Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Sunburn for 8.19.16 — 11 days until Florida’s primary election

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

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

CONTINUING OUR HYPER-FOCUS ON THE PRIMARY ELECTIONS: POLITICS OF RACE OVERSHADOW DEM. PRIMARY IN SD 19

There could very well be more verbal fireworks when the four Democrats vying to succeed Arthenia Joyner in the Senate District 19 contest gather at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club on Friday.

The district crosses Tampa Bay, encompassing major parts of both downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Originally, the race looked like a Tampa/St. Pete divide between former state Representative Betty Reed and outgoing House District 70 Representative Darryl Rouson.

But some Democrats in Tallahassee weren’t inspired by Reed, and began pushing the man who succeeded her in Tampa’s House District 59 seat, Ed Narain, to challenge Reed for the Senate seat.

“I had heard several times before in Tallahassee from friends I have up there who were telling me that he was getting in the race, and he was telling me he wasn’t,” recounted Reed last month. The news was unsettling to Reed, who broke her vow of neutrality in the 2014 race to succeed her when she came out in support of Narain in the final weeks of his fiery primary against Sean Shaw.

Finally, last December, the two came together, where the idea of the two switching races was introduced. Narain could get into the SD 19 race, and Reed could go back to run for the lower chamber in the Legislature — hardly a great choice, Reed supporters say. The meeting ended unresolved, and stayed that way until March, when Narain announced he would enter the race. That prompted Reed to say she now regrets endorsing Narain in 2014.

“I don’t know if he really wanted the House seat from the beginning. Maybe it was just a steppingstone for him.”

As that drama unfolded, Darryl Rouson was making sure to get the Pinellas Democratic establishment behind him (including Pinellas County Commissioners Ken Welch, Janet Long and Charlie Justice; Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson, Councilwoman Yolanda Roman and Councilman Michael Fridovich, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and all eight City Councilmembers), and there appeared to be shockwaves unleashed when a St. Pete Polls survey found Narain in third place, behind Rouson and Reed. A follow-up poll by St. Pete Polls had Narain back on top.

An ad featuring an endorsement by Kathy Castor and his two adorable girls (and a Donald Trump bobblehead) seemed to bring back his numbers.

The race was roiled again when civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro entered the race a day before the qualifying period expired in late June. The multimillionaire immediately sent a jolt into the race by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars into the election ($400,000 at last count), and calling out his three opponents for being too corporate influenced. He’s flooded the airwaves with two different commercials.

That led Narain to furiously call out Ribeiro as someone “trying to buy his way into the Florida Senate.”

“He is not an attorney,” Narain said at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Hob Nob in early August. He is nothing more than a fraud.”

Earlier this week, Narain took to Facebook Live to give a slash and burn running commentary on Ribeiro, as he tossed aside some of his mailers that are flooding SD 19 households.

Meanwhile, Rouson is hoping that he can generate big turnout in Pinellas to offset the fact that there are more Hillsborough-based voters in the district.

“I think his chances are good, he has run a totally positive campaign and stayed above the fray of attacks,” says Barry Edwards, Rouson’s campaign manager. “The race has been marred by attacks on each other and have stifled turnout. We are best positioned to win with a strong ground game, positive message and vision for the future.”

Reed is a beloved figure in the community, but whether she can overcome Narain’s support is uncertain. She did get a key endorsement from Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick, who said he was “shocked” when he learned that Narain would challenge Reed.

Ribeiro has raised more than any candidate in the race, with $400,000 coming from his own coffers and more than $500,000 overall. Narain is next with $234,403, Rouson raised $138,933 and Reed $32,544.

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WITH DONALD TRUMP STRUGGLING IN FLORIDA, STATE PARTY HEIGHTENS FOCUS ON DOWN BALLOT RACES via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – While making no mention of presidential nominee Trump’s struggling poll numbers, the Florida Republican Party is heightening its focus on down-ballot races. The Florida Leadership Victory Committee will be led by Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and is aimed at bolstering GOP grassroots efforts. Voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts will be a top priority of the committee. But the committee is certain to face some challenges. Trump’s presidential campaign has paid little attention to such party-building efforts and his top Florida ally, Gov. Scott, also has spent more time raising money for his own political committee and now heads a Super PAC collecting cash for Trump.

SENATE LEADERSHIP FUND PLEDGES $15 MILLION MORE FOR MARCO RUBIO via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – The fund, a super PAC forbidden from coordinating with Rubio, [says] the bulk of the money – $10.5 million – will be spent on television ads. The remainder will pay for digital spots and campaign mail in preparation for a likely race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. As the biggest and most expensive battleground state in the nation, Florida is bracing for a Senate race that could have a minimum price tag of $80 million. “At a minimum, we’re looking at $40 million just to start with for Marco. And we expect the other side to match that,” said one top conservative financier. “And that’s a minimum – unless, of course, something happens. And that something is Donald Trump” … Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Ian Prior reserved his barbs for Murphy. “Marco Rubio offers the kind of experienced leadership that Floridians need in Washington,” Prior said. “Senate Leadership Fund is committed to helping re-elect Marco and keeping phony Patrick Murphy where he belongs – sipping wine coolers on the deck of his appropriately named yacht, Cocktails.” Murphy, meanwhile, is showcasing Rubio’s penchant for missing votes in the Senate and for his on-again-off-again bashing of Trump when the two ran against each other in the presidential primary, during which Rubio called Trump a ‘con.’

TWEET, TWEET: @SaintPetersBlog: Why paywalls don’t work: @PoliticoFL paywalls report Sen. Leadership Fund pledges $15 mil to @MarcoRubio. SLR emails text of article.

RUBIO’S RE-ENTRY IN U.S. SENATE RACE DRAWS CASH — FAST via John Kennedy of the Palm Beach Post – Rubio said his campaign raised $2.1 million in the nine days after he announced his re-election bid and the end of the second quarter reporting period. Rubio is already getting $3 million worth of TV help in Florida from the Senate Leadership Fund and U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And the Republican’s $2.1 million fundraising in just over a week is close to the $2.4 million Murphy touted as his three-month total. Murphy still has $7.2 million for the campaign ahead. Rubio’s $2.1 million is all he’s got in the bank now, although that looks certain to go up.

NEW RUBIO AD TELLS COMPASSIONATE STORY via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times — Rubio released a new ad … that highlights a woman praising him for getting her daughter a cancer drop that was still undergoing FDA trails. “He got me the medication within a week,” the woman says. “Thanks to Marco, I had three more months with my daughter. Marco Rubio was there for me when I needed him most.”


PATRICK MURPHY’S NEW DIGITAL AD SAYS MARCO RUBIO ‘NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO STAND UP TO DONALD TRUMP’ via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Appearing on Facebook and Twitter, the ad plays off Rubio‘s Miami Herald editorial board meeting in which Rubio said he stands by criticism of Trump during the presidential primary but that he supports him as the nominee. “If somebody’s a con man you do not say in the next sentence, but I’m supporting that con man,” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough says in a clip. It portends a message the Murphy campaign will repeatedly push in an expected general election matchup with Rubio, who has a lead in polls. Not only does the Democrat want to firmly attach Rubio to Trump, but a broader goal is to show Rubio as an opportunist who will do whatever it takes to get back into office. “Marco Rubio called Donald Trump a ‘con man’ who couldn’t be trusted with our country’s nuclear codes, but now that his own political ambition is on the line, he wants to make that ‘con man’ our next commander-in-chief,” said Murphy campaign manager Josh Wolf. “Rubio’s Donald dance would be comical if it didn’t involve handing over our country’s national security to an unhinged bigot. In reality, it is Marco Rubio who is attempting to con Floridians by saying whatever it takes to get re-elected to a job he hates so he can run for president again in 2020.”
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— “Confident of primary win, Murphy stops TV ads” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO

REPUBLICANS SLAM MURPHY FOR SUPPORTING IRAN DEAL via Kristen M. Clark with the Miami Herald — The National Republican Senatorial Committee has released a new attack ad against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Patrick Murphy — criticizing him for supporting the Iran Deal and being “just another rubber-stamp for the Obama-Clinton agenda.” The ad claims the Iran Deal allows the Middle East country to now have “a path to build a nuclear bomb” and says the U.S. has given them “billions of dollars in the process.” “The video holds Patrick Murphy accountable for recklessly supporting the Obama-Clinton appeasement of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” the NRSC said in a statement. “Back when he decided to defy the will of the American people, Murphy offered his full support for the Iran nuclear deal.”

IF HE LOSES, CARLOS BERUFF WON’T RUN FOR OFFICE AGAIN via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – There’s a rumor spreading in Tallahassee these days that goes like this: If Beruff loses the Republican primary for U.S. Senate … he’ll set his sights on a run for governor to succeed his friend Gov. Scott. But, Beruff said, it’s totally false. “No, that’s not me,” he [said] … “I’ve been asked. It’s all rumors. I never wanted to be a politician. I wanted to go fix things that are broken and a substantial portion of the people in Washington simply aren’t capable of fixing them.” Beruff told voters last week in Tampa that he would not seek another Senate run. But his close ties to Scott, whose allies and former staffers have largely lined up behind Beruff, spurred the gubernatorial rumors. “I have no plans for any future,” he said. “I have a life. I have a great life.” In this race, Beruff has already spent a considerable amount of his personal wealth. He estimates about $10 million so far, much of it on TV ads. If he loses to Rubio, he says it’s a lot of money to have lost.

BIG SPENDERS POPPING UP IN N FLORIDA CONGRESSIONAL RACES via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Federal Election Commission records show several “48-hour notices” in the filings for the conservative-leaning 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, much of it money from political action committees, or PACs … 1st District candidate Matt Gaetz, for instance, this week reported $5,000 from the National Automobile Dealers Association PAC, $2,500 from the Humane Society Legislative Fund PAC, and $1,000 from the American Osteopathic Information Association PAC, among others. This same week, fellow GOP challenger Greg Evers in that race reported a series of $1,000-plus donations from individuals. Next door in the 2nd District, candidate Neal Dunn reported a series of PAC money-gives this week: $5,000 from the Alabama Farmers Federation PAC. $2,500 from the American Bankers Association PAC. $2,000 from the JM (Jim Moran) Family Enterprises PAC. Mary Thomas, reported a nearly $40,000 total string of $1,000 contributions from individuals this week, all but one of whom live outside the district, according to filings.

MATT GAETZ LEGISLATION HELPED SUPER PAC DONOR WITH $50M PENSACOLA DEVELOPMENT via Matt Dixon of POLITICO – A property tax provision in legislation sponsored by state Rep. Matt Gaetz last session provided a big incentive to green-light a $50 million project being developed by a major donor to a super PAC supporting his congressional bid. The project, the brainchild of Pensacola developer Quint Studer, will include apartments, commercial space and a parking garage. Studer says it will bring an estimated $65 million in new investment, 600 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs to the area. Studer Properties LLP, one of his companies, gave $25,000 to North Florida Neighbors, the super PAC backing Gaetz’s campaign for Congress.

NORTH FLORIDA NEIGHBORS RELEASES NEW AD BACKING GAETZ — The political committee, which is backing Gaetz and Republican Neal Dunn, released a new ad this week touting the Fort Walton Beach conservative. “America used to be respected around the world … but something happened. America became weak and vulnerable. Now more than ever we need strong leaders in Washington, leaders willing to fight for the values that matter,” an announcer says in the 30-second spot. “Matt Gaetz is one of us. He knows what matters to North Florida. Whether its protecting life, securing our borders or our right to bear arms, Matt Gaetz won’t back down.”

KEN SUKHIA HIGHLIGHTS RECORD IN NEW ADVERTISEMENT —  Sukhia, a former U.S. attorney, touts his conservative records in a new 30-second spot. “As your U.S. attorney, I jailed terrorists, illegals and violent criminals,” he says in the advertisement. “In private practice, I fought Obamacare and planned parenthood, fought to defend our fishing industry, school choice and the military’s right to vote in the Bush-Gore recount battle.” Sukhia, who was endorsed by Sen. Jeff Sessions and the National Right to Life Committee, is running in Florida’s 2nd Congressional District. The ad will air on cable and broadcast stations throughout the district.

— “Alcee Hastings tapes get-out-the-vote radio ad for Randy Perkins in Dem primary” via George Bennett of the Palm Beach Post

FRANCIS ROONEY GIVES HIS CD 19 CAMPAIGN $600K via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – The Naples Republican gave his congressional campaign $636,754 Aug. 15. The most recent cash infusion means Rooney has given his campaign more than $2.1 million since jumping into the race. Records show Rooney received about $510,000 in individual contributions during the last fundraising period. He also gave his campaign $1.5 million during the same period. The ability to essentially self-fund means Rooney is winning the money race. Chauncey Goss, a Sanibel Island Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2012, has raised $346,017. Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and a conservative radio host, has raised $84,289.

HOW BRAVE! — EMILY’S LIST ENDORSES DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock praised Wasserman Schultz as a “dedicated progressive public servant who has never stopped fighting for the hardworking families of Florida … Debbie has championed breast cancer advocacy, protected Social Security, and fought back against attacks on women’s access to health care,” Schriock said in a statement. “As the first Jewish woman elected to represent Florida, Debbie has always been a trailblazer. The EMILY’s List community, over 3 million members strong, looks forward to supporting her bid for re-election.” EMILY’s List — which stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast — works to help raise money for and elect women to public office. Wasserman Schultz is in a tough primary battle against the progressive and Bernie Sanders-backed Tim Canova, who wants to unseat the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District.

SUPER PACS SPENDING NEARLY $180 K A DAY IN FLORIDA via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Over the past two weeks alone, Florida has been flooded with more than $2.5 million in spending from super PACs as the groups fueled by unlimited campaign contributions have become an imperative tool to either prop up the campaigns of friends or bludgeon those of political foes. Put in other terms, they’re spending an average of $178,000 a day. Overall, 14 super PACs are spending heavily in Florida’s U.S. Senate race and eight congressional races. The groups offer an opportunity for a relatively small number of big money donors to have a large influence on the outcomes of competitive races. Because the groups are able to start raising and spending money almost overnight, some have not yet had to disclose donor information.

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MIKE HILL DENIES HOMESTEAD FRAUD, SAYS “DIRTY TRICKS” AT PLAY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics — Hill tells FloridaPolitics.com he “absolutely” did not break the law when he claimed a homestead exemption on a house he owns. The Pensacola Beach Republican responded Thursday to reports of his investigation by the Escambia County Property Appraiser’s Office for possible homestead exemption fraud. Hill said that he and his wife “are blessed to have a home in Pensacola, where we jointly hold a deed. That home has a homestead exemption and is the only home in our family that does.” A homestead exemption shaves $50,000 off the value of a homeowner’s residence, saving him or her on yearly property taxes. But that house must be the person’s “primary residence,” not a secondary or vacation house. “Because we enjoy the beauty of the beach we also lease a condo,” Hill said in a message. “We spend time in both homes. My residency to serve in the Florida House was certified by the House leadership, and the homestead exemption in Pensacola is in full compliance with the law. So in both cases there is absolutely no violation of any rules or any laws.”

POLL: JEFF CLEMENS PULLS AHEAD OF IRV SLOSBERG IN SD 31 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics —A tracking poll from Associated Industries of Florida shows the Lake Worth Democrat leads Irv Slosberg by 4 percentage points in Senate District 31. The numbers are a complete reversal from about a month ago, when Clemens trailed Slosberg by double digits. According to the survey, Clemens leads the field with 33 percent support. Slosberg is in second with 29 percent, followed by Emmanuel Morel with 4 percent. The survey found 34 percent of people were still undecided. A similar survey in July found Slosberg led Clemens 44 percent to 13 percent.

RANDOLPH BRACY, MARLENE O’TOOLE, MIKE CLELLAND, VIC TORRES GET SENTINEL ENDORSEMENTS IN FLORIDA SENATE RACES via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Citing experience in each case, the Sentinel went with Bracy in Orlando-based Senate District 11; O’Toole in The Villages-based Senate District 12; and Torres in Orlando-based Senate District 15. The pick in Orlando-based Senate District 13 is Clelland. In most cases the Sentinel noted that primary candidates, also have experience, but made the endorsements also based on who was most effective and willing to work across the aisle. Bracy faces former state Sen. Gary Siplin, former state Rep. Bob Sindler and environmental activist Chuck O’Neal … Bracy, the Sentinel said, “has served as his party’s ranking member on House Criminal Justice Subcommittee. He has worked well with the Legislature’s Republican majority.” O’Toole faces fellow state Rep. Dennis Baxley and businessman David Gee. The Sentinel criticized Baxley for pursuing politically divisive issues, while calling O’Toole “a strong conservative, but more pragmatic than her opponents.” Clelland faces fellow former state Rep. Linda Stewart and former Orange County School Board Member Rick Roach. The Sentinel praised them all, but called Clelland a ”quick study on issues, Clelland made ethics reform his signature issue during his term in the Legislature. He was willing to work across the aisle with the Legislature’s Republican majority, a smart strategy for Democrats who hope to be effective. “ Torres faces Kissimmee businessman Bob Healy … The Sentinel declared Torres “an active and effective legislator” who “worked well with Republicans on measures to improve public safety and prevent domestic violence.

ANTI-COMMON CORE GROUP RATES PRIMARY CANDIDATES ON COMMITMENT TO ABOLISHING COMMON CORE via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Florida Stop Common Core Coalition looked at six different primary races around the state and gave each candidate an A-F letter grade based on their positions against Common Core … FSCCC says the races were chosen where the candidates “worked really hard” against Common Core, publicly promised to work against it, or promoted it while making false claims of working against it. “Our grading system, just like that in schools, rewards hard work and punishes deception,” FSCCC Executive Director Dr. Karen Effrem explained. Rep. Debbie Mayfield received the top grade out of the 23 candidates, earning an A++. Mayfield is running for Senate District 17 … She’ll face off against Michael Thomas and Rep. Ritch Workman in the Republican primary. Workman in particular has been the subject of intense ire from anti-CCSS groups after he released a campaign ad saying he led the fight against Common Core in Florida, a statement anti-CCSS groups strongly opposed. Workman received an “F” from FSCCC. Rep. Ray Pilon also nabbed an “A+” rating. Pilon, who is running for Senate District 23. FSCCC slammed Republican Party of Florida Vice Chair Joe Gruters for suggesting the state “rebrand” Common Core as “Florida standards” at the governor’s education summit in 2013. “it is critical that promotion of this system and deceit about records not be rewarded,” continued Effrem. “The actions, campaign materials, of Reps. Workman (F), O’Toole (F), Passidomo (D), Baxley (D), former Rep. Holder (F), and candidate Joe Gruters (D-) are incredibly disappointing and dangerous.”

ENDORSEMENT WATCH:

Rebecca Negron, running for Florida’s 18th Congressional District, has been endorsed by the National Right to Life and Florida Right to Life PAC (FRTL PAC).

Bruce Antone, running for Florida House District 46, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).

Jackie Toledo, running for Florida House District 60, has been endorsed by the Florida Medical Association PAC (FMA PAC).

MaryLynn Magar, running for Florida House District 82, has been endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/Save America’s Free Enterprise (SAFE) Trust Political Action Committee.

POLITICAL SALSA: HILLARY CLINTON, MARCO RUBIO, DARREN SOTO, VAL DEMINGS WIN STRAW POLL via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – ClintonSoto and Demings and Rubio all won commanding straw poll victories at the Political Salsa event in Orlando … Clinton got 49 to Republican Donald Trump‘s 39 percent in the presidential question, with Libertarian Gary Johnsongrabbing 8 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein 3 percent Political Salsa, attended by several hundred people, focuses primarily on races and districts that involve significant Hispanic candidates or large Hispanic voter bases in Central Florida. … Rubio blew away all Republican, Democratic and other challengers in the U.S. Senate race, garnering 46 percent … Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy tied for second with 17 percent each. Fourth was Tony Khoury, a Palestinian Christian refugee from Miami running as an independent, with 5 percent, ahead of Rubio’s Republican challenger Carlos Beruff, who got 4 percent. Soto drew 48 percent in Florida’s Congressional District 9 … Wanda Rentas with 22 percent. Republican St. Cloud businessman Wayne Liebnitzky, Windermere biomedical researcher Dena Grayson, Orlando progressive activist Susannah Randolph and Kissimmee business instructor Valleri Crabtree were all bunched in single digits … Demings collected 41 percent, ahead Geraldine Thompson with 27 percent. Democrats Bob Poe and Fatima Rita Fahmy had 15 and 12 percent, while Republican nominee Thuy Lowe drew just 2 percent. Straw poll winners in other races include: Dean Asher in Florida Senate District 13; Peter Vivaldi in Florida Senate District 15; Aramis Ayala in the 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney race; Mike Miller in Florida House District 47; Amy Mercado in House District 48; Carlos Guillermo Smith in House District 49; and Rene Plasencia in House District 50.

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GOVERNOR SEEKS APPLICANTS FOR CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Scott opened the application process for the 2017-18 Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which meets once every 20 years. “Appointees will learn firsthand what issues and potential changes are most important to our families in order to best make these impactful decisions,” Scott said in a statement. As Governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners and selects its chairperson. That means he will indirectly influence the retooling of the state’s chief governing document for an entire generation. The Florida Constitution allows for a “revision commission” to meet every two decades to “examine the constitution, hold public hearings and … file its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it.” Past members include then-state Sen. C.W. “Bill” Young of Pinellas County, Tallahassee legal legend Dexter Douglass, and current northeast Florida Congressman Ander Crenshaw. The panel last met in 1997-98, when the GOP was still ascending to statewide power. That revision commission, for example, came up with the idea of collapsing the membership of the state Cabinet to its present three: The Agriculture Commissioner, Attorney General and Chief Financial Officer. Former elected positions that were Cabinet members, such as the Commissioner of Education and Secretary of State, now are appointed by the Governor and not Cabinet-level. In addition to Scott, the House speaker and Senate president each get nine picks.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce July job numbers in Tampa. Event begins 10 a.m. at:       Aero Simulation, Inc., 4450 East Adamo Drive, Suite 501 in Tampa.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will be in Sarasota for a ceremonial signing of HB 1061, Nurse Licensure Compact and HB 423, Access to Health Care Services. Media event begins 2 p.m. at the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network Annual Conference, 1000 Boulevard of the Arts in Sarasota.

>>>Kudos to Allison Carvajal of Ramba Consulting on making sure this event took place at the FNPN conference.

JUDGE DEFINITIVELY BLOCKS FLORIDA ABORTION LAW via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – A federal judge … definitively blocked a Florida abortion law that prevents state funds from going to organizations that provide abortions after the administration of Gov. Scott made the unusual decision to drop further legal action. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle had placed a temporary hold on the law in June just hours before it went into effect. The sweeping law also greatly increased inspection requirements for abortion clinics. Planned Parenthood challenged three parts of the law. But instead of taking the case to trial and offering additional evidence or legal arguments, attorneys for the Scott administration agreed to forgo further legal action. Hinkle held a brief hearing to discuss the move and issued his final ruling hours later. “We are grateful the court stepped in to stop Rick Scott in his tracks and protect access to health care,” said Lillian Tamayo, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. “If this law had gone into effect, it would have made a bad situation even worse.” The move by the Scott administration greatly sped resolution in the case. The state could still appeal the ruling, but Jackie Schutz, a spokeswoman for Scott, would only say they were “reviewing” Hinkle’s decision. Any appeal could be limited because the state cannot make any new arguments or offer additional evidence.

DODGY CONTRACTORS SHARE BLAME FOR HIGH RATES, LAST CHANCE INSURER SAYS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Don’t blame us for rising premiums, administrators of Florida’s high-risk property insurance pool told state regulators — blame lawyers and unscrupulous building contractors. And a bunch of burst pipes and overflowing washing machines in South Florida. John Rollins, chief risk officer for Citizens Property Insurance Corp., pointed to an increased use since 2013 of assignment-of-benefits arrangements, whereby contractors persuade policyholders to let them assume their claims in exchange for fast repairs. He said that 55 percent of claims this year were filed through these so-called AOB deals, and 76 percent through lawyers. This means claims are more likely to be litigated, take longer to resolve and cost more. “Citizens often never has a chance to properly inspect the damage or adjust the claims cooperatively with the insured. Once an AOB is signed, the insured is out of the picture,” he said. “The really sad consequence is that, if we could have held to the trends that prevailed in 2013, prior to the explosion in third-party claim involvement, three of every four homeowners multi-peril customers would have likely seen a rate decrease this year,” Rollins said. “Instead, over 80 percent will see increases. That’s over half our policyholders that swung from a decrease to an increase due to water-loss trends.”

AIF FOCUSES ON THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION AT SYMPOSIUM — Transportation and infrastructure, and its impact on economic development, were at the center of Associated Industries of Florida’s 2016 Building Florida’s Future symposium on Thursday. The daylong event brought together industry leaders, lawmakers and economic development experts to talk about the how transportation advancements are key to Florida’s economic success. Held at Port Tampa Bay, experts talked about Florida’s ports, autonomous vehicles and how private transportation companies can aid public transit. Tom Feeney, the president and CEO of AIF, said the event was successful because it gave leaders the opportunity “to hold a discussion on the future of Florida industries.” Feeney continued by saying “conversations on infrastructure funding, intelligent transportation systems, and intermodal connectivity, to name a few, were instrumental in fostering continued economic success for Florida’s transportation and maritime industries.” Speakers during the event included Sen. Jack Latvala, Sen. Jeff Brandes, and Rep. Jamie Grant.

— “Jack Latvala talks transportation, infrastructure during AIF symposium” via Florida Politics

— “Jeff Brandes: the future of transportation is ‘right around the corner’” via Florida Politics

— “Partnerships with Uber, others could be future of public transportation” via Florida Politics

WHAT BRANDES IS READING UBER’S FIRST SELF DRIVING FLEET ARRIVES IN PITTSBURGH THIS MONTH via Max Chafkin of BloombergBusinessWeek – Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved … Uber’s Pittsburgh fleet, which will be supervised by humans in the driver’s seat for the time being, consists of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles outfitted with dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar and GPS receivers. Volvo Cars has so far delivered a handful of vehicles out 100 due by the end of the year. The two companies signed a pact earlier this year to spend $300 million to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021. The Volvo deal isn’t exclusive; Uber plans to partner with other automakers as it races to recruit more engineers. In July the company reached an agreement to buy Otto, a 91-employee driverless truck startup that was founded earlier this year and includes engineers from a number of high-profile tech companies attempting to bring driverless cars to market, including Google, Apple and Tesla. Uber declined to disclose the terms of the arrangement, but a person familiar with the deal says that if targets are met, it would be worth 1 percent of Uber’s most recent valuation. That would imply a price of about $680 million. Otto’s current employees will also collectively receive 20 percent of any profits Uber earns from building an autonomous trucking business.

PSC CANDIDATE SUED FOR UNPAID CREDIT CARD BILLS via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Todd Chase says his $24,000 in unpaid credit card bills shouldn’t factor into his qualifications to be a state utility regulator. “It’s taken care of, settled and not an issue,” said Chase, one of three finalists for a spot on the Florida Public Service Commission. A government watchdog disagrees, saying it may reflect on “whether he is qualified to do the job.” Alachua County court records show that in May, less than a month after Chase applied for the PSC position, he was sued by Bank of America for an outstanding credit card balance of $24,142.50. Court records also show the case was settled out of court by July. Chase, a Gainesville city commissioner, said he was hit with a series of “unexpected expenses” that coincided with his mother being in hospice care. “I was going through a lot of personal issues,” the Harvard Business School graduate added.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Wadi Gaitan, William Hatfield of the Tallahassee Democrat, our friend Merritt Lindstrom, and lobbyist Bill Peebles.

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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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