Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Takeaways from Tallahassee – A storm is coming … or not

In Florida, there’s a weird confluence between politics and the weather.

Elected officials love to send weather-related emails, particularly before the start of hurricane season on June 1.

Make sure your insurance is up to date, they’ll say, or make sure you’ve prepared a “storm kit,” i.e., bottled water, batteries, flashlights and so forth.

One example: Visit Florida, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, emailed to remind folks of steps they’ve taken to ensure that “Florida’s visitors have access to real-time, hyper-local information.”

The lead on the latest AP report offered no calm: “U.S. government forecasters expect a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season (but) also say climate conditions that influence storm development are making it difficult to predict how many hurricanes and tropical storms will arise over the next six months.”

Even SUNBURN had a graphic of the storm brewing Friday near the Bahamas with a huge red ball bearing down on northeast Florida.

Even though that wasn’t expected to bring more than rain, it had one of our reporters mindful of a memory from 1995.

A certain grizzled Treasure Coast sports editor was watching The Weather Channel from his desk. He suddenly mused to no one in particular, “Man, that big ol’ red ball has got me kind of nervous.”

That “big ol’ red ball” became Hurricane Erin, which made landfall at Vero Beach with 85 mph winds. It was the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since Andrew in 1992.

This year, the politicians also are mindful that Florida has gone 10 years since Hurricane Wilma made landfall in 2005.

Some of the messages even feature storm tracks from the last few years, showing all the bullets we’ve dodged.

And POLITICO’s Marc Caputo this week noted the special “insanity” a storm would cause in the state in an election year.

“The Aug. 30 primary is smack in the middle of season,” he said. (Admit it: How many of you didn’t think of that?)

“And a hurricane would just amplify the crazy in an already crazy election, Caputo added. “Nothing causes crazy like crazy.”

As we head into the silly season of presidential conventions and general election campaigning, are we ready for that kind of amplified crazy? Keep your batteries dry.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Ryan Ray, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Out in four — Gov. Scott challenged colleges and universities to help Florida students graduate in four years during his 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando this weekend. During the two-day event, Scott encouraged the Legislature to expand Bright Futures to include summer classes, called on schools to reduce fees for online courses and make sure students know much money they can save if they graduate in four years. The summit featured presentations by Cissy Proctor, head of the DEO; Senate President Andy Gardiner; and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Education funding fight — Judge George Reynolds sided in favor with the state in a nearly seven-year lawsuit that said the state’s education system was underfunded. Reynolds, who was the judge who also handled redistricting challenges, said students made gains as education funding was slashed during the recession. The ruling was hailed as a victory by state officials, including Senate President Gardiner who said Reynolds’ decision “validates the Legislature’s policy choices on education.”

Bathroom wars — The fight which bathrooms transgender students should be allowed to use escalated this week. Eleven states sued the Obama administration over a directive that said U.S. public schools should let students use bathrooms that match their gender identity. The state of Florida has not joined the lawsuit. Gov. Scott said the state was “clearly reviewing” the mandate. He also said the mandate “looks just like blackmail,” saying the federal government is changing the rules for how states can receive funding.

Congressional scramble — US. Rep. Curt Clawson’s decision not to run for re-election in 2016 likely won’t have an impact on Lee County’s legislative delegation. Despite being an early favorite, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said she wouldn’t run for the seat again this year. Benacquisto is expected to hold a prominent position in the Florida Senate in the coming years. Also staying put: Reps. Dane Eagle and Matt Caldwell. Both Lee County Republicans are running for re-election. All three said they felt they could best serve their constituents in Tallahassee, not Washington, D.C.

Zika — The number of travel-related cases of Zika virus continues to rise, but the state has received less than half of the special traps it has ordered to detect Zika in mosquitoes. The only U.S. distributor of the traps said it had a backlog of almost 1,950 orders. Florida has ordered more than 300 traps, but as received only received about 120. The remaining are on back order. As of Thursday, there were 158 cases of Zika in the state, 36 of which involved pregnant women.

Gov. Scott took to the fields to highlight agritourism and the citrus industry.

Scott ceremonially signed a bill, HB 59, that allows farmers to participate in agritourism without interference from the state. The governor also highlighted more than $25 million set aside in the state budget for citrus research and programs to fight citrus greening.

Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office.
Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

“The citrus industry is in a fight for its life, and we must do everything we can to protect this $10 billion industry,” said Agriculture Commissioner Putnam.

Scott officially signed the agritourism bill on March 8. It goes into effect July 1. Among other things, the bill prohibits local governments from enforcing local ordinances and regulations that limits agritourism on land classified as agriculture land.

“Florida’s geography, economy and quality of life are all defined by our natural and agricultural resources,” he said in a statement. “These invaluable resources help create a foundation for our growing economy and have added jobs for thousands of Floridians.”

Florida has a few new judges.

Gov. Scott appointed Michael Davis to be a Broward County judge. The 37-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident has been a senior assistant attorney since 2014. He previously served as a senior child interest program with the Florida Guardian Ad Litem Program from 2012-2014.

He fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Eric M. Beller.

Scott also appointed Jose A. Izquierdo, a criminal defense lawyer, to the 17th Judicial Circuit serving Broward County. The 40-year-old Miramar resident most recently practiced on his own and with Izquierdo & Marin, according to a governor’s office news release. He previously was with the Law Offices of Bradford M. Cohen.

He fills the seat vacated by Cynthia G. Imperato, who resigned from the bench earlier this year.

Scott also appointed Michelle L. Naberhaus and Thomas J. Brown to the Brevard County Court.

Naberhaus, a 41-year-old Merritt Island resident, has practiced with Dean Mean P.A. since 2015. From 2013 until 2015, she was a sole practitioner for Michelle L. Naberhaus P.L. Previously, she was a shareholder with GrayRobinson P.A. She fills a vacancy created by Cathleen B. Clarke’s resignation.

Brown, a 52-year-old Melbourne resident, is an assistant state attorney for the States Attorney Office in the 18th Judicial Circuit. He was previously an attorney for the Law Office of Howard Allen.

He fills a vacancy created by John C. Murphy‘s removal from the bench. Murphy was caught on courtroom video berating and threatening to fight an assistant public defender.

The incident was widely reported by state and national news media, causing the Florida judicial system “to become a national embarrassment,” investigators said.

Scott also appointed Susan H. Rothstein-Youakim to the Second District Court of Appeal.

The 46-year-old Tampa resident has been an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida since 1995. She fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Chris W. Altenbernd.

Buckle up.

The Florida Highway Patrol kicked off its “Click It or Ticket” campaign. The campaign, which runs through June 5 and coincides with Memorial Day weekend, is meant to remind drivers to make sure they buckle their seat belt when they’re on the roads.

Col. Gene Spaulding, the director of the Florida Highway Patrol, said the agency is “committed to raising awareness and enforcement regarding the importance of wearing a seatbelt to help ensure motorists arrive alive.”

In 2015, more than 43 percent of those people who were killed in vehicles where seat belt use is required chose not to wear their seat belts. Florida law requires drivers and passengers in the front seat and all children under 18 to wear a seat belt when in a vehicle.

“Safety on our roadways is a critical component of protecting the millions of people who call Florida home and the millions more who visit us each year,” said Winter Park Police Chief Brett Railey, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

The Florida Highway Patrol reminded drivers to buckle up; drive sober and obey all speed limits while driving to make sure you get to your destination safely.

Americans for Prosperity-Florida is firing back after the latest round of bad press for Enterprise Florida.

Arek Sarkissian with the Naples Daily News reported last week that outgoing Enterprise Florida President Bill Johnson gave two no-bid contracts his former spokeswoman for part-time consulting and speechwriting. The contracts were worth $158,000.

The news came as Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute announced it was to leaving Medical City in Orlando. The state spent $300 million dollars to get the group to Orlando about a decade ago.

“These most recent findings are further proof that Enterprise Florida and other entities that roll out taxpayer dollars should cease to exist,” said Chris Hudson, AFP-FL’s state director.  “When government picks winners and losers, taxpayers are on the hook for the inevitable losses these failed programs have produced.  The state of Florida needs to ensure that companies like Sanford Burnham Prebys are held accountable to tax payers.”

AFP-FL led the charge against a proposed $250 million for Enterprise Florida this legislative session. The proposal failed, and the state’s quick action closing fund will shut down at the end of the fiscal year.

Citizens Property Insurance is looking to protect policyholders.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation’s Board of Governors this week approved a $2.46 billion risk transfer program aimed at providing prudent protection for policyholders. The package, which was unanimously approved, includes traditional reinsurance and capital market risk transfer to protect policyholders and eliminate the risk of assessment on all Florida policyholders in the event of a catastrophic storm.

“This risk transfer package represents a well-reasoned approach to protecting Citizens policyholders and Citizens’ surplus,” said Chris Gardner, Chairman of Citizens Board of Governors. “We have a responsibility to all our stakeholders to protect the significant gains Citizens has made over the past several years.”

The 2016 program shifts multi-year coverage down from higher levels and lowers the threshold at which the coverage would be tapped.  It also provides coverage for commercial non-residential properties not covered under the Florida Cat Fund.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 3.14.03 PMTampa attorney Karen Skyers was named a member of the Florida A&M University College of Law’s “Distinguished Alumni.” Skyers is now with the Government Law & Lobbying Practice Group at Becker & Poliakoff

The award “recognizes alumni who have excelled in the legal profession while contributing to the community and school,” according to a press release. She graduated from the law school in 2010.

Skyers, who also speaks Spanish, was legislative aide to state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, the Tampa Democrat who rose to Senate Democratic Leader in 2014-16. She later was a lobbyist for Southern Strategy Group, a public defender in Hillsborough County and a child protective investigator for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Gov. Scott ceremonially signed legislation this week that helps to create a coordinated care system to help state and local agencies treat Floridians affected by mental illness.

Scott held the ceremony to honor Mental Health Awareness month, and said he looks forward to “seeing these changes implemented in our behavioral healthcare system.”

“We need to do all we can to support the individuals and their families who are affected by mental illness and substance abuse, and this legislation is a great step forward to achieving that goal,” he said in a statement.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, Sen. Bill Galvano, Sen. Jeremy Ring, Rep. Gayle Harrell and Rep. Kathleen Peters. The bill (SB 12) was formally signed into law on April 15.

“This is the first step to ensuring Floridians suffering from mental illness or substance addiction can improve health, and professional and personal relationships while growing towards their full potential,” said Peters.

Thinking of buying a house?

You’re going to pay a bit more this year than you would have in 2015.

In April, the statewide medical sales price for single-family homes was $213,000. That’s up 9.2 percent from the same time in 2015, according to the Florida Realtors. The median sales price for a townhouse was $160,000 in April, up 4.4 percent from April 2015.

“The positive growth we’re seeing in sales for homes priced above the $150,000 mark is being offset by a continuing decline of homes for sale in the most affordable price ranges,” said Brad O’Connor, the chief economist for Florida Realtors. “This trend is due in part to the ongoing decline in sales of distressed properties. In April, distressed sales accounted for less than 12 percent of all closed Multiple Listing Service (MLS) sales in Florida – the lowest such percentage we’ve recorded since the initial stages of the downturn last decade.”

While the median price may be higher, the interest rate for a mortgage is slightly lower. According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 3.61 percent in April 2016. That’s down 3.67 percent one year earlier.

Congratulations, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Rep. Erik Fresen.

The Association of Florida Colleges Council of Presidents has named Diaz de la Portilla and Fresen its 2016 Legislators of the Year. The honor is given to lawmakers who make significant contributions to enhance and support the Florida College System.

Diaz de la Portilla was recognized for his role in ensuring campus safety was at the forefront of conversations. He opposed campus carry legislation, declining to hear the bill in his committee. Fresen was honored for his work for securing additional funding for the Florida College System. The college system saw an increase of $53.7 million in funding. Fresen serves as chairman of the House Education Appropriations subcommittee.

“Without the aid of these influential state legislators, we would not be able to further the mission of the Florida College System and provide employers with a pipeline of workforce talent, which continues to be our primary mission.” said Carol Probstfeld, president of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota and chairwoman of the Council of Presidents.

Next time you see Sens. Joe Negron and Arthenia Joyner, make sure to give them a pat on the back.

The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services honored Negron and Joyner during its annual Florida Network Annual Awards luncheon in Orlando. The two state lawmakers were honored for their work fighting for Florida’s families.

“We are proud to honor leaders and agencies that have truly made a difference in the lives of Florida’s youth and who have dedicated their time and talent toward building strong communities and families,” said Stacy Gromatski, president and CEO of Florida Network. “At the Florida Network, we are continuously amazed by the remarkable work of these youth services executives, volunteers, staff, leaders and board members throughout Florida and are excited to recognize their accomplishments.”

Joyner was awarded the Chairman’s Leadership Award 2016; while Negron was named the 2016 Legislator of the Year.

The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services gave out 10 other awards: Nehemiah Educational and Economic Development, Inc. in Orlando and the Youth Crisis Center in Jacksonville were named Agency of the Year 2016; the 2016 Counselor of the Year were Abraham Greene with the Urban League of Palm Beach County and Amber Minton with Orange County Youth and Family Services; the 2016 Manager of the Year was Stepheny Durham with the Youth Crisis Center in Jacksonville; the 2016 Network Executive of the Year was Andrew Coble with Youth and Family Alternatives in New Port Richey; the 2016 Networker of the Year was David Ulloa with Arnette House in Ocala; the 2016 Networker of the Year was Family Place at Capital City Youth Services in Tallahassee; and the 2016 Youth Care Worker of the Year were Carlos Childs with Family Resources in Pinellas Park and Jason Kasten of Arnette House in Ocala.

If you’re a fan of theme parks, then Florida is the place to be.

According to a report from AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association, seven of the Top 25 amusement and theme parks in the world are located in Florida. Topping the list? Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The amusement park drew 20.5 million visitors in 2015.

Epcot at Disney World saw 11.7 million visitors in 2015, earning it the No. 6 spot on the list; followed by Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Disney World with 10.9 million visitors and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disney World with 10.8 million visitors.

The Mouse may have snagged four of the spots on the list, but Florida’s other theme parks weren’t overlooked. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure — both at Universal Orlando — made the list; as did Seaworld.

Give Rishi Nair a high five!

The 12-year-old Seffner, Florida student won the 2016 National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C. this week.

Rishi, according to the Associated Press, clinched the win by correctly answering “Galapagos Islands” to the question: “A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in Pacific Ocean?”

Rishi gets a $50,000 scholarship and becomes a lifetime member of the National Geographic Society. Rishi also gets a trip to Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park. Bundle up, Rishi!

Want a student to succeed? Give them a mentor.

That’s what Florida’s top college football coaches said they would do if they ran the state’s universities. The coaches — Florida State Coach Jim Fisher, Florida Coach Jim McElwain and Miami Coach Mark Richt — were on hand for Gov. Scott’s Degrees to Jobs Summit in Orlando this week.

The coaches said mentors help students navigate the system.

Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office.
Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

“They see at the end of the tunnel that there is truly a network of people helping them navigate, how to do it,” said Richt. “A lot of it is [students] just being exposed to things they have never been exposed to before.”

The panel, moderated by Scott, also gave the governor a chance to try his hand at being a sports reporter. Scott asked each of the coaches who was “going to bring the great state of Florida the next football national championship?”

Said Fisher, “Florida State.”

Said McElwain, “I have to answer, ‘Chomp! Chomp!’ to that.”

Said Richt, who is just taking over a Miami program that struggled offensively last year: “Yeah, we’re working on getting a first down, right now. We’ll take it one day at a time.”

Rep. Carlos Trujillo is a champion, a legislative champion that is.

The Boys & Girls Club of Miami-Dade County named Trujillo a 2016 Legislative Champion for Children. The Miami Republican was presented with the award by the Miami-Dade Boys & Girls Club Teen Advocates during a visit to the center earlier this week.

Trujillo, whose district includes parts of Broward, Miami-Dade and Collier counties, was recognized for his commitment to children.

The Miami-Dade organization has been serving the community for more than 60 years. In 2015, it served 8,000 children at five sites. According to the organization, 90 percent of students who attend the Miami-Dade Boys & Girls Club graduate from high school.

It’s nearly here.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1, and officials spent the week reminding Floridians to get prepared.

“Although my home state of Florida has not seen a hurricane make landfall in almost 11 years, we must never sit idle and succumb to hurricane amnesia,” said Sen. Marco Rubio during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee meeting this week.

Rubio convened a Senate hearing this week to talk about improvements in forecasting, and how to enhance tracking and intensity forecasts.

“The need for timely and accurate forecasts cannot be overstated,” he said during the hearing. “Indeed, advancements in forecasting have made great strides as technology and research have intersected.”

CFO Jeff Atwater also encouraged people to get prepared. In his newsletter this week, Atwater reminded Floridians to conduct and insurance checkup to make sure they are adequately covered and to make sure they have cash on hand, in case power goes out and ATM access is limited.

It may also be a good time to stock up on bottled water, canned goods, batteries, and other emergency supplies.

“More than ten years have passed since Florida faced a major hurricane, but as the 2016 hurricane season approaches, I encourage all Floridians to dust off their family’s hurricane plans and prepare for the possibility that a storm could hit Florida’s shores,” said Atwater.

While season officially starts June 1, the Associated Press reported tropical weather got a head start Hurricane Alex made an unseasonable debut in January over the far eastern Atlantic. The long-term season averages are 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three “major” ones with winds topping 110 mph.

Looking for a hard-working, dedicated, and innovated employee?

Consider hiring a veteran.

That was the message Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the former commander of the United States Central Command, sent to attendees at Gov. Scott’s Degrees to Jobs Summit this week. Austin applauded the state for its work on behalf of veterans, and encouraged universities and businesses to continue to open their doors to members of the armed forces.

“We want to do all we can to help them and their families to be successful, after they’ve spent so much … time in uniform serving our country,” he said. “I believe our veterans represent the very best of America. They are highly disciplined, principled, mission focused and often mature beyond their years. They’ve learned the the value of hard work and team work, and put those skills to practice in challenging environments on Earth and under the most stressful positions imaginable.”

Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office.
Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

Austin said the state’s institutions of higher education and business should continue to promote veterans on campuses and in the workforce. The state, he said, should also make sure there are enough resources to make sure veterans are connected to the “right opportunities” once they leave the military.

“They are indeed great Americans. They are the very best in what they do, and I could not be more proud of them,” he said. “I believe any company or organization would be incredibly fortunate to welcome them to be a part of their team. And I believe that by helping them, we will make America better, stronger, safer and more prosperous.”

According to the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, consumer sentiment among Floridians fell 1.6 points in May. The reading is lower than the previous 12-month average, and marks the third straight month the consumer sentiment has fallen.

“This pessimistic perception is the main force behind the overall decrease in Florida’s consumer sentiment index this month and is shared by all Floridians, independent of their age, gender or income,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the two groups exhibiting the most drastic change in perceptions as to whether this is a good time to make a big household purchase are the elder population and those with annual income less than $50,000.”


Opinions about whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item, like appliances or automobiles, plummeted from 101.4 to 92.8 in May. Expectations about the U.S. economy also dropped.

Since the third quarter of 2013, Florida has experienced positive annual state gross domestic product growth rates. The state’s labor market has also experienced positive annual job growth for almost six years.

“Despite the positive trends in Florida’s economy over recent years, Floridians tend to have pessimistic economic expectations about the future,” said Sandoval. “These negative expectations might be associated with the slowdown of China’s economy, which experienced its slowest quarterly pace since 2009. But they might also be a result of the uncertainty associated with the upcoming presidential election, as its outcome will have important consequences for U.S. economic policy.”

Say good-bye to the Atlantic snook season.

Recreational snook season in Atlantic state and federal waters closes on June 1. The harvest will reopen in Atlantic state and federal waters — including Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River — on Sept. 1.

Snook is also closed in the state and federal Gulf of Mexico waters, including Everglades National Park and Monroe County, through Aug. 31. The Gulf of Mexico season reopens Sept. 1

Snook can be caught and released during the closed season, but anglers are cautioned to use proper handling methods to guarantee an abundant population for generations to come. Anglers can report their catch on the Snook & Gamefish Foundation’s website.

Here is this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

capitol directions - 5.28.16

St. Petersburg Yacht Club hopes to race to Cuba in 2017

With relations between the U.S. and Cuba improving, the St. Petersburg Yacht Club is working toward relaunching a race to Havana.

The Tampa Bay Times reports for nearly three decades, the St. Petersburg Yacht Club sponsored a boat race to Havana that brought international exposure to both cities. But the contest was cancelled following the rise of Cold War-era communism in Cuba.

The club officials are still in early talks with Cuban counterparts at the Hemingway International Yacht Club, named for legendary author Ernest Hemingway.

Yacht Club organizers hope that in March 2017, boats will be racing from the St. Petersburg Pier to the Morro Castle, an 18th century fortress guarding the mouth of Havana bay. That would be the same starting and finish line as the original competition.

Sunburn for 5.27.16 – The Libertarians are coming to town

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.


If all goes as expected this weekend at their national convention in Orlando, Libertarians could head into the presidential campaign with two respected former governors leading their ticket. If not, Libertarians could give Republicans and Democrats a run for their craziness.

The Libertarian Party has never been a stranger to odd fellows. Yet this year it holds the prospect of offering the least-hated, most-adult-looking ticket in a presidential election virtually begging for alternatives.

Former New Mexico Gov. and 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is the front-runner. He wants former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to be his running mate. Weld just joined the Libertarians earlier this month, just like thousands of others fleeing Donald Trump‘s Republican Party or Hillary Clinton‘s Democratic Party.

Conservatives who cannot stomach Republicans’ big, interventionist military or Christian-nation dogma come here. Liberals who cannot tolerate the Democrats’ big government, big taxes or trade treaties come here.

But still.

This is the Libertarian Party, where almost anything goes for the love of freedom.

Johnson’s platform includes conservative favorites, balanced budget and tax reform; and liberal favorites, supporting a woman’s right to chose abortion, and an end to domestic spying.

He is but one of 18 Libertarian candidates. Among the others: billionaire software mogul John McAfee, an international fugitive from a 2012 murder investigation in Belize who maintains that it was a frame-up because he refused to bribe Belize authorities. His motto is “disobedience,” he loves posing with big guns, and advocates wholesale decriminalization of drugs and prostitution.

The convention began Thursday. Friday and Saturday feature vice presidential and presidential candidates’ and platform debates. On Sunday the 900-1,000 delegates will pick their ticket.

TODAY COULD ALSO BE “TAKE OUT THE TRASH DAY”  If it’s Friday before a three-day weekend, (in this case,  Memorial Day) you know it’s time in Tallahassee for the honored tradition of a news dump. We’ll repeat the definition by The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe: When government agencies “release potentially embarrassing or politically tricky policy decisions and personnel changes on a day when reporters and the general public are less likely to notice or care.” Or, as “The West Wing” immortalized it, “Take Out the Trash Day.” (In the words of Josh Lyman, “Any stories we have to give the press that we’re not wild about, we give on Friday.”) What will it be this time?

AAA: HOLIDAY WEEKEND GAS PRICES SHOULD BE LOWEST SINCE 2005 via Ron Hurtibise of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Gas prices increased again last week in South Florida and throughout the nation, but travelers should still enjoy the lowest Memorial Day weekend prices since 2005, travel club AAA said. In Broward County, the average price per gallon was $2.33, up 7 cents compared with the previous week. The average per-gallon price in Miami-Dade was $2.34, up 6 cents, while motorists in Palm Beach County were paying $2.37, up about 6 cents. Statewide, the average price was $2.21, about 3 cents higher than the previous week. South Florida gas prices tend to run higher than the state average because of higher taxes.

AUDUBON, FLORIDA FWC WARN BOATERS TO WATCH FOR WILDLIFE THIS MEMORIAL DAY via Florida Politics – “Memorial Day is always a fun time to be around or on the water, but we’re not the only ones who think so,” Audubon Florida Deputy Executive Director Julie Wraithmell said. “The end of May is a critical time for some of Florida’s most iconic coastal birds and their fluffy chicks. Roseate spoonbills, black skimmers, snowy plovers, American oystercatchers, least terns and more are using Florida’s beaches and islands right now to raise their young.” As part of their conservation effort, some FWC officials and Audubon volunteers will spend the weekend as “bird stewards” by chaperoning nesting bird colonies and educating beach visitors. Among the recommendations are reminders to give colonies a wide birth, avoid disturbing groups of birds by getting too close or launching fireworks, and to refrain from bringing pets near nesting areas, even on a leash.

TROPICAL SYSTEM IN ATLANTIC EXPECTED TO DEVELOP via Harold Bubil of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – … A brewing storm northeast of the Bahamas … Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground doesn’t expect this disturbance to amount to much more than a rainmaker. Although it has developed some “pronounced spin” near the surface, the water beneath it is about 80 degrees, “only marginally warm enough to support formation of a tropical storm,” Masters wrote in his online blog. It is just a jumble of clouds on the satellite image … but the National Hurricane Center says the low-pressure system has a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical storm in the next five days …  the low-pressure area is “centered between Bermuda and the Bahamas and has elongated circulation” that is common to tropical systems. “Shower activity has been increasing during the past 24 hours.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Sunburn will be off Monday to celebrate Memorial Day. It will be back in your in-box Tuesday.

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DAYS UNTIL: Federal candidate qualifying papers accepted – 9; Federal qualifying closes – 27; State candidate qualifying closes – 27; Domestic absentee ballots go out in primary – 59; Primary elections – 94; Deadline to register to vote in Primary Election – 65; Deadline to register to vote in General Election – 136; Absentees sent in General Election – 155; General Election – 165.

DONALD TRUMP CAMPAIGN CHAIR: WE’LL PICK A WHITE MAN FOR VP. ANYTHING ELSE WOULD BE “PANDERING.” via Dara Lind of Vox – Trump campaign chair and chief strategist Paul Manafort told the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman … The campaign probably won’t choose a woman or a member of a minority group, he said. “In fact, that would be viewed as pandering, I think.” Manafort — at least as presented in the Huffington Post article — isn’t saying, We won’t pick a VP nominee just because she checks the right boxes on race and gender. He’s saying: Because we’re not trying to check boxes on race and gender, we’ll end up picking a vice president who’s a white man. That’s a very different thing! That certainly implies that, to Manafort, the only reason you might end up picking a VP who happened to not be male or white would be because of her race or gender, not because of her qualifications. In other words, that if you rounded up all the people who are qualified in their own right to serve as President Trump’s right-hand man, they would all be, well, white-handed men.

TWEET OF THE DAY@realDonaldTrump: Poll data shows that @marcorubio does by far the best in holding onto his Senate seat in Florida. Important to keep the MAJORITY. Run Marco!

MARCO RUBIO ON DONALD TRUMP: ‘I’M GOING TO VOTE FOR HIM’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – “I’m going to support him. I’m going to vote for him,” he said. In a separate interview, Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper he’d be willing to speak on Trump’s behalf at the GOP nominating convention in Cleveland … he has more faith in Trump than Clinton on a variety of issues, from overturning the Affordable Care Act to opposing abortion to appointing strict constructionists to the Supreme Court. “Donald Trump won. Donald Trump was not a default choice,” said Rubio … “He won, and he won for a reason.” (Rubio noted that he “finished third, I guess, in the delegate count.”) How can he justify backing Trump after having criticized him so harshly? “Because the one other choice is someone who I believe is corrupt,” Rubio said. “I’m not supporting her, and I’m not going to abstain from voting.”

RUBIO: I’M NOT JUMPING BACK INTO SENATE RACE via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – “My answer is what I said before,” Rubio said in a conference call. “I want to make sure we have the right candidate in place to win. I understand the argument and understand the people coming forward asking me to reconsider … [But] I have a really good friend running who I think is a good candidate.” Rubio was talking about [CarlosLopez-Cantera, “a personal friend, not [just] a political ally.” Asked if he was formally endorsing Lopez-Cantera, Rubio held off and said he would “do those things at the appropriate time.” As to what would happen if Lopez-Cantera dropped out, Rubio said “I don’t do hypotheticals.”

SHOT: @learyreports: @marcorubio says he’s honored to serve in Senate but says he will not seek re-election. Mentions friend CLC.

CHASER: @amy_hollyfield: The @marcorubio situation is reminding me of the @SpeakerRyan one before he had that actual handle

ALAN GRAYSON DELAYS FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE FILING via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Members of Congress must file annual financial disclosure reports by mid-May each year. However, the Committee on Ethics allows them to file for an extension for 30 days, 60 days or 90 days without offering any reason. Grayson’s request for 90 days was granted earlier this month according to the House Committee on Ethics. That allows him to wait until Aug. 14 to file his annual report. “The reason is that his financial disclosure is lengthy, so additional time is required,” said David Damron, a spokesman for Grayson‘s campaign. Grayson’s extension comes after his handwritten 2014 report was flagged by the Office of Congressional Ethics earlier this year for having “omitted required information from his annual financial disclosure statements related to reportable assets, income, agreements and positions.” That report was 36-pages. The OCE report came as part of a larger inquiry into Grayson’s management of a hedge fund and other business interests that may have improperly overlapped with his congressional duties.

REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES CALL FOR VA SECRETARY’S RESIGNATION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Four of the five Republican Senate candidates have called for [RobertMcDonald to lose his job. “The VA utterly and systematically fails our veterans,” Carlos Beruff … said in a statement … “The fact that VA Secretary McDonald is now comparing VA medical centers to a family vacation destination is disgusting.” Initially supportive after McDonald was appointed in 2014, Ron DeSantis now says that the secretary should resign in light of this week’s Disney comments, as well as the slow crawl of reforms. Defense contractor Todd Wilcox said he was enraged by the comments … Carlos Lopez-Cantera said there has been a lack of accountability in the VA. Just one Republican Senate candidate said firing McDonald would be going too far … David Jolly [said] the comments were “disgraceful” and “insulting to those who lost their lives as a result of the wait times.” McDonald’s apology took too long, jolly said, but he disagreed that the secretary should lose his job. Neither of the two chief Democrats running for the Senate has called for McDonald, who was appointed by Obama, to resign.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Wilcox will be in Orlando.

FREEDOMWORKS ENDORSES MARY THOMAS IN CD 2 via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – Thomas picked up the endorsement of Koch-backed FreedomWorks … “Florida’s 2nd District is a great pickup opportunity for conservatives. Mary Thomas is the true conservative running in this race. She realizes that heavy tax and regulatory burdens hurt the economy and limit opportunities for businesses and workers. She will work to advance free market policies and constitutional principles,” said FreedomWorks PAC Chairman Adam Brandon. “We need conservatives like Mary Thomas in Washington to fight for limited government and economic freedom.”

JOHN RUTHERFORD UP BY 30 POINTS IN CD 4 RACE, INTERNAL POLL SHOTS via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – The numbers we’re hearing: Rutherford at 42 percent, [LakeRay at 11 percent, then [HansTanzler at 6 percent and Bill McClure at 5 percent … Whether there is meaningful attrition in the numbers of Rutherford and Ray probably can’t be said, given methodological differences between the polls. What can be said, however, is that after five weeks, the race to replace Ander Crenshaw in CD 4 looks like Rutherford’s to lose. And he’s not losing.

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND: Former Congressman Joe Garcia will open his campaign headquarters in Palmetto Bay Saturday, where the village’s old town hall used to be. The Miami Democrat will speak to volunteers and supporters at the grand opening, beginning 1 p.m. at 9845 E Fern Street (just off U.S. 1 and 175th Street).

— “Jeff Clemens announces raft of local endorsements” via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics

— “Big get: Will Weatherford backs Rebecca Smith in HD 60” via Florida Politics

— “Kathy Castor is backing Ben Diamond over Eric Lynn in HD 68 race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Jamestown Associates, winner of eight 2016 Reed Awards and 60 industry awards overall. Jamestown’s TV, radio, mail and digital advertising helps clients in Florida and across the nation perfect their message, create powerful ads, micro-target the media buy and WIN. See how Jamestown Associates wins tough campaigns at***

FLORIDA LEADERS HOPE TO KEEP GRADUATES IN SUNSHINE STATE via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The push to keep Florida graduates in the Sunshine State was a constant theme during the 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. The two-day summit wrapped up with a series of panels focused on keeping graduates in Florida. “When I graduated from University of Florida, so many of my classmates left Florida. They went to Austin, they went to Boston, they went to Charlotte, they went to Atlanta,” said Adam Putnam. “We can reverse that flow, and we must reverse that flow.” Experts said there were plenty of ways to do that, including boosting partnerships with colleges and universities, creating more internships, and maintaining a statewide clearinghouse to connect new graduates with prospective employers. “We want to make sure all the employers here are really connected to the graduates, because then you can keep them in the state and they can be productive citizens, and we can keep our economy growing,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

IF FOOTBALL COACHES RAN HIGHER EDUCATION: TRUST, MENTORING, ‘CHOMP! CHOMP!’ via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – If Florida’s top college football coaches actually ran Florida’s universities, life mentoring would begin the moment a student arrived and not end for years after he left. “They see at the end of the tunnel that there is truly a network of people helping them navigate, how to do it,” said University of Miami Head Coach Mark Richt. “A lot of it is [students] just being exposed to things they have never been exposed to before.” Richt was on hand for what might have been a singular event, a teaming of four of the most public and powerful leaders in Florida: Gov. Scott, Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher, Florida Head Coach Jim McElwain, and Richt. They each had stories of student-athletes, or themselves, needing help to understand college life, to understand who to trust, and how to trust, to find someone who cares, to understand life and understand how they can fit in. “To me, at the end of the day, that’s what coaching is, it’s mentoring,” Fisher said.


@Jenna_Buzzacco: In the @FLDEO panel about recruiting graduates, fair number of Q’s about how to recruit women, minorities into STEM fields. #FlaPol

@JohnKennedyReports: Are you ready for some fuh’bawl at @FLGovScott’s ed/jobs summit? UF, FSU and Miami coaches quizzed by gov.

@JessicaBakeman: FSU football coach Jimbo Fisher says players ask him to treat them like men. He tells them, “act like a man.” #degrees2jobs

@JessicaBakeman: U of Miami football coach Mark Richt: Players are thinking about 1) the NFL, 2) “chicks,” 3) “probably school” — but not jobs #degrees2jobs

@FLCollegeSystem: In 2014-15, 85% of FCS grads who applied to a State University System school were accepted @MadyMIA #degrees2jobs

@ArekSarkissian: Of lack of faculty at education summit @FLGovScott points to football coaches “they’re faculty.”

@MSynnan: Jimbo Fisher on scrutiny for today’s college athletes: “I couldn’t play the way things are today” #Fox35

AG. DEPARTMENT SAYS PETA TRIGGERED PUBLIC RECORDS FIGHT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The state’s Department of Agriculture is asking a court to speed up its handling of a public records lawsuit involving an animal research lab. The department filed its answer in Leon County circuit civil court … the case “was triggered by a public records request by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)” …  Primate Products, Inc. wants a court order to prevent the department from releasing records it says contain “trade secrets.” The department says it’s caught between a rock and a hard place, “faced on one hand by the possibility of facing attorney’s fees and costs for ‘unlawfully’ refusing to provide the records … and on the other hand by possible third-degree felony charges … for divulging trade secrets.”

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT SAYS WEB-BASED FLORIST MUST PAY TAXES via The Associated Press – The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the state can impose a sales tax on a web-based florist for flowers sold to out-of-state customers and delivered outside of Florida. The Court overturned an appeals court decision that said the Department of Revenue couldn’t collect taxes from American Business USA Corp.’s out-of-state sales … the Palm Beach County-based business has a physical presence in the state and does business within Florida and that’s enough of a tie to the state to make all its sales taxable, regardless if they originated outside of Florida. The company argued that it shouldn’t be responsible for sales tax on orders from out-of-state customers for flowers that were grown and delivered outside of Florida.

NRA LEADER MARION HAMMER MOBILIZES ‘ACTIVIST CORE’ TO OPPOSE CHARLES MCBURNEY JUDGESHIP via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – More than 5,400 emails and counting have been received by Scott’s office with the all-capitals subject line, “CHARLES MCBURNEY IS UNFIT TO BE A JUDGE.” They are the result of an opposition campaign linked to a conversation in March at which McBurney told NRA Florida head Hammer that he disagreed with a legislative proposal that would have changed Florida’s “stand your ground” law. The House companion to Senate Bill 344 had already been defeated in a different committee, but the Senate bill was kept alive and sent to the House Judiciary Committee that McBurney chairs. It would never come up for a vote … In an email to what she calls her “activist core,” Hammer provided specific instructions on what people should say in correspondence to Scott about McBurney. Marion wouldn’t say how many people received Saturday’s email, but they are members and supporters who have specifically signed up to receive and respond to periodic calls to action. The information is also posted on the NRA website. “You must help keep Charles McBurney off the bench,” she told Them. “He has proven himself to be unfit.”

ADAM PUTNAM TALKS ABOUT TRAPS FOR MOSQUITOES TO TEST FOR ZIKA VIRUS via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics – Putnam’s fear … was that a mosquito could bite an infected person and spread the virus from there … he then displayed a trap intended to capture mosquitoes and test them for Zika. It’s mostly a proactive measure, he said — to have early warning devices around the state. “It’s important to have the traps,” he said. “So that if we see Zika virus enter the local population, we would know about it, as soon as possible, and then be able to fashion a response as quickly as possible.” Putnam said [the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory] purchased over 300 traps. The traps will be set up in 56 of the 67 counties in Florida, Putnam said, with more traps set up depending on where the highest numbers of Zika cases are reported. A scent in the traps will lure in specific species of mosquitoes that can carry the Zika virus … The lab has three machines for analyzing samples, which allows for a quick turnaround time. The process takes about three hours total.

NATIONWIDE BACKLOG OF TRAPS TO DETECT ZIKA VIRUS via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Florida has received less than half of the special traps it has ordered to help detect the Zika virus in mosquitoes, and nationwide the only U.S. distributor of the traps has a backlog of almost 1,950 orders from governments and private businesses … State workers ordered more than 300 of the traps but so far have gotten only about 120 traps. The remaining 190 traps are on back order … Adam Putnam said while touring a state lab in Kissimmee … Putnam said he’s not concerned yet because state workers placed the order for the BG-Sentinel traps months ago, and Florida is at the top of the list of recipients. The cost of the traps and the lab testing is around $150,000. “It’s kind of like when you order plywood and ice when a hurricane is on the way,” Putnam said. “We anticipated there would be a demand for these so we got on the list early.”

FOR ZIKA INFECTED PREGNANCIES, MICROCEPHALY RISK MAY BE AS HIGH AS 13% via Lena Sun of The Washington Post – Pregnant women infected with the Zika virus during their first trimester face as high as a 13 percent chance that their fetus will develop … microcephaly …  an abnormally small head and often incomplete brain development. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health identified the sharply higher risk after analyzing data from one of the hardest hit areas in Brazil, the epicenter of the rapidly evolving Zika outbreak. Typically, microcephaly occurs in 0.02 percent to 0.12 percent of all U.S. births. The prevalence of even more common congenital conditions, such as Down syndrome, is often less than 1 percent. By contrast, the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found the estimated risk for microcephaly with Zika infections in the first trimester of pregnancy ranged from 1 percent to 13 percent. The analysis is the first to quantify such risk in pregnant women infected during the current outbreak, which has seen the mosquito-borne virus spread to more than 40 countries and territories in the Americas and beyond. Recent testing showed the same strain is now on the African archipelago of Cape Verde.

YOUR SPARE COMPUTING POWER COULD HELP FIGHT ZIKA via Adrienne LaFrance of the Atlantic magazine – To begin to figure out how to fight an emerging virus … biomedical researchers first must understand the structure of the disease on a microscopic level. They must figure out the mechanisms that make it transmissible, then screen countless chemical compounds to determine how to fight it. Each of these steps requires difficult and meticulous work—the screening process alone can drag on for years … Before there were computers, all this work was simply done by hand. But even with machines, there’s only so much work that a single computer—or a lab full of computers, or even a supercomputer—can do over a certain amount of time. That’s why, for more than a decade, an IBM-run initiative has helped scientists tap into the computing power of millions of machines across the planet as a way to speed up research into deadly diseases and other public health problems. The World Community Grid is an open-source lab that runs on the power of idle computers across the globe. Anyone can sign up to donate their machine’s untapped power. How it works: The grid leverages the connectivity of the web by dividing otherwise enormous processing tasks—like checking a library of 100 million chemical compounds to see how each individually reacts to a model of Zika proteins— into manageable chunks that are then delegated to computers across the network. That computational data are then sent back to the grid, cleaned up and checked for errors, and finally delivered back to scientists for evaluation. This is how researchers already identified a possible treatment for neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. And it’s how today, while your computer is idle, you could help run computations to fight the Zika virus.


James DaughtonWarren HusbandGregory BlackPatricia GreeneAimee LyonAndrew PalmerMark Pinto, Metz Husband & Daughton: Nokia Corporation

Marty FiorentinoThomas GriffinJoseph Mobley, The Fiorentino Group: Flagler Hospital

Jim Magill, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Government Services Group

PERSONNEL NOTE: REBECCA ROMAN HEADS TO ADAMS ST. ADVOCATES via Florida Politics – A former aide to state Rep. Jimmie Smith … Roman will focus on health care, technology and environmental issues. Roman grew up in Clearwater, where she worked in her father’s law office from the age of 14. She also managed a Starbucks before graduating from college. She attended Florida State University, where she got degrees in philosophy and in political science. Roman also minored in French. She presided over the Society for Practical Ethics at FSU and was part of a national medical ethics debate team, which made it to the final round in both 2015 and 2016.

AFP APPLAUDS SARASOTA FOR REJECTING INCENTIVES TO LURE NATIONAL ROOFING COMPANY TO RELOCATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Americans For Prosperity Florida is praising the Sarasota County Commission for rejecting a financial incentive to help lure an out of town private company to relocate their business in the county. “We’re thrilled to see Sarasota County reject the calls from special interests to take taxpayer dollars and give it away to a private company,” said state director, Chris Hudson. “These local businesses have every right to be upset that their tax dollars are being used to bring their competitors in from other states and compete against them. It’s not governments place to pick winners and losers, the other 66 counties should take Sarasota’s lead and do away with these failed corporate welfare handouts.” Sarasota Commissioners voted 4-1 against providing $720,000 in local tax refunds and grants to an undisclosed national roofing company that would compel them to move to the county. The state had pledged another $864,000 in incentive money to help Sarasota County land the headquarters. The vote is being decried by economic development officials who say that such incentives are absolutely required to attract companies to relocate to their region. Local contractors lobbied heavily against the commission granting the incentives.

‘NOT FINISHED YET’: MORE ARRESTS LIKELY IN DAN MARKEL CASE via Karl Effers of the Tallahassee Democrat – The day after a Miami Beach man was arrested in connection with the slaying of Florida State University law professor Dan Markel, police continue to investigate his killing as a murder for hire, sources close to the investigation say. Other sources say more arrests are expected. Tallahassee Police remain tight-lipped about details of the arrest of 34-year-old Sigfredo Garcia, who has been charged with first-degree murder in Markel’s nearly two-year-old killing. TPD officials during a news conference at department headquarters declined to elaborate on a possible motive in the killing of the renowned legal scholar or whether other suspects are being considered. A probable cause affidavit that would provide details on Garcia’s arrest was sealed at the request of police by Second Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom.


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Suncoast Christian youth band YTA.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS Miami: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times, Noah Pransky of 10 News WTSP, Florida Federation of Republican Women Vice President Deborah Tamargo, and political consultant Barry Edwards.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando:  Former Sen. Gary Siplin on his 2016 race and Mayor Buddy Dyer on passage of a marijuana liberalization ordinance. Plus Alex Sink and Chris Ingram on food stamps and PolitiFact rates a Donald Trump claim about refugees in Germany.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Steve VancoreSean Pittman, and Mary Ellen Klas of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: Attorneys John PhillipsDexter Van DavisRichard Brown, and Rhonda Peoples-Waters on recent police abuse allegations with analyst and former office Gil Smith. Plus an interview with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Stafford Jones and Christian Ziegler. Celebrating on Saturday is our friend Clark Smith, as well as Richard DeNapoli, Tammy Perdue, and Craig Waters.

Rick Scott makes more judicial appointments

Gov. Rick Scott appointed Michelle L. Naberhaus and Thomas J. Brown to the Brevard County Court.

Naberhaus, a 41-year-old Merritt Island resident, has practiced with Dean Mean P.A. since 2015.

From 2013 until 2015, she was a sole practitioner for Michelle L. Naberhaus P.L.

Previously, she was a shareholder with the GrayRobinson firm. Naberhaus fills a vacancy created by Cathleen B. Clarke’s resignation.

Brown, a 52-year-old Melbourne resident, is an assistant state attorney for the State Attorney’s Office in the 18th Judicial Circuit.

He was previously an attorney for the Law Office of Howard Allen. He fills a vacancy created by John C. Murphy‘s removal from the bench.

Murphy was caught on courtroom video berating and threatening to fight an assistant public defender.

The incident was widely reported by state and national news media, causing the Florida judicial system “to become a national embarrassment,” investigators said.

Scott also appointed Susan H. Rothstein-Youakim to the Second District Court of Appeal.

The 46-year-old Tampa resident has been an Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida since 1995.

She fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Chris W. Altenbernd.

Big get: Will Weatherford backs Rebecca Smith in HD 60

In a Republican primary in a state House race in Tampa Bay, a handful of endorsements matter more than others.

Were incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran to offer an endorsement or one of the region’s Repbulican U.S. Representatives or state Senators, that would really count for something.

The same can be said of an endorsement from former House Speaker Will Weatherford. Earning his support is what’s known as a “big get.”

And that’s what Rebecca Smith has today — a big get.

Smith’s campaign announced Thursday morning that Weatherford is lining up behind her bid for House District 60.

“Rebecca Smith has a proven track record as a business leader and as an active member of our community,” said Weatherford. “Rebecca’s strong commitment to our shared, conservative principles of lower taxes, less government, more freedom and personal responsibility are just what we need from our elected officials. … I hope you will join me in supporting Rebecca Smith for State Representative, District 60.”

Smith is the founder and president of A.D. Morgan Corporation in Tampa, a company she founded in 1989. She is also a member of the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, and announced her candidacy for the seat in March. Smith faces engineer Jackie Toledo in the August primary to replace Rep. Dana Young, who is running for the state Senate. Democrat David Singer is also running.

Weatherford’s endorsement is likely to generate further support for Smith, especially within his broad network of contacts.

In her release, Smith recognizes the importance of Weatherford’s endorsement.

“Speaker Weatherford placed principles before politics, resulting in the passage of good public policy that provided real, tangible solutions for Floridians and their families,” said Smith. “I am thankful for Speaker Weatherford’s service and for the example he set, and am grateful for his support and endorsement.”

Weatherford’s announcement follows the previous endorsements of former Governor Bob Martinez and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

Sunburn for 5.26.16 – Day 2 of Rick Scott at Diagon Alley

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Ryan Ray and Jim Rosica.


Gov. Rick Scott has a few suggestions to make it easier for Florida students to graduate from college in four years.

Remove additional fees for online classes. Allow Bright Future scholarships to be used for summer classes. And make sure students get credit for college-level courses taken in high school.

The Naples Republican laid out his proposal at is Degrees to Jobs Summit at the Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. The two-day summit ­­– which was sponsored by several organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida College System Foundation and Universal Orlando —  has been billed as an opportunity to connect businesses and higher education leaders.

“My goal is that this is the state people want to live because they can get a good job and can get a great education,” said Scott. “I put a challenge out … to figure out how do we get our students out with a four-year degree in four years.”

The summit continues Thursday. While the morning is jam-packed with panel discussions, including ones about public private partnerships and recruiting Florida graduates, the afternoon session feature big name speakers.

Heading to the summit? Expect to hear from Agriculture Commissioner Adam PutnamJohn Sprouls, the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & Resort; and Gen. Lloyd Austin III, the former commander of the United States Central Command.

And don’t even think of leaving early. The last panel of the day is focused on leadership and team building and features Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher, Florida Coach Jim McElwain and Miami Coach Mark Richt.

ANDY GARDINER TOUTS CENTER FOR STUDENTS WITH UNIQUE ABILITIES AT EDUCATION SUMMIT via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The push to make sure Florida graduates can enter the workforce shouldn’t stop when it comes to students with intellectual disabilities. That was the message Gardiner sent during a speech at the Degrees to Jobs Education Summit … Gardiner used his speech to highlight the work the Legislature has done to make sure all Floridians receive a good education … also encouraged business and higher education officials to continue to work to make sure people with unique abilities have access to higher education opportunities and workforce training. “As you spend your time talking about degrees and what we want to have, I hope … you won’t forget about this population,” said Gardiner. “There are families all over this state, kids who want to be part of this system.”


— @fineout: Uh oh. Speaker at @FLGovScott jobs summit says that today’s unemployment rate is “misleading” and things aren’t as good as they seem

— @ArekSarkissian: Attending @FLGovScott jobs summit includes Melissa Sellers, former Scott COS turned consultant

— @Fineout: Well this remains interesting – speaker from Gallup at @FLGovScott summit has questioned value of several stats Scott uses all the time

— @FLDEO: Florida’s STEM degrees are growing 3x faster among undergraduates and 6x faster among graduate students than non-STEM degrees. #degrees2jobs

— @rtemplin: am sure that the 3 football coaches at @FLGovScott higher Ed summit will have much to say about higher education. Some Professors next time?

— @JKennedyReports: In this ode to internships at @FLGovScott‘s ed/jobs summit, wonder how many companies attending pay interns.

— @KelliStargel: @FLGovScott challenge for our higher Ed..”finish in 4 & save more.” As a parent of 5 I’m a big fan. #Degrees2Jobs

— @ErikaDonalds: @FLGovScott gave a shout out to @fgcu at #degrees2jobs summit for the university’s freshmen year refund for 4year grads! #GoEagles #SWFL

— @DebbieMortham: Great quote by Rick Matthews of Northrup Grumman a #Degrees2Jobs panelist: “We live in a digital world, but leadership is an analog skill.”

— @KassieElekes: Senate President Andy Gardiner to #degrees2jobs attendees: Please don’t forget about Floridians with unique abilities.

TOP OP-ED – TURNING TODAY’S LEARNERS INTO TOMORROW’S EARNERS via Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce  – Did you know that by the year 2030, half of today’s careers and occupations won’t exist? At the Florida Chamber of Commerce, we believe a quality education and workforce development system will enable Floridians to adapt to future disruptions and compete in the 21st century global economy. Sweeping changes in technology, automation, and robotics are reshaping Florida’s job market and driving advancements in key industries. If Florida’s education system fails to keep pace with these economic changes and focuses only on the jobs and industries of today, we are setting our students up for failure. Can you imagine a future in which countless jobs go unfilled because the next generation is unprepared? It’s closer than you think. With more than 269,000 jobs open and waiting for the right person, it’s clear that today’s employers have high-wage jobs available. Businesses get hundreds of applications, but very few applicants have the needed skills. Florida still has a talent gap problem. Will top companies remain in Florida if they can’t find the right talent?


Event begins at 7 a.m. with breakfast.

— 9 a.m.: Breakout sessionsFlorida 1st for Jobs for University Graduates; Florida 1st for Jobs for College Graduates; Public Private Partnerships; Florida 1st for Articulation Agreements; Florida 1st for Online Learning and Innovation; Collaboration with Your Local Education Institution Can Yield Big Dividends; Recruiting Florida Graduates; Degrees – Internships – Jobs.

— 12 p.m.: Lunch with Senate President Andy Gardiner.

— 12:50 p.m.: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

— 1 p.m.John Sprowls, executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Universal Parks & resort.

— 1:15 p.m.: Gen. Lloyd Austin III, former Commander of United States Central Command.

— 2 p.m.: Panel on leadership and teamwork with football coaches Jimbo Fisher of the FSU; Jim McElwain of UF; and Miami’s Mark Richt.

— 3:15 p.m.: Awards ceremony and closing remarks from Gov. Scott.

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DAYS UNTIL: Federal candidate qualifying papers accepted – 10; Federal qualifying closes – 28; State candidate qualifying closes – 28; Domestic absentee ballots go out in primary – 60; Primary elections – 95; Deadline to register to vote in Primary Election – 66; Deadline to register to vote in General Election – 137; Absentees sent in General Election – 156; General Election – 166.

DONALD TRUMP: JEB BUSH WILL COME AROUND via the Sunshine State News – Trump insisted the former Florida governor will eventually support him in November even as he revisited his “low energy” attack on Bush …  “He will get a burst of energy and he will do it” … But Bush, just like his father and his brother, has shown no signs of backing Trump. “The American presidency is an office that goes beyond just politics,” Bush noted. “It requires of its occupant great fortitude and humility and the temperament and strong character to deal with the unexpected challenges that will inevitably impact our nation in the next four years. “Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character. He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy,” Bush continued. “Hillary Clinton has proven to be an untrustworthy liberal politician who, if elected, would present a third term of the disastrous foreign and economic policy agenda of Barack Obama.”

TRUMP FIRES AIDE AFTER BLOW-UP WITH FLORIDA CAMPAIGN CHIEF via Marc Caputo of POLITICO — Trump’s presidential campaign announced it had parted ways with its national political director, Rick Wiley, on Wednesday night  — a move that appears to stem in part from an ongoing turf war atop the campaign. Wiley was the first high-profile hire by Paul Manafort, the veteran GOP operative who Trump brought on board in late March to help professionalize a campaign that had cruised through the GOP primary season with a skeleton staff. Sources in and around the campaign told POLITICO that Wiley was not responsive to (Corey) Lewandowski or other officials from the old regime, and that he had clashed in recent weeks with Karen Giorno, a Lewandowski ally who ran Trump’s campaign during the Florida GOP primary.

MYSTERY DONOR GAVE $13.5 MILLION TO ‘DARK MONEY’ GROUP SUPPORTING MARCO RUBIO via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – The donation was revealed in a tax document obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics, which unpacked how the money went to consultants with close ties to the Florida Republican, despite the Conservative Solution Project’s supposed independence. Immediate speculation focused on Norman Braman, who poured millions into a super PAC supporting Rubio. At the same time, Rubio had the backing of a number of wealthy GOP donors, some known and some who may have preferred to stay in the shadows.

DEMS DISCUSS DROPPING DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Alexander Bolton of The Hill – Democrats backing likely presidential nominee Clinton worry Wasserman Schultz has become too divisive a figure to unify the party in 2016, which they say is crucial to defeating … Trump in November. Wasserman Schultz has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the party’s other presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders and his supporters, who argue she has tilted the scales in Clinton’s favor. “There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on,” said one pro-Clinton Democratic senator. The lawmaker said senators huddled on the chamber floor last week to talk about Wasserman Schultz’s future and estimated that about a dozen have weighed in during private conversations. “I don’t see how she can continue to the election. How can she open the convention? Sanders supporters would go nuts,” said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

FLORIDA DEMOCRATS SNAG CORY BOOKER AS SPEAKER FOR BIG GALA via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Booker will keynote the 2016 Leadership Blue Gala June 18 in Hollywood … “As the largest swing state in the nation, Florida will play a determining role in stopping Donald Trump and returning the Senate to Democratic hands,” Booker said in a statement. “While we know the work ahead won’t be easy, I know Sunshine State Democrats are fired up and ready to deliver Florida for the third time in a row” … “As Mayor of Newark and in the United States Senate, Senator Booker’s leadership has brought Republicans and Democrats together to get things done without compromising on the values which make our party and our nation strong,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said in a statement.

ALAN GRAYSON USING TEMPORARY LOANS TO BOOST FUNDRAISING FIGURES via Kevin Robillard of POLITICO – In the first three months of the year, Grayson both loaned his campaign $200,000 and also paid himself back for a previous $200,000 loan. That boosted Grayson’s total fundraising to just over $1 million – but it did not actually add any money to his coffers. Grayson had raised just over $1 million in the first three months of the year and spent slightly more than $800,000, leaving him with $430,000 on hand. But a quarter of his spending went toward paying back that earlier loan. Other candidates in the past have used a series of recycling loans to artificially boost their fundraising and cash on hand numbers. Grayson’s primary opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, raised $2 million and had $5.6 million on hand.

GRAYSON, PATRICK MURPHY ACCUSE EACH OTHER OF LYING via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – Murphy is hitting Grayson again at his most sensitive point – Grayson’s hedge fund – as Grayson hit back on questions about Murphy’s Gulf cleanup experience and the embellishment of his academic credentials … Murphy’s campaign highlighted several details in the report to allege that Grayson lied about receiving a management fee for running the fund … In an interview with office manager Carla Coleman, Coleman states that Grayson asked to be paid $4,079 in management fees plus $200,000 in an incentive fee allocation. That was transferred from a brokerage account to the fund, “and then Alan would take his money from there.” Grayson also said that the last investors cashed out “dollar for dollar” and Grayson and his family are the only remaining investors. Grayson called Murphy’s campaign “farcical” and said “all they have is ‘let’s tear down Alan Grayson.'” In a separate statement … Grayson’s campaign highlighted Murphy’s admission that he earned one bachelor’s degree, not two – the Murphy campaign said it was unintentional – and a report in the Tampa Bay Times that questions Murphy’s role in the Gulf coast cleanup after the BP oil spill.

U.S. SENATE TRACKER: Carlos Beruff will be in Miami. Carlos Lopez-Cantera will be in Miami-Dade County. Todd Wilcox will be in Orlando and Tampa.

GROUPS MOUNT PARALLEL EFFORTS ON ENERGY AMENDMENT via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO  Early last month, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Rep. Lori Berman said they were launching a campaign in support of Amendment 4. They are involved with Florida for Solar Inc. Two weeks later, Floridians 4 Lower Energy Costs quietly was incorporated with the state — in support of the amendment — by Tory Perfetti of Tampa. Perfetti is chairman of a political committee that backed a failed constitutional amendment on solar energy in 2015. Brandes said Wednesday his group is focused on the overall coordination of efforts and raising money for advertising for the amendment. Perfetti said his new group is focused on “grassroots” efforts to organize supporters. “Our only goal is to pass Amendment 4,” Brandes said of the combined efforts. “Where we agree, we will work together. And where we disagree — we don’t just talk about it.”

KEN SUKHIA RECEIVES ENOUGH SIGNATURES TO QUALIFY IN CD 2 via Jenna Buzzacco of Florida Politics – Sukhia announced Tuesday he had received enough signatures to qualify for the Congressional District 2 race. Sukhia thanked his supporters for their help to gather the signatures. “I was the last person to enter this race and I’m proud that it took our team just weeks to accomplish what other candidates needed months to do,” he said Wednesday. “As I meet with voters across the Second District, one thing is certain — they want to send someone to Washington who has a proven record of fighting for conservative issues.”


MATT CALDWELL PASSES ON CD 19 RUN via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Caldwell believes he can best serve Florida from a position in the Florida House. “As I told many this weekend, my overwhelming desire is to have a Congressperson that was competent on the issues and committed to serving our community. For me, two issues stand out about above all others for this office: the Everglades and term limits,” Caldwell said. “Considering the candidates in the race today, I believe the citizens of Southwest Florida already have a choice of at least one candidate that understands and supports these positions.” So far, Sanibel Island Republican Chauncey Goss and Naples Republican Francis Rooney have announced congressional bids.

— “Orange County teachers’ union endorses Rick roach in SD 13 race” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

HAPPENING TODAY: State Rep. Jake Raburn is holding a re-election fundraiser for House District 57. Event begins 4 p.m. at the Governors Club Library, 20 2 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

HAPPENING TONIGHT: State Rep. Ross Spano is holding a fundraiser for his House District 59 re-election campaign. Event begins 6 p.m. at the home of Ron and Stephanie Pierce, 810 Centerbrook Dr. in Brandon.

PLANNING FOR THE BIG ONE: ELECTION EXPERTS GATHER IN CLEARWATER via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – County supervisors of elections are meeting at a beachfront hotel in Clearwater, discussing how to improve voter outreach, adapt to better technology and reduce the potential for political mischief. One of the first panel discussions was entitled “Long lines, long ballots and long hours — a presidential year.” The Clearwater conference follows Florida’s record turnout in the March 15 presidential preference primary, which has prompted state officials to predict that statewide in November could exceed 80 percent in a year when congressional and state Senate districts have been redrawn. Secretary of State Ken Detzner will soon roll out a voter education toolkit that will ramp up the use of social media to connect with voters. The unprecedented chaos that followed the 2000 presidential election in Florida has taught supervisors to be on alert in anticipation of what could go haywire. In a presentation to supervisors, Maria Matthews, director of the state Division of Elections, described one “unusual” aspect of this year’s election. It’s a proposed constitutional amendment by the Legislature, dealing with a solar energy tax break, that will appear on the Aug. 30 primary as Amendment No. 4. (The other lower-numbered amendments will all appear on the November ballot). “It may create some confusion for your voters,” Matthews said. “You’re going to have to expect that one.”

CANDIDATE DALE GLADING TO TRANSGENDER WOMEN: “GET THE HECK OUT OF THE LADIES ROOM!” via Isadora Rangel of TCPalm – “Hey buddy, get the heck out of the ladies room!” reads the subject line of an email Vero Beach state House candidate Glading‘s campaign sent to voters earlier this month … The ordained Baptist minister and self-proclaimed underdog has made social issues a platform in his bid for state Rep. Debbie Mayfield‘s open seat. He’s proposed banning abortions after 18 days of conception and urged his opponents to sign a pledge against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Glading’s topic du jour is the Obama administration’s guidelines issued this month directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their gender identity. “Folks, we are morally decaying from within,” reads another Glading campaign email on the issue. Glading has an uphill battle ahead of him. He faces three fellow Republicans in District 54, which covers all of Indian River and a small part of northern St. Lucie counties.

“G-FUNK” RUNNING FOR BROWARD COUNTY COMMISSION via Red Broward – Gervan Moise wants to be the Democrat candidate for the Broward County Commission District seat currently occupied by Dale HolnessOn Tuesday, the Haitian-born actor/singer announced his campaign on his Facebook. Moise, who goes by several nicknames including “G-funk” and “G-Money,” said he wants to make a difference. Moise wrote, “When you want to make a difference in your community. So you run for office. I am a Broward County Commissioner candidate. Took me a while but I got my name in the hat. It’s Time to make a change.” Sounds great, but just one problem: Moise doesn’t live in District 9. In his campaign paperwork filed with the Broward Supervisor of Elections office, Moise claims to be living in Sunrise.

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RICK SCOTT SILENT ON OTHER SURGEON GENERAL APPLICANTS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott announced interim state surgeon general Dr. Celeste Philip would take on the job full-time, but he and his office won’t say whether they sought other applications for the job. Asked whether he considered other candidates, Scott did not directly answer the question in a conversation with reporters … “Dr. Phillips has done a great job at the Department of Health, and she did a great job there while John Armstrong was there,” Scott said. “And so I appointed her the interim when John left, and she’s done a great job.” Scott can hire anyone who meets basic requirements — like being a medical doctor with public health experience — as surgeon general and secretary of DOH, and there is no public component of the hiring process. The Senate has final confirmation authority and must act on Philip’s appointment by the end of the 2018 Legislative Session.

AARON BEAN TO TRY AGAIN WITH “COLD CASE” LEGISLATION via Melissa Ross of Florida Politics – Duval County alone has more than 1,200 unsolved murders dating back to 1970. Jacksonville resident Ryan Blackman, who lost his father to an unknown killer, has set up an online database in an effort to make sure these many forgotten victims find justice. And Blackman’s Project Cold Case has an ally in State Sen. Bean. “We’ve got to give families hope,” said Bean, who co-sponsored a bill last year aimed at helping to solve cold case murders in Florida … Scott vetoed $50,000 that would have created a Florida cold case task force. The vetoed proposal was based on a similar effort Colorado enacted in 2007. Look for Bean to try again to reintroduce the legislation.

HOTELS GROUP SAYS AIRBNB REAPING MILLIONS IN ILLEGAL SOUTH FLORIDA REVENUE via Ryan Ray of Florida Politics – The American Hotel and Lodging Association says Airbnb “landlords” raked in some $76 million on gray or black market transactions last year in Miami alone … In one South Beach ZIP code, the AHLA reported, some 1,427 Airbnb listings were recorded between October 2014 and September 2015, a substantial number of those by “full-time operators” who list their properties more than half the year. The group’s concern … was not the homeowner who occasionally rents out their homes to gain extra income, but the de facto landlords who operate multiple units as unregulated hotels. A spokesman for Airbnb, however, took issue with the new findings. This factually inaccurate study, which was paid for by the hotel industry, is the latest example of the industry’s attempt to mislead and manipulate to stifle competition,” said Christopher McNulty. “The AHLA is out of touch with the increasing number of consumers and cities embracing the tremendous benefits of home sharing. Vacation rentals have always been a driving force in Miami tourism and now home sharing is broadening that impact and bringing visitors’ dollars to new neighborhoods and small businesses.”

FLORIDA INSURERS REQUEST RATE HIKES UNDER FEDERAL HEALTH LAW via Kelli Kennedy of The Associated Press – Nearly a dozen health insurers are proposing rate increases averaging 13 percent for 2017 Florida plans sold on the exchanges created under President Barack Obama‘s health care law … but that won’t necessarily mean big consumer price hikes. State insurance officials, meanwhile, estimated the average increase at closer to 18 percent, but neither state nor federal officials would say how they arrived at their figures other than to say they were both weighted. The largest increase is a whopping 44 percent requested by one Humana plan. Aetna wants a 29 percent increase for a plan, with AvMed requesting 26 percent and Coventry seeking 17 percent. Florida Health Care Plan requested modest increases for many of its products with most around only 2 percent, according to data released by federal health officials … However, those figures only apply to specific plans in certain regions. Some may have only have 50 enrollees and are not representative of what consumers will actually pay.

INDEPENDENT REVIEWER WARNS OF ‘POTENTIALLY ILLEGAL CONDUCT’ AT BROWARD HEALTH via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Broward Health, the beleaguered hospital district that settled federal health care fraud allegations last year and is currently under investigation by the state inspector general, was put on notice earlier this month that “potentially illegal conduct” continues to permeate the health care system. In a May 10 letter, J. Scott Newton, an attorney who was retained to conduct an independent review, alleged Broward Health Chief Compliance Officer Donna Lewis has refused to release requested documents that are needed for the review. In a six-page letter to Broward Health Interim Chief Executive Officer Pauline Grant and Rocky Rodriguez, chairman of the board of commissioners that has oversight over the health system, Newton wrote that “the individual misconduct would seemingly defy logic” for a system which less than a year ago reached a significant settlement. “Simply stated, the highest standards of compliance and ethical conduct should be expected by [Broward Health], particularly because it is a public institution playing such an important role in the community,” wrote Newton, a former Federal Bureau of Investigations special agent, federal prosecutor who is now an attorney at Baker, Donelson, Bearman Valdwell & Berkowitz in Jackson, Mississippi.

PAUL HAWKES JOINS BUCHANAN INGERSOLL ROONEY’S LOBBYING TEAM via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Hawkes begins immediately, according to John “Mac” Stipanovich, head of the firm’s state government relations team. “Paul is an outstanding addition,” Stipanovich said. “We had been pursuing him for some time. No one in Tallahassee is smarter or more experienced in every form of government relations.” Hawkes, 58, has been a prosecutor, a GOP legislator for Citrus County, and a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and two Republican House speakers, Dan Webster and Tom Feeney. He’s also a close friend of House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, the Land O’ Lakes Republican who takes the reins at the end of this year.

KEN PRUITT MOONLIGHTED AS LOBBYIST FOR INDIAN RIVER COUNTY via George Andreassi of TCPalm – Pruitt is the region’s only constitutional officer with a lucrative private-sector job, much less two: He co-owns a lobbyist firm and a real estate investment firm. As property appraiser, his salary was half his combined income from those two jobs, but the elected position boosted his annual state pension by nearly 400 percent — for life. Not only does the job give him inside knowledge that could benefit his real estate investment firm, he also lobbies for Florida Crystals, a sugar producer some of his constituents see as an obstacle to stopping Lake Okeechobee discharges that pollute the Indian River Lagoon. When Pruitt filed for re-election in April, the newspaper began this investigation, which uncovered another conflict of interest. Pruitt dropped his re-election bid.


Billy Adams: Southern Equipment Dealers Association

Travis BlantonJon JohnsonDarrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Disability Examiners of America

Jean Bernard Chery: Law Office of J. Bernard Chery

Brian CherryTanya Jackson, Adams St. Advocates: EndGame Strategy; Florida Public Guardian Coalition,

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: Accenture LLP

Jason Lazarus, Holland & Knight: Helena Chemical Company

Douglas Manson, Manson Bolves Donaldson Varn: Plants of Ruskin

Lisa Miller, Lisa Miller & Associates: Adjusters International

STATE DROPS CHARGES AGAINST ‘CAPITOL PITBULL DUDE’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Prosecutors have dismissed the criminal case against the man known as “Capitol Pitbull Dude” … charges of trespassing and resisting an officer, both misdemeanors, were dropped last week against 35-year-old Antonio Ringo Davis. Davis first became known as “Capitol Pitbull Dude” and “Capitol Bulldog Guy” after he and his dog were escorted out of a Senate committee hearing this past session … Davis was first diverted to Veterans Court, a special tribunal for military veterans that offers “substance abuse, mental health and holistic well-being” services. His service information wasn’t disclosed. But he was sent back to regular criminal court after telling court officials he “did not wish to receive (any) services.” Davis caused a scene at the Senate Government Oversight and Accountability Committee Feb. 16. Lawmakers were considering a proposal by Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner that would have bumped up lawmakers’ annual salaries from $29,600 to $50,000. Amateur smartphone video captured him — and his dog, which appears to be a pit bull — shouting about how Florida nonprofits had ruined his life.

FLORIDA NEEDS A LIONFISH KING OR QUEEN – IT COULD BE YOU via Joanna Klein of The New York Times – Ladies and gentlemen, behold an opportunity to become maritime royalty. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is hosting the Lionfish Challenge, a statewide hunting competition intended to encourage divers to capture, kill and eat the beguiling beauties, which have been invading western Atlantic waters and gobbling up native species for at least two decades. The title of Lionfish King or Queen goes to whoever captures the most lionfish by Sept. 30. Anyone can enter, as long as the fish are captured off Florida’s shores. During the first weekend, participants brought in more than 14,000 of the eye-catching but unwelcome fish — about five times as many as during the same weekend last year, according to the organizers. Participants may do as they wish with the captured fish.

FLORIDA SIXTH-GRADER WINS NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BEE via The Associated Press – Twelve-year-old Rishi Nair of Seffner … won the top honors Wednesday at the 28th annual Bee in Washington. Nair clinched the win by correctly answering “Galapagos Islands” to the question: “A new marine sanctuary will protect sharks and other wildlife around Isla Wolf in which archipelago in the Pacific Ocean?” Nair gets a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society.

REPORT: MAGIC KINGDOM WORLD’S TOP THEME PARK, DRAWING 20 MILLION via the Associated Press – Disney World’s Magic Kingdom continues to be the top amusement park draw in the world with 20.5 million visitors in 2015, according to a report released Wednesday. Disneyland in Anaheim, California, was No. 2 with an estimated 18.3 million visitors, followed by Tokyo Disneyland, which had an estimated 16 million, according to a report from AECOM and the Themed Entertainment Association. Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld all saw a jump in attendance in 2015 over the previous year, according to the report. Epcot was sixth in the world in attendance with 11.8 million, a 5 percent increase from 2014. Disney’s Animal Kingdom drew 10.8 million, also a 5 percent increase, and Universal Orlando saw the biggest increase, with a 16 percent jump to 9.9 million visitors.

SOUTH FLORIDA GETS THE SUPER BOWL BACK AND LOOK AT HOW IT HAPPENED via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – “Super” news … NFL owners voted in spring meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina to return the Super Bowl to South Florida. The 2020 biggest game of the professional football year has been awarded to the Miami Dolphins’ stadium … Now I’d like you to celebrate the occasion with a thought … With a reminder of the ironic twist this story has taken. It certainly knocked my socks off. Remember the night of Sine Die 2013? Remember when Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, in a fit of temper, issued a vicious statement because he didn’t get his stadium funding approved? It was all House Speaker Will Weatherford’s fault, if you’ll recall. Championship football in South Florida was doomed. Doooomed. Untold millions in February tourism dollars were about to be lost. So, what was predicted as doom and disaster in 2013 is now triumph and celebration, am I right, Mr. Ross? You stepped up to the plate (pardon the cockeyed sports metaphor) and paid for the $450 million in upgrades. As you could have done all along. Good for you, sir. Now you’re a real owner. But the story does have this ironic twist. Which is the thought I want to leave you with: By any estimation, it’s Will Weatherford who is Our Hero. That’s right. Weatherford saved more than his face three years ago. Turns out he saved Florida taxpayers $450 million.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of, if not THE brightest minds in Florida politics, Marian Johnson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Also celebrating today is U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent and our friends Mike Fischer, Dan Krassner, and Jason Wilson.

At summit, Rick Scott urges on Florida colleges, universities to help students graduate sooner

Gov. Rick Scott some suggestions to make sure college students graduate in four years.

Remove additional fees for online classes. Allow Bright Future scholarships to be used for summer classes. Make sure students get credit for college-level courses taken in high schools.

The Naples Republican laid out his proposal at is Degrees to Jobs Summit at the Loew’s Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando. The two-day summit ­­– which was sponsored by several organizations, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, The Florida College System Foundation and Universal Orlando —  has been billed as an opportunity to connect businesses and higher education leaders.

On Wednesday, attendees heard from Cissy Proctor, head of the Department of Economic Opportunity; Senate President Andy Gardiner, and panelists who discussed a wide-range of topics, including how to keep higher education affordable.

“Help us figure out how to make (higher education) more efficient, more effective and less expensive,” said Scott.

For Scott, that means encouraging Florida students to graduate in four years. According to the governor’s office, 44 percent of undergraduate students at state universities graduate within four years; while 71 percent of students are graduating with a four-year degree in six years.

“My goal is that this is the state people want to live because they can get a good job and can get a great education,” said Scott. “I put a challenge out … to figure out how do we get our students out with a four-year degree in four years.”

Scott said he’s hoping to see that number decrease. To do that, he said the colleges and universities should remove all additional fees for online classes and tell incoming freshman how much money they’ll save if they graduate in four years.

Scott said he plans to urge the Florida Legislature to expand the Bright Futures scholarship to cover summer classes. That would give students more flexibility when it comes to scheduling classes. He also said the state needs to make sure students are getting credit for college level coursework — like Advanced Placement classes — when they go to college; and make it easier for students to get credit for internships.

“When I was in school, I went to a four-year college,” said Tom Grady, a former state representative and a State Board of Education member. “Four years was the benchmark, and I think it should be again.”

But colleges and universities also need to take steps to make higher education more affordable, said Scott and others who spoke during the event. All 28 of the state’s colleges offer a $10,000, four-year degree, and several state universities are taking steps to make sure students get the most bang for their buck.

Take, for example, Florida Gulf Coast University. The university announced in February that first-year students who declare a major and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years will have the change to get repaid all out-of-pocket tuition costs from their freshman year. Dudley Goodlette, chairman of the FGCU board of trustees and a former state representative, said the money graduates receive back will be paid with no public dollars.

In a statement Wednesday, Senate President Designate Joe Negron said he looked forward to working with the governor “on policy and funding enhancements that will help achieve our common goal of making Florida’s good universities great.”

Negron, who has made improving public universities a top priority during his presidency, toured the state’s 12 public universities last month. He said one of the most common things he heard were concerns over debt after graduation.

“We want to take steps to reduce the impact these financial insecurities have on their ability to graduate in four years,” he said. “We also want to increase opportunities for students who work throughout college to gain real world experience in their field of study that will improve their job prospects following graduation.”

Scott, who is in his final term as governor, said he plans to spend the next two years working to make sure Florida’s students can get a good education, and find a good job in the Sunshine State.

“I’m excited about what’s going to happen in the next two years and seven months,” he said. “We have every opportunity to continue the progress we’ve made and even get more done.”

Paul Hawkes joins Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney’s lobbying team

Lobbyist and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes has joined the Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney firm in Tallahassee.

Hawkes inked an agreement Wednesday and begins immediately, according to John “Mac” Stipanovich, head of the firm’s state government relations team.

“Paul is an outstanding addition,” Stipanovich said. “We had been pursuing him for some time. No one in Tallahassee is smarter or more experienced in every form of government relations.”

Hawkes, 58, has been a prosecutor, a GOP legislator for Citrus County, and a top aide to former Gov. Jeb Bush and two Republican House speakers, Dan Webster and Tom Feeney.

He’s also a close friend of House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, the Land O’ Lakes Republican who takes the reins at the end of this year.

Most recently, he was registered to lobby for a range of interests, including Duke Energy, the Florida Conference of District Court of Appeal Judges, the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Public Defender Association, and the Florida State University Foundation.

He also represented The Stronach Group, which operates South Florida’s Gulfstream Park. Stipanovich said he will continue to represent all those clients.

Online records show Hawkes reported his January-March 2016 compensation in the range of $100,000-$249,999. State law requires lobbyists to report revenue, but only requires them to do so in general ranges, not in precise amounts.

“He is an outstanding attorney, has quality relationships in both chambers of the Legislature and has fine taste in courthouses,” Stipanovich added.

Hawkes, as chief judge of the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal, had overseen the design and funding of a new $48 million home for the court that became the poster building for pre-Great Recession excess.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan doggedly began covering the courthouse saga in 2010, resulting in the edifice’s nickname, the “Taj Mahal.”

Hawkes left the bench in January 2012 amid controversy surrounding his role in securing funding for the project.

In an interview with INFLUENCE Magazine last year, Hawkes said the courthouse “doesn’t define what I do know. I would hopefully still be doing what I am right now … It’s state of the art but it’s not extravagant.”

Michael Putney, you do know there aren’t run-off elections in Florida any more, right?

Michael Putney s the dean of South Florida political analysts.

Every Sunday on WPLG Channel 10 in MiamiPutney co-hosts “The Week in South Florida,” an hourlong program that is must-viewing for anyone interested in public affairs.

At 74, Putney is at the top of the game. The son of a minister, he holds his guests accountable.

The preceding three sentences come from our INFLUENCE Magazine, where we named Putney one of the 100 most influential people in Florida politics.

It’s because Putney is so influential and knowledgeable that we don’t enjoy pointing out where “the strong man stumbled.” However, in his most recent column, Putney makes a glaring error that has to be called out.

In an otherwise excellent profile of Todd Wilcox and the Republican primary for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, Putney writes that Carlos “Lopez-Cantera is relying on his Miami-Dade roots to make it into a run-off in a crowded GOP field.”

Um, I’m sorry Mr. Putney, but there has not been a run-off since 2002. In 2006, the Republican-led Florida Legislature made permanent the temporary ban on run-offs that began in 2002.

It’s not clear from Putney’s article whether he had a brain fart or if someone in CLC’s sphere is telling him that the LG thinks there is the possibility of a run-off election. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the latter is the case?

We won’t beat this horse to death. After all, Michael Putney is still one of the best in business.

AIF announces “Champions for Business”

Associated Industries of Florida’s, the state’s premier lobbying group, has announced the latest awardees of its “Champions for Business.”

The group gives the awards every year to state lawmakers “whose extraordinary efforts provide model leadership on key legislation for the success of Florida’s business community,” according to a news release.

On this year’s list are:

Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and four-time award recipient, for championing business incentives that ultimately stalled in the House;

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and five-time award winner, for her role in this year’s tax cuts;

Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who won his second award, for “defending the state’s water resources”;

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican and three-time winner, for preserving tort reform measures this past session;

Sen. Garrett Richter, a Naples Republican and six-time winner, for carrying ‘fracking’ legislation “aimed at growing Florida’s onshore energy industry while providing safeguards for the environment”;

Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican and three-time winner, for “successfully sponsoring an Economic Development package”;

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and three-time winner, who fought for Gov. Scott’s 2016 tax cut package;

Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Lehigh Acres Republican and four-time winner, for “exhibiting significant leadership in sponsoring environmental resources legislation”;

Rep. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican and twice award-winner, who “took the lead in sponsoring Information Technology legislation that will bring the state’s cyber security measures up to date”; and

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, a Fort Myers Republican receiving his second award, this year for his companion bill to Richter’s ‘fracking’ legislation.

“At AIF, we proudly honor those elected officials who defend Florida’s competitive climate and continually strive to keep the Sunshine State a place where businesses and families can prosper,” said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney in a statement.