As House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s priority education bill is pushed through the Senate committee process, some watching this week were perplexed by the vote of one sometimes perplexing Republican lawmaker.
Sen. Tom Lee, who has helped carry Corcoran’s policy in a sometimes-hostile Senate, voted with Democrats to gut language from the omnibus bill that would decertify teachers’ unions if their membership does not stay above 50 percent of total eligible employees.
Versions of the language, deemed “union busting” by opponents, have been the subject of partisan slugfests all session.
Lee told Florida Politics he voted for Sen. Perry Thurston’s amendment out of an “abundance of caution.” But insiders said there may be another reason: former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing Jimmy Patronis for chief financial officer, a role Lee says he is mulling a run for.
The connection is this: An education reform foundation founded by Bush has been a big supporter of the House measure, and by him voting down on that provision, it would be a jab at them.
Lee says he is not always in lockstep with the foundation, as many Republicans are, but his vote was based on needing more information on the impact of the issue, which critics say is a “spiteful way of taking rights away from workers.”
“I tend to be an ally of the Speaker and expect to continue to be so, but at the end of the day, you take your orders from the people who elected you,” Lee said, “and not the former governor or the House Speaker.”
Lee said he gives Senate President Joe Negron “a lot of credit” for sending HB 7055 through the Senate committee process. The bill will be heard next week the Appropriations Committee, according to Senate Budget Chairman Rob Bradley.
Whether the proposal will be a hiccup in budget talks remains to be seen.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Arming teachers — A week after the worst school shooting in the state’s history, the Republican-controlled Legislature unveiled their proposals, which include training school employees to become armed “marshals.” It’s something President Donald Trump agrees with, but Gov. Rick Scott does not. House Speaker Corcoran said teachers who have the requisite hours to act as trained law enforcement officers would be allowed to carry guns in schools, adding that it is a “first of its kind proposal” in the nation. With two weeks left in the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers and the governor are also pushing for more school resource officers and boosting funding for mental health services.
Unprecedented gun law proposals — After thousands of students, parents and teachers came to Tallahassee to speak to legislative leaders seeking more restrictions on the purchase of “war weapons,” both chambers and the governor all agreed to raise the minimum age of owning and possessing “all firearms” to 21 and banning the sale of bump stocks. Gov. Scott said a ban on assault weapons would “not fix the problem” and would hurt “law-abiding citizens.” The House and Senate plans also include a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases.
Scott on mental health services — Gov.Scott wants to expand mental health services teams statewide to serve youth and young adults with early or serious mental illness by providing counseling, crisis management and other critical mental health services. He also wants every Sheriff’s Office to have a crisis welfare worker embedded in their departments to work on repeat cases in the community. This would mean adding 67 more employees at the Department of Children and Families by July 15.
Budget slap fight — With less than three weeks to go in a legislative session, the direction of which has now been overcome by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, budget negotiations between the House and the Senate aren’t just stalled, they’re not happening. The first indication that the annual back-and-forth between the two chambers is not on track surfaced Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press’ Gary Fineoutreported that House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo said there has been “no progress” on allocations and, instead, that legislators are focused on responding to the tragedy in Parkland.
Criminal justice reforms move ahead — A sweeping criminal justice bill that would upend how the state collects data on offenders in an attempt to better determine who is incarcerated and for how long is moving in the Senate. The measure would require the Department of Corrections to use risk-assessment instruments that can identify the appropriate intervention and program for offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism. Sen. Jeff Brandes said his bill (SB 1218) could be used as the foundation for “meaningful” criminal justice reform in the future. Another measure that would ease mandatory minimums in certain drug trafficking cases also headed to the Senate floor this week.
Scott to sign bill replacing Confederate statue with McLeod Bethune
Gov. Scott will soon sign a bill that will make Florida the first state to commemorate an African-American historical figure in the U.S. Capitol.
The state House and Senate have approved legislation that will honor civil-rights leader MaryMcLeodBethune at National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Her statue will replace that of Confederate General EdmundKirbySmith. The Legislature agreed to remove Smith’s statue in 2016.
Daytona Beach Democratic Rep. PatrickHenry sponsored the initiative in the House, which cleared the measure Tuesday. PerryThurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, sponsored the Senate version.
“Bethune’s life and values illustrate the best of Florida,” Thurston said. “Choosing her likeness for the Hall sends a powerful signal to the world that Floridians recognize our state’s rich history and its present-day diversity.”
Bethune served as president of the National Association of Colored Women. She was an appointee of President HerbertHoover to the White House Conference on Child Health and was an adviser to President FranklinRoosevelt. Bethune also founded what is now Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. The school has offered to cover the cost of Bethune’s statue.
Each state is allowed two representatives in Statuary Hall. The Sunshine State’s other statue commemorates JohnGorrie, widely considered the father of air conditioning.
The week in appointments
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority — Scott appointed Maggie Montalvo to fill a vacant seat in the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.
Montalvo, 53, is the executive vice president and the chief operations officer of First Colony Bank of Florida. She received a degree in banking from the American Banking and Accounting Institute.
Her term ends April 16, 2020, and her appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
St. Johns River Watch Management District — Scott appointed Allan Roberts, the owner and operator of First Coast Cattle, to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Roberts, 70, is currently a member of the Florida Cattleman’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
He will fill a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 1, 2020. His appointment is subject to Senate confirmation.
Floridians flocked to CRC hearings in Melbourne, Jacksonville
The Constitution Revision Commission held two meetings in its “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour this week, and much like the first stop in Ft. Lauderdale, turnout was healthy.
An estimated 600 people went to the Feb. 19 meeting at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. Among them were 240 individuals who filled out a speaker card.
The Jacksonville stop, held on the University of North Florida campus Feb. 20, more than 500 showed up, with 210 requesting a chance to speak before the commission.
The next tour stop is a Feb. 27 hearing at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, followed by a March 5 hearing at The Westin in Cape Coral and a March 13 stop at University of South Florida — St. Petersburg.
House Democrats still working on AR-15 ban
Among the state House’s most visible actions while Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors were in Tallahassee was a no vote on advancing an assault weapons ban bill to the chamber floor for debate.
The 71-36 party-line defeat in the HB 219 vote was met with astonishment and tears by students in the gallery, but Miami Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee isn’t giving up on getting a bill to ban semi-automatic rifles to the House floor before the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.
McGee said semi-automatic assault rifles, particularly the AR-15 model used in the Parkland shooting, are a “common denominator” in mass shootings and lawmakers need to discuss the issue before they can “move on.”
McGee didn’t reveal his strategy for getting such a ban through the GOP-controlled House, but Senate Democrats this week said they would attempt to attach gun legislation, including an AR-15 ban, to bills moving through the Legislature.
FDP chair calls out Republicans for AR-15 vote
The Florida Democratic Party chair said state House Republicans turned their backs on the survivors of the Parkland shooting this week when the chamber voted not to hear a bill banning semi-automatic assault weapons.
“[Tuesday’s] vote is just one more reminder that Gov. Scott,Corcoran and the GOP-led legislature continue to fail to provide the leadership needed to put an end to senseless mass shootings,” said FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo.
“If tragedy strikes again and innocent children and citizens are gunned down in a classroom, a dance club or an airport, we can look to yesterday as another example of elected officials that care more about special interest money than keeping our kids safe from harm.”
The House voted 71-36 against hearing the bill, HB 219. No Republican voted in favor of the measure.
Car dealer bill stalls in House committee
A bill aimed at making changes to car dealership regulations stalled out in its second House committee this week over objections it was tailored to hand a single industry association a monopoly on dealer training.
The bill (HB 595) by Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel would make changes to various legal definitions relating to car dealers.
But a strike-all amendment also by Rommel would have required new car dealers to take a four-hour course each year to keep their license. That would put them in line with requirements set for used car dealers.
That training could only be offered by “a Florida-based, nonprofit, dealer-owned, statewide industry association of franchised motor vehicle dealers.”
Only one group in the state (probably not coincidentally) qualifies under that definition: the Florida Automobile Dealers Association.
FADA representative John Forehand testified that the cap isn’t necessarily indicative of the charge the group would levy but was there as a protection since the language would make it the sole source for the training.
“Why not $200? $300?” asked St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton. No matter: The bill later was temporarily postponed.
FCUA names Jones ‘Lawmaker of the Year’
The Florida Credit Union Association this week named West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones as their “2017 State Lawmaker of the Year.”
FCUA recognized Jones as a longtime friend of credit unions, and for sponsoring a bill in the 2017 Legislative Session to exempt credit unions from regulation and lawsuits under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trades Practices Act.
“Representative Jones has served credit unions in Florida as a true champion,” said Patrick La Pine, who heads FCUA’s parent organization, the League of Southeastern Credit Unions & Affiliates.
“He has sponsored legislation to include credit unions in an exemption under the Florida Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices Act and understands the critical role that credit unions play in Florida’s economy and in serving Floridians throughout the state.”
FCUA honored Jones in Tallahassee last month during the Florida Advocacy Conference, where the lawmaker addressed credit union leaders gathered to help promote the industry at the state capitol.
Senate fracking ban bill on life support
A fracking ban sponsored by Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young didn’t make the agenda for the Feb. 27 Senate Appropriations Committee, and anti-fracking groups are laying the blame on Appropriations Chair Bradley.
Floridians Against Fracking, a statewide coalition of anti-fracking groups and businesses, put out a statement this week blasting Bradley not allowing the bill to be heard.
“The fracking ban has broad, bipartisan support in both chambers because the people of Florida have been demanding it to protect our water, our tourism economy and our natural resources. If a fracking ban does not end up on the Governor’s desk to sign this session, it will be seen by the people of Florida as a failure of leadership,” said Brian Lee, the group’s legislative director.
Floridians Against Fracking suggested in the same release that Senate PresidentNegron bring the ban bill up for a vote directly on the Senate floor, or in a future, unscheduled Appropriations Committee.
The fracking ban was a major campaign pledge of Young’s in the 2016 cycle. The House companion has not yet been heard in any committee, though the House has said it would take up the Senate version of the bill should it pass.
Business rent tax debate flares up on Twitter
The National Federation of Independent Business/Florida and the Florida AFL/CIO’s Rich Templin had a little back and forth on Twitter this week about the business rent tax cut when the tax package was up in House Appropriations.
It’s the only state-sanctioned sales tax on commercial leases in the entire nation. Gov. Scott and trade groups have long called to lighten the load on commercial businesses, which pay more than $1.7 billion in rent taxes every year.
Shot by NFIB: “The small and independently owned businesses NFIB represents overwhelmingly support the biz rent tax cut; #smallbiz drives the economy, and saving them money creates jobs, improves benefits and keeps the dollars in our backyards.”
Chaser by Templin: “This bumper sticker sloganeering doesn’t equate to sound fiscal policy. The overwhelming bulk of this tax cut will go to larger retailers based out of state. The taxpayers shoulder the burden & services workers & small businesses need are hindered.”
Background: Supporters of tax cuts say Florida’s business rent tax puts the state at a distinct competitive disadvantage, one that is unique in the country. Commercial rent taxes makes Florida’s competitors more attractive to business since companies are naturally more resistant to move to the state if they can get similar benefits elsewhere without paying a tax on rents.
AOB reform ad hitting Florida airwaves
Radio stations across the state this week started playing an ad warning Floridians of the dangers of “Assignment of Benefits,” which allows insurance policy rights to be signed over to third-party contractors.
The Consumer Protection Coalition, one of the chief organizations pushing AOB reform is led in part by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a member of the coalition, is footing the bill for the ad.
Listen to the new ad here:
“On the heels of the Florida Justice Reform Institute releasing a new report showcasing the need for AOB reform, the Consumer Protection Coalition felt it was important to alert Florida home and auto owners on how the AOB scheme works and why it is important for them to engage in asking Florida lawmakers to support meaningful AOB reform,” said Florida Chamber VP Edie Ousley.
The ad goes over how AOB works — or at least how it can be abused by unscrupulous lawyers and vendors. The radio ad is available on CPC’s website.
FSU prof to help on Hamer doc
A Florida State University professor is teaming up with Tougaloo College in Mississippi and the Kellogg Foundation to produce a new documentary on civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
FSU’s Davis Houck, the current holder of an endowed chair named after Hamer, will serve in an advisory capacity on the film, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America,” and the corresponding civil rights K-12 curriculum, “Find Your Voice.”
“Having Fannie Lou Hamer’s name attached to my work and Florida State University is inspiring and daunting,” said Houck, a professor at FSU’s School of Communication.
“The project is inspiring because of the life she led in pursuit of justice, and it is daunting because her fearlessness — often in the face of grinding and lethal adversity — sets an enormously high bar for anyone seeking to walk in her footsteps.”
Hamer was a leader in the civil rights movement known for her powerful speeches, songs and activism. The K-12 component focuses on youth empowerment and community engagement in the Mississippi Delta, and it intends to connect students and teachers to the region’s history during the civil rights movement.
Tallahassee a ‘Great Small Town for Big Vacations’
The Travel Channel listed Tallahassee as one of “10 Great Small Towns for Big Vacations” this week, much to the delight of the capital city’s officials and its tourism marketing arm.
“The uniqueness of our area continues to gain the attention of national media that recognize Leon County’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “We know that we live in an exceptional part of Florida and we think it’s time the rest of the nation, and the world, knows it, too.”
The slideshow article says what Tallahassee “lacks in beaches it more than makes up for in Florida culture and adventure.” Recommendations included Ernestine Fryson’s famous fried catfish at the Bradfordville Blues Club, and the abundant nature tourism in the area.
Article author Steve Larese’s visit resulted from an invitation by Leon County to give the area a look. He was one of many of travel writers who visited the Leon County area while researching stories for various publications.
“To be counted among the country’s small towns for big adventure demonstrates the hard work of Leon County Division of Tourism in elevating and promoting what our community has to offer both visitors and residents,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
Excitement is high in Tallahassee, as all eyes in Florida — and the country — are on Parkland, the Florida Capitol and subsequent protests and outrage.
Alas, as a mere mortal, and swept up in all the excitement of Session, I am a bit under the weather.
Hence, an abbreviated version of Sunburn this morning, which will return full-force on Monday.
Thanks for your understanding and continued support.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony — 2; Last day for regularly scheduled legislative committee meetings — 3; Disney Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival — 6; Last day to take up Special Order Calendar — 10; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program termination begins — 10; Sine Die (maybe) — 14; St. Patrick’s Day — 22; March For Our Lives gun violence protest — 29; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 35; Easter — 37; NFL Draft begins — 62; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office — 70; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 89; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 119; Primary Election Day — 186; College Football opening weekend — 190; General Election Day — 256; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 354.
***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***
Assignment Editors — Gov. Rick Scott will announce his “action plan to make major changes to help keep Florida students safe, including school safety improvements and keeping guns away from individuals struggling with mental illness.” That’s at 10:30 a.m., Governor’s Office large conference room, Plaza level, The Capitol.
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“House vacation rentals bill clears Government Accountability Committee” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — House Bill 773, sponsored by St. Cloud Republican Mike La Rosa, now heads toward the commerce committee in this year’s legislative efforts to roll back and prevent local ordinances from restricting vacation rental homes, and turning licensing and regulation over to the state. The bill got through the committee after numerous amendments were fought off and defeated. A similar measure, Committee Substitute for Senate Bill 1400, already has cleared a couple of committees in that chamber and is headed for its final panel, the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Seminole Tribe ad is a Hail Mary for a gambling deal” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — The Seminole Tribe of Florida is airing an ad urging passage of a new gambling deal between the Tribe and the state. But with lawmakers saying their “bandwidth” has been sapped by a fight over the 2018-19 budget and by a legislative response to the Broward County high school shooting, it’s looking less likely that the Legislature will address gambling by Session’s end on March 9. The Tribe is angling for a renewed 20-year deal, called the Seminole Compact, for continued exclusive rights to blackjack and slot machines outside of South Florida in return for $3 billion to the state over seven years from their casino revenues.
Payday loan bill OK’d for House floor — A heavily-debated proposal that would change regulations for payday lenders continued moving forward Thursday and is ready to go to the House floor. The House Commerce Committee approved the bill (HB 857), which would allow the businesses to make “installment” loans up to $1,000, with repayment over 60 to 90 days. Current law limits the high-interest loans to $500 for periods of seven to 31 days. The Senate version of the proposal (SB 920) also has steadily moved through committees and will go to the Senate Rules Committee on Monday. Supporters say the proposal was prompted by potential changes in federal regulations that could affect the types of smaller-dollar, shorter-term loans made by payday lenders in Florida. But the proposal has drawn opposition from some consumer-advocacy groups and credit unions, which argue that payday loans can lead to borrowers getting stuck in “debt traps.”
“Pre-reveal games ban barely survives in House” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — A bill to ban pre-reveal games, slot machine-style entertainment consoles, was rescued Thursday in a procedural move after it initially failed on a tie vote. The measure (HB 1367) now is available for the floor after a subsequent motion in the House Commerce Committee to reconsider the bill won the day. The pre-reveal concept has flummoxed courts and lawmakers trying to determine whether they’re illegal gambling. Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge JohnCooper’s ruling that they’re unlawful slots is under appeal. That was after Cooper first said they were legal. The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which has exclusive rights to offer slots outside South Florida, is attempting to shut down the games because it believes they violate that exclusivity.
Beer glass bill rolls along — Legislation that would allow beer distributors to give away free glasses imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants cleared its last panel and is available for the floor. The House Commerce Committee OK’d the bill (HB 961) on Thursday. Those in favor, including small businesses, say it’ll be a help to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage. Opponents, including many craft brewers, counter that they won’t be able to afford to keep up with the stream of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, the makers of Bud Light and Stella Artois. A Senate companion (SB 1224) still has to clear its last stop, the Appropriations Committee. Under current law, glasses must be sold.
“Car dealer bill stalls in House committee” via Florida Politics — HB 595 by Naples Republican Bob Rommel would make changes to various legal definitions relating to car dealers, but a strike all amendment filed by Rommel would have required new car dealers to take a four-hour course each year to keep their license, which would put them in line with requirements set for used car dealers. That training could only be offered by “a Florida-based, nonprofit, dealer-owned, statewide industry association of franchised motor vehicle dealers.” Only one group (probably not coincidentally) in the state qualifies under that definition: the Florida Automobile Dealers Association. Lawmakers on the House Government Accountability Committee also took issue with a $500 cap on how much could be charged for the new training, as the current going rate for initial training is $140. The committee temporarily postponed the bill.
“Lawmakers seek more money for opioid epidemic” via Christine Sexton of the News Service of Florida — Sen. Kevin Rader praised Senate leaders for proposing to spend $100 million on mental-health services and school-safety programs in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week that left 17 people dead. But he said they also need to put more money into a plan to curb the opioid epidemic. “It looks like we are finding a lot of mental health funding, and that’s great. And I absolutely, completely support it, and it’s much needed,” said Rader, a Delray Beach Democrat whose district includes Parkland, where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High is located. “I hope in the next two weeks … we can really put the money into the opioid funding to take an enormous bite out of this apple and really help Floridians who need it.” The Senate is earmarking about $53 million for a variety of programs for opioid treatment, outpatient care and case management, medically assisted treatment and naloxone for emergency responders.
“Oscar Braynon: Bruh! Scott doesn’t know who I am” via Dara Kam of the News Service of Florida — Senate Minority Leader Braynon spoke with Scott, “and I have to be honest, I don’t know that he heard me,” he told reporters … “I’ll be even more honest. I’m not even sure if he knows who I am and the role I play in the Legislature,” he said. “I said my caucus did a news release that said exactly what bills we care about. He said, well can you get that to our office? Bruh, if you in the governor’s office don’t have the caucus position of the Senate minority, which 15 to 16 members and is playing a very big role in this, then I don’t know what your office is doing.” Scott’s office did have the news release, Braynon said. “But the thing is, he didn’t know who I was so it didn’t matter, probably,” he said.
“Not playing ball” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida — A three-point shooting contest between Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron — promoted last week on Capitol elevator flyers — failed to happen during a charity basketball game between Republicans and Democrats at a Tallahassee high school. With Negron attending the funeral of one of the 17 students killed last week, Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Orlando Democrat who played on the hardwood at the College of William and Mary, narrowly won the halftime contest after being taken into a second round by Rep. James Grant. As for the game, which benefits the Children’s Home Society of Florida, the Democrats won after a sluggish first half for both sides. Being kind, they played like lawmakers but get the benefit of playing full court. Bad weather canceled this year’s softball matchup between the parties.
ICYMI: Justice adds ‘spice’ to high court
One person can make a difference — especially if that person is a Supreme Court justice.
A recent Florida Trend profile of Florida Supreme Court Justice AlanLawson, the state’s newest high court judge, shows just how much the seven-person panel has changed since Lawson’s appointment in late 2016.
Veteran attorneys sourced for the story explain that Lawson has a more narrow view of the court’s jurisdiction than his predecessor. In turn, the Supreme Court has heard fewer cases, enabling appellate court rulings to stand. That’s significant, according to Trend, because “two decades of Republican governors have reshaped Florida’s appellate courts.”
The tables have turned: Before Lawson, Trend writes, court watchers viewed the Supreme Court as having five ‘judicially liberal’ justices. Lawson’s appointment solidified a trio of conservative justices, who have in some cases brought a majority to their side for 4-3 decisions.
Yee v. Florida: Trend cites one case in which a possible burglary led police to discover pot plants growing inside of a House. A subsequent Fourth Amendment dispute then made its way to the Supreme Court. But when Yee took his seat, the court “changed its mind and said it should not have accepted the case.”
Gavels and spices: “I think people are in a lot of ways are like spices,” Lawson told Trend. “When they enter an institution, they are going to flavor it differently. That’s just a fact of life.”
“Neglected: Florida’s worst nursing homes left open despite history of poor care, deaths” via Melanie Payne and Ryan Mills of the Naples Daily News — Dozens of Florida nursing homes with long records of failing to meet state and federal standards operate with little risk that regulators will shut them down … Since 2013, 54 Florida nursing homes scored the lowest in the state for at least 14 of 18 quarters and received 100 or more violations. Dozens of other homes also received either low scores or numerous violations. Forty-six of the worst 54 homes have settled or have contested lawsuits claiming mistreatment, abuse or neglect led to at least 191 deaths since 2013. The nursing home owners denied the claims, but settled 87 cases. The remaining 104 are pending, including the case of a man killed by his roommate in a Miami home. State fines for nursing home violations are low — not quite $5,000 on average — compared to the millions they receive each year from taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses and regulates nursing homes, rarely uses the toughest sanctions at its disposal. Since 2013, AHCA has closed two homes and blocked new admissions for three.
“Hurricane Irma prompts search for solutions to jammed Interstate 75” via Cindy Swirko of the Orlando Sentinel — In mid-2016, a regional task force that spent almost two years exploring ways to improve safety on a crowded Interstate 75 decided to take a conservative approach: make changes to the highway rather than build or expand other roads. Then Hurricane Imra blew into Florida and thousands of people trying to flee its path got stuck … Now, a new road with a potential route through Marion and Alachua counties may be back on the table, if not exactly speeding ahead. “I think they are going to do it despite any concerns by the locals. The locals told them they didn’t want it,” said Alachua County Commissioner Robert Hutchinson. … One study by FDOT centers on future expansion of I-75. The other by Florida Turnpike Enterprise is exploring the lengthening into Citrus and Marion counties of the Suncoast Parkway … Both studies should be complete by year’s end.
“Florida Department of Economic Opportunity suing major engineering firm Charles Stark Draper Laboratory for repayment of $14 million” via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat — A major Massachusetts technology engineering firm that accepted $14 million in state funds with the promise to create a set number of jobs in the Tampa area is facing a lawsuit from the Department of Economic Opportunity. Filed in Leon Circuit Court Wednesday, the complaint against Charles Stark Draper Laboratory claims the company, after being paid, reneged on its agreement and then decided to leave the state altogether. … It secured state funding through DEO’s Innovation Incentive Program, claiming it would create as many as 175 jobs in Tampa and St. Petersburg in 2008. It would invest $15 million in equipment and another $3 million into building new facilities in Florida …. The state is asking that Draper repay the $14 million it paid out since 2008. … The first $7 million … was paid directly. The remaining balance was placed in a trust overseen by the State Board of Administration of Florida.
“Bob Gualtieri vexed over immigration misinformation” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — A community forum to discuss the recent agreement between 17 Florida Sheriffs and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is scheduled in St. Petersburg. That agreement allows local authorities to hold undocumented immigrants beyond the time they normally would have to be released based on state or local cases. A news release announcing the event said that Pinellas County Sheriff Gualtieri was invited but is unable to attend. Gualtieri confirms that he won’t be available to participate, but says that he’s concerned and frustrated by what he calls misinformation being perpetuated by critics of the agreement: “What we’re talking about in this area is solely one hundred percent only criminal illegal aliens, and when I see in the literature that’s being distributed that what we’re doing is in the same sentence as ‘dreamers’ is absolutely erroneous, and it’s very concerning, because they’re putting fear into the community needlessly by this misleading information.”
— PARKLAND —
“What I saw treating the victims from Parkland should change the debate on guns” via Heather Sher of the Atlantic — I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage? The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal … bullets fired by an AR-15 are different; they travel at higher velocity and are far more lethal. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than, and imparting more than three times the energy of, a typical 9 mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine cartridge with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.
“Senators face town hall fallout” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Body language of the two Florida senators told the story. Marco Rubio largely stuck to Twitter to amplify the points he tried or wanted to make the night before, but that was drowned out by boos or jeers from a liberal crowd ideologically opposed to the pro-gun Republican after last week’s slaughter of 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. In contrast, Bill Nelson went on a victory lap in Tallahassee, where Republicans are on defense over guns, to take the rhetorical fight over firearms to Gov. Scott, his likely opponent this year who skipped the town hall the night before. Scott’s refusal to show up was akin to a campaign contribution for Nelson, who repeatedly chided the governor over guns and made sure to call him out Wednesday night for not showing up, in contrast to Rubio. “We’ve got a whole community grieving. They want action,” Nelson said in Tallahassee when asked about why he publicly noted Scott’s absence from the forum. Nelson gave credit to Rubio at the town hall, saying, “Sen. Rubio had the guts to come.”
“At CPAC, NRA chief Wayne LaPierre singles out Democrats for politicizing school shooting” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida — National Rifle Association Executive Vice President LaPierre decried the “shameful politicization” of the deadly Florida high school shooting during a speech and pushed back against alleged detractors at the FBI, the media and Democrats. Addressing a crowd of GOP officials and supporters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the NRA leader bemoaned that “the opportunist wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain” in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting last week. The NRA leader took broad swipes at his detractors, whom he claimed sought to “eliminate the Second Amendment.” “Their solution,” LaPierre said, “is to make you, all of you less free.” He was critical of the FBI, questioning why their “rogue leadership” and “unethical agents” had not been confronted with why they didn’t follow up on tips regarding the suspected Florida shooter.
“Donald Trump dings CNN, NBC: I never said ‘give teachers guns’” via Louis Nelson of POLITICO Florida — “I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @nbc. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience — only the best. Twenty percent of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions,” the president wrote on Twitter. “Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!” he tweeted. “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, three minutes. It takes police & first responders approximately five to eight minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”
“Donald Trump blasted active shooter drills when mentioned by Florida education commissioner” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida — Trump criticized the idea of schools conducting active shooter drills when Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart brought it up during a White House meeting about school safety following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre that left 17 dead. “Active shooter drills is a very negative thing,” Trump said. “I don’t like it. I’d much rather have a hardened school.” He added that the drills are “crazy,” and that he thinks “it’s very hard on children.” Trump also said he’d like to see “a little bit of a bonus” for trained teachers who are armed, estimating that anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of teachers might be qualified. He said he’d like to see them “rigorously” trained — an idea opposed by teachers and education groups. “I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected,” Trump said.
“Broward County Sheriff: Schools to have guards armed with rifles” via Kirby Wilson of the Tampa Bay Times — Sheriff Scott Israel announced he’s changing the way Broward County schools are policed in the wake of the Parkland school shooting … Israel has ordered officers who guard Broward County schools to arm themselves with rifles, including, in some instances AR-15s — the same weapon used by the gunman to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School … “Only deputies who are trained and qualified will carry those rifles,” Israel said. “But we need to be able to defeat any threat that comes onto campus.” Israel’s deputies only protect schools in cities that don’t have their own police departments. Israel said the move has the full support of Robert Muncie, the superintendent of Broward County public schools.
“Florida Senate president says he supports arming teachers, setting up showdown on gun bills” via Lawrence Mower of the Tampa Bay Times —Negron supports arming schoolteachers, endorsing a controversial proposal a day after U.S. Sen.Rubio rejected it. “The concept of having teachers who are trained and have appropriate credentials being able to be armed to protect students, I would support that,” he said … Despite pushback from teachers, Negron’s endorsement means that the proposal is likely to make it into a package of gun-related bills that will be made public Friday. The model is likely to be based on a program created by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who allows teachers who want to be armed to go through specialized training, becoming partially deputized by sheriff’s office. They would then be able to carry a concealed gun on K-12 campuses, and only top administrators would know who they are.
“Money could go to trauma centers after mass shootings” via the News Service of Florida — Senate Minority Leader OscarBraynon wants to create a $10 million program that would reimburse trauma centers for care provided to victims of mass shootings, and Senate President JoeNegron said he would support the effort. Braynon wants to create a fund in the Attorney General’s Office, with money coming from a portion of fees collected from new or renewed concealed-weapons licenses. The program would reimburse trauma centers that treat victims of mass shootings, such as the Feb. 14 attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead. Negron told reporters earlier in the day he met with two Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who sustained grievous injuries but had survived because of the quality of the care they received following the shooting.
“Marco Rubio changes stance on magazine capacity” via The Associated Press — Rubio says a visit to a Florida high school where 17 people were fatally shot has prompted him to change his stance on large-capacity magazines. Rubio visited Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school and a few days later met with its teachers. He said he was told that several people were able to escape because 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz stopped and reloaded the rifle he used during the Feb. 14 attack. The Florida Republican, who was challenged by survivors and family members during a contentious meeting broadcast on CNN, said this is “evidence in this case that it saved the lives of some people.” Rubio has been sharply criticized for the shooting because he has received support from groups like the National Rifle Association during his political career.
“Video delays misled cops at Stoneman Douglas shooting” via Lisa J. Huriash, Stephen Hobbs and Megan O’Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel — The Broward School District’s security cameras did not show real-time video for police, complicating their efforts to track and pin down the shooter … “They are monitoring the subject right now. He went from the third floor to the second floor, the third to the second floor … They’re monitoring him on camera,” an officer said on radio transmissions recorded by Broadcastify, an audio streaming website, at 2:54 p.m. In fact, Cruz was already long gone — he had escaped the school’s freshman building 26 minutes earlier and was sitting at a McDonald’s a mile away, a timeline released by the Broward Sheriff’s Office shows. The video images were “delayed 20 minutes, and nobody told us that,” said Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi.
“The making of a No. 1 YouTube conspiracy video after the Parkland tragedy” via John Herrman of The New York Times — YouTube’s list of “Trending” videos typically includes funny clips, updates from popular YouTube personalities, movie trailers and viral TV segments … for a brief time, the No. 1 trending video on YouTube featured David Hogg, a survivor of the massacre last week … The caption claimed, falsely, that Mr. Hogg, 17, was not a student, but an “actor.” The video, originally posted August … Hogg was interviewed by the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles after witnessing a dispute between a lifeguard and a swimmer at Redondo Beach. On Tuesday, a YouTube user who went under the name “mike m.” copied and re-uploaded the video with a new caption: “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR …” With that terse descriptor, “mike m.” tapped into conspiracies circulating online that the survivors of the Parkland shooting, many of whom have recently spoken out in favor of gun control, were “crisis actors” hired to do the bidding of left-wing activists. The reposted video moved its way up the trending list overnight. By Wednesday morning, it had accumulated more than 200,000 views.
“As gunman rampaged through Florida school, armed deputy ‘never went in’” via Alan Blinder and Patricia Mazzei of The New York Times — The only armed sheriff’s deputy … where 17 people were killed took cover outside rather than charging into the building when the massacre began, the Broward County sheriff said … The sheriff also acknowledged that his office received 23 calls related to the suspect going back a decade, including one last year that said he was collecting knives and guns, but may not have adequately followed up. The deputy, Scot Peterson, resigned after being suspended without pay after Sheriff Scott Israel reviewed surveillance video. “He never went in,” Israel said … the video showed Peterson doing “nothing.” “There are no words,” said Israel, who described himself as “devastated, sick to my stomach.”
“Officer on duty during Florida school shooting resigns” via Axios — Deputy Scot Peterson resigned after being suspended without pay … He reportedly stood outside the building for about four minutes during the massacre in which 17 people were killed. His resignation came after authorities reviewed video surveillance and interviewed witnesses, including Peterson. Asked what Peterson should have done, Israel said: “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.”
“Parkland school cop ‘never went in’ during the shooting. There were other failures, too” via Charles Rabin, Carli Teproff, Nicholas Nehamas and David Ovalle of the Miami Herald — A school campus cop heard the gunfire, rushed to the building but never went inside — instead waiting outside for another four agonizing minutes as Cruz continued the slaughter. And long before Cruz embarked on the worst school shooting in Florida history, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies had multiple warnings that the 19-year-old was a violent threat and a potential school shooter … In November, a tipster called BSO to say Cruz “could be a school shooter in the making,” but deputies did not write up a report on that warning. It came just weeks after a relative called urging BSO to seize his weapons. Two years ago, according to a newly released timeline of interactions with Cruz’s family, a deputy investigated a report that Cruz “planned to shoot up the school” — intelligence that was forwarded to the school’s resource officer, with no apparent result.
— ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Chris King: Legislature ‘cowardly’ for running from assault rifle ban” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics — The GOP-led state House blocked a move by Democrats to debate a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. King says it was downright “cowardly” for the House to not even engage in a debate on the issue. “That’s a terrible explanation,” he said about the reasoning that such bills aren’t heard out of committee. “I think it’s a real absence of leadership and it’s cowardly to not even talk about solutions, to not even be willing to stand out there and say, ‘I oppose,’ as the Republicans would likely do, ‘I oppose an assault weapons ban, and here’s why.’ They don’t want to make that argument. They don’t want to stand up to folks like those students from Parkland who can’t understand why they wouldn’t do that,” King said.
“Mark Ziegler becomes second Republican to enter race to replace Jay Fant in HD 15” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics — Zeigler’s rationale for running: “We need more people who understand the impact that the rules made in Tallahassee have on our small businesses. Every time a tax is increased or new regulation is passed, it raises costs on our businesses and makes it more difficult for jobs to be created.” Zeigler enters the HD 15 race with Bert Ralston as his political consultant and will take on Wyman Duggan (whose consultant is Tim Baker, who handles Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in this market).
“Karen Castor Dentel files to run for Orange County School Board” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Dentel, a Democrat from Maitland who flipped the House District 30 seat in 2012, then lost it to Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes in 2014, filed late last week for the Orange County School Board District 6 seat. That seat’s current term runs through 2020, but the incumbent, Nancy Robbinson, is running for the countywide Orange County School Board chair’s seat and will have to resign. That would open the District 6 seat to a special election this year. Consequently, since Robbinson filed for the chair’s position, four candidates now have jumped into the contest for her seat, representing north-central Orange County.
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Henderson: Could this be the time gun debate sparks action?” via Florida Politics — The young people who marched on the state capitol and demanded to be heard on the issue of gun control are extraordinary by any measure, but it’s more than that. They are the faces of change. I believe they’re going to get what they want, either that or we’ll see the balance of power shift in the Legislature as some of the NRA hard-liners get voted out as voters decided they’ve had enough of this no-compromise nonsense on these weapons of mass death. For me, this was his money quote: “What a travesty that it took this tragic loss of life to begin this discussion.” These kids aren’t going away. They are determined. They are smart. They are compelling. And they are right.
— WEEKEND SHOWS —
Facing South Florida with Jim DeFedeon CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists include Dr. Susan McManus, professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida; Christian Ziegler, GOP state committeeman from Sarasota County; Tara Newsom, attorney and professor at St. Petersburg College; and former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder.
In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on gun legislation and violence at the state and national level. Joining Walker-Torres to discuss are Congressman Darren Soto; State Sen. Dennis Baxley; former Florida State Rep. Dick Batchelor; and former Congressman Patrick Murphy.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Host Ybeth Bruzual sits down with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to talk about current events, including reaction to the Parkland shooting, the budget battle in Washington, immigration reform/DACA, addressing the Puerto Rican relocation efforts, and whether she has any gubernatorial aspirations in Florida. PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter rates a claim made by Florida House Speaker Corcoran in a political commercial about “sanctuary cities” in Florida.
The Usual Suspectson WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon speaks with Steve Vancore and Mike Watkins from Big Bend Community Based Care.
This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week’s guests: Former Miami Beach Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine; Florida chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis and Congressman John Rutherford of Jacksonville.
This Week in South Florida on WPLG-Local10 News (ABC): Co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg talk current events and host a weekly roundtable with newsmakers.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Danielle Babilino joins Hard Rock in Florida” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Babilino will become senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Seminole Tribe-controlled Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, the company announced Thursday. She was most recently executive vice president of sales and marketing for Alon Las Vegas, the proposed luxury hotel and casino on the Strip. Babilino now will have “overall responsibility for the Hard Rock Hotel sales division, as it supports the expanding global portfolio of Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos,” according to a release, and will work out of Hard Rock International corporate offices in Hollywood. The Tribe in late 2016 consolidated its control over the Hard Rock brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
“Personnel note: Sharon Smoley to join Orlando Economic Partnership” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Smoley, Florida Director of Government Affairs for Charter Communications, is taking on a new challenge. Beginning March 12, she becomes Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy with the Orlando Economic Partnership. In that role, she’ll be working on local, state and federal issues affecting the Central Florida business community. Smoley will remain with Charter through the end of the 2018 Legislative Session. She previously was with the government relations team at Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts.
Nick Sortal quits Miami Herald gambling column, citing political plans — The veteran South Florida journalist and Miami Herald gambling columnist has decided to jump from reporting the news to making the news, as a candidate for Plantation City Council. “It’s something I have been thinking about since 2010, and I have been following the issues and building a campaign fund since then,” he posted online Thursday. “Because I’m an active political candidate, The Herald and I had to part ways. They can’t appear to show favoritism, and the idea of candidates-as-reporters is pooh-poohed almost everywhere. (That said, I’ll still write for CDC Gaming Reports, a subscription service that goes to executives nationwide in the casino industry.)”
New and appointed lobbying registrations
Jose Bermudez, Becker & Poliakoff: Quest Management Group
Martin Fiorentino, Mark Pinto, Jason Roth, The Fiorentino Group: Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court
Michael Harrell, Paul Hawkes, James Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: City of Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency
Jasmyne Henderson, Joseph McCann, Pittman Law Group: Florida Alliance for Consumers and Taxpayers
Brian Jogerst, BH & Associates: Health Management Company of America
Nikolas Juan Pascual: City of Miami
Jason Roth, The Fiorentino Group: Florida Crystals Corporation
William Rubin, Amy Bisceglia, Erica Chanti, Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Aetna, Guest Services, Weedmaps
Richard Stephens, Holland & Knight: National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation
Elizabeth Whitley: Office of the Attorney General
— OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK —
“Ivanka Trump plans to focus on U.S. athletes, not North Korea, during trip to Winter Olympics” via Jenna Jonson of The Washington Post — Ivanka Trump plans to cheer on American athletes, attend the Closing Ceremonies, congratulate the host nation on a successful Olympics and reaffirm the alliance between the United States and South Korea … Trump does not plan to meet with North Korean defectors, as had been reported, and does not intend to meet with any North Koreans during her visit. When Vice President Mike Pence traveled to South Korea for the Opening Ceremonies … his top mission was to counter propaganda from North Korea and remind the world that despite North Korea’s enthusiastic participation in the Olympics, the world should not forget the regime’s brutal and cruel treatment of its people and the threat of its nuclear weapons program. While that propaganda is still concerning to the White House, one official said, Trump does not plan to address it during her visit.
— ALOE —
Happy birthday this Sunday to State Reps. Carlos Trujillo and Mike La Rosa.
Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Thursday evening. A ban on video games that play like slot machines is on the move, and a speaker at a committee hearing accused House members of frequenting houses of ill repute. We wouldn’t know: Sixty Days doesn’t get out much. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Pre-reveal passes: A bill to ban pre-reveal games (or slot machine-style entertainment consoles), was rescued Thursday in a procedural move after it initially failed on a tie vote.
Hookers in the House? A legislative panel faced a shocking revelation — lawmakers may be soliciting prostitutes in the capital city.
Close call: A vacation rentals deregulation bill cleared the House Government Accountability Committee but on a narrow margin.
Gambling gambit: The Seminole Tribe of Florida is airing an ad in the Tallahassee market urging passage of a new gambling deal, even as lawmakers say it’s less likely it’ll be considered by Session’s end.
Paydayproposal: A heavily debated bill that would change regulations for payday lenders continued moving forward Thursday and is ready to go to the House floor.
Investigative tools: The Senate Appropriations Committee ran out of time to considera bill that would give police more power to investigate school shooting threats posted on social media.
Mandatory minimum: A measure that would allow courts to depart from mandatory minimum sentences in certain drug trafficking cases is now heading to the Senate floor for consideration.
Dealership drama: A bill aimed at making changes to car dealership regulations stalled out in committee over objections it would give a single industry association a monopoly on dealer training.
Emergency funding: Gov. Rick Scottsent a letter to the head of the U.S. Department of Justice requesting $1 million in funding to assist state law enforcement and first responders in wake of Parkland mass shooting.
Quote of the Day
“I’m not even sure if he really knows who I am, and what role I play in the Legislature. Because when I said my caucus did a news release that says exactly what bills we care about, he said, ‘well, can you get that to our office?’ Bruh, if you … don’t have the caucus position of the Senate minority, which is 15 to 16 members, and is playing a very big role in this, then I don’t know what your office is doing. His office did have it, but the thing is, he didn’t know who I was, so it didn’t matter, probably.” — Senate Democratic Leader OscarBraynon, describing his interaction earlier this week with Gov. Scott.
Bill Day’s Latest
Senate President JoeNegron on Thursday gave a far rosier picture of the 2018-19 state budget than did House Speaker RichardCorcoran on Wednesday. Negron, speaking to reporters at a press availability, said he was “very pleased with the progress that we’re making,” calling differences between the House and Senate “manageable.” But we still don’t have allocations, the big chunks of money doled to subcommittees to craft the individual parts of the yearly spending plan. And no real clear idea when they’re coming. Maybe it’s just always sunny in Negron-land. The Stuart Republican also talked about legislation coming early next week in response to the Parkland shooting. (The usual disclosure: Questions and answers edited for clarity and length.)
Q: Where do things stand with a gun bill or school safety bill?
Negron: Rules Chair LizbethBenacquisto will sponsor one or more bills … I’ve met with (Democratic) Leader (Oscar) Braynon several times this week to talk about these issues, regulation of guns and mental health, school safety … addressing really in a comprehensive way all of the issues. I think that process is moving forward and both the House and Senate will be in a position early next week to start considering legislation.
Q: Will that include a provision to arm teachers in schools?
Negron: That will definitely be one of the ideas that is considered. What the final form of that looks like, I’m not sure. But I support the principle of properly trained and properly credentialed adults to supplement our school safety program, (whether that’s) teachers, retired military, retired law enforcement, that have the appropriate training and background checks done, psychological evaluations, to have them in our schools to provide additional security. That would be something I would support … We’re looking at paying for the cost of obtaining the appropriate certification and background checks. Whether that would include a salary increase (for armed teachers), we haven’t gotten that far yet.
Q: Why isn’t a state ban on assault rifles under consideration?
Negron: It’s more appropriate for our focus to be on making sure someone with a history of mental instability, with a threatening and menacing nature, with multiple contacts with law enforcement, with a call made to the FBI to report this person … that we should focus on making sure that person not gain any possession of firearms whatsoever. I have talked about fidelity to the constitution. We have a commitment to follow it in difficult times as well as in times when our rights are not in question … There’s a delicate balance, no right is absolute … I believe that to ban a particular type of rifle, in my judgment, crosses the line into being unconstitutional.
“Cruises to nowhere” need a lobbyist, it seems.
H. Lee Moffitt has signed Tynda Holdings as a client, effective Feb. 16, registration records show.
Based in Cape Canaveral, the company “(does) business as Victory Casino Cruises … offering ocean cruise tours which provide gambling, dining, and entertainment services,” according to its Bloomberg Business profile.
Moffitt, a former House Speaker (1982-84), withdrew from Tampa’s Adams and Reese and started his own firm last year, also in Tampa.
He served in the Legislature 1974-84 as a Democrat.
The Next 24
The Florida State University Board of Trustees will meet. That’s at 8:30 a.m., FSU Alumni Center, 1030 W. Tennessee St., Tallahassee.
The Florida Board of Podiatric Medicine will meet. That’s at 9 a.m., Renaissance World Golf Village Resort, 500 South Legacy Trail, St. Augustine.
The Florida Department of Health will consider a proposed rule regarding pesticide use on marijuana crops. That’s at 10 a.m., Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee.
The Office of Economic and Demographic Research and Department of Revenue will hold a revenue estimating conference and discuss the General Revenue forecast. That’s at 2 p.m., 117 Knott Building, The Capitol.
Gov. Scott is expected to introduce a legislative proposal addressing issues in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Ana Ceballos, Daniel McAuliffe, and Jim Rosica.
Of the thousands who flocked to Tallahassee Wednesday to ask lawmakers and state officials for an answer to gun violence, one man stood out.
There, among a sea of young faces, was Sidney Walton.
Sidney, a 99-year-old World War II veteran, carried a sign that said “Disarm Hate.” Sidney and his son Paul are based in San Diego, California.
They travel the world advocating for good causes. The San Diego Union-Tribune reportedlast year how the duo had “crisscrossed America and traveled to 29 countries in the past four and a half years.”
“They are on a nonstop marathon to scratch everything off their bucket lists and then some,” the paper said. “They’ve seen four U.S. presidents, gone to the Oscars, Emmys and Tony awards, watched Super Bowls, NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, the London Olympics and a U.S. Open.”
“Along the way they’ve met Prince Harry, the Dalai Lama, Katy Perry, Usher, John Legend, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Chef Gordon Ramsay, Lady Gaga, Vin Diesel, Beyoncé, Jay Z and Lady Gaga, to mention a few.
“Rihanna even saluted Sidney, wearing his WWII visor, during a concert.”
Paul told us they came to Tallahassee from a visit in South Florida to join in the rally without so much as a second thought.
“I carried a machine gun defending our great country in Europe, but I hate the thought that we have to defend our children from guns here in our schools,” Sidney explained. “That’s sad and must be stopped.”
— SITUATIONAL AWARENESS —
— @RealDonaldTrump: I will always remember the time I spent today with courageous students, teachers and families. So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!
— @MichelleObama: I’m in total awe of the extraordinary students in Florida. Like every movement for progress in our history, gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance. But @BarackObama and I believe in you, we’re proud of you, and we’re behind you every step of the way.
— @MarcACaputo: Whether you believe in gun control or not, the testimony of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas HS mas shooting survivors is as powerful as it is tragic. And if you think these kids are actors, you suck
— @RadioRicko: One hell of a turnout for the gun-control rally in Tallahassee. Haven’t seen this many TV cameras since the recount of 2000
— @AmberMariano: For those of you confused and upset about yesterday — we are confused and upset too. When lives are at stake ‘procedural games’ are not the answer. Looking forward to working on BIPARTISAN gun reform & policy change on this issue.
— @NewsBySmiley: Emotional moment at the BB&T Center in Sunrise where CNN is holding its town hall. Bob Runcie has all the Stoneman teachers stand up for an ovation
— @EricWemple: This @cnn town-hall event on gun violence is riveting. Great format, perfect timing. Crowd won’t allow a single equivocation, as Sen. Rubio is learning with every utterance.
— @Eosnos: Watching a teenager fundamentally challenge Rubio’s talking points feels like watching a generation call B.S. on a whole form of politics. For years, Rubio’s weakness has always been inauthenticity, but no journalist (including this one) has evoked it as vividly.
— DAYS UNTIL —
Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony – 3; Last day for regularly scheduled legislative committee meetings – 5; Disney Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – 7; Last day to take up Special Order Calendar – 11; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program termination begins – 11; Sine Die (maybe) — 13; St. Patrick’s Day – 23; March For Our Lives gun violence protest – 30; Major League Baseball Opening Day — 37; Easter – 38; NFL Draft begins – 63; Close of candidate qualifying for federal office – 71; Solo: A Star Wars Story premier — 90; Close of candidate qualifying for statewide office — 120; Primary Election Day — 187; College Football opening weekend – 191; General Election Day — 257; ‘Hamilton’ comes to the Straz Center — 355.
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— THE RALLY —
“Demands for action intensify at huge rally at Florida’s Capitol” via Steve Bousquet, Lawrence Mower, Emily L. Mahoney and Mary Ellen Klas of Tampa Bay Times — Florida became the epicenter of a historic debate over gun violence … a week after the massacre in Parkland. … thousands of people, many of them students, militantly demanded action by legislators in the last two weeks of the session or risk being thrown out of office … “They were students and teachers and coaches and they died because you failed,” student Sheryl Acquaroli said of Florida’s leaders, “and they are bigger heroes than you will ever be.” … Hundreds of students walked the Capitol’s halls in an outpouring of grief, anger and determination, shouting chants outside the doors of the House chamber. … Local high school students were excused from classes and adults arrived in buses from across the state. … Across the state of Florida Wednesday, students walked out of classrooms to protest gun violence.
— THE STUDENTS —
“Richard Corcoran to teens: Gun legislation ‘on the table’ ” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – House Speaker Corcoran told a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students Wednesday “how guns are treated is absolutely on the table” for bills that are in the works. Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, and other House members met with dozens of teens who attend the Broward County high school in a midday meeting on the House floor. Lawmakers are now struggling to come up with a legislative response to last Wednesday’s Parkland high school shooting. The 2018 Legislative Session is slated to end March 9, just two and a half weeks away. Many in the audience seemed boggled at the state’s approach to gun control, with some asking how people are able to get assault rifles and what lawmakers plan to do, if anything, about it.
“Florida students began with optimism. Then they spoke to lawmakers.” via Julie Turkewitz of The New York Times – A week after a shooting rampage killed 17 at their high school, the students headed for the capitol … They had come to urge lawmakers to impose new restrictions on guns, including a ban on the sale of military-style firearms like the AR-15 used in the rampage at their school. Inside, the students divided into groups of 10. Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat, had helped the students arrange meetings with lawmakers in both parties, and the groups were supposed to meet with some 70 elected officials. Group Six crammed into the elevator with two parent chaperones. They met with Rep. Patricia Williams, a Democrat, and Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Republican. Mayfield said that changes were needed, perhaps including raising the minimum age to buy powerful weapons, but she rebuffed criticism from a student, Daniel Bishop, 16, that such a change would not actually prevent deaths. “We can’t stop crazies,” she told the group. Afterward, Amanda De La Cruz, 16, looked distraught. “I want the ban on semi-automatic weapons,” she said. “I don’t care about the crazies.”
“Donald Trump: Florida shooting response ‘not going to be talk’” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida – Trump vowed to take action in response to the Florida high school shooting during a listening session with students, families and school officials, saying the administration will be “very strong” on background checks for gun sales and on mental health. “It’s not going to be talk like it has been in the past,” the president said at the White House event alongside Vice President Mike Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other administration officials. “It’s been going on too long, too many instances, and we’re going to get it done.” Some students from the Parkland high school where the shooting occurred have become outspoken critics of existing gun restrictions. Trump this week urged the Justice Department to finish reviewing a possible ban on a weapons accessory used in last year’s Las Vegas shooting, though the moves he’s endorsed so far have been backed by the National Rifle Association. “We’re going to be very strong on background checks. We’ll be doing very strong background checks, very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody,” the president said.
“Treating the victims, and the teenager accused of gunning them down” via Sheri Fink of The New York Times – As the frequency of mass shootings rises, the arrival of a captured gunman in a hospital remains unusual — studies show the majority die at the time of the crime. Many commit suicide … Some are killed by those trying to stop them … Occasionally, however, the very medical staff tending to victims of a mass shooting are called on to treat the suspect. “They called in with a gunshot wound,” Dr. Igor Nichiporenko said. “He stated that he was shot, so everybody thought he was injured.” A team of four was assigned to treat Cruz in the emergency room — two nurses and two doctors, including Nichiporenko, the hospital’s trauma director, who trained as a trauma surgeon at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center in New York and hails from Moscow. “We just picked people we know can stay cool,” Nichiporenko said. “We chose the ones who wouldn’t get emotional about it.” The hospital had already been locked down — its entrances, exits and trauma rooms were guarded by security staff.
— THE TOWN HALL —
“CNN Parkland town hall crowd expresses powerful gun control message” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — If the crowd at the Wednesday night’s gun discussion at the BB&T Center in Sunrise was indicative of more than just a normally Democratic community now suffering from one of the most horrific school massacres in history, then Republicans such as Sen. Rubio and staunch 2nd Amendment advocates can find little place there.
In the CNN post-Parkland massacre town hall meeting show “Stand Up,” televised live Wednesday night, students’, teachers’, family members’ and others’ anger and conviction over the mass murder at Marjory Stonemand Douglas High School was clearly focused on gun control, on banning assault weapons, universal background checks and other gun laws.
That left Rubio, who joined Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, often in the spotlight of anger and pleading survivors, family and friends, as he defended 2nd Amendment positions opposing many of the gun restrictions the crowd was professing.
The trio of federal lawmakers found their roles well defined from the start, and found that the questioners, including teenagers, harbored no fear or intimidation whatsoever in pressing powerful members of Congress.
“I want to like you. Here’s the problem: Your comments this week, and those of our president have been pathetically weak,” Rubio was told by Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime Guttenberg was killed last week.
“Rubio shifts on guns during tense forum” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Jeered and booed by the crowd, buffeted by tough questions, Rubio stood alone as the only Republican onstage, in purple Florida’s liberal bastion of Broward County. He broke with President Trump on whether to arm teachers. Rubio said it was a bad idea. He said he would favor raising the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. And he said he would consider restricting the size of magazines for firearms.
It was a striking turnabout for Rubio, who never met a gun-rights bill he didn’t vote for in the Florida Legislature and, later, in Congress. But Rubio said he wanted to prevent another massacre and said it was time for everyone to start rethinking their positions. … The crowd, though, didn’t seem to agree.
— THE POLITICS —
“Rubio faces backlash from students, gun control advocates after shooting” via Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post – Rubio has become the face of congressional inaction on tougher gun restrictions. … In the hours after the Parkland shooting, Rubio stood on the Senate floor and said that most of the tougher gun restrictions that others have proposed wouldn’t have prevented it. The state’s highest-profile Republican lawmaker has faced an intense backlash from Americans demanding new regulations on firearms. “Shame on you Marco Rubio & NRA,” read a banner that was flown over the South Florida coastline. The liberal advocacy group Avaaz parked three trucks with large red and black signs near a local Rubio office in a nod to the Oscar-nominated movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” “I think he’s the symptom of a problem, and he represents an opportunity,” Avaaz Deputy Director Emma Ruby Sachs said.
“Speaker pulled from panel alongside CPAC over Florida shooting controversy” via Cristiano Lima of POLITICO Florida – Jim Hoft —founder of Gateway Pundit, a conservative site that has previously shared false stories — was slated to speak on a panel on “Social Media Censorship.” The panel was organized by the think tank American Principles Project and other groups and was to occur on the sidelines of the annual summit of conservative political figures.American Principles Project Foundation executive director Terry Schilling said Hoft was pulled from the lineup after Gateway Pundit suggested without evidence that students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were coached to criticize Trump’s response to the shooting.“The reason that Jim Hoft is not allowed to be on this panel is because of his unfair and distracting coverage of the Florida shooting,” Schilling said. Hoft said the breakout session at CPAC had been “canceled,” but Schilling said it hadn’t yet been called off.
“Despite U.S. sanctions on Russia, Rick Scott offered tax breaks to manufacturer of AK-47 assault rifles” via Dan Christiansen of Florida Bulldog – Scott’s administration offered $162,000 in state tax breaks to bring to South Florida the manufacturer of the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, even though the U.S. had imposed sanctions against Russian-made military assault weapons. The Department of Economic Opportunity signed the tax refund deal with the owner of Kalashnikov USA – RWC Group LLC – in October 2015. Taxpayer money was offered under the department’s qualified target industry program that looks to create jobs in exchange for state benefits. In this case, the target industry the governor was trying to attract is listed as “small arms manufacturing.” Since Scott’s first year in office, the governor has sought to bring gun makers to Florida. In 2011, for example, he promised $1.6 million in incentives to Colt Manufacturing Co. to open a plant and add 63 jobs in Osceola County to build AR-15 rifles, like the one police say was used in last week’s slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“Pro-gun Legislature nears deal on sweeping gun reform bill” via Marc Caputo and Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — In a major and unprecedented move toward gun-control in the Republican-led Florida Legislature, the outlines are forming of a deal that would call on age limits and waiting periods for so-called assault rifles as well as a new program to arm school personnel to prevent future classroom slaughters. … “When the people clamor at the rate that they have in the shadow of a terrible massacre like we saw, you see a reaction that you otherwise would not see,” said Miami Lakes Rep. Jose Oliva … Oliva said he’s not locking down Republican members to vote for the legislation … “it’s a conscience vote and a Constitutional issue that every member has to decide.” … Sen. Bill Galvano … said that removing schools as so-called gun-free zones has gone a long way to bringing Republicans along to support age and wait period increases for semi-automatic rifles, such as AR-15’s. … Still, Speaker Corcoran, who wants to run for governor in a three-way GOP primary, has been uncharacteristically quiet and been put in a no-win situation politically, allies say … “The smart ones are watching what Scott does and what President Trump does and they’ll see today that the president is talking about age limits,” said a top Republican ally of the speaker who’s familiar with his thinking. “If you’re Richard Corcoran, you wait and you don’t say anything so you can embrace Donald Trump and Rick Scott,” the source said.
“Senate Democrats vow to attach gun legislation to moving bills” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida — Senate Democrats on Wednesday said they would attach gun legislation — including a ban on assault rifles — to any viable legislation as the end of the 2018 session nears. “So long as assault rifles like the AR-15 are legally sold in this state, so long as they are not banned, their threat to civilians will remain in every school, every mall, every movie theater, every nightclub and in every place the public gathers,” state Sen. Oscar Braynon, the Senate Democratic leader, said in a statement.
“Jared Moskowitz rips fellow Democrats for ‘procedural games’ on guns” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Moskowitz criticized his fellow Democrats for their unsuccessful procedural move to force a House floor debate on an assault weapons ban. Republicans blocked the maneuver, and news of it created a social media firestorm. Moskowitz was one of five Democrats recorded as not voting on the motion. He was attending the funeral service for Peter Wang, one of the victims of last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Moskowitz is a 1999 graduate of Stoneman Douglas and the school is in his district. Moskowitz said: “I didn’t expect the Democratic leadership to expose one of their own members while I was at a funeral paying respects.”
“Chris Latvala proudly touts getting a ‘D’ rating from the NRA on CNN” via Brad Reed of Raw Story – Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Latvala boasted of getting bad grades from the NRA when it comes to his votes on gun-related issues. ‘I’m proud to be the lowest rated Republican by the NRA,” he said. “I have a ‘D’ rating.” Latvala went on to say that, even though most of his Republican colleagues were to his right on gun issues, he was still optimistic that he could get some of them on board with a bipartisan gun bill that would improve safety for Florida school students. “I think there are numerous, you know, conservatives, numerous Republicans that see these common-sense gun measures, and they certainly will support them,” he said. “I think the bills that you will see introduced this week will be bipartisan in nature.”
“On gun ban, Kathleen Peters stands her ground” via Florida Politics – Peters doesn’t want her vote related to the House’s assault rifle ban to be seen as siding with any political faction. “Although I do believe we need common sense gun reform, I voted down on the motion because I am not that narrowly focused,” she said. The Treasure Island Republican was one of 71 members who voted against a procedural move sponsored by Democrats to pull the gun ban out of its committees of reference and onto the floor for debate and a vote. “I want real reform, not only to stop mass shootings but to stop all gun violence,” she said. “If we just banned assault weapons and did nothing else, we would have done little to protect our citizens in a meaningful way. I do not want to lose another life to gun violence; not through a mass shooting, domestic violence or suicide.”
— THE DEBATE —
“Trump on course for clash with House GOP over gun control” via Rachael Bade and Elana Schor of POLITICO Florida – The White House is signaling support for a bipartisan bill that would enhance reporting of violent criminals to the FBI’s background-check database in order to stop them from buying firearms. But House conservatives are unwilling to sign on unless the measure is coupled with so-called concealed-carry legislation backed by the NRA. Combining the two ideas would have the net effect of loosening gun controls. The House in December passed a bill that yoked the pair of proposals. Before the vote, House GOP leaders promised conservatives that they would not decouple the background-checks bill from the concealed-carry language, according to four leadership and conservative sources familiar with the whip effort. That sets up the possibility of a clash between House and Senate Republicans. Trump will likely have to decide how hard he wants to push for the stand-alone background-checks bill, at the risk of antagonizing his pro-gun base and GOP allies in the House.
“NRA influential in Florida, but not through campaign money” via Langston Taylor of the Tampa Bay Times — In a state where top Republican lawmakers have pushed bills to make it easier to get guns and shied away from calling for drastic gun control measures, some have assumed Florida’s legislators are reliant on money from the National Rifle Association. But that’s not how it works. … they don’t spend much at all on individual statehouse campaigns. … since 2000, the NRA’s donations to current members of Florida’s House and Senate amount to a grand total of zero. … For a while, it still bankrolled candidates through their party. From 2005 through 2013, the NRA paid the Republican Party of Florida $85,000 … peanuts to a party that raised $23 million for 2016’s election and $51 million for 2012’s. Other states’ politicians aren’t getting more than Florida’s. The New York Daily News and The Trace found the NRA has achieved policy successes across the country without spending much at all at the state level. In lieu of contributions, the NRA rewards legislators it likes with letter grades, visible to all of its members.
“Why arming teachers is highly unlikely” via Benjamin Wermund of POLITICO — Trump said that the White House is “very strongly” considering the possibility of arming teachers and other school staff — but the reality is that won’t happen anytime soon, even in states that would allow guns in schools … education groups are virtually unanimously opposed to the idea, which they say is asking teachers and principals to do too much. “This is bar none, the worst theory of action I’ve ever heard,” Shanna Peeples, a former National Teacher of the Year award winner, wrote on Twitter. In the days since the Florida tragedy, conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich as well as some Republican state lawmakers have said teachers, principals and staff should be allowed to bring guns to school. … “There is not a schools person I know who would make this case in any credible manner,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Anyone who suggests this has no real understanding of what goes on in schools, or worse doesn’t care, and is more focused on the needs of gun manufacturers and the NRA than of children.”
— CAPITOL INSIGHT —
“Lawmakers back move to revise tuition penalty” via Lloyd Dunkelberger of the News Service of Florida – The House Education Committee amended an “excess” credit hours bill (HB 565) to bring it in line with a Senate proposal (SB 844). The measure would give first-time-in-college students up to 12 extra hours, penalty free, if they graduate within four yearsafter enrollment. Under the current policy, which has been in place since 2012, university students who take more than 132 credit hours of classes for a major that typically only needs 120 credit hours face an excess hour surcharge. It means those extra classes result in students paying double the normal tuition, which averages more than $210 per credit hour at the major universities. The House and Senate bills would let students who take up to 144 credit hours receive a refund for 12 credit hours if they graduate within four years.
“House adds exceptions for opioid limits” via the News Service of Florida — People with cancer or terminal illnesses and certain trauma patients would be exempted from opioid-prescription limits being considered by lawmakers, under a bill approved Wednesday by a House health care panel. The amended bill would limit to three days opioid prescriptions for patients suffering from “acute pain,” which is defined as the “normal, predicted, physiological, and time-limited response to an adverse chemical, thermal, or mechanical stimulus associated with surgery, trauma, or acute illness.” Unlike an earlier version of the bill, the latest iteration includes exemptions from the limits for cancer patients, people who are terminally ill and those who are receiving palliative care. Trauma patients who meet certain criteria for severity of injuries also would be exempt from the limits. Despite the changes, the bill continued to face concerns from doctors.
“Senate panel pushes criminal justice overhaul bill” via Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics – The measure would require the Department of Corrections to use risk-assessment instruments that can identify the appropriate intervention and program for an offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism. Sen. Jeff Brandes said his bill (SB 1218) could be used as the foundation for “meaningful” criminal justice reform in the future. Lobbyist Barney Bishop told the panel he is in favor of bolstering data collection on the criminal justice field, but said it will cost the state a “good chunk.” According to staff analysis, that “chunk” would amount to nearly $1.1 million — nearly $764,000 of which would go to technology-related costs for the assessment system. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal Justice Subcommittee cleared the measure unanimously before adjourning for the 2018 legislative session. “This remains a work in progress and we will continue to work on it,” Brandes said. “It’s amazing to see the shift we are seeing in the Senate and the Legislature as a whole.”
“Prospects for PIP repeal dive as Senate panel disdains the legislation” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – PIP repeal is not officially dead, but it wasn’t looking at all well after a key Senate committee adjourned its last meeting of Session without taking up the matter. “It is referenced to this committee, but was not on this agenda. In theory, it makes the prospects of that policy change happening obviously very hard between now and Session ending,” said Miami Republican Anitere Flores, chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “But anything is possible,” she said.
“Transmission line measure goes to Scott” via the News Service of Florida — Trying to undo a 2016 court ruling in a case involving Florida Power & Light, the state Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that deals with approval of electric transmission lines. The 34-4 vote by the Senate sends the bill (HB 405) to Gov. Scott. The House voted 105-2 to approve the measure last month. The issue stems from a 2016 ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeal in a dispute involving local governments in Miami-Dade County and FPL about a proposed project that would add two nuclear reactors at the utility’s Turkey Point complex. Scott and the state Cabinet approved the project in 2014 in their role as a state power-plant siting board. But the appeals court overturned that decision … the bill approved Wednesday would make changes that would effectively revert to an approval process.
Governors Club Thursday lunch buffet menu – Mixed green salad with assorted dressings; macaroni salad; cucumber tomato salad; potato leek soup; rosemary chicken; grilled salmon Puttanesca; Risi Bisi rice; Tuscan white beans; Italian squash; Panna Cotta flan for dessert.
— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
“Tom Rooney is leaving Congress because he no longer wants to be ‘selfish’” via Ledyard King of News-Press.com — “When you’re a congressman, you have to be extremely selfish to be successful and extremely ambitious too,” the Okeechobee Republican and father of three boys said in his first media interview since announcing he won’t seek re-election to a sixth term in November. “But I just got to a point where my oldest is 16, I have a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old, and I can sense my selfishness is having a negative effect on them because I’m not allowing them to shine,” he said. “They need to be selfish now. They need to be ambitious. And it’s almost like until I stop doing it for myself, they can’t do it.” It wasn’t the only reason cited by Rooney, 47, who became the latest GOP lawmaker to exit Capitol Hill in a year where many analysts expect Democrats to retake control of the House. He mentioned as contributing factors the prospect of having to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for re-election, his frustration with Congress’ inability to get much done, and his close brush with danger — having just left the scene — during practice for a congressional baseball game in June when a gunman opened fire wounding House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, and four others.
“Is Donna Shalala ‘dominating’ the CD 27 field?” via Florida Politics — Well-regarded research strategy firm Bendixen and Amandi International released a poll of the CD 27 Democratic field showing as-yet-unannounced candidate Shalala holding a solid lead among likely primary voters. First, let me say this: I have no qualms about the poll. What I do have a problem with, however, is the editorialized interpretation of the findings by POLITICO Florida, which dubbed her lead as “dominating.” It was a respectable, solid, hey-I’ll-take-it 24 percent for Shalala. State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez came second with 10 percent, and the rest of the mostly unknown field was in the low single digits. A full half said they “don’t know.” Is 24 percent a “dominating” lead? Shalala should be holding a comfortable lead. In fact, she should be “dominating” the field, but alas, she is not … she is tied with the rest of the field and is losing to “Race? What race?” by a 2-to-1 margin.
— STATEWIDE —
“Scott’s trip to lure Louisiana companies appears fruitless” via Greg LaRose of The Times-Picayune — Tom Leonhard, president and CEO of HRI Properties, said he was originally scheduled to meet Scott last year about a possible development in Tampa. That meeting was canceled when Hurricane Irma led to a state of emergency. “When (Scott) came back to Louisiana for his company recruitment, we talked about our project in Tampa, and he suggested we look at developing property in Jacksonville and in Miami. He never suggested that we move from Louisiana into Florida, and that’s clearly not something we intend to do.” HRI Properties specializes in historic commercial building restorations for residential and hotel projects. Will Scott, CEO with Search Influence, said he was also contacted “out of the blue” about a visit to his internet marketing company. The governor did most of the talking, pitching Florida’s population growth and its lack of a state income tax, he said. “We’d need a lot of incentive to move, but he did make a pretty compelling case,” Will Scott said, adding that the governor’s “main point was political and that the sales pitch was more of an excuse.”
“John Morgan questions whether vaccines, childhood mood drugs create ‘monsters’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics — Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who earned national leadership credibility as a proponent for marijuana while leading the approval of medical marijuana in Florida and nearly ran for governor, has blasted childhood vaccines and mood stabilizing medications for creating “monsters,” and linked the prospect to the Parkland shooter. Morgan sent out a flurry of tweets on Twitter and posts on Facebook Tuesday evening … “When you think of all these school shootings by kids think of this … Our children are doped up and drugged their whole life” … “Some of our children are zombies who turn into monsters. I am not surprised.” … “Why is there so much autism today? Vaccines are vital but they are administered way too quickly or in such large doses. A discussion is warranted.” … Wednesday morning Morgan sought to clarify that he does not want to suggest that vaccines have caused autism. And he apologized for offending anyone.
“’PIP’ payment dispute goes to Supreme Court” via the News Service of Florida — After a divided appeals court ruled against it, Progressive Select Insurance Co. has gone to the Florida Supreme Court in a dispute about how much it should pay to a hospital for treating a man injured in an auto accident … the case deals with calculation of payments under the personal injury protection auto policy of Progressive customer Jonathan Parent, who was injured in an auto accident. Parent’s policy had a $1,000 deductible, and his total hospital charges were $2,781, according to the appeals-court ruling. In seeking payment from the insurer, the hospital first subtracted the $1,000 deductible and then calculated the amount owed using a formula in the state’s so-called PIP law. The hospital billed the insurer for $1,068. But Progressive used a different method that first applied part of the formula to reduce the overall $2,781 charge. The insurer then subtracted Parent’s $1,000 deductible from the reduced amount, made another calculation under the formula and said it owed $868 to the hospital — $200 less than what the hospital billed.
“Disney adding solar farm: Reedy Creek signs easement for 50MW facility” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel — Reedy Creek Improvement District signed an agreement and easement with Miami-based Origis Energy to build the facility, near ponds that are just east of the toll beltway and just west of Disney’s Magnolia and Palm golf courses. The facility will provide renewable solar power to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and ultimately to Disney World. The complex will sprawl across 270 acres on the western edge of Disney’s property with 518,000 solar-panel modules. It’s expected to create up to 300 jobs during construction, which is anticipated to start by late spring and be completed by year’s end.
“Sarasota commissioner says new $130 million mote aquarium plan is unacceptable” via Chris Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The announcement that Mote Marine Laboratory plans to build a new aquarium outside of the city limits has rankled city Commissioner Hagen Brody, who took his frustrations out on city manager Tom Barwin during a heated meeting … Brody blasted Barwin for not intervening and doing enough to keep Mote from leaving its existing location on City Island and moving to a parcel of land between the Nathan Benderson Rowing Park and University Town Center mall in 2021. The discussion was tense from the start, and at one point Brody said to Barwin, “I really don’t think you have been engaged in this all along.” When Barwin tried to respond Brody yelled, “Can you let me finish, please?” At that point, Sarasota Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie interceded to restore order. Still, it didn’t take long before Barwin took a shot at Brody. Barwin criticized Brody by saying the commission was unable to schedule weekly meetings until recently because Brody could never attend. Brody, later in the meeting, said to Barwin, “I don’t meet with you because I don’t trust you.”
“Study calls for expansive help for Florida’s springs” via Amy Green of WMFE — A joint study by the University of Florida and the St. Johns River Water Management District found nutrient pollution isn’t the only factor behind algae blooms in Florida springs. Casey Fitzgerald of the St. Johns River Water Management District says the springs suffer from slower water flows and that light and temperature also are important factors. “And we discovered once established these very large mats of nuisance algae that rest on the bottom persist because very few aquatic animals actually feed on them, and they are actually a biological dead end. So, they aren’t adding anything positive to the ecosystem.”
— OPINIONS —
“Joe Henderson: only lowest of low would spread lies about Parkland students” via Florida Politics — What kind of vermin would say two Parkland students grieving from last week’s massacre at their high school were really actors who were being paid to make gun owners look bad? I think we can all agree this represents the lowest of the low. Helping spread that lie is why Benjamin Kelly lost his job Tuesday night as an aide to Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison of Tampa. Kelly sent an unsolicited note that said, “Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.” When Leary asked for proof, he was provided with a link to a YouTube conspiracy video. Not long after, Kelly was out of a job. Back in the day, I can remember having a good chuckle at headlines on tabloids like the National Enquirer as I stood in the grocery store checkout line. That was about as crazy as it got. Now, there is a whole industry devoted to tin foil hats and deranged conspiracies. This might be a good time to remember that then-candidate Trump helped further that when he told chief kook Alex Jones that his reputation is “amazing.” In their world, truth is whatever they want it to be. Facts are lies. Everything is a cover-up.
“PeterSchorsch: Why the politics of Parkland reminds me of this one scene from The Hunt for Red October” via Florida Politics — Benjamin Kelly, Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison‘s district secretary, prompted outrage after telling a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two Parkland students who had appeared in a TV interview were, in fact, “actors” who “travel to various crisis when they happen.” “You know you got a shit storm brewing?” I texted him in the late afternoon. Harrison told me then he had “no idea what” was going on, but, to his credit, he moved swiftly and made sure the Speaker of the House fired Kelly as quickly as they could push through the paperwork. “This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll lucky to live through it.” Those were the words of Admiral Josh Painter after an F-14 crashes onto the deck of an aircraft carrier in a scene from “The Hunt for Red October.” Now, no one involved in the debate about what the Legislature should do in response to Parkland is an F-14 or a Russian jet. But, when you put politicos, like Harrison’s aide, in proximity to situations with which they are unfamiliar, if not afraid of, they will react and, react poorly. Or, and this is also likely, they will reveal some part of the true self they would prefer not to have on display. That makes what is happening now amazing to witness: Republican lawmakers (as well as some Democrats), for years protected by several institutional advantages, are running headlong into the politics of Parkland.
— MOVEMENTS —
Rest in peace — “Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass” via Jonathan Capriel and Tony Marrero of the Tampa Bay Times — Wallace ended his life by jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass, records show. He was 65. At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s report. A 911 call came in at 7:02 p.m. and first responders found his body lying on a rock surface next to railroad tracks. The report lists the manner of death as suicide. Wallace, known to many as Rob, served in the state House representing northwest Hillsborough and northern Pinellas counties, beginning in 1994 when he collected signatures to get on the ballot and then beat an incumbent who outspent him. He rode a Republican surge to Tallahassee in the midterm period of the Clinton administration.
“UNF chooses Cincinnati dean as new president” via the News Service of Florida — The University of North Florida Board of Trustees has chosen a University of Cincinnati business-school dean to become the Jacksonville school’s next president. The board selected David Szymanski, who is dean of the Carl H. Lindner College of Business and a professor of marketing at the University of Cincinnati, to become UNF’s sixth president. The board authorized Chairman Kevin Hyde to negotiate a contract with Szymanski, whose appointment also is subject to confirmation by the state university system’s Board of Governors.
Appointed — Felipe Colon and Mark Aesch to the New College of Florida Board of Trustees.
Appointed — Eric Grant to the Tallahassee Community College District Board of Trustees.
New and appointed lobbying registrations:
Douglas Bruce, Colodny Fass: Materials Lifecycle Management Company
Bert Lewis Combs, Radey Law Firm: Auto-Owners Insurance Company
Christopher Finkbeiner, Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Guest Services
Jodi James: Florida Cannabis Action Network
Manuel Reyes, Pereira Reyes Consulting: Florida Onsite Wastewater Association
Sydney Ridley, Southern Strategy Group: The College Board
Katherine San Pedro, Ballard Partners: Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, Mount Sinai Medical Center
— OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK —
“Winter Olympics ratings down, but not exactly on thin ice” via Frank Pallotta of CNN — NBC is still averaging about 20 million prime-time viewers, which not only beats its rivals but it’s a ratings windfall that only live events can deliver. Mark Lazarus, the chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports, said last week that the network sold over $900 million of advertising for Pyeongchang. The ratings drop is reflective of the “changing TV landscape,” according to Stefanie Morales, director of audience intelligence at Magna, a company that monitors audience trends. She said network prime time TV is down across the board so if “you’re compounding that loss over four years then these numbers don’t look as bad.”
“They left their slower teammate behind. Now their country’s fans want them banned.” via Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post — Noh Seon-Yeong’s tears have mobilized the hosts of the PyeongChang Olympics, marring the Games for a nation that prides itself on sportsmanship and civility. Noh, a long-track speedskater, cried in the infield of the Gangneung Oval after being humiliated by her teammates in the quarterfinals of the team pursuit. Kim Bo-Reum and Park Ji Woo walked by their distraught teammate, unmoved, after abandoning her in an event that is defined by cooperation. Only one person on the Korean team comforted her: Coach Bob de Jong, a four-time Olympic medalist for the Netherlands. Koreans were so angered by the display that a petition was started on President Moon Jae-in’s website asking that Kim and Park be banned from the national team because “It is a clear national disgrace that such people with a personality problem are representing a country in the Olympics.” By Wednesday, that petition had 400,000 signatures.
— ALOE —
“Florida earns top spot on list of most sinful states” via Samantha Putterman of the Bradenton Herald — Florida has another first place ranking under its belt. But this time the honor isn’t so, well, honorable. WalletHub appointed Florida as the most sinful state in the U.S. … the Sunshine State ranked supreme overall, achieving high scores in a number of “low” categories, including vanity and lust. Florida narrowly beat out California for the top spot and surprisingly pulled ahead of No. 3 Nevada, home to Sin City itself. … WalletHub compared states based on seven “sinful” behaviors: anger and hatred, jealousy, excesses and vices, greed, lust, vanity and laziness. … Florida ranked No. 1 in jealousy, No. 4 in vanity, No. 7 in laziness and No. 8 in lust. But, we weren’t *so* terrible in the anger and hatred metric, landing in the middle at No. 24. Florida apparently isn’t too greedy either, according to the survey, coming in at No. 38. But unfortunately, those other high marks sealed Florida’s sinful fate.
“Uber broadens roll out of ultracheap carpool service” via Axios — After recent testing in San Francisco and Boston, Uber is expanding the rollout of UberPool Express, its cheaper carpooling option that requires riders walk a block or two to a convenient pickup location. … Despite the jokes that these companies are reinventing busses, it’s already been proven that in some cities there is a demand for private alternatives to public transit.
Happy birthday to Southern Strategy Group’s Nelson Diaz.
Sixty Days — A prime-time look at the 2018 Legislative Session
The Last 24
Good Wednesday evening. Thousands jammed the Capitol complex to call for action in the wake of the Parkland shooting, while a Senate panel delayed action on allowing guns in place of worship. Sixty Days wants to praise the Lord and pass on by the ammunition. Here’s your nightly rundown.
Parkland anger: Those who’ve survived the tragic shooting at a Broward County high school say they don’t want to be consoled by lawmakers — they want action.
Holy handguns: The Senate delayed a gun bill that would allow firearms in churches with schools attached to them as long as school-sponsored activities are not happening.
Corcoran’s covenant: The House Speaker told a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students “how guns are treated is absolutely on the table” for bills that are in the works.
Standingground: State Rep. KathleenPeters doesn’t want her vote related to the House’s assault rifle ban to be seen as siding with any political faction.
Criminal reform: The Senate’s omnibus criminal justice bill is heading to its last committee stop. The would direct the Department of Corrections to assess the proper placement of offenders in an effort to reduce recidivism.
Budget banter: Negotiations between the House and the Senate aren’t just stalled, they’re not happening.
Aid to immigrants: A Senate panel cleared a bill that could change a state law that has allowed insurance companies to avoid payouts to undocumented injured workers and has already led the state to refer a handful of cases to federal immigration authorities.
Quote of the Day
“The path to getting something done has narrowed significantly, but I can tell you that we’ve not given up on it.” — House Speaker-designate José Oliva, commenting on the fate of comprehensive gambling legislation this Session.
Bill Day’s Latest
Speaker RichardCorcoran spoke to reporters after Wednesday’s floor session, with the chants of dozens of Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and others echoing just outside the chamber.
They were largely calling for the House to take up an assault rifle ban backed by Democrats, including Orlando’s Carlos G. Smith. The more pressing matter on Corcoran’s mind was a lack of allocations, the big chunks of money that leadership doles out to subcommittees during the budget conference process.
And the speaker laid blame on two particular Senators’ feet. (Questions and answers edited for length and clarity.)
Q: Do you think there’ll be a need to extend the Session? (It is scheduled to end March 9.)
Corcoran: No. I’ll be very frank on this one … We don’t know what to say more to the Senate in terms of ‘let’s start negotiations.’ They have completely stonewalled us. They’re acting like kindergartners.
Q: Are they doing that because their understanding is you won’t deal until they pass your priority (education bill)?
Corcoran: Last year, we were able to do allocations even though we didn’t have an agreement on (policy) bills. It’s just silliness. Grow up … I want to be clear, I’m talking about certain individuals. These guys, it’s like “Princess Bride.” I’m dealing with the guy out in the woods that’s like, ‘but you’re an Australian, so you know I would do this!’ They constantly play chess and checkers against themselves. Half the time, I don’t even know what they’re saying. Just shoot straight. It’s not rocket science.
Q: What’s the end game?
Corcoran: We all know how it ends. The governor calls us into special session, that’ll be on the budget only, I can assure you … no substantive policy, and then everyone loses. How does that make sense? But if that’s they want to do, we’re OK with that. Our doors are open. But the (Senate) chairman of Appropriations and the President of the Senate need to grow up.
The House Commerce Committee won’t be considering the chamber’s gaming bill for 2018 at its Thursday meeting, at least according to its agenda as of Wednesday. But it is set to hear a bill (HB 1367) by Longwood Republican ScottPlakon to ban what are called “pre-reveal” games.
They’re slot machine-style entertainment devices, most often placed in bars. A Tallahassee judge’s ruling that they’re illegal slots is under appeal.
Meantime, one of the companies behind the games, Atlanta’s Pace-O-Matic, has hired a local lobbyist, Christine Davis-Graves. She’s a shareholder at the Tallahassee office of Carlton Fields. Her lobbying registration was effective Feb. 12.
The website refers to the company as “a national leader in the development of innovative and exciting games for the coin-op industry.”
Two other pre-reveal companies, Gator Coin II and Blue Sky, have not hired lobbyists, records show.
The Next 24
The Florida Commission on Offender Review will take up parole cases during a meeting in Duval County. That’s at 9 a.m., Jacksonville Beach City Council chambers, 11 North Third St., Jacksonville Beach.
The House Commerce Committee will consider a bill that would allow beer advertisements in theme parks and another bill that would let Floridians use a mobile app to order alcohol. That’s at 9 a.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.
The Florida Supreme Court is expected to release its weekly opinions at 11 a.m.
A fundraising event is scheduled for Republican PaulSpain, who is running in South Florida’s Congressional District 22. U.S. Rep. BrianMast is expected to take part in the event. That’s at noon, Biergarten, 309 Via De Palmas, Boca Raton.
The House Appropriations Committee will convene. That’s at 1 p.m., 212 Knott Building, The Capitol.
Staff members of the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee will select lobbying firms whose compensation reports will be audited. That’s at 2 p.m., Claude Pepper Building, G-01, Tallahassee.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet and consider dozens of proposals, including a bill that would give judges the option to sentence drug dealers with less than the mandatory minimum requirement. That’s at 2 p.m., 412 Knott Building, The Capitol.
GOP U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney will hold town-hall meetings in Collier and Lee counties. That’s at 3 p.m., Wesley United Methodist Church, 350 South Barfield Dr., Marco Island, and at 6 p.m., Lee County Public Education Center, 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers.
Death Row inmate Eric Scott Branch, who was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering University of West Florida student SusanMorris in 1993, is scheduled to be executed. That’s at 6 p.m., Florida State Prison, Raiford.
State Rep. KathleenPeters doesn’t want her Tuesday vote related to the House’s assault rifle ban to be seen as siding with any political faction.
“Although I do believe we need common sense gun reform, I voted down on the motion because I am not that narrowly focused,” she said.
The Treasure Island Republican was one of 71 members who voted against a procedural move sponsored by Democrats to pull the gun ban out of its committees of reference and onto the floor for debate and a vote.
Peters already has been been “ousted to political Siberia,” as the Tampa Bay Times put it, after she refused to support Speaker RichardCorcoran’s efforts to overhaul VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida last year.
Peters, elected to the House in 2012, intends to leave the chamber to run for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission.
“I want real reform, not only to stop mass shootings, but to stop all gun violence,” she said. “If we just banned assault weapons and did nothing else, we would have done little to protect our citizens in a meaningful way. I do not want to lose another life to gun violence; not through a mass shooting, domestic violence or suicide.
“There is no denying that mental illness has been a factor in nearly all mass shootings, and I have been fiercely advocating for changes and increased funding of mental health services for years,” Peters added. “It is time Florida funds a comprehensive coordinated system of care for mental health with access through any door.
“I also believe we must change the way we do background checks associated with purchasing a gun, as described by (Pinellas) Sheriff (Bob) Gualtieri. In addition to addressing assault weapons, we should close the loophole relating to sales at gun shows and limit sales of particularly dangerous ammunition—these are just a few things that should be considered as part of comprehensive reform.
“Bringing all the stakeholders together to develop a common sense proposal for the Legislature’s passage by the end of Session is imperative. I am willing to listen to all of the concerned groups and the panel of leaders that the Governor has pulled together in order to generate a multifaceted solution based on their expertise.”
FentriceDriskell has scored a trifecta: She’s proven herself to be ill-informed, irresponsible and irrelevant as a House District 63 candidate.
The Harvard- and Georgetown-educated Tampa lawyer issued a statement Wednesday unfairly slamming state Rep. ShawnHarrison, a Tampa Republican, for a “lack of judgment” in his hiring of district secretary BenjaminKelly.
Kelly was fired—and rightly so—by House Speaker RichardCorcoran after he told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two Parkland students didn’t actually attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but were “actors that travel to various crisis [sic] when they happen.”
“Not only did Harrison hesitate to fire Kelly, he also showed a stunning lack of judgment in hiring him in the first place based on Kelly’s previous history,” she wrote.
“Rep. Harrison owes a public apology to all Parkland students and their families, who are working tirelessly to honor those lost by advocating for common sense solutions to protect our children from future gun violence in schools.”
No, he doesn’t, Ms. Driskell. You do.
Harrison didn’t hesitate to push Kelly out the door when he knew what had happened.
“Ben Kelly was fired the moment I knew he was able to be,” he told me. “My opponent is attempting to exploit an already awful situation for her own political gain, which is reprehensible.”
Question: What kind of candidate uses the deaths of 17 people in a school shooting to score a cheap political point?
Answer: One that doesn’t deserve to hold public office.
Well-regarded research strategy firm Bendixen and Amandi International released a poll of the CD 27 Democratic field Tuesday showing as-yet-unannounced candidate Donna Shalalaholding a solid lead among likely primary voters.
First, let me say this: I have no qualms about the poll.
Sure, it was paid for by Team Shalala, but the pollster is credible, and the methodology seems pretty sound.
I ran the methodology by Steve Vancore, president of Clearview Research, who said, “Based on the memo, it looks well done, well balanced and well executed … I’d say it’s a good poll.”
What I do have a problem with, however, is the editorialized interpretation of the findings by POLITICO Florida, which dubbed her lead as “dominating.”
So, what was her lead in the poll?
It was a respectable, solid, hey-I’ll-take-it 24 percent for Shalala. State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez came second with 10 percent, and the rest of the mostly unknown field was in the low single digits. A full half said they “don’t know.”
Is 24 percent a “dominating” lead?
For starters, her name has graced headlines for several weeks now as she toys with a run. But let us also remind ourselves that she was HHS Secretary under Bill Clinton — who is very popular in this poll — for nearly every day of his two terms in the White House. She was also president — a high profile one at that — of University of Miami for about 14 years!
Donna Shalala should be holding a comfortable lead. In fact, she should be “dominating” the field, but alas, she is not.
At some level, I just gotta believe that Team Shalala took an honest look at these results, had mixed feelings and debated releasing them.
Yes, she is in the lead. Woot! Woot! And all that. But on the other hand, she is tied with the rest of the field and is losing to “Race? What race?” by a 2-to-1 margin.
Also, consider that when reading the sample ballot, her name coincidentally is last in the list alphabetically and therefore is the last name read to respondents.
Does that have an effect?
“To some degree, yes,” said Vancore. “It’s a phenomenon known as primacy-recency, and respondents will be more likely to choose the first or last name in a long list. This effect is muted during a campaign as candidates begin to communicate, so it tends to inflate someone’s ballot score, but it is hard to know how much it impacts the findings, maybe by a few points.”
I’m comfortable with the poll, and I am comfortable with saying Shalala begins this race with a solid lead, but I can’t bring myself to say she is “dominating” anything — and neither should anyone else.
I know, I know, it’s just atrocious even to try linking the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland with a thriller like “The Hunt for Red October.”
But bear with me.
In fact, I am not really going to reference the shooting deaths of the poor souls who died. It is about post-Parkland politics.
Specifically, it’s about what we witnessed Tuesday in Tallahassee.
An aide to a Florida state Representative was fired after pushing a right-wing conspiracy theory disparaging survivors of last week’s school shooting as “crisis actors.”
Benjamin Kelly, Tampa Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison‘s district secretary, prompted outrage after telling a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two Parkland students who had appeared in a TV interview were, in fact, “actors” who “travel to various crisis when they happen.”
Although the Times was the first media outlet reporting this story, Harrison tells me I was the first person to alert him Tuesday to what was going on.
“You know you got a shit storm brewing?” I texted him in the late afternoon. Harrison told me then he had “no idea what” was going on, but, to his credit, he moved swiftly and made sure the Speaker of the House fired Kelly as quickly as they could push through the paperwork.
But for a moment, just think about what happened.
Yesterday morning, Kelly was a comfortably employed legislative staffer. By the end of the day, he was persona non grata and a surefire target for John Oliver and the rest of the nation’s satirists.
Yesterday morning, Harrison was an incumbent Republican hoping to return to the House. Now, he will likely be the target of several left-leaning political organizations as he runs for another term in a district already considered a battleground.
“This business will get out of control. It will get out of control and we’ll lucky to live through it.”
Those were the words of Admiral Josh Painter (played by Fred Thompson) after an F-14 crashes onto the deck of an aircraft carrier in a scene from “The Hunt for Red October.” The pilot of the jet had lost his nerve after being spooked flying in proximity to a Russian fighter.
Now, no one involved in the debate about what the Legislature should do in response to Parkland is an F-14 or a Russian jet. But, when you put politicos, like Harrison’s aide, in proximity to situations with which they are unfamiliar, if not afraid of, they will react and, most likely react poorly.
Or, and this is also likely, they will reveal some part of the true self they would prefer not to have on display.
It is the very reason why the Legislature recently moved the timing of the Legislative Session to earlier in the year.
Instead of starting in March, they now gavel in January so they can get their limited business done and get back onto the campaign trail. It should go without saying that they also hope that if any bad news comes out of Session — like, say, a legislative aide spouting a conspiracy theory — voters will have more time to forget about it.
But politics is nothing if not dynamic. Maybe not as compelling as landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, but political careers can (and do) turn on a dime.
That makes what is happening now amazing to witness: Republican lawmakers (as well as some Democrats), for years protected by several institutional advantages, are running headlong into the politics of Parkland.
This business will get out of control. It will get out of control, and many political careers will be lucky to live through it.
The first indication that the annual back-and-forth between the two chambers is not on track surfaced Tuesday afternoon. The Associated Press’ Gary Fineout reported that House budget chairman Carlos Trujillo said there has been “no progress” on allocations and, instead, that legislators are focused on responding to the tragedy in Parkland.
Allocations are the big chunks of state money that go to each budget subcommittee to fund the various parts of state government.
Trujillo is now also raising the prospect of the Session being extended, an ominous prospect to many of those engaged in The Process (especially the poor souls who made vacation plans for the week after Session when many Leon County students are on spring break).
Speaker designate José Oliva, speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, also alluded to an extension in the context of questions about a Parkland-related legislative package.
A session overtime “hasn’t come up, but there may be some other circumstances, if we can’t get to a budget, where we might have to extend Session,” he said. “Should Session get extended, and it’s certainly not what I would like to see, it would give us some opportunity to further flesh out some of these things. But I do think the hope is to finish on time.”
Behind the scenes, the situation is more grim, at least according to senior House staffers.
“We’re calling and they’re not even picking up the phone,” said one staffer who is part of the negotiations. “It’s weird. We don’t know what it is. Maybe (Senate President) Joe (Negron) is still peeved about last year. Maybe he wants to see his higher ed priorities passed before we get down to business. But whatever it is, we keep walking across the hall and the Senate just kind of shrugs and says, ‘We’re good.’ “
“The Senate continues to want to fight the last war rather than address critical decisions facing us today,” said a second source close to House leadership.
The higher education issues being referred to are found in SB 4 and HB 423. The bills would make permanent an expansion of Bright Futures merit scholarships to cover full tuition and fees for students who qualify as “academic scholars.”
The legislation would expand the aid for “medallion” scholars to cover 75 percent of their tuition and fees. The measures would also require state universities to develop a “block” tuition plan, where students would pay a flat rate each semester, rather than paying for classes on a per-credit hour basis.
The Senate unanimously backed its version of the legislation during the first week of Session, while HB 423, which is being carried by Majority Leader RayRodrigues, has not made its way out of committee.
As for the Senate’s position on budget negotiations, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Rob Bradley says, “Relax. We have three weeks.” (Florida Politics interviewed Bradley Sunday evening.)
Bradley explained why he is remaining calm about the progress of budget negotiations.
“The two sides are within 100 million dollars in an 87 billion dollar budget,” Bradley wrote in a text message. “The (two) sides haven’t been that close in years. The fact that the two sides are so close at this stage is not an accident.”
Continued Bradley, “I consider it a reflection of the depth of our understanding of each other’s respective priorities and positions.”
Asked about the unease coming from his House counterpart, Bradley was downright optimistic, “If you step back and look at the two positions, you can see a clear path forward to success.”
Again, Bradley’s comments were made before the trajectory of the Session was altered by the tragedy in Parkland. Trujillo, who has some colleagues complaining about the Senate’s cold-shouldering them, on Tuesday said the Legislature needs to focus on its response to the shooting.
“Our state’s hurting,” said Trujillo. “(T)hat’s much more important than rushing to pass a budget.”
Some of you may want to check to see if you bought refundable plane tickets.
Florida Politics Capital Correspondent JimRosica and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.