Peter Schorsch - 3/2477 - SaintPetersBlog

Peter Schorsch

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

Sunburn for 3.17.17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica and the Associated Press’ Mike Schneider.

GOVERNOR REASSIGNS CASE AFTER PROSECUTOR REFUSES DEATH PENALTY

The unusual and firm stance against capital punishment by State Attorney Aramis Ayala in Orlando surprised and angered many law enforcement officials, including the city’s police chief, who believed suspect Markeith Loyd should face the possibility of execution. Civil liberties groups, though, praised Ayala’s position.

Sending a clear signal that he wanted Loyd prosecuted in a capital case, Gov. Rick Scott signed an order to transfer Loyd’s first-degree murder to State Attorney Brad King in a neighboring district northwest of Orlando.

Loyd is charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.

Ayala said she would follow the Governor’s order.

Ayala said she made the decision after conducting a review and concluding that there is no evidence to show that imposing the death penalty improves public safety for citizens or law enforcement. She added that such cases are costly and drag on for years.

After Ayala announced her decision, Scott asked her to recuse herself from the case, but she refused. The reassignment applies only to Loyd’s case and not Ayala’s other duties since under Florida law, a governor can only suspend an elected official for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, incompetence, or permanent inability to perform official duties.”

Florida law allows a Governor to reassign a case for “good and sufficient” reasons.

“She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case,” Scott said in a statement.

Ayala’s decision ignited condemnation from some law enforcement leaders.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that he was “extremely upset.”

IN HER OWN WORDS: “At approximately 3:20pm today, I spoke to Governor Scott. I offered to have a full conversation with him regarding my decision about death penalty. He declined to explorer my reasoning. I have since learned he issued an Order removing my office from any cases related to Markeith Loyd. Upon receipt of any lawful order, my office will follow that Order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd.”

GET SMART FAST – Read Scott Powers’ stories on Ayala’s election: “Aramis Ayala’s 9th Judicial Circuit state attorney run could be historic”; “Aramis Ayala becomes first black state attorney in Florida’s history

REAX

Attorney General Pam Bondi: “State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision today sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area—furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer.”

Sen. Jack Latvala: “I think she ought to be thrown out of office.”

Florida Police Benevolent Association: “In life there are cowards, and then there are cowards with titles. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Ayala is a coward with a title.”

Florida Sheriffs Association: “The Florida Sheriffs will not stand idly by and watch as Lloyd is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law after executing a hero, Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, and murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis was also tragically killed during the manhunt.”

— “Jeff Ashton: Aramis Ayala may not have legal grounds to ban death penalties” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “Bob Cortes looking into possible violations following Aramis Ayala not seeking death penalty in Markeith Loyd case” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

— “Pinellas Sheriff: no death penalty for Markeith Loyd ‘reprehensible’” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times

TWEET, TWEET:

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

RICK SCOTT LAUNCES TV AD ATTACK IN FEUD WITH HOUSE via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – A new spot that will air statewide features Scott warning that “Tallahassee politicians don’t get it” and that the move will cost the state jobs.  “If the politicians in Tallahassee say they don’t want to market our state, and we lose tourists, then we’re gonna lose jobs,” said Scott in the ad. Let’s Get to Work has not disclosed how much will be spent on the ads, which will start airing next week. (Click on the image below to watch the ad.)

HOUSE DEMOCRATS DEMAND SCOTT SPEAK UP ON CBO’S SCORING OF GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN via Florida Politics – Since the Congressional Budget Office said the Republican health care plan would raise the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year earlier this week, Scott has been silent. Florida House Democrats now say it’s time for him to speak up. “Rather than acting as a leader, the Governor took the path of a typical politician and ducked the question entirely,” says House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. “If Governor Scott isn’t prepared to defend ‘Trumpcare,’ he at least owes Floridians an explanation about what exactly he’s been discussing with Republican leadership during his taxpayer funded trips to Washington DC” … “Trumpcare would rip the rug out from under the millions of Floridians who have gained access to quality, affordable health care under the ACA,” says Coral Gables Rep. Daisy Baez.

HOUSE SPENDNG REDUCTION TARGETS WOULD SPREAD PLENTY OF PAIN via Florida Politics – The House released its bad-case and worst-case scenarios for the next state budget Thursday. Neither is very pretty. Florida faces would pay hospital less to treat poor people. The state would build less affordable housing. There’d be fewer prosecutors and public defenders.  Museums, historical preservation and economic development would be slashed. … All told, the budget subcommittees were instructed to come up with “A” scenario and “B” scenario plans — the first involving cuts of about $1 billion; the latter, about $2 billon. Budget chairman Carlos Trujillo has also discussed a target of $1.4 billion in cuts. House leaders are worried about the prospect for more or less flat revenues during the new budget year. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference will meet Friday to update the forecast.

HOUSE COMMITTEE OK’S PROPOSAL TO KEEP BP OIL FUNDS IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA via Florida Politics – The House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast passed a proposed committee bill that, among other things, requires 75 percent of all payments that Florida receives from the settlement agreement between the five gulf states and BP be transferred from the general fund to the Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund. Under the proposal, Triumph can award funding for several things including: Public infrastructure projects to enhance economic recovery, diversification, and enhancement in the disproportionately affected counties; Grants to local governments in the counties to establish and maintain equipment and trained personnel for local action plans to respond to disasters; Early childhood development and educational programs; and Grants to support programs to prepare students for future occupations and careers at K-20 institutions that have campuses in the communities.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Speaker Corcoran is expected to speak at noon at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club, New World Landing, 600 South Palafox Street in Pensacola.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

DREAMING FONDLY OF PLAYTIMES (AND CRUSHES) PAST, SENATORS BACK MANDATORY RECESS via Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores would require each district school board to provide students between kindergarten and fifth grade with 20 minutes of daily recess. Some districts already do that, but others do not. This was the bill’s second committee stop. “Imagine being the teacher in charge of 25 7-year-olds sitting in the same chair for six hours,” Flores said. “That would be a challenge.” During the brief debate over the bill, Sen. Audrey Gibson … garnered chuckles with a reminiscence from her own school days. “I remember recess — it was when I developed a crush on many little boys,” she told the committee.

SENATE PANEL OKS BEER BILL — THAT BEER COMPANIES HATE via Florida Politics – A bill that—as one beer-company insider put it—could allow theme parks to “extort” advertising dollars out of them cleared a Senate panel this week. The legislation (SB 388), which would allow beer companies to advertise in theme parks, was OK’d unanimously by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with scant attention. It chips away at the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. And ironically, the companies don’t want the law changed.

 

DANA YOUNG TO BOB BUCKHORN: YOU SHOULD SUPPORT NEXT GENERATION UTILITY LEGISLATION via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Buckhorn and Young are waging a war of words over newly filed legislation allowing wireless equipment in public rights of way. Tampa’s Democratic mayor argues the measure removes local control of public spaces. No, says the South Tampa Republican senator, Buckhorn is completely off-base with his concerns on what the bill will actually do. In a recent op-ed … Buckhorn made his case: “Telecommunications companies are pushing SB 596 and HB 687, legislation that would allow them to place small refrigerator-sized equipment, and even towering poles, on public rights of way. If passed, local governments would have no control over where this communications equipment would be placed or how it would look.” Young says that the legislation only addresses wireless equipment that would be installed in “existing rights of way where utility infrastructure exists today … The bill does nothing to change a local government’s ability to preserve historic areas like our own Ybor City, nor does it affect the power of cities and counties to regulate siting of new infrastructure and equipment as they do now.”

EDUCATION GROUPS KNOCK ‘MISLEADING’ FEWER, BETTER TESTS LEGISLATION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News –  Florida lawmakers might be calling HB 773 the “Fewer, Better Tests” legislation, but parent groups say the bill’s title is totally misleading and isn’t actually doing anything to eliminate standardized testing in the Sunshine State. State Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr., and Chris Sprowls and Sen. Anitere Flores are all touting the legislation as a way to scale back standardized testing in Florida. Not so fast, parents say. “First of all, this [title] is a misnomer,” [said] Beth Overholt of education advocacy group Common Ground … composed of representatives from six education groups like Florida Stop Common Core Coalition and Fund Education Now. Overholt [said] the legislation doesn’t actually eliminate tests, but just alters how long students would be taking tests at the end of the school year — so the title, she said, is totally misleading. “They’re not fewer and they’re not better tests,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re thinking.”

FIX WATER QUALITY OR FLORIDA TOURISM WILL SUFFER, FISHING AND BOATING INDUSTRIES WARN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – The leaders of one of the nation’s largest outdoors companies, a major boat manufacturer, and tourism industry officials met with Gov. Scott and legislators Wednesday to make the case that urgent action is needed to end the toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee. They detailed how their industries suffered from the impact of the guacamole-looking toxic algae blooms and state of emergency last year. They offered statistics on how Florida is losing business to other states, warned about the social media buzz over Florida’s bad water and suggested that if things don’t turn now, it may take years to reverse. “If Florida is known as a destination of subpar water quality or bad water, it would absolutely crush our local economy,” said John Lai, representing the Lee County Development Association and the Sanibel/Captiva Chamber of Commerce. He said that one in five jobs in his region relies heavily on tourism but, in the last 30 years, he has watched “the complete degradation of Florida estuaries and water quality.”

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Senate President Joe Negron and Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon will take part in a community discussion at 5 p.m. at Pahokee High School, 900 Larrimore Road.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. Watch to learn more.***

TRI-RAIL DOESN’T DESERVE TALLAHASSEE’S TOUGH TACTICS via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The likely source of that Tallahassee controversy was companies that lost out in January on the $511-million, seven-year contract for all of Tri-Rail’s operations, maintenance and dispatch. Tri-Rail’s rules eliminated every bidder except one, Herzog Transit Services. As we said in an earlier editorial, however, there are good reasons why Tri-Rail bundled several contracts into one and chose the winner. Herzog was not the low bidder, but Tri-Rail asked for fixed contracts, to avoid change orders that could allow any low bidder to drive the cost much higher. Only Herzog submitted such a contract. Tri-Rail also based the contract on performance, not just price. A Broward County judge rejected a challenge from the losing companies. Tri-Rail is essential to South Florida’s transportation future. The Legislature should work with the agency, not against it.

SPEAKING OF TRI-RAIL — WHAT JEFF BRANDES SHOULD BE READING – Bombardier employee arrested, others questioned in Swedish bribery probe via CBC News – A Bombardier Transportation employee in Sweden has been arrested and others questioned by police in connection with contracts for a railway modernization project in Azerbaijan. Swedish prosecutor Thomas Forsberg said the employee who was arrested is a Russian national who works for Bombardier Transportation in Sweden. According to Forsberg, the investigation is based on allegations that bribes were given to Azerbaijan officials “in order to adapt a contract” to fit Bombardier.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

DMS SECRETARY CHAD POPPELL RESIGNS via the Tallahassee Democrat – … to pursue interests in the private sector, the DMS office said. Poppell has been the secretary since December 2014. His resignation will be effective March 31. “Chad Poppell has done an outstanding job as Secretary of DMS and I want to thank him for his hard work to improve efficiency and foster innovation in state government,” Scott said in a release. “Under his leadership, Florida has remained a leader in government efficiency and provided the critical support to our state agencies to ensure Florida families and businesses receive the services and support they need. Chad has been a valued member of my team since 2013 and I am proud of the great work he has done for Florida families.”

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION TO HOLD FIRST MEETING via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission has launched a website and announced an organizational meeting next Monday. The meeting will be 2-4 p.m. in the Capitol’s Senate chamber, with a brief agenda of “Welcoming Remarks, Oath of Office, Rules of the Commission, Ethics Briefing.” Its newest hire is Meredith Beatrice, who was spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and is now the CRC’s “external affairs” director. The 37-member board is chaired by Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder and unsuccessful Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016. The panel, which convenes every 20 years, will review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document after holding public meetings across the state. The commission’s website address is here.

SUNSHINE WEEK: FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION GOES TO BAT FOR FLORIDA’S RIGHT TO KNOW via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – True to form, the First Amendment Foundation has been busy at the Florida Capitol battling to ensure the public’s right to know … helped restructure a bill this week that would have severely limited access to information if the government decided not to comply with public records laws. Florida’s “sunshine” law says that “it is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records shall at all times be open for a personal inspection by any person.” But the only real recourse against a government officer or agency that refuses to hand over public information is to challenge them in court. That can be expensive. As a safeguard, if a judge rules that the government violated public records laws, then the government must pay the record requester’s attorney’s fees. The mandatory provision “creates a level playing field for someone who can afford to pay for an attorney and those who cannot,” according to the First Amendment Foundation … a new bill would have made the mandatory fee provision optional. By changing the word “must” to “shall,” a judge could deny fees even if the court rules in favor of the citizen. The potential consequences are enormous.

SPOTTED AT THE GOVERNORS CLUB: THE LAST TROUBADOUR OF REAL FLORIDA via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Jeff Klinkenberg is not the kind of guy who does “luncheons,” but there he was at the Governors Club Tuesday, entertaining Friends of the First Amendment — some real, some fake — at the First Amendment Foundation’s annual fundraiser. He looked a lot more comfortable later that day at Sally Bradshaw’s bookstore, telling true tales about things that “make Florida unique” to an appreciative audience of people who like to choose their reading material in a venue that does not sell toilet paper and tampons. Klinkenberg coined the term Real Florida and cornered the knowledge market on everything worth knowing about people who do not need Disney to fire their imaginations or casinos to pump their adrenaline. To people genuinely committed to Florida, Klinkenberg is the Scheherazade of storytelling, revered by regular folks and by fellow A-list writers. One of them, FSU professor and National Book Award winner Bob Shacochis showed up at Klinkenberg’s book signing to pay his respects. It was like watching Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page trade licks.

TASK FORCE WANTS MONEY TO FIGHT ENCROACHMENT ON FLORIDA MILITARY BASES via Florida Politics – Florida would place its military installations at risk of commercial encroachment — and, possibly, closure — without adequate funding for land acquisition through the Florida Forever land acquisition program, a military support organization warned Thursday. Some $3 million from U.S. Department of Defense funds will be lost at the end of 2018 unless the state provides matching funds, said Bruce Grant, Enterprise Florida vice president for military programs, told the Florida Defense Support Task Force during a meeting in Tallahassee. …  “Most legislators may not connect (Florida Forever) with military land buffering,” Grant said. “But there is a connection.” … With the federal government expected to review bases for closure in 2019 or 2021, “now is not the time to pull back and pause,” said Kellie Jo Kilberg, of the Florida Defense Alliance.

DO UNIVERSITIES DISCRIMINATE IN HIRING? via Darryl Paulson for Florida Politics – Universities are touted as bastions of diversity whose prime role is to encourage students to engage in critical thinking, ask tough questions and expose themselves to a diversity of ideas and opinions. If that is the mission of the university, they have dismally failed. Diversity is respected, up to a point, as long as it doesn’t include ideological diversity. As liberal commentator Nicholas Kristof observed in a recent New York Times op-ed, “We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservative.” Welcome to the modern American university, where almost every type of diversity is encouraged, except for ideological diversity. Try challenging liberal dogma as a student or professor, and you will likely find yourself facing counseling and academic discipline.

MOM OF NAIKA VENANT: I THOUGHT HANGING MIGHT HAVE BEEN STUNT via Carol Marbin Miller and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – It is the dead of night in a parked car somewhere in the city of Miami, and Venant’s mother is awakened by a torrent of Facebook messages, indicating her daughter is committing suicide online. Gina Alexis calls a foster care caseworker, she says, and gets no answer. She calls the state’s child abuse hotline. She scans her daughter’s Facebook feed for any evidence of the unfathomable claims her friends are making. “Oh, my God,” one friend tells her. “Run to the bathroom. Your daughter. Your daughter, she’s hanging.” But the bathroom is miles away in a Miami Gardens foster home. However, in real time, the speculation online is that Naika is faking the suicide, and Alexis believed — or perhaps wanted to believe — that her actions were a stunt. In any event, it is possible Naika was already gone before Alexis began what she describes as a fruitless effort to save the girl.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

HAPPENING SATURDAY – GILLUM TO ADDRESS DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS OF FLORIDA CAUCUS — The Tallahassee Democrat is scheduled to speak at the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida conference at noon at the Hillsborough Teachers Association, 3102 North Habana Ave.

SAVE THE DATEVance Aloupis is holding a fundraising reception Thursday, March 23, in his bid for House District 115. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Sachs Media Group offices, 114 S. Duval St. in Tallahassee. RSVP at rsvp@vancealoupis.com.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Brian BallardWansley Walters, Ballard Partners: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Dean CannonKirk PepperJoseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Town of Longboat Key

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Correct Care Solutions

Erin Lee Deady, Erin L. Deady PA: Renew Financial

Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society

Jeffrey Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Green Roads West

James Harries Jr., James E. Harris Jr: American Ambulance

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Bradford County School Board; Watershed Technologies, LLC

Todd Lewis, Lewis Consulting: Latin Chamber of Commerce of the United States

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: ClickAClinic

Stephanie Zauder, Ballard Partners: Bequest, Inc.

SPOTTED at the Red Dog Blue Dog charity celebrity bartender event in Tallahassee hosted by Sara ClementsJoe ClementsAngela DrzwieckiKate MacFallSandi Poreda and Erin VanSickleEvan Jenne (Blue Dog), Dana Young (Red Dog), Anna AlexopolousJosh AubuchonBryan AvilaMichael AyersAmy BiscegliaRob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, Caitlyn Brongel, Dave BrowningChristian CameraChris CarmodyErin and Matthey ChoyCarlecia CollinsRobert Coker (senior), Chris DawsonNick DuranMatt FarrarCesar FernandezChris FlackKatie FluryBill GalvanoBillie Anne GayCorey GuzzoJeff Hartley, Jack LatvalaSeth McKeelMike MillerThomas Philpot, Casey ReedMarc ReichelderferTara Reid, Andrea ReillySydney RidleyDavid RiveraSteve SchaleLeva SchmidtWilton SimpsonClark SmithStephanie Smith, Chris Spencer, and Cam Yarborough.

WEEKEND TV

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: This week’s episode features moderator Rob Lorei discussing Florida issues with Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder, and USF St. Pete emeritus professor of government Darryl Paulson.

Political Connections on Bay News 9: The 11 a.m. Sunday show will feature an interview with U.S. Sen. Nelson.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The 11 am Sunday show will feature an interview with Democratic U.S. Sen. Nelson, followed by a ‘Common Grounds’ segment on the ongoing debate over whether Enterpise Florida and Visit Florida should get the axe. The show will also take a look at the Politifact Scott-o-Meter to see whether the second-term Republican governor has lived up to his campaign promise to push for the repeal of the ACA.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC):  Hosts Steve Vancore and Gary Yordon will chat with Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas and Florida politico emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to our good friend Eric Johnson, as well as Carey Baker, John French, Jan Gorrie, Mike Haridopolos, Chip LaMarca, Kristen McDonald, Alexander Pantinakis, and Joe Salzverg. Celebrating today is our dear friend Christian Minor, as well as Rep. Sean Shaw, Kelsey Frouge, St. Pete City Councilman Steve Kornell, and Rob Weissert.

RETAIL FEDERATION EXPECTS RECORD-BREAKING ST. PATRICK’S DAY SPENDING IN 2017 via Florida Politics — St. Patrick’s Day revelers won’t be the only one’s seeing green this year according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. The retail trade group estimates those celebrating the Irish holiday will spend $37.92 a piece this year, with total spending expected to top $5.3 billion — a significant jump from last year’s $4.4 billion and good enough for a record. “We continue to see spending on holidays and celebrations reaching or exceeding record highs, which reinforces the strength of our economy and the confidence that consumers feel,” said Florida Retail Federation President & CEO Scott Shalley. “Even though St. Patrick’s Day isn’t one of the bigger spending holidays, we still expect Florida retailers to see a nice bump in sales, particularly those who offer additional discounts and sales to attract customers.” Though St. Patrick is revered for driving all the snakes out of Ireland, his holiday is better known for bringing lots of people to bars. According to NRF, 27 percent of those polled will head to watering hole or restaurant, while 15 percent will head to a private party. The most popular way to celebrate the occasion, however, is wearing green. More than four-fifths of those polled said they plan to dress accordingly, while 31 percent said they would make a special dinner, such as corned beef and cabbage.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Hillsborough River goes green for Mayor’s River O’Green Fest Saturday starting 11 a.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (near Riverwalk), 600 N. Ashley Dr. in Tampa.

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Tallahassee Democrat updates ‘Capital Team’ logo to reflect, you know, the Florida Capitol

In what can be described as a step in the right direction, the folks at Gannett unveiled its new and improved “Capital Team” logo.

And this time, they get the geography right.

To recap, the USA TODAY network is assembling “seven journalists, one mission,” with a group of veteran reporters taken from the Tallahassee Democrat, Naples Daily News and Treasure Coast Newspapers – including Jeff Burlew, James Call, Bill Cotterell, Alexandra Glorioso, Isadora Rangel, Arek Sarkissian and Jeff Schweers – in a strategy to “flood” the Legislature’s annual 60-day Session with coverage.

While that side of the plan sounds solid, the chosen logo was less so; clipart of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. to stand for its ramping up of Tallahassee coverage.

Oops.

But, in a move that shows there’s always room to improve a good idea, Gannett updated the Capital Team logo, which now includes a graphic representation that looks a bit more like Florida’s capital, and a lot less like the nation’s capital – the new tower looming behind the old Florida Capitol building.

Just as it should be.

As Gomez Addams used to say: “Capital idea, old boy.”

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Sunburn for 3.16.17 – Everything is awesome!

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

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

EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!

Everything’s fine, Senate President Joe Negron said Wednesday. Nothing to see here, folks.

His signature tax cut this year, a reduction in the communications service tax to be paid for by removing a subsidy to the insurance industry, was abruptly pulled off the agenda earlier in the day of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax.

That decision was Kelli Stargel’s, the Lakeland Republican who chairs the panel. Only three of the five members showed up for the meeting. She had said it was too “weighty (a) subject” to be considered by a reduced contingent.  

Negron, a Stuart Republican, later said he agreed with that decision.

“Given that it’s a very significant tax issue, I think the chair felt that all five members should be present,” he said.

The bill (SB 378) repeals a $435 million tax credit for insurers to finance a nearly $231 million tax break on communications services.

“I think it’s important to constantly look at incentives we’ve created in the past,” Negron told reporters after the day’s floor session.

“Those funds would much be much better spent providing tax relief to Floridians, to businesses, rather than subsidizing the labor cost of one particular industry.”

For years, Negron has tried to get rid of the now 30-year-old tax break to insurance companies. The industry once again is fighting to keep its subsidy, a 15 percent tax credit on the salaries that insurers give their full-time workers here in the state.

But the plan is a linchpin of the Senate’s 2017 tax cut package. He was asked: Why not let the subcommittee hear the bill anyway, especially if it will be heard by the full Approps Committee later?

“That’s a decision that was made by the chair,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in that decision but I think it’s perfectly reasonable and I support (it).

“Every issue is important,” Negron added. “Some issues are more important than others.” No doubt, Mr. President.

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

DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 17; NFL Draft – 42; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 49; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 49; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 170; Election Day 2017 – 235; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 273.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with business and economic development leaders to discuss the importance of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida at 9:30 a.m. at PropLogix, 1651 Whitfield Ave in Sarasota. From there, he’ll travel to Merritt Island where he will attend the groundbreaking for OneWeb Satellites’ new manufacturing facility at 2 p.m. at Space Florida’s Exploration Park, 505 Odyssey Way.

RICHARD CORCORAN GETS NOD FOR DEDICATION TO TERM LIMITS FROM U.S. TERM LIMITS via Florida Politics – U.S. Term Limits announced this week that it has presented Corcoran with the Champion of Term Limits Award … for his commitment to term limits and citizen government. “By supporting term limits, Speaker Corcoran has given a voice to Floridians who feel let down by corruption and careerism in government,” said Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits. “People are tired of business as usual and term limits is the only way to change the status quo. We applaud Corcoran for his important work to get this done.” Corcoran has pushed to impose term limits on Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate judges, which the organization supports. The organization also applauded Corcoran for his support of legislative term limits, which have been in place since 1992.

BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. SPEAKER! What do you get the legislative leader that wants to cut everything?

HOUSE LAWMAKERS COMPILE $2.7 BILLION WISHLIST FOR HOMETOWN PROJECTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Even in a year when the state has a tiny surplus and demands are as great as ever, the project wish lists remain massive, more than 1,200 in all, equal to 10 for every member of the House of Representatives. They would cost $2.7 billion, more than the entire annual budget of the Florida prison system, the third-largest in the United States. Lawmakers say it shows a growing need for services that the state and local governments can’t or won’t provide, for drug and alcohol abuse treatment, respite care for the elderly, the arts, roads, bridges, parks, drainage, sewer and wastewater improvements. The three biggest projects in Tampa Bay are $15 million for deferred maintenance on aging buildings at Hillsborough Community College; $15 million for a new highway interchange at I-75 and Overpass Road in Pasco County; and $10 million to remove sediment and restore Lake Seminole in Pinellas.

CARLOS TRUJILLO: HOUSE WANTS TO CUT $1.4 BILLION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –  He highlighted the figure after a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, which got budget reduction presentations for each chair of the chamber’s budget subcommittees. At the beginning of session, Trujillo tasked them with to come up with and A and B budget cut scenario, with one cutting deeper than the other. “I think it is a road map,” said the Miami Republican. “Whether we decide to go down road A or Road B … it’s a road map for how we write our budget.”

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

SENATE PASSES FIX TO “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW via Florida Politics The Florida Senate passed a change to the state’s “stand your ground” law that would make it easier for criminal defendants to claim self-defense. It was approved on a 23-15 vote during Wednesday’s floor session. Specifically, the bill would require prosecutors to prove “that a defendant is not immune from prosecution.” The bill (SB 128), sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, is in reaction to a state Supreme Court decision that put the onus on the defendant to show self-defense under the law, passed in 2005. The stand your ground law allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.

HOUSE GIVES OK TO BILL TO ALLOW UTILITIES TO IGNORE CITY DEVELOPMENT RULES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The bill, HB 1055, by Rep. Clay Ingram … overturns a 3rd District Court of Appeal ruling last year on behalf of the City of Miami, which ruled that the governor and the Cabinet — acting as the state siting board, which oversees power plants — failed to consider the city of Miami’s development rules when it approved FPL’s plan to string 88 miles of line atop towers standing 80 to 150 feet high. The bill also clarifies that the Public Service Commission has exclusive authority to require that power lines be put underground. Just as occurred in the Senate committee … the vote for HB 1055 happened with no debate and little discussion. David Childs, lobbyist for the Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group, was the only person to testify. He said the bill provides “important clarifications to ensure that the Power Plant Siting Act will continue to apply as it has historically occurred in this state.”

HOUSE PANEL OKS BILL TO ALLOW OPTOMETRISTS TO PERFORM SURGERY via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Florida’s optometrists won their first skirmish with the state’s doctors and ophthalmologists after a House panel voted in favor of a bill to allow optometrists to perform certain types of eye surgery. But the vote was close and reflects that it could be an uphill struggle to win final passage. The House Health Quality Subcommittee spent nearly two hours hearing testimony over whether the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Manny Diaz (HB 1037) to allow optometrists to perform surgery would be dangerous for patients if it became law … supporters contend the legislation would help provide increased access to eye surgery to patients living in rural areas as well as poor patients because many ophthalmologists will not see Medicaid patients. But several ophthalmologists and several physicians questioned having optometrists perform any kind of surgery because optometrists do not go to medical school or go through the process of becoming a physician.

REDISTRICTING BILL ADVANCES via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – SB 352 … intended to streamline the handling of redistricting cases in state courts, moved from the special order calendar to third reading. Hutson noted that the bill “locks the maps in place on qualification day,” giving clarity to candidates. The bill is intended to encourage judges to conduct redistricting actions in the sunshine, including public hearings involving potential district maps, keeping minutes of closed-door meetings on the plan, facilitating public comment on maps and plans, and complete records retention of all emails and documents.

VACATION RENTALS DE-REG BILL PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A bill that would roll back all local ordinances and regulations of vacation rental houses to 2011 codes got a split-vote approval from the House Agriculture & Property Rights Subcommittee. The issue was fashioned as one pitting property rights — those of people or companies that buy houses and convert them into short-term vacation rental properties, versus those of neighbors who don’t like having small hotels pop up in their neighborhoods. Senate Bill 425, presented by state Rep. Mike La Rosa would essentially ban cities and towns from treating vacation rental houses differently from any other houses in the neighborhoods. That was Florida law after a similar bill was signed in 2011, but much of that deregulation was rolled back in 2014 after cities and counties complained. The ensuing regulation has gotten out of hand, La Rosa argued.

— “Committee hearing delayed on Anitere Flores’ tax swap legislation” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

— “Kamia Brown files bill to protect parents from abusive children” via Orlando Rising

— “Senate advances high school financial literacy bill” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Senate committee passes bill allowing free state park access to foster families” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics Florida Politics

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

ANDY MARLETTE CARTOONS FALSE ABOUT SUGAR, ALGAE FACTS via Judy Clayton Sanchez in the Pensacola News-Journal – We recently met with Pensacola News Journal editorial cartoonist Marlette and editor Lisa Nellessen-Lara. We provided state water quality and engineering data and pointed out flaws in the science behind Senate Bill 10: It ignores the system’s inability to send water south to the Everglades during wet periods; Only a relatively small volume of water could be stored in a reservoir south of the lake compared with the hundreds of billions of gallons discharged to the coastal estuaries; A reservoir deals with water quantity, not water quality — therefore, a small reservoir on sugarcane/vegetable land south of Lake Okeechobee would do nothing to prevent algae blooms in the coastal estuaries. Despite these discussions and that the state agency in charge of water management in South Florida has well documented these facts, Marlette continued his misleading drawings. U.S. Sugar and Florida Sugarcane Farmers proudly support all science-based efforts to stop the discharges. We do not support wasting tax dollars to buy land for projects that WILL NOT WORK.

WILLIAM LARGE: FLORIDA MUST END ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS ABUSE, SELF-SERVING WINDFALLS via Florida Politics – A state law that was originally intended to give individual policyholders special rights in disputes with their insurance companies is instead being used by some repair vendors and their lawyers to generate a self-serving windfall. The problem is serious and growing, and it’s driving insurance costs higher and higher. The so-called “one-way attorney fee” allows a policyholder to collect their legal fees from their insurer if they win a claims dispute. But, if the policyholder loses in court, they don’t have to pay the insurer’s legal fees. Some repair vendors, though, are tricking policyholders into signing an assignment of benefits or AOB. This allows the vendor to seize control of the policyholder’s special rights, file a claim and sue the insurer, often without the policyholder’s knowledge or consent. Now, this litigation-for-profit scheme has become an incentive for lawyers and their vendor clients — often water damage remediation firms, roofers, or auto glass shops with aggressive marketing schemes — to clog the courts with lawsuits and generate big paydays for themselves.

WHAT EDIE OUSLEY IS READING – FLORIDA’S TRIAL BAR HURRICANE via the Wall Street Journal – Sunshine State lawyers, in cahoots with local contractors, are crisscrossing the state encouraging homeowners to sign away their insurance rights, a practice known as “assignment of benefits,” or AOB. In exchange, the lawyers promise to handle property repairs and fight with the insurance company for settlement paydays. What the lawyers aren’t telling homeowners is what happens next. A 1950s-era Florida statute dictates that insurers are liable for all attorney’s fees if they lose in court or settle for an amount more than the insurer’s initial offer. So, the trial bar is filing inflated claims to coerce pre-emptive settlements from insurers that want to avoid even more expensive, protracted legal battles. This man-made fiscal hurricane is swirling even as Citizens has offloaded more than a million policies to private insurers and shrunk its market share over the past few years … legislative fixes have been thwarted in recent years by the state’s powerful plaintiffs-lawyer lobby, and competing bills would bless the trial bar’s practices. Florida homeowners already face risks from hurricanes, hail storms and other natural phenomena. Do they need to face the unnatural disaster known as plaintiffs’ attorneys too?

FLORIDA ADDED NEARLY 17K PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS IN FEBRUARY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Florida added 16,800 private sector jobs during the month of February, according to the ADP Regional Employment Report. An estimated 14,800 jobs were added in the service-producing sector while the rest were in the goods-producing sector. In February 2016, ADP estimated the state added 3,400 more jobs.

CITIZENS INSURANCE BUYING BACK $300 MILLION IN CATASTROPHIC COVERAGE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The company’s board of governors voted unanimously to approve the move … Citizens, Florida’s property insurer of last resort, bought the coverage from Everglades Re II Ltd. in 2015. The company will repurchase catastrophic coverage at prices keyed to the new estimates of the threat, spokesman Michael Peltiersaid. “It allows us to go into the market with more flexibility,” he said. “It no longer makes sense for us to insure against that exposure level.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: STERLING IVEY JOINS FDLE via Florida Politics – Ivey, a veteran of state government communications teams, now has joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a communications coordinator. FDLE communications director Gretl Plessinger announced the move Tuesday. He’ll “serve as an FDLE spokesperson and will be responsible for coordinating news releases, interviews, press conferences and internal communications,” she said. Ivey, most recently vice president of corporate communications for SunTrust Banks, has nearly two decades of experience with state agencies. He was public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, then spent four years as communications director for the Department of Corrections. Ivey later was communications director for the Department of State before becoming Gov. Charlie Crist’s press secretary in 2008-11. After that, he was Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s press secretary, serving until 2011.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Brian BallardChris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Florida Society of Ophthalmology

William Barrett, Sewell Point Group: Beach Towing Services, Inc.; Tremont Towing

Gregory BlackJames DaughtonPatricia GreeneWarren HusbandAllison Liby-SchoonoverAimee Diaz Lyon, Metz Husband & Daughton: AT&T

Bradley Burleson, Ballard Partners: Breakthrough Miami

Dean CannonRichard Reeves, GrayRobinson: Hindu Properties

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: City of South Bay

Jorge Chamizo, Cory Guzzo, Teye Reeves, Floridian Partners: State Policy Network

Angela Drzewiecki, Peeples & Smith: Keys Energy Services

Ramon Maury, Maury Management Group: Chamber South; South Florida Free Beaches, Inc.

Frank MayernickTracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Floridians for Access to Health Care Inc

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: Solstice Benefits, Inc

Pat Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Florida Association of Kennel Clubs

Sue Mullins, Evan Power, David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District

Winn Peeples, The Peeples Group: Motorcycle Industry Council

William Rubin, The Rubin Group: Caregiver Services, Inc.; Patients for Fair Compensation, Inc.

Burt Saunders, GrayRobinson: Village of Estero

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

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

DISNEY REFUSES TO CUT ‘GAY MOMENT’ FROM BEAUTY AND THE BEAST via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Walt Disney World Company has refused to remove a scene involving a “gay moment” from its “Beauty and the Beast” release in Malaysia, a country that has laws against homosexuality. Instead, Disney has decided to withdraw the film from the Malaysian market, rather than censor the scene. Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board approved “Beauty and the Beast” for a “P13” rating after requesting cuts of about four and one-half minutes from the subplot with a “gay moment,” according to Film Board Chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid … Golden Screen Cinemas, Malaysia’s largest theater chain, posted on its website that patrons who purchased advance tickets will receive refunds. “The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” according to an email statement from Disney.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Audrey Gibson.

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Wall Street Journal op-ed highlights assignment of benefits abuse

An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday called out the assignment of benefits (AOB) system in Florida, saying the abuse of AOB by trial lawyers will get Florida taxpayers “whacked with Category 5 bills.”

“Florida homeowners already face risks from hurricanes, hail storms and other natural phenomena,” the article states. “Do they need to face the unnatural disaster known as plaintiff’s attorneys too?”

AOB is a system where homeowners can sign over the rights to their insurance policy after a catastrophe or other property damage. Whoever gets the rights to the policy then can sue an insurance company for repair costs.

Florida law requires insurers to pay lawyer fees if they lose in court or settle for an amount more than an insurer’s initial offer, which has led to some inflated settlements for home repairs.

The Op-Ed points to statistics released by state-back Citizens Property Insurance Corp., which has seen the number of litigated claims jump from 12 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2016. The average settlement for non-wind claims has nearly doubled over the same stretch, from $10,301 in 2011 to $19,966 last year.

Because of AOB abuse, the article asserts, Floridians pay some of the highest home insurance rates in the nation. Citizens’ average policy in Miami-Dade rings in at $2,678, and the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation says it and other companies may need to raise rates by 10 percent or more to break even.

“How long can homeowners bear double-digit premium hikes? Florida’s insurance commission is worried that consumers will eventually drop private insurance, or private insurers will close up shop — or both, especially in Southeast Florida, where AOB abuse is concentrated. Citizens would then be forced by law to step in and offer a below-market rate policy. Taxpayers would absorb the losses.”

The article points to a bill by Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill (SB 1038) as a possible solution, but laments “the state’s powerful plaintiffs-lawyer lobby, and competing bills would bless the trial bar’s practices.”

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American Surgeons warn House against latest salvo in Florida’s resurgent Eyeball Wars

Tallahassee has once again found itself in the thick of a renewed Eyeball Wars between optometrists and ophthalmologists.

And no less than patient safety in Florida is on the line.

After a four-year truce, optometrists have gone back on their word, drafting legislation to allow them to perform surgery; it is a proposal that ophthalmologists, the American College of Surgeons and recent scientific research suggest would be devastating to the long-term eye health for thousands of Floridians.

A bill now making way through the Florida House seeks to expand optometry further into the practice of medicine and surgery, an effort fiercely opposed by ophthalmologists. HB 1037, sponsored by Republican Manny Diaz of Hialeah Gardens is scheduled Wednesday for the House Health Quality Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Cary Pigman, an Avon Park Republican and emergency care physician.

The comparative lack of instruction for optometrists is the reason ophthalmologists — health care professionals who have completed college, a minimum of eight years of added medical instruction, and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery — have been vocal players in these resurgent Eyeball Wars.

Also joining the chorus against HB 1037 is the prestigious American College of Surgeons. In a March 13 letter to Pigman, the ACS warns this bill would pose a considerable risk to patient safety and quality of care.

Renewing the Eyeball Wars come at a time when health care professionals as a whole are implementing higher — not reduced — standards of care.

If passed, HB 1037 would allow optometrists to perform a significant number of surgical procedures and prescribe nearly all drugs, including addictive narcotics. This flies directly against a compromise reached in April 2013 with House Bill 239, which expanded the scope of practice by allowing optometrists to prescribe a limited number of oral medications and forbidding them from prescribing Schedule I and II controlled substances.

HB 239, signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, mandated that optometrists must complete 20 hours of added training, pass an examination, and carry medical malpractice coverage at the same level as medical doctors. The bill also needed optometrists to report all adverse medical incidents — the same as ophthalmologists and other practitioners.

Optometrists would also have to refer patients with severe glaucoma to an ophthalmologist within 72 hours.

Dr. David Hoyt, executive director of the American College of Surgeons, argues that HB 1037 would work against the “interest of patient safety and maintaining the highest standards of surgical care.”

Hoyt warns that the types of procedures proposed in HB 1037 should “only be performed by a licensed medical doctor or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine who meet appropriate education, training and professional standards.”

The proposal would expand the scope of optometry beyond that of ophthalmologists — professionals with the required training and education — which would include the practice of medicine and surgery, as defined by both the ACS and Florida Statutes.

Ophthalmologists and surgeons argue that in the past four years, no scientific or technical advancements have been discovered that would justify expanding the practice of optometry to include surgery.

“As such,” Hoyt says, “the ACS strongly urges you to protect patient safety for Florida citizens and oppose HB 1037.”

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Credit unions: A ‘winner’ worth picking

Free market, corporate welfare, winners and losers.

These phrases are uttered every day in the halls of the Florida Capitol while lawmakers are in Session; but, the reality is, government is, across many sectors of society, still in the business of picking winners and losers.

One such instance where government picks winners and losers is in the fight between banks and credit unions over public deposits. For years, the credit unions have been seeking legislation that would allow them to accept deposits from public entities, like local governments and universities – just like for-profit banks already do.  

Yet the powers that be in the Legislature, have kept that from happening. This year, though, lawmakers have a real shot at as we’ve heard so many times before, by getting out of the business of “picking winners and losers” in this industry space and allowing the free market to work.

Florida law currently bars credit unions from public deposits, and changing that has been a longtime priority of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, an issue once again facing legislators in the current Session. SB 1170, known as the Florida Security for Public Deposits Act, would allow credit unions to accept public deposits. The bill is scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

According to a 2013 report by Luis Dopico and William Jackson of the University of Alabama: “It’s good policy to allow credit unions to accept public deposits, because it increases choice in the marketplace, provides greater competition, and in many cases provides better convenience for trustees of the public’s money.”

Researchers found that the benefits of allowing public entities to deposit funds in credit unions go beyond better interest rates.

“For instance,” Dopico and Jackson write, “there are many very small communities in the United States without a commercial bank but where a credit union is present. Since many of these communities are also low-income areas with special economic challenges, much of the cost of the inefficient public policy of restricting credit unions from participating in the public deposit market falls on those least able to afford it.”

It is not that I am advocating credit unions over for-profit banks; but, this move would allow lawmakers to stick to their principles and remove a protectionist statute from the books and really let consumers, in this case, taxpayer-funded public entities, pick where they want to bank.

It’s free market public policy at its best – now let’s see what lawmakers choose to do.

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Eyeball Wars: It’s all about knowing who takes care of your eyes

Do you know who is taking care of your eyes?

That question is at the heart of “Joanne’s Story” a video about a Vero Beach woman who nearly lost her eyesight after an ophthalmologist caught a rare diagnosis which was missed by her optometrist.

Joanne was previously under the care of an optometrist who diagnosed her with a “small cataract.” A retinal surgeon removed the cataract, and Joanne returned to the optometrist for the remainder of her care. After several visits, Joanne was told that “everything was fine.”

But everything was not fine.

After sensing foreign matter in her eyes, Joanne turned to an ophthalmologist, who then diagnosed a rare fungus infection — a problem unrecognized by the optometrist.

“When you get a complication as serious … and as rare as mine,” Joanne says, “you have to have the most well-educated, highly qualified medically trained doctors to even begin to deal with it.”

The video was originally released in February 2013 to highlight Florida House Bill 443, which at the time sought to prevent optometrists from calling themselves “physicians,” mandating that they report any adverse incidents with patients, which is already a requirement for ophthalmologists and other medical doctors. And it required optometrists diagnosing severe cases of glaucoma to immediately refer a patient to an ophthalmologist.

Behind the bill was the idea that ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in eye and vision care. As such, they possess a much higher level of training in treatment and diagnosis, more than either optometrists or opticians.

Though HB 443 ultimately died in committee, a companion bill did later pass in 2013, and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

HB 239 signified an agreement between the state’s optometrists and ophthalmologists, forging a truce in what became the so-called “Eyeball Wars,” which had been raging for decades.

Many of the changes in HB 239, supported by the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, focused primarily on providing patient safety, among which was a reaffirmation that optometrists could not perform “surgery” of any kind.

The bill also allowed optometrists to prescribe a limited number of oral medications, and only under certain conditions. Optometrists must carry the same level of malpractice coverage as medical doctors and cannot prescribe Schedule I and II controlled substances. They are also required to refer patients with severe glaucoma within 72 hours to an ophthalmologist.

Joanne’s case also illustrates the stark difference between ophthalmologists, who can diagnose rare illnesses, and optometrists who are often called upon to provide follow-up care.

While optometrists can provide primary vision care — things from eye exams to the management of vision changes — they are not medical doctors.

But four years after the passage of HB 239, optometrists and associated groups are beginning to lay the groundwork for a change to Florida law, mostly by donating millions to candidates and committees as well as growing its roster of lobbyists. A bill is currently being drafted in the Florida legislature for consideration in the upcoming Session.

All this is with one goal in mind: allowing optometrists to perform surgery.

But in four years, there have been no advances — either technical or medical — that would justify granting such a power.

And the relative lack of instruction for optometrists is why ophthalmologists — who have completed college, a minimum of eight years of additional medical instruction, and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery — are raising their guard in the renewed Eyeball Wars.

Ophthalmologists want to ensure they remain the safe, well-trained medical option that millions of Floridians can turn to when faced with serious, debilitating eye diseases.

Joanne, who recently passed away, knew that it was important to know who takes care of your eyes.

“I do not feel that optometrists should have the privileges of ophthalmologists,” Joanne says in the video. “I do not feel they are qualified with their background … to become aware of serious eye problems.”

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Sunburn for 3.14.17 – Press skits tonight; Fineout finds out; Kionne McGhee to lead House Dems; Eyeball wars flaring up

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

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

HAPPENING OVERNIGHT – WIND SCRUBS SPACE X LAUNCH via Florida Today – SpaceX is expected to try again early Thursday to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and commercial communications satellite from Kennedy Space Center, after strong winds scrubbed the mission’s first countdown on Tuesday.

The launch team called off the attempt while the rocket was being fueled, with more than a half-hour remaining before the launch window opened at 1:34 a.m.

The mission’s backup launch opportunity is at 1:35 a.m. Thursday, the opening of another two-and-a-half hour window that closes at 4:05 a.m.

Thursday’s forecast is considerably better, with a 90 percent chance of favorable conditions, according to the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. The odds were only 40 percent “go” heading into Tuesday’s countdown.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR WHEN … GARY FINEOUT PUTS ON A COWBOY HAT!

Wait, what?

Yes, it’s Press Skits, tonight at The Moon (as usual) in Tallahassee.

While the lineup of the skits is a closely guarded secret till showtime, Fineout last month posted a photo of himself—seemingly from rehearsals—wearing a cowboy hat and red shirt, while brandishing two (toy) long-guns.

“Locked and loaded for the 2017 press skits,” he said on Twitter. The mind boggles.

“The event pokes fun at politicians and policy in Florida’s capital city,” the website explains. That’s one way of putting it.

The theme this year is “The Crony Awards,” and “a couple of surprise guests” have been promised. Does this mean Gov. Rick Scott will attend?

To counterbalance the press, the House and Senate will have their own videos, no doubt skewering the newsies (and hopefully themselves).

If you haven’t yet bought tickets, floor seats have sold out but there may be general admission left for $30 each, plus fees, at the Moon box office. Call ahead to confirm: (850) 878-6900.

Remember, proceeds benefit the Barbara L. Frye Scholarship, awarded yearly by the Capitol Press Corps to high school seniors and college students pursuing journalism study.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; show starts at 7:30 p.m. The Moon is at 1105 East Lafayette Street.

Coming from the Capitol, you’ll probably take a right at Fineout pumping a play-shotgun. He’ll be the one shouting, “Yippee-kai-yay, Governor!”

TWEET, TWEET: @FLPressCorps: Breaking: Due to high demand we have add’l 25 floor seats for Press Skits we are opening up in morning.

A REMINDER of just how funny and relevant Press Skits can be via David Johnson. (Click on the image to watch the video.)

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

DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 19; NFL Draft – 44; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 51; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 51; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 172; Election Day 2017 – 237; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 275.

CDC: DON’T DONATE SPERM IN 3 FLORIDA COUNTIES DUE TO ZIKA via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press – Men from three Florida counties shouldn’t donate sperm because of a small risk of spreading Zika, U.S. health officials said … The guidance had previously applied to Miami-Dade County, the only place in Florida where there’s evidence the virus was spread by mosquitoes. But infections were reported in people in South Florida who couldn’t clearly be linked to Miami-Dade … the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the advice should extend to two counties north of Miami — Broward and Palm Beach. The recommendation applies to men who lived or traveled in those counties since June 15. Zika is mainly spread by mosquito bites but it can also be spread through sex. People can be infected without getting sick, and the virus can remain in semen for months.

FLORIDA’S UNEMPLOYMENT RATE TICKS UP TO 5% IN JANUARY via Florida Politics — Florida’s unemployment rate ticked up in January, reaching 5 percent for the first time in a year. The January unemployment rate marks a slight uptick from December, when state officials reported an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. The statewide rate is higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.8 percent. Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, Gov. Rick Scott lauded private sector employers Monday for creating more than 50,000 jobs in January. The governor made the monthly jobs announcement at Herc Rentals in Bonita Springs, and used his appearance to once again take aim at lawmakers who voted to support a bill (HB 7005) to eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs. “It makes no sense to me,” said Scott.

UNDER RADAR, STATE OF FLORIDA SPENT $240M ON LAWYERS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Gov. Scott and other top Florida Republicans frequently complain about government spending, but they have quietly spent more than $237 million on private lawyers to advance and defend their agendas, an Associated Press investigation has found. Florida taxpayers have also been forced to reimburse nearly $16 million for their opponents’ private attorney fees. That means an overall $253 million has been spent on legal fights, including a water war with Georgia and losing battles to test welfare recipients for drugs, trim the state’s voter registration lists and ban companies that do business with Cuba from bidding on government contracts. “A quarter of a billion dollars is a gosh lot of money,” said Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, a business-backed group that scrutinizes state spending. Much of the state’s legal spending doesn’t show up in the normal process of assembling the state’s $82 billion budget.

LAWYERED UP? A LOOK AT WHAT THE STATE HAS SPENT MONEY ON via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Here’s a look at some of the spending on outside lawyering Florida taxpayers have had to pay for under Republican leadership:

—More than $100 million in fees paid to lawyers by state agencies, including an expensive water rights struggle with Georgia. The water wars have been waged for nearly 20 years, but costs soared after Scott pushed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This total also includes money billed by lawyers defending the actions of the Legislature and governor.

— Nearly $16 million paid to opposing lawyers after losing battles over voting rights, gay marriage, drug testing and other controversial policies. This includes $12 million to attorneys who represented pediatricians who contended Florida violated federal mandates by failing to deliver critical health services to 2 million children on Medicaid; more than $800,000 to lawyers working for the American Civil Liberties Union; and nearly $513,000 to lawyers who defeated a state law targeting businesses doing business in Cuba.

— Nearly $20 million spent by the Legislature defending budgets that advocates say shortchange public schools and Republican-drawn legislative and congressional districts. The state won the education lawsuit at its first turn, but the courts sided against them on districts and approved changes that upended the state’s political landscape.

— About $111 million since 2011 through its risk management division on legal cases over auto accidents, employment disputes and worker’s compensation claims against state government.

FIRST ON FLORIDA POLITICS – REPORT: DELINQUENCY DOWN IN FLORIDA, DESPITE A HOST OF CHALLENGES via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Despite several challenges facing the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), it has managed to lower youth arrests during the fiscal year for non-violent offenses. This reduction in delinquency came through the increased use of civil citations, according to a 2017 report on the DJJ by the Florida Juvenile Justice Association (FJJA) … entitled “Securing Florida’s Future by Protecting Florida’s Children: The State of the Roadmap to Excellence” … says that in FY 2015-2016, 121,968 children were served by the DJJ, with many children being served in their own communities. In the latest delinquency report just released by the Florida DJJ, juvenile arrests have dropped another 7 percent during FY 2015-16, resulting in a six-year decline of 37 percent. Considerable success has been achieved with the expansion of civil citation and use of detention alternatives. P

Per the report, counties showing the most improvement are Miami-Dade County with a 12 percent drop, Broward County with an 8 percent decrease, Orange County with a 7 percent drop, Palm Beach County with a 6 percent decrease and Hillsborough County with a 2 percent drop. But without sufficient support, maintaining these continued reductions in keeping at-risk youth from falling prey to the so-called “school to prison” pipeline might not last, said Catherine Craig-Myers, executive director of FJJA.

‘FOSTER SHOCK’ DOCUMENTARY TAKES FLORIDA’S PRIVATIZED CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM TO TASK via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics –A documentary film about Florida’s privatized child welfare and fostering programs — made by a Guardian ad Litem and filmmaker from Palm Beach — casts a draconian look at what happens to children when they are taken from abusive situations at home and become dependents of the state, at taxpayer expense, often to their peril. “Foster Shock,” which is currently being screened around the state at community viewings and nationally film festivals, was directed and produced by Mari Frankel, who has also served as a Guardian ad Litem (person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child) for the last several years. Her film paints the picture of a bleak and broken system funded to the tune of roughly $3 billion per year of Florida taxpayer money. The film also argues that a sizable chunk of that money often goes to the six-figure salaries of the executives running the so-called “community-based care” agencies (CBCs), like Eckerd Kids, whose own executive director, David Dennis, earned $708,028 in the fiscal year 2015, according to publicly-available IRS 990 statements.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – MOTHER MAY HAVE SEEN DAUGHTER KILL SELF ON SOCIAL MEDIA via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – Naika Venant, a 14-year-old Miami girl, hanged herself Jan. 22 and broadcast her death on Facebook Live. Hundreds of people watched her three-hour broadcast, some of whom pleaded with the girl to reconsider her decision. But others urged her to take her life, calling her names and saying that the broadcast was fake. That included a user called Gina Alexis, the name used by Naika’s mother, Gina Caze, according to an abuse complaint reported to DCF Feb. 9. The user posted comments that could be considered “mentally injurious to her suicidal child” and did not seek help for her daughter, the report states. The following statement was posted by the user in the moments leading up to the death: “#ADHD games played u sad little DCF custody jit that’s why u where u at for this dumb s–t n more u keep crying wolf u dead u will get buried life goes on after a jit that doesn’t listen to there parents trying to be grown seeking boys and girls attention instead of her books.”

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

RICK SCOTT STUMPS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, TOURISM DOLLARS IN TALLAHASSEE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Proponents of keeping Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA have been repeating the talking point that even Coca-Cola, king of market share, still advertises … Scott kept driving home his counter-frame to House Speaker Corcoran‘s “corporate welfare” narrative that killing the state’s economic development organization and tourism marketing agency will kill jobs. “Here in Tallahassee, we need to diversify the economy, we need to get more tourism, we need to get more manufacturing companies,” he said, at a business roundtable at the Danfoss Turbocor Compressors plant. “It’s not going to happen if they shut down Enterprise Florida and if they decimate VISIT FLORIDA, so I’m going to be working every day, traveling the state fighting for jobs. This about making sure every family in this state doesn’t have the struggles mine did when I growing up.”

TWEET SHOT & CHASER:

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a rally to call on lawmakers to fully fund Visit Florida at 2:30 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda.

TOP OP-ED: JOE HENDERSON: AFTER ENTERPRISE FLORIDA FIGHT, SCOTT HAS LITTLE POLITICAL CAPITAL LEFT via Florida Politics – To save his most-favored Enterprise Florida agency, the governor put a public campaign that included visits, robo-calls, videos and a public mocking of House Speaker Corcoran. It didn’t work, at least not yet. The House dealt the governor a stinging rebuke last week with by passing HB 7005 – or what Scott calls “job-killing legislation” – by an overwhelming 87-28 vote. Scott responded with a statement reading in part, “Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.” It was easy for Scott to get his way when he arrived in Tallahassee on a populist wave, promising to produce jobs and get Florida out of the Great Recession. He certainly wasn’t the only political leader in the land who favored subsidies to jump-start the economy. Now that those jobs have been created – Scott claims more than 1.3 million overall so far – the mood in Tallahassee has shifted away from what Corcoran calls “corporate welfare.” That has forced the governor into a defensive posture that he clearly isn’t used to and hasn’t shown evidence yet of mastering.

SCOTT’S IDEAS FOR TEACHER INCENTIVES DIDN’T RESONATE; LEGISLATURE HAS OWN PLANS via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott’s recommendation for $58 million in teacher incentives in 2017-18 essentially called for eliminating the controversial “Best & Brightest” program that’s been around for two years. In its place, Scott called for a handful of different kinds of incentives, including recruiting Bright Futures scholars to become teachers and eliminating teacher certification fees. But both the House and Senate don’t want to scrap “Best & Brightest,” they want to expand it — significantly — and they want to flood the program with as much as $250 million, five times more than this year. Each chamber released its own proposal last week wanting to ensure more teachers, and now principals, could qualify for a bonus going forward.

SCOTT SIGNS DEATH PENALTY FIX INTO LAW via the Associated Press – Florida will now require a unanimous jury recommendation before the death penalty can be imposed under a bill signed late Monday by Gov. Scott, who has remained relatively quiet about the problems with the state’s death penalty law in recent months. Lawmakers rushed to get the bill passed on the fourth day of their legislative session in hopes of fixing a death penalty law that’s been found unconstitutional twice since January 2016. It’s been seen as a better-than-nothing option for death penalty proponents as well as opponents.

DISPUTE OVER BILL FRAYS NERVES, EXPOSES FRACTURES IN JOE NEGRON’S SENATE LEADERSHIP TEAM via Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The trial lawyers were on the cusp of scoring a big win against the business and insurance lobby, their deep-rooted political rivals, but then state Sen. Lauren Book entered the legislative committee room. Book … was a “no” vote on the bill that would expand prejudgment interest to civil cases, but the new mother of twins hadn’t been expected to show because her infants had been up all night and she was exhausted. Senate Rules Committee Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Republican who favored the legislation, had brought it up for a vote and was surprised — some say unpleasantly — when Book showed. The vote got postponed. Benacquisto privately wound up swearing at fellow Republican senator Jack Latvala, who helped persuade Book to appear. The public arm twisting and tense, profanity-laced exchange between Benacquisto and Latvala goes beyond implications for the big-money bill, and signal what could be a rocky road ahead for Senate President Negron.

LAWMAKERS REVISIT BILL THAT PUNISHES SANCTUARY CITY OFFICIALS via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – Republican legislators are pushing again this year with a measure that would punish local officials if they fail to “fully comply” with federal immigration authorities. The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee voted for the bill, which would help enforce Trump‘s promised immigration crackdown. The legislation would penalize officials in so-called sanctuary cities with hefty fines. Local government would also absorb detention costs when holding detainees for immigration authorities.

STATE MAY TRY AGAIN TO DRUG TEST WELFARE RECIPIENTS WHO HAVE FELONY CONVICTIONS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – People who apply to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, commonly called TANF, would be subject to the tests if they had been convicted of a drug-related felony in the last 10 years under the bill (HB 1117). It cleared its first hurdle in the House with an 8-2 vote by the Children, Families and Seniors subcommittee. “Somebody that is receiving public assistance shouldn’t spend those dollars on things like drugs,” said Rep. Chris Latvala, who is sponsoring the legislation with his father, Senate appropriations chairman Jack Latvala. Opponents worry that drug testing will make it harder for people in need to access TANF. Applicants who have a drug felony would have to pay for a drug test up-front at an average cost of about $40. The state would reimburse them if they pass the test.

VOTE ON STADIUM-SUBSIDIES BILL DELAYED, BUT PANEL VOTES AID TO RURAL COUNTIES via Florida Politics – A Senate committee approved legislation Monday earmarking 75 percent of Florida’s take from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster for the eight worst-affected counties, and ensuring small counties will be represented on the oversight board. But the Commerce and Tourism Committee delayed a vote on another high-profile bill, SB 236, to dismantle tax subsidies for professional sports facilities, when sponsor Tom Lee, a Republican from Thonotasassa, failed to appear. “We’re facing a crisis in rural Florida — whether it’s education or health care or infrastructure of economic development,” chairman Bill Montford said of those portions of the agenda.

— “Criminal justice reform task force and other reform bills advance in Florida Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “House panel passes crack down on ‘sanctuary’ communities via the South Florida Sun Sentinel

— “Proposal to make secretary of state an elected position passes 1st House panel via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

— “Rural Economic Development Initiative bill passes 1st Senate panel” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

MAGIC JOHNSON VISITS TALLAHASSEE TO TALK UP MEDICAID MANAGED CARE via Florida Politics – Magic Johnson visited with Senate Democrats Monday to praise Medicaid managed care programs that are using town hall meetings and church outreach to steer HIV, dental, geriatric, and other health care to poor people in 60 Florida counties. The programs have served 9,500 people with HIV during the past four years, Johnson said. Moreover, “our providers and our doctors look like the patients they serve. That’s very important, because they can serve them better, understand their needs,” Johnson said, providing “the best health care they’ve ever received.”Johnson later dropped in on Senate President Negron, and was scheduled to meet with Senate Republicans later in the day.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson, retired professional basketball player and current president of operations for the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA, shakes hands with Senator Bill Montford after a meeting with the Florida Senate Democratic Caucus about health care.

KIONNE MCGHEE ELECTED LEADER-DESIGNATE OF FLORIDA HOUSE DEMOCRATS via Florida Politics – House Democrats elected Kionne McGhee, a former prosecutor whose challenges as child included the murder of two family members and a diagnosis of mental retardation, as their leader-designate Monday. He won 23 votes against 17 for Bobby Dubose. McGhee now stands to lead his caucus effective at the beginning of the organizational session that will follow the 2018 elections. “I want to say, together, he and I are going to move this caucus forward,” McGhee said of his colleague from Fort Lauderdale. The vote came on the 13th anniversary of McGhee’s marriage to his wife, Stacy McGhee. “Don’t you ever, so long as you step foot in this great country, allow critics to tell you that your past will define you,” he said.

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails the latest breakdown of bills that have been placed on the calendar for a hearing up to this point in Session. As of March 14th, 299 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 250 are sponsored by Republicans, 41 are sponsored by Democrats, and 8 bills have bipartisan prime co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 83.6% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 13.7% are Democratic, and 2.7% are bipartisan.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Government Operations & Technology Subcommittee meets at 10 a.m. in Morris Hall to talk about a proposal to repeal a Prohibition-era law that prohibiting grocery stores from selling liquor alongside grocery and other retail items. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee is expected to discuss a proposed committee bill that would make changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system when it meets at 2 p.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill to give students who rack up excess credit hours a financial break if they graduate in four yearswhen it meets at 2 p.m. in 212 Knott. Also at 2 p.m.: The House Health Innovation Subcommittee will consider a bill placing new requirements on hospitals that treat patients for drug overdoses when it meets in Mashburn Hall. The Health Policy Committee will discuss a bill that allows patients to stay up to 24 hours at an ambulatory surgical center when it meets at 10 a.m. in 412 Knott. The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space, and Domestic Security Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Glenn Sutphin during its meeting at 10:30 a.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee will tackle a bill that deals with religious expression in public schools when it meets at 2 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee will discuss a bill allowing electric utilities to invest in natural gas reserves during a meeting at 2:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Caregivers and health care professionals will hold a press conference at 10a.m. on the Second Floor Rotunda to oppose cuts to the Medicaid program. Melanie Sellers, the director of maternal/child at Jackson Hospital; Theresa Brown, the patient financial service representative at Baptist Pensacola; and Shawn Salamida, vice president of Families First Network at Lakeview Center are expected to speak.

IS HOUSE SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE OVER THE WHISKEY & WHEATIES BILL? via Florida Politics – After the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill nearly whiffed in the House, a new twist was filed Monday evening. A proposed amendment on the bill (HB 81) would create dual “liquor package store licenses,” with “Type A” licenses going to stores keeping a wall of separation between booze and other retail items, and “Type B” licenses going to those who sell liquor in the same general space as other goods. Those getting a Type B license also must pay “an additional amount” on top of the annual license fee according to a sliding scale based on population. The bill—sponsored by Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican—is set to be heard Tuesday by the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee. Avila also offered the latest amendment.

LAWMAKERS WANT TO CREATE A MEDICAL MARIJUANA RESEARCH CENTER AT MOFFITT via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Two Tampa Bay area lawmakers want to make Moffitt Cancer Center a hub for medical marijuana research, according to legislation filed this month that would allow the center in Tampa to launch research initiatives and provide educational outreach on medical cannabis. “Right now, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting the positive benefits medicinal cannabis can have on patients in certain circumstances, but this legislation will help the state of Florida advance the science and research around cannabis as a treatment option for a variety of medical conditions,” Sen. Bill Galvano wrote in a statement. Rep. Jackie Toledo is sponsoring a companion bill in the House.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On and off: Tyler Teresa is no longer district secretary for Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe GrutersGeeDee Kerr has replaced Teresa.

On: Jeremy Stein is the new district secretary for Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder.

Off: Nicole Pontello Is no longer district secretary for Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner.

On and off: Elizabeth Casimir is no longer district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia WilliamsRobert Moore is Williams’ new district secretary.

CREDIT UNIONS: A ‘WINNER’ WORTH PICKING via Florida Politics – Free market, corporate welfare, winners and losers. These phrases are uttered every day in the halls of the Florida Capitol while lawmakers are in Session; but, the reality is, government is, across many sectors of society, still in the business of picking winners and losers. One such instance where government picks winners and losers is in the fight between banks and credit unions over public deposits. For years, the credit unions have been seeking legislation that would allow them to accept deposits from public entities, like local governments and universities – just like for-profit banks already do. Yet the powers that be in the Legislature, have kept that from happening. This year, though, lawmakers have a real shot at as we’ve heard so many times before, by getting out of the business of “picking winners and losers” in this industry space and allowing the free market to work … It is not that I am advocating credit unions over for-profit banks; but, this move would allow lawmakers to stick to their principles and remove a protectionist statute from the books and really let consumers, in this case, taxpayer-funded public entities, pick where they want to bank. It’s free market public policy at its best – now let’s see what lawmakers choose to do.

EYEBALL WARS: IT’S ALL ABOUT KNOWING WHO TAKES CARE OF YOUR EYES via Florida Politics – Do you know who is taking care of your eyes? That question is at the heart of “Joanne’s Story” a video about a Vero Beach woman who nearly lost her eyesight after an ophthalmologist caught a rare diagnosis which was missed by her optometrist. Joanne was previously under the care of an optometrist who diagnosed her with a “small cataract.” A retinal surgeon removed the cataract, and Joanne returned to the optometrist for the remainder of her care. After several visits, Joanne was told that “everything was fine.” But everything was not fine. After sensing foreign matter in her eyes, Joanne turned to an ophthalmologist, who then diagnosed a rare fungus infection — a problem unrecognized by the optometrist … the relative lack of instruction for optometrists is why ophthalmologists — who have completed college, a minimum of eight years of additional medical instruction, and are licensed to practice medicine and surgery — are raising their guard in the renewed Eyeball Wars. Ophthalmologists want to ensure they remain the safe, well-trained medical option that millions of Floridians can turn to when faced with serious, debilitating eye diseases. Joanne, who recently died, knew that it was important to know who takes care of your eyes. “I do not feel that optometrists should have the privileges of ophthalmologists,” Joanne says in the video. “I do not feel they are qualified with their background … to become aware of serious eye problems.”

MICHAEL CARLSON: DON’T TRADE A TAX CUT FOR A TAX INCREASE – PRESERVE THE SALARY TAX CREDITS FOR INSURERS via Florida Politics –For three decades, Florida has offered insurance companies a highly effective, performance-based tax credit that has resulted in tens of thousands of good jobs being created or imported to our state. Not only does this credit bolster our state’s economy in a transparent, accountable way, it also helps ensure insurance rates for Floridians stay as affordable as possible. Senate Bill 378 by Sen. Anitere Flores would bring that to an unfortunate end. It would repeal tax credits available to insurers as a way to lower the communications services tax currently levied on telecommunications, video, cable and satellite television and other related services. Cutting one tax but increasing another is a bad trade that would do more harm than good. It would eliminate tax credits that have been working exactly as intended and sets a bad precedent for other businesses considering a move to Florida based on the availability of similar tax credits. Importantly to consumers and businesses, it would amount to a $300 million tax increase that could translate to higher insurance rates for everyone.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

LORANNE AUSLEY ENDORSES ANDREW GILLUM FOR GOVERNOR via Florida Politics – The state representative from Tallahassee on Monday announced her support for Tallahassee Mayor Gillum, a Democrat, as governor. “I have worked closely with Andrew since he was FAMU student body president, serving our community together from our respective roles in local and state government,” Ausley said in a statement. “Andrew doesn’t just talk the talk; he walks the walk.” Ausley added that they “share a passion for children’s issues” … Ausley, an attorney, first served in the Florida House 2000-08 until she was term limited, then was again elected last year to House District 9, representing Leon County.

THIS INVITATION FROM ED HOOPER SHOULD HAVE HIS SUPPORTERS WORRIED

Late last month, former state Sen. John Legg announced that he would not attempt to return to the Legislature in 2018. Had he run, Legg’s best path to victory was thought to be through north Pinellas’ Senate District 16, where incumbent Jack Latvala is term-limited from running again.

The person who benefits the most from Legg not running is former state Rep. Ed Hooper who, even if Legg was in the race, is the early frontrunner to replace Latvala.

Hooper was in Tallahassee last Monday for a fundraiser hosted by Latvala, the next two Senate Presidents — Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson — as well as almost all of Republicans who comprise Tampa Bay’s legislative delegation.

In other words, with Legg out and the establishment behind him, Hooper should cruise in 2018, or at least through the Republican primary.

But something, admittedly trivial, has me just a tad bit worried. It’s this dang invitation (pictured below) for a fundraiser on March 29.

You know what this invite reminds me of?

Jim Frishe.

It’s a big serving of Jim Frishe Velveeta cheese.

Frishe, of course, is the former state Representative who wanted a seat in the Florida Senate but was defeated by Jeff Brandes in a 2012 primary. The tech-savvy Brandes campaign exposed the well-meaning Frishe as a career politician and out-of-date. The final result was not even close.

Ed Hooper’s situation is not the same as Jim Frishe’s. There isn’t a Senate leadership fight shaping the primary in Senate District 16 (at least not yet). Hooper’s not on the opposite side of the Brandes-Nick Hansen wing of the Pinellas GOP which, in 2016, beat Frishe for a second time in the Pinellas Property Appraiser contest.

But cheesy stuff like this coming out of the Hooper camp might give some self-financing, unknown conservative — basically a Jeff Brandes of Palm Harbor — the idea that Hooper is, like Frishe was shown to be, a career pol and out-of-date.

Hooper can and should do better than this.

FORT MYERS BUSINESS OWNER MICHELLE GRAHAM ANNOUNCES STATE HOUSE RUN via Florida Politics – Graham is announcing a bid for House District 79. Currently held by term-limited Republican Matt Caldwell, HD 79 covers Alva, Buckingham, Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers Shores, North Fort Myers and Olga. “I have been blessed to be able to raise my two sons here in North Fort Myers and own a business that services all of Southwest Florida,” said Graham, a Republican from North Fort Myers. “Now, it’s time for me to give back to the community that has been so good to my family.” Graham is president and owner of Siesta Pebble, a family-owned business launched in 1995 that offers premium finish solutions for residential and commercial swimming pools.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

PERSONNEL NOTE: VALERIE BREEN TO LEAD FDDC – Breen has been named the new executive director of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC), replacing the recently retired Debra Dowds. Breen will take command March 20. She previously was CEO of the Brain Injury Association of Florida (BIAF). “Her expertise in the field of health care and disabilities spans a more than 30-year career working in the health-related industry,” a news release said. “She is a recognized health care consultant, an innovative leader in the field of health care and disabilities, and is a nationally recognized speaker.” Breen also is the overseer/care coordinator for her mother, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010.

SAS INSTITUTE EXPANDING TALLAHASSEE OFFICE – SAS Institute, the world’s largest privately held software and data analysis company, is doing so well in the Sunshine State that they are expanding in the capital “to serve Florida’s growing demand for data.” Ben Stuart, State and Local Government lead for the Southeast region, said that expanding “our investment and presence in Tallahassee demonstrates SAS’ commitment to providing the world’s most advanced technology, mathematicians and experts to serve our rapidly growing customer base throughout the state. Florida policymakers are showing leadership in integrating data and analytics to better serve their constituents, and we are excited to help them tackle pressing public policy challenges.” The expanded Tallahassee office will “leverage over 15,000 global SAS professionals and a deeply experienced local team in customizing SAS’ offerings to Florida state government,” the release said.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: National Strategies; Title Technologies; Verizon; Xerox Corporation; Grant Thornton

Brett Bacot, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: City of Palm Coast

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Jewish Federations; Playa Del Mar Association

Joshua Burkett, Mark W. Anderson: Florida Council on Economic Education

Sarah Busk, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: LaunchCode

Mark Grant, Greensppon Marder: Florida Home Builders Association

Jeffrey Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Opis Energy

Melissa Gross-Arnold, The Arnold Law Firm: United Cerebral Palsy of Central Florida

Kari Hicks, Sunshine State Consultants: GA Zero

Gregory Munson, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: American Water Works Association; Broward College Foundation; NorthStar Contracting Group

Jon Steverson, Foley & Lardner: Title Technologies

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Tuesday’s Governors club menu takes in all-American theme with roasted butternut squash soup salads, cole slaw, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, red potato salad, fried chicken with biscuit, peppered salmon, creamed corn, mashed potatoes and broccolini.

ANDREW’S CELEBRATES WHO’S WHO OF FLORIDA WITH FAMOUS SHOUT-OUT MENU – Andy Reiss and his team at Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar have unveiled the latest iteration of their time-honored tradition, customized lunch selections named for the movers and shakers of Florida politics. This cornerstone of Tallahassee dining recognizes significant players with tongue-in-cheek menu offerings: the “Great Scott” salad bar, Galvano’s Gorgonzola Burger, “Diamond” Jim Boyd’s Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, Pepe’s “Barbe-Cuban” Pork Sandwich, the “Oliva” My Cheesesteak Alone. So, if you’re hungry in the Capital City, stop by and feast on your favorite VIP.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, POLITICO’s Matt Dixon discusses how Democrats could make gains during the widening rift between Gov. Scott and House Speaker Corcoran. Sen. Frank Artiles faces scrutiny for accelerating bills favorable to Florida Power & Light. “This is corporate welfare for FPL,” said Nathan Skop, a former FPL manager and a former commissioner on the Florida Public Service Commission. Gomes also talks to Congressman Al Lawson about his work in Washington and with Volunteer Florida’s CEO Chester Spellman about the second annual #SuitsForSession. At a time when there is a lot of uncertainty around health care, Gomes shares stories from seniors rallying support for Medicare Advantage Plans.

VOLUNTEER FLORIDA PARTNERING WITH NIC’S TOGGERY, NARCISSUS, AND ARRON’S FINE CUSTOM CLOTHING FOR #SUITSFORSESSION – Volunteer Florida has announced that those who visit the Capitol March 15 and drop off an item for #SuitsForSession will be entered into a contest to win a suit from Nic’s Toggery, a women’s business outfit from Narcissus, and a custom sports coat from Arron’s Fine Custom Clothing. Nic’s Toggery (downtown location) will also have a #SuitsForSession collection box for donations from Monday, March 13-Wednesday, March 15 and will offer a $100 credit toward a new suit for each individual who brings in a donation of men’s clothing. Volunteer Florida and Uber are hosting the second annual #SuitsForSession event on the third-floor Rotunda March 15 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to collect attire for job seekers statewide. For those who cannot make it to the Capitol to drop off their donations, Uber will pick up clothing from homes across Leon County for free all day March 15. Volunteer Florida will donate the professional attire to the Chapman Partnership (Miami); Dress for Success Tampa Bay; ECHO Outreach Ministries (Leon County); Bridges of America (statewide); and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program (Tallahassee). More here.

HAPPENING WEDNESDAY: RED DOG BLUE DOG CELEBRITY BARTENDER EVENT – Politicians will mix it up to raise money and awareness for animal rescue organizations at the Third Annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young will sling drinks for the Red Team and Hollywood Democratic Rep. Evan Jenne will pour for Team Blue at Madison Social, 705 S Woodward Ave. #101 in Tallahassee to raise money for animal rescue organizations. This bipartisan event combines dogs, politics and friendly competition to raise money for an amazing cause. Senator Young and Representative Jenne will compete for tips and donations, and all proceeds will be divided evenly between the Tallahassee Animal Shelter Foundation, Last Hope Rescue and the Leon County Humane Society. Last year, Red Dog Blue Dog celebrity bartenders raised nearly $4,000.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

DAYTONA BEACH IS NAMED #1 ATTRACTION IN FLORIDA IN 2017 via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – The World’s Famous Beach was ranked at the top of the chart because of its family-friendly beaches and proximity to other top attractions including historic St. Augustine, Kennedy Space Center and Orlando’s theme parks. “Spring Family Beach Break starts March 20 and goes through April,” said Lori Campbell Baker, executive director of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “With 23 miles of beaches and so much more, there’s something here for every family to enjoy.” The beach appeals to families for a number of reasons, the top being safety. Daytona Beach is recognized worldwide for its annual events including Bike Week, Biketoberfest, the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Daytona 500.

FLORIDA DEPUTY PULLS TWO JET SKIERS FROM WATER AS CRUISE SHIP RUSHES TOWARD THEM via The Associated Press – A Port Canaveral harbor pilot and a sheriff’s deputy teamed up to rescue two spring breakers on a Jet Ski as a Carnival Cruise ship moved toward them. A cruise ship passenger captured the rescue on video as Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Taner Primmer pulled the women to safety. A Canaveral Pilots Association statement says Capt. Doug Brown spotted them while navigating the Carnival Magic out of the port and alerted Primmer. As he approached in a marine patrol boat, one woman fell off the Jet Ski. It flipped as she tried to get back on, sending both women into the water. With the ship approaching, Primmer pulled them out and steered his boat away. Area news outlets identified them as 19-year-old Skylar Penpasuglia and 20-year-old Allison Garrett of Princeton, West Virginia. (Click on the image below to watch the video.)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. Celebrating today is my fellow Dave Matthews Band fan, Drew Heffley, as well as Andy Graham and Seth Platt.

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Heartwarming video shows Medicaid giving hope to Florida’s most vulnerable children

Health care through Medicaid, particularly for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens — children, the elderly and low-income families — is not an abstract. It is a real need, for real people, and without it, can lead to real suffering.

A new video shows how the state’s Medicaid program is keeping one Plant City boy alive. It is not just money for lawmakers to spend arbitrarily; it is care for actual people, often those who need it most.

The video is from the Florida Hospital Association, illustrating just what is at stake when lawmakers proposed drastic cuts in the state’s Medicaid program.

The 90-second clip is one of a series in the FHA’s “Some Cuts Won’t Heal” campaign, which features families and caregivers from across the state who rely on Medicaid to care for loved ones.

Launching statewide Monday, the digital campaign features the story of Lakota Lockhart, a 7-year-old Plant City boy who has received lifesaving services through Medicaid. Lakota was diagnosed with Central Hypoventilation Syndrome, where the boy literally forgets to breathe at night.

In the video, Dr. Daniel Plasencia, medical director of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, explains that “almost 90 percent of children” he treats at the clinic are on Medicaid.

Without that secondary Medicaid coverage, Lakota’s mother Krystal says, the family would have faced a tragic situation, with only a minimal 30 days of nursing care; not nearly enough to treat Lakota’s chronic condition.

“Cutting funding to care for sick children, the elderly, and disabled isn’t about numbers — it’s about kids like Lakota,” says the campaign’s websitewhich points out that Medicaid cuts will lead to a host of problems — reduced access to services, longer emergency room waits and widespread uncompensated care.

In a heartwarming way, “Some Cuts” puts a human face on the consequences of cutbacks in the Medicaid program, leaving Florida children, pregnant women, low-income families, the elderly and the disabled without access to critical health care services.

Lakota’s video, as well as those from other caregivers, patients, families, and advocates, can be seen on cutswontheal.com.

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This fundraising invitation from Ed Hooper has me worried

Late last month, former state Sen. John Legg announced that he would not attempt to return to the Legislature in 2018. Had he run, Legg’s best path to victory was thought to be through north Pinellas’ Senate District 16, where incumbent Jack Latvala is term-limited from running again.

The person who benefits the most from Legg not running is former state Rep. Ed Hooper who, even if Legg was in the race, is the early front-runner to replace Latvala.

Hooper was in Tallahassee last Monday for a fundraiser hosted by Latvala, the next two Senate Presidents — Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson — as well as almost all of Republicans who comprise Tampa Bay’s legislative delegation.

In other words, with Legg out and the establishment behind him, Hooper should cruise in 2018, or at least through the Republican primary.

But something, admittedly trivial, has me just a tad bit worried. It’s this dang invitation (pictured below) for a fundraiser on March 29.

To look at, the invitation is hideous. And whoever filled up the invite with those throwaway puns should have their keyboard taken away.

Seriously, this invitation looks like a dog’s breakfast.

Maybe it was designed by an earnest volunteer. And maybe a campaign intern was in charge of the writing.

But you know what this invite reminds me of?

Jim Frishe.

It’s a big serving of Jim Frishe Velveeta cheese.

Frishe, of course, is the former state Representative who wanted a seat in the Florida Senate but was defeated by Jeff Brandes in a 2012 primary. The tech-savvy Brandes campaign exposed the well-meaning Frishe as a career politician and out-of-date. The final result was not even close.

Ed Hooper’s situation is not the same as Jim Frishe’s. There isn’t a Senate leadership fight shaping the primary in Senate District 16 (at least not yet). Hooper’s not on the opposite side of the Brandes-Nick Hansen wing of the Pinellas GOP which, in 2016, beat Frishe a second time in the Pinellas Property Appraiser contest.

Hooper should not have to endure a primary.

But cheesy stuff like this coming out of the Hooper camp might give some self-financing, unknown conservative — basically a Jeff Brandes of Palm Harbor — the idea that Hooper is, like Frishe was shown to be, a career pol and out-of-date.

And remember, Hooper’s coming off a loss to Democrat Pat Gerard for a County Commission seat. Many observers say that was Hooper’s race to win, but his campaign failed to execute a winning plan.

Sending out invitations designed like the one below may indicate Hooper did not learn from that loss.

Hooper can and should do better than this.

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