Peter Schorsch - 5/2477 - SaintPetersBlog

Peter Schorsch

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

Sunburn for 3.8.17 – Governor gets personal; Speaker gets joyful; Bills get moving; Don Gaetz’ next run?; It’s Space 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.

#HUMBLEBRAG

It’s that time of year when everyone in the process emails around CATECOMM’s annual legislative aide study — even the clients he’s working against. It’s a must-read perennial reminder for advocacy groups and coalitions to not send spam form emails or do other dumb things that don’t work.

Here is the Medium post everyone is sharing.

But this year, something special happened and Kevin Cate gave me the heads up — FloridaPolitics.com is about to overtake SayfieReview.com as the most-read political news website by lawmakers. We tied Justin’s aggregator this year, and we’ve been on a huge curve up since the study began five years ago.

The top five overall go-to news outlets for lawmakers goes like this:

— Local TV News

— Local Print Newspapers

— Local Print Newspapers Online

— FloridaPolitics.com, Sayfie Review, and POLITICO Florida (tied)

— News Service of Florida

To give you an idea of how far we’ve come, compare the 2013 survey results…

… with this year’s results:

And we get our numbers without the benefit of receiving direct links from Marc Caputo‘s POLITICO Playbook or Sayfie Review.

The full results are now available on the Medium post.

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RICK SCOTT GETS PERSONAL IN 2017 ‘STATE OF THE STATE’ ADDRESS via Florida Politics – The Governor … told a joint session of the state’s House and Senate that he knew “what it’s like to be poor” … “I have lived in poverty …  I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. When most kids were playing Little League or riding bikes, I had a job … I went from delivering papers, to opening a small business so my mom could have a job, to running the nation’s largest health care company.” … “It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’ ” he said. “(T)hat’s not what we are doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs. When we bring new jobs to Florida, there are only winners … I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this.”

— “Scott sets off for D.C. to meet with GOP leaders on ACA overhaul” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

ANDREW GILLUM CRITICIZES  SCOTT FOR NOT MENTIONING GUNS OR LGBT IN PULSE COMMENTS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “No mention of common sense gun law reforms, nor the continued discrimination against the LGBTQ community in @FLGovScott’s State of the State,” Gillum tweeted after the speech. Potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham also weighed in, criticizing Scott and other notable Republican leaders – led by House Speaker Corcoran, though she did not mention names – for fighting with each other rather than working together for Florida. Before the speech, Gillum anticipated that with a prebuttal statement that said Floridians are looking for someone to champion “the issues and values that matter to us, and sadly Governor Scott will not and cannot rise to that level.”

MORE REAX: “He made a pretty vigorous sales pitch for a lot of his ideas — Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida; also keeping that alive. We expected him to lay out his vision for Florida. We expected him to lay out his priorities. The House in special order calendar, I believe on Thursday or Friday, is going to take up those bills and I’m sure we’ll have a very robust debate.” – Rep. Carlos Trujillo, House Appropriations Chairman; “It was a good one. He played it on the line in terms of the need for EFI and Visit Florida. The governor’s very passionate about helping those who need some help. That’s been his trademark since he got here, and I appreciate that and respect that.” – Sen. Bill Montford; “It was great. He set out his goals for the session and what he wants to accomplish and we’re ready to go.” – Senate President Joe Negron; “Obviously we have some points we have disagreements on. I thought it was encouraging. He did a good job of building some consensus around things that we all believe in — Republican and Democrat, different branches of the government. You can take out a couple of the points of contention that we have, but overall, I didn’t leave with a bad feeling after the speech.” – Rep. Clay Ingram; “It’s opening day, so I expected them both to do what they did. They set the tone. They laid out their plans.” – Rep. Cynthia Stafford; “There were a couple of hot-button issues, obviously, with the House. I think there was some truth for some members, but I think it’s probably a little bit of an exaggeration for some. … I know that there are real concerns here in the House about some of the ways state money has been spent. We’re taking a good, hard look at it. I don’t think the outcome is 100 percent clear of what’s going to end up at the conclusion of session.” – Rep. Joseph Geller.

RICHARD CORCORAN: ‘LET’S FIGHT … JOYFULLY CRASHING AGAINST THE SPECIAL INTERESTS AND STATUS QUO’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran opened the legislative session Tuesday with a defiant tone, urging his flock to “keep fighting” and “joyfully crashing against the special interests” that control Tallahassee. …. Corcoran did not mention Gov. Scott by name — but he left no doubt that his remarks were directed mostly at his fellow Republican. … He also has accused Scott of trying to impose a half-billion dollar property tax increase on Floridians, the result of higher property values, to pay for a per-pupil increase in public school spending. Scott and the Senate disagree with Corcoran and say it’s not a tax hike.

JOSE OLIVA TALKS DOUGHNUTS AND INCENTIVES AFTER RICK SCOTT SPEECH via Florida Politics – Oliva, a cigar company executive, said Scott underestimated House members’ experience. “Very many of us in that chamber know what it’s like to be poor,” said Oliva, who remains as CEO of Oliva Cigar Co. after selling the company last year to a European concern. “We know what it’s like to have a car repossessed, to have the power cut in your house. “We also know what it’s like to start a business … I don’t know that when I was building my business I would have liked some of my tax dollars to go to help a competitor.” Scott, who didn’t mention it specifically … often has spoken of a doughnut shop he ran in the 1970s. “Imagine if the governor, while he had that same doughnut shop, had his tax dollars go to Dunkin’ Donuts so they could come across the street and compete against him?” Oliva said.

ADVOCATES CALL ON LEG. TO FOCUS ON WORKING FLORIDIANS DURING ANNUAL ‘AWAKE THE STATE’ EVENT via Florida Politics – “In 2010, Rick Scott said ‘let’s get to work.’ In 2014, he said ‘let’s keep working,’” said Rich Templin, the legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO. “The problem is, Florida is not working for most of our families and nobody in the building is fighting for them.” Templin was one of several advocates who spoke out during the “Awake the State” event at the Florida Capitol. The annual event generally serves as a response to the governor’s State of the State speech, and this year speakers touched on a variety of issues, including poverty, the environment and immigrant rights. Citing the United Way of Florida’s 2017 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report, Templin said millions of Floridians are struggling. “They’re doing everything they’re supposed to do, working a job, working two jobs, working three jobs, but they still have to make decisions between food and rent, medicine and child care, decisions no worker should have to make in this state,” he said. “Millions of Floridians are suffering, and the state is doing very little to support (them).”

— “Isn’t it time Florida progressive put the ‘Awake the State’ mantra to bed?” via Peter Schorsch

AFP-FL ENCOURAGES LEGISLATURE TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT BILL TO ELIMINATE ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Florida Politics – “There is no question that Governor Scott and the Florida legislature have helped Florida endure the recent recession, and through their effective leadership the state of our state is strong,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL … “But make no mistake, the positive strides and gains we’ve made together are not because of top-down big-government programs. Because Florida entrepreneurs are the best investors of their dollars, they are thriving in the low tax, low regulatory environment which are among the most critical reasons millions of Americans from across the country have migrated to the Sunshine State.” … It’s also out in full force in support of a bill (HB 7005) that would eliminate Enterprise Florida and a slew of other incentive programs.

NEW HOUSE VIDEO ASKS: WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE MEMBER ACROSS THE AISLE — The Florida House didn’t waste much time after the “State of the State” to try and show unity among its members, releasing a video showing Republicans and Democrats talking about their favorite representative across the aisle. The 2-minute video includes Reps. Chris Sprowls, Carlos Guillermo SmithByron DonaldsRandy FineJackie ToledoEmily SlosbergAmy Mariano, and Dane Eagle. Several Republican picked Rep. Tracie Davis, with Rep. Cyndi Stevenson even saying she seemed “delightful.” Davis response when asked her favorite member across the aisle: “I don’t have any. I don’t like any of them.” (Don’t worry, she was teasing).

AS TENSE SESSION OPENS, SOME SAGE WORDS FROM A ‘HAS-BEEN’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Former House Speaker Allan Bense is home in Panama City, tending to his businesses and mostly watching from a safe distance. “There’s clearly room for improvement in Tallahassee,” Bense said. “He (Corcoran) has unveiled things that really weren’t working very well … Clearly, he’s aggressive, and I respect him for that.” He said Corcoran is right to call for a stricter six-year revolving-door restriction before ex-lawmakers can become lobbyists. It’s hard to believe Bense was eight speakers ago … “Remember, I’m a has-been. A nobody,” Bense said over coffee at a Panama City diner. “I was, at best, a C as speaker. Probably a C-minus.” On that, few would agree. Bense was viewed as evenhanded and unpretentious … His advice to Scott, Corcoran and Negron is to keep the line of communication open, which now is not the case. “Communicate,” Bense said. “It’s like a marriage. The more you talk, the more you learn.”

ANTI-POVERTY LOBBYIST SKEPTICAL AS SESSION OPENS via Florida Politics – Karen Woodall … at the Florida Center for Economic and Fiscal Policy …  spent 37 years lobbying in Tallahassee on behalf of the poor … wasn’t impressed. Unfortunately, particularly this year, it seems that the conversations about poverty have to do with attacking poor people. We have bills to cut people off food stamps where the staff analysis says the majority of the people impacted will be children. We have bills to cut people’s temporary cash assistance the first time they commit some violation, without ever asking what are those violations — it could be missing a meeting, or not filling out a form. We’re talking about evictions. We have bills filed to block grant Medicaid, which is going to severely impact not only very, very low income and vulnerable people in this state, but it’s going to cripple the health care industry. There are a lot of other areas of poverty. So many people are working, yet still struggling. There just seems to be, over and over and over again, a denial. It’s like don’t ask, don’t tell. We want to talk about the symptoms without digging really deep into the causes.

FOLKS COME FROM AFAR TO SEE LEGISLATURE BEGIN via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – About 20 minutes after the House convened at 9:30 a.m.Jon Karl Kuykendall sat outside the Capitol next to his backpack. The former Eastside High student from Gainesville and freshman at the University of Florida spent the first two days of spring break hiking with his friend Oscar Psychas from St. Marks Lighthouse to Tallahassee, to demonstrate their commitment to the environment … Tom Hunt, a long-serving member of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms office, celebrated his 32nd legislative session with a Happy Face tie. He’s got 98 funny ties and each year he starts the first day of session wearing one of them … Mark Byington had the important job: holding a box of sandwiches and snacks for the covey of fourth-graders from Community Leadership Academy. The Tallahassee school was started by Peter Boulware, a Florida State University football all-star who spent his professional career with the Baltimore Ravens.

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JUDGE SIDES WITH HOUSE SPEAKER IN LOTTERY LAWSUIT via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Circuit Judge Karen Gievers on Tuesday ruled the Florida Lottery lacked the legal authority to sign off on more than $700 million contract with IGT Global Solutions to run lottery games. Gievers declared the contract, which is supposed to run until 2031, “void and unenforceable.” … During a daylong hearing on the lawsuit held this week, top aides who work for the Florida House also testified that the contract also was structured in a way to sidestep legislative oversight. They noted that lottery officials last fall asked legislators for more money to pay for the contract. … Gievers said the Florida Lottery did not follow state law and that the contingency clause did not give lottery officials the authority to approve the contract.

SCOTT COMMITTEE ROLLS OUT MORE ROBOCALLS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Scott is again targeting members of his own party for their votes against a bill that would abolish Enterprise Florida, the mostly-taxpayer funded economic development entity that Scott chairs, and place tight restrictions on Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm. Scott’s political committee, Let’s Get to Work, sent the messages, including emails, to the voters in districts of 17 House Republicans, each of whom backed the measure. “Unfortunately, your state representative … is playing politics with Florida’s jobs,” the ad says to voters. “He voted to decimate Florida’s tourism and jobs programs. And that will destroy our economy and lead to higher taxes.”

2017 SESSION BRINGS A RECORD NUMBER OF BILLS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Legislators have been busy this session … House and Senate members filed 2,905 bills before the noon bill filing deadline … That makes 2017 the session with the most bills filed, eclipsing the 2004 session’s previous record of 2,691 bills. The trend in recent years has been toward fewer individual pieces of legislation filed. However, House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new process for member’s appropriations project requests is largely responsible for the increased number of bills, with 1,210 member projects filed in total. The total number could increase even more, as legislation in the form of proposed committee bills, or PCBs, may continue to be filed after the deadline.

HOUSE MEMBER PROJECTS TOTAL $2.58 BILLION via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Members of the Florida House have filed 1,205 active appropriations projects bills, totaling $2.58 billion. The largest appropriation project filed is the $100 million requested in HB 3767 by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz for Florida Residential Citrus Canker Litigation Judgments. In all, 74 bills request appropriations that were vetoed in previous budgets including the $15 million for HB 2521, funding the Center for Innovative Technology Education (CITE) at Eastern Florida State College. Who filed the most member projects? That is Rep. Brad Drake with 46. He’s followed by Rep. Halsey Beshears with 42 and Rep. Jose Felix Diaz with 33. Members had to file their appropriations project bill request forms by Feb. 7, 2017, and bills had to be filed by the opening day deadline of noon March 7, 2017.

SENATE ADOPTS COMPROMISE BUDGET RULES via Florida Politics – Senators convened at 9:30 with a prayer and the traditional singing of the national anthem. “They need wisdom, direction, and understanding,” Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network said during the invocation. … “I know I’m asking for a miracle, but make this session end on time.” … One of the first orders of business was approval of rules changes designed to prevent a meltdown over the House’s strict new rules for member projects in the state budget while respecting the Senate’s prerogatives. In reaching the agreement with the House Friday, “potentially we dodged a bullet that could have stopped our appropriations process in about the fifth week,” budget chairman Jack Latvala said.

CABINET MEMBERS UNAWARE OF PROPOSED PROVISION EXEMPTING THEM FROM ‘GUN-FREE ZONES’ via Kristen Clark of the Tampa Bay Times – Among many gun bills Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube has filed for the 2017 session, one proposal being considered for the first time Tuesday calls for letting the three members of the Florida Cabinet carry guns virtually anywhere — so long as they have a concealed weapons permit and federal law doesn’t prohibit guns in that location. Each of the Cabinet members … said they were unaware until contacted by the Herald/Times this week that Steube had proposed exempting them from the state’s “gun-free zones.” But only one Cabinet member – Jeff Atwater – would say whether they themselves might be affected by the potential law change. A spokeswoman for Atwater confirmed he has a concealed weapons permit, but also said Atwater did not seek out the provision.

SENATE COMMITTEE REVERSES YEARS OF OPPOSITION AND PASSES FRACKING BAN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation voted unanimously to prohibit  “advanced well stimulation treatment,” specifically hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and matrix acidizing — the high pressure process that is used to inject water into rock formations to extract oil and gas. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dana Young … who reversed her opposition to a fracking ban last year, promising voters in her newly-drawn Senate seat that she would make passage of the ban a top priority.  “This has been a wonderful journey,” Young said, acknowledging the shift in position since she voted for a House bill lasts year that would have regulated and authorize fracking beginning in 2017, after a state study.

WHY THE LONG FACES?

HOUSE RELEASES PLAN FOR MEDICAL POT, WHICH ACTIVISTS CRITICIZE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill (HB 1397) gives the existing seven growers licensed under more limited cannabis statutes the first crack at selling the drug. It automatically adds five second-place growers that applied for regionally awarded licenses previously but were rejected after 150,000 patients have registered with the state. Beyond that, it bans edible cannabis products and smoking. It limits “vaping” — using vaporizer devices with a cartridge of the drug — to only terminal patients, though vape pens and cartridges are currently being sold under the existing state laws. Ben Pollara, executive director of advocacy group Florida for Care, said in a statement that the House’s proposal is “moving backward.” … “HB 1397 also offers only a modest expansion of the marketplace for medical marijuana treatment centers and again takes a step backward in doing so,” he said.

HMMM… HOUSE’S WHISKEY & WHEATIES BILL STUMBLES IN SECOND COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The Walmart-backed HB 81, sponsored by Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, would allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell liquor, rather than keeping up the so-called “liquor wall.” The issue is a top priority for Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores and a boatload of retailers, but conservatives in the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee wanted nothing to do with it. The bill was temporarily postponed … because, apparently, it didn’t have the votes to pass, which almost happened last month when it narrowly escaped the Careers & Competition Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote. Pulling up that vote record might give an indication of which lawmakers are squares.

BILL TO CLOSE PENSION PLAN OPTION FOR CITIES STARTS TO MOVE IN SENATE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The Senate Community Affairs Committee agreed to legislation (SB 0428) that would close enrollment in the Florida Retirement System’s defined benefit or “pension” plan to any city not currently involved on a 5-2 vote … Employees would instead have to enroll in a defined contribution or “investment” program. The legislation is being carried by Sen., Jeff Brandes and Rep. Jason Fischer with HB 353, who described his hometown as being “crippled” by unfunded liabilities.

HOUSE PANEL BACKS PRIVATE SCHOOL CHOICE BILL via Travis Pillow of redefinEd.com – The House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee passed HB 15 on a 12-3 vote. The measure by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan … would triple the size of Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship program, which offers education savings accounts to children with special needs. It would also broaden eligibility for special needs vouchers, known as McKay scholarships, and increase per-student funding for tax credit scholarships, with help low-income and working-class students pay private school tuition. A bill in the state Senate would match the House’s Gardiner scholarship funding proposal, and a separate measure mirrors its tax credit scholarship changes.

SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE PASSES RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES ACT via Sunshine State News – Senate Bill 436 by Sen. Dennis Baxley … Senate President Negron emphasized during his Opening Day speech as a bill he favors … creates the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” and specifies that a school district may not discriminate against a student, parent, or school personnel on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression. Senate Bill 436 authorizes students to express religious beliefs in written and oral assignments, free from discrimination. Students may also wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display a religious message or symbol to the same extent secular types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are permitted in public school dress codes. Further, students may pray, or engage in and organize religious activities before, during and after the school day, to the same extent student engagement in secular activity or expression, and the organization of secular activities and groups are permitted.

LEGISLATION THAT WOULD MAKE SECRETARY OF STATE AN ELECTED POSITION ADVANCES via Florida Politics – Historically, the Secretary of State in Florida was elected by the public, but that changed in 1998 … Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean wants to bring that position back into the Cabinet. At the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections committee meeting … Bean told his colleagues that the main motivation for his joint resolution (SB 882) is to add another member to the Cabinet, which currently consists of four members – the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner. “I always felt that it’s been odd,” Bean said. “We have some strange rules when it comes to voting with our cabinet,” referring specifically on the state rule that in two-two ties on the Cabinet, the governor must be on the prevailing side.

— “Bill to fund a $1M in-state marketing campaign clears House committee” via Florida Politics

— “Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously OK’s claim bill for man injured in bus accident as teen” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics

BILL WOULD REQUIRE LEOS TO WEAR BODY CAMERAS DURING TRAFFIC STOPS via Florida Politics – State Rep. Al Jacquet filed HB 513 … The bill would, if enacted, require officers to wear and use body cameras while conducting routine traffic stops every time. “Body cameras are a tool to increase public safety that help protect both officers and the citizens they serve,” Jacquet said in a statement. “Dashboard cameras have helped to protect people for years and this builds off that idea. It’s our responsibility to do all we can to increase accountability, safety and trust for both officers and their communities.” HB 513 is a companion proposal is SB 828, proposed by Sen. Bobby Powell.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Jacquet and Sen. Powell will hold a press conference to discuss legislation require police to wear and use body cameras when conducting traffic stops at 11:30 a.m. outside the House Chambers on the Fourth Floor Rotunda.

‘SPILL BILL’ APPROVED BY SENATE COMMITTEE – Senate Bill 532 “Public Notice of Pollution Act” passed its first committee – the Environmental Preservation and Conservation – by a unanimous vote. Its next stop is the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. SB 532 will require companies to notify the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about the release of any dangerous substance within 24 hours of discovery, and DEP must then publish a public notice within 24 hours. This legislation comes in the aftermath of multiple high-profile incidents over the past year that resulted in chemical contaminants possibly being leaked into local drinking water supplies – without the public being made aware of the situation.

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

IT’S SPACE DAY IN THE CAPITOL!

Time for lawmakers and others in Tallahassee to put on their space geek hats.

Space Florida is leading the charge to Tallahassee for the annual Space Day tour, with representatives of three dozen space companies and other institutions, including two astronauts, in the invasion.

The state’s space industry development corporation has virtually missed battles being fought over Enterprise Florida Inc., VISIT Florida, and wants to keep it that way.

They’ll be touting 150,000 jobs, bringing $20 billion in annual sales and revenues into all 67 Florida counties. Yet much of the focus is on the Space Coast, where Space Florida and others are seeking to transform the space economy from government-sponsored to entrepreneurial driven.

Space Florida gets almost $20 million a year from the state, and arranges business incentive grants and tax deferments, through other agencies, that have totaled  tens of millions of collars in recent years.

The space business invaders will include rocket companies such as United Launch Alliance, SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Orbital ATK.

And, for celebrity power, those reps will include former NASA space shuttle astronauts Chris Ferguson and Sam Durrance.

BILL GALVANO TELLS SEMINOLE TRIBE HIS GAMBLING BILL “WILL MOVE FORWARD” via Florida PoliticsGalvano, the Florida Senate’s point man on gambling, has told the Seminole Tribe of Florida “inaction … is not an option” this year. Galvano, the Bradenton Republican in line to be Senate President in 2018-20, responded this week to a letter sent by Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola to legislative leaders and Gov. Rick Scott. Both chambers have gambling legislation filed this year with competing priorities, but both contemplate a new agreement, or “compact,” with the Tribe offering exclusive rights to keep offering blackjack in return for $3 billion in revenue share over seven years.

FILM FLORIDA GIVES UP THE FIGHT FOR INCENTIVES THIS YEAR via Florida Politics – The president of Film Florida, the state’s nonprofit “entertainment production association,” says her group is taking a “step back” from fighting for film and TV show incentives this year. “For the first time since 2004, Florida does not have a statewide program to entice film, television and digital media projects and companies to our state,” wrote Film Florida President Kelly Paige in a Tuesday email to supporters. As part of a plan to get rid of business incentives deemed “corporate welfare” by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, legislation would “close the Florida Office of Film and Entertainment (the State Film Office)” and “also end the Entertainment Industry Sales Tax Exemption program,” Paige said.

HOUSE CHAIRMAN SEEKS ‘GOOD FAITH’ AS HEARINGS OPEN ON WORKERS’ COMP DRAFT BILL via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee opened hearings on a 28-page draft bill on workers’ compensation reform, as Chairman Danny Burgess urged members and interest groups to “conduct ourselves in good faith — that we not plant our flags on one side or the other and be absolutely inflexible.” Burgess said the draft represents a “fair, comprehensive approach to fixing this problem.” He also conceded: “It’s by no means perfect … The draft bill achieves four overarching goals … We have addressed and implemented case law by the Supreme Court. We have increased opportunities for competition. We are offering measured changes based on workers’ compensation cost drivers. And we are looking to protect the injured workers’ personal information through a separate (bill).”

HOW LEGISLATORS PLAN TO OPEN THE DOOR FOR FPL TO CHARGE ITS CUSTOMERS FOR EXPLORATORY FRACKING via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The bill, HB 1043 by Rep. Jason Brodeur, is titled “Prudent Utility Investments in Natural Gas Reserves,” and the Senate companion is SB 1248 by Sen. Aaron Bean … “Natural gas is a proven commodity that brings rates down and so we are going to allow FPL to go forward with a proven technology to have these reserves so that we pay down the road,” Bean said. The bill would essentially overturn a Florida Supreme Court ruling last year that said that Florida regulators exceeded their authority when they allowed FPL to become the first utility in the nation to be allowed to charge its customers, not its shareholders, for its speculative investment in fracking operations.

‘STAND UP FOR NORTH FLROIDA’ RELEASES TV AD CRITICAL OF LAKE O LAND BUY via Florida Politics — The group released a television ad Tuesday designed to call attention to what it calls “the threat of the South Florida land buy, proposed by Senators Joe Negron and Rob Bradley, to the limited conservation funding resources available to the North Florida region.” The group objects to Senate Bill 10 which would bond money backed with Amendment 1 funds to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage. “North Florida has precious water resources – lakes, rivers, springs and beaches – that desperately need protecting. There are limited funds available and it is imperative we receive our fair share,” said former Rep. Steve Southerland, chairman of the group. “Yet South Florida received more than 90 percent of the Amendment 1 funding for water projects last year.”

COURT: SCHOOL CHILDREN MUST TAKE STANDARDIZED TEST via The Associated Press – A Florida appeals court says school districts have a right to hold third-graders back when they score badly on a mandated standardized reading test. A three-judge panel threw out a ruling by a lower court judge who said school districts must consider options other than students’ performances on the Florida Standards Assessment test when deciding whether to promote a student. The decision is a blow to parents who try to “opt out” on standardized tests. Parents in six counties instructed their children to fill their name in on the test and not answer any questions. School officials then told the children they’d have to repeat third grade.

DON GAETZ PENSACOLA’S NEXT MAYOR? via Duwayne Escobedo of Rick’s Blog – A recent survey commissioned by Inweekly found Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, a two-term incumbent, could be vulnerable in the 2018 election should he run a third time. Among likely voters, Hayward garnered just 27.9 percent of the vote, setting up room for other candidates to run. Might one of those be former Florida Senate President Gaetz, a Republican from Niceville? Gaetz did point out he owns property in Pensacola, runs a business in Pensacola, TLC Caregivers, and has paid taxes in Pensacola for 20 years. “I see that Mayor Hayward is vulnerable,” Gaetz said in an exclusive interview with Inweekly. But he added he will “probably not run for mayor.” Throughout his 10 years in the Senate, his wife of 35-plus years, Vicki, was right there with him in Tallahassee by his side. Gaetz said it was “very much a partnership in politics” … “Every time I say, ‘No,’ my wife reminds me that I run for office,” Gaetz said. “My wife says never say, ‘No.’”

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

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

On: House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee has brought on budget analyst Bryan Mielke, formerly a legislative assistant for Sebring Republican Rep. Cary Pigman.

On: Brandon Miller is replacing Mielke as Pigman’s legislative assistant.

On: Daniel Brackett is a new attorney for the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee.

On: Angelique Rinaldi is the new legislative assistant for Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

On: Jervonte Edmonds is the new district secretary for West Palm Beach Democratic Rep. Al Jacquet.

Off: Andrew Green is no longer a district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller.

On: Charles Martin is the news district secretary for St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton.

Off: Nathan Klein is no longer a district secretary for Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle.

On: Samantha Surdin is the new district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Eric Eisnaugle.

Off: Elizabeth Casimir is no longer a district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: Florida Education Association

Brian BallardMonica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: K9s for Warriors

Erin Daly BallasJack CoryKenya Cory, Public Affairs Consultants: Stiles Corporation

Slater Bayliss, Christopher Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Florida MEDS, LLC

Laura Boehmer, Southern Strategy Group: Locust Branch, LLC

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galt Mile Apartments, Inc.; Southpoint Condominium Association, Inc.; The Lands of the President Condominium Seven Association, Inc.

Brittany Dover, Hopping Green & Sams: Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council

Angela Drzewiecki, Peebles & Smith, Inc.: City of Tampa; InVesta Services

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting, LLC: VIMRO

Richard Heffley, Heffley & Associates: Florida Community Services Corp of Walton Co (dba Regional

Utilities); Humane Society of the United States,

Jeff Kotkamp, Sunshine State Consultants: Florida Distribution Association; Mint Organics

Bruce May Jr., Holland & Knight: Florida Society of Ophthalmology

Frank MayernickTracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: State Farm Florida Insurance Co.; State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: AAA Scholarship Foundation, Inc.; Auto Care Association

William Peeples, John Wayne Smith, Peebles & Smith, Inc.: InVesta Services

Bob Pritt, Roetzel & Andress: City of Naples; Matlacha Pine Island Fire Control District; Port Labelle Community Development District; Sanibel Public Library District; Upper Captiva Fire Protection and Rescue Service District

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Lincoln Memorial University

PERSONNEL NOTE: NEW DEPUTIES APPOINTED AT OFFICE OF INSURANCE REGULATION via Florida Politics – The new deputy commissioner for property and casualty insurance in the Office of Insurance regulation is Susanne Murphy, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier announced … Eric Johnson becomes deputy for life and health insurance. [Murphy’s] job will include oversight of a new Property & Casualty Market Conduct unit. Johnson joined the office in 2011, “and since that time has been a nationally recognized thought leader on issues from the Affordable Care Act to long-term care,” Altmaier said.

#SUITSFORSESSION IS COMING – A week from today, Wednesday, March 15, lawmakers, agency heads, aides, and lobbyists will be carrying something extra to the Capitol: new or gently-used professional attire for job-seekers. Volunteer Florida and Uber are hosting the second annual #SuitsForSession event on the third-floor Rotunda from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. to collect attire for job seekers statewide. For those who can’t make it to the Capitol, Uber will pick up clothing from individuals across Leon County for free all day March 15. #SuitsForSession has quickly grown into a can’t-miss Capitol event, and for a good cause: the new or gently-used professional attire will be donated to the Chapman Partnership (Miami); Dress for Success Tampa Bay; ECHO Outreach Ministries (Leon County); Bridges of America (statewide); and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program (Tallahassee). More here.

WORTH THE CLICK — “Brian Goldmeier: The man behind the money” via Cheshire Academy|1794

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Wednesday’s Governors club menu hails from the Caribbean: conch chowder soup; yucca salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; tomato salad; carne asada- beef; chicken ala planca; BBQ grilled salmon; arroz con gandules and black beans.

FLORIDA STATE BEGINS REPLACEMENT SEARCH FOR RB DALVIN COOK via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – With Cook leaving early for the NFL draft, coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff began spring practices seeing who can replace the school’s career rushing leader. Cook is still a big fixture around the school’s football facilities, and not just from the 20-foot mural of him that adorns the player’s lounge. Fisher said that he saw Cook working out in the weight room after he returned from the NFL scouting combine. Fisher believes it may take more than one player to replace Cook’s contributions. “You would always love to have that one guy, but you also know at that position that you are going to need to have a stable of guys,” Fisher said. “That’s just something we will constantly be continuing to grow in.”

LEGOLAND TO CELEBRATE THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE WITH SPECIAL EVENT THIS WEEKEND via Terry Roen of Florida Politics – Fans can meet Gotham City’s iconic superhero –  in LEGO form – at the Winter Garden theme park. LEGO Batman Movie Days will include a photo op with LEGO Batman, a Batman-themed scavenger hunt throughout MINILAND USA and a variety of hands-on LEGO building activities inspired by the movie. Guests can also watch master builders create a 7-foot tall LEGO Joker. The Big Shop and LEGO Studio Store will have LEGO building sets, limited-edition LEGO mini figures, costumes, accessories and more from the Batman movie. Regular admission and annual passes will apply for the LEGO Batman Movie Days. No extra ticket is required.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Michael Bileca and to Ryan Smithapalooza.

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Charlie Crist opens political action committee

First-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist opened a political action committee Monday that he can use for his own re-election and help other candidates.

The former Florida governor is listed as the chair of Charlie Crist PAC, with Peggy Gagnon serving as custodian of records and Joseph Saunders taking the treasurer job.

The FEC filing reads that the “committee supports/opposes more than one Federal candidate and is NOT a separate segregated fund or a party committee.”

“In addition, this committee is a Leadership PAC,” the filing concludes.

Saunders is hosting a fundraiser for Crist at his and his wife Kathy’s home in St. Petersburg on March 26. The event is from 4:30 -6 p.m. at 4916 62nd Ave S.

Crist beat former Republican Rep. David Jolly in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional district, which covers southern Pinellas County, last year.

Since his swearing-in January 3, Crist has been regularly fundraising for his 2018 re-election bid.

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Judge says Madeira Beach City Commission violated Sunshine Law with Housh Ghovaee appointment

A circuit court judge ruled Tuesday that the Madeira Beach City Commission violated public records laws when it appointed Housh Ghovaee to an open seat.

Sixth Judicial Circuit Judge Jack Day said in his decision that the commission violated the Sunshine Law when it filled the vacancy and added that “the appointment of Housh Ghovaee as District 4 commissioner is void ab initio.”

The decision leaves the city without a vice mayor, and comes one week before an election to decide who will take a full term on the commission.

Ghovaee is running against John Douthirt and David Hitterman in that contest, and he said after the decision that he is “not giving up” and is still running for the District 4 seat.

The city issued a press release after the ruling that said the invalid appointment would have only made an impact if there was a 3-2 vote on the commission.

“Since Mr. Ghovaee’s appointment, there were no 3-2 votes,” it read.

Ghovaee was appointed after former Commissioner Pat Shontz resigned in the middle of a meeting.

The city put out a request for applications to fill the seat within 30 days, and commissioners decided on Ghovaee.

The commission used a different process to appoint the replacement for Elaine Poe in District 3, though that took place after the lawsuit was filed.

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whiskey and Wheaties

House whiskey and Wheaties bill stumbles in second committee

The House version of the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill stumbled and then face planted in its second committee hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The Walmart-backed HB 81, sponsored by Hialeah Republican Rep. Bryan Avila, would allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell liquor, rather than keeping up the so-called “liquor wall.”

The issue is a top priority for Miami Republican Sen. Anitere Flores and a boatload of retailers, but conservatives in the House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee wanted nothing to do with it.

Their message to Walmart and Avila: no whiskey and Wheaties this year. Or vodka and veggies, or cachaça and chicken.

They were also unamenable to a simple scotch and soda.

The bill was temporarily postponed during the committee’s 1 p.m. meeting Tuesday because, apparently, it didn’t have the votes to pass, which almost happened last month when it narrowly escaped the Careers & Competition Subcommittee with an 8-7 vote. Pulling up that vote record might give an indication of which lawmakers are squares.

Compared to the House, the Senate seems to be looking forward to some one-stop shopping for all their food and booze needs. Flores’ bill, SB 106, has already cleared both of its committees and is ready for a floor vote in the Senate.

It might not matter though if the House doesn’t clear Avila’s bill.

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Isn’t it time Florida progressive put the ‘Awake the State’ mantra to bed?

Later this morning, Gov. Rick Scott will give his seventh State of the State address as lawmakers kick off their annual 60-day legislative session.

After the applause from his fellow Republicans dies down, Florida Democrats and progressives will offer a response to the GOP’s agenda.

“Labor leaders, legislators and advocates for access to health care, quality public schools, reproductive and immigration rights will provide a counterpoint to Gov. Rick Scott and his legislative allies’ agenda that rewards their corporate backers while ignoring the needs of everyday Floridians,” reads a press release from Damien Flier of Progress Florida.

In addition to the press conference in Tallahassee, there will be events in other cities across Florida, including Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.

Organizers of this progressive response describe this effort as “Awake the State.

To which I must reply, “Zzzzz.”

It’s been going on six years that Florida progressives have been trying to awake the state, yet, clearly, Florida voters seem to enjoy sleeping in.

Scott was re-elected in 2014. So, too, was Marco Rubio in 2016. Florida went for Donald Trump for President, while also returning to the Florida House every Republican incumbent.

This is not to suggest Democrats and progressives should just roll over and die. In fact, a vocal opposition is probably needed now more than ever.

But, since the slogan Florida progressives have employed clearly isn’t working, maybe they should go back to the drawing board and update their marketing efforts.

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What do you do after you quit Enterprise Florida? Enjoy a glass of red wine, of course!

On Monday, Chris Hart IV abruptly resigned as Enterprise Florida CEO.

Hart cited an ongoing conflict with Gov. Rick Scott over the future of the outfit responsible for recruiting companies to the state.

Hart’s departure comes during a critical time. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is pushing a bill to scuttle the organization and strip it of all state money. The legislation could reach the House floor this week.

So how did Hart end such a tumultuous day?

With a glass of red wine, of course.

The former legislator posted to Facebook late Monday a simple, albeit telling photograph from, presumably, his back yard.  A glass of wine is in the foreground.

Hart’s message, “Tonight…ahhhh!”

After Hart published his post, capital insiders fervently speculated about whether the wine’s varietal. Was it a Cabernet or a Pinot Noir?

Asked about what really went down between him and Scott, Hart said he would let the letter he sent the governor speak for itself. However, he did want to make it clear that his resignation did not have anything to do with his compensation, as I speculated.

Cheers!

Material from the Associated Press was used in this post. 

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Sunburn for 3.7.17 – Scott’s SoS; Curtain raises on Leg.; Cruz is ready; Brodeur’s haul; Ander’s new gig

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

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

TAILSPIN

A stall, it is said, “can best be described as the situation where there is not enough air flowing over the wings to create the amount of lift needed to hold up the airplane.”

“If pilots can recognize an impending stall,” one website explains it, “they can take corrective action to either avoid the stall altogether or to recover as quickly as possible.”

Based on the events of Monday, the administration of Gov. Rick Scott is now in a stall. Indeed, by later in the day it seemed there was “not enough air … to hold up the airplane.”

Case in point: The day before the 2017 Legislative Session was set to begin, this Governor’s hand-picked CEO for Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization, quit with no warning. Chris Hart IV had been in the position for little more than two months. 

Why? Hart and this governor “do not share a common vision or understanding” for the organization going forward, he wrote in a resignation letter—a disconnect apparently so bracing Hart believed he could “no longer be effective.”

What was this governor’s reaction? An astounding puzzlement. This Governor never knew of “any differences of opinion or vision” until he read Hart’s resignation, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said. 

No matter—the nose of the aircraft had dipped. 

Later in the day, the House Rules committee slaughtered 23 of this Governor’s prized business incentive programs, which House Speaker Richard Corcoran has framed as “corporate welfare.” 

That panel also voted to abolish Enterprise Florida and saved VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, though hobbling it like Annie Wilkes did to Paul SheldonThose measures could go to the full House as early as this week. 

“What you see is gathering momentum – bipartisan momentum, with only a couple of no votes – for what we’re trying to do,” Palm Coast Republican Paul Renner said, virtually standing over the carcasses. 

This Governor now will walk into a Legislature Tuesday to deliver a State of the State address that, at least according to the snippets his press shop has released, is backward-looking. 

He will mention the tragedies of the Pulse nightclub and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings, the fight against the Zika virus, Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew. He will mention his ongoing feel-good commitment to tax cuts. 

But after the speech, what then? What “corrective action” will he take “to recover as quickly as possible”? It may be that the Senate will arrest the House’s assault in the weeks ahead. But in the air show of public opinion, this governor is in a tailspin.

— “Why did Chris Hart eject from Enterprise Florida?” via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist

EXCERPTS FROM RICK SCOTT’S SOS

Over the coming weeks, we will have many debates over bills and policies, but what unites us will always be stronger than what divides us – and what unites us is the resiliency of our great state. After every challenge, every heartbreak and every tragedy, Florida comes back stronger and better any time we are knocked down.

Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks. I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses. Our state has been rocked by the gruesome terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando. We endured two hurricanes, fought against the rapid spread of the Zika Virus, and were devastated by the deadly Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting.

And, if there is one thing you remember from this speech today, I hope it is this: Florida is a state full of fighters, and I will never stop fighting for our families.

Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016 when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people.

This was a terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered.

The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me.

This year, I am fighting to cut taxes by $618 million to cut costs for small businesses, students, veterans, teachers and families.

Our Fighting for Florida’s Future tax cut package will boost our economy and encourage businesses of all sizes to create jobs and build opportunities for generations of Floridians.   Let’s remember, when jobs are created, it helps the poorest, most disadvantaged families who need a job the most…families just like mine when I was growing up.

One of the taxes we are fighting to cut is the commercial lease tax, which unfairly targets small businesses.

Even more important than continuing to cut taxes in our state is that we prevent against unfair tax increases in the future so our progress is not undone. My goal before I leave office is that we work together on a solution to make it harder for any future legislature – even one not as conservative as we have here today – to raise taxes.

START OF SESSION BRINGS PROCEDURAL CHANGES via LobbyTools Legislative IQ — The Senate will convene Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. while the House will go into session at 10 a.m. At 11 a.m.Gov.  Scott will deliver the “State of the State” address during the Joint Session in the House Chamber. Ahead of the chambers convening, members are required to submit all bills to be considered during session. Members face a noon deadline on Tuesday for filing bills for introduction, but committees can continue to propose legislation throughout session as PCBs, or “Proposed Committee Bills.”

… Committee meeting notice deadlines also change during Session. Instead of the seven days notice that must be given before meetings during interim committee weeks, Senate meeting notices must be given three weekdays in advance of the meeting and House meeting notices must be given by 4:30 p.m. two days before the meeting. Committee amendments must be filed by 6 p.m. the day before a House committee meeting and 24 hours in advance of a Senate committee meeting.

The start of Session also affects campaign fundraising — according to both House and Senate rules, members cannot accept contributions during any regular or special session.

***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***

HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE VOTES TO KILL MOST ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS via Florida Politics – The House Rules committee voted, 15-3, Monday to kill state support for 23 economics development programs worth around $200 million, including Enterprise Florida, but spared Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion organization. The members then voted, 15-2, to subject Visit Florida to stringent oversight, comparable to contract, pay, and disclosure requirements that apply to state agencies. “They could come to the floor soon — perhaps as early as this week,” sponsor Paul Renner said of the bills. “What you see is gathering momentum — bipartisan momentum, with only a couple of no votes — for what we’re trying to do,” the Palm Coast Republican said.

CONTROVERSIAL PUBLIC RECORDS BILL CLEARS SECOND SENATE PANEL via Florida Politics — The bill (SB 80), sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, aims to give judges discretion in whether they should award fees to the plaintiff and requires request be made in writing in order to be eligible to collect attorney fees. The committee amended the bill Tuesday to add provisions that allow the court to consider “if the request to inspect or copy the public record was made in bad faith or was made to harass the agency or to cause a violation … and if the responsible agency responded in good faith to request to inspect or copy the records.” … But the amendment did not appear to alleviate concerns. Barbara Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation, spoke out in opposition of the bill. … The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Steube said he is prepared to “work with anybody to try to bring it in for a landing.”

CITING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST CHRISTIANS, SENATE PANEL PASSES SCHOOL RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION PROTECTIONS via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – The Senate education committee approved a bill broadening protections for religious expression in public schools that appears to be fast-tracked for passage despite critics’ contentions that it would be unconstitutional and carry unintended consequences. The bill would explicitly allow public school students to express their religious beliefs in assignments without being discriminated against. It protects students’ ability to pray before, during or after the school day. It requires school boards to adopt policies allowing students to discuss religion at any school event in which they are allowed to speak publicly. Under the bill, the state department of education would be directed to design a model policy school boards could adopt.

— “Bill to allow law enforcement officers who wear body cameras to review footage advances in Senate committee” via Florida Politics

— “Democrats file bills that would allow citizens to directly propose legislation” via Florida Politics

— “Jack Latvala files bill to create regional transit authority for Tampa Bay” via Florida Politics

— “Med Mal exempt from CAT fund assessments under bill approved by Senate panel” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida

— “Parenting plan bill that skip courts, lift court overload gets unilateral support in Senate committee via Florida Politics

— “Paul Renner elections bill affects filing fees, extended polling hours” via Florida Politics

— “Victor Torres seeks to save call-center jobs” via Florida Politics

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. To this point, there have been 131 bills heard in committee in the Florida House. Of those 131 bills, 117 are sponsored by Republicans, 13 are sponsored by Democrats, and 1 bill has bipartisan prime co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 89.3% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 9.9% are Democratic, and .8% are bipartisan. As former Senate President Andy Gardiner liked to say, ‘Don’t fear the debate.’ “

BUSINESS GROUPS OPPOSE TAX BREAK SWAP via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – A coalition of Florida business groups is giving the thumbs-down to state Sen. Anitere Flores’ proposal to pay for a cut in the state’s tax on mobile phone and satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers. The legislation (SB 378) would swap the insurance break for a 2 percent reduction in the state’s communications services tax (CST). The proposal is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron … But the coalition – including Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the Florida Insurance Council (FIC) – suggested the move would be a net neutral.

LEGISLATION WOULD REQUIRE REPORTING ON RACE DISPARITIES IN CRIMINAL SENTENCING via Florida Politics – Sponsors of legislation requiring the state to produce a report each year on criminal sentencing disparities based on race said Monday that they don’t mean an attack on judges but need to know what the data show. “I’ve heard there’s been some consternation from some judges,” said Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Democrat from Jacksonville. “The bill is not about judges. It’s justice, and it’s about data. Nobody should fear data,” she said.

***The State of the Taxpayer Dinner — March 8 (6-9 p.m.) — The one event in 2017 you can’t afford to miss. While the annual State of the State address and opening statements of each legislative chamber cover the accomplishments and future of our elected leadership, none specifically highlight the issues affecting taxpayers. This unique event puts the spotlight back on the taxpayers. Florida TaxWatch and Host Committee Chairman Gov. Bob Martinez present the 2017 State of the Taxpayer, the premier event for Florida’s elected leaders to discuss the issues that will impact taxpayers over the next year. The 2017 event welcomes speakers Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner Adam Putnam, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Jack Latvala, and Rep. Jim Boyd. Last year’s event sold out and just a few tickets remain for next week’s event – visit Floridataxwatch.org/sotd for more info or to purchase tickets.***

RICHARD CORCORAN NAMES NINE APPOINTEES TO CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Among Corcoran’s appointees are school board members, state lawmakers and lawyers, with a heavy significance on Corcoran’s home base of Tampa Bay. Corcoran tapped two Miami-Dade lawmakers in his selection: Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Speaker pro tempore Jeanette Nunez. From the Tampa Bay region, Corcoran chose Rep. Chris Sprowls, Sen. Darryl Rouson, and Sen. Tom Lee … Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County … School boards and charter schools will also have a friend in the CRC: Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds. Donalds has been a longtime advocate of the charter school movement and is a founding member and past President of a nonprofit organization focused on representing parents and students in Florida, Parents Rights Of Choice for Kids (R.O.C.K).

LOTTERY CASE NOW IN JUDGE’S HANDS; AGENCY SAYS IT DID NO WRONG via Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery went on an illegal spending spree when it inked a multiple-year, $700 million contract for new equipment and “blew up” the state’s budget process, a lawyer for Speaker Corcoran argued Monday. The Lottery’s lawyer countered that it takes money to make money, and the agency simply did what lawmakers told it to do: Maximizing its revenue for education, Barry Richard said. Lottery proceeds go to the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. Both sides gave closing arguments after a one-day, non-jury trial over Corcoran’s contention that the contract with International Game Technology (IGT) went “beyond existing budget limitations,” as House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum told Circuit Judge Karen Gievers … Gievers did not rule immediately from the bench, saying she would … issue a decision “as quickly as I can.”

JANET CRUZ IS READY TO LEAD HER CAUCUS DURING WHAT’S EXPECTED TO BE A RAUCOUS SESSION via Florida Politics – Tallahassee has a “priority problem,” the House District 62 representative said. “The Republicans have continued to focus on massive handouts for the ultrawealthy and the large corporations at the expense of our public education, at the expense of our hospitals, at the expense of our environment, and at the expense of small businesses, which in my opinion is the backbone of this country,” Cruz said. While acknowledging that the Scott versus Corcoran contretemps will entertain Capitol observers this spring, she supports Corcoran’s attempts to kill Enterprise Florida, the public-private agency that entices companies to add jobs in the state.

‘DRAMATIC’ REFORMS IN PLAY FOR ALL LEVELS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Just some of what’s on the table: “Dramatic” expansions of school choice alternatives in K-12 public schools and the state’s voucher-like scholarship programs are a top priority of Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The operations of Florida’s 28 public colleges could be reined in over what some senators see as unnecessary competition with the state’s public universities, sparking a need for more oversight. And the State University System itself faces a changed future as Republican Senate President Joe Negron seeks to make Florida’s 12 public universities globally competitive with the likes of the University of Virginia or the University of Michigan.

RANGE OF DCF OVERSIGHT ISSUES, BILLS TO BE DEBATED BY LAWMAKERS THIS SESSION via Florida Politics – Hot-button subjects with bipartisan support in the Senate and House include improvements in mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, working toward identifying and reducing human trafficking, better child protection and a funding shift from the federal level … The agency has had a string of high-profile incidents drawing negative attention beyond the state’s borders … In a few instances, historically, lying on such reports led the agency to lose track of where children are located … Worse yet are the deaths of minor children continuing under the department’s care or in instances where the agency had been alerted to a situation but didn’t act in a time appropriate manner. Among the most sensationalist stories making headlines around the country — shocking Florida residents — were the deaths of Naika Venant in Miami Gardens and Phoebe Jonchuck in St. Petersburg. DCF had been warned or involved in both cases.

— “A look ahead at the Florida 2017 Session: What to expect” via USA TODAY

— “Florida reporters to See how lawmakers stand on open records via Eliot Kleinberg of the Palm Beach Post

— “Legislative Session highlights local impacts of statewide issues” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Republicans ready to ‘duke it out’ over budget, ideological differences” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

— “Top education issues to watch in 2017 Legislative Session” via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

LAWMAKERS GEAR UP TO HEAR COURTROOM CARRY, OPEN CARRY BILLS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear two bills, SB 616 and SB 646, both sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube … SB 616, dubbed “courthouse carry,” would give courthouses permission to temporarily store firearms carried by concealed weapons permit holders while they are conducting business at Florida courthouses. The bill aims to reassure permit holders that they’ll be able to carry their firearms always rather than be unarmed while going to places like a courthouse. The second bill, SB 646, would decriminalize temporarily exposing one’s firearm for concealed carry permit license holders. The proposal would also law enforcement from arresting CCW permit holders who are lawfully carrying their concealed weapons and whose firearms become temporarily visible.

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

HAPPENING TODAY – DENISE GRIMSLEY HOSTS BREAKFAST FUNDRAISER — It’s never too early in the day to start fundraising. Sen. Grimsley will hold a fundraising reception for her 2018 bid for Agriculture Commissioner at 7:30 a.m. at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue in Tallahassee. The reception is hosted by Sens. Aaron BeanDennis BaxleyRob BradleyAnitere FloresGeorge GainerBill GalvanoRene GarciaJack LatvalaTom LeeDebbie MayfieldDavid SimmonsWilton SimpsonKelli Stargel, and Greg Steube.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Shevrin JonesAliki Moncrief, the executive director of Florida Conservation Voters; Rich Templin, the legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, and others will hold a press conference to unveil the “Awake the State” progressive agenda at noon on the fourth floor Rotunda.

ON3 PUBLIC RELATIONS RELEASES COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF LEGISLATOR EMAILS, TWITTER HANDLES — Want to give a certain a lawmaker a shout-out, but don’t know their Twitter handle? Don’t worry, On3 Public Relations has Florida covered. “We put in the work, so you don’t have to,” wrote Christina Johnson. The firm released its updated guide to the emails and Twitter handles of members of the 2017 House and Senate members. We hope you find it a useful tool in connecting with our elected leaders,” she said.

SPOTTED: Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon on Travel Channel’s “Big Time RV.”

TWEET, TWEET:

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

FLORIDA SUPREME COURT CONSIDERS VOTING RIGHTS AMENDMENT via The Associated Press – The Florida Supreme Court is being asked to approve the wording of a proposed amendment that could allow convicted criminals to vote … Justices must decide whether the amendment is misleading. The amendment would allow most convicts to have their rights automatically restored after they have completed their prison sentence. Felons convicted of murder or a sexual offense would not be eligible. Amendment supporters still must gather more than 700,000 signatures to place the amendment on the 2018 ballot.

BAD NURSING HOMES BENEFIT FROM AHCA’S PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE WAR ON #TRANSPARENCY via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – The Agency for Health Care Administration’s (AHCA) high profile flack works hard duty playing hardball with some of Florida’s best reporters, but makes tens of thousands of dollars less than men paid by taxpayers to tell tall tales about #Transparency … Taking up the cause of families who love their grandparents, reporter Kate Santich asked AHCA to explain why inspection reports are being scrubbed of “dates, places and pivotal words” that make it possible to gauge the quality and safety of Florida’s nursing homes. People who pay attention to Transparency and Accountability (T&A) in Florida had no trouble believing the attorney who told Santich “I’ve been looking at these reports for 20 years, and I know what they used to look like and what they look like now. It has become arbitrary and inconsistent what they redact — but I think it’s all part of a bigger purpose to confuse people and make the reports useless.”

POLICE RADIO PANDEMONIUM: IS THE HARRIS CORP. IN OVER ITS HEAD? ASK PENNSYLVANIA via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – Floridians should feel relieved Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature insisted on open and competitive bidding for a new Statewide Law Enforcement Radio System (SLERS) … After what happened in Pennsylvania, Florida will want a chance to look beyond the dollar figure of each bid for P25 equipment and consider the bidder’s performance. Pennsylvania had such a bad experience with their police-radio contract that after two decades, hundreds of millions of wasted dollars, and problems that never did get fixed, the state kicked the contractor off the job. Fired him. It’s a vendor Florida knows well … it’s the Harris Corp. of Melbourne — Florida’s current vendor, the vendor trying occupy the catbird’s seat in the process — that was just bounced out of Pennsylvania.

WITH ROLE ON THE LINE, NCCI INSISTS: WE’RE NOT ‘AN EVIL EMPIRE UNTO ITSELF’ via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The National Council on Compensation Insurance will take no position on a Senate bill that would require workers’ compensation carriers to propose their own rates to the Office of Insurance Regulation. “We don’t have an opinion in it. We operate in both environments,” Susan Donegan, chief regulatory services officer for NCCI, said in a telephone interview. SB 1582 would shift Florida from a “fully administered” state to a “loss cost” system. That means that instead of proposing premium levels for most of the carriers in the state, as NCCI does now, the companies would compete on rates. NCCI would have a role under either system, Donegan said. In fact, of the 36 states in which it operates, only four — including Florida — are fully administered. In the others, the company crunches numbers for individual carriers.

ANDREW GILLUM’S GET via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Tallahassee Mayor Gillum, who announced his bid for governor last week, is counting cash and endorsements. From a campaign source email: “Former Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant, who raised over $350K for President Obama in 2012 and $250K for Secretary Clinton in 2016, is hosting a private finance dinner for Andrew’s core supporters Tuesday evening. Big name donors who have contributed … include Chris Findlater & Howard Wolfson. Gillum raised more than $110K in the last week with over 1,500 donors contributing online.”

GILLUM COURTS BERNIE SANDERS WING OF DEMOCRATIC PARTY via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Gillum will be the keynote speaker at the annual conference of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida … which last year endorsed Bernie Sanders for president … Said it is “inspired by (Tallahassee) Mayor Gillum’s leadership on gun safety, education, criminal justice reform, immigration, marriage equality, and making Florida’s economy work for everyone.” In a crowded field of Democratic candidates being seen as the most passionate advocate for working class Floridians could be a significant help for Gillum, who is also widely expected to earn the support of the influential Service Employees International Union.

TRUMP’S VICTORY IN FLORIDA WASN’T BECAUSE OF HIS NEWFOUND HARDLINE CUBA POLICY via Latin America Goes Global – At a meeting at The White House in the final days of the Obama Administration, a senior adviser to the 44th president shared a remarkable observation: members of the incoming Republican administration believed that Donald Trump won Florida’s 29 electoral votes because of his 180° turn on U.S.-Cuba policy. Apparently, even President Trump believes it. Problem is: it isn’t true. Not even close. […] The reality, though, is that all of the empirical evidence—both polling and actual election results—points in the opposite direction. Not only did Trump not perform well with Cuban-American voters, his changing position on the issue did not help him one bit. And one more thing: the Cuban-American vote did not determine the winner in Florida.

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

JASON BRODEUR RAISES $405K IN FEBRUARY FOR STATE SD 9 BID via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – Brodeur has raised about $405K for his State Senate District 9 bid in February according to state campaign finance reports. Brodeur’s personal campaign finance account brought in about $87.5K, which brings him over the century mark when added to his January totals which began later that month. He has essentially all of it on hand. The “Friends of Jason Brodeur” PAC brought in about $318K, with $282K on hand when the other figures are totaled in since the PAC was established almost a year ago.

APPOINTED: Major General Michael Calhoun as Representative on Florida Defense Support Task Force.

ANDER CRENSHAW MOVES ON TO D.C. LAW FIRM KING AND SPALDING via Florida Politics – Crenshaw, who represented the Jacksonville area from 1993 to 2016, will serve as senior counsel in the Government Advocacy and Public Policy practice in King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office. “King & Spalding’s roster of former government officials—elected and non-elected, both Democrat and Republican—was a compelling platform as I contemplated life after Congress,” said Crenshaw. Officers from the firm noted Crenshaw’s knowledge and affinity for consensus-oriented solutions as unique value adds for its newest hire.

CHIP IGLESIAS NAMED MANAGING PARTNER OF BALLARD PARTNERS MIAMI OFFICE — Ballard Partners announced Monday Genaro “Chip” Iglesias has been promoted to managing partner of the Miami office. “As the chair of our Local Government Practice, Chip has been an integral part of our Miami team and we are pleased to promote him to this new leadership role,” said Brian Ballard, the firm’s president, in a statement. “His keen insight into the Miami-Dade government affairs landscape and the wealth of contacts in the area will continue to help our clients achieve their policy goals, while allowing us to grow our business in South Florida.” Iglesias joined Ballard Partners as a seasoned public affairs expert in 2014. His resume touts several key senior level positions, from deputy mayor/chief of staff of Miami-Dade County and chief executive officer of the Village of Key Biscayne, to chief of staff to then-City of Miami Manager Carlos Gimenez and a 24-year stint as a firefighter and paramedic at the City of Miami Fire Department. Iglesias will take over the position previously held by Sylvester Lukis, who moved to Washington, D.C., to lead the firm’s newly-opened office.

KIM BERFIELD NAMED CHIEF LOBBYIST FOR ALL CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL via Florida Politics – Berfield, a former deputy secretary of the Florida Department of Health and state Representative from Clearwater, has been appointed Vice President of Government and Community Affairs for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Following her work for the state, Berfield served as Business Strategy and Development Contractor for the Florida branch of Primerica and Director of Government Affairs for Tampa-based Wellcare Health Plans. Her duties included developing and implementing multiyear business plans, building and maintaining collaborative relationships and providing strategic counsel in the government relations arena.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBYING REGISTRATIONS

Brian BallardChristopher Hansen, Ballard Partners: Eastern Florida State College Foundation

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Town of Lake Park

Chr CarmodyRobert Stuart, GrayRobinson: RB Jai-alai, LLC

Jon CostelloGary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Neurology Diagnosis & Applied Solutions, Inc.

Pete Dunbar, Martha EdenfieldBrittany FinkbeinerCari Roth, Dean Mead: City of Holmes Beach

Kimberly Fernandes, Kelly Kronenberg: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Chris Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Patients for Fair Compensation, Inc

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Transdev North America, Inc

Brecht Heuchan, The Labrador Companies: Waterford Institute

Kari Hicks, Sunshine State Consultants: Mint Organics

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Florida Power & Light Company

Douglas Mannheimer, Broad and Cassel: U.S. Submergent Technologies, LLC

Robert Spottswood, Baker & Hostetler LLP: American Resort Development Association

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: GCM Contracting Solutions, Inc.

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

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY BUFFET MENU – For first day of Session, the Governors Club offers an All-American buffet menu: KC steak soup, egg salad, macaroni salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, fried chicken, meatloaf with brown gravy, garlic Yukon mashed potatoes, glazed carrots and green beans.

THE GROVE MUSEUM SET TO OPEN via Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat – It’s taken nearly eight years in the 21st century to turn the antebellum mansion into a state-operated museum. But visitors should find the wait worthwhile. Following a thoughtful and assiduous restoration, The Grove, opens this week to the public – fulfilling the intention of its longtime owners, the late Florida Gov. LeRoy Collins and his wife, Mary Call Collins. The Grove’s grand opening is this coming Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will be guided tours of the two-story brick mansion, music performances, children’s games and food trucks. Following the grand opening, The Grove will be open to the public four days a week (Wed-Sat). Admission is free.

‘HAMILTON’ THE MUSICAL COMING TO TAMPA via Francis McMorris of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – The much-heralded Broadway production is coming to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for the 2018-2019 season. Season ticket holders for this year’s Best of Broadway Tampa Bay season are guaranteed seats to the musical when renewing for the 2018-2019 season. However, they must renew their subscription by the deadline in order to guarantee those seats. “Even though we’ve had big shows like ‘Wicked’ and ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ this is by far the biggest,” said Straz Center CEO and President Judy Lisi of the show. “It is absolutely a phenomenon.”

AFTER NEARLY 50 YEARS IN NEWS, MIKE DEESON ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT via Florida Politics – “I know this will come as a surprise to many of my friends in Tampa Bay,” Deeson says in a Facebook post, “but I have decided to retire from Channel 10 effective today.” Deeson, named one of the INFLUENCE Magazine’s top 100 Florida influencers in 2015, will use the time to “put more effort into many of other projects I have been trying to juggle while working full time … Maybe I’ll even improve my golf game.” He explains that he had been thinking about retiring for a while “especially because of the changing landscape of TV news.” As for his seemingly sudden announcement, Deeson says he “didn’t want the long goodbye tour,” instead “ripping off the bandage” and go forward immediately. “My nature is to come to a conclusion and act on it quickly without looking back,” he says.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — As the Florida Legislature begins its 60-day session, Trimmel Gomes previews some of the controversial issues on the latest episode of The Rotunda. As the White House conducts its review of America’s foreign policy towards Cuba, Gomes documents his travels to the Communist-run Island as Cubans share their views on proposed policy changes. Plus, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum sits down for a one-on-one interview about his bid for governor in 2018. Plus, University of South Florida Political Scientist Susan McManus provides analysis on Gillum’s early start in what is expected to be a crowded field of candidates.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Rep. Joe Geller and Rochelle Koff, who writes about food and dining for INFLUENCE Magazine and on her blog, Tallahassee Table.

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Joe Gruters voices support for incentives programs in op-ed

Sarasota Republican Rep. Joe Gruters voiced his support for state economic development arms Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida in an op-ed published Tuesday.

Gruters said the two organizations are “effective tools helping us to compete with other states to bring jobs and investments home to benefit our communities,” and that he “cannot support a proposal to slash funding for these organizations that would cripple our state’s ability to compete for jobs.”

“We cannot unilaterally disarm,” he said. “Thousands of Florida jobs depend on us doing the right thing.”

The two organizations, along with a slew of other incentive programs, have been targeted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran and other lawmakers during the ramp up to the 2017 Legislative Session, with the top House Republican calling the programs little more than “corporate welfare.”

The House has advanced a bill, HB 7005, that would kill Enterprise Florida and strip the VISIT Florida budget down to $25 million. That bill is currently ready for a floor vote in the House.

Gruters, currently in his first term, is on a different track.

Last month he filed HB 889, which he says calls for “strict transparency and accountability requirements” for state economic development programs and “ensures that Florida’s tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, without hamstringing our vital job-creating organizations.”

“As long as I have a voice in the Florida House, I will continue to fight for jobs for Florida families, using every tool at our disposal,” he wrote. “All Floridians deserve a good paying job and the opportunity to support their families. Embracing the strong value our economic development organizations provide is an essential step toward making that a reality.”

Gruters’ bill would impose tougher ethics requirements, such as disallowing board members in economic development organizations drawing up deals that would directly benefit them or a family member. The bill would also apply more stringent public records requirements on incentives deals.

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Why does Florida use pass/fail for health inspections, not actual grades?

After a local news outlet reported seven Tampa Bay-area Publix grocery stores failed health inspections, the Department of Agriculture pulled all pass/fail grades and inspections from the online database.

“I believe that the pass/fail system is unclear because if it’s a failure, why is it still open?” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam explained to WFTS-TV.

Which raises the question: Why is the state using a pass/fail instead of a simple grading system?

Most regions use either a letter or number grade for restaurant and other health department ratings; restaurants in California and New York are often seen posting “A” scores in full view of patrons and passersby.

Putnam finally decided to kill pass/fail for grocery stores, bakeries and convenience store, which Wendy Ryan of WFTS suggests could be linked to $354,000 in campaign contributions he received from Publix over the past two decades, including flying on the Publix personal jet in 2015.

“Of course not,” Putnam said when asked if the two were connected, “any more than anyone else’s contributions influence. You have to follow the law and do what’s right by the people.”

“I think we need to have a grading scale that is more reflective of the conditions in that store,” he said, “so that the consumers are aware and can make their shopping decisions accordingly.”

It doesn’t help that a transition to a new system will make it difficult for the average consumer to know exactly what is happening at a location. For example, if there happens to be a serious violation, re-inspection or some other discipline, Ryan says, there is now way to know since the state posts no grades anymore.

Nevertheless, Putnam promises the new system will be better. How could it be any worse?

“That’s why the pass/fail system is a failure because an industry leader [which Putnam openly admits is Publix], who has highly trained and highly qualified, nationally renowned food safety standards ought not be mislabeled based on minor infractions.”

The problem is, under the pass/fail system, those Publix violations were not simply “minor infractions.” A grade score could give a better idea of what is going on.

In November, WFTS found through state inspection records that the Publix stores failing in 2016 had significant “priority violations” – including rodent droppings, dangerous food temperatures and other food safety issues.

So how soon will this new (and hopefully improved) grading system be in place?

Putnam’s response: “I’m very aggressive about this, and I’m pushing them to come up with something very quickly.”

Just be glad we aren’t grading Putnam’s performance here – pass, fail or somewhere in between.

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Florida For Care ‘web of influence’ raises questions, concerns about recreational marijuana

Florida for Care, the group that led the effort to pass Amendment 2 last year, continues to insist its support for expanding medical marijuana in Florida is in no way related to recreational use.

For marijuana opponents, however, that simply doesn’t cut it.

Their claim is that Florida for Care is trying to find a pathway to recreational use instead of helping those patients who need medical marijuana.

And as justification for their concerns, some point to the Florida for Care website, which features several sponsors looking to encourage marijuana beyond just medical purposes.

Businesses, industry groups, and individuals seeking to expand medical marijuana laws in Florida are all linked to organizations supporting recreational use of marijuana, and all are looking to profit from the industry or make access to cannabis easier.

And at the center of this “web of influence” is Florida for Care, as the main organizing group pushing for expanded marijuana access, including legalization for recreational use, in Florida.

As such, critics of expanding medical marijuana in the state have three questions for Florida For Care.

The first: If Florida for Care has no interest in promoting recreational marijuana, why would the group actively promote a social media platform devoted to just that?

On the Florida for Care website is MassRoots, listed as one of the organization’s “best sponsors.”

MassRoots is a social media platform for marijuana users and was founded for the purpose of allowing individuals to advocate for recreational use in a “semi-anonymous” fashion.

MassRoots had been removed from the Apple app store for violating the company’s policy prohibiting all cannabis apps, only later to be reinstated after pressure from the National Cannabis Association and The ArcView Group.

The next question concerns the Drug Policy Alliance, also considered one of Florida for Care’s best supporters.

The Alliance has actively publicized its involvement in the campaign to legalize recreational use in California. On the Alliance website, the group claims its efforts “paved the way” for “recent victories” in legalization in Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C.

This leads critics to ask: is a connection between the Alliance and Florida for Care actually a vehicle for efforts to, once again, promote recreational use in Florida?

Finally, another of Florida for Care’s chief supporters is Greenspoon Marder, a South Florida law firm with a burgeoning cannabis practice.

With a primary office in Fort Lauderdale, Greenspoon Marder has expanded in the past year to include locations in Denver, San Diego and Las Vegas, all key areas in the expanding cannabis industry.

On its own website, Greenspoon Marder highlights recreational use becoming a major part of its practice. Firm co-founder Gerry Greenspoon has even launched the Organization for Safe Cannabis Regulation (OSCR), a separate group aimed at expanding the marijuana industry in Florida.

This tacit endorsement begs the third question: If Greenspoon Marder stands to profit from recreational marijuana use — beyond that of simply expanding medical marijuana — and it already supports recreational use in other states, isn’t it reasonable to assume they would push licensing to open the door for recreational use?

While the Florida for Care effort has been primarily geared toward helping those suffering from debilitating illnesses, these three questions about its web of influence raise eyebrows as to what is the real end game for marijuana in Florida.

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