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Sunburn for 9.14.17 – President Trump to visit Florida, while Irma’s death toll, costs rise

in Peter/Top Headlines by

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.

— THE LATEST — 

Presidential visit

President Donald Trump plans to visit the Naples area Thursday, “to make sure the troops that he’s put in place are doing their job,” said his homeland security adviser Tom Bossert. The federal government is helping people secure shelter with money for rent, hotels or pre-manufactured housing, he said.

By the numbers

– People still without electricity: 6.8 million – about a third of Florida’s population – with utilities saying it could take 10 days or more before all have power.

– People still in shelters in Florida: 13,000.

– Money raised by Tuesday night’s star-studded “Hand in Hand” telethon for Harvey and Irma victims: $44 million. Potential cost of damage to privately insured property in U.S. and the Caribbean: $55 billion

The death toll 

The confirmed death toll from Hurricane Irma stood at 61 Wednesday night. With the electrocution of a utility worker in the British Virgin Islands, at least 38 people were killed across the Caribbean. In the U.S., 23 deaths were reported in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Also, police are conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths of eight residents of a nursing home in Hollywood that lost power in the storm. The owner has been accused of health care fraud. As in other disasters, Irma poses particular risks to the elderly.

What’s happening in the Keys?

The lower Keys remain off-limits as crews check 42 bridges on the only highway to the mainland. County officials are pushing back against an initial estimate by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that 25 percent of homes were destroyed and nearly all the rest heavily damaged. Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers says “things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses.” Search-and-rescue teams haven’t found casualties in door-to-door searches, but they’re not entering shuttered homes.

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— THE DAMAGE —

NASA created this graphic showing relative soil moisture in Florida as Irma arrived:

“Irma’s wrath leaves Florida Keys reeling with onerous recovery ahead” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Thousands of Florida Keys homes might be destroyed. There’s no power, phone service or safe drinking water. Thousands might have to be evacuated. And the island chain’s economy is at risk. The Conch Republic is reeling more than anywhere else in Florida after Hurricane Irma. And it could get worse. … So far, Upper and some Middle Keys residents in the 110-mile chain of islands have been allowed to return. But many residents haven’t been readmitted, and they’re starting to chafe with government officials who told them they needed to evacuate before the storm, only to deny them the right to return home. … Monroe County officials … are also pushing back against the Federal Emergency Management Agency for publicly stating that as much as 25 percent of the housing stock in the Keys had been destroyed. FEMA later backed away from those estimates, a New York Times reporter tweeted Tuesday night quoting FEMA spokesperson Mary Hudak, who said “those were early estimates used for planning. I don’t know that we can refute them but I don’t know that we can confirm.”

Bonita Springs Wonder Gardens face massive tree, animal pen damage after Hurricane Irma” via Thaddeus Mast of the Naples Daily News – Last week, a huge tree canopy sprouted from behind the fences of Bonita Springs Everglades Wonder Gardens. Today, one of the hallmark roadside signs lies in ruins along with much of the attraction’s vegetation. “I’d say about 80 percent of our tree cover is gone,” said Thomas Hecker, executive director. “There wasn’t any sunlight here. Now it’s all sunlight.” The Wonder Gardens are home to dozens of birds, reptiles and alligators. However, trees, plants and ponds took up much of the 3.5-acre site. Going through a small crack in the fence reveals the damage. A maze now snakes between fallen trees and broken branches, giving workers just enough space to begin work. Some of the trees were planted when the Wonder Gardens opened 70 years ago. A sea of strong roots spread underneath the grounds, and they didn’t tend to uproot. Instead, many palm trees snapped at the base. A thick, gorgeous banyan tree had fallen on the pathways, cutting right at the base. Some uprooted palms could be transplanted, but staff is fighting against the clock.

Gov. Rick Scott joined Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels and FWC officers to survey flood damage along Black Creek in Clay County following Hurricane Irma.

Nursing home where 8 died in sweltering heat had poor record with state regulators” via Carol Marbin Miller, Charles Rabin, David J. Neal and Caitlin Ostroff of the Miami Herald – The Hollywood Hills nursing home where eight elderly people died has a history of poor inspections and is affiliated with a South Miami hospital with a troubled past of its own. The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has a health inspection rating of “much below average” by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, which evaluates all long-term care facilities in the state for the U.S. government. Its “overall rating,” which includes staffing, fire safety and health inspections, was “below average.” Tom Sanchez, police chief for Hollywood Talks Wednesday’s morning sept 13,2017 about eight deaths at the Rehabilitation center at Hollywood hills. The deaths may be attributed to the loss of AC due to the Hurricane Irma.

– “Nursing home manager where seniors died has history of fraud” via Florida Politics

“A Florida assisted care facility sheltered in place for Irma. The power went out. For three days.” via Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post – Cape Coral Shores, on a peninsula west of Fort Myers on the Florida Gulf Coast, had 20 patients stay during the storm … Power went out at the facility … and was not restored for days even as homes and businesses all around it saw their lights come back on … A handful of small fans powered by a borrowed generator were all that kept the situation from devolving into a medical emergency[.]”

– “As Osceola retirement community floods, residents wonder what’s left” via Ryan Gillespie of the Orlando Sentinel

Elderly couple missing after evacuating from Florida amid Hurricane Irma” via Morgan Windsor of ABC News – Florida residents Milan and Lucille Yezic were last seen Saturday night at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET at a gas station near Interstate 75 in Ocala. At the time, the 89-year-old husband and 86-year-old wife were headed to Pennsylvania to evacuate as Irma barreled toward their home state, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities issued silver alerts for the missing couple after they didn’t return to their home in Venice … Neither have cellphones and they both suffer from “varying degrees of dementia,” the sheriff’s office said.

Adam Putnam says citrus industry hard hit by Irma” via The News Service of Florida – Florida’s already-struggling citrus industry “suffered serious and devastating losses” in Hurricane Irma, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Wednesday after an aerial tour of groves in central and southwest parts of the state. “It’s still too early to know the full extent of the damage to Florida citrus,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. “But after touring groves on foot and by air, it’s clear that our signature crop has suffered serious and devastating losses from Hurricane Irma.” Earlier in the day, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he was hearing from citrus growers that up to 75 percent of the early-season crop has been lost to the powerful hurricane that blanketed the state Sunday and Monday.

A photo from an aerial tour taken by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Wednesday, showing a submerged citrus grove. “It’s clear that our signature crop has suffered serious and devastating losses from Hurricane Irma,” Putnam said.

— LIGHTS OUT —

“Amid fear of ‘riots’ and ignored storm warnings, Gov. Scot wants power on ‘now’ in Florida Keys” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Gov. Scott has a message for electric utilities after Hurricane Irma: “We need our power back on now.” Without electricity, the Keys sewer system isn’t working and lights are out. In the unsafe conditions, local officials are keeping residents from returning to the hard-hit Middle and Lower Keys. But that very safety precaution is starting to worry police who are in charge of enforcing a road block at mile marker 74, where displaced residents are becoming increasingly angry. “There could be something like a riot,” said one officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, to POLITICO Florida. “It’s hot. People are angry. They want to get home. And we’re telling them no. It’s not really safe to go home, but we might not have a choice.”

Where is my power? Frustration grows on why some have it and others don’t” via Nancy Dalberg of the Miami Herald – Customers across South Florida took to Twitter to vent their frustrations as they endured a fourth day without electricity. The good news: In South Florida, more than 425,000 households had their power restored in the past 24 hours, including parts of Miami, Miami Beach and Coral Gables, according to reports. FPL CEO Eric Silagy said Tuesday that all or nearly all power should be restored on the east coast of Florida, including Miami-Dade, by the end of this weekend. FPL is restoring power first to critical services, such as hospitals, police and emergency operations, and next to large commercial areas. Then come the neighborhoods. To be sure, massive power outages are statewide, involving regions served by a number of utilities. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, 3.3 million homes and businesses remained without power statewide, more than 31 percent of the 10.5 million electric accounts in Florida. That’s down about 3.4 million, though, from the peak outage reported by the state of more than 6.7 million accounts — 64.2 percent of the state — at 4:40 p.m. Monday. Along with outage information, FPL posted on its website: “Communication systems across Florida were impacted by Irma, causing issues with our systems. If our system displays, you have power and you don’t, please report it. We apologize for any issues you may experience.”

FPL restarts two nuke units as power restoration continues post-Irma” via Bruce Ritchie POLITICO Florida – Florida Power & Light Co. says two nuclear units that were safely shut down during Hurricane Irma were restarted Wednesday morning. … As a precaution, FPL had shut down the two nuclear units at its Turkey Point power plant near Homestead and one of two units at the St. Lucie nuclear plant near Fort Pierce. “Three nuclear facilities are online and one is offline,” said Rob Gould, vice president of marketing and communication. “They are in safe condition as far as the one offline.”

A worker is silhouetted against the setting sun as he works on a power line in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Marco Island. Photo credit: David Goldman.

JEA unable to say yet when customers get power back” via David Bauerlein of the Florida Times-Union – JEA customers sweating out power outages can go to the utility’s online map and zoom to the zones for almost 600 outages across the city. But when it comes to getting a forecast for when the air conditioning and lights will come back on, the message for every outage is the same: “Assessing situation.” That doesn’t sit well with Jacksonville resident Andrew Johns, whose Ortega home had been without power since 10 p.m. Sunday. He also was keeping tabs Wednesday on his mother, who lives in a Springfield neighborhood still waiting to get juice back. “I know they can’t guarantee us a time, but at least give us a window,” he said. JEA says it’s holding off on giving estimates until after it completes a systemwide assessment, including use of helicopters and drones. The utility posted a message saying the online map will be updated with estimated restoration times “once assessments have been made.”

What Florida’s massive, post-Irma power outage looked like from space” via Chris Spata of the Tampa Bay Times – Stunning images from NOAA and NASA satellites show what Florida’s lights looked like from space before and after Hurricane Irma left millions in the state without power. The darkness is perhaps most stark in the Florida Keys, normally a bright line off the state’s tip, which appears completely dark on in the after-Irma image.

From the Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument, courtesy of NOAA. On the left is Florida on May 11, 2017 at around 3 a.m. The right is Sept. 11, 2017 at the same time.

— THE RESPONSE —

Rick Scott orders ‘freeze’ on insurance rate hikes” via the News Service of Florida –  Scott ordered the state’s top insurance regulator to “freeze any and all efforts” to increase property-insurance rates as homeowners and businesses recover from Hurricane Irma. A news release that included directives from Scott to Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier did not detail rate proposals that could be affected by the 90-day freeze. “Due to the devastating effects of Hurricane Irma, Floridians should be focused on getting back to their normal lives without their insurance premiums being increased,” Scott said in the news release … Scott also said policyholders who had coverage canceled or not renewed in the days leading up to Hurricane Irma should receive 90 days to renew their policies or find new coverage. Also, he directed Altmaier to provide an additional 90 days for policyholders to submit required information to insurance companies.

Katie Edwards’ eye on the storm turned into genuine public service” via Nancy Smith of the Sunshine State NewsIn five days, starting Thursday, Sept. 7, Democrat Edwards used email and social media to inform a nervous District 98  what was available, what to do when, what to expect, how to prepare before the category 4 storm to ease the pain when it was over. Edwards didn’t have to do it. It was an above-and-beyond-the-call public service effort from a busy practicing attorney and state representative in her third term in the Florida House. Harry Winters, a transplanted New York cab driver, told me,” Katie isn’t my rep, I live in Fort Lauderdale. But I’m on her email list, and this stuff she sent out about the storm came at just the right time. She helped me think the storm through,” he said. “I took pictures of everything in my house, I got ready and kind of felt confident Sunday. … She gets some of the credit.” Edwards explained she has a communication habit that goes back to her days at the Dade County Farm Bureau.

Citizens Insurance reports 8,000 claims and rising as policyholders return home” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Some 8,000 Irma-related insurance claims have landed with Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — and counting … That was the number as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, company spokesman Michael Peltier said … Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation was tallying claims filed but had not yet posted the numbers on its website. Citizens, established by the Legislature as the state’s insurer of last resort, is invested in Florida’s most disaster-prone areas — including coastal areas that suffered most during Hurricane Irma. Citizens estimated total claims might reach 125,000 — but the figure was “very, very preliminary,” Peltier stressed.

Melissa Nelson announces hotline, plans to prosecute Irma-related crimes” via Andrew Pantazi of the Florida Times-UnionNelson announced a new hotline to address crime related to Hurricane Irma, and she dedicated two of her top prosecutors, along with herself, to address the cases. Chief Assistant State Attorney Leh Hutton will handle cases in Nassau and Clay counties, special prosecutor Joe Licandro will handle Duval cases, and Nelson herself will oversee the prosecutions. The office will reopen Thursday. This isn’t the first time the office has set up a dedicated hotline. Not long after taking office this year, Nelson also dedicated a special hotline for its human-rights division, which prosecutes police brutality, elder abuse, human trafficking and hate crimes. That same hotline — 904-255-3099 — will now be used for storm-related crimes.

Pasco: FEMA reverses course on aid eligibility for residents” via C.T. Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times –The federal disaster declaration for Florida, signed before Irma made landfall, excluded Pasco property owners from automatically seeking reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Authority for repairs to their houses or businesses. The designation is based primarily on the hurricane’s forecast path. FEMA reversed course Wednesday afternoon and added Pasco to the list of counties where individuals are eligible for aid, according to the office of U.S. Rep Gus Bilirakis, who had asked the agency to amend its initial declaration. FEMA aid, however, is not a stopgap for private insurance, said Kevin Guthrie, Pasco’s assistant county administrator for public safety. Over the past decade, the average FEMA payout to individual property owners in Florida has been $6,000, and the amount is capped at $36,000.

SWFMD brings in pumps to South Florida for Irma flooding via The Associated Press – Pumps are being moved into southwest Florida to help drain floodwaters from communities drenched by Irma’s rainfall and storm surge. The South Florida Water Management District was temporarily moving three pumps from Palm Beach County to Collier County, which officials say was one of the hardest-hit areas in the 16-county district that spans a region stretching from the Keys in the South to Orlando in central Florida. The district also is helping Orlando International Airport drain water from its property to nearby Boggy Creek, officials said. Floodwaters also are being pumped into Lake Okeechobee away from communities and business in the Glades region south of the lake, officials said.

Outpouring of support and aid leaves Alafia flood victims surprised, emotional” via Christopher O’Donnell of the Tampa Bay Times – Shocked at the devastating flooding that has left dozens of residents with virtually uninhabitable homes, volunteers and local groups have turned the gas station at the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest and Rose Street into a staging area for a community-led relief effort. The scene is akin to a mini-FEMA operation. Along one side, a line of tables is stacked with free food, water, soda and coolers. Around the rear of the gas station are piles of donated clothing. Trucks stacked with donations from food pantries are parked nearby to refill supplies. Throughout the day, people who are still without power were ferried to CrossFit for Glory, a Fishhawk Ranch gym that had agreed to open its doors so people could get their first shower in days using donated towels, shampoo and soap.

On the hunt for missing sailboats after Irma swamps Miami marinas” via Douglas Hanks of the Miami Herald – Up and down the Biscayne shoreline, Irma has sparked a grim and unlikely exercise of lost-and-found: owners of bus-sized sailboats looking for their vessels, and owners of waterfront property stuck with multi-ton cruisers in their backyards. Registration information should eventually connect most of the parties, followed by a nautical diagnosis on whether the boats can be salvaged by a crane or destroyed on the spot. But it’s a challenging process, given post-Irma communication handicaps, extensive damage to hulls wiping out identifying markings, and the outright sinking of some vessels. At PortMiami, crews had to clear four submerged sailboats from the channel to allow cruise ships to begin using the passenger terminals again. And across Miami, towboat operators are being flooded with calls for help with vessels that Irma sent well below their waterlines.

— THE POLITICS —

“Cotterell: Why the secrecy at the hurricane command post?” via Tallahassee Democrat – Gov. Scott has been more visible than ever in the past week, touring disaster sites and being interviewed on network news shows during the preparation and recovery from Hurricane Irma. His control of information has also been more ironclad than usual. Scott has been praised for his handling of the crisis but, considering he’s a likely candidate for the U.S. Senate next year, it’s significant that his office totally controls access to even the most mundane details. Coming straight from the corporate world, he’s always been more secretive than his predecessors, although they all manage the news to some extent. It just matters more in a crisis.

Bill Nelson: Republicans ‘denying reality’ on climate change” via Michael Grunwald of POLITICO – Nelson said it’s clear that manmade global warming made Irma worse by increasing the temperature and the height of the seas that fueled the storm. He said he didn’t want to play partisan politics in the aftermath of a hurricane, but then went on to criticize Republicans in general and [Florida Gov. Rick] Scott in particular—though not by name—for opposing climate action. He noted that both the Trump administration in Washington and the Scott administration in Tallahassee have reportedly discouraged government employees from even talking about climate change.

“A balance of power for South Florida politicians” via Sun-Sentinel – As they directed national, state and local response to Hurricane Irma, elected officials with homes in South Florida also had to worry about getting the power back on. For many of them, that wasn’t an issue. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, never lost power. Just to the south, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch had a few tree limbs down around his house in West Boca and briefly lost power, but it had come back by Wednesday. But further south, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was still powerless and worse. “We are on well water, not hooked up to the county system, so that means we haven’t had water either,” she said.

Irma may affect voices of Florida taxpayers” via Tampa Bay Times – Hurricane Irma could delay some Florida taxpayers’ voices from being heard … The powerful hurricane bore down on the state as cities, counties, school boards and other taxing bodies were scheduling two public hearings required by law before they can set property tax rates for the new fiscal year. The hearings are usually held in September. (The fiscal year for local governments begins on Oct. 1, and the state fiscal year begins July 1). The executive director of the state Department of Revenue, Leon Biegalski, issued an order on Sept. 6, temporarily waiving the timing requirement for local taxing authorities to hold public hearings. The directive was based on Gov. Scott’s Sept. 4 executive order that declared a statewide emergency in Florida in advance of Irma’s arrival. The public hearings still must be held, but can be held later than usual, and the usual notice requirements for newspaper ads remain in effect.

— THE PATH FORWARD —

Irma is just the beginning, Sandy victims warn Floridians” via Alex Daugherty of the Miami Herald – In 2011, The National Flood Insurance Program told Claudette D’Arrigo that her Highlands, New Jersey home was structurally sound after Hurricane Irene. When Superstorm Sandy hit 13 months later and caused her home to flood, it was a different story. The nation’s government-run flood insurance program, which ensures 1.7 million homeowners in Florida, determined that she had 20 years of earth erosion under her home, which meant she wasn’t eligible for an insurance payout. After submitting her 2011 document three times and contacting New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez failed to result in a payout, D’Arrigo filed an appeal in April 2015. Her appeal was heard in January 2017 and she received her payout in August 2017. As Florida and Texas begin cleanup from Hurricane Irma, New Jersey and New York homeowners who endured flooding from Superstorm Sandy five years ago are urging Congress to overhaul the nation’s flood insurance program. They want greater protections from fraud while allowing private insurers to enter the market to avoid the delays after Superstorm Sandy.

“Back to school: Public universities begin re-opening” via Florida Politics The State University System says the University of Central Florida, the University of North Florida, New College of Florida, the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida’s Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses will reopen today (Thursday). USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus reopening has yet to decided. Those waiting till Monday to resume classes include Florida Atlantic University, Florida A&M University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida Polytechnic University, and Florida State University.

UF, Gainesville bounce back from Hurricane Irma” via the Independent Florida Alligator – Gainesville Regional Utilities was quick to respond to outages. GRU is still working on restoring power to about 14,000 customers, said Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe during a telephone conference with the city’s emergency management officials. About 44,000 GRU customers in and around Gainesville have had their power restored, as of press time. “That’s a remarkable job in a 24-hour period, and actually one of the best turnarounds in the entire state through this storm,” Poe said. Power outages also affected many street lights, which were out Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

“Irma delays financial aid selection for Florida’s struggling schools” via Miami Herald – Some of Florida’s lowest-performing traditional public schools will have to wait a bit longer to find out if they’ll be among the 25 schools that will get financial help through a new state program called “Schools of Hope.” The State Board of Education was supposed to meet in Tallahassee on Wednesday to select the recipients out of the 57 eligible schools that applied. But, like so much else in Florida this week, Hurricane Irma derailed those plans. The board met instead by conference call on Wednesday, and it left a decision on the “Hope” schools for another day.

— REMNANTS —

Did local Indian mounds save Tampa Bay from Irma’s worst? Some say yes” via Colleen Wright of the Tampa Bay Times – The Tampa Bay area hasn’t suffered a direct hit from a hurricane since 1929. Did American Indians who roamed the land centuries ago protect Pinellas with a blessing? Depends on who you ask, says Rui Farias … When he’s not teaching a Florida history class at St. Petersburg High, he works as executive director of the Saint Petersburg Museum of History near the Pier. The Tocobagans’ village capital was where Safety Harbor is today, but their mounds, both sacred and burial, are found from the Gandy Bridge along the peninsula to the Gulf Coast.They either wanted to protect their lands, or “they wanted hurricanes to come here and punish us for Spaniards” who arrived here around the 16th century, Farias said. He says it’s less of a blessing or a curse than it is about the science behind hurricanes. But many still believe the blessing protects us. “It’s almost like when a myth becomes history,” Farias said. “As time goes on, it comes true.”

4 motels in 5 nights: Our life on the run from Irma” via Mary Rajkumar of The Associated Press – Hurricane veterans tell us that like surgery, the recovery is almost as bad as the thing itself, as you try to patch back together a semblance of normality without power in broken neighborhoods. The power is likely to be out for weeks — and in the 90-degree heat of a Miami summer, that is a sweaty proposition. School is out indefinitely, in part because some schools are serving as shelters and people have nowhere to go. But we feel grateful and incredibly lucky. The pictures of the utter havoc wrought by Irma in the Caribbean are a sobering reminder of what might have been. The Big One didn’t hit us directly, and, most importantly, we are all alive and safe. The same can’t be said for many others in Irma’s path, who will be dealing with the death and destruction she brought for a long time to come.

Woman fleeing Irma wins $10K in North Carolina lottery” via The Associated Press – A Florida woman fleeing her home because of Hurricane Irma will go back home with $10,000 after buying a lottery scratch-off ticket during a stop in North Carolina. The North Carolina Education Lottery reports Tiffany Hatfield of Ocoee stopped at a Rocky Mount convenience store before continuing to Virginia. The mother of three said she only stopped at the store because her daughter had to use the bathroom. She said she and her children started screaming when they realized they won. Hatfield claimed her prize Tuesday. She is already on her way back to Florida, and said she plans to use the money for any repairs she needs, and to redecorate the house with any money left over.

— CAPITOL INSIGHT —

“Constitution panel calls off meetings” via The News Service of Florida – The state Constitution Revision Commission has called off meetings scheduled for next week in Tallahassee and will reconsider a deadline for the public to submit proposed constitutional amendments, commission Chairman Carlos Beruff said Tuesday. Meetings scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday, including a full commission meeting, were canceled as the state recovers from Hurricane Irma. A committee had previously recommended a Sept. 22 deadline for public proposals. “The CRC (Constitution Revision Commission) will … reevaluate its public proposal filing deadline to help ensure that Floridians interested in the CRC process can remain focused on their families during this time,” Beruff said in a prepared statement. “Until a new deadline is recommended by the CRC Rules and Administration Committee, and approved by the full commission, we will continue to accept all proposed constitutional amendments filed by Floridians.”

“Lisa Edgar case set for pre-trial” via Florida Politics – The former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director appears headed for trial on criminal charges stemming from her April arrest in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run. Court dockets accessed Wednesday show Leon County Judge Layne Smith scheduled Edgar for a pre-trial conference on Oct. 18. The 53-year-old Edgar 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 has pleaded not guilty. After leaving the PSC, Edgar resigned as director of the Florida Park Service this February after less than two months on the job, citing “an immediate family emergency.”

“Personnel note: David Ballard joins Tom Lee’s office” via Florida Politics – Ballard becomes Legislative Assistant for Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican. Prior to joining Lee’s staff, Ballard worked as an attorney and consultant in the areas of community affairs, real property, and regulatory compliance. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law and from Lycoming College in Pennsylvania with a undergraduate degree in business administration.

 — NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —

“Democratic groups — historically at odds — work together in Miami special election” via POLITICO Florida – With an eye toward flipping the Florida Senate to its favor, two Democratic organizations that have long had an uneasy relationship with each other are coming together to back Annette Taddeo. The Miami Democrat is running in a Senate District 40 special election seen as a key pickup opportunity for the party, inching closer in recent years to taking control of the Senate. A political committee called South Florida’s Future gave $365,000 last month to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which coordinates Democratic Senate campaigns. It is run by incoming state Senate Majority Leader Jeff Clemens. South Florida’s Future is tied to a loosely-aligned group of progressive donors that have historically not worked with the formal Florida Democratic Party or the Senate committee, which since December has been officially separate from the party.

Has Bobby Olszewski already won the HD 44 election?” via Scott Powers of Orlando Rising – Democratic nominee Paul Chandler‘s stealth resignation from the special election for Florida House 44, combined with Hurricane Irma, might have already given the election victory to Republican nominee Olszewski. Chandler filed his resignation Friday, but the Florida Secretary of State’s office was closed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday because of Hurricane Irma. So the resignation was not noticed until Wednesday. The Florida Division of Elections posted it Wednesday, and notified elections and party officials that Chandler was out. If a political party wants to replace a candidate who withdraws, the party has five days to do so, under Florida law. The candidate then has two days to qualify for the ballot. The election is Oct. 10. Some absentee ballots already have been filled out. Democrats are trying to organize a meeting to pick a replacement candidate. If it all works out for them, voters in HD 44 would be notified that a vote for Chandler will be counted as a vote for the replacement nominee. But does the five-day period for that selection, followed by two days for the new candidate to qualify, begin when Chandler notified the state, or when the state notified the party? Saturday. Sunday. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Does that count? Orange County Democratic Chairman Wes Hodge said he is confident the clock began ticking when the party was notified Wednesday. That is when he and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel received notification from the Florida Secretary of State’s office of Chandler’s resignation, and the notification stated that the county party has until Sept. 20 to select and qualify a replacement candidate.

– “Two weeks before a special election, are Florida Dems already giving up?” via John Lucas of The Capitolist

— MOVEMENTS —

“Justin Sayfie cancels Sayfie Review Summit” via Florida Politics  Sayfie announced Tuesday he had cancelled his upcoming “Sayfie Review Summit” set for this Thursday and Friday because of Hurricane Irma. “It was a difficult decision to make but our state’s focus in the coming days should be on disaster response, recovery and relief,” Sayfiewrote in an email. “There will always be time to talk about the big issues and trends impacting Florida, but now is the time to help each other in the wake of Irma’s aftermath so our communities will emerge even stronger and better,” he said. This year’s Summit had been scheduled for the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

New lobbying registrations

Marty Fiorentino, Joe Mobley, Mark Pinto, The Fiorentino Group: Marcus Button, Mark & Robin Button, as parents of Marcus Button; Natural Therapeutics of Florida, LLC.

Nick Iarossi, Jim Boxold, Ashley Kalifeh, Andrew Ketchel, Ron LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Ceres Environmental Services

Brooke Tiner, Aetna

— ALOE —

ACC teams, players tossed in state of flux by Irma’s wrath” via Hank Kurz of The Associated Press – Games have been postponed, practices suspended and players throughout the conference have been left wondering about their families’ welfare as news reports of flooding and power outages dominate the news. The much-anticipated Florida State-Miami Top 25 matchup was pushed back. The league postponed that game, and several others, because of the storm. The No. 11 Seminoles and No. 17 Hurricanes will now play Oct. 7, while Georgia Tech’s game at Central Florida was canceled. South Carolina didn’t escape Irma, as four colleges in the state near the coast remain closed and Utilities South Carolina reported more than 63,000 customers were without service Wednesday morning. Clemson was pelted with hit with wind and rain, but did not feel the brunt of the storm. Campus was closed Monday and Tuesday, but Irma didn’t impact the football team’s practice plans for the third-ranked Tigers’ scheduled showdown at No. 14 Louisville Saturday.

What Chris Spencer is reading –Self-driving boats: The next tech transportation race” via Matt O’Brien of The Associated Press – Self-driving cars may not hit the road in earnest for many years – but autonomous boats could be just around the pier. Spurred in part by the car industry’s race to build driverless vehicles, marine innovators are building automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific. The first such autonomous ships could be in operation within three years. One experimental workboat spent this summer dodging tall ships and tankers in Boston Harbor, outfitted with sensors and self-navigating software and emblazoned with the words “UNMANNED VESSEL” across its aluminum hull. “We’re in full autonomy now,” said Jeff Gawrys, a marine technician for Boston startup Sea Machines Robotics, sitting at the helm as the boat floated through a harbor channel. “Roger that,” said computer scientist Mohamed Saad Ibn Seddik, as he helped to guide the ship from his laptop on a nearby dock. The boat still needs human oversight. But some of the world’s biggest maritime firms have committed to designing ships that won’t need any captains or crews — at least not on board.

Happy birthday to Daniel Martinez, former Rep. Bryan Nelson, and Brian Pitts.

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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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