Peter Schorsch - SaintPetersBlog

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 SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, 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.

Ted Deutch, rising star in national Democratic politics

Yesterday morning, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined South Florida Congressman Ted Deutch for a public event at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors.

That appearance was followed by a major Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at a private home in Fort Lauderdale; at $5,000 a ticket, raised an astonishing $300,000.

All the money Deutch raised will go toward the Democratic efforts to win back the House of Representatives.

Because of the difficult 2018 Senate map for Democrats, most political experts see a Democratic takeover of the House as the Party’s best opportunity in the midterm elections.

A Democratic sweep in the House could open many potential doors for ambitious members of Congress who can raise money, sell their message on television, and support tight relations with the top echelons of Democratic leadership, including Pelosi.

It is no accident Pelosi chose to travel to the heart of Deutch’s district to champion federal legislation supporting equal rights for gay and lesbians. Deutch was one of 194 cosponsors of The Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community.

At the beginning of the new Congress, Pelosi also named Deutch as the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. It is an important assignment, especially since the committee has undertaken the investigation into Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes for allegedly disclosing classified information.

Earlier this month, Deutch sponsored The Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act, which would require nominees to disclose whether they have solicited or contributed funds for political purposes to 527 political action committees, or tax-exempt groups formed under sections 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6) of the tax code.

Alongside his new Ethics perch, Deutch has been noticeably popping up on the national political shows including MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CNN’s New Day and Wolf Blitzer, among others.

Historically, midterm elections have a way of whiplashing back on the Party in control.

Deutch knows that Democrats could very well rule the House in two years, and as most of the existing Democratic House leadership are all in their late 70s, Deutch is making moves that appear to show he is prepared to take his career to the next level.

Memorial Day Weekend brought to you by these lobbyists and associations

Summertime is here — well, almost.

While Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces, the holiday also marks the unofficial start to summer. And for many people, that means it’s time to start thinking about summer vacation.

More than 39.9 million Americans are expected to travel more than 50 miles away from home this Memorial Day, making one of the highest volume of travel since 2005, according to AAA – The Auto Club Group. A record number of Floridians are also expected to travel this weekend, with more than 2 million expected to take to the road, sky and water for a weekend getaway.

Planning a last-minute getaway? Maybe AAA’s in-house government affairs team of Kevin Bakewell and Karen Morgan can help you get a TripTik to help plan your trip and make sure your membership is up-to-date before you hit the road this weekend.

But AAA is about more than just roadside assistance. It has a huge advocacy program, reaching out to lawmakers to make sure the roads are safe for travelers. In Florida, that means enlisting the help of Chris Dudley, Paul Mitchell, and Monte Stevens with Southern Strategy Group; and Jennifer Wilson with Adams and Reese.

If air travel is more your thing, you aren’t alone. More than 2.9 million Americans are expected to travel by air this weekend, up 5.5 percent from last Memorial Day, according to a recent AAA report.

With millions of people flying into (and out of) the Sunshine State on a regular basis, Airline for America, the trade organization representing the principle U.S. airlines, has tapped Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Leslie Dughi and Fred Karlinsky with Greenberg Traurig to represent its interests before the Florida Legislature.

Once you get to your destination, you’ll need a place to stay. With hotels across the state, chances are there’s a Marriott brand wherever you’re headed this weekend. If you want some tips about where to stay, you might want to check with the company’s legislative lobby team of Slater Bayliss, Al Cardenas and Stephen Shiver with The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners; and Pete Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Brittany Finkbeiner, and Cari Roth with Dean Mead.

If you’re looking for a place with a homier feel, then perhaps a vacation rental is more your style. State lawmakers tried to deregulate vacation rentals this year, but couldn’t get the measure across the finish line. Need some help finding a vacation rental this summer? Tom Martinelli and Viviana Jordan with Airbnb might be able to offer you some advice. When Martinelli and Jordan need a hand, they turn to Brian Bautista with Impact GR; and William Rubin, Amy Biscgelia, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, and Heather Turnbull with The Rubin Group.

Vacationers can also head to HomeAway to the perfect rental for a weekend trip. If you’re looking for booking tips, maybe the company’s legislative lobby team of Jennifer Green, Melanie Bostick and Timothy Parson with Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, and Ron Pierce and Natalie King with RSA Consulting can offer up some suggestions.

If you want to spend the long weekend planning a getaway where everything is taken care of, then maybe cruising is for you. According to a recent report from the Florida Ports Council, Florida is home to the top three cruise ports in the world, with 62 percent of all U.S. cruisers sailing through a Florida port. The report found Florida seaports handled 15.5 million passengers in 2016.

Since the industry has such a big economic impact on the Sunshine State, it’s no wonder Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, tapped Brian Ballard, Carol Bracy, David Browning, Bradley Burleson, Nelson Diaz, Matthew Forrest, and Sylvester Lukis with Ballard Partners; and Edgar Castro with Southern Strategy Group to represent it during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Whatever you do this weekend, take a moment to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. Originally called “Decoration Day,” the holiday was borne out of the Civil War and the desire to honor those people who died in service of the United States.

New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873. It was officially dubbed Memorial Day under a federal law passed in 1967, and was moved to last Monday in May in 1971.

While the holiday commemorates those who have died in service to the country, it’s still fair to give a shout out to Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion? Bill Helmich with Helmich Consulting represents the Florida departments of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

With Frank White out of Speaker’s race is Northeast Florida ready to rally to one of its own?

After Florida Politics’ most recent report about the mostly behind-the-scenes scrum within the Florida House GOP freshman class to determine which of its members will one day be Speaker, the conclusion was that for either Jamie Grant or Frank White to win, one of them would have to quickly drop out of the race.

No much sooner then when this was written did rumors begin to circulate that White was contemplating exiting the race. And after considerable lobbying from Rep. Jayer Williamson, at least that’s what we hear, White, in fact, quit the race.

“I talked to some other members, and it just wasn’t the right time,” White, of Pensacola, told Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

With White out of the way and he and Williamson lining up behind Tampa’s James Grant, the race has returned to its original state: Jacksonville’s Paul Renner on one side, Grant and a large band of anti-Renner votes on the other, with Randy Fine in a kingmaker/spoiler role (or, perhaps, a consensus candidate if Grant and Renner can’t win outright.)

The tempo of the race is now quickening.

White’s dropping out read like the firing of a wicked return volley after Sarasota’s Joe Gruters announced earlier in the day that he would vote for Renner.

With Grant probably back in the lead, pressure is now on Renner to lock down his northeast Florida base. The region — Jacksonville in particular — believes it deserves a turn at leadership. And it’s time for the other Jacksonville/northeast Florida House members to get in line.

That was the message Thursday evening at a major fundraiser for Renner’s political committee, the Florida Foundation for Liberty, delivered by boss of bosses, Lenny Curry.

Curry and the rest of the Jacksonville political establishment is “all in” for Renner, according to a consultant who works for multiple candidates in the region.

Along with Curry, Ambassador John Rood and John Peyton spoke before a crowd of more than 250 about the need for northeast Florida representatives to rally behind a northeast Florida Speaker candidate.

The question now is: Was the message delivered?

In the crowd last night were Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, and Cyndi Stevenson. If Renner is to win, he needs at least two of the three of them to vote his way.

Byrd is still likely with Grant.

Fischer and Stevenson are still undecided, but considerable pressure will probably be brought to bear to have them vote for Renner.

But even with those votes, the race is fluctuating like my cholesterol level.

Grant’s camp is as confident as ever, thinking that White yielding to Grant is the final, decisive turn.

Which leaves the scrappy Randy Fine. Along with Byron Donalds and, perhaps, Erin Grall, Fine is the what’s standing between a two-horse showdown. Fine, ever the tactician, believes there are votes there for him if Grant or Renner can’t win a quick majority.

But is it time for Fine to pay the role of kingmaker? Does he deliver his vote and, again perhaps, a couple of other independent votes, to Grant and Fine in exchange for a committee chairmanship to be named later?

Stay tuned.

Democrats have opportunity-in-crisis with Rick Scott education bill veto possibility

Winston Churchill once said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Democrats are starting to formulate a strategy for Bill Nelson’s upcoming Senate re-election effort — more likely than not facing Gov. Rick Scott.

Not one to waste a good opportunity, Nelson’s nascent campaign could receive a significant boost by way of a veto of the sweeping education bill assembled by lawmakers in the 2017 Legislative Session’s final hours.

The proposal (HB 7069) – a leading priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran – has been panned by educators, parents and labor unions, all calling for Scott to wield his veto pen.

Opponents decry both the bill and state budget, primarily for adding ‘just’ $24 in average per-student spending while moving $140 million to charter schools, described optimistically as “Schools of Hope.”

However, tucked away in the PreK-12 Conforming Bill is a political “poison pill” in the case of a veto; rewards for teacher performance, as much as $233 million in bonuses.

Teachers considered “Best and Brightest” could receive $6,000, those “highly effective” will get $1,200, and those considered “effective” could see a bonus of up to $800, based on available funds.

Scott, still stinging from the rebuke by lawmakers who severely cut his favored VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida, could use his veto power to retaliate against projects near and dear to Speaker Corcoran.

Corcoran rallied throughout Session against the state’s business and tourism incentive programs, calling them “corporate welfare.”

Vetoing the reduced spending for VISIT and Enterprise Florida would be of little help since both programs would remain underfunded. Corcoran would not be unhappy if either one disappeared.

But a veto of HB 7069 would certainly do the trick, though not without a hefty political price.

Scott’s veto of teacher bonuses could hand Democrats an effective talking point for 2018. Just imagine the headlines: “Rick Scott denies bonuses for public school teachers.”

Such a move would certainly play well for Nelson and Democrats in attack mailers, TV ads and the like – each designed to inflict maximum political damage for Scott’s statewide campaign, should he choose to run.

Of course, this presents Scott with a classic Catch-22 scenario: damned if he vetoes, damned if he doesn’t.

So, as the deadline approaches, what remains is political calculus – finding the best way to mitigate any damage ahead of an all-but-certain Senate run.

And at least one option has a solid upside; it gives money to teachers, which is far from a bad thing.

Why is Bill Nelson still silent on outrageous comments by Sally Boynton Brown?

Much has changed during Bill Nelson’s tenure as an elected official.

As National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Katie Martin observes in a recent email, campaigns are nearly unrecognizable today compared to 1972 when Nelson first arrived in the Florida Legislature.

Since then, Martin says America has seen nine presidential administrations, the first woman in space, and the rise (and fall) of Britney Spears in her journey from pop superstar to a breakdown, recovery, and re-emergence as a Las Vegas lounge act.

In other words: Nelson has been around a long, long time.

While political campaigns have certainly changed, one important thing has not — calling out someone when they are wrong.

With that, Martin tries to understand Bill Nelson’s silence on controversial comments made by Sally Boynton Brown the Florida Democratic Party’s new executive director.

As reported by the Miami New Times, Boynton Brown said that in the time and place Democrats are in now, it is “very hard” to get low-income voters excited about “issues” such as single-payer health care; the problem is these very same people are “not voting.”

The New Times also notes: “[Boynton Brown] said that taking money from large corporations … could somehow be a good thing … and that the ‘relationship’ created when gigantic corporations give thousands of dollars to political candidates can somehow make it easier for politicians to push back against corporations when they are ‘raping our country.’”

That leads Martin to ask: Why has Nelson, only statewide Democratic officeholder, not yet weighed in?

Good question.

Joe Gruters makes his pick for House Speaker

Rep. Joe Gruters is backing Rep. Paul Renner to be  House Speaker in 2022-24.

The Sarasota Republican said while he thinks everyone in the running for the position would do a great job, he felt Renner is the best person at this time. Gruters said he’s decided to make his position known because he didn’t want to give anyone false expectations or lead any candidates on.

“Like all my votes in the Legislature, I am committing to the person who I think is the best to lead our class,” he said in a message.

Freshmen House Republicans are scheduled to meet on June 30 to select their class leader and, assuming the GOP maintains its control of the Florida House in the next decade, the likely House Speaker for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

Last weekend, a majority of GOP freshmen met at the Vose Law Firm in Winter Park. The meeting gave members a chance to hear from four likely candidates — Renner, Byron Donalds, Randy Fine, and Jamie Grant — ahead of the vote.

Gruters’ backing could be a sign of good things to come for Renner, a Palm Coast Republican first elected to the Florida House in a 2015 special election.

Gruters, the longtime chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, was an early supporter of Gov. Rick Scott, a little known Republican candidate for Governor back in 2010. He organized one of Scott’s first rallies in Sarasota, offering up free pie to attendees. Held near a retirement community, the rally attracted about 300 people.

His loyalty to the Governor has continued over the years. In March, Gruters was one of 28 House members who voted against a bill (HB 7005) that would have totally eliminated Enterprise Florida. He also voted against a measure (HB 9) to, among other things, slash funding for Visit Florida. Both bills were sponsored by Renner, and neither cleared the Senate.

Gruters was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump. He was the co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign in Florida, convinced Trump to put his Florida primary headquarters in Sarasota, and helped build a network of loyalists in all 67 counties. He was one of his staunchest supporters throughout the campaign, often acting as a surrogate.

Gruters, a certified public accountant by trade, has been mentioned as possible contender to replace CFO Jeff Atwater, who is leaving his post to take a job at Florida Atlantic University. He has also been mentioned as one of several Floridians who could be tapped for an ambassadorship or a position within the Trump administration.

Sunburn for 5.25.17 – Remembrance

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

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

A programming note: Sunburn is taking a holiday Friday, Memorial Day, and next Tuesday. Barring a call for a special session, Sunburn will return Wednesday.

By then, we will be in Paris. Accordingly, I wanted to share with Sunburn readers one story about how some Americans abroad pay tribute to the nation’s fallen soldiers.

In a small town just outside Paris, at the end of every May, a pair of red, white, and blue flags are raised honoring the connection between France and the United States.

Both flags – that of the United States and France – celebrate Memorial Day, a reminder to the citizens of Suresnes (population 50,000) of how America and Americans had stood for its enduring friend and ally, France.

Suresnes is home to the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial –  7.5 acres of sacred space commemorating World War I and II. In the Cemetery are 1,541 graves of World War I service members, as well as two dozen graves of unknown World War II soldiers, including a pair of brothers and a pair of sisters.

Rows of marble headstones are seen in front of the chapel at Suresnes American Cemetery in France.

As the Cemetery overlooks the City of Lights, fallen soldiers serve as silent sentries over Paris.

Every year, the Suresnes Cemetery – not as well-known as its Normandy counterpart – joins the entire town in observing Memorial Day, a holiday not usually celebrated in France.

Organized by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Cemetary, and the city of Suresnes welcome both American and French visitors, in a tribute that includes local and regional authorities and veterans.

All are there to give praise to the American military service members who afforded a full measure for liberty.

Prayers are followed by speeches celebrating the distinction of American service members, giving gratitude for their service and the lives paid to the French people.

While not an official holiday – French workers do not get that Monday off – many celebrants will visit Sunday to offer remembrance. Yet the juxtaposition of a Memorial Day ceremony, in a cemetery overlooking Paris, highlights the profound bond of blood between two old friends – France and the United States – joined by war and a desire for peace.

Much has been said in both the United States and France about the U.S. military. And while there may be much to disapprove about government policies, often those critics target the same men and women who serve honorably, those who put lives on the line to allow us all the freedom to criticize our government.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE LOBBYISTS AND ASSOCIATIONS —

Summertime is here — well, almost.

While Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces, the holiday also marks the unofficial start to summer. And for many people, that means it’s time to start thinking about summer vacation.

A record number of Floridians are expected to travel this weekend, with more than 2 million expected to take to the road, sky and water for a weekend getaway.

Planning a last-minute getaway? Maybe AAA’s legislative lobbying team of Chris Dudley, Paul Mitchell, and Monte Stevens with Southern Strategy Group; and Jennifer Wilson with Adams and Reese can help you get a TripTik to help plan your trip and make sure your membership is up-to-date before you hit the road this weekend.

With millions of people flying into (and out of) the Sunshine State on a regular basis, Airlines for America, the trade organization representing the principle U.S. airlines, tapped Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Leslie Dughi and Fred Karlinsky with Greenberg Traurig to represent its interests before the Florida Legislature.

Once you get to your destination, you’ll need a place to stay. If you want some tips about where to stay, you might want to check with the Marriott International’s legislative lobby team of Slater Bayliss, Al Cardenas and Stephen Shiver with The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners; and Pete Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Brittany Finkbeiner, and Cari Roth with Dean Mead.

If you’re looking for a place with a homier feel, a vacation rental might be more your style. Brian Bautista with Impact GR; and William Rubin, Amy Biscgelia, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, and Heather Turnbull with The Rubin Group might be able help you find the perfect beach rental at Airbnb. Or you can check in with Jennifer Green, Melanie Bostick and Timothy Parson with Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, and Ron Pierce and Natalie King with RSA Consulting for some tips on how to find a good place using HomeAway.

Want to avoid an encounter with law enforcement while you’re out and about, but don’t want to turn down that cocktail? Aaron Brand, Cesar Fernandez, Kasra Moshkani, Brad Nail, and Stephanie Smith with Uber — or one of the members of the transportation technology company’s team of über lobbyists — might be able to walk you through how to call an Uber at the end of a long night.

Love the water? It’s probably too late to book a cruise for this holiday weekend, but with three of the top cruise ports in the world located in Florida, you’ll surely be able to find a ship setting sail soon.  The Cruise Lines International Association legislative lobby team of Brian Ballard, Bradley Burleson, Carol Bracy, David Browning, Nelson Diaz, and Matthew Forrest, and Sylvester Lukis with Ballard Partners; and Edgar Castro with Southern Strategy Group might be able to give you some suggestions about the best time to set sail.

Whatever you do this weekend, make sure to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. While the holiday commemorates those who have died in service to the country, it’s still fair to give a shout out to Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion? Bill Helmich with Helmich Consulting represents the Florida departments of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“The hangover: Rick Scott vetoes ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ bill” via Florida Politics Saying it could hurt job creation, Scott vetoed a contentious bill that would have removed the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Scott filed his veto letter of the measure (SB 106) on Wednesday night, his deadline to act on the bill. It would have removed the 82-year-old requirement, enacted in Florida after Prohibition, that hard liquor be sold in a separate store. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in the Sunshine State.

Independent liquor store owners and other opponents flooded the Governor’s Office with thousands of emails and petitions against the bill. Scott was careful to explain his position in his veto letter, balancing his concerns over jobs with the desire of big businesses that sorely wanted him to approve the legislation … “I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida,” he wrote. “I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.”

— “We applaud Governor Scott for saving hundreds of Florida small businesses that employ thousands of Floridians, while at the same time keeping safeguards in place for minors,” ABC Fine Wine & Spirits CEO and President Charles Bailes.

— “We have made tremendous progress in the last four years, and there is a clear momentum in Florida for this common-sense approach to liquor sales. While Governor Scott ultimately chose to veto Senate Bill 106, we look forward to working with state leaders in the future to finally put an end to this outdated, Prohibition-era law.” said Michael Williams, a spokesman for the group Floridians for Fair Business Practices, which supported the repeal.

Bill watch – Two more bills were delivered to the governor: HB 457 on “terrorism and terrorist activities,” creating statewide crimes for terrorist acts, and HB 865 for the Department of Transportation. Among other things, it mandates a study of the boundaries of the Department’s seven districts and how much it would cost to create another district for the Fort Myers area. He has until Thursday, June 8 to act on the latest bills. As of midday Wednesday, 72 bills awaited action by the governor.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will sign highlight job growth and sign legislation that will benefit Florida families and businesses at 10:30 a.m. at 3Cinteractive Corp., 750 Park of Commerce Blvd. Ste. 400 in Boca Raton.

Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn’t finish earlier this month. “I think that it’s important for the elected officials to have done their job during the regular session,” he said Tuesday. “Since they didn’t, I think a special session is in order.” … “I think for a constitutional amendment’s implementation, it’s important for the elected officials to do it, not the bureaucrats at the Department of Health,” Putnam said.

Tweet, tweet:

“Amendment 1 lawsuit may rev up after Session” via Florida Politics – A lawsuit over the state’s environmental funding under a new constitutional amendment is expected to resume now that the annual Session is in lawmakers’ rear-view mirror. An array of environmental advocacy groups had filed suit over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change, approved by voters in 2014, mandates state spending for land and water conservation … Advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued the state in 2015, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate. But the legal action had been put on hold earlier this year by Circuit Judge Charles Dodson. He cited a state law that allows litigation to be suspended during a Legislative Session and up to 15 days after the conclusion of one.

Assignment editors – Miami-Dade public schools to host town halls on Legislature’s K-12 spending plan beginning 6 p.m. at Miami Senior High School, 2450 SW 1st Street in Miami, and at 7:30 p.m. at Miami Beach Senior High School, 2231 Prairie Avenue in Miami Beach.

New DEP secretary says there’s no conflict in political side businesses” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state’s top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying groups, many of whom sought to influence the administration’s policy or advance the governor’s political fortunes. Before he joined the governor’s office, Valenstein was director of legislative affairs for the nonprofit Everglades Foundation from August 2011 until December 2012. But while Valenstein was holding each of these policy jobs, his wife was also operating two political consulting and polling companies that Valenstein started: Campaign Facts, LLC and Voter Opinions, LLC. Each catered exclusively to Republican candidates, advocacy groups and political committees. But the week before Valenstein started with the governor’s office … he named his wife, Jennifer Barnhill Valenstein, the registered agent for both firms and removed himself from the corporate paperwork. The companies continued to operate and, between June 2010 and April 2017, they received $942,117 in payments for political consulting, legal and polling work.

Actual press release: “FWC uncovers major alligator violations in long-term covert investigation” via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

— FINEOUT EXPLAINS —

In the latest post on his blog “The Fine Print,” Associated Press reporter-extraordinaire Gary Fineout takes a look at some of issues still lingering in the capital city.

One of the issues Fineout tackles in his post — titled “Out of the House and into a Mansion? … and other Tallahassee bubble news” — is the question of the budget and bills we’re still watching. As Fineout points out, Memorial Day weekend is “sort of the end of session.”

“By this time school is about to end around the state, and the governor has usually acted on a new state budget,” writes Fineout. “But as we have seen this isn’t an ordinary year as Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans continue their all out public feud over spending and legislative priorities (or as Corcoran puts it – a fight for the soul of the party.)

Even though the new fiscal year starts July 1, Fineout notes the Legislature hasn’t sent the budget to the governor yet. Since Scott became governor, the longest the Legislature waited to deliver the budget was 2012 when it took 28 days. But as Fineout noted, that was a redistricting year so lawmakers went into session early and “actually delivered it in early April.”

The delay in getting the budget has people wondering whether Scott will veto it. He has “publicly thrown out the possibility he may veto the entire budget to register his displeasure.” And school district officials, as Fineout explains, have called on the governor to “veto the main appropriation that goes to public schools.”

Another layer of complexity, lawmakers could send Scott the budget, but hold back big bills, like a massive education bill that has drawn “fierce criticism and support across the education spectrum.”

“That’s important because that bill includes more than $400 million – including money for the contentious Schools of Hope charter school proposal and money for teacher bonuses,” wrote Fineout.

— JOE GRUTERS MAKES HIS PICK —

Gruters is backing Rep. Paul Renner to be  House Speaker in 2022-24. The Sarasota Republican said while he thinks everyone in the running for the position would do a great job, he felt Renner is the best person at this time. Gruters said he’s decided to make his position known because he didn’t want to give anyone false expectations or lead any candidates on. “Like all my votes in the Legislature, I am committing to the person who I think is the best to lead our class,” he said in a message.

Freshmen House Republicans are scheduled to meet on June 30 to select their class leader and, assuming the GOP maintains its control of the Florida House in the next decade, the likely House Speaker for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

… Gruters’ backing could be a sign of good things to come for Renner, a Palm Coast Republican first elected to the Florida House in a 2015 special election. Gruters, the longtime chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, was an early supporter of Gov. Scott, a little known Republican candidate for Governor back in 2010. … He was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor — The Gillum campaign announced Wednesday that Clemens, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, has endorsed Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement, Clemens called Gillum a “bold leader whose vision will transform Florida.” “Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades,” said Clemens. “Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.” Gillum is one of three Democrats currently vying to replace Gov. Scott in 2018. “It’s an honor to receive Leader Designate Jeff Clemens’ endorsement. He is a true champion for Florida’s working people, and as a former Mayor, he knows the critical importance of building strong communities everywhere in Florida,” said Gillum in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to build an economy that serves all Floridians – not the special interests.”

Raquel Regalado casts herself as Ros-Lehtinen’s political heir” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — As she mulled a run for Congress, Regalado was nagged by a question she said was posed to her again and again that might not usually be asked of male candidate. “The first question that I was asked was, ‘How are you going to be a mother and a congresswoman?'” Regalado said Tuesday at a women-centered Miami Young Republicans event where she kicked off her candidacy. “I think it’s sad that we’re in a place where people still ask those questions.” With that, Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member, portrayed herself as the political heir to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the retiring GOP congresswoman Regalado is hoping to replace. Regalado didn’t explicitly draw the line between her nascent candidacy and Ros-Lehtinen’s trailblazing political career. But it was clear that, as the most prominent Republican woman who’s filed for the Democratic-leaning 27th district, Regalado plans to campaign as a politician cast in Ros-Lehtinen’s centrist mold.

Does Alex Diaz de la Portilla know he’s filed for the wrong race?” via Ann Howard of The Capitolist – On May 3, 2017, he filed to run in the Senate District 40 race, as part of the 2018 general election. But if he wants to run in the Senate District 40 special election, he’s in the wrong race. The Division of Elections says they’ve not received a request from Diaz de la Portilla to amend the paperwork. The division updates that information immediately. Multiple messages to Diaz de la Portilla and his campaign were not returned.

Unconventional Green Party candidate Shawn Mathis Gilliam files for HD 58 race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – As a member of an alternative, third party, Gilliam‘s worldview and ideology are not easily explained; it could make it hard to break through with voters in House District 58. A recent convert to the Green Party, he does not agree with their stance in support of medical marijuana, saying its effects are too negative for the body. While raised as a Christian, Gilliam converted to Islam “about three Ramadans ago.” He says in some respects he’s quite conservative. He’s pro-life and anti-same-sex marriage. “I would like to present a bill making the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract) a legally binding contract for marriage and any other religious marriage contract that is legally binding between the husband and wife if it pertains to religious affiliation,” he said in a follow-up email. He’s also anti-fluoride in the water, and in an email statement, said that he favors polygamy. ‘Islam recognizes Poligomy [sic], and I would like to get that legal in our state as well,” he writes.

Assignment editors: Sally Boynton Brown, the newly appointed president of the Florida Democratic Party, will speak at the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee’s annual “Grassroots Awards Celebration” at 6 p.m. at Celebration Gardens, 1871 Minnesota Ave. in Winter Park.

Image matters more than truth (but don’t say that!)” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat – The new chief of the Florida Democratic Party has had to apologize for telling the truth. She shockingly failed to use sufficient euphemism when telling a euphemistically titled group of party activists that emotions, rather than issues, get voters to the polls. Sally Boynton Brown, addressing the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County, knew she was treading into a sensitive area. Then she said, “I believe that we’re in a place where it is very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters who are not voting.” She did not say that poor people — whose lack of turnout last fall probably cost Hillary Clinton the presidency — are too dumb to understand issues, or that they vote on emotion alone. But that’s how some Democrats heard it. But what she said was right. A couple of things, before we get to whether issues matter to voters. First, Brown bears the new title “president” of the Florida Democratic Party, which sounds like something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan farce. Second, the fact that Democrats have a “progressive caucus” is a big reason that they keep losing elections. The Republicans don’t have a conservative caucus. They are a conservative caucus.

Miami Beach mayor’s race heats up with email attacks” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald – The two most prominent candidates hurled accusations and insults at each other in a series of emails … questioning each other’s ethics and records of public service. Dan Gelber, the former state legislator and federal prosecutor who is running for his first municipal government position, traded jabs with Michael Grieco, a criminal defense attorney and current commissioner. With the election still about six months away, it’s already getting ugly. An email blasted out Friday by Gelber’s campaign touted the results of a poll that found he was ahead of Grieco after the voter is provided biographical information on both candidates. Then the poll taker told the voter being questioned that Grieco may be tied to a political action committee that has raised money from city vendors and lobbyists — a controversial and, in some cases, illegal fundraising tactic under the Beach’s unusually strict campaign finance laws … Grieco fired back in his own email blast with the subject line “Dishonest Dan.” He rips the poll, accuses Gelber of lying and denies involvement with any PAC.

— STATEWIDE —

President’s budget proposal would end Amtrak services in Florida” via WCTV – The proposal cuts funding for Amtrak’s long-distance routes, which includes all three routes in Florida. It would also hinder ongoing efforts to restore service in Florida’s Panhandle and along the Gulf Coast. The president’s budget would eliminate all three routes in Florida, including: The Auto Train, which runs daily from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford; The Silver Meteor, which runs daily from Miami to Orlando to New York; The Silver Star, which runs daily from Miami to Tampa to Orlando to New York.

Zika hit Florida months before infections found, study says” via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press – Zika began spreading in Florida mosquitoes about three months before infections showed up in the Miami area last summer, and the virus likely was carried in by travelers from the Caribbean, new research suggests. Mosquitoes there started picking up the virus from infected travelers as early as March last year, according to scientists who examined genetic information from samples from about 30 people with Zika as well as from mosquitoes. It wasn’t until July that Florida health officials said they had detected a local infection – the first in the U.S. mainland. Mosquitoes spread Zika by biting someone who’s infected, then biting another person. The bugs may have been causing infections in Miami as early as March, too, said researcher Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But there were likely few cases before July, and it’s not clear any of them sought treatment, he said. Most people infected with Zika don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects in babies.

Pam Bondi says charities she helps aren’t required to register with state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bondi’s office this week responded to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Deputy Solicitor General Jonathan L. Williams, writing on Bondi’s behalf, said in part that some of the organizations criticized by Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith aren’t “require(d) … to register (with the state) before receiving contributions from governmental entities.” Rather, they need to register as charities if they plan to “solicit,” or ask for, charitable contributions, Williams added. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee ordered Bondi to show why he shouldn’t find for Smith, giving Bondi 40 days to respond. Williams’ response came on the 40th day.

Florida reaps $1.6 million from settlement with Johnson & Johnson” via Florida Politics – Florida was among 43 states that sued the company and its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. subsidiary, alleging that they misled consumers into believing that they’d manufactured the medications in FDA-compliant facilities. In a consent decree … J&J agreed to pay $33 million to the states and to improve internal and marketing controls. The company pleaded guilty in 2015 to selling liquid medicines contaminated with metal, and agreed to pay $25 million to the federal government. According to the complaint, J&J’s McNeil-PPC Inc. subsidiary marketed over-the-counter drugs as complying with federal Good Manufacturing Practices between 2009 and 2011 when not all of its plants met those standards. That noncompliance was the equivalent of selling adulterated medicines, the document says. That document cites recalls in 2009 and 2010 of drugs including Tylenol, Infants and Children Tylenol, Benadryl, Rolaids, Motrin and Zyrtec.

“Craig Waters: Florida’s courts lead in use of social media” via Florida Politics – Long seen as the quietest branch of state government, Florida’s state courts have emerged in the last year as a national leader in social media use. In fact, we are leading the nation with 20 out of 26 court divisions using Twitter to reach the public right now. That’s an astounding number … The goal is simple. It’s not enough that courts do justice. They also must make sure people see justice being done.

Thanks to beer, over 160,000 have jobs in Florida” via Joe Ruble of WDBO – A new study shows America’s beer industry contributes more than $21.6 billion to Florida’s economy. It also supports 160,706 jobs in the state, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, a trade association for brewers. “America’s beer distributors are proud to provide nearly 135,000 jobs with solid wages and great benefits to employees at more than 3,000 facilities, located in every state and congressional district across the country. Independent beer distributors generate significant economic contributions in their communities through local business-to-business commerce, investments in local infrastructure and capital assets and tax revenue,’ said NBWA President & CEO Craig Purser. Brewers and beer importers directly employ 64,745 Americans.

— MOVEMENTS —

Hospice care providers honor former AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek – Florida hospice operators have bestowed their Outstanding Public Service Award upon Dudek, the former head of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. The Florida Hospice and Palliative Care Association cited her “decades of dedicated public serve and her commitment of assuring the highest quality of hospice care for Florida residents.” Dudek started at the state agency in 1992, ending with a six-year stint as secretary, before leaving to handle health care affairs for Greenberg Traurig. “In each regulatory role Liz held, she matched stride with Florida’s hospice providers and played a key role in contributing to what has long been the state with the most comprehensive hospice services offered in the nation,” Association president and CEO Paul Ledford said.

FHPCA’s President and CEO Paul Ledford, Greenberg Traurig’s Director of Healthcare Affairs Liz Dudek, Hope HealthCare Services President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith, Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care Hospice President and CEO Chuck Lee.

New and renewed lobby registrations:

Ivette Arango, Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Paul Hawkes, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Timothy Stanfield, Mac Stipanovich, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

Barney Bishop, Barney Bishop Consulting: 100 Black Men of Tallahassee; Tech Care X-ray, LLC

Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: Archer-De Moya JV

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: City of Lakeland; Twin Creeks Development Associates, LLC, a Florida limited liability company

— ALOE — 

Florida’s Memorial Day travelers expected to top 2 million” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Just more than 2 million Floridians are expected to travel during … Memorial Day weekend. So far in 2017, travel bookings with AAA in Florida are up 17 percent, compared to the same period last year, said Vicky Evans, assistant vice president of travel sales development for AAA — The Auto Club Group.

— “What to read before your Florida trip” via Concepcion De Leon of The New York Times

More people to travel this Memorial Day, says AAA” via Nancy Trejos of USA Today — More people will get away this Memorial Day weekend than have in the past 12 years, with 39.3 million U.S. travelers expected to take to the road, skies, rails and water, according to a forecast released Wednesday from auto club AAA. That represents an increase of 1 million more travelers — 2.7% — this year than last Memorial Day weekend. It represents the third consecutive year that U.S. travelers have been on the move for 50 miles or more over this holiday weekend. … Most of the travelers — 88.1% or 34.6 million — will drive to their destinations. That is an increase of 2.4% over last year despite higher gas prices. Most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015. The national average price for a gallon of gas on Wednesday is $2.34, 11 cents more than last year.

Spotted: Photographer Phil Sears photos in a travel feature for The New York Times about Florida.

“Orlando top destination in the world for Memorial Day” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The City Beautiful will receive the lion’s portion of the 39.3 million Americans who will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the holiday weekend. Orlando was the number one U.S. city in the top five, followed by Rome, London, Dublin and Vancouver. Seattle, Las Vegas and New York City ranked 6, 7 and 8, while Honolulu took the number 10 spot behind Paris. … The travel forecast is great news for Central Florida, where both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World are launching new attractions during the Memorial Day Weekend. Universal’s new water park, Volcano Bay, opens May 25 followed by Animal Kingdom’s Pandora – The World of Avatar on May 27.

Happy birthday this  weekend to Reps Julio Gonzalez and Mel Ponder, Richard DeNapoli, Arron Gober, Mike Fischer, Marion Johnson, Alex Setzer, Clark Smith, Craig Waters, and our friend – a great Floridian – Christian Ziegler.

In the official trailer for Game of Thrones Season 7, the end is coming” via David Canfield of Slate – We finally have our first full look at Game of Thrones’ seventh season. The official trailer feels especially doom-and-gloomy (yes, even for this show), as the HBO epic approaches its long-awaited climax. Season 7 will consist of an abbreviated seven episodes, before the eighth and final installment premieres next year. It’s all about preparation for the final battle to come: Cersei (Lena Headey) gathering her army for the coming challengers, Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) hitching his wagon to Sansa (Sophie Turner) as his “last hope,” and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) surprisingly returning to action after having been banished. Then there’s Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), ready to assume the throne she has sought since the series’ beginning: “I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms,” she asserts. “And I will.” As the trailer fades to black, we hear an ominous official declaration: “The Great War is here.”

Tampa Bay Rowdies unbeaten run ends with 1-0 loss to Rochester Rhinos

The Tampa Bay Rowdies’s four-match unbeaten run in the USL ended on Wednesday night with a 1-0 road loss to the Rochester Rhinos at Capelli Sport Stadium.

The Rhinos’ Wal Fall scored the only goal of the match in the 27th minute, putting in his own rebound after Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens made the initial save.

“We’ve been on a real good run of late and it’s disappointing it’s come to an end tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “I think the way we started the game cost us. We started the game too slow. Their first shot on goal they managed to get a goal ahead and it was hard for us to claw back.”

Tampa Bay conceded the first goal of the match last Friday to Toronto FC II, but turned the result around in the second half to win 3-1. Sadly, Wednesday’s match wouldn’t follow the same script.

“I think it was a game of very few chances,” Campbell said. “Neither team created that many clear-cut chances. Off the top of my head, I can think of only one clear-cut chance for us, when (Martin Paterson) couldn’t direct a header in the goal.”

For the Rowdies (6-2-3 (W-T-L), 20 points), it was their fourth game in 12 days. In comparison, the Rhinos (3-3-1, 12 points) were playing just their seventh game all year. Though the matches are piling up for the Rowdies with few rest days available, fatigue didn’t get the best of Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.

“We’re on a long stretch of games, but I don’t think that played a factor tonight,” Campbell said. “I think the way we moved the ball, we looked really fit and really strong, even in the final minutes when we pressed and pressed for the equalizer.”

Tampa Bay looked out of sync in the loss, recording just five shots all night, including only one on target. The Rhinos only recorded two of target, both of which were within five seconds of one another.

It was a staunch defensive performance for the Rowdies, not allowing a shot on except for those few seconds that created the goal, but the offensive unit was not on the same page. Martin Paterson had Tampa Bay’s best offensive chance of the night in the 76th minute, heading a cross from the left wing just wide of target.

“It’s very disappointing to lost tonight,” Rowdies center back Neill Collins said. “The manner of the defeat was probably the most disappointing thing. We came here with good intentions, but never quite got going in the first half. … I don’t think it was much of a game, in terms of quality of football. We  tried to pass the ball in the second half, but couldn’t break them down. Credit to them, they were very well organized.”

Tampa Bay center back Damion Lowe, who has played every minutes of the Rowdies’ 12 matches this season in all competitions, received his fifth yellow card of the year in the second half, meaning he’ll be suspended from the Rowdies’ next match.

The Rowdies return home on Memorial Day Weekend to face Saint Louis FC at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, May 27.

Gobble, gobble: It’s turkey time at Florida TaxWatch

Florida TaxWatch is offering its annual serving of “budget turkeys” 11 a.m. Friday at the group’s downtown headquarters on Bronough Street.

These turkeys are not Thanksgiving staples, but “individual appropriations that circumvent a thoughtful and thorough budget process,” says the group’s website.

“The organization identifies budget turkeys to promote transparency in public budgeting, encourage meaningful legislative review of all appropriations and facilitate checks and balances within the budget process,” the nonprofit group declared in a news release.

Being called a turkey “does not signify a judgment of a project’s worthiness. Instead, the review focuses on the Florida budget process, … to ensure that all appropriations using tax dollars are subject to scrutiny.”

In 2013, one such “turkey” was $4 million budgeted for Pinellas County to help pay for a sequel to “Winter’s Tale” – the movie about the Clearwater Aquarium’s star attraction, Winter the Dolphin, which has a prosthetic tail.

Another example of the biggest turkey was identified in the following year’s state budget: $12 million earmarked for the Port of Tampa Bay’s gantry crane project.

Florida TaxWatch Vice President of Research (and resident budgetary turkey expert) Kurt Wenner will serve as master of ceremony for the Friday event.

More information on budget turkeys can be found here.

Sunburn for 5.24.17 – Florida offers #PrayersforManchester; TaxWatch ready to carve turkeys; Liquor wall standing or falling?; New candidates for A.G. and in CD 27; Tampa awarded 2021 Super Bowl

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

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

The deep bellow of the fog horn cried out every five minutes during the Disney Magic’s late-night approach into Dover, England. The shining white cliffs are still not visible from even the top deck.

In the wake of Monday evening’s bombing, Prime Minister Theresa May has placed Britain on the highest level of alert, deploying troops throughout the country. The impact was immediately apparent as we sailed into port. A near-flotilla of light military vessels protected our entrance, as if Mickey Mouse were a visiting head of state. The tension was palpable as we disembarked, with one security officer saying yesterday was the hardest day he’s ever had at work.

But England prevails. That’s the takeaway after visiting Stonehenge, that inexplicable, ancient ring of standing stones. On this day, perhaps like few others, Stonehenge was more than just a mystical tourist attraction. It was a powerful reminder that this land — this country — has been here and will be here for millennia. The deplorable actions of an evil few cannot change that.

With a history spanning 4,500 years Stonehenge has many different meanings to people today. It is a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration.

I’ll be honest — and this isn’t to make a global event about our little family — we’re a little worried about visiting London next week, especially after the PM warned that another terrorist attack is “imminent.” Yet, there may not be a more important time recently to be here.

— MORE ON MANCHESTER —

“Donald Trump calls terrorists ‘evil losers’” via F. Brinley Bruton and Amy Perrett of NBC News —President Donald Trump branded those responsible for the deadly suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert and other terrorist attacks “evil losers” on Tuesday. “So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers,” he said in Bethlehem while standing next to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. “I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term, they would think that is a great name.” He added: “I will call them, from now on, losers because that’s what they are: losers.”

Ariana Grande concert explosion: Singer checks in with Boca friend” via Leslie Gray Streeter of the Palm Beach Post — Dennis Lambert, songwriter of “We Built This City” and other songs, has known Grande since she was a little girl growing up in Boca Raton. Grande and Lambert’s daughter Misha are close friends. “No sooner had I heard the first reports when my daughter Misha called to say she was in touch with Ari and all of her people are safe and unhurt,” Lambert said. “They really don’t know yet exactly what happened and the news reports remain unclear. We’re all relieved the Ariana and her troupe are fine. On the other hand it’s another reminder of the perils that we are all exposed to in this crazy world we live in.”

Ariana Grande back home in Boca Raton after concert bombing via the Palm Beach Post

“FSU: Students at London Study Centre safe following Manchester bombing” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Students studying this summer at Florida State’s London Study Centre are safe following Monday night’s explosion in Manchester at the end of a concert by Ariana Grande. Manchester is a little more than 160 miles from London where the FSU students are based. “All International Programs participants based at the London Study Centre have been accounted for and encouraged to confirm their safety with their loved ones,” FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker said. “Florida State University does not have any International Programs located in Manchester, nor do we have any reports of any students traveling independently to Manchester at the time of yesterday’s horrific incident at the Manchester Arena. Our condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy.”

A British flag is seen next to flowers after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday. Photo credit: AP.

Florida leaders react to the Manchester bombing:

— Gov. Rick Scott: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester (Monday) night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Sen. Marco Rubio: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— Rep. Charlie Crist: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— Rep. Carlos Curbelo: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— Rep. Val Demings: “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— Rep. Ted Deutch: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— Rep. Neal Dunn: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— Rep. Al Lawson: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester. The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable. Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.”

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— TURKEY TIME — 

Florida TaxWatch is offering its annual serving of “budget turkeys” 11 a.m. Friday at the group’s downtown headquarters on Bronough Street.

These turkeys are not Thanksgiving staples, but “individual appropriations that circumvent a thoughtful and thorough budget process,” says the group’s website.

“The organization identifies budget turkeys to promote transparency in public budgeting, encourage meaningful legislative review of all appropriations and facilitate checks and balances within the budget process,” the nonprofit group declared in a news release.

Florida TaxWatch president Dominic Calabro, with a stuffed turkey, speaking at a 1990 news conference in Tallahassee.

Being called a turkey “does not signify a judgment of a project’s worthiness. Instead, the review focuses on the Florida budget process, … to ensure that all appropriations using tax dollars are subject to scrutiny.”

In 2013, one such “turkey” was $4 million budgeted for Pinellas County to help pay for a sequel to “Winter’s Tale” – the movie about the Clearwater Aquarium’s star attraction, Winter the Dolphin, which has a prosthetic tail.  

Another example of the biggest turkey was identified in the following year’s state budget: $12 million earmarked for the Port of Tampa Bay’s gantry crane project.

Florida TaxWatch Vice President of Research (and resident budgetary turkey expert) Kurt Wenner will serve as master of ceremony for the Friday event.

More information on budget turkeys can be found here.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Labor unions call on Rick Scott to veto education bill — Fight for Florida, a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations, has released a new ad calling on the governor to veto a massive education bill (HB 7069), calling the measure “bad for taxpayers and bad for Florida families.” The 30-second spot will be distributed digitally and is expected to run extensively in Tallahassee during the bill signing and veto period. “Our public school children, teachers and education staff professionals are already severely underfunded,” said Rich Templin, representing the coalition, in a statement. “This so-called ‘Schools of Hope’ bill will further starve public schools of much-needed resources. It’s plain wrong. It’s wrong for students, teachers and our public schools and wrong for Florida.” The bill not yet been set to Scott, but has been met with criticism from public school supporters in recent weeks. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Senate President Joe Negron said Tuesday he stands by HB 7069: “I support the bill. I support efforts for the state to give more parental choice in public education. I support the initiatives that are in that bill,” the Stuart Republican told POLITICO Florida on Tuesday.

— “Fate of program for disabled children rests with Gov. Scott” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press 

Time growing short for Scott to decide ‘whisky & Wheaties’ bill’s fate” via Florida Politics — A history of alcoholism in Gov. Scott’s family will inform his decision about whether to sign the “whiskey & Wheaties” bill, which would tear down the wall of separation between hard liquor and other goods. … “I’ve had family members who have had the challenge of alcoholism. It concerns me. As I review the bill — I think I have to be finished sometime tomorrow on it — I take all those things into consideration.” Scott said he was scheduled to talk to representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — one of the big-box stores supporting the bill — and ABC Fine Wines & Spirits — which is opposed. Scott still wasn’t prepared to say whether he would veto the state budget approved by the Legislature during an extended session this month. “I’m going to review my options,” he said.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will highlight job growth 3:15 p.m. at the Honeycomb Company of America, 1950 Limbus Ave. in Sarasota.

Scott, Cabinet OK $8.5M for land conservation in Okeechobee, Highland counties” – Scott and Cabinet members agreed to an $8.5 million deal to conserve land owned by ranchers in Okeechobee and Highlands counties. The purchase is through the Florida Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. About 4,200 acres in Okeechobee County and just over 1,000 acres in Highlands County will go to improve the quality of water flowing to Lake Okeechobee from the north through the purchase of easements, stopping future development while allowing existing landowners to continue using the property for agriculture and ranching. Part of the acquisition is Okeechobee County’s Triple S Ranch, just west of Fort Pierce and part of the Kissimmee River basin. Triple S has been owned by the Scott family since 1948. The Highland County parcel has been owned by the Hartt family since 1939. Water from that land empties into Arbuckle Creek and into Lake Okeechobee. After the deals, about $11 million will still be available in the current fiscal year, which ends June 1. In the upcoming 2017-2018 budget, lawmakers funded the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program at $10 million.

Pam Bondi on Sunshine exemption sealing criminal records: what about sex offenders?” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Approved unanimously by lawmakers last month, SB 118 would require clerks to seal more than 2.7 million criminal records and hundreds of thousands of arrest records for individuals who were found not guilty, acquitted at trial, had charges against them dropped or dismissed, or weren’t charged after being arrested. That would effectively prevent people from knowing whether someone was arrested or charged with a crime when they ultimately aren’t convicted in a court of law. “What concerns me about this — just as a career prosecutor: Sex offenders,” Bondi told reporters. “I think some of those cases are very important, to be able to know about the past and the history. That does concern me … We all know how difficult it is to convict a sex offender, and if they have a case again in the future, I think it’s important for people to be able to know about that. Those are the ones that concern me the most.”

Old news: “Atwater exit awaits budget action” via the News Service of Florida on Tuesday; Michael Moline of Florida Politics wrote “Jeff Atwater sticking around as CFO until state budget is nailed down” on May 10.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“Why’s Bondi raising money? Not to run for office, she says” via Michael Auslen of the Times/Herald — Term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have restarted her political fundraising, but she says she’s not considering a run for another public office. In early April, Bondi’s fundraising engine started back up, bringing in more than $82,000 to her political committee, called Justice for All. It raised questions about the aspirations of a Republican attorney general who can’t seek reelection and who has already declared she would not run for governor in 2018. Asked Tuesday if she was gearing up for another public office, Bondi said, “No. No, I’m not. Not right now, I’m not.” … “The newest rumor I heard today is that I want to be sheriff of Hillsborough County,” she said to reporters. “I do not want to be sheriff of Hillsborough County, seriously. We’ll see, but I need a political committee to continue when you all have political questions to ask me.”

“Adam Putnam plays down aides’ departure from his campaign for Governor” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam suggested that the departure of two key aides from his campaign for governor was no big deal. “You’re always adjusting and modifying as you move forward,” Putnam said, adding that he wished both ex-staffers well. … “This is a grassroots movement, and I’m very excited about the team that we have, and I wish the team members who have moved on to other things the very best.” Campaign manager Kristin Davison was relieved of her duties Monday. Political director Jared Small also exited the campaign.

Andrew Gillum campaign launches “Doctors for Gillum” — The grassroots coalition started by Florida healthcare professionals to help Floridians understand the stakes healthcare and the Obamacare will play in the election, according to Andrew Gillum’s campaign. The group is made up of Dr. Michael Katin, the medical advisor to the American Cancer Society unites of both Lee and Charlotte counties and the president of the AFROC (Association of Freestanding Radiation Oncology Centers); Dr. Annette Pelaez, a Tampa native who has been practicing obstetrics and gynecology in the Miami area since 1989; Dr. Jean-Philippe “J.P.” Austin, the former medical director at Christie Clinic Association in  Champaign, Illinois now with 21st Century Oncology; Dr. Larry Pierre, the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Health and Education Training Center; and Dr. Lisa Wildcatt, a pediatrician and the lead physician of the Riverview office at Pediatric Associates of Tampa Bay. “As doctors, we have dedicated our lives to providing patients with quality healthcare, and under his proposal, more Floridians will have the security of access to the care they need to survive,” the coalition said in a joint statement provided by the Gillum campaign. “We look forward to working with Mayor Gillum and Florida’s policymakers to help make these protections the law in Florida.”

“Three Tampa Bay lawmakers line up behind Gwen Graham for Governor” via Mitch Perry of SaintPetersBlog — St. Petersburg-based state Sen. Darryl Rouson, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez are endorsing the former congresswoman, the Graham campaign announced Tuesday. “I’m honored to have the support of these Tampa and St. Petersburg leaders who are working every day on issues Floridians care about,” she said in a statement. “As governor, I will work with them to protect our environment, create opportunities for all, and reform Florida’s criminal justice system.” Rouson said in a statement that Graham “understands criminal justice reform, protecting voting rights and creating jobs are paramount issues to our community” and has the “passion, experience, and fortitude to make our streets safer, reform our criminal justice system and restore voting rights to the 1.5 million Floridians currently disenfranchised.”

Ryan Torrens files to run for Attorney General — The Hillsborough County Democrat opened a campaign account Monday, and is the first Democrat to throw his hat in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, in 2018. Torrens is the owner of the Torrens Law Group, and focuses on foreclosure defense and consumer protection litigation. Before striking out on his own in 2012, he worked as an independent consultant on the federally-mandated Independent Foreclosure Review Project. A fifth-generation Tampa native, Torrens received his bachelor of arts in government and world affairs from the University of Tampa. He graduated from George Washington University Law School. Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant has also filed to run for Attorney General.

Raquel Regalado joins race to fill Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional seat” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The former Miami-Dade School Board member told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that she’s “all in” after spending the last several weeks meeting with political committees and Republican leaders in Washington. The 42-year-old mother of two and self-described “compassionate Republican” believes she’s the type of moderate candidate capable of holding the Democratic-leaning 27th district for the GOP next year. “Even though the Democrats are saying this seat has to go to a Democrat because independents will lean to a ‘D,’ I disagree,” she said. “I think the majority of people believe it will be better to have a Republican in the room than a Democrat out in the hall.”

Raquel Regalado expects to have at least three GOP primary opponents for the seat: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Brun Barreiro and former Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall. Photo credit: AP.

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 —  LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for House and Senate in 2018. Democrat Tyran Basil has filed to run for House District 27. The 26-year-old has an associate degree in accounting from Seminole State College of Florida and works in technical support for Frontier Communications. He’ll face the winner of the Republican primary between Rep. David Santiago and William McBride. Democrat Lee Mangold is vying to replace Rep. Jason Brodeur in House District 28. Mangold earned his doctorate in computer and information security from Northcentral University, and owns a Central Florida-based cybersecurity company called Goldsky Security. He will face Republican David Smith. Brodeur can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Three Republicans — Cocoa Beach Mayor Tim Tumulty, Tyler Sirois, and Pat O’Neil — have filed to run run in House District 51. Tumulty ran in 2016, but lost to Rep. Tom Goodson. He currently works as a math and physics teacher at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School. Sirois is the executive director of the 18th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, and has worked with the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Office in the past. Goodson can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Shawn Mathis Gilliam is challenging Rep. Dan Raulerson in House District 58. Gilliam is running as a member of the Green Party. Republican Andrew Vargas has switched his candidacy to House District 114. He will now face Republican Jose Pazos, a Marine veteran who owns a management firm. Both men are hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez. Vargas had previously filed to run in House District 119.

— STATEWIDE — 

John Morgan ready to bet big on medical pot” via the Tampa Bay Times – In a series of emails with the Miami Herald, Morgan said he intends to plunge up to $100 million into “the right opportunities.” He also acknowledged that he’s interested in owning a stake in a state-licensed dispensing organization, though he said he’s not yet invested in any cannabis companies. “I am prepared to invest significant monies in this industry and I plan to,” he wrote. “I have learned a great deal about the miracles of marijuana over the last five years. And what better person than me to be involved?” But are Morgan’s financial interests influencing his public positions? Was his political investment a down payment on a bigger business plan? Absolutely not, says Morgan. But speculation has swirled for years.

— It’s important to note that this story about Morgan’s financial interests popped ONLY AFTER FloridaPolitics.com on Monday raised pointed questions about the trial lawyer’s financial ambitions.

Administrative judge says 2 farms should get medical pot licenses” via The Associated Press – Division of Administrative Hearings Judge John Van Landingham ruled on Tuesday that Plants of Ruskin and Tornello Landscape/3 Boys Farm are equally qualified to receive licenses, but if the state’s Department of Health would approve only one, then it should go to Tornello/3 Boys. Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton said they are reviewing the order and in the process of determining their next steps. There are currently seven distributing organizations. This was the last of the administrative challenges since the five original licenses were decided in December of 2015. Two additional were awarded last year due to either settlements or an administrative ruling.

First on #FlaPol – “Tom Delacenserie taking over Kentucky Lottery” via Florida Politics Delacenserie, the outgoing secretary of the Florida Lottery, is getting a pay raise to become the new president and CEO of the Kentucky Lottery. Delacenserie, who submitted his resignation to Gov. Rick Scott last week, will be paid $204,000 a year. His current Florida state salary as agency head is $141,000. He was confirmed by the Kentucky Lottery’s board of directors on Tuesday, according to a press release. His first day is June 5. “I’m very much looking forward to joining one of the premier lotteries in the country,” Delacenserie said in a statement.

Florida Hurricane Cat Fund ready for storm season” via The Associated Press – Estimates prepared by Raymond James show the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund will have $17.6 billion available this year. This marks the second year in a row that the fund has more money than it would need to pay out if storms racked the state. The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if the money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.” The fund has grown because Florida has avoided major hurricanes since 2005.

Joe Henderson: FDOT’s Tampa Bay transit plan has new name, but really needs new ideas” via Florida Politics – The Florida Department of Transportation wanted to attack the problem with a plan called Tampa Bay Express, or TBX. I’ll simplify: It called for building more roads, including 90 miles of highway people would have to pay tolls to use. A lot of people hated that idea and they raised such a ruckus that FDOT finally punted and came up with Plan B. It still leaves open the idea of more toll roads, including express lanes across a rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. So, what’s different about this plan? Er, um … it has a new name! Tampa Bay Next. Other than that, it seems like basically the same ol’ sow’s ear, which is upsetting for FDOT officials to hear.

“Leon County approves historic Airbnb tax agreement” Airbnb announced the passage of a tax agreement with Leon County that will allow the platform to collect and remit taxes on behalf of its local hosts. With the tax agreement in place, the County will be able to fully capitalize on more people visiting and staying longer through home sharing. Effective July 1, Airbnb will automatically collect and remit local taxes for all Airbnb bookings in the county, making the process seamless and easy for both Airbnb hosts and local government. “The agreement represents an investment in the long-term success of Leon County’s tourism and economic development efforts,” Leon County Commission Chairman John E. Dailey said … Leon County now represents the 39th Florida county where Airbnb will collect and remit local tourist development taxes (otherwise known as the bed tax).

OR Conversations: Belvin Perry Jr. discusses his law career” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – “I had spent nearly 25 years as a judge and 11 years as an assistant state attorney. That is total 36 years of public service. I believe in the Jim Brown school of thought; that is to go out on top and on your own terms … I enjoyed every moment I was a judge, so moments more than others. I gave everything that I had in being a judge and I left nothing on the table. I treasured the trust that the citizens of this great community gave me when they elected me judge. I don’t miss being a judge, but I sometimes miss the public service.”

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

— ALOE —

What Bob Buckhorn is reading – “Tampa to host 2021 Super Bowl” via ESPN – NFL owners, responding to inclement weather that has delayed the opening of a new stadium in Los Angeles, voted unanimously Tuesday to instead award Tampa the Super Bowl in 2021. Los Angeles will host the Super Bowl one year later, in 2022. The Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium will host Super Bowl LV, which was originally scheduled to be played at the $2.6 billion facility in Inglewood, California, that will be shared by the Rams and Chargers.

Loggerhead sea turtle returns home on World Turtle Day” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Local rescue teams released a loggerhead sea turtle to Sebastian Inlet … The sea turtle was found floating in the Indian River Lagoon near Fort Pierce in January. It was missing its left front flipper and covered in barnacles with damage on its shell. The turtle weighed 218 pounds and had eaten several sand dollars, which were creating blockages in its intestines. The turtle was given medication and fluid therapy and the blockage was removed at SeaWorld Orlando. The loggerhead weighed in at 230 pounds when it was returned to its ocean home by SeaWorld’s Rescue Team and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

A 230-pound loggerhead turtle found floating in the Indian River Lagoon near Fort Pierce in January was returned to the ocean Tuesday by SeaWorld’s Rescue Team and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Happy birthday to one of the best people in The Process, Ashley Ross.

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