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Debuting today: The Winter 2016 edition of INFLUENCE Magazine

The latest issue of INFLUENCE Magazine is out.

From the rise of legal-lobbying firms to the next generation of influencers and power brokers, the winter edition looks at all aspects of the governmental affairs industry.

In recent years, major legal firms have emerged as major players in the government affairs industry. For the first time in a while, one of these firms (Greenberg Traurig) was in the Top 5 for compensation, while several others — such as GrayRobinson and Gunster — are seeing increased revenues.

In this issue of INFLUENCE, Jim Rosica explores why law firms are staking their claim in the Sunshine State’s influence industry. The feature takes a look at two of these firms — such as Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig — to show how lobbying sets the firms apart.

The magazine also gives Liz Dudek a chance to reintroduce herself to readers. The former secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration retired in November, and immediately joined Greenberg Traurig’s lobbying practice as the director of health care affairs.

We’re also debuting the 2016 class of Rising Stars in the governmental affairs industry. Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster profiles the next generation of influencers and power brokers in the spread.

This year’s crop of rising stars includes Carol Bowen, Emily Duda Buckley, Melanie Brown, Katie Crofoot, Jose Diaz, Eric Edwards, Josh Gabel, Bianca Garza, Whitney Harris, Jasmyne Henderson, Brittney Hunt, Andrew Ketchel, Kristen McDonald, Drew Messer, Jo Morris, Drew Piers, Tara Reid, Joe Salzverg, Kelly Schmidt, Samantha Sexton, Kelsey Swithers and Jared Torres.

Need an explainer on upcoming workers’ compensation food fight? Michael Moline and Peter Schorsch have you covered. We look at what recent Supreme Court decisions mean for Floridians, and what to expect when lawmakers head back to Tallahassee this legislative session.

We also crown the 2016 politician of the year (and the very deserving runners-up), take a look at some of the winners and losers of the year, and run down what the new House rules mean for the industry.

With the holidays right around the corner, we take a look at some “bipartisan swag” to give to the political aficionado in your life. If gadgets are your style, check out the profile of Sally Bradshaw’s new Tallahassee bookstore, Midtown Reader, and find a few recommendations from her friends.

Want to check it out? The digital version of the 2016 winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine is available now.

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Thieves steal delivery from Hulk Hogan’s doorstep

Hulk Hogan could have used his signature leg drop on thieves who stole a delivery from the front porch of his Florida mansion.

Clearwater police released a video Friday showing four women pull into the driveway of the former pro wrestling champion’s mansion last weekend. Three rush up the steps and pick up the package, but apparently startled by a noise they drop it and run back to their car. After a few seconds, three run back up the steps, open the package, remove the contents and flee. Police did not say what was stolen.

Hogan recently received $31 million to settle a lawsuit with the now defunct Gawker website that posted a sex tape of him.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Resident chases Christmas thieves with metal pipe

Two Florida men are spending the holidays in jail, thanks to observant neighbors who spotted them taking Christmas gifts from a nearby home and another homeowner who chased them with a metal pipe.

The Polk County Sheriff’s department announced that a Lakeland resident heard a loud noise Wednesday morning and called another neighbor, who looked outside and saw the men taking gifts from a nearby home. The neighbor yelled and they fled in a car.

Lakeland police and sheriff’s deputies tracked them down. They bailed from the car and ran into a home, but the homeowner chased them out with a metal pipe.

Authorities arrested 18-year-old James Davis and 21-year-old Antonio Thomas. Both face multiple charges and remained in the Polk County Jail Friday. Records don’t list attorneys for them.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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FAU puts its money where its priorities are

Lane Kiffen

In 1962, a legislative “initial operating money” appropriation plus private donations for “architect fees, salaries and other expenses” added up to $400,000 in seed corn for Florida Atlantic University.

It still adds up to more money than most working folks will see in 10 years, but it’s less than half of what the school will pay its new head football coach, Lane Kiffin (rhymes with “What is FAU sniffn’?).

To be fair, Kiffin is almost as “big-time” as FAU Football’s Founding Father Howard Schnellenberger, having honed his craft and worn-out his welcome at some of the country’s most prestigious football programs.

Those who swoon when a football coach talks like a Sensitive Guy in a Lifetime cable movie will not begrudge Kiffin his $950K FAU base salary.

“I felt the people there,” Kiffin said in welcoming himself to Boca Raton. “I felt how they wanted me. I felt the vision there. Coming out of there, that’s when I felt like the recruit who was like ‘OK, they have a vision for this place and how we can do it and they want to do it together.'”

 FAU president John Kelly was swooning and ripping his own bodice.

“Today, we continue our pursuit of excellence, our unbridled ambition by hiring the top person in the country, the genius in coaching: Lane Kiffin,” Kelly said.

Kelly reflects the prevailing wisdom — and don’t you dare argue with it — that everyone who teaches everything from anthropology to zoology should feel honored to drive their ten-year-old cars to campuses where coaches live like kings. A football team is a tide that lifts the academic boats, university presidents tell us from their skyboxes where they chat up the boosters. You’d think that nobody learned anything at college in the days before a blank check for football was embroidered into every school seal.

“Genius” Kiffin’s highlight reel includes being called a liar by Raiders owner Al Davis; NCAA violations at the University of Tennessee; and getting his walking papers from USC on an airport tarmac.

“It gives us a head coach with, obviously, a brand in himself,” FAU Athletic Director Patrick Chun enthused. ” … he’s the biggest celebrity football coach in our state.”

For his first act in office, Kiffin recruited another celebrity, De’Andre Johnson, whose collegiate career at Florida State was cut short when he was caught on camera striking a woman in a Tallahassee bar.

Stepping up to journalism’s mission to help with healing processes, Good Morning America gave Johnson airtime to apologize to the victim. Johnson continued to heal at East Mississippi Community College, where he played good football and rebranded himself as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Owl Nation is hoping that Johnson’s redemption is real, and is rooting for Kiffin to enrich the university, and not just himself and the retinue that surrounds a head coach, even at a fourth-rate football program, in a city whose name is regularly mispronounced by late night comedians.

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Drop-launch of rocket off Florida coast sends NASA satellites into orbit

A Pegasus XL rocket dropped from beneath an airplane off the coast of Daytona Beach Thursday morning, then launched from there into orbit and deployed eight NASA hurricane-tracking satellites into orbit.

The drop-launch from an altitude of 39,000 feet, about 110 miles east of Daytona Beach, went as planned after the mission was postponed twice this week for minor technical problems. At 7:38 a.m., an Orbital ATK L-1011 Stargazer airplane took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and exactly an hour later it dropped the Orbital ATK rocket.

Pegasus reached orbit level altitude of 300 miles, and then launched the small, 65-pound satellites, 13-15 minutes after the rocket dropped from the plane. The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) spacecraft will line up in orbit over world tropics to be able to send fresh data from cyclones as each satellite passes overhead, at 12-minute intervals.

The system significantly improves on current hurricane data technologies.

The mission marks a new era for NASA and Cape Canaveral, successfully adding launch-drops to the more traditional blast-offs from launch pads at Cape Canaveral AFS or Kennedy Space Center.

The Pegasus rocket launch went smoothly if just a couple of seconds later than anticipated. The airplane was traveling about 600 mph within a 40-mile-long “drop box.” The rocket released and five seconds later the engine fired, and it blasted upward, through and out of the atmosphere.

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Blake Dowling: Amazon Go storefront, the next big disruption in retail, society

When it comes to the home theater experience, we used to rent movies from Blockbuster and Movie Gallery. VHS came and went. Then DVD, which is gone (for the most part).

In regards to transportation, there are still taxi cabs out there, but everyone I know contacts Uber to get a ride.

Have you bought a CD lately? I know plenty of music execs who wish they could turn back the clock when there were huge margins on tapes, LPs and CDs.

And in the world of politics, Hillary Clinton was all set to become President, but here we are.

Granted the last one isn’t so much about technology but, for whatever reason, the experts didn’t see it coming.

Disruption can take on many forms.

We now have a new one, which is about to ruffle some serious feathers and it won’t just affect grocery stores, but retail in general.

Imagine a grocery store experience where you just walk into and grab what you need and leave. It’s opening in 2017. It’s called Amazon Go. It’s real, so to all the experts out there, take note.

Here’s how it works: After entering the store, you scan an app. Select items to put into your cart and the store tracks what you pick up. You already have an Amazon account, so it’s just a matter of sensors tracking you correctly.

The Amazon Go storefront is small; it is not a Wal-Mart type of set up. It has essentials and — for downtown residents of a major city — it seems like a perfect fit.

For example, I was shopping at Publix on Spring Street this past weekend, just before the SEC Game in Atlanta. If you could take the lines and congestion out of that place on a busy day, it would be wicked.

The ways in which this type of disruption would affect retail (and our society) seem to be endless. Where to start on the domino effect? Let’s see there are over 3 million cashiers employed in our country making minimum wage. With that wage about to go up, retail execs are bound to be thinking can’t we automate this? The self-checkout kiosks were just the beginning of a labor issue for the cashiers.

What about criminals? Those who misbehave with tech are drooling over this as well. Credit card numbers and personal info are being zapped around rampantly.

Or what about someone just walking into the Amazon Go store without scanning the app. In that scenario, I could imagine some rambunctious teens stealing beer. In this kind of world, I suppose you must have a significant security presence.

How will other stores catch up? Publix, for instance, doesn’t have your credit card info on file. And, personally, I don’t want them to have it.

In the past four years, I have had two credit cards digitally stolen. The first time it happened, American Express did an excellent job notifying me via the AMX app. Once I declined the purchase through the app, I soon received a phone call with details.

In hindsight, it was kind of funny: “Mr. Dowling, are you in Milan attempting to purchase a fur coat?”

That would be a negative, boss. Thanks for the heads up.

The other incident was more recent; the local bank involved was just as meticulous.

Hopefully, these types of stores will offer anti-skimming devices throughout the location to block the possibility of digital theft.

This is going to be a significant movement, and all eyes will be on both Amazon and this Seattle storefront to see where they succeed and where they fail.

Disruption never stops; who knows what’s next?

Personally, a grocery store with no line sounds like heaven. Clean up on aisle 4, LOL.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies in Tallahassee; he writes columns for several organizations. You can contact him at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

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National Urban League takes Equality Florida to court over logo dispute

The National Urban League (NUL) has been complaining for six years that Equality Florida‘s logo is too similar to theirs in appearance. Now the venerable civil rights organization is taking Florida’s leading gay rights group to court to have them stop using it — and wants them to pay for it.

In legal briefs filed with the U.S. Middle District of Florida in Tampa last week, attorneys with the National Urban League say that they’ve been using their logo for nearly 50 years, and had it registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1992.

Cut to 2010, when Equality Florida began using its logo in its fundraising, marketing, political, and administrative materials. The Urban League charged that logo “is confusingly similar — indeed nearly identical — to NUL’s registered trademark,” allege the National Urban League attorneys.

The National Urban League first sent a cease-and-desist letter to Equality Florida in March of 2013, notifying the group that they considered their logo to constitute “trademark infringement.” Nothing ever happened, however, prompting the Urban League to re-contact Equality Florida in May of this year to once again ask them to stop using their logo, also to no avail.

In addition to going to court, the National Urban League has filed a petition with the United States Patent and Trademark Office before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the registration of Equality Florida’s service mark.

The suit claims that because both groups are charitable organizations seeking to promote social equality and civil rights for marginalized persons, they are direct competitors. And thus, “consumers have been and will continue to be misled by Equality Florida’s use of a mark confusingly similar to NUL’s mark.

“Defendants’ continuing use of their infringing mark also dilutes NUL’s mark.”

Both organizations’ logos are a variation of an equal sign fully enclosed inside a circle. While Equality Florida’s mark is usually viewed as a white equal sign enclosed in a green circle, attorneys for the National Urban League says it looks just theirs when photocopied in black and white, especially when the logo is used without the words “Equality Florida” attached to it.

If successful in court, the Urban League not only wants Equality Florida to cease using their logo, but also pay over to them “all gains, profits, and advantages derived by them by said trademark infringement.” A trial would determine the financial amount.

Officials with Equality Florida did not return a request for comment.

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Kevin McCarty misses out on job leading national insurance association

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has passed over former chief Florida insurance regulator Kevin McCarty in selecting its next chief executive officer.

The organization went with Michael Consedine, former insurance commissioner for Pennsylvania.

The CEO represents the state insurance regulators who comprise the association and acts as go-between with federal and international policymakers, the states, and consumer and industry representatives.

SNL Financial had reported in January that McCarthy was discussing the job with other insurance commissioners.

McCarty, who had served as president of the association, tendered his resignation as insurance commissioner in January under pressure from Gov. Rick Scott.

As he left, the Office of Insurance Regulation circulated a list of McCarty’s accomplishments since becoming commissioner in 2003. They included coordinating an investigation by several states that returned $5 billion to insurance customers across the country.

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FAMU ‘thick accent’ case referred to mediation

A lawsuit against Florida A&M University by a Belize native who claims she was wrongly fired is headed to court-ordered mediation.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker last Friday ordered a mediation report by July 27, and tentatively set a jury trial to begin Oct. 16 if the parties can’t resolve the case.

Glenda McDougall‘s lawsuit, filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court this August, was transferred to federal court in October, court dockets show.

McDougall says the state’s historically black university wrongly got rid of her, partly because her accent was so thick “no one could understand what she was saying,” according to her complaint.

The complaint says McDougall, who is black, started working at FAMU in 2000 and was let go in August 2014. She says she was the victim of discrimination because of an “actual or perceived disability and (because of) her national origin, Belizean.”

McDougall had been working for the school’s Parking Services but needed a transfer to a sit-down job after injuring her knee.

She was moved to the university’s Communication Center as a dispatcher without any issues, the suit said.

But after she asked for time off, supervisors told her she could no longer work there because “no one could understand” her.

The school has denied the allegations in the suit, adding that McDougall “voluntarily resigned or retired from her position and therefore suffered no adverse employment action.”

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Plucky kids and dedicated teachers work to save school news

Facts may have died in 2012, but the obituary has yet to reach a handful of plucky high school kids who know that local news is important, and work hard to bring it to their classmates.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Erica Breunlin takes a deep dive into the shallow pool of secondary school resources for kids who aspire to careers in truth-telling, or just want to learn how to be smarter consumers of current events. As usual, it’s the teachers who are doing the heavy lifting, with very little help from individuals and institutions who claim to care about civics, civility, and surveys that show that young people can’t tell the difference between truth and tripe.

“I won’t let this thing die,” vows DeLand High School’s April Sniffen. “This thing” is The Growler, a delightfully-named school newspaper that’s been around since the 1920s, and has added an online edition to the workload, even as student participation has dwindled by dozens in the years she has served as sponsor.

Over at University High, Courtney Kohler-Hanks spends a lot of uncompensated time teaching herself to teach journalism. Like Sniffen, she has no professional training in the news business, but understands that too many kids are consuming too many empty infotainment calories and have too little access to reliable information about what is happening in the places that matter most in their own lives.

“Anecdotally, we have a sense that many schools are de-emphasizing journalism and reducing or eliminating funding for newspapers because of primarily budget constraints,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the News-Journal.

“There’s also no doubt,” LoMonte added, “that students are being discouraged from pursuing journalism largely because of the uncertainty with career prospects.”

Somehow, some kids refuse to be discouraged. They’re working to “localize broader news topics and involve student voices”; “branch students’ news knowledge out past their own points of interest”; and give their readers “information about what’s going on in this school.”

“I definitely think that journalism has a bright future,” University High’s managing editor Savannah Sicurella, enthusiastically and correctly told the News-Journal.

It’s a refreshing contrast to the 60-something editors who stopped covering cops, courts, city commissions, and school boards and have the nerve to bash subscribers who left them to forage on Facebook for news of the neighborhood where they live.

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