On FOX News Channel Thursday morning, President Donald Trump cited Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and several other staunch defenders of his as “absolute warriors.”
Speaking by phone to Fox & Friends, Trump lauded DeSantis, the congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, as well as Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, plus two other congressmen and his former campaign manager.
“Look: we have some absolute warriors. We have, I just watched your show, Jim Jordan [of Ohio,] and Mark Meadows [of North Carolina,] and Matt Gaetz and DeSantis, and so many. Corey Lewandowski. These are all warriors. We have great people in the Republican Party.”
DeSantis’ gubernatorial campaign issued an advisory on the comment.
DeSantis and Gaetz both have been front-line warriors for Trump, battlingagainst Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, the media, and others critical of Trump.
Trump already has endorsed DeSantis in the governor’s race, where he’s contesting with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam for the August 28 Republican primary nomination, with the looming prospect that Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran may also join the contest.
Lawmakers have moved from informal talks to exchanging offers toward a SpecialSession on gambling, sources said late Monday.
That’s despite an agreement announced last week between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida guaranteeing that the Tribe will keep sharing gaming revenue from its casinos at least till May 2019.
The impetus behind the Special Session effort is a proposed constitutional amendment that polls show will likely pass this November. It would require a statewide vote to approve any future expansions of gambling.
Representatives for both chambers had no comment on developments Monday.
Industry and legislative sources, however, say Senate President-designate BillGalvano, a Bradenton Republican, and House Speaker-designate JoseOliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, have been sending proposals across the Capitol rotunda.
Those offers include, among other things, provisions to ensure the state doesn’t lose out on any gambling-related taxes or fees.
TheTribe paid alittle more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack. (“Exclusivity” essentially means freedom from competition.) If the Tribe considers its exclusivity broken, it’s entitled to reduce payments or stop them altogether.
Two sources specifically credited recent progress to Lisa Vickers, Galvano’s longtime senior policy adviser who is slated to become his chief of staff when he takes over the chamber after the 2018 election, assuming a Republican majority still holds.
As previously reported, here are some of the issues likely in play:
— Allowing slot machines in at least some of the eight counties that passed a local referendum allowing them. That could include St. Lucie County, which has a jai alai fronton and card room now known as Casino Fort Pierce and is in Senate President Joe Negron’s district.
— Allowing existing designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack, to continue at pari-mutuel card rooms now offering those games.
— Setting a new minimum guarantee in tax money from those pari-mutuels now offering slots in South Florida. Only the Tribe can offer slots outside that area.
— Figuring out a way to do all that while achieving a “true contraction” of gambling in the state, a prerequisite of House Speaker RichardCorcoran.
That almost certainly means a provision for pari-mutuel owners to surrender gambling permits at some locations to get slots in another, something that was considered this past Regular Session.
“Special sessions may be called by the Governor, or may be convened by joint proclamation of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives,” the Senate’s website says. “Special sessions may not exceed 20 days, unless extended by a three-fifths vote of each house.”
A 16-member commission on Tuesday will begin reviewing the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school, looking into the circumstances of the crime, the background of the alleged shooter and recommendations to prevent future tragedies.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created as part of a sweeping school-safety law (SB 7026) signed by Gov. RickScott last month, will hold its initial meeting at the Broward College campus in Coconut Creek.
AndrewPollack, a member of the commission whose 18-year-old daughter MeadowJade was one of the 17 students and staff killed at the high school in Parkland, said he wants to see a thorough review of the record of NikolasCruz, the former student who has been charged with the mass killing.
Pollack also said the commission should hold officials “accountable for their incompetence” that may have led to the tragedy.
“My daughter was murdered. So there is no bringing her back,” Pollack said in an interview with The News Service of Florida Monday. “But if I can feel some satisfaction that it won’t happen in another school….if we can use this and make it a preventative measure, it would make me feel like my daughter’s death wasn’t in vain.”
The law directs the commission, which will be headed by Pinellas County Sheriff BobGualtieri, to “investigate system failures” in the Broward shooting and prior mass shootings in Florida and to “develop recommendations for the system improvements.”
The commission will develop a timeline of the Stoneman Douglas shooting and the incident response “and all relevant events preceding the incident, with particular attention to all perpetrator contacts with local, state and national government agencies and entities and any contract providers of such agencies and entities.”
Cruz had a lengthy history of mental health problems, documented by dozens of interactions with educators, law enforcement, mental-health professionals and others. The FBI had received at least two alerts warning that Cruz posed a danger.
Pollack said he believes Cruz’s prior contact with law enforcement and school officials should have led to consequences or charges prior to the shooting.
“I really want to look into this kid’s record. And I think we’re going to find a lot of incompetency and a lot of covering up of records in this whole process,” Pollack said.
The commission, which is under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has the ability to subpoena records and witnesses.
“That’s all going to come out. No one is going to be able to hide from us,” Pollack said.
Other items on the commission’s agenda are a review of Florida’s policies for dealing with “active assailants” on school campuses, with a comparison to “best practices” policies around the nation.
The commission will also review the use of school resource officers on the campuses, with the goal of making a recommendation on the appropriate ratio of law enforcement officers to the student population and school facility.
After their regular meeting, the commission is scheduled to visit the Stoneman Douglas campus late Tuesday afternoon, although members will not be allowed inside the classroom building where the shootings occurred because it is still an active crime scene.
The commission, which is authorized to meet through 2023, will file its initial report and recommendations to Gov. Scott and the Legislature by Jan. 1.
A tentative schedule that will be reviewed by the commission on Tuesday includes the recommendation that its staff report key investigative findings and witness statements to the panel by June 1.
Commission members were appointed by Scott, House Speaker RichardCorcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican, and Senate President JoeNegron, a Stuart Republican.
The commission includes three parents of Stoneman Douglas victims; seven members with law enforcement ties, including FDLE Commissioner RickSwearingen; three serving in school systems; a prosecutor; a mental health expert; and Sen. LaurenBook, a Plantation Democrat.
Anticipated gubernatorial candidate and Republican state House Speaker RichardCorcoran works quickly.
The Speaker released a digital video Thursday afternoon creatively slamming the most cringe-worthy blooper of Wednesday’s Democratic gubernatorial debate, which saw each candidate fumble — some more than others — over how much the state spends annually on K-12 education: $21.1 billion is set to fund the Florida Education Finance program in the upcoming fiscal year, according to the budget. In Corcoran’s video, a $25.1 billion figure is used, a result of factoring in allocations for multiple programs outside the FEFP.
The bit is a play on “Jeopardy!” complete with the legacy show’s theme music, buzzer sounds and graphics. It took less than 24 hours to make, and it’s now marinating on Corcoran’s Twitter and YouTube accounts.
Democrats love talking about education just as much as they love talking about spending your money. But instead of parroting the same liberal talking points, maybe at least ONE of them should take some time to do their homework. #Flapol#Sayfie#DemocratJeopardypic.twitter.com/qzO8D7Fm1B
Fox 13‘s Craig Patrick pressed each candidate to answer how much the state dishes out to schools, and if it should spend more or less. Public education is an issue in the fore for state Democrats and was a point of hot contention during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Still, these candidates faltered. And in doing so fell into a Republican pitfall that’s sure to haunt them throughout the election. “Democrats want to spend more money without knowing any of the facts,” reads the second-to-last frame of the video.
Candidate Philip Levine, former mayor of Miami Beach, said public education spending is one of the “top numbers.” His best guess? “Right in the billions, Craig. … I think it’s in the multibillions, Craig.
“And there’s no question that we absolutely need to spend more going forth.”
Orlando businessman Chris King answered within range, though he is clipped in Corcoran’s video saying, “It’s whatever it needs to be to honor our commitment.” King estimated that it’s between “$21 and $22 billion.”
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum came close, saying the appropriation is in “the 22-billion-dollar range.”
Former Congresswoman GwenGraham said the number is “15 percent below what it needs to be currently.”
No candidate answered right on the money. And Corcoran’s digital response is timely and likely to generate some buzz.
It’s worth noting that immediately after the across-the-panel hiccup, Florida Politics’ Publisher Peter Schorsch suggested Corcoran and his team run loose with it.
I’d suggest his video team (I believe he has one of them) cut an ad today w/ Democratic Gov. candidates stammering their answers to the education funding question, then close w/ reminder about how much Leg. spent on education. https://t.co/8PJuzY3emw
The primary election is still six months away, but Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates will take part today in a televised debate on Fox 13 in Tampa.
Taping of the debate is 3 p.m., broadcast is 6:30 p.m.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are all participating.
Of the four, it’s really Graham who has the most to prove, despite her position at or near the top in most polls of the primary.
Despite a looming legal cloud over his city and struggling to raise money, Gillum is … well, not on fire, but definitely on the upswing. This trajectory is due, in most part, to his outspoken leadership on gun control, which has become a significant issue in the wake of the massacre in Parkland. Just as he did in a debateagainst House Speaker Richard Corcoran, we’re expecting Gillum to shine during today’s panel.
For all his good intentions, King’s poll numbers are still mired in the low single-digits. That’s a shame because King is a compassionate, principled leader and, probably, the future of the Democratic Party. A televised debate gives him a platform to show off his impressive oratorical skills. And he has a timely issue to talk about (Graham’s decision Tuesday to return contributions linked to the sugar industry).
But even if King dominates the debate and doubles his standings in the polls, he still will be under 10 percent support.
If Graham is not the front-runner, Levine is — backed by millions of dollars in television ads — and so he must demonstrate to the political junkies tuning into a debate airing right before the Tampa Bay Lightning playoff game that he both represents the principles of Democratic voters AND can win in November. Primary voters want to see someone who can stand up to Ron DeSantis or Adam Putnam.
Somewhere in the middle of all this is Graham, who is currently running neither hot nor cold. She has historically underperformed at a handful of candidate forums she’s participated in since entering the gubernatorial race. Yet she can’t keep up with Levine’s ad blitz, so her path to victory will come by tacking back and forth between grassroots support and from some paid media.
But victory is a long way off for Graham. Increasingly, Gillum is capturing the imagination of the activists, while Levine is smothering his opponents in paid media (while also bringing a strong record on the issues, such as climate change, Democrats care about.)
In recent weeks, Graham has tried to bolster her campaign by attackingPresident Donald Trump. That strategy can only go so far as all of the candidates will be thumping Trump.
So, for today, Graham must … well, I don’t know what it is … all I know is she has to show us something!
Her performance needs to be the kind where afterward she can email a fundraising solicitation saying: “Did you see that?!” Her performance has to be strong enough that it stops the whispers among the donor class that Levine may be the better bet. Her performance has to be exciting enough that Gillum doesn’t overshadow her.
Freshman Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo is holding a kickoff event for her House District 60 re-election campaign April 26 in Tampa.
The fundraiser will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Byblos Café, 2832 S. MacDill Ave. Those looking to attend can RSVP by sending an email to Lynnette Russell at email@example.com.
The host committee for the fundraiser lists a number of Tampa Bay area Republican officials, including House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister and Tampa Sen. Dana Young. Also on the list is House Speaker Designate Jose Oliva.
Toledo is running against Democrat Debra Bellanti for a second term in the coastal Hillsborough County District.
After $2,750 raised and $16,500 spent in March, the Tampa Republican’s campaign account has $71,300 banked. Bellanti, who filed shortly after New Year’s, has raised a total of $18,412, with $8,200 on hand at the end of March.
HD 60 voted narrowly for Donald Trump in the 2016 race, though Toledo easily bested Democratic attorney David Singer on Election Day.
Senate President-designate BillGalvano on Friday said there was no “agreement (on) or recommendations” for a Special Legislative Session on gambling.
Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker RichardCorcoran raised concerns over the potential loss of revenue share from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Galvano, expected to take over as president after the 2018 election cycle, also is his chamber’s point man on gambling issues.
The Tribe pays $19.5 million monthly, with a balloon—or “true-up”—payment at the end of the state’s fiscal year, which runs July 1-June 30. A “forbearance period” that was part of a settlement over blackjack litigation ended on March 31, after which the Tribe was entitled to stop paying.
But the Tribe’s lawyer seemingly took the wind out of the Special Session sails, telling Florida Politics last week that the Seminoles would continue paying the state its monthly share of casino gambling revenue.
“There is no plan to stop the payments,” attorney BarryRichard said. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them.”
Asked about the latest prospects for a Special Session, Galvano – a Bradenton Republican – said in a text message: “Discussions are continuing (but) there is not an agreement or recommendations at this time.”
The head of an anti-casino gambling organization also has written to top lawmakers, saying theTribe’s promise to keep paying should shut down further talks on a Special Session.
“Doesn’t (the) commitment by the Seminole Tribe to continue making compact payments resolve the potential revenue loss concern that legislative leaders said was the basis for holding a special session?” No Casinos’ president JohnSowinski asked.
Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican term-limited in the House this year, is expected to announce a run for governor.
Northeast Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis brought in more than $1.5 million last month for his campaign to replace termed-out Gov. Rick Scott.
DeSantis’ supporting committee, Friends of Ron DeSantis, took in $1 million of that sum, while his campaign account added $532,000. Only Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in his best-ever fundraising month, outraised DeSantis in March.
The committee received 39 contributions during the reporting period, though just four donors accounted for more than half of its receipts.
At the top of the report is a $250,000 check from Boca Raton’s Elaine Wold, a philanthropist who this week also gave $25 million to help Boca Raton Regional Hospital add a new patient tower. The Wold family had already pitched in $200,000 to DeSantis’ campaign prior to March.
The committee finance report also showed three checks at the $100,000 level, one each from Houston philanthropist and Jeb Bush boosterHushang Ansary, Jupiter businessman Lawrence DeGeorge and Charles B. Johnson, a Palm Beach billionaire who owns the San Francisco Giants.
Private prison company GEO Group and investment group Spence General Partnership checked in at $50,000 each, followed by a slew of smaller checks, 17 of which were for $10,000 or more.
The campaign side brought in a whopping 3,620 contributions – 2,335 from within the Sunshine State. The top sheet showed more than three dozen checks for the statewide campaign maximum of $3,000, while thousands more came in at the small-dollar level of $250 or less.
Spending totaled about $310,077 between the two accounts, with the committee share clocking in at $121,000.
Committee expenses included more than $60,000 in payments to Orlando-based Parabellum Strategies, mainly for “messaging services,” followed by $25,000 to Tallahassee-based Ello Creative for advertising work and $19,000 to NYC-based Park Avenue Assets for fundraising consulting.
Topping the campaign’s March outflow were nearly $93,000 in payments to Maryland-based Image Direct for direct mail. Credit card fees levied by CampaignContributions.com also accounted for a significant share of the expenses.
DeSantis has now raised just shy of $7 million, though $2 million of that cash was transferred in from DeSantis’ old political committee. He had $6.5 million on hand between the two accounts on March 31.
Putnam, currently the only other major Republican in the race, still holds a commanding lead in the overall money race. After adding $2.26 million in March brought his to-date total $26.77 million, with $19.26 million on hand.
Overall, DeSantis is in the third-place spot in fundraising behind Putnam and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat who has raised about $11 million.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to join Putnam and DeSantis in the primary in the coming weeks. He’s raised $6.8 million so far via his political committee, Watchdog PAC, and has $2.2 million on hand.
Predictions of bad weather are befouling plans for the annual Springtime Tallahassee festivities in the capital.
Organizers on Friday canceled the Jubilee in the Park, which usually features arts and crafts booths from hundreds of vendors, and rescheduled the parade for 10 a.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported late Friday.
The National Weather Service was forecasting “showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m.,” adding that “some of the storms could be severe.”
Before the bad weather reports, city officials had been expecting a crowd of more than 150,000 to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.
The celebration will affect traffic, a news release said. Below are the planned road closures for Saturday:
6:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Staging Area
— First Avenue eastbound at Duval Street.
— Thomasville Road between Monroe Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues between Adams Street and Thomasville Road.
6:30-10:30 a.m. for Springtime Tallahassee 10K (if it still goes on as planned)
— Monroe Street between Apalachee Parkway and Seventh Avenue.
— Call Street, Franklin Boulevard, Lafayette Street and various roads surrounding the Capital City Country Club and within the Myers Park and Woodland Drive neighborhoods will have staggered closures during the race.
9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Route
— Monroe Street between Gaines Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Jefferson Street, College Avenue, Park Avenue, Call Street, Virginia Street, Carolina Street, Georgia Street, Brevard Street and Tennessee Street between Adams Street and Calhoun Street.
— Madison Street between Macomb Street and Monroe Street.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State appeals ex-felon order — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are appealing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling that the state must devise a new system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Attorney General Pam Bondi has promised to continue to appeal Walker’s order to the highest court. Walker permanently blocked the state’s clemency system in March calling it “fatally flawed.” He then gave Scott and the Cabinet a monthlong deadline to revamp the system. Scott’s office contends that felon voting rights restoration should be determined by elected officials. Florida is one of few states that disenfranchise felons after they’ve completed their sentences and is home to roughly 1.5 million ex-cons whose voting rights are pending.
CRC ‘style’ committee wraps — The influential Style & Drafting Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission has drafted and approved 12 ballot items for consideration of the full commission. To appear on the ballot in November, each proposed amendment must win the approval of 22 members of the 37-person panel. The 12 items are a consolidation of 24 proposals that met the initial approval of the CRC. Six proposals were not combined with others, including four that did not meet the 22-vote threshold in the preliminary approval phase. Five other amendments already have reached the ballot, meaning Floridians could potentially consider 17 amendments in the general election. Sixty-percent voter approval is required for each to pass.
Leaders pressure feds for farm aid — Gov. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have recently ramped up efforts to get much-needed funding distributed to Florida farmers affected by Hurricane Irma. Tailing off Scott’s and Putnam’s talks with the federal government, Rubio and Nelson joined other senators in penning a letter this week to encourage timely distribution of a $2.3 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s office announced this week that sign-up and eligibility information should be available to affected farmers in the coming weeks. In total, it’s estimated that Hurricane Irma caused a $2.5 billion loss to Florida agriculture.
Gaming special session uncertain — Legislative leaders this week began zeroing in on a possible date for a special session to iron out gambling issues left unresolved during the 2018 Legislative Session — but the overtime might not be necessary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran alerted the possible need to reconvene legislators because of the potential loss of gambling revenue from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. However, the Tribe this week said it will continue paying its share to the state, which totaled a little more than $290 million last year. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, is asserting that the Tribe’s commitment should end further talks of a special session.
Scott ramps up exposure — Ahead of his widely expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Scott is appearing across the state for public bill signings. Scott this week visited Ponce Inlet to ceremoniously sign Ponce’s Law. The bill was crafted following the death of a nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, in Ponce Inlet last year. The dog’s owner, Travis Archer, allegedly beat the animal to death, but under Florida’s current animal cruelty laws, Archer does not face a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Ponce’s Law bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time. The Governor also signed a bill in Orlando that prohibits the state from doing business with Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime and a bill at Fort Walton-based software company Bit-Wizards that is expected to benefit military, veterans, and their families.
Scott touts Florida building codes
Florida took the top spot in a recent report ranking the residential building codes of hurricane-prone states, much to the delight of Gov. Scott.
“In Florida, we know how important it is to be prepared for hurricanes while doing everything possible to keep families safe. Florida’s building codes have consistently ranked among the strongest in the nation and I’m proud that we have now been ranked first for building code strength by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,” Scott said.
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Jonathan Zachem also praised the ranking, adding that “the importance of effective, well-enforced building codes was demonstrated in our state during the 2017 hurricane season. I’m extremely pleased that the state of Florida was ranked first in this landmark report.”
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report gave Florida’s codes a score of 95 out of 100, an improvement of one point over its score in the last iteration of the report, released in 2015. The bump was enough to move Florida past Virginia, which topped the rankings three years ago.
Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’
Clearing the final batch of bills off his desk this week, Gov. Scottvetoed a measure that would have, in part, encouraged the use of purified reclaimed water to replenish the aquifer — a provision that has led environmental groups to dub the measure the “toilet-to-tap” bill.
Citing potential creation of “confusion in our water quality and aquifer protection regulatory structure,” Scott said the “worthwhile provisions” in the bill do not outweigh his concerns of “protecting Florida’s aquifer.”
“Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The bill, HB 1149, was ushered by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who along with WateReuse argued that critics of the legislation overlooked that there is no such thing as “new water.”
Those against the measure, which included the lobbying force of the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, claimed it was tailored to benefit development interests.
The bill cleared the House with an 86-21 vote and the Senate with a 27-10 vote in the final week of the 2018 Legislative Session.
Board of Optometry — Dr. David Rouse, of Cooper City, is an optometrist with Rouse Family Eyecare. He succeeds Dr. Tamara Mule and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2021. Dr. Katie Spear, of Pensacola, is a practicing optometrist. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2018. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — DarcyDavis, of Palm Beach Gardens, is the chief executive officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and her master’s degree from Troy State University. Davis succeeds Charles Cross Jr. and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors — MarcDunbar, of Tallahassee, is a partner at national law firm Jones Walker. He was appointed by CFO Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Scott also appointed Dunbar to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, where he served from 2015 to 2018. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law. Dunbar succeeds Don Glisson and his term begins immediately, expiring on July 31, 2019.
Graham welcomes ‘overdue’ opioid suit
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham offered some tepid praise for Attorney General Bondi’s decision to go after pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.
“After months of inaction and years of sticking her head in the sand — I am glad that Pam Bondi is finally heeding my call to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” the former congresswoman said Friday.
“As governor, I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic. I will ensure that this case gets the proper support and resources — building a legal dream team like Governor Lawton Chiles and Bob Butterworth did to take down tobacco.”
Bondi announced the decision this week, saying it was important Florida file its own case rather than join another. She did not give a timetable for filing the suit.
League lauds lawmakers
The Florida League of Cities this week gave awards to 20 lawmakers in recognition of their “tireless efforts” to protect home rule.
“On behalf of Florida’s 412 cities and thousands of municipal officials, both elected and appointed, the Florida League of Cities and its advocacy team are proud to recognize these Home Rule advocates for their continued support,” said Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley.
“We believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life of the citizens they have been elected to represent. These hardworking legislators continually supported that ideal, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.”
Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder were named “defenders of home rule,” while the remaining lawmakers received appreciation awards.
The following lawmakers received Legislative Appreciation Awards: Sens. Daphne Campbell, George Gainer, Bobby Powell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Darryl Rouson, Wilton Simpson, Linda Stewart, and Perry Thurston as well as Reps. Joe Geller, Kristin Jacobs, Evan Jenne, Sam Killebrew, Larry Lee, Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski, Paul Renner, Richard Stark, and Wengay “Newt” Newton.
Shaw highlights failing grade from Florida Chamber
With an ironic spin and almost certainly in jest, Democratic state House Rep. Sean Shaw via Twitter touted an F grade on his Legislative Report Card from the Florida Chamber.
Over an image of his poor mark, Shaw tweeted, “Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!”
The Chamber released its annual rankings on Thursday. Each year the pro-business group arrives at scores for lawmakers after tabulating their votes on measures expected to make Florida a more competitive marketplace.
Shaw, who’s vying for the Attorney General seat this year, interpreted his grade as meaning he’s on the side of consumers and workers, rather than job creators.
Republican state legislators performed well in the eyes of the Chamber. Of the 15 “Distinguished Advocates,” recognized this Session, just one is a Democrat: St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond. He was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment — but he earned a C overall.
A panel charged with overseeing pharmacy professionals went a bit off script this week when its chair suggested that there should be more of a “concerted effort” for pharmacist-backed legislative initiatives.
“If we’re really interested in moving things through the Legislature, I honestly think that there has to be a better process to achieve a consensus,” said Jeenu Philip, chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy. He said it seems like legislators hear one thing from a pharmacist or association, and the opposite from a different pharmacist.
In recapping pharmacy-related bills, Philip spoke a bit about legislation that would’ve provided patients more access to flu remedies. Sponsored this year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, the bills (SB 524 and HB 431) would have let some pharmacies, under the guidance of a physician, test for and treat influenza.
Both pieces of legislation died in committee, something Philip questioned given the severity and uptick of recent influenza cases.
“In light of the past flu season, if there was any year that this bill should’ve passed, this was the year,” Philip said.
Volunteers spotlighted during April
The start of April may bring pranks for some, but for the state, it marks the start of Volunteer Month — and this year, it’s no joke.
Volunteer Florida, the lead service agency in the Sunshine State, is highlighting a Floridian volunteer every day this month as part of its newly launched #VF30in30 initiative.
In announcing the outreach campaign, Gov. Scott pointed to the public’s altruistic efforts to help the state bounce back from Hurricane Irma.
“I’m glad to recognize the service of volunteers across Florida who dedicate their time to make a difference in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians dedicated millions of hours during last year’s devastating hurricane season, and we are proud to honor them in April.”
Each day a new volunteer is spotlighted by Volunteer Florida. Kicking off the month was Steve O’Brien, a legendary history teacher in Miami who founded Castaways Against Cancer. The organization raises money each month by kayaking 160 miles from Miami to Key West.
Florida Council of 100 releases educational ‘beacons’
In an ongoing education-focused project tailored to “light the way” for America’s future, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a research-backed set of values for grades 4-8 over the next 25 years.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan group comprised of business, civic, and academic leaders is throwing its weight behind four pivotal topics, or ‘beacons’: nurturing adolescents’ academic growth, personalizing education to meet the unique needs of each adolescent student; minimizing the disruption caused by school transitions; and making the school like a second family.
“Adolescent students are unique — physically, intellectually, morally, psychologically, and especially social-emotionally,” said David Dyer, project leader and former chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee. “It takes a special kind of teacher to successfully reach these kids.”
The value-based approach intended for schools to model is the result of a culmination of studies, which included touring successful schools such as Miami’s inner-city Kingdom Academy, where fourth-grade students are learning how to budget, apply for jobs and maintain a bank account.
John Kirtley, chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee, noted that student success often declines in middle grades. “To reverse this, it is vital that we tailor instruction to the special needs of each adolescent, providing them with a portfolio of educational options,” Kirtley said.
Desloge tours areas still recovering from Irma, Maria
Leon County Commissioner BryanDesloge was among a small delegation of National Association of Counties (NACo) leaders who recently toured parts of Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history.
The delegation visited communities in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico that experienced loss of life, property and critical infrastructure as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“It’s important that we learn from one another and strengthen our capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” said Desloge, also Immediate Past President of NACo. “There is no higher priority than keeping our residents safe, especially in the face of devastating natural disasters.”
As communities across the country continue recovering from the historic 2017 hurricane season, NACo continues to work with local governments to ensure critical funding and assistance to help communities rebuild. As immediate past President, Desloge serves on the NACo Executive Committee and represents more than 3,000 countries across the nation.
NSF re-ups MagLab grant
The National Science Foundation is renewing its support for the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — the world’s most powerful magnet lab — with a $184 million grant.
The funding will head to National MagLab facilities over the next five years, bringing NSF’s total investment in the project to $867 million. In addition to the lab HQ at FSU, satellite facilities at the UF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will also get some support.
“This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s pre-eminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world,” said Gary Ostrander, FSU VP of research.
Anne Kinney, an NSF assistant director, added that the foundation “is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology.”
MagLab’s unique instruments include the world’s strongest continuous high-field magnet, which produces a magnetic field 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. More than 1,700 researchers a year use MagLab to advance their research.
FSU Great Give sets records
The Great Give, Florida State University’s 36-hour online giving campaign, recorded its most successful campaign to date, raising $413,147 for academic programs, student activities and scholarships, the school said this week.
The 7th annual event, which took place March 22-23, drew support from 3,376 donors, including 1,791 Florida State alumni.
“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support that was displayed during this year’s Great Give,” said RobynBertram, donor engagement officer for the Florida State University Foundation Office of Annual Giving. “This event has grown consistently since its inception, and the incredible response we received demonstrates a shared dedication toward advancing our university.”
Throughout the campaign, 12 incentive challenges totaling more than $23,000 fostered a friendly competition among FSU’s donors to give back and boost their chosen project’s chances to receive cash prizes. Departments and units could win incentives for meeting specific criteria such as most donors during a certain time period.
The FSU Marching Chiefs took the $7,500 grand prize with the most alumni donors (299) during the 36-hour campaign. The Student Veterans Center, Home Stretch Microgrants and the colleges of Music, Education and Communication & Information also claimed incentive wins.
Donors may still make a gift to Florida State by visiting give.fsu.edu or calling (850) 644-6000.
Tallahassee dubbed ‘Solar Star’
A new national report shows that the Sunshine State’s capital city is making good use of one its most prevalent resources.
Environment Florida released this week a new report, “Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” that highlights Tallahassee as a leading “Solar Star” for its commitment to harnessing the sun’s energy.
In terms of megawatts of solar energy per capita, the capital city edged ahead of Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando.
“Tallahassee stands out as an example for other cities to follow in Florida and throughout the South. The city is listening to local customers like me who want solar energy in their homes and their communities, and it’s giving different types of solar room to grow,” said Scott Thomasson, the southeast director with Vote Solar.
The ranking stems in large part from the 28-megawatt solar farm contracted by the city. The Tallahassee Solar program provided 20,000 slots for businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.
“Cities like Tallahassee are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.
Tallahassee Earth Day plans
Tallahassee announced a list of planned activities this week to celebrate “Earth Month,” most of which will be held when Earth Day hits on April 22.
“As we observe Earth Month in the City of Tallahassee, I encourage everyone in our community to make the commitment to reduce our negative impacts on the environment,” Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “If we are all more environmentally-conscious, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a clean, healthy community to grow up in.”
Planned events include “Cash for Trash,” where those with bulky items, electronic waste, paint, or batteries can drop it off at the Solid Waste Services facility, located at 2727 Municipal Way for a $5 credit on their utility bill.
The docket also includes the city’s Earth Day celebration to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, and the “In-Home Edition of Longest Table,” where at 6 p.m. over 100 dinners, each including six to eight guests, will take place simultaneously in homes, restaurants and public spaces throughout the community.
In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14, Marsy’s Law for Florida will light Florida’s Historic Capitol in purple lights all week “as a reminder that victims should be entitled to equal rights and protections under the law.”
Marsy’s Law for Florida is “an effort to place clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in Florida’s constitution,” the group said.
The old Capitol is at 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:
The Tribe “confirmed” its decision Tuesday night, according to its outside counsel, BarryRichard of the Greenberg Traurig firm, who participated in a conference call. The Tribe pays $19.5 million monthly, with a balloon—or “true-up”—payment at the end of the fiscal year.
“There is no plan to stop the payments,” Richard said Wednesday morning. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them.
“It has never been in their mindset to stop or reduce payments just because they have a legal right to,” he said. “Now, they would have liked the Legislature to have corrected some of the problems that exist … but they will wait and see what happens.”
Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker RichardCorcoran raised an alarm over the potential loss of revenue share from the Tribe.
Moreover, a proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment on November’s ballot would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida. If that’s approved by no less than 60 percent, it could shut out lawmakers from having any sway over gambling.
“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away … jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a statement last week. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”
TheTribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack. (Exclusivity essentially means freedom from competition.)
Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.
The sides had been in a “forbearance period” that ended March 31, after which the Tribe was entitled to stop paying.
“Look, the assumption that they’re going to stop paying the state just because they can is based upon a belief that all they care about is taking advantage of the state,” Richard said. “That has never been their attitude. They have an interest in the health of the state’s economy; it affects them. They don’t want to do anything precipitously.”
Requests for comment have been sent to Corcoran and Senate President-designate BillGalvano, a Bradenton Republican and his chamber’s point man on gambling.
“They could have stopped paying as soon as they won the federal case, and the fact is, they are not now planning to do that,” Richard said.
In 2016, a federal judge ruled the Seminoles could continue to offer blackjack and other “banked card games” at its Hard Rock casinos, despite the expiration of a 5-year blackjack provision in the overarching gambling deal, or “compact,” with the state.
Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said the state had broken the blackjack exclusivity promise, allowing it to keep its blackjack tables until 2030, the end of the larger compact. That was, in part, because state gambling regulators had OK’d certain kinds of “designated-player games,” similar to poker, that played too much like—if not identically to—blackjack.
Efforts to pass omnibus gambling legislation failed during this year’s Regular Session. That included an all-new deal with the Seminoles guaranteeing $3 billion from them over seven years for continued exclusivity. Only the Tribe offers blackjack in Florida, and slot machines outside South Florida.