Peter Schorsch - 4/2505 - SaintPetersBlog

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including 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 6.16.17 – POTUS to MIA; Donkey gathering; Landmark education bill signed; Tim Canova’s back; Happy Dad’s Day

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

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

DONALD TRUMP TO MIAMI, WILL ANNOUNCE PLAN TO STOP CASH FLOW TO CUBAN MILITARY 

Stopping short of a complete turnabout, President Donald Trump is expected to announce a revised Cuba policy aimed at stopping the flow of U.S. cash to the country’s military and security services while maintaining diplomatic relations and allowing U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to the island, reports the Associated Press.

In a speech Friday at a Miami theater associated with Cuban exiles, Trump will cast the policy moves as fulfillment of a promise he made during last year’s presidential campaign to reverse then-President Barack Obama’s diplomatic re-engagement with the island after decades of estrangement.

Senior White House officials who briefed reporters Thursday on the coming announcement said Obama’s overtures had enriched Cuba’s military while repression increased on the island. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the policy before Trump announces it, despite the president’s regular criticism of the use of anonymous sources.

President Trump traveling on Air Force One this week. Photo credit: AP.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen backs Donald trump Cuba policy but won’t attend Miami announcement” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami HeraldRos-Lehtinen, who is retiring next year, has been critical of Trump. But the White House invited her to attend Trump’s policy event in Miami’s Manuel Artime Theater. Ros-Lehtinen, however, said she has family plans that will keep her in Washington. Marco Rubio and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Carlos Curbelo, will join Trump, along with Florida Gov. Scott. Vice President Mike Pence, who was in town for a conference at Florida International University, might also attend. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is out of town, but the county will have the representation of Chairman Esteban “Steve” Bovo and Commissioners Bruno Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Joe Martinez and Javier Souto.

Wait for Donald Trump’s decisions is personal for south Florida’s Cuban, Haitian immigrants” via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News Trump is scheduled to announce new policies toward Cuba during a visit … returning to the city where he promised Cuban-Americans during the campaign that he would reverse President Barack Obama‘s actions. Trump is expected to tighten restrictions on travel and trade with the communist country, although many younger Cubans celebrated Obama’s move to open relations. Trump also is considering changes that could affect another significant immigrant group in South Florida. His administration has extended temporary protective status for Haitian refugees until January, although he has signaled a likely end to the policy is coming. Both South Florida groups are watching Trump closely, believing that the actions he takes affecting their communities will offer insight into his administration’s approach to broader issues affecting immigrants across the country.

Cuba power play with Colombia draws Marco Rubio’s ire” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In a final effort to stall a new U.S. trade and travel crackdown, Cuba pressured its ally Colombia to suggest it might boycott a Latin American security summit called by U.S. officials if Trump went forward with announcing his new policy targeting the Raul Castro government. The complicated international power play started to unfold following a national security principals meeting, according to congressional and senior government sources. Colombia began to express misgivings about how Trump’s Cuba announcement in Miami would coincide with the two-day U.S.-led Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America, also in Miami, and suggested it might just skip out on the conference if Trump didn’t delay his announcement by a week, said an aide to Sen. Rubio. Rubio, who has spent months quietly helping Trump craft his plans to restrict trade and travel with Cuba, was “appalled” at the news — although he knew the White House wouldn’t succumb to any threats for a delay, his aide said.

Inside Marco Rubio’s campaign to shape Trump’s Cuba crackdown” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Any effort by Trump to make good on his campaign promise to roll back former President Obama’s historic accord with Raul Castro would be delayed, Rubio cautioned—not just from the Castro government and from outside business interests, but from within. It would be studied to death by government analysts who favor more engagement with Cuba, not less. It would be leaked to the news media. Stillborn with a thousand excuses by the bureaucrats. So go it alone, Rubio told the president during their May 3 meeting. “What you’ve committed to do on Cuba, what you want to do on Cuba, is never going to come from career staff. It’s going to have to come from the top down. You’re going to have to tell them what to do,” Rubio recalled telling the president as his fellow Miami Republican member of Congress, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, nodded in agreement.

“Central America more important than Cuba – despite Trump’s Miami visit” via Tim Padgett of WLRN – “I don’t usually feel sorry for Central American heads of state. Too many of them, right-wing or left-wing, have done their damnedest to perpetuate the image of the corrupt, tin-pot strongman. If you needed any reminding: U.S. marshals arrested Panama’s former President Ricardo Martinelli in Coral Gables this week. The wealthy, authoritarian right-winger is wanted back in Panama for pilfering millions of dollars intended for the poor and using it to spy on opponents. (At his extradition hearing in Miami federal court, Martinelli denied the charge.) But I gotta admit I feel sympathy for the presidents who are in Miami for the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America.”

Assignment editors – U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and representatives of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, University of Tampa, Florida Aquarium, Florida Orchestra and Cuba One to talk about United States/Cuba relations. Event begins 3 p.m. At Tampa International Airport, Main Terminal, between Airsides A and C.

Meanwhile – “Trump taps Broward GOP leader for Costa Rica ambassadorship” via Tonya Alanez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel Sharon Day of Fort Lauderdale, was re-elected as a Broward state Republican committeewoman in the party primary in August. Day has previously served three terms as co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, where she worked with Trump’s current Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Day first was elected to that role in 2011 and then re-elected in 2013 and 2015. She has also served as national party secretary.

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— DONKEY GATHERING —

This weekend the Florida Democratic Party hosts its fourth annual Leadership Blue Gala (formerly known as the Jefferson-Jackson dinner) from the ultra swanky Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, with over 1,200 Democrats expected to event the event.

Saturday night’s speaking schedule kicks-off with comments from the new FDP regime: Chair Stephen Bittel and President Sally Boynton Brown. Party officials are touting the $800,000 they’ve raised this year for the event though ticket sales and sponsorships to fund the FDP’s new community engagement program, aimed at growing the party’s grassroots infrastructure in advance of the 2018 election cycle.

While Bittel has been traversing the state in getting himself acquainted with grassroots party members since his election in January, this will be the first time for many Dems to hear from Brown, the former Idaho Democratic Party executive director who elicited charges of elitism and being too focused on identity politics after a controversial speech she gave in Broward County last month.

Senator Bill Nelson, DNC Vice Chair Michael Blake and a handful of state legislators are on the agenda scheduled to speak, leading into the keynote address by former Joe Biden.

Some analysts say the former Vice President’s speech has taken on greater relevance after it was reported late last month that he has launched a new PAC called American Possibilities, a vehicle to provide him a way to support Democrats running for office while keeping his own options open for a potential 2020 presidential run.

Not listed as scheduled to speak is DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. A rumor that the she would address the Democrats on Saturday night led to her once and future congressional challenger, Tim Canova, to use the opportunity to attack her and the pasty, saying they were giving a platform “the most divisive Democrat in the country.”

As usual, there will be meetings by the various party caucuses throughout Saturday, as well as a panel featuring the three announced gubernatorial candidates, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King.

— NOTES FROM CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Miramar mayor backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam has thrown his support behind Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in his race to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. “As a Mayor who has fought hard to bring high-paying jobs, innovation, access to healthcare and a clean environment to my city, I have a full appreciation and respect for what Mayor Andrew Gillum brings as a candidate for governor,” said Messam in a statement. “I stood by Andrew when he fought the gun lobby and we stand together in support of the Paris Agreement to protect our environment. I ask every Floridian to join me and stand with Mayor Gillum for Governor.” 

In mulling gubernatorial run, Gwen Graham deleted two years of Twitter messages” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – At the end of her term in Congress and before launching her 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Graham took down her congressional Twitter account, which included more than two years of content. Though no longer publicly available, the tweets have now been archived by her campaign staff … She closed her Twitter account in January after leaving Congress. Past social media posts often serve as a treasure trove of opposition research for political rivals, but the campaign says that’s not the reason the tweets were taken down, which is not at odds with any congressional rules. “We took it down to avoid confusion between Gwen’s congressional account and her non-congressional account, which happened frequently — because she’s no longer a member of Congress,” said Matt Harringer, the campaign’s communications director.

Assignment editors: Chris King will speak to a meeting of the Florida Education Association at 9:30 a.m. at the Sawgrass Marriott, 1000 PGA Tour Blvd in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Hillsborough County Sheriff backs Ashley Moody for AG — Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee announced Thursday he was endorsing Ashley Moody in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Ashley Moody’s career is one of service to her community and the rule of law,” said Gee in a statement. “Her experience as a federal prosecutor and a circuit court judge have demonstrated an unyielding passion to keep our community safe and strengthen our criminal justice system. As our next Attorney General, I have no doubt she will serve with distinction and honor and be an Attorney General that keeps our state safe.” Gee joins Bondi and five Hillsborough County commissioners in endorsing Moody, a former federal prosecutor and circuit court judge, in the Attorney General’s race. “I’ve had the pleasure to work with the men and women of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for many years,” she said in a statement. “Their professionalism and commitment to public safety is embodied in their Sheriff who has made a career out of keeping our community safe. I am thankful for his endorsement of my campaign and for his friendship.”

Matt Caldwell kicks off #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour — The North Fort Myers is launching his #2LaneTravels Work Days Tour at Key Largo Fisheries on Friday, where he’ll spend the day working in their processing facilities. The tour, according to Caldwell’s campaign, is meant to highlight the industries Caldwell would oversee as Agriculture Commissioner, and will give him a chance to spend the day working at a Florida business that is vital to the state’s economy. “I am going to be highlighting the jobs across our state that may not be glamorous but are critical to moving Florida’s economy,” said Caldwell. “While processing seafood isn’t easy, and you’re certainly going to get yourself dirty, our great state wouldn’t be what it is today without the hard working men and women that are responsible for the wholesome and delicious food that is served on tables across America.”

Tim Canova announces rematch against Wasserman Schultz” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – “A year ago the eyes of the nation were on this race and the stakes were very high,” Canova said at a Broward Democratic progressive caucus meeting in Plantation Thursday night. “I say the stakes are still very high. We’ve got a president right now and a Congress, Republican dominated, that are pushing the most rabid inhumane radical type of agenda that I could have ever imagined.” In 2016, Canova tapped into Bernie Sanders’ small donors and anger at the political establishment to raise about $3.8 million in the race for South Florida’s 23rd congressional district. A Nova Southeastern University law professor, Canova ran to the left of Wasserman Schultz by bashing her for taking money from corporate donors and big Sugar.

Republican Chris Anderson, deputy sheriff, Army veteran, enters HD 28 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando-Rising — Anderson, 35, enters the race professing an unusual background for a house candidate in Seminole. As a child raised by a single father who abused drugs and died of AIDS, Anderson graduated high school, joined the U.S. Army, served in Afghanistan, and then came home to start a family and serve in the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. “There’s every reason why I should have been in the back seat of a police car, rather than as a deputy sheriff in the front seat today,” Anderson stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “I attribute the difference to faith, hard work and the belief that we live in a country where anyone can achieve the American Dream if we set our minds to it and never give up.” He’s facing Winter Springs businessman David Smith for the Republican nomination. Lee Mangold, chief executive officer and co-founder of GoldSky Security, is running for the Democrats, for a seat being vacated by term-limited Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur.

Bobby Olszewski talks West Orange, future speaker’s race, teamwork, education” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – “This community is my home as everywhere I look I see a friend, memory, or story as I have already invested decades to serving my community. I was blessed to have been elected to two-terms as a Winter Garden Commissioner where I have been tested as a public servant. I worked with my constituents to ensure all voices were heard. I have walked and visited with every community within District 44 and know what makes each neighborhood uniquely special. I am running to serve a community that I have invested my blood, sweat and tears, as I have no other interests or motivations in becoming a state representative except to serve our hometown.”

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Rick Scott signs HB 7069, shifting education from ‘traditional public schools’” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – While the education omnibus bill offers changes for all kinds of schools in Florida, from requiring recess to reducing mandatory testing, it accelerates state tax dollar funding for-profit and nonprofit charter and private schools, expands parents’ abilities to choose schools, and tightens Tallahassee’s controls over what local school boards can and cannot do. Democrats almost universally opposed HB 7069, to the point of declaring it to be sabotage of Florida’s public-school system. Joined by public school teachers, parents, PTAs, administrators and many school board members, they had urged for weeks that Scott veto the bill. “What this legislation does today is it helps all students, which is important,” Scott declared … ending weeks of speculation of whether he would sign or veto the controversial measure since Corcoran and his team pushed through a dramatic rewrite on the last day of the Legislation Session.

Gov. Rick Scott signs HB 7069 which provides nearly $419 million to Florida’s K-12 education system, expands teacher bonuses, increases funding for the Gardiner Scholarship for students with unique abilities and ensures Florida’s students can get a great education at the school of their choice.

Was Gardiner scholarship a pawn or a principle in passage of HB 7069?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The setting chosen by Gov. Scott and House Speaker Corcoran to sign the controversial HB 7069 school reform bill is a telling example of how it doesn’t matter how you get there in Tallahassee if in the end you can claim credit. The media advisory announcing the event highlighted the fact that the bill will be signed at 3:45 p.m., at “Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, which serves many children who recieve the Gardiner Scholarship.” (We assume the misspelling of “receive” was a mistake.) But while Corcoran and Rep. Manny Diaz will be in attendance to take credit for including the program in the bill, expansion of the Gardiner Scholarship was not included in the House’s original version of HB 7069 or in its original budget. The Senate did include $100 million in its budget for the program. Opponents blasted the strategy as an attempt to use vulnerable children as “pawns” to gain support for the controversial legislation.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will announce jobs numbers at 9:45 a.m. at Dusobox Corporation, 2501 Investors Row, #900 in Orlando.

“Hearing set in lawsuit against Pam Bondi over unregistered charities” via Florida PoliticsA Leon County judge has set a hearing in a lawsuit against Attorney General Bondi that says she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ordered the hearing for July 10 in Tallahassee, court records show. The plaintiff, Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith, was investigated on a consumer fraud allegation by Bondi’s office in 2015. He invented Storm Stoppers plastic panels as a “plywood alternative” to protect windows during storms. Smith argues that some of the unregistered charities Bondi makes settling parties give money to is her own “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” award and various “scholarship funds designated by the Attorney General.”

Jimmy Patronis to be named CFO” via Florida Politics – Public Service Commissioner and former state Rep. Patronis will be named state Chief Financial Officer to replace the outgoing Jeff Atwater, sources close to the Governor’s Office tell FloridaPolitics.com. An announcement is likely the week of June 26. “CFO successor has been identified and known since Atwater originally resigned,” a source familiar with the workings of the EOG told FloridaPolitics.com. “Has only been one name the entire time, regardless what others have said, reported or assumed.”

– “Gov. Rick Scott said to consider Jimmy Patronis to be next CFO” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

Cabinet votes to buy springs that were saved by love affair” via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s Cabinet voted to acquire 407-acre Blue Springs Park in Gilchrist County, a jewel of a spring that’s been privately owned since 1958 — thanks to a long-ago love affair involving a St. Petersburg business mogul and his faithful assistant. The Cabinet approved the purchase for $5.25 million … 10 percent below the owners’ asking price … The parcel includes a set of six springs and a mile of land along the Santa Fe River. In the 1950s, Blue Springs belonged to a St. Petersburg business mogul named Ed C. Wright, who owned some 20,000 acres in 20 counties. Wright made a fortune investing in municipal bonds, railroad stock and radio stations. Wright’s longtime secretary was a petite, reserved woman named Ruth Kirby … Kirby’s duties included listening in on all those calls and taking notes. Soon she was trading bonds and buying land too, and she proved to be as savvy an investor as her boss. When he died, unmarried and childless at age 77, his will named her executor of his $50 million estate. became one of the most powerful wheeler-dealers in the state, negotiating with U.S. Steel over land for condos on Sand Key and flying to Tallahassee to pressure the governor into buying Weedon Island.

“Don’t estoppel believing: Now it’s a law” via Florida PoliticsAfter years of unsuccessfully fighting its way through the Legislature, the estoppel bill is now law. Gov. Scott Tuesday signed the measure (SB 398), which overhauls the legal process of estoppel letters. It goes into effect July 1 … Estoppel letters, or estoppel certificates, are an obscure part of some real estate closings … Title agents and Realtors have wanted to shift the cost of preparing such letters from themselves back to (homeowners) associations … The measure allows an association “to charge a maximum fee of $250 for the preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate, if there are no delinquent amounts owed to the association (and) an additional maximum fee of $150, if there is a delinquent amount owed to the association.”

Assignment editors – House Speaker Corcoran is the featured guest at Café con Tampa’s breakfast meeting starting 8 a.m. upstairs at Oxford Exchange, 420 W. Kennedy Blvd.

Assignment editors – Tampa Tiger Bay Club presents “Legislative Session Wrap Up” at noon at the Ferguson Law Center, 1610 N. Tampa St. Speakers include Sens. Tom Lee and Darryl Rouson and Reps. Shawn Harrison, Wengay “Newt” Newton and Dan Raulerson.

— THE OTHER SPEAKER CANDIDATES —

As the Speaker’s race speeds toward a June 30 vote, the five announced candidates — Byron Donalds, Randy Fine, Erin Grall, Jamie Grant and Paul Renner — are trying to make the case why they are the best person for the job.

While three of those Speaker hopefuls have been in the running for a while now, two Speaker hopefuls — Grall and Donalds — are relatively recent entrants into the leadership race. In interviews this week with Florida Politics, both said they had been thinking about trying their hand at leadership, and credited the changes to the GOP conference rules as what spurred them to seriously give it a try.

“When the rules changed, I saw it as an opportunity to work really hard … and get to know my classmates and let them get to know me,” said Grall in an interview Wednesday.  “I feel like that’s the best approach to servant leadership.”

If elected, Grall would be the first female to serve in the position. That isn’t the only reason why she’s running, but she acknowledged that she would offer a “new and different perspective.”

“I very much believe that role models are important. To the extent that I could get other women involved in the process, I think it’s important (they are involved,)” said the 39-year-old Vero Beach attorney. “Our perspective is a little different. I think that it is lost in the process. It is important. I believe I was successful, but I think some women don’t feel there is going to be support.”

Neither Grall nor Donalds, a 38-year-old Naples resident, were eager to handicap their chances. But both indicated the move to a secret ballot, instead of the traditional method of collecting pledge cards, would allow their classmates to vote for who they feel is best for the job.

Donalds said he thinks he has been warmly received, and plans to keep talking to his classmates about his vision for the House. Like Grall, he said he thinks he can offer a different perspective on some of the issues facing Florida’s future.

“In our political world, the messenger matters, it just does,” he said. “I’m a little different. I’m not the prototypical Republican. It shows the depth of our party and it shows the depth of our Legislature.”

— “Could Erin Grall become ‘Madam Speaker?’” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— “Rules changes sparked Byron Donalds to seek Speakership” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

— STATEWIDE —

USF’s path to ‘preeminence’ is restored after Rick Scott vetoes higher education bill” via Claire McNeill, Kristen Clark and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The University of South Florida’s quest to become “pre-eminent,” an official status that could elevate the school’s prestige and send millions of extra dollars its way, received a positive jolt as Gov. Scott lifted a key barrier. Scott vetoed a sweeping higher education reform bill that was one of Senate President Joe Negron‘s top priorities … saying that the measure “impedes” the ability of state colleges to provide access to low-cost, quality education. USF had been focused on other language buried deep within the bill’s text that dramatically affected its fortunes. Becoming a pre-eminent university requires that a school meet several requirements, and SB 374 had moved the goalposts on one of them — the graduation rate.

FSU Zika expert awarded $1.8 million as part of NIH study” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat – Leading some of that research is Florida State University professor Hengli Tang, who is in line to receive $1.8 million to conduct further study. The money is part of a $7.7 million National Institutes of Health grant to conduct Zika and West Nile research in conjunction with University of Pennsylvania, Georgia State and Emory University, FSU announced … The grant money will be used to determine how fast the Zika and West Nile viruses target human brain cells and how the brain reacts to infection at different stages of development. “This work will provide a direct impact on the mission to understand Zika disease mechanisms and to develop effective countermeasures to curb Zika virus infection,” said Tang, a professor of biological science.

“Commentary: As Disney reports drop in guests, is Orlando’s post-Pulse embrace of LGBT too tight?” via C. Britt Beemer in the Orlando Sentinel – Reports say that attendance at Disney World is down. Well, as the late Paul Harvey used to intone on his radio broadcasts, here’s ‘the rest of the story’: For 30 years, as a consumer trends and research expert, I have surveyed more than 12 million Americans. I’ve helped more than a thousand businesses achieve their goals and overcome financial challenges. … Since the Pulse nightclub shootings a year ago in Orlando, I’ve observed a significant number of evangelical Christians shift their vacations plans: They will see the Ark instead of visiting Disney in their own backyard. After the Pulse tragedy, some in the news media speculated that Orlando could see a drop in tourists because of personal-safety concerns. Nothing in my research uncovers any concerns. As I survey these future visitors to the Ark, however, what I do find is genuine concern about how children might be influenced by the pro-gay/lesbian movement in Orlando.

— WEEKEND TV — 

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James’ topic is “Congressman Steve Scalis, Congresswoman Gabby Gilford – Are you a Republican or Democrat? Your answer might get you killed,” with political analyst Dr Lawrence Miller.

Facing South Florida with Jim DeFede on CBS 4 in Miami: The Sunday show provides viewers with an in-depth look at politics in South Florida, along with other issues that affect the area’s citizens.

Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Panelists this week include attorney Jessica Ehrlich, political consultant/columnist Chris Ingram, Tampa Bay Times reporter Steve Contorno and freelance journalist Brendan McLaughlin.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: The topic — “Where do we stand right now when it comes to cyber security?” Guests include St. Cloud Republican State Rep. Mike La Rosa and professor Gary Leavens from the University of Central Florida Computer Science, Cyber Security and Privacy Department.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Al Ruechel talks with Chris King, Democratic candidate for Governor. Caitlyn Jones talks with Orlando trial attorney John Morgan, backer of the 2016 medical marijuana Amendment 2, about the current state of medical marijuana legislation in Florida and how he is moving forward with that, as well as his thoughts on considering a run for governor in 2018. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about voter registration and whether the Department of Homeland Security compared data with voter registration information.

Political Connections’ Al Ruechel talks with Chris King, Democratic candidate for Governor and newcomer to statewide politics.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Host Gary Yordon talks with attorney and lobbyist Sean Pittman and Dr. Ed Moore.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week Justice will speak with State Rep. Travis Cummings on budget, working with leadership and Gov. Scott, HB 7069 protests and more. Other guests include Rick Mullaney, Director, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute; St. Johns Riverkeeper, Lisa Rinaman talking dredging/expansion at JAXPORT and environmental concerns and Nancy Rubin, Senior Director of Communications for JAXPORT on new plans to shorten distance of dredging, reduce costs and increase volume, business and jobs.

— ALOE —

Florida retailers expect record Father’s Day spending” via Florida Politics – The Florida Retail Federation … predicts consumers will spend an average $134.75 for the holiday, up almost $10 from last year’s $125.92. Spending nationwide is also expected to reach $15.5 billion, the highest in the survey’s 15-year history – nearly a billion more than 2016. In the annual survey from the National Retail Federation … consumers will spend $3.3 billion in 2017; 48 percent say they will take dads to outings such as dinner, brunch or other “fun activity/experiences,” clothing (46 percent) and gift cards (43 percent), making up $2.2 billion. Next most popular is consumer electronics (21 percent) at $1.8 billion.

SeaWorld unveils virtual reality version of Kraken Unleashed” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – SeaWorld Orlando launches a new version of its 17-year-old roller coaster with a new name and the option to use virtual reality headgear or ride old school. Kraken Unleashed begins at a mythological seabase and rises up 149 feet as riders experience near misses with giant sea creatures. Orlando’s only floorless roller coaster is themed after a massive, mythological underwater beast unleashed from the depths of the sea. Riders strap on headsets that cover their eyes and ears to see and hear the bioluminescent-colored creatures with tentacles that seem to reach out and grab them.

SeaWorld Orlando introduces an updated version of its 17-year-old Kraken roller coaster, which gives riders an option to use virtual reality headgear.

Twitter unveils new look, which users quickly mock” via The Associated Press – The San Francisco company says the new design emphasizes simplicity, making it faster and easier to use, with bolder headlines and more intuitive icons. It also changed users’ profile images from square-shaped to round. Twitter users immediately responded by tweeting jokes and memes critical of the changes. There were almost 30,000 tweets about the new user interface, or UI, within hours of the change, the vast majority of them either complaining about the new look or mocking it. A popular image was a suddenly round SpongeBob SquarePants.

Happy birthday to Omar Khan, campaign manager to Chris King and the voice-over talent for Christian Bale in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight.”

Rick Scott to sign controversial education policy bill

Gov. Rick Scott will sign a contentious education policy bill that critics fear will hurt traditional public schools in favor of privately-managed charter schools.

The Governor’s Office on Thursday morning announced he will approve “a major education bill” at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, “which serves many children who receive the Gardiner Scholarship,” one of the programs affected by the legislation.

The bill signing is slated for 3:45 p.m., a press release said. It did not mention the bill by name or number, however, though the Governor’s daily schedule does list it as “HB 7069 Signing And Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill’s approval is widely believed to be in return for House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s support of Scott’s priorities, including full funding of Visit Florida and money for an economic development fund, passed in the recent Special Session.

But it’s been met with vigorous opposition from Democratic lawmakers, newspaper editorial boards and public schools advocates, including the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

Among other things, the bill (HB 7069) steers more money to charter schools through a “Schools of Hope” initiative, requires recess in elementary schools, and tinkers with the state’s oft-criticized standardized testing system.

The legislation—a top priority for Corcoranbarely edged out of the Florida Senate on a 20-18 vote where some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure.

The Senate vote came after intense debate in which opponents contended the legislation was a give-away to charter schools—public schools run by private organizations and sometimes managed by for-profit companies.

Corcoran has said that the changes are even more dramatic than the A+ plan put in place by former Gov. Jeb Bush nearly two decades ago. It created the state’s first voucher program and created the state’s current school grading system.

“It is the greatest public school bill in the history of Florida,” Corcoran said after the bill was sent to Scott.

The nearly 300-page bill includes a long list of education changes that legislators had been considering. But the final bill was negotiated largely out of public view. Some of the final changes drew the ire of the state’s teacher unions, parent groups as well as superintendents of some of Florida’s largest school districts.

Included in the bill is a requirement that elementary schools must set aside 20 minutes each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade for “free-play recess,” although at the last minute charter schools were exempted from the mandate. The bill includes more than $200 million for teacher and principal bonuses.

Bowing to criticism about Florida’s testing regimen, the measure eliminates the Algebra 2 end-of-course exam and pushes back the date in the school year when students must take Florida’s main standardized test.

Another major part of the bill creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

Background from The Associated Press was used in this post.

The Delegation for 6.15.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Pulse remembrance was poignant pause from politics; capital shooting jolts silence

While Capitol Hill is still engulfed in Russia investigations, life on Main Street America goes on, especially in Orlando. This week, Orlando and fellow Floridians remembered 49 individuals whose lives did not go on past the early morning hours of June 12, 2016.

For a while on Monday, what James Comey said, or what President Donald Trump tweeted, or who leaked what was on the back burner – at least in Orlando. It was a day to come together.

“While 49 voices were forever silenced here one year ago, hope, as Harvey Milk once said, hope will never be silent,” said Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy at the remembrance event. “We must honor the lives and legacies of the Pulse victims by putting aside that which divides us and rededicating ourselves to treating one another with love and respect.”

A runner wearing a gay pride rainbow flag pauses in front of the Pulse nightclub during the CommUNITYRainbowRun 4.9K road race in Orlando, Fla. The race was one of many events commemorating the one-year anniversary massacre at the Pulse nightclub, which left 49 people dead. (Photo via the Associated Press)

Orlando’s other representatives in Congress, Democrats Val Demings and Darren Soto, joined with Murphy to introduce a resolution in Congress honoring those lost. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio did the same in the Senate.

“We will not forget the 49 men and women who were killed on June 12, 2016,” said Demings, whose district includes the Pulse nightclub. “Our community is still healing, family and friends are still mourning the lives of their loved ones, and survivors are still recovering from tragedy.”

Some have noticed the absence of major GOP elected officials at the public events. Whether or not they were invited, several Republicans did issue statements or tweeted messages recognizing the anniversary, including President Trump.

Rubio delivered his personal recollections on the Senate floor. He recalled immediately driving to Orlando from Miami when first learning of the attack last year.

“There’s no doubt this was a community that was heartbroken, but it was also a community that was unbroken that I believe woke up stronger and more united than when it went to sleep the night before,” said Rubio. “And I think ultimately, the man who committed this attack, and the people who inspired him to do so, would have been horrified at what they saw. I think they would’ve been horrified to see First Baptist Church in Orlando, a pillar of the Christian evangelical community, opening its doors to the LGBT community and welcoming in them and their families and holding services there.”

Just two days after remembering the Pulse victims, a nut job tried to kill members of the Republican Congressional baseball team and managed to shoot Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise. Without the professionalism of the Capitol Police, we would be witnessing a memorial for murder victims a year from now.

Will the shouting resume shortly, or will these two events have any effect on the atmosphere surrounding political discourse? For a few hours on Monday, some took the time to remember the lives of those taken away by hate. For a few minutes on Wednesday, a gunman apparently believed people needed to die because they were Republicans.

If this doesn’t elicit a pause in the hostilities, what will?

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

Delegation reacts to Scalise shooting

Wednesday’s shooting on a Virginia baseball field of House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and three others shocked Capitol Hill and the nation. Scalise, practicing for Thursday’s Congressional Baseball Game with some of his GOP teammates, was playing second base when he was shot. Members of the Florida delegation were present.

Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney had just left practice as had Ponte Vedra Republican Ron DeSantis. The alleged shooter asked DeSantis if the team on the field was the Republicans or the Democrats.

After such an emotional incident, the delegation offered comments via a statement or through Twitter. Panama City Republican Matt Gaetz, a member of the GOP team, was not at Wednesday’s practice, but tweeted “praying for my friend @SteveScalise.”

“I am praying for friends, colleagues, congressional staff, and Capitol Police, as well as any others who were injured or in danger this morning,” said Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor in a statement.

“Today is a sad day for our country,” read a statement from Panama City Republican Neal Dunn. “Leah’s and my thoughts are with Congressman Steve Scalise, the Capitol Police and staff involved in this morning’s tragic shooting.”

Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton, center, and other members of the Republican Congressional softball team, stand behind police tape of the scene of a multiple shooting in Alexandria, Va., where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot, on Wednesday. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

“My thoughts are with Congressman Scalise and all those injured in today’s ballpark shooting,” said Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy in a statement. “This type of senseless violence against any American is unacceptable.”

“We are all Americans first, regardless of party. We are all on the same team. And we’re praying for those injured in this heinous attack,” tweeted Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted “My prayers to @SteveScalise, staff and @CapitolPolice.”

“Joining @RepRutherfordFL to stand strong together for #NorthFlorida as we wish a swift recovery to @SteveScalise & @CapitolPolice & others,” tweeted Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee.

Sarasota Republican Vern Buchanan tweeted “My staff and I are safe. Praying for @SteveScalise, congressional staff and @CapitolPolice officers involved.”

“Praying for @SteveScalise and others shot @ baseball practice. There are too many damn guns in America!” tweeted Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson.

“Sending thoughts & prayers to @Steve Scalise @CapitolPolice & others shot this morning. We must stand together in face of this terrible news, tweeted Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch.

The Congressional Baseball Game will be played as scheduled Thursday night.

Magazine: Trump hotel Washington’s newest “bog”

Time Magazine is using this week’s cover story to present the opinion President Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” is a failure with the recently-opened Trump National Hotel in Washington serving as Exhibit A. The magazine describes the hotel’s opulence in great detail, including prices for amenities such as cocktails and a “couples massage.”

The cover includes a view of the hotel’s atrium with “THE SWAMP HOTEL” emblazoned in all-caps.

According to the story, “People pay these prices for more than just booze, caviar and back rubs. That’s partly because a president who once promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of influence peddling now owns the city’s newest bog.”

Photo via Time Magazine

Foreign dignitaries and diplomats, lobbyists and some administration insiders are frequent patrons, prompting a claim from the story that “the potential conflicts of interest are dizzying.” The story quoted law professor Kathleen Clark of Washington University of St. Louis.

“Of course, it’s a scandal,” she said.

Upon his inauguration, Trump turned over his business interests to his adult children, but the billionaire is still dogged with stories like this. He has pledged to turn over any profits from foreign governments – hotel or otherwise – to the U.S. Treasury.

“This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people,” said Sheri Dillon, his lawyer.

Nelson: Zika vaccine needs to be “affordable to all who need it”

As federal officials consider granting a French drug maker the right to sell a Zika virus vaccine, Sen. Bill Nelson wants to make sure the vaccine is affordable and accessible to those who need it.

In a letter to U.S. Army Acting Secretary Robert Speer this week, Nelson, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on the U.S. Arm to address the issue of affordability before granting Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to sell the Zika vaccine. The request comes after reports that the company has refused the Army’s request to set an affordable price for the vaccine.

“If the Army chooses to move forward with its plan to provide Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to sell this vaccine, it must first obtain assurances that the vaccine will be affordable to sell to all who need it,” said Nelson in his letter. “Providing a single drugmaker exclusive control over a desperately-needed vaccine could create an environment in which the vaccine is unaffordable to those who need it most.”

Nelson said given the “considerable federal investment and the need for the vaccine,” he believes it is critical that the vaccine be “available and accessible to the taxpayers who already invested in the research and development of the vaccine.”

There were 1,122 cases of travel-related Zika virus and 285 locally acquired cases of Zika reported in Florida in 2016. So far this year, there have been 75 cases of Zika reported — 59 of which are travel-related, while 4 are locally acquired cases.

“Until we have a vaccine, the Zika virus will continue to threaten families and babies in Florida and across the nation,” said Nelson in his letter. “I urge you to consider the impact that an exclusive license could have on the affordability of the Zika vaccine. Failure to limit the vaccine’s market price could make it inaccessible to thousands of Floridians who need it.”

Rubio joins bipartisan coalition to combat human trafficking

The second-term Republican joined several of his colleagues from both parties to address the crime of human trafficking and helping the victims of that crime. A bipartisan coalition has come together to introduce two bills which concentrate on the issue.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act would reauthorize important programs designed to prevent trafficking plus promote justice for survivors, provide services for victims and increase and enhance the federal government’s response to the crisis.

Those joining Rubio in sponsoring the bill include Republicans John Cornyn of Texas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Democratic co-sponsors are Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Diane Feinstein of California.

The Abolish Human Trafficking Act would reauthorize federal programs that provide support and resources for the victims of this form of modern day slavery.

Nevada’s Dean Heller and Utah’s Orrin Hatch joined their GOP colleagues from the previous bill as co-sponsors. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Delaware’s Chris Coons and Oregon’s Ron Wyden also joined their colleagues from the other bill.

“Victims of human trafficking need help from their communities as they reclaim their lives,” Rubio said in a release. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in fighting against traffickers and doing everything we can to protect and support their victims.”

Rubio, Diaz-Balart helping craft Trump Cuba policy

Florida’s Republican senator and the Republican congressman from Miami will welcome President Trump to their hometown as the president delivers remarks concerning Cuba, the birthplace of their parents.  USA Today reports Trump will “announce a rollback from relations with the communist island nation 90 miles from Key West.”

Reports suggest it will not be a wholesale rollback from the policies of former President Obama. Experts are confident Trump will neither close the U.S. Embassy nor break diplomatic relations restored in 2016. It will include things important to Rubio and Diaz-Balart.

“I am confident that I will be very pleased with what the president will announce Friday,” Rubio told USA Today. “I want to support the Cuban people and their aspirations for economic and political freedom and I always have been.”

Edwardo Clark, a Cuban-American, holds an American flag and a Cuban flag as he celebrates outside the new Cuban embassy in Washington on  July 20, 2015. President Donald Trump is expected to announce a rollback of relations with Cuba during an event in Miami later this week. (Photo via the Associated Press.)

The Floridians are most interested in ensuring additional resources going into Cuba reach the Cuban people. One of the strategies proposed by Rubio in 2015 calls for a prohibition of financial deals with Cuba’s military and security forces.

“It is not in the interest of the United States or the people of Cuba for the U.S. to become a financier of the Cuban regime’s brutality,” Rubio said at the time he introduced a 2015 bill, some of which is expected to be contained in the Trump policy.

Rubio faces criticism for growing “too cozy with the White House.” They believe Trump’s outreach to his former presidential rival has something to do with Rubio’s place on the Senate Intelligence Committee, who is investigating the Russian attempts to influence U.S. elections.

Gaetz announces USDOT grants for Panhandle airports

Rep. Matt Gaetz is telling constituents he is not just bringing home the bacon, it will be flying in. More than $2.6 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation is coming to the 1st District to fund needs at local airports.

The bulk of the grant – more than $2.1 million – is targeted to the Eglin Air Force Base/Destin-Ft. Walton Beach Airport to “rehabilitate” 2,000 feet of combined taxiway.

The Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview and the Destin Executive Airport will share almost $500,000 to address rehabilitation of aprons. Pensacola International Airport receives $43,000 to clear obstructions from land acquired for further airport development.

“Northwest Florida has always been a popular destination for tourism, business, and government travel,” said the Fort Walton Beach Republican. “The $2.6 million in grants from the Department of Transportation will allow Northwest Florida’s popularity as a travel destination to continue to grow now and in the years to come.”

The funding is expected to be received before September.

Rutherford tapped for Judiciary Committee

Rep. John Rutherford received a new committee assignment this week when he was appointed to the House Judiciary Committee. Rutherford, the former Duval County Sheriff and a Jacksonville Republican, brings years of relevant experience.

“As a former Sheriff, I have committed my life to strengthening the justice system in Northeast Florida, and I am grateful for this opportunity to reestablish constitutional order across our nation,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Chairman (Bob) Goodlatte and thank him for appointing me to a strong committee focused on upholding the constitution.”

Among the issues the committee undertakes is criminal justice, patents and copyrights, the law regulating foreign surveillance, and immigration law, among others.

“I am pleased to welcome John Rutherford to the House Judiciary Committee,” said Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican. “His expertise on our criminal justice system makes him particularly well-suited to serve on the Judiciary Committee.”

Three other members of the delegation currently serve on the Judiciary Committee. They include Ponte Vedra Beach Republican Ron DeSantis, Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz and Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch.

With the appointment, Rutherford will now serve on three committees. He currently serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.

Bilirakis: VA accountability bill holds ‘the bad actors accountable’

A bill to reform the Department of Veterans of Affairs is heading to President Donald Trump, after the U.S. House of Representatives approved it this week.

The House voted 368-55 on Tuesday to approve the the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. Democrats Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Frederica Wilson were the only members of Florida’s congressional delegation who voted against the bill.

The bill, backed by Sens. Rubio and Nelson, gives the VA secretary the authority to fire and demote employees. It also adds protections for whistleblowers, by prohibiting the secretary from using his or her authority to fire employees who filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel.

“If a VA employee is involved in misconduct, they should be demoted, suspended, or fired. Certainly not promoted or given a bonus. If a VA employee sees misconduct and wants to report it, they should not fear repercussions,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Palm Harbor Republican during a floor speech this week. “Of course, the vast majority of VA employees are hardworking and dedicated professionals. At the end of the day, this bill is about holding the bad actors accountable, protecting the whistleblowers, and refocusing the VA on its missions to serve our nation’s heroes.”

Bilirakis said the country is “turning the page to a fresh start for the VA” with the passage of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.

Soto publicly neutral before Puerto Rico vote, strong advocate for statehood afterward

The Orlando Democrat had far more than a passing interest in last weekend’s plebiscite in Puerto Rico gauging the island’s interest in becoming the 51st state. He is not only the first Floridian of Puerto Rican heritage in Congress, many of his constituents trace their roots to there as well.

Going into the vote, Soto was careful not to take sides. He and Alaska Republican Don Young led a delegation of election observers.

“The decision on Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status has to come from the people, and it’s not my place to try to tell them how to vote,” Soto said before polls opened.

Sen. Marco Rubio urged a good turnout to “communicate the will of the people to local and national leaders.” Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo urged “all citizens to participate in this plebiscite” while Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also urged “the good people of Puerto Rico to make their voices heard.”

Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy openly advocated for a statehood vote, saying “I believe Puerto Rico should discard its territory status and become a state or sovereign nation.” Her remarks are in line with House Democratic Whip, and the House’s second-ranking Democrat, Steny Hoyer who said “I hope they will vote for statehood and remain part of our country as a full and equal member of our union.”

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello celebrates the results of a referendum on the status of the island at the New Progressive Party headquarters in San Juan on Sunday. The governor announced the territory overwhelmingly chose statehood in a non-binding referendum held amid a deep economic crisis. (Photo via the Associated Press)

When the votes were counted, there was good news for statehood supporters mixed with disappointing results. The good news was 97 percent of those voting went for statehood. A major disappointment was only 23 percent of the electorate bothered to turn out.

With the results in, Soto was unhindered to become an advocate for Puerto Rican statehood.

“The people of Puerto Rico have spoken,” Soto said in a statement. “By an overwhelming margin, they have voted for statehood. I said I would respect – and fight for – their wishes and that’s exactly what I intend to do. This is now a matter of civil rights and equality.”

On Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rossello will be in Washington to deliver the results to Congress. He will take part in an event at the National Press Club to discuss the plebiscite. Joining him will be Young and Soto.

Soto is well aware that the Republican-controlled House and Senate may be reluctant to approve statehood, but he will strongly urge his colleagues to respect the wishes of Puerto Rican voters as well as those of many of his constituents.

War of Words erupts over Dodd-Frank rollbacks

Battle lines are developing on yet another issue on Capitol Hill. This one involves the Republican version of financial regulation, known as the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, which passed the House late last week, 233-186 along party lines. It now moves to the Senate.

The legislation takes aim at one of the signature bills enacted during the Obama Administration. Congress passed, and then-President Barack Obama signed, the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, which brought sweeping reform and more regulation of the financial and banking industry following the financial crisis of 2008.

Republicans such as Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart spoke for Florida Republicans who feel Dodd-Frank has done more harm than good. That is why they are promoting the Republican plan.

“By making it easier for entrepreneurs to gain access to capital and removing bureaucratic red tape that hinders innovation, the Financial CHOICE Act encourages and incentivizes job growth,” said Diaz-Balart in a message to constituents.

“Without the hindrance of the Obama administration, the Financial CHOICE Act will immediately improve the economy, which has long since been plagued by restricted access to capital and regulatory burdens that make it impossible for small businesses to compete,” Orlando Republican Daniel Webster wrote to his constituents.

Florida Democrats, of course, have a far different take, using Main Street as a launch point. One believes the bill should be renamed.

“Today, we could be working on nonpartisan improvements to Dodd-Frank, making it work for better for Main Street,” St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist said on the House floor prior to voting against the bill. “But instead, we have the Wrong CHOICE Act.”

“Now is not the time to adopt Donald Trump’s dodgy Wall Street de-regulation schemes,” said Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. “Main Street simply cannot afford them.”

Soon, it will be the Senate’s turn.

Delegation goings-on

Save the date:

Spotted: Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat, attended the premiere part for season four of the Starz show “Power,” according to POLITICO. The network hosted the premiere part at the Newseum, and Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke, Lacy Clay, Brenda Lawrence, Lisa Rochester Blunt, Tony Cadenas, Andre Carson and Donald Payne Jr. also attended.

Pace named AP Washington bureau chief

The Associated Press has tapped Julie Pace to serve as its new Washington, D.C. bureau chief, the wire service announced this week.

Pace, who formerly served as the AP’s White House correspondent, is the “right person to lead this team as the Trump administration rocks the nation and the world,” said Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee.

“Throughout the 2016 campaign and into the early days of the Trump administration, the depth of Julie’s reporting and the clarity of her analysis has enriched our report,” Buzbee said in memo this week.

As bureau chief, Pace will continue to write and report, and guide the overall news bureau with a focus on the presidency – leading a team of four deputy bureau chiefs. Two deputies will focus on newsgathering: one on the White House, Congress and politics, and the second overseeing other beats such as national security and education. A third deputy will handle visual and digital presentation efforts.

The fourth deputy will focus on video newsgathering, working with Head of U.S. Video and Radio News Denise Vance and her team at the BNC during the transition later this year and into 2018, to a cross-format operation in D.C.

Former Trump advisor offers insight into capital priorities

A former member of President Trump’s transition team is set to delve into a wide range of priorities facing lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee.

Scott Mason, a senior policy advisor with Holland & Knight and a former member of Trump’s transition team, is scheduled to speak at a cocktail reception hosted by Holland & Knight at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The reception, according to the invitation, is meant to give attendees insight into “early days of the Trump campaign, the transition process and President Trump’s agenda.” Mason is also expected to provide perspective on how Trump’s priorities will fare in D.C., as well as the politics surrounding the administration in general.

Those interested in attended the reception should register by Tuesday.

Take a bow

Members of Congress, media personalities, and consultants took to the stage this week to participate in “Will on the Hill,” an annual tradition where notable Washingtonians take the stage and act out Shakespeare’s greatest hits with a twist, reports Will Costello with the Hill.

The annual event is hosted by the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Now in its 15th year, the bipartisan event supports the company’s education, artistic and community engagement programs, including in-school workshops and online learning resources.

The Hill reported the cast — which included Ian Kahn, who plays George Washington on AMC’s spy series “Turn,” Maulik Pancholy, who played Alec Baldwin’s assistant on NBC’s “30 Rock,” and Florida Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Darren Soto — poked fun at themselves in a production of “Met by Moonlight,” a riff on Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Rep. Ted Deutch (left) dressed up for the annual “Will on the Hill” performance. (Photo via Rep. Ted Deutch’s Twitter.)

In the “Will on the Hill” performance, Oberon, played by Kahn” and Puck, played by Pancholy, encounter two park rangers, and then the four “try to stem the flow of people fleeing the heat of D.C. in the summer.” The show ended, The Hill reported, when the two park rangers “realized that Oberon and Puck were the real tourists and sent them away.”

The event, according to The Hill, raised $510,000 for the Shakespeare Theatre.

United in purpose, Miami’s Overtown says ‘move on’ with I-395 project

Earlier this month, FloridaPolitics.com reported on the outpouring of community support for the “signature bridge” design chosen for the new I-395 overpass through Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Despite protests by some with a political agenda, the drumbeat of support for Archer Western-de Moya’s winning design continues to grow in intensity.

After more than a quarter-century of discussion and debate, this final design — one selected by Florida’s Department of Transportation that melds both form and function — comes as a welcome relief for several organizations and residents of the Overtown area.

One such influential voice is that of Irby McKnight, described by the Miami Herald in 2015 as “Overtown’s unofficial mayor and activist.”

In a letter to the editor of The Miami Times, McKnight says he is “ecstatic” about the winning design for the new bridge coming through Overtown.

“Archer Western-DeMoya,” he writes, “have come up with a design that will bring a new look to Overtown – a design that finally frees Overtown from the terrible injustice that was caused when the existing roadway was constructed in the late 1960s.”

For McKnight, I-395 left the Overtown community inaccessible to downtown Miami by way of its dated “low-rise 15-foot bridge.”

Archer Western, McKnight says, offers a “brilliant design” that removes the existing beams and raises the bridge to 60 feet, opening the space and making it better lit for more safety At night.

In addition to a more open space, McKnight praises the new design for celebrating Overtown’s diverse history, a place where the residents can gather at a marker for an “active” Heritage Trail, which honors Miami’s Tequesta indigenous people as well its African-American, Latino and Caribbean communities.

McKnight also commends Archer Western for taking time “to get input from our community before coming up with their design.”

But McKnight is not the only voice calling to move forward with the long-delayed project.

There is a growing list of other local leaders who support the I-395 bridge, a project that not only ranked highest but also has solid backing in the community, supported by The Urban Construction Craft Academy; The Black Archives; the Southeast Overtown CRA; the Mourning Family Foundation advocacy group and the Omni CRA.

When a neighborhood comes together like this, united in purpose, one thing is clear — it’s time for losing bidders to listen to the community and move on.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 6.15.17

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

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

While seemingly half of the Legislature and lobbying corps was rocking to a U2 concert in Tampa, Gov. Rick Scott lowered the boom on Senate President Joe Negron’s priority higher ed. legislation.

The question is now, what will the Governor do with Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s education reform legislative package. We’ve predicted the Governor will sign it today and in Orlando, but it remains to be seen if we are right.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is coming to Miami tomorrow and the race to be Speaker of the Florida House in 2022 is speeding towards a conclusion.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Push to bolster college aid vetoed” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Scott vetoed a far-reaching bill that would have boosted financial aid for high school students heading to college while attempting to lift Sunshine State schools into the ranks of elite counterparts. The legislation required the state to cover 100 percent of tuition costs for top performing high school students who attend a state university or college. Florida used to pay 100 percent of tuition for those eligible for the top level of the state’s Bright Futures scholarship, but that was scaled back when the economy soured.

— Scott in his veto letter pointed out that students heading to school this fall will still be eligible for a higher Bright Futures award since that was included in the state budget he signed. But the change is only a one year fix and isn’t permanent because of Scott’s veto.

— Negron disagreed with Scott’s position and contended the bill would have required colleges to focus on their core missions. He also said that the governor’s veto would make it harder for families to save for college.

Governor approves pay raise bill for state workers” via the Associated Press – State employees will get a pay raise this October under a bill signed into law by Gov. Scott. Rank-and-file employees who currently earn $40,000 a year or less will get a $1,400 pay raise, and those earning more than $40,000 will receive a $1,000 raise. The legislation also authorizes 5 percent pay raises to state law-enforcement officers that will kick in on July 1. Judges, state attorneys and public defenders will get a 10 percent raise in October.

Tweet, tweet:

Scott signs tough new mandatory minimums for fentanyl into law” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The measure (HB 477), which passed in the final days of the legislative session, is meant to target drug traffickers and curb the opioid epidemic that is sweeping through parts of the state. … Beginning this October, judges will be bound to sentence people posessing 4 grams of fentanyl to three years in prison, 14 grams to 15 years in prison and 28 grams to 25 years in prison. These minimum sentences are meant to criminalize traffickers of fentanyl, which in recent years has grown to be one of the most prominent opioid killers in Florida.

— “This legislation was my top priority this session — because it gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools we need to combat the trafficking of fentanyl and save lives,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement.

“Scott: No hard feelings between him and Richard Corcoran” via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott, speaking to reporters after a bill signing, explained away the open tension between him and House Speaker Corcoran after the House this year tried to gut VISIT FLORIDA and do away with economic development organization Enterprise Florida, his two favored state agencies. By the end of the recent Special Session, however, lawmakers agreed to the creation of an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to be controlled by Scott, full funding for tourism marketing, and $50 million to help kick-start repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee. That deal is said to be in return for Scott’s approval of a controversial education funding policy bill (HB 7069) … “What’s great is that people have passion for what they believe in,” he said. “I know the Speaker has passion for what he believes in; I have passion for what I believe in. Both of us went out there and tried to explain to others (our positions) … but we came together for what is a win for our state.”

— “The lobbyist who got Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran talking” (a great read about Bill Rubin) via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

“Gary Farmer to Scott: Veto ‘dreadful’ HB 7069” via Florida Politics – A new state senator who is also a prominent trial attorney is telling Gov. Scott to veto a contentious education policy bill, saying it’s a brew of “bad policy” and “a textbook example of a failure in government transparency.” Sen. Gary Farmer, a Parkland Democrat, wrote a 2-page letter to Scott on HB 7069, which critics have said will benefit charter schools to the detriment of traditional public schools. “This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources toward improving our public education,” Farmer wrote.

“Scott signs pollution notification bill into law” via Florida Politics — The so-called spill bill (SB 1018) requires companies to submit a notice of a reportable pollution release to the Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours of the release. That notice must contain a detailed description of the installation, substance and circumstance of the spill. “I am proud to sign this legislation today to strengthen Florida’s pollution notification laws. The sewage spill in Pinellas County and pollution incident at Mosaic last year demonstrated the importance of a 24-hour public notification requirement following pollution incidents,” said Scott in a statement. “Floridians deserve to know about these types of events and every Florida resident should enjoy clean water and a healthy environment. I appreciate the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for their work on this legislation.” The state agency is then required to publish the notification to the Internet within 24 hours of receiving it. It must also create a system that allows parties to subscribe and receive emails of notices received by the DEP.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was presented with the final 63 bills that were passed during the 2017 regular legislative session. All are House measures. He has until June 29, to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his action. They include HB 689, a wide-ranging alcohol bill that would ease regulations on “caterers licensed to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits,” cuts the “annual license fee for a craft distillery from $4,000 to $1,000,” defines the Japanese fermented-rice beverage known as sake as “wine” under state law, and expressly allows minors to work in stores selling beer, wine or liquor so long as someone over 18 is supervising them. As of Wednesday afternoon, 114 bills were on the governor’s desk.

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Florida newborn screening bill signed into Law: What does it mean for babies?” via Jocelyn Beever of WFSU – Florida pediatricians will be able to test babies for more diseases under a new law signed by Governor Scott. Senator Lauren Book sponsored the legislation, and says this law will improve family health. “Newborns and newborn families will have an opportunity to be healthy and safe, which is wonderful,” she says. Following birth, Florida pediatricians will take a blood sample with a simple heel prick and test for several diseases.

Fresh off special session, state reps now competing for social media ‘likes’” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – House Speaker Corcoran, debuted a new “friendly competition” between state lawmakers to see which one was the most popular on social media. “The FL HOUSE believes in competition,” Corcoran wrote. State representatives were ranked based on the number of likes on their Facebook pages and the number of Twitter followers each one had. Some legislators, like state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, boast over 35,000 likes on their Facebook pages. Other state lawmakers, like Rep. Jim Boyd, who has nearly 20,000 Facebook likes, simply ask constituents to like posts related to President Donald Trump, welcoming discussion on important issues through Facebook.

— ANDREW GILLUM’S BAD MATH —

Andrew Gillum‘s nascent campaign grossly overstated the number of donors who have contributed to the Tallahassee mayor’s bid to be Florida governor, a review of campaign finance documents by Florida Politics found.

On Friday, Gillum’s campaign bragged that it was “excited to have more than 7,000 contributors,” according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

However, after Florida Politics reviewed the most recent campaign finance reports and asked the Gillum campaign why its numbers showed a significantly different number than what it was touting, Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, admitted that the campaign had “slightly misstated the total in our press release.”

Slightly, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Both Florida Politics’ review and Gillum’s campaign agree that the campaign and his “Forward Florida” committee has received a combined 6,933 total contributions, according to the most campaign finance reports.

However, when duplicates are removed from the list of contributions, Gillum received donations from approximately 5,300 people. Florida Politics’ count has Gillum with 5,586 donors.

The claim of 7,000 donors was also rated “mostly false” by PolitiFact Florida, a fact-checking website. PolitiFact noted it found “5,383 unique names on individual contributions and 70 on Florida Forward PAC for a combined total of 5,453 donors.” The total number includes a few donors who gave “in-kind contributions as well for food and beverage.”

— “Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum overcounts campaign donors” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact Florida

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Alcee Hastings backs Gillum — The South Florida Democrat announced Wednesday he was backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Democratic primary to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. “Mayor Gillum is an innovative pragmatic progressive leader that Florida desperately needs to confront our biggest challenges: attacking climate change, rebuilding our economy, protecting access to healthcare, and revitalizing public education,” said Hastings in a statement. “He has shown the courage to stand up for what he believes in, and he has never hesitated to give a voice to those who need one most. Floridians can trust Andrew Gillum to rebuild our state into one that works for everyone.” Hastings said his support for Gillum should not be “construed as being against others.” His endorsement marks Gillum’s first congressional endorsement. 

Assignment editors: Gillum and Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam will hold a press conference about the state of gubernatorial race at 3 p.m. at 3Z Telecom, 31500 SW 145th Street in Miramar.

Assignment editors: Chris King’s gubernatorial campaign will co-sponsor a phone bank for Jon Ossoff, a Democrat running in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at SEIU 32BJ 14 NE 1st Ave. Suite 905 in Miami. The phone bank will be held in conjunction with the Miami Downtown Dems.

Happening tonight – “John Morgan to raise funds for Richard Corcoran as both consider run for governor” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – At the Orlando home of one of his firm’s lawyers, Morgan will be on hand to raise money for Watchdog PAC, a new committee that Corcoran founded last month. The men are friends, as they’ve reminded people in the past. Still, the fundraiser is unusual on two counts. For one thing, Morgan has threatened to sue the state — including Corcoran — over a ban on smoking marijuana, which lawmakers wrote into their legislation. There’s a second wrinkle: Both Morgan and Corcoran are considering running for governor in 2018. Corcoran is a steadfast Republican, and Morgan hasn’t yet said whether he would run as a Democrat or without a party affiliation.

— STATEWIDE —

Florida Blue will sell Obamacare plans statewide in 2018” via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald – The future of the Affordable Care Act may be uncertain, but Florida’s largest health insurer, Florida Blue, announced this week that the company intends to stay in the individual market and sell coverage in all 67 counties next year. Florida Blue executives said they expect the Trump Administration will continue to fund cost sharing reduction subsidies that help low-income consumers pay for out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments and deductibles. But the insurer will raise premiums about 20 percent on average if those subsidies are discontinued, said Penny Shaffer, market president for South Florida.

“Progressive groups sue over Scott’s judicial appointment power” via Florida Politics – The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause sued Scott, saying he doesn’t have power to name three new Supreme Court justices on his last day in office — only the governor elected after Scott does. Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis are all set to retire the same day his term ends. “A prompt, final decision on this pure question of constitutional law … would pre-empt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations,” the writ says. To sum up: “The Florida Constitution prohibits a governor from making a prospective appointment of an appellate judge to an existing seat before that seat becomes vacant.”

Audit finds understaffing and lax control of medication at state mental hospitals” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s state-run mental hospitals are understaffed, some are unlicensed and they are failing to keep track of pharmaceuticals and seized contraband, according to a new state audit. At one North Florida hospital, more than 2,800 antipsychotic drugs and 350 HIV antiviral drugs were misplaced, the report states. Hospital directors were not always told about suicide attempts or, in one case, that a patient had escaped, auditors found.

Conservative group forms to oppose Florida’s death penalty” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – … yet tried hard to distance themselves from controversial and progressive anti-death penalty State Attorney Aramis Ayala. The group Florida Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is an offshoot of a national group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty which is seeking to get death penalty laws repealed state-by-state. “We believe the death penalty is inconsistent with our core conservative values,” said Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator with the group. They argued that Florida’s death penalty law is on the verge of being overwhelmed as the Florida Supreme Court is remanding as many as 200 cases back for new sentencing phases, after the laws were struck down twice in the past two years.

Medical marijuana advisory board may be formed in Broward” via Larry Barszewski of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel  – As Florida increases access to medical marijuana, Broward County commissioners plan to create their own advisory board on the subject. The board approved Commissioner Mark Bogen‘s request to start the process of creating an 11-member committee that would follow the impact of medical marijuana in the county and make policy recommendations to commissioners.

Pulse gunman’s wife asks for count to be dropped” via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Noor Salman is arguing that an obstruction charge against her was filed in the wrong venue. The motion requesting the charge to be dropped was filed as people in Florida and beyond honored the 49 victims at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, exactly one year after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Salman’s husband, Omar Mateen, declared his allegiance to the Islamic State group during a three-hour standoff with police before SWAT team members killed him in a shootout. Salman was charged with aiding her husband, and obstruction for allegedly misleading investigators. The obstruction charge was filed in a federal district that covers Orlando, but she’s accused of misleading investigators during an interview in Fort Pierce, which is in the Southern District of Florida.

What Richard Corcoran is reading –Ruling against Indian River School District could mean $2 million windfall for charters” via Andrew Atterbury of TCPalm – The School District must pay a group of five charter schools for withholding their fair share of a local tax for education, a Circuit Court judge ruled … The amount each school would receive is yet to be determined, but the ruling could cost the district more than $2 million. Judge Paul Kanarek‘s ruling is a major milestone in a two-year battle between the district and charter schools — Indian River Charter High School, Imagine Schools at South Vero, North County Charter School, Sebastian Charter Junior High and St. Peter’s Academy.

Tampa Electric may join state power pool” via John Chambliss of the Lakeland Ledger – Tampa Electric, which has about 75,000 customers in south and eastern Polk County, may join the state’s power pool. Mark McCain, a spokesman with the Florida Municipal Power Agency, said the utility that serves about 670,000 customers in Central Florida may join a pilot project in the coming months. Tampa Electric would be the 16th utility to join the Florida Municipal Power Pool. Cherie Jacobs, a spokeswoman with Tampa Electric, confirmed the utility is exploring the option. She said it could help save customers money. Tampa Electric would add an additional 4,800 megawatts from 17 generators.

— MOVEMENTS —

Spotted: Senate President Joe Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Sen. Anitere Flores, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Sen. Rob Bradley at the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee golf getaway at Torrey Pines. Also in attendance were Chris Clark, Chris Flack, John Holley, Nick Iarossi, Ron LaFace, Frank and Tracy Mayernick, and Kyle Ulrich.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Eli Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, Inc. d/b/a  FACCPA

Happy birthday to my old friend, Travis Moore.

Andrew Gillum campaign grossly exaggerated number of donors

Andrew Gillum‘s nascent campaign has grossly overstated the number of donors who have contributed to the Tallahassee mayor’s bid to be Florida governor, a review of campaign finance documents shows.

On Friday, Gillum’s campaign bragged that it was “excited to have more than 7,000 contributors,” according to a report in the Orlando Sentinel.

However, after FloridaPolitics.com reviewed the most recent campaign finance reports and asked the Gillum campaign why its numbers showed a significantly different number than what it was touting, Geoff Burgan, a spokesman for Gillum, admitted that the campaign had “slightly misstated the total in our press release.”

Slightly, of course, is in the eye of the beholder.

Both FloridaPolitics.com’s review and Gillum’s campaign agree that the campaign and his “Forward Florida” committee has received a combined 6,933 total contributions, according to the most campaign finance reports.

However, when duplicates are removed from the list of contributions, Gillum received donations from approximately 5,300 people. (FloridaPoltiics.com’s count has Gillum with 5,586 donors. See below for a spreadsheet listing all of Gillum’s donors through May 31.)

Either way, it’s difference of about 30%.

This is a major discrepancy for a campaign that has been dogged by criticisms of being the gang that can’t shoot straight.

In the months before Gillum launched his campaign for governor, the Tallahassee mayor had been sending several campaign-related and political emails through his City Hall account – revealing an ethical lapse that was dangerously close to violating Florida law.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, many of those emails involved city staff and interns setting up meetings and other correspondence, both political and campaign in nature – several campaign-related and coming from private accounts during working hours.

Florida ethics rules prohibit public officials from using their position, staff or resources for personal gain. They also forbid public employees from campaigning for candidates while on taxpayer’s dime.

The Democrat amassed more than 13,000 emails coming from the Mayor’s Office between January 2016 to March 2017, outlining what reporter Jeff Schweers described as “a busy and confusing intersection between the personal, the political and the professional.”

Such emails muddy the ethical waters between city and political business, and public employees versus campaign staff, in addition to Gillum’s work as the YEO Network director for the People for the American Way.

The Democrat report featured one email to Angie Whitaker, Gillum’s City Hall assistant, illustrates the gray area: “It can get confusing, but as I have indicated to my PFAWF staff, that I am joining this call as a YEO members and in my role as an elected official – which is the capacity under which my statements were made.”

That email, sent in September, came from his PFAW account and was cc’d to two of Gillum’s top staffers, Chief of Staff Dustin Daniels and Jamie Van Pelt.

However, the ethical lapse seems to go beyond emails, and includes software bought by the Mayor’s Office — using the City of Tallahassee’s money — from a Democratic Party vendor. The emails became public after it was discovered that Gillum purchased software from NGP VAN, a company that produces software and new political media for Democrats and Democratic campaigns.

Since entering the governor’s race, the email issue has dogged Gillum’s campaign, forcing him to return $5,000 to the city, with an apology for unintentional “human error.”

Leon County Republicans have called for Gillum’s resignation over the use of city resources and staff for his political ambition, and the Leon County Sheriff’s office has been investigating whether the political emails and software paid for with taxpayer dollars violate Florida law.

“We’re still getting subpoenaed documents back from the email company and we’ve got to go through all those,” LCSO spokesman Grady Jordan told the Democrat.

The Mayor’s Office promises to cooperate fully in the investigation.

“Our office focuses solely on helping the mayor do the job that he was elected to do, including serving as an ambassador for the city of Tallahassee across the country. Attempts or ideas that detract from that reality are simply misplaced and misunderstood,” said Daniels, Gillum’s Chief of Staff, in an April statement. “We continue to do all we can to faithfully maximize our efforts at the city, and ultimately work toward our goal of moving our community forward.”

Nevertheless, emails show a series exchanges between staff – through private email accounts – and such political entities as the Leon Democratic Executive Committee, the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee. Many of them were for scheduling the mayor’s appearances and making travel arrangements to political events.

Gillum faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

Andrew Gillum’s Contributors Through May 31 by Peter Schorsch on Scribd

Sunburn for 6.14.17 – Don Gaetz for the win; Bruce Ritchie is everywhere; Ron DeSantis’ big check; Disney pushes back

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

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

— IN DEFENSE OF CIVICS EDUCATION —

In a column in the Pensacola News-Journal recently, former Senate President Don Gaetz took on the issue of civics education, calling on Floridians to help teach the next generation about civics and calling out Gov. Rick Scott for vetoing funding for the Graham-Frey initiative.

The column highlights the work former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, has done to make sure children don’t graduate from high school without knowing how their government works and their obligations and rights as citizens.

“He thinks our children shouldn’t graduate from high school without knowing the basics of how their government works and their obligations and rights as citizens. He believes that can’t happen unless their teachers know enough, themselves, to teach civics,” he writes. “Graham knows citizenship is not passed along genetically, it has to be acquired and practiced to be real.

Former Senate President Don Gaetz, who in a recent op-ed asks, ‘Why don’t these damn kids know anything?’

Gaetz writes that several years ago Graham and Republican Congressman Lou Frey teamed up to create a way to teach teachers how to teach “rudiments of citizenship, not just the memorization of factoids but how to get kids engaged, excited and skilled in affecting what happens in their home communities and then their state and nation.”

They were able to get some money together and distribute an interactive curriculum The program was housed at the University of Central Florida, but the impact, Gaetz wrote “is felt in every part of the state, including Northwest Florida, where teachers explained to me how useful the instruction is and the difference it makes for students.”

Every year, the Legislature sets aside about $40,000 for the Graham-Frey initiative, but this year Scott, Gaetz writes, “line-item vetoed the funds for civics instruction, diverting the money to one of his own projects.”

“Governor Graham won’t get this job done during one of his famous workdays, or even in a thousand workdays,” wrote Gaetz. “Teaching, preaching and promoting the education of good citizens is a lifetime mission for a life already highly distinguished. But he could use some help.”

***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***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Truce: Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran take ‘victory tour’ ripe with political meaning” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The two Republicans fought bitterly for months, but became fast friends in recent days as their political agendas finally converged. Each man traded support for the other’s priorities and both declared victory after a round of dealing in private. Scott‘s “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory Tour” began at Miami’s Jungle Island tourist attraction and included stops in West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville, as the governor took full advantage of his ability to cover lots of ground quickly on his personal jet, at his own expense.

“None of this would have happened without the support of the Speaker who worked hard all session,” Scott said of Corcoran, the same person he spent months calling a career politician and a job killer for his relentless criticism of Enterprise Florida. Scott’s vocal criticism of Corcoran’s secret dealing has vanished, now that Scott himself is a beneficiary of Corcoran’s compromises.

Governor Rick Scott, with state rep. Manny Diaz standing behind him, appears in Miami as part of his “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” Tour.

Scott’s $1M investment impacted by ‘water wars’ lawsuit he oversees” via Matt Dixon and Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO FloridaScott invested more than $1 million in Atlanta municipal bonds at the same time his administration was waging a costly “water wars” legal fight with Georgia … Scott ultimately made just $6,000 from the bonds, which he held for six months in 2012, but the investment underscores the ways in which Scott’s vast wealth sometimes overlaps with state business. And questions of conflict-of-interest have repeatedly arisen during his two terms in office because of the secrecy of his blind trust and the fact that longtime friend — New York-based Alan Bazaar — is the trustee who oversees the portfolio.

With the Governor’s signature of HB 7069 expected, is a legal challenge coming?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – In a letter to the governor, Sen. Gary Farmer urged the Governor to veto the bill because it would “dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources toward improving our public education” as well as allowing private management companies to profit off taxpayer dollars, and local communities to be cut out of zoning decisions relating to schools. But Farmer, a lawyer, also outlined his case — for why he believes it could be challenged on the grounds that it passed illegally — and in violation of the Senate rules and may be ripe for a legal challenge. “I do intend to look into it,” Farmer told the Herald/Times. “Process is supposed to matter. There are supposed to be boundaries and limitations so everybody is on equal footing. When we don’t follow the rules, it erodes and denigrates the process.”

“Coalition urges Governor to approve solar amendment implementation” via Florida Politics – In a letter released Tuesday, a group of business and environmental interests asked the Governor to sign SB 90, which implements a solar-power amendment approved by voters in 2016. The amendment, among other things, gives tax breaks to companies that buy and install solar devices and equipment. It also removes the state’s tangible personal property tax, which taxes solar equipment installed. The ballot initiative passed with 73 percent support. Among the groups signing on to the letter are Florida Conservation Voters, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Floridians for Solar Choice, Sierra Club Florida and The Nature Conservancy.

Scott has till Wednesday to sign drug trafficking measure” via Florida Politics – That’s the Governor’s deadline to act on a bill (HB 477) passed this year that would create minimum mandatory sentences for dealing in fentanyl, a powerful synthetic drug. People convicted with a minimum of four grams of fentanyl or other opioids would face three years in prison; 14 grams or more, 14 years; and 28 grams or more, 25 years. Greg Newburn, state policy director for Families Against Mandatory Minimums, has criticized the measure, saying being in possession with as few as seven pills could make someone a “trafficker.” “The premise that underlies the case for mandatory minimum drug laws—that they deter drug trafficking—is demonstrably, irrefutably false,” he has tweeted. Lawmakers behind the measure counter that it’s needed to help prevent the state’s thousands of opioid deaths.

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was sent another six bills on Tuesday morning, including the controversial HB 7069 that benefits charter schools. He has until June 27 to sign them, veto them or let them become law without his action. As of Tuesday morning, 52 bills were on the Governor’s desk.

Legislative staffing merry-go-round via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

Off: Parker Aziz is no longer Special Master and attorney for the House Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee.

Off: Nikolas Pascual has stepped down as legislative assistant for the vacant House District 116 seat.

Off: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off: Zachary McCulley is no longer legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican State Rep. Clay Ingram.

Off: Juanita Olvera is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — 

Amid gubernatorial buzz, Ron DeSantis donor gives $500K to new political committee” via Matt Dixon of Politico Florida — The check was given to Fund for Florida’s Future by Frederick Sontag, who founded the Spring Bay Companies, a Ponte Vedra Beach private equity firm that focuses on technology-based investments. When DeSantis ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, Fighting for Florida Fund — a super PAC backing the Ponte Vedra Beach Republican — received a $500,000 contribution from Spring Bay Capital, also owned by Sontag and associated with Spring Bay Companies. Because DeSantis is a current federal office-holder, he cannot be officially associated with or raise money for a state political committee.

— DeSantis consultant Brad Herold declined to comment when asked about the new committee, which was founded in April and started raising money the same month. It has so far raised a total of $535,000.

“Andrew Gillum takes a swipe at Scott’s ‘victory tour’ ” via Florida PoliticsTallahassee Mayor Gillum is slamming Gov. Scott’s and House Speaker Corcoran’s “victory tour.” Saying he’s standing up for public schools, Gillum released a statement Tuesday in the wake of Scott’s announcement of a five-city “Fighting for Florida’s Future Victory” tour to “celebrate the major wins for Florida families and students during last week’s legislative Special Session” … “The only person less deserving of a ‘victory tour’ than Gov. Scott and Speaker Corcoran is Donald Trump’s lawyer,” he said. Scott’s and Corcoran’s “backroom deals will destroy our public schools’ futures, and they ought to be ashamed of what they’ve done to our state over the past week.”

If elected governor, Gwen Graham says Florida would stick with Paris climate accord” via Bruce Ritchie of Poltico Florida — Graham announced her climate plan on Tuesday following President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord on climate change. If elected, she said she will have Florida would join other states upholding the accord. Graham said Florida already is suffering the threats of climate change, including rising sea levels, droughts and forest fires. “Yet, despite all the science and even plain old common sense, President Donald Trump is embracing disaster by withdrawing our country from the Paris agreement,” Graham said. “Let me be blunt: Ignoring climate change will drown Florida’s future.” … Graham said she will implement a renewable energy standard for utilities but didn’t say whether she would do so without authorization from the Legislature. 

Least surprising news of the day – “Former Orange County Mayor Linda Chapin endorses Chris King for Governor” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political ObserverChapin is featured in a new web video … discussing issues like education, a living wage and the environment, along with rolling shots of Orlando and the Florida coast, as King meets with supporters to discuss his vision. “It’s time to have someone who can inspire a whole new generation to think about public service” says Chapin.

Jack Latvala courting gay Republicans” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay TimesLatvala, exploring a run for Governor, will headline a reception in Orlando next week with gay Republicans. ” This is a meet and greet opportunity for Republicans in the LGBT community to hear from the Senator, ask questions and get to know him. This is not a fundraiser,” says the invite for the June 21 Citrus Club event hosted by Rusty Roberts, a longtime Latvala friend, former Pinellas resident and former chief of staff to U.S. Rep John Mica; Republican consultant and former Christian Coalition leader John Dowless; and business consultant Nayte Carrick. Latvala said he did not draft the invite, but he and Roberts go back nearly four decades.

Jay Fant tops $79K raised for Attorney General bid” via Florida Politics — Fant emerged with $79,575 of new money; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant, and $3,000 came from his political committee, “Pledge This Day,” which raised $9,000 in May. A number of familiar names in Northeast Florida showed up on the contributor list: Tom Petway, John Rood, J.B. Coxwell, and the Fiorentino Group were among them. Fant also enjoyed PAC support, with the Beer Distributors Committee, PETROPAC, and the Florida Bankers Association contributing. Contributions mostly came from Northeast Florida.

All 5 Republican members of Hillsborough Commission are backing Ashley Moody for AG” via Florida Politics — Former Hillsborough County judge Ashley Moody announced that all five Republican members of the Hillsborough County Commission – Stacy White, Sandy Murman, Al Higginbotham, Ken Hagan and Victor Crist – are backing her campaign. “As a native of Hillsborough County it is incredibly humbling to have such overwhelming support from our County Commissioners,” Moody said of the joint endorsement. “These County Commissioners have spent their time in public service advancing fiscally conservative principles that prioritize spending on local government priorities, including public safety and our Sheriffs Office – giving our men and women in uniform the tools and resources they need to keep us safe and crackdown on crime.”

Tim Canova to announce 2018 political plans Thursday” via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – Canova, a Nova Southeastern University law professor and Hollywood resident, confirmed that he will announce his plans at a progressive caucus event at the Broward AFL-CIO office in Plantation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday: Canova wrote on Facebook  that he will speak at the event where he will be “making a big announcement on our plans for 2018, which will be live streamed on this page. You won’t want to miss out!” In September, Canova filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission so he could start fundraising in case he decided to run against Debbie Wasserman Schultz who represents a Broward/Miami-Dade district. But through April he hasn’t fundraised.

Democrat Bernie Fensterwald taking second shot at going to Tallahassee” via Florida PoliticsFensterwald, a Dunedin retiree who lost a challenge to Chris Sprowls in the House District 65 race in North Pinellas County last November by more than 30 percentage points, has filed once again to run for the Legislature. This time Fensterwald is gunning for the state Senate District 16 seat in north Pinellas being vacated by a term-limited Jack Latvala. The only other candidate to file so far for the open seat is former GOP state representative and Clearwater City Commissioner Ed Hooper.

John Newstreet raises $30,000 in early days of HD 44 special election race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican candidate John Newstreet‘s campaign is reporting that it has raised more than $30,000 in the first 11 days since he announced his run for the open seat in Florida House District 44.

— Newstreet is reporting a total of $30,576 through the end of May in a news release, though neither he nor the other candidates in that race have to file anything with the state until July 6, more than a week after ballots are sent to military and overseas voters, because of the timetables assigned to the special election. 

Save the date – House Majority 2018, Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be José Oliva and Chris Sprowls host a fundraiser for Rep. Erin Grall in her House District 54 re-election bid. Event begins 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 26, at the Quail Valley River Club, 2345 Highway A1A in Vero Beach.

Shawn Harrison kicks off HD 63 re-election bid at Tampa Theater June 29” via Florida Politics – The event, hosted by House Majority 2016 and featuring special guest Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, is Thursday, June 29, beginning 5 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theater, 711 N. Franklin St. Included on the extensive list of local GOP leaders making the host committee are House Speaker Corcoran, and Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls … state Sens. Dana Young and Tom Lee; state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia; former House Speakers Will Weatherford and Dean Cannon; former state Rep. Seth McKeel; former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Victor Crist, Stacy White and Sandy Murman; and Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, among others.

David Rivera floats another $50K to Florida House campaign” – Former one-term Congressman Rivera gave his campaign another $50,000 in May, making $250,000 in loans for his bid to return to the Florida Legislature. Raising $10,550, Rivera gave $150,000 in loans and dropped another $100,000 check into his war chest. According to Florida Division of Elections records, the Miami Republican received $271,300 in contributions and loans for the House District 105 race. His primary opponent, Doral Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez also raised $46,875 in May, for $98,300 total. Rivera, a former state House budget chair, it is looking to succeed term-limited Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo.

More legislative hopefuls announce 2018 bids — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates have filed to run in 2018. Jeff Cynamon has become the first Democrat to file to run in House District 113 after Rep. David Richardson announced he was running for Congress in 2018 instead of running for re-election. Cynamon is a private property rights attorney in Miami Beach. He received his engineering degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from St. Thomas University. He previously worked as a senior attorney for the Florida Department of Transportation. Rhonda Rebman-Lopez becomes the fourth Republican to file to run in House District 115. Rebman-Lopez is a University of Alabama graduate and works as a legislative liasion for KinderVision, a foundation aimed at preventing the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of youths.

— STATEWIDE —

Democrats Trash ‘broke’ FDP for picking scandal-ridden Debbie Wasserman Schultz to open Leadership Blue Gala” via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – FDP staffers recently announced Wasserman Schultz would be opening up the annual gathering of party faithful, which is scheduled to take place Saturday in Hollywood. By Tuesday, Wasserman Schultz was out of the program entirely. Not everybody was happy about Wasserman Schultz rolling through the gala after bulldozing the party’s reputation last summer. Wasserman Schultz’s former congressional primary opponent and Democratic activist Tim Canova took to Facebook to criticize the FDP for its “huge problem” in selecting the South Florida congresswoman to give the opening remarks. … Canova took a no-holds-barred approach in criticizing party leadership for its “grave mistake” …“This at a time when the party is reportedly broke, having trouble meeting its payroll, begging for a loan, just months after Bittel promised to raise millions and millions of dirty corporate dollars for the party,” he said.

Democrats seek ties between Brian Mast and businessman accused of scam” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida Democrats filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain records that, they hope, show a link between Mast and the owner of a marketing company under federal investigation for fraud. “The depth of Congressman Mast’s involvement in the alleged fraud is currently unknown by Mast’s voters,” the Florida Democratic Party said in a release. “Despite being named as a member of World Patent Marketing’s board, being featured in World Patent Marketing’s promotional materials, and appearing in multiple photographs with World Patent Marketing’s embattled founder, Congressman Mast has denied any knowledge of or involvement with World Patent Marketing.” The FOIA seeks any emails between Mast and World Patent Marketing owner Scott Cooper, financial records and details about a $5,400 political contribution Mast received from Cooper. (Mast has returned the donation.)

Florida counties, still vulnerable to storms, scramble to match state dollars” via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – What’s happening along North Florida’s Atlantic coast is part of a larger statewide issue: Year after year, the Florida Legislature has allocated less funding than is requested by coastal areas, which struggle to come up with required matching dollars that still do not cover the high cost of beach erosion. The state has 825 miles of sandy coastline, and about half of it is rated by the state as critically eroded. But funding for beach projects has averaged $28.6 million per year since 2007, even as local governments have requested $87.2 million. Local governments say closing the funding gap is critical to paying for beach sand replacement projects called beach “renourishment.” And legislative analysts in 2015 reported that the economic return from spending on beach restoration is more than five times the investment. The funding for coastal communities was one of several sticking points between legislators in the Florida Senate and House this year.

Disney sues over property assessments for Magic Kingdom, other properties” via Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel –Disney filed nearly a dozen lawsuits at the end of last month in Orange Circuit Court, arguing the assessments by Orange County Appraiser Rick Singh exceeded their properties’ fair market value and incorrectly “included the value of certain intangible property in the assessments.” … “The increases in the assessments of our property are unreasonable and unjustified,” a Disney spokesperson said … “Similar to other property owners in Orange County, we have no choice but to take action to dispute these errors by the property appraiser. We look forward to presenting our case in court.” It’s not the first time the theme parks have sought to reduce their land values. In October, SeaWorld, Universal Orlando and Disney sued Singh, arguing their properties’ taxes were too high. Singh vowed to fight them in court At   the time, saying, “We hold their feet to the fire.”

“State files misdemeanor charges against Lisa Edgar” via Florida PoliticsProsecutors are moving forward with a criminal case against Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run. Earlier this month, State Attorney Jack Campbell’s office filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident … She is charged with one count of driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and one count of leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show.

— MOVEMENTS — 

Scoop – “Personnel note: Kent Perez departing Attorney General’s Office” via Florida PoliticsPerez, acting chief of staff to Attorney General Pam Bondi and a veteran of the office, Tuesday said he’s accepted an offer to become the State Board of Administration’s deputy executive director. Perez told FloridaPolitics.com he expects to start the new job by the end of the month. He’ll report to SBA chief Ash Williams. Perez said he and Williams are still “working out” his precise job responsibilities. The agency acts as the state’s investment manager.

Personnel note: “Max Goodman headed back to work for Vern Buchanan” via Mitch Perry of Florida PoliticsGoodman, the well-regarded communications pro who worked for Buchanan for nearly a decade before helping David Jolly’s campaign(s) in 2015 and 2016, is returning to work for Buchanan as Chief Communications Adviser. Goodman will be based out of Washington D.C. Goodman joined Jolly’s campaign for the U.S. Senate in the fall of 2015 as his political director and was later named his campaign manager. After Buchanan narrowly defeated Democrat Christine Jennings in 2006, Goodman began working for Buchanan, ultimately becoming his full-time communications director in 2010, and was later promoted to senior aide in 2012.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: South Swell Development Group, LLC.; Thomas Panza, Panza Mauer Maynard: Shands Teaching Hospitals and Clinics Inc.

– “Lobbying, Donald trump and what Jacksonville needs to do to succeed” via Timothy Gibbons of the Jacksonville Business Journal

— ALOE —

AAA: Gas prices falling fast in Florida, U.S.” via Ron Hurtibise of the Orlando Sentinel – The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Florida Monday was $2.33 — four cents less than a week ago. Nationally, gas was $2.34, also down four cents. AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said motorists “could very easily see prices fall another five cents” over the next couple of weeks, barring a sudden increase in crude oil prices. Gasoline prices were also driven lower by increased production by Gulf Coast refineries — 3 percent above a year ago — and a 5.4 percent drop in consumer demand from the record high set the previous week. Average gasoline prices fell in South Florida as well, but not by as much as the overall state and nation.

Disney plans to remember toddler killed by alligator one year ago with lighthouse sculpture” via Christal Hayes and Dewayne of the Orlando Sentinel – It was one year ago Wednesday that a 2-year-old boy playing near a shoreline at a Disney resort was killed by an alligator. Now, Walt Disney World is planning to honor Lane Graves, who was visiting with his family from Nebraska June 14, 2016. The company will add a sculpture of a lighthouse — the symbol of the Lane Thomas Foundation — at an undisclosed site on its property. “To provide continued awareness of the foundation and its mission, we’ve commissioned an original sculpture of the lighthouse the foundation uses as a symbol of love and hope, to be installed on our property this summer,” George A. Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement. No ceremony is planned for Wednesday, a Disney World spokeswoman said.

“Hard Rock coming to Daytona Beach” via Florida PoliticsSeminole Tribe of Florida-controlled Hard Rock International says it’s opening a fourth location in Florida later this year with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach … The new beachfront hotel also will feature “all-day dining, 24-hour in-room dining, a grab-and-go coffee shop and a poolside bar and grill.” Gambling will not be offered. Tuesday’s news follows Hard Rock’s recent purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada … Hard Rock-themed properties [in Florida] are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Insiders speculate on Epcot’s upcoming transformation” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Back in November, Disney officials hinted at a major transformation for Epcot … Now the rumor mill is filled with what the makeover will mean to the park that opened in 1982 as an acronym for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. “It will be even more relevant than it is today. …” Bob Chapek, chairman of Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts announced. “And, at the same time, it will stay true to our original vision. Disney, of course, remains mum on its plans but local bloggers speculate the renovation will include new infrastructure, an updated entrance and new rides and attractions. Robert Niles, author of the Theme Park Insider blog, reported that Disney has plans for new franchise-themed attractions to both Future World and World Showcase. The Universe of Energy is up for major renovations. At World Showcase, Niles’ reports that insiders claim Disney’s plans call for the installation of a Ratatouille-themed ride in the France pavilion.

Happy birthday to Josh AubuchonFoyt Ralston, and Drew Piers.

The op-ed Leslie Wimes apparently doesn’t want you to read

Leslie Wimes

Editor’s note: The op-ed below originally appeared on the award-winning blog, The Florida Squeeze. However, its editors took the op-ed down because it said it failed to meet that site’s editorial standards. 

“Although the tone of the piece was intended to be facetious and is based on what many believe to be reality, we were alerted to the possibility it could have been read to assert facts not in evidence impugning Ms. Wimes’ professional integrity, which the Squeeze has no reason to question,” the editors of The Florida Squeeze wrote. 

Regardless of what the editors of The Squeeze think of the op-ed AND WITHOUT the permission of the original author, I am publishing the op-ed in its entirety because, now, the piece in and of itself is newsworthy. The taking down of the op-ed has probably made the piece more interesting than if it had just stayed up.  Readers of The Florida Squeeze, Florida Politics, and all other political websites in Florida deserve to know what is at the core of the controversy. 

We have been told that Leslie Wimes complained enough that she was able to get this piece taken down. We do not have confirmation of this from the editors at The Florida Squeeze. We will let their editorial message speak for itself; they did not think it meant the standards of their site. 

We, like the Florida Squeeze, invite Wimes to write her own op-ed for publishing here, although we’re pretty sure that if she has something to share, she knows how to get the word out.

So, as the saying goes, we’re gonna just leave this right here…

One of the best pieces of advice that I learned from old hands who have held high political office is that you should never assume that you know the motives behind the actions that people take without hard evidence.

This is especially true when your inclination is that those motives are nefarious.

Leslie Wimes is a name I came to know back in 2014, and her name has kept popping up in my efforts to stay current on what is happening in the body politic over the last several years. I have my own opinions about Ms. Wimes, but instead of overtly expressing my opinion(s) I am going to stick to the facts. I am going to lay out her actions.

I am also going to lay out the actions someone would take if they were a Republican plant who had as their main objective undermining Democrats here in Florida. In the end, we will see how her actions line up with what a Republican plant would do so that everyone can judge for themselves.

Leslie Wimes and I were actually on the same side of an election when I first heard her name back in 2014. She was supporting Sen. Nan Rich for Florida Governor, and I was the Data Consultant/Director for the campaign.

I will go to my grave espousing the fact that Sen. Rich would have made the best governor of those running had she been elected, and since the other two main candidates were the current and immediate past GOP Governor of Florida there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was the most liberal candidate. That being said, Sen. Rich was the candidate that Republicans most wanted to see face off against sitting Gov. Rick Scott in the General Election.

The GOP elite thought that Sen. Rich would have been much easier to beat than Charlie Crist, and while I disagree with that assessment I can say without equivocation that is what they thought. So, anyone working on behalf of GOP interests would have supported Sen. Rich back in 2014.

Surely among the top goals of Florida Republicans in 2016 was to retain a GOP US Senate seat in the state, elect a Republican President, and undermine the DNC Chair who also happened to be an elected official in South Florida.

Ms. Wimes’ support of Tim Canova and Pam Keith (initially) was among her most notable efforts in the 2016 election cycle. Canova and Keith are both intelligent, impressive, and passionate Democrats who had the ability to strengthen a weak Democratic bench in Florida. Another thing that they both have in common is that they ran for offices that they had little hope of winning, and did so in a way that was divisive.

Republicans who were paying attention were likely giddy at the notion of promising Democrats running in such races. It divided Democrats, ensured that these promising candidates weren’t added to the Democratic bench of elected officials, and had the possibility of disillusioning these candidates and their Democratic supporters.

Ms. Wimes also attacked Hillary Clinton during the General Election last year, which is one of many examples of Ms. Wimes questioning why Black voters overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. It is a fact that Black voters are the voting bloc that has been the most loyal to the Democratic Party. Do you think that might mean that Machiavellian Republicans have near the top of their wish list either making inroads with Black voters or trying to make them disenchanted with the Democratic Party so that they don’t vote Democratic as much as they have done historically?  I certainly do.

Do you think that might mean that Machiavellian Republicans have near the top of their wish list either making inroads with Black voters or trying to make them disenchanted with the Democratic Party so that they don’t vote Democratic as much as they have done historically?  I certainly do.

Republicans would undoubtedly support such efforts, and any efforts of any plant that they may have, by giving said person a platform from which they can work from. It is noteworthy that Ms. Wimes did a media blitz espousing messages critical of Democrats to GOP-oriented outlets right before the 2016 General Election. Oh, have I mentioned yet that these articles that I keep referencing (which I will post a link to below) by Ms. Wimes are from the Republican-run website Sunshine State News?

The one stance that Ms. Wimes has taken this year that I have the most trouble wrapping my head around being taken by any reasonable Democrat is that Gov. Rick Scott “engages” the Black community more than Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson does.

This was written in a piece attacking Democrats for not celebrating Black History Month posted at 6 a.m. on the second day of Black History Month.

For context, Gov. Rick Scott is widely expected to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for his seat next year. Winning that U.S. Senate seat is a top priority for Republicans this cycle. The fact that Gov. Scott has restored the voting rights to fewer people than any of his predecessors, and those 1.7 million Floridians who could get their rights restored skew very heavily toward minority communities, is one of many examples as to why Gov. Scott is no friend to the Black community. Ms. Wimes touting Republican Gov. Rick Scott in such a ridiculous way over a sitting Democratic U.S. Senator is curious.

Also curious is the fact that a candidate that Ms. Wimes has supported got encouragement to run in a Democratic Primary against U.S. Sen. Nelson earlier this year. Nelson is not the only Democratic leader in Florida that Ms. Wimes has gone after recently. Ms. Wimes has gone after new Florida Democratic Party (FDP) President Sally Boynton Brown just in the past week.

One constant complaint from Ms. Wimes is that the FDP and Democratic leaders meddle in party elections and primaries. Ms. Brown pulled out of an event because the person holding the event is a candidate in a contested Democratic primary for US Congress. Ms. Wimes railed against Ms. Brown in a display of sheer hypocrisy by Ms. Wimes. Ms. Brown even provided her phone number to Ms. Wimes and said that Ms. Wimes should be free to call with any questions she may have. Ms. Wimes continued her bizarre attack against Ms. Brown (posted below) in spite of Ms. Brown extending an olive branch.

What is telling about Ms. Wimes’ actions is not only what she does, but also what she doesn’t do.

I have nothing but love and admiration for someone like Susan Smith, even though we don’t always see eye to eye. If someone isn’t in line with Ms. Smith’s values, she isn’t afraid to say so regardless of who that may irritate.

The difference between a great Democrat like Susan Smith and Leslie Wimes is that Susan Smith dedicates her time and her money to numerous Democratic and liberal causes she believes in. There is no doubt that all of Susan Smith’s actions are geared toward making the Florida Democratic Party successful in a way that aligns with her vision for the party. Ms. Wimes has no such record. There has not been a single instance where Ms. Wimes has supported a Democratic nominee or institution in Florida except against other Democrats. I am not saying her record on such matters is light. It is literally nonexistent.

Ms. Wimes has no such record. There has not been a single instance where Ms. Wimes has supported a Democratic nominee or institution in Florida except against other Democrats. I am not saying her record on such matters is light.

It is literally nonexistent.

Here is what would be on my list of how to undermine Democrats as a Machiavellian Republican in Florida: ensure Democrats don’t build a bench by steering good candidates into races they can’t win and hope they get disillusioned when they lose, sow seeds of doubt and/or discontent into the most loyal Democratic voting bloc(s), and attack/try to undermine major Democratic institutions, elected officials and statewide candidates. The list is not mutually exclusive.

I would do all this while making sure that I never actually supported a Democrat over a Republican. If (s)he needed a platform from which to do all this, I would offer television and other media outlets like Sunshine State News to spread messaging beneficial to Republicans.

It is funny how this all seems to overlap perfectly with Ms. Wimes’ actions. Again, I am not saying that she is a GOP plant. Just because something walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck doesn’t mean that it isn’t a unicorn that lays golden eggs. I leave it to you to consider the facts and come to your own conclusion.

Ms. Wimes Sunshine State News article catalog: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/taxonomy/term/307

Ms. Wimes’ odd Facebook response to Ms. Brown (I blacked out her phone number for privacy purposes):

Sean Phillippi

(Author’s Note: Please feel free to send any comments, suggestions, column ideas or hate mail to ThePhlipSideFL@gmail.com.)

___

Sean Phillippi is a Democratic strategist and consultant based in Broward County. He has worked for campaigns on the federal, state and local levels, including the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Sean is the Managing Member of TLE Analytics LLC, the political data and consulting firm he founded in 2012.

Gwen Graham releases climate change, environmental policy statement

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham has released a three-part policy statement on dealing with climate change and Florida’s environment, starting with having Florida pursuing compliance with the Paris Accords, something her two Democratic rivals also have endorsed.

The policy statement also calls for Florida, if she is elected governor in 2018, to ban fracking and oppose any expansions in off-shore oil drilling, and to invest in a clean-energy economy, starting with solar energy.

The trio of positions are not new for Graham. Nor do her Democratic rivals, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King, disagree with her. Since she opened her campaign she has sought to establish herself as a stanch environmental candidate, in the tradition of her father, when he was governor 30 years ago. King also has sought that ground.

With her new statement, Graham goes into more detail, and expressed urgency following President Donald Trump‘s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Florida is already suffering from the harms of climate change today. Rising waters threaten our beaches and coastal cities, droughts put our water supply at risk, and forest fires are raging across the state,” Graham stated in a news release issued by her campaign. “Yet, despite all the science and even plain old common sense, President Donald Trump is embracing disaster by withdrawing our country from the Paris Agreement. Let me be blunt: ignoring climate change will drown Florida’s future.”

Among her proposals:

– She vowed to implement a renewable energy standard that makes Florida less reliant on fossil fuels and continues President Barack Obama‘s Clean Power Plan to transition away from coal

– She promised to  appoint commissioners who “believe in science” and consumer advocates to Florida’s Public Service Commission to give solar companies a chance at competition with the corporate utilities

– She assured she would work with Democrats and Republicans in the legislature to end Florida’s ban on power purchasing agreements to give consumers and homeowners more choice in where their electricity comes from

Graham was the first candidate to vow that Florida would join Washington, New York, and California in an alliance to uphold the Paris Accord, though King and Gillum quickly followed.

She said joining the states’ climate alliance will mean working to cut carbon emission and investing in renewable energy.

Graham argued that fracking – an oil and gas exploration technology that involves injection of hydraulic fluids to crack rock and access underground reserves – and oil drilling threaten Florida’s natural resources, including the Everglades and beaches.

She cited work she’s done with Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson to pursue a ban on oil drilling, and her support for Obama’s lean Power Plan to shut down and clean up coal-fired power plants. She also contended she has a record of standing with local governments opposing fracking, which has been frequently cited for causing contamination of ground water.

Graham also declared Florida must embrace and invest in green technology and renewable energy.

“As the rest of the world and even other states move forward on fighting climate change, under Rick Scott and 20 years of Republican rule, Florida is falling behind,” Graham stated. “Renewable energy accounts for less than 3 percent of energy generation in Florida, our state has no renewable portfolio standard, and we are one of few states that outright bans power purchase agreements, which makes it harder for homeowners and small businesses to install solar panels.”

Hot on the trail: Fundraising notes from the St. Pete City Council races

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

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

In the District 2 race, Barclay Harless is still outraising Brandi Gabbard at a healthy clip, but they each have about the same amount of money cash-on-hand as the candidate qualifying period barrels to a conclusion. Harless added $4,890 to his campaign coffers last month, bringing his overall total to $36,545. He’s spent $16,259 of that so far. Gabbard’s raised $24,578, but spent just $7,501.

Harless is probably one of the few candidates on the local scene who can get Republican Brian Aungst and Democratic lobbyists Justin Day and Cesar Fernandez to contribute to his campaign.

Prominent local attorney Matt Weidner (prominent because he’s featured in a major non-fiction book about the Great Recession AND has his face is plastered on the back of seemingly every PSTA bus) is hedging his bets in District 2: he donated $250 to Gabbard in May, but also donated $500 to Harless.

District 4 incumbent Darden Rice‘s demonstrated once again what a strong fundraiser is she, adding $19,905 to her coffers. Rice’s has raised $73,389 to date.

In the ten-way District 6 race, (yes, you read that right, there are ten candidates running for this seat), Justin Bean remains the overall front-runner, but Gina Driscoll posted a $10,580 report after her first month on the trail.

Bean raised his money the right way, picking up a slew of $100 checks, including contributions from several in the young professional set such as Ryan Griffin, Josh Miller, and Nathan Stonecipher.

Jim Jackson, who picked up $2,565 in checks, received a $100 contribution from District 5 Councilmember Steve Kornell. Also interesting in Jackson’s report is that he paid the well-regarded local advertising firm MityMo for printing, so he’ll have them on his side.

 

District 8 incumbent Amy Foster did not hit the fundraising circuit too hard in her first official month back on the trail; she raised a quick $5,000 (including $500 from local lobbyist Todd Pressman) but spent zero dollars. No matter, her only opponent, Tharius Bethel, dropped out of the race on May 24.

 

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