Peter Schorsch - 2/2505 - 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,,, 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.

The Delegation for 6.21.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

An eventful two weeks on Capitol Hill

Over the past two weeks, shootings, Kumbayas, tensions in Syria, and a hotly contested special election have relegated the incessant chatter and leaks about Russia to second tier status. The investigation goes on, but the issue – and the leaks – now share the spotlight with more timely events. Health care will soon take center stage.

This race in the Atlanta suburbs was for a GOP-leaning seat once held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It was set up as a referendum on President Donald Trump and was the talk of the political world in Florida and around the country.

With the GOP holding serve with Karen Handel’s victory, Republicans in swing districts such as Carlos Curbelo, Brian Mast and Mario Diaz-Balart might be breathing a bit easier, at least for a while. For Democrats like Stephanie Murphy and Charlie Crist, the results likely triggered an opposite reaction.

When it comes to health care, perhaps the GOP is trying to take advantage of the noise surrounding the Trump/Russia hysteria and the other front burner issues. With all of the distractions, the Senate is going full speed trying to pass their version of the repeal of Obamacare.

Florida’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson is not happy about this at all. He offered the common view among his party’s caucus in the Senate.

“If you’re going to fix the health care system, you’re going to have to do it together in a bipartisan way, building consensus” he said earlier this week on the Senate floor. “And that’s what I urge the Senate to do instead of what we are seeing behind closed doors.”

Nelson’s counterpart, Republican Senator Marco Rubio, also advises against limiting input.

“The Senate is not the place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote,” he said. “So, the first step in this may be crafted among a small group of people, but then everyone’s going to get to weigh in.”

Rubio’s scenario seems to describe the next step in the Senate process. The closed doors are set to open with a “discussion” bill set to emerge this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the real debate will begin “likely next week” after receiving a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

At that point, the come-togetherness of the House and Senate spawned by the recent shootings, will likely devolve back into name-calling and other rhetorical bomb throwing. With public opinion seemingly shifting away from Republican plans, some running for re-election in 2018 may have an important piece of history in their minds.

They are in the same place Democrats were in 2010 following passage of Obamacare. It would be no surprise to see the final bill include measures that do not kick in until after 2018.

While that could Republicans through this cycle (but Democrats were hammered in 2010), the American Health Care Act had better work….or else prepare for consequences.

Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Rubio, Diaz-Balart join Trump in Miami for new Cuba policy rollout

Florida’s junior senator predicted he would be pleased with President Trump’s new Cuba policy once it was revealed on Friday in Miami. He was not disappointed.

As Sen. Rubio and Miami Republican Rep. Diaz-Balart urged, Trump rolled out his new policy that forbids travelers to Cuba from engaging with entities that have ties to the Cuban military. The military controls much of the tourism industry. In Trump’s remarks, he said he was “canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”

Speaking before Trump, Rubio offered his view of the difference between the policies of the Obama and Trump administration.

President Donald Trump shows a signed executive order on Cuba policy during an event in Miami on Friday. (Photo via the Associated Press.i)

“A year and a half ago, a president, an American president, landed in Havana, to outstretch his hand to a regime,” Rubio said in reference to former President Barack Obama. “Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba.”

As expected, the President did not close the American Embassy, nor ban travel to the rogue island nation or hinder the ability to acquire items such as Cuban cigars.

Diaz-Balart took his opportunity at the microphone to praise Trump’s commitment to freedom for the Cubans.

“I have a message for the Cuban people, and to all of those struggling for freedom, President Trump stands with you,” Diaz-Balart told the supportive crowd. “He will not stand for the suppression of basic rights.”

Paulson’s Principles: Rubio drafts new Cuban policy

In 2014, the Obama Administration overturned a half-century travel ban by Americans to Cuba and opened up diplomatic relations with the Cuban government. As a result of those changes, travel to Cuba has sky-rocketed.

80,200 individuals traveled to Cuba from the city of Tampa in 2016. During the first five months of 2017, 63,635 individuals have flown to Cuba, most by way of SW Airlines. Two cruise ships also depart from Tampa with Cuban destinations.

In reversing Obama’s policy, President Trump maintained he was keeping his campaign promise to roll back the “terrible and misleading deal” by Obama. The last week of the campaign, Trump campaigned in Miami at the Bay of Pigs Museum. He promised changes in Obama’s Cuban policy and received the endorsement of Brigade 2506, veterans of the 1961 failed invasion of Cuba. This was the group’s first endorsement of a presidential candidate.

Senator Rubio was the key architect of the new policy, along with input from Representative Mario Diaz-Balart and Governor Rick Scott. Trump praised Rubio for “working diligently behind the scenes with the administration.” Rubio considered it a personal victory and Tweeted a photo of himself and Diaz-Balart with a comment that they “hammered out new Cuban policy.”

The new policy keeps in place diplomatic relations, and allows travel and money to flow to Cuba. The major change is that it prohibits Americans from staying in lodging or eating in restaurants controlled by the Cuban military. About 80% of tourism in Cuba is controlled by the military.

Facilities controlled by Groupa de Administration Empresarial, S.A. (GAESA) will be off-limits to American visitors. They must stay in lodging and eat in restaurants owned by Cuban citizens. This, according to Rubio, will benefit Cuban entrepreneurs and not the military.

The new policy will also require the Justice Department to report on American fugitives in Cuba. The best-known fugitive is Assata Shakur, also known as JoAnne Chesimard, who was convicted of murdering a New Jersey trooper in 1973. She escaped from prison and fled to Cuba.

The overall response to Trump’s new Cuban policy was generally negative among both Republicans and Democrats. This was not surprising since public opinion polls found that most Americans and most Cuban-Americans backed the Obama changes.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor led the opposition to the Trump changes, calling Trump’s new policy “regrettable,” saying that “it takes us backwards.” Tampa is home to the third largest Cuban-American population in the nation.

The policy was supported by Cuban-American members of the Florida delegation. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the senior Republican member of the Florida delegation and a frequent critic of the president, commented that she “fully supported President Trump’s announcement on his new Cuban policy and I commend my legislative brothers, Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, for playing an instrumental role in crafting this initiative.”

Obama’s Cuban policy was achieved through executive order with no congressional action required. Trump’s changes were also done by executive order. Who knows what will occur with the next regime.

Delegation works toward flood insurance reform

Flood insurance plans put Rubio, Elizabeth Warren in same boat, upsetting Florida agents —A fix to the federal flood insurance program, curbing costs and threats to real estate markets have created an unlikely duo — Rubio and liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

But as The Palm Beach Post reports, Florida agents, facing a Sept. 30 deadline to reauthorize the flood program, are rising alarm, provoked by a House agreement that seeks to slash payments to agents and other private groups that sell and administer National Flood Insurance Program policies. Florida is the No. 1 flood insurance market, with about 40 percent of the 5 million flood policies in the U.S.

“I am deeply concerned that Congress is attacking this essential lifeline to hard-working American insureds by trying to underfund its administration,” said Corey Mathews, CEO of the Professional Insurance Agents of Florida.

Crist pushes flood insurance affordability — The St. Petersburg Democrat is seeking measures for more affordable flood insurance. He is proposing two amendments to legislation aimed at renewing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The lack of affordable flood insurance would be “devastating for communities like Pinellas County.”

He contends affordability is not covered in the legislation under discussion in the House Committee on Financial Services. One measure proposed by Crist calls for repealing “unnecessary rate hikes,” while another prevents NFIP policy holders from being forced “into the volatile private insurance market.”

“Pinellas families know the cost of flood insurance is already too darn high,” Crist said at last week’s committee hearing. “We need to come together and do the right thing for middle class families, helping preserve the American dream of home ownership.

Floridians account for one-third of all NFIP policies in the nation and paid almost $1 billion into the program last year.

“Affordability means that families will be better able to protect themselves before a disaster rather than relying on the good graces of FEMA after the fact,” he said.

Republicans Dennis Ross and Bill Posey are also members of the committee.

Gaetz holds “Open Gaetz Day” on Fort Walton Beach

Rep. Matt Gaetz spent a recent Saturday hanging with his constituents, hosting a town hall, chatting with residents at an assisted living community, and attending a military roundtable to talk about the everything from the defense budget to PTSD.

The day-long event was the most recent “Open Gaetz Day,” giving Fort Walton Beach residents a chance to get to know their congressman and talk to him about the issues important to them.

Gaetz kicked off his day with a town hall at KC’s Sandbar on Miracle Strip Parkway, before visiting residents and staff at the Bob Hope Village Hawthorn House.

Rep. Matt Gaetz answers questions during a town hall meeting as part of his “Open Gaetz Day” in Fort Walton Beach on Saturday. (Photo via Rep. Matt Gaetz Office)

The congressman also toured the Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Ambulatory Center, which, as a state representative, Gaetz played a key role in helping expand care to trauma patients. After the tour, he attended an employee appreciation event.

Gaetz also stopped by the newly opened Aquatic Center at the Children’s Center, followed by a military roundtable. He ended the day at the Latin Salsa Festival at Fort Walton Beach Landing.

Pensacola set to welcome new Coast Guard cutters

More than 150 Coast Guardsmen and women, along with their families, will soon be calling Pensacola their new home. Last week the U.S. Coast Guard announced the Coast Guard Cutter Decisive and the Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless would relocate to Pensacola.

Both crafts, 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutters, will be docked in their new home not later than August, 2018. They will join the Coast Guard Cutter Cypress, which is already based at the Naval Air Station Pensacola.

“This is incredible news for Pensacola and for all northwest Floridians,” said Rep. Gaetz. “Not only is northwest Florida gaining 152 new families, but the safety and security of the Emerald Coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is significantly enhanced.”

Coast Guard cutters routinely conduct drug enforcement missions, patrol for illegal immigration attempts by sea, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and defense readiness. In 2016, the crew of the Dauntless worked with the Royal Canadian Navy to seize 26 tons of cocaine worth $715 million.

The Decisive is currently ported in Pascagoula, Miss. while the Dauntless is based in Galveston, Texas.

Yoho urges Ben Carson to reverse Obama-era ‘Housing First,’ reinstate homeless shelter funds

Rep. Ted Yoho, joined by 22 other House Republicans, co-signed a letter calling Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to reverse the “Housing First” emphasis in policies during the Obama administration.

“Housing First” holds that the best solution for homelessness is moving people into permanent, independent housing as quickly as possible. To implement those guidelines, HUD began increasing programs following that approach, cutting support for traditional shelters.

GOP lawmakers say that because of Housing First, successful homeless shelters in their districts have lost federal funding; they believe Carson needs to review the policy now.

“The Housing First approach may work for some, but it isn’t — and can’t be — the answer for all,” says California Republican Darrell Issa, who also signed the letter. “This misguided policy has caused some of the most effective homeless assistance programs in our district to walk away from the funding they need to help families get back on their feet.”

Rutherford: ‘Not concerned’ about Russian collusion with Trump campaign

Rep. John Rutherford wants officials to look into Russia’s attempt to interject itself into the 2016 election, but doesn’t think there was any collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign, reports A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics.

“If they were going to find collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, I think it would have already been uncovered,” said Rutherford, a Jacksonville Republican and an ally of President Trump. “So I’m not concerned at all about that. And I’m also not concerned about this idea that somehow … whatever the conversation was with [former FBI Director James] Comey, obstruction of justice.”

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rutherford said he doesn’t expect the panel to take up the issue of Russian interference in the election any time soon. Rutherford said he believes the “Intelligence Oversight Committee in the House and the Senate is doing their job.”

Lawson bill seeks to extend life of Social Security, provide more benefits

The Democrat from Tallahassee has introduced legislation aimed at preserving the long term health of Social Security while extending benefits to certain Americans. The Social Security for Future Generations Act of 2017 would, among other things, extend the life of Social Security by 15 years, increase some benefits, and levy payroll taxes on wages above $250,000.

“As the program is currently operating, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2034,” Lawson said in a release. “I call on my colleagues in the House to join me in increasing benefits and extending the life of one of our nation’s most sacred commitments.”

Lawson’s proposal would also extend student benefits to age 22, create a “sustainable benefit” for those who lose a spouse or loved one, provide across-the-board cost of living adjustments, and establish a minimum benefit for long-term low wage workers.

The bill has gained 17 Democratic co-sponsors including Alcee Hastings of Miramar and Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens. Among the interests groups signing on are the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Social Security Works, Alliance for Retired Americans and Justice for the Aging.

Murphy helps family reclaim father’s military medals

With all of the rancor on Capitol Hill and the shooting of Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise, the Winter Park Democrat had the chance to make a constituent happy. On Saturday, Murphy presented military service awards to the daughter of a World War II veteran.

Paul Linton was a naval officer aboard the USS Harry Lee in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. During his service, Linton earned 6 medals as a navigator, but his daughter Marie and her siblings played with them “and lost them or destroyed them,” she said.

Marie Delaney asked Murphy if she could help to have the medals re-issued.

“I said ‘why don’t we see if we can get his medals’ just to have them for the family and his grandchildren so they would know what their grandfather did,” Delaney said.

Murphy was happy to help.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy presented Marie Delaney with six medals her father, Paul Linton, a naval officer during World War II, was awarded over the weekend. The original medals were damaged or lost over the years, and Delaney asked Murphy for her help to get them re-issued. (Photo via Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s Facebook page.)

“They should be so proud of their father for his service to this country and the man he was,” Murphy said at a ceremony in Oviedo. “I’ve so enjoyed meeting the family and hearing the clear lessons he’s taught his family, and they carry on his legacy.”

On the eve of Father’s Day, memories of her late father rushed to her.

“To honor my father, that we have these back – all of them – it’s just for his children, myself included, that we can see just what our dad did,” said Delaney

Castor: Despite Trump policy, Tampa Bay area will continue to engage Cuba

The Tampa Democrat is not a fan of President Trump’s new Cuba policy. Two hours after Trump spoke in Miami, laying out an order prohibiting transactions with Cuban military-controlled entities, Castor said the Tampa Bay area will continue to engage the communist island.

“I think President Trump’s new policy is regrettable and it takes us backward, because what it will do will really complicate our neighbor’s ability to travel to Cuba,” Castor said. “It’s going to make it more expensive, more costly and add bureaucratic red tape.”

Trump’s order specifically limits commerce with GAESA, the business conglomerate owned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. According to the Miami Herald, GAESA controls more than 50 enterprises.

The president’s call for more freedom for the Cuban people drew skepticism from Castor as well.

“When you look at what they’ve said in Saudi Arabia, the relationship with Turkey, the Philippines, where the leader there is outright taking the lives of some of his citizens, there’s a great inconsistency there,” Castor said.

Buchanan touts legislation to target synthetic opioids

Rep. Vern Buchanan is co-sponsoring legislation that targets synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The Sarasota Republican supports efforts to strengthen the hand of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in their efforts to intercept these narcotics that are killing Americans at an alarming rate.

The INTERDICT Act would help stem the flow of fentanyl and other drugs by providing border agents with drug-detecting chemical screening devices at ports of entry. It authorizes $15 million in federal resources for the screening devices and for hiring scientists to assist in the effort.

A lethal dose of heroin next to a lethal dose of fentanyl (Photo: New Hampshire State Police)

“Fentanyl is a real and alarming threat to the Suncoast,” said Buchanan in a release. “American border patrol agents are on the front lines and need the resources to block these deadly drugs from entering our country.”

Two counties in Buchanan’s district, Sarasota and Manatee, had the highest and second-highest number of fentanyl-related deaths per capita in the state in 2015.

Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin. A lethal dose of the drug is similar to two or three grains of salt.

It can be produced in other countries and sent to the U.S. via mail. Buchanan is also a co-sponsor of the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Protection (STOP) Act, a bill designed to target this method of transporting killer drugs.

T. Rooney language saves rural VA clinics

The Okeechobee Republican reacted strongly to a recommendation that the Veterans’ Administration close two rural clinics in south Florida. Early last week, Rep. Tom Rooney and Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart wrote to Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, calling on him to reject the recommendation.

Instead of waiting, Rooney went ahead and got the funding for the clinics. Late last week, the House Appropriations Committee, of which Rooney and Diaz-Balart are members, passed their 2018 appropriation which $250 million for rural health thanks to language inserted by Rooney.

“Our men and women who selflessly put their lives on the line have a hard enough time receiving care as it is without the VA closing the clinics that are closest to their homes,” said Rooney, an Army veteran. “This bill is a prime example of the bipartisan work that occurs in the House of Representatives every day.”

The appropriations bill passed the full committee by voice vote. In another sign of true bipartisanship, the GOP-dominated committee inserted language proposed by committee member and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz that exempts the Veterans Crisis Line from the federal hiring freeze.

Both the new language and the full appropriations bill were approved by voice vote.

Frankel touts FEMA grant to cover hurricane costs

The West Palm Beach Democrat was happy to tout a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The funds come to help cover the costs incurred when Hurricane Matthew swept through the area in October.

The grant covers costs incurred by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office as they worked to protect citizens before and after the storm approached. Fortunately, the area was spared a direct hit.

“Hurricanes wreak havoc on communities and also their budgets,” Frankel said in a statement. “This grant offers relief to Palm Beach County’s Sheriff’s Office, allowing them to put their resources toward serving the county.”

This grant is the second federal reimbursement over recent weeks. Frankel, Boca Raton Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch and local officials sought, and ultimately received, reimbursements for heightened use of local law enforcement covering President Trump’s visits to his Mar-a-Lago estate.

National Democrats take aim at Rick Scott over health care

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda.

The committee announced this week it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families. The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy.

“Rick Scott cannot escape the toxic impact his health care proposals will have: spiking costs, sabotaging care and stripping coverage for hardworking families in order to give another handout to himself and big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DSCC. “This week the stakes for middle class families could not be higher — if Scott has his way the consequences for Floridians who actually work for a living will be expensive and horrific. We are standing with voters in opposing a plan that is deeply unpopular in Florida, and will hold Gov. Scott accountable for his actions.”

The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen.

Scott is believed to be preparing for a run against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Mark your calendars

Happening Sunday:

Seminar series features Diaz-Balart, Mast — The Florida House on Capitol Hill’s popular intern summer series is in full swing.

The annual series gives Florida college students a chance to interact and exchange ideas with each other, members of the Sunshine State’s congressional delegation, and business and government leaders.

According to the Florida House, Rep. Diaz-Balart is scheduled to speak at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. Upcoming speakers include Rep. Brian Mast on June 29 and Rep. Castor on July 13. A tour of the Supreme Court is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 6.

Seminars begin at 8:30 a.m., with a light breakfast served at 8 a.m. The seminars take place at Florida House. Students interested in attending can RSVP to each event at

JAX Chamber talks priorities in D.C.

The JAX Chamber is making good use of its connections in the nation’s capital.

About 30 members of the JAX Chamber traveled to Washington, D.C. last week for its annual D.C. Fly-In.

The annual trip is an opportunity to meet with the congressional delegation and federal agencies to talk about the priorities for Northeast Florida’s business community. The group has expanded the number of international meetings over the years, calling on embassies to build and strengthen relationships with partners across the globe. This year, members attended meetings on several issues, including transportation, energy, military and international trade.

Members of the JAX Chamber attended an event at the White House last week as part of its annual D.C. Fly-In. (Photo via the JAX Chamber.)

“Any time we have an opportunity to sell Jacksonville and talk about our city, we do it, and we’ve seen tremendous success from recent D.C. Fly-Ins,” said Daniel Davis, the president and CEO of the JAX Chamber. “When we’re up there, people know we’re a city with a strong port, that’s making huge strides in energy and is open for international business.”

A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics reported members of the Jacksonville delegation attended a White House event organized by Omarosa Manigault, who recently married Pastor John Newman. Gancarski reported Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump, also made an appearance at the event.

Matt Brockelman with Southern Strategy Group has a cool behind the scenes look at the trip to D.C.:

Meek joins King & Spalding

Former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek has joined King & Spalding as a senior advisor in the government advocacy and public policy practice in Washington, D.C.

“Congressman Meek has built a strong reputation as a bipartisan leader and is highly-regarded by his fellow lawmakers as a strategic negotiator and advocate for his constituents,” said Tom Spulak, chair of the firm’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice, in a statement. “Our clients will benefit from his insights and his deep experience as a legislator at the state and federal level.”

Meek will focus on health care, homeland security, agriculture, and financial services sectors. He is expected to split his time between D.C. and Florida, according to POLITICO Influence.

Former U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek has joined King & Spalding as a senior advisor in the government advocacy and public policy practice. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

“King & Spalding’s stellar reputation in the area of government advocacy and its deep bench of talent from both sides of the political aisle made it a great fit for me,” said Meek in a statement.

According to POLITICO Influence, Meek is the second former Florida congressman to join King & Spalding this year. In March, former Rep. Ander Crenshaw joined the firm as senior counsel.

Meek served in the U.S. House from 2002 until 2010, during which he served on the House Ways and Means Committee. He sponsored and passed legislation focused on tax, trade and health care issues.

Meek did not run for re-election in 2010, choosing instead to run for U.S. Senate, where he came in third behind then-candidate Republican Marco Rubio and then-independent candidate Charlie Crist. Prior to serving in the U.S. House, Meek served in both the Florida House and Senate.

McFaul talks Scalise shooting

Dan McFaul, a partner at Ballard Partners in Washington, D.C., said he hoped “some good” could come out of a shooting at an Alexandria, Virginia baseball field that left several people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, injured last week.

“When something serious like this happens, you see partisanship dramatically go down,” said McFaul to Rick Outezen on his Pensacola Speaks podcast last week.

McFaul served as Rep. Jeff Miller’s chief of staff, as well as a stint as Rep. Matt Gaetz’s chief of staff, before joining Ballard Partners. Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican, was on the congressional baseball team, but was not present at the practice.

Members of both congressional teams bow their heads for a moment of silence for Rep. Steve Scalise before the Congressional baseball game on June 15, 2017 in Washington. The annual GOP-Democrats baseball game raises money for charity. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

The Louisiana Republican was one of five people injured when a gunman opened fire at the field where GOP congressmen were practicing for their annual charity baseball game against Democrats. The Associated Press reported a bullet entered Scalise’s hip and shattered bones, blood vessels and internal organs, causing massive internal bleeding that put his life at risk. He has undergone several surgeries, and was upgraded from critical to serious condition over the weekend.

McFaul said it “was a shock” when he heard about the shooting on the radio. Still he said he was hopeful something good could come from it.

“There’s things that are more important than party, and certainly this is one of those things,” he said. “It’s my hope some good can come from this, some lessons can be learned and we can all learn to play a little nicer with each other.”

Ros-Lehtinen a popular teammate on Congressional Women’s Softball team

Last week’s Congressional Baseball Game, won by Democrats 11-2, attracted nation-wide attention and record-breaking charitable fund raising following the shootings in a Virginia park the day before. A similar event, the Congressional Women’s Softball Game is less known, but gaining extra attention this year.

The game features a bipartisan group of Congresswomen against women members of the media known as the Bad News Babes. Just days before the game is set to be played, the event, just like the men’s game, is breaking fundraising records. More than a quarter-million dollars has already been raised to benefit the game’s charity, the Young Survival Coalition, which supports young women with breast cancer.

One who has been there since the event began in 2009 was Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She is clearly among the most popular players on the team.

With her impending retirement from Congress, many teammates are already lamenting her impending departure from the game. Ros-Lehtinen is one of three captains for the Congressional team along with Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz and New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who has been a member of the Congressional Women’s Softball team since it started, was expected to play in her penultimate game this week. She’s retiring when her term ends in 2018. (Photo via the Congressional Women’s Softball Game)

“Ily has one of the best attitudes of anyone on our Congressional Women’s Softball Team,” Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos told Roll Call. “She shows up to every practice, dutifully will run out to right field, catch what she can and run after what she misses – smiling all the way.”

Ros-Lehtinen will likely have one more game in 2018 before her retirement, but her absence will be felt.

“She has been a consummate teammate, starting as a softball novice in our first year to becoming a team co-captain,” said Wasserman Schutlz. “She truly embodies the spirt of the game, where partisan differences are set aside for some healthy athletic competition and the pursuit of a higher cause – raising the funds to tackle the critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer.”

As Ros-Lehtinen prepares to step aside, another Floridian joins the roster for the first time. Winter Park first-term Democrat Stephanie Murphy seeks to help her teammates beat the press.


Rick Kriseman’s financial disclosure shows legal work still paying off

Rick Kriseman‘s financial disclosure is a straightforward affair that reflects a career dedicated to lawsuits and public service.

Last week, the St. Petersburg mayor made his bid for a second term official, a process that includes a disclosure of his net worth, assets, and liabilities.

According to his Form 6 declaration, the first-term incumbent is worth $360,505.

As St. Pete mayor, Kriseman earned $170,906 in 2016; as a personal injury attorney, he earned another $133,171 last year.

Kriseman’s campaign said that the mayor is not actively practicing law; instead the six-figures in legal income is from settlements reached before Kriseman’s time in office.

Much of Kriseman’s wealth is based on the St. Petersburg house, valued at $650,000. His sole liability is a mortgage through Regions Mortgage Bank listed as $319,495.

Kriseman also itemized household goods and personal effects at $30,000.

Unlike almost every other candidate running for office in St. Petersburg who also has a positive net worth, Kriseman does not list owning a checking or a saving account.

It’s possible this account could be listed solely under his wife’s name, which would not require a disclosure. But if his name is on the account and it’s worth more than $1,000, it should be disclosed.

Under intangible personal property, the mayor also declared a financial interest in Fidelity Financial Services, based in Dallas, Texas, for an undisclosed amount.

On the form, Kriseman listed no other secondary source of income or real property.

Andrew Gillum blasts Republicans for hiding ‘immoral disaster’ of Senate health care bill

Andrew Gillum blasted Senate Republicans Tuesday for “hiding” behind its Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, an “immoral disaster” which is being written largely behind closed doors and without Democrat input.

But the Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Florida Governor is not the only one. Gillum is part of a growing chorus of disapproval coming from both sides of the aisle.

Several Senate Republicans have also criticized their own party, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who questioned the lack of transparency in the process.

“The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Rubio said Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Despite Republicans wanting to vote on the bill is soon as next week, there has been, so far, no legislation presented for examination and few lawmakers (of either party) who even know what is in the proposal.

On Monday evening, Democrats took to the Senate floor for a series of lengthy speeches chastising Republicans — notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — for trying to push through a massive “back door” bill repealing the Affordable Care Act.

In response, Gillum released a statement giving somewhat backhanded praise to Rubio for cautioning against ramming a health care bill through the Senate.

“Senate Republicans are hiding their health care bill for one reason only: it’s an immoral disaster that will likely take health care away from more than 20 million Americans,” Gillum said. “Health care is a right in this country and state, and they are hiding behind closed doors because they don’t want us to know the truth.

“I was heartened to see Senator Rubio raise the transparency issue this weekend — if he feels so strongly about it, he should refuse to vote for it unless it receives full scrutiny.

“I’m glad his Democratic colleagues held the floor last night — we need to put up as many obstacles as possible to prevent Republicans from passing this bill that threatens the quality of life for so many Floridians.”

Florida Democratic Party chair Stephen Bittel is a rich a*shole, but…

Stephen Bittel is a rich a*shole.

And I was always of the opinion that was precisely why the battered and marginalized Florida Democratic Party selected him to lead it out of these dark, Trumpian, perpetually-irrelevant-in Tallahassee, times.

There was also a vocal minority of the party’s grassroots which disagreed with that notion, preferring a chair who represented the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

They lost. Just as Sanders lost in Florida by a nearly 2-1 margin.

So both factions of the party knew full well what they were getting with Bittel, and they got it: a rich a*shole.

To be clear, Bittel’s behavior surrounding the scheduling conflict that has been the source of the recent controversy was way out of line. Blaming black lawmakers for a slight felt by the entire Democratic legislative caucus was, in Bittel’s own words, “childish” at best, and racist at worst.

I’m pretty sure it was childish and born from the fact that we’re talking about an older, wealthy, CEO-type used to trains running smoothly and on time, dealing with the hair-pullingly frustrating chaos and logistical insanity of a major political event.

That explains his behavior. It doesn’t excuse it. But the man has apologized sincerely and profusely. Again, today he did so personally with Senate Democratic leader Oscar Braynon and incoming House leader Kionne McGhee.

Democrats need to move on. Stephen Bittel is not Frank Artiles. He’s not even Bill Maher.

He’s the rich a*shole that Democrats chose — by a fairly significant margin, if memory serves — to lead them out of the abject political wilderness they’ve found themselves. He was the only real choice to do so then, and so he remains.

Consider this:

What’s been lost in all this internecine drama since the weekend, is the fact that Florida Democrats cleared over $1 million in donations for their annual gala. A big part of that was the undeniable draw of former Vice President Joe Biden, who Bittel personally cajoled into headlining the event (and who the former VPOTUS thanked and praised in his remarks).

There is no planet in which the FDP could have pulled off this past weekend of fundraising and party-building — which but for the unfortunate conflict arising between Bittel and black lawmakers, went off flawlessly — under the leadership of any other chair.

Democrats need to accept Bittel’s apologies and accept that Bittel’s flaws are his strengths.

Florida Republicans love rich a*sholes, and they control the Legislature, Governor’s Mansion, and the Cabinet. A rich a*shole on the Democratic side has stepped up to help his flagging party.

Florida Democrats, take the help. You need it.

Jack Latvala could announce he’s running for Governor on July 14 — but here’s why he won’t

Lobsters and Latvalas.

For some in Florida politics (we’re looking at you Pete Dunbar, Lisa Hurley and Alan Suskey) that’s all they may ever need.

And on July 14 these folks will be in beautiful Boothbay Harbor, Maine for an old fashioned pig roast (we’re not  sure if there will be delicious Maine lobsters on the menu) and to raise money for state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s main political committee, the Florida Leadership Committee.

The gathering in Maine has become an annual tradition, where those close to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee gather for a couple of days to enjoy each other’s camaraderie — and hear Latvala’s plans for the year ahead.

In years past, those in attendance discussed the Pinellas Republican’s efforts to win the Senate presidency.

What Latvala has to say this year is especially important. He’s expected to share with his closest political friends and supporters his plans for 2018.

For months, speculation has pointed to Latvala announcing a maverick’s run for Governor. In February, Latvala told Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times that he would not be making a decision about 2018 until the Legislative Session was over.

Well, Session has come and gone. There even was a Special Session. So is Latvala ready to throw his hat into the ring and challenge Adam Putnam (and probably Richard Corcoran) for the GOP nomination?

Latvala might be ready to run. And he might tell his friends and supporters on July 14 he intends to run. But don’t expect him to officially launch a campaign before September 1.

This is because Latvala is counting on public campaign finance to bolster his war chest and any money raised before that date does not count towards the figure that can be matched.

Florida’s public financing law was established in the 1980s as a way to help overcome the rising cost of running statewide, reports the Naples Daily News.

Payments are doled out under Florida law that allows gubernatorial candidates to seek public financing for their campaign. If candidates agree to limit their spending, the state matches contributions up to $250. Contributions above that amount also receive a $250 match.

Because he’s running against a candidate (Putnam) with nearly a $10 million head start, Latvala will likely rely on public financing to level the field.

And, to be frank, there’s not much Putnam can say about that.

This is because Putnam in 2014, while running for re-election as Commissioner of Agriculture, took more than $400,000 from the state in public financing even though he was running against a tomato can.

Why a fiscal conservative like Putnam who was facing no threat of being defeated would accept public campaign financing — even if he was entitled to it — is a good question.

Putnam’s spokesman told Matt Dixon that Putnam doesn’t support the taxpayer-financing policy, but it would have been “absurd” to turn down the money.

It’s unclear if Putnam will accept public financing — and the cap that comes with it — in 2018. His campaign and committee have raised a combined $13.4 million through May 31.

Although Latvala is himself a prolific fundraiser, he probably doesn’t have the capacity or time (he won’t be able to fundraise during the 2018 Legislative Session) to raise Putnam-esque money. And to be honest, if Latvala is to pull off an upset and defeat Putnam, Corcoran, etc., he will have to catch fire with the Republican grassroots to do so. A couple of million dollars on top of the $25 million limit won’t make a difference towards that.

So while much of the Florida political universe is eager to see Jack Latvala on the campaign trail, they’re probably going to have to wait a little longer.

In the meantime, enjoy the lobster rolls.

Sunburn for 6.20.17 — Georgia on our mind; DSCC smacks Rick Scott; New mailers in SD 40; Dale Swope takes helm at FJA; Happy b’day Matt Harringer

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

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

We love Florida politics, but today all eyes (including ours) will be on the special election to replace Rep. Tom Price in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The race — which pits Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel — is one of the most expensive House races in U.S. history, with the Associated Press reporting an estimated $50 million will be spent on the race.

It’s also one of the first big tests for President Donald Trump and the Republicans hold on Washington, D.C. A Republican has held the seat since 1979, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Price, who left the post to become Trump’s Health and Human Service Secretary. But as Nate Silver with FiveThirtyEight points out, the congressional district has changed a bit over the years.

Jon Ossoff greets thanks volunteers at a campaign office in Chamblee yesterday. Photo credit: Joe Raedle of Getty Images.

Silver points out that the district went for Mitt Romney by 23 percentage points in 2012, the same year then-President Barack Obama won by 4 points nationally, making it “27 points more Republican than the country as a whole.”  In 2016, however, it picked Trump over Hillary Clinton, by 1.5 points in an election where Clinton won by 2 points. As Silver notes that made the district “only 3 to 4 points more Republican than the national average.”

The race isn’t just a test for Republican, it’s also an early chance for Democrats to prove they can flip a district, especially going into the 2018 midterms. Ossoff, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average, leads Handel 49 percent to 47 percent.

“Democrats sweat the details in Georgia special election” via Gabe Debenedetti of POLITICO – Democrats are closer than they ever could have imagined to winning a House seat in the Republican suburbs of Atlanta, and dealing a resounding blow to Trump. But they’re also gripped by anxiety about what happens if they fall short Tuesday. A loss in Georgia’s special election here could leave the party demoralized, with little to show for all the furious organizing, fundraising and spending in a handful of congressional special elections in the early months of the Trump administration.

– “A pro-Donald Trump group is using Barack Obama’s voice out of context in radio ad for Georgia’s special election” via Andrew Kaczynski of CNN

– “Early-vote turnout soars in Georgia special election via Scott Bland of POLITICO

– “High-stakes referendum on Donald Trump takes shape in a Georgia special election” via Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times

– “The Dems’ new midterm challenge: replicate Jon Ossoff’s success” via Alex Roarty of McClatchy

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DSCC releases new digital ad taking aim at Rick Scott health care” via Florida Politics — The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda. The committee announced Monday it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families. The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy. The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen. Click on the ad below to watch.

“Endorsement watch: Al Jacquet supports Andrew Gillum” via Florida PoliticsState Rep. Jacquet on Monday announced his support of Tallahassee Mayor Gillum for Democratic governor in 2018. “Andrew brings a fresh perspective, energetic spirit, and the bold leadership our state desperately needs in order to best address our economic issues,” said Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat. “It’s time to stand up to special interests whose only concern has been filling their own pockets.” Jacquet is an attorney who speaks four languages and has served as vice mayor of Delray Beach.

Assignment editors: Adam Putnam will take part in a small business roundtable at Molds Unlimited 7620 West 2nd Court in Hileah. The event opens to the media at 10:50 a.m., with media gaggle at 11 a.m. Media interested in attending should RSVP to by 8 a.m.

Matt Caldwell releases video highlighting #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour — The North Fort Myers kicked off his kicked off #2LaneTravels Work Days at Key Largo Fisheries in Key Largo on Friday. The statewide tour is a chance for Caldwell to showcase the industries that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services oversees. “The people who end up at top are the ones who started in the mail room,” he said in an interview after working skinning yellow tails and weighing shark carcasses. “For me, the same thing is true here, if I can do the best job I can … if I’m blessed to come out on top, I have to understand (the jobs).” … For Caldwell, the work days serve a dual purpose. While it helps it him better understand Florida, he’s also hopeful it will help Floridians better understand what the Agriculture Commissioner does. “When you go around and try to explain to people who aren’t farmers, I remind them of the show Dirty Jobs,’” he said. “Pretty much everything he does is what the Commissioner’s Office oversees.” Caldwell said he expects future work days to include working on cattle ranches, with timber crews, and in tire shops. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Pinellas, Pasco sheriffs back Ashley Moody for AG — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco announced this week they were backing the former Hillsborough  in her race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018. “We need to continue these aggressive, common-sense initiatives and there is no one better suited to do that than Ashley Moody,” said Gualtieri, who also praised Bondi’s work as attorney general in his statement. “She is a proven prosecutor and experienced leader in the legal community. She knows what it takes to protect our state and she has my full support.” Nocco said he was support Moody for “Attorney General because she shares my priorities and has the experience, knowledge, and determination to keep our state safe and support our law enforcement community and its quest to protect Floridians.”

Democrat Pam Keith to seek U.S. House seat of GOP’s Brian Mast” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Keith, a former U.S. Navy and NextEra Energy attorney who impressed progressive activists with her 2016 U.S. Senate bid, will run for the Palm Beach County-Treasure Coast congressional seat held by freshman Rep. Mast. “He is a follower in Congress,” Keith said of Mast. “When his constituents were begging to talk to him and tell him why the vote to repeal Obamacare was a horrible idea … he wasn’t even willing to listen to them.” Trump carried District 18 with 53 percent of the vote, but Keith believes the president will be a liability for Mast. “Congress is supposed to be a check on the power of the executive branch and Congress is not doing that. We’ve not seen Brian Mast stand up to anything at this point,” Keith said.

New round of mailers target Alex Diaz de la Portilla in SD 40” via Florida Politics — Making A Better Tomorrow has released two more mailers in the Senate District 40 race. In one ad, the Venice-based political committee claims Diaz de la Portilla “is completely unfit to hold public office.” The mailer points to his failure to report hundreds of campaign contributions and personal financial strife, among other things, as reasons why the group says he is “unfit to lead.” A second mailer, which hit mailboxes last week, claims Diaz de la Portilla “has hurt Florida’s seniors.” The ad reads: “First Alex Diaz de la Portilla cut $2.5 million from programs benefiting Florida seniors, including home car for the elderly, community care and Alzheimer’s disease initiative programs. Then he turned around and cut funding to nursing homes. As if that’s not bad enough, Diaz de la Portilla cut Medicaid payments and imposed higher taxes on facilities that care for seniors.”

Jose Felix Diaz: I’ll return money from Miami developer under investigation ‘if they’re guilty’” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, a Republican candidate for Senate, is “closely” monitoring a federal affordable-housing investigation now examining the largest real estate developer in South Florida, the Related Group, which gave Diaz and his political committee $5,000 this month. “There was no way I could have known” about the investigation, said Diaz, who is running in the District 40 special election. The Miami Herald revealed the investigation on Thursday. The Feds are focusing on the Related Group and its involvement in a low-income apartment building for seniors in Miami’s Shenandoah neighborhood. … On June 6, Related Urban Development Group cut a $3,000 check to Diaz’s political committee, Rebuild Florida, according to the committee’s finance records. A day later, it gave $1,000 directly to Diaz, as did Fortune Urban Construction, Related Group’s wholly owned contractor. “If they’re guilty of any crime, obviously I will return” the money, Diaz said. “In our system, the premise is you’re innocent until you’re found guilty.”

Save the date: Jason Fischer will host a kick-off fundraiser for his 2018 campaign at 6 p.m., Monday at Acosta Corporate Headquarters, 6600 Corporate Center Parkway in Jacksonville. The event will be chaired by Rep. Paul Renner, former Ambassador John Rood, former Education Commissioner Jim Horne. The host committee, according to the invitation, includes Tim Baker, Marty Fiorentino, Mori Hosseini, and Brian Hughes. Special guests include Mayor Lenny Curry, Sens. Aaron Bean, Rob Bradley, and Travis Hutson, and Reps. Cord Byrd, Travis Cummings, Jay Fant, Bobby Payne, Cyndi Stevenson, and Clay Yarborough.

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, qualifies for HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising —  Portigliatti, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC. He joins Kissimmee chamber of commerce chief John Newstreet, former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski, and emergency and urgent care physician Dr. Usha Jain as having qualified for the Republican primary ballot. The other three qualified by petition earlier this month. Qualification closes at noon Tuesday for the special election, set to replace former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, who resigned to take a judicial appointment.

Daniel Perez takes double-digit lead over Jose Mallea in HD 116 poll” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News — Political newcomer Daniel Perez is leading his GOP primary opponents by double-digit numbers in the race to replace Jose Felix Diaz in Florida’s 116th House District. According to a poll released Monday, voters would select lawyer Daniel Perez over Miami-Dade Republican Jose Mallea by a 24 percent margin, with 37 percent saying they support Perez while 13 percent would vote for Mallea. When voters were given both positive and negative statements about the two candidates, including their personal backgrounds, issue positions and list of endorsements, Mallea’s lead decreased while Perez’s lead increased to 50 percent.


Assignment editors: Gov. Scott is expected to speak during the New York State Republican Gala at 7 p.m. at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 811 Seventh Ave. in New York. Lara Trump is also scheduled to attend.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented on Monday with all enrolled bills from the 2017-A Special Session, LobbyTools reported. He has until Tuesday, July 4, to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature. The bills are SB 8-A, which implements the state’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana; SB 6-A, which tweaks public records law related to cannabis users’ caregivers’ information; HB 3A, which boosts public education funding; and HB 1A, which funds tourism marketing and economic development.

“Judge reverses himself, decides ‘pre-reveal’ machines are slots” via Florida PoliticsIn a stunning reversal, a Tallahassee judge on Monday decided he had gotten it “wrong the first time around” and decided that games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. Circuit Judge John Cooper, however, was quick to say his change of mind was not influenced by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but rather by further argument on how pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games actually play. The Tribe’s lawyer had said that allowing the machines, which look and play like slots, violates their exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s cut of the Tribe’s gambling revenue. “That’s a political issue,” Cooper said.

“State tells court to deny Gretna’s request for rehearing” via Florida Politics – Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office told the state Supreme Court on Monday to turn down a request from a North Florida racetrack in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them. Last month, the court unanimously ruled against Gretna Racing, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them. The court’s unanimous decision found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.” The state’s response called Gretna’s arguments for rehearing “improper and meritless.”

State health insurance examined – The Office of Economic and Demographic Research will discuss state employee health insurance at a meeting starting 9 a.m. in Room 117 of the Knott Building.


Rick Scott tries to lure ‘upset’ Connecticut firms” via Susan Haigh of The Associated Press – Scott met with community and business leaders in Norwalk. Scott’s visit comes as health insurer Aetna Inc. considers relocating its longtime headquarters from Hartford. Scott says he would “love every company in Connecticut” to think about moving to Florida, where he says taxes and regulations have been cut since he first took office. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s spokeswoman says “it’s no wonder” Scott would look to Connecticut and be “envious” of its’ high quality of life, good schools and skilled workforce.

Richard Corcoran to Hillsborough schools: Stop blaming the Legislature while you waste money” via Marlene Sokol of the Tampa Bay Times – As it attempts to put its financial house in order, the Hillsborough County School District is being made a poster child for runaway public school spending. The accuser: Corcoran, a driving force behind this year’s sweeping public education bill. His message: The bill (HB 7069) is not why district officials are struggling to pay their expenses. Rather, Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times, “it’s their bloat, inefficiency and gross over-spending. Their problem is their mismanagement.” But Corcoran insisted that politics had nothing to do with his remarks. “It’s not over how they’re treating me, it’s absolutely over their gross mismanagement,” he said.

Former Miami administrator’s suspicious land deal under state investigation” via David Ovalle, David Smiley and Nicholas Nehamas of the Miami Herald – As a former Miami city official, politically connected construction consultant Ola Aluko boasts years of experience putting together complex development deals and handling millions in government grants. But in one small land deal that turned a six-figure profit, Aluko’s role was curiously obscured. A few years back, he bought a small tract of vacant land in Overtown for $39,000, creating a shell company to do it. Six months later, the shell company filed paperwork installing a new manager — a 23-year-old Miami woman. The next day, the company flipped the parcel for $150,000. The new buyer? St. John Community Development Corporation, a venerated Miami nonprofit — whose president happens to be Aluko. Today, St. John is pursuing a tax-subsidized affordable housing project on the site.

Uber driver cited $250 in Miami for not speaking English” via The Associated Press – Miami-Dade officials say Carmen Hechavarria received a ticket after dropping off passengers at the Miami International Airport. A county ordinance says drivers of ride-hailing apps must be able to communicate in English. Uber spokesman Javi Correoso said the app allows people to communicate even if they don’t speak English. It is how foreign-language speakers and deaf drivers can sign up … 54-year-old Hechavarria was fined after she couldn’t understand when an officer greeted her … Hechavarria speaks Spanish.


Little Marco Rubio shrinks down to Donald Trump’s size” via Richard Cohen of The Washington Post – The pliable Republican senator from Florida and the deranged president of the United States now get along. It was only a bit more than a year ago that they were hurling verbal spitballs at one another … It is refreshing, in an aerosol sort of way, to have that squabble behind us and the room fumigated. Only Trump remains, spewing resentful tweets from somewhere in the White House. I could say that it is a good and wholesome thing to return to yesteryear, when the day’s rancorous politics ended with bourbon and branch and the camaraderie that comes from acknowledging that the real enemy is not across the aisle, but the American people. They can vote you out. But with Trump, there is no going back to the old ways. Just as “Macbeth doth murder sleep,” so has Trump broken Washington.

Rick Scott’s double-whammy against public education in Florida” via the Palm Beach Post editorial board – Nice work, Governor … Scott vetoed most of the policy initiatives sought by Senate President Negron in hopes of catapulting Florida campuses into the nation’s top tier of public universities. That included expansions of the Bright Futures merit-scholarship program and funds to attract world-class professors and researchers and reward top-performing medical, business and law programs. Scott did this because he thought the universities were benefiting at the expense of the 28 state colleges. It’s true that the state colleges fared badly in Tallahassee this spring. But the way to fix those shortcomings is to address them next year — not punish universities for the advances they managed to make. Since when it is wise to throw out the baby with the bathwater? More galling is Scott’s embrace of House Bill 7069, which was rightly reviled by school boards, superintendents, classroom teachers and parents throughout the state. With Scott’s signature, $140 million of public money will be set aside to subsidize privately owned charter schools that can set up near struggling traditional public schools and call them “Schools of Hope.”

Joe Henderson: Corcoran did more than change Florida education, whipped teachers union too” via Florida Politics – Alex Sink made a point that Democrats may finally have a cause to rally around in this state. She referred to HB 7069 (or, as I like to call it, “The Let’s Bust the Teachers’ Union Act”) pushed through by House Speaker Corcoran and signed into law by Gov. Scott. It is the biggest push yet by the Legislature to expand private charter schools with money from the public education budget. I won’t say Corcoran doesn’t care about public education. I won’t even say charter schools don’t have some benefit. But I will say that if you peel back the layers of how we got here, the Republican victory dance is as much about the whipping they inflicted on the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, as it was the expansion of charters. This was Corcoran showing the union who is boss.

Joe Negron got played — Florida public schools pay price” via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial board – Negron so badly wanted his top priority this year that he failed to do what citizens expect of the Legislature’s upper chamber: stop bad things from happening … sometimes, doing the right thing means being willing to sacrifice your pet project. But after securing his first priority of the session — a new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee — Negron fiercely sought his second: a sweeping higher education bill meant to help certain state universities attain “elite” status, while putting community colleges back in their place … HB 7069 was a tough sell in the more-measured Senate. But to secure his pet priority, Negron pushed it through. So, it was something of a stunner this week when the governor vetoed Negron’s priority, and signed Corcoran’s bad bill. In fact, it was a whiplash moment in the topsy turvy world of Florida politics.


“Art Graham, Ron Brisé seek reappointment to Public Service Commission” via Florida Politics – The Nominating Council for the commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, announced Monday it was “accepting applications to fill two vacancies.” Those refer to the seats now held by Commissioners Graham and Brisé, whose terms are up at the end of the year. A spokeswoman for the commission later said that both men “notified the Nominating Council, as required by law, that they are both seeking reappointment.” The next terms start Jan. 2, 2018. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The pay is $131,036 per year.

Personnel note: Dale Swope named president of Florida Justice Association” via Florida PoliticsTampa attorney Swope has been named the 58th president of the Florida Justice Association, the group announced in a press release Monday. Swope took the presidency at the Association’s 2017 Annual Conference in St. Pete Beach last week. The group is the only statewide professional association dedicated to trial attorneys and their clients in the state. “I’m honored my colleagues have placed their trust in me to lead the Florida Justice Association at this consequential time for civil justice in our state and country,” Swope said after being sworn in.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Vertical Bridge Holdings

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: Docusign, Inc.

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: AmDev International

David Shepp, Southern Strategy Group: PuppySpot Group, LLC

— ALOE —

Skateboarders planning ‘rogue’ mission to build concrete ramp in Havana” via Howard Altman of the Tampa Bay Times – Organizers say the plan is to convert an unused drainage ditch on the outskirts of Havana into a skate park with a mini ramp. The effort, they say, does not include seeking approval from authorities in the communist nation. “We are renegades,” said Michelle Box, executive director of Skatepark of Tampa and its associated charity, Boards for Bros. … the Tampa contingent is joining a campaign spearheaded by a Miami skateboarding charity that has been distributing skateboards in Cuba since 2009 … to coincide with international Go Skateboarding Day. “It’s being celebrated around the world,” said Box … “It’s a day to throw down the laptops and skate all day. That’s the impetus and reason and timing for this.” The mission will last 10 days.

Universal plans two hotels on former Wet ‘n Wild site” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Two hotels with 4,000 rooms, three pools and a parking garage will fill the 36-acre former home of Wet ‘n Wild. The plans will be considered by Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board before heading to Orlando City Council members for review July 10 and July 24. City documents provide a first glimpse of the development that sits a mile and a half east of the theme park on I-Drive. Universal has requested the property be rezoned from AC-3 (commercial) to a planned unit development. They also need a waiver to allow the parking garage to front on I-Drive. Current zoning requires parking garages be built on the back of developments in the Metropolitan Activity Center, which has the highest intensity of development outside of downtown Orlando. If approved, city staff has recommended the garage be screened and designed so it doesn’t look like a parking structure.

Website ranks Orlando as best U.S. place for video gamers” via The Associated Press – WalletHub said Orlando’s number of video game stores per-capita and its number of arcades helped push it to the top of the list for the 100 largest cities in the nation. Other cities in the top 5 rankings were Seattle, Austin, New York and Atlanta. The website also considered the share of residents owning smartphones, the number of annual comic book or sci-fi conventions and internet quality.

Happy birthday belatedly to people whom I don’t often agree with but are very good at their jobs: Brian Hughes and Mary Ellen Klas. Celebrating today is Matt Harringer, our friend Todd JoskoEd Miyagishima, and top fundraiser Ieva Smidt.

Kartik Krishnaiyer, one of Florida’s leading progressive bloggers, taking hiatus from political writing

It was a really bad weekend for Florida progressives; not just because the Florida Democratic Party’s Leadership Gala ended in racially-tinged acrimony.

Kartik Krishnaiyer, one of Florida’s leading progressive bloggers and publisher of the award-winning Florida Squeeze website, wrote Friday he was “stepping away from covering party politics or Democratic Party happenings.”

At a time when President Donald Trump is advancing a reactionary, neo-nationalistic brand of GOP politics and Florida Republicans are beginning to demonstrate there is a shelf-life to one-party rule in the state, Krishnaiyer’s withdrawal from blogging and writing is a genuine blow to the progressive cause.

However, according to Krishnaiyer’s final post, Democrats and progressives only have themselves to blame for isolating a blogger once recognized by The Washington Post as one of the best state-based blogs in Florida.

“Whenever we publish work on the GOP, its excessive right-wing policies or hypocrisy they generate FAR less traffic than critiques directed at accountability of Democratic officeholders or the Democratic Party itself,” Krishnaiyer writes.

Krishnaiyer no longer wants to be a party to the Democrat-on-Democrat crime.

“It seems so many in our party live in a bubble, and while there’s a hunger for real talk on how to fix it, many of our articles just seem to create more acrimony and tribalism within the party. It at times gives aid and comfort to malcontents and gadflies with agendas that aren’t positive for the party or a progressive ideology while making little impact on those in power.”

What Krishnaiyer wrote Friday seemed to be on full display come Sunday when, as Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida first reported, Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel was forced to apologize for racially-tinged remarks directed at black lawmakers who were upset with Bittel for allowing event planners to skip a feature to recognize state House and Senate Democrats.

“A party that, despite constant losses, puts the ethnic and gender profile first and a candidate’s qualifications, loyalty and ideology second isn’t an entity worth fighting to reform any longer,” Krishnaiyer wrote presciently.

Krishnaiyer, a staunch Democrat, began his political advocacy in the mid-90s as president of the University of Florida College Democrats. By 1998, he was active in the governmental and public relations sectors, where he stayed for a decade on political campaigns, nonprofits and advocacy organizations.

Before becoming a consultant, Krishnaiyer served as a staffer in the Florida House, acting as a political director for both organizations and campaigns. He played a role in the 2000 Presidential recount in Palm Beach County, working on behalf of the Palm Beach Democratic Party. He was statewide field coordinator for the Florida Democratic Party working through the DEC Chairs Association during the 2002 election cycle. He ran several local campaigns in both 2002 and 2004 in Palm Beach, Broward also in Central Florida.

In addition to his political work, Krishnaiyer has been a major figure in soccer reporting from 2007  to 2013, returning to political punditry in 2012 writing for the Political Hurricane. He founded the Florida Squeeze in 2013.

Krishnaiyer now serves as the managing editor and podcast co-host for World Soccer Talk, an international soccer blog. He is the author of “Blue with Envy,” a book about Manchester City Football Club, and is a regular contributor to the Florida Politics email digest Jacksonville Bold.

It’s unclear what will happen to The Florida Squeeze without Krishnaiyer’s writing propelling it forward. To be honest, the volume and quality of the site’s content dropped off considerably since winning The Washington Post recognition. It should have parlayed the accolade into a larger footprint in Florida politics.

But, for whatever reasons, that never materialized.

Still, the site continues to be widely read within Florida Democratic and progressive circles. It has an active comment section where insiders, in mostly anonymous fashion, spar with each other. And with a wide-open Democratic primary for governor and other statewide offices, the Squeeze could have offered an arena where Democratic activists and thinkers shaped the big debates of the 2018 cycle.

Unfortunately, that does not look like it will happen.

On a side note, Krishnaiyer’s stepping away from the table is more evidence that Florida’s fledgling political blogosphere died a long time ago. It’s no longer enough to call this website a blog, nor is The Sayfie Review, with its complete lack of original content, a blog.

No, a blogosphere is/was something that was populated by wonderful, interesting sites like The Political Hurricane/The Florida Squeeze: mostly non-commercial platforms giving voice to a broad array of opinions. They weren’t always the best-edited websites, and sometimes they looked as attractive as a dog’s breakfast, but they were worth reading.

There was a time, less than six years ago, when prominent Florida political blogger, Kenneth Quinnell, actually staged an awards contest to recognize the best of blogging in the state. There were more than 150 websites which merited consideration!

Those were the days.

After a while, though, many amateur writers lost interest in blogging. “Why am I writing all of this if no one is reading it?” is the question which probably kills off most blogs.

The New York Times reported at the end of the blog era that 95 percent of blogs are essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

My friend Kartik Krishnaiyer tried his damnedest to fulfill his blogging dream. But in the end, it went unfulfilled. And we are all the worse for that.

Criticizing Rick Kriseman having a chief of staff and spokesperson a weak line of attack for Rick Baker

There are any number of serious policy differences between Rick Baker and Rick Kriseman: the effectiveness of community policing, funding for the new St. Petersburg Pier, the threat (real or imagined) of global warming, where to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, etc.

Yet one difference between the former mayor and incumbent — how to appropriately staff the Mayor’s Office — is an inside baseball debate that voters should ignore. Also, Baker’s criticism of Kriseman’s decision to hire, among other positions, a chief of staff and a communications director is a weak line of attack. Baker should drop this attack and focus on the big-ticket issues.

The criticism of Kriseman’s personnel decisions began the day Baker announced he was running to get his old job back.

“Rick Baker never had a spokesman when he was mayor,” Baker said May 9 on the steps of City Hall. “Maybe because I didn’t have $125,000 to throw away.”

Unless you are a Bob Dole, it’s never attractive for a politician to speak about themselves in the third-person.

That comment — and a follow-up remark by Baker suggesting that Kriseman’s chief of staff, Kevin King, ‘runs the city sometimes’ led the Tampa Bay Times Charlie Frago to investigate which of the two mayors paid the highest salaries at City Hall.

The best way to compare the two administrations, the Baker campaign argued, would be to examine all of the departments in the Kriseman administration.

… The data showed Baker had more highly paid staffers than Kriseman. However, both mayors steadily added top-paid staff while in office.

The number of top earners peaked under Baker at 95 employees in 2004. It gradually dropped to 86 in a salary year split with his successor, Bill Foster, who served for one term between the Baker and Kriseman administrations.

… Kriseman started with 59 highly-paid employees in 2014, a budget year he also shared with Foster. Now, Kriseman has 81 such workers in his administration.

… the Times recalculated the city salaries using Labor Department figures designed to track salary inflation specifically tied to government employees wages. The numbers changed slightly, but Baker’s peak of 95 highly-paid employees remained under that calculations. But the current number of salaries under Kriseman fell slightly to 79.

So, losing that argument, Baker told Frago that said “his criticism of Kriseman’s hiring practices was primarily about his choice to add King and (Ben) Kirby to the payroll. Those staffers insulate the mayor from the community.”

Baker may not like with whom Kriseman has selected to surround himself, but a big-city mayor needs (at least) a chief of staff and a communications director.

As much as I disagree with King and Kirby’s politics (if not their tactics), Baker’s criticism is small-town mayor talk.

Jacksonville’s Lenny Curry has a chief of staff, as well as a phalanx of other staffers.

Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn also have a full retinue of communications workers and support staff.

St. Petersburg likes to think that it belong in the same ranks as those cities (how many times have we heard that St. Pete is the fourth largest city in the fourth largest state ((although now it’s fifth))?) Yet, Baker wants the Mayor’s Office to be staffed like St. Pete is Mayberry?

Gwen Graham taps Julia Gill Woodward to serve as campaign manager

Gwen Graham has tapped a longtime aide to run her 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

Julia Gill Woodward is taking over the reins of Graham’s gubernatorial campaign. Woodward has a long history with the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, serving both on her 2014 congressional campaign and working as her chief of staff.

“As a ninth-generation Floridian, Julia Woodward knows this state as well as anyone,” said Graham in a statement. “In 2014, she guided our team to victory in one of the most competitive races in the entire country. I’m confident, under her leadership, we will be ready to defeat any Republican and turn Florida blue.”

A Florida State University graduate, Woodward served ran Graham’s 2014 congressional campaign. She stayed on with Graham, a Democrat from Tallahassee, once she was elected, serving as her chief of staff. Her husband even gained notoriety for doing a backflip during the biennial office lottery, a good luck charm  since Graham was picked sixth and got her first choice of office.

Before joining the Graham campaign, she spent a year as the deputy campaign manager and the finance director for Keith Fitzgerald’s 2012 congressional bid. She also served stints as the statewide political director for Loranne Ausley’s CFO bid and the deputy finance director for the Florida Democratic Party.

While Woodward has effectively been running the campaign since Graham announced her bid, the announcement that she is taking over formally in the role of campaign manager comes a little over a month after the departure of Beth Matuga. The Democratic operative left the Florida Democratic Party’s Senate Victory arm to work for Graham, but left shortly after Graham’s campaign launched.

Sunburn for 6.19.17 — Speaker’s race insights; Richard Corcoran takes on the world; Fla. Dems being Fla. Dems; Ryan Duffy to U.S. Sugar; Loving Old Florida

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

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

Joe Biden and 1300 Democratic activists gathered in Hollywood this past weekend to plot how to end a 20-year string of Republican governors in 2018. Marco Rubio has been omnipresent on television screens since Friday when Donald Trump announced that he’s “cancelling” Barack Obama’s policy toward Cuba. And Richard Corcoran continues to make the case for this past legislative session being “the most transformative and transparent in the Legislature’s history.” But even with all of this happening, the most-trafficked story on is the one we published Friday afternoon.


The first-term state Representative currently commands a majority of his 26 colleague’s votes, after Melbourne’s Randy Fine put aside his own bid to be Speaker on Friday and decided to take on the role of kingmaker.

To reach the conclusion about the state of the race, interviewed no less than 18 members of the freshman class, as well as reviewed a cache of member-to-member emails and text messages provided to the media organization by several different members.

In addition to picking up Fine, Jason Fischer now says he is firmly in Renner camp.

Supporters of Jamie Grant, Renner’s chief rival for the Speaker’s post, dispute this count and contend that neither candidate has the support of a majority of the class. They add that Grant actually has more definitive votes in his pocket than Renner.

Representative Randy Fine talks during the Health Quality subcommittee meetings in the House Office building at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

— Both sides concede Bob Rommel is in Renner’s column. That’s 13 very likely votes for Renner.

— In addition to his solid 9, Grant is counting on the support of Erin Grall once she is eliminated on the first or second ballot.

— POLITICO’s Matt Dixon, who is also closely following the Speaker’s race, says he has the same whip count.

— This leaves Thad Altman, Byron Donalds (after he is eliminated on the first or second ballot), Mel Ponder, and Cyndi Stevenson as the deciding votes. Fine thinks he can bring Altman over to Renner and Renner’s team is confident Stevenson is now with them.

— Since our story Friday, we’ve heard some rumblings that Rick Roth is not happy being put into any candidate’s column.

— Grant is far from ready to give up. In fact, he probably think he still has the votes to win. He’s also planning to work the next two weeks to win over undecided voters.

— Two smart questions: 1) Will members listed in the FP article as supporting Renner get cold feet? 2) Will current House leadership, said to favor Grant, intercede on his behalf and with who?

— More interesting reads about the Speaker’s race:

>>>”Tempers flaring as Speaker’s race barrels to conclusion” via Florida Politics

>>>”Randy Fine explains to colleagues why he dropped out of Speaker’s race” via Florida Politics

>>>“Why Does James Grant believe he’s above the Law?” via Nick Tomboulides for Sunshine State News

***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. #NeverStopReaching***


With the Special Session in the rearview mirror and House Speaker Corcoran’s top priority now signed into law, Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau takes a look a closer look at the Land O’Lakes Republican, and his actions during the 2017  Session.

In her story, Klas writes that Corcoran would likely win the part as “the most interesting man in Tallahassee.” … Corcoran said he was motivated by “principle, always principle,” and thought the 2017 Session “was the most transformative and transparent in the Legislature’s history.”

But as Klas notes many of the policy measures pushed by Corcoran appeared to be contradictory. He pushed new budget rules prohibiting last-minute insertion of projects into the budget, but left a “loophole that allowed Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron to force the approval of 15 so-called ‘conforming bills’ that had not been reviewed, screed or approved by any committee in its entitery or by both chambers.”

— He also suggested rules prohibiting members of House leadership from campaigning for higher office while in the House, then created his own new political committee, which he might use for a statewide run for governor. And after he pushed the House to strip funding from Enterprise Florida, then helped orchestrate a way to rescue the program that Klas describes as “a way the legislatively inexperienced governor had rarely seen.”

— Money quote from someone who knows the pressures of being Speaker: “Richard is capable of fighting on multiple fronts simultaneously,” said Tom Feeney, who Corcoran worked for as a legal counsel. “But he’s enough of a strategist that when some of those battles played out, he was constantly adjusting his priorities based on his best opportunity.”

Corcoran: Legislators represent people better than local governments” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government,” the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa. “To get something through on a local level you have to win over seven or five people. To get something through in Tallahassee, you’ve got to get something through one chamber with 120 people, something through another chamber that has 40 people, and then you have an executive with veto power. The greater input from more and more people, as our founders thought, that scrutiny allows there to end up being a better and better product.”

Open-government group seeks lawmakers’ text messages” via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – The First Amendment Foundation sent a letter to House Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron asking them to produce text messages sent by lawmakers. The texts were first requested by Matt Dixon. “It is incumbent on each government official — in this case, each legislator subject to the request — to make a search for responsive records on his or her personal device,” FAF president Barbara Petersen wrote. State law requires text messages discussing government business to be available to the public whether they are sent on a government-issued cellphone or personal device.

Pasco County Republican Richard Corcoran spoke to more than 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa.


“Rick Scott asked to respond to judicial appointments lawsuit” via Florida PoliticsThe Florida Supreme Court has asked Gov. Scott to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term. The court on Friday gave Scott till July 5 to file a response, with the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause having a July 17 deadline to reply to Scott’s filing … Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince. They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor … The (lawsuit) says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference to discuss his economic development mission to Connecticut at 11 a.m. at the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center, 99 East Ave. in Norwalk, Conn.

Gradebook podcast: Sen. Jack Latvala explains what happened with HB 7069” via Jeffrey S. Solochek with the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala usually gets a warm reception at Florida School Boards Association events. On Friday, the Pinellas County Republican faced some chilliness over HB 7069, the major education bill that some said he didn’t do enough to stop as Appropriations chairman. … These days in the Legislature, Latvala said, there are “a dwindling number of people who care about public schools,

Tampa Bay lawmakers express regrets over legislative session” via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – State Sen. Darryl Rouson told the Tampa Tiger Bay Club forum he was “bringing home apologies that we cost you $70,000 a day in a special session to do what we should have done in the first regular session.’ … “As a citizen, I’m embarrassed about the performance of our Legislature over the last three or four years,” said Rep. Dan Raulerson. “I think everybody’s upset.” … State Sen. Tom Lee said the Legislature’s failure to handle the marijuana bill properly was because of influential special interests who “locked the process up.”… “This didn’t turn out to be about the patients. It turned out to be about the licensees who were going to win,” he said. “That’s just the process that we’re in right now, and I apologize for that.”

– “After shifting alliances, dark clouds await in the next legislative session” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Carlos Trujillo got last-minute budget language OK’d to punish Miami developer” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The Florida Housing Finance Corporation board, appointed by Gov. Scott, voted in March to ban Pinnacle Housing Group from seeking state funds for two years. That was after federal prosecutors said a company affiliate inflated costs related to projects funded through the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The company signed a deferred prosecution agreement, was fined $1 million and returned $4.2 million in funds … The FHFC board voted 4-2 for the two-year ban, while the staff had recommended a five-year ban and a halt in funding for “pipeline projects” — meaning those projects already given early approval. Trujillo agreed the punishment was not strong enough, so he asked for language to be placed in the state budget to overrule the board vote.

Dan Raulerson: All legislators should be armed” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – A pro-gun rights Tampa Bay area state legislator, commenting on the Virginia shooting at a congressional baseball practice, said in a forum the shooting shows people should carry guns in public – even at swimming pools or playing softball. “Each one of those congressmen should be carrying a weapon,” responded state Rep. Dan Raulerson. “We all should be carrying a weapon.” He didn’t respond to comments from the crowd that it would be difficult to carry a gun while playing softball. Reactions of the legislators at the forum displayed partisan reactions to the shooting – Democrats saying it showed the need for tighter gun laws and Republicans saying it shows more people need to carry guns.


Driving the day –Florida Democrats erupt as Stephen Bittel apologizes for racially-tinged comments” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The comments were directed at Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, who is black, and members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. They came during a heated exchange before a keynote speech by Joe Biden at the Leadership Blue Gala … It started because the Secret Service needed to tweak the event to accommodate Biden’s schedule. Because of the change, Bittel allowed event planners to skip a feature to recognize state House and Senate Democrats. That change of plans, however, was not relayed to the elected officials … stuck waiting to go onstage. “I was calm until I was shit-talked,” Braynon said. “I just said that I did not think that Joe Biden was going to leave if we allowed for 10 minutes to give recognition to our members onstage … I was dismissed.” The exchange between the two was calm until, Braynon said, Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book relayed to him that Bittel was blaming the escalating situation on him and the black caucus. “He said I’m acting like a 3-year-old. He said the black caucus members were acting like 3-year-olds and childish,” Braynon said. “I was visibly upset. Others were visibly upset.”

’We are better than this,’ impassioned Biden tells Florida Democrats” via Patricia Mazzei and Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump, Biden rejected the new president’s rhetoric and assured Democrats there is a way for them to recover their political standing. “The state the nation is today will not be sustained by the American people,” Biden said. “We are better than this.” At times funny, at times so serious he was whispering, Biden spoke to Democratic activists in Hollywood for more than 50 minutes, sounding like a potential candidate for president in 2020 — or at least like one the party’s most impassioned messengers for 2018. Biden began by making a case for the re-election of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will likely face his biggest challenger yet next year in Republican Gov. Scott. “No one, no one, no one has ever questioned his word when he’s given it, and no one, no one that I’ve met in my entire time in the Senate and eight years as vice president doesn’t respect Bill for his moral courage and his physical courage,” Biden said. “Bill, I’ll come back to Florida as many times as you want — to campaign for you or against you, whichever helps more.”

Leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor agree on big issues” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – It was literally a love fest when the three leading Democratic candidates for Florida governor — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and businessman Chris King — got together for a forum. Gillum, Graham and King agreed on expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage, restoring voting rights to ex-felons, banning fracking, spending more money on public education and placing less emphasis on high-stakes testing. Beyond all the agreement and good feelings, each candidate contended that he or she is best positioned to win the governorship in 2018 after five straight victories by Republicans.

SHOT: “Andrew Gillum looks like Democrats’ best hope for governor, but will email scandal hurt him?” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

CHASER:It’s unclear how Adam Smith decided Andrew Gillum is Florida Democrats’ ‘best hope’” via Florida Politics

Phil Levine laying low in gubernatorial race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Miami Beach Mayor isn’t officially running for anything (right now), so he’s on a different wavelength than his would-be Democratic competitors. “I’m still thinking, I’m still exploring,” he said right before the official festivities at the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala. Of course, the question might be how well Levine might be received in a Democratic forum, considering he talked openly in Tampa last month of running as an independent. On Saturday, he was trotting out what has become his adopted title — Radical Centrist. “We’ll see where my product sells best,” is all he would say when asked if he was serious about going the indie route.

Florida Democrats announce new vehicle to try to get more of them elected to state Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens announced the creation of a new campaign to help get more Democrats elected to the Florida Senate in 2018 and beyond. “Flip Florida Blue” will set out initially to invest resources to win the special election in Miami-Dade’s Senate District 40 seat formerly held by Hialeah Republican Frank Artiles … The next goal is ambitious: Clemens says there are 6-7 targeted Senate Districts in the 2018 cycle they hope to flip, adding to the current roster of 15 Democrats … One of them will undoubtedly be SD 18, which could see a rematch between GOP incumbent Dana Young and Democrat Bob Buesing. Last fall, Young won the race by seven points, with independent Joe Redner getting 9 percent. Redner said that if Buesing mounts a campaign in 2018, he will not run for the seat.

– “Alex Sink: Anger over HB 7069 could be Dems winning issue in 2018” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics


Don Gaetz: And now, the next governor of Florida…” via the Pensacola News-Journal – It is expected that Adam Putnam will be the winner of the 2018 Republican primary for governor. Many of those taking this same bet think Gwen Graham has the inside lane for the Democratic nomination. But if conventional politics takes a holiday next year in Florida … gubernatorial politics could be a knockdown drag out between extremes, not a contest among the presumed. The upside of Adam Putnam is his downside. It’s his turn, which may not be to his advantage. Remember, it was Bill Gunter’s turn, Buddy MacKay’s turn, Bill McCollum’s turn, Alex Sink’s turn et al. Putnam’s been in the gubernatorial waiting room for 15 years. Putnam’s two very likely GOP rivals, State House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senator Jack Latvala, will hit refresh on Putnam’s voting record every morning. Can hits below the waterline, even from lesser-financed opponents you don’t take seriously, make a difference? Ask Jeb Bush. Is Putnam fated to stumble? Hardly. Is he a cinch? Hardly.

First on #FlaPol – Julia Gill Woodward to manage Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign – Woodward is taking over the reins of Graham’s gubernatorial campaign. Woodward has a long history with the former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee, serving both on her 2014 congressional campaign and working as her chief of staff. “As a ninth-generation Floridian, Julia Woodward knows this state as well as anyone,” said Graham in a statement. “In 2014, she guided our team to victory in one of the most competitive races in the entire country. I’m confident, under her leadership, we will be ready to defeat any Republican and turn Florida blue.”

Graham picks up Nan Rich’s endorsement” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Gwen Graham has the integrity and ideas, the leadership qualities and real-life experiences to end the Republicans’ nearly two-decade hold on the governor’s office and put Florida on a progressive path forward,” Rich stated in a news release … “Gwen is the only Democrat for governor who has run against a Republican and won. Gwen is the only candidate for governor who has worked on the front lines of our public school system. She has been an advocate for women and children — and while in Congress she returned more than $2.5 million to seniors, veterans and families. Gwen is the only candidate for governor with a vision and actual plans to protect our environment and build an economy that works for everyone,” Rich added.

Gillum campaign takes heat for use of Charlie Crist’s email list of donors” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida Gillum is being accused by some Democrats of using the email fundraising list compiled by Crist without permission, a claim that brings more unwanted attention to the rookie statewide candidate’s campaign. “My understanding is that that may have occurred,” Crist said. “I’m not sure how, but I’ve heard that.” He added that people have reached out to him to inform him that Gillum has been using his donor list. “They seemed more angry about it than I am,” said Crist, who was elected last fall to Congress. Of the campaign’s roughly 5,300 total contributions, more than 800 are donors who also gave to the Crist campaign … A vast majority of those were very small-dollar donors, a very good indication they gave to the campaign as the result of a fundraising email. It’s not uncommon for campaigns to trade or swap fundraising email lists with other campaigns, but Crist said he has not heard from the Gillum team about using his list.

Tweet, tweet:

Baxter Troutman opens iGrow PC to fund Agriculture Commissioner bid — State records show Troutman launched iGrow PC, a state political committee. He filed a statement of solicitation with the Division of Elections on June 14, two days after he filed to run for the statewide seat. POLITICO Florida first reported the creation of Troutman’s political committee. Troutman filed the necessary paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner on June 12, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million.

Tom Rooney backs Ben Albritton for Florida Senate — The Okeechobee Republican announced he was throwing his support behind Albritton in his race to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley in Senate District 26. “Ben Albritton is a tireless and dedicated servant leader committed to strengthening our communities,” said Rooney. “I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Ben on issues important to our region, and I am confident he will continue the tradition of excellent representation Denise Grimsley has provided.” 

Jim Boyd stockpiling cash for likely 2020 Senate bid” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Campaign finance reports reveal that Boyd’s political action committee has raised $109,511 since the beginning of the year, and now has $177,932 in cash on hand. Boyd is interested in the state Senate seat currently held by Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who will become Senate president next year. Galvano won’t leave office until 2020, but getting started early and building up a big war chest could help Boyd scare off potential challengers.

Qualifying starts in HD 44 — A two-day qualifying period in the special election to replace former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle in House District 44 starts on Monday and runs through noon on Tuesday. Eisnaugle, an Orlando Republican, resigned to become a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal. A special primary has been scheduled for Aug. 15, with a special election on Oct. 10. Republicans Usha Jain, John David Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrats Paul Jason Chandler and Nuren Durre Haider have filed to run.

Happening today – SD 40 candidates’ debate — The Women’s Republican Club of Miami Federated is scheduled to host a debate for the Republicans running in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. Republicans Jose Felix Diaz, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares are running for the seat. The debate kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Miami Dade College’s Kendall Campus, Building R, 11011 S.W. 104th St. in Miami.


On CNN’s “State of The Union,” Jake Tapper asked Rubio how he would react if Trump fired special counsel Robert Mueller and/or U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein:

“Well, first of all, that’s not going to happen. I don’t believe it’s going to happen. And here’s what I would say. The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation. I really, truly believe that.

“If we want to put all this behind us, let’s find out what happened, let’s put it out there, and let’s not undermine the credibility of the investigation.

“And so, my view on it is that’s the best thing that could happen for the president and for the country, and I believe ultimately that’s what will happen, irrespective of all the other stuff that’s going on out there.”

Rubio said about the same thing to John Dickerson of CBS’s “Face the Nation,” when asked about Trump calling the investigations a “witch hunt.”

“Well, I know he feels very strongly about it. My advice to the president is what I communicated publicly. The way I’ve tried to communicate to everyone on this issue. And that is this. It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation.”

Later, Rubio talked with Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” about circumstantial evidence of a link between the Russia investigation and possibly softening sanctions.

“I could understand how some people would make that argument. I could also tell you though that I personally believe that at the core of the resistance is not the president. And I don’t think the president himself has a problem with additional sanctions on Russia.

“I think the concern actually comes from the State Department and for the following reason: they argue that they are trying to get the Russians to be more cooperative on a number of fronts and that this could set us back.”

Rubio cautions against rushing health care in Senate” via Hanna Trudo of POLITICORubio cautioned against fashioning health care legislation “behind closed doors” in the Senate and rushing it to the floor for a vote. “The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor,” the Florida Republican said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” … “Every camera in the world’s going to have to see what’s in it,” he said. Rubio was responding to remarks from his colleague, Sen. Ron Johnson, who took issue with the clunky process of moving a health care proposal in the Senate. Rubio added that while he doesn’t take issue with the ongoing meetings about new health care legislation, the final version “cannot be rushed to the floor” … “Ultimately,” he said, “we’re all going to see what’s in it.”


If you read one thing –A mother’s death, a botched inquiry and a Sheriff at war” via Walt Bogdanich of The New York TimesRusty Rodgers did not fit everyone’s image of a law enforcement officer, particularly in deeply conservative northeast Florida … in January 2011, came the call that would upend his life. Go to St. Augustine, he was told, to reinvestigate the death of 24-year-old Michelle O’Connell, shot while packing to leave her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Jeremy Banks. The fatal bullet came from his service weapon. Agent Rodgers had been summoned here twice before to answer questions about cases involving the St. Johns County sheriff, David B. Shoar … with crucial evidence missing or unexamined, Agent Rodgers had to make sense of the mess. And that meant possibly antagonizing one of Florida’s most powerful sheriffs. A mercurial leader, unctuous one moment, bitingly critical the next, Sheriff Shoar didn’t countenance challenges to his authority. He had resisted the O’Connell family’s demands for an outside review of the case for nearly five months. When the sheriff finally agreed, his office had one requirement — that Agent Rodgers, and only Agent Rodgers, conduct the investigation. It took the agent only two weeks to find evidence that fundamentally changed the complexion of the case. “I realized I’m dealing with a whole different set of facts, quite truthfully malice and wickedness,” he told state officials … His answer was a scathingly personal yearslong attack on Agent Rodgers — a campaign that put the outsize powers of a small-town sheriff on full display and ultimately swept up nearly everyone in its path.

Hack attacks highlight vulnerability of Florida schools to cyber crooks” via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – Two months before the U.S. presidential election, international hackers slipped into the computer systems of at least four Florida school district networks in the hopes of stealing the personal data of hundreds of thousands of students. They infected the systems with malware … that turned off the logs recording who accessed the systems, according to United Data Technologies, the Doral-based cybersecurity company that investigated the incidents. For three months, the hackers probed the systems, mapping them out and testing their defenses. At one point, they even posted photos of someone dressed as an ISIS fighter on two school district websites. They weren’t just looking for the names of kids and valuable Social Security numbers … The hackers were also searching for some way to slip into other sensitive government systems, including state voting systems.

’Grayest’ state ranks 46 for long-term health care” via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – the state with a higher shareholder residents ranks among the worst at meeting their needs for long-term care, a new scorecard says. Senior advocacy group AARP said Florida has slipped to 46th among the states in a study that measures factors such as the cost of private nursing-home care as a percentage of annual household income, the number of private long-term care insurance policies in effect [among others].

“Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games” via Florida PoliticsLawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom. Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines … The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser. The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue. (It) believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Long-awaited accreditation for Florida Poly marks school as ‘serious and legitimate’” via Claire McNeill of the Tampa Bay Times – In being granted initial regional accreditation to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Poly can assure current and future students it has the proper credentials to award quality degrees. “Accreditation signals to prospective students and faculty that we are serious and legitimate contenders in the world of higher education,” President Randy K. Avent said in a news release, calling the milestone “the biggest yet” for the college. Accreditation also allows students to get federal financial aid, such as student loans and need-based Pell Grants, and opens the door to federal research funding.


Carol Bowen: Florida construction marketplace healthier thanks to new legislation” for Florida Politics – The Associated Builders and Contractors … are pleased to report that new legislation will now strengthen competition and reduce abusive litigation in Florida’s multibillion commercial and public construction markets. We also want to thank Gov. Scott for his support of these two pro-business, pro-consumer bills. With the help of Rep. Jayer Williamson and Sen. Keith Perry, ABC successfully landed House Bill 599 (Public Works Projects), which will promote a more open, honest and competitive bid process for public construction projects where state dollars represent 50 percent or more of the funding. With the support of Rep. Tom Leek and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, ABC also brought home House Bill 377 (Limitations on Actions other than for the Recovery of Real Property), which helps clarify when and how Florida’s 10-year statute of repose begins to run on a completed project.


“Florida Bar holds annual convention this week” via Florida PoliticsThe Bar‘s Annual Convention begins Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, with “a focus on the future of the legal profession and the challenges lawyers face,” the organization said in a press release. On Friday, Miami attorney Michael J. Higer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 69th president, and West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will be become the Bar’s president-elect. She’ll assume the presidency next June. The Bar is charged with regulating the state’s 104,000 licensed attorneys.

“Pam Bondi’s net worth rises to $1.7 million, report shows” via Florida PoliticsAttorney General Bondi has reported her latest net worth at nearly $1.7 million, according to her 2016 financial disclosure filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics. Her net worth now has risen from the $1.4 million reported in 2015 and from the almost $781,000 she reported for 2012, the earliest disclosure still publicly available on the commission’s website. Bondi’s reported worth was a little over $472,000 in 2010 when she first ran for office. Her net worth jumped significantly in 2013 after she inherited from the estate of her father, Joseph Bondi, an author, educator and former Temple Terrace mayor. He died that January.

“Personnel note: Karl Rasmussen leaving Governor’s Office” via Florida PoliticsRasmussen, Gov. Scott’s deputy chief of staff, is departing the Governor’s Office for a lobbying job at the Meenan Law Firm, name partner Tim Meenan confirmed Friday … Rasmussen, a deputy chief of staff since late 2014, will focus his lobbying efforts in some of the same subject areas he now covers for the governor, including environment and health care, according to Meenan … “What clients look for are effective solutions to their problems,” (he) said. “I think Karl bolsters our ability to really reach into a large number of state agencies and the Legislature.” Rasmussen begins as a government consultant for the firm on June 28.

Personnel note: Ryan Duffy joining U.S. Sugar” via Florida Politics – Ryan Duffy, who joined Hill+Knowlton Strategies after serving as former House Speaker Will Weatherford‘s spokesman, now will be heading to U.S. Sugar as its Director of Corporate Communications, the company announced Friday.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Fred Dickinson, Erik Kirk, Will McKinley, PooleMcKinley: Gigamon, Inc.

— ALOE —

What Laura Jolly is reading –Former Delaware TV sports journalist, ex-Clearwater mayor Brian Aungst recognized by Phillies” via Meghan Montemurro of the Delaware News Journal – A John Dickinson High School grad and former Wilmington University baseball player, Aungst‘s journey took him from Delaware to Florida. It was there, as Clearwater’s mayor for six years (1999-05), Aungst was instrumental in the city’s economical development and facilitating the partnership between Clearwater, Pinellas County and the Phillies in the building of what is now known as Spectrum Field. Aungst and his wife of 41 years, Karen, were recognized before Friday’s Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park as Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater for 2017. Aungst, 63, fired a strike to the Phillie Phanatic as Karen, who is battling brain cancer, looked on. They were chosen by the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce for their highest honor.

Greyhound races are a thing of the past. Here’s why Florida still hasn’t learned that.” via Duncan Strauss of The Washington Post – Florida is an outlier. The state is home to 12 of those greyhound tracks, which keep hosting races even as crowds and profits dwindle. When Atascocita Laden crossed the finish line, only about 20 spectators were trackside. The Palm Beach Kennel Club and its peers collectively lose about $30 million each year on dog racing … This confounding situation is the result of a weird wrinkle in Florida law that requires the tracks to offer dog racing to operate their highly lucrative card rooms. The Florida legislature, seeking to limit the number of card rooms statewide, passed a statute in 1997 that stipulated licenses would go only to existing “pari-mutuel” betting facilities — horse tracks, jai alai courts and, yes, dog tracks. The result is that the 7,000 or so racing greyhounds in Florida are running merely to keep the poker tables full. These days, the Palm Beach Kennel Club — a sprawling compound that also features simulcasts of horse racing held elsewhere, an enormous poker room, two restaurants and multiple concession stands — offers 15 dog races daily, with an additional 15 Friday and Saturday nights. On that Sunday, the grandstand above Atascocita Laden was a vast sea of empty seats, but the poker-room tables were packed.

Old Florida never gets old” via Vereen Bell Jr. of Garden & Gun – The high point of a day of fishing out of Shell Island Fish Camp … has always been the going out, past the convergence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, both icy cold and spring fed, past the no-wake zone into the open spread of the river between the marshes where the guide kicks the big Yamaha into high gear and you are planing across dark silken water, the sun rising to the left behind the St. Marks lighthouse, flights of brown pelicans headed for work ahead of you, ospreys already out looping and circling and searching, a bald eagle hunched on an oyster bar, at once insouciant and wary as you pass. The smell of salt air abruptly becomes richer as you approach the open water and then peel off into the east or west flats of Apalachee Bay … Shell Island — the heart and soul of it — exists pretty much as it has since the early 1950s … Shell Island is and always has been a family business, so naturally they say that when you come there, you become family, too. It’s a place where you feel thousands and thousands of people’s memories to be floating around in the air visiting each other. But it’s also a place where memory can be suspended, and you are just there, free of anxiety and attachment for the time being. And you start thinking about those cabins under the live oaks, and of porch swings and Adirondack chairs.

The Shell Island Fish Camp. Photo credit: Alicia Osborne.

Happy birthday belatedly to Brett Doster, Toby Philpot and Donna Main. Celebrating today is the great Lyndsey Brzozowski of Bascom Communications and Consulting and our man in Jacksonville, A.G. Gancarski.

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