Sunburn for 4.19.17 - Just another slow day in the Capitol - SaintPetersBlog

Sunburn for 4.19.17 – Just another slow day in the Capitol

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

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

PRO-POT FORCES WANT MORE RESTRICTIONS? WAIT, WHAT?

Legislating can be a complex convoluted mess. I get that.

But the complex convolution has hit an apex when the pro-Amendment 2 forces are lobbying – and to be really clear, SUPPORTING – a limitation on how many dispensaries a medical cannabis license holder can open.

Yes, these same forces (and I won’t name names here, but you know who you are) have convinced several Senators to support a highly restrictive limitation on the number of retail outlets a licensee can have. You can’t make this up. Those who support allowing the broadest number of patients the opportunity to have medical marijuana are supporting the most severe restrictions on licensees.

And don’t give me the malarkey about Pennsylvania doing it. No, it doesn’t. You can’t compare Pennsylvania’s non-vertical model with Florida’s. That comparison makes no sense.

Here’s the “logic.” If we restrict the number of outlets, then patients will be denied, people will scream and yell and then Florida lawmakers will be forced to expand the number of licenses. (So, if they are in that situation, wouldn’t it be a whole lot easier if they just expand the number of dispensaries each licensee could open? Sorry, I digress.)

Look, we get it. The pro-Amendment 2 forces want more licensees. The bid losers want more licensees. Other farmers/growers and those with cash-burning pocket holes want more licensees. So they are using this tactic to force someone’s hand.

But this seems a little risky. It feels more than a little disingenuous to try and force the hand of lawmakers with such a plan that could seriously backfire. What if they actually passed this? Then where are we? Licensees won’t be worth 1/10th what they are now. Patients will be denied access for at least another year or two. And the pro-medical marijuana forces will have cut their noses for spite.

We hear a lot about the 71% who voted to support Amendment 2. We hear that from those who want expansion and who demand it now. Yes, the vast majority of Floridians voted to allow sick people to smoke medical weed. And there are some excellent people pushing to make sure a fair law implements the will of the voters.

Good.

But if those same people are pushing for severe restrictions for some political game, well someone is going to be mad.

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE CLEARS MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL, DESPITE CONCERNS FROM ADVOCATES via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics –  HB 1397 by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues would implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The proposal now heads to the Health & Human Services Committee, the final stop before a vote of the full House. The bill, among other things, calls for a 90-day waiting period before a physician can recommend medical marijuana; prohibits smoking, vaping and edibles; and calls for new licenses to be issued after 150,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry. While generally viewed as more restrictive than the Senate proposal (SB 406), Rodrigues said he has been in negotiations with the Senate about what the final proposal could look like. “This bill is a work in progress,” said the Estero Republican. “Our goal is to produce a bill that honors the spirit of the constitutional amendment.”

HOUSE DEMOCRATS WAKE UP ON WEED via Florida Politics – Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee – led by the always entertaining, snarky and whip-smart Jared Moskowitz – suddenly woke up on medical marijuana. It was a huge turnaround from just a few weeks ago. When HB 1397 – the House’s medical marijuana implementing legislation, filed by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues – had the first hearing a few weeks ago in the Health Quality Subcommittee, it sailed through with nary a word from Democrats on the committee. This was somewhat surprising, given medical marijuana’s political history in Florida. The issue has always enjoyed a significant degree of bipartisan support with voters, while divided along sharply partisan lines in Tallahassee. While 118 of 120 House districts gave Amendment 2 north of 60 percent support in the November elections, Democratic districts were much more likely to offer support – in the mid-to-high 70s. Given the current disparity between the implementation proposals of the House and Senate, as well as Rodrigues’ acknowledgment of negotiations already occurring between the chambers, Democrats might necessarily have a degree of input on this legislation, as they have carved out for themselves on gaming.

TWEET, TWEET:

SPEAKING OF POLLARA… WHY I HOPE JOHN MORGAN RUNS FOR GOVERNOR BUT DOUBT HE WILL via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – So many see Morgan as a potentially game-changing candidate for Florida governor in 2018. Alas, as much fun as he would be to cover, my hunch is Morgan ultimately takes a pass. Why? Because he seems to be enjoying himself enormously these days, feeding his entrepreneurial passion on little-noticed ventures that could revolutionize the legal industry. Because running for governor of America’s biggest swing state would draw endless nasty attacks that could seriously damage the Morgan family brand as he hands off the Morgan & Morgan firm to his sons. Because accomplishing top Morgan priorities, especially raising the minimum wage, would be easier through a ballot initiative much like his medical marijuana initiative, than running and serving as governor. And because Morgan has a driving desire to be liked and sounds like he truly loathes the idea of subjecting himself to a campaign.

SCOOP – SCOTT ARCENEAUX JOINING ANDREW GILLUM CAMPAIGN via Florida Politics — The former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party is joining Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial campaign as a chief strategist. “I’m thrilled to welcome Scott Arceneaux to our growing campaign for Governor. Scott brings a wealth of knowledge and savvy about the Sunshine State to our team, and I’m excited to welcome him as our chief strategist,” said Gillum in a statement. “Over the years he has fearlessly led the Florida Democratic Party on the fights that matter: securing and protecting affordable healthcare; standing up for every Floridian no matter where they come from or who they love; and protecting our natural resources and environment. I can’t wait for him to join us on this journey to win back the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.” Arceneaux, who had served as the executive director since 2009, announced he was resigning in January. The announcement came just weeks after Stephen Bittel was elected chairman of the state party. … Prior to joining the Florida Democratic Party, Arceneaux served as a general consultant for the Democratic Governors’ Association, was the national political director for Chris Dodd’s presidential campaign; and has served as campaign manager for congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns.

— “Phillip Levine courts Orange County Democrats ahead of likely run for Governor” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

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FRANK ARTILES CURSES AT BLACK LAWMAKER — AND REFERS TO FELLOW REPUBLICANS AS ‘NIGGAS’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald Frank Artilesdropped the N-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation — after calling one of them a “f*cking asshole,” a “b*tch” and a “girl,” the two senators said. Over drinks after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol, Artiles told Sens. Audrey Gibson and Perry Thurston that Senate President Joe Negron of Stuart had risen to his powerful GOP leadership role because “six niggers” in the Republican caucus had elected him. Artiles later told Gibson and Thurston that he’d used the word “niggas,” suggesting the slang term was not meant to be insulting

… Artiles apologized to Gibson after he’d been reported to Republican leaders and news reporters started asking questions. “In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me,” Artiles said in a statement. “There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.” To Gibson and Thurston, it was clear Artiles wasn’t referring to them or to any other Democrats as “niggas” but apparently to six Republicans who favored Negron for the job over Sen. Jack Latvala.

ARTILES’ EXCUSE: “I’m from Hialeah.

SEN. PREZ ISSUES STATEMENT LATE TUESDAY NIGHT: “Senator Braynon reported this incident to me earlier today, and I was appalled to hear that one Senator would speak to another in such an offensive and reprehensible manner. My first priority was to ensure that this matter was promptly addressed between the two Senators involved, which occurred this evening. Racial slurs and profane, sexist insults have no place in conversation between Senators and will not be tolerated while I am serving as Senate President. Senator Artiles has requested a point of personal privilege at the beginning of tomorrow’s sitting, during which he intends to formally apologize to Senator Gibson on the Senate Floor.”

THIS IS WHAT ARTILES THINKS OF THE SENATE PRESIDENT: “He called Joe Negron a pussy,” said Sen. Thurston

BILL GALVANO COMES CLOSE TO CALLING FOR A RESIGNATION BUT STOPS SHORT: “Senator Audrey Gibson is an admired colleague and a personal friend, and under no circumstances should ever have been spoken to in such a reprehensible manner. I understand that President Negron is allowing Senator Artiles to formally apologize on the Senate floor tomorrow. Such comments cannot be repaired by a formal apology, but I trust that it is an appropriate step to be taken by the President and the Florida Senate to handle this matter, and to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated and does not happen again.”

FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY CALLS ON ARTILES TO RESIGN: “Frank Artiles must resign now. His use of horrific racist and sexist slurs towards his colleagues is disgusting, unacceptable and has no place in our democracy or our society. This is just the latest in a string of violent, hateful incidents in which Artiles blames his ‘temper’. There is never an excuse for racism or misogyny and the people of Florida aren’t buying it. Resign now.”

OH BOY: “Secret 2014 record caught Artiles using ‘hajis’ slur” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald

TIA MITCHELL REMINDS US of the story that took down Ralph Arza: “Florida GOP lawmaker resigns after scandal

ARTILES HAS ASKED FOR A POINT OF PERSONAL PRIVILEGE at the beginning of today’s floor Session so he can formally apologize.

HERE’S WHERE IT COULD GET INTERESTING: The Senate Judiciary Committee hears two of Artiles’ top priority bills Wednesday: SB 12, a claims bill against the Department of Transportation on behalf of the family of Jacksonville man who was killed when his car skidded out of control because of standing water from a clogged drainage basin. He also seeks approval for a more controversial bill, SJR 134, which is a constitutional amendment to require Miami-Dade, Broward and Volusia counties to elect their sheriffs. Sitting on Senate Judiciary are both Sen. Gibson and Sen. Thurston, each of whom was at the receiving end of one of Artiles’ racial slurs at a Tallahassee bar on Monday night. More from Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald here.

BTW, TUESDAY WAS ALREADY A BAD DAY FOR ARTILES: “Panel swats Artiles’ handwritten amendment as Miami toll fight continues” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

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RICK SCOTT PUSHES AHEAD FOR VISIT FLORIDA FUNDING via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott went once more unto the breach Tuesday, pressing his case for full funding of the state’s VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency. The Republican governor—surrounded by VISIT FLORIDA’s CEO Ken Lawson, board chairman William Talbert, and others—spoke with reporters outside his Capitol office. The GOP-majority House of Representatives, which at first wanted to eliminate the agency, instead reduced its budget to $25 million for next year … Scott mentioned that Florida is getting shellacked by ads—“…and they’re nice,” he said—from Utah, Michigan, California, Texas, and Georgia trying to divert tourists. “If we want even more tourists, we’re going to have to spend more money,” Scott said. “We have plenty of money in the budget … but the House has really limited our ability to market the state.”

SCOTT’S INSPECTOR GENERAL: ‘I WANTED TO LEAVE ON MY TERMS’ via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald Melinda Miguel, the top investigator for two governors who has been accused of suppressing whistleblowers at the state’s prison agency and most recently was assigned the task of sorting through the financial troubles in Opa-locka … she said she wanted to leave before the arrival of a new governor and before legislation advances that adds new powers to her office. Although her tenure under Scott was challenged by his aggressive former general counsel, Pete Antonacci, who asked her to delay the release of a prison report, and she came under fire by Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor and other commissioners, Miguel said the governor never interfered with her investigations.

SENATE PRESIDENT CAN’T SAY IF LEGISLATURE WILL END ON MAY 5 AS SCHEDULED via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – We asked Senate President Joe Negron if he has any doubt the Legislature will finish on time. “I can’t predict the future, so I don’t know exactly how things will unfold,” the Republican from Stuart said. “I have every expectation that we’ll be able to complete our business on time. As I’ve said before, it would be a sad commentary on the legal profession if two lawyers couldn’t get their work done on time.” Negron, an attorney, was referring to House Speaker Corcoran, who is also an attorney.

HOUSE SPEAKER: PUSH FOR TOUGHER ETHICS LAWS DEAD via Gary Fineout of The Associated PressRichard Corcoran says a push to give Florida some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation is dead for this year’s Session, and he’s blaming Senate Republicans for showing “zero interest.” [Corcoran] pushed to enact several far-reaching proposals, including one that would ban legislators and elected officials from lobbying state government for six years after leaving office. The House overwhelmingly passed them, but the legislation has not moved in the state Senate. “The Senate has shown us they have expressed zero interest in holding elected officials accountable and draining the swamp,” said Corcoran … he’s not giving up and will seek other ways to place his proposals into law, including asking the state Constitution Revision Commission to put them before voters in 2018 or launching a petition drive to get them on the ballot.

$1.5 BILLION HEALTH CARE DEAL WITH FEDS MAY NOT BE A SURE THING IN THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – House Health Care Appropriations chairman Rep. Jason Brodeur, said that it “depends on what kind of assurances we get from the federal government.” The federal government agreed to revive the Low-Income Pool at $1.5 billion last week after it was set to end. Though it is clear that the money will be funded mostly by the federal government with the remainder coming from state or local governments, the full terms of the agreement are not yet clear. “We have a promise and that’s great. We’d love to have it,” Brodeur said. “What I’d like to see is a printed letter that outlines the terms of what we’re talking about.”

HOUSE BUDGET CHIEF’S ABSENCE STOKES RUMORS OF AMBASSADOR APPOINTMENT via Patricia Mazzei and Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Trujillo was conspicuously absent from a meeting of the Florida House budget committee he leads. The reason? Word in the state Capitol was that Trujillo is away in Washington — interviewing with Trump’s administration for a potential ambassadorship to Latin America. The powerful budget chief was an early Trump supporter, one of only a handful of state elected officials to back his long-shot candidacy early. He’s been under consideration to be ambassador to Argentina or Panama.

HOUSE PR MACHINE TURNS TO ITS VERSION OF STATE BUDGET via Florida Politics – The House has released a new “explainer” video to explain its proposed 2017-18 state budget. And—fun!—it’s a cartoon. “Don’t have time to read hundreds of pages?” it starts. “That’s OK, because we’ve got the Florida House budget in under a few minutes.” Here’s a link to the video on YouTube.

SENATE GIVES FULL SUPPORT TO POLLUTION NOTIFICATION RULES CHANGE via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – The Senate bill (SB 532) cleared the Senate unanimously … Under the Senate bill, those responsible for a spill would need to notify the DEP within 24 hours of the hazard being discovered. The DEP would then be mandated to issue a public emergency notice. If operators do not comply, they could be penalized $10,000 for each day the spill goes unreported. The House version of the bill has yet to go through a committee hearing.

GROVELAND FOUR FAMILY MEMBERS GATHER TO HEAR LEGISLATURE’S APOLOGY via Florida Politics – The House voted unanimously Tuesday to apologize to survivors of four African-American men who were brutalized in 1949 following a false accusation of rape. The House also approved an apology to the survivors of abuse at the Dozier and Okeechobee schools for boys, and approved plans for memorials to children who died on the Dozier campus in Jackson County. … “Today, tears of joy,” said Carol Greenlee, daughter of one of the men, in a whisper, “for releasing my family from prison. For releasing my nieces, my son, my brother, from the dark cloud, the shame, and the stigma that have been put upon them.” Speaker Corcoran called the episode “a dark cloud on our history.” He said he hoped the apology and financial compensation would bring the family “along the road of feeling there is some justice in our society.”

LAWMAKERS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT GROVELAND FOUR APOLOGY — Democratic Leader Bobby Dubose was joined by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Gary Farmer, and other state lawmakers held a press conference Tuesday to ahead of a vote on a bill apologizing to the families of the Groveland Four. “We the state of Florida were wrong,” said Dubose. “The injustice these men and their families encountered is hard to put into words. The memories can’t be erased, the pain they endured can’t be fixed, but today we have opportunity to provide closure to these families in the form of an apology.” Click on the image below to watch the video.

BOOZE BILL READY FOR VOTE IN SENATE via Florida PoliticsA bill that would allow advertising by beer companies in the state’s theme parks is ready for a final vote in the Senate. The measure (SB 388), carried by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, was heard on the floor Tuesday and placed on the third reading calendar … The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold. That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles … Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage, and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

CRAFT BEER BILL CLEARS SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government was the latest successful stop for Young‘s craft beer bill, bringing small-batch brewers one step closer to self-distribution. SB 554 allows craft breweries producing under 7,000 kegs a year to distribute kegs (not bottles or cans) to other Florida craft breweries. That applies as long as breweries don’t have distribution deals already, and has raised concerns among the beer industry that it would subvert their distribution model. “This bill is designed to help the smallest of the small brewer,” said Young. “This is the bill for the little guy … simply to help the smallest of the small.” Young noted that once these brewers have distribution deals, they are cut off from this law.

HOUSE LEADERS WON’T SAY IF THEY’LL ACT ON SCHOOL RECESS. PARENTS GROW IMPATIENT via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – All that Florida parents want is guaranteed daily recess for their elementary school children. Just 20 minutes a day to allow for a brain break and some playtime. But for the second consecutive year, that relatively simple request seems increasingly in jeopardy — despite overwhelming public and legislative support — thanks to obstruction by a few influential lawmakers in the Florida House. House Speaker Corcoran won’t have a conversation about school recess, and his top lieutenants offer only deflection when asked what the House will do. Parents want a vote.

HOUSE HEALTH CARE POLICIES STALL IN THE SENATE via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – House Republican leaders have been saying the only way to control health care costs in Florida is to force patients and doctors to understand the true price of their decisions, whether they are considering a knee replacement or surgery as the best option for knee pain. They offered their own health care overhauls at a time when congressional Republicans have struggled to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Now health care has taken a back seat in the Legislature, overshadowed by larger fights over Everglades restoration, gambling, charter schools and tax cuts. The Florida Senate isn’t acting on the House bills, and House leaders said they won’t sacrifice their other agendas to salvage health care legislation this year. House Republicans, however, have hoped that at least two measures could pass the Senate: direct primary care, SB 240, and allowing patients to stay in ambulatory surgical centers for up to 24 hours, SB 222.

HOUSE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BILL SURVIVES DEMOCRATIC FLOOR AMENDMENTS via Florida Politics – The House defeated a series of Democratic amendments to its version of a workers’ compensation fix Tuesday, with sponsor Danny Burgess promising the bill would “enhance the fairness and the balance of the workers’ compensation system in Florida.” Burgess, whose Insurance & Banking Subcommittee drafted the legislation, also predicted a decline in premiums, following the 14.5 percent rate increase that began taking effect in December. “We are told it could be up to a 5 percent reduction,” he said. Still, Democrats complained the bill was written more to please employers and insurance companies than working people. “When are we going to put the workers first?” Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw wondered.

DANNY BURGESS OP-ED: IT’S VITAL FLORIDA WORKERS GET CARE THEY NEED via Florida Politics – No matter what side of the “jobs argument” you are on, one thing is certain. There can be no job without a worker to perform that job. That’s why there’s workers’ compensation insurance – which is coverage purchased by an employer to provide benefits for job-related employee injuries. In Florida, virtually all businesses are required to carry it. Even the most ardent detractors of the 2003 reforms will admit that the elimination of those reforms will increase insurance premium costs to small business. I’ve been fortunate, thanks to Speaker Corcoran and Chairman José Felix Diaz, to lead an effort to prevent that job loss and fix the system. We’ve proposed, and this week will pass, the largest and most comprehensive set of reforms to Florida’s workers’ compensation system in 15 years. It was vital to me that injured workers get the care they need, while protecting the jobs of the very workers who have been injured.

— “Bill calls for more audits of state pension system” via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, emails: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As of Tuesday, April 18th, 1,041 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 796 are sponsored by Republicans, 135 are sponsored by Democrats, and 110 bills have bi-partisan co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 76.5% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 13% are Democratic, and 10.6% are bipartisan.“

HAPPENING TODAY – FHA NURSES DAY IN THE LEGISLATURE — Got a headache? There’s a good chance you’ll find a nurse roaming the halls of the Capitol on Wednesday. The Florida Hospital Association is hosting its first FHA Nurses Day in the Legislature. The event is meant to be a chance for the front-line nurse leaders to advocate on behalf of all patients, and includes networking events, presentations and opportunities to meet with lawmakers.

HAPPENING TODAY – GOLF DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Florida Golf Day at the Capitol is Wednesday, and the annual event is meant to highlight the economic impact that the sport has on the Sunshine State. And oh, what an impact it is. Want to enjoy the festivities Wednesday? There will be a House versus Senate charity putting challenge at noon on the second floor rotunda; a PGA pro will be offering lessons throughout the day in the Capitol Courtyard; and there will be exhibits on the second and third floors throughout the day.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Kristin Jacobs will join Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence to unveil the “Walk in My Shoes” display in the Capitol Rotunda at 12:30 p.m. The display features more than 750 shoes worn and submitted by sexual assault survivors from across the state. The display is meant to commemorate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Legislators are expected to join Tony Lima, the executive director of SAVE; Jessica Fernandez, the executive director of the Florida Federation of Young Republicans, and economist Dale Brill to discuss conservative support for workplace equality and other LGBT nondiscrimination protections at 6 p.m. at the Southern Public House, 224 East College Avenue in Tallahassee.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Commerce Committee will take up a host of bills, including a proposal (HB 1351) to implement the August 2016 solar power constitutional amendment, when it meets at 8 a.m. in 212 Knott. A bill (HB 13) that would prohibit the creation of new community redevelopment agencies will be up for discussion with the Government Accountability meets at 8 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The Senate will hold a floor session beginning at 10 a.m., and is scheduled to begin discussion on a bill (SB 392) that would require students to take a half-credit financial literacy course to graduate. A bill (SB 832) that would preempt local governments from regulating the operation of drones is slated to be discussed during the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee at 1:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building. The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is expected to take up a bill dealing with the Florida black bear when it meets at 1:30 p.m. in 37 Senate Office Building. Look for the Transportation Committee to discuss a bill (SB 918) that would allow the use of ignition interlock devices for someone convicted for the first time of a second-degree misdemeanor DUI.

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FEDS SAY FLORIDA BEARS ARE NOT ENDANGERED via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – “This is very good news based on sound science for both the black bear and the people of Florida,” Larry Williams, head of the South Florida field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a news release. “State, local and industry partners are doing some incredible and really visionary conservation work across Florida.” Although the news release says the agency’s finding is based on “a robust investigation” into the status of the bear, the news release cites no information about it other than the computer modeling previously done by the state agency declaring that there were 4,000 adult bears — at least, before the bear hunt there were.

ACTIVISTS TO STATE: DON’T ALLOW BEAR HUNT IN 2017 via Stephen Hudak of the Orlando Sentinel –“Floridians don’t want another hunt,” said Kate MacFall of the Florida chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, one of the groups planning to speak up at the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting near Tallahassee. Thomas Eason, a wildlife biologist nicknamed “Dr. Bear” by FWC commissioners, said his presentation won’t include anything specific about another hunt, but the topic is always raised during public comment. An agenda item on the commission’s website describes the scheduled discussion as an update that will touch on “bear populations, habitat conservation, conflict-management efforts and public outreach” over the past year. Six months after the 2015 hunt, FWC announced results of a long-awaited bear-population survey. It described the species as “strong, robust and growing.” “We’re hoping FWC does finally listen to what the public wants,” said Bryan Wilson, Central Florida coordinator of Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

EDITORIAL: NO MORE FLORIDA BEAR HUNTS via the Tampa Bay Times – Almost two years after Florida allowed its first bear hunt in a generation, the controversial topic is back on the agenda of wildlife managers. This time, thankfully, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff is not recommending holding another bear hunt, and commissioners should follow that lead when they consider the issue Wednesday. After the 2015 hunt resulted in the senseless killing of more than 300 Florida black bears despite enormous public opposition and questionable science, there is no more reason now than there was then to allow open season on these animals. The Florida black bear’s comeback is a wildlife management victory that should be celebrated, not perverted by another unjustified hunt.

CONSTITUTIONAL REWRITE PANEL WILL MEET AT GULF COAST STATE COLLEGE via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) will hold its Panhandle public hearing at Gulf Coast State College on Wednesday, May 3. The hearing will begin at 4 p.m. Central Time (CT). The hearing will be in the Amelia Center Auditorium, 5230 West Highway 98, Panama City, 32401. A Google map link is here. The event will also be live-streamed by The Florida Channel on www.TheFloridaChannel.org. The 37-member body is going around the state to get public input as it reviews and considers changes to the state’s governing document.

MARTIN DYCKMAN: CLEMENCY AND FLORIDA’S OVERBEARING ‘POLITICS OF DEATH’ via Florida Politics –Despite his profound opposition to capital punishment, LeRoy Collinssent 29 men to their doom during his six years as Florida’s governor. He was in anguish each time. To some people, that example casts a poor light on Aramis Ayala … whose announced decision to seek no death sentences is the crux of an unprecedented battle in the Supreme Court with Gov. Scott and, now, the Florida House of Representatives. But it is Scott and five of his predecessors who come off worse in comparison with the totality of Collins’s record. The awesome power to commute death sentence has been a dead letter in their hands. Meanwhile, 276 condemned men and women have been spared by executive action in 22 other states — including Alabama, Texas and Louisiana — and the federal government. It is hard to understand or excuse why Florida’s most recent governors have refused to spare anyone. Perhaps they have believed that the judiciary is infallible. But it is not.

FLORENCE SNYDER: RICHARD CORCORAN, PLEASE SHOW SOME LOVE TO OUR REAL LIFE SMOKEYS via Florida Politics – Trained professional foresters and the people at parks ‘n rec are easily among Florida’s best ambassadors. These stewards of “Real Florida” have been instrumental in attracting tourists since before Mickey Mouse was born, and they work for a lot less cheese. This crowd is not prone to whining, or crying wolf. It takes a body blow to the budget to make them ask that we think for a moment about the work they do in the places where the wild things try to survive the wildfires that are engulfing the state … Even Gov. Scott thinks it’s a crisis. Yet the House proposes cutting $10 million — roughly 25 percent — of the current state parks budget. That’s chump change to the swells and potentates at the Capitol, but in the hands of Florida’s land management professionals, it covers a lot of weed-pulling, lawn mowing, landscaping, and protecting the public from the invasive species that generations of Florida lawmakers never had the wit to do anything about. More importantly, they are the real-life Smokey Bear, doing whatever it takes to prevent wildfires that increasingly threaten our economy, our way of life, and in some cases, the actual lives of firefighters, park personnel, residents and tourists.

***Learn the facts! FHCA knows Florida’s seniors deserve the best! The Senate’s proposed nursing home reimbursement plan creates incentives for quality and will dramatically improve care for our seniors.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Trulieve will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. in Miami to announce the opening of its Miami dispensary, located at 4020 Northwest 26th Street. The location is the company’s fifth cannabis dispensary in the state.

TAMPA AIRPORT EXPANSION TRAPPED IN TALLAHASSEE CROSSFIRE via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – A $2.3 billion expansion of Tampa International Airport, is at the center of a nasty power struggle among local legislators that could derail their work on a state budget. House Speaker Corcoran wants state auditors to review the first phase of the airport project, citing possible cost overruns and construction setbacks based on TV reports. The Senate has already rejected an audit, but Corcoran said he will demand that it be in a compromise budget that must be finished in two weeks, which means the Senate will have to capitulate or risk a stalemate. “When you’re spending billions of dollars in taxpayer money, nobody should be afraid of an audit, to make sure they’re spending it right,” Corcoran [said]. Airport director Joe Lopano said he keeps his five-member governing board up to date every month on the project’s time lines and budget. “We’re not afraid of an audit,” Lopano said. “We’re very proud of this project. And if the elected officials would like to have an audit, they should. We’re not afraid of that at all.”

JOE HENDERSON: TOM LEE’S RECENT TRAVAILS COULD START THE GUESSING GAME AGAIN via Florida Politics – While the Republican from Thonotosassa is well-known in the Legislature and isn’t afraid to stir things up, he has spoken often about possibly running for a seat on the Hillsborough County Commission … I wonder if recent events in the Senate might start Lee wondering again if it wouldn’t be better to work a little closer to home. His well-publicized bill to eliminate public subsidies for the construction of sports stadiums failed to get out of committee. He tried to attach an amendment to the Senate budget that would have triggered the audit, but it was rejected by a voice vote. Those who spoke out against Lee on that gambit included Republicans Dana Young and Jack Latvala, although he did pick up a major ally when House Speaker Corcoran has called for a full airport audit. Bear in mind, Lee doesn’t have to do anything right away. He was elected to a four-year term in the newly created District 20, covering parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

POLITICAL ACTIVIST SAM RASHID SUES 21-YEAR-OLD FORMER HAIR SALON RECEPTIONIST OVER FACEBOOK POST via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay TimesRashid has twice in recent years walked away from seats on prestigious boards because of fallout over his controversial posts on social media. Now, he is suing a 21-year-old former employee for her Facebook post. In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County … Rashid claimed that he has been libeled on social media by Jacqueline Lilley, a former receptionist at a Brandon hair salon and spa he co-owns. The complaint against Lilley includes a screen grab of a March 6 Facebook post about the salon in which she wrote that “the owners are thieves.” The post also states that workers at Divine Designs Salon and Spa were ordered not to communicate with former workers who left on “bad terms” and she urged staff there to leave. Lilley’s post was hardly viral. It attracted more than 39 comments and was “liked” at least 14 times, the lawsuit states. Rashid, 55, is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

APPOINTED: Dr. Lesley Thompson, Daniel Coll and James Muir to the Lower Florida Keys Hospital District.

PERSONNEL NOTE: JANELL HENDREN JOINS NASDA via Florida Politics – After more than four years with Florida Farm Bureau, Hendren is leaving to become Associate Director of Public Policy and Food Safety Programs for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). She starts April 25. Hendren was most recently National Affairs Coordinator at FFB. In years past, she was campaign manager for John Quinones’ congressional bid, and served as political director for House Republican Majority Leader Adam Hasner’s 2012 U.S. Senate and congressional campaigns. Hendren is a Sunday school teacher at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Slater Bayliss, Justin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc

Lauren Bedford, Strategic Access Group: Sunshine Global Health

Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Co.: Sunshine Global Health

Steven Geller, Geller Law Firm: Hartman & Tyner; Las Olas Recovery

John Harris, Robert Stuart, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: Petainer Manufacturing USA

Marc Reichelderfer, Landmarc Strategies Inc: Transdev North America, Inc

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Arbor Properties

Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Randstad Technologies; TmaxSoft; Centrify

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU Wednesday’s Governors Club lunch menu takes a Latin flair with chicken tortilla soup; jicama salad – tomato, avocado salad, cilantro dressing – seasonal greens; three dressing sections; perni – roast pork butt; chicken & rice with black-eyed peas; pinto bean; sweet plantains and blue mash potatoes.

***Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) negotiate rebates and discounts from drug companies and drugstores that reduce prescription drug costs for Florida consumers, employers, unions, and government programs. Learn more at DrugBenefitSolutions.com.***

MARCH MADNESS RETURNING TO TAMPA IN 2020 via Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times – Amalie Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament March 19 and 21, 2020, the NCAA announced … “We’re thrilled,” said Rob Higgins, the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. “We’ve had such a great history of hosting. Our community has always stepped up and really wrapped their arms around the opportunity to host the first and second rounds. We couldn’t be more excited for March 2020.” USF will serve as the host school. Tampa last hosted the event in 2011.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to class act Frank Walker of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating today are Reps. Cord Byrd and Colleen Burton and Towson Fraser. Happy birthday to two great residents of the ‘burg: Will Newton and Rob Kapusta.

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