Peter Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Nancy Pelosi visit demonstrates Ted Deutch’s growing role in nat’l party

U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined South Florida Congressman Ted Deutch Thursday or a public event at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors.

That appearance was followed by a major Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser at a private home in Fort Lauderdale; at $5,000 a ticket, the event raised $300,000.

All the money Deutch raised will go toward the Democratic efforts to win back the House of Representatives.

Because of the difficult 2018 Senate map for Democrats, most political experts see a Democratic takeover of the House as the party’s best opportunity in the midterm elections.

A Democratic sweep in the House could open many potential doors for ambitious members of Congress who can raise money, sell their message on television, and support tight relations with the top echelons of Democratic leadership, including Pelosi.

It is no accident Pelosi chose to travel to the heart of Deutch’s district to champion federal legislation supporting equal rights for gay and lesbians. Deutch was one of 194 cosponsors of The Equality Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community.

At the beginning of the new Congress, Pelosi also named Deutch as the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. It is an important assignment, especially since the committee has undertaken the investigation into Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes for allegedly disclosing classified information.

Earlier this month, Deutch sponsored The Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act, which would require nominees to disclose whether they have solicited or contributed funds for political purposes to 527 political action committees, or tax-exempt groups formed under sections 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(6) of the tax code.

Alongside his new Ethics perch, Deutch has been noticeably popping up on the national political shows including MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CNN’s New Day and Wolf Blitzer, among others.

Historically, midterm elections have a way of whiplashing back on the party in control.

Deutch knows that Democrats could very well rule the House in two years, and as most of the existing Democratic House leadership are all in their late 70s, Deutch is making moves that appear to show he is prepared to take his career to the next level.

With Frank White out of Speaker’s race is Northeast Florida ready to rally to one of its own?

After Florida Politics’ most recent report about the mostly behind-the-scenes scrum within the Florida House GOP freshman class to determine which of its members will one day be Speaker, the conclusion was that for either Jamie Grant or Frank White to win, one of them would have to quickly drop out of the race.

No much sooner then when this was written did rumors begin to circulate that White was contemplating exiting the race. And after considerable lobbying from Rep. Jayer Williamson, at least that’s what we hear, White, in fact, quit the race.

“I talked to some other members, and it just wasn’t the right time,” White, of Pensacola, told Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

With White out of the way and he and Williamson lining up behind Tampa’s James Grant, the race has returned to its original state: Jacksonville’s Paul Renner on one side, Grant and a large band of anti-Renner votes on the other, with Randy Fine in a kingmaker/spoiler role (or, perhaps, a consensus candidate if Grant and Renner can’t win outright.)

The tempo of the race is now quickening.

White’s dropping out read like the firing of a wicked return volley after Sarasota’s Joe Gruters announced earlier in the day that he would vote for Renner.

With Grant probably back in the lead, pressure is now on Renner to lock down his northeast Florida base. The region — Jacksonville in particular — believes it deserves a turn at leadership. And it’s time for the other Jacksonville/northeast Florida House members to get in line.

That was the message Thursday evening at a major fundraiser for Renner’s political committee, the Florida Foundation for Liberty, delivered by boss of bosses, Lenny Curry.

Curry and the rest of the Jacksonville political establishment is “all in” for Renner, according to a consultant who works for multiple candidates in the region.

Along with Curry, Ambassador John Rood and John Peyton spoke before a crowd of more than 250 about the need for northeast Florida representatives to rally behind a northeast Florida Speaker candidate.

The question now is: Was the message delivered?

In the crowd last night were Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, and Cyndi Stevenson. If Renner is to win, he needs at least two of the three of them to vote his way.

Byrd is still likely with Grant.

Fischer and Stevenson are still undecided, but considerable pressure will probably be brought to bear to have them vote for Renner.

But even with those votes, the race is fluctuating like my cholesterol level.

Grant’s camp is as confident as ever, thinking that White yielding to Grant is the final, decisive turn.

Which leaves the scrappy Randy Fine. Along with Byron Donalds and, perhaps, Erin Grall, Fine is the what’s standing between a two-horse showdown. Fine, ever the tactician, believes there are votes there for him if Grant or Renner can’t win a quick majority.

But is it time for Fine to pay the role of kingmaker? Does he deliver his vote and, again perhaps, a couple of other independent votes, to Grant and Fine in exchange for a committee chairmanship to be named later?

Stay tuned.

Democrats have opportunity-in-crisis with Rick Scott education bill veto possibility

Winston Churchill once said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Democrats are starting to formulate a strategy for Bill Nelson’s upcoming Senate re-election effort — more likely than not facing Gov. Rick Scott.

Not one to waste a good opportunity, Nelson’s nascent campaign could receive a significant boost by way of a veto of the sweeping education bill assembled by lawmakers in the 2017 Legislative Session’s final hours.

The proposal (HB 7069) – a leading priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran – has been panned by educators, parents and labor unions, all calling for Scott to wield his veto pen.

Opponents decry both the bill and state budget, primarily for adding ‘just’ $24 in average per-student spending while moving $140 million to charter schools, described optimistically as “Schools of Hope.”

However, tucked away in the PreK-12 Conforming Bill is a political “poison pill” in the case of a veto; rewards for teacher performance, as much as $233 million in bonuses.

Teachers considered “Best and Brightest” could receive $6,000, those “highly effective” will get $1,200, and those considered “effective” could see a bonus of up to $800, based on available funds.

Scott, still stinging from the rebuke by lawmakers who severely cut his favored VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida, could use his veto power to retaliate against projects near and dear to Speaker Corcoran.

Corcoran rallied throughout Session against the state’s business and tourism incentive programs, calling them “corporate welfare.”

Vetoing the reduced spending for VISIT and Enterprise Florida would be of little help since both programs would remain underfunded. Corcoran would not be unhappy if either one disappeared.

But a veto of HB 7069 would certainly do the trick, though not without a hefty political price.

Scott’s veto of teacher bonuses could hand Democrats an effective talking point for 2018. Just imagine the headlines: “Rick Scott denies bonuses for public school teachers.”

Such a move would certainly play well for Nelson and Democrats in attack mailers, TV ads and the like – each designed to inflict maximum political damage for Scott’s statewide campaign, should he choose to run.

Of course, this presents Scott with a classic Catch-22 scenario: damned if he vetoes, damned if he doesn’t.

So, as the deadline approaches, what remains is political calculus – finding the best way to mitigate any damage ahead of an all-but-certain Senate run.

And at least one option has a solid upside; it gives money to teachers, which is far from a bad thing.

The Delegation for 5.25.17 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Criticism of Trump budget proposal to grow upon his return from overseas

President Donald Trump presented his budget proposal to Congress this week. Like other budgets proposed by his predecessors, the term “dead on arrival” quickly becomes the operative word for those paying attention.

Usually, this event is well covered, especially on the cable news channels. This year, despite eye-popping proposals from the White House, the budget has taken a back seat.

Events in Manchester, England, and the president’s well-received foreign trip have rightfully received higher billing. While Manchester could never be predicted, give the President’s people some credit for dropping this newsmaker while he was overseas with Muslim, Jewish and Catholic leaders.

Trump’s trip to the Middle East produces the irony of high-level diplomacy and a budget proposal that would cut the Department of State by 29 percent. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly seeking a 9 percent cut in the Department workforce.

Other controversial proposals include cuts to Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, 13 percent to the Department of Education and other cuts to farm programs, welfare programs and Medicaid. Winners include substantial increases to the military, border security, public safety and school choice programs.

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds up a copy of President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 federal budget as he speaks to members of the media in the Press Briefing Room at the White House. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney describes the proposal as fulfilling “campaign promises the president made.” St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist had a somewhat different description.

“This budget is fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant,” Crist said in a statement. He spoke for nearly everyone in both parties by saying “it is the Congress that ultimately decides funding priorities.”

This proposal reflects the priorities (and promises) of Trump with numbers attached to them. Many in Congress want to spend more than we already are, while others want to get to a balanced budget.

Trump appears to be deploying the art of the deal with a lowball bid. Republicans in Congress will smile, but not go along with the deep cuts proposed. In the end, they may not go along with any cuts.

Or, Congress may continue with the recent practice of continuing resolutions and not even agree on a budget. The committee hearings should provide excellent opportunities for props and sound bites.

More will be paying attention by then.

The Associated Press broke down Trump‘s $4.1 trillion budget proposal in one handy graph:

Programming note: Just like Florida’s congressional delegation, we occasionally need to take a week off from the hustle and bustle from the beltway. We’re taking next week off to celebrate Memorial Day and recharge before what will likely be a busy few months before the summer recess. We’ll return Thursday, June 8. Until then, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.

Sinkhole opens outside of Mar-a-Lago

The town of Palm Beach reported Monday that a 4-foot by 4-foot sinkhole formed directly in front of Mar-a-Lago.

President Trump spent several weekends at Mar-a-Lago during his first few months in office. And as news of a sinkhole in front of the luxury resort spread, Amy B Wang with The Washington Post reported that metaphors began to pour in. A common theme of the social media feedback, wrote Trevor Nace with Forbes, had to do with how much time and money Trump has spent at Mar-a-Lago. For instance, Peter Stevenson with The Washington Post tweeted: “The swamp is draining?”

Town officials said the sinkhole appeared to be “in the vicinity of the newly installed water main. West Palm Beach Utilities distribution crews secured the area and did exploratory excavation on Monday. The Palm Beach Post reported the hole in front of the club grew to about 10-feet by 6-feet because of the digging.

Delegation members react to extension of Haitian Temporary Protected Status

Members of the Florida delegation are grateful that Haitian refugees have six more months before their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) runs out, but most feel that is not enough time. Following his announcement of the extension, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly advised those Haitians temporarily in the U.S. following the devastating earthquake of 2010 to use the time to “handle their affairs.”

In March, a bipartisan group of South Florida delegation members, as well as both U.S. Senators, wrote to Kelly urging him to extend the deadline, “within all applicable rules and regulations.” A length for the extension was not suggested.

A release announcing the extension said: “Secretary Kelly was particularly encouraged by representations made to him directly by the Haitian government regarding their desire to welcome the safe repatriation of Haitian TPS recipients in the near future.”

Sen. Bill Nelson was among those who signed the March letter urging the Trump administration extend the deadline even further. He called for an 18-month extension.

“There’s just no way that in six months the nation of Haiti could absorb 60,000 of its people back,” Nelson said on the Senate floor.

Miami Republican Mario Diaz-Balart did not ask for more time. “I thank “President Trump and Secretary Kelly for this TPS extension, and I support the people of Haiti as they continue to rebuild,” he said in a statement.

 “I am pleased that the Administration gave Haitians a temporary six-month extension of TPS rather than abruptly ending the humanitarian measure and throwing thousands of lives in limbo,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch in a statement. “But it’s quite clear that conditions in Haiti won’t improve sufficiently in six months to justify letting TPS expire.”

Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz expressed gratitude for the six months, but called it “woefully short of what is needed.”

“There are still tent cities from the earthquake,” said Miami Gardens Democrat Frederica Wilson.

Delegation focuses on Lake O, Everglades restoration efforts

Senate panel OKs bill to provide Fed help for toxic algae outbreaks — The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved a measure by Sen. Bill Nelson that could open the door to federal assistance for states and local communities hit by toxic algae blooms.

Isadora Rangel with TC Palm reported that, under the proposal, toxic algae blooms could be considered an event of national significance. The bill authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare several algae bloom an event of national significance and determine how much money is needed to help the community address environmental, social and health effects.

It would also set aside $110 million over five years for research how to control algae blooms, like the ones that plagued Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River last summer.

“Floridians have borne the brunt of recent toxic algae outbreaks, but by law have been unable to qualify for federal help,” said Nelson, in a statement. “Algae blooms are more than just a nuisance — it can be an environmental, economic, and public health nightmare that warrants emergency relief.”

Nelson has long worked to curb the impact of toxic algae blooms. In 2014, he shepherded a law through Congress that authorized $82 million for research to help battle outbreaks.

The 2017 measure now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Nelson, Rubio, others invite Zinke on Everglades tour — The congressional delegation — led by Sens. Nelson and Marco Rubio — want to take Interior Sectary Ryan Zinke on a tour of the Florida Everglades.

The two senators, along with a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen representatives, sent a letter to Zinke inviting to get a firsthand look at the ongoing efforts to restore the Everglades. In their letter, the group of lawmakers said while they understand Zinke’s schedule is “incredibly busy,” they would be “honored to personally show you the River of Grass.”

“As the newest secretary of the interior, we welcome you to visit a unique treasure, America’s Everglades,” the lawmakers wrote. “As secretary, you serve as chairman of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and play a vital role in the effort to restore the balance of water flow and management.”

The letter continues: “The Everglades faces numerous challenges, but with a successful state and federal partnership, we are committed to ensuring future generations are able to enjoy this treasured ecosystem.”

Reps. Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Carlos Curbelo, Val Demings, Ron DeSantis, Ted Deutch, Mario Diaz-Balart, Lois Frankel, Matt Gaetz, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Brian Mast, Stephanie Murphy, Bill Posey, Francis Rooney, Tom Rooney, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, John Rutherford, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Daniel Webster, Frederica Wilson and Ted Yoho joined Nelson and Rubio in signing the letter.

F. Rooney talks Everglades projects funding — Plans have been approved, but without funding, it’s difficult to move forward.

That’s why Rep. Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican, met with representatives of the Office of Management and Budget last week to discuss funding for Lake Okeechobee and Everglades restoration projects authorized through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

“The key to Everglades restoration is the funding and completion of a series of projects authorized in the Water Resource Development Acts (WRDA) of 2007, 2014 and 2016 pursuant to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP), enacted in 2000,” he said in a statement. “Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs funding to complete reinforcement of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. Florida’s entire Congressional delegation agrees on this issue and we ask that The White House include this important funding in their infrastructure budget, as President Trump promised during his campaign.”

Rooney sent a letter to Trump, signed by every member of the delegation, calling on Trump to support Everglades restoration projects. A member of the Everglades Caucus, Rooney has taken top House officials, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, on tours of the Everglades to stress the need for funding.

Nancy Pelosi travels to South Florida on Friday to support LGBTs, raise cash

The House Minority Leader will be in South Florida on Friday to attend a public event and a private gathering to raise money for Democrats. Along with Pelosi, Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch and Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz are the featured attractions.

On Friday morning, the trio will hold a public event in Wilton Manors to bring attention to discrimination against LGBTs. They will speak of their support for the Equality Act, legislation designed to include LGBT as a protected class.

The event begins at 10:45 a.m. at the Pride Center located at 2040 N. Dixie Highway in Wilton Manors.

Following the public event, Pelosi and her colleagues will head for a luncheon fundraiser at a private home in Ft. Lauderdale. Deutch will serve as host for the fundraiser, which will benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Democrats are targeting the 27th District seat currently held by the retiring Republican from Miami, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in 2018. Also, they are making a strong play to oust Kendall Republican Carlos Curbelo in the 25th District.

The minimum donation, according to the Miami Herald, is $5,000.

Rubio, Yoho sponsor bills to help victims of North Korean regime

Florida’s Republican senator and the Republican congressman from Gainesville have each recently launched proposals on behalf of the internal victims of the brutal regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Rubio initiated the North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization Act of 2017. Among other things, the bill uses the work of a United Nations commission that found “grave human rights violations still being perpetrated against the people of North Korea” and calling for international cooperation to helping refugees.

The bill also seeks to provide North Koreans with accurate information about what is happening in their country. It is co-sponsored by Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, along with Texas Republican Ted Cruz and Colorado Republican Cory Gardner.

“The human rights situation in North Korea is horrific,” Rubio said in a release. “The United States has a moral obligation and diplomatic imperative to prioritize human rights and access to information for the North Korean people, and this bipartisan legislation would do just that.”

Access to information is precise the topic of Yoho’s Distribution and Promotion of Rights and Knowledge Act of 2017. This bill, similar to Rubio’s Senate bill, seeks to increase the use of improved American technology to broadcast truthful information about the rogue regime to North Koreans able to listen.

Yoho, the chairman of the Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has gained the support of both the full committee Chairman Ed Royce, a California Republican and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, as co-sponsors.

“I applaud Asia Subcommittee Chairman Yoho for introducing this important legislation to support new ways for North Koreans to access this information,” Royce said in a release. “I’ve long said that increased broadcasting into North Korea must be part of any strategy to address the urgent threats from the Kim Jong Un regime.”

Paulson’s Principles: Party Prospects for the 2018 Congressional Elections

It has been decades since Democrats had majority control of the Florida congressional delegation. Democrats, who held only 10 of the 27 seats entering the 2016 election, hoped to narrow the gap with Republicans. They did. They picked up one seat, leaving Republicans with a 16-11 advantage.

A potential problem for Republicans is President Trump. His approval ratings have never been above 50 percent, and they are currently at 40 percent. That is unheard of for a president only four months into his term. Even worse, only 28 percent strongly approve of Trump, while 46 percent strongly disapprove.

The firing of FBI Director James Comey has met with public disapproval out of concern that Trump was attempting to pressure Comey to drop the investigation of fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and that Trump wanted Comey to terminate the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election.

Republicans control the White House and the party controlling the White House almost always suffers midterm losses. Those losses are even greater when the president’s popularity is low.

Democrats have an advantage by being more motivated than Republicans. Motivation is a major factor in voter turnout. Democrats currently hold a 6 percent lead in a generic ballot.

In other words, Democrats are more likely to turn out.

Finally, Democrats are also advantaged because Republicans have more seats in play and more seats in jeopardy. Two Republican members of Congress from Florida currently represent Democratic districts.

Republican Carlos Curbelo in District 26 in Miami holds the seat with the largest Democratic advantage in the United States to be won by a Republican. Curbelo’s district has a +6 Democratic advantage.

Neighboring District 27, held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen — who just announced her upcoming retirement — won her district by 10 points even though it has a +5 Democratic advantage. Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 19 points. Ros-Lehtinen’s departure makes District 27 the most likely Democratic pickup.

Mario Diaz-Balart, in neighboring District 25, easily won re-election in 2016 although the district is only a +4 Republican district. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has made District 25 it’s Number 3 target on its “2018 Republican Retirement Watchlist.” Number 2 on the Watchlist is Vern Buchanan in District 16 in Sarasota and Manatee County.

The two most vulnerable Democratic seats are those won by newcomers in 2016. Charlie Crist defeated Republican David Jolly in District 13, a seat which Republicans have held since 1954.

Crist has raised almost a million dollars for his campaign account, and no serious Republican has emerged to challenge him. Larry Sabato rates the district as “leans Democrat.”

Stephanie Murphy defeated long-term Republican John Mica in District 7, a district evenly split between the parties.

Republican State Sen. David Simmons, who represents much of the district, has said he is “98 percent sure” he will run. Sabato rates it a “leans Democrat” district.

Democrats should pick up Ros-Lehtinen’s seat in District 27 and, if things fall in place, have a great shot at picking up two other Republican seats. A three-seat switch would leave the Democrats with a 14-13 majority in the congressional delegation.

It would be a significant boost to the Democratic Party in fundraising and candidate recruitment.

Gaetz targets invasive species with Reef Assassin Act

The Fort Walton Beach Republican is proposing legislation designed to protect Florida coral reefs and native fish from a carnivorous invasive species. The bill, known as the Reef Assassin Act, provides incentives to those who would help in the effort to rid Florida waters of the menace.

Lionfish, native to Pacific and Indian Ocean region, are now in coastal Florida waters and prey upon species such as red snapper and grouper. They also are known to damage Florida’s iconic coral reefs. The legislation provides that those providing dead Lionfish tails would be given “tags authorizing fishing for coveted reef fish.”

Volunteers show off a lionfish during the FWC’s 2017 Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival in Pensacola last week. (Photo via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission)

“By providing red snapper, bay grouper, triggerfish, and amberjack tags to those who kill lionfish, we can use our resources to protect our resources,” Gaetz said in a release.

Gaetz says the lionfish population in the Florida Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico has exploded in the past three decades. Female lionfish can release up to 2 million eggs per year.

“We applaud Congressman Gaetz for his new incentives-based legislation, and for bringing creative solutions and heightened awareness to the lionfish threat,” said Brian Yablonski, Chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The bill already carries broad, bipartisan support within the delegation. Co-sponsors include Democratic Reps. Hastings, Lawson and Soto; along with Republican Reps. Ron DeSantis, Neal Dunn, F. Rooney, T. Rooney, Ros-Lehtinen, Mast Yoho and Rutherford.

House passes Buchanan’s bill to enhance punishment for cop killers

Late last week, the House passed the Thin Blue Line Act, a bill sponsored by the Sarasota Republican. The vote tally was a bipartisan 271-143.

The bill’s primary focus would make the killing of a police officer or first responder an “aggravating” factor when determining the sentence for offenders. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

“America’s police officers and first responders are the first ones on the scene to help those in harm’s way,” Buchanan said in a statement following passage. “Getting this bill signed into law will protect those who serve our communities and send a clear message: targeting or killing our first responders will not be tolerated.”

Last year, 11 Florida police officers were killed in the line of duty.

Joining Buchanan as co-sponsors of the bill were Florida Republicans Brian Mast of Hutchinson Island, Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Bill Posey of Rockledge. All delegation Republicans voted for the bill except Tom Rooney of Okeechobee and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall. Neither cast a vote.

Most Florida Democrats were among the 48 in their party voting in favor. The only “no” votes came from Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Weston. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens did not cast a vote.

Mast, Curbelo receiving thanks for AHCA vote via mail

Already supported by digital and television ads, constituents of the two South Florida Republicans will soon have “thank you” mailers show up in their mailboxes. The American Action Network (AAN), a conservative group with close ties to Speaker Paul Ryan, will drop mail pieces expressing gratitude for the vote of 24 other Republicans in addition to the two Floridians.

“The AHCA will give families real choice, better coverage, and lower premiums,” said Corry Bliss, Executive Director of the American Action Network, in a release. “AAN will continue to promote the AHCA and thank lawmakers for keeping their promise and fighting for better health care.”

This marks the third different media outreach undertaken by AAN on behalf of Curbelo and Mast, part of a core group of endangered Republicans. Shortly after passage, the group announced television and digital media ads.

The television ads began this week. A smaller radio ad buy did not include the two Floridians. Ryan was one of the very few listed in all four buys.

Deutch backs sunlight on “dark money”

On a media conference call, the Boca Raton Rep. Deutch joined with Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse to promote legislation designed to increase reporting requirements for presidential nominees and high-level appointees. The Conflicts from Political Fundraising Act seeks to enhance current law by requiring nominees to disclose their political contributions or solicitations.

Current law only requires the revelation of personal financial information. The intent of the legislation is to address a concern that nominees and appointees could receive funding from entities they would be called upon to regulate.

“Because of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizen’s United decision, big money has too much influence in our elections,” said Deutch, a co-chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force. “That’s why we need to be certain that presidential nominees aren’t going to put their own political interests above the interests of the American people.

For his part, Whitehouse repeatedly used the term “dark money.” During the confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch, Whitehouse focused a great deal of his time focusing on this issue.

“We ask high-level appointees to disclose their financial relationships, which may have a serious influence on the work they do if confirmed,” Whitehouse said. “We also need to ask about financial relationships, which can be just as thorny.”

Curbelo, Murphy assume leadership roles in millennial-focused caucus

The Congressional Futures Caucus, an arm of the Millennial Action Project, has tapped the Kendall Republican as a co-chair and the Orlando Democrat as a vice-chair. Their new roles were announced at a Tuesday event at Facebook’s Washington office.

The Caucus membership consists of about 25 members who are aged 45 or younger. The group’s mission statement says “These members come together across partisan lines to creatively and pragmatically for nonpartisan common ground on issues facing America’s next generation, such as enhancing American competitiveness and innovation.

Curbelo, 35, will serve with the other caucus co-chair, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Senema, 40. Joining Murphy, 37, as the other vice-chair is Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher, 33.

Mr. Ingoglia goes to Washington

Blaise Ingoglia took a quick jaunt to Washington, D.C. last week, as part of a small delegation of Republican leaders who met with President Donald Trump and Reince Priebus to talk about issues important to their communities.

Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, was one of 10 party leaders from swing states to meet with Trump and Priebus to talk about issues important to their states. The Spring Hill Republican said he was others in attendance included the chairs of the Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan Republican parties.

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia was one of 10 state party chairs invited to the White House last week to meet with President Donald Trump. (White House Photo by Shealah Craighead via Facebook)

“It was a little surreal,” he said of his Oval Office meeting. “If you know the president, he’s very welcoming. He likes to talk; he likes to get feedback. It was a very humbling experience.”

Ingoglia said he talked with Priebus about the temporary protected status for Haitians, which the Trump administration announced Monday it would extend for another six months.

Ingoglia said the president and Priebus asked lots of questions about what the federal government could do to help communities within the state, and Ingoglia said what was impressive is they didn’t care if the issues were Democratic or Republican issues, they just “wanted to reach out to (as many) community leaders as possible.”

Ballard Partners adds third foreign client

Brian Ballard is continuing to grow his reach, inking a deal this week with the government of Turkey.

The firm signed a $1.5 million contract with the Turkish government, which will be represented by former Rep. Robert Wexler, reports Marc Caputo with POLITICO Florida. The new contract comes after Ballard Partners signed agreements with two other international clients, the Dominican Republic and the Socialist Party of Albania, the Balkan nation’s ruling party.

Ballard told POLITICO Florida he was excited about the firm’s “growing international practice” and he looks forward to working “with this important US and NATO ally.”

The new contract could be one of the firm’s most controversial. Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara to protest what it called “aggressive and unprofessional actions” by U.S. security against Turkish bodyguards in Washington during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit.

Florida House intern speaker series kicks off June 8

The Florida House on Capitol Hill’s popular intern seminar series is back.

The annual series is one of the most popular and successful education programs and gives Florida college students a chance to interact and exchange ideas with each other, members of the Sunshine State’s congressional delegation, and business and government leaders.

Rep. Ron DeSantis kicks off the 2017 Florida House Intern Seminar Series on June 8. Other speakers this year include Rep. Stephanie Murphy on June 15, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart on June 22; Rep. Brian Mast on June 29, Rep. Kathy Castor on July 13, Rep. Charlie Crist on July 20, and Rep. Vern Buchanan on July 27. A tour of the U.S. Supreme Court is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m.

Seminars begin at 8:30 a.m., with a light breakfast served at 8 a.m. The seminars take place at Florida House. Students interested in attending can RSVP to each event at rsvp@floridahousedc.org.

The Florida House on Capitol Hill is the only state embassy in the nation’s capital.

D.C. porta-potty industry booming

The first few months of the Trump administration have been good for the portable toilet business Washington, D.C., reports Perry Stein with The Washington Post. The reason? Increased protests on the Mall mean a greater need for porta-potties.

The National Park Service requires demonstration permit holders provide one portable toilet for every 300 participants, 20 percent of which must be wheelchair-accessible. That means, for example, the Women’s March on Washington needed nearly 600 loos.

The Washington Post reported that portable toilet rental companies said an increase in political advocacy has translated to boom times. The National Park Service has experienced a 30 percent increase in permitted protests compared with this time last year.

“All I’m going to say is that we love the activism. I’ll leave it at that,” Rob Weghorst, the chief operating officer of Virginia-based portable toilet rental company Don’s Johns told The Washington Post. “It’s been good. It’s made for an interesting and lucrative spring.”

Why is Bill Nelson still silent on outrageous comments by Sally Boynton Brown?

Much has changed during Bill Nelson’s tenure as an elected official.

As National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Katie Martin observes in a recent email, campaigns are nearly unrecognizable today compared to 1972 when Nelson first arrived in the Florida Legislature.

Since then, Martin says America has seen nine presidential administrations, the first woman in space, and the rise (and fall) of Britney Spears in her journey from pop superstar to a breakdown, recovery, and re-emergence as a Las Vegas lounge act.

In other words: Nelson has been around a long, long time.

While political campaigns have certainly changed, one important thing has not — calling out someone when they are wrong.

With that, Martin tries to understand Bill Nelson’s silence on controversial comments made by Sally Boynton Brown the Florida Democratic Party’s new executive director.

As reported by the Miami New Times, Boynton Brown said that in the time and place Democrats are in now, it is “very hard” to get low-income voters excited about “issues” such as single-payer health care; the problem is these very same people are “not voting.”

The New Times also notes: “[Boynton Brown] said that taking money from large corporations … could somehow be a good thing … and that the ‘relationship’ created when gigantic corporations give thousands of dollars to political candidates can somehow make it easier for politicians to push back against corporations when they are ‘raping our country.’”

That leads Martin to ask: Why has Nelson, only statewide Democratic officeholder, not yet weighed in?

Good question.

Sunburn for 5.25.17 – Remembrance

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

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

A programming note: Sunburn is taking a holiday Friday, Memorial Day, and next Tuesday. Barring a call for a special session, Sunburn will return Wednesday.

By then, we will be in Paris. Accordingly, I wanted to share with Sunburn readers one story about how some Americans abroad pay tribute to the nation’s fallen soldiers.

In a small town just outside Paris, at the end of every May, a pair of red, white, and blue flags are raised honoring the connection between France and the United States.

Both flags – that of the United States and France – celebrate Memorial Day, a reminder to the citizens of Suresnes (population 50,000) of how America and Americans had stood for its enduring friend and ally, France.

Suresnes is home to the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial –  7.5 acres of sacred space commemorating World War I and II. In the Cemetery are 1,541 graves of World War I service members, as well as two dozen graves of unknown World War II soldiers, including a pair of brothers and a pair of sisters.

Rows of marble headstones are seen in front of the chapel at Suresnes American Cemetery in France.

As the Cemetery overlooks the City of Lights, fallen soldiers serve as silent sentries over Paris.

Every year, the Suresnes Cemetery – not as well-known as its Normandy counterpart – joins the entire town in observing Memorial Day, a holiday not usually celebrated in France.

Organized by the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Cemetary, and the city of Suresnes welcome both American and French visitors, in a tribute that includes local and regional authorities and veterans.

All are there to give praise to the American military service members who afforded a full measure for liberty.

Prayers are followed by speeches celebrating the distinction of American service members, giving gratitude for their service and the lives paid to the French people.

While not an official holiday – French workers do not get that Monday off – many celebrants will visit Sunday to offer remembrance. Yet the juxtaposition of a Memorial Day ceremony, in a cemetery overlooking Paris, highlights the profound bond of blood between two old friends – France and the United States – joined by war and a desire for peace.

Much has been said in both the United States and France about the U.S. military. And while there may be much to disapprove about government policies, often those critics target the same men and women who serve honorably, those who put lives on the line to allow us all the freedom to criticize our government.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE LOBBYISTS AND ASSOCIATIONS —

Summertime is here — well, almost.

While Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while serving in the country’s armed forces, the holiday also marks the unofficial start to summer. And for many people, that means it’s time to start thinking about summer vacation.

A record number of Floridians are expected to travel this weekend, with more than 2 million expected to take to the road, sky and water for a weekend getaway.

Planning a last-minute getaway? Maybe AAA’s legislative lobbying team of Chris Dudley, Paul Mitchell, and Monte Stevens with Southern Strategy Group; and Jennifer Wilson with Adams and Reese can help you get a TripTik to help plan your trip and make sure your membership is up-to-date before you hit the road this weekend.

With millions of people flying into (and out of) the Sunshine State on a regular basis, Airlines for America, the trade organization representing the principle U.S. airlines, tapped Fred Baggett, Gus Corbella, Hayden Dempsey, Leslie Dughi and Fred Karlinsky with Greenberg Traurig to represent its interests before the Florida Legislature.

Once you get to your destination, you’ll need a place to stay. If you want some tips about where to stay, you might want to check with the Marriott International’s legislative lobby team of Slater Bayliss, Al Cardenas and Stephen Shiver with The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners; and Pete Dunbar, Martha Edenfield, Brittany Finkbeiner, and Cari Roth with Dean Mead.

If you’re looking for a place with a homier feel, a vacation rental might be more your style. Brian Bautista with Impact GR; and William Rubin, Amy Biscgelia, Christopher Finkbeiner, Matthew Sacco, and Heather Turnbull with The Rubin Group might be able help you find the perfect beach rental at Airbnb. Or you can check in with Jennifer Green, Melanie Bostick and Timothy Parson with Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, and Ron Pierce and Natalie King with RSA Consulting for some tips on how to find a good place using HomeAway.

Want to avoid an encounter with law enforcement while you’re out and about, but don’t want to turn down that cocktail? Aaron Brand, Cesar Fernandez, Kasra Moshkani, Brad Nail, and Stephanie Smith with Uber — or one of the members of the transportation technology company’s team of über lobbyists — might be able to walk you through how to call an Uber at the end of a long night.

Love the water? It’s probably too late to book a cruise for this holiday weekend, but with three of the top cruise ports in the world located in Florida, you’ll surely be able to find a ship setting sail soon.  The Cruise Lines International Association legislative lobby team of Brian Ballard, Bradley Burleson, Carol Bracy, David Browning, Nelson Diaz, and Matthew Forrest, and Sylvester Lukis with Ballard Partners; and Edgar Castro with Southern Strategy Group might be able to give you some suggestions about the best time to set sail.

Whatever you do this weekend, make sure to remember the real reason for Memorial Day. While the holiday commemorates those who have died in service to the country, it’s still fair to give a shout out to Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion? Bill Helmich with Helmich Consulting represents the Florida departments of the American Legion Auxiliary and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“The hangover: Rick Scott vetoes ‘whiskey & Wheaties’ bill” via Florida Politics Saying it could hurt job creation, Scott vetoed a contentious bill that would have removed the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Scott filed his veto letter of the measure (SB 106) on Wednesday night, his deadline to act on the bill. It would have removed the 82-year-old requirement, enacted in Florida after Prohibition, that hard liquor be sold in a separate store. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in the Sunshine State.

Independent liquor store owners and other opponents flooded the Governor’s Office with thousands of emails and petitions against the bill. Scott was careful to explain his position in his veto letter, balancing his concerns over jobs with the desire of big businesses that sorely wanted him to approve the legislation … “I have heard concerns as to how this bill could affect many small businesses across Florida,” he wrote. “I was a small business owner and many locally owned businesses have told me this bill will impact their families and their ability to create jobs.”

— “We applaud Governor Scott for saving hundreds of Florida small businesses that employ thousands of Floridians, while at the same time keeping safeguards in place for minors,” ABC Fine Wine & Spirits CEO and President Charles Bailes.

— “We have made tremendous progress in the last four years, and there is a clear momentum in Florida for this common-sense approach to liquor sales. While Governor Scott ultimately chose to veto Senate Bill 106, we look forward to working with state leaders in the future to finally put an end to this outdated, Prohibition-era law.” said Michael Williams, a spokesman for the group Floridians for Fair Business Practices, which supported the repeal.

Bill watch – Two more bills were delivered to the governor: HB 457 on “terrorism and terrorist activities,” creating statewide crimes for terrorist acts, and HB 865 for the Department of Transportation. Among other things, it mandates a study of the boundaries of the Department’s seven districts and how much it would cost to create another district for the Fort Myers area. He has until Thursday, June 8 to act on the latest bills. As of midday Wednesday, 72 bills awaited action by the governor.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will sign highlight job growth and sign legislation that will benefit Florida families and businesses at 10:30 a.m. at 3Cinteractive Corp., 750 Park of Commerce Blvd. Ste. 400 in Boca Raton.

Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times — Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn’t finish earlier this month. “I think that it’s important for the elected officials to have done their job during the regular session,” he said Tuesday. “Since they didn’t, I think a special session is in order.” … “I think for a constitutional amendment’s implementation, it’s important for the elected officials to do it, not the bureaucrats at the Department of Health,” Putnam said.

Tweet, tweet:

“Amendment 1 lawsuit may rev up after Session” via Florida Politics – A lawsuit over the state’s environmental funding under a new constitutional amendment is expected to resume now that the annual Session is in lawmakers’ rear-view mirror. An array of environmental advocacy groups had filed suit over the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, also known as Amendment 1. The constitutional change, approved by voters in 2014, mandates state spending for land and water conservation … Advocates — including the Florida Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club — sued the state in 2015, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate. But the legal action had been put on hold earlier this year by Circuit Judge Charles Dodson. He cited a state law that allows litigation to be suspended during a Legislative Session and up to 15 days after the conclusion of one.

Assignment editors – Miami-Dade public schools to host town halls on Legislature’s K-12 spending plan beginning 6 p.m. at Miami Senior High School, 2450 SW 1st Street in Miami, and at 7:30 p.m. at Miami Beach Senior High School, 2231 Prairie Avenue in Miami Beach.

New DEP secretary says there’s no conflict in political side businesses” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state’s top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying groups, many of whom sought to influence the administration’s policy or advance the governor’s political fortunes. Before he joined the governor’s office, Valenstein was director of legislative affairs for the nonprofit Everglades Foundation from August 2011 until December 2012. But while Valenstein was holding each of these policy jobs, his wife was also operating two political consulting and polling companies that Valenstein started: Campaign Facts, LLC and Voter Opinions, LLC. Each catered exclusively to Republican candidates, advocacy groups and political committees. But the week before Valenstein started with the governor’s office … he named his wife, Jennifer Barnhill Valenstein, the registered agent for both firms and removed himself from the corporate paperwork. The companies continued to operate and, between June 2010 and April 2017, they received $942,117 in payments for political consulting, legal and polling work.

Actual press release: “FWC uncovers major alligator violations in long-term covert investigation” via Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

— FINEOUT EXPLAINS —

In the latest post on his blog “The Fine Print,” Associated Press reporter-extraordinaire Gary Fineout takes a look at some of issues still lingering in the capital city.

One of the issues Fineout tackles in his post — titled “Out of the House and into a Mansion? … and other Tallahassee bubble news” — is the question of the budget and bills we’re still watching. As Fineout points out, Memorial Day weekend is “sort of the end of session.”

“By this time school is about to end around the state, and the governor has usually acted on a new state budget,” writes Fineout. “But as we have seen this isn’t an ordinary year as Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans continue their all out public feud over spending and legislative priorities (or as Corcoran puts it – a fight for the soul of the party.)

Even though the new fiscal year starts July 1, Fineout notes the Legislature hasn’t sent the budget to the governor yet. Since Scott became governor, the longest the Legislature waited to deliver the budget was 2012 when it took 28 days. But as Fineout noted, that was a redistricting year so lawmakers went into session early and “actually delivered it in early April.”

The delay in getting the budget has people wondering whether Scott will veto it. He has “publicly thrown out the possibility he may veto the entire budget to register his displeasure.” And school district officials, as Fineout explains, have called on the governor to “veto the main appropriation that goes to public schools.”

Another layer of complexity, lawmakers could send Scott the budget, but hold back big bills, like a massive education bill that has drawn “fierce criticism and support across the education spectrum.”

“That’s important because that bill includes more than $400 million – including money for the contentious Schools of Hope charter school proposal and money for teacher bonuses,” wrote Fineout.

— JOE GRUTERS MAKES HIS PICK —

Gruters is backing Rep. Paul Renner to be  House Speaker in 2022-24. The Sarasota Republican said while he thinks everyone in the running for the position would do a great job, he felt Renner is the best person at this time. Gruters said he’s decided to make his position known because he didn’t want to give anyone false expectations or lead any candidates on. “Like all my votes in the Legislature, I am committing to the person who I think is the best to lead our class,” he said in a message.

Freshmen House Republicans are scheduled to meet on June 30 to select their class leader and, assuming the GOP maintains its control of the Florida House in the next decade, the likely House Speaker for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions.

… Gruters’ backing could be a sign of good things to come for Renner, a Palm Coast Republican first elected to the Florida House in a 2015 special election. Gruters, the longtime chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, was an early supporter of Gov. Scott, a little known Republican candidate for Governor back in 2010. … He was also an early supporter of President Donald Trump.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor — The Gillum campaign announced Wednesday that Clemens, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, has endorsed Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement, Clemens called Gillum a “bold leader whose vision will transform Florida.” “Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades,” said Clemens. “Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.” Gillum is one of three Democrats currently vying to replace Gov. Scott in 2018. “It’s an honor to receive Leader Designate Jeff Clemens’ endorsement. He is a true champion for Florida’s working people, and as a former Mayor, he knows the critical importance of building strong communities everywhere in Florida,” said Gillum in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to build an economy that serves all Floridians – not the special interests.”

Raquel Regalado casts herself as Ros-Lehtinen’s political heir” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — As she mulled a run for Congress, Regalado was nagged by a question she said was posed to her again and again that might not usually be asked of male candidate. “The first question that I was asked was, ‘How are you going to be a mother and a congresswoman?'” Regalado said Tuesday at a women-centered Miami Young Republicans event where she kicked off her candidacy. “I think it’s sad that we’re in a place where people still ask those questions.” With that, Regalado, a former Miami-Dade County School Board member, portrayed herself as the political heir to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the retiring GOP congresswoman Regalado is hoping to replace. Regalado didn’t explicitly draw the line between her nascent candidacy and Ros-Lehtinen’s trailblazing political career. But it was clear that, as the most prominent Republican woman who’s filed for the Democratic-leaning 27th district, Regalado plans to campaign as a politician cast in Ros-Lehtinen’s centrist mold.

Does Alex Diaz de la Portilla know he’s filed for the wrong race?” via Ann Howard of The Capitolist – On May 3, 2017, he filed to run in the Senate District 40 race, as part of the 2018 general election. But if he wants to run in the Senate District 40 special election, he’s in the wrong race. The Division of Elections says they’ve not received a request from Diaz de la Portilla to amend the paperwork. The division updates that information immediately. Multiple messages to Diaz de la Portilla and his campaign were not returned.

Unconventional Green Party candidate Shawn Mathis Gilliam files for HD 58 race” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – As a member of an alternative, third party, Gilliam‘s worldview and ideology are not easily explained; it could make it hard to break through with voters in House District 58. A recent convert to the Green Party, he does not agree with their stance in support of medical marijuana, saying its effects are too negative for the body. While raised as a Christian, Gilliam converted to Islam “about three Ramadans ago.” He says in some respects he’s quite conservative. He’s pro-life and anti-same-sex marriage. “I would like to present a bill making the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract) a legally binding contract for marriage and any other religious marriage contract that is legally binding between the husband and wife if it pertains to religious affiliation,” he said in a follow-up email. He’s also anti-fluoride in the water, and in an email statement, said that he favors polygamy. ‘Islam recognizes Poligomy [sic], and I would like to get that legal in our state as well,” he writes.

Assignment editors: Sally Boynton Brown, the newly appointed president of the Florida Democratic Party, will speak at the Orange County Democratic Executive Committee’s annual “Grassroots Awards Celebration” at 6 p.m. at Celebration Gardens, 1871 Minnesota Ave. in Winter Park.

Image matters more than truth (but don’t say that!)” via Bill Cotterell of the Tallahassee Democrat – The new chief of the Florida Democratic Party has had to apologize for telling the truth. She shockingly failed to use sufficient euphemism when telling a euphemistically titled group of party activists that emotions, rather than issues, get voters to the polls. Sally Boynton Brown, addressing the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County, knew she was treading into a sensitive area. Then she said, “I believe that we’re in a place where it is very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters who are not voting.” She did not say that poor people — whose lack of turnout last fall probably cost Hillary Clinton the presidency — are too dumb to understand issues, or that they vote on emotion alone. But that’s how some Democrats heard it. But what she said was right. A couple of things, before we get to whether issues matter to voters. First, Brown bears the new title “president” of the Florida Democratic Party, which sounds like something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan farce. Second, the fact that Democrats have a “progressive caucus” is a big reason that they keep losing elections. The Republicans don’t have a conservative caucus. They are a conservative caucus.

Miami Beach mayor’s race heats up with email attacks” via Joey Flechas of the Miami Herald – The two most prominent candidates hurled accusations and insults at each other in a series of emails … questioning each other’s ethics and records of public service. Dan Gelber, the former state legislator and federal prosecutor who is running for his first municipal government position, traded jabs with Michael Grieco, a criminal defense attorney and current commissioner. With the election still about six months away, it’s already getting ugly. An email blasted out Friday by Gelber’s campaign touted the results of a poll that found he was ahead of Grieco after the voter is provided biographical information on both candidates. Then the poll taker told the voter being questioned that Grieco may be tied to a political action committee that has raised money from city vendors and lobbyists — a controversial and, in some cases, illegal fundraising tactic under the Beach’s unusually strict campaign finance laws … Grieco fired back in his own email blast with the subject line “Dishonest Dan.” He rips the poll, accuses Gelber of lying and denies involvement with any PAC.

— STATEWIDE —

President’s budget proposal would end Amtrak services in Florida” via WCTV – The proposal cuts funding for Amtrak’s long-distance routes, which includes all three routes in Florida. It would also hinder ongoing efforts to restore service in Florida’s Panhandle and along the Gulf Coast. The president’s budget would eliminate all three routes in Florida, including: The Auto Train, which runs daily from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford; The Silver Meteor, which runs daily from Miami to Orlando to New York; The Silver Star, which runs daily from Miami to Tampa to Orlando to New York.

Zika hit Florida months before infections found, study says” via Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press – Zika began spreading in Florida mosquitoes about three months before infections showed up in the Miami area last summer, and the virus likely was carried in by travelers from the Caribbean, new research suggests. Mosquitoes there started picking up the virus from infected travelers as early as March last year, according to scientists who examined genetic information from samples from about 30 people with Zika as well as from mosquitoes. It wasn’t until July that Florida health officials said they had detected a local infection – the first in the U.S. mainland. Mosquitoes spread Zika by biting someone who’s infected, then biting another person. The bugs may have been causing infections in Miami as early as March, too, said researcher Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But there were likely few cases before July, and it’s not clear any of them sought treatment, he said. Most people infected with Zika don’t get sick. It can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain. But infection during pregnancy can lead to severe brain-related birth defects in babies.

Pam Bondi says charities she helps aren’t required to register with state” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Bondi’s office this week responded to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to pony up millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases. Deputy Solicitor General Jonathan L. Williams, writing on Bondi’s behalf, said in part that some of the organizations criticized by Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith aren’t “require(d) … to register (with the state) before receiving contributions from governmental entities.” Rather, they need to register as charities if they plan to “solicit,” or ask for, charitable contributions, Williams added. Circuit Judge Charles Dodson of Tallahassee ordered Bondi to show why he shouldn’t find for Smith, giving Bondi 40 days to respond. Williams’ response came on the 40th day.

Florida reaps $1.6 million from settlement with Johnson & Johnson” via Florida Politics – Florida was among 43 states that sued the company and its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. subsidiary, alleging that they misled consumers into believing that they’d manufactured the medications in FDA-compliant facilities. In a consent decree … J&J agreed to pay $33 million to the states and to improve internal and marketing controls. The company pleaded guilty in 2015 to selling liquid medicines contaminated with metal, and agreed to pay $25 million to the federal government. According to the complaint, J&J’s McNeil-PPC Inc. subsidiary marketed over-the-counter drugs as complying with federal Good Manufacturing Practices between 2009 and 2011 when not all of its plants met those standards. That noncompliance was the equivalent of selling adulterated medicines, the document says. That document cites recalls in 2009 and 2010 of drugs including Tylenol, Infants and Children Tylenol, Benadryl, Rolaids, Motrin and Zyrtec.

“Craig Waters: Florida’s courts lead in use of social media” via Florida Politics – Long seen as the quietest branch of state government, Florida’s state courts have emerged in the last year as a national leader in social media use. In fact, we are leading the nation with 20 out of 26 court divisions using Twitter to reach the public right now. That’s an astounding number … The goal is simple. It’s not enough that courts do justice. They also must make sure people see justice being done.

Thanks to beer, over 160,000 have jobs in Florida” via Joe Ruble of WDBO – A new study shows America’s beer industry contributes more than $21.6 billion to Florida’s economy. It also supports 160,706 jobs in the state, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Beer Institute, a trade association for brewers. “America’s beer distributors are proud to provide nearly 135,000 jobs with solid wages and great benefits to employees at more than 3,000 facilities, located in every state and congressional district across the country. Independent beer distributors generate significant economic contributions in their communities through local business-to-business commerce, investments in local infrastructure and capital assets and tax revenue,’ said NBWA President & CEO Craig Purser. Brewers and beer importers directly employ 64,745 Americans.

— MOVEMENTS —

Hospice care providers honor former AHCA Secretary Liz Dudek – Florida hospice operators have bestowed their Outstanding Public Service Award upon Dudek, the former head of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. The Florida Hospice and Palliative Care Association cited her “decades of dedicated public serve and her commitment of assuring the highest quality of hospice care for Florida residents.” Dudek started at the state agency in 1992, ending with a six-year stint as secretary, before leaving to handle health care affairs for Greenberg Traurig. “In each regulatory role Liz held, she matched stride with Florida’s hospice providers and played a key role in contributing to what has long been the state with the most comprehensive hospice services offered in the nation,” Association president and CEO Paul Ledford said.

FHPCA’s President and CEO Paul Ledford, Greenberg Traurig’s Director of Healthcare Affairs Liz Dudek, Hope HealthCare Services President and CEO Samira K. Beckwith, Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care Hospice President and CEO Chuck Lee.

New and renewed lobby registrations:

Ivette Arango, Brett Bacot, Marnie George, Michael Harrell, Paul Hawkes, Jim Magill, Kimberly McGlynn, Timothy Stanfield, Mac Stipanovich, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Experian Information Solutions, Inc.

Barney Bishop, Barney Bishop Consulting: 100 Black Men of Tallahassee; Tech Care X-ray, LLC

Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: Archer-De Moya JV

Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: City of Lakeland; Twin Creeks Development Associates, LLC, a Florida limited liability company

— ALOE — 

Florida’s Memorial Day travelers expected to top 2 million” via Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel — Just more than 2 million Floridians are expected to travel during … Memorial Day weekend. So far in 2017, travel bookings with AAA in Florida are up 17 percent, compared to the same period last year, said Vicky Evans, assistant vice president of travel sales development for AAA — The Auto Club Group.

— “What to read before your Florida trip” via Concepcion De Leon of The New York Times

More people to travel this Memorial Day, says AAA” via Nancy Trejos of USA Today — More people will get away this Memorial Day weekend than have in the past 12 years, with 39.3 million U.S. travelers expected to take to the road, skies, rails and water, according to a forecast released Wednesday from auto club AAA. That represents an increase of 1 million more travelers — 2.7% — this year than last Memorial Day weekend. It represents the third consecutive year that U.S. travelers have been on the move for 50 miles or more over this holiday weekend. … Most of the travelers — 88.1% or 34.6 million — will drive to their destinations. That is an increase of 2.4% over last year despite higher gas prices. Most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015. The national average price for a gallon of gas on Wednesday is $2.34, 11 cents more than last year.

Spotted: Photographer Phil Sears photos in a travel feature for The New York Times about Florida.

“Orlando top destination in the world for Memorial Day” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising — The City Beautiful will receive the lion’s portion of the 39.3 million Americans who will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the holiday weekend. Orlando was the number one U.S. city in the top five, followed by Rome, London, Dublin and Vancouver. Seattle, Las Vegas and New York City ranked 6, 7 and 8, while Honolulu took the number 10 spot behind Paris. … The travel forecast is great news for Central Florida, where both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World are launching new attractions during the Memorial Day Weekend. Universal’s new water park, Volcano Bay, opens May 25 followed by Animal Kingdom’s Pandora – The World of Avatar on May 27.

Happy birthday this  weekend to Reps Julio Gonzalez and Mel Ponder, Richard DeNapoli, Arron Gober, Mike Fischer, Marion Johnson, Alex Setzer, Clark Smith, Craig Waters, and our friend – a great Floridian – Christian Ziegler.

In the official trailer for Game of Thrones Season 7, the end is coming” via David Canfield of Slate – We finally have our first full look at Game of Thrones’ seventh season. The official trailer feels especially doom-and-gloomy (yes, even for this show), as the HBO epic approaches its long-awaited climax. Season 7 will consist of an abbreviated seven episodes, before the eighth and final installment premieres next year. It’s all about preparation for the final battle to come: Cersei (Lena Headey) gathering her army for the coming challengers, Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) hitching his wagon to Sansa (Sophie Turner) as his “last hope,” and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) surprisingly returning to action after having been banished. Then there’s Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), ready to assume the throne she has sought since the series’ beginning: “I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms,” she asserts. “And I will.” As the trailer fades to black, we hear an ominous official declaration: “The Great War is here.”

Sunburn for 5.24.17 – Florida offers #PrayersforManchester; TaxWatch ready to carve turkeys; Liquor wall standing or falling?; New candidates for A.G. and in CD 27; Tampa awarded 2021 Super Bowl

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

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

The deep bellow of the fog horn cried out every five minutes during the Disney Magic’s late-night approach into Dover, England. The shining white cliffs are still not visible from even the top deck.

In the wake of Monday evening’s bombing, Prime Minister Theresa May has placed Britain on the highest level of alert, deploying troops throughout the country. The impact was immediately apparent as we sailed into port. A near-flotilla of light military vessels protected our entrance, as if Mickey Mouse were a visiting head of state. The tension was palpable as we disembarked, with one security officer saying yesterday was the hardest day he’s ever had at work.

But England prevails. That’s the takeaway after visiting Stonehenge, that inexplicable, ancient ring of standing stones. On this day, perhaps like few others, Stonehenge was more than just a mystical tourist attraction. It was a powerful reminder that this land — this country — has been here and will be here for millennia. The deplorable actions of an evil few cannot change that.

With a history spanning 4,500 years Stonehenge has many different meanings to people today. It is a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration.

I’ll be honest — and this isn’t to make a global event about our little family — we’re a little worried about visiting London next week, especially after the PM warned that another terrorist attack is “imminent.” Yet, there may not be a more important time recently to be here.

— MORE ON MANCHESTER —

“Donald Trump calls terrorists ‘evil losers’” via F. Brinley Bruton and Amy Perrett of NBC News —President Donald Trump branded those responsible for the deadly suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert and other terrorist attacks “evil losers” on Tuesday. “So many young, beautiful, innocent people living and enjoying their lives, murdered by evil losers,” he said in Bethlehem while standing next to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. “I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term, they would think that is a great name.” He added: “I will call them, from now on, losers because that’s what they are: losers.”

Ariana Grande concert explosion: Singer checks in with Boca friend” via Leslie Gray Streeter of the Palm Beach Post — Dennis Lambert, songwriter of “We Built This City” and other songs, has known Grande since she was a little girl growing up in Boca Raton. Grande and Lambert’s daughter Misha are close friends. “No sooner had I heard the first reports when my daughter Misha called to say she was in touch with Ari and all of her people are safe and unhurt,” Lambert said. “They really don’t know yet exactly what happened and the news reports remain unclear. We’re all relieved the Ariana and her troupe are fine. On the other hand it’s another reminder of the perils that we are all exposed to in this crazy world we live in.”

Ariana Grande back home in Boca Raton after concert bombing via the Palm Beach Post

“FSU: Students at London Study Centre safe following Manchester bombing” via Byron Dobson of the Tallahassee Democrat — Students studying this summer at Florida State’s London Study Centre are safe following Monday night’s explosion in Manchester at the end of a concert by Ariana Grande. Manchester is a little more than 160 miles from London where the FSU students are based. “All International Programs participants based at the London Study Centre have been accounted for and encouraged to confirm their safety with their loved ones,” FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker said. “Florida State University does not have any International Programs located in Manchester, nor do we have any reports of any students traveling independently to Manchester at the time of yesterday’s horrific incident at the Manchester Arena. Our condolences go out to those affected by this tragedy.”

A British flag is seen next to flowers after a vigil in Albert Square, Manchester, England, Tuesday. Photo credit: AP.

Florida leaders react to the Manchester bombing:

— Gov. Rick Scott: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester (Monday) night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Sen. Marco Rubio: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— Rep. Charlie Crist: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— Rep. Carlos Curbelo: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— Rep. Val Demings: “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— Rep. Ted Deutch: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— Rep. Neal Dunn: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— Rep. Al Lawson: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester. The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable. Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.”

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— TURKEY TIME — 

Florida TaxWatch is offering its annual serving of “budget turkeys” 11 a.m. Friday at the group’s downtown headquarters on Bronough Street.

These turkeys are not Thanksgiving staples, but “individual appropriations that circumvent a thoughtful and thorough budget process,” says the group’s website.

“The organization identifies budget turkeys to promote transparency in public budgeting, encourage meaningful legislative review of all appropriations and facilitate checks and balances within the budget process,” the nonprofit group declared in a news release.

Florida TaxWatch president Dominic Calabro, with a stuffed turkey, speaking at a 1990 news conference in Tallahassee.

Being called a turkey “does not signify a judgment of a project’s worthiness. Instead, the review focuses on the Florida budget process, … to ensure that all appropriations using tax dollars are subject to scrutiny.”

In 2013, one such “turkey” was $4 million budgeted for Pinellas County to help pay for a sequel to “Winter’s Tale” – the movie about the Clearwater Aquarium’s star attraction, Winter the Dolphin, which has a prosthetic tail.  

Another example of the biggest turkey was identified in the following year’s state budget: $12 million earmarked for the Port of Tampa Bay’s gantry crane project.

Florida TaxWatch Vice President of Research (and resident budgetary turkey expert) Kurt Wenner will serve as master of ceremony for the Friday event.

More information on budget turkeys can be found here.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Labor unions call on Rick Scott to veto education bill — Fight for Florida, a coalition of labor, faith and community organizations, has released a new ad calling on the governor to veto a massive education bill (HB 7069), calling the measure “bad for taxpayers and bad for Florida families.” The 30-second spot will be distributed digitally and is expected to run extensively in Tallahassee during the bill signing and veto period. “Our public school children, teachers and education staff professionals are already severely underfunded,” said Rich Templin, representing the coalition, in a statement. “This so-called ‘Schools of Hope’ bill will further starve public schools of much-needed resources. It’s plain wrong. It’s wrong for students, teachers and our public schools and wrong for Florida.” The bill not yet been set to Scott, but has been met with criticism from public school supporters in recent weeks. Click on the image below to watch the ad.

Senate President Joe Negron said Tuesday he stands by HB 7069: “I support the bill. I support efforts for the state to give more parental choice in public education. I support the initiatives that are in that bill,” the Stuart Republican told POLITICO Florida on Tuesday.

— “Fate of program for disabled children rests with Gov. Scott” via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press 

Time growing short for Scott to decide ‘whisky & Wheaties’ bill’s fate” via Florida Politics — A history of alcoholism in Gov. Scott’s family will inform his decision about whether to sign the “whiskey & Wheaties” bill, which would tear down the wall of separation between hard liquor and other goods. … “I’ve had family members who have had the challenge of alcoholism. It concerns me. As I review the bill — I think I have to be finished sometime tomorrow on it — I take all those things into consideration.” Scott said he was scheduled to talk to representatives of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — one of the big-box stores supporting the bill — and ABC Fine Wines & Spirits — which is opposed. Scott still wasn’t prepared to say whether he would veto the state budget approved by the Legislature during an extended session this month. “I’m going to review my options,” he said.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will highlight job growth 3:15 p.m. at the Honeycomb Company of America, 1950 Limbus Ave. in Sarasota.

Scott, Cabinet OK $8.5M for land conservation in Okeechobee, Highland counties” – Scott and Cabinet members agreed to an $8.5 million deal to conserve land owned by ranchers in Okeechobee and Highlands counties. The purchase is through the Florida Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. About 4,200 acres in Okeechobee County and just over 1,000 acres in Highlands County will go to improve the quality of water flowing to Lake Okeechobee from the north through the purchase of easements, stopping future development while allowing existing landowners to continue using the property for agriculture and ranching. Part of the acquisition is Okeechobee County’s Triple S Ranch, just west of Fort Pierce and part of the Kissimmee River basin. Triple S has been owned by the Scott family since 1948. The Highland County parcel has been owned by the Hartt family since 1939. Water from that land empties into Arbuckle Creek and into Lake Okeechobee. After the deals, about $11 million will still be available in the current fiscal year, which ends June 1. In the upcoming 2017-2018 budget, lawmakers funded the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program at $10 million.

Pam Bondi on Sunshine exemption sealing criminal records: what about sex offenders?” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Approved unanimously by lawmakers last month, SB 118 would require clerks to seal more than 2.7 million criminal records and hundreds of thousands of arrest records for individuals who were found not guilty, acquitted at trial, had charges against them dropped or dismissed, or weren’t charged after being arrested. That would effectively prevent people from knowing whether someone was arrested or charged with a crime when they ultimately aren’t convicted in a court of law. “What concerns me about this — just as a career prosecutor: Sex offenders,” Bondi told reporters. “I think some of those cases are very important, to be able to know about the past and the history. That does concern me … We all know how difficult it is to convict a sex offender, and if they have a case again in the future, I think it’s important for people to be able to know about that. Those are the ones that concern me the most.”

Old news: “Atwater exit awaits budget action” via the News Service of Florida on Tuesday; Michael Moline of Florida Politics wrote “Jeff Atwater sticking around as CFO until state budget is nailed down” on May 10.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“Why’s Bondi raising money? Not to run for office, she says” via Michael Auslen of the Times/Herald — Term-limited Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi may have restarted her political fundraising, but she says she’s not considering a run for another public office. In early April, Bondi’s fundraising engine started back up, bringing in more than $82,000 to her political committee, called Justice for All. It raised questions about the aspirations of a Republican attorney general who can’t seek reelection and who has already declared she would not run for governor in 2018. Asked Tuesday if she was gearing up for another public office, Bondi said, “No. No, I’m not. Not right now, I’m not.” … “The newest rumor I heard today is that I want to be sheriff of Hillsborough County,” she said to reporters. “I do not want to be sheriff of Hillsborough County, seriously. We’ll see, but I need a political committee to continue when you all have political questions to ask me.”

“Adam Putnam plays down aides’ departure from his campaign for Governor” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics — Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam suggested that the departure of two key aides from his campaign for governor was no big deal. “You’re always adjusting and modifying as you move forward,” Putnam said, adding that he wished both ex-staffers well. … “This is a grassroots movement, and I’m very excited about the team that we have, and I wish the team members who have moved on to other things the very best.” Campaign manager Kristin Davison was relieved of her duties Monday. Political director Jared Small also exited the campaign.

Andrew Gillum campaign launches “Doctors for Gillum” — The grassroots coalition started by Florida healthcare professionals to help Floridians understand the stakes healthcare and the Obamacare will play in the election, according to Andrew Gillum’s campaign. The group is made up of Dr. Michael Katin, the medical advisor to the American Cancer Society unites of both Lee and Charlotte counties and the president of the AFROC (Association of Freestanding Radiation Oncology Centers); Dr. Annette Pelaez, a Tampa native who has been practicing obstetrics and gynecology in the Miami area since 1989; Dr. Jean-Philippe “J.P.” Austin, the former medical director at Christie Clinic Association in  Champaign, Illinois now with 21st Century Oncology; Dr. Larry Pierre, the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Health and Education Training Center; and Dr. Lisa Wildcatt, a pediatrician and the lead physician of the Riverview office at Pediatric Associates of Tampa Bay. “As doctors, we have dedicated our lives to providing patients with quality healthcare, and under his proposal, more Floridians will have the security of access to the care they need to survive,” the coalition said in a joint statement provided by the Gillum campaign. “We look forward to working with Mayor Gillum and Florida’s policymakers to help make these protections the law in Florida.”

“Three Tampa Bay lawmakers line up behind Gwen Graham for Governor” via Mitch Perry of SaintPetersBlog — St. Petersburg-based state Sen. Darryl Rouson, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice and Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez are endorsing the former congresswoman, the Graham campaign announced Tuesday. “I’m honored to have the support of these Tampa and St. Petersburg leaders who are working every day on issues Floridians care about,” she said in a statement. “As governor, I will work with them to protect our environment, create opportunities for all, and reform Florida’s criminal justice system.” Rouson said in a statement that Graham “understands criminal justice reform, protecting voting rights and creating jobs are paramount issues to our community” and has the “passion, experience, and fortitude to make our streets safer, reform our criminal justice system and restore voting rights to the 1.5 million Floridians currently disenfranchised.”

Ryan Torrens files to run for Attorney General — The Hillsborough County Democrat opened a campaign account Monday, and is the first Democrat to throw his hat in the race to replace Attorney General Pam Bondi, who can’t run for re-election because of term limits, in 2018. Torrens is the owner of the Torrens Law Group, and focuses on foreclosure defense and consumer protection litigation. Before striking out on his own in 2012, he worked as an independent consultant on the federally-mandated Independent Foreclosure Review Project. A fifth-generation Tampa native, Torrens received his bachelor of arts in government and world affairs from the University of Tampa. He graduated from George Washington University Law School. Jacksonville Republican Jay Fant has also filed to run for Attorney General.

Raquel Regalado joins race to fill Ros-Lehtinen’s congressional seat” via David Smiley of the Miami Herald — The former Miami-Dade School Board member told the Miami Herald on Tuesday that she’s “all in” after spending the last several weeks meeting with political committees and Republican leaders in Washington. The 42-year-old mother of two and self-described “compassionate Republican” believes she’s the type of moderate candidate capable of holding the Democratic-leaning 27th district for the GOP next year. “Even though the Democrats are saying this seat has to go to a Democrat because independents will lean to a ‘D,’ I disagree,” she said. “I think the majority of people believe it will be better to have a Republican in the room than a Democrat out in the hall.”

Raquel Regalado expects to have at least three GOP primary opponents for the seat: Miami-Dade County Commissioner Brun Barreiro and former Cutler Bay Mayor Ed MacDougall. Photo credit: AP.

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 —  LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for House and Senate in 2018. Democrat Tyran Basil has filed to run for House District 27. The 26-year-old has an associate degree in accounting from Seminole State College of Florida and works in technical support for Frontier Communications. He’ll face the winner of the Republican primary between Rep. David Santiago and William McBride. Democrat Lee Mangold is vying to replace Rep. Jason Brodeur in House District 28. Mangold earned his doctorate in computer and information security from Northcentral University, and owns a Central Florida-based cybersecurity company called Goldsky Security. He will face Republican David Smith. Brodeur can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Three Republicans — Cocoa Beach Mayor Tim Tumulty, Tyler Sirois, and Pat O’Neil — have filed to run run in House District 51. Tumulty ran in 2016, but lost to Rep. Tom Goodson. He currently works as a math and physics teacher at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School. Sirois is the executive director of the 18th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, and has worked with the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Office in the past. Goodson can’t run for re-election because of term limits. Shawn Mathis Gilliam is challenging Rep. Dan Raulerson in House District 58. Gilliam is running as a member of the Green Party. Republican Andrew Vargas has switched his candidacy to House District 114. He will now face Republican Jose Pazos, a Marine veteran who owns a management firm. Both men are hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Daisy Baez. Vargas had previously filed to run in House District 119.

— STATEWIDE — 

John Morgan ready to bet big on medical pot” via the Tampa Bay Times – In a series of emails with the Miami Herald, Morgan said he intends to plunge up to $100 million into “the right opportunities.” He also acknowledged that he’s interested in owning a stake in a state-licensed dispensing organization, though he said he’s not yet invested in any cannabis companies. “I am prepared to invest significant monies in this industry and I plan to,” he wrote. “I have learned a great deal about the miracles of marijuana over the last five years. And what better person than me to be involved?” But are Morgan’s financial interests influencing his public positions? Was his political investment a down payment on a bigger business plan? Absolutely not, says Morgan. But speculation has swirled for years.

— It’s important to note that this story about Morgan’s financial interests popped ONLY AFTER FloridaPolitics.com on Monday raised pointed questions about the trial lawyer’s financial ambitions.

Administrative judge says 2 farms should get medical pot licenses” via The Associated Press – Division of Administrative Hearings Judge John Van Landingham ruled on Tuesday that Plants of Ruskin and Tornello Landscape/3 Boys Farm are equally qualified to receive licenses, but if the state’s Department of Health would approve only one, then it should go to Tornello/3 Boys. Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton said they are reviewing the order and in the process of determining their next steps. There are currently seven distributing organizations. This was the last of the administrative challenges since the five original licenses were decided in December of 2015. Two additional were awarded last year due to either settlements or an administrative ruling.

First on #FlaPol – “Tom Delacenserie taking over Kentucky Lottery” via Florida Politics Delacenserie, the outgoing secretary of the Florida Lottery, is getting a pay raise to become the new president and CEO of the Kentucky Lottery. Delacenserie, who submitted his resignation to Gov. Rick Scott last week, will be paid $204,000 a year. His current Florida state salary as agency head is $141,000. He was confirmed by the Kentucky Lottery’s board of directors on Tuesday, according to a press release. His first day is June 5. “I’m very much looking forward to joining one of the premier lotteries in the country,” Delacenserie said in a statement.

Florida Hurricane Cat Fund ready for storm season” via The Associated Press – Estimates prepared by Raymond James show the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund will have $17.6 billion available this year. This marks the second year in a row that the fund has more money than it would need to pay out if storms racked the state. The financial health of the fund is important because the state can impose a surcharge on most insurance policies to replenish it if the money runs out. Some critics have called the surcharge a “hurricane tax.” The fund has grown because Florida has avoided major hurricanes since 2005.

Joe Henderson: FDOT’s Tampa Bay transit plan has new name, but really needs new ideas” via Florida Politics – The Florida Department of Transportation wanted to attack the problem with a plan called Tampa Bay Express, or TBX. I’ll simplify: It called for building more roads, including 90 miles of highway people would have to pay tolls to use. A lot of people hated that idea and they raised such a ruckus that FDOT finally punted and came up with Plan B. It still leaves open the idea of more toll roads, including express lanes across a rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. So, what’s different about this plan? Er, um … it has a new name! Tampa Bay Next. Other than that, it seems like basically the same ol’ sow’s ear, which is upsetting for FDOT officials to hear.

“Leon County approves historic Airbnb tax agreement” Airbnb announced the passage of a tax agreement with Leon County that will allow the platform to collect and remit taxes on behalf of its local hosts. With the tax agreement in place, the County will be able to fully capitalize on more people visiting and staying longer through home sharing. Effective July 1, Airbnb will automatically collect and remit local taxes for all Airbnb bookings in the county, making the process seamless and easy for both Airbnb hosts and local government. “The agreement represents an investment in the long-term success of Leon County’s tourism and economic development efforts,” Leon County Commission Chairman John E. Dailey said … Leon County now represents the 39th Florida county where Airbnb will collect and remit local tourist development taxes (otherwise known as the bed tax).

OR Conversations: Belvin Perry Jr. discusses his law career” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – “I had spent nearly 25 years as a judge and 11 years as an assistant state attorney. That is total 36 years of public service. I believe in the Jim Brown school of thought; that is to go out on top and on your own terms … I enjoyed every moment I was a judge, so moments more than others. I gave everything that I had in being a judge and I left nothing on the table. I treasured the trust that the citizens of this great community gave me when they elected me judge. I don’t miss being a judge, but I sometimes miss the public service.”

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

— ALOE —

What Bob Buckhorn is reading – “Tampa to host 2021 Super Bowl” via ESPN – NFL owners, responding to inclement weather that has delayed the opening of a new stadium in Los Angeles, voted unanimously Tuesday to instead award Tampa the Super Bowl in 2021. Los Angeles will host the Super Bowl one year later, in 2022. The Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium will host Super Bowl LV, which was originally scheduled to be played at the $2.6 billion facility in Inglewood, California, that will be shared by the Rams and Chargers.

Loggerhead sea turtle returns home on World Turtle Day” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Local rescue teams released a loggerhead sea turtle to Sebastian Inlet … The sea turtle was found floating in the Indian River Lagoon near Fort Pierce in January. It was missing its left front flipper and covered in barnacles with damage on its shell. The turtle weighed 218 pounds and had eaten several sand dollars, which were creating blockages in its intestines. The turtle was given medication and fluid therapy and the blockage was removed at SeaWorld Orlando. The loggerhead weighed in at 230 pounds when it was returned to its ocean home by SeaWorld’s Rescue Team and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

A 230-pound loggerhead turtle found floating in the Indian River Lagoon near Fort Pierce in January was returned to the ocean Tuesday by SeaWorld’s Rescue Team and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Happy birthday to one of the best people in The Process, Ashley Ross.

Sunburn for 5.23.17 – #PrayersforManchester; To veto or not veto; Trouble in Adam Putnam world; Josh Cooper is a world champ!

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

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

A somber good morning from the decks of the Disney Magic, which is sailing into the Isle of Portland and, as we learned late last night, a nation rocked by the deadliest terrorism episode to strike Britain since the 2005 London transit bombings. That the attack took place at a concert performed by Ariana Grande, who grew up before our eyes as a member of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, has only served to further shake-up some of my fellow passengers.

At least 22 are dead, some adolescents, and more than 50 are injured.

Armed police stand guard at Manchester Arena after an explosion Monday. Police says there are “a number of fatalities” after reports of an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert in northern England.

And, yet, as we cross the English Channel into this place (Dover) and at this time (days away from the 77th anniversary of the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’), there is no doubt that our English brothers and sisters will, as they always have, endure and prevail.

On some days, it’s just a slogan on a mouse pad or T-shirt, but today, we will all do our best to ‘keep calm and carry on.’

— NO WIN SITUATION —

Could Attorney General Pam Bondi soon be drawn into the never-goes-away issue of what is (or isn’t) illegal gambling?

According to FlaglerLive, the Bunnell City Commission in Flagler County could soon ask for an opinion from her office on the legality of electronic instant bingo machines.

Shamrock Bingo, as was the non-profit Flagler Cats before it, have been fighting being labeled as a gambling hall, specifically “operating slot machines in violation of state law,” as the website says.

The bingo parlor at the heart of the issue is located in the Atlantis center in Bunnell.

In 2013, lawmakers generally outlawed Internet cafes, a sort of strip mall casino. Florida now prohibits any “device or system or network of devices” that plays like a slot machine.

The question is how close are instant bingo machines to slot machines.

Legislation filed this year would have allowed certain veterans’ organizations to “conduct instant bingo” using Class II gambling bingo-style slot machines. It died before Session’s end.

The bingo hall’s lawyer, “conceding the complexity in state law, … suggested either to have the city write an ordinance … or ask for an attorney general’s opinion on the matter,” the site reported.

“Even if the attorney general finds the machines legal, the city would not necessarily be under obligation to allow the machines,” it added.

The city commission voted to “seek out” an attorney general’s office opinion, pending a memo from the bingo hall’s attorney “of a more detailed rationale for electronic bingo’s legality.”

Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said the office had not yet received a request as of Monday.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— TO VETO OR NOT VETO —

If Rick Scott vetoes public school budget, here’s what happens” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A Scott veto would make him the toast of Florida educators — for the moment, anyway — and how could Democratic politicians or the teachers’ union fault him for demanding more money for schools? But Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the two main architects of this budget, won’t like being portrayed by Scott as secretly plotting to punish innocent children, so it’s a safe bet that tensions in Tallahassee would get worse. Maybe a lot worse … if Scott is willing to go that far, why not go all the way and veto the whole thing?

His sweeping veto would remind people who’s in charge, and if Republicans try to override his veto by two-thirds votes (likely in the House, less likely in the Senate), Scott has a new reason to campaign against “those politicians in Tallahassee,” one of his favorite sound bites. Words matter in politics. Scott has spent weeks traveling the state on a “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour, criticizing every aspect of the Legislature’s budget. How can he now possibly sign a budget he has spent so much time condemning? For the governor, it will soon be put-up-or-shut-up time. If Scott doesn’t veto the budget, what’s he been fighting for?

Op-ed – “Vetoing HB 7069 would hurt special needs children” via Lee Anne McGee for the Lakeland Ledger – Our youngest daughter, Emily, is 13 and in fifth grade. She has autism. She struggles with reading and speaking, and like many kids with autism, needs to work on social skills. We found a small, private school that specializes in reading. We applied and qualified for the new Gardiner Scholarship, which is already helping 7,500 students with special needs. We thought we were set. But suddenly, everything’s in limbo. State lawmakers included an additional $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship this year, enough to help Emily and more than 2,000 other newly qualified students. But House Bill 7069, the bill that includes the bump in funding, is at risk of being vetoed. Some groups want Gov. Scott to kill the bill because of other provisions they claim will hurt students. But if they succeed, there’s no doubt students like my daughter will be hurt. Maybe Emily would do fine in a big, public middle school. Maybe she’d toughen up. Maybe she’d be forced to progress faster on her social skills. But the opposite is also possible: that she’d be teased and bullied for being a little bit different. We don’t want to take that chance. The school we’ve picked out aims to help its students socially as well as academically. Building confidence is part of its mission.

LIBRE Initiative urges Scott to sign education bill — The national, conservative organization, kicked off a bilingual direct mail campaign Monday. The campaign targets voters living in 18 districts, including those living in districts represented by Speaker Corcoran, Rep. Manny Diaz, and Rep. Michael Bileca, President Negron, Sen. Bill Galvano, and Majority Leader Wilton Simpson

Mailers paid for by the Koch brothers-aligned LIBRE Initiative thank lawmakers for voting in favor of the wide-sweeping education bill and encourage Floridians to call Gov. Scott to sign the bill into law.

“A better education has the power to change the trajectory of a student’s life and build stronger communities across the Sunshine State,” said Cesar Grajales, the LIBRE Initiative’s coalitions director, in a statement. “We urge Gov. Scott to quickly sign this bill and remove unnecessary barriers to new charter schools so our students don’t have to remain stuck in schools that are failing to provide a quality education.”

Assignment editors – Miami-Dade public schools host town halls on the Legislature’s K-12 spending plan at 6 p.m. at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, 7460 SW 118th St. in Pinecrest and at 7:30 p.m. at John A. Ferguson Senior High School 15900 SW 56th St. in Miami.

Sorta related Facebook status of the day:

— MORE CAPITOL INSIGHT —

Bill watch – Gov. Scott was sent all 31 of the local bills that passed this Legislative Session. He has until Tuesday, June 6 to act on these. They include HB 647, which would dissolve the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission. Eighty-six bills are now on his desk.

Cabinet meets today – The Governor and Cabinet meet to hear reports from state departments at 9 a.m. in the Cabinet Meeting Room. Among the issues to be decided include the selection of a new Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. Noah Valenstein, currently the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, is the only candidate slated to be interviewed for the position.

Eric Eisnaugle makes departure official – The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of the 2017 Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week. With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Gov. Scott to set dates for special elections in House District 44, covering western Orange County.

— POT, INC. — 

Was it actually John Morgan who had financial conflicts in marijuana implementation?” via Florida Politics – Morgan was at his Trumpiest earlier this month when he took to social media to savage his longtime aide-de-camp, Ben Pollara, over the failure of legislation implementing medical marijuana this Session … The ugly, public split … has left many observers asking what the real story was behind the breakup.

When asked directly, John acknowledged a business plan to acquire an existing grower, but when FloridaPolitics.com asked for more details he demurred, with a cryptic, barely-denial denial. The ownership structure of existing medical marijuana license holders is shrouded in secrecy — so public records won’t answer the question.

But here’s what we do know about Morgan’s connections to Florida’s authorized marijuana distributors: The Morgan-Pollara rift began on the last week of session, when Morgan called Pollara on three-way with Jake Bergmann, CEO of Surterra, one of the seven license holders. Representing Surterra is Michael Corcoran, the Speaker’s brother, who Morgan has described as a friend. Their other lobbyist is Billy Rubin, someone who Morgan has known since college.

The Morgan-Bergmann-Pollara call concerned the very issue that doomed medical marijuana this Session: retail caps. This issue divided medical marijuana interests into two camps: the “cartels,” i.e., existing licensees; and the “Have Not’s,” those that wanted access to the Florida market.

John hinted to FloridaPolitics.com — but stopped short of outright saying — that he was looking at potentially investing in or purchasing one of the current license holders.

Now all the above is highly circumstantial … but certainly suggestive.

Consider this final point: John is a capitalist. His bread and butter might be the law business, but this guy owns an advertising firm, billboards, hotels, amusement parks and has all sorts of other entrepreneurial ventures. Think about the pitches that come across his desk daily … consider how many of those over the past few years must have been marijuana related.

Meanwhile… “Drug Free America Foundation wants marijuana Special Session via Florida Politics – The Drug Free America Foundation is adding its voice to those calling for a Special Session on Medical Marijuana Implementation, according to a press release. “It is critical that our leaders call a special session to complete the unfinished business of implementing Amendment 2,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of the Foundation. “Moreover, it is short-sighted to think that the lack of legislation to implement Amendment 2 will stop the marijuana industry from operating.”

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Florida Democratic Party announces staff changes – Stephen Bittel, the chairman of the state party, announced several key staffing changes, including the promotions of Roosevelt Holmes and Johanna Cervone, Monday.

Bittel Holmes has been promoted to the state party’s political director, while Cervone has been promoted to the organization’s director.

Other staff changes announced Monday:

— Georgette Brammer will serve as deputy finance director.

— Amir Ahmadiavin will serve as a communications specialist.

— Erika Ann Grohoski Peralta will serve as a field specialist.

Adam Putnam’s campaign endures first shake-up” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In an unexplained campaign shakeup, Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign parted ways with its newly named campaign manager and political director. The departure of campaign manager Kristin Davison and political director Jared Small came as a surprise following Putnam’s well-covered and expertly staged 10-day, 22-stop bus tour through Florida.

— Throughout Monday, Republicans began buzzing with word of internal divisions between Davison and Bevis, who worked for Putnam before the campaign, that led to the shakeup.

— Davison has a hard-charging style that didn’t mesh with the more feel-good nature of Putnam’s longtime circle of advisers and supporters, according to Republicans familiar with the dispute.

>>>Bottom-line question: Why did Putnam — who has built a genuine brand as ‘fresh from Florida’ — hire an out-of-state political operative to manage his campaign in the first place?

More than 600 backers joined Putnam for Suwannee Valley BBQ — Putnam wrapped up his 10-day, 22-city bus tour the same way he started it: with a barbecue. More than 600 people attended grassroots BBQ at the Gaylard Family Farm in O’Brien on Saturday, according to the Putnam campaign. “This is the heart and soul of the state of Florida,” said Putnam in a statement. “Hardworking families who have a lot going on this Saturday came out and brought their children out here to join our movement. This is what this campaign is all about. It’s a grassroots, conservative movement.” 

Supporters from all over Florida came to welcome Adam Putnam off the bus after 10 days traveling through the state. On the menu was BBQ chicken, green beans, potatoes, rolls, and ice cream.

Julian Castro backs Andrew Gillum for Governor — Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the race to replace Gov. Scott in 2018. Castro, who served as the Housing and Urban Development from 2014 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, said Gillum has “worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.” In a statement provided by the Gillum campaign, Castro, who served as the mayor of San Antonio before becoming HUD Secretary, continued: “When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State. He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient.” Castro and Gillum will host a fundraiser in South Florida on June 3, according to Gillum’s campaign.

Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Bob White jumps into gubernatorial race” via Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News – White, who also leads Republican Liberty Caucus of Central East Florida (RLCCEF) and the founder of the Liberty Catalyst Fund (LCF) which works “to educate voters on issues of liberty, freedom, constitutional integrity and limited government” and “promote candidates that demonstrate a commitment to these principles and oppose candidates that do not,” has been active in recent months, opposing Scott’s call for more funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “I’m running for Governor because I love Florida. I’ve been a Floridian since the day I was born. I can’t imagine living anywhere else,”

White wrote in an open letter to Floridians announcing his candidacy. “I grew up in Polk County, in the heart of the Florida citrus industry …  the reality is that times have changed. Florida is now the third largest state in the nation and is experiencing every advantage and disadvantage that kind of population growth inevitably brings. Growth presents opportunities and challenges. We need a government in Tallahassee that embraces the opportunities and rises to the challenges! Sadly, that’s not what we’ve been getting. I aim to change that.”

Best story of the day –Veteran Tallahassee shoe shiner files for gubernatorial run” via Troy Kinsey of Bay News 9 – Running up the middle … is an unassuming entrant who’s been walking the Capitol’s halls of power longer than any of his opponents: Tony Knox, a veteran shoeshiner about to mark his 30th year servicing the footwear of governors, legislative leaders and lobbyists. Knox filed to run for governor as a no party affiliation candidate last week. With no party, no political experience and no campaign funds – not yet, anyway – he would appear to be an underdog, multiple times over. However, over the course of thousands of shoe shines, he argues he’s learned more about state government than anyone else in the race, and he has a campaign platform he predicts will resonate with voters. “As Governor Knox (would) say, ‘I’m going to roll up my sleeves and teach you how to work,'” Knox said, in a riff on Scott’s ‘let’s get to work’ slogan. “I have a vision for the state that, No. 1, you’ve got to go to work. And the way you go to work is you shut down anything free for able-bodied people.”

Jose Felix Diaz to resign from House as part of SD 40 bid” via Florida Politics — The Miami Republican sent a letter to the Division of Elections on May 17 resigning from the Florida House effective Sept. 26. Diaz, who is running in the special election to replace Frank Artiles in Senate District 40, sent similar letters to Gov. Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner. Scott announced earlier this month the dates for the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned in April after he made national news after he accosted two black colleagues at a private club in Tallahassee. The special primary election is July 25, with a special general election on Sept. 26.

— Gov. Scott on Monday signed an executive order calling for a special election to fill the House District 116 seat being vacated by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. The special primary is scheduled for July 25, with the special general on Sept. 26 — the same days as the special Senate District 40 primary and general elections.

“Fourth Republican enters HD 44 race” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising — Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area. The 29-year-old Orlando resident is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC. He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.

— STATEWIDE —

Justices reject Florida appeal over death penalty” via the Associated Press – The Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that said imposing a death sentence in Florida requires a unanimous jury. The justices on Monday turned away an appeal from Florida officials seeking to overturn the ruling last year from the state’s highest court. The Florida Supreme Court had struck down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of 12 jurors recommend it. That ruling concluded that Timothy Lee Hurst — convicted of a 1998 murder at a Pensacola Popeye’s restaurant— deserves a new sentencing hearing.

“Hackers may have names of thousands of Florida gun owners” via the Associated Press – The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced Monday they had discovered a data breach of the online payment system that processes payments for applications and permits. Agriculture Commissioner Putnam has ordered a review of the department’s cybersecurity measures. State law enforcement is investigating the breach, which authorities suspect originated from overseas. The agency stated that no financial information was obtained.

— The department also warned that the breach may have revealed the social security numbers of 469 customers. The agency plans on offering free credit protection for one year to these individuals.

KPMG breaks ground on global training center: Announces new jobs” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Gov. Scott came to town to welcome the $400 million KPMG global training center, which will join other corporate giants in one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. KPMG CEO Lynne Doughtie announced that the firm is bringing in an additional 250 jobs during the next three years to Florida in an expansion of their global tax and audit business. That’s in addition to the 80 new jobs that will be needed to run KPMG’s Learning, Development and Innovation Facility in Lake Nona. “It’s a big day in our state,” said Scott, who gave Doughtie an award for bringing more jobs to Florida. “Every job is important to a person, and these 330 jobs will change lives.”

Rick Scott makes like he knows how to use a shovel at the groundbreaking of KPMG’s new 55-acre facility in Orlando.

I-395 signature bridge standoff is political palanca at its best” via Elaine deValle of Political Cortadito – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his pals on the County Commission are trying to sell us a bridge. Not just any bridge. His buddy’s bridge. Recent hand-wringing over the selection of a firm to design and build an iconic, new signature bridge over Biscayne Boulevard along I-395 has cast a spotlight on just how Gimenez uses the office of county mayor to benefit his friends and family members. The beneficiary this time (again) is Pedro Munilla, who is cousins (or something) with the mayor’s wife and CEO of Munilla Construction Management … MCM was one of five firms that bid on the $800 million “signature bridge” project, in partnership with Fluor Enterprises. But it was ranked second by a Florida Department of Transportation selection committee after a process that has taken, on and off, about 25 years. Archer Western/De Moya was ranked first. One week later, Gimenez wrote a letter asking the FDOT, which is providing $600,000 and overseeing the project, to delay the contract so that the county could weigh in (read: so that Munilla can get a second chance). And he’s using some of his pocket commissioners, like Sally Heyman — well, to be honest, the Munillas write a lot of checks — to try slow the process down.

— MOVEMENTS —

The latest on Ballard Inc. via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida– Trump’s longtime Florida lobbyist, Ballard, has expanded his practice globally and just signed a $1.5 million contract with the government of Turkey, which will be represented by the firm’s new big hire, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler. Ballard Partner’s Turkey contract comes on the heels of two other international clients signed by the firm: A March 6 $900,000 contract with the Dominican Republic and an April 1 $240,000 contract with the Socialist Party of Albania, the ruling party in the Balkan nation. “I’m excited about the firms growing international practice and look forward to working with this important US and NATO ally,” Ballard, who still speaks to Trump on occasion after representing the Trump Organization for years in Tallahassee, said in a brief written statement. The contract with Turkey is the firm’s highest profile foreign client and could be its most controversial amid unrest in the nation under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Josh Cooper, the Swinos big winners at World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest — Cooper, the founding partner of Strategic Information Consultants and a competitive barbecue chef, and his competition BBQ team The Swinos took home first place in the “exotic” division for their Oscar-style, bacon wrapped bison center cut filet at the World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest during Memphis in May. The team also took home sixth place in the seafood division, 13th in the chicken division, and 19th in the mustard sauce division, said Cooper in a message. Cooper, who is set to compete on MasterChef when it premieres May 31, was joined by David Lee, a partner at Fabrizio, Lee & Associates and a few others.

Josh Cooper celebrates his win for his entry in the “exotic division” of the World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest.

Personnel note: Jerry Parrish joins FloridaMakes board – The industry-led nonprofit “aimed at strengthening the state’s manufacturing sector” announced the addition. Parrish is the chief economist and director of research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. In that role, he is the lead on TheFloridaScorecard. org, an online database that provides Florida leaders and local stakeholders with the data needed to measure progress. He is also responsible for conducting in-depth analyses on economic trends, Florida’s industry clusters and on solutions to help secure Florida’s future. He has many years of experience in management roles at international manufacturing companies.

On this week’s edition of The Rotunda —  On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, both Gov. Scott and former Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll share a strong support for President Trump. Despite their connection, Carroll tells Gomes she has still not heard a word from Scott following her first resignation, but she would accept Scott’s apology when or if he decides to give one. Carroll also talks with Gomes about Trump’s first official trip abroad as president, and she compares her missteps with the press to Trump’s battle with “fake news.” Gomes also talks Greenberg Traurig Government Law & Policy Director, Leslie Dughi about how the insurance industry fared during Florida’s 2017 Legislative Session.

Happy birthday to our friend, Rob Johnson, of The Mayernick Group and Kevin Reilly.

Sunburn for 5.22.17 – Decision time for Rick Scott; Speaker’s race drama; Phillip Levine floats indy run; Fla Dems circular firing squad; Laura Lenhart’s new gig

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

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

Good morning from the Promenade Bar on Deck 3 of the Disney Magic. Current location is 46.20.36 N, 10.42.59 W. Course is 48 degrees. The nearest land is Brest, France. On Saturday, we visited the Azores, which is simply one of the most beautiful places on this Earth. The highlight of the exclusion was taking a 4×4 along the rim of the dormant volcano overlooking Lagoa das Sete Cidades – two small, ecologically different lakes connected by a narrow strait.

Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Lagoon of the Seven Cities.

The legend of how Lagoa das Sete Cidades came to be (which some believe finds its origins with the fall of Atlantis) is worth reading. It’s a day at sea before arriving Tuesday in the Isle of Portland, home to Stonehenge.

— DECISION TIME —

Gov. Rick Scott has some decisions to make this week.

Should he he codify a prohibition against shark finning established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and OK a proposal making it easier for cottage food operations to sell and accept payment for goods over the internet? And will this be the week he finally pulls out his veto pen?

The Governor has until Tuesday to act on nine bills, including a bill (HB 185) to provide foster families free annual passes to Florida State Parks; and legislation (HB 711) that reduces state vessel registration fees for vessels equipped with an emergency position-indicating radio beacon. Scott needs to act on eight more bills — including a bill (SB 18) to compensate Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his twin sister, Nubia — by Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott is applauded as he speaks in the House of Representatives for the joint session on opening day of the 2017 Florida Legislative Session at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee.

Scott also needs to act on a bill (SB 106) that would remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods by Wednesday. The oft-referred to “whiskey and Wheaties” bill passed by slim margins in the House and Senate, and opponents to the measure have spent weeks urging the Naples Republican to veto the bill.

With so many people lining up against the bill, it remains to be seen whether Scott will act on the bill. Opponents, including independent liquor stores, are calling the proposal a job killer, something that could sway Scott, the “jobs” governor, to pull out his veto pen.

So, what will it be: With he sign it into law, veto it or just let it become law without his signature?

Tick tock, Gov. Scott.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will attend a groundbreaking at 10 a.m. for KPMG Learning, Development and Innovation Facility on Lake Nona Boulevard in Orlando. He’ll then highlight job growth at 2 p.m. at  Sunoptic Technologies, 6018 Bowdendale Avenue in Jacksonville.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“Is the Florida Legislature broken?” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald: It was 9 p.m. on the night after the Legislative session was supposed to have ended and Sen. Tom Lee got a phone call. ‘What have you done?’ asked a former chairman of the board of governors for the University of South Florida.

The Republican from Thonotosassa and former Senate president who had helped broker negotiations with the House over a K-12 education reform was perplexed by what he heard. He had no idea that Senate President Joe Negron had consented the day before to making it harder for USF, Lee’s hometown school, to become the state’s third ‘preeminent’ university by imposing strict new graduation standards. The changes were part of a budget deal Negron had reached with House Speaker Richard Corcoran the day before, and, while it was pivotal to resolving the impasse that had sent the session into overtime, it could cost USF millions of new dollars each year. …

So began the fallout over what has become another controversial ending to a legislative session in which the House speaker and Senate president exploited a loophole in the rules and dictated the terms of 15 take-it or leave-it policy bills that would be subject to no amendments. As legislative leaders lurched from representative democracy to autocratic control, the strategy raises questions about whether the system on which the Florida Legislature is built is flawed or broken.

>>> To answer Mary Ellen’s question, no, the Legislature is not broken. Her story is only the latest example of her letting her bias seep into her reporting. She doesn’t like conservative Republican policies and she frames her reporting from that perspective.

Most of public wants veto of HB 7069, Gov. Scott’s office indicates” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – By a margin of at least 3-to-1 so far, Floridians are telling Gov. Scott they want him to veto a controversial $419 million K-12 public schools bill House Republicans pushed through at the end of session, according to information requested from Scott’s office … In the 10 days since lawmakers approved HB 7069, the state’s Republican governor has been inundated with roughly 10,000 emails, phone calls, letters and petition signatures urging him to either sign or reject the bill. Both sides have been vocal, but the cries from the opposition — advocates of traditional public school — have been greater in number so far, based on tallies provided by Scott’s office.

Rick Scott on schools bill: ‘If people want to get involved, get involved’” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Scott said he had not yet heard that two charter schools in Hialeah were offering parents an incentive in exchange for letters supporting a massive K-12 public schools bill. “I was not informed somebody was doing it that way, but if people want to get involved, get involved,” said Scott, who added that he encourages constituents to engage with elected officials. Asked more broadly for his take on HB 7069, Scott said he wants “to make sure every child has the opportunity to get the education they deserve, whether you go to a traditional public school or a charter school.” Scott has not yet given any inkling as to his plans for vetoing parts or all of the budget.

Neither HB 7069 nor the main budget act have yet reached Scott’s desk. Once they do, he’ll have 15 days to either sign them, veto them or let them become law without his signature.

All aboard the gambling gravy train” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State News – It wasn’t their intention, but Florida Supreme Court justices’ Gretna decision sure started the engine on the Legislature’s 2018 gravy train. When the high court affirmed that the Legislature, not the voters, have the authority to decide whether pari-mutuels can add lucrative games … All of a sudden, it’s Happy Hour for President Negron, House Speaker Corcoran, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, House Government Accountability Chair Matt Caldwell, not to mention the next President and Speaker waiting on deck — in fact, any legislative leader chasing cash for a higher-office run in 2018. Gaming interests are the gravy train. Period. Gambling bills die so legislators and lobbyists can resurrect them, inviting the roar of special-interest campaign donations for their political committees in an election year. At the end of the session, when lawmakers fail to enact anything, the gravy train turns from a train into a cruise to nowhere.

Big-box chains, others make one last push for ‘whiskey & Wheaties’” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Costco now is joining Wal-Mart, Target and others in one last push to get Gov. Scott to sign a bill to remove the ‘wall of separation’ between hard liquor and other goods. Their Floridians For Fair Business Practices coalition released a tranche of letters sent to Scott encouraging him to OK the legislation (SB 106) … They also include representatives of Whole Foods Market, the Distilled Spirits Council and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. It could be an uphill fight—as of Wednesday, the Governor’s Office reported 2,649 emails opposed to the bill and 315 supporting, as well as 3,245 people who signed a petition against the bill. The office also took 177 calls against and 123 for, and 569 printed letters opposed and seven letters in favor—all from pro-bill coalition members, spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

Susie Plakon honored for role in passing HB 883 for memory disorder clinic” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Plakon, wife of state Rep. Scott Plakon, was honored Thursday for inspiring HB 883 for the creation of a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital – a victory for a woman who is herself battling Alzheimer’s disease. The Florida based hospital unveiled a plaque declaring, “Florida Hospital proudly honors Susie Plakon for her courage and inspiration to help pass HB 883. The Maturing Minds Clinic was created to address the growing need for care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.” … “That was a really nice moment this morning,” said Scott Plakon.

— WHO WANTS TO BE A SPEAKER-AIRE? —

A majority of GOP freshmen met this weekend at a Central Florida law firm to discuss the 2022 Speaker’s race.

Held at Vose Law Firm in Winter Park, the meeting gave members in attendance a chance to hear from four likely candidates — Reps. Byron DonaldsRandy FineJamie Grant, and Paul Renner — ahead of a June 30 vote to decide the class leader. The meeting, according to a House member present, was called by Rep. Bob Rommel, a Naples Republican, who wanted to have a candidate forum ahead.

— Each candidate was given 15 minutes to speak, before the floor was opened up to questions from members.

— Matt Dixon reported that Reps. Frank WhiteJayer WilliamsonAlex MillerJackie ToledoErin Grall and Don Hanhfeldt were not in attendance.

— The class agreed to vote by secret ballot, and a proposal to knock out the lowest vote-getters if more than two candidates are running, essentially survivor-style balloting, appears to still be under consideration, according to a House member in attendance.

— Some members indicated Grant and White, who was believed to be considering a run for Speaker, could be in trouble because of what has become known in the caucus as “text-gate.”

— Speaker Corcoran told Dixon he did not believe the meeting violated the Republican caucus rules. “While I was not in Orlando, my expectation is that the members of the freshman class conducted themselves In a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of our Republican Conferee rules.”

Bottom line: Grant and White need lock themselves in a room until they determine which of them has the best chance to be Speaker.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“Patrick Murphy raises cash, but undecided about political future” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida — Former U.S. Rep Patrick Murphy has continued to raise campaign cash amid speculation about his political future, but he says he’s made no concrete decisions. “I want to stay involved to do what I can to stay involved and help like-minded Democrats,” Murphy told POLITICO Florida Thursday. “I miss public service, but I don’t miss the House much, especially with Trump and all.” … Despite uncertainty about his political future, Murphy has again started raising money for PEM PAC, a political action committee that uses his initials as its title. The committee has not raised any money since the 2016 election cycle ended, but is again sending fundraising emails.

Adam Putnam, Jack Latvala make public appearances in Pensacola” via Jim Little of the Pensacola News-Journal – Putnam met with small-business owners … at Dog House Deli in downtown Pensacola. Meanwhile,  Latvala told the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club during a lunch at Skopelos at New World Landing that he was considering stepping into the governor’s race and would make a decision by August. “I’m leaning in the direction of running,” Latvala told the News Journal after the lunch. “But I have some other people I want to talk to before I decide and go out on the road and meet with people.” Both Latvala and Putnam said they were unhappy with the cuts to education spending that passed the Legislature during the 2017 session. “I feel 95 percent positive the governor will veto that bill,” Latvala said. “I’ve asked him to veto that bill. Then we start over with the House on the defensive because it’ll be their priority that got beat.”

Shot – Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times reported over the weekend that a political committee the Clearwater Republican runs was to meet on Treasure Island with a group of top political consultants.

Chaser – A source going to the dinner described the dinner as “no big deal” and just a dinner with Latvala and five of his consultants and employees.

The real story – Senator Latvala’s mother passed away peacefully Saturday night and the dinner, whatever its purpose, was canceled.

Adam Putnam hosted a roundtable discussion with small businesses in Pensacola. Later, he greeted supporters in Destin and headlined the Jackson County Republican Party’s Reagan Day Dinner.

Philip Levine opens door to running as independent for governor” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Maybe Levine was just trying to be provocative, earn a little extra attention as he mulls a run for governor. Maybe he was just spitballing an unlikely idea before the Tampa Tiger Bay luncheon … But the Miami Beach Mayor and close friend of Bill Clinton said he is keeping the door wide-open to running for governor as an independent candidate. “There’s one assumption that you made there – that somehow if I ran for governor I would be a Democratic governor,” Levine, a Democrat, responded when asked how he would work with a GOP-dominated Legislature. “Too much is about Democrat and Republican. It needs to be about the people. … Maybe possibly it’s time we do something different.”

— Levine has been one of the biggest Democratic fundraisers and donors in the state, but he describes himself as a “radical centrist” and noted that successful mayors usually don’t govern based on partisanship but on getting things done.

— Key Levine quote: “I’m a Democrat right now, and I hope that I stay in the Democratic Party. I love the Democratic Party. But you know what’s interesting? I actually like the Republican Party, and I like a lot of Republican ideas, and I like a lot of the people in the Republican Party as well. I think that’s where we need to go as a country – and start in a state like Florida and make that decision that we’re going to change and do it the right way.”

Simone Marstiller considers run for Attorney General” via John Lucas of the Capitolist – Calling it her “dream job,” the former 1st District Court of Appeal Judge says she is “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy for Florida Attorney General. “I am a public servant at heart and am exploring ways to continue serving the State of Florida,” Marstiller said. “But I’m not at a decision point yet.” The Tallahassee Republican began her legal career working for the state in 1996 in various legal capacities after graduating from Stetson University College of Law. In 2001, she was named assistant general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush. After leaving to work as general counsel and later interim secretary for the Department of Management Services, Marstiller returned to the Governor’s Office to serve as deputy chief of staff for Bush and later as the state’s chief information officer. Marstiller is no stranger to the Office of Attorney General. Former Attorney General Bill McCollum appointed her associate deputy attorney general in 2007. Three years later, while serving as the executive director of the Florida Elections Commission, Gov. Charlie Crist tabbed Marstiller to serve on the 1st District Court of Appeal. She served on the appeals court for six years.

“Daisy Baez leaves Democratic race for Florida Senate” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — State Rep. Daisy Baez’s short-lived candidacy for the Florida Senate came to end Friday, doomed politically by a crowded Democratic primary and the likelihood that she’d be attacked as a carpetbagger. Baez dropped out of the race for Senate District 40 just 19 days after it began, citing her ailing mother’s deteriorating health. “My life today is a direct reflection of my mother’s decision to immigrate to this country and work multiple jobs to ensure that I could live the American Dream,” Baez, who is Dominican-American, said in a statement. “Just after announcing my intention to run for the Florida Senate, my mother’s health deteriorated and it became clear to me that spending time with her now is of the utmost importance. As her daughter, caring for her is my number one priority. Therefore, I will not pursue a campaign for the Florida Senate.”

Robert Asencio won’t run in SD 40 either — Asencio announced  he would not be throwing his hat in the race to replace Frank Artiles in Senate District 40. While Asencio called the special election a “tremendous opportunity,” he said he needed to be “cognizant of the fact (he has) only recently been elected to state office.” He went on to say there are many critical issues in the Florida House he wants to tackle. “Despite having passed several bills in the House as a freshman and the overwhelming support to run for Senate, I am dedicated to this office and to fighting for the people of House District 118,” he said in a statement. “This is my community, my home, and I am proud to continue to serve as their Representative in the Florida House.”

“Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead. “Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Orlando-Politics.com. Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 racevia Scott Powers of Orlando Rising

“Citing ‘assault on home rule,’ Kathleen Peters won’t seek fourth term” via SaintPetersBlog — Citing Tallahassee’s battle against home rule, Treasure Island Republican Kathleen Peters has decided against a fourth term in the Florida House, opting instead to seek the District 6 seat on the Pinellas County Commission. “After the legislature launched an all-out assault on local government and home rule this year,” Peters said in a statement. “I found myself reflecting on my community priorities and where I feel I can have the greatest impact. … After long consideration, I have decided to change course and run for County Commission, District 6.” A former mayor, Peters was initially elected to House District 69 in 2012, representing Gulfport, South Pasadena, and several South Pinellas County beaches. She had campaigned on reforms to the Florida mental health system and repairs and improvements to Pinellas County’s failing sewer system.

More legislative hopefuls file to run in 2018 — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for House and Senate in 2018. Republican Brigitte Smith, a longtime nurse and Army veteran, has challenged Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone in House District 22. Smith unsuccessfully ran for Marion County Commission in 2016. Stone was first elected in 2012. Democrat James Schulman has filed to replace Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115. Schulman is the co-founder and managing partner of The Found Gen, a Coral Gables-based marketing firm. He joins Republicans Vance AloupisCarlos Gobel, and Carmen Sotomayor in the race to replace Bileca, who can’t run again because of term limits. Republican Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck, a lawyer at Miami-based Palomares-Starbuck & Associates, has filed to run in the special election to replace Artiles in Senate District 40.

— STATEWIDE — 

Marco Rubio has little to say about Donald Trump, but a lot about the media” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Florida senator, who turns 46 next weekend, was considered a possible nominee for President of the United States less than 15 months ago, but he’s now just a sideshow in the circus that is the Trump presidency, and he’s getting frustrated about it. Speaking at the Pinellas County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Rubio touted his bill to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs … gaining some momentum in the Senate. He said it simply wasn’t sexy enough, without mentioning why the national press is so focused on what Trump has been saying and tweeting, and what his staff is telling the press every day. “It’s not being posted because nobody clicks on those stories, because the stories that get all the clicks are the stories about something controversial and explosive,” he said, adding that, “I’m not here to beat up the press but just because somebody told you something doesn’t mean that’s what happened.”

Spotted: Florida GOP Chairman and state Rep. Blaise Ignoglia in the Oval Office for a meeting of Republican swing state party chairs with President Donald Trump

Andrew Gillum takes swipe at top FDP staffer as campaign eyes anti-establishment lane” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Gillum issued a blistering statement hammering Florida Democratic Party President Sally Boynton Brown for her remarks this week about the Democratic party base in Florida. Brown said that “this is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we’re in now: I believe that we’re in a place where it’s very hard to get voters excited about ‘issues,’ the type of voters that are not voting.” Responding, Gillum said that “for too long, we’ve been guided not by principle but by the so-called politically practical — a belief that we need to avoid issues, sprint to the center, and be a blank slate that shirts with the wind. … That’s why we keep losing.” When asked about Gillum’s statement, Boynton Brown, who was hired in April from the Idaho Democratic Party, issued her own statement apologizing. She said she did “not articulate” her thoughts correctly. “I apologize for my comments and I in no way meant to demean voters in Florida,” she said. “Issues are the backbone of our democracy and the Democratic Party.”

Cue the Democratic circular firing squad:

— “Analysis of the Sally Boynton Brown Controversy” via Sean Phillippi of the Florida Squeeze

— “The Democrats Elitism and Obsession With Identity Could Kill the Party’s Chances For Revival” via Kartik Krishnayer of the Florida Squeeze

— “Sally Boynton Brown, Rich AND Poor Democrats care about issues” via Leslie Wimes for Sunshine State News

***Smith, Bryan & Myers is an all-inclusive governmental relations firm located in Tallahassee. For more than three decades, SBM has been working with our clients to deliver their priorities through strategic and effective government relations consulting that has led us to become one of Tallahassee’s premier governmental relations firms today.***

Gainesville considers renaming Corrine Brown transit center” via The Associated Press – Gainesville city leaders are considering removing the name of former U.S. Rep. Brown from a transit facility in the town following her conviction on federal fraud charges … the Gainesville City Commission considered whether to remove Brown’s name from a Regional Transit System facility, but decided to consider the move at a later meeting. Brown helped secure federal funding for Regional Transit Center in Gainesville, and the facility was named in her honor.

Did panel members’ Facebook chat about reservoir break Florida Sunshine law?” via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – Facebook conversations about a proposed Lake Okeechobee reservoir appears to violate Florida’s sunshine laws because it involved three members of a South Florida Water Management District advisory board …  Nyla Pipes of Port St. Lucie, Newton Earl Cook of Tequesta and Mikhael Elfenbein of Englewood — all members of the Water Resources Advisory Commission (WRAC) — talked to each other about the reservoir in posts, comments and replies on Pipes’ Facebook page in April and May. Only a court can decide whether they broke the law, “but this definitely appears to be a violation,” said Barbara Petersen, head of the First Amendment Foundation … “If they’re talking back and forth about an issue, that’s a meeting; and by law, it has to be announced beforehand and be open to the public.” They can express their opinions on social media, she said, but “they just can’t talk with each other on Facebook about commission business.” State law forbids two or more members of an elected or appointed board from discussing matters that may come before them for action outside of a public meeting that has been announced in advance. The law includes advisory panels like the advisory commission; and according to a 2009 Florida Attorney General’s opinion, it includes Facebook conversations.

Officials worry about drug overdoses at hurricane shelters” via The Associated Press – Local officials are raising concerns about drug use at hurricane shelters, saying they aren’t equipped to care for addicts, unaccompanied minors and others with other medical needs. Nearly 16,000 people in nine counties from Indian River to Miami-Dade evacuated to shelters during Hurricane Matthew. Six evacuees seeking refuge at a Delray Beach high school during Hurricane Matthew overdosed on drugs as the dangerous storm approached South Florida. Bags brought to shelters by evacuees are typically not searched. In another county, a bus full of teenagers from a residential addiction-treatment center was left at an American Red Cross-run shelter without adult oversight. “Many of the people from sober homes came with supervision, but some came and were just dropped off,” Delray Beach Fire Rescue Capt. Kevin Saxton, [said]. “There were witnesses seeing people shoot up.”

“Tobacco decision cheers one former judge” via Takeaways from TallahasseeA U.S. appeals court ruling that federal law doesn’t bar smokers from using a landmark Florida Supreme Court decision from proving damages gave a smile to one former Florida judge … The appellate decision included a 226-page dissent from Judge Gerald Tjoflat … That had former 1st District Court of Appeal judge Simone Marstiller (mentioned above as a possible AG candidate), now in private practice, tweeting, “#DissentsIWontBeReading.” … In 2010, Marstiller wrote the opinion in a case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) that was “the first so-called ‘Engle progeny’ case to reach a district court of appeal following the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Engle v. Liggett Group.” Marstiller’s holding: “We find the trial court correctly applied Engle and Mrs. Martin produced sufficient independent evidence to prove RJR’s liability for her husband’s death.”

— MOVEMENTS —

First on #FlaPol – “Tom Delacenserie to resign as Florida Lottery Secretary” via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics Delacenserie is resigning effective the beginning of June… The move was confirmed by the Governor’s Office, which provided a copy of his resignation letter. The letter did not mention his plans but Delacenserie wrote that he “enjoyed all of my 17 years with the Florida Lottery but none more than the time spent under your leadership.” Delacenserie has overseen the growth and escalating sales of Lottery products, leading to the “strongest start ever to the final quarter of the fiscal year, with record sales for the month of April totaling more than $528 million,” a recent press release said. The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which among other things pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships.

“Jon Wheeler to retire as 1st DCA clerk” via Florida PoliticsWheeler, clerk of the Tallahassee-based 1st District Court of Appeal, will retire this October, the court announced Friday. The 73-year-old began as the court’s clerk in December 1990, the third person to hold the position. The court was one of the original three state appellate courts created by the Legislature in 1957; until then, the state Supreme Court handled all appeals. The job is daunting: The 1st DCA is “one of the largest appellate courts in the country both in terms of number of judges (15) and number of cases filed annually (6,011 in 2014-15),” and its “geographical jurisdiction (32 counties in north Florida) is the largest in the state,” its website says. “I’ll be trying to spend some time with my wife (of 51 years, MaryLynn,) after spending all my time in my profession,” said Wheeler, a licensed attorney, in a phone interview. “I need to give back to her.”

Appointed – Nicole Attong and Patricia A. Lipovsky to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

New and renewed lobby registrations

Ralph Arza, Mountain Moving Strategies: Lincoln Marti Community Agency

Leonard Collins, Broad and Cassel: U.S. Submergent Technologies

Personnel note: Laura Lenhart joins Frontier Communications — Lenhart will serve as head of government and regulatory affairs operations for Florida, the company announced last week. “We are delighted to welcome Laura as a strong addition to the Frontier team,” said Allison Ellis, Frontier’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, in a statement. “As we continue to execute our growth strategy in Florida, Laura’s regulatory and government affairs expertise will be a valuable asset in ensuring that state and local policies continue to encourage investment in and expansion of critical telecommunications products and services.” Lenhart previously worked as a public affairs strategist at the Moffitt Cancer Center for nearly three years and as the governmental affairs coordinator for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. She has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida State University. Lenhart will be based out of Tampa.

— ALOE — 

Congrats to Mackenzie and Taylor Biehl on their weekend nuptials. Michelle and I were sorry to have missed the wonderful occasion.

Mackenzie Hellstrom and Taylor Biehl.

Fans thankful to see ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ a final time” via Tamara Lush of The Associated Press – This weekend, the most famous American circus ends its 146-year reign as one of the world’s biggest big tops. Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would take its final bow this year. On Saturday afternoon, under cloudy skies, fans streamed into the Nassau Coliseum in suburban New York to pay their last respects to the iconic show. “I am sad that it’s going to be over,” said Melissa Angevine of Walton, New York. She and her husband drove four hours with their two kids Saturday to see the show “It’s a pastime that no longer anybody gets to enjoy anymore, unfortunately. Everybody’s in their tablets and not really going out and seeing different kinds of entertainment anymore.” Saturday evening’s circus was an extravaganza of big cats, motorcycle stunts, clowns performing death-defying stunts, ice skaters, buckets of popcorn and Mongolian contortionists — and that was just the first half of the show. “I’m becoming an adult today,” said 46-year-old Heather Greenberg, of New York City. “I can’t go to the circus with my daddy anymore.”

This weekend, the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus ended its 146-year history as an iconic live circus extravaganza. Fans attended one of the Ringling Bros. final performances Saturday afternoon at the Nassau Coliseum in New York.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

SeaWorld Orlando to develop new Sesame Place land by 2022” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –Orlando provides a prime opportunity for the family-friendly addition, which will be a renovation of Shamu’s Happy Harbor play area. SeaWorld admission and revenues have been on the decline since the release of the documentary “Blackfish,” which criticized the park’s care of its animals. The new land is an attempt to boost those numbers. “We share Sesame’s goal of educating and entertaining generations of children, and the extension of our partnership furthers SeaWorld’s mission to provide guests with experiences that matter,” said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld … “We are thrilled to be able to grow the presence of Sesame Place theme parks in the U.S. and help our company diversify its brand portfolio and expand into new areas.” The new license agreement extends SeaWorld’s 37-year partnership as Sesame Workshop‘s exclusive theme park partner in the United States through 2031, with a second Sesame Place theme park scheduled to open no later than mid 2021 in the U.S.

Happy birthday belatedly to U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, Speaker Tom Feeney, William Arnold, James Blair, Matt Brockelman, Matt Mitchell, Tampa Councilman Mike Suarez, and Steve Uhlfelder. Celebrating today is Rep. Dane Eagle and the amazing Eileen Stuart.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Tobacco decision cheers one former judge

A U.S. appeals court ruling that federal law doesn’t bar smokers from using a landmark Florida Supreme Court decision from proving damages gave a smile to one former Florida judge.

The 11th Circuit on Thursday said plaintiffs and their survivors can use the “Engle tobacco class action’s jury findings to establish strict liability and negligence claims,” Law360 reported.

Such suits are known as Engle progeny cases, after a monumental 1994 class action, in which individual smokers with claims against tobacco companies each sue for their own damages.

(On a related note, a bill died this Legislative Session that would have repealed the cap on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds. The state’s trial lawyers, who backed the change, said it would have forced settlements and end decades-long litigation over plaintiffs’ claims of irreversible illness or early death from smoking.)

The appellate decision included a 226-page dissent from Judge Gerald Tjoflat that ended with the kicker, “If one lesson can be learned from this chaotic poker game it is that we should stick to our day jobs…

“Rather than act as advocates for the plaintiff, we should saddle him with the burden the law tasks him with carrying, and assess, impartially, whether the plaintiffs have established the elements of proving preclusion in the manner the law demands,” he wrote.

That had former 1st District Court of Appeal judge Simone Marstiller, now in private practice, tweeting, “#DissentsIWontBeReading.”

A tweet also came out under her law firm’s Twitter account, @MarstillerFirm: “The tobacco companies have tried several ways to undo #SCOFL’s Engle decision with no success.”

In 2010, Marstiller wrote an opinion in a case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR) that was “the first so-called ‘Engle progeny’ case to reach a district court of appeal following the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Engle v. Liggett Group.”

The case was brought by Matilde Martin, widow of smoker Benny Martin.

Marstiller’s holding: “We find the trial court correctly applied Engle and Mrs. Martin produced sufficient independent evidence to prove RJR’s liability for her husband‟s death.”

She went on: “The punitive damage award ($25 million) overcomes the presumption of excessiveness in (Florida law) and satisfies due process in view of the evidence of decades-long wanton conduct by RJR and because the award does not financially devastate the company.”

When teased about her tweets Thursday, Marstiller responded on Twitter: “Hey … I gotta have SOME fun!”

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:

Vacation land — If you thought there were more people in Florida this winter, you were right. Gov. Rick Scott announced this week that 31.1 million tourists came to Florida in the first three months of 2017, a 2.5 percent increase over the same period in 2016. According to Visit Florida, the state saw more than 27 million domestic tourists, a 3.2 percent increase over the first quarter of 2016. Despite the overall increase in visitors, there was a decrease in overseas and Canadian tourists during the first quarter. The governor used the record numbers to take a swipe at state lawmakers for cutting funding to Visit Florida. “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas,” said Scott in a statement. “In business, you would never stop marketing when you start to see great results. Instead of decimating funding to VISIT FLORIDA, we should be investing in tourism marketing so we can continue to bring record visitors to our state.”

More than 31.1 million tourists visited Florida communities — including Tampa, shown here from the airport — during the first quarter of 2017.

Right hand (wo)man — After 28 years working for the state of Florida, Kim McDougal is getting ready to say good-bye. Gov. Scott announced this week McDougal, who has served as his chief of staff since April 2016, was leaving her post effective July 1 to pursue opportunities in the private sector. “Kim has proudly served Florida families for nearly three decades and her years of experience will be missed in my office,” said Scott in a statement. “I know she will continue to do great things for our state.” Scott wasted no time in naming McDougal’s replacement, announcing this week that Jackie Schutz Zeckman will take over as his right hand woman beginning July 1. Zeckman has been with the Governor’s Office since 2011, serving most recently as the communications director. “Jackie has been on my team since my first year in office and has done a great job leading my communications efforts and conveying my vision of Florida as the best destination for families and businesses,” said Scott. “I have full confidence that she will do an outstanding job as my Chief of Staff.”

No news on special session — While plenty of state lawmakers have come out on social media calling for a special session to tackle medical marijuana, Senate President Joe Negron has yet to join House Speaker Richard Corcoran in calling for a Special Session. Earlier this week, a spokeswoman for Negron said the Stuart Republican was still in the process of having discussions with senators about a memo he sent seeking input. A state law provides that the “President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, by joint proclamation duly filed with the Department of State, may convene the Legislature in special session.” Rank-and-file lawmakers can also call a special session. If 32 members ask for a special session, the Department of State is required to poll the entire Legislature. If three-fifths of each chamber agree, then a call is issued. Sen. Darryl Rouson has urged his colleagues to take this route to call a special session, sending his own letter asking for a special session.

Senate President Joe Negron hasn’t yet joined  House Speaker Richard Corcoran in calling for a special session to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. (Photo by Phil Sears)

No slots for you — The Florida Supreme Court ruled against a North Florida racetrack seeking to add slot machines. The 20-page decision means gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed local referendums allowing slots also will be unable to offer them. At issue, was “whether local voters can authorize the operation of slot machines in counties outside of Dade and Broward.” Statewide voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing slots at existing jai-alai frontons and horse and dog racetracks only in those counties and only if voters there OK’d it in referendums there. Since then, voters in Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington counties approved slots. But the opinion, authored by Justice Charles Canady, found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.” Lawmakers failed to agree on a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s gambling laws this Legislative Session.

Low, low, low — The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced this week that the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5 percent in April, down from 4.8 percent one month earlier. The drop marks one of the lowest rates since September 2007, and is only slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent. “Florida businesses have excelled over the past six years thanks to the policies of Gov. (Rick) Scott and his administration,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the DEO, in a statement. “Unemployment continues to drop, private sector jobs are on the rise and Florida families are flourishing. We must not give up on our efforts to make Florida the best place to start and grow a business.”

Stark warns of lawsuits if Scott signs ‘religious liberties’ bill

Rep. Richard Stark is not up on the so-called religious liberties bill that cleared the House in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Stark, who served as co-chair of this year’s legislative fellowship prayer group, said the proposal (SB 436) was couched in terms of a student’s freedom for religious expression, and was promoted by Democrats in the House, who “firmly believe that students did not have enough freedoms in expressing their religion.”

Stark said he and Rep. Joseph Geller worked a lot this session to make sure the bill was “re-worded so that it was more presentable, and would define a student’s right to religious expression without expanding school prayer.” However, the amended version of the bill was overturned in the final hours of the Session by” the House Speaker and Senate President.”

Currently students can pray before or after instructional time outside of the class room, on the field before a ballgame, or in an after-school club. The prayer cannot be initiated by parents or teachers, or be part of a forum such as a school assembly. This bill could change all or part of that,” said Stark in a statement. “Unintended consequences could be a commencement speech by an atheist who could berate religion, and the audience would have to listen, or even Muslim prayers to an Islamaphobic group.  After bringing this up in debate, I was followed by another Representative who said I was speaking in hypotheticals, and that this was a good bill.”

Stark said if Gov. Scott signs the bill the state could “look forward to lawsuits and agitation by disgruntled parents at schools.”

The bill has not yet been sent to Scott for his consideration.

Ausley named FAAST ‘Legislator of the Year’

Kudos, Rep. Loranne Ausley!

The Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) presented the Tallahassee Democrat with the Dr. Frederick Haynes FAAST Legislator of the Year Award. The organization presented Ausley with the award for her work on behalf of Floridians with disabilities. “Representative Ausley is an incredible advocate for those with disabilities in Florida, so we were proud to name her our Legislator of the Year,” said Michael Daniels, the executive director of FAAST in a statement.

Ausley was recognized for her sponsoring a bill (HB 371) that would make it easier for students with disabilities to retain and use assistive technologies when they switch schools. The bill also allows for coordination with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation so that assistive technology can be used in the employment or post-school environment.

Rep. Loranne Ausley was named the FAAST “Legislator of the Year” because of the work she did on behalf of persons with disabilities during the 2017 Legislative Session. (Photo via the Florida House)

“Her bill will have a material impact on the lives of many students in schools across the state, providing easier and broader use of assistive technology while in school, at home and while working,” said Daniels.

The award is named after Dr. Frederick Haynes, a longtime champion for those with disabilities who died in September.

“I am honored to receive this award from the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology,” said Ausley in a statement. “I have always worked to remove barriers to access to assistive technology for Florida’s students, and I am proud to have sponsored another bill that will accomplish that goal.”

More wins, losses from the 2017 Session

AFSCME sees ‘clear and meaningful victories’ — The 2017 Legislative Session was filled with contrasts, yet AFSCME Florida said this week it could point to “some very clear and meaningful victories” that were made possible thanks to lawmakers in the House and Senate “who understand the value that AFSCME Florida adds to the community, respects the work our members do, and were willing to stand with us.”

The labor organization pointed to the $183 million the Legislature included in the budget for pay raises for state employees. Noting the money isn’t for “a one-time bonus” and isn’t off-set by “takeaways or some other gimmick,” the union called the 3- to 4-percent raised a “huge step forward.”

It also applauded efforts to stop what was often referred to as “union-busting legislation” in the Senate. The bill (HB 11) passed the House, but failed to advance in the Senate, largely due to education efforts and negotiations of AFSCME.

The group also worked with allies to stop preemption legislation that would strip local governments of their ability to pass living wage ordinances and worked to stop legislation allowing the open carry of firearms.

Florida Press Association has mixed luck — The Florida Press Association might not have a lot to celebrate, but there isn’t a lot to mourn either.

While several of the bills the association was watching or actively opposed — including a bill (HB 897) that would have allowed cities and counties to place notice of various actions, like budget amendments, on websites instead of in the newspapers — didn’t survive the 2017 Legislative Session, other bills are now headed to the Governor’s Desk.

One such bill prohibits publications from charging to remove arrest booking photographs, and requires them to be taken down upon request. It also allows for a lawsuit and civil penalties if it isn’t removed. While the Florida Press Association was neutral on the bill (SB 118), it opposes language added late in the process that requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to administrative seal arrest records of those people whose charges are dismissed. The Florida Press Association is now working with the First Amendment Association to urge Gov. Scott to veto the bill.

Florida on fire

The latest wildfire report remains dire.

The Florida Forestry Service reports 2,163 fires have burned more than 170,000 acres in Florida this year, and there were 100 fires were still burning as of Thursday.

“Even with rain across large parts of Florida over the weekend, Florida is still experiencing drought conditions and elevated wildfire danger – and will continue to for some time,” said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in a statement this week. “Residents and visitors need to pay attention to and comply with local burn bans and should take every precaution to help prevent wildfire.”

Gov. Scott issued an executive order on April 11 directing resources to fight the wildfires. The last time a similar order was issued was in June 2011.

More than a dozen Florida counties have instituted burn bans, and much of the state was had a moderate to high risk of fire danger.

Nursing homes get a nod

Tip your hat to nursing homes — and the staff, volunteers and communities that support them.

Established by the American Health Care Association in 1967, this week marked National Nursing Home Week. The annual event is a chance for residents and their families to recognized the skilled nursing care centers for the work they do on behalf of seniors and people with disabilities.

“Nursing homes care for many of our state’s most vulnerable residents, and I am thankful for their commitment to improving the quality of life for Floridians,” said Justin Senior, head of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, in a statement. “When our staff visit facilities around the state, we are often amazed at the level of care and service that nursing home staff and administrators provide for their residents.”

Senior used the annual event as a chance to remind Floridians about tools available to people looking for a nursing home. The state’s Nursing Home Guide includes a nursing home comparison tool, inspection reports, and information about nursing homes across the state.

Nature Conservancy staffing up

The Nature Conservancy’s Florida arm has been on a recruiting drive that has added experts with years of experience to fundraising, lobbying and field operations.

“Our strength as an organization comes from the expertise of our staff, whose unique combination of scientific knowledge, policy, fundraising, land management, outreach, and effective project management enable us to do breakthrough work across the organization,” said Temperince Morgan, the group’s executive director.

The organization announced recently it hired Megan Wenrich to serve as its new director of philanthropy, rounding up donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. Assisting her will be Peter Lefferts as senior associate director and Ali Rieck as philanthropy writer.

Garrett Wallace has been tapped to serve as its new government-relations manager, and Lindsay Stevens will oversee the state chapter’s land-protection efforts.

Cristin Krasco is the new manager of the Blowing Rocks Preserve, a 73-acre environmental reservation on Jupiter Island. Tiffany Howard oversees invasive species control at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

Sonia Succar Rodríguez oversees the conservancy’s urban conservation program in Miami.

Lobby Up

Big money for legislative lobbyists — It’s fair to say it was a good first quarter for legislative lobbyists.

The latest quarterly compensation reports, due earlier this week, showed legislative lobbyists earned a median sum of $35.7 million between January and March. The reports captured roughly the first half of the 2017 Legislative Session, as well as the two months leading up to it.

While state law requires lobby firms to report revenue, it only requires them to do so in general range — not exact amounts.

The Top 5 earners during the three-month period, according to data compiled by our friends at LobbyTools, were Ballard Partners, Southern Strategy Group, Ronald L. Book PA, Capital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig. The five firms started the year in the same spots they ended 2016.

Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack, reporting median earnings of more than $2.4 million and more than $2.3 million respectively. Book’s firm reported median earnings of more than $2 million; followed by Capital City Consulting with more than $1.6 million in median earnings; and Greenberg Traurig with more than $1.2 million in median earnings.

Lobbyist Clark Smith, right, with the Southern Strategy Group and Patrick Bell talk on the 4th floor rotunda while the Florida House of Representatives floor debate in the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session. Southern Strategy Group was one of the top earning legislative lobby firms during the first quarter of 2017. (Photo by Mark Wallheiser)

Workers’ comp cash — FCCI Insurance Group invested heavily in legislative lobbying, to the tune of $383,000, during the first quarter of 2017.

State records indicated the Sarasota insurer paid 11 lobbying firms for legislative work during the first three months of the year. Floridian Partners took home the biggest paycheck; it reported earning $70,000 between January and March; followed by Southern Strategy Group, which reported earning $53,000; and Silver Palm Consulting, which reported earning $50,000.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance, which was at the heart of the workers’ compensation debate, hired Floridian Partners and reported paying the firm $5,000.

But all that cash didn’t buy workers’ compensation reform. The House and Senate couldn’t agree on a fix sought by insurers, including FCCI, and ended the 2017 Legislative Session without addressing the issue.

Pot money — Protecting your turf doesn’t come cheap, just ask San Felasco Nurseries.

The Alachua County nursery reported paying at least $164,000 to legislative lobbyists during the first quarter of 2017. The nursery is one of seven companies in the state that is currently licensed to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

State records show San Felasco hired at least 10 firms to represent it during the first quarter, including Igniting Florida, which reported earning $54,000; Foley & Lardner, which reported earning $35,000; and PooleMcKinley, which reported earning $25,000.

San Felasco wasn’t the only grower that spent big in the first quarter. Records show Surterra Holdings spent at least $75,000 on three legislative lobbying firms; while Trulieve spent at least $55,000 on five firms between January and March. Lobbyists hired by Modern Health Concepts and Knox Nursery did not report earnings in the first quarter.

Legislation to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment failed to pass during the 2017 Legislation Session. One of the sticking points: Caps on the number of retail locations licensed growers could have.

Appointed

Welcome to the board!

Gov. Scott announced this week he appointed Samuel Garrison to the St. Johns River State College District Board of Trustees.

An attorney at Kopelousos, Bradley and Garrison, the 40-year-old Fleming Island resident previously served as an assistant state attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit of Florida. He has his bachelor’s degree from Samford University and his law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. He succeeds Cranford Coleman and is appointed to a term ending May 31, 2018.

The governor also announced David “Hunt” Hawkins will serve on the Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees. Hawkins, a 58-year-old Jacksonville resident, is the CEO of Stein Mart and previously served as a member of the program advisory council to DECA, Inc. He succeeds Thomas Bryan. Scott also reappointed Thomas “Mac” McGehee, Jr. to the board. The 57-year-old Jacksonville resident is the executive vice president at Mac Papers. Both men serve terms ending May 31, 2019.

Gary Wendt has been appointed to the Florida Polytechnic University Board of Trustees, the Governor’s Office announced this week.

The 75-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident currently serves as the chairman of Deerpath Capital Management. He previously served as the CEO of GE Capital from 1986 to 1998. Wendt fills a vacant seat, and is appointed to a term ending June 30, 2017.

Francisco Pines will keep his seat on the Florida Citrus Commission, the governor announced this week.

The 41-year-old Miami resident is the co-owner of Pines Ranch and a managing partner at Francisco J. Pines PA. He was reappointed to a term ending May 31, 2019.

Randy Schwartz, meanwhile, will join the Florida Real Estate Commission. Scott appointed the 67-year-old Winter Springs resident to a term ending Oct. 31, 2020.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by Florida Senate.

Scott reappointed Peter Wish and John Stafford to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority.

Wish is the president of Gulfcoast Healthstyle Corp. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami and his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston College. Stafford is the former chairman of FCCI Mutual Insurance Company, and previously served on the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children. Both men were appointed to a term ending Nov. 17, 2020.

Nicole Attong and Patricia Lipovsky were appointed to the Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.

Attong, a 50-year-old Miami resident, is the director of Florida International University Embrace, a university-wide initative to promote health, wellness and overall functioning for adults with development disabilities. Lipovsky, a 67-year-old Daytona Beach resident, is a self-employed property manager. Both were appointed to terms ending Aug. 31, 2019.

#BringABook

Headed to the annual Leadership Florida meeting? Better stop by your local bookstore on the way.

Leadership Florida and Volunteer Florida announced this week they will host their second annual #BringABook service initiative in conjunction with Leadership Florida’s 2017 annual meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach.

Volunteer Florida and Leadership Florida collected more than 400 books during their inaugural #BringABook service drive at the 2016 Leadership Florida annual meeting (Photo via Volunteer Florida)

Volunteer Florida and Leadership Florida officials are asking attendees to bring new or gently-used books for elementary school students to the annual meeting. Books will be collected at the registration area from June 29 through July 1. The book drive will benefit the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, and Volunteer Florida partners distribute the books to students in low-income schools in the region.

“Leadership Florida values education, and the #BringABook service initiative is one of the many ways our members work to ensure Florida students achieve their highest potential,” said Wendy Spencer, president of Leadership Florida.

Job city, Fla.

The best place to start a career in the Sunshine State might just be the City Beautiful.

A new report from WalletHub found Orlando is the second best place in the nation to start a career. The personal finance website ranked the country’s 150 largest markets based on 23 indicators of career-friendliness, including the availability of entry level jobs, monthly average starting salary, and housing affordability.

The city came in first when it came to the number of entry-level of jobs per 100,000 working-age people and sixth in the projected population growth.

While WalletHub’s rankings aren’t known for being exactly scientific, it’s placement of Orlando  as a top place for job-seekers might be right-on. Orlando led the state in April when it came to job creation, adding 42,700 new private-sector jobs over the year. It also had the second highest demand for high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations, and was ranked second in the state when it came to job demand.

The WalletHub report ranked Miami as the 7th best place in the nation to start a career. Tampa landed in the No. 19 spot, followed by Fort Lauderdale at No. 24, Tallahassee at No. 36, St Petersburg at No. 54, Cape Coral at No. 78, and Jacksonville at No. 90. Also on the list were Pembroke Pines (No. 105), Port St. Lucie (No. 122), and Hialeah (No. 134).

This Bud’s for you

Anheuser-Busch’s Metal Container Corp. newest facility is open for business.

Gov. Scott and a slew of Jacksonville-area lawmakers attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new aluminum bottle line at the company’s new facility in Jacksonville this week. The expansion invested $175 million into the local community and created 75 new jobs, according to the Governor’s Office.

“Anheuser-Busch is a national company that chose to invest $175 million in Northeast Florida because we used our entire toolkit, including incentives, to outcompete every other potential location,” said Scott, who said the project wouldn’t have been possible without work of Enterprise Florida, in a statement. “I look forward to seeing Anheuser-Busch’s ongoing success in Florida as we continue to fight to bring more important jobs wins like this to our state.”

Gov. Rick Scott and other elected officials attend the ribbon cutting for the new Anheuser-Busch’s Metal Container Corp. facility in Jacksonville. (Photo via the Governor’s Office.)

“Anheuser-Busch and MCC have been proud members of the Jacksonville community for nearly 50 years, and we are pleased to celebrate the grand opening of this new aluminum bottle line, which has not only given us the ability to increase production of the popular aluminum bottle, but has allowed us to employ even more Floridians,” said Richard Pyle, the Jacksonville plant manager in a statement.

The new facility, according to the Jacksonville Business Journal, will produce both aluminum bottles and cans, and will turn out about 9 million units each day. Aluminum bottles have been a hit with consumers, in part, company officials said, because they are recyclable, lightweight weight and have twist off tops.

State Farm gives $50K grant to Florida Education Foundation

State Farm wants to make sure Florida kiddos are getting the best education possible.

The insurance company announced this week it awarded a $50,000 grant to the Florida Education Foundation. Half of the grant will fund the “Florida Reads Best” initiative, while the other half will fund the Dr. Brian Dassler Leadership Academy, formerly known as the Commissioner’s Leadership Academy.

“We are incredibly grateful for State Farm’s continued partnership with the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation as we continue working toward our goal of Florida being the best place in the world to receive an education,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart in a statement “State Farm’s work with education in our state has a common theme, student achievement, and we look forward to celebrating improved outcomes as a result of this generous contribution for Florida’s students.”

The State Farm grant has funded the participation of 353 school leaders in the leadership program, which is designed to improve the capabilities of school leaders in evaluating classroom instruction and in coaching teachers toward continuous improvement. This year’s grant will fund another class of school-based leaders in the program.

The State Farm grant helped bring together reading leaders from school districts, early learning organizations, universities and community organizations to plan strategies for reading improvement as part of the “Florida Reads Best” program. This year’s grant, according to the Department of Education, will help continue the professional development work of the team.

“State Farm’s goal is to help build safer, stronger and better educated communities,” said Jose Soto, State Farm’s community affairs specialist, in a statement. “The work that the Foundation and the Florida Department of Education are doing to improve student achievement is well worth the investment, and we are delighted to contribute to their success.”

All aboard

Florida’s seaports are in ship shape.

That’s according to a new report from the Florida Ports Council. The annual report — Florida Seaports: High Performance – 2017-2021 Five-year Florida Seaport Mission Plan — provided updated figured on international trade, cargo data, and cruise activity at the seaports throughout the state.

In 2016, Florida’s waterborne international and domestic cargo increased 4.2 percent, from 103 million tons to 107.2 million tons. Domestic cargo tonnage jumped 16.1 percent to 50.6 million tons, representing 47.1 percent of all cargo moved through Florida seaports.

Gov. Rick Scott toured JAXPORT in February as part of his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget tour. Florida’s waterborne international and domestic cargo increased 4.2 percent in fiscal 2015-16. (Photo via the Governor’s Office)

“Clearly, port infrastructure investments by Governor Scott and the Legislature are paying off as Florida further establishes itself as a key player in the global marketplace,” said Doug Wheeler, the president and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.

The ports weren’t just used for moving goods in 2016. The cruise industry also saw gains in 2016. Seaports handled 15.5 million passengers in 2016, up 14 percent from the previous year. The state is home to the Top 3 cruise ports in the world, with 62 percent of all U.S. cruisers sailing through a Florida seaport.

According to the report, five of the seven active cruise ports saw overall increases in passenger counts.

New programs to help vets

The next ‘Magnum, PI‘— Thinking of becoming a private investigator? It just got a little bit easier for Florida veterans.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam announced this week that Florida veterans will receive credit for relevant military training or education when they apply for a private investigator and security guard licenses with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“The men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country deserve all of the support we can provide,” said Putnam in a statement. “If a veteran received military police or security training, we should give them credit for it when they apply to be a private investigator or security guard.”

To receive credit for relevant military training or education, applicants must submit a DD Form 21 at the time of applications. The department will also consider joint service transcripts, training certificates, job evaluation reports, or a letter from a commanding officer describing particular training or exercise and the number of hours dedicate to its performance.

Protection for military consumers — Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week her office was launching a new consumer protection program meant to serve the unique needs of military and veteran communities across the state.

“To the men and women who have put on a uniform to protect our country, we will continue to do everything we can to protect you from these scammers,” said Bondi in a statement. “As Memorial Day approaches at the end of this month, I am honored to have the opportunity to assist the heroes who lay their lives on the line to keep us safe.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi announces the launch of the Military and Veterans Program during an event in Tampa this week.

Members of the Military and Veterans Assistance Program will provide resources and information to base JAG officers, county veteran services officers and other organizations to help service members and veterans learn how to protect themselves.

They’ll also partner with military and veteran leadership to provide information about emerging scams targeting military and veterans; connect those in need with legal aid; and foster open communication to ensure complaints are being handled by the correct organization.

DCF works to fight opioid epidemic

The state has allocated more than $17 million of the $27 million opioid crisis grant, officials with the Florida Department of Children and Families announced this week.

According to DCF, more than $17.7 million has been allocated to seven managing entities across the state. The money will be used to provide direct treatment and services to individuals with opioid use disorder.

Nearly $3.8 million will go toward expanding Vivitrol treatment in local communities through the Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association. And the department is in the process of purchasing the first batch of more than 3,600 Naloxone kits to distribute to local treatment centers statewide.

Gov. Scott on May 3 declared a statewide public health emergency, and directed the immediate draw down of grant funds through the federal State Targeted Response the Opioid Crisis Grant.

“Following Governor Scott’s Executive Order, DCF staff have worked diligently to ensure this important funding is allocated to communities and services are available to individuals as soon as possible,” said DCF Secretary Mike Carroll in a statement. “We are hopeful that the services this grant will make available will save and change lives throughout the state, and that the programs it establishes over the next two years will help end the tragic opioid epidemic.”

Skeeter season approaches

The rainy season is just around the corner, and the Department of Health wants to make sure health care professional across the state have up-to-date information about the Zika virus.

The health department held a conference call this week with more than 100 OBGYNs, pediatricians, family physicians, and other health care providers to offer clinical guidance for Zika-infected pregnant women and children. While there are currently no areas of ongoing, active Zika transmission in the state, Surgeon General Celeste Philip warned that the mosquito-borne virus “remains a threat for Floridians, especially pregnant women and their infants after they are born and women who will become pregnant.”

The call gave health care providers a chance to hear from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Miami, and Jackson Memorial Hospital about Zika testing for pregnant women, the risk of sexual transmission, and prenatal care and delivery planning.

“Clinicians are on the front lines in our fight against Zika,” said Philip in a statement. “This call allowed those who provide care to pregnant women and infants to stay up-to-date with the most current guidance and protocols to ensure that they can provide the best care to their patients.”

Keeping it safe

Floridians for Safe Communities is making the most of Florida Building Safety Month, releasing a public safety announcement this week to highlight the importance of strong building codes.

“Ensuring safety for lives, properties and investments in a hurricane-prone state like Florida is essential,” said Craig Fugate, former FEMA administrator and chairman of Floridians for Safe Communities. “And, this video does a great job of laying out why current, strong building codes are the best way of protecting our homes and communities.”

The 3-minute and 20-second video aims to celebrate all aspects of building safety and recognize “the important role code officials, inspectors, fire services, builders and tradesmen play in public safety,” said Fugate.

May is Building Safety Month. The month-long event is meant to reinforce the need to adopt modern model building codes, a strong and efficient system of code administration, and a well-trained professional staff to maintain the system.

“This month allows us to reflect on the importance of disaster preparedness and how adopting strong building codes and increasing effective code administration allows us to proactively protect our Florida communities from natural disasters, preserving our health and safety, and safeguarding our economic investments,” said Fugate in a statement.

Nominees sought for Agriculture Hall of Fame

Know a stellar member of the state’s agriculture community? Agriculture Commissioner Putnam wants to hear from you.

The Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame is now accepting nominations for the Class of 2018. The Hall of Fame honors men and women who have helped advance the industry and ensure it continues to thrive. Since 1980, the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame has honored 144 inductees.

In 2017, inductees were Eugene Badger, who led state Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (now known as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Service Agency) under President George W. Bush; William Cook, who was instrumental in the creation of the Florida Forestry Foundation; Joe Marlin Hilliard, who, among other things, helped form the South Florida Agricultural Council; and W. Bernard Lester, who spent nearly 20 years with the Florida Department of Citrus.

Nominations for the Class of 2018 must be submitted by Sept. 1.

Biz leaders highlight importance of immigrants

There’s nearly 4 million immigrants living in the Sunshine State, and a coalition of business and civic leaders are on a mission to highlight the role immigrants play in Florida’s economy and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

According to a report by the New American Economy, there are more than 3.9 million immigrants living in Florida. With immigrants making up about 20 percent of the state’s population, Roly Marante, the chairman of government relations for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said Florida could be considered “the new Ellis Island.”

Marante and other business and civic leaders are traveling the state meeting with local stakeholders about the role immigrants play in the economy. Earlier this week, the group held an event in West Palm Beach to discuss the contributions of the county’s foreign-born population when it comes to tax contributions, home ownership and spending power.

“What we’re doing is going throughout the state to educate local stakeholder to get involved,” said Marante. “We’re contributors to the American economy.”

Statewide, immigrants paid $23.4 billion in taxes in 2014. That same year, their spending power was about $73.1 billion.

When it comes to housing, the New American Economy report found immigrants are “actively strengthening the state’s housing market.” The report found 906,922 immigrants are homeowners. Immigrants paid $727.7 million in rent, according to the report.

The New American Economy report found there were more than 338,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in the Sunshine State; and immigrant-owned firms employ more than 506,700 people. Marante said nationwide 1 in 10 American workers are employed by companies founded by immigrants.

Bear aware

Be on the lookout for bears.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants Floridians to remember that bears are more active as the temperatures rise, and they should take steps to reduce negative interactions with the state’s largest land mammal.

“Now is the time to expect bears to show up looking for food,” said Dave Telesco, who directs the FWC’s bear management program. “If they can’t find food in your neighborhood, they’ll move on.”

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding Floridians to be aware of bears, which are starting to come out of their winter habitats now that the temperatures are rising. (Photo via FWC)

To keep bears away, the FWC suggests Floridians to secure household garbage in a sturdy shed, garage or wildlife resistant container; put garbage out on the morning of pick-up rather than the night before; and remove wildlife feeders or make them bear-resistant.

June marks the start of black bear mating season in the Sunshine State, meaning bears will be more active as they search for potential mates.

TaxWatch honors state workers

State employees who work to reduce costs and improve services are getting a round of applause from Florida TaxWatch.

The government watchdog announced the winners of the 2017 Prudential Productivity Awards during an event this week. The program, now in its 29th year, is designed to highlight and reward state workers who innovatively reduce costs and improve services for Florida taxpayers.

“State workers are critical to the functions of Florida’s government and hardly get the praise and honor they deserve for a job well done,” said Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, in a statement. “This program has ensured that they taxpayers are noticing the contributions of hard-working state employees. They work behind the scenes, coming to serve every day to make sure that Florida continues to be the best place to live, work and play.”

TaxWatch awarded 203 awards to state employees and teams from across the state for their achievements and efforts. Since 1989, thousands of individuals, teams and partnerships have produced more than $9 billion worth of added values as a direct result of award winners’ achievements.

“The commitment of these incredible public servants to work together to build a better Florida means that state government can direct taxpayers’ hard-earned money to the vital services that make the Sunshine State a great place to live and raise a family,” said Michael McCann, the vice president for external affairs at Prudential, in a statement.

Sponsored by Prudential, the Florida Lottery and AvMed Health Plans, as well as the Florida Council of 100 and the state, the program travels around the state to recognize winners in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Regional luncheons will be head across the state throughout June.

Challenge accepted

Attention, lionfish hunters: It’s time for the 2017 Lionfish Challenge.

The annual challenge kicks off Saturday, and coincides with Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day and the Lionfish Removal and Awareness Day Festival at Plaza de Luna in Pensacola, which runs through Sunday.

The 2017 challenge rewards recreational and commercial lionfish harvesters for their removal efforts with prizes and incentives. Rewards for participants include a commemorative coin to validate membership, an event T-shirt, and Lionfish Hall of Fame recognition on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website. Hunters who qualify before July 26 also get the opportunity to take an additional spiny lobster per day during the 2017 sport season.

Participants may also qualify for additional prizes such as a reusable lionfish sting heat pack, customized neck gaiter, customized tumbler, and pole spear with grip kit.

Recreational and commercial harvesters who check in the most lionfish will be crowned Florida’s Lionfish King or Queen and Florida’s Commercial Champion, and both will be recognized at the 2017 Lionfish Safari Sept. 10 in St. Petersburg.

Farm Share distributions planned

Farm Share is partnering with several state lawmakers this week to feed hungry Floridians throughout the state.

The organization will partner with Rep. David Richardson and Mayor Tomas Regalado to feed more than 1,000 households in Miami-Dade County on Saturday. The organization will be distributing fresh food at Jose Marti Park, 351 SW 4th Street in Miami from 9 a.m. to noon.

That isn’t the only South Florida Farm Share distribution scheduled for Saturday. The hunger organization is teaming up with Rep. Daisy Baez for a food distribution event at in St. Johns AME Church parking lot, 6461 SW 59th Place in Miami from 9 a.m. to noon.

Farm Share has also partnered with Rep. Mike La Rosa to host a food distribution event from 10 a.m. to noon in the Lake Wales Charter Schools parking lot, 130 East Central Avenue in Lake Wales. Lake Wales families in need will be provided with seasonal fresh produce and shelf-stable goods.

A food distribution event is also scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon at the EPPS Christian Center, 2300 N. Pace Blvd in Pensacola, according to Farm Share’s website.

In 2016, Farm Share distributed nearly 40.5 million pounds of food to hungry families, children, seniors and veterans in Florida.

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

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons