Last Call — A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
“Trump’s isolation grows,” crows the headline on The Hill’s article, but the president’s favorite Florida lobbyist is standing by his man.
Brian Ballard told the newspaper last week he didn’t “think the president is isolated from the (Republican) Party.”
Trump took a virtual beating after he walked back remarks on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a local activist and two state troopers died amid violence attending a white nationalist rally.
For example, Ryan Williams, a GOP operative and veteran of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, told The Hill Trump “has no political capital left.”
“He has no sway on Capitol Hill and is basically now supported only by his base. He has no clout in Washington, and it seems that he will continue to put Republicans in a bad position,” Williams said.
“Look — there are a lot of people with reasons to politicize this moment,” he is quoted as saying.
“Some never got over the fact that he’s the president and are looking for any reason to throw him out. But I know him, and there’s not a racist bone in his body.
“People may disagree with his terminology, but we all know him to be a man of character and inclusion.”
Quote of the Day
“The solar eclipse is no longer mysterious, supernatural, foreboding or ominous. An eclipse is just another astral event, precisely predictable since the day the Babylonians discovered the governing formula.” – Federal judge Steven Merryday, ruling that a trial couldn’t be postponed just because one of the key witnesses – a federal agent – had travel plans to see the solar eclipse. The judge also quoted from the poet Wordsworth, name-checked Greek historian Herodotus, and referenced a Russian opera.
Sen. Marco Rubio will spend part of his evening in front of a friendly crowd when he swings by the Seminole County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner, set to kick off at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Orlando Altamonte Springs.
Others from the Florida delegation out and about Tuesday: U.S. Reps. Bill Posey and Charlie Crist.
At 10 a.m. Posey will join state Sens. Dorothy Hukill and Debbie Mayfield for the Vietnam Veterans Service Day at Merritt Island’s Veterans Memorial Center. Crist will spend the morning at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Pinellas Park for an anniversary event at 10 a.m. If success stories on economic impacts and job creation fly over your head, fret not, an F-35 Lightning II cockpit demonstrator will be on hand.
Across the bay, state Sen. Jack Latvala is set to give a legislative update to the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce over breakfast at The Centre Club. Joining him for the 7:45 a.m. talk are Reps. Ross Spano, Sean Shaw and Ben Diamond.
Palm Beach County lawmakers will spend their Tuesday evening holding town halls. Bobby Powell and Matt Willhite have a 7 p.m. event at the Royal Palm Beach Commons Sports Center. Jeff Clemens, Kevin Rader and Joe Abruzzo will be at the Democratic Club of Boca Raton and Delray Beach starting at 7:30 p.m.
Gov. Rick Scott will spend another day in Fort Lauderdale. At 9 a.m. he will preside over an Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The EFI board meeting follows a full slate committee meetings held by the group Monday.
This much is clear: state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez is running in the primary for Florida’s open 27th Congressional District.
What has not been as clear: is it the Democratic or Republican primary?
On its face, Rodriguez’s candidacy makes total sense: young, (sort of) telegenic, Cuban-American, Harvard-educated lawyer and state legislator who, in his rise from election to the state House and soon after that the Senate, defeated two popular Miami Republicans from a (once) venerable political dynasty.
However formidable this list may be, one giant box remains unchecked.
JJR, as he’s universally known, has never once endured the rigors of a Democratic primary. And since launching his latest electoral endeavor, that fact has become painfully obvious.
Take for example an email missive sent out by his campaign Friday in which Javier Rodriguez declares that Tallahassee’s Confederate monuments “belonged in a museum.” In his vigor to jump on the bandwagon of calling a special session for their removal, JJR apparently missed the mark regarding the current mood of the Democratic Party.
“Put them in a museum” has become a talking point of moderate Republicans, certainly not the liberal, Democratic base that votes in primaries.
To wit: When reached for comment, state Rep. David Richardson, one of JJR’s Democratic primary opponents (and a former colleague in the Florida House) trashed the email. Richardson said he “hadn’t heard any Democrats spend time this past week thinking about how to preserve monuments to those who fought to preserve slavery in our country.”
Fellow candidate and former Obama judicial nominee, Mary Barzee Flores, spent last week bashing the Trump administration in emails and social media. When asked about JJR’s email, her campaign didn’t want to comment on its specifics. However, her campaign manager told FloridaPolitics.com, “Mary would rather not see such monuments to the Confederacy on public display anywhere, including a museum.”
JJR’s tone-deaf email was just another in a succession of actions or comments suggesting the ever-ambitious Javier Rodriguez is out of touch with the Democratic base.
This identity crisis has significantly burdened his potential viability since the very first day of his campaign. When rolling out his campaign at the end of June, JJR said, “Donald Trump will not be on the ballot in 2018.”
At the time, the state lawmaker’s pinball wizard punditry left virtually every Miami political watcher dumbfounded. One local insider put it to me best: “That was one of the stupider things I’ve heard from a Democrat. Didn’t JJR go to Harvard?”
But one doesn’t have to have an Ivy League education to read polls. In one such recent survey (grain of salt: leaked anonymously to POLITICO Florida by a consultant with another candidate in the race) Trump has an 85 percent (!!) negative rating from primary voting Democrats. In that same poll, “standing up to Trump” is tied as most important qualities in a potential candidate.
His team is reading the part of the poll that says retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is well-liked by Democrats in the district? Even if that’s the case, she’s more rhetorically anti-Trump than JJR most of the time.
That same poll shows a tenuous status as “frontrunner.” JJR just barely cracks double digits in the 7-way scrum, pulling 15 percent. That’s to be expected, but what should be more troubling is that he has a name ID in the 30s. Part of JJR’s rationale is that his Senate district (and previously his House district) is entirely contained in CD 27.
The marginal benefit of that seems to be, well, marginal.
A lot of the chattering class and “the Process”-types have been grousing about JJR making this move in the first place. The Democratic Party infrastructure, and the progressive, dark-money, Florida Alliance folks put A LOT of money into seeing JJR take out Miguel DLP last fall. Some of them aren’t too happy about him putting that seat back into play next fall.
Given that JJR doesn’t seem too comfortable speaking the language of the Democratic base, maybe he should heed his benefactors and stay in the Florida Senate.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
Total solar eclipses occur every year or two or three, often in the middle of nowhere like the South Pacific or Antarctic. What makes Monday’s eclipse so special is that it will cut diagonally across the entire United States.
The path of totality — where day briefly becomes night — will pass over Oregon, continuing through the heartland all the way to Charleston, South Carolina. Those on the outskirts — well into Canada, Central America and even the top of South America — will be treated to a partial eclipse.
The last time a total solar eclipse swept the whole width of the U.S. was in 1918.
No tickets are required for this Monday’s show, just special eclipse glasses so you don’t ruin your eyes.
Some eclipse tidbits :
What’s a total solar eclipse?
When the moon passes between Earth and the sun, and scores a bull’s-eye by completely blotting out the sunlight, that’s a total solar eclipse. The moon casts a shadow on our planet. Dead center is where sky gazers get the full treatment. In this case, the total eclipse will last up to 2 minutes and 40-plus seconds in places. A partial eclipse will be visible along the periphery. Clouds could always spoil the view, so eclipse watchers need to be ready to split for somewhere with clear skies, if necessary.
What’s the eclipse path?
The path of totality will begin near Lincoln City, Oregon, as the lunar shadow makes its way into the U.S. This path will be 60 to 70 miles wide (97 to 113 kilometers); the closer to the center, the longer the darkness. Totality will cross from Oregon into Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and, finally, South Carolina. It will also pass over tiny slivers of Montana and Iowa. The eclipse will last longest near Carbondale, Illinois: two minutes and 44 seconds. The biggest cities in the path include Nashville; Columbia and Charleston, South Carolina; Salem, Oregon; Casper, Wyoming; and just partially within, St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri.
When’s the next eclipse?
If you miss Monday’s eclipse — or get bitten by the eclipse bug — you’ll have to wait seven years to see another one in the continental U.S. The very next total solar eclipse will be in 2019, but you’ll have to be below the equator for a glimpse. We’re talking the South Pacific, and Chile and Argentina. It’s pretty much the same in 2020. For the U.S., the next total solar eclipse will occur on April 8, 2024. The line of totality will cross from Texas, up through the Midwest, almost directly over Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo, New York, up over New England and out over Maine and New Brunswick, Canada.
“Can’t find the protective glasses to watch the solar eclipse? Go old school” via Blaine Friedlander of The Washington Post – The first rule of enjoying the eclipse is to never look directly at the sun, never look at the sun through a telescope or binoculars — unless these instruments have proper (emphasis on proper!) filters … even when most of the sun’s surface is blocked during the partial phases of a solar eclipse, the remaining, visible crescent is intensely bright and cannot be safely viewed without eye protection. Here are some old-school, low-tech ideas: Have the kids make their own cereal box solar eclipse theater. It’s a terrific way to capture the eclipse action and safe for viewing. You’ll need a cereal box, a piece of aluminum foil, tape and a small nail or pushpin. On a white piece of paper or white cardboard, trace the bottom of the box. Then, clip out the traced rectangle from the paper and put it in the bottom of the opened box. That’s your screen. Cut out two squares (1.5 inches should suffice) on the lid of the box and then tape the lid back together. For one square, cover the hole in foil and tape it down. Gently put a pushpin or small nail hole through it, as that is your lens. The smaller the hole, the sharper the projected image. When using your personal box theater, turn away from the sun — and let the sun’s rays shine through the tiny pin hole. Look through the other hole in the lid to see the eclipse action — during the eclipse you’ll see the moon biting a chunk from the sun.
“Can’t see the solar eclipse? Tune in online or on TV” via The Associated Press – For those not in the 14 states comprising the eclipse’s “path of totality,” here’s a look at some of the viewing opportunities online and on TV: “Eclipse of the Century“: CNN plans two hours of livestreaming, 360-degree coverage accessible in virtual reality through Oculus and other VR headsets beginning at 1 p.m. EDT. “Eclipse Over America“: The PBS science series NOVA is planning a quick turnaround on its eclipse documentary premiering Monday. Senior executive producer Paula S. Apsell said “Eclipse Over America,” which delves into why eclipses occur and what scientists can learn from them, will incorporate images of the event from across the country shot earlier that day. “Great American Eclipse“: The Science Channel will broadcast its live coverage from Madras, Oregon, from noon to 4 p.m. EDT, with commentary from educators and astronomers from the Lowell Observatory. “The Great American Eclipse“: David Muir will anchor ABC’s two hours of live coverage, with correspondents reporting from viewing parties across the country. NBC also plans live coverage, with Lester Holt hosting special reports at 1 and 2 p.m. EDT featuring correspondents reporting from Oregon, Illinois, Wyoming and South Carolina. Shepard Smith will break into typical broadcasting on Fox News Channel from noon to 4 p.m. EDT to update viewers on the eclipse and introduce footage from NASA and observatories around the country. “Solar Eclipse: Through the Eyes of NASA“: NASA will offer hours of coverage online and on NASA Television beginning at noon Eastern. It plans livestreaming of the eclipse beginning at 1 p.m. EDT with images from satellites, research aircraft, high-altitude balloons and specially modified telescopes. “The Total Solar Eclipse”: The Weather Channel is kicking off its live coverage at 6 a.m. EDT and continuing throughout the day with dispatches from seven locations along the “path of totality.”
“During the solar eclipse, let’s not forget about the moon” via Joe Kunches of The Washington Post–There would be no eclipse if there weren’t another partner in this organization … what about the moon? The moon will be arranging itself in the prime position to allow us earthlings (actually, mostly us North American earthlings) this awesome spectacle. The perfect mix of lunar size and distance from earth is a key here. The moon looks to be the same size in the sky as the Sun (it’s 400 times closer, while being about 400 times smaller), so that makes the totality so spectacular. But don’t take that for granted — the moon is moving away from the earth by about an inch and a half per year. The day is coming when the moon won’t seem big enough to block out the whole solar disk. What are folks wearing those funny glasses going to do then? As Ginger Rogers partnered with Fred Astaire dancing on the silver screen — she did everything he did, only backward, wearing high heels — the moon is the uncelebrated partner in this duet. Let’s give it a nod in this celestial masterpiece.
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— CIVIL WAR REDUX —
“What are the 63 hate groups in Florida and are they dangerous?” via Jon McCarthy of FLORIDA TODAY – Those numbers come from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Alabama-based civil-rights organization. Here is what you might not have heard: More than a third of the hate groups identified are black separatists groups such as the New Black Panther Party or the Nation of Islam. So what defines a “hate group?” The SPLC website says, “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are violent. Their activities can include “criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing,” SPLC says. Some worry that labeling an organization a hate group is a method of trying to limit offensive speech. But while some — if not most — hate groups may not be involved in violent or criminal activity, there has been a clear increase in hate-related violence in recent years, with Islamic jihadists and far-right wing supporters responsible for the vast majority of the deaths.
“Florida mayors join compact to ‘fight hate, extremism’ in wake of Charlottesville” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics– A group of Florida mayors are joining the national effort between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Anti-Defamation League in response to President Donald Trump‘s statements on the violence in Charlottesville … 14 more Florida mayors added their names to the “Mayor’s Compact to Combat Hate, Extremism and Bigotry,” making 35 mayors in total throughout the state. Signatories include Andrew Gillum … Philip Levine and Bob Buckhorn. “It’s cities and mayors who are on the front lines if and when some of our national leaders refuse to stand up in the face of hate, America’s Mayors will, “said Buckhorn. “That’s why I joined mayors from across the country to stand unified against bigotry, hate and racism. We cannot allow this divisive rhetoric to continue, not in our city and certainly not from the highest and most powerful office in the world.”
>>>What would be a real story is if a major Democratic mayor DIDN’T SIGN the compact.
“Gov. Scott silent on what should happen with Confederate monument at Florida Capitol” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald– Rather than lead on the issue, Scott is deferring to state lawmakers and has remained silent on whether such monuments in Florida — and particularly the one at the Capitol — should be taken down. His office pointed to general remarks Scott had made two days earlier about how federal, state and local officials ought to “review” what should be done with Confederate monuments. “We need to go through a process where everyone comes together and has a legitimate conversation, then we go forward,” Scott had said. But Scott … has repeatedly declined to answer questions about what direction he wants elected officials in Florida to take: Whether monuments celebrating the Confederacy, such as the one at the Capitol, should be removed or kept, and why. “We’ll leave decisions about the Historic Capitol Museum up to the Legislature,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.
“Jax Chamber backs Confederate monument ‘inventory’; Anna Brosche modifies position” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Jax Chamber … did not call for removal of those monuments — as the Council President did … before seemingly walking back that position under fire this week. Chamber Board Chair Darnell Smith asserted that the Chamber “support[s] the effort to inventory all of Jacksonville’s public monuments and conduct a swift, honest and thoughtful look at who we honor, and more importantly, who is missing from our public landscape. Discussions should include how we heal wounds that may still persist from our past. Among those should be a consideration of how we memorialize our city’s history in public spaces, and will most certainly involve additional tributes to Jacksonville’s historical leaders.” Council President Anna Brosche called for an inventory of monuments, ahead of an “appropriate plan of action to relocate Confederate monuments, memorials and markers” and initially called for “legislation to move Confederate monuments, memorials, and markers from public property to museums and educational institutions.”
“Putnam monument quietly avoids controversy — for now” via Jim Abbott of the Daytona Beach News-Journal – Few visitors to the Putnam County Courthouse … offer as much as a glance of remembrance at the towering monument to Palatka’s Confederate soldiers killed in the Civil War. It’s the kind of tribute that has become a lightning rod for controversy in some places in the wake of the tragic clash between neo-Nazis and other white nationalists and those protesting against them this past weekend in Charlottesville … That hasn’t happened in Palatka … The town is 46.3 percent white and 49.8 percent black … Yet some residents are concerned that tensions elsewhere might eventually surface in Palatka, roughly an hour northwest of Volusia County. Until now, Civil War preservation has never caused much fuss, locals say. There has been no public outcry about Palatka’s Confederate monument, said Stacey Manning, county attorney and interim county administrator. “We’re very diverse and we celebrate that diversity,” said Manning, who has worked in Putnam County for two years and previously held government jobs in Osceola and Volusia counties. “We have a lot of civic-minded individuals in Palatka who are very active in local government. They express their opinions in the right form. If they have issues, they come to county commission meetings.”
“Workers cover Confederate monument in downtown Bradenton with plywood” via Jessica DeLeon of the Bradenton Herald – Forty-eight hours before demonstrations are scheduled to take place in downtown Bradenton, the Confederate monument at the center of the controversy in front of the Manatee County historic courthouse was covered with plywood. Following a three-hour emergency meeting Friday afternoon, the Manatee County commission voted 6-1 in favor of covering up the Confederate monument to protect it in preparation for a protest and rally planned for Monday evening. It took more than four hours for four county building and development services workers to frame the monument with two-by-fours and then covered it with plywood. Bradenton’s Confederate monument, which has a Confederate flag etched on one side and the names of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee etched on the other sides, was unveiled in June 1924. The monument was erected by the Judah P. Benjamin Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy after they got approval from the Manatee County Commission in March 1924.
“Eustis commissioner: donate your Confederate monuments to us” via Jason Ruiter of the Orlando Sentinel – Commissioner Anthony Sabatini is creating a stir with his proposal that the Lake County city welcome Confederate monuments that are being taken down around the country. “To any cities or counties that would like to donate their Confederate monuments to the City of Eustis, we will gladly accept and proudly display our nation’s history,” he posted on Facebook. Hours later, the city posted on its website that Sabatini’s comments “do not represent the Commission as a whole” and it “has taken no formal action regarding Confederate statues.” Commissioner Linda Bob, an African-American, said she was offended by the idea and would not vote to bring Confederate statues to the city of 20,000 that’s 35 miles northwest of downtown Orlando.
“House vandalized with racial slur” via Buster Thompson and Michael Bates of the Citrus County Chronicle – A black family is devastated but resolute after a racist slur was spraypainted across the side of their Citrus Hills home. Wife and husband Dayna and James White said they woke up at roughly 7 a.m. met by a Citrus County Sheriff’s Office public service officer, who arrived at their home on East Charleston Court to inform them that the words “NO N******” had been painted in red on their home. “He told us, ‘Can you please come with me, but brace yourself, I want to prepare you for what’s around the corner.’” Dayna White said. “And we looked up, and that’s where we saw, ‘No N******.’” “He kept apologizing, but it’s not his fault,” Dayna White said. Numerous county officials also denounced the racially charged graffiti, condemning those who painted it. Dayna White said her family never expected something like this to happen in Citrus Hills, where they’ve lived for almost three years, “or Citrus County, period.”
“Appointment of Confederate activist sparks diversity council chair to resign” via Steve Contorno of the Tampa Bay Times – The head of a Hillsborough County committee that promotes diversity resigned from the panel Wednesday after county commissioners named to the committee an advocate of Confederate heritage. In a letter to the county administration, council chairman Nestor Ortiz said he was “shocked by the decision” to appoint David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to the Diversity Advisory Council. “Only four days after the Charlottesville tragedy and the continued and escalating national outrage and division on all sides regarding white nationalism did they decide to put a public southern confederacy advocate on this ‘DIVERSITY’ Advisory Council,” Ortiz wrote. “This body is meant to engage the incredibly diverse communities found throughout Hillsborough County that have historically been marginalized, disenfranchised and oppressed by individuals with values similar to Mr. Mcallister (sic) and his group.” McCallister is also a spokesman for Save Southern Heritage and has been a vocal advocate against removing a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Spotted: Andrew Gillum on MSNBC slamming Adam Putnam’s claim that he didn’t know about the Confederate monument in front of the Capitol.
Click on the image below to watch video of Gillum’s appearance.
“Private plane took Gillum to see top Dems, developer” via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A year before he filed to run for governor, Gillum flew to Tampa to discuss affordable housing with a developer on a private plane arranged by a local lobbyist. He also found time to meet with a couple big players in the Democratic Party. The Feb. 12, 2016, flight was arranged by Adam Corey on behalf of his client, Peter Leach, a Tampa-based affordable housing developer who had previously done business with the city and gave several generous donations to Gillum after their meeting. Before flying back to Tallahassee that same day, Gillum had lunch at the Capital Grille with former Gov. Charlie Crist, who was running what turned out to be a successful bid for Congress, and Alex Sink, former CFO of Florida who had run unsuccessfully for governor and Congress. “The mayor was invited by Peter Leach to a meeting at his office to learn about some of the work he was doing to advance wrap-around social services in schools and housing developments,” said Jamie Van Pelt, spokesman for the mayor. “While visiting Tampa the mayor also met with local political leaders before returning to Tallahassee.” The mayor paid for the Tampa trip out of his office account, which can only be used for official business related to his office.
“Gillum asks FBI to move ‘quickly’ with local investigation” via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat– Gillum told reporters he has communicated with the FBI about the need for its investigation to conclude to avoid influencing the governor’s race or impacting community business. “My hope is that they will move quickly,” he said. “And frankly that is the message that we tried to communicate as best we can to the investigating authorities, that if it is truly the intention of the FBI not to have impact on elections …. then it is my hope and it has been our request that they move quickly to bring this thing to heel.”
“Democratic candidates vow to back anti-discrimination law” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida – Despite support from the business community, the legislation, known as the “Competitive Workforce Act,” has stalled in the Legislature in recent years. “If you elect me governor, you won’t have to wait any longer,” Gillum told the LGBTA Democratic Caucus, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. “Florida is too big, too proud, too diverse a state for our politics to reflect an error of yesteryear, yesterdecade, yestercentury,” Gillum said during a caucus conference in Tallahassee … Chris King said passing the anti-discrimination law is both morally and economically right for the state. “I want to make sure everyone is comfortable here, everyone is safe here, everyone is protected here,” King said. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee said she would work to “stop discrimination in its tracks.”
Assignment editors – Adam Putnam will join supporters for an “Up & Adam” breakfast beginning 9 a.m. at looped and’s buffet, 5299 E. Busch Blvd. in Temple Terrace.
First on #FlaPol – “Rick Scott: I will do ‘everything I can’ to ensure Jimmy Patronis stays CFO in 2018” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “I’ve known Jimmy for a long time. I appointed Jimmy because I think he’s going to do a really good job as the CFO,” Scott said after a news conference touting July job numbers at a Honda dealership in Brandon. “He’ll have about a year and a half to be in office,” Scott added. “I know he’s considering whether he’s going to run or not. If he runs, I’m going to be a big supporter.” Officially, Patronis has not announced whether he’ll run next year.
“10th Circuit State Attorney Brian Haas endorses Ashley Moody” via Florida Politics– The campaign announced Haas’ endorsement last week. “I’m proud to endorse Ashley Moody to be our next Attorney General,” the chief elected prosecutor for Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties said in a statement. “It is clear to me that Ashley’s record of prosecuting violent criminals and drug traffickers, combined with her commitment to the rule of law and support of our law enforcement community makes her the right choice to be our next Attorney General.” The Republican Moody stepped down as a Hillsborough County circuit judge to run for AG. “I’m thankful for his endorsement and encouragement,” Moody said.
“In swing-state Florida, the 2018 congressional election has already begun” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Fifteen months before next year’s congressional midterm elections, political organizations are already involved in field operations, making calls to voters and knocking on their doors in what has become a never-ending campaign cycle … interns for Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan that two months ago opened an office in Carlos Curbelo’s swing 26th Congressional District and set out to help get the sophomore Republican re-elected. “The old model is stale and lazy — the old model being, ‘Let me raise as much money I possibly can find. Let me save it, and then I’m going to spend it all on television in the month of October’” of the election year, said Corry Bliss, the super PAC’s executive director. Ahead of 2018, Bliss said the super PAC has already opened 15 offices in priority districts across the country, with 15 more to come by the end of the year. The only other Florida office is in the 18th District, held by freshman Republican Rep. Brian Mast … Congressional Leadership Fund has pledged to spend $100 million over two years to try to keep the House under GOP control.
“Carlos Lopez-Cantera won’t run for Congress” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera has decided not to run for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in Congress, though he may seek another office in 2020. “We have decided that being a candidate in 2018 is not what’s best for our family,” Lopez-Cantera, who is married and has two young daughters, said in a statement. He pledged to remain involved in politics and suggested he could launch a future candidacy for an unnamed position. He’s considered a possible contender to become Miami-Dade County’s next mayor. “There is still a lot of work to be done and I will continue to look for ways to be a part of the solution,” he said. “I may run for public office again, but not in 2018.”
“Two Democrats appear to lead challenge of Dennis Ross” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Andrew Learned of Bloomingdale and James Gregory “Greg” Pilkington of Indian Lake Estates in Polk County. Both are first-time candidates while Ross is a former state House member in his fourth term as congressman from the GOP-leaning 15th District … Learned and Pilkington both say they’re running in part because of Ross’s support for GOP attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Learned, 30 and single, is University of Tampa graduate recently returned from overseas Navy deployments. He grew up in Valrico and runs a tutoring franchise there, Grade Power Learning. Learned had raised $22,289 through June, including $2,000 from himself. Pilkington, 54, is a business consultant, married with three grown children and a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina. He has funded his own campaign so far with a $25,000 loan accounting for the $26,338 total raised.
“Politics, Miami-style: Senate race and cast Democrat as Fidel Castro apologist” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Democratic Senate candidate AnnetteTaddeo has denounced as false an explosive Spanish-language radio ad from Florida Republicans casting her as — wait for it — a tax-hiker, job-offshorer, Colombian-guerrilla sympathizer and Castro apologist. The ad reflects a tried-and-true campaign tack in Miami politics: paint your opponent as soft on Cuba, or soft on Communism. Particularly offensive to Taddeo is the suggestion that she wanted to “legitimize” the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Taddeo was born in Colombia and fled as a teenager after the FARC captured her father, an American military veteran, at the family ranch. “How dare my opponent, lobbyist Jose Felix Diaz, use our community’s painful history for political gain?” Taddeo said. “My father was kidnapped by the FARC and my family had to flee Colombia because of our safety.”
“David Smith talks simulation business, innovation in education, beaches” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The last couple of legislative sessions have seen a widening schism between cities and counties wanting to protect home rule and the Legislature wanting to reign in what many see as excessive local regulation. Where do you stand in that debate? Smith: “I believe that the government closest to the people is almost always the best at governing a specific community. As a state legislator, my job will be to balance the needs of my constituents with the needs of all of Florida” … “To me, integrity means having a strong moral compass and doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. I think most people would agree that the political climate in our nation today is probably at an all-time low. Voters are well past simply being skeptical of their elected officials. In my own small way, I’m hoping to start turning this around.”
Save the date:
“Paul Chandler’s HD 44 campaign confident he’ll overcome residency challenge” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising– Chandler faces Republican Bobby Olszewski in the Oct. 10 special election to fill the vacant HD 44 seat to represent southwest Orange County. First, though, Chandler may have to overcome a lawsuit filed last week in Leon County challenging his qualification to run for office in Florida. Chandler has had a split residency between Missouri and Florida for years, and allegedly even voted in Missouri last year, but insists Florida has been his primary residence for years. The suit challenges that. His campaign calls the suit frivolous, more of a distraction than a concern. “We’re all confident that this is going to be a breeze,” said Chandler’s campaign Communications Director Joey Roulette. “But Paul is mainly focused on his campaign and running on the issues. This is a diversion from the campaign issues.”
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
Assignment editors – Gov. Scott will highlight job growth at a 10 a.m. news conference at Stevens Construction, 6208 Whiskey Creek Dr. in Fort Myers.
“Clock ticks toward deadline to resolve Lottery lawsuit” via Florida Politics – An Aug. 31 deadline looms for the House of Representatives and Florida Lottery to turn in a “status report” on their efforts to settle a lawsuit over a $700 million contract for new equipment. House spokesman Fred Piccolo said there had been no resolution, and that “negotiations continue.” Barry Richard, outside counsel for the Lottery, only said the case was still on hold. The 1st District Court of Appeal last month agreed to suspend the case while the sides work out their differences. “If the case has not been dismissed” by then, the parties have to report by the end of the month whether they see a “need for any further proceedings,” a docket order says. In March, Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Lottery’s 15-year deal with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. It also provides for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network. House Speaker Richard Corcoran had sued, essentially saying the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the contract last year.
“House sets schedule for September committees” via the News Service of Florida – Major policy committees will be first up when the House starts holding committee meetings in September to prepare for the 2018 legislative session, according to a tentative schedule posted online. The House and Senate will hold committee meetings Sept. 12 through Sept. 14. The House’s tentative schedule indicates the Commerce Committee, the Government Accountability Committee, the Education Committee, the Health & Human Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee will hold the first meetings Sept. 12. The Appropriations Committee and the Ways and Means Committee are scheduled to meet on Sept. 14. Time also has been set aside during the three days for more than two-dozen other committees and subcommittees. The 2018 session will start in January.
“Jack Latvala files legislation to rework Florida beach aid” via Eric Staats of the Naples Daily News – The legislation, filed the same week the Clearwater Republican announced a bid for governor, would dedicate $50 million each year to Florida’s beaches and rework the state system that ranks communities’ beach projects for a share of the money. It also would refocus the state’s attention on inlets, a major driver of erosion, and require the Department of Environmental Protection to develop a three-year plan for beach repair. “I think there’s a lot of people would like to see it passed,” Latvala said. “If (House Speaker Richard Corcoran) heeds the requests he gets, they will get it done. Or if we don’t get it done, he’ll be responsible.”
“Bill would block use of food stamps for soda” via the News Service of Florida – The bill (HB 47) by Rep. Ralph Massullo …would direct the Florida Department of Children and Families to seek approval of a federal “waiver” that would allow the state to ban the use of benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy soft drinks. The program traditionally was known as food stamps.
“Florida Realtors announces 2017 Legislators of the Year” via Florida Politics – Sens. René García, Tom Lee, Kathleen Passidomo, Kelli Stargel, and Reps. Jim Boyd, Colleen Burton, Byron Donalds and Holly Raschein were presented with their awards during the Florida Realtors annual Convention & Trade Expo in Orlando. “Florida Realtors had a very successful session this year with multiple priority bills passing and key programs getting significant amounts of funding,” Florida Realtors President Maria Wells said. “Our members played an important role, but none of it would have been possible without these legislators.” She noted “the first-ever cut to the business rent tax” and “cap(ping) the fees community associations can charge for estoppel certificates.”
Happening today – State Sen. Aaron Bean will give a speech to the University of North Florida Student Government Senate at 7 p.m., UNF campus, 1 UNF Drive in Jacksonville.
“In the spring and summer of 2015, the state switched more than 13,000 children out of a highly respected program called Children’s Medical Services, or CMS, a part of Florida Medicaid. Children on this plan have serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness. The state moved the children to other Medicaid insurance plans that don’t specialize in caring for very sick children.”
“… the data analysis the state used to justify switching the children is ‘inaccurate’ and ‘bizarre,’ according to the researcher who wrote the software used in that analysis.”
“… the screening tool the state used to select which children would be kicked off the program has been called ‘completely invalid’ and ‘a perversion of science’ by top experts in children with special health care needs.”
“… in fall 2015, a state administrative law judge ruled that the Department of Health should stop using the screening tool because it was unlawful. However, even after the judge issued his decision, the department didn’t automatically re-enroll the children or even reach out to the families directly to let them know that re-enrollment was a possibility.”
“… parents and Florida pediatricians raise questions about the true reasons why Florida’s Republican administration switched the children’s health plans. They question whether it was to financially reward insurance companies that had donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party of Florida.”
“‘This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it’s the children who suffered,’ said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
— STATEWIDE —
“Officials: Slain officers didn’t have chance to return fire” via The Associated Press – A police officer died from his injuries Saturday, a day after his colleague was killed when a suspect fired at them during a scuffle while they were on patrol. The suspect was later arrested in a bar. Sgt. Sam Howard died at a hospital where he had been taken following Friday night’s attack in Kissimmee … Officer Matthew Baxter died Friday night, a short time after authorities say he was shot by 45-year-old Everett Miller. Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Baxter. During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell. The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire. They weren’t wearing body cameras.
“Death penalty: Rick Scott yanks prosecutor from case of two slain Kissimmee police officers” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Scott issued an executive order replacing State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who oversees prosecutions in Orange and Osceola counties, with State Attorney Brad King of the Fifth Circuit, which includes Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. Ayala, a Democrat, became Florida’s first black state attorney when she was elected in 2016. She declared this year that she will not seek the death penalty in any cases, leading Scott to remove her from 23 cases. Ayala challenged the governor’s decision to the Florida Supreme Court, where justices appeared skeptical of her arguments in June. “Last night’s violence against our law enforcement community is reprehensible and has no place in our state,” Scott said in a statement. “In Florida, we have zero tolerance for violence and those who attack our law enforcement. Today, I am using my executive authority to reassign this case to State Attorney Brad King to ensure the victims of last night’s attack and their families receive the justice they deserve.”
“Court asks why it shouldn’t dismiss ‘pre-reveal’ appeal” via Florida Politics – An appellate court was on the verge of rejecting an appeal of a lower court’s decision that entertainment devices known as “pre-reveal” games are in fact illegal slot machines. Dockets at the 1st District Court of Appeal show that Gator Coin II—the Jacksonville company that distributes the games—was ordered to show “why this appeal should not be dismissed” because its filings weren’t in order. An attorney for the company, Bryan E. DeMaggio, responded in a 21-page court filing—including exhibits—that lawyers “inadvertently neglected” to file a copy of Circuit Judge John Cooper‘s finalorder, filed on July 10. DeMaggio further said they did not file the earlier order because it was “not … being appealed here.” He then attached a copy of Cooper’s final judgment. He said “the appeal should not be dismissed and the matter should be heard on the merits.” Dockets accessed Friday show that the court has not yet acted on the filing. Last month, Cooperreversed his previous ruling, saying he had gotten it “wrong the first time.”
“Fifty Florida schools apply for ‘Schools of Hope’ grant” via Jeff Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – More than half of Florida traditional public schools eligible to vie for newly minted “Schools of Hope” grants submitted applications, the Florida Department of Education reported. The program was a late add-on to a House proposal that set aside millions of dollars to support the creation of new charter schools to serve communities where traditional schools have consistently performed poorly on state tests. Aiming to gain support in the Senate, where support for HB 7069 was shaky, bill writers added a provision to give $2,000 per student in added funding to up to 25 schools required to submit turnaround plans to the state. Of 90 schools that could apply, 50 did so. Polk County led the way with eight submissions, followed by Orange County with six. Hillsborough County, which had one of the highest number of “failing” schools in Florida, applied for three schools, as did Pinellas County. The State Board of Education is scheduled to select up to 25 grant recipients at its Sept. 13 meeting.
“Nearly 5,000 Florida students could get help from settlement” via The Associated Press – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed a lawsuit and settlement against Aequitas Capital Management, a private equity fund that purchased or funded $230 million in loans to students at Corinthian Colleges. Corinthian was a private college that went out of business in 2015 on allegations of fraud. Under the proposed settlement, Aequitas would forgive $183.3 million in loans or reduce the size of the loans. Approximately 41,000 students nationwide could be eligible for the settlement. Attorney General Pam Bondi said Florida’s share is expected to be more than $18 million.
“Olympic site selection rigged? Rich Miami man being investigated” via Emily Mahoney and Malu Gaspar of the Miami Herald – After the Olympic vote was tallied deciding Rio de Janeiro would host the 2016 summer games, the Brazilian city erupted in celebration as the government declared a state holiday and wild, bikini-clad parties flooded Copacabana beach. But that victory has recently been tainted by whiffs of scandal, with French investigators on the trail of a possible bribery scheme right out of the Panama Papers playbook — featuring a Russian bank account, British Virgin Islands-based holding company and a murky $1.5 million wire transfer three days before Rio was selected. One man caught in the crosshairs is a Brazilian national, shrouded in mystery … Arthur Cesar de Menezes Soares Filho — or “King Arthur,” as he is known in Brazil. He has intermittently lived in Miami for decades, shelling out millions for valuable properties and opening a slew of businesses, according to public records. But his life of luxury could be imperiled by ongoing, intensifying investigations.
“Conviction upheld in Tampa Bay terror plot” via the News Service of Florida – A federal appeals court upheld the conviction and 40-year prison sentence of a man convicted in a plot to carry out terror attacks in the Tampa Bay area as “payback” for the death of Osama bin Laden. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments by a lawyer for Sami Osmakac, who was arrested in January 2012 in a hotel parking lot after loading a car bomb — non-functional because it was supplied by an undercover FBI agent — into the trunk of a vehicle. Before the arrest, Osmakac also had made a “martyrdom” video in a hotel room. “Osmakac said (in the video) that the attack was `payback’ for killing Osama bin Laden,” said Friday’s 44-page main opinion, written by appeals-court Judge Frank Hull and joined fully by Judge Stanley Marcus. “Osmakac also said that he was coming for American blood, that he had led a life of terrorizing non-Muslims, and that other Muslims needed to `wake up.’”
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Henderson: Let’s ask Speaker Richard Corcoran to spend some time in a sweltering classroom” via the Tampa Bay Times – You’ve seen and heard the stories about how air conditioning breakdowns created sweltering conditions in many Hillsborough County public schools. It is a sweaty, stinking, ongoing mess, and there is no quick fix … the bulk of Hillsborough’s more than 230 public schools are older buildings with cooling units that have reached the end of their usefulness. Your Florida Legislature keeps funneling public school dollars into private charter schools, so money to fix or replace failing systems is disappearing. Fun fact: Hillsborough schools receive $145 million less than they did seven years ago from a state fund that, among other things, helps pay for routine maintenance. Thank your Legislature for that. So, what to do — besides inviting Florida House Speaker Corcoran to spend a few days in a classroom where the temperature reaches the mid-80s or higher? Corcoran, remember, is Tallahassee’s No. 1 fan of charter schools and if you want to point a finger dripping with perspiration at the No. 1 culprit in this caper, he’s your guy.
“Water reforms empowering local communities” via Steve Crisafulli for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Last month in Fort Myers, state water managers joined scientists, environmentalists and representatives from agriculture in developing a plan to reduce excess nutrients flowing into the Caloosahatchee watershed. Years ago, such a meeting would have been happenstance. But thanks to the comprehensive water bill passed by the Florida Legislature in 2015, meetings such as this one are about to become much more common … One of the law’s most sweeping reforms designates Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) as the pollutant control programs for each impaired watershed. Once in place, a BMAP mandates enforceable water quality improvement requirements for both urban and agricultural activities in the basin to help ensure nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are being reduced. This plan takes a “bottom-up” approach – the Department of Environmental Protection works with the water management districts, local governments and stakeholders, who work together to develop, implement, and enforce basin specific detailed plans specifically tailored to achieve water quality standards in each basin.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Gary Bruhn installed as president of Florida League of Mayors” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Bruhn, in his seventh term as mayor of Windermere, will serve a one-year term steering the group representing the interests of mayors and cities from throughout Florida. “Mayor Bruhn has been an active member of the Florida League of Mayors for many years and is ready to lead this organization,” FLM Executive Director Scott Dudley stated. “Mayors play a critical role in creating the quality of life our residents have come to expect from Florida’s cities and I look forward to working with Mayor Bruhn in his new role as president.” Bruhn is serving his fifth term on the FLM Board of Directors. He is also a member of the Florida League of Cities Board of Directors and the West Orange Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and serves on the Florida League of Cities Municipal Administration Legislative Committee.
“Personnel note: Richard Reeves departs GrayRobinson to start own firm” via Florida Politics – “I wanted to be out on my own again,” he said. “The opportunity to work with Dean (Cannon) was tremendous. He’s a great mentor and leader and friend.” Cannon, a former House Speaker (2010-12), formed Tallahassee’s Capitol Insight, where Reeves also worked. It then merged with GrayRobinson. His departure “was a friendly decision,” added Reeves, 46. He says he will continue to work with Cannon on projects that benefit their mutual clients. “Richard is a great friend and asset to us at GrayRobinson, so it is bittersweet to see him go,” said Cannon. “However, we are happy he is going to form his own firm and looking forward to collaborating with him in the future.”
“Top young professionals recognized as JMI Leaders Fellows” via The James Madison Institute – More than 80 of the state’s top young professionals are the latest recipients of The James Madison Institute’s Leaders Fellowship. This program, a yearlong endeavor promoting the growth and development of young leaders, features representation from five key regions in the state: Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and South Florida.
Appointed – David Compton, Jay Carlson, Charles Frank, David Gilson, Nanette Dean and Don Whitehead to the Florida building Commission.
Reappointed – Laura Raybin-Miller and Jose Basulto to the Board of Commissioners, South Broward Hospital District.
Happy birthday belatedly to Rep. Alex Miller, Mark Bubriski, Matt Florell, and Janell Hendren. Celebrating today is Caitlin Fishman.
And now for some good news out of Tallahassee, the Florida Lottery this week announced, “it has reached the $32 billion mark in contributions for the state’s” education fund.
Maybe Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell’s‘housecleaning’ is paying off?
“We are extremely proud of this achievement and what it means for Florida’s students and schools,” Poppellsaid in a statement. “Under Gov. Scott’s leadership, the Lottery is committed to doing everything we can to help ensure Florida’s children have the resources they need to compete in the new global economy; it all begins with a good education.”
The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships, among other things.
“For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education, while remaining one of the most efficiently operated lotteries in the nation,” a news release said. “The Lottery has also contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, sending over 750,000 students to college.”
A little background: Poppell was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace Tom Delacenserie, now the head of the Kentucky Lottery. Poppell had been the Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief of staff.
In July, Poppell got rid — er, accepted the resignations — of three top officials, including the department’s general counsel, legislative affairs director and deputy secretary of administration.
There had been “a lot of complaints about the Lottery, mostly from vendors about the department’s procurement process,” one source told us this summer.
“I think Poppell was given a mandate to clean house as the Lottery is a high priority for Gov. Scott … Three top people just don’t coincidentally decide to quit at the same time.”
Two of those spots have since been filled, with DEO attorney David Guerrieri now general counsel, and Samantha Ferrin moving from the Department of Management Services to become the Lottery’s deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs director.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim Rosica, Peter Schorsch and Andrew Wilson.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
‘Rebels’ in the news — After violence at last weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, claimed the lives of an activist and two state troopers, attention turned to Confederate symbols in Florida. An effort to move a Confederate monument in Hillsborough County garnered thousands of private dollars, including donations from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy. Save Southern Heritage Florida, an activist group, said it would sue in federal court to prevent the move. Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor AndrewGillum called for the removal of a Confederate memorial in front of the old Capitol; Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, called for a special session to address replacement of the statue of a Confederate general representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol; and Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, said he’ll file legislation “to immediately remove all Confederate statues, signs, and names from public property in Florida.” Jones was part of the effort to rename three streets in Hollywood that were named after Confederate generals.
Do you back Jack? — Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Pinellas County this week formally declared his bid for governor in 2018, launching his campaign with events in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City. “I will be the candidate who tells it to you straight,” he said. The current Appropriations Committee chair’s challenge is to translate his decade and a half of experience in Tallahassee into statewide appeal. He stumbled early, however, in answers to questions about the Charlottesville violence — “I wasn’t there” — and was faced with a vexsome new website, “Liberal Jack Latvala,” which said he “can’t be trusted.” The website, it turns out, was backed by Mac Stevenson, “a longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam,” according to POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon.
Negron shuffles the Senate — Senate President Joe Negron shook up budget-related and other panels, embarking on an aggressive round of leadership changes in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session. Negron appointed new heads of five budget subcommittees, while changing the leaders of committees that oversee policy areas involving the environment, agriculture, utilities and elections. Also, the Stuart Republican added members to numerous committees. “In the era of term limits, I believe it is important for each Senator to be considered for the opportunity to participate in the committee process based on demonstrated competence, expertise and interest,” Negron wrote in a memo to senators. The biggest changes announced affect appropriations subcommittees, which play an important role in drawing up the state budget.
Corcoran rearranges the chairs — House Speaker Richard Corcoran released his committee assignments for the 2018 Legislative Session with just a few changes from 2017, notably some freshmen getting vice chairmanships and new chairs for the Ways and Means and Commerce Committees. His changes in committees look more like midterm adjustments, rather than the wholesale reshuffling that Negron embarked on. With the departure of former Commerce Committee chairman Jose Felix Diaz to run in a special Senate election, Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton will slide over from chairing the House Ways and Means Committee to chair Commerce, with Paul Renner of Palm Coast taking the chair of Ways and Means. Otherwise, the committee assignments reward a handful of freshmen with new vice chairmanships of committees and subcommittees, and give Rep. Jamie Grant of Tampa a chairmanship, that of the Health Quality Subcommittee of the House Health & Human Services Committee.
Incumbents win PSC nods — Art Graham andRonald Brisé won nominations Thursday to be returned to their seats on the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state. If selected, both men would serve third terms; each was first appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010. ThePublic Service Commission Nominating Councilalso decided on six people — including former state Rep. Ritch Workman — to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, who stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as state Chief Financial Officer. Patronis’ term is up at the end of 2018. Losing candidates include Greg Evers, a Baker Republican who left the Senate to run last year for Northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, falling to Matt Gaetz; and current state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican who chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee and is term-limited next year.
Ballard again on top
Should we be surprised? Ballard Partners is No. 1 in median income among legislative lobbying firms for the second quarter of 2017, according to a LobbyTools analysis.
Ballard reported $2,407,000 for April-June, with Southern Strategy Group coming in second at $2,402,000. Rounding out the top 5 is Ron Book’s firm with $2,090,000, Capital City Consulting with $1,505,000, and Greenberg Traurig at $1,320,000.
Also, a medical marijuana concern is now in the top 5 for quarterly client spending.
AT&T was first with $255,000 in median spending, and Reinhardt vs. The School District of Palm Beach County came in second with $235,000. U.S. Sugar also ponied up $235,000, and San Felasco Nurseries, a medical marijuana grower, spent $193,000.
Closing out the top 5 was Florida Power & Light, at $165,000.
Scott plugs Hispanic Heritage Month contests
Gov. Scott and First Lady Ann Scott announced contests for Hispanic Heritage Month that will give five K-12 students and three teachers some serious awards.
Students in grades 4-12 can win a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship by participating in an essay contest. Three winners will be selected: one elementary school student (grades 4-5), one middle school student (grades 6-8), and one high school student (grades 9-12). Two scholarships will also be awarded to younger children who enter an art contest.
The theme for both student contests is “A Recognition of the Role of Hispanic-Americans in Shaping Florida Today,” and students to demonstrate — whether by essay or art — how Hispanic Floridians have impacted the state’s history and culture.
Three teachers — one each for elementary, middle and high school — can also be nominated for an “Excellence in Education Award” by a principal, teacher, parent/guardian, or student. Winners will receive a prize at the Governor’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in Tallahassee later this year.
Scott seeks supermajority vote before raising taxes
Scott is wanting voters to approve a constitutional amendment in 2018 ballot to make it tougher for Florida lawmakers to raise taxes.
Before any tax or fee increase, the governor’s plan would have the House and Senate first seek a supermajority vote. Scott will ask the Legislature and the Constitutional Revision Commission to place the plan on next year’s ballot.
“As we grow this economy we can invest in what we care about,” Scott said in a Lake Mary news conference announcing the plan. “We want jobs, we want our kids to get a good education, and we want to keep people safe.”
Scott also noted that in the seven years since taking office, taxes have been cut more than 75 times, saving taxpayers more than $7 billion.
Scott touts Jax as best choice for new fighter squadron
Gov. Scott joined the ranks of Florida politicians calling for Jacksonville’s 125th Fighter Wing to be home to a new squadron of F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis, Scott said Florida was the “most military friendly state” in the nation and that the First Coast provides military families with great opportunities in addition to being “one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family.”
“A recent site survey found that the 125th FW meets all of the requirements identified by the U.S. Air Force,” Scott wrote. “The benefits of the 125th FW include the exceptional airspace and range capacity for training, low cost for facility construction and modifications, access to joint training opportunities, and the ability to meet other regulatory criteria.
The Bold City is one of five finalists for the squadron, which experts say could make a $100 million economic impact and keep hundreds of jobs in the area that may otherwise disappear when the military eventually phases out the F-15 Eagle.
Scott announces first wave of speakers for Latin American Summit
Scott announced 13 speakers for the 2017 Latin American Summit and said there would be more to come in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 2 event in Miami.
On the list are three members of the Florida congressional delegation: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney. Also getting behind the lectern is former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who represented the Sunshine State from 1994 through 2011.
The other nine speakers announced: Donna Hrinak, President of Boeing Latin America; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; Emilio T. González, Director and CEO of Miami-Dade Aviation Department; Paul F. Browning, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas; Romaine Seguin, President of UPS Americas Region; Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, CEO of Embraer S.A.; Susan Segal, President and CEO of Americas Society/Council of the Americas; Marcelo Mindlin, Chairman and CEO of Pampa Energía S.A.; and Juan M. Kuryla, Director and CEO of PortMiami.
Scott announced winners for a pair of awards and recognized an Army veteran with the Medal of Merit during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.
U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Allyn received the medal for pulling car crash victims out of burning wreckage after witnessing an accident in Cape Coral last year. Allyn has also been recognized by the Cape Coral Fire Department and Cape Coral Police Department for his lifesaving heroics.
The Volunteer Champion of Service award went to Lynne Gassant. The Palm Beach County resident was recognized for her work at Scholar Career Coaching, a nonprofit she founded that sets South Florida high school students up with mentors. The group has helped more than 50 students since it formed in 2012, many of whom speak English as a second language.
A Business Ambassador Award was also given to Tallahassee-based small business Lucky Goat Coffee. Owner Ben Pautsch said he was “honored” by the award and said he and the Lucky Goat Team “have a passion for our specialty grade coffee and strive to provide our customers with a custom experience.” Scott, as he is wont to do, credited tax cuts and slashed regulations for the coffee shop’s success.
The week in appointments
Scott adds three to Continuing Care Advisory Council— The council, which sets Office of Insurance Regulation rules for continuing care retirement communities, cycled out three members to add the new blood.
Former Hewlett-Packard higher up Dudley Geyer of Saint Johns replaces Walter Hood on the council; Sarasota resident Raymond Neff, president of Neff and Associates Home Office Services, will take over for Charles Paulk; and Clifton, Larson, Allen, LLP principal Sue Bunevich of Tampa succeeds Marshall Gunn III.
Geyer and Neff got one-year terms, while Bunevich will serve through Sept. 30, 2019.
Restocking the bench — Scott appointed two to the Miami-Dade County Court to replace a pair of judges he elevated to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court.
Joseph J. Mansfield is a longtime Assistant State Attorney and Cleveland — Marshall College of Law alumnus. Renatha Francis is in private practice at Shutts & Bowen, LLP and is an alumna of Florida Coastal School of Law.
The pair fill vacancies created by the promotion of Judge Victoria del Pino in December and Judge Jason E. Dimitris in April.
Instagram of the week
Dozens of communities get DEO grants
The Department of Economic Opportunity spread $1.2 million in CPTA grants across four dozen Florida communities this week.
“DEO is committed to using our resources to make a positive impact on the future of Florida communities. Through Community Planning Technical Assistance grants, DEO helps communities reach their economic development goals,” department head Cissy Proctor said.
The one-year grants ranged in size from $5,000 for Altha, a small town in Calhoun County, to $75,000 for the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, which benefits St. Johns, Volusia, Brevard, Putnam and Flagler counties. The average award clocked in at $25,000.
The grant money is awarded to cities and counties meeting performance requirements set by DEO. Regional Planning Councils can also get some CPTA cash for projects benefiting more than one community.
Insurance Commissioner going after AOB in 2018
Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Gov. Scott and the Cabinet that he will push for lawmakers to make changes to a practice known as “assignment of benefits,” where policy holders sign away their rights to a claim for quick repairs from a third-party.
Critics say AOB is jacking up rates for Floridians with homeowners policies, but the practice has also crept into auto windshield repairs.
“We are aware of situations in which consumers are told that there is a crack in their windshield, and `we can replace it right here in the parking lot for you. We just need to sign this form please,’ ” Altmaier said at a Wednesday Cabinet meeting.
Altmaier said the practice leads to disputes between repairmen and insurance companies, which leads to litigation and higher costs for auto coverage.
“We believe that over the past several months and the past couple of years, we have accumulated a lot of very compelling information that would demonstrate that this is certainly an issue for our policyholders,” he said.
FAAST names Darryl Rouson “Legislator of the Year”
The Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology named St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Rouson as its 2017 “Legislator of the Year.”
The disability advocacy and awareness group said it chose Rouson for sponsoring a bill to revise rules surrounding assistive technology for disabled students in order to allow them to use the devices outside of school.
The Legislature ended up passing the House version, HB 371 by Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley, with a unanimous vote. Gov. Scott signed the bill into law in June and it went into effect July 1.
Rouson was presented with the FAAST award at a Wednesday event in Safety Harbor.
Florida Realtors recognize Republican lawmakers
The state trade association for Realtors named eight lawmakers — four senators and four representatives — as its 2017 “Legislators of the Year.”
Sens. René García, Tom Lee, Kathleen Passidomo and Kelli Stargel and Reps. Jim Boyd, Colleen Burton, Byron Donalds and Holly Raschein received their awards at the Florida Realtors annual Convention and Trade Expo in Orlando this week.
The group said its picks made the cut for sponsoring bills to cut the commercial rents sales tax, capping estoppel fees charged by community associations, and passing a bill to put a permanent homestead exemption on the 2018 ballot.
Five senators get top marks from School Board Association
Three Republicans and two Democrats will take home a “Legislator of the Year” award from the Florida School Board Association.
“We are proud to recognize these legislators for their continued efforts to fight for the highest quality public education opportunities for Florida’s students and families. We are particularly grateful to be able to honor the courage these fine men and women displayed in defending public education and local control this year,” said Executive Director Andrea Messina.
FSBA announced Republicans Rene Garcia, Denise Grimsley and David Simmons, as well as Democrats Gary Farmer and Bill Montford will the awards either at a School Board meeting in their districts or at the association’s annual meeting in Tampa later this year.
All but Montford are first-time recipients, the group said.
Moody’s says LIP is good for credit
Moody’s Investors Service said the five-year renewal of Florida’s Medicaid 1115 Waiver is credit positive for safety-net hospitals.
“The five-year extension is credit positive for Florida’s (Aa1 stable) not-for-profit and public hospitals because it will help them defray the cost of providing services to uninsured patients. The largest beneficiaries include safety-net hospitals, children’s hospitals and providers treating a high percentage of Medicaid, uninsured and underinsured patients,” the report read.
The Aug. 3 renewal will increase Low Income Pool, or LIP, funding from $607 million to $1.5 million. Hospitals that put up matching funds from a local government or special taxing district will be able to draw down the money.
Moody’s said Shands Jax and Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County stand to benefit the most from the extension since they treat a high percentage of low-income patients and LIP funding already accounts for the bulk of their cash flow.
State holding scammer education ‘fairs’
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced a series of “Consumer Protection Fairs” across the state which aims to give Floridians the smarts to avoid rip-offs and fraudsters.
“One of our top priorities is protecting Floridians and visitors from fraud, and these consumer protection fairs help educate consumers so they can avoid scams,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.
The first stop was in Homestead Tuesday. Upcoming fair dates are below:
Aug. 30: Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center, 3560 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.
Sept. 19: One Senior Place, 715 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs
Oct. 13: Sun City Center Community Hall- 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd.
Oct. 26: Lynn University, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton
Nov. 11: Bayview Senior Center, 2000 E. Lloyd St., Pensacola
Cyber soldiers get cyber training
The Agency for State Technology and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement teamed up to get Florida IT workers locked and loaded for a “cyber battle.”
“We often say, it’s not a matter of IF — but WHEN, a cyber security incident will occur. We need to constantly train our security professionals since the types of threats are always evolving,” said AST director Eric Larson.
FDLE IT chief Gray Johnson said “the cyber threat is real” and that the law enforcement agency is honored to team up and bring their cyber defense tactics to state employees working in the digital realm.
The employees who got the training were put to the test with mock cyberattacks, based on real-world threats, which they had to “identify, mitigate and remediate.”
Ken Detzner paints the arts as economic booster
The Florida Department of State is partnering up with local agencies to put on the “Arts and Economic Prosperity in Florida Tour,” Secretary of StateKen Detzner announced.
Detzner said the tour will spread the word on a new study from Americans for the Arts, which showed the Sunshine State’s arts and culture industry supports 132,000 jobs and generates nearly $500 million in revenue for state and local governments.
The tour stops in Jacksonville Aug. 30, Orlando Oct. 4, and Tallahassee Jan. 23-25. The tour will swing through Miami in November and Pensacola in March 2018, but exact dates were not released.
DEP gifted pricey parcels in Rookery Bay
Two tracts of land worth a combined $236,750 were gifted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
The Collier County land is located within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and is adjacent to other state-owned lands. Florida Coast Office Director Kevin Claridge said the donation would “improve management efficiency while also protecting valuable sea turtle and shorebird habitat.”
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida said the donation was part of their dedication to protecting the Rookery Bay Reserve, which sits on the western edge of the Everglades and runs to the Gulf Coast.
The move was commended by fellow environmental group Audubon Florida, which has also been heavily involved in the reserve since it was created.
Dem lawmakers head to Belle Glade
Sen. Kevin Rader and Rep. Joe Abruzzo, both Democrats, announced a joint town hall set for Aug. 23 in Belle Glade.
The two South Florida lawmakers will answer questions and brief constituents on the 2017 Legislative Session, including the 2017-2018 state budget, educational funding, improvements to the Herbert Hoover Dike, and environmental legislation.
The town hall will start at 6:30 p.m. at the West Technical Education Center.
Democrats sound off on Charlottesville
Florida Democrats put out plenty of news releases in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead and 19 injured.
U.S. Rep. Joe Geller called the attacks “domestic terrorism” and a “sickening symbol of bigotry, hatred and divisiveness,” adding that he condemns all forms of white supremacism. The Aventura congressman didn’t speak on President Trump’s remarks after the attacks, but state Rep. David Richardson didn’t mince words.
“What the country witnessed yesterday was a United States president losing all moral authority to govern,” he said in an email calling on Trump to resign. “His defense of neo-Nazis, KKK members and white supremacists is not just ‘Trump being Trump’ or one more opportunity for Republicans to condemn the sin while continuing to prop up the sinner.”
Lantana state Rep. Lori Berman took a different approach. Instead of excoriating the president or taking jabs at the hate groups in Charlottesville, she asked Gov. Scott to call a special session to replace Florida’s statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, something lawmakers failed to agree on in the 2017 Legislative Session.
Windermere mayor installed as FLM president
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn was named president of the Florida League of Mayors during the group’s annual meeting held this week in Orlando.
FLM Executive Director Scott Dudley gave Bruhn a vote of confidence, saying he’s been a longtime member of the league and “is ready to lead this organization.”
Bruhn is in his fifth term on the FLM Board of Directors and is also a member of the Florida League of Cities Board of Directors and the West Orange Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He also holds a spot on FLC’s Municipal Administration Legislative Committee.
FLC, the parent group of the League of Mayors, gave Bruhn its first ever “Home Rule Hero Award” back in 2009. Before becoming mayor, Bruhn had a 30-year career with Lockheed Martin.
Amy Mercado helps pupils with supplies
With help from the Office Depot Foundation and the National Foundation for Women Legislators, freshman state Rep. Mercado handed out school supplies at Orlando’s McCoy Elementary this week.
“I’m thrilled to be able to partner with these great organizations to help out our students in need,” the HD 48 Democrat said. “These sackpacks will give each child the essential tools they need to kick off a successful school year!”
Each colorful drawstring bag included a ruler, four crayons, a pen, a pencil, a pencil sharpener and an eraser.
Mercado and the organizations teamed up as part of the National Backpack Program. Office Depot started participating in 2001, and NFWL joined in five years later. The office supply chain said its participation has helped more than 4 million children overall.
FDA wins ‘Association of the Year’
The Florida Dental Association (FDA) received the Florida Society of Association Executives’ (FSAE) 2017 Association of the Year Award at the association’s annual conference in West Palm Beach, it announced this week.
“Our Association of the Year Award recognizes organizations that have demonstrated outstanding efforts, excellence and innovation that benefit their industry,” said Frank Rudd, FSAE’s president and CEO, in a statement. “The Florida Dental Association exemplifies this achievement, and we commend their dedication and commitment on behalf of the members and industry they serve.”
As examples of its good work, the FSAE cited FDA’s annual “Florida Mission of Mercy, a two-day event hosted by the FDA Foundation and held in a different city each year to provide critical dental care, at no cost, to patients. This year’s event, held in Pensacola, provided more than 1,900 patients with approximately $1.4 million in donated dental care services.”
It also noted “Florida’s Action for Dental Health, a comprehensive, collaborative initiative to improve the oral health of all Floridians by supporting and promoting programs and policies to address obstacles to dental care in Florida.”
“The FDA is dedicated to leading the way for oral health in Florida,” said Drew Eason, the FDA’s executive director and CEO. “We achieve that goal by supporting our members, helping them better serve their patients and championing statewide programs and policies that benefit Floridians’ oral health.”
Don’t look now …
Everyone knows starting at the sun is bad for the eyes, but the state Department of Health really means is this time.
“The solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event that I’m sure many of us will want to experience,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “I look forward to viewing the eclipse safely using approved solar eclipse glasses, and I encourage all of Florida’s residents and visitors to practice caution while driving or walking outdoors during the period of darkness.”
The Sunshine State isn’t on the path for a total eclipse, but experts say a partial eclipse will be visible from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, with the best view coming between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
DOH said to avoid watching through a camera, telescope or binoculars, and to go ahead and toss out eclipse glasses if they have scratches. Reputable spectacles are listed by the American Astronomical Society.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, and Jim Rosica.
Good morning. Let’s start with ‘welcome to the world’ messages for two sets of parents in The Process. Congrats Ashley Ligas and Franco Ripple on the birth of Carson Alexander. He came in Wednesday evening at a healthy 9 pounds 5 ounces. We’re told big brother Evan is excited to meet his new sibling. Meanwhile, Jennifer and Brock Mikosky are “thrilled” to announce the arrival of Collins Elizabeth. Brock says everyone is happy, healthy and doing well.
Now, on to politics …
— DON AND RICK —
Some Florida Republicans are condemning President Donald Trump‘s reaction to events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Others are tiptoeing around the issue, or remaining silent.
Florida’s governor, meanwhile, went on a lunch date with him Thursday, reports Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press.
Gov. Rick Scott dined with Trump at his New Jersey golf club, even as the president continues to draw criticism for saying that protesters and counter-protesters share blame for violence at a white nationalist rally that turned deadly. Trump also said that the group of white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis included some “very fine people.” Trump’s comments were the last straw for executives on a presidential business council, who decided to disband.
And Trump added to the debate Thursday, by criticizing people who want to remove Confederate monuments.
But a spokesman for Scott, John Tupps, said the subject of Charlottesville and Confederate monuments never came up during their lunch, which was scheduled before the violence in Virginia.
“Governor Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” said Tupps said, adding that “a wide-range” of subjects were discussed. “Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe.”
Scott’s condemnation of white nationalists Wednesday did not include criticism of Trump, though he did say the president and other elected officials need to focus on unity and love. Asked what he thought of Trump’s comments, Scott told a reporter: “You can ask President Trump what he said.”
“Instead of condemning President Trump’s heinous remarks, Rick Scott did what he always does: put his own political ambitions and self-interest ahead of what’s right for Florida,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said in a press release. “Instead of sitting down to eat with President Trump, Scott should have stood up to him.”
Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
ICYMI today: On Twitter and in a Medium blog post, Tallahassee PR man Kevin Cate (or “communications savant,” as we call him) took apart the case for keeping a Confederate memorial in front of the old Capitol.
The heretofore little-paid-attention-to stone monument was dedicated in 1882, and was moved to its current location near Monroe Street in 1923. It honors “the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War….”
But Cate starts off noting it “misspells and misplaces Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — and that may be its least egregious error. It’s full of fake Confederate history — the most common kind in Florida.”
Cate, for instance, challenges the Battle of Natural Bridge, which has its own memorial plaque near Tallahassee, saying “Confederate archives … make it clear that on [the Confederate] side hardly anyone did any fighting at all, which explains the near-nonexistence of Confederate casualties.”
And he fact-checks the Battle of Olustee, fought in Baker County on February 20, 1864, and re-enacted yearly.
“Confederates had ‘overwhelming force’ and won, but instead of chasing down the Union troops, ‘no serious attempt [was] made to pursue’ because as one field officer put it, they were ‘too busy shooting n*****s, sir,’ ” Cate writes. Well then.
In other news, Gov. Rick Scott’s office gave no clue late Thursday as to which way he was leaning on a list of names to fill openings on the state’s Public Service Commission. “We will review the list,” spokesman McKinley Lewis said.
But his office did release a statement on his lunch today with President Donald Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey, which was on his daily schedule.
Scott dined with Trump “following an invitation from the White House last week. Gov. Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” said the statement, issued by communications director JohnTupps.
“They discussed a wide range of topics including the President’s commitment to partner with Florida on needed repairs to the federally-operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee,” he added. “Gov. Scott wants to do all he can to protect Florida’s environment and President Trump is very supportive to help. Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe.”
So there’s that. And no word what was on the menu.
Quote of the Day
“A festering wound and every Wednesday they keep ripping the scab off.” —Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on a vote to remove a Confederate monument in that city’s downtown.
Gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala will make a couple more stops in Orlando tomorrow. At 9 a.m. the Clearwater Republican will speak to the Association of Florida Community Developers at the Marriott Orlando Airport, before taking a 30-minute drive across town to the Marriott World Center where the Florida League of Cities is holding its annual shindig. He’s expected to hit the stage at 11 a.m..
Latvala have to wrap it up quick, however, because he’s got a 6:30 p.m. cocktail hour with fundraisers and other top Senate Republicans at Ascent Lounge in New York City. Joining him for drinks are Senate President Joe Negron, future Senate Presidents Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson and Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley and Anitere Flores.
Philip Levine, who has toyed with running for governor as either a Democrat or an independent, will also be on the move. The Miami Beach Mayor will spend his Friday afternoon about as far away from home as he can be without leaving the Sunshine State when he speaks to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola at noon.
Tampa’s Tiger Bay Club will also host an event Friday, alongside the Florida League of Women Voters. The joint meeting will focus on voting rights restoration, and several speakers are on the docket. Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw will be the only lawmaker behind the mic, though Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, clemency attorney Reggie Garcia, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition CEO Desmond Meade and ACLU of Florida regional development director Joyce Hamilton Henry are also expected to speak.
With all the 2018 talk, it’s easy to forget about the guy still in office. Don’t feel too bad for Rick Scott, though, as the “jobs governor” is likely to toot his own horn after the Department of Economic Opportunity drops its July unemployment report tomorrow morning.
Pro-telemedicine expansion group The Telehealth Advisory Council will meet at 9 a.m. at Orlando Health; The Task Force on Involuntary Examination of Minors will talk about the use of the Baker Act on minors at 10 a.m. at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek; and AHCA will meet at its Tampa office at 1 p.m. to discuss changes to Medicaid waivers.
Just because the FBI launched an investigation into redevelopment deals involving prominent business owners and developers in the state capital doesn’t mean the feds would eventually put someone in handcuffs.
But, as Tallahassee Democrat publisher Skip Foster wrote yesterday, “the chance of that happening is very, very low.”
With two of his best reporters – Jeff Burlew and Jeff Schweers – tracking every development in the probe of the City of Tallahassee, Foster probably knows better than anyone the likelihood of indictments being handed down.
(Pay attention to this not-so-subtle paragraph from Foster: “And I hasten to add this – there is a lot … I mean A LOT … of information we have that clears a high bar, but not quite the highest bar that we have set for ourselves. We have chosen not to publish such information in an effort to err on the side of truth, fairness and accuracy.”)
“Buff, bearded and handsome, Atlanta developer Mike Miller sat sipping a cocktail one afternoon last summer outside the spiffy Power Plant Cafe in the city’s new central park, … spinning his grand plans to redevelop a not-yet-gentrified block in the shadow of Florida’s Capitol.
“The meeting was one of many Miller had with local elected officials and hot-shot developers, beginning in 2015, when he rolled into the steamy, Spanish-moss draped seat of Florida state government. … Tallahassee was hungry for the likes of Miller, an out-of-towner willing to spend millions to revitalize downtown as the capital city ached to rebrand itself as a place open for business.
But Miller was not what he appeared. After spending nearly two years infiltrating the burgeoning ranks of up-and-coming entrepreneurs and wooing the town’s politicians over wine and tapas, he vanished. … Miller … was an undercover FBI agent, … the linchpin in an elaborate scheme to ferret out public corruption, which could lead to huge political shake-ups.”
That reads like a Carl Hiassen novel. Only the story has yet to arrive at the third act which is one or more of Tallahassee’s elite doing a perp walk.
This case has become so high-profile that the FBI can’t not indict someone.
How does the special agent in charge explain to his bosses, “Well, yeah, you know that major investigation we launched in the Florida capital … the one that was on the cover of the newspaper that gets delivered to every hotel guest in the country … well … um … we’ve determined that nothing really happened. Case closed.”
Yeah, that’s not going to happen.
That’s not how the FBI works.
It doesn’t embed one of its undercover agents for two years only to come up empty-handed.
Someone’s going to emergency. Someone’s going to jail.
Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
If you’re looking for criticism of Donald Trump’s reaction to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, don’t look to Gov. Rick Scott or Attorney General Pam Bondi. Both have been steadfast supporters of the president.
“Trump yesterday revived his initial claim that ‘both sides’ are to blame for the horrific violence at a white supremacist rally over the weekend in Charlottesville,” the Washington Post’s Daily 202 newsletter reported this morning. “The president then complained that not everyone who came to the ‘Unite the Right’ rally was a neo-Nazi or white nationalist. ‘And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly,’ ” he said.
After Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, Scott again called the weekend rally and attending violence “disgusting” and “evil,” adding that “there’s no moral equivalence between the two sides.”
But the Naples Republican and likely U.S. Senate candidate wouldn’t bite on questions about the president’s reaction: “You can ask the president what he said. I’ve been clear … I’m telling you right now: I don’t believe in racism. I don’t believe in bigotry.”
Bondi, the Tampa Republican who was rumored for months to be getting an appointment in the Trump administration—until she didn’t, said she “did not see his last press conference” and hadn’t “talked to him about it.”
“All I can tell you is how I feel,” she told reporters. “The KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, are filled with hatred and violence and should not be tolerated … They’re horrible.”
When asked whether Trump should “tone down” his comments, Bondi added: “No one’s going to tell him what to do.”
“A lot of times people will say that about me, and they also say, ‘But he’s my a–hole.’ “ —Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican, who announced today he is running for Florida governor.
Bill Day’s Latest
Wake Up Early?
In similar style to Jack Latvala’s Wednesday morning campaign kickoff at Hialeah Fire Station #7, Adam Putnam plans be in West Palm Beach at 10 a.m. Thursday to make an announcement alongside the Professional Firefighters/Paramedics of Palm Beach County.
U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who could make a run for Governor as well, will be close by at the Polo Club of Boca Raton for the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s annual “Lobsterfest” event at 6:30 p.m. Freshman U.S. Rep. Brian Mast will also attend.
2018 spectators looking for a reprieve from “Governor! Governor! Governor!” should be on the lookout for an announcement from Lehigh Acres representative and Ag Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell, who is expected to roll out a lengthy list of legislative endorsements for his campaign Thursday.
Latvala, still the only other major Republican to declare, will be a few hours up the road in Orlando, where the bulk of Thursday’s newsworthy events will be held. The Senate Appropriations Chair will give a talk around 12:30 p.m. to Florida Behavioral Health Conference at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. Expected topics are the 2018 Legislative Session and the opioid crisis.
The opioid epidemic, which kills 20 Floridians daily, will be in focus at the Florida League of Cities’ annual conference, too. The all-day event at the World Center Marriott will have workshops on social advocacy, wireless communication infrastructure, city ballot initiatives and Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission. Guest speakers include former Dallas Police Chief David Brown, and National League of Cities President Matt Zone.
The City Beautiful will also play host to the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council as well, which plans to meet at 10 a.m. at the Orlando International Airport. The council will interview candidates and pick finalists for three PSC seats that opened up due to the departures of Ronald Brise, Art Graham and Jimmy Patronis.
The boards of trustees for three state schools are also scheduled to meet Thursday: The FAMU board will be at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront at 8:30 am; The University of West Florida board will meet in the UWF Conference Center Lounge at 9 a.m.; and the Daytona State College board will convene at 2 p.m. on the Advanced Technology College campus.
Even the latest tragedy cannot bring Americans closer together
The schism between Americans grew a bit wider over the weekend. A white supremacist fueled by hatetried to kill a group supporting the removal of Confederate statues. Sadly, he managed to end the life of one victim.
In an act that should unite our elected officials and all fair-minded Americans, it actually took us further apart. President Trump condemned the action Saturday, but when he talked about acts of violence “from many sides,” an avalanche of criticism came his way from Democrats, the media and even from some elected Republicans.
An act of terror driven by hate, which Charlottesville was, should be a rallying point. Not in this atmosphere.
Florida Democrats were more measured in their responses, for the most part than some of their colleagues from around the country. Following Trump’s explicit statement Monday, Kathy Castor of Tampa said on Facebook “The president finally denounced the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazi organizations by name today after their hate-filled weekend rallies in Charlottesville. Democrats and Republicans alike urged the president to speak out.”
Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said, “The racially terrorizing violence playing out in Charlottesville must be clearly and forcefully denounced.”
Retweeting The New York Times’ account of Trump’s Monday statement, Frederica Wilson of Miami Lakes simply offered: “Seriously?” Perhaps he didn’t go far enough?
Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tweeted “White supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-Semites are the antitheses of our American values. There are no other “sides” to hatred and bigotry.”
Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz took to Twitter to offer “The events in #Charlottesville are deeply troubling. Violence against our fellow Americans is never an appropriate political tactic.”
Al Lawson of Tallahassee offered a statement that could be used to build bridges if anyone was interested in creating them.
“No good comes from senseless bloodshed, and we cannot let hate thrive and further divide us,” Lawson said. “We must strive harder to truly be that one nation under God, indivisible and with liberty and justice for all.”
That says it all.
Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.
Nelson ready to campaign on Affordable Care Act
The three-term Democrat is willing to convince voters why he should be given a fourth. Last week Nelson visited 7 Panhandle cities on a campaign tour that finished in Tallahassee. He heard a great deal about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“No matter where I was, people were coming up to me and saying ‘thank you for standing up for us,’” Nelson said, referencing his vote against Republican attempts to repeal the ACA.
The 74-year-old Nelson is Florida’s lone statewide elected official and believes the health care issue will play a significant role in giving him another six years in the Senate. Among his likely opponents is Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who strongly hopes to see the ACA repealed. Nelson is all-in to preserve it and ishappy to run on it.
“Of course — it is the law,” he told reporters at a news conference at the Tallahassee International Airport. “I want the law to work. And it’s been working; 24 million people have health insurance that never had it before.
“But it needs some fixing,” he added. One of those fixes is putting money back in to help people afford co-pays, Nelson said.
Democrats are counting on Nelson to hold his seat. Of the 34 seats up for election next year,Democrats are defending 25 of those. Nelson’s seat is considered by some analysts to be in play.
Confidence is not in short supply when it comes to Nelson. He was asked about what will be his toughest race.
“I know how to campaign,” he said. “Let’s leave it at that.”
Nelson vows to keep oil drilling moratorium
While the U.S. Senate is officially in recess, the Democratic Senator brought a bit of Washington D.C. to St. Petersburg.
Last year, Florida attracted 112 million visitors, generating $108 billion for the state’s economy and supporting 1.4 million jobs. But that dependence on the tourism industry means any problems (man-made or through nature) could impact that cash cow for the state’s future economy. Nelson was joined by, among others, Democrats Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist.
Nelson boasted about sponsoring the 2006 bill with then-GOP Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, calling for an oil drilling ban off much of the state’s Gulf Coast through most of 2022. That translates into a no-drilling zone through June 30, 2022, extending 125 miles off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast, reaching as far as 235 miles at some points in the eastern Gulf.
Nelson wants that ban to continue until 2027, but says it’s “vigorously opposed by the oil industry.”
Trump and Rubio BFFs?
The current relationship between Florida’s junior senator and President Trump has evolved from the 2016 campaign for the White House. The pair should not be described as BFFs, but “chummy” is the better term, notes the USA Today.
It might seem odd that Rubio has found fellowship with someone he once called a “con man” and traded raunchy insults with on the campaign trail last year. Trump dubbed Rubio as “Little Marco” and accused him of having a sweating problem.
Rubio now says Trump has “a chance to go down as the Everglades president.” To some Floridians, that would leave “a great legacy.”
They are nearly in lock step in the country’s policy toward Venezuela. Trump’s policy on Cuba, announced in Miami two months ago, has Rubio’s fingerprints (and those of Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart), on it.
“If I have an opportunity to influence the administration’s policy in a positive direction, I’m going to seek to do that,” he told the USA Today.
During the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rubio provided the most memorable moment for those supporting Trump. While much of the testimony centered on information acquired through leaks, Rubio asked Comey this question:
“Ever wonder why of all the things in this investigation, the only thing that’s never been leaked is the fact that the president was not personally under investigation despite the fact that both Democrats and Republicans in the leadership of Congress knew that and have known that for weeks,” queried the senator.
Rubio has a keen interest in foreign policy. As the back-and-forth with North Korea continues or intensifies, what role will he play with Trump’s foreign policy team?
Report: Rubio targeted for assassination?
Earlier this month, news accounts pointed to “extra security” surrounding the second-term Republican. Reporters noticed additional protection around Rubio in July when he appeared for an interview with WFOR CBS4 in Miami.
Now we know why.
A member of Venezuela’s powerful inner circle hasapparently targeted Rubiofor assassination. Intelligence reports point the finger at Diosdado Cabello Rondon, the country’s former military chief and former legislator, who has had public engagements with the senator. Rubio referred to Cabello Rondon as the “Pablo Escobar of Venezuela,” referring to the late Colombian drug lord.
In a memo circulated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an “order to have Senator Rubio assassinated” was distributed to several law enforcement agencies. Some accounts indicate no particular assassination plot was discovered and the U.S. has yet to verify the threat.
According toPOLITICO, who obtained a copy of the memo, “CABELLO RONDON did indeed issue an order … to have Senator Rubio assassinated, the memo said. “Additionally, CABELLO RONDON was communicating with unspecified Mexican nationals in furtherance of the matter.”
Rubio did not offer any comment on the report.
Rubio lunches with Pence
Three Florida Democrats sign on to ‘New Democracy’ initiative
Democratic leaders are signing on to a plan, dubbed “New Democracy,” designed to tout Democrats who can “reach beyond core partisans and build governing majorities from the ground up.”
Among the first wave of delegation commits to the initiative are Stephanie Murphy (CD 7) and Darren Soto (CD 9), as well as former congressman Jim Davis.
New Democracy outlined a three-pronged approach in its introductory email: to be a forum for new ideas that can extend the party’s electoral reach to moderates, independents and disaffected Republicans; to support pragmatic candidates who can compete and win in suburban, small town and rural places; and to organize grassroots support for radically practical ideas and leaders in the major battleground states.
“Democrats don’t need to choose between center and left — we need to expand in all directions. Building a broad coalition is the Party’s best chance of rectifying today’s dangerous imbalance of political power and stopping the harmful Trump-Republican agenda,” said New Democracy director Will Marshall.
The included polls, adjusted for bias, show more than 47 percent of respondents would support a Democrat for Congress next year, while just over 38 percent would support a Republican, which leaves one-sixth for the “neither,” “don’t know” or “don’t care” camps.
FiveThirtyEight only includes polls that ask respondents which party’s candidate they would vote for in their district or which party they would prefer to control Congress.
The smallest spread came two weeks after the website started tracking the numbers April 15. Democrats led 44-41 then. Their lead peaked at about 11 points in mid-May and has held between 8 and 10 for the past several weeks.
FiveThirtyEight hasn’t drawn any conclusions from the poll on which party is likely to control the House after the midterm election. Republicans won the national House vote by 1 point in 2016.
Paulson’s Principles: Can Democrats finally win the most Democratic district in America?
Of the 241 Republican House victories in 2016, 226 were by 10 points or more. One of those 10-point victories was by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in CD 27. Ros-Lehtinen, a 14-term incumbent and dean of the Florida congressional delegation, spent $3 million to win her narrow victory.
Looked at one way, a 10-point victory by the senior member of the state delegation who had to spend $3 million to win by a narrow margin is a sign of concern for Republicans.
Looked at another way, a 10-point victory for a Republican in the most Democratic district in America held by a Republican is an embarrassment for Democrats
Now that Ros-Lehtinen has announced she will not run for election in 2018, CD 27 should be an easy pickup for Democrats. The district is +5 Democrat in makeup and was won by 19 points by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has already attracted seven Democratic candidates who are attracted by an open-seat opportunity in a very Democratic district.
As Kyle Klondike of Sabato’s Crystal Ball reports in his July 20 report on the 2018 election, “A Republican hold in this district would be an utter disaster for Democrats and probably be suggestive of a midterm where Republicans performed quite well by historical standards.”
None of the other seven Republican open seats are as promising for Democrats as CD 27. Even including Ros-Lehtinen’s slender 10 point victory in 2016, the eight GOP open seats had an average margin of 30 points. The other seven GOP seats may be open, but they are realistically closed to Democratic challengers.
The seven Democrats currently running for the open CD 27 seat include former state judge Mary Barzee Flores, nominated to the federal bench by President Obama, but never confirmed due to the opposition is Senator Rubio.
Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez is probably too moderate for a left-leaning Democratic primary electorate. Her comment to “give cops back their bullets” will not win many Democratic voters.
Other lesser known candidates include Mark Person, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Miami Beach Commissioner Ken Russell. Scott Fuhrman, who was the Democratic challenger to Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, is still considering another run.
Early Democratic favorites include state senator Jose Javier Rodriguez. Sixty-five percent of the residents in his Senate district reside in CD 27. Rodriguez has a history of defeating strong Republican candidates, including two of the de la Portilla brothers, Alex and Miguel.
Another Democratic favorite is state representative David Richardson, whose house district is entirely in CD 27. Richardson is the first openly gay candidate to win a legislative seat in Florida.
A final top-tier Democratic candidate is Matt Haggman, a former Miami Herald reporter who just resigned as program director of the Knight Foundation to make a full-time run for congress.
The three announced Republicans include Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado. Regalado supported Democrat Alex Sink for governor in 2010 and failed to endorse Donald Trump. Ros-Lehtinen also refused to support Trump.
Another major candidate is Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruno Barreiro. Not only is Barreiro running against Regalado, but his wife is running against Regalado’s brother in another race.
The last Republican is Maria Peiro, who unsuccessfully challenged Ros-Lehtinen in 2016.
Will Republicans win the organization and turnout battle, or will Democrats take advantage of the significant Democratic voter registration lead and also take advantage with the growing unpopularity of President Trump. Stay tuned.
Gaetz, Dunn wish to shed light on Chinese corporate espionage
With all of the rumblings emanating from the Korean peninsula and the Asian Pacific, the two Republican legislators representing the Panhandle want to go after China for another reason. They are aiming to shed light on China’s corporate espionage and theft of intellectual property.
On Aug. 30 in Tallahassee, they will host a hearing titled “Wanton Loot: How China is Stealing Ideas from American Entrepreneurs.” The hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. at the Turnbull Center on the Florida State University campus.
“There are too many signs to ignore the likelihood that the Chinese government is behind blatant acts of thievery of technology and symptoms designed in the United States,” said Gaetz in a release announcing the hearings. “One glaring example took place right in Tallahassee, and we’re going to hear the details so we can fight back to protect our ideas as much as our people, communities, businesses and borders in the future.”
According to the Congressmen, stolen trade secrets, counterfeiting, and other forms of intellectual property theft cost the U.S. more than $225 billion each year. China is said to be one of the main offenders, including activity involving Tallahassee’sBing Energy.
“We in Congress cannot sit by while and watch our biggest global competitor try to get an edge by stealing from our creative, inventive and entrepreneurial society to profit from the work being done in the United States,” said Dunn, whose district includes parts of Tallahassee.
Yoho grabs lunch with small-business owners
Gainesville Republican U.S. Rep. Yoho listened to small-business owners talk about how the tax code is eating their lunch at a Tuesday meeting in Interlachen.
The luncheon was put on by the Main Street Growth & Opportunity Coalition and the Putnam County Republican Executive Committee and saw Yoho, small-business owners and other supporters dish about pro-growth tax reform, which Putnam County REC Chair Tom Williams said was a “critical factor for both the success of small businesses and the success of our country.”
The third-term CD 3 congressman said he walked away from the meeting encouraged ahead of Congress’ attempt to tackle comprehensive tax reform, a tentpole of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and a longtime priority of congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Today’s meeting reaffirmed my belief that now is the time for action. As a business owner myself, I know how badly these reforms are needed and look forward to getting this issue across the finish line with my colleagues in Congress. Americans need relief now,” Yoho said.
DeSantis to take part in AFP-FL ‘Un-Rig the Economy’ town hall series
The Republican from Ponte Vedra is heading to three major Florida cities this summer to talk tax reform.
DeSantis is scheduled to take part in Americans for Prosperity-Florida’s “Un-Rig the Economy” town hall series. The series is meant to give activists a chance to hear about the current situation in D.C. and energize them about what’s to come.
“AFP has been leading the charge on calling for Congress to un-rig the American economy,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement “We hope the rest of the Florida delegation will join Congressman DeSantis in fighting back against the current rigged tax system by joining our effort to pass pro-growth tax reform. Americans want a system that’s based on simplicity, efficiency, equitability, predictability, and creates no new burden on taxpayers. We want to speak directly to Floridians who want to help fix our broken tax code.”
In addition to DeSantis, attendees will hear from local leaders and members of Americans for Prosperity’s federal affairs team about the need to enact comprehensive tax reform.
The summer town hall series kicks off Aug. 24 with a town hall in Miami, followed by a town hall scheduled on Sept. 19 in Fort Lauderdale and Sept. 28 in Orlando.
Posey plans meeting, belated ‘welcome home’ ceremony with Vietnam vets
With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the Rockledge Republican will be among those observing the milestone. Posey intends to host a gathering Aug. 22, at 10 a.m., at the Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island.
At least in part, the event will include a “Welcome Home Ceremony,” a many-decades-late gesture for many servicemen and women who came home from Vietnam unceremoniously at a time of a deeply divided America.
The event is being held in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Memorial Center & Museum, and the JROTC programs of Bayside, Merritt Island, Palm Bay, Eau Gallie, Rockledge and Viera high schools.
Medal of Honor Recipient SFC Melvin Morris, retired from the U.S. Army, will be the featured guest speaker.
“Our men and women in uniform and their families continue to make great personal sacrifices to defend our freedom. We owe them all our gratitude and this Service Day, and Welcome Home Ceremony is one way we can show our military veterans how much we appreciate their service,” Posey stated in a news release.
Murphy wears passion for immigration reform
The Winter Park Democrat is passionate about achieving immigration reform in the U.S. Congress. In fact, she wears it as a badge of honor.
Murphy, an immigrant from Vietnam, was sporting a T-shirt with the words “I AM AN IMMIGRANT” emblazoned on the front. Dubbed “the girl rescued at sea” during her 2016 campaign for Congress, Murphy proudly describes herself as an immigrant.
“Our nation’s diversity is its strength. Opportunity and freedom keep the American dream alive,” shetweeted with the photograph of her wearing the shirt.
The shirt comes from the nonpartisan immigration reform group, FWD.us, an organization started by the technologies industry including Microsoft, Facebook, Dropbox, Airbnb and others.
“We’re grateful to Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy for participating in the “I Am An Immigrant” campaign, a powerful movement that encourages people to celebrate their heritage and share what it means to be an immigrant in America,” said Pete Boogaard, communications director for Fwd.us.
Webster helps recover more than $1 million in back pay for military members
While America’s veterans are owed a great deal for their role in defending the nation, the Clermont Republican is helping District 11 and other veterans receive financial debts owed to them. Since January, the U.S.Department of Veterans Affairsawarded Florida veteransmore than $1 million in compensation, pension or retroactive payments.
To assist his constituents, Webster’s staff works with County Veterans Services offices and liaisons to provide the necessary paperwork to the VA.
“We owe our military a debt we can never repay,” Webster said. “Yet, sometimes our veterans’ attempts to receive the benefits or compensation they have earned are met with delays. Working with veterans whose claims have gone beyond the expected time frame for processing is taken seriously at my office.”
Some veterans are able to recover combat-related compensation along with retirement disability pay. Current programs are aimed to recover some (or all) retired pay that some retirees waive when they opt for VA disability compensation.
Bilirakis goes to bat for blind and visually impaired
The Republican from District 12 has introduced a bill designed to help ensure blind and visually impaired Americans have equal access to Medicare and Medicaid services. Among other things, the legislation would “ensure communications, including written materials, are accessible for the blind, visually impaired or individuals who self-identify as such, and how individuals are informed of these options.”
“Today, whether it’s large print or text-to-voice technology, blind and visually impaired Americans, like myself, are more readily able to access information than ever before,” said Bilirakis in a release. “Receiving critical health care information from Medicare and Medicaid should be no different.”
Bilirakis joined with California Democrat Anna Eshoo to introduce the bill. It is endorsed by the ACB, the AFB and thePerkins School for the Blind.
Castor, Deutch celebrate Social Security’s 82nd birthday
On Monday, Democrats Castor and Deutch recognized Social Security’s 82nd anniversary of becoming law. In West Tampa, Castor visited the Phyllis Busansky Senior Center, where she dismissed the idea the program was going bankrupt, saying it “couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Latest projections suggest theSocial Security Trust Fund will run out of reserves in about 17 years. By that time, across-the-board benefit cuts may be necessary, threatening the financial well-being of millions of American retirees.
Everybody needs to pay their fair share, Castor told the seniors, which is why she is co-sponsoring legislation to raise the Social Security cap on taxable wages, currently locked at $118,500 Changes to the tax cap could close from a quarter to near nine-tenths of Social Security’s solvency gap, depending on how they were structured, says the liberalCenter on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“If we could lift the cap for Social Security, we would ensure the solvency for about 45 years, taking it up from 2030 to up 2075,” Castor said. “These are important fixes that we should get ahead of now rather than waiting until a crisis happens.”
Meanwhile, in South Florida, Deutchtweeted his support for Social Security, saying it was why he introduced legislation “to extend the Trust Fund’s solvency and boost benefits to keep pace with rising costs.”
Save the date: Bilirakis to host transportation roundtable
The Republican from Florida’s 12th Congressional District will co-host a Transportation SummitMonday, Aug. 21, from 6:00 to 9 p.m. at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel. Joining Bilirakis will be Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore and, Florida DOT Secretary David Gwynn.
Social Security Actuary: Crist bill extends solvency to 2064
The St. Petersburg Democrat provided evidence that if hisSave Social Security Act of 2017 were to pass, the venerable program would be solvent for another 47 years. Crist releaseda detailed letter from Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, who assessed the proposed bill.
“Assuming enactment of the proposal, the projected trust fund reserve depletion year for theoretical combined OASDI (Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) and DI (Disability Insurance) trust funds would be extended to 2064,” Goss wrote. “Under current law, the projected trust fund reserve depletion year for the combined trust funds is 2034.”
Crist’s bill, introduced in March, also includes a tax cut for middle-class Social Security recipients, while taxing the benefits of the top 25 percent of seniors. To help pay for his proposal and ensure extended solvency, Crist proposes to “Scrap the Cap” on the amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes.
The cap now stands at $127,200 in annual salaries. Crist’s bill, his first as a Congressman, calls for every dollar earned above $300,000 to be subject to Social Security taxes, while maintaining the break for wages above the current cap, but below $300,000.
“Social Security is a contract the federal government made with Americans 82 years ago (this) week – if you work hard and pay into the system, it will be there for you in your golden years,” Crist said. “I’m proud that our bill helps bolster Social Security benefits for the 170,000 seniors I’m honored to represent in Pinellas County, keeping the program strong for future generations.”
T. Rooney snags FAA grant for Sebring airport
Sebring Regional Airport will get $415,775 from the Federal Aviation Administration to redo its WWII-era apron thanks to the Okeechobee Republican, who announced the grant this week.
“Serving on the Appropriations Committee, I make it a priority to fight for funding for federal programs that benefit our local economy, like the FAA’s airport improvement grants,” the CD 17 Republican said. “It’s rewarding to see the hard work of our local leaders, who work diligently to apply for these grants year after year, pay off.”
The two-runway airport was originally constructed in 1940 as Hendricks Field and was used to train crews to fly the iconic B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II.
Airport director Mike Willingham said the grant money will allow the Highlands County airport to update the 106,000-square-yard apron – the name for the area where planes park, board and refuel—- for the first time since World War II. The redesign will allow the airport to handle heavy commercial jets and bring new jobs to the area.
“Our sincere gratitude goes out to Congressman Rooney and staff for their assistance in making our community a better place to live and work,” he said.
Mast, Curbelo targeted beneficiaries of $2.5 million ad buy
Right-leaning public policy groupAmerican Action Network is dropping $2.5 million on TV ads that will start airing this week 24 congressional districts nationwide, including a pair held by South Florida Republicans.
The 30-second spot features an Ohio metal worker named Albert who lost his job due to his employer not being able to keep up with foreign competition.
“America’s tax code is so complicated – we can’t be as competitive,” the ad says. “Thousands of jobs like mine are lost to places like China. So when I see Congress working to cut taxes for working families, and bring jobs back, I know how that matters.”
The ad closes with a request for viewers to tell Curbelo and Mast to “keep fighting for tax reforms that bring the middle class back.”
AAN Executive Director Corry Bliss said the group is committed to standing up for “Americans just like Albert” who have seen their jobs head overseas.
“It’s time for Congress to act and defend hardworking Americans and their families across the country,” he said.
Hastings hosting Tamarac town hall
Hastings joins Democratic state Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Coral Springs to host a Legislative Update Town Hall at 12:30 p.m. at Kings Point, 762 Nob Hill Road in Tamarac. “I’m extremely proud to partner with Congressman Alcee Hastings on this important legislative update for our constituents,” Moskowitz said. “Providing an update and hearing directly from the people affected by the issues we debate in Washington or Tallahassee allows us to better serve our fellow Floridians.” This event is open to the public.
Deutch touts growing support for campaign spending amendment
The Boca Raton Democrat is promoting an increase in the number of co-sponsors for his bill to amend the Constitution, which calls for limits on campaign fundraising and expenditures. “Support for my #DemocracyForAll Amdmt is now up to 115 co-sponsors. It’s time to overturn Citizens United and #GetMoneyOut,” he tweeted.
By their ruling in Citizens United, theU.S. Supreme Court allowed groups and committeesto fund unlimited political ads through Election Day. Deutch and supporters maintain Citizens United allowed big money to drown out the voices of everyday voters. Before the ruling, some states put 30 or 60-day limits on campaign advertising.
Deutch’s amendment proposal, initially launched in 2015, seeks to make the Supreme Court ruling moot by placing fundraising and expenditure limits directly in the Constitution. With Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, chances for passage are not bright.
Joining Deutch as co-sponsors are Florida Democrats Kathy Castor of Tampa, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Darren Soto of Orlando, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston, and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens.
After the Weston Democrat resigned last year as national party chair at the Democratic National Convention — where she was booedat her speech at a Florida delegation breakfast — she is now facing criticism on a number of fronts, including Democrats.
At issue: Wasserman Schultz refusal to explain her continued employment of Imran Awan, an information technology staffer who since February was under a federal investigation for an alleged equipment and data scam. Democrats were baffled that South Florida Democrat did not fire Awan until July 25, one day after authoritiesarrestedhim at the airport as he was about to leave for Pakistan, after wiring $283,000 there. Awan’s dismissal came six months after about two dozen House Democrats sacked four of Awan’s relatives and a friend, all of whom were under investigation.
Last week, Wasserman Schultz broke her silence on the issue, claiming she was a victim of “right wing media” attacks based on anti-Muslim bigotry aimed at Awan in the others. But Democrats are increasingly dismayed over her stubborn attitude, political missteps and harm to the Party’s image ahead of the 2018 midterms
“We wish she would go away and stop being so public by doubling down on negative stories,” Nikki Barnes, a progressive Florida DNC membertold POLITICO. Barnes feels Wasserman Schultz left the national party “in shambles,” particularly with the hack of DNC servers and WikiLeaks release of embarrassing internal emails. Wasserman Schultz’s defense doesn’t make sense, Barnes said: “It doesn’t sound like racial profiling … there must have been something for her.”
Immigrant groups urge Diaz-Balart to oppose Trump
More than 100 immigration rights activists are urging Republican lawmakers in Florida to firmly oppose President Trump‘s proposals to increase funding for immigration enforcement as deadlines for budget decisions near in Congress.
Advocates from Texas, New Mexico and Washington D.C. expressed anger at Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami for backing a spending bill that provides $1.6 million for Trump’s controversial border wall. Other bills would add immigration agents and judges.
Activists targeted Diaz-Balart because he is a House Appropriations Committee member. They’re also concerned that other Cuban-American representatives in South Florida will side with the administration.
One demonstrator, Dian Alarcon, said Diaz-Balart’s office told a smaller group Tuesday the border wall measure would not likely pass the Senate. Diaz-Balart’s aide Cesar Gonzalez told reporters he would not comment.
Army Corps gives input in Florida-Georgia water war
The Corps said it “may remain possible to design a consumption cap that would provide Florida with additional water at some points” but added that a more extensive ruling would be viewed as “part of the constellation of laws to be considered by the Corps when deciding how best to operate the federal projects in the … basin for their congressionally authorized purposes.”
Late last month, Florida’s entire congressional delegation wrote a letter to President Trump asking that the administration and the Corps remain “neutral” in the dispute.
Asked if he was confident that Florida would win a favorable decision from the Supreme Court, Sen. BillNelson said: “I’m confident that at the end of the day the right thing is what should be done. The right thing is, all right, Georgia, you’ve got to start sharing your water like Mother Nature intended, instead of holding it all up for you.”
MacDill in good shape to avoid next round of closures
A new round of military base closures could come in 2021, but this time it could happen without at aBase Realignment and Closure Commission(BRAC) to weigh community input before picking which installations will get the ax.
If that proposal falls through, however, Florida’s 20 installations should be in good shape to weather the storm, according to Anthony Principi, who led the 2005 BRAC.
Principi said BRAC commissioners look at public input and the level of development around military bases. That factor was a leading driver in a $1.3 million state land deal to keep residential development away from MacDill Air Force Base, though the possibility of a hotel on the property still “raises a red flag.”
The mission comes first, however, and retired Air Force Col. Rich McClain said moving MacDill “will not only be a political nightmare but a financial burden on the Pentagon and the BRAC process” due to the base serving as home to the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.
Trump administration offers cigar makers reprieve from regulations
Premium cigar makers will benefit from a relaxation of requirements to provide detailed information on their product to the federal government. The Trump Administration has given cigar makers, along with those producing pipe and hookah tobacco,until 2021 to provide product and testing informationon their products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Obama administration had ordered cigar makers to provide the information by this summer, but last week granted the reprieve.
Meeting the requirements would cost the producers between $1,500 and $23,000 per blend. Such conditions would undoubtedly affect the last operating cigar factory in Tampa.
“This is an opportunity,” Eric Newman, president of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, told the Tampa Bay Times. “It is an opportunity to keep cigars in Cigar City. The sentiment in Washington is that over regulation kills small business.”
Others are not happy with the delay. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids sees no reason for the delay. However, new, larger warning labels must be placed on cigar boxes beginning next year.
Diaz-Balart staffer weds in Washington
Over the weekend, The New York Times reportedthat Katrina Valdes, 26, Diaz-Balart’s Washington communications director, married Joseph Bishop, also 26, who is a government contractor also in Washington. Both are 2013 graduates of George Washington University and had many mutual friends through their respective Greek organizations, though they did not meet until after they had both graduated.