art-therapy graduate education program. After that, she will head to Canopy Cove Eating Disorder Treatment Center on Mahan Drive. There, Mrs. Pence will meet with an art therapist and meet with clients who will share their experiences with art therapy.
“Florida developer with ties to Jared Kushner’s family gives big to Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Nicholas A. Mastroianni II gave Trump Victory $100,000 on Sept. 27 and $50,000 Aug. 31, reports show. Of that, the maximum $5,400 went to Trump’s re-election campaign, which raised $10 million from July through September. The rest goes to the Republican National Committee and an array of state parties. Another major donor to Trump victory was Thomas Peterffy, a billionaire from Palm Beach who is CEO of Interactive Brokers. He gave $250,000 on Sept. 11, FEC records show. Mastroianni is chairman and CEO of U.S. Immigration Fund, a significant player in the controversial EB-5 program, which has been a favorite of the super-rich in China, and offers visas for $500,000 in U.S. investment. (Nicholas Mastroianni III is president of U.S. Immigration Fund and has been linked to Jared Kushner.) According to reports, Mastroianni connected the Kushner family with a Beijing immigration company Qiaowai as it sought to finance various projects.
“Bob Menendez faces critical moment in bribery trial” via John Bresnahan and Matt Friedman of POLITICO — U.S. District Judge William Walls stunned federal prosecutors last week when he expressed doubts over whether the Justice Department’s bribery charges against Menendez should move forward in light of the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision throwing out the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. That ruling impacted the legal definition of bribery, including the “string of benefits” theory used by prosecutors to charge Menendez. Walls openly questioned whether Menendez and his co-defendant, Florida ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen, had engaged in a bribery scheme in light of the McDonnell ruling. But Walls said he would allow the jury to decide whether Menendez made false statements when he failed to report gifts from Melgen on his annual financial disclosure form filed with the Senate. “I know the prosecution had a heyday before McDonnell, and now they have a doomsday after McDonnell,” Walls said.
“Vern Buchanan glad to see DHS adopt his proposal to screen visa applicants’ social media” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — Back in December 2015, U.S. Rep. Buchanan teamed up with U.S. Sen. John McCain to offer a bill ensuring the federal government screens the social media of everyone who applies for a visa to visit the United States. Pointing to reports noting the terrorists behind the San Bernardino attacks posted messages in support of Islamic jihad on Facebook, Buchanan urged the Obama White House to show more leadership in monitoring social media. Since that time, Buchanan has continued calling for the federal government to monitor the social media posts of foreigners visiting the U.S. Last September, Buchanan showcased his proposal in the aftermath of accused terrorist Ahmad Rahami whose social media posts included links to videos supporting Islamic terrorism and jihad. Rahami is accused of being responsible for bombs which injured more than 30 people. With DHS announcing it will start screening the social media posts of international visitors this week, Buchanan welcomed the news. “Checking social media is standard practice for thousands of employers.” Buchanan said Monday. “We need to make sure the individuals entering the U.S. are not here to harm Americans.”
“Florida TV tax fight taken to U.S. Supreme Court” via Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida — Pointing to “protectionism,” a major satellite-television company is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a constitutional challenge to a Florida law that sets different tax rates for cable and satellite TV services. The long-running battle focuses on the state’s communications-services tax, which is 4.92 percent on the sale of cable services and 9.07 percent on the sale of satellite-TV services. Dish Network contends the different tax rates are a form of protectionism that violates the “dormant” Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars states from discriminating against interstate commerce. “In particular, it forbids a state from taxing or regulating differently on the basis of where a good is produced or a service is performed,” said the Dish Network petition … “That’s exactly what the unequal Florida tax does. It puts a heavier duty on pay-TV programming that is assembled and delivered without using massive infrastructure within the state.” But the Florida Supreme Court, which sided in April with the state Department of Revenue and the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association, rejected the notion that cable was an “in state” interest that was being protected by the law.
— OPINIONS —
“Melissa Larkin-Skinner: State resources are needed to address the opioid epidemic” via Florida Politics — Our state legislature has an opportunity right now to enhance its response to this growing epidemic by increasing funding for prevention and treatment programs. This is an opportunity that we must take to ensure a healthy future for all of Florida for generations to come … No one is immune from this crisis. We have an opportunity in front of us to set a national example for the proper response to opioid addiction, and we must take it. The Florida legislature should allocate funds to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. This will help individuals on their personal paths to recovery and put our state on the path to economic recovery from funds that are now being allocated to additional spending in the wake of the epidemic.
— MOVEMENTS —
Appointed — William Snyder, A.J. “Tony” Smith and Robert Hicks to the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council; Rabbi Yosef Weinstock and Rabbi Pinchas Taylor to the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council.
Good read about Deirdre Macnab via Jason Garcia of Florida Trend — The 2010 election … marked the beginning of the league’s emergence as one of the most influential interest groups in Florida politics. Following the Fair Districts campaign and litigation, the league supported a campaign to pass a constitutional amendment funding land preservation and another to defeat an amendment giving the state’s big utilities more control over the future of solar power. It helped defeat legislation to expand gun rights in places such as college campuses. And it’s now pushing to prevent Scott from appointing three Supreme Court justices on his final day in office … The transformation is largely the work of one person: Macnab, a 61-year-old former marketing exec who occasionally shows up at public events dressed as Susan B. Anthony.
“Personnel note: Elizabeth Boyd named state’s Deputy CFO” via Florida Politics — Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis on Monday announced that the Department of Financial Services’ longtime legislative affairs director, Elizabeth Boyd, has been promoted to Deputy Chief Financial Officer. In this new role, Elizabeth will oversee the Department’s legislative affairs, research and planning, cabinet and communications offices, as well as the Division of Consumer Services and the Division of Unclaimed Property, according to a news release. “For six years, Elizabeth has advanced the Department’s legislative priorities and secured great success on initiatives important to enhancing the lives of all Floridians,” Patronis said in a statement. “Her expansive knowledge on insurance, finance and regulatory matters, as well as a broad understanding of the legislative process, makes her well-suited to lead our Department in this capacity.”
Florida Capital Group announces new board members — The holding company for Florida Capital Bank announced that Ander Crenshaw and Buck Jones had joined the board of directors as of Sept. 27 … Crenshaw, a banker, attorney and politician, is a Jacksonville native who served as the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 4th Congressional District from 2001 to 2017 … Jones serves as CFO of Financial Information Technologies (Fintech) in Tampa. His financial career spans more than 40 years in roles such as founder, partner-in-charge and vice president at several finance-focused companies across the country … He now serves as Chairman of the Audit Committee, and Crenshaw serves on the Credit Committee … “Both men mirror our ambitions and harbor the experience needed to continue growing Florida Capital Bank through responsive and comprehensive solutions designed to best serve our customers,” said W. Andrew Krusen Jr., Florida Capital Group’s chairman.
— ALOE —
“Gas prices falling across Florida in aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News — On average, Floridians paid $2.47 per gallon Sunday, down from $2.54 a week before. While that average stood 22 cents higher than where it stood last year, in the aftermath of the hurricanes impacting Florida and oil production, last month, drivers in the Sunshine State paid, on average, more than $2.70 per gallon. Miami had the most expensive gas in the state with an average of $2.62 per gallon followed by Bacon Raton at $2.61 per gallon and Fort Lauderdale at $2.56 per gallon. The Tampa Bay market had the least expensive gas in the state with motorists paying $2.34 per gallon followed by Orlando at $2.37 per gallon and Fort Myers and Cape Coral at $2.40. The Tampa Bay and Orlando markets saw a drop of 10 cents per gallon over the past week. Drivers in Punta Gorda experienced a drop of 9 cents per gallon in the past week. Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for AAA and the Auto Club Group, said he expected prices to continue to drop across the Sunshine State.
“Stone crab season off to solid start in Southwest Florida” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News — “We didn’t set the world on fire, but we did all right,” said Patty Kirk, with Kirk’s Fish Co. Hurricane Irma had little effect on the amount of stone crabs hauled in, said Kelly Kirk, Patty’s daughter and fellow owner. “All the fishermen said the crabs looked healthy and were moving around,” she said. “It’s a very good thing.” Sunday marked the official opening of stone crab season, letting fishermen haul up their traps in hopes of a good catch. Some people worried that their local seafood favorite wouldn’t make it to their dinner plates after Irma plowed through Southwest Florida more than a month ago. Goodland, a small coastal town south of Marco Island, was hit hard by the storm but rebounded quickly, Kirk said. Several of the Kirk fishing boats were setting traps Oct. 5, the semi-official opening of stone crab season. If Kirk’s Fisheries is anything to go by, there shouldn’t be worry of immediate claw shortages.
“Epcot announces narrators for candlelight processional” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — Disney has announced this year’s celebrity narrators for the 2017 Candlelight Processional, which include Disney legend Kurt Russell, who has grown up in Disney films from the 1960s through this year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Other big-time celebrities who agreed to read the Christmas story are gold- and silver-medal-winning gymnast Laurie Hernandez, daytime television host Pat Sajak and Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The processional is at 5, 6:45, and 8:15 p.m. nightly at the America Gardens Theatre. Dinner packages, available on select nights, include a meal and a guaranteed seat for one of the performances.
Happy birthday to Rep. Kristin Jacobs, former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff,Mark Hollis, former Rep. Scott Randolph, and Ray Seaman.