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Sunburn for 8.8.17 – Fla. Chamber military summit comes to order; Claims bills piling up; Ag. Commish cand.’s raising dough; Lisa Edgar back in court; Fmr. Spkr. starts lobbying shop

in Peter by

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

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

Florida officials have long boasted the Sunshine State is one of the most military and veteran friendly states in the nation, and this week, their efforts are taking center stage.

The Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2017 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit kicks off at 8 a.m. at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, 6677 Sea Harbor Dr. in Orlando. The annual event brings together leaders from Florida’s military and defense industries, economic development experts and business leaders, and policymakers to address the challenges facing Florida in the coming years.

The day-long event is scheduled to include discussions about how federal discussions could impact Florida’s bases; the role the business community plays in transition veterans from active community to the workforce; and how the military and defense community acts as an economic driver.

And those are critically important issues to tackle, especially considering the state’s military and defense industries help support nearly 775,000 Florida jobs. According to the Florida Chamber Foundation, the military and defense industries account for about 10 percent of the state’s economy.

While speakers include business and military leaders — including Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; Wayne Peacock, the president of USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group; Kellie Jo Kilberg, the chair of the Florida Defense Alliance; and Bobby Carbonell, the executive director of Veterans Florida — look for the main event to come first thing in the morning, when Agriculture Commissioner (and 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Adam Putnam takes the stage.

Adam Putnam speaking at the Florida Chamber’s 2016 Military, Defense and Veterans Opportunities Summit.

Putnam is scheduled to take the stage around 9 a.m. It isn’t his first time attending the summit; he spoke to the crowd last year, telling those in attendance the state’s goal should be to expand its footprint, and to continue to be one of the “most military and veteran friendly” states in the nation.  

Putnam might be the only 2018 hopeful taking the stage, but he isn’t the only elected official on the line-up. Rep. Sam Killebrew is scheduled to take part in a panel discussion about creating veteran-owned business opportunities.

The summit kicks off at 8 a.m. Want to tune in? The Chamber Foundation will livestream the 2017 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit at floridachamber.com/MilitarySummitLive.

First in Sunburn – New Chamber video asks Floridians to help ‘shine a bright light’ on defense industry — The Florida Chamber Foundation is hoping to raise awareness about the military, defense and veteran community in Florida, releasing a new video to coincide with the 2017 Military Defense and Veterans Opportunity Summit that highlights the military and defense industries. “It’s difficult for the military and defense industry to grow when there’s so much political and economic uncertainty,” a voice over says in the new 2-minute and 30-second digital video. “As we grow and diversify Florida’s economy, we must strengthen and improve on our already existing successes.” The video calls on Floridians to join the Chamber to “protect, support and grow Florida’s defense industry, military and veterans’ workforce.”

Click the image below to watch the video.

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— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“Seminole Tribe representatives met with Rick Scott” via Florida PoliticsA month after ending a long-running blackjack dispute, Gov. Scott met with representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. It was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Monday at the Governor’s Mansion. Over a lunch of salmon, the governor “expressed his appreciation for the Tribe’s working with the Governor’s Office and thanked us for agreeing to settle,” Tribal lawyer Barry Richard later reported in a telephone interview.  “There was no discussion of any of the issues,” he added. “It was a social visit” … The two sides last month agreed to end an ongoing lawsuit over whether the tribe can keep blackjack tables at its casinos in the state. The settlement will allow the tribe to keep blackjack, but also guarantees that the state will continue to receive payments.

Assignment editors: Gov. Scott will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. at Think Anew, 1413 Tech Blvd, Suite 213 in Tampa to highlight job growth.

No laws broken, butAaron Bean deserved the scrutiny” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – The Florida Commission on Ethics has cleared Bean of charges that he improperly helped secure $1 million in state funding for a business owned by a friend. It would be easy to say that this proves that the scrutiny Bean faced about his involvement was unwarranted. I’m sure that is how he feels. But I disagree. It is true that the ethics panel cleared Bean of wrongdoing. But that doesn’t mean it was unfair for the media, starting with the Naples Daily News, to ask questions. Or that House Speaker Richard Corcoran should not have spoken out against the secretive way the $1 million appropriation was included in the budget. The person who questioned the appropriation was within his right to file complaints and ask for an investigation. Even though no rules were broken, at least from the Ethics Commission’s standpoint, I still believe the investigation was necessary. First of all, it shed light on the murky practice of private businesses and organizations getting money in the state budget by tucking it into universities’ budgets. Getting the facts and analyzing them, then pointing out shortcomings and doing better is what the watchdog components of government should do. The Ethics Commission investigation wasn’t for naught.

“Revealed in texts: Jack Latvala’s plan to undermine controversial charter school law” via Jessica Bakeman of POLITICO Florida – Latvala, chairman of the chamber’s appropriations committee, discussed a “plan” to scuttle FL HB 7069 (17R) with a Democratic colleague who later filed an amendment to try to strip the bill of its funding, according to text messages obtained by POLITICO. But Latvala won’t say more about what Hail Mary strategy he might have employed.

“Over $33 million in claim bills already filed for 2018 Session” via Florida Politics – The total amount requested for compensation for victims of acts of government negligence is $33.4 million, according to a new LobbyTools report. That figure includes only bills that list an amount; others are of “indeterminate” cost. So far, only state senators have filed such bills, also known as relief acts. Florida law limits local governments and other public bodies to paying no more than $200,000 per person in damages resulting from government negligence. To get more, lawmakers must pass a claim bill for extra money. Session begins Jan. 9, with the first committee week this Sept. 12-15.

Shark video could spur legislative action” via Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida –  As state investigators seek more evidence from the public about a growing number of videos that showcase abuse of sharks, legislation may be filed that seeks to better define state wildlife laws. “It is unfortunate that it takes events like this to bring to light other cruel animal abuses that occur on our waters,” state Rep. Alex Miller posted on Facebook last week in reaction to a video that showed a shark being dragged behind a boat at a high speed through Tampa-area waters. “If current law does not find this to be a prosecutable crime, I will present a bill this session that brings more clarity,” Miller said in the post. Miller’s Facebook post came before the Manatee County State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement announced they hope for a “swift and lawful resolution” to the incident that sparked the online outrage. Also, Gov. Scott called on state wildlife officials to review fishing regulations after watching what he called a “disturbing video” showing a “hateful act.”

Assignment editors – State Sen. Jack Latvala hosts a roundtable to discuss Florida’s opioid epidemic beginning 9:30 a.m. at Palm Beach State College.

Assignment editors – State Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado host a public town hall event at 6:30 p.m. at the Acacia Banquet Hall, 1865 N Econlockhatchee Trail in Orlando.

— AG. COMMISSIONER HOPEFULS RAKED IN THE CASH IN JULY —

Three Republicans — Sen. Denise Grimsley, Rep. Matt Caldwell, and former Rep. Baxter Troutman — are expected to report they raised more for their political committees in July than they did in the previous month.

The Division of Elections deadline for reporting July fundraising numbers is August 10. As of Monday evening, none of the candidates have posted fundraising information for their official campaigns or affiliated political committees to the state website. However, rolling campaign finance data posted to their political committees’ websites offers a glimpse into their July fundraising efforts.

Contribution data posted to the Friends of Matt Caldwell website shows Caldwell raised about $65,000 for his political committee in July. The single largest contributor during the one-month period was the Florida Prosperity Fund, which gave Caldwell’s committee $25,000.

Contribution data posted to the Saving Florida’s Heartland website shows Grimsley raised $49,000 in July. That’s up from one-month early, when state records show Grimsley’s political committee raised $20,000.

The single largest contributor during the one-month period was Floridians United for Our Children’s Future, which gave Grimsley’s committee $25,000.

Troutman is expected to report bringing in a combined $25,000 for his official campaign and his political committee, iGrow, in July.

The 50-year-old Winter Haven resident put $2.5 million of his own money into his official campaign account when he entered the race in June, immediately giving him front-runner status.

Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the Troutman campaign, said that fundraising lead allowed Troutman to spend the month of July building up grassroots support. The team plans to kick-off his fundraising efforts this month, which puts them one year out from the Republican primary. Troutman has brought on Kevin Hofmann, who has worked with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Rep. John Rutherford to help with his fundraising efforts.

Republican Paul Paulson and Democrat Michael Damian Christine are also running.

— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

Donald Trump: My base is stronger than ever, despite 2020 rumblings” via The Associated Press – In a flurry of early morning tweets, Trump says “the Trump base far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling).” He specifically criticized the “failing @nytimes.” The New York Times detailed efforts by some Republicans looking ahead to 2020, including Vice President Mike Pence. Pence called the report false. Trump also tweets that he is “working hard” from his private golf club in central New Jersey, while the White House heating and cooling system is repaired, and plans to head to New York next week for “more meetings.” He also reiterated personal attacks on Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Assignment editors: Putnam will visit Booker High School, 3201 North Orange Ave. in Sarasota at 3 p.m. to welcome school leadership, teachers and staff back to school. Rachel Shelley, the school’s principal, was recognized in June as the Florida 2017 Principal of the Year.  

– “Philip Levine has the money to be a top candidate, but what about the discipline and temperament?” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

First in Sunburn – Ashley Moody raises more than $119K in July — Moody is expected to report raising more than $119,000 toward her Attorney General bid in July, according her campaign. The former Hillsborough circuit court judge focused primarily on raising money for her official campaign account during the one-month fundraising period. Moody racked in several top endorsements in July, including from four Republican sheriffs and a key endorsement from State Attorney Bernie McCabe. Moody faces Republican Jay Fant in the race replace Attorney General Pam Bondi in 2018.  

Well-known Republican attorney to challenge Debbie Wasserman Schultz” via Amy Sherman of the Miami HeraldCarlos Reyes announced to supporters in an email that he will run against the Weston Democrat in his first bid for public office in the district. “Being the son of Cuban immigrants and many years in community service have taught me the values of hard work and tenacity,” Reyes stated in a press release Monday, the day he filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run in the Weston to northern Miami-Dade district. “As a strong advocate for programs that focus on faith, family and freedom, I’ve heeded the encouragement of hundreds of friends, family and community leaders that the time is right to run for United States Congress.” In November, Hillary Clinton won about 63 percent of the vote in the district making any challenge by a Republican a long shot. Reyes’ announcement comes at a time when Wasserman Schultz has been on the defense about waiting to fire an IT worker under federal investigation. But Democratic and Republican opponents face an uphill battle against Wasserman Schultz who has easily beat challengers for more than a decade.

Florida Democrats go after ‘Trumpcare’ in SD 40” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – Florida Democrats are attempting to tie Republican state Senate candidate Jose Felix Diaz to Trump through Obamacare. Repealing or replacing Affordable Care Act is not under the purview of the Florida Legislature, though state legislators did choose not to expand Medicaid under the law. But campaign fliers sent over the past few days to Democratic Senate District 40 voters in Miami accuse both Diaz, a sitting state representative, and Trump of trying to worsen health care coverage. South Florida has some of the highest rate of enrollment in the ACA’s federal insurance exchanges. “Jose Felix Diaz would bring Trumpcare to Florida (and cost millions of Floridians their health care),” reads the flier from the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, accusing them of pushing a plan that would increase premiums and leave people uncovered.

Quiet July on finance front for Paul Renner committees” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – “Florida Foundation for Liberty,” future House Speaker Renner’s primary committee, brought in just $35K in July (spending $20,383 of that), pushing the committee just over $240,000 on hand. Donations came in from political committees, including the Realtors, Surgi-PAC, and the Florida Credit Union’s political action committee. The biggest donation: $10,000 from MHK of Volusia County. Of the over $20,000 spend, $4,000 went to Ballard Consulting, $2,685 went to Renner’s campaign account for reimbursements, $10,000 went to another Renner committee, “Conservatives for Principled Leadership.”

Second candidate attacked by shadow group in HD 44 special election” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – The attack ads went after Republican John Newstreet two weeks ago, and now they’re going after GOP primary rival Bobby Olszewski in what looks like an effort to play both sides against each other. Everyone denies any connection with the group. Its leadership and ultimate funding sources have not been revealed. The Florida First Initiative has now been revealed, through a new state filing, as the source of money to another group, Central Florida Republicans for Truth, for a series of campaign mailers that went in late July attacking Newstreet, who is president of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. Last week Newstreet and his campaign expressed certainty that Olszewski, a small-business man and former Winter Garden commissioner, was behind Central Florida Republicans for Truth and the attack ads. Olszewski insisted that was not true. But now, The Florida First Initiative is running TV ads attacking Olszewski. And the new attack even criticizes Olszewski for attacking Newstreet, attacks that were done by the committee that The Florida First Initiative has funded, Central Florida Republicans for Truth.

Jose Vazquez Figueroa running in HD 58 special election – The perennial candidate, who lost to incumbent Republican Dan Raulerson last year, filed Monday to run in the special election to fill the Hillsborough County seat, campaign records show. Raulerson is resigning effective Aug. 15, citing ongoing health problems. Gov. Scott signed an executive order setting Oct. 10 for the primary and Dec. 19 for the general election. Republican Lawrence McClure also has filed for the special election. Records show Vazquez also filed to run in 2018 for House District 62, now held by term-limited House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. Win or lose this year, “I’ll move to (Cruz’s) district” next year, he explained. His appeal still is pending from the last election. Vazquez sued and lost in circuit court, claiming Raulerson’s 2016 candidacy was invalid because his notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork, which is prohibited by the state’s notary manual.

Christopher Licata announces plans to run in HD 62 — Republican Christopher Louis Licata III is the first Republican to announce he is vying to replace House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz in House District 62 in 2018, reports LobbyTools Legislative IQ. Licata is a U.S. Navy veteran is a currently studying at Saint Leo University. He is a Florida licensed armed security professional. Democrats Michael Alvarez, Carlos Frontela and John Rodriguez have also thrown their hat in the race. Cruz can’t run again because of term limits.

Save the date: The Miami-Dade Democratic Party will host its annual Blue Gala at 7 p.m.  Sept. 23 at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.

Interesting read –Facebook is starting to put more posts from local politicians into people’s News Feed” via Kurt Wegner of recode.net – The new feature included a label titled “This week in your government.” A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the feature is a test. “We are testing a new civic engagement feature that shows people on Facebook the top posts from their elected officials,” this spokesperson said in a statement. “Our goal is to give people a simple way to learn about what’s happening at all levels of their government.” The feature will appear, at most, once per week, and only for users who follow at least one local, state or federal representative from their area. Facebook knows who your local reps are if you handed over your address to use the company’s voting plan feature — or its “Town Hall” feature, which helps people find and follow their elected officials. Otherwise, you’ll just see posts from politicians at the state and federal levels.

— STATEWIDE —

Fed-up consumers across U.S. seek refunds from Pam Bondi” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay TimesPaul Powers of Sun City Center feels he got ripped off. He wants his money back … Bondi promises to help. Powers is among the first to seek a cash refund from the state as a result of overcharges by rental car companies that slapped extra fees on their own costumers who didn’t pay highway tolls. They didn’t pay because their rental car lacked a SunPass device and were forced to drive through one of the growing number of “cashless” toll booths on Florida highways. While renting from Avis, Powers skipped paying a $5 toll in June. Then Avis tacked on an administrative fee of $19.75 for a total bill of $24.75. Those “administrative fees,” which show up weeks later on credit card statements, are at the heart of Bondi’s settlement. Avis, for example, charged $3.95 a day even on days when a customer never passed a toll booth. The unregulated practice has gone on for years, threatening the tourist-friendly image Florida has spent billions cultivating. One Canadian paper called it “highway robbery.” The state Legislature took a look at the problem a couple of years ago but chose to do nothing. Since Bondi announced the settlement with Avis, Budget and Payless companies July 11, claims are trickling in slowly, possibly because many affected consumers live far away and aren’t aware of the settlement and won’t unless they read Florida news sites.

“Florida adds dozen more Zika cases” via The News Service of Florida – Florida health officials added another 12 reported cases of the Zika virus during the past week, including the first sexually transmitted case in 2017, according to information posted on the state Department of Health website. As of Monday morning, the state had 128 reported Zika infections this year, up from 116 reported a week earlier. Of the new total, 97 were classified as “travel related” — meaning people brought the mosquito-borne virus into Florida after being infected elsewhere — up from 88 last Monday. During the past week, the Department of Health announced that a person in Pinellas County had been infected with Zika through sexual transmission.

Coral Gables sues Instagram, Facebook to uncover identity of anti-Gables critics” via Jessica Lipscomb of the Miami New Times – The posts began appearing in May. Spotted first on Instagram and later on Facebook, someone set up a handful of social media accounts criticizing the City of Coral Gables for its use of private security guards. In typical Coral Gables fashion, the city was not pleased. So in late May, deputy city attorney Miriam Ramos fired off two cease-and-desist letters and sent them to Silicon Valley, threatening to fine Facebook and Instagram $500 a day if they didn’t remove the posts, which Ramos said infringed on the city’s trademarks. Now, the city is suing Mark Zuckerberg‘s multibillion-dollar businesses in an attempt to get the name, phone number and address of whoever “cast the city in a false light.” Only traces of the original pages still remain online. After being contacted, Facebook removed a page the city had complained about called “Protect Coral Gables,” although it was soon replaced by one with the even more innocuous name of “Coral Gables Residents Who Care,” which only has nine likes. The city claims Instagram is still circulating an ad from the same poster, but the city’s screen shot shows the ad had just 59 views. So far, Instagram hasn’t played ball. In what can only be described as the legal equivalent of an f-you, an intellectual property employee named Liam (no last name) told the city it basically had no ground to stand on.

Sly moves unmasked in UF search for president” via Cindy Swirko of the Gainesville Sun – Chartered jets between Gainesville and Orlando, hotel reservations made under false names and billed to companies affiliated with a University of Florida trustee — all were part of the search that led to the hiring of Kent Fuchs as UF president. Among the details found in the records: An Orlando hotel room for Fuchs, who at the time was provost of Cornell University, was booked for “Kent Peterson” … Reservations for hotels and chartered jets weren’t made by UF but instead by various companies for which trustee Steven Scott is listed as manager or agent … A meeting with Fuchs in Orlando was referred to by the hotel and UF officials as the “Alpha One” meeting with no mention of UF … spokeswoman Janine Sikessaid all of the costs were paid with private donations. She added that top-tier prospects for a university presidency typically want privacy.

Kent Fuchs is presented with an orange and blue tie by Board of Trustees Chair Steven Scott as he is introduced as the new president of the University of South Florida. Photo credit: Gainesville Sun.

Stripper sues Miami’s club Climaxxx for $65,000 in back pay” via Isabella Combs of the Miami New Times – One of the club’s former dancers, Cortney Wallace, is suing the club as well as its consulting company, Nightlife Solutions Inc., for $65,000 in back pay, lost wages, and unpaid overtime she says the company owes her. The lawsuit is just the latest in a trend of Florida exotic dancers suing to recoup wages, which are often paid out only in tips; a Key West club agreed to pay $1.2 million last year, while Hallandale’s Scarlett’s Cabaret ponied up $6 million to settle another suit. According to Wallace’s lawyer, the club required Wallace to work eight hours a day, five days a week without breaks, and she averaged 20 hours every month in overtime, “for which Ms. Wallace is entitled time-and-a-half.” After 14 months of employment, though, “zero checks were exchanged.” Wallace made about $1,000 a week in tips, but her attorney says the club never paid Wallace her wages, neglecting the state’s minimum of $5.03 for tipped employees in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act … the club also levied fines on the dancers.

Florida Beer Wholesalers kick-off 2nd annual statewide safe driving campaign — As students start to head back to school the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association is kicking off its second annual safe driving campaign to raise awareness about the increased risks around school buses and school zones. The campaign, which includes a 3-minute and 48-second video, is meant to be a refresher for professional drivers and a public awareness campaign. “We wanted to refresh truck drivers on the rules of the road related to school buses and pedestrian safety, as well as remind the general public that school is back,” said Mark Vroman, the immediate past president of the FBWA.

Click the image below to watch the video.

School’s Back. Drive Safely. from FBWA on Vimeo.

— MOVEMENTS —

“Lisa Edgar case headed back to court this week” via Florida PoliticsA case management conference has been set for Wednesday on criminal charges against Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run. In June, State Attorney Jack Campbell’s office filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident. Campbell is the elected prosecutor for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Leon County. Edgar, 53, is charged with driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show. She waived an arraignment hearing and pleaded “not guilty” in April.

Personnel note: H. Lee Moffitt starts own firm – Lobbying registration records accessed Monday show that the former House Speaker (1982-84) has withdrawn from Tampa’s Adams and Reese and started his own firm, H. Lee Moffitt P.A., also in Tampa. Moffitt, a Democrat who served in the Legislature 1974-84, shepherded a $600,000 appropriation for planning and $3.5 million in start-up funds in 1981 for the Tampa-based cancer center and research institute that now bears his name. He also drafted a bill earmarking $70 million from a state cigarette tax for construction. The center opened to patients in October 1986. Moffitt was in Boston on business this week and not immediately available for an interview.

Personnel note: Isadora Rangel moves to Florida Today – The former state government and political reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com  started Monday at their sister Gannett paper in Melbourne as a “columnist and public affairs  engagement editor,” she said. Rangel, 30, is a native of Brazil and graduated from Florida International University, where she played volleyball. She had worked at TCPalm since 2011. She previously interned at The Miami Herald and was part of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, according to her bio. Rangel reports to opinion and audience engagement editor Eve Samples, who is based in Stuart.

“Personnel note: Ryan West named CFO’s chief of staff” via Florida PoliticsChief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Monday announced in a press release he had named West his new Chief of Staff, effective later this month, taking over for the retiring Robert “Budd” Kneip. “Ryan has been a trusted member of my team since day one, and there is no one better suited to serve as my second in command,” Patronis said in a statement. “His instincts and experience have afforded him the tools to do the job, and I have full confidence that he will successfully lead our team for years to come.” West had been Patronis’ chief advisor when he was a commissioner on the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates investor-owned utilities. Kneip will retire Aug. 31, the office announced Friday. He had been former CFO Jeff Atwater’s man, a fellow Palm Beach Countian who served as Atwater’s chief of staff when he was Senate President, following him to the CFO’s office in 2010.

Judge Jennifer Gabbard to replace Ashley Moody – Gabbard, a Hillsborough County Judge, was named Monday by Gov. Scott to replace Moody on the 13th Circuit bench. Moody stepped down to run as a Republican for Attorney General in the 2018 election. Gabbard, 45, of Tampa, previously served as an assistant state attorney in the circuit, which serves Hillsborough County. She received her bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida.

— ALOE —

The conch is mostly gone from Florida. Can the Bahamas save the Queen?” via Jenny Staletovich of the Miami Herald – The queen of the sea, a monster mollusk that inspired its own republic in Florida but now is likely to be found in a frying pan or a gift shop as the ocean floor, is in trouble. A marine preserve in the Bahamas famed for its abundance of Queen conchs and intended to help keep the country’s population thriving is missing something: young conchs. Researchers studying the no-take park off Exuma, one of hundreds throughout the Caribbean, found that over the last two decades, the number of young has sharply declined as adult conchs steadily matured and died off. The population hasn’t crashed yet like it has in the Florida Keys, but in the last five years, the number of adult conchs in one of the Bahamas’ healthiest populations dropped by 71 percent.

Florida wilderness photographer Clyde Butcher back to work after stroke” via Eric Staats of the Naples Daily NewsButcher, 74, spent three weeks at a Sarasota rehabilitation center after he got out of bed on a Saturday morning in May and couldn’t walk or use his right hand. He spent four hours a day in therapy, relearning how to put on his shirt and feed himself, and working to walk and take stairs. Butcher said he is surprised at how well he has progressed, proudly recalling pushing his walker — he calls it his off-road vehicle — a mile down a boardwalk at Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring last weekend. “Any excuse to get out,” Butcher said. “This is really what helps me try to get back from the stroke. “If there’s a goal, you walk further. But if you have to just walk back and forth in a hospital room, not much fun.”

Iconic landscape photographer, Clyde Butcher, is recovering from a stroke he had in May, so instead of using his large format film camera, he is using a smaller digital camera and a walker with a seat to help him get around and make pictures. Photo credit: Naples Daily News.

Lighthouse sculpture at Disney’s grand Floridian honors toddler killed by gator” via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Walt Disney World has quietly erected a tribute to Lane Thomas Graves, who was killed by an alligator last year on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon. A gold lighthouse decorated with two blue stars sits on the shoreline of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Lane’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, chose the lighthouse “as a beacon of hope in the depths of despair” as a symbol for the foundation they started after their 2-year-old died. Since the accident, Disney has installed a boulder wall around the lagoon and signs warning guests about the dangers of alligators and snakes in the area. The Lane Thomas Foundation provides financial support to families with children in need of life-saving organ transplants.

“Lane was a beaming, spirited, and loving child who cared for his family deeply and creating The Lane Thomas Foundation is the best way to pass on the legacy he left on this world.”

New podcast looks at work of public defenders, criminalization of marijuanaHannah Ibañez, an assistant public defender with Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit, recently launched a podcast “Lavender, Liberty & Lemonade,” which covers a variety of topics including the criminalization marijuana and the criminalization of homelessness. In her most recent episode, she looked at the Public Defender’s Office, and spoke to Public Defender Bob Dillinger about what it means to be a public defender. The episode discusses the obstacles dealing with the criminal justice system, the most difficult part of the job, and some of their favorite client stories. To tune in, click here.

Happy birthday to one of the absolute best people in the process, Slater Bayliss, a friend who you can share a book or a drink with and he’ll always have something interesting to say. Also celebrating today is Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez.

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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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