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In Donald Trump’s private moments, it’s small talk and compliments

What do world leaders talk about when they are alone? Not much, it seems.

President Donald Trump spent part of his two-day visit to Israel with open microphones nearby, giving the world a small glimpse into his private banter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between official appearances.

They chatted about paint on the walls, their wives and where to stand during a ceremony. And they exchanged compliments — lots of compliments.

This presidential small talk provided just some of the memorable moments of Trump’s swing through the Middle East, the first stop on his first overseas trip as president. There was an awkward Saudi sword dance, an airport selfie with a pushy Israeli lawmaker and a possible snub by Melania Trump.

With Trump now in Rome to meet the pope, here is a look at some of the highlights:

SAUDI ARABIA

—The Orb: While Trump’s speech before Muslim leaders grabbed headlines, the buzz on social media was the image of him, Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi with their hands on a lighted sphere to mark the opening of state-of-the-art counterterrorism center in the capital, Riyadh. Some joked it looked like the orb from Woody Allen’s 1973 film “Sleeper.”

—Always With the Right: In another widely shared moment on social media, Trump and the Saudi monarch are seen drinking traditional Arabic coffee in small cups. Trump is about to take a sip, holding the cup with his left hand — a taboo in the Muslim world — when Salman explains “with the right hand” in accordance with the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Trump replies: “Always the right hand, right. Always the right hand.” The video has been viewed more than 184,000 times.

—Sword Dance: Taking part in local customs and traditions is a must for American presidents when they travel the world. On Saturday night, Trump and his entourage were treated to a royal dinner hosted by King Salman. The delegation was greeted to a traditional all-male Saudi sword dance. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Saudi king, Trump swayed side to side and briefly joined the groove.

—Golf Cart View: In another part of town, American country star Toby Keith performed with an Arabian lute player at a free, male-only concert in Riyadh. Keith performed cover songs of American classics and steered clear of performing his ballads “Whiskey Girl” and “Beer for My Horses” since alcohol is banned in the deeply conservative kingdom. In a bizarre moment, Trump caught a glimpse of the concert with first lady Melania Trump when, in a golf cart, they slowly rolled past a screen broadcasting it live.

—Pantsuits and Dresses: Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka, sparked an online sensation when she arrived in Riyadh wearing a long-sleeved, billowy navy dress as her blonde hair blew in the breeze. The hashtag “bint Trump,” meaning Trump’s daughter in Arabic, began trending, with one Twitter user even proposing in an online video. Like other high-level female visitors to Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Trump also did not cover her hair while in the kingdom. For her arrival to Riyadh, she wore a long-sleeved, black pantsuit accented with a wide, gold-colored belt and gold necklace.

—Was It a Bow? Trump accepted Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor and ignited a debate over whether he bowed to the king. King Salman placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud — a gold medal hanging from a long, gold chain — around Trump’s neck hours after he arrived in the kingdom. Trump had to bend down so the king could put the medal around his neck, and that ignited debate over whether he had bowed to the king.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, have all received the award. Republicans — including Trump — criticized Obama for a move during his 2009 visit to Saudi Arabia, interpreting it as an American president subserviently bowing to a foreign dignitary.

ISRAEL

—The Selfie: Israel is known for its boisterous and informal behavior, and Trump got a first-hand taste of this at his airport arrival ceremony. Just moments after he landed, a hard-line Cabinet minister asked Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem, one of the most explosive issues in the conflict with the Palestinians. Then, a backbench lawmaker who had not even been invited to the ceremony pulled Trump aside for a selfie. With Trump waiting patiently after a camera glitch, and Netanyahu unsuccessfully reaching out to block the scene from unfolding, lawmaker Oren Hazan snapped the shot that made him famous. “Thank you, Mr. President – it was my pleasure!” Hazan tweeted alongside the picture.

—Speak to the Hand. The selfie was not the only time that Trump was caught off guard. As he and his wife Melania walked on the red carpet, he turned and reached out to grab her hand. The expressionless Mrs. Trump, wearing dark sunglasses, appeared to brush away his hand, raising speculation in local media of a possible first family fracas. It happened again in Rome on Tuesday: as the couple emerged from the plane, Trump waved to the crowd and seemed to look for her hand. She quickly moved it away, raising it to her head to brush her hair aside.

—Budding Bromance: Netanyahu had a strained relationship with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama. But he appeared to have an easy rapport with Trump, with the two men repeatedly embracing and professing their deep friendship. At the airport ceremony, Netanyahu playfully warned Trump about the confusing protocol. “What is the protocol? Do you have any idea?” Trump asked. “Who knows?” Netanyahu responded with a smile.

—I Share Your Pain: Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, also found common ground with Mrs. Trump. Speaking to the first couple at the airport, Mrs. Netanyahu complained that they were both victims of an unfair press. “The majority of the people of Israel, unlike the media, they love us so we tell them how you are great and they love you,” Mrs. Netanyahu said. “We have very much in common,” Trump said.

—Home Sweet Home. The Netanyahus hosted the Trumps for a private dinner on Monday that began with a brief tour of their official residence. “Welcome to our palace,” Netanyahu said sarcastically. “It’s something very modest,” his wife said.

The two couples sat at a table as the president signed a guest book. “Thanks to you, we could paint the walls. We got the budget to paint the walls,” Netanyahu said. “All the house is painted for you,” Mrs. Netanyahu added.

Trump thanked Mrs. Netanyahu for arranging a hospital tour with Mrs. Trump, where both women met with a mixed group of Arab and Jewish children. “We kind of make, bring a smile to the children,” Mrs. Netanyahu said. As they all got up to take a picture, Netanyahu boasted that he is serving his fourth term as prime minister and then presented the first couple a gift: a 150-year-old bible.

“It describes what happened here. It all took place here,” Netanyahu said.

“That is really beautiful,” Trump answered.

“It’s a good book. It’s THE good book,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s THE book,” his wife added.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Unconventional Green Party candidate Shawn Mathis Gilliam files for HD 58 race

As a member of an alternative third party, Shawn Gilliam’s worldview and ideology are not easily explained; it could make it hard to break through with voters in House District 58.

The 32-year-old Plant City resident recently filed to run for the seat currently held by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson.

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 is a passionate environmentalist and supports the need for more green energy.

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.

Raulerson defeated Democrat Jose Vasquez by 16 points, 58 to 42 percent, in November.

HD 58 covers most Hillsborough County’s eastern suburbs.

Rick Baker airing first TV ad

Rick Baker is going up with his first campaign ad.

The former St. Petersburg mayor, who served from 2001-2010, wants his old job back. But to do so, he’ll have to wrest it away from incumbent Rick Kriseman. 

Kriseman’s first ad went up two weeks ago. Baker’s is going up today on local cable news stations in the Tampa Bay area. He debuted it Tuesday night at a fundraiser in Midtown.

Watch below:

 

Joe Henderson: When NFL suddenly needed a Super host, it knew who to call

It wasn’t luck that Tampa was selected Tuesday to host its fifth Super Bowl.

When the National Football League learned the new stadium being built in Los Angeles won’t be ready in time for the game in 2021, it had to find a city not only ready to step in on short notice, but one with a proven record of excellence.

Tampa checks all the boxes, and that’s because the team Rob Higgins has assembled at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission is as fine as any in the country and better than most.

Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer deserves applause. Tampa’s battle-tested political leaders, especially County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Mayor Bob Buckhorn, should take a bow. Higgins is the guy who really makes it happen though.

Smart, well-connected and experienced, Higgins understands better than anyone what has to be done in the trenches to successfully pull off a Super Bowl. NFL owners and leaders know that, which is why I have to believe the decision about what to do took about 10 seconds.

“Hey guys, that new stadium in Los Angeles won’t be ready for the 2021 Super Bowl. What should we do?”

“Um, let’s move it Tampa.”

“All in favor?”

“Aye!”

“Opposed? Anyone? No, great. Let’s go eat.”

I would imagine Higgins’ No. 1 obstacle in the coming months will be keeping his cellphone charged. The man is going to be busy. He will have to get renewed pledges from business, civic and political leaders that were part of Tampa’s bid package for the 2019 and 2020 games, but I can’t imagine that will be much of a problem. I am certain he will have cooperation from all the major players in the area: the convention and visitors bureau, Tampa International Airport, local and state security agencies, and so on.

The Super Bowl occupies an outsized place in Americana. By the time 2021 rolls around, it will be 37 years since Tampa hosted its first Super Bowl.

That game represented important psychological validation to people here that Tampa Bay had a place among the important locations in the country. Interestingly, Tampa’s main competitor to host that game was Los Angeles. The winning team that year? The Los Angeles Raiders, who beat the Washington Redskins 38-9.

Tampa essentially turned itself over that week to the NFL, and in return team owners basked in the love. That set a standard for future bids by other cities, which meant Tampa had to keep getting better and more creative to stay among the regular sites that get to host this game.

It must have worked because with this game Tampa will rank fourth on the list of cities that have hosted the largest number of Super Bowls.

We live in a pretty cool place, huh?

“Aye!”

Opposed? Anyone?

Didn’t think so.

Rick Baker emphasizes education issues during fundraiser in south St Pete

Upon taking the stage Tuesday night, Rick Baker made a promise to the hundreds of supporters in attendance at the Morean Arts Center for Clay.

Baker vowed he wouldn’t speak as long as he did on the steps of City Hall two weeks earlier when he officially announced a bid for Mayor of St. Petersburg.

He kept to that promise, clocking in with an address that lasted a little more than 22 minutes. While some of it was a rehash of the themes that he talked about on May 9, Baker said he wouldn’t spend any time in getting into it with his main rival, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

That promise he did not keep.

Referring to how St. Petersburg became the state’s first “Green City” back on his watch in December of 2006, Baker said “It’s hard to maintain that green cities status when you dump 200 million gallons of sewage in the Bay,” referring to the sewage spills that occurred on Kriseman’s watch the past two summers and his reaction to them, eliciting a huge mocking cheer from the crowd.

“If you hear anybody talking about the environment, I want you to remind them that it’s hard to stay a green city when you do that. We’re going to fix that problem,” Baker declared. “I promise you, we will fix that!” before being drowned out by more cheers.

There was a spirit of bonhomie at the event, and why not? Buoyed by a recent St. Pete Polls survey that has him up by double-digits over Kriseman, Baker said at the onset of his speech that he wanted to talk about the future of St. Petersburg, though he spent a considerable amount of time recounting the past, when he served as mayor from the spring of 2001 until January of 2010.

Baker spoke about how people laughed at him when he declared in 2001 that he wanted to make St. Petersburg the best city in America, but “nobody questions” that claim now, at least not in St. Pete.

“We’re arrogant about it now. We really do believe that, but it’s not assured that it’s always going to be that,” Baker said, saying that the plan is the same for any city in America — public safety, good schools, economic development, strong neighborhoods and being fiscally responsible.

Regarding public safety, Baker said that going after drugs in the community is the “number one thing that you should do,” and decried the removal of the street crimes unit from the St. Petersburg Police Dept.

He boasted about streamlining government, referring to the fact that almost 300 positions in city government were eliminated during his tenure (some of that had to do with the loss of revenue to the city following the recession). He vowed to bring back one specific position, however, a deputy mayor for neighborhoods.

Baker also talked about how involved he was in education in St. Petersburg when he was elected, even though he was told that at the time that wasn’t part of the mayor’s portfolio.  He said that it was and it is, because a lack of good schools will prevent people moving into neighborhoods and businesses from entering the community.

He then went over the panoply of programs that he implemented to improve the schools when he was in office, including a mentorship program created in 2001 where the city partnered the city with local schools to recruit and train volunteers from the city, businesses and the community.

“We need to work in partnership with the school board,” he said. “It is not acceptable for our schools to be where they are.”

Although he didn’t name names, the after effects of the Tampa Bay Times series on “Failure Factories” regarding five Midtown schools continues to resonate as an issue, nearly two years after those stories were first published.

Cracia Richmond works as an assistant at Lakewood Elementary, one of the five South St. Pete schools cited in that piece. A Kriseman supporter in 2013, Richmond says she will vote for Baker this year.

“He’s been a great leader for us, and I feel that we need that back in our community,” she said Tuesday while awaiting Baker’s appearance.

“I’m not happy with a few things,” was her answer when asked why she’s not backing Kriseman this year. “I would say some of the things happening in the public schools. I work in the public school system, I assist in the classrooms, and I just feel that we need a lot of support.”

Kriseman says he’s done plenty of work on schools since becoming mayor.

Speaking to FloridaPolitics.com earlier this month, Kriseman referred to several programs: Take Stock in Children scholarships; a mentorship program with city workers; matching businesses with schools to provide resources for education and reading more opportunities for students; anti-bullying initiatives; service learning and mini-grants with the Pinellas Education Foundation; pairing college students with high school students for mentorship, and has in Leah McRae a dedicated schools liaison from City Hall to focus on the city’s resources on its schools.

Gobble, gobble: It’s turkey time at Florida TaxWatch

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.

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.

Craig Waters: Florida’s courts lead in use of social media

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.

Craig Waters
Waters during the 2000 election challenge. (Wikimedia)

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.

In a report sent this week to Florida’s Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, our staff detailed the first year’s work in a state court communications plan adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in December 2015.

Labarga sent the plan for implementation to a professional association of Florida court staff called the Florida Court Public Information Officers, or FCPIO. I am the group’s founder and its current executive director.

The goal is simple. It’s not enough that courts do justice. They also must make sure people see justice being done.

It was a mission we quickly accepted. Originally set up by a post-9/11 crisis management plan in 2002, FCPIO has evolved into a group of court communications professionals unique in the nation.

No other state has anything approaching it – though many states now are studying FCPIO and the plan it is carrying out for Florida’s judiciary.

FCPIO incorporated itself as a federally recognized nonprofit in early 2007, right at the time events in Silicon Valley began shaking up the communications landscape. That was only a year after Twitter opened its doors and three years after the founding of Facebook.

But FCPIO also brings talent to the table. With representatives in every Florida state court, the group has been led by several media-skilled court officers that saw the need for statewide education and coordination with an emphasis on openness.

I am a lawyer and former Gannett newspaper reporter who has worked for the Florida Supreme Court for 30 years and started its public information office, its gavel-to-gavel oral argument broadcasts, and its website in the 1990s.

FCPIO’s current president, Eunice Sigler of the Miami courts, is a former Miami Herald reporter and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for team coverage of the Elian Gonzalez immigration case.

The report on implementing the plan addresses other issues that include:

Websites: Eighteen of Florida’s 20 circuit courts and all of the district courts of appeal currently are working toward redesigns of their websites because they are the judiciary’s most important communications tool.

Social media: The Florida state courts continue to debate the pros and cons of social media because of the strict ethical limits they must shoulder. While Twitter is now broadly used, Facebook has been more controversial – and only a minority of the state courts currently use it. However, FCPIO is studying ways to address concerns and identify best practices employed by courts now using Facebook.

Podcasts: Two courts in Orlando and Miami currently are using podcasts to communicate with the public, and the Florida Supreme Court soon will start its own podcasting program.

Media Relations: FCPIO will continue to educate courts personnel and judges in the methods needed to work in a cooperative and respectful way with news media. And Twitter has become an important tool for getting word out to the press and the public about breaking news.

Community outreach: Court outreach programs such as courthouse tours for schoolchildren, citizen forums, and public education programs remain important parts of the courts’ mission. They include outreach to elected officials, town hall meetings for residents, and innovative uses of Twitter to reach out to student groups and others.

Internal communications: Proper communications with internal court staff remain important so that everyone understands the overall mission, the need to speak with a unified voice, and the ways to address problems when they arise. One important example is crisis communications with staff during hurricanes or other emergencies.

The Florida state courts’ stress on good communications rests on a near-legendary history. It’s part of a longstanding commitment to transparency that began with Florida letting cameras into the courts in the 1970s.

It continues today thanks to several visionary judges leading the state system over the last half century. And despite doom-saying elsewhere in the nation, Florida’s courts really have had a very positive experience.

In other words: Openness works.


Attorney Craig Waters has been the public information officer and communications director for the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee since June 1996. He is best known as the public spokesman for the Court during the 2000 presidential election controversy, when he frequently appeared on worldwide newscasts announcing rulings in lawsuits over Florida’s decisive vote in the election.

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.

Citing need for ‘new energy,’ Ryan Torrens becomes first Democrat in Attorney General race

For Ryan Torrens, the primary job of a state attorney general is consumer protection; it’s something the 32-year-old Odessa-based lawyer does every day.

That’s why Torrens, who specializes in foreclosure defense and consumer protection litigation, became the first Democrat to file for Florida’s Attorney General race in 2018.

“We have helped so many people, and so I believe that the office fits my background,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “I’ve been speaking about to local DEC’s and people just feel it, people are ready for a change, they’re ready for some new blood, they’re ready for somebody who has new energy. That’s what I offer.”

Torrens, whose family has Cuban roots, believes Floridians are first and foremost looking for an attorney general to protect them from criminals. If elected, that will be his first priority.

As a political novice, Torrens has never run for public office. But the fifth-generation Tampa native is very aware that mounting a year-and-a-half long statewide campaign means he’ll need to raise millions.

Nevertheless, Torrens is confident he will meet the challenge, and believes he can do it without Wall Street contributions.

While busy hiring campaign staff and volunteers, Torrens begins the task of introducing himself to Democrats statewide. He’s already spoken to a Largo Democratic group, and intends to meet with Broward and Miami-Dade Democrats later in the week.

Torrens’ aspirations began in 2001, when the events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks exposed the then-16-year-old to a wider world of politics.

“I really started reading about Middle East politics and the threat of terrorism and domestic politics and policy,” he said, resulting in the decision of his major at the University of Tampa.

Torrens attended high school in Temple Terrace before earning a bachelor’s degree in government and world affairs from UT (graduating magna cum laude). He then migrated to George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C.

As opposed to other open Cabinet positions, not much clamor has surrounded the in 2018 Attorney General’s race.

Earlier this month, Jacksonville Representative Jay Fant became the first Republican to enter the race. Another Democratic name being suggested for a possible run is Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler.

Fate of program for disabled children rests with Rick Scott

Debby Dawson, who lives in southwest Florida, has a simple message to Gov. Rick Scott: The state’s existing scholarship program for disabled children is “life changing” and has helped her 7-year-old autistic son “develop by leaps and bounds.”

Dawson is part of a chorus of parents from around the state who have mounted a campaign through letters, emails and phone calls urging the Republican governor to sign a sweeping education bill that will soon come to his desk.

But that same bill has sparked an outpouring of an even larger negative reaction to Scott both directly and on social media.

School superintendents, the state’s teacher union, parent-teacher groups and Democrats have called on the governor to veto the bill. Even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the leading Republican candidate for governor in 2018, called the legislation a “train wreck” on Tuesday and said Scott should take a “hard look” at vetoing the bill.

That’s because GOP legislators crafted the 300-page bill largely in secret, and included in it portions that would steer more state and local money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation (HB 7069) also mandates recess in elementary schools, expands virtual education courses to private and home schooled students, and tweaks Florida’s testing system.

Scott, who supported the creation of the scholarship program, has not yet said what he plans to do.

But if he vetoes the bill, however, he will wipe out an extra $30 million for the Gardiner Scholarship program that provides tuition, therapy and other services to roughly 8,000 disabled students. Legislators included $73 million in the state budget for scholarships, but those who operate the program say it is growing and they may not have enough money to serve everyone without the extra money. Additionally, legislators passed a separate bill that would expand those eligible for the program.

That’s why Dawson wrote Scott asking him to sign the bill. She said without the extra money her other son – who is about to turn 3-years-old – may not get a scholarship in the coming year.

“As a parent who has seen how life changing this grant is, and knowing my second child may not have the same opportunities as my oldest, it is heartbreaking, to say the least,” Dawson wrote in an email to a reporter. “This grant opens up doors for our children where the doors were once shut and locked tight.”

Legislative leaders have not given a detailed explanation on why they put the extra money for the scholarship program in the bill, which was not released publicly until two days before a final vote. Initially, the state Senate had more than $100 million in its budget for the program but then agreed to lower it during budget negotiations.

Sen. Jack Latvala, the budget chairman, said the decision to include the money in the bill and not the budget was at the urging of House Speaker Richard Corcoran. When asked Corcoran called it a “compromise” since the House did not include the higher amount in its initial budget.

Sen. Gary Farmer, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat opposed to the bill, argued that legislative leaders crafted the legislation this way in order to make it harder for Scott to veto the bill.

“I was deeply disturbed that (the families of disabled children) were hijacked and used as pawns to mollify opposition to an otherwise bad bill,” Farmer said.

School choice advocates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush, are asking Scott to sign the bill. Former Senate President Andy Gardiner, who has a son with Down syndrome and helped create the program, said he hopes the “governor is mindful” that the bill isn’t just about charter schools and that many families will be affected by his decision.

Barbara Beasley, whose 9-year-old daughter receives a Gardiner scholarship, says it has dramatically improved her daughter’s life, but she said that “lawmakers sold us down the river with their backroom dealing on the education bill.” She said other parts of the legislation are detrimental to public schools and should be stopped.

“I beg Governor Scott to order lawmakers back to session to fix their mistakes, separate these items from the bad and push them through,” Beasley said.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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