Peter Schorsch - 3/2486 - 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.

Sunburn for 4.20.17 – Frank Artiles defiant; Steph Smith’s big day; Senate’s first gambling offer; Black bears are safe; NSFW tennis

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica and Florence Snyder, who has the lead..


On a busy day of hearings in a busy week of the legislative session, a south Florida woman wanted a picture of herself and a friend and the rain pouring outside the Knott Building. She scanned the immediate vicinity for a friendly face, and held her iPhone out to Jacksonville’s Audrey Gibson.

Plainly the tourist had no idea that Gibson was a member of an elite, exclusive, and powerful club. The tourist was utterly unaware that the elegant lady she approached is one of a tiny handful of Floridians upon whom the sun rises and sets in #TheProcess. Most definitely, the tourist had no clue that hundreds of people are paid hundreds of millions of dollars to catch a moment of the time of this woman, and her 39 colleagues in the Florida Senate.

Gibson smiled, took the iPhone, and spent a stunning amount of time considering camera angles and composing multiple shots.

This is the gracious public servant that Frank Artiles refers to as a “fucking bitch.” To her face. At the members-only venue where people pay through the nose for a quiet place to eat, drink and do business, and pay extra for private lockers for their personalized cigars.

Artiles has a history of verbal violence toward women, African-Americans, and Muslims. His drunken diatribe Monday at the Governor’s Club is not the first time he has embarrassed himself in a bar. We now know that “pussy” is his go-to insult for a white male lawyer who outranks him in #TheProcess pecking order.

It has been suggested on the Sayfie Twitter Ticker, where some Floridians still get some information, that Artiles. a former Marine, may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Let’s put that one to rest. PTSD doesn’t cause bigotry, but alcohol makes bigots more likely to reveal their pre-existing prejudices.

Artiles didn’t much look like a Marine as he stood on the Senate floor to read an insincere, meaningless apology written for him by some hastily-assembled Committee to Save Artiles Career. The Senator from a Diverse Miami Neighborhood shifted on his feet, looking like a rattled schoolboy as he rattled the pages of his prepared text.

When people can’t exercise the control and judgment we expect of a third grader, there is often a medical explanation. Let’s hope someone loves Artiles enough to help him find out.

OSCAR BRAYNON TO ARTILES: APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED via Florida Politics Senate Democratic Leader Braynon says fellow Sen. Artiles’ apology for using racial epithets and obscene insults is “not enough” and “the Senate must be compelled to act.”

“Senator Artiles appears to have an issue with people who don’t look like him, who don’t think like him, and who don’t act like him,” Braynon said. “Worse, this isn’t just one isolated incident; rather, it’s an extremely troubling pattern that continues to escalate.”


Senate Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto has appointed the chamber’s top lawyer to investigate a complaint by next Tuesday seeking to remove Artiles from office. Senate President Joe Negron announced the move Wednesday in a memo to senators. Benacquisto “found that the complaint states facts supporting a finding of probable cause,” meaning it’s more likely than not that Artiles violated a Senate rule governing its members’ conduct.

Negron appointed Senate General Counsel Dawn Roberts to be a special master, a quasi-judicial officer who hears cases and makes recommendations. Her “report and recommendation to the Committee on Rules (is due) by the close of business on Tuesday, April 25, 2017,” Negron said. 

— “Disgraceful Artiles incident wasn’t Joe Negron’s finest hour” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

ARTILES WANTS TO DEPOSE BLACK LAWMAKERS CALLING FOR HIS OUSTER via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Artiles is taking a defiant stance in the face of black lawmakers calling for him to be tossed from the Senate. Not only will he not resign, Artiles said he will run for re-election in two years and that he’ll fight the Rules complaint filed against him by hiring a lawyer and deposing all the members of the black caucus to show that he didn’t call Gibson a bitch, per se, and that he’s not a racist.

“There were several comments in the black caucus that were inaccurate, incorrect and not corroborated by me,” Artiles said. “Several comments made in the black caucus put me in a bad light because that’s not what was said.” Artiles said his dispute with Gibson stemmed from her vote against his legislation concerning property tax value adjustment boards. He responded by questioning her on her legislation concerning “Baker Acting” minors. “Audrey, stop being a b— on my bills and I’ll stop being a f—— ass—- on yours,” Artiles said he told her.



Andrew Gillum (read here)

Chris King (read here)

Equality Florida (read here)

Tampa Bay Times (read here)

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BILL SETTING STATEWIDE RULES FOR UBER, LYFT GOES TO GOVERNOR via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – After a four-year battle in the Florida Legislature, lawmakers passed statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft that would undo a patchwork of local rules across the state. Lawmakers were quick to send the measure (HB 221) to Gov. Scott, who has yet to take a definitive stand on the issue. If it is signed into law, Florida would create a single statewide set of rules on the ride-hailing industry. Uber and Lyft currently have tens of thousands of drivers in Florida, and the proposed legislation would help them expand their app-based services throughout the state. With this bill, local ordinances targeting ridesharing services would be overturned July 1. That includes local rules in the Florida Keys where Uber and Lyft can’t operate.

From left to right, the PR and lobbying team of Kasra Moshkani, Javi Correoso, Stephanie Smith, Colin Tooze, Cesar Fernandez, Brad Nail, Natalia Montalvo and Anna Alexopoulos celebrate Wednesday’s final passage of statewide regulation for rideshare companies, including their client, Uber.

RICHARD CORCORAN ACTUALLY THANKS FSU FOR RETURNING CONTROVERSIAL APPROPRIATION via Florida Politics – Corcoran thanked Florida State President John Thrasher for returning money from a now controversial appropriation. The university got part of an appropriation for Florida Psychological Associates, a firm operated by friends of Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican. “I recognize that the lack of direction … placed FSU in a situation it did not seek,” Corcoran wrote in a letter dated Tuesday, saying Thrasher’s willingness to return the money was “commendable.”

HOUSE OKS LEGISLATION TARGETING SOARING WORKERS COMPENSATION PREMIUMS via Florida Politics – The Florida House approved a workers’ compensation fixTuesday intended to answer the Florida Supreme Court’s objections to the system by adding flexibility on attorney fees in benefits challenges, and by boosting benefits for injured workers. The measure, HB 7085, passed on a vote of 82-37. Danny Burgess, whose Insurance & Banking Subcommittee pulled together the various interests in hours of hearings on the bill, conceded, “This product is not perfect.” Still, it would close a “statutory gap” in disability benefits and extend them from the existing 104 to 260 weeks; require carriers to grant or deny benefits quickly; and ensure appointment of a worker representative to a state panel that sets medical reimbursement rates compensation, he said.

ASSOCIATED INDUSTRIES DIGS THE BILL: “Since the Florida Supreme Court ruled Florida’s workers’ compensation system unconstitutional, AIF’s workers’ compensation task force has been saying we need solid measures that address Florida’s floundering system. Floridians deserve a stable, self-executing and affordable workers’ compensation system, not one that leaves injured employees at the mercy of unscrupulous trial lawyers.  HB 7085 will help give Florida’s business community the tools needed to ensure injured workers are receiving benefits in a timely manner and at affordable prices to employers.”


HOUSE VOTES TO REPEAL FLORIDA’S PIP MANDATE FOR AUTO INSURANCE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The House voted to replace Florida personal-injury protection insurance mandate for motorists with a requirement that they buy bodily injury protection, upending an insurance system in place since 1971. “Today, we have the ability to start thinking about personal responsibility in a different way, and shifting that paradigm in the state of Florida in how we do auto insurance,” sponsor Erin Grall said. “It’s difficult to think about doing something different after 40-plus years, but it shouldn’t keep us from doing what’s best for Floridians,” she said. HB 1063, approved on an 89-29 vote, would require motorists to carry minimum bodily injury coverage worth $25,000 for injuries to another person, and $50,000 for injuries for two or more people.

HOUSE ADVANCES BILL GIVING POWER TO STATE LEGISLATORS FOR CRAS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics– A modified bill to put additional limits on Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRA) advanced in the House Government Accountability Committee. Local governments use CRAs to promote affordable housing, economic development, health and safety in under-served neighborhoods. They hold a set percentage of property taxes paid by residents of a community, investing that money — also known as tax incremental funding (TIF) — back into the area. Sponsored by Valrico Republican Jake Raburn (HB 13), the bill originally would have eliminated all CRAs formed after July 1, prohibit CRAs from taking on any new projects or debts after Oct. 1 and end all the state’s CRAs by 2037. However, that proposal received furious pushback from local officials throughout Florida. Raburn’s new bill would allow for the creation of CRA’s to continue, but only by having a local government official get buy-in from a state legislator, who would have to pass it as a local bill. His measure also limits what a CRA can spend their funds on.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS PUSH TO GIVE HOSPITALS GREATER SAY IN EXPANSION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – For four decades, hospitals wanting to expand or open new facilities have had to get the state to agree there’s a need for more health care in their community. It’s a rule that Republicans in the Florida House say creates unnecessary burdens on the free market. This week, they’ll be passing a bill to repeal it. But opponents of the repeal worry that allowing hospitals to build beds wherever they want will encourage health facilities to build in wealthy areas, leaving poor communities with limited options and safety net hospitals strapped for cash. Legislation (HB 7) to repeal the regulations, called CON (certificate of need), is expected to pass the Florida House, where it is a priority of Speaker Corcoran … It also has the endorsement of Gov. Scott, who called it one of his top health care priorities this year.

CHEERS: HOUSE ‘BEER GLASS’ BILL CLEARS LAST COMMITTEE via Florida PoliticsFlorida bars and restaurants could be gifted with free branded beer glasses under a bill that’s now ready for the House floor. The legislation (HB 853) was OK’d with no debate by the Commerce Committee, its last panel of reference … It would allow distributors to give to bars and restaurants up to three cases per year of glasses from brewers that are imprinted with beer names and logos. Now, glasses have to be sold. The measure has stoked controversy, however. Smaller craft brewers have said they can’t afford to keep up with what will likely be a flood of free glasses from Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser and Bud Light.

SENATE DEALS “LOW HANGING FRUIT” IN HOUSE GAMBLING OFFER via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – (Sen. Bill) Galvano said he won’t offer any major changes to the Senate’s proposal, which embraces the expansion of gambling in Florida and is at complete odds with the House’s proposal that cracks down on gambling. Instead, his focus will be on clearing up definitions of certain games like slot machines and dealing with “low hanging fruit” like a recent lawsuit involving a company that has made a computer game that is very similar to a slot machine. Under current law, casino-style gambling is generally illegal in Florida, and these games are exclusively granted to the Seminole tribe outside Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

SENATE VOTES TO ALLOW BEER ADS IN THEME PARKS, ‘MERLOT TO GO’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The measure (SB 388), sponsored by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson … eases the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. Universal Orlando has supported the bill. Some beer industry representatives had privately complained. However, they “fear being extorted by the theme parks.” The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold. That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles. Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

ANOTHER SESSION WILL END WITH THE REVILED WRITE-IN LOOPHOLE INTACT via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Another year will pass without lawmakers closing the notorious “write-in loophole” that candidates, consultants and political parties use to manipulate election outcomes by preventing independent voters from having a voice in primary elections in all 67 counties. Rep. Danny Burgess … filed a one-sentence bill intended to close the loophole. It reads: “If a primary election would, if not for the presence of one or more write-in candidates, be open to all qualified electors pursuant to Sec. 5(b), Art. VI of the state constitution, the primary election shall be open to all qualified electors.” (Simple enough, right?) Burgess’ HB 1381 never received a hearing.

EYEBALL WARS RAGE AS DOZENS OF MEDICAL GROUPS OPPOSE OPTOMETRISTS, CLAIMING ‘SERIOUS THREAT’ TO CARE via Florida Politics – A growing number of medical professionals have joined forces in a wave of disapproval of optometrists in Florida’s “Eyeball Wars,” which is now making way through Tallahassee. HB 1037, which seeks to allow optometrists to perform surgery and prescribe opiates, among other things, now sits on the agenda of the House Health & Human Services Committee. This week, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at University of Miami School of Medicine became the latest medical group to publicly oppose the bill, adding its name to a list that now stands at two dozen. In the letter, Bascom Palmer Ophthalmology Chair Dr. Eduardo Alfonso, joined by Vice Chair Dr. Steven Geddeand medical director Dr. Stephen Schwartz, warn: “There are no shortcuts to learning to safely perform eye surgery. Ophthalmologists complete four years of undergraduate education, four years of medical education, one year of internship, and then three years of ophthalmology residency training, such as that provided at Bascom Palmer … In summary, we believe that HB 1037 and [Senate companion] SB 1168 represent a serious threat to patient safety, public welfare and quality of care … The citizens of Florida deserve far better than the superficial and inadequate ‘training’ that is provided for in these bills.”

FANTASY SPORTS INTERESTS MAKING LATE LEGISLATIVE PUSH IN FLORIDA via Florida PoliticsA fantasy sports advocacy group is emailing supporters, asking them to write to Florida lawmakers to “keep fantasy sports in the Sunshine State.” Fantasy Sports for All, backed by FanDuel, provides multiple pre-written calls to action their customers can send to legislators … “There are more than 3 million of us in the state that love to play fantasy sports. Please pass legislation that ensures we can continue playing the games we love” … Members of the House and Senate plan to meet in conference Thursday to begin working out differences between their gambling legislation passed this year. The Senate’s bill would “create the Fantasy Contest Amusement Act to regulate daily fantasy sports; ” a House bill, separate from its gambling package, declares fantasy sports to be non-gambling and thus legal to play.

SHOES ARE STARK REMINDERS OF SEXUAL ABUSE via Florida Politics – An emotional and eye-opening display featuring about 1,000 shoes worn, decorated and submitted by sexual assault survivors of all ages from across the state of Florida – with accompanying stories – are decorating the Capitol rotunda through Friday of this week. They commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The display, hosted by Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV) asks others to “Walk in My Shoes” – the shoes of someone who has been affected by sexual violence. “Our smallest shoe was submitted by the mother of an infant, and the largest shoe was sent in by a 50-year-old man,” said Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book, an abuse survivor.

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HAPPENING TODAY – FLORIDA SPORTS DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The Florida Sports Foundation will celebrate all thing sports during Florida Sports Day at the Capitol on Thursday. The event runs from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and is meant to showcase the sports entities that make Florida one of the top sports destinations in the state. The event will feature mascots from Florida’s professional teams, race cars, and an interactive fishing boat from the Coastal Conservation Association Florida. The organization will also recognize the amateur sports Athletes of the Year during a ceremony at 12:30 p.m.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Judiciary Committee will discuss a series a bills, including an estoppel bill, when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. Financial literacy is on the agenda when the Education Committee meets at 9 a.m. in 102 House Office building. Over in the Health & Human Services Committee, members will be asked to take up a bill to remove requirement to pre-register cosmetic products with DBPR when they meet at 9 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up several bills when it meets at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott. The committee is expected to take up a bill to implement the August 2016 solar power constitutional amendment, a bill to allow residents of a county to object to materials used in the classroom, and a bill to create pilot projects to cultivate, process and test industrial hemp.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will present the Freedom Award to to Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez,” Cary Roque and Angel de Fana for their efforts to fight for freedom and democracy in Cuba during a ceremony at 9:30 The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, 1200 Coral Way in Miami. He’ll then head to Tampa, where he will attend a groundbreaking ceremony for NewSouth Window Solutions’ new manufacturing and distribution facility at 2 the Crossroads Commerce Center, 4330 Williams Road.

NO BLACK BEAR HUNT FOR 2017 via The Associated Press – The state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted 7-0 on Wednesday to direct their staff to revamp the bear management plan and report back in two years. That came after a motion to hold a bear hunt this year was voted down 4-3. FWC executive director Nick Wiley said before public comments that while the agency believes science and population numbers support another bear hunt, there is still more work to do to convince the public.

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DID ‘PUTNAM FOR GOVERNOR’ TWITTER FLUB BREAK ELECTION LAW via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam appeared to skirt state election law Wednesday when his Twitter account mistakenly posted a message that bore an “Adam Putnam for Governor” logo — even though he’s not an official candidate yet. But Putnam’s top consultant said the Twitter message wasn’t the fault of the Republican or his political committee, Florida Grown. So he says no law was broken.“The image was inadvertently posted by our digital partner. We immediately asked for it to be removed,” consultant Justin Hollis told POLITICO Florida. He declined to name the vendor. Under state election law, people can’t make a campaign expenditure until they become a candidate.

DANIEL SOHN ANNOUNCED AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER BID via Florida Politics — Daniel Sohn announced Wednesday he was throwing his hat in the race to replaced Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in two years. In a 2 minute and 30 second video announcing his intentions, Sohn he plans to meet with Floridians, business and environmental groups about how to improve the state. “Now there is no harm in recognizing that the success of Florida’s economy lies within the agricultural industry, for after all it is Florida’s economic engine,” he said in the video. “But Florida deserves a leader that can continue focusing on the needs of our industries, while beginning to do what Florida should have already been doing best — taking care of our people.” According to the campaign’s Facebook page, Sohn current serves as the district aide to Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson. Edmonson, according to a news release Wednesday, is coordinating his campaign. According to the campaign’s Facebook page, Sohn current serves as the district aide to Palm Beach County Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor Pat Edmonson. Edmonson, according to a news release Wednesday, is coordinating his campaign.

STEVE HOUGH: FLORIDA’S CHANCE TO FIX ITS ‘RIGGED’ ELECTION SYSTEM via Florida Politics – Florida has a once in a generation opportunity to fix our “rigged” political system via the Constitution Revision Commission. If you’re like me, you don’t need some expert to tell you about the adverse effects of gerrymandering. Acrimonious partisan rhetoric, high-dollar campaign financing, and a terrible closed primary system locking out 3.1 million independent voters in our state, has allowed power to shift from citizens to politicians and party leaders. Despite very little notice of the commission hearings, Floridians are packing rooms to speak their minds. One of the key topics cited by dozens of speakers: getting rid of the horrible closed primary system that locks out over a quarter of our registered voters and forces politicians to cater to a small fraction of the electorate during the primary, where the majority of races are actually decided. These primary voters are often the most ideologically extreme in both major parties. The commission will continue these public hearings for some time. It’s critical we keep up this drumbeat at every meeting, and increase the volume. The time is now. The concern is real. We demand change. We want open primaries. Commissioners, are you listening?

FLORIDA PROSECUTORS’ GROUP TO WEIGH IN ON RICK SCOTT’S SIDE IN ARAMIS AYALA DISPUTE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association – which represents the state’s 20 state attorneys including Ayala – will be filing an amicus brief against her and supporting Gov. Scott‘s power to reassign state attorneys’ cases. The association filed a motion requesting the chance to weigh in as a friend of the court on Scott’s side, and the Florida Supreme Court quickly approved it … Ayala challenged the governor’s authority to do so last week in a write of quo warrento to the Supreme Court, and in a separate lawsuit in U.S. District Court. Her colleagues, apparently, agree that Scott has the power to intercede and reassign state attorneys’ cases.

PERSONNEL NOTE: ALEX BURGOS DEPARTING MARCO RUBIO’S OFFICE, JOINING TECHNET AS VP via Florida Politics — TechNet, a network of technology CEOs and executives, announced Wednesday that Burgos would serve as its vice president of federal policy, government relations and communications. “As a seasoned veteran of Capitol Hill and federal campaigns at all levels, Alex brings a wealth of policy experience, deep relationships, and strategic vision to TechNet,” said Linda Moore, the president and CEO of TechNet in a statement. “We are excited to welcome Alex to the TechNet team and believe his wide range of skills, experience, and insights will take our federal advocacy programs to new levels of success.” Burgos joined Rubio’s team when the Miami Republican was first running for office, serving as his campaign’s communications director. He would go on to serve in the same role in Rubio’s U.S. Senate office. “Serving Senator Rubio and my home state of Florida has been the honor of a lifetime, and now I’m thrilled to partner with TechNet’s members to advance the policies that will spur the next chapter of America’s incredible innovation story,” said Burgos in a statement.


Lisa Aaron, Lisa Aaron Consulting: McAfee, Inc

Randy EnwrightClay BarkerJames Rimes, Enwright Consulting Group: Marsy’s Law for All

Gregory Black, James DaughtonAimee Diaz LyonAndy Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: Donate Life Florida

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Association for Clear and Compassionate Governance of Substance Abuse Treatment

Candice Ericks, Ericks Advocacy Group: True Frame

Kenneth GrangerDean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Philips North America; Tellus

James Harris, James E. Harris Jr.: Hartman & Tyner, Inc

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Lutheran Services Florida

Ashley Kalifeh, Capital City Consulting: Philips North America

Steven Marin, Marin and Sons: Florida Power & Light Company

Jerry Paul, Capitol Energy Florida: Marsy’s Law for All

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Orlando

David Singerson, Capital Hills Consultants: Hartman & Tyner, Inc

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Tech Ambience

Stephen Winn, Stephen R. Winn and Associates: Association for Clear and Compassionate Governance of Substance Abuse Treatment

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LOUD SEX SOUNDS INTERRUPT PRO TENNIS MATCH IN FLORIDA via The Associated Press – Frances Tiafoewas about to serve Mitchell Krueger during their match in the Sarasota Open when he paused and flashed a smile of disbelief over the sound of a woman moaning in pleasure. Broadcaster Mike Cation initially described the sounds as coming from someone playing a pornographic video in the stands, but later said they were coming from an apartment nearby. Both players had fun with the situation while the crowd laughed. Kreuger hit a ball sharply in the direction of the sounds, and Tiafoe screamed, “It can’t be that good!” Cation later saluted the responsible couple on Twitter, writing “Sounds like you guys had a good time!” Click on the image to below to watch video from the match.

GONDOLAS WILL RISE AGAIN AT WALT DISNEY WORLD via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Walt Disney World Resort will erect a gondola ride between two of its parks and three hotels, but it’s nothing like the Skyway attraction that once linked Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. The 10-passenger gondolas will have six stations and with three lines linking Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, the Caribbean Beach Resort and the lakeside area that straddles Pop Century and the Art of Animation resorts … ski-style gondolas may help alleviate the wait for some guests. The Doppelmayr/Garaventa Group, an Austrian/Swiss manufacturer of trams, cable cars, chairlifts and urban people movers will develop the system. The company built the Hogwarts Express elevated train between the two Harry Potter lands at Universal Orlando Resort.

LAST KILLER WHALE IS BORN AT A SEAWARD PARK via Jennifer Kay of the Associated Press – The Orlando-based company said the orca – the last in a generation of whales bred in confinement – was born Wednesday afternoon. SeaWorld did not immediately name the calf because the park’s veterinarians had not yet determined whether it was male or female. The mother, 25-year-old Takara, was already pregnant when SeaWorld announced in March 2016 that it had stopped breeding its orcas. The gestation period for orcas is about 18 months. The calf will be visible to visitors either in the orca stadium pool at the San Antonio park or in two adjacent pools. Observations about the calf and Takara by SeaWorld trainers will be provided from the moment of birth to researchers trying to fill gaps in their data about wild killer whales.

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – If it’s Thursday, it must be Italian Day at the Governors Club with minestrone soup; Italian meat & cheese salad; Mediterranean green salad – iceberg, romaine, red onion, Kalamata olives, crouton, grape tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini – seasonal greens; three dressing sections; rosemary rose pork loin; chicken cacciatore; gnocchi with olive oil & Parmesan cheese; grilled vegetables and Italian style zucchini.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to state Rep. Randy Fine, our friend Bill Rufty, and the handsome Justin Thames.

When Marco Rubio had to deal with the racism of a Florida lawmaker

As the Florida Senate considers what to do next as the imbroglio surrounding Republican Frank Artilles continues unabated, it’s important to remember that The Process has been here before.

As has been noted by many others in Florida’s political media, Republican Ralph Arza resigned after leaving a message filled with obscenities and racial slur on a colleague’s voicemail.

“I do not want to be the story,” Arza said at the time.

Well, Artilles will be the story for the rest of the 2017 Legislative Session unless Senate President Joe Negron takes a page from Marco Rubio, who, as House Speaker, pressed Arza to step down.

A former legislative leader who was by Rubio’s side when he made Arza resign recounted to me today what Rubio said at the time.

“In politics, there are only two things that are pretty impossible to recover from: one is anything involving sex with minors; the other is overtly racists statement.”

This begs the question: Will Artiles survive the Rubio Test?


Of course, Frank Artiles should resign. Does the Senate have the steel to make that happen?

My father-in-law being a U.S. Marine, I’ve learned not to use the past tense to describe his service. Even at 67 years old, my father-in-law is a Marine, not was a Marine.

Republican state Senate Frank Artiles is a Marine, not was a Marine.

Volunteering to serve our country shows Artiles has far more courage than I’ve ever had in my life; for that, Artiles — no matter what he says or does — deserves respect.

But now, Artiles must find a level of courage and self-sacrifice beyond wearing the uniform.

He must resign from the Florida Senate.

As was first reported by the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei (during her first day of platooning in Tallahassee to cover the final weeks of the 2017 Legislative Session), Artiles dropped the N-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation Monday night — after calling one of them a “f—— a——,” a “b—-” and a “girl,” the two senators said.

Over drinks, after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart rose to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six n——-” in the Republican caucus had elected him.

No matter what your stomach feels about political correctness, especially in this era of Donald Trump, what Artiles said is abhorrent.

Actually, that’s not the right word for what Artiles said because there isn’t the right word to describe what he did other than to say it crossed a line in a way that cannot be forgiven.

He must resign.

Otherwise, every black lawmaker who serves in the Legislature while Artiles is a member will see his square jaw and say to themselves, ‘That man called us all niggers. And his white Republican colleagues let him get away with it.’

That’s right, Sens. Negron and Wilton Simpson and Bill Galvano. If Artiles is allowed to continue to serve in the Florida Senate, it’s because you permitted it. Contra, if the three of turned your back on him now, he’d have no choice but to resign.

Instead, he may survive behind the cloaks of your indifference.

Harsh statements — Galvano’s was the strongest of the three, while Negron should face questions about why it took him so long to fully condemn Artiles — are not enough.

He must resign.

Of the forty members of the most elite club in the state of Florida, is it any surprise that it is Artiles who dropped the nuclear n-bomb? Not to anyone who tracks Capitol politics.

Artiles is the lawmaker who once sponsored a bill limiting transgender people from using restrooms of their choice.

He made headlines in 2015 when he punched a college student in the face at Clyde’s & Costello’s, a bar just a block away from the Capitol.

Late Tuesday night, The Miami Herald reported it received a copy of a 2014 recording of Artiles in which the former Marine used the term “hajjis” — an anti-Muslim slur used by many U.S. soldiers.

And those are just three of the stories which have made it to the media.

The reality is, as countless individuals who work in The Process could attest, there are dozens of stories of Artiles, fueled by far too much alcohol, intimidating (or in some cases, physically threatening) people.

In fact, that’s not the only epithet tossed out that evening.

A lobbyist, who shall remain unnamed, said it was reported to him after he left the Governors Club that same night that Artiles called him and another person who works in the Capitol “faggots.”

That’s according to two friends of the lobbyist, who told him of the exchange later in the evening. The lobbyist then told me.

Everybody is something in Frank Artiles’ book. His colleagues who supported Negron for Senate President are “niggas” while Negron himself is a “pussy.”

(By the way, someone should ask Artiles what he means when he said Negron won the Senate presidency because “six niggas” in the Republican caucus had elected him. Sens. Aaron Bean and Jeff Brandes were two of the key votes for Negron; does that make them “niggas?”)

Being a drunk asshole is not reason enough for Artiles to resign. Were that the case, there’d rarely be a quorum in the Florida Senate.

It’s doubtful Negron and Co. will have the steel to force Artiles from the Senate. There are disappointing whispers that they don’t want to give up the Democratic-leaning district Artiles represents.

Perhaps the black members of the Florida Senate can make this enough of an issue so that Artiles has to resign. They should threaten to boycott the rest of Session if he doesn’t.

Or, if Artiles doesn’t resign, maybe Negron can send Artiles home without his supper. The Senate President could instruct Artiles to not participate in the rest of the 2017 Session as a punishment for his hate. It’s not a full-blown resignation, but it’s better than a tersely-worded news release.

Of course, Artiles himself should find the courage to resign after realizing that he doesn’t deserve the privilege of serving in the Florida Senate.

At this point, Artiles has made too many mistakes to continue to serve.

I say this as someone who himself once made so many mistakes I had to take myself out of the political game, so I could deconstruct all that was wrong with me.

Self-sacrifice for an institution you respect is not a bad thing.

A Marine like Frank Artiles knows this.

Ballard Partners latest federal signing: The ruling party of Albania

Brian Ballard‘s lobbying shop now has been retained by the Socialist Party of Albania to “provide consulting and advocacy services in a bid to improve U.S.-Albanian bilateral relations” at a rate of $20,000 a month, according to a news release.

Ballard’s star continues to shine as he snags another international client: He was an early supporter and fundraiser for President Donald Trump.

The Socialist Party of Albania rose to power following its majority win in Albania’s 2013 parliamentary elections. The left-leaning political party is led by Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, who’s up for re-election in Albania’s upcoming June elections.

But Rama has been accused by Albania’s main opposition party, the conservative Democratic Party, of attempting to rig the voting process, which has led to protests and threats of a parliamentary boycott.

Ballard’s work for the Socialist Party of Albania will include advising, counseling and assisting the party in its communications with the U.S. government, according to Foreign Agents Registration Act documents filed in April.

The yearlong deal continues until the end of March 2018 and fetches the agency $20,000 per month. Ballard, who maintains a second outpost in Washington, D.C., in April signed a similar yearlong contract to strengthen ties between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic.

The European Union’s European Parliament has told government leaders that the 2017 elections must be “free and fair” if negotiations are to proceed for that country to gain membership into the EU, a designation which Albania has attempted to achieve since 2003.

Albania’s upcoming parliamentary elections have resulted in several big lobbying contracts in Washington.

The Democratic Party of Albania last year hired Podesta Group in a similar bid to advance U.S. relations. That political group, which was formerly Albania’s leading political party, hired Podesta for counsel on relevant U.S. policies and Congressional activities, as well as to arrange meetings with U.S. executive branch officials and members of Congress.

In January, a third Albanian political group fighting for seats in the June elections, the Socialist Movement for Integration, retained The McKeon Group to facilitate a dialogue between members of that party and the Trump Administration.

The social-democratic LSI was formed in 2004 by former Socialist Party of Albania member Ilir Meta, also a former Albanian Prime Minister. LSI’s six-month pact earned the McKeon Group $90,000.

— via Jon Gingerich of O’Dwyers.

beer glasses

Devil is in the details of ‘beer glass’ legislation

Some call it the “beer glass bill.” I wonder if it shouldn’t be called the “beer glasses for beer taps” bill.

Here’s the skinny: Lawmakers are moving legislation to allow beer distributors to give away glasses from brewers imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants. Now, they have to be sold.

Those in favor, including small businesses, say it’ll be a help to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage.

But opponents, including many craft brewers, are concerned that they won’t be able to afford to keep up with the stream of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s free glasses.

They “effectively act as passive advertisements for a particular label,” as Jim Rosica, our man in Tallahassee, recently reported.

Now for a pesky detail. Amended into the House bill (HB 853) is this little provision:

“A vendor may only use such glassware to serve the corresponding malt beverage brand advertised on the glassware to consumers located on its licensed premises.”

To my ears, that equates to trading taps for glassware.

Anheuser-Busch had been pushing this as “a brewer-agnostic bill.”

The Senate version (SB 1040) has only one more committee to clear before it can be heard on the floor. It doesn’t have the “corresponding malt beverage” language.

The House bill is up Wednesday in the Commerce Committee, its last stop before the floor.

Sunburn for 4.19.17 – Just another slow day in the Capitol

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

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


Legislating can be a complex convoluted mess. I get that.

But the complex convolution has hit an apex when the pro-Amendment 2 forces are lobbying – and to be really clear, SUPPORTING – a limitation on how many dispensaries a medical cannabis license holder can open.

Yes, these same forces (and I won’t name names here, but you know who you are) have convinced several Senators to support a highly restrictive limitation on the number of retail outlets a licensee can have. You can’t make this up. Those who support allowing the broadest number of patients the opportunity to have medical marijuana are supporting the most severe restrictions on licensees.

And don’t give me the malarkey about Pennsylvania doing it. No, it doesn’t. You can’t compare Pennsylvania’s non-vertical model with Florida’s. That comparison makes no sense.

Here’s the “logic.” If we restrict the number of outlets, then patients will be denied, people will scream and yell and then Florida lawmakers will be forced to expand the number of licenses. (So, if they are in that situation, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if they just expand the number of dispensaries each licensee could open? Sorry, I digress.)

Look, we get it. The pro-Amendment 2 forces want more licensees. The bid losers want more licensees. Other farmers/growers and those with cash-burning pocket holes want more licensees. So they are using this tactic to force someone’s hand.

But this seems a little risky. It feels more than a little disingenuous to try and force the hand of lawmakers with such a plan that could seriously backfire. What if they actually passed this? Then where are we? Licensees won’t be worth 1/10th what they are now. Patients will be denied access for at least another year or two. And the pro-medical marijuana forces will have cut their noses for spite.

We hear a lot about the 71% who voted to support Amendment 2. We hear that from those who want expansion and who demand it now. Yes, the vast majority of Floridians voted to allow sick people to smoke medical weed. And there are some excellent people pushing to make sure a fair law implements the will of the voters.


But if those same people are pushing for severe restrictions for some political game, well someone is going to be mad.

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CLEARS MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL, DESPITE CONCERNS FROM ADVOCATES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics –  HB 1397 by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues would implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The proposal now heads to the Health & Human Services Committee, the final stop before a vote of the full House. The bill, among other things, calls for a 90-day waiting period before a physician can recommend medical marijuana; prohibits smoking, vaping and edibles; and calls for new licenses to be issued after 150,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry. While generally viewed as more restrictive than the Senate proposal (SB 406), Rodrigues said he has been in negotiations with the Senate about what the final proposal could look like. “This bill is a work in progress,” said the Estero Republican. “Our goal is to produce a bill that honors the spirit of the constitutional amendment.”

HOUSE DEMOCRATS WAKE UP ON WEED via Florida Politics – Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee – led by the always entertaining, snarky and whip-smart Jared Moskowitz – suddenly woke up on medical marijuana. It was a huge turnaround from just a few weeks ago. When HB 1397 – the House’s medical marijuana implementing legislation, filed by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues – had the first hearing a few weeks ago in the Health Quality Subcommittee, it sailed through with nary a word from Democrats on the committee. This was somewhat surprising, given medical marijuana’s political history in Florida. The issue has always enjoyed a significant degree of bipartisan support with voters, while divided along sharply partisan lines in Tallahassee. While 118 of 120 House districts gave Amendment 2 north of 60 percent support in the November elections, Democratic districts were much more likely to offer support – in the mid-to-high 70s. Given the current disparity between the implementation proposals of the House and Senate, as well as Rodrigues’ acknowledgment of negotiations already occurring between the chambers, Democrats might necessarily have a degree of input on this legislation, as they have carved out for themselves on gaming.


SPEAKING OF POLLARA… WHY I HOPE JOHN MORGAN RUNS FOR GOVERNOR BUT DOUBT HE WILL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – So many see Morgan as a potentially game-changing candidate for Florida governor in 2018. Alas, as much fun as he would be to cover, my hunch is Morgan ultimately takes a pass. Why? Because he seems to be enjoying himself enormously these days, feeding his entrepreneurial passion on little-noticed ventures that could revolutionize the legal industry. Because running for governor of America’s biggest swing state would draw endless nasty attacks that could seriously damage the Morgan family brand as he hands off the Morgan & Morgan firm to his sons. Because accomplishing top Morgan priorities, especially raising the minimum wage, would be easier through a ballot initiative much like his medical marijuana initiative, than running and serving as governor. And because Morgan has a driving desire to be liked and sounds like he truly loathes the idea of subjecting himself to a campaign.

SCOOP – SCOTT ARCENEAUX JOINING ANDREW GILLUM CAMPAIGN via Florida Politics — The former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party is joining Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign as a chief strategist. “I’m thrilled to welcome Scott Arceneaux to our growing campaign for Governor. Scott brings a wealth of knowledge and savvy about the Sunshine State to our team, and I’m excited to welcome him as our chief strategist,” said Gillum in a statement. “Over the years he has fearlessly led the Florida Democratic Party on the fights that matter: securing and protecting affordable healthcare; standing up for every Floridian no matter where they come from or who they love; and protecting our natural resources and environment. I can’t wait for him to join us on this journey to win back the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.” Arceneaux, who had served as the executive director since 2009, announced he was resigning in January. The announcement came just weeks after Stephen Bittel was elected chairman of the state party. … Prior to joining the Florida Democratic Party, Arceneaux served as a general consultant for the Democratic Governors’ Association, was the national political director for Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign; and has served as campaign manager for congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns.

— “Phillip Levine courts Orange County Democrats ahead of likely run for Governor” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

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FRANK ARTILES CURSES AT BLACK LAWMAKER — AND REFERS TO FELLOW REPUBLICANS AS ‘NIGGAS’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald Frank Artilesdropped the N-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation — after calling one of them a “f*cking asshole,” a “b*tch” and a “girl,” the two senators said. Over drinks after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart had risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six niggers” in the Republican caucus had elected him. Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston that he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang term was not meant to be insulting

… Artiles apologized to Gibson after he’d been reported to Republican leaders and news reporters started asking questions. “In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said in a statement. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.” To Gibson and Thurston, it was clear Artiles wasn’t referring to them or to any other Democrats as “niggas” but apparently to six Republicans who favored Negron for the job over Sen. Jack Latvala.

ARTILES’ EXCUSE: “I’m from Hialeah.

SEN. PREZ ISSUES STATEMENT LATE TUESDAY NIGHT: “Senator Braynon reported this incident to me earlier today, and I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening. Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President. Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor.”

THIS IS WHAT ARTILES THINKS OF THE SENATE PRESIDENT: “He called Joe Negron a pussy,” said Sen. Thurston

BILL GALVANO COMES CLOSE TO CALLING FOR A RESIGNATION BUT STOPS SHORT: “Senator Audrey Gibson is an admired colleague and a personal friend, and under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner. I understand that President Negron is allowing Senator Artiles to formally apologize on the Senate floor tomorrow. Such comments cannot be repaired by a formal apology, but I trust that it is an appropriate step to be taken by the President and the Florida Senate to handle this matter, and to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated and does not happen again.”

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CALLS ON ARTILES TO RESIGN: “Frank Artiles must resign now. His use of horrific racist and sexist slurs towards his colleagues is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in our democracy or our society. This is just the latest in a string of violent, hateful incidents in which Artiles blames his ‘temper’. There is never an excuse for racism or misogyny and the people of Florida aren’t buying it. Resign now.”

OH BOY: “Secret 2014 record caught Artiles using ‘hajis’ slur” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

TIA MITCHELL REMINDS US of the story that took down Ralph Arza: “Florida GOP lawmaker resigns after scandal

ARTILES HAS ASKED FOR A POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE at the beginning of today’s floor Session so he can formally apologize.

HERE’S WHERE IT COULD GET INTERESTING: The Senate Judiciary Committee hears two of Artiles’ top priority bills Wednesday: SB 12, a claims bill against the Department of Transportation on behalf of the family of Jacksonville man who was killed when his car skidded out of control because of standing water from a clogged drainage basin. He also seeks approval for a more controversial bill, SJR 134, which is a constitutional amendment to require Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties to elect their sheriffs. Sitting on Senate Judiciary are both Sen. Gibson and Sen. Thurston, each of whom was at the receiving end of one of Artiles’ racial slurs at a Tallahassee bar on Monday night. More from Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald here.

BTW, TUESDAY WAS ALREADY A BAD DAY FOR ARTILES: “Panel swats Artiles’ handwritten amendment as Miami toll fight continues” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

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RICK SCOTT PUSHES AHEAD FOR VISIT FLORIDA FUNDING via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott went once more unto the breach Tuesday, pressing his case for full funding of the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency. The Republican governor—surrounded by VISIT FLORIDA’s CEO Ken Lawson, board chairman William Talbert, and others—spoke with reporters outside his Capitol office. The GOP-majority House of Representatives, which at first wanted to eliminate the agency, instead reduced its budget to $25 million for next year … Scott mentioned that Florida is getting shellacked by ads—“…and they’re nice,” he said—from Utah, Michigan, California, Texas, and Georgia trying to divert tourists. “If we want even more tourists, we’re going to have to spend more money,” Scott said. “We have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state.”

SCOTT’S INSPECTOR GENERAL: ‘I WANTED TO LEAVE ON MY TERMS’ via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald Melinda Miguel, the top investigator for two governors who has been accused of suppressing whistleblowers at the state’s prison agency and most recently was assigned the task of sorting through the financial troubles in Opa-locka … she said she wanted to leave before the arrival of a new governor and before legislation advances that adds new powers to her office. Although her tenure under Scott was challenged by his aggressive former general counsel, Pete Antonacci, who asked her to delay the release of a prison report, and she came under fire by Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor and other commissioners, Miguel said the governor never interfered with her investigations.

SENATE PRESIDENT CAN’T SAY IF LEGISLATURE WILL END ON MAY 5 AS SCHEDULED via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – We asked Senate President Joe Negron if he has any doubt the Legislature will finish on time. “I can’t predict the future, so I don’t know exactly how things will unfold,” the Republican from Stuart said. “I have every expectation that we’ll be able to complete our business on time. As I’ve said before, it would be a sad commentary on the legal profession if two lawyers couldn’t get their work done on time.” Negron, an attorney, was referring to House Speaker Corcoran, who is also an attorney.

HOUSE SPEAKER: PUSH FOR TOUGHER ETHICS LAWS DEAD via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressRichard Corcoran says a push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s Session, and he’s blaming Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.” [Corcoran] pushed to enact several far-reaching proposals, including one that would ban legislators and elected officials from lobbying state government for six years after leaving office. The House overwhelmingly passed them, but the legislation has not moved in the state Senate. “The Senate has shown us they have expressed zero interest in holding elected officials accountable and draining the swamp,” said Corcoran … he’s not giving up and will seek other ways to place his proposals into law, including asking the state Constitution Revision Commission to put them before voters in 2018 or launching a petition drive to get them on the ballot.

$1.5 BILLION HEALTH CARE DEAL WITH FEDS MAY NOT BE A SURE THING IN THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – House Health Care Appropriations chairman Rep. Jason Brodeur, said that it “depends on what kind of assurances we get from the federal government.” The federal government agreed to revive the Low-Income Pool at $1.5 billion last week after it was set to end. Though it is clear that the money will be funded mostly by the federal government with the remainder coming from state or local governments, the full terms of the agreement are not yet clear. “We have a promise and that’s great. We’d love to have it,” Brodeur said. “What I’d like to see is a printed letter that outlines the terms of what we’re talking about.”

HOUSE BUDGET CHIEF’S ABSENCE STOKES RUMORS OF AMBASSADOR APPOINTMENT via Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo was conspicuously absent from a meeting of the Florida House budget committee he leads. The reason? Word in the state Capitol was that Trujillo is away in Washington — interviewing with Trump’s administration for a potential ambassadorship to Latin America. The powerful budget chief was an early Trump supporter, one of only a handful of state elected officials to back his long-shot candidacy early. He’s been under consideration to be ambassador to Argentina or Panama.

HOUSE PR MACHINE TURNS TO ITS VERSION OF STATE BUDGET via Florida Politics – The House has released a new “explainer” video to explain its proposed 2017-18 state budget. And—fun!—it’s a cartoon. “Don’t have time to read hundreds of pages?” it starts. “That’s OK, because we’ve got the Florida House budget in under a few minutes.” Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

SENATE GIVES FULL SUPPORT TO POLLUTION NOTIFICATION RULES CHANGE via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – The Senate bill (SB 532) cleared the Senate unanimously … Under the Senate bill, those responsible for a spill would need to notify the DEP within 24 hours of the hazard being discovered. The DEP would then be mandated to issue a public emergency notice. If operators do not comply, they could be penalized $10,000 for each day the spill goes unreported. The House version of the bill has yet to go through a committee hearing.

GROVELAND FOUR FAMILY MEMBERS GATHER TO HEAR LEGISLATURE’S APOLOGY via Florida Politics – The House voted unanimously Tuesday to apologize to survivors of four African-American men who were brutalized in 1949 following a false accusation of rape. The House also approved an apology to the survivors of abuse at the Dozier and Okeechobee schools for boys, and approved plans for memorials to children who died on the Dozier campus in Jackson County. … “Today, tears of joy,” said Carol Greenlee, daughter of one of the men, in a whisper, “for releasing my family from prison. For releasing my nieces, my son, my brother, from the dark cloud, the shame, and the stigma that have been put upon them.” Speaker Corcoran called the episode “a dark cloud on our history.” He said he hoped the apology and financial compensation would bring the family “along the road of feeling there is some justice in our society.”

LAWMAKERS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT GROVELAND FOUR APOLOGY — Democratic Leader Bobby Dubose was joined by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Gary Farmer, and other state lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday to ahead of a vote on a bill apologizing to the families of the Groveland Four. “We the state of Florida were wrong,” said Dubose. “The injustice these men and their families encountered is hard to put into words. The memories can’t be erased, the pain they endured can’t be fixed, but today we have opportunity to provide closure to these families in the form of an apology.” Click on the image below to watch the video.

BOOZE BILL READY FOR VOTE IN SENATE via Florida PoliticsA bill that would allow advertising by beer companies in the state’s theme parks is ready for a final vote in the Senate. The measure (SB 388), carried by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, was heard on the floor Tuesday and placed on the third reading calendar … The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold. That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles … Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage, and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

CRAFT BEER BILL CLEARS SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government was the latest successful stop for Young‘s craft beer bill, bringing small-batch brewers one step closer to self-distribution. SB 554 allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year to distribute kegs (not bottles or cans) to other Florida craft breweries. That applies as long as breweries don’t have distribution deals already, and has raised concerns among the beer industry that it would subvert their distribution model. “This bill is designed to help the smallest of the small brewer,” said Young. “This is the bill for the little guy … simply to help the smallest of the small.” Young noted that once these brewers have distribution deals, they are cut off from this law.

HOUSE LEADERS WON’T SAY IF THEY’LL ACT ON SCHOOL RECESS. PARENTS GROW IMPATIENT via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – All that Florida parents want is guaranteed daily recess for their elementary school children. Just 20 minutes a day to allow for a brain break and some playtime. But for the second consecutive year, that relatively simple request seems increasingly in jeopardy — despite overwhelming public and legislative support — thanks to obstruction by a few influential lawmakers in the Florida House. House Speaker Corcoran won’t have a conversation about school recess, and his top lieutenants offer only deflection when asked what the House will do. Parents want a vote.

HOUSE HEALTH CARE POLICIES STALL IN THE SENATE via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – House Republican leaders have been saying the only way to control health care costs in Florida is to force patients and doctors to understand the true price of their decisions, whether they are considering a knee replacement or surgery as the best option for knee pain. They offered their own health care overhauls at a time when congressional Republicans have struggled to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Now health care has taken a back seat in the Legislature, overshadowed by larger fights over Everglades restoration, gambling, charter schools and tax cuts. The Florida Senate isn’t acting on the House bills, and House leaders said they won’t sacrifice their other agendas to salvage health care legislation this year. House Republicans, however, have hoped that at least two measures could pass the Senate: direct primary care, SB 240, and allowing patients to stay in ambulatory surgical centers for up to 24 hours, SB 222.

HOUSE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILL SURVIVES DEMOCRATIC FLOOR AMENDMENTS via Florida Politics – The House defeated a series of Democratic amendments to its version of a workers’ compensation fix Tuesday, with sponsor Danny Burgess promising the bill would “enhance the fairness and the balance of the workers’ compensation system in Florida.” Burgess, whose Insurance & Banking Subcommittee drafted the legislation, also predicted a decline in premiums, following the 14.5 percent rate increase that began taking effect in December. “We are told it could be up to a 5 percent reduction,” he said. Still, Democrats complained the bill was written more to please employers and insurance companies than working people. “When are we going to put the workers first?” Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw wondered.

DANNY BURGESS OP-ED: IT’S VITAL FLORIDA WORKERS GET CARE THEY NEED via Florida Politics – No matter what side of the “jobs argument” you are on, one thing is certain. There can be no job without a worker to perform that job. That’s why there’s workers’ compensation insurance – which is coverage purchased by an employer to provide benefits for job-related employee injuries. In Florida, virtually all businesses are required to carry it. Even the most ardent detractors of the 2003 reforms will admit that the elimination of those reforms will increase insurance premium costs to small business. I’ve been fortunate, thanks to Speaker Corcoran and Chairman José Felix Diaz, to lead an effort to prevent that job loss and fix the system. We’ve proposed, and this week will pass, the largest and most comprehensive set of reforms to Florida’s workers’ compensation system in 15 years. It was vital to me that injured workers get the care they need, while protecting the jobs of the very workers who have been injured.

— “Bill calls for more audits of state pension system” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As of Tuesday, April 18th, 1,041 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 796 are sponsored by Republicans, 135 are sponsored by Democrats, and 110 bills have bi-partisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 76.5% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 13% are Democratic, and 10.6% are bipartisan.“

HAPPENING TODAY – FHA NURSES DAY IN THE LEGISLATURE — Got a headache? There’s a good chance you’ll find a nurse roaming the halls of the Capitol on Wednesday. The Florida Hospital Association is hosting its first FHA Nurses Day in the Legislature. The event is meant to be a chance for the front-line nurse leaders to advocate on behalf of all patients, and includes networking events, presentations and opportunities to meet with lawmakers.

HAPPENING TODAY – GOLF DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Florida Golf Day at the Capitol is Wednesday, and the annual event is meant to highlight the economic impact that the sport has on the Sunshine State. And oh, what an impact it is. Want to enjoy the festivities Wednesday? There will be a House versus Senate charity putting challenge at noon on the second floor rotunda; a PGA pro will be offering lessons throughout the day in the Capitol Courtyard; and there will be exhibits on the second and third floors throughout the day.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Kristin Jacobs will join Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence to unveil the “Walk in My Shoes” display in the Capitol Rotunda at 12:30 p.m. The display features more than 750 shoes worn and submitted by sexual assault survivors from across the state. The display is meant to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Legislators are expected to join Tony Lima, the executive director of SAVE; Jessica Fernandez, the executive director of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans, and economist Dale Brill to discuss conservative support for workplace equality and other LGBT nondiscrimination protections at 6 p.m. at the Southern Public House, 224 East College Avenue in Tallahassee.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Commerce Committee will take up a host of bills, including a proposal (HB 1351) to implement the August 2016 solar power constitutional amendment, when it meets at 8 a.m. in 212 Knott. A bill (HB 13) that would prohibit the creation of new community redevelopment agencies will be up for discussion with the Government Accountability meets at 8 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The Senate will hold a floor session beginning at 10 a.m., and is scheduled to begin discussion on a bill (SB 392) that would require students to take a half-credit financial literacy course to graduate. A bill (SB 832) that would preempt local governments from regulating the operation of drones is slated to be discussed during the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee at 1:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building. The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is expected to take up a bill dealing with the Florida black bear when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. Look for the Transportation Committee to discuss a bill (SB 918) that would allow the use of ignition interlock devices for someone convicted for the first time of a second-degree misdemeanor DUI.

***Smart employers know an inclusive workforce makes good business sense and helps secure Florida’s future. Only 30% of Floridians with disabilities are working. Explore the talent in the untapped 70%. Find out how at***

FEDS SAY FLORIDA BEARS ARE NOT ENDANGERED via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – “This is very good news based on sound science for both the black bear and the people of Florida,” Larry Williams, head of the South Florida field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release. “State, local and industry partners are doing some incredible and really visionary conservation work across Florida.” Although the news release says the agency’s finding is based on “a robust investigation” into the status of the bear, the news release cites no information about it other than the computer modeling previously done by the state agency declaring that there were 4,000 adult bears — at least, before the bear hunt there were.

ACTIVISTS TO STATE: DON’T ALLOW BEAR HUNT IN 2017 via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel –“Floridians don’t want another hunt,” said Kate MacFall of the Florida chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, one of the groups planning to speak up at the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting near Tallahassee. Thomas Eason, a wildlife biologist nicknamed “Dr. Bear” by FWC commissioners, said his presentation won’t include anything specific about another hunt, but the topic is always raised during public comment. An agenda item on the commission’s website describes the scheduled discussion as an update that will touch on “bear populations, habitat conservation, conflict-management efforts and public outreach” over the past year. Six months after the 2015 hunt, FWC announced results of a long-awaited bear-population survey. It described the species as “strong, robust and growing.” “We’re hoping FWC does finally listen to what the public wants,” said Bryan Wilson, Central Florida coordinator of Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

EDITORIAL: NO MORE FLORIDA BEAR HUNTS via the Tampa Bay Times – Almost two years after Florida allowed its first bear hunt in a generation, the controversial topic is back on the agenda of wildlife managers. This time, thankfully, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff is not recommending holding another bear hunt, and commissioners should follow that lead when they consider the issue Wednesday. After the 2015 hunt resulted in the senseless killing of more than 300 Florida black bears despite enormous public opposition and questionable science, there is no more reason now than there was then to allow open season on these animals. The Florida black bear’s comeback is a wildlife management victory that should be celebrated, not perverted by another unjustified hunt.

CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL WILL MEET AT GULF COAST STATE COLLEGE via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will hold its Panhandle public hearing at Gulf Coast State College on Wednesday, May 3. The hearing will begin at 4 p.m. Central Time (CT). The hearing will be in the Amelia Center Auditorium, 5230 West Highway 98, Panama City, 32401. A Google map link is here. The event will also be live-streamed by The Florida Channel on The 37-member body is going around the state to get public input as it reviews and considers changes to the state’s governing document.

MARTIN DYCKMAN: CLEMENCY AND FLORIDA’S OVERBEARING ‘POLITICS OF DEATH’ via Florida Politics –Despite his profound opposition to capital punishment, LeRoy Collinssent 29 men to their doom during his six years as Florida’s governor. He was in anguish each time. To some people, that example casts a poor light on Aramis Ayala … whose announced decision to seek no death sentences is the crux of an unprecedented battle in the Supreme Court with Gov. Scott and, now, the Florida House of Representatives. But it is Scott and five of his predecessors who come off worse in comparison with the totality of Collins’s record. The awesome power to commute death sentence has been a dead letter in their hands. Meanwhile, 276 condemned men and women have been spared by executive action in 22 other states — including Alabama, Texas and Louisiana — and the federal government. It is hard to understand or excuse why Florida’s most recent governors have refused to spare anyone. Perhaps they have believed that the judiciary is infallible. But it is not.

FLORENCE SNYDER: RICHARD CORCORAN, PLEASE SHOW SOME LOVE TO OUR REAL LIFE SMOKEYS via Florida Politics – Trained professional foresters and the people at parks ‘n rec are easily among Florida’s best ambassadors. These stewards of “Real Florida” have been instrumental in attracting tourists since before Mickey Mouse was born, and they work for a lot less cheese. This crowd is not prone to whining, or crying wolf. It takes a body blow to the budget to make them ask that we think for a moment about the work they do in the places where the wild things try to survive the wildfires that are engulfing the state … Even Gov. Scott thinks it’s a crisis. Yet the House proposes cutting $10 million — roughly 25 percent — of the current state parks budget. That’s chump change to the swells and potentates at the Capitol, but in the hands of Florida’s land management professionals, it covers a lot of weed-pulling, lawn mowing, landscaping, and protecting the public from the invasive species that generations of Florida lawmakers never had the wit to do anything about. More importantly, they are the real-life Smokey Bear, doing whatever it takes to prevent wildfires that increasingly threaten our economy, our way of life, and in some cases, the actual lives of firefighters, park personnel, residents and tourists.

***Learn the facts! FHCA knows Florida’s seniors deserve the best! The Senate’s proposed nursing home reimbursement plan creates incentives for quality and will dramatically improve care for our seniors.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Trulieve will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. in Miami to announce the opening of its Miami dispensary, located at 4020 Northwest 26th Street. The location is the company’s fifth cannabis dispensary in the state.

TAMPA AIRPORT EXPANSION TRAPPED IN TALLAHASSEE CROSSFIRE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A $2.3 billion expansion of Tampa International Airport, is at the center of a nasty power struggle among local legislators that could derail their work on a state budget. House Speaker Corcoran wants state auditors to review the first phase of the airport project, citing possible cost overruns and construction setbacks based on TV reports. The Senate has already rejected an audit, but Corcoran said he will demand that it be in a compromise budget that must be finished in two weeks, which means the Senate will have to capitulate or risk a stalemate. “When you’re spending billions of dollars in taxpayer money, nobody should be afraid of an audit, to make sure they’re spending it right,” Corcoran [said]. Airport director Joe Lopano said he keeps his five-member governing board up to date every month on the project’s time lines and budget. “We’re not afraid of an audit,” Lopano said. “We’re very proud of this project. And if the elected officials would like to have an audit, they should. We’re not afraid of that at all.”

JOE HENDERSON: TOM LEE’S RECENT TRAVAILS COULD START THE GUESSING GAME AGAIN via Florida Politics – While the Republican from Thonotosassa is well-known in the Legislature and isn’t afraid to stir things up, he has spoken often about possibly running for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission … I wonder if recent events in the Senate might start Lee wondering again if it wouldn’t be better to work a little closer to home. His well-publicized bill to eliminate public subsidies for the construction of sports stadiums failed to get out of committee. He tried to attach an amendment to the Senate budget that would have triggered the audit, but it was rejected by a voice vote. Those who spoke out against Lee on that gambit included Republicans Dana Young and Jack Latvala, although he did pick up a major ally when House Speaker Corcoran has called for a full airport audit. Bear in mind, Lee doesn’t have to do anything right away. He was elected to a four-year term in the newly created District 20, covering parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

POLITICAL ACTIVIST SAM RASHID SUES 21-YEAR-OLD FORMER HAIR SALON RECEPTIONIST OVER FACEBOOK POST via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay TimesRashid has twice in recent years walked away from seats on prestigious boards because of fallout over his controversial posts on social media. Now, he is suing a 21-year-old former employee for her Facebook post. In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County … Rashid claimed that he has been libeled on social media by Jacqueline Lilley, a former receptionist at a Brandon hair salon and spa he co-owns. The complaint against Lilley includes a screen grab of a March 6 Facebook post about the salon in which she wrote that “the owners are thieves.” The post also states that workers at Divine Designs Salon and Spa were ordered not to communicate with former workers who left on “bad terms” and she urged staff there to leave. Lilley’s post was hardly viral. It attracted more than 39 comments and was “liked” at least 14 times, the lawsuit states. Rashid, 55, is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

APPOINTED: Dr. Lesley Thompson, Daniel Coll and James Muir to the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District.

PERSONNEL NOTE: JANELL HENDREN JOINS NASDA via Florida Politics – After more than four years with Florida Farm Bureau, Hendren is leaving to become Associate Director of Public Policy and Food Safety Programs for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). She starts April 25. Hendren was most recently National Affairs Coordinator at FFB. In years past, she was campaign manager for John Quinones’ congressional bid, and served as political director for House Republican Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s 2012 U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns. Hendren is a Sunday school teacher at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville.


Slater Bayliss, Justin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc

Lauren Bedford, Strategic Access Group: Sunshine Global Health

Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Co.: Sunshine Global Health

Steven Geller, Geller Law Firm: Hartman & Tyner; Las Olas Recovery

John Harris, Robert Stuart, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Petainer Manufacturing USA

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies Inc: Transdev North America, Inc

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Arbor Properties

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Randstad Technologies; TmaxSoft; Centrify

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Wednesday’s Governors Club lunch menu takes a Latin flair with chicken tortilla soup; jicama salad – tomato, avocado salad, cilantro dressing – seasonal greens; three dressing sections; perni – roast pork butt; chicken & rice with black-eyed peas; pinto bean; sweet plantains and blue mash potatoes.

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate rebates and discounts from drug companies and drugstores that reduce prescription drug costs for Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs. Learn more at***

MARCH MADNESS RETURNING TO TAMPA IN 2020 via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times – Amalie Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament March 19 and 21, 2020, the NCAA announced … “We’re thrilled,” said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “We’ve had such a great history of hosting. Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn’t be more excited for March 2020.” USF will serve as the host school. Tampa last hosted the event in 2011.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to class act Frank Walker of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating today are Reps. Cord Byrd and Colleen Burton and Towson Fraser. Happy birthday to two great residents of the ‘burg: Will Newton and Rob Kapusta.

House Democrats wake up on weed

Perhaps they’ve been reading the rash of vitriolic emails and op-eds from Florida for Care, or the equally brutal reporting and editorializing from the Tampa Bay Times this past weekend.

Maybe it was the litany of emotional public comment at Tuesday’s hearing.

Whatever it was, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee – led by the always entertaining, snarky and whip-smart Jared Moskowitz – suddenly woke up on medical marijuana.

It was a huge turnaround from just a few weeks ago.

When HB 1397 – the House’s medical marijuana implementing legislation, filed by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues – had the first hearing a few weeks ago in the Health Quality Subcommittee, it sailed through with nary a word from Democrats on the committee.

Only first year Rep. Amy Mercado voted “nay.”

This was somewhat surprising, given medical marijuana’s political history in Florida. The issue has always enjoyed a significant degree of bipartisan support with voters, while divided along sharply partisan lines in Tallahassee.

Florida’s Democratic Party executive committee twice endorsed Amendment 2, in 2014 and 2016; Republicans in the Legislature and the Cabinet were unanimous in opposition to the same in 2014, and while more muted in 2016, only Sen. Jeff Brandes and then-Rep. Dana Young broke party ranks to endorse medical marijuana last fall.

While 118 of 120 House districts gave Amendment 2 north of 60 percent support in the November elections, Democratic districts were much more likely to offer support – in the mid-to-high 70s.

In opening the debate on HB 1397, Moskowitz acknowledged as much, noting that he’d previously not been particularly engaged in the issue, but received nearly 76 percent support in his district.

In the first Senate hearing on implementation in December, Sen. Darryl Rouson, a longtime opponent of medical marijuana, publicly switched his position, citing the close to 80 percent support in his district (the highest of any Senate district statewide).

Moskowitz then began to pick apart the House bill’s overly restrictive nature, while also bringing up certain areas where he felt the bill could use additional tightening – most notably with
proximity to schools, and limiting the number of retail facilities an operator can open.

Per usual, Moskowitz’s shining moment arrived at the nexus of policy debate and humor, when he compared the requirement in HB 1397 that doctors submit justification of marijuana certifications to the Board of Medicine to Sarah Palin‘s famed Obamacare “death panels” comment in 2009.

Moskowitz wasn’t alone on the committee. Buttressing his snark was Rep. Lori Berman, who peppered tough questions throughout, and the stark, passionate, remarks of Rep. Katie Edwards.

Edwards had co-sponsored – along with now-Congressman Matt Gaetz – the original low-THC cannabis law the legislature passed in 2014 but has remained somewhat mute on the issue since. She attributed her relative silence to the emotional toll the issue can take, the burden of responsibility toward suffering patients and families, who pleaded with her to do more for their relief.

Edwards pledged she would apologize no more for legislation that did not go far enough toward bringing that relief and voted down HB 1397.

In voting down HB 1397, Moskowitz, Berman and Edwards were joined by all their fellow Democrats. The decks of the House being stacked as they are, the measure nevertheless moved forward handily.

Given the current disparity between the implementation proposals of the House and Senate, as well as Rodrigues’ acknowledgment of negotiations already occurring between the chambers, Democrats might necessarily have a degree of input on this legislation, as they have carved out for themselves on gaming.

It should then be noticed that the Democrats’ point person on gaming in the House – Moskowitz – was also carrying their banner on medical marijuana.

Win, Gwen. Win.

“What are we waiting for?” bellows a crinkly-eyed Burgess Meredith and moments later the Greatest. Training. Montage. Song. Ever. (Courtesy of Bill Conti) starts to play.

As any boxing/movie/sports/Sylvester Stallone fan recognizes, I am, of course, referring to the goose-bump inducing scene from Rocky II in which Adrian, who has just woken from an inexplicable coma, tells the man who almost beat Apollo Creed that there is just one thing she wants Rocky to do for her.


Adrian’s words, like the line from Casablanca in which Rick definitely DOES NOT ask Sam to play it again, became something larger … something almost mythical.

“Win, Rocky. Win.”

Of course, after running through the streets of Philadelphia, catching a chicken, learning how to fight right-handed (Rocky famously was a southpaw), and standing up one second before he and Creed are both counted out of the fight, Rocky does, in fact, win.

“Yo, Adrian, I did it!”

Unfortunately, what followed these amazing moments is a movie in which Rocky fights, um, Mr. T.

Believe it or not, there is lesson or a metaphor or something in all of this for former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham.

I guess it would be … Graham is Balboa; her husband, Steve Hurm, is Adrian; and the gray-haired man standing in the corner, eager to get started is Bob Graham (imagining the former U.S. Senator/Governor in a sweaty wool cap makes me laugh).

Hurm may not have been in a coma, but, as he has so bravely shared, he has been battling prostate cancer. The state of his health has been the main reason Graham has not yet announced what everyone expects her to do: run for Florida governor.

There isn’t a soul who could criticize Graham for putting the needs of her loved one before her political ambitions. In fact, it’s been inspiring to watch them from afar make this journey together.

Fortunately for Hurm — and for Florida Democrats, if not the entire state — his cancer is now in remission. God bless!

It’s almost as if Adrian has awoke from her coma, looked up and told Rocky what to do.

Maybe there was a moment in Southwood when Hurm turned to Graham and said, “Now, you need to go win this thing.”

It’s time, Gwen.

Chris King is assembling an army. Andrew Gillum is criss-crossing the state. With his hesitating, John Morgan has given you a window.

The Bill Conti music is about to begin.

Ding. Ding. Ding.

Senator Graham is ready to get started.

Win, Gwen. Win.

Hot on the trail: The best of the rest from St. Pete City Council races

Candidates for St. Petersburg City Council faced a Monday deadline for filing reports showing finance activity through March 31.

Inside these finance reports are some interesting tidbits of information. Here are five data points which stood out.

— Although District 2 candidate Brandi Gabbard spent more than she raised in March ($3,185 vs $4,060), the most important takeaway from her report is that powerful state Sen. Jack Latvala donated $500 to her campaign via his political committee, Florida Leadership Committee. State Rep. Chris Latvala also contributed $500 through his political committee.

— Gabbard’s report also indicates she has hired the well-regarded Gregory Wilson as her consultant and Shannon Love as her campaign manager.

— Gabbard’s opponent, Barclay Harless, raised a healthy $6,585 in March with notable contributions from former CFO Alex Sink, former state Rep. Bill Heller, County Commissioner John Morroni, lobbyist Shawn Foster (via Sunrise Consulting), developer Darryl LeClair, attorney Dave Punzak, and Kriseman administration staffer Dave Flintom.

— District 4 incumbent Darden Rice proved again she is a strong fundraiser, pulling in $19,060 in March. She picked up checks from a coalition of mostly progressive donors, including the police union, SEIU, County Commissioner Ken Welch, fellow Councilmember Karl Nurse, Tampa Councilmember Charlie Miranda, former state House candidate Jennifer Webb. Rice also received contributions from former state education commissioner Betty Castor and Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld.

— Here’s something I didn’t know until I scanned the campaign finance reports: liberal activist Jim Jackson is running for City Council District 6. Jackson, who previously ran for the Pinellas School Board, filed earlier this month for the seat currently held by the term-limited Karl Nurse.

P.S. — Hey Matt Florell, on March 21 Rick Kriseman’s campaign paid for a poll conducted by Tom Eldon. Didn’t you receive a call around that time? If so, what were the questions?


Chris King staffs up with diverse team of political veterans

Democrat Chris King announced a wave of hiring Tuesday morning for key positions supporting his campaign for Florida governor.

“I’m encouraged that so many smart, talented campaign veterans are ready to join me in building a new approach to our politics,” said King, 38, a Winter Park affordable housing executive. “Our campaign will reflect the diversity, energy and possibility of Florida, and with these additions we’ve taken a great first step in meeting that goal.”

King’s new hires include:

Zach Learner, COO and General Counsel

Learner was tapped to lead day-to-day operations for Kings campaign. Learner had served as voter protection director for the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign in Florida and the 2014 Charlie Crist bid for governor, as well as working on both Barack Obama campaigns in Florida.

Raymond Paultre, Director of Strategic Engagement

Paultre came to Florida in 2011 as Northeast Florida’s Field Director for the Obama campaign, later serving as Enroll America’s Florida State Director and State Organizing Director from 2013 to 2016. Most recently he served as a consultant on the Clinton campaign and an adviser on Stephen Bittel‘s successful race for Chair of the Florida Democratic Party.

Stephanie McClung, Finance Director

McClung served as Regional Finance Director for Charlie Crist for Governor, Finance Director for Charlie Crist for Congress and Florida State Finance Director for Ruth’s List Florida. She is a Florida native and graduate of the University of South Florida.

Amanda Sands, Digital Director

Sands will lead King’s digital organizing strategy. She most recently served as digital director for New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial nominee Colin Van Ostern. A graduate of American University, Sands provided strategic digital support for dozens of political campaigns and progressive organizations across the country.

Raul Martinez Jr., South Florida Regional Director

Martinez previously served on the senior staff of the 2016 Clinton campaign in Florida, Chief of Staff to Congressman Joe Garcia and leader of Florida Hispanic outreach for the Obama 2012 campaign. A Miami native, Martinez resides in Miami with his wife and children.

Juanica Fernandes, Regional Finance Associate

Fernandes left her job as a financial adviser in 2011 to join the Obama presidential campaign as a Deputy Regional Field and Regional Training Director for the Orlando area. She most recently served as Enroll America’s Central Florida Regional Organizing Director and director of Central Florida’s enrollment coalition.

These new team members will join Senior Adviser Omar Khan and strategists from AKPD Media and 270 Strategies.


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