Peter Schorsch - 7/2486 - SaintPetersBlog

Peter Schorsch

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

Sunburn for 4.4.17 – Chris King launches; Gov. & Spkr.’s dueling op-eds; Packed day at Capitol; Brian Ballard upped

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

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

CHRIS KING TO LAUNCH GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN TODAY

After more than a month of silent campaign building since he filed to run for governor, Orlando Democratic businessman Chris King is ready to come out into the limelight,

King announced he will be holding his campaign kickoff at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Hillcrest Hampton House in Orlando. That is a senior affordable housing community his company renovated.

He is one of two Democrats to announce their candidacies to run for governor in 2018, along with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. But the silent mode of King’s campaign staff building since he filed his paperwork in February has left him behind three other potential candidates, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, and Orlando attorney John Morgan, when it comes to introducing himself, his views and his plans to Florida.

An advisory released by his campaign Monday morning says he “will call for a new kind of leadership, and movement of people ready for a new direction to ‘rise up so Florida can lead again.’”

That is consistent with the few remarks the developer of affordable and senior housing projects has made in the past.

“As many of you are probably aware, next Tuesday I will be launching my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and I look forward traveling all around this state getting to know so many of you,” King stated in a video presentation provided to a gathering of statewide Democrats Saturday night at the Florida Democratic Party’s DCCA Retreat.

“We can win this race in 2018, and I want to be the type of candidate that makes that possible and gets you excited again about what is possible in Florida,” King said.

King, founder and CEO of Elevation Financial Group, a private equity real estate investment company, characterized himself as a “progressive entrepreneur” in his video to the Democrats’ retreat.

In tweets he posted last week, he declared, “I’m running for Governor of Florida because politics as usual isn’t working.” He also tweeted, “Florida should lead the nation, but today we’re falling behind on jobs, wages, education, health care, and hope.”

So far, he’s putting together a team that includes Charlie Crist‘s former campaign manager Omar Khan to serve as his senior adviser, as well as adding other Barack Obama alumni Jeremy Bird, Hari Sevugan, Larry Girsolano, and Isaac Baker to his team.

— “Chris King looks to stand out in Democratic field for governor” via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel

FIRST LOOK: The Chris King campaign kickoff video, “Rise and Lead, Florida,” combines testimonials with a hint of King the family man. The Democrat’s pitch includes creating more jobs paying higher wages. The video also highlights his work in affordable housing. Here’s a look:

THE REST OF THE FIELD 

With King’s planned announcement today, we thought it a good time to check-in with the rest of the 2018 hopefuls — or likely hopefuls, as the case may be:

Gillum has spent the last month trying to boost his name recognition across the state, including hosting a roundtable about the Affordable Care Act in South Florida on Friday. Although the Tallahassee mayor has spoken at a few Democratic gatherings throughout the state, such as the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida in Tampa in early March, he didn’t attend the Florida Democratic Party’s County Chair Association Meeting in St. Petersburg this weekend. On Twitter, Gillum’s spokesman said he was getting “inducted into the FAMU Hall of Fame” and that was why he wasn’t at the event.” Although Gillum was first out the gate, he continues to be plagued email problems. Just last week, the Tallahassee Democrat reported another overtly political email sent from Gillum’s office surfaced, this time inviting people to a fundraiser for the Florida Democratic Party.

— When is Graham going to make her decision? Soon, or at least that’s what the former congresswoman has been saying for the past few months. During a meet-and-greet in Miami Beach in mid-March she said was going to make an announcement soon and wanted to make sure “everything is methodically planned out.” During a breakfast in Quincy last week, she said she was “in the planning stages right now, and we’ll have an announcement very soon.” So what does that mean? Well, the Tallahassee Democrat recently launched Our Florida, the state political committee expected to fund a 2018 gubernatorial run, and transferred $250,000 from her congressional coffers to the state committee. The committee is chaired by Stephanie Toothaker, an attorney with Tripp Scott who served as special counsel for Bob Graham, the former governor and U.S. Senator (and Rep. Graham’s dad). Now, the only thing left to do is wait for “soon” to roll around.

 Levine seems to be taking this idea of a listening tour seriously, traveling the state to attend several local Democratic meetings in recent weeks. In March, the Miami Beach Democrat traveled to the Manatee, Hillsborough, Pasco and Palm Beach counties to meet with Democrats and talk about issues important to them. He also sounded off on Airbnb’s attempts to flood the South Florida market, and shot back against state lawmakers looking to deregulate vacation home rentals. But … then again you have to wonder how much Levine is listening, when he’s reportedly blocking critics on social media. And he’s getting a bit of a Trumpian reputation for his off-the-cuff remarks on social media.

— Speaking of someone with a “yuge” social media presence: John Morgan hasn’t said yes or no, but he sure seems like he’s having a lot of fun considering it. The Orlando attorney has been toying with the idea of running for months, and a few weeks back even retweeted a story about former Sen. Jeremy Ring saying he planned to wait until after the 2017 Session to decide whether he’ll run for CFO saying “the feeling is mutual.” But Morgan, who backed the 2014 and 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendments, is getting a lot of press for someone who is just thinking about thinking about running. Last month, he was featured in a New York Times article about some folks pondering a run in a post President Donald Trump world.

But does all this early hype really matter? Sure, early announcements and shadow campaigns mean the potential to raise more dough and name recognition. But with 19 months until Election Day, the voters don’t really seem to give a hoot about the governor’s race.

A new poll from — conducted March 28 through March 29 by Gravis Marketing for The Orlando Political Observer — found 36 percent of Democratic voters said they were uncertain who they would vote for in the primary. The survey also showed many voters were still “uncertain” in several hypothetical head-to-head general election showdowns.

The poll found 24 percent of Democrats said they would pick former Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Democratic primary; while 23 percent said they would pick Gillum. Morgan received 9 percent support, followed Graham with 8 percent support, and Levine with 1 percent.

As for Republicans, they didn’t do much better: 63 percent of Republicans said they were uncertain who they would vote for in their primary. The poll found 21 percent GOP voters said they would pick Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, while 5 percent support went to former Rep. David Jolly and House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Sen. Jack Latvala received 4 percent, followed by former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker with 2 percent.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gillum will continue his campaign for Florida governor with a speech to the Florida General Baptist Convention, 10:30 a.m. at the Main Ballroom, Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista South, 4955 Kyngs Heath Rd, Kissimmee.

— “At County Chairs Retreat, Florida Dems plan to wage war with GOP in 2018 via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News

CAN A MODERATE ‘OLD WHITE GUY’ BEAT CONGRESSWOMAN STEPHANIE MURPHY? via Peter Schorsch Florida PoliticsDavid Simmons, the 64-year old Seminole County state Senator, is considering his first congressional run at an age when most Americans are considering retirement. Simmons’ candidacy likely appeals to NRCC operatives who may be inclined to overlook his rather bland, dull, and prematurely aged look in light of his hefty bank account. However, can Simmons’ compassionate voting record withstand a bruising primary campaign likely to favor conservatives? In 2014, the Florida Legislature did something I thought impossible: It granted in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. Simmons was an unapologetic “yes” vote. That will make it tougher for Murphy to attack Simmons as anti-immigrant, but harder for Simmons to survive his primary. Similarly, Simmons backed Medicaid expansion in the Senate — effectively enlarging and entrenching Obamacare — a move that’s unlikely to endear him to conservatives but may insulate him from Murphy’s attacks … policy similarities offer Simmons a fighting chance — if he can make it out of the GOP primary.

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – ZUCKERBURG’S IMMIGRATION REFORM GROUP LAUNCHES FLORIDA CHAPTER via Florida Politics FWD.us, founded by Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates among others, is gathering a coalition of business, community and faith leaders to push for immigration reform. The group favors equipping law enforcement with the tools necessary to stem further illegal immigrants from coming into the U.S. so they can focus on more dangerous criminals and security threats. The group also wants an overhaul for the legal immigration system so top-flight talent can come to the states and make the country more competitive in the global market. FWD.us is also looking for lawmakers to create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants in the country without a criminal history. Their plan would give immigrants who pass a criminal background check, pay fines and go through a probationary period the opportunity to apply for full citizenship years down the line.

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 23; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 30; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 30; MLB All-Star Game – 98; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 151; Election Day 2017 – 216; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 254; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 278.

RICK SCOTT OP-ED: REPUBLICANS CANNOT GIVE UP ON HEALTH CARE via USA Today — Repealing the failure of Obamacare and replacing it with a plan that actually provides affordable and quality health care for families is something that I focused on long before I became Governor. In 2009, when I was a private citizen, I launched Conservatives for Patients’ Rights because I was concerned about the ramifications Obamacare could have for our nation. And, what I fought hard against immediately came true. Under Obamacare, costs have skyrocketed and families cannot keep the doctors they like.  Obamacare was sold on a lie, plain and simple. In the wake of the demise of the House Republican health care reform effort in Washington, some are saying we should quit trying to do anything about our nation’s health care system. Abandoning the effort to improve our nation’s health care system is not an option. … While efforts like tax reform are important to strengthening our national economy, our country will never see the kind of growth we need as long as Obamacare is in place. Our businesses and entrepreneurs will never fully thrive as long as they are burdened by the costs of Obamacare. Washington needs to stop worrying about getting a grand bargain done, and start delivering on their promise to help American families by repealing Obamacare.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a “Fighting for Florida Jobs” roundtable at 10 a.m. Florida State College in Jacksonville’s Advanced Technology Center, Room T140, 401 W. State Street in Jacksonville. He’ll then highlight job growth at 2:15 p.m. at Boston Whaler, 100 Whaler Way in Edgewater. Media interested in attending should contact Susan Haywood from Boston Whaler at 386-428-0057 or susan.haywood@whaler.com.

RICHARD CORCORAN OP-ED: SCOTT IS ‘A GOVERNOR WHO WON’T HELP US’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – “We’ve got problems in the Senate, and we’ve got problems with a governor who won’t help us take this burden off the backs of our small businesses,” Corcoran told the Times/Herald. “If the governor would get more active and start traveling the state, talk about the stuff that’s really going to cost us jobs.” Repeating a familiar theme, Corcoran said: “Handing over million-dollar contracts to Pitbulls and Emerils and the insider dealing that goes on is not how we bring tourism here.” After placing Enterprise Florida on the political chopping block, Corcoran now criticizes Scott for trying to rescue the program. Scott’s office issued a response that focused mostly on Corcoran’s effort to abolish Enterprise Florida. “It is important to know that the bills fast-tracked through the Florida House have been job killers and detrimental to Florida’s active military, veterans and their families by eliminating the Florida Defense Alliance,” the statement said.

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As we reach the halfway point of session, GOP sponsored bills make up 77.33% of the total bills that have been placed on the calendar for a hearing in the Florida House.“

PAM BONDI’S OFFICE TO EMILY SLOSBERG: LOCAL GOVERNMENT CAN’T OUTLAW TEXTING WHILE DRIVING via Florida PoliticsThe Legislature can’t create an exception for Palm Beach County to make texting while driving in a school zone a primary offense there, Attorney General Bondi’s office said in a recent letter. The answer came in response to a question from state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat elected last year. The letter, dated Feb. 3, was part of an Attorney General’s Opinions Digest released Monday. Slosberg wanted to know “whether the Legislature may provide express authority for the Palm Beach County Commission to pass an ordinance making ‘texting while driving’ in a school zone in Palm Beach County a primary offense.” Nope, said Lagran Saunders, director of Bondi’s Opinions Division. (It’s now a secondary offense, meaning a driver has to be pulled over for something else first.) “To enact legislation granting authority to Palm Beach County to solely enact an ordinance making texting while driving in a school zone a primary offense would be contrary to this express legislative intent of a uniform system of traffic regulation and would violate the Florida Constitution,” the letter said.

LEGISLATURE COULD ERASE PART OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TESTING LAW via The Associated Press – State senators crafted the proposal together amid arguments over how much testing should be allowed in the state’s public schools. The Senate Education Committee voted for the bill … The measure (SB 926) would eliminate four end-of-year exams that are now required in civics, United States history, geometry and Algebra II. The legislation would allow school districts to use pencil and paper tests instead of requiring students to take tests online. The bill also pushes back the date of when the state’s high-stakes test is given to the last three weeks of the school year. Florida’s main tests are now given anywhere from late February to early May.

LEGISLATORS PUSH FOR MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO AID ANTI-ABORTION GROUP via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – The Florida Pregnancy Care Network is a private, nonprofit tax-exempt organization created in 2006. It has supported clinics across the state that, according to a Senate bill, offer an array of “wellness services” intended to help pregnant women “improve health or prevent illness and injury.” The programs supported by the network do not include abortion referrals or adoptions … Now lawmakers want to carve out a special place in state law for the program, guaranteeing its funding each year and tucking it in a state agency for oversight. “If you are pro-abortion, you don’t like this bill,” said bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Bean. “If you are pro-life, you like this bill.” The Legislature approved $4 million for the network in the current budget.

SENATE PANEL PASSES MEDICAL MARIJUANA PLAN via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel – With more dispensaries and more options for actually consuming cannabis, the plan approved by a Senate panel could be more in line with Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment than the far more restrictive House plan. The bill sponsor, state Sen. Rob Bradley said his bill “fully implements the will of the voters and does so without playing games or being cute.” But getting the House and Senate to come together and agree on a single version will be difficult. Even getting the Senate to a single version wasn’t easy. Five senators filed bills to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry, but Bradley’s bill, approved unanimously by the Senate Health Policy Committee, incorporated many ideas from the other bills in a flurry of amendments.

BOTTOMS UP: BEER, BOOZE BILLS CLEAR SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics Let freedom pour: Bills aimed at changing beer and booze regulations in Florida have cleared their latest review panel. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee OK’d measures that would allow beer distributors to give free branded beer glasses to bars and restaurants, authorize beer companies to advertise in theme parks and let craft distillers sell more bottles directly to consumers … Now, it’s capped at “two bottles per person per brand per year at one location” … GOP Sen. Greg Steube of Sarasota told fellow senators, “You can go to Wal-Mart and buy as many shotguns as you want. I just think the government telling a business how many pieces of product they can sell is archaic. It’s not good public policy.”

SENATE AOB REFORM BILL BARS INSURERS FROM CHARGING LITIGATION COSTS TO CUSTOMERS via Florida Politics — A Senate committee voted Monday to give the insurance industry more control over contractors operating under assignment of benefits agreements, but also to prevent them from factoring their litigation costs into the premiums they charge. HB 1218 would leave alone Florida’s one-way attorney fees, which requires insurance carriers to cover policyholders’ legal fees if the latter prevail in a legal challenge over a claim. But the bill would tighten regulation of the agreements, also known as AOBs. Banking and Insurance chairwoman Anitere Flores expressed disappointment that the bill’s many critics offered no amendments to make it better. She said she no longer was willing to accept insurers’ guarantee that their approach would reduce rates. “This is the issue du jour that property insurance companies have said is the rate driver. We went through sinkholes, we went through a variety of different issues. And as we have fixed those issues, the only people who  have been hurt have been consumers, and those who have benefitted are others,” Flores said.

— “Anitere Flores slams insurance industry for “smearing” her” via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times

SENATE PANEL OKS WORKERS’ COMP BILL OPPOSED BY INSURANCE INDUSTRY via Florida Politics – The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee voted 7-1 Monday to approve legislation that would require workers’ compensation carriers to compete on price rather than propose premium levels through a common ratings agency, and that would allow workers to pay attorneys hourly rates if they take insurers to court.The ‘No” vote was by Sen. George Gainer, a Republican from Panama City. The next stop is the Appropriations Committee. SB 1582 by Rob Bradley … also would change the way compensation judges award attorney fees in litigation over claims. Attorneys could receive as much as $250 per billable hour. Bradley argued the measure would strike the best balance possible between workers and employers and insurers. “The old system cannot work anymore because the (Florida Supreme) Court said it’s unconstitutional. So we have to find another system,” Bradley said.

CLOCK RUNS OUT ON VACATION RENTAL BILL, BUT ITS ONLY TEMPORARY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – With nine minutes left in a two-hour hearing Monday, senators finally got around to the only bill that drew a crowd. The lack of time guaranteed that the meeting would end with no vote on the vacation rentals bill (SB 188), sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube that pits private property rights against local home rule in a tourist-friendly state that’s a big market for Airbnb and HomeAway vacation rental platforms. … Steube appeared to have no better than a 5-3 vote in the eight-member Senate Community Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Lee.. While that’s enough to keep the bill moving, it falls short of a resounding endorsement. Lee said the bill would be rescheduled for the week of April 17, with next week’s abbreviated schedule devoted to the budget. “It will be back,” Lee said.

LIONFISH TAGGING, HUNTING PYTHONS, DESIGNATING REEFS: BILLS PASS HOUSE COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – If anyone has ever tried to insert a passive integration transponder tag into a lionfish, they may have an idea of how seriously the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee is viewing control of invasive species. Under House Bill 587, lionfish become one of three invasive species animals, along with python snakes and tegu lizards, the state would seek to better control through a pilot project that includes state-sponsored hunting and fishing, and the requirement that pet shop owners tag any of the animals they sell. While Florida’s efforts to control pythons and tegu lizards are well-known, long-standing, and likely to use most of the $300,000 this bill would set aside for invasive species hunts, lionfish, native to Pacific Ocean coral reefs, are a different challenge altogether. Once released from someone’s aquarium, lionfish tend to make their way to the Great Florida Reef, where they attack and decimate native species of fish.

WHAT KEVIN CATE IS READING – AUBURN LICENSE PLATE PROPOSAL PASSES COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Senate Bill 1374 chiefly focuses on efforts to honor veterans in Florida with various highway designations and license plates. It also includes a provision giving legislative approval of an Auburn University specialty license plate. The bill, touted for its veterans’ angles and with nary a word spoken about the Auburn plate during [its] committee meeting, was unanimously approved by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee. If the measure goes all the way through the Florida Legislature and gets signed by Gov. Scott, Auburn would become the first non-Florida college or university to get authorized for commemoration on the rear ends of Florida-registered cars and trucks.

JOE GRUTERS LAUNCHES AD TO HIGHLIGHT LEGISLATIVE WORK — The Sarasota Republican is has released a new advertisement aimed at highlighting some of the work he’s done during the 2017 Legislative Session. The 30-second spot focuses on his proposal to require employers to use the e-Verify system; bills dealing with abortion; and a proposal dealing with campaign finance reform. First elected in November, the ad features pictures of Gruters with his family, as well as a shot of Gruters with President Trump, who he was an early supporter of during the 2016 presidential election. Click on the image below to watch the video.

***The Senate Prospective Payment System plan will protect Florida’s aging seniors by incentivizing quality care. Learn more about how this reimbursement plan will promote improvement in Florida’s skilled-nursing centers. Learn more here.***

KEITH MILLER: FLORIDA’S SMALL BUSINESSES NEED PROTECTIONS IN STATE LAW via Florida Politics – Florida cannot continue to lose our small businesses, their investments, or risk taxpayer dollars due to unfair corporate franchisor practices. It is an all-too-common story where local business owners are at the mercy of the more powerful corporations and are taken advantage of. In this instance, the California-based corporation was issuing directives to the Florida owners based on California demographics and sales patterns which simply did not fit the Florida locations. When these locations were unable to comply with the unreasonable demands, and sales goals, they were left with no choice but to walk away from their businesses, leaving behind millions of dollars in property, equipment and supplies. Owning and operating a successful business is challenging enough without the constant stress and fear that everything you’ve worked for can be taken away in the blink of an eye. 23 other states have already enacted laws to provide greater protection for small business franchise owners and Florida should do the same. Similarly situated businesses in Florida, such as automobile dealers, agricultural equipment dealers and beer distributors are protected under Florida law.

FACT-CHECK: IS HOUSE ‘SANCTUARY’ BILL UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE COUNTRY? Via Allison Graves of PolitiFact – Rep. Larry Metz sponsored a proposal (HB 697) that would require county and local law enforcement agencies to comply with and support enforcement of federal immigration law or face stiff penalties. The bill has moved along party lines in a couple of House committee hearings. It needs a full vote in the House and approval in the Senate, where it has not been heard at all, before it can reach Gov. Scott’s desk and become law. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has raised strong objections. “It will be the only law of its kind in the nation,” Smith said. Several states have come up with bills targeting so-called sanctuary cities. Among them, HB 697 in its current form is indeed unique in terms of the severity of the prohibitions and penalties against state and local entities that choose not to comply with federal immigration detainer requests. The Texas Legislature appears to have the next-closest version of this legislation. We rate this statement Mostly True.

MAYORS TO LEGISLATURE: HANDS OFF OUR CITY HALLS via Richard Danielson of the Tampa Bay Times – “I have never seen the assault on local government on all fronts — our ability to self-govern, our ability to pass laws that are appropriate for our communities — as I have in this legislative session,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told a crowd of about 300 at an Economic Club of Tampa lunch. Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said bills pending in the state House will eliminate the ability of cities use community redevelopment funds to promote growth in blighted areas, as well as the ability of local governments to address gun violence or protect the rights of LGBT residents. Speaker Corcoran has said city and county officials have allowed the proliferation of “runaway regulations.” Local officials and the state also have clashed over efforts to pre-empt cities from regulating vacation rentals.

HOSPITALS ORDERED TO PROVIDE SALARY AND LOBBYING DATA TO HOUSE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – The House has advanced an $81.2 billion budget that would reduce payments to hospitals by more than $600 million next year. In what may be an attempt to bolster its political case for those cuts, the House is seeking information on hospital executives’ salaries and lobbying contracts. The deadline for hospitals to respond is by the close of business Friday, April 7. The request comes from House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s chief budget-writer, Rep. Carlos Trujillo. In emails sent out late last week by Trujillo’s staff director, JoAnne Leznoff, hospitals, including all members of the statewide Florida Hospital Association, are asked to provide extensive financial data, including: “Compensation received for all executive and administrative staff earning in excess of $200,000. Please provide the salary for each individual and associated job title.

SAFETY NET HOSPITALS DECRY MEDICAID SPENDING CUTS PLANNED FOR FLORIDA via Florida Politics – The cuts would undermine the state’s investments in training doctors, alliance members argued outside the Senate Office Building in Tallahassee.  Under the Graduate Medical Education Startup Bonus Program launched by Gov. Scott two years ago, teaching hospitals draw $100,000 bonuses for every residency they add in key specialties. New residencies totaled 313 this year. “We cannot train tomorrow’s physicians when every year our hospitals must re-evaluate their budgets,” said Lindy Kennedy, vice president for government relations for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance. … The pressure on hospital budgets is coming from all sides —Scott’s proposed budget would cut $929 million from the Medicaid share formula, paying 58 cents for every dollar the hospitals spend, alliance members said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Safety Net Alliance of Florida will hold a press conference to applaud trauma teams at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital, and Broward Health Medical Center for their heroic efforts in saving lives during recent mass casualty incidents at 10:30 a.m. in 231 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: First Lady Ann Scott and other state leaders will help launch Prevent Child Abuse Florida’s annual “Pinwheels for Prevention” campaign at 10 a.m. at the Governor’s Mansion, 700 North Adams Street. She’s expected to be joined by Sen. Audrey Gibson, Rep. Al Jacquet, DCF Secretary Mike Carroll, Surgeon General Celeste Philip, ACHA Secretary Justin Senior, DJJ Secretary Christina Daly and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

HAPPENING TODAY — COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Government Operations & Technology Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 7071) that would revamp electric utility regulation when it meets at 8 a.m. in Morris Hall. The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a series of claims bills, including on (HB 6523) that would lead to paying $3.75 million in the settlement of the case involving Nubia and Victor Barahona when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee committee will consider a proposal (SR 1440) that would apologize for abuse that occurred at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Jackson County during its meeting at 9:30 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill (SB 1370) that would require warning labels be placed on lottery tickets when it meets at 4 p.m. in110 Senate Office Building.

HAPPENING TODAY – FSU DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Pull out your garnet and gold, it’s FSU Day at the Capitol. The annual event will celebrate Florida State University’s preeminence and “all things garnet and gold.” The university will have displays and information tables set up on the plaza level, and second and third floor rotundas from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a pep rally from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Capitol plaza between the old and new Capitol. The event will feature FSU President John Thrasher, performances by the FSU cheerleaders, members of the Flying High Circus, and a pep band.

HAPPENING TODAY — FLORIDA POLY DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The Phoenix are taking on Tallahassee! Florida Polytechnic University students, faculty, students and leaders will head to the state Capitol for Florida Poly Day. The day-long event is meant to focus on promoting the state’s newest university, and school officials will set up display booths from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. in the Senate Portico.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Environment Florida Research & Policy Center will release new data ranking Florida and other cities for installed solar power at 8 a.m. The report will be available at EnvironmentFloridaCenter.org.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Bob Cortes will hold a press conference on State Attorney Ayala at 8:45 a.m. in 333 House Media Room. He’ll be joined by Reps. Mike Miller, Rene Plasencia, Scott Plakon and Jennifer Sullivan.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Darryl Rouson and Rep. Tracie Davis will hold a press conference to discuss their resolutions to acknowledge the abuses at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys at 11:30 a.m. on the fourth floor between the House and Senate chambers. They’ll be joined by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, former Gov. Bob Martinez, and former students of Dozier and Okeechobee Reform Schools.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Paul Renner will hold a press conference to highlight military-friendly bills from the 2017 Legislation at 12:30 p.m. in the 333 House Media Room. He’ll be joined by several members of the Legislature, including Sens. Jeff Brandes and Greg Steube.

HAPPENING TODAY – STACEY WEBB ARTS FOUNDATION HOSTS INAUGURAL SESSION FUNDRAISER — The Stacey Webb Arts Foundation will host its inaugural session fundraise at 5:30 p.m. at the Southern Public House, 224 East College Ave.,  n memory of Webb, who died in 2015. All proceeds directly fund arts education for economic disadvantaged children. The foundation recommends a $30 donation.

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION MEETINGS IN SOUTH FLORIDA MOVED TO LARGER SPACE via Florida Politics Carlos Beruff, chair of the panel that is reviewing the state’s governing document, says he’s bumped this week’s meetings to bigger rooms “to maximize public participation.” The commission’s Thursday meeting will be at the Florida International University (FIU) Student Academic Success Center in Miami at 5 p.m. and the Friday meeting is now at the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Acura Club (located in the FAU Stadium) in Boca Raton at 9 a.m. Full details are on the commission’s website. Additional public hearings will be announced soon. All hearings will be live-streamed by The Florida Channel.

FPL TO ADD ANOTHER 1,500 MEGAWATTS OF SOLAR OVER THE NEXT SEVEN YEARS via Florida Politics – The new power plants are in addition to the eight new solar facilities expected to come online by early 2018 and FPL said the new plants could save customers more than $500 million. The roadmap for the new facilities was filed with the Public Service Commission as part of the company’s 2017-2026 Ten Year Site Plan, which included the first-ever projection that solar power will outpace coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by 2020. Details on where the newly announced plants will be located haven’t been finalized, though the company said a Miami-Dade plant looks promising for 2019.

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION TO CONSIDER GULF POWER RATE HIKE – The Florida PSC will meet to discuss Gulf Power’s March 20 request for a proposed settlement reducing its rate hike to $62 million, down from an initial amount of nearly $107 million. Florida Industrial Power Users Group agreed to the settlement, and the Sierra Club announced it will not oppose it. The meeting begins 9 a.m. at the Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way in Tallahassee.

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

APPOINTED: Colonel John Domenech and Sheldon Suga to the District Board of Trustees of the Florida Keys Community College.

BRIAN BALLARD JOINS NATIONAL GOP FINANCE TEAM via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald Ballard, who helped finance Trump‘s upstart campaign in Florida, has joined the national ranks of the Republican Party … he was named one of the Republican National Committee’s regional finance vice chairmen. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel appointed Ballard and several others to top finance positions. “Together this team will employ their extraordinary talent and understanding of Americans across the country to maintain and build upon our unprecedented fundraising success,” she said in a statement.

SAVE THE DATE: Longtime Marco Rubio friend Jose Mallea is holding a fundraiser Monday, April 10, in his bid for House District 116. Special guests include the Hon. Andrew H. Card, Jr. and Rev. Kathleene Card. Event begins 6 p.m. at Mission DuPont Circle 1606 20th St. NW. in Washington D.C.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, opponents continue to line up against Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to buy land South of Lake Okeechobee. Gomes explores the role of agribusiness in Florida’s economy with the University of Florida Extension Scientist Alan Hodges. Plus, a possible budgetary food fight in the Legislature is expected over a plan to change how nursing home facilities get Medicaid reimbursements. Gomes interviews Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida Health Care Association about his efforts to improve the quality of the state’s nursing homes.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Tuesday’s Governors Club lunch buffet offers a touch of the Old South with she crab soup, remoulade slaw, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, traditional potato salad with bacon, fried chicken with whiskey BBQ sauce, herb roasted pork loin, macaroni & cheese casserole, mashed potatoes, succotash and broccoli & cauliflower casserole.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dave DeCamp, my fraternity brother turned great lawyer Jorge Gutierez, Dan Pollock, Mike Synan, and Kevin Sweeny‘s much-better half, Beth.

GONDOLAS COULD BE DISNEY’S NEXT NEW RIDE via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – A construction notice has given more fuel to the rumor that Walt Disney World is planning to build a gondola system connecting Epcot, three Disney resorts and Hollywood Studios. An official notice of commencement filed in Orange County for the construction of “foundation and building infrastructure” at six different locations could be the gondola’s route … Walt Disney World remains mum on the rumor. The proposed gondola would connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios and the Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation and Pop Century resorts. It would help relieve an overloaded system of buses that transport guests around Walt Disney World Resort.

Poll shows Rowdies soccer stadium referendum cruising to victory

During a recent interview with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Rick Baker said there were no plans for direct mail or other campaign spending to win a May 2 referendum to negotiate a 25-year lease with the city to expand Al Lang Stadium.

That’s because Baker, the former St. Petersburg mayor and president of the Edwards Group who is quarterbacking the pitch for Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards, is confident St. Pete residents will support the stadium expansion as part of an effort to entice Major League Soccer to award the community an expansion franchise.

Per usual, Baker is right. Very right.

According to a new survey conducted by St. Pete Polls, 70 percent of city voters say they will vote to approve the referendum, 19 percent indicate they will vote against it, while 11 percent say they are unsure.

While not exactly relevant to the May 2 referendum (but entirely relevant to the upcoming mayoral election, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s favorability/unfavorability rating stands at 48 to 35 percent, while Baker is at 60 to 23 percent).

The poll includes only responses from those registered voters who have participated in a city election within the last four years.

Vote-by-mail ballots were sent out late last month. Polls will be open May 2 in several locations throughout St. Pete (a list of polling locations is at votepinellas.com).

The proposed upgrades to historic Al Lang Stadium would cost up to $80 million and would increase capacity from approximately 7,500 to 18,000. The full cost of the renovations would be financed entirely by Edwards, and the upgrades would only happen if Tampa Bay is awarded an MLS expansion team.

The Rowdies, who are moving from NASL to USL this year, submitted their expansion application to MLS on Jan. 30. The club is one of 12 groups in 12 different cities that submitted a bid. The league will announce two new expansion clubs in 2017, with those teams set to begin MLS play by 2020. Two more teams will be added at a later date, taking the league to 28 total clubs.

Material from MLSSoccer.com was used in this report.

Can a moderate ‘old white guy’ beat Stephanie Murphy?

We cannot even get to the halfway point in the Legislative Session without turning to not-yet-developed 2018 races — especially with one Orlando congressional seat poised to become one of the most hotly-contested in the country.

Why?

Orlando is emblematic of Democratic hopes for their party. For the better part of the last few decades, the area has been represented by typical conservative white guys — Bill McCollum, Tom Feeney, John Mica, Ric Keller — and a gerrymandered African-American from Jacksonville (Corrine Brown).

Now, Central Florida has three Democrats: an African-American woman, Val Demings, who was Orlando’s first female police chief, former state Senator Darren Soto, who while born in New Jersey his father is Puerto Rican, and the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress, Stephanie Murphy. This is the Obama coalition, the so-called “coalition of the ascendant,” led by women, minorities, and young people (both Murphy and Soto are in their 30s).

So, what is the GOP answer?

Frank Torres at the Orlando Political Observer reports that David Simmons, the 64-year old Seminole County state Senator, is considering his first congressional run at an age when most Americans are considering retirement. The move would position Simmons to collect three government pensions: one from Social Security, one from the State of Florida and another from the federal government.

Small government is for suckers.

Simmons’ candidacy likely appeals to NRCC operatives who may be inclined to overlook his rather bland, dull, and prematurely aged look in light of his hefty bank account (Simmons is a multimillionaire, by the way).

As it happens, I like a good Republican, particularly of the Jeb Bush type. Every year, I support about as many Republicans as Democrats.

However, can Simmons’ compassionate voting record withstand a bruising primary campaign likely to favor conservatives?

In 2014, the Florida Legislature did something I thought impossible: It granted in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants. Simmons was an unapologetic “yes” vote. That will make it tougher for Murphy to attack Simmons as anti-immigrant, but harder for Simmons to survive his primary.

Similarly, Simmons backed Medicaid expansion in the Senate — effectively enlarging and entrenching Obamacare — a move that’s unlikely to endear him to conservatives but may insulate him from Murphy’s attacks.

While I think the personal contrast between the 30-something Murphy and the 60-something Simmons couldn’t be starker, policy similarities offer Simmons a fighting chance — if he can make it out of the GOP primary.

OK, enough politics, I’m back to an exciting committee meeting with your elected leaders debating whether the University of Moscow can have a vanity license plate.

INFLUENCE talks with Jack Latvala on life, political success and ‘what he’s learned’

Recounting an impressive list of achievements spanning four decades, veteran lawmaker Jack Latvala seems to have done it all: an effective Florida Senator and political consultant, a self-described “environmentally-conscious” Republican and the proud father to state Rep. Chris Latvala.

The Clearwater senator, chair of the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, recently sat down with FloridaPolitics.com’s Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster to reflect on his life, successes and years in Tallahassee.

“Most senators are sincere,” the 65-year-old Latvala said. “I learned who in this body can be counted on and who can keep their word. Of course, I’ve always been a good vote counter on issues or whatever, because I look people in the eye and then I can usually tell if they’re sincere or not.”

Born in Oxford, Mississippi in 1951, Latvala talked about his start in politics, working for the Republican Party of Florida in 1975, a role he continued for five years.

“The last couple of years, I was the ex­ecutive director of the legislative campaign committee,” he said. “After Jack Eckerd ran for gov­ernor, he agreed to stay active in the party, and he was the chair of that committee. He hired me and brought me to Pinellas County.”

It was there Latvala started Largo-based GCI Printing Services, his government affairs and direct mail business, which the senator said grew into one of the largest GOP direct mail companies in the nation outside of Washington, D.C.

“I did the direct mail fundraising for the state Repub­lican Party in 28 states at our zenith,” Latvala said, including all of George H.W. Bush’s direct mail in the South. After Bush’s election in 1988, Latvala said they split he became one of the three vendors nationwide for direct mail services.

That experience helped Latvala hone his talents for his own political ambition.

In 1993, after local state Rep. Sandra Mortham chose to run for Secretary of State, Latvala made the decision to run for the Florida House.

“I raised money and had a lot of money in the bank, and 10 days before qualifying in ’94,” he said, “the incumbent Republi­can state Senator in my district resigned to run statewide for Lieutenant Governor. So I shifted over to the Senate race.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

It was a lot different (then),” Latvala said “There were 40 leaders raised up by their communities, who came to Tallahassee and did what they thought was best for their communities. No one told a Florida Senator how to vote. You could get 21 votes; you could pass something.”

But with term limits and more House members winning Senate seats, Latvala believes there’s a lot more “follow the leader.”

“It was the worst when I came back in 2011,” Latvala said. “Then after I stood up to them and got a group of other people to stand up to them, it slowed down a little bit. But the House members that are coming over are very used to following their Speaker, to following their leader. I don’t think it’s all that good. That means one Speaker, one President makes all the decisions. And I just don’t think people want that.”

For Latvala, the most difficult years in the Senate were 2011–12, under President Mike Haridopolos. The last two years with Senate Pres­ident Andy Gardiner weren’t that great either, he said.

“The House ran over us on redistricting, ran over us on Medicaid expansion,” Latvala said. “Now it’s like nobody wants to extend the session because it makes you look bad. So, if you can get all the way to 60 days, you get your way.”

Latvala’s proudest accomplishments include the Florida Forever bill, which extended the state’s land-buying program, as well as measures creating the state’s chief financial officer office after constitutional amendments. He also played a key role in implementing the net ban law in 1994, taking another three years “to close all the loopholes,” as well as passing series of criminal justice bills that became a crucial part of Florida’s now 45-year low crime rate.

When Latvala returned to the Senate, he said he came back an “environmentally conscious Republican,” something a little bit harder to find than back in the 1990s.

“I’m kind of a conservative, but I’m a centrist,” he said “I take care of a lot of issues that independents and Democrats are concerned about, whether its environmental or whether it’s protecting our public employees, public safety employees, public schools.

“A lot of Democrats and independents care about that.”

Read Latvala’s entire interview, now available in the spring 2017 edition of INFLUENCE Magazine.

 

Lawmakers looking to give boost to Florida’s local franchise business owners

For the Republican-dominated Legislature, helping the business community is a high priority.

So, it’s not surprising that this Session, new protections for small-business owners are capturing legislators’ attention.

Tomorrow, the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries will hear SB 750, known as the Protect Florida Small Business Act. This bill, sponsored by powerful appropriations chair Sen. Jack Latvala, outlines several measures directed toward some of the questionable business practices of out-of-state franchisors in their relationships with Florida’s local franchise business owners.

The critical need of this legislation stems from the many stories that have emerged of abuses in the franchisor-franchisee relationship. Under current law, corporations have the power to terminate franchisees without any justification. This leads to incidents like in 2010, when a Vietnam veteran living in Miami invested $500,000 to open a franchise, only to have his store terminated after only six years. He subsequently opened an independent retail business, but the franchisor corporation moved to enforce an onerous noncompetition clause to prevent him from going out on his own.

Further corporate abuses include preventing the transfer of a business, even in the event of an owner’s death, refusing to renew a franchise agreement, and restricting resale with the intention of a return on investment. Examples of these abuses are found throughout the state. A Tampa couple was forced to shut down their after-school tutoring franchise—and lose $75,000—before they could sell their business to a qualified buyer. An Orlando woman recently had her pre-school franchise terminated without cause after reporting being the victim of domestic violence.

The protections proposed by the Protect Florida Small Business Act seek to provide a stable and fair foundation for local franchise owners to conduct business with corporate franchisors. This would give the franchise owners more security and encourage them to continue to invest in the Florida economy. Interestingly enough, these protections are not new to Florida. Several industries in the state, such as agricultural equipment and automobile dealers, are already offered these protections – this bill would simply extend them to the franchise business industry.

The public has spoken – and Floridians are overwhelmingly in support of taking care of these small-business owners who invest in their communities. A recent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon reported that 71 percent of Floridians think that the state should provide protections to franchise owners. This is an impressive statistic, but also easy to believe when you consider the more than 40,000 franchised businesses in Florida that employ over 400,000 Floridians.

This bill is a product of these stories of young upstarts, family business owners, and veterans losing their livelihoods due to the unchecked power of corporations. With the support of the majority of Floridians, Sen. Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur, who are sponsors, hope to extend protections to these local franchise owners and promote their continued growth and investment in the state.

Volunteer Florida ready for the start of Florida Volunteer Month

Volunteer Florida is gearing up for a busy April with a slew of initiatives and activities celebrating Florida Volunteer Month.

“Volunteer Florida is proud to recognize Florida’s outstanding volunteers, who work hard every day to make the Sunshine State the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman. “Florida Volunteer Month is a time to celebrate their impact and encourage others to serve.”

Among the agency’s plans for the month is the #30Under30 initiative, which highlights exceptional Sunshine State volunteers under the age of 30, and the first-ever Volunteer of the Year award, the winner of which will be announced in late April.

Volunteer Florida has also teamed up with telecommunications giant Comcast to produce a TV spot promoting volunteerism, and grantees and partners of the agency plan to participate in Comcast Cares Day on April 22, the largest corporate philanthropy day in the nation.

Gov. Rick Scott also spoke in support of volunteers ahead of the the kick-off to Florida Volunteer Month.

“Florida volunteers strengthen communities across the state and help change the lives of families in need,” Scott said. “We are proud to recognize the hard work and commitment of our many volunteers during the year’s Florida Volunteer Month.”

Volunteer Florida is encouraging Floridians to use the hashtag #ServeFL on social media when sharing their photos and stories of service. More information on Florida Volunteer Month and listings for volunteer opportunities across the state can be found on the agency’s website.

Sunburn for 4.3.17 – All eyes on Carlos Trujillo; WSJ dings Anitere Flores; House T-shirt non-con; David Simmons for Congress; Volunteer Month; King Arthur trailer

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica, although today we’re giving Gary Fineout of the Associated Press the lead…

DIVIDED OVER DOLLARS: LEGISLATORS SPLIT ON SPENDING

With about a month left in the regular session, the Republican-controlled Legislature is on a major collision course over spending.

This past week the House and Senate released rival budgets for the coming year that reveal a wide divide between the two chambers on everything from taxes to schools to state worker pay raises.

The two sides don’t even have the same bottom line: The Senate’s overall budget is more than $85 billion, or roughly $4 billion more than the House proposed. The current state budget is nearly $82.3 billion.

Part of the reason for the disparity is that House Republicans sought aggressive budget cuts, aimed largely at hospitals and state universities. But the House budget also sets aside money for roughly $300 million in tax cuts, including a reduction in the tax charged on rent paid by businesses.

House leaders say they pushed ahead with deep spending cuts to help the state avoid possible shortfalls that are projected over the next two to three years by state economists. In describing the need for cuts, House Republicans have referred to a budget “deficit” even though state tax collections are actually growing.

“We have to make informed decisions, and we have to make tough decisions,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, a Miami Republican and the House budget chairman. “We can’t be all things to all people.”

A big sticking point between the House and Senate will be over money for public schools.

The Senate is recommending a nearly $800 million increase for day-to-day operations that would boost the amount spent on each student by close to 3 percent. That contrasts with the House’s proposal that would increase the per student amount by 1.25 percent.

“The budget meets the needs of our growing state in a manner that reflects the priorities of the constituents who elected us,” said Senate President Joe Negron.

But a large portion of the Senate plan relies on an increase in local property taxes triggered by rising property values. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has vowed to block any proposal that relies on higher taxes.

Corcoran and other House Republicans have proposed steering large amounts of money into contentious programs, including an ambitious $200 million “Schools of Hope” plan that would offer money to charter school operators that set up schools near failing public schools.

Another wide area of disagreement: Money for economic development programs and tourism promotion that has already pitted House leaders against Gov. Rick Scott. The Senate has kept intact the state’s economic development agency known as Enterprise Florida and agreed to keep spending on tourism marketing close to current levels. The House is proposing to shutter Enterprise Florida, while slashing the state’s tourism ad budget by roughly $50 million.

“Over and over again, politicians in the House have failed to understand that Florida is competing for job creation projects against other states and countries across the globe,” Scott said this week about the House proposal.

The House and Senate also differ on the need for across-the-board raises for state workers. The Senate is offering a raise of $1,400 to all employees making $40,000 or less, and $1,000 to those who earn more than $40,000. The House is recommending targeted pay raises to corrections officers and state law-enforcement agents.

The Senate is also proposing to borrow up to $1.2 billion to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been blamed for toxic algae blooms. House leaders have said they are opposed to borrowing money this year but have not rejected the Senate plan.

ANITERE FLORES BETS ON WASHINGTON INTERVENTION IN HEALTH CARE BUDGET via Michael Moline of Florida PoliticsFlores has built a health care budget around $600 in federal money for indigent care that she concedes might never arrive. “If it doesn’t happen, look, we’ll have to reassess the situation,” Flores said this week during a hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “This is just the Senate’s version. There’s a whole other version that’s going on in the House,” she said. Pending negotiations with the House and Gov. Scott, “I think it’s important for us as a Senate to take a stand and day, ‘We’re going to do whatever we can to help our hospitals help make their case to the federal government,’” Flores said. “If we simply do nothing — if simply say, ‘Well, let’s just not even include it,’ that may not send the right message to Washington as far as the state’s commitment to hospitals and to Medicaid re-imbursement.”

HIGHER EDUCATION PROJECTS FAIL HOUSE’S STRICT NEW BUDGET TEST via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The budget — agreed upon in principle, and due in bill form this week — will call for something like $2.2 billion in spending cuts, according to House leaders, for a total expenditure of $81.2 billion. Among the biggest targets — because they rank among the single most significant expenses outside entitlements like Medicaid — is member projects, Rep. Trujillo said … These are programs that members hope to bring home to their constituents, and a lot of them wind up at universities and colleges. “Some of them might be parochial in nature. Some of them might not really have a state impact,” Trujillo said … “We were very aggressive in identifying those and removing them from the budget,” he said. The House is intent on ending the time-honored tradition of sneaking projects into the budget during conference committee negotiations. Rules change forced members to apply early for inclusion in the budget.

HOSPITAL FUNDING CUTS WOULD HIT ORLANDO AND MIAMI FACILITIES HARDEST via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Both the House panel and Scott recommended cutting supplemental payments to Florida Hospital by $49.9 million. The House health budget committee recommended cutting payments to Jackson Memorial by $28.3 million. The Senate recommended cutting supplemental payments to Jackson Memorial by $34.3 million and to University of Florida Shands in Gainesville by $16.8 million. Hospitals in Collier and Lee counties face cuts that, although smaller, still would have a “profound impact,” one spokeswoman said. These proposed cuts would move the House and Senate closer together, but there are still gulfs between the two chambers in terms of amount and method. The House panel, which is more ideologically aligned with the governor on health care, has proposed cutting $622 million from hospitals, whereas the Senate would cut nearly $260 million.

WHERE DID $1.3 BILLION FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING GO? THE LEGISLATURE TOOK IT. via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – For the 10th year in a row, the Governor and Legislature are proposing to sweep money from the affordable housing trust funds into the general revenue fund to spend on other purposes. Since the start of the Great Recession, that has added up to $1.3 billion. This year, the trust funds will collect about $292 million for affordable housing from the documentary stamp taxes on real estate transactions. The draft Senate budget released last week allocates $162.4 million of the funds into affordable housing while the House and Gov. Scott propose spending even less of the proceeds on housing — $44 million. “Housing is definitely a problem, but the issue is we aren’t going to just throw more affordable housing into South Florida,” said Rep. Trujillo, adding that he believes the program couldn’t absorb more than the House will give it. Besides, he adds, “the reality is there’s only a 60-day legislative session. There’s only so many issues you can tackle in 60 days.”

EDITORIAL: DON’T RAID AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND YET AGAIN via the Bradenton Herald –The Sadowski Act, passed into law in 1992, pumps money into affordable housing programs statewide through the documentary stamp tax paid on real estate transactions. But those dollars are basically stolen by Tallahassee politicians more interested in funding their goals — by explaining the money was needed to balance the state budget. This year is like many others. The Legislature has yet to rob the Trust Fund bank, but Gov. Scott has set his sights on the easy money. His budget proposal, which he titled “Fighting for Florida’s Future” to “create opportunities for generations of Floridians,” sweeps about two-thirds — 77 percent — of the lawfully dedicated money supposedly going into the Sadowski fund back into his $83.5 billion state budget plan. Scott’s attempted heist amounts to $224 million earmarked for low-income housing from state and local housing funds this coming fiscal year — for his priorities. The political message is crystal clear. Housing for the poor is not a priority, not even a low one, not by any measure.

LEGISLATURE TO CONSIDER CUTS TO ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – State Rep. Scott Plakon, the Altamonte Springs Republican who has been extremely critical of Ayala since she announced her no-death-penalty stance. And when he engineered the line-item, $1.3 million budget cut that wound up included in the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee he made it clear the cut was a result of that stance. “She’s not prosecuting death penalty cases, so this is essentially the money to be used for death penalty cases,” Plakon said. Democrats and Ayala’s office have blasted that cut and charged that the Orange County Republican members of that subcommittee — Eric Eisnaugle, Mike Miller and Jennifer Sullivan — are putting their own constituents at public safety risk by slashing money for prosecuting criminals. “The impact of cutting $1.3 million and eliminating 21 positions would severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes,” Ayala declared in a public statement.

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DAYS UNTIL: NFL Draft – 24; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 31; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 31; MLB All-Star Game – 99; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 152; Election Day 2017 – 217; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 255; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 279.

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – POLL SHOWS 80% OF FLORIDIANS OK WITH VACATION HOME RENTALS via Florida Politics A new poll commissioned by the vacation home rental giant Airbnb shows that Floridians are overwhelmingly supportive of the idea of people renting out their homes to tourists. The poll found 80 percent support allowing Florida residents to rent out their homes through Airbnb and more than half think the rapidly-rising trend is good for the state. And the poll also found that surveyed voters would support taking away cities’ and counties’ abilities to regulate vacation rentals, leaving it up to the state, a question addressing two bills moving through the Florida Legislature. ….

… The key question about home rentals found 80 percent support and 20 percent opposition. And the support was within the margin of error of 80 percent for Republicans, Democrats, independents, and for voters in north, central and south Florida. Republicans and south Floridians offered the least support – 78 percent each. The question of whether the practice is good for Florida showed similar unanimity. Overall, 52 percent of those surveyed said it was good for Florida, 35 percent said it was neutral, and 13 percent bad. Republicans were slightly below those levels, at 49 percent good, 35 percent neutral and 16 percent bad. All other breakouts showed majorities thinking it is good. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they favored having the state, not local governments, registering rental properties; and 64 percent said they would support changing state law to prevent cities and counties from imposing restrictions on vacation homes.

— “Florida residents like vacation rentals” via Denis Hanks of the Sunshine State News

AIRBNBWATCH PUSHES BACK: “As the Senate Community Affairs Committee addresses vacation rentals activity this afternoon, AirbnbWATCH Florida encourages members of the committee to consider the property rights of those who want quiet neighborhoods before rolling back our laws to a time when short-term rentals were just a fraction of the problem they are today. AirbnbWATCH Florida believes it is time for all commercial lodging operators – and the websites they’ve used to enter every corner of our state – to play by the rules. Florida’s homeowners are counting on legislators to get it right.”

BLACK CLOUDS LOOM OVER THIS YEAR’S GAMBLING BILLS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – It’s long been a Capitol cliché, but there are few pronouncements on a piece of legislation as inauspicious as calling something “a heavy lift.” Yet that’s how Corcoran referred to the omnibus gambling bills now on their way to conference. They include a new agreement for continued exclusive rights for the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer blackjack in return for $3 billion over seven years. “It’s got a long way to go,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said …  Generally, the House holds the line on gambling expansion; the Senate is open to some expansion, including allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that approved a slots referendum. Having blackjack money for the upcoming $80 billion-plus state budget could mean an extra $340 million-$350 million. “It’s a heavy lift. There’s a reason it hasn’t been passed in decades,” Corcoran said. “But this is the first time, probably that anyone can recall, where you have two bills moving … That puts them in a posture to see where a negotiation goes … But I would still say it’s a heavy, heavy lift … We’ll see how it unfolds.”

DANA YOUNG, ENVIRONMENTALISTS STILL HOLD HOPE FOR FRACKING BAN IN 2017 via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – House members now say the possibility of a fracking ban is dead for the 2017 Legislative Session. Young thinks it’s premature to administer last rites, at least just yet. “You never say never, but now we’re saying it looks like that will be next year,” Rep. Mike Miller [said] about his bill (HB 451) as the first month of Session ended … The reason for the impasse is the desire by some House Republicans for a scientific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking. “What I would say is, move a bill in your chamber that has a study and a ban in it,” Young says, “and then let’s let other members in on that and see where we end up.”

SENATE COMMITTEE GEARS UP TO HEAR BILL TO REGULATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA INDUSTRY via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Florida Senate Health Policy Committee will take up a proposal to regulate Florida’s medical marijuana industry … The bill, SB 406, would outlaw smoking medical marijuana and would limit medical marijuana for Florida residents only …  bill sponsor Sen. Rob Bradley … filed eight different amendments to alter his original proposal. One of the new amendments would create a coalition for medical marijuana research through Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Center and Research Institute, one of the top medical research centers in the state. The goal of the coalition, according to the amendment, is to conduct “rigorous scientific research,” and to “guide policy” for the adoption of a statewide policy on ordering and dosing practices for medical marijuana.

BEER GLASS BILLS COMING TO A HEAD via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bills are moving in the Legislature to allow beer distributors to give away glasses from brewers imprinted with product names and logos to bars and restaurants. Now, they have to be sold. The House bill (HB 853) was first OK’d by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week on a 10-4 vote. Three Democrats and Republican Julio Gonzalez voted against it. The Senate version (SB 1040) was previously approved in the Regulated Industries Committee 10-zip. It’s up next in the Senate … in the Commerce and Tourism Committee. So what’s the problem? Proponents, including small businesses, say it’ll be a boon to them to cut down on glasses lost from theft and breakage. Take the often-cited example of the chalice-style glass for Stella Artois, “designed to release the beer’s flavor and aroma.” Global beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev owns that brand. And thus the opposition. Rep. Randy Fine, who supports the measure, nonetheless said the glasses could be “used as an inducement to create anti-competitive behavior, that there will be strings attached.”

JANET CRUZ’S ‘TOUGH HAUL,’ FRUSTRATIONS OF THE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE CAUCUS via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Tampa Rep. Cruz … admits it’s been a tough haul. “I feel like we’re spending so much time on bills that in caucus meetings, we’ve grown to call them ‘dead bills walking,'” she says of how Session is going so far. “These are bills that are simply shots across the bow,” she says, specifically referring to Speaker Corcoran and his campaign to kill Enterprise Florida. The Speaker’s effort comes much to the consternation of Gov. Scott, who continues to travel the state to call out individual Republicans who have voted in support of the proposal to date. “They’re one executive branch taking shots at the other executive branch,” Cruz says. “And in my opinion, it’s all posturing to run for higher office.”

AFTER READING ABOUT ‘GROVELAND FOUR,’ JASON FISCHER FINDS A CAUSE via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-UnionFischer not only has decided he wants to help pass a resolution that could help exonerate and formally apologize to the Groveland Four, he is leading the charge for Republicans to back a bill that is stalled in the House. After reading a book about the Lake County case last weekend, Fischer asked Rep. Bobby Dubose if could join him in sponsoring House Concurrent Resolution 631. Fischer also convinced nine other Republicans to sign on as co-sponsors. “I’m from Florida, and I had never heard the story before,” Fischer said about the case involving four black men accused of raping a white woman in 1949. It resulted in two of the accused being killed by police and two others receiving harsh prison sentences. They died after being granted parole but were never pardoned. The Orlando Sentinel reported that evidence that could have exonerated the men was hidden away for decades.

ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS FIGHT FINALLY COMING TO A SENATE COMMITTEE VOTE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Legislation addressing assignment of benefits abuse comes up in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee — and it’s not the version insurance and business interests like. The panel will hear SB 1218 by Sen. Gary Farmer, a trial lawyer from Broward County. A rival bill, SB 1038, by Dorothy Hukill and Kathleen Passidomo, has yet to be favored with a committee hearing. The Hukill-Passidomo bill would bar third parties holding assignment of benefits agreements from collecting attorney fees if they sue insurers. That’s a top priority for Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier and the insurance and business lobbies.

OUCH –CATEGORY 5 FLORES” via the Wall Street Journal editorial board – Florida homeowners might want to remember the name Anitere Flores when they open their next insurance bill. The South Florida Republican … blocked an effort to stop a plaintiff’s attorney scheme that’s endangering the state’s taxpayer-backed catastrophic insurer and sending premiums skyrocketing. Citizens Property Insurance Corp. spent years building a fiscal surplus after the active 2004-05 hurricane season. Now the momentum is blowing in the other direction … Citizens attributes the red ink to “assignment of benefit” abuse … a practice whereby lawyers and contractors convince homeowners to sign over their right to sue insurers for certain kinds of home damage. Insurers typically settle these claims to avoid protracted and expensive court battles, and thanks to Florida law they’re on the hook for attorney’s fees too. Republican state Senators Hukill and Passidomo introduced a bill in February that would stop AOB abuse by ending attorney fee paydays, among other reforms. But Flores refused to allow the Hukill-Passidomo reform onto the committee’s agenda, effectively killing it for this legislative session. That’s a remarkable political choice given that Sen. Flores’s South Florida constituents are paying increasingly high premiums thanks to AOB abuse.

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

HERSCHEL VINYARD: LISTEN TO WATER EXPERTS IN LAKE OKEECHOBEE DEBATE via Florida Politics – In my previous role as Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, it wasn’t often I would find consensus on issues involving local water management districts, the state and federal government. But after years of studying the options to best reduce the occurrence of discharges used to lower Lake Okeechobee, those involved in these three levels of governance all agree that buying additional acres of land south of the lake doesn’t solve the problem. Instead, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the state, Florida’s Congressional Delegation, and the Florida leaders of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remain firm on finishing the projects included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP. So, what are the water quality experts responsible for Everglades restoration and fixing Lake Okeechobee saying? Starting at the district level, SFWMD scientists and engineers earlier this month reported district modeling shows that storage north of the lake included in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project (LOWP) – which includes solutions such as a 250,000 acre-foot above-ground northern reservoir and 110 Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) wells – will “reduce the total discharge volume to the estuaries by more than 60 percent.”

WHY CHILDREN DIE: IF EVERYBODY’S RESPONSIBLE, NOBODY’S RESPONSIBLE via Florence Snyder for Florida Politics – “Foster care kids are our kids. They are our kids,” said Democratic Sen. Kevin Rader in support of legislation making it easier for youth in state custody to obtain a driver’s license. You hear that line a lot — a lot — from “leadership” at the Department of Children & Families (DCF), and from the flacks who wear the skirts behind which “leadership” hides. It means nothing. It means less than nothing. Latest case in point: Lauryn Martin-Everett. The 16-year-old spent half her life as one of “our kids” before hanging herself by the neck until dead in a “children’s shelter” which gets money from the “community-based care” which gets money from the DCF which gets money from the state Legislature to “parent” tens of thousands of infants, toddlers and teens in “out-of-home care.” DCF’s “leadership” is not talking, but thanks to what little is left of Florida’s public records law, we know that the state adopted Lauryn out to some “forever family” that later returned her in a fit of buyer’s remorse. Florida has never paid more than lip service to the idea of recruiting and retaining the kind of highly competent, highly qualified social workers who would not, on their worst day, be fooled or bullied into letting infamous child abusers like Jorge and Carmen Barahona adopt a goldfish, let alone four of “our kids.”

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH – The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would require high school students to earn a half-credit in personal financial literacy during its meeting at 11:30 a.m. in Reed Hall. The House Higher Education Appropriations Committee will discuss a bill that would require colleges and universities to provide information to students each year about students’ loans during its meeting at 3 p.m. in 212 Knott.  The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would help juveniles expunge their records after the complete diversion programs for misdemeanor offenses at its meeting at 3 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss a bill that would allow beer distributors to give free branded glassware to bars and restaurants during its meeting at 1:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will tackle a bill to revamp the state’s workers compensation insurance program during its meeting at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. Medical marijuana is on the agenda when the Senate Health Policy Committee meets at 4 p.m. in 412 Knott.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK – SAFETY NET HOSPITAL CAPITOL DAYS – The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida will hold its annual Safety Net Capitol Days from April 3 through April 4. The two-day event will include two media events to discuss proposed hospital reimbursement cuts and gains in addressing Florida’s physician shortage. The organization will hold a press conference to discuss Medicaid hospital reimbursement and the physician shortage at 1 p.m. Monday in the Senate portico. Speakers include Steve Sonenreich, chairman of the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida; Dr. Jonathan Ellen, the chairman of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance, and Tony Carvalho, president of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. On Tuesday, there will be a media availability to applaud trauma teams at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Lee Memorial Hospital and Broward Medical Center for their efforts to save lives during recent mass casualty incidents at 10:30 a.m. in 231 Senate Office Building.

FRANCHISE GROUP TWEETS TONE-DEAF OPPOSITION TO ‘FLORIDA SMALL BUSINESS ACT’ via Florida Politics – A couple of months ago, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced supporting the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750), which seeks to “promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors” … that hasn’t set well with the International Franchise Association, which took to social media to make its case … A series of tweets on the group’s page (@Franchising411) blasted several lawmakers, calling on them to reject SB 750 and its House companion (HB 1069). But something was not quite right. Behind each image of a Florida legislator was a map of California, not Florida …  it would be reasonable to assume IFA could spring for a staffer with some basic geographic knowledge, or at least hire a person (anyone) who knows the difference between Florida and California. Ironically, the worst of these misguided tweets is one the few that got it right — with Florida in the background, that is. Sent March 30, the tweet in question asked supporters to contact Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill … Who is not in Tallahassee but contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.

T-SHIRTS CAUSE CLOTHING KERFUFFLE IN FLORIDA HOUSE via Florida PoliticsOn Thursday, members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus wore purple T-shirts with the slogan, “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate.” Rules Chair Jose Oliva … soon put the kibosh on the sartorial messaging. Take the T-shirts off, the offending members were told, or turn them inside out. The reason: They violate House decorum. After the session, Florida Times-Union reporter Tia Mitchell tweeted a photo of Rep. Lori Berman with, yes, her T-shirt turned inside out. “‘A woman’s place is in the House & Senate.’ But the Sgt at arms says her tshirt is not (forced to turn inside out),” the tweet said.

DAVID SIMMONS 98 PERCENT SURE HE’S CHALLENGING STEPHANIE MURPHY IN 2018 via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – … after meeting with members of the National Republican Congressional Committee and exploring other options. “I’ve given it a lot of thought.” Simmons told the Observer … “I’ve met with the NRCC and I’m 98 percent headed towards a run in the 7th Congressional District.” Simmons was the featured speaker at the Florida Federation of College Republicans Annual Meeting at the University of Central Florida, which is also part of the 7th District. “The first thing this district needs is a Republican Congressperson. I think that’s critical.” said Simmons before referencing the work he was currently doing in the state Legislature to improve the region.

— “Scott Fuhrman seeks rematch against Illeana Ros-Lehtinen” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Hearld

— “Democrats and the state Senate – the 2016 failure and 2018 hopes” via Kartik Krishnaiyer of The Florida Squeeze

KATIE EDWARDS WON’T RUN FOR AG COMMISSIONER; INSTEAD PUSHES NO TAX ON TAMPONS via Buddy Nevins of BrowardBeat.com Edwards appeared to be positioning for a statewide run when Commissioner Adam Putnam left office next year because of term limits. Instead, she will run for a fourth term in the Florida House and continue to pursue legislation like ending sales tax on menstrual products. Despite representing one of the most urban counties in Florida, Edwards’ resume is stocked with solid agriculture credentials. Before winning office in 2012, Edwards was executive director of the Miami Dade Farm Bureau. She is currently the top Democratic on the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee.

DEMOCRAT DEBRA KAPLAN FILES TO RUN FOR HD 31 via Scott Powers of Florida PoliticsKaplan, 64, is a former cable-TV Emmy-award-winning political reporter in Connecticut, and Apopka and former public relations agent, who said she strove to remain politically independent until recently, and then worked on the Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns. She calls herself a political moderate on most issues due to her life experience, yet an avowed feminist. “I’ve worked in the fields. I’ve worked in factories. I’ve worked in the dietary department of a hospital, pushing trays. I’ve waitressed. I’ve done backbreaking work. And I’ve been a journalist and public relations person and a promotions person,” she said. “I know what it’s like to sit around a kitchen table with a pile of bills when you’re not making a lot of money and trying to make things work. I understand what that feels like.”

ONE FOSTER CHILD HANGING STIRS ANGUISH; THE OTHER IS BARELY NOTICED via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald Lauryn Martin-Everett tied a blue patterned scarf around her neck and hanged herself from a doorway at a troubled Florida Keys youth shelter. In the 13 weeks since Lauryn died, her parents have asked no tough questions about what led the 16-year-old to submit to her sorrow. Her parents have asked virtually no questions at all. Legally, her “parents” were the state of Florida. As a foster child, Lauryn was a ward of the state. A “child fatality summary” by the Department of Children & Families on Lauryn’s short life and unexpected death is less than three pages long. Only four paragraphs are devoted to her eight-year odyssey through the state’s child welfare system. A website DCF developed three years ago to bring transparency to the grim business of child death makes no reference to Lauryn Martin-Everett. DCF released the report … along with a short statement: “We remain deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this child.” Jessica Sims, a DCF spokeswoman, said the agency would not discuss Lauryn’s death, or her many-year history with the department — and will not release her foster care file. Because DCF has determined that Lauryn did not die as a result of abuse or neglect, details of her case cannot be disclosed to the public, the agency said.

POWERFUL READ – ORLANDO FAMILY LEARNS TO FIND LOVE, LIFE, RICHNESS IN DEATH via Scott Maxwell the Orlando Sentinel Roger and Susan Chapin are waiting … for their daughter to die. With hospice nurses present, they have begun the final chapter inevitably associated with Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare degenerative condition denying Blair’s 80-pound body the digestive functions she needs to live. You might expect the house to be filled with mourning. In many ways, it is. But the Chapins also spend their days giving thanks for all the love and light Blair brought into their lives — for how much “richer” they are because of her. That was how Roger described it when telling his younger daughter, Grey — a sophisticated 13-year-old who’s fiercely protective of her big sister — that the end was near. “We cried together,” Roger said. “We talked about her body giving up, how it’s tired and she’s ready to go to heaven. But we also talked about how much richer our lives have been because of Blair.”

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Brian Bautista, Impact GR: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc

Matt Bryan, David Daniel,  Thomas Griffin, Jeff Hartley, Lisa Hurley, Jim Naff,  Smith Bryan & Myers: Tetra Health Management Florida LLC

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Boveda, Inc.; Pharmaceutical Care Management Association

Nicole Graganella, Trevor Mask, Colodny Fass: Relating to Relief of C.M.H. by the Dept. of Children and Families

Mike Haridopolos: Union Supply Company, Inc

Andrea Reilly, Smith Bryan & Myers: Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers; Tetra Health Management Florida LLC

Mike Rogers, Southern Advocacy Group: Florida Weatherization Network; St. Johns Housing Partnership, Inc.

Clark Smith, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Prepaid College Foundation, Inc

Herschel Vinyard, Foley & Lardner: Blue Head Land & Cattle Co., LLC

APPOINTED: Judge Susanne Wilson Bullard to the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court; Judge Tanya Davis Wilson to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court; Andrea Watt McHugh to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court; Anne-Leigh Gaylord Moe to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Ana Maria Garcia to the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Court; Jared E. Smithto the Hillsborough County Court.

APPOINTED: Luke Buzard to the Early Learning Coalition Hillsborough County, Inc.; Kristin Incrocci to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority; Susan Dolan and Douglas Burnett to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District; J.C. Stoutamire to the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, Region Two; Martha Lanahan to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation; Amy Gowder to the Florida Defense Support Task Force.

AT&T, MOTOROLA CHOSEN FOR FIRSTNET, NATIONWIDE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMS NETWORK via Florida Politics – The U.S. Department of Commerce and the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) has announced AT&T was chosen to build and manage the first nationwide wireless broadband network for America’s police, firefighters and emergency medical services. FirstNet is a federal initiative to create a single platform as the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated exclusively to public safety. Estimated costs for this public-private partnership is as much as $46.5 billion. Through the initiative, AT&T and Motorola — selected over a group of rival providers, including Melbourne-based Harris Corp. — will be called on to deliver an interoperable network for first responders, using upgraded technology for improved communication with each other and across agencies at the local, state and national levels.

MIAMI HERALD CONTINUES TO MAKE STAFF CUTS WITH NO END IN SIGHT via Random Pixels – There are daily indications of the deep trouble now facing the Herald. The paper once employed a staff of more than 30 photographers statewide. But now the Herald and El Nuevo Herald share a combined staff of 7 photographers. A quick check of this morning’s “A” section of the paper shows zero staff-produced photographs. The irony here of course is, that on the same day the Herald publishes a full-page ad asking its readers to #SupportRealNews, the managing editor sends out an email announcing the layoffs of two more staffers. But the Herald’s problems are not just on the news gathering side. After writing this post, I heard from no fewer than three friends who still subscribe to the paper. One is a retired Herald staffer. All three tell me that getting the paper delivered is a hit and miss proposition. Says one: “Of course I haven’t had my paper delivered since March 7 … I’ve had a range of ‘managers’ email me and take calls … I’m about to give up and cancel it … shouldn’t be this difficult to drop a paper on a doorstep.”

VOLUNTEER FLORIDA KICKS OFF FLORIDA VOLUNTEER MONTH WITH #30UNDER30 – As part of Florida Volunteer Month, Volunteer Florida has announced #30Under30, an initiative to recognize Florida volunteers under the age of 30. Through this initiative, Volunteer Florida will highlight one volunteer a day under the age of 30 throughout the month of April. Check out the #30Under30 service leaders here. In partnership with Volunteer Florida, Comcast will air a statewide PSA encouraging Floridians to volunteer in April and throughout the year. Click on the image below to watch the PSA.

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

CRAYOLA BOOTS DANDELION FOR BLUISH CRAYON YET TO BE NAMED via The Associated Press –Crayola announced Friday, National Crayon Day, that it’s replacing the color dandelion in its 24-pack with a crayon in “the blue family.” The company says it will leave it to fans to come up with a name for the replacement color. It’s only the third time in Crayola’s long history that it has retired one or more colors, and the first time it’s swapped out a color in its box of 24. Other colors that previously got the boot include maize, raw umber and orange yellow.

HALL OF FAME COACH VS FUTURE HALL OF FAMER FOR NCAA TITLE via Ralph Russo of The Associated PressRoy Williams has been here before. Just last year, in fact. And five times altogether, playing for the NCAA championship. Twice he got to celebrate winning the final game of the season with the Tar Heels, pushing their total to five tournament titles. For Mark Few and Gonzaga, this is all new. Just getting to the Final Four was a first, and now they are one victory from lifting the trophy. If it came down to history, tradition and experience, North Carolina would run away with Monday’s NCAA championship game. If only it were that easy for the Tar Heels. The 66-year-old Williams called Few one of his best friends in coaching and said he was stressed out hoping that his poker buddy would finally break through and reach the Final Four this year. The last time they played each other in the NCAA Tournament was 2009, when the Tar Heels eliminated the Bulldogs in the Sweet 16. Since the Zags graduated from upstart to national power, there have been lots of early exits in the tournament.

INSIDE TWITTER’S OBSESSIVE QUEST TO DITCH THE EGG via Harry McCracken of Fast Company –  A lot has changed since the Twitter egg debuted almost seven years ago. For one thing, the company’s design philosophy has evolved. Quirky is out; straightforward is in … the egg has taken on cultural associations that nobody could have anticipated in 2010 … it’s become universal shorthand for Twitter’s least desirable accounts: trolls (and bots) engaged in various forms of harassment and spam, created by people so eager to wreak anonymous havoc that they can’t be bothered to upload a portrait image. The egg’s unsavory reputation has been hard on Twitter’s image. It also hasn’t done any favors for users who stuck with the default avatar out of innocence rather than malevolence. Some members have grown emotionally attached to their eggs or want to maintain a low profile; others simply haven’t gotten around to changing them, or have had trouble figuring out how to do so … Starting today, however, the egg is history. Twitter is dumping the tarnished icon for a new default profile picture–a blobby silhouette of a person’s head and shoulders, intentionally designed to represent a human without being concrete about gender, race or any other characteristic. Everyone who’s been an egg until now, whatever their rationale, will automatically switch over.

‘KING ARTHUR’: FINAL TRAILER UNSHEATHES CHILDHOOD, DRAGONS AND LED ZEPPELIN via Greg Evans of Deadline Hollywood – We get a once and final look at the once and future king in the latest trailer for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. With Charlie Hunnam in the title role and Jude Law as his treacherous uncle Vortigern, the film hits theaters May 12. This trailer – the final in a series that kicked off at Comic-Con last summer – delves a bit more into young Arthur’s hard-knock boyhood, full of brawls, cobblestone alleys and one pretty bad haircut. After his father is murdered and his Uncle Vort steals the crown, the rightful heir bruises his way to that fateful moment with a sword stuck in a stone.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridans, Brian Burgess and Billy Schmidt.

Franchise group tweets tone-deaf opposition to ‘Florida Small Business Act’ — using California in background

A pro tip for anyone seeking to curry favor with the Florida Legislature: get your facts straight — or at least know which state you’re trying to lobby.

A couple of months ago, state Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur announced support for the “Protect Florida Small Business Act” (SB 750), which seeks to “promote fair business relations between franchisees and franchisors and to protect franchisees against unfair treatment by franchisors.”

“I want to be sure that there is a level playing field for all business owners in Florida,” Brodeur said. “Whether they are a small independent shop or a franchisee.”

For some reason, that hasn’t set well with the International Franchise Association, the industry’s leading trade group.

IFA has been a vocal opponent of the act, calling it “unnecessary government overreach and intrusion into private contract negotiations.”

So, like any good trade organization, the IFA took to social media to make its case, seeking to pressure a growing number of state lawmakers — including Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Sens. Greg Steube and Lizbeth Benacquisto and others — into opposing the bill.

But something was not quite right.

A series of tweets on the group’s page (@Franchising411) blasted several lawmakers, calling on them to reject SB 750 and its House companion (HB 1069). The tweets asked followers — nearly 12,000 of them — to tell the legislators to “protect franchising.”

Behind each image of a Florida legislator was a map of California, not Florida.

Oops.

Now, IFA is no bush-league organization; the group claims to represent more than 700,000 franchise establishments, 7.6 million direct jobs, billions in economic output for what they say is nearly 3 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. That’s not small potatoes.

In addition, IFA boasts members in more than 300 different occupations including marketing, law and business development.

Apparently, that list doesn’t include cartography.

With such a vast reach, it would be reasonable to assume IFA could spring for a staffer with some basic geographic knowledge, or at least hire a person (anyone) who knows the difference between Florida and California.

Say, someone who lives in either of those states. That should narrow it down to only 56 million people.

Ironically, the worst of these misguided tweets is one the few that got it right — with Florida in the background, that is.

Sent March 30, the tweet in question asked supporters to contact Port Orange Republican Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

Double oops.

You see, even a cursory Google search would show Hukill is not even in Tallahassee this Session. She is contending with a more pressing issue — radiation treatments for cervical cancer.

Mistaking California for Florida is ridiculous enough; going after a cancer patient in active treatment is not only tone deaf, but also insensitive and mind-numbingly stupid.

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Florida Blue Symposium to feature health care policy wonk Alan Levine

Alan Levine

While Republicans in Congress struggle with “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act, a group of leading health care professionals look to the future of health care in America by asking “What’s next?”

“Affordable Care Act: Where Do We Go From Here – The Politics of health care” is the featured roundtable at the Florida Blue Foundation’s annual Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards held April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee.

Among the featured speakers at the symposium is Alan Levine, president and CEO of the Mountain States Health Alliance, a 13-hospital health care system serving 29 counties in Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina.

The two-day conference will host more than 400 Florida-based, regional and national health professionals to address a wide range of issues, including health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Executives on hand will be from a wide range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more.

As a former secretary for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration under Gov. Jeb Bush, Levine brings more than two decades of hospital operations experience, including as chief executive officer of hospitals and health systems ranging from a small rural hospital to one of the largest public systems in America. Levine also served in the cabinet of Gov. Bobby Jindal as secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals, as well as a senior health policy adviser.

Levine now sits on the board of governors of the State University System of Florida, which oversees Florida’s 12 public universities. He also acts as chair of audit and compliance and as a member of the finance and building committees. Before his tenure on the board of governors, Levine was on the board of trustees of the University of Florida, the state’s leading research university, as well as a member of the board of directors of the University of Florida Athletic Association, which directs the University of Florida’s athletic programs.

Levine also had roles on the board of directors of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, and has been a strong advocate for issues of child literacy and mentorship.

Other highlights of the symposium include an April 20 panel discussion moderated by Dr. Daniel Dawes a leading health care strategist and attorney. Among the panelists are Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida; Dr. Antonia Novello the former U.S. Surgeon General; Jason Altmire, senior vice president of public policy and community engagement at Florida Blue; and Dr. Susan McManus, the distinguished professor of government and international affairs at the University of South Florida

Later that day, the symposium will conclude with the Sapphire Luncheon and Awards ceremony at 12:30 p.m. April 20. With Patrick Geraghty, the CEO of Guidewell Holding Company, as keynote speaker.

Online agenda, registration and information on the location and special group hotel rates are available online. The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is at 6000 W. Osceola Pkwy. in Kissimmee. To make reservations by phone, call 877-491-0442.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Will lawmakers ‘walk away’ from gambling?

It’s long been a Capitol cliché, but there are few pronouncements on a piece of legislation as inauspicious as calling something “a heavy lift.”

Saying a bill is “a heavy, heavy lift” sounds even more portending of defeat.

Yet that’s how House Speaker Richard Corcoran referred to the omnibus gambling bills now on their way to conference. They include a new agreement for continued exclusive rights for the Seminole Tribe of Florida to offer blackjack in return for $3 billion over seven years.

“It’s got a long way to go,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said in a press conference after Thursday’s floor session.

Generally, the House holds the line on gambling expansion; the Senate is open to some expansion, including allowing slot machines at pari-mutuels in counties that approved a slots referendum.

Having blackjack money for the upcoming $80 billion-plus state budget could mean an extra $340 million-$350 million.

“It’s a heavy lift. There’s a reason it hasn’t been passed in decades,” Corcoran said. “But this is the first time, probably that anyone can recall, where you have two bills moving … That puts them in a posture to see where a negotiation goes.

“But I would still say it’s a heavy, heavy lift … We’ll see how it unfolds.”

Another sign: Neither chamber factored gambling revenue share from the Seminole Tribe to the state into their respective budgets, he said.

“I think it’s generally considered an irresponsible budgeting practice to budget money” that you don’t know you have, Corcoran said.

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who’s the Senate’s point man on gambling, said any gambling revenue—assuming a deal is struck—”would come in at the back end.”

The Senate passed its gambling package (SB 8) Thursday; the House Commerce Committee cleared its bill (HB 7037) later that day. It’s set to be discussed next Tuesday on the House floor.

Galvano, speaking to reporters after the Senate’s floor session, said getting both sides to ‘yes’ won’t be easy.

Sen. Bill Galvano told reporters this week that getting both sides to “yes” isn’t a sure bet when it comes to gambling this year.

“I told the members here today that I couldn’t guarantee we’ll ultimately have a final resolution,” he said. The House is “interested in seeing something move …  My conversations with the Seminole Tribe have been positive.”

The Tribe had sent a letter to Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron saying “neither (bill) would satisfy the requirements of federal law nor satisfy fundamental tribal concerns” and called them “not acceptable.”

The Tribe’s concern was that it would be financially squeezed by the Legislature’s current proposals without getting enough in return. It offers blackjack at five of its seven casinos, including the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tampa.

When told his warning to his colleagues “sounded ominous,” Galvano said, “I have to manage expectations,” adding the chambers were still “light years ahead of where we’ve ended in the past.”

That is, nowhere. And still in wait is a state Supreme Court decision on whether Florida dog and horse tracks outside South Florida can have slot machines. That could add additional revenue to state coffers, but would cross the Seminoles, who have slots exclusively outside South Florida.

Moreover, a Leon County circuit judge recently ruled that slot-machine looking games known as “pre-reveal” (one example is here) can’t be legally defined as slots.

The Tribe has disagreed, saying such games also violate the existing agreement, the Seminole Compact, between the Seminole and the state. That would entitle them not to pay any more slots money. Galvano said he doesn’t believe the games violate the Compact.

Still, “if we can’t get to where we have the votes in each chamber to pass, then we have to walk away,” said Galvano.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Moline, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Show us the money — Got plans this weekend? Cancel them. The first drafts of the budget are out. The Senate released its proposed $83.2 billion spending plan on Thursday, while the House released its “leaner” $81.2 billion early Friday morning. The release comes after budget writers spent the week slowly unveiling their plans. Some highlights (or low lights, depending how you look at it): The House has proposed slashing the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million, bringing the total cut from hospitals to $621.8 million once the federal match is factored in. The Senate has cutting $99.3 million from the state budget, which would equal a $258.6 million total hit. The Senate has set aside $22.6 million for land acquisition, while the House is suggesting spending $10 million. The Senate also wants to boost Everglades restoration funding to $275 million, while the House would like to spend $166 million on it.

Battle lines drawn —  When it came to Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, no one was surprised when House and Senate budget writers unveiled vastly different spending plans for the embattled state agency this week. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee suggested matching Gov. Rick Scott’s $76 million request for the tourism marketing agency; while the House put just $25 million in its budget. The Senate has set aside $80 million for programs tied to Enterprise Florida, which — in case you’ve forgotten — the House voted to abolish. Scott applauded the Senate and criticized the House, before spending several days on the road hosting round tables focused on military and defense economic development programs on the chopping block.

Floor action — Week 4 brought lots of action, with the House and Senate spending two days this week on the floor passing priority legislation in both chambers. The Senate voted 32-6 to its wide-sweeping gambling bill, sending it over to the House where it will be voted on next week. Over in the House, members voted 73-46 to approve a proposed constitutional amendment to impose term limits on justices of the Florida Supreme Court and state appellate judges. If approved, Florida would become the first state in the nation to impose term limits on judges and justices. The House also passed a raft government and ethics reforms, including a proposed constitutional amendment to impose a six-year lobbying ban on former elected officials. House members also OK’d a bill that would prohibit sports teams from building or renovating a building on publicly-owned land cleared

Citizens sound off —Hundreds of Floridians turned out for the first Constitution Revision Commission public hearing at the University of Central Florida this week. According to the commission, more than 95 people spoke during the meeting. Speakers included several UCF students, and participants made requests for the commission to look at amendments that would restore voting rights for non-violent ex-felons, require a certain percentage of power be generated from renewable resources; and open party primaries so unaffiliated voters could participate. The commission has already drawn criticism, with the League of Women Voters of Florida holding a rally this week denouncing the commission for discouraging public participation. The group said the CRC rules fail to provide timely notice of meetings, schedules too few public hearings, and lacks safeguards to shield commissioners from undue influence. The next commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at Florida International University.

CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff and other commission members take part in a public hearing at the University of Central Florida.

Bye, bye Bondi? — Attorney General Pam Bondi spent several days in Washington, D.C., once again fueling speculation she’s considering trading one capital city for another. Bondi was in the nation’s capital Monday with football greats Tony Dungy and Derrick Brooks. Bondi and her crew reportedly met with President Trump, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and HUD Secretary Ben Carson. She also was also tapped to moderate a “women’s empowerment panel” featuring to women in the Trump administration, including DeVos, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Small Business Administration Chief Linda McMahon. And on Wednesday, the White House announced she was appointed to the President’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, headed up by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. In a statement, Bondi said she was honored to be chosen and thanked Trump, Christie and many others for caring about this deadly epidemic.”

AG Bondi poses for a picture with President Trump during a trip to D.C. this week.

Rep. Jennifer Sullivan flailed a bit when asked to defend her proposed judicial term limits constitutional amendment, against suggestions the policy would crimp the career of conservative U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch if applied at the federal level.

The conservative Florida Justice Reform Institute raised that argument in a letter denouncing the Mount Dora Republican’s proposal. A reporter asked her about it during a House leadership news briefing.

“The bill didn’t address the U.S. Supreme Court,” she replied. “I’m happy to answer questions as it relates to what the policy did for the state of Florida.”

“I’m talking about the concept of a guy who’s already spent 10 years on the appellate bench, and under this idea would only be able to spend two more years” on the Supreme Court if confirmed, the reporter continued.

That’s when House Speaker Corcoran stepped in.

“I think they’re reading the bill wrong,” said Corcoran, before explaining separate 12-year terms would apply to stints on the district courts of appeal and the Florida Supreme Court.

Legislation to allow patients to remain in ambulatory surgical centers for up to 24 hours, and to create recovery care centers where they could stay for up to 72 hours, cleared the House floor.

The bill (HB 145) marks“a real victory for patients,” said Rep. Paul Renner, the bill’s sponsor, said following the 79-34 vote this week.

“It increases their access to care and also lowers the cost. At a time — since 2006 —when deductibles have gone up over 300 percent, this is a big step forward,” he said. “Currently, we have a nonsensical rule that requires people who seek elective surgery at an ASC to be out by midnight, whether they’re ready or not.”

Renner dismissed fears among hospitals that the measure would disrupt their business model, saying patients would be screened before treatment.

“If its determined that you need acute hospitalization, you go to a hospital,” he said. “If you need intensive care, you go to a hospital. Critical care or coronary care, you’re not eligible to go to a recovery care center.”

The mosquitoes are coming.

With rainy season just around the corner, Gov. Scott met with public health officials and community leaders in South Florida this week to talk about Zika preparedness.

There have been two cases of locally transmitted cases of the virus this year, and there are currently no areas identified with active Zika transmission. However, Scott said it was “crucial that we … work together to remain vigilant and take precautions to stay ahead of this virus.”

“I urge all Floridians to remember to eliminate any standing water around your homes, businesses and communities, and to wear bug spray to prevent mosquito bites. It is also important to protect yourself if you travel outside of Florida to an area with Zika virus,” said Scott in a statement. “Last year, our aggressive actions helped lift the previous Zika zones in Wynwood, Little River and Miami Beach. This year, we stand ready to once again do all we can to protect Florida’s families, visitors and communities.”

Thank you for your service.

Gov. Scott recognized more than 240 veterans during a visit to the Louie C. Wadsworth Armory in Live Oak this week.

“I’m proud to honor some of Florida’s great veterans for their service to our state and country,” said Scott in a statement. “As a son of a World War II veteran and Navy veteran myself, I recognize the sacrifices our service members make to protect our freedom We must take every opportunity to honor and thank our American heroes.”

Gov. Scott thanked veterans during a ceremony earlier this week.

Scott honored Cpl. Robert Dutton, a World War II veteran, during the event. Dutton was drafted into the U.S. Army in in 1943 and assigned to the 141st Ordnance MM Co. of the 7th Army during World War II. In 1945, he and members of his unit were wounded after entering into a building rigged with bombs. He was honorably discharged later that year. Dutton has received the Purple Heart, two Battle Stars, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal for his service. He was also recognized with the Frances Knight of the Legion of Honor by the French government.

Scott also recognized Staff Sgt. John “Jack” Scott, who was drafted into the Army in 1942; Sgt. Rob Sweat who joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 1991; and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Graff, who joined the U.S. Army in 2000.

When it comes to taxes, Floridians are getting a pretty good bang for their buck.

According to a new report from WalletHub, Florida ranks third in the nation when it comes to taxpayer return on investment. The number crunchers at the personal finance website used 23 metrics to compare the quality and efficiency of state-government services across five different categories — education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution — taking into account the drastically different rates at which citizens are taxed in each state.

Florida ranked 3rd overall when it came to “taxpayer ROI” and “total taxes paid per capita.”

The state, according to the report, ranked 34th in “overall government services;” and 4th when in the “best roads & bridges” category.

Call him a home-rule defender.

During a Facebook Live chat with Times-Union reporter Tia Mitchell this week, Sen. Jack Latvala defended local communities’ right to home rule.

“There’s this attitude from a lot of folks in the House that we ought to make all the laws for Florida right here in Tallahassee,” said Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“That we ought to preempt and do away with the ability of local cities and counties to do local ordinances, to regulate things, businesses and people’s lives. And I think that’s the wrong approach.”

Several measures have been proposed this legislative session that would limit local government’s home-rule authority. Local government associations have lined up in opposition against these proposals.

“My experience is that people tend to trust the level of government closest to them,” he continued. “So why we would preempt those people from being able to make their own decisions at the local level, and try to co-opt all that decision-making to Tallahassee, is just wrong. … I think they [the House] think they know better than the local elected officials.”

Welcome back to the board, Joseph Brister and Robert Halman.

Gov. Scott has reappointed Brister and Halman to the Immokalee Water and Sewer District in Collier County.

Brister, a 51-year-old Immokalee resident, is the owner of Brister Funeral Home. He received his associate’s degree from St. Petersburg Junior College.

Halman, a 64-year-old Immokalee resident, is a community service deputy for the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, and his master’s degree from Clemson University.

Both men were reappointed to a term ending Oct. 1, 2020.

Do Florida students need a lesson in financial literacy? Maybe.

A recent report from WalletHub showed the Sunshine State was the 20th most financially literate state in the nation. The personal finance website looked used a data set of 15 metrics, including the results of the company’s WalletLiteracy survey, to craft a report that looks at financial education programs and consumer habits in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the report, the Sunshine State ranked 49th in the percentage of adults who spend more than they earn. The state ranked 24th when when it looked at the percentage of adults who were only paying the minimum on their credit cards; and 35th when it came to the percentage of adults who borrow from non-bank lenders.

The state ranked 6th in when it came to high school financial literacy.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill has proposed legislation (SB 392) that would require high school students to take a half-credit of financial literacy to graduate from Florida’s high schools. Hukill, a Port Orange Republican and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, has been pushing the legislation since 2014.

The proposal has cleared its first two committee hearings and could be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee in the coming weeks.

Sen. Daphne Campbell wants Congress to celebrate the Caribbean.

The Miami Democrat has filed legislation (SM 572) that would urge Congress to enact legislation recognizing Jan. 1 as Haitian Independence Day and May 18 as Haitian Flag Day.

“America is a country composed of immigrants, bound by common values,” wrote Campbell in her newsletter. “Haiti Independence Day is globally acknowledged as an affirmation of equality, freedom, and the abolition of slavery. The Haitian flag is a symbol of pride for the Caribbean nation. The blue represents the former African slaves brought to Haiti by colonial powers, and the red symbolizes a people of mixed ancestry.”

The memorial also calls on Congress to enact legislation recognizing May as Haitian Heritage Month and June as Caribbean American Heritage Month.

The Senate memorial received unanimous support from the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

Let the children play!

The House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee voted unanimously this week to approve a bill (HB 1131) that aims to provide children with access to playgrounds.

Currently, many of the state’s playgrounds and athletic fields located at public schools are closed to the public, in part because of the lack of a shared use agreement between school districts and local government or non-governmental agencies.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Brad Drake, would require the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to school districts to promote community use of shared facilities.

“When we were kids, I lived maybe a mile-and-a-half from our local elementary school, and almost every day, definitely on weekends, we were there playing football, baseball, whatever, and having a great time. It was where we bonded as a community, at least the kids I ran with,” said Rep. Ross Spano, a Dover Republican. “I know in many (places) around the state, the playgrounds you and I utilized … are now behind closed, locked fences. I hope, and anticipate, this will allow these to be open again for kids, like you and I, when we were young.”

The bill also creates a Shared Use Task Force to identify barriers in creating shared use agreements and it make recommendations to facilitate the shared use of school facilities generally and in-high need communities.

“As a former fervent user of recess time as a kid, I have to support this,” said Rep. Bill Hager, a Delray Beach Republican.

Floridians sure do like their specialty license plates.

That much was clear during a House Transportation & Tourism Subcommittee hearing on a bill (HB 1375) that would make it harder to authorize, and easier to scrap, license plates celebrating state universities, trees, sea turtles, Challenger, manatees, and more.

These tags are proliferating — the state offers 120 of them now — but sales don’t always justify their continued existence, said Rep. James Grant, the bill’s sponsor.

His bill’s Section 7 drew special ire. It would shift to a new template bearing small logos, instead of the splashier designs that can cover an entire plate.

Randy Harris, whose Choose Life Inc. sponsors an anti-abortion tag, described letters from women who’d been on their way to the procedure and “saw a message, a billboard,” on the back of a car that changed their minds.

Bump that message down to the size of a baseball card, he said, and, “at three or our car lengths in traffic, those women won’t see that message anymore.”

The existing designs are “sort of iconic Florida highway — they’re part of the landscape,” said Gary Appleson of the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

The committee approved the bill after Grant promised to fix that section.

“Based on the number of emails I got on Section 7, please change 7. Otherwise, I’m going to have to change my last name,” said Republican Rep. Michael Grant.

Speaking of license plates: The House Transportation & Tourism Subcommittee shot down an amendment by Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant to block tags benefitting out-of-state universities, like Auburn.

Fant objected to Florida tag dollars supporting distant institutions.

Rep. Jamie Grant noted that UF tags sell in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. And people can buy FSU tags in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

“If he would like to preclude the University of Florida or Florida State University from putting their license tags into play in six or seven other states, respectively, then we will have that conversation,” said Grant, an Auburn graduate.

Fant case the lone vote against the specialty license plate bill.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee delayed a confirmation hearing for Gov. Scott’s picks to head the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Health, a move that left some folks scratching their heads.

Is it déjà vu all over again? Nope, says Sen. Anitere Flores, the Miami Republican who heads the subcommittee. Flores said there was “no nefarious reason” for the delay, and that her committee simply “wanted to get through the budget first.”

Scott picked Justin Senior to head the Agency for Health Care Administration last fall, and Celeste Philip to head DOH in the summer. Both need an affirmative vote from Flores’ committee before they can be confirmed by the full senate.

Last year, Flores was key in blocking the confirmation of former DOH Secretary John Armstrong, who failed to make it out of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections.

Flores said that she thinks both Senior and Philip “are doing OK.”

Anti-smoking group Tobacco Free Florida said the Sunshine State’s smoking rate is at a historic low, but fewer people in Central Florida have kicked the habit than other areas of the state.

Just under 16 percent of Floridians are smokers, though Hardee County shares the title for highest smoking rate in the state with Madison, Union, Gadsden and Okeechobee counties at 21 percent.

Residents in Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties are also a bit more inclined to tour Marlboro Country, though only Pasco’s 19 percent rate comes in significantly above the state average.

Tobacco Free Florida said their efforts to stamp out smoking are making “remarkable progress,” though smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease in the state.

Just call us speedy.

Gov. Scott announced this week that Florida had the fastest annual private-sector growth rate of the 10 largest states in the nation, adding 239,800 private-sector jobs last year, the second most in the nation.

“I am proud to announce that Florida is once again leading our competitor states in private-sector job growth and that multiple Florida industries, such as manufacturing, are leading the nation in job creation,” said Scott. “Today’s announcement shows that we are successfully diversifying our economy and we cannot stop now.”

The state’s private sector job growth rate of 3.3 percent outpaces the nation’s rate of 1.8 percent. The Sunshine State has led the nation in over the year manufacturing job gains for the last eight months, according to the Governor’s Office.

““Florida’s strong, diverse job creation is catapulting our state to the top of the nation for economic growth,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Department of Economic Development. “Our economic development and diversification programs are working as a result of our investment in critical programs like Enterprise Florida and VISIT FLORIDA.”

Want to live as a write-in? Rep. Joseph Geller wants to make it a little bit easier.

The House Government Accountability Committee unanimously approved a bill (HB 6031) that would repeal a provision of state law requiring write-in candidates to reside within the district of the office sought at the time of qualification.

“In a representative democracy, it’s vital that we have laws which encourage, not burden, citizens from seeking to represent their communities,” said Geller, an Aventura Democrat, in a statement. “Due to the Supreme Court’s decision, repealing this unconstitutional statute was the commonsense move to make. This bill is necessary and important to ensuring that this nation’s great democratic principles are upheld.”

The Supreme Court recently ruled the provision unconstitutional because it conflicts with the residency requirements spelled out in the state Constitution, which requires residency at the time of election or when the candidate assumes office.

Geller’s bill now heads to the floor.

Is it odd for a political party attempting to rebuild from an historic drubbing to shoo away the three statehouse reporters who showed up for the chairman’s speech to Leon County Democrats?

Because that’s what happened when Steve Bittel came to Tallahassee.

James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat (the newspaper) seemed personally affronted at the senselessness when an aide tried to steer Bittel around the small gaggle that formed outside the meeting room following his speech.

She suggested arranging an interview or that the reporters send questions via email. Bittel ended up answering questions as he exited the City Hall venue.

Republicans are going to have their own challenges, he said.

“We want to have a positive message. When we sell hope and they sell fear, we think the people of Florida are going to buy hope every day of the week,” said Bittel.

Rep. Danny Burgess is hoping the third time is the charm for direct primary care legislation.

The House OK’d a proposal (HB 161), sponsored by Burgess, that would allow patients to pay doctors between $25 and $100 per month for a menu of preventative, pediatric, urgent care, and more — none of it overseen by the Department of Insurance Regulation. It marked the third year the House has passed the measure.

“Hopefully, we can get this across the finish line. I know that it’s doing all right in the Senate. We’re hoping to see some good reform get to the governor’s desk this year,” said Burgess, the chairman of the House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee, following the vote. “The House has really believed in this free-market, innovative approach to health care. It’s a process, and sometimes it takes some time to get through that process. But I believe firmly that this is the year.”

The Senate version of the bill (SB 240), sponsored by Sen. Tom Lee, has cleared its first three committees of reference and is now waiting to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

 

Tardy to Sen. Bill Montford’s committee? That will land you in Saturday morning detention.

Unless, of course, you’re Sen. Latvala.

Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chairman, was late to the Senate Commerce and Tourism meeting this week, forcing the committee to take a brief recess before taking up the final bill (SB 554), on which Latvala had an amendment.

When Latvala arrived, Montford, a former principal, told the Clearwater Republican he would get a “Saturday morning detention for (his) tardiness.”

“But, I know you’re chairman of the appropriations committee, so we’re going to suspend this detention,” continued Montford.

Latvala quickly responded that he was “detained reading all three pages” of Montford’s requests and that “held (him) up a little bit.”

“And that was right after I read all three pages of Sen. (George) Gainer’s requests,” continued Latvala, to laughs from the committee.

“Oh, me,” chuckled Montford.

Latvala went on to say he was held up presenting a bill in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, and his sheriff was present and “he had a gun, so I couldn’t leave.”

“We understand there are two or three things you don’t argue with: A man with a gun and a man that is the chair of appropriations,” said Montford.

The Commerce and Tourism Committee voted 6-1 to approve the bill, which would allow a craft brewery with a retail vendor’s license to sell, transport and deliver its owner beer from its brewer to other vendors. Latvala’s amendment — which focused on brew pubs that are part of small restaurant groups — was adopted.

Here’s legislation everyone can get behind: The House voted unanimously to approve a bill that aims to help children testifying in difficult court cases.

The proposal (HB 115) would allow children testifying in court in abuse, abandonment and neglect cases to use therapy animals. It’s an expansion of current state law, which allows therapy animals for victims testifying in sexual offense cases.

“When we go home this summer, and we talk about what we have been able to do for the most vulnerable and those that are the least among us, I think it’s important for us to look at this bill,” said Rep. Jason Brodeur, the Sanford Republican who sponsored the proposal.

Cosmo, an 11 year old border collie service dog rests during a Senate committee meeting in March. The House OK’d a bill this week to allow children testifying in abuse, abandonment and neglect cases to use service dogs.

“Previously statute had said that only those who had suffered a sexual offense could use animals in court, but I think we can all agree when we included the abused, neglected, abandoned and those with limited mental faculties, that is really taking care of the least among us,” he continued. “And certainly, at a time when somebody is the most vulnerable, this will help and maybe bring some of the most vile in our society to justice.”

The bill received no “no” votes in any of its committee stops. Neither has its Senate companion (SB 416), sponsored by Sen. Montford. That bill is expected to be discussed on the Senate floor next week.

Go fish.

No, really. Take some time this weekend to head to your favorite freshwater watering hole to go fishing this weekend. Florida residents and visitors will be able to fish in state freshwater fisheries without having to purchase a license on Saturday and Sunday as part of the eight total license-free fishing days offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission each year.

“We encourage anglers of all skill levels to take advantage of license-free fishing this weekend,” said Kellie Ralson, the Florida fishery policy director of the American Sportfishing Association. “Florida is known as the Fishing Capital of the World, and our beautiful rivers, lakes and ponds are the perfect backdrop for a fishing trip with family and friends.”

Nothing says springtime like a parade.

The Springtime Tallahassee Parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and is expected to feature over 100 floats, marching bands and dance groups.

The annual parade starts just south of the intersection of Monroe and Brevard and travels on Monroe past the Florida Capitol, ending at Madison Street. Considered one of the largest parades and craft shows in the southeastern United States, Springtime Tallahassee attracts over 70,000 spectators.

FSU President (and former senator and former House Speaker) John Thrasher will serve as the parade’s graand marshal.

Tip your hat to “Billy the Kid” this weekend.

The Florida Folklife Program and the city of Tarpon Springs will recognize 2017 Folk Heritage Award recipient William “Billy the Kid” Emerson during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum. The event is meant to honor Emerson’s contributions as a songwriter and producer, and will include a video presentation.

Born in Tarpon Springs in 1925, Emerson learned to play the piano in church. He joined the Navy in 1943, and after the war returned to the Tampa region and resumed performing with Tampa acts including Ivory Mitchell, the Billy Battle Band, and Alfonso Brown Band. He got his nickname while playing with a band that dressed like cowboys.

Emerson attended Florida A&M, but left to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War. In 1954, he signed a contract with Sam Phillips and wrote and recorded hits for Sun Records including “When It Rains It Really Pours” (later recorded by Elvis Presley) and “Red Hot.”

In 1978, he rededicated himself to his faith and became a pastor. He returned to Tarpon Springs, where he continues to serve his congregation and compose sacred music.

The event is open to the public.

Attention Tallahassee residents: Orchestra Sunday is this weekend.

Trinity United Methodist Church will host its annual “Orchestra Sunday” during its 11 a.m. worship service Sunday. The service will feature 25 to 30 minutes of music by a 28-piece professional orchestra.

The service is open to anyone interested. Trinity United Methodist is located at 120 West Park Avenue.

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

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