Peter Schorsch - 6/2505 - 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.

Is there a deal to get out of Tallahassee on time?

Quick hit: With hours left in the Special Session, rumors of a final deal abound.

Details are scarce, but one Senator close to negotiations said “there could be a path to get our work completed today,” putting it at a 60 percent probability.

The Senate could get its money for hospitals, but the House will dictate how to spend it.

Moreover, medical marijuana implementation is expected to pass without incident.

A deal on education funding is all but signed off on by Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

What we don’t know: The fate of the Senate’s veto overrides.

As the AP’s Gary Fineout tweeted, “One possible out – but risky – is to add the higher ed vetoes the Senate wants to the school funding bill. But Scott could veto again … Unless of course @FLSenate can get @FLGovScott office to assure them that he won’t veto the higher ed projects a 2nd time.”

Sunburn for 6.9.17 – Session collapsing; Pot bill rolling; Supreme Court dishing; Grimsley raising coin; Airbnb booming; Shark biting

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

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

— SESSION ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE AS GOP LEADERS FEUD —

Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which has been wracked by feuds among its top leaders for the last several years, is in danger of ending a three-day special session without restoring billions in money that public schools use to pay for day-to-day operations, reports Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy of the Associated Press.

A few days ago it appeared that Scott had worked out an agreement with GOP leaders, but Senate President Joe Negron insisted he never signed off on the deal.

“We’re not just going to rubber stamp an agreement that two parties made without our priorities being taken into account,” Negron said.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has so far refused to go along with an override of Scott’s vetoes or set aside more money for hospitals.

House Speaker Rep. Richard Corcoran listens to Rep. Ralph Massullo on the floor of the House of Representatives Thursday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

“We would be the first Republican Legislature that overrode a Republican governor on pork-barrel spending. Find me that example. I don’t think it exists,” Corcoran said.

If legislators don’t act then public schools will lose out on more than $11.4 billion in state funding that it supposed to start trickling down later this summer.

“Negron teed off on ‘fake narrative’ that Senate signed off on Scott-Corcoran budget deal” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – In a stunning departure from his calm demeanor, an irritated Negron on Thursday denounced the “fake narrative” that he struck a deal over the now-imploding special session to fix school funding. Negron didn’t name names, but those close to him say he started to grow irate once Corcoran suggested that the Senate leader wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain …

— Part of Negron’s frustration is rooted in the way he runs the Senate. He doesn’t apply too much pressure to members and often lets them vote their will. As a result, it’s hard to promise votes for any deal — especially one involving Corcoran, whom many senators have begun to despise because they think he has ridden roughshod over the upper chamber.

— In uncharacteristic fashion, Negron pulled back the curtain on how the Senate works internally. He mentioned, for instance, that his office did not approve Senate quotes for the Scott’s press release last Friday announcing the key issues of the special session. More remarkably, he said he wanted to keep the Senate’s name off the special session proclamation.

— “The mood of the [Senate] is that we want to do what we think is right for the people we represent, and we are not going to be told what to do,” Senate budget chief Jack Latvala said Wednesday.

Sen. Jack Latvala reacts as Sen. Gary Farmer tries to make a point in a back corner on the floor of the Senate Thursday. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Was there a strategy behind the Senate vetoes of $75 million in higher education overrides?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Sen. Bill Galvano, the head of the Senate higher education budget, said that the governor’s vetoes seemed to be “an inordinate amount of vetoes” to universities and colleges that betray the Senate’s goal of shoring up universities and colleges this session. The move appears destined to be essentially ignored by the House at this point. So, was there a rhyme or reason for which projects were chosen? Were they targeted projects, intended to put pressure on the House to persuade Speaker Corcoran to reconsider his opposition to overriding vetoes? The answer is “not really,” according to Senate sources. The selection of projects was handled by Senate President Negron‘s office and appear to be based on “whoever had juice.” “We’re feeling left out in Jacksonville,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district was left off the override list.

Funding for HB 7069 left alone after Senate backs off” via The Miami Herald – Florida senators wanting a second crack at stopping a contentious $419 million education reform bill that narrowly passed the Legislature last month were unsuccessful on Thursday in defunding it to redirect the dollars to general K-12 public school spending. Broward County Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer led the charge to undo HB 7069, after Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons — earlier passionately defiant — backed off his plans to force lawmakers to revisit the legislation during a three-day special session, even though it’s not on the Legislature’s restricted agenda.

– “Deal or no deal? Senate fundraiser makes session extension—complicated” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

— POT BILL ON FAST TRACK DESPITE ‘DYNAMITE’ —

The Special Session’s medical marijuana legislation is speeding toward passage.

For example, the Senate has managed to keep the bill clear of all but technical amendments.

It rejected, on a 15-21 vote, a proposal by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes to take a more laissez-faire approach, abandoning the vertical integration required under the proposed legislation, and allowing people to smoke their medicine.

“This bill allows specialization. This bill allows the market to work. It works in everything else,” Brandes said.

Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, opposed the amendment, arguing patients are more concerned with safety and efficacy than free-market principles.

In addition, it could blow up the legislative effort.

“If we were to accept this amendment, we would be throwing dynamite into the middle of the entire process,” Bradley said.

Another amendment by Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, to allow patients to smoke failed on a 14-20 vote.

Sen. Jeff Clemens questions Sen. Rob Bradley about his medical marijuana implementation bill on the floor of the Senate. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Clemens said he’s never gotten a good explanation from county sheriffs who oppose allowing patients to smoke.

“Their response in public was, ‘We just think it’s unhealthy’ ” — an “absurd” response, he said.

The real reason?

“All I can surmise is that, when you see somebody walking down the street, and they’re smoking marijuana, you don’t want to determine whether they have a (ID) card. It’s just easier to bust them for it,” Clemens said.

Both chambers should vote out their respective bills today (Friday).

“Senate sets up its medical marijuana bill for a vote” via Florida Politics – Sen. Bradley returned to the floor to explain the bill and take questions from fellow senators. The legislation allows “edibles,” “vaping,” drops and pills but not smoking. The issue of whether to allow smoking continues to pit Republicans, who oppose it, against Democrats, who support it. Bradley said he was unmoved by arguments that the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year allows smoking. The amendment’s language refers to smoking but does not explicitly permit it. “If the drafters (of the amendment) wanted smoking to be a constitutional right, they should have said ‘smoking is a constitutional right,’” Bradley told colleagues. He added that medical professionals agree “the taking of smoke into your lungs is an inherently unhealthy act.” For now, the Special Session is still scheduled to end Friday.

“House beats back effort to allow smoking of medical marijuana” via Florida Politics A change to the Special Session’s medical marijuana legislation that would have allowed patients to smoke it was handily defeated Thursday. The amendment offered by Rep. Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, was killed on the House floor by a vote of 37-71. “If a doctor and a patient determine that (smoking) is the best way to alleviate pain, or whatever it might be, then that should be left up to them,” he told reporters after the House’s daily session. “In any doctor-patient relationship, there is no one-size-fits-all.”

At left, Rep. Ray Rodrigues confers with Rep. Brad Drake before introducing his medical marijuana implementing bill on the floor of the House of Representatives. Photo credit: Phil Sears.

Former lawmaker’s connections raise questions about marijuana bill” via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Critics worry that the Legislature is on track to lock in place a system composed of a small number of politically connected companies, so it’s noteworthy that the bill includes a provision awarding one of those new licenses to a grower tied to lobbyist and former Sarasota lawmaker Doug Holder. Sources say Holder has told them that he is trying to position himself – or an entity he controls – to have an ownership interest in a company that would profit off the medical marijuana industry. A company Holder has been consulting for, Sun Bulb, would obtain a medical marijuana license under the bill before the Legislature right now. Holder asked to have any questions submitted in writing. Responding through text message, he said that, “I do not have an ownership interest with any nursery that has or is seeking a license to grow medical marijuana” and added that “my relationship with SunBulb is in the area of business development seeking interested investors or partners.”

“Whodunit? or, How did citrus get into Special Session medical marijuana bill?” via Florida PoliticsEveryone loves a mystery, so how did a provision to help concerns with underused or shuttered citrus factories get into this year’s medical marijuana legislation? Language in both bills (SB 8-A, HB 5A) would give preferential treatment for up to two growing licenses to applicants who can show “they own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses, and will use or convert the facility or facilities for the processing of marijuana.” Most recently, the Senate bill was approved by the Health Policy Committee on Thursday morning. Bill sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said he didn’t know where the verbiage came from. “I’m not aware of any specific companies,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Sen. Perry Thurston and Sen. Darryl Rouson confer during a Senate Health Policy Committee meeting to take up a medical marijuana implementing bill Thursday in the Knott Building in Tallahassee. The senators are concerned that none of the original seven licensees are black farmers. Photo credit: Phil Sears

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— STATEWIDE — 

Supreme Court sends Bessman Okafor sentence back, Scott reassigns it from Aramis Ayala” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The move came with swift intervention from state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, who asked the governor to keep the case from going back to Ayala, who has vowed to not prosecute death penalties. The governor concurred, reassigning it to neighboring State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit, as he has done with 23 previous first-degree murder cases in the past three months. “I am grateful,” said Cortes, a Republican who has been a stern critic of Ayala’s declaration and how she arrived at her decision. Okafor’s murder conviction stands, according to the Supreme Court. The court threw out his death penalty and ordered another penalty phase trial.

“Supreme Court strikes down limit on medical malpractice awards” via Florida PoliticsIn a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday agreed with a lower court and said limiting certain damages in personal-injury medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional. The ruling split along the usual lines, with the progressive-leaning justices concurring, and the conservatives—now including new Justice C. Alan Lawson—in dissent. The Legislature established $500,000 limits, or caps, on what are called “non­-economic” damages for such cases. The Supreme Court previously ruled they don’t apply in medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death. The 4th District Court of Appeal had extended that decision to personal injury cases.

The Florida Medical Association is disappointed with the ruling, says FMA president David Becker, “but given past decisions, it was not unexpected. The FMA will continue to do all it can to ensure that the costs of the medical liability system do not unfairly impact physicians ability to practice medicine.”

Corrine Brown’s attorney files motion for new trial” via Lynnsey Gardner of News 4 JaxJames Smith had also talked about filing a motion to interview Juror No. 3, the juror who told the I-TEAM that the verdicts might not have been reached if one of the jurors hadn’t told Judge Timothy Corrigan something that got juror No. 13 removed from the panel. But Smith said after reviewing case law, nothing juror No. 3 could tell his team would be admissible in court to invalidate the verdict, but he continued to call the comments from juror No. 3 “disturbing.” “It just doesn’t look like we have a legal avenue to be able to get it in,” Smith said. “So rather than filing a motion where we know we have no chance of winning, we’ll simply move on and pursue the motions that we have that are viable.” Brown is having financial difficulties and hasn’t paid a chunk of her legal bills, sources tell the I-TEAM. Those bills will continue to climb as Brown goes through the appeals process.

“State athletics panel wins case over football field prayer” via Florida Politics – A federal judge ruled this week for the Florida High School Athletic Association, which was sued by Cambridge Christian School in Tampa. Association officials didn’t allow a spoken prayer over the public address system before a 2015 game at an Orlando stadium. The judge disagreed with the school that its constitutional free-speech rights had been violated. To have allowed the prayer would have amounted to a state endorsement, since the Association controlled the loudspeakers, of a religious message. Noting that players gathered on the field for unbroadcast praying, the ruling added that the school was “not denied alternate means of engaging in communal prayer.”

State year-end test results show small fluctuations, with strongest growth in math” via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – The percentages of students passing the tests remained overall stable in language arts, math and science. But there was notable improvement among high school students passing the Algebra I end-of-course exam, which is a graduation requirement, and the Algebra II end-of course exam, which lawmakers have slated to eliminate beginning next year. The Algebra I exam has always had high success rates in middle schools, where the students who take the course are advanced. This year, 89 percent of younger children taking the test passed it, up from 88 percent a year ago. The students who remain to take Algebra I in high school have always lagged behind, and this year proved no different. Just 42 percent of high schoolers passed the exam this year. However, that’s up from 36 percent a year earlier, indicating that high schools are working to overcome that gap and improve the course.

Miami Beach voters will decide whether to limit alcohol sales on Ocean Drive” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald – Following shootings during Memorial Day weekend, Miami Beach commissioners unanimously agreed to let voters decide whether to limit alcohol sales at outdoor venues along Ocean Drive. A question will appear on the November ballot asking voters if the city should adopt an ordinance ending alcohol sales in outdoor venues at 2 a.m.instead of 5 a.m. Indoor establishments that are completely enclosed and located entirely within hotels would be exempt. The vote came after last week’s shootings in South Beach, including the fatal shooting of Miami-Dade resident Ladarian T. Phillips during an argument over a parking space. The violence reignited a debate about the state of the South Beach’s entertainment district.

Zika concerns arise after heavy rainstorms” via Caitlin Randle of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – … leading to more mosquito spraying in four Broward cities. The county’s mosquito control division will spray portions of Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise and Lauderhill for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is the variety known to carry and transmit the Zika virus. The spraying is a preventative measure as there are no active cases of Zika in Broward County. One local case of Zika was reported in August of last year.

— WHAT MANY PEOPLE GET WRONG ABOUT FLOODING IN SOUTH FLORIDA —

As South Florida experienced torrential rain this week, with more to come, many communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee watched the big lake rise. From drought conditions Last week, the lake was down to 10 feet. Rains pushed that number up to 11.2 feet. That leaves what Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News calls “breathing room” in Lake O.

It’s unlikely the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is will open lock gates before lake level reaches 15-foot-6.

“But something else has begun to happen,” Smith writes. “In some easily flooded areas, canals have risen farther above sea level than the lake.”

What the water table shows are inflows to Lake O from the Martin County side — the St. Lucie Canal — because the lake level is lower than the canal water flowing in the from the east.

During periods of discharges, the number would be positive, but because water is actually flowing INTO Lake O, it’s negative.

The point is, many in the media got it wrong. They followed the Sierra Club’s lead, claiming – as they did in an NBC2 story – farmers were back pumping polluted stormwater into the lake to save flooded crops.

As Smith notes: Farmers have no say in the decision to back pump; they have no authority to turn on the pumps themselves and the South Florida Water Management District, which is in charge of flood control, isn’t concerned with keeping agricultural fields dry — they back pump when communities south of Lake Okeechobee — and the people in them — are flooded.

— DENISE GRIMSLEY TOPS $875K IN BID FOR AG. COMMISSIONER —

Sen. Denise Grimsley has more than $800,000 for her bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Grimsley’s campaign announced it raised a total of $71,000 in the days following the end of the regular 2017 Legislative Session through May 31. That brings her total raised to $875,000 — $386,600 for her official campaign and $488,500 for Saving Florida’s Heartland, her political committee.

“I am honored by the support our campaign has received from Floridians all over the state. We are working hard every day talking to voters about the vital importance of agriculture to our state’s economic health and the need for continued conservative leadership from our next Commissioner,” she said in a statement.

“With over two million Florida agriculture-related jobs, we need a proven fighter to carry the Republican banner next November and hold this seat,” she continued. “With over 600 donors and more joining our campaign every day, our message of supporting farmers and ranchers, defending our Second Amendment rights, and fighting to protect families and seniors is resonating with Floridians from the Panhandle to the Keys.”

Grimsley faces Rep. Matt Caldwell and Paul Paulson in the Republican race to replace Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits.

— MORE NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Gwen Graham calls for gun safety measures in advance of Pulse anniversary” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel — Graham proposed new gun safety measures in the wake of Monday’s mass shooting outside Orlando and the approaching one-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting. “A year after the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history — after the murder of 49 young people — Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature haven’t done a thing to curb gun violence in our state,” she said in a statement. Graham called for comprehensive universal background checks on all gun sales “to stop criminals and terrorists from purchasing guns.” She also proposed: a ban on large-capacity magazines; a requirement that abusers surrender firearms when a protective order is issued against them; and giving law enforcement “the tools they need to prevent those with serious mental illness from purchasing or keeping firearms.”

First on #FlaPol – “Baxter Troutman entering competitive Ag. Commissioner race” via Bill Rufty of SaintPetersBlogThe grandson of the late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate, Ben Hill Griffin Jr., Troutman will enter the competitive race to succeed Putnam. “I will file either Friday or Monday at the latest,” Troutman said. “This isn’t a decision I came to lightly and it isn’t a step to advance to a higher position up the career ladder.” 

Assignment editors: Jeremy Ring is scheduled to address annual convention of the Florida Professional Firefighters at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota.

Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell weighing bid for Carlos Curbelo’s seat” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami HeraldDebbie Mucarsel-Powell, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Republican state Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016, was in Washington on Thursday to meet with party leaders and members of Congress. “I met with various members of Congress who are extremely concerned about the direction our country is in, they are encouraging me to take a serious look at it,” Mucarsel-Powell said. “One of the reasons I’m considering it is that I’m fully committed to the people in the district. The horrible healthcare vote that Curbelo took a few weeks ago shows that they don’t have a member in Congress. He doesn’t represent the district.” Mucarsel-Powell met with Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel along with Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell and Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark.

Equality Florida backs Annette Taddeo in SD 40 — Equality Florida Action PAC announced Thursday it was throwing its support behind Taddeo, a Miami-Dade Democrat, in the race to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. “We are proud to endorse a true champion for equality in Senate District 40, replacing one of the most anti-LGBTQ legislators in Florida’s history,” said Hannah Willard, public policy director for Equality Florida. “We are eager to work with our ally and friend Annette Taddeo in Tallahassee, and we know she will tirelessly advocate for the best interest of all her constituents, including LGBTQ Floridians.” Taddeo said she was honored by the early support of Equality Florida Action PAC. “I am a longtime Ally of the LGBTQ community, not only because it’s the right thing to be, but because it’s personal to me,” she said in a statement. “As a teenager, I witnessed the injustices my sister confronted as she came out, and saw some in the family I love be ashamed, more worried about appearances than my sister’s happiness or love. I stood up for her then and will continue fighting for equality until everyone understands that love is love. I look forward to taking this fight to the Florida Senate.”

Republican attacking opponent for Cuba travel has himself worked with Cuban exporter” via Jerry Iannelli of the Miami New TimesJose Mallea once worked as a lobbyist for (Ariel) Pereda and later chaired a fundraising group founded by the businessman who regularly deals with Havana. Mallea’s work for Pereda was perfectly legal, but it raises a serious question of just how strongly Mallea believes that traveling to Cuba or spending money on the island “feeds the dictatorship.” After all, Pereda’s work has a much bigger impact on the Cuban economy than a 29-year-old who took some engagement photos there.

Rick Baker raises more than half-a-million dollars in May for mayoral bid” via Florida Politics – After just three weeks on the campaign trail, Baker‘s campaign is reporting that it raised an eye-opening $553,174 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee. Baker’s haul is a record-breaking amount for any campaign during the six elections the city of St. Petersburg has conducted under its current strong-mayor form of government. Baker’s campaign says it received money from 651 contributors, of which nearly half gave $25 of less.

— MOVEMENTS —

How Brian Ballard is turning close ties to Trump into big business” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Trump pledged to “drain the swamp,” but Ballard is flourishing in a city where access is the ultimate commodity. “It’s luck,” he said in an interview from his new office on a recent afternoon, a Diet Coke before him and the TV tuned to Fox News. … Having already opened offices across Florida, including Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Ballard now is has formed partnerships with firms in New York and Chicago and is exploring Austin and Los Angeles.

Personnel note: Jennifer Hinson joins Rutledge Ecenia – Most recently, Hinson served as Senior Director of Hospital Contracting for WellCare Health Plans, where she had overall responsibility for WellCare’s Florida hospital network. She brings extensive knowledge in health care law and policy through private and public-sector experience. Throughout her career, Hinson has worked on a wide range of issues in health care law, and policy and litigation.

Personnel note: Zoe Linafelt joins Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers Linafelt leaves Sachs Media Group to become the statewide organization’s communications manager, reporting to Chief Communications Officer Molly Kellogg-Schmauch. Linafelt has over seven years of experience in communications. “We are thrilled to have someone of Zoe’s skill and background join us at FCCC,” Kellogg-Schmauch said. “She brings a wealth of experience in strategic planning, writing and campaign measurement, and will be a strong addition to the team.” Linafelt received her undergraduate degree in English from Florida State University. She is an active member of the Capital Chapter of FPRA, currently serving as the director of membership.

New and renewed lobby registrations: Rebecca Roman, Adams St. Advocates: Unisys Corporation

— WEEKEND TV —

Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: James will discuss “1967 Tampa Race Riots & The Taking of The Central Ave. Community” with documentary filmmaker Travis R. Bell, professor at the University of South Florida Zimmerman School of Mass Communications & Marketing.

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 Dr. Susan MacManus, USF professor of Government and International Affairs; reporter Joe Henderson; Democratic National Committee Member Alan Clendenin and Republican Party activist Leonard Mead.

In Focus with Allison Walker-Torres on Bay News 9: A discussion on current and proposed gun legislation with Democratic State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando, Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood and Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Angel Santiago, Jr.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando and Bay News 9 in Tampa/St. Pete: Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto talks proposed gun legislation and reform introduced in Congress. PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about mass shootings and current gun legislation.

Orlando Democrat Darren Soto talks guns and gun control bills in Congress on Spectrum’s Sunday talker Political Connections.

Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO: Friday night guests include author and activist Michael Eric Dyson; performer Ice Cube; former NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory; former Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly, and Symone Sanders, who served as national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will be speaking with Feeding Florida director Robin Safley.

This Week in Jacksonville with Kent Justice on Channel 4 WJXT: This week, Justice speaks with Jacksonville City Council member Danny Becton, Duval County Public School Chair Paula Wright and School Board member Becki Couch. Also appearing is Teri Chenot, associate professor at the Keigwin School of Nursing /Brooks Rehabilitation College of Health Care Sciences at Jacksonville University.

— GRADUATION SEASON MEANS BIG BUCKS FOR AIRBNB —

Floridians traveling for the college graduation took advantage of vacation rental options in a big way, according to new data from Airbnb.

The data showed local Airbnb host communities expanded lodging capacities and offered affordable rental rates for visiting families. The report found guests booking rooms in Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes more than doubled the Gainesville and Tallahassee around University of Florida and Florida A&M graduations.

“Home sharing provides significant economic value by expanding lodging capacity during commencement weekends for Florida communities that are home to large universities,” Tom Martinelli, policy director of Airbnb Florida, stated in a news release.

“As a Gator alumnus, I can certainly relate to my family having to book Gainesville hotel rooms a year in advance of my graduation, as is the case in college communities throughout the state,” he recalled. “We’re very encouraged to see how our platform has been utilized to provide affordable lodging accommodations for college families during stretches when hotels traditionally reach peak occupancy.”

The report noted 290 Airbnb-marketed vacation rental homes hosted 752 guests during the week of UF’s late April commencement. That’s 136 percent more than rental activity than the previous week.

In Tallahassee, 290 Airbnb vacation rental homes hosted 444 guests during FAMU’s graduation week, a 138 percent increase. The following week they hosted 637 guests for FSU’s commencement week, but since the previous week was FAMU’s graduation, the increase was just 35 percent. Tallahassee also was hosting the last two weeks of the Florida Legislative Session during those weeks.

Jacksonville’s 350 vacation rental home hosts saw 759 guests during the University of North Florida’s graduation in late April, a 59 percent increase over the previous week.

In Pensacola, 230 hosts had 433 guests during University of West Florida’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week; while 230 hosts had 433 guests during UWF’s commencement week in early May, a 43 percent increase over the previous week.

— ALOE —

Man attacked by shark while spearfishing” via Timothy O’Hara of the Florida Keys News – Despite being bit by a shark and treated at the hospital, Key West resident Parker Simpson will return to spearfishing off the Florida Keys as soon as possible. Simpson was spearfishing some 6 miles off Stock Island when he was bit in the leg by a reef shark, Simpson said. Simpson and friends were freediving and shooting fish in roughly 50 feet of water. Simpson lost more than two pints of blood. He later said he spent four hours at a hospital.

 Happy birthday to the Ambassador of Tallahassee, Jay Revell. Celebrating this weekend are Nick Iarossi, Amy Farrington, and Mike Fasano.

Rick Baker’s personal finances a mix of frugal spending and long-term investments

Rick Baker, St. Petersburg’s once and possibly future mayor, isn’t just a political conservative but a financial one, too. 

That’s the picture coming out of the financial disclosures he recently submitted as part of candidate qualifying.

Baker, who currently serves as president of The Edwards Group, is worth $4,376,275, according to his Form 6.

He earned $186,991 in 2016 working for Bill Edwards, the developer and philanthropist, who hired Baker away from his job at the University of South Florida — St. Petersburg to oversee several important projects Edwards was involved in downtown St. Petersburg.

Considering the return on investment Edwards has realized on some of the projects he and Baker have worked on — they flipped the One St. Petersburg property in 2014, making a tidy $5 million profit — paying Baker less than 200K a year is a helluva deal.

Baker also earned $1,626 from book royalties from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Baker is the author of, among other titles, Seamless City, a policy wonk’s memoir about his time running the city.

Much of Baker’s wealth is parked in his investment portfolio, part of which he jointly holds with his wife, Joyce. Together, they have more than $2 million invested in an assortment of funds held with Raymond James & Associates.

Individually, Baker also has an investment account with Raymond James, a handful of active checking accounts with several different banks, and three significant IRA and/or retirement accounts.

After serving almost nine years as mayor, Baker has $142,027 in a City of St. Petersburg retirement account, as well as $124,9343 in a deferred compensation account from the city. He has another $151,752 in a retirement account based on his time at the USF St. Pete.

Baker also has more than a half-a-million dollars in two IRA accounts held at Raymond James.

Baker listed no liabilities, such as mortgages or credit cards.

The assessed value of Baker’s home in Old Northeast is $370,426, although it’s likely he could fetch nearly twice that if he put it on the market. He also owns a condominium on North Shore Drive. A spokesperson for the campaign said the condo belonged to Baker’s mother-in-law who recently died.

Despite his multimillion dollar net worth, Baker’s disclosed just $61,000 in household goods and personal effects, such as cars, furnishings, jewelry and other household items.

If you figure Baker owns two used cars worth, say, $15,000 each, that $61K figure doesn’t leave a lot of room for big screen TVs or expensive watches.

Baker does list that he has $10,000 in cash in a safety deposit box.

Undoubtedly, that is Baker’s rainy day fund.

Rick Baker raises more than half-a-million dollars in May for mayoral bid

After just three weeks on the campaign trail, former Mayor Rick Baker‘s campaign is reporting that it raised an eye-opening $553,174 in contributions to his campaign and Seamless Florida, an affiliated political committee.

Baker is challenging incumbent Rick Kriseman, who is seeking a second term as the Sunshine City’s mayor.

Baker’s haul is a record-breaking amount for any campaign during the six elections the city of St. Petersburg has conducted under its current strong-mayor form of government.

Baker’s campaign says it received money from 651 contributors, of which nearly half gave $25 dollars of less.

“Whether it’s five dollars or five hundred dollars, I’m honored to have the support of so many of my neighbors,” said Baker. “The overwhelming support from contributors is an endorsement of our vision for a seamless city and our laser-like focus on fixing things right here in St. Petersburg.”

Kriseman’s camp had yet to report its fundraising efforts for May, but last month the campaign and an associated Committee combined to raise over $100,000 in April, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to nearly $400,000.

Kriseman’s camp reported Thursday that it and an associated committee raised over $110,000 fin May, bringing the total Kriseman for Mayor has raised to over $500,000.

“We’ve raised money at a comparative level,” said Kriseman campaign manager Jacob Smith. “St. Pete deserves better than Rick Baker being silent on climate change while spending so much time raising money. But his silence on climate change is fine with his extremely partisan, right-wing donors.”

According to a release from Baker’s campaign, roughly half of all individual contributors to Baker’s campaign, who are registered Florida voters, were registered Democrats and independents.

The Delegation for 6.8.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

This week’s biggest news events could have long-term effects

Much has happened since our last publication. While our team took a break, events in Washington and around the world did not.

Tops among the serious events was London suffering yet another terrorist attack (not long after The Delegation publisher and his family had walked on the London Bridge). Also creating a firestorm was Kathy Griffin’s attempt at humor featuring the head of President Donald Trump, and Bill Maher’s use of the n-word during an interview with Republican Senator Ben Sasse.

Dominating this week’s national news is Thursday’s much-anticipated appearance of former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Beginning early in the week, breathless cable news outlets ran countdown clocks until the moment Comey would put his right hand in the air and take the oath pledging to tell the truth. Washington bars are open for Comey hearing happy hours.

Comey’s answers will be parsed into succinct messages that both parties will turn into talking points supporting or condemning the president. Democrats want Comey to say Trump obstructed justice while Republicans want him to say whether or not Trump himself is under investigation.

Speaking of the leader of the free world, Trump’s detractors often shake their head at the way he operates, while supporters nod in the affirmative most of the same time (the Twitter missives are beginning to wear thin on conservatives). The president did not disappoint when, on the eve of Comey’s testimony, he chose that moment to nominate Comey’s successor, Christopher A. Wray.

As Comey was testifying on Thursday, across the pond, Great Britain was voting on whether to fire the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Theresa May. Thursday’s elections were called before the recent terror attacks, but they loom as events that could boost the Labour Party’s (progressive) chances for an upset. A Labour victory would affect U.S. and Great Britain foreign policy in a big way.

Whatever happens, Thursday will be a huge news day with long-term ramifications.

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

Sugar talks might hint at Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation strategy

Florida Crystals sugar barons Alfonso and José Fanjul, who contributed half a million dollars to the Trump inauguration, are hoping the new administration will take on one piece of President Barack Obama’s unfinished business – controlling imports of Mexican sugar.

As the New York Times reports, sugar interests have become a centerpiece of a contentious trade issue between the U.S. and Mexico. With the approaching deadline on a sugar import agreement, many looking at the negotiations for any hints of Washington’s approach to renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“In Mexico everybody is looking at the sugar agreement because it’s a thermometer of how things are going to be managed,” Mexico sugar chamber president Juan Cortina Gallardo told the Times. “It’s a politically sensitive and charged issue.”

The extended battle over a single product raises questions about how NAFTA negotiations could bog down if the Trump administration takes on too much at once. While talks with Mexico and Canada could begin by August, the administration has been silent about its long-term plans.

Airbnb hopes Trump leaves Americans free to travel to Cuba

With President Trump’s policy toward Cuba still unknown, the home-booking website Airbnb is taking pro-active measures to extoll the virtues of traveling to the island nation. Airbnb recently published a report showing Americans are joining other worldwide tourists in finding their way to Cuba in rather large numbers since President Obama began the process of normalizing relations in 2015.

According to the report, more than 560,000 guest arrivals into Cuban homes were recorded since April, 2015, when Airbnb launched in Cuba. Just in 2017, the average number of arrivals totals 70,000.

Over the past 25 months, guests paid more than $40 million to Cuban individuals for home rentals. Any change making travel more difficult would certainly affect the company’s bottom line.

“We’ve spoken with Democrats and Republicans and hope any policy changes support people-to-people diplomacy and the individual Cubans and their families who have been empowered by the chance to earn money and share their space, culture and community with travelers from around the world,” said Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas.

Hurricane season is here

Rubio asks Trump to relax regulations that hinder hurricane relief — With hurricane season officially underway, Sen. Marco Rubio is urging President Trump to make it easier to speed up hurricane relief efforts. Last week he wrote to the president asking for a thorough review of regulations that could be relaxed when disaster strikes in the name of helping victims.

“It is intolerable that in addition to confronting a natural disaster, people also need to navigate a complex web of excessive and overly burdensome federal regulations in the disaster’s wake,” wrote the Florida Republican. “Floridians are eager to see Washington, D.C. refocus and refine the government’s disaster relieve mission to ensure that meeting victims’ needs is always the immediate priority.”

Rubio provided examples including requiring the Veterans Administration “to fully enact the Veterans Choice Program reforms so that veterans living in rural areas” would have full access to medical care. He also mentioned areas where inter-agency cooperation can be improved and stressed the need for temporarily waiving “well-intentioned” rules that hinder relief efforts.

Rubio also asked Trump to “work with my office and the State of Florida” to address “any other regulatory burdens associated with federal disaster relief.”

Ross welcomes hurricane hunters to new home in Lakeland — With hurricane season officially underway, there was no better time for the Republican from Lakeland to welcome the hurricane hunter air operations to his hometown. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) new Aircraft Operation Center (AOC) facility is now officially a part of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Lakeland Linder won out over other suitors, including the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport. Lakeland, behind an aggressive presentation led by airport manager, Gene Conrad, and supported by Ross, was named the winner when NOAA made the final decision in November.

Members of the official party cut the ribbon on the new NOAA Aircraft Operation Center. (Photo via NOAA)

 “It is critically important to stay in our local area,” said Capt. Michael Silah, commanding officer of the air operations section. “They were aggressive and crazy, but they’re our kind of crazy.”

The move was necessitated by the need for NOAA to vacate its former headquarters, a hangar at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The agency was pleased to stay in central Florida.

“I know the men and women of the NOAA Corps and AOC will continue to brace their selfless mission and never hesitate to respond to unforeseen, and often dangerous, events,” Ross said at the ribbon cutting. “You can rest assured that my colleagues and I will fight to ensure you have the necessary tools and resources to conduct your important work.”

Buchanan urges Trump to fill top positions at FEMA, NOAA — The Sarasota Republican is concerned the slow pace of staffing up the Trump Administration could hurt Florida in the near future. With hurricane season officially underway, Rep. Vern Buchanan is most concerned about the lack of leadership in two critical agencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) still have vacancies not only at the top posts, but other jobs remain unfilled.

“These agencies are critical in keeping Floridians safe,” Buchanan said in a release. “I’m a big proponent of hurricane preparedness and part of being prepared is having key personnel in place. The Trump Administration needs to get their NOAA and FEMA chiefs on the job quickly because we don’t know when the next big storm is going to hit.”

Buchanan reminds that Florida ranks second only behind California for overall risk of natural disasters. That state has 6.7 million homes listed in high or very high risk categories, with Florida leading the nation for homes at risk for hurricane damage.

Both agencies are under interim administrators until replacements are named. Florida’s Craig Fugate led FEMA during the Obama Administration.

Rubio visits Naval Air Station Pensacola

Sailors at Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station got a chance to share lunch with a senator recently.

Sen. Rubio joined enlisted sailors for lunch recently, using the visit as a chance to talk with enlisted military members about the Northwest Florida installation. Rubio met with sailors, and had lunch a group of men and women.

“It was an honor to see these sailors at two of the Navy’s most important installations in Northwest Florida working to ensure our cyber defense capabilities and the future of naval aviation,” said Rubio. ‎ “As Florida’s senator, I will continue to support a strong national defense and care for our military personnel and veterans’ communities across the state‎.”

Sen. Marco Rubio visited Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station,where he joined enlisted sailors for lunch. (Photo via Sen. Marco Rubio’s Office).

Located in Escambia County, Naval Air Station Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel. It is home to, among other things, the Naval Aviation Schools Command, Naval Air Training Technical Training Center, and the Blue Angels.

“It was great to spend the day in the Pensacola area to tour NAS Pensacola, the cradle of naval aviation, and Corry Station, the Navy’s premiere cyber and information warfare training center,” said Rubio.

Nelson and Rubio want Cuba to finally pay up for rip offs of Americans

Florida’s senators are joining forces to help force Cuba pay back a nearly 60-year-old debt to Americans. Politico writes Rubio and Nelson “want the Communist government to fork over $8 billion to compensate Americans whose property was ‘stolen’ when the Castro regime nationalized utilities and industries” shortly after the 1959 coup.

In a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the senators urge the Trump Administration to take action.

“While the Cuban Government has manufactured ridiculous counter-claims to avoid responsibility, we urge you to seek fair compensation on behalf of these Americans as soon as possible,” they wrote.

Those counter-claims include Cuba’s contention the U.S. owes that nation $300 billion from the 56-year trade embargo imposed by the U.S. and the costs of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

A bill in Congress sponsored by Arkansas Republican Congressman Rick Crawford calls for a tax on the sellers of goods to Cuba with proceeds going to those whose assets were taken by the Castro regime. Among those “backing the concept of the bill” is Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo, a Cuban-American.

Rubio and Nelson did not speak to Crawford’s bill, but John Kavulich, president of the U.S. Trade and Economic Council, had plenty to say.

“Cuba pays nothing, and it’s a transfer of money within the U.S.,” he said. “These two members of the United States Congress are establishing a treacherous precedent for resolving issues of expropriation not only with the Republic of Cuba, but with other countries which may take similar actions.”

Nelson, most Democrats opposed to Trump air traffic control privatization idea

Florida’s senior senator is not at all enamored with President Trump’s call to privatize air traffic control in the U.S. At a Monday White House event, the president touted the merits of such a change by saying “this new entity will not need taxpayer money, which is very shocking when people hear that.”

As the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees airport operations, Nelson had plenty to say about the President’s news-making proposal.

“The safety of the flying public should not be for sale,” Nelson said. “Handing air traffic control over to a private entity partly governed by the airlines is both a risk and a liability we can’t afford to take.”

Nelson has long opposed privatization, arguing that smaller airports in mostly rural states and recreational aviation could suffer. Last year, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, offered a privatization bill that did not make it out of committee. Shuster was at Trump’s side on Monday.

One of Shuster’s committee members, Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson, is also strongly opposed.

“I do not believe that giving the airlines control of the system from which they will benefit economically, complete with the power to institute higher fees and taxes, is the answer,” she said in a statement.

Hutchinson Island Republican Brian Mast, also a committee member, voiced support for the privatization effort. West Palm Beach Democrat Lois Frankel and Winter Garden Republican Daniel Webster also serve on the committee.

Spotted

— Sen. Rubio and Rep. Francis Rooney at the White House attended a dinner at the White House with President Trump and several other members of Congress. Rooney, a Naples Republican, used the opportunity to stress the need to include Everglades restoration as a key part of any infrastructure package brought forward.

“Everglades restoration is important to not only the State of Florida but also the entire country. Our economy has been decimated, and local businesses have closed. We all have a vested interest,” said Rooney, who also spoke to Trump about his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. “Our mission at the federal level must be to earn the support necessary to secure federal funding already approved through the Water Resource Development Acts (WRDA) of 2007, 2014, 2016.”

Sens. Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton and Todd Young, and Rep. Lee Zeldin also attended the dinner. According to the White House pool report, the menu included ten herb ravioli with lemon ricotta and a roasted tomato ragout; American wagyu beef tenderloin with sauce choron, glazed market vegetables and pomme soufflé; and a chocolate candy bar nougat glace for dessert.

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POLITCO reported that Sen. Nelson was one of several people who attended Sen. Al Franken’s book party this week in Georgetown. Also in attendance, according to POLITICO, were Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Maggie Hassan, Richard Blumenthal, and Sheldon Whitehouse; Andrea Mitchell, Kasie Hunt, and Mark Leibovich. Franken’s book “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate” was released May 30.

Rick Wilson, a Florida media consultant, in a Vanity Fair article about “the #NeverTrumpers still waging war on Twitter.” Here’s how Vanity Fair contributing editor James Wolcott described Wilson: “A Republican political consultant and media strategist based in Florida, where they play extra not-nice, Wilson goes for the jugular and the groin, once describing some Trump supporters as “childless single men who masturbate to anime.”

Paulson’s Principles: Dems face the best congressional prospects ever!

If Democrats do not make substantial congressional gains both nationally and in Florida in 2018, they may never be likely to win back control of congress.

Conditions have seldom been better for Democrats to pickup many seats in Congress, especially in the House. Let me run down the factors favoring Democrats in 2018.

First is President Trump. Presidents can either unify or divide the nation, and Trump clearly falls in the latter category. Yes, he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 when virtually no one thought he had a chance to win. Nevertheless, he has galvanized Democrats unlike any other person or issue.

President Trump’s approval rate has dropped to 34%, historically low for an incoming president. Democrats by the thousands have turned out to protest Trump and his policies.

One of those unpopular policies is the Republican American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the House to “repeal and Replace” Obamacare. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 55% of Americans have a negative view of the AHCA.

Two, President Trump and the AHCA have unified Democrats like never before. Turnout at Republican town halls have been filled with enormous crowds of angry voters. Almost every Republican House member has faced the wrath of large crowds of angry constituents.

In Florida, Republican Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Brian Mast are just two of the many Republicans to confront voters who promise to oppose them for voting to repeal Obamacare. Over 5,000 individuals RSVP’d to attend Congressman Vern Buchanan’s town hall at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center. 1700 packed the Center and 800 more listened from outside. Another 2,500 were turned away.

Three, because of Trump, the AHCA and angry voters, the genetic ballot leans heavily in favor of Democrats. When asked in the most recent survey which party they would support in the 2018 congressional election, 44% said Democrats and 37% said Republicans. Going into the 2016 election, Democrats led by a single point.

The genetic ballot is one of the best predictors of election outcomes. Controlling for the party that controls the White House, the genetic ballot strongly correlates (+.78) with House election results.

Harry Enten of the FiveThirtyEight, recently wrote that the current genetic ballot “shows the Democrats in a stronger position at this point in a midterm election cycle than any party without control of the House since 1942.” It is hard to imagine a more positive scenario for Democrats.

Two additional factors favor Democrats. First, by the time the 2018 election occurs, Republicans will have controlled the House for eight years and the Florida delegation for a quarter century. At a time where the public demands change, that’s a long time for any party to have political control.

Second, just as Democrats are united, Republicans are divided by their president and his policies. In many southern states, including Florida, the Republican Party is torn apart by intra-party disputes.

One unknown factor going into the 2018 election is how many Republicans will run for reelection and how many will retire. If many Republicans decide to retire, this will greatly benefit the Democrats.

Do Republicans have anything working in their favor? Yes, they are running against Democrats. If the Democratic Party lost the presidency in 2016, in spite of all their advantages and, if the Democrats could only pick up two Senate seats when Republicans had to defend 24 of the 34 seats, then we can never underestimate the ability of Democrats to screw things up.

Gaetz to host another “Open Gaetz Day”

The Republican from the 1st Congressional District will soon be spending a full day with constituents and community leaders. Gaetz will have the “Open Gaetz Day” on Saturday, June 17 in his hometown of Fort Walton Beach.

The day opens with a town hall at 9:00 a.m. followed by a visit with residents of a center housing retired enlisted military members. Following tours of health care facilities, the day concludes with a military roundtable and an appearance at a constituent information booth at a local Latin festival.

“I always look forward to interacting with my constituents and hearing their comments, concerns and even criticisms,” Gaetz said. “I feel it is very important that as their Congressman I remain accessible and open to listening to their ideas. It should be a great day full of events and I hope to see a lot of people out participating.”

Bilirakis hears plea from conservative groups to block hearing aid regulation

A group of Tea Party organizations are calling for Bilirakis’ support against excessive government regulation over hearing aids.

Elizabeth Warren, working with a handful of Senate Republicans, is writing legislation to create an over-the-counter category of a type hearing aids known as personal sound amplification products (PSAPs). The hearing aid industry has come out strongly against the bill, as well as more than a dozen Tea Party-aligned organizations such as Frontiers of Freedom, Conservative Leadership PAC, 60 Plus Association, Tea Party Nation and the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

In a letter to Bilirakis, the coalition says PSAPs simply amplify sound; they are not medical hearing aids and should not be regulated as such.

Among the reasons the group chose Bilirakis to garner support – as one of the estimated 30 million Americans with some degree of hearing loss, the Tarpon Springs Republican relies on a hearing aid.

Crist, T. Rooney team up to help small business

The St. Petersburg Democrat and Okeechobee Republican are working together to help small businesses with a bill aimed at tax relief that would provide incentives to hire more people and improve wages. The Small Business Tax Relief and Jobs Act of 2017 would allow small businesses to receive an annual tax credit of 3.825 percent.

This amount is significant because it equals half of an employer’s payroll tax obligation. The tax break is for up to three employees and totaling $100,000 in wages.

“The lingering impact of the Great Recession continues to make it difficult for many small businesses to obtain bank loans in order to grow,” said Crist. “I look forward to working with Congressman Rooney to promote this common-sense, bipartisan effort to help our small businesses grow and improve communities across America.”

“This common-sense bill rewards small business for creating jobs in our communities,” said Rooney. “Promoting local businesses and encouraging job growth is not a partisan issue.”

Buchanan, bipartisan delegation briefed on anti-terror measures in Europe, Africa

The Sarasota Republican and a bipartisan Congressional delegation recently returned from a trip to Europe and the Middle East. Buchanan and the group visited Bahrain, Germany and Kuwait to meet with military leaders, foreign officials and military officers and enlisted personnel.

He met with the Commander of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain and spent some time with

Florida troops and sailors, including Navy Master Chief Deborah Mack of Sarasota.

“Deborah and the other troops I met with are true patriots who leave family and friends for months on end to fight for our country,” Buchanan said. “It was a privilege to meet service members from Florida and witness firsthand their love of country.”

Rep. Vern Buchanan meets with Master Chief Deborah Mack, naval analyst from Sarasota. (Photo via Rep. Buchanan’s Office.)

In Stuttgart, Germany, Buchanan and the group met with Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of AFRICOM, for a briefing on terror activity on the African continent. AFRICOM is an arm of the Department of Defense and is responsible for the military relationships with 54 African nations.

“Jihadists in North Africa continue to pose a serious threat to global piece,” Buchanan said. “As we saw with Manchester, Africa remains a hot spot for the recruitment and training of terrorists.”

The remainder of the trip to Germany and to Kuwait involved discussions on intelligence operations, threats posed to NATO and efforts to eradicate ISIS.

DCCC tries to rile up Mast town hall crowd with ad buy

The Hutchinson Island Republican fielded questions from a largely hostile crowd at a Stuart town hall on Monday night. To help ensure passions were inflamed, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) “launched a significant digital ad buy” accusing Mast of lying about “his campaign’s use of data from Russian hackers.” The ad came complete with a sinister Vladimir Putin looking over Mast’s right shoulder.

Media estimates pegged the town hall attendance at between 350 to 400. Mast briefly addressed Russia and any possible ties to President Trump, saying he believed the president’s denials and would wait for Congressional investigations and the work of special counsel Robert Mueller. He called any talk of impeachment “irresponsible.”

Health care, specifically Mast’s vote for the American Health Care Act was on the minds of attendees far more than Russia. One said “You’re going to kill me. I’m going to die.”

Another accused Mast of not caring “about the lives of those who would lose their health care.”

“Ma’am, if I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t have offered my life on the battlefield,” answered Mast, a double-amputee following an explosion in Afghanistan.

Mast had some supporters there as well, but the already agitated, or those inspired by the DCCC, were clearly the noisiest.

Keys activists leave hundreds of ‘coconut telegraphs’ at Curbelo’s office 

In a self-described “coconut caravan,” 10 members of the Upper Keys Action Network (UKAN) left about 300 coconuts at the Miami office of Rep. Carlos Curbelo.

As reported by WLRN’s Holly Pretsky, UKAN was formed after the 2016 election to keep Keys residents politically engaged. The Miami Republican’s district includes the Keys.

The coconuts’ message – calling on Curbelo to hold a town hall in the Keys — were painted with phrases like “Save ACA [the Affordable Care Act],” “country over party,” and “Climate change is real.”

Members of UKAN dropped off 300 coconut messages at Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s office this week. (Photo via Upper Keys Action Network Facebook.)

“The overall message is ‘Hey, come to the Keys. Come meet with us. Come hear what your constituents have to say,’” UKAN organizer Lindsey Crews told WLRN. She said this wasn’t the only time coconuts have been used to send a message to elected officials.

Curbelo didn’t see the “telegrams” in person, however, since he is in Washington D.C. this week.

Race to replace Ros-Lethtinen: Fuhrman out, Richardson in

South Miami Democrat Scott Fuhrman announced this week he won’t run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The Miami Herald reported Fuhram, who lost to Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, suspended his campaign. He cited a lack of support from donors as the primary reason for his decision to bow out.

A slew of Democrats have announced they are running for the seat, including state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez. And this week, state Rep. David Richardson formally announced he was running for the seat.

Mary Ellen Klas with the Miami Herald reported the 60-year-old Miami Beach Democrat said the “most important thing is that anyone working in Washington has got to work in a bipartisan way and, for the last five years, I’ve demonstrated I’ve been able to get things done in the minority.”

Richardson had been considering a run for weeks, telling Scott Powers with Florida Politics in May that he was “taking a strong look at it.”

Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this year she planned to retire in 2018 at the end of her term.

Murphy cleared of campaign finance violation complaint

The Federal Elections Commission found U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy did not violate campaign finance laws as claimed in a complaint filed against him in 2016, reports Isadora Rangel with TC Palm.

The FEC found “the “the statute of limitations has run on all of the activity at issue and the available record does not support an inference that Ibrahim Al-Rashid made the purported contributions in the names of the alleged conduits,” according to the report.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, filed a complaint against Murphy in 2016. The complaint alleged Al-Rashid, Murphy’s friend, skirted campaign contribution limits by funneling donations through his then-wife, members of his family and other individuals. The donations totaled nearly $30,000.

The complaint came as Murphy, a Treasure Coast Democrat, was running for the U.S. Senate.

Scott, Lenny Curry D.C. bound

Gov. Rick Scott and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry are expected to attend a “listening session” on infrastructure with President Trump on Thursday, reports Alex Leary with the Tampa Bay Times.

Leary reported a White House spokesman said Scott will join several governors and state, local and private sector leaders interested in “working together to improve our nation’s infrastructure.” Leary reported Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge is also expected to attend.

According to A.G. Gancarski with Florida Politics, Curry’s office said the mayor will be participating in meetings “on the Hill and with the administration to discuss Jacksonville needs” during his visit to D.C.

Bondi joins Trump for bill signing

Attorney General Pam Bondi was back in D.C., attending a bill signing ceremony for two bills that aim to help military veterans, law enforcement officers and their families.

Bondi was one of several people who attended a ceremony at the White House recently as President Trump signed the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017 and the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017.

“These are much needed bills to help those who sacrifice so much to keep us safe, and I am honored to join the President as he signs this important legislation in support of our military and law enforcement heroes,” she said in a statement.

The first bill, the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017, encourages police departments that receive federal grants to hire military veterans; while the second bill, the Public Safety Officers Benefits Improvement Act of 2017, changes reporting requirements for the federal office in charge of giving benefits to injured officers and first responders and to the families of those who die on the job, reported Michael Auslen with the Tampa Bay Times.

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Delegation has made key contributions in Congressional Baseball Game

One night each year, Republicans and Democrats take their rivalries outside the halls of Congress and onto the baseball field. Next week, the annual Congressional Baseball Game is slated for Nationals’ Park in Washington.

The Florida delegation has played some important roles in recent years. Last year, Okeechobee Republican Tom Rooney stroked a walk-off single to give Republicans an 8-7 victory and breaking a losing streak dating back to 2008.

Rooney’s game-winner came off former Congressman Patrick Murphy of Jupiter. As Murphy entered the game in relief, he was greeted with taunts of “MAR-CO, RU-BIO,” (the campaign for Senate was fully underway) from GOP rooters.

The game, began in 1909, benefits Washington, DC charities. Throughout the game’s long history, congresswomen were not in the lineup, but that changed in 1993 when three women, including Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, broke into the starting lineup. One former congressman, Orlando Republican Lou Frey, was inducted into the Congressional Baseball Game Hall of Fame in 2008.

This year’s game, to be played on June 15, features four Florida Republicans on the roster. In addition to Rooney, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, Ron DeSantis of Ponte Vedra Beach, and Dennis Ross of Lakeland are set to play. No Florida Democrats will suit up.

After last year’s GOP win, the all-time series is tied with 39 wins each, plus one tie

Andrew Gillum posting a goose egg? Say it ain’t so

May was a busy month for Andrew Gillum.

Like his opponents, he racked up several key endorsements; former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Senate Democratic Leader-designate Jeff Clemens, Sen. Perry Thurston, state Rep. Joe Abruzzo and Palm Beach County Tax Collector for life, Anne Gannon.

Gillum spoke at Tiger Bay and his campaign sent out numerous press releases on various topics, he held two big-name fundraisers (former party chair Allison Tant and uber-lobbyist Sean Pittman) and blasted out, by my count, more than 18 fundraising emails and literally scores of tweets. He is seemingly all over the state — even today he is in voter-rich Palm County.

Sounds like a candidate in full swing.

But let’s hold on a minute.

Is it possible that during and despite all that activity, Gillum posted a goose egg from his political committee, Forward Florida? (Lots of expenditures but no contributions.)

Click here to see NO MONEY raised during May.

“While Mayor Gillum took time off the trail this month for the birth of his third child, we’re confident that we’ll have the resources to compete all across Florida,” said Geoff Burgan, the communications director for Gillum’s campaign. “We’ve raised more than $1 million from more than 7,000 contributors — by far the most in the Governor’s Race.”

We’d be the last people to ding Gillum for spending time with his family after welcoming a new child, but the idea that he “took time off the trail” doesn’t mesh with the flurry of activity coming out of Gillum’s camp.

Look, all this press is great. He is clearly keeping pace on the endorsement front. Plus, the positions and his assertions on legislation and issues of the day touch right into the heartbeat of his party. And he has plenty of them.

But no money?

Not one single dollar?

If you are running a statewide race and against some formidable opponents, you simply cannot let that happen. Florida is a big state and it takes tens of millions of dollars to reach voters.

And with only 14 months until voters actually start casting ballots, every single month is precious. It’s like putting a lot of people on base but having none of them — not one — touch the only base that really matters:  home plate.

Gillum’s fond of saying, “Bring it home.” In fact, it is his campaign slogan.

Bring it home man, or the only scoreboard that really matters will show that you are not in this game.

Sunburn for 6.8.17 – Split-screen madness; Med. marijuana in play; Rick Scott to D.C.; Blockbuster ACLU report; Gator vs. plane

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

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

What time is too early to make popcorn?

As fascinating as Florida politics is, even in what is supposed to be the slow time of late spring, it will be difficult for aficianados not to keep one eye on Sunshine State politics and another on events transpiring Thursday in D.C. and beyond.

FBI director James Comey will recount a series of conversations with President Donald Trump that he says made him deeply uneasy and concerned about the blurring of boundaries between the White House and a law enforcement agency that prides itself on independence.

Corey’s testimony begins at 10 a.m., although some bars in Washington D.C. are opening early so those in the District can tie one on this morning.

“They really should declare a national holiday, since no work is going to get done,” Sally Quinn is quoted in this New York Times story by Michael Grynbaum and Katie Rogers.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, polling stations across Britain opened for national elections amid heightened security Thursday. The election was supposed to be dominated by Britain’s pending departure from the European Union, but voters are anxiously aware of the threat the country faces from international terrorism following attacks in London and Manchester.

Of course this is a newsletter about Florida politics and it promises to be a fascinating day in the Capitol.

So make sure you have a fresh set of batteries in your TV remote control as you prepare to scroll through The Florida Channel, Fox News, and BBC throughout this extraordinary day.

PUFF, PUFF, PASS

When it comes to medical marijuana, lawmakers are getting another puff of the pipe.

The Legislature appeared to reach an agreement on a deal to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment, announced Wednesday they would include an implementing bill in the Special Session call.

The agreement came just hours before the start of a planned three-day special session, and ended weeks of will-they-or-won’t-they speculation about medical marijuana.

“Our constitutional duty is to ensure the availability and safe use of medical marijuana in the manner prescribed by Florida voters,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, who filed the bill (SB 8A) just before the Special Session started. “This patient-first legislation will expand access to this medicine, while ensuring safety through a unified regulatory structure for each component of the process from cultivation to consumption.”

Senate President Joe Negron talks to Sen. Rob Bradley on the Senate rostrum Friday, May 5, 2017 at the Capitol in Tallahassee. Photo credit: Phil Sears

The bill, among other things, calls on the state to license 10 new growers this year, in addition to the seven that are already licensed under existing state law. It also requires four licenses to be issued for every 100,000 patients who register with the state’s medical marijuana registry.

While earlier negotiations broke down over how many dispensaries each grower could have (reminder: the Senate wanted caps; the House didn’t), the proposed legislation includes caps on dispensaries. Growers would be capped at 25 dispensaries; however, they would be able to add five dispensaries for every 100,000 patients. Those caps would sunset in 2020, unless of course the Legislature were to act.

In return for caps on dispensaries, the House appears to have received one of its priorities — making medical marijuana and marijuana delivery devices exempt from sales tax.

The House Health and Human Services Committee voted 15-1 to approve the bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, on Wednesday. The Senate Health Policy and Appropriations committees are set to take up the bill Thursday.

— “Rick Scott expands special session call to include medical marijuana” via Florida Politics

— “Medical marijuana bill would add more licensed growers” via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Are vaping and smoking the same? Ray Rodrigues won’t say” via Florida Politics – As the medical marijuana implementation bill winds its way through the Special Session, some lawmakers still are grappling with whether smoking medicinal cannabis is the same as ‘vaping’ it. Before the Health and Human Services Committee approved the House bill (HB 5A), members asked bill sponsor Rodrigues, the House Republican Leader from Estero. “Are we allowing smoking?” asked Rep. Thad Altman, an Indialantic Republican. Nope, said Rodrigues, just vaping—short for vaporizing.

— “Jeff Brandes files strike-all amendment” via Florida Politics

John Morgan: I’m still suing the Legislature” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Where there’s no smoke, there’s a John Morgan lawsuit. Morgan—attorney, entrepreneur and main backer of Florida’s medical marijuana amendment—Wednesday said he still plans to sue the state despite lawmakers brokering a deal to include implementation of the measure in this week’s Special Session. Mainly, Morgan’s hair’s on fire that Florida doesn’t allow smokeable medicinal cannabis. Morgan first said he planned to sue last month. “Done is better than perfect and this is far from perfect,” he said in a statement to FloridaPolitics.com. “I will be suing the state to allow smoke. It was part of my amendment.”

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Mystery mailers from Illinois target Joe Negron” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post – Voters in Negron‘s Treasure Coast-Palm Beach district are getting mailers from a newly formed Illinois-based PAC criticizing Negron’s role in an education bill that’s closely identified with House Speaker Corcoran … The mailer from a group called SunshinePac from Evanston, Illinois, criticizes HB 7069 and focuses on Negron rather than Corcoran. SunshinePac was formed May 25 as a federal committee, according to Federal Election Committee records. It is headed by John Hennelly, a former Florida director for the Service Employees International Union who’s now a consultant with the liberal Chicago-based firm Democracy Partners. “What has politician Joe Negron been up to in Tallahassee this Session? Making backroom deals and our schools are paying the price,” says one side of the mailer, which shows a picture of Negron and Corcoran but doesn’t identify the House speaker.

“House, Senate divide grows as lawmakers begin Special Session” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Lawmakers made little progress Wednesday toward narrowing the gap between the House and Senate on the major funding issues – education and economic development – that drove Gov. Scott to call a special session. With only two days remaining in the scheduled three-day session, lawmakers must quickly find compromise on policy fights that have been made more complicated since the regular 60-day session ended early last month. State Sen. David Simmon, R-Altamonte Springs, summed up the vibe at the Capitol best when he all but said Friday’s scheduled final day is flexible. “These three days here, they’re an artificial deadline for all of us,” he said. “They’re a real deadline, but they’re one that we can work around.”

Lawmakers will likely have to extend session but will Senate Republican fundraiser be in the way?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – With the Senate insisting that any budget agreement follow the 72-hour cooling off period, the House Republican leadership agreed to go along, even though they read the constitutional waiting period as not applying to the budget bills they will be passing this session. House leaders asking for in return … telling the Senate it wants them to come back to finish their work Tuesday, June 13 — same day the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has scheduled its annual golf fundraiser in California. The traditional golf fundraiser, often held at the prestigious Pebble Beach golf course, moved this year to Torrey Pines, the swanky municipal course situated along the cliffs of San Diego … The bad news for Senate Republicans is that the fundraiser is scheduled for June 12-13. Sen. Rob Bradley said the fundraiser should have no impact on the Special Session.

“House panel clears Special Session infrastructure, job training bill” via Florida Politics – The House’s main budgeting panel cleared one of the bills planned for the Special Session dealing with tourism promotion, job training and public infrastructure. The Appropriations Committee, on a unanimous vote, OK’d the measure (HB 1A). Among other things, it creates the $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, and awards $76 million to and imposes accountability and transparency measures on VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

Great profile on Jeff Clemens: “U2 by UV drummer makes noise in state Senate, too” via Ben Crandell of SouthFlorida.com

— STATEWIDE —

Rick Scott, Lenny Curry to attend White House event with Donald Trump” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – With the Special Session underway in Tallahassee, Scott will be at the White House for a “listening session” on infrastructure with President Trump. He will join a number of governors and state, local and private sector leaders “who are interested in working together to improve our nation’s infrastructure” … Also participating in the White House event is Jacksonville Mayor Curry and Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge.

Governor and Cabinet to take up environmental land-acquisition priorities” via Florida Politics —The newest project on the state’s priority list for conservation land buys is a 4,700-acre spread in eastern Alachua County, containing valuable wildlife, water, and plant resources, but also largely given over to pine harvesting. That’s if Gov. Scott and the Cabinet approve an updated Florida Forever work plan during a meeting scheduled next week. Sitting as the Board of Trustees of State lands, Scott and the Cabinet also will review the Florida Forever land-buy priority list and five-year plan for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. … New to that plan is Lochloosa Forest, assessed at nearly $5.3 million … containing flatwoods, swamps, and marshes, with Hatchet and Bee Tree creeks flowing through.

Carlos Smith: Since Pulse, Rick Scott has done nothing for LGBTQ community” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising –The openly-gay Orlando representative wondered whether Scott would, and whether he should, attend next Monday’s memorial ceremonies in Orlando for the 49 people who were murdered and 53 people who were wounded that night … “He’s done nothing. And he should be held accountable,” Smith said of the governor … he watched Scott evolve with exposure to Pulse families and survivors and become more understanding and sensitive – but then, devolve over ensuing months, to the point that Scott once again did not acknowledge the gay community when he talked about Pulse in his opening address to the Florida Legislature. Smith said Scott now is in an awkward position regarding Pulse, the same position he was in a year ago. Smith said the governor had appeared at the massive Pulse vigil held at Lake Eola Park June 19, 2016, asked if he should speak, was advised that he might be booed, and so did not speak. “Why would he be booed? Because the LGBTQ community knows that he’s done nothing for us,” Smith said.

Sarah Palin accidentally bashes Florida Republicans in Paris accord meme” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO FloridaPalin took a strong stand in support of Trump’s decision to withdraw from a global warming agreement, warning her Facebook readers with a meme that intoned, “Don’t be Fooled! The Paris Climate Accord is a SCAM.” However, the picture the former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential nominee used — featuring well-dressed people celebrating — was pure fake news …  it depicts a group unlikely to support either the idea of man-made climate change or the Paris accord: highly conservative Republican members of the Florida House of Representatives on the chamber floor. Palin deleted the post after Politico reported her error.

“Labor relations panel will hear complaint against Sarasota Herald-Tribune” via Florida Politics – A Florida-based division of the National Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing on a complaint against the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the paper’s leadership intimidated and threatened “reprisals” if newsroom employees voted to form a union. The hearing is Aug. 21 in Tampa. Last September, the Herald-Tribune’s newsroom staff voted to unionize under the NewsGuild-CWA by a vote of 22-16. Among the allegations, the complaint said publisher Patrick Dorsey in August “created an impression among employees that their union activities were under surveillance.”

— ACLU REPORT: STATE AGENCIES FAILED TO WARN OF PUBLIC HEALTH DANGER OF TOXIC ALGAE BLOOM —

A new investigation from the American Civil Liberties Union found Florida officials didn’t provide the public with timely or trustworthy information during the 2016 toxic algae bloom that impacted Treasure Coast communities.

The report — published Tuesday and titled “Tainted Waters: Threats to Public Health and the People’s Right to Know” — looks at state’s record of transparency when it comes to disseminating information about the public danger to the public’s health posed by the algae flor.

Algae blooms from excess nutrients in the waterways are common and becoming more common in developed countries. Photo credit: EPA.

John Lantigua, an investigative reporter with the ACLU of Florida’s, investigated the state’s response to the algae outbreak. Lantigua, a Pulitzer Prize winner reporter, conducted his research with the help of local residents, scientists, media and state employees willing to cooperate.

The report found state scientists testing the river and estuary water for toxins did so in places where the algae was the thinnest, as opposed to along the shores and inlets where algae accumulates and where people interact with the water interacts the most. It also notes that local officials and groups complained that a task force created by statute to try and mitigate the effects of algae infestations has not been funded since 2001.

“Open government means people have a right to be informed about what public officials and employees are doing, and that information is particularly crucial when it comes to public health issues,” he said. “What we found was a lack of urgency and transparency on the part of the state in reporting information about the crisis, caused by the release of tainted waters from Lake Okeechobee.”

— UF vs FSU, THE ONLINE EDUCATION EDITION —

In the final part in a series looking at online education, Jessica Bakeman with POLITICO Florida looks at how the fierce rivalry between the University of Florida and Florida State University hasn’t entered the online education arena.

Bakeman writes that as the two preeminent universities plan for the future there has “been surprising little between the longtime rivals.”

According to the report, the University of Florida, aided by the Florida Legislature, “has undertaken an aggressive expansion of distance learning, billing itself as an international hub, while Florida State has resisted pressure from state officials to grow its non-traditional offerings, preferring to see itself as a physical destination for students.”

Those differences, Bakeman notes, could have a disproportionate effect on how online education evolves and whether the state meets its goal of having thousands upon thousands of undergraduate students taking nearly half their courses virtually by 2025.

University of Florida now counts 31 percent of its undergraduate programs delivered online. But Bakeman reported that the path hasn’t always been a smooth one. More than a year ago, the school ended its multi-million dollar contract with Pearson after the company failed to attract enough students from outside the Sunshine State. At FSU, the school’s reluctance to embrace online education has “put the school in conflict with Gov. Scott and the State University System’s board of governors,” reports Bakeman.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“Andrew Gillum ‘slams’ Special Session” via Florida Politics – Tallahassee Mayor Gillum issued a brief statement calling this week’s Special Session “a complete embarrassment to our state.” Gillum also took a swipe at an education policy bill (HB 7069) Gov. Scott is considering that, among other things, could funnel more money to privately-managed charter schools. The session “was called with a total lack of transparency, and thanks to HB 7069, Floridians’ tax dollars are almost certainly about to enrich for-profit charter school executives,” Gillum said in the statement.

Alex Diaz de la Portilla faces foreclosure on out-of-district home” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald – On campaign filings for the District 40 state Senate race, Diaz de la Portilla lists two addresses: a mattress company that belongs to his father and a five-bedroom West Miami home facing foreclosure. Both lie outside the district he is running to represent, a large swath of Southwest Miami-Dade County. According to the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser, Diaz de la Portilla and his ex-wife jointly own the West Miami home. In April, Wells Fargo filed a notice in county court seeking to foreclose on the home … Diaz de la Portilla listed the home as being worth $603,357 in a financial disclosure form. Diaz de la Portilla said the foreclosure was a necessary step toward modifying the loan on his home following a divorce.

Democrat who switched parties too late withdraws from state Senate race” via Martin Vassolo of the Miami Herald Steve Smith signed an oath when he qualified as a candidate for the state Senate last week saying he’s been a registered Democrat for a year. Not quite. Florida law requires anyone qualifying as a party candidate to state in writing that they have not been a member of another party for a full year before qualifying. Smith … registered as a Democrat June 10, 2016, less than a year before he and six other candidates qualified May 30 — 12 days short of a year — for the District 40 seat left vacant by former Sen. Frank Artiles. Hours after a Miami Herald story went online Tuesday about the apparent violation, Smith he withdrew his candidacy, saying he did not want to jeopardize the Democratic Party’s chances to turn the seat blue and his own political aspirations down the road. “It is what it is,” he said.

Bobby Olszewski qualifies by petition for HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican Bobby Olszewski has become the first qualified candidate for the special elections set for later this year to fill the vacant seat for House District 44 in western Orange County. Olszewski’s campaign said it collected more than 400 petition signatures and on Wednesday the Orange County Supervisor of Elections certified 370, enough to put him on the ballot. The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 15, with the final election on Oct. 10. “I couldn’t be more thankful to our great volunteers who helped us reach this goal with our voters in record time,” Olszewski stated in a news release. “My volunteers and I will out and about in our community throughout this election looking to bring our hometown, conservative principles to Tallahassee.”

— MOVEMENTS —

Donald Trump nominates Stetson law professor to veterans appeals court” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times Trump has nominated a Stetson University law professor to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Michael P. Allen is director of the Veterans Law Institute and was a civil trial attorney in Boston before joining Pinellas County-based Stetson.

“Personnel note: Stephen Lawson moves to VISIT FLORIDA” via Florida PoliticsLawson has left the post of communications director for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. He has become vice president of Government Relations for VISIT Florida. He announced the job change in an email. Lawson has been making the rounds of Gov. Scott’s administration, previously serving as communications director for Enterprise Florida, the public-private economic development organization.

Sachs named as agency of record for JMI – The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank, named Sachs Media Group as its Agency of Record. Under the leadership of newly appointed president Michelle Ubben, Sachs Media will elevate JMI’s profile in Florida and nationally by providing public affairs and strategic communications services in support of JMI’s initiatives. JMI is led by president/CEO Dr. Bob McClure, who was named one of INFLUENCE Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Florida Politics.

AppointedDaniel Waters and Marielle Kitchener to Big Cypress Basin Board.

AppointedAdrian Alfonso to the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc.

New and renewed lobby registration: Bob Harris, Messer Caparello: West Coast University

— ALOE —

9 TV shows set in Florida but not Miami, like ‘Claws’ in Manatee County” via Caitlin O’Connor of the Tampa Bay Times – I Dream Of Jeannie … Maj. Tony Nelson and Jeannie called Cocoa Beach home. Second Noah … Tampa got its moment in the spotlight in this short-lived mid-’90s series about a family with a tendency to take in kids and stray animals. Fresh Off the Boat … ABC’s hit sitcom features a Taiwanese family moving from Washington, D.C., to Orlando around 1995. The Glades … This A&E show about an FDLE detective was set in fictional Palm Glade somewhere in, well, the Everglades and filmed around South Florida. Siesta Key … A reality series filmed around Sarasota County’s popular beach destination is set to premiere July 19 on MTV. Bloodline … Netflix’s recently concluded family thriller was set and filmed in the Keys. American Horror Story … 2014-15’s Freak Show season was set in Jupiter in 1952, following the lives of members of, well, a freak show. Cougar Town …  Courtney Cox & Co. were on the prowl in fictional Gulfhaven, nicknamed “Cougar Town,” somewhere around Venice and Sarasota on the map.

Florida, Florida State on the winning end of baseball’s June Madness” via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics –Both Florida and Florida State have provided significant contributions to this year’s mayhem, which saw nearly half of the 16 seeded teams and regional hosts go down to defeat. Four others, including the Gators and Seminoles, had to bounce back from losses. No team among the 64 tournament teams had to climb the mountain faced by Florida State. The Madness struck in the first game, when FSU inexplicably lost to fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech, 3-1. The Gators were moving along nicely in their regional until Sunday night. They had the opportunity for a three-game sweep, but the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, earned a reprieve with a 6-2 win. Florida restored order Monday with a 6-1 regional-clinching win, but it was 0-0 in the sixth inning.

Orlando gator killed on runway at executive airport” via Paul Brinkmann of the Orlando Sentinel – An 11-foot alligator was reportedly killed at 2 a.m. June 1 … A spokeswoman for the airport, Carolyn Fennell, confirmed that the incident occurred last week. She said there was some damage to the private plane but didn’t have details about that. “Fish and Wildlife Service said it was a 500-pound alligator,” Fennell said. The executive airport is 3 miles from downtown Orlando and is governed by Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which also governs Orlando International Airport. It covers about 1,000 acres, near several lakes, including Lake Underhill.

NASA announces new astronaut class, and one is from Florida” via Marco Santana of the Orlando Sentinel – The class of 12 astronauts will start a two-year training program in August. One candidate, Frank Rubio, 41, hails from Florida. He graduated from Miami Sunset Senior High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York The rest of the 2017 class: Kayla Barron of Richland, Washington; Zena Cardman of Williamsburg, Virginia; Raja Chari of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Matthew Dominick of Wheat Ridge, Colorado; Bob Hines of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Warren Hoburg of Pittsburgh; Jonny Kim of Los Angeles; Robb Kulin of Anchorage, Alaska; Jasmin Moghbeli of Baldwin, New York; Loral O’Hara of Sugar Land, Texas; Jessica Watkins of Lafayette, Colorado

Happy birthday to Chris Hand and PSTA’s Brad Miller.

Does Jack Latvala keep falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick so he can be CFO?

“You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe? It should be more natural, brother. It should flow out, like this – ‘Look, man, I ain’t fallin’ for no banana in my tailpipe!’ See, that’s more natural for us.” — Axel Foley

It’s been more than thirty years since Eddie Murphy played the part of Detroit police detective Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop, but there are several scenes which are just as funny today as they were in 1984. Who can forget Bronson Pinchot‘s cameo as Serge? Or Murphy’s performance in the hilarious “Super Cop” scene (co-stars John Ashton and Judge Reinhold can be seen holding back laughter as Murphy delivers his monologue.)

And, of course, one of the funniest running jokes throughout the movie is the ‘banana in the tailpipe’ gag.

Early on in the movie, Murphy/Foley sneakily shoves his banana (technically three of them) into the tailpipe of a patrol car trying to tail him. Hijinks ensue.

Although its debatable if this trick actually works in real life, the scene was so popular and has become such a part of pop culture that it’s an expression we use when we think someone is trying to pull something over on us.

To that end, why does state Senator Jack Latvala keep falling for the banana-in-the-tailpipe trick when it comes to Gov. Rick Scott and the vetoing of the local budget projects Latvala holds so dear?

Last week, the Governor axed roughly 400 projects worth nearly $410 million that were placed in the budget by Republicans and Democrats. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, this is, at least, a partial indictment of Latvala’s work. Many of the vetoed projects, such as several construction projects at the University of South Florida, are local initiatives Latvala personally shepherded into the budget.

This is yet another year during which Scott — the new reigning champ of gubernatorial budget vetoes — has axed hundreds of millions of dollars in member projects. When Scott did so in 2015, Latvala said that “the governor has declared war on the Legislature.”

This was after Latvala ‘pledged his devotion to Scott for months’ (Steve Bousquet‘s words, not mine). Just as Latvala was ‘devoted’ to Scott this year (Latvala appeared with Scott at a press conference last month when the Governor talked openly about vetoing large chunks of the veto).

In other words, after each legislative session, Scott puts a banana in Latvala’s tailpipe.

So why, beyond party loyalty, does Latvala remain ‘devoted’ to Scott?

One theory for Latvala’s continued fealty is that he has a better chance at being at being appointed Chief Financial Officer than some might think. Most news stories speculating as to who Scott may choose center around former state Sen. Pat Neal, state Rep. Joe Gruters, and former Rep. Jimmy Patronis.

Doesn’t Chief Latvala make as much, if not more, sense than any of those picks?

Not getting too upset about a few budget vetoes is a small price to pay for a (possibly) nine-year place in the Florida Cabinet.

Lawmakers agree to tackle medical marijuana legislation during Special Session

Lawmakers reached agreement early Wednesday, hours before the start of this week’s Special Session, to include medical marijuana implementation in the call.

After FloridaPolitics.com broke this news, the Florida Senate announced that Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, would “file legislation to implement Article X, section 29 of the Florida Constitution, which allows the use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions. The Senate will consider the bill during this week’s Special Session.”

The agreement calls for 10 new growers to be licensed this year, in addition to the seven that already hold a state license under an existing, limited cannabis program. Five new growers would be added for every 100,000 patients, Sen. Bill Galvano, who was involved in negotiations, told the Tampa Bay Times.

As for a cap of on the number of dispensers each grower can open, the magic number is 25. Under the proposed legislation, the cap on dispensaries will sunset in 2020.

Funding for medical marijuana research at the Moffitt Cancer Center is also expected to be included in the legislation.

At a brief floor session Wednesday, House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero told members the Senate bill appeared to “match up” with the House’s position. He expected a bill on the House floor by Thursday.

The Senate bill, released later Wednesday, tracked the reported highlights.

“This legislation demonstrates fidelity to the Constitution by implementing the amendment passed by the voters last November,” Senate President Joe Negron said in a release. “The bill will also further the work the Legislature has done over the past few years to pass legislation authorizing the medical use of marijuana and other developing medications for our fellow citizens who are suffering from serious medical conditions and illnesses.”

The 2017 Legislative Session ended without a bill to implement the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment. An implementing bill gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

In this year’s regular session, ended in May, lawmakers failed to agree on a bill related to the medical cannabis constitutional amendment passed in 2016. Just over 71 percent of statewide voters approved the measure.

The two chambers this year came to an impasse over the number of dispensaries, with the Senate moving to 15, “five times the original cap of three in an earlier version of the Senate bill,” Negron explained in a recent memo.

But the House “responded by setting its dispensary cap at 100 and providing a deadline for issuing new licenses of more than a year from now. Obviously, the Senate was not in a position to accept this House proposal. The medical cannabis bill then died,” Negron wrote.

The state in 2014 legalized low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

The state later expanded the use of medicinal marijuana through the “Right to Try Act,” which includes patients suffering intractable pain and loss of appetite from terminal illnesses.

Dave Aronberg takes himself out of consideration for U.S. Attorney

After a news report listed him as one of six candidates in the running for U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, two-term Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has taken himself out of consideration.

“I’m honored that my name was mentioned, but I withdrew from consideration,” Aronberg, 46, told Florida Politics Wednesday morning. “I am committed to the important work being done in our community and eager to continue my service in Palm Beach County.”

Before becoming Palm Beach state attorney in 2012, and re-elected without opposition in 2016, Aronberg served in the Florida Senate from 2002-2010. In the Senate, he focused on criminal justice and consumer protection issues, helped pass major identity theft and port security legislation, as well as worked to close loopholes in Florida sex offender laws.

After an unsuccessful bid to succeed Bill McCollum as Attorney General – a race ultimately won by Republican Pam Bondi. In 2010, Aronberg became Special Prosecutor for Prescription Drug Trafficking as Bondi’s “Drug Czar.”

In April 2016, Aronberg declined to prosecute Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, for battery. Police charged Lewandowski for grabbing the arm of former Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields at a campaign news conference in Florida.

“After reviewing the video recording there is no reasonable doubt Mr. Lewandowski pulled Ms. Fields back as she was attempting to interview Mr. Trump,” Aronberg told reporters at the time.

Aronberg also convened a three-month grand jury investigation in 2016 — one of the first in the nation — looking into corruption in drug treatment centers which uncovered evidence of sexual abuse, human trafficking, forced labor and insurance fraud. The Florida Legislature allotted $275,000 to Aronberg, where he produced a 37-page report on how government agencies respond to corruption, recommending 15 sweeping changes to improve ways to prevent the exploitation of people suffering from opioid addiction.

With Aronberg out of the running, five candidates remain in the race for U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida:

Roy Altman is a 35-year-old federal prosecutor, who over six years handled hundreds of criminal cases, including the conviction of the killer of a postal worker. As a graduate of Columbia University and Yale Law School, Altman clerked for federal appeals court Judge Stanley Marcus. Altman is a partner at the Miami law firm Podhurst Orseck. According to the Miami Herald, several insiders see him as the leading candidate.

John Couriel, 39, specialized in economic and major criminal cases at the U.S. attorney’s office before becoming a partner at the Kobre Kim law firm. He also mounted two unsuccessful campaigns for the Florida Legislature. Couriel is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. The Miami Herald called him the front-runner in the race until Trump’s advisers learned Couriel voted for Jeb Bush in the Florida primary and predicted Hillary Clinton would win his Republican-leaning district by “quite a bit.”

Jon Sale is a 73-year-old former federal prosecutor in New York and Miami and co-chair of the white-collar defense and compliance practice for the Broad and Cassel law firm. Sale, who attended the University of Pennsylvania and NYU Law School, served as an assistant special prosecutor for the Justice Department in the Watergate case. The Herald notes Sale is also close friends with Trump confidant and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, making him a likely Trump pick.

Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, a 37-year-old state lawmaker from Miami and land-use attorney with Akerman LLP. The University of Miami and Columbia Law School graduate appeared on Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice” in 2006. While knowing Trump personally, Diaz is not considered a strong contender, says the Herald.

Frank Ledee is a 53-year-old veteran prosecutor in the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office, most recently as head of the gang prosecution and gun violence units. Ledee also serves as the office’s liaison to the U.S. attorney’s office. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Ledee to the South Broward Hospital District Board in 2016. He holds his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Barry University and has his law degree from Nova Southeastern University.

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