florida politics Archives - Page 3 of 39 - SaintPetersBlog

Sunburn for 3.29.17 – Budget fireworks; Mid-Session thaw on gambling; Netflix & chill bill; Vanna White at The Villages!; Spider Man trailer!!!

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

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


So now the lines of negotiation are being drawn over the budget, the one bill constitutionally required to be passed every session, and already lawmakers are entrenched.

As our Michael Moline reported Tuesday, a House panel committed $25 million to VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

That’s far less than the $76 million recommended by its Senate counterpart earlier in the day.

And say goodbye to a plethora of business subsidies and Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development organization, if the House had the final say.

But it doesn’t.

Kudos to Rep. Clay Ingram for the money quote: “If we were to go to conference right this second, I have no idea how it would turn out.”

No kidding.

Even Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is ticked off. He said the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee did a “political assault” on Fresh From Florida.

“Gutting the Fresh From Florida program will hurt Florida’s small farms the most, their ability to raise awareness for the high quality of their locally grown products and compete against lesser quality products from foreign countries,” Putnam said in a statement.

On the flip side, Americans for Prosperity-Florida is upset with the Senate for not being parsimonious enough.

Chris Hudson, its state director, opined in a press release that Enterprise Florida is in the “handouts” business.

“We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that Floridians know which members of the legislature support corporate welfare and the programs that give away their tax dollars to private businesses instead of better supporting real priorities like education and infrastructure,” he said.

Wait, isn’t that Gov. Rick Scott’s trick, going to members’ home districts and publicly shaming them for not voting his way?

So much stress! What’s the game plan to get to #SineDie in 60 days? Can we do it? Special session, anyone?

That’d be a lot easier to stomach if we still had our free candy and soda on the 5th floor. Alas, nothing—including shiny, happy feelings in the Rotunda—lasts forever.

FINEOUT EXPLAINS – THE LOOMING BUDGET BATTLE via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print — After listening to leaders in the House and Senate discuss their priorities, the expectations are that the rival budgets could be widely divergent in what they cut, what they keep and what they enhance. There are a multiple reasons for that, whether it’s Senate President Negron‘s push for increased money for state universities, or Speaker Corcoran‘s insistence that the state shutter its economic development agency Enterprise Florida.

But less noticed is that the House, Senate and Gov. Scott have chosen to include information that supports their arguments, while seemingly sidestepping other salient points. This could influence the tenor of the debate that is about to intensify. So it might be worthwhile and step back for just a second to recall how everybody got here and what’s important to remember for the budget battle that still lies ahead. …

DON’T CALL IT A DEFICIT: There is no budget deficit this year. Plain and simple. To understand the underlying budget situation, it’s important to realize this. In Florida a deficit occurs when the state collects less money than what is needed to pay for things that are in the budget. Florida’s tax collections are in fact growing. The main budget account – known as the general revenue account – is expected to grow in the current fiscal year by 4.4 percent, or $1.23 billion.  This same account, which relies on a variety of tax sources but primarily the state’s sales tax, is expected to grow $1.16 billion – or 3.9 percent – in the fiscal year that starts on July 1. …

THE SCHOOL TAX DEBATE:  If there is one item that could derail the entire budget process it’s the thorny annual dilemma over school property taxes. Here’s the problem: As property values rise, this translates into more money collected by local school districts that could be spent on public schools. In other words, if the value of your home goes up you will pay more in taxes in the coming year – unless the tax rate is lowered by an equal amount to offset the increase in values. Legislators don’t appropriate this local property tax money – BUT – they do draw up spending plans that assumes a mixture of both local and state funding. This is known as the Florida Education Finance Program or FEFP and districts that wish to draw down the state funding must collect a certain amount of money. (This is known as the required local effort or RLE.) … Scott has maintained that this isn’t a tax increase and his own budget recommendation relies on nearly $558 million in increased local school taxes to help pay for an overall 3 percent increase in per-student funding. …

BOTTOM LINE: Under the current schedule legislators are operating under the House and Senate are expected to pass their budgets during the second week of April. That week is already truncated because of religious holidays so it is highly unlikely that any negotiations or work can begin until April 17. That means legislators will have about 15 days to get everything worked out in order to get a budget finished on time. That’s because Florida law requires the budget to be finished 72 hours before the final vote. So that’s a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.

Besides the above-mentioned topics there’s other issues at play, including pay raises, more money for charter schools etc. The clock is ticking.

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HOUSE BUDGET WOULD ADD ‘EMERGENCY’ $200 MILLION FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS via Florida Politics – The House public education budget would be extra kind to charter schools next year, pumping $200 million into charters specifically targeting children stuck in persistently low-performing classrooms. The money would provide grants to “charter school networks with a proven track record of serving specifically low-income students and successfully closing the achievement gap,” said Manny Diaz Jr., chairman of the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. … “This is intensive care,” he said. “This is one of those intensive tools to go after that.” Diaz wants to give more money to teachers, too, including $200 million to make Best and Brightest Scholarship bonuses available to more teachers.

HOSPITALS FACE MEDICAID CUTS IN FIRST DRAFTS OF STATE BUDGET via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida state lawmakers proposed cuts to Medicaid that could take as much as $621.8 million away from hospitals next year. The proposals, put forward by the House and Senate health care budget subcommittees are meant to reduce the state budget, but they have hospitals on edge. In the House, Rep. Jason Brodeur recommended cutting the state’s share of Medicaid by $238.6 million. However, Medicaid is mostly funded by the federal government, so every dollar the state cuts has more than double the impact. The House proposal would take $621.8 million total from hospitals. Sen. Anitere Flores… recommended more modest cuts in the Senate: $99.3 million from the state budget, or a $258.6 million total hit.

LIBERAL GROUP ATTACKS ANITERE FLORES OVER BUDGET via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – A left-leaning political group is attacking Flores over potential state budget cuts moving through her legislative subcommittee. Florida Strong, a nonprofit that went after Flores and other Republicans during last year’s election, mailed some of Flores’ constituents, urging them to call Flores’ office and oppose the cuts. It’s Florida Strong’s first flier of the annual lawmaking session, spokesman Charly Norton said. “We are focusing on legislators’ priorities this session and plan to continue shedding light on misplaced priorities that run counter to Floridians’ best interest.” Flores chairs an appropriations subcommittee that considers budget proposals — in some cases, even if Flores isn’t the one behind them or doesn’t agree with them.

CARY PIGMAN CLEARED IN STATE ETHICS CASE, RESIGNS CHAIRMANSHIP via Florida Politics – State Rep. Pigman did not misuse his official position to retaliate against a school principal in his district, an administrative law judge ruled this week. In a 22-page order, Judge June C. McKinney recommended that the Florida Commission on Ethics dismiss its case against the Avon Park Republican, first elected in 2012. He still faces a DUI charge from an unrelated incident last week. Pigman, also a doctor of emergency medicine and Army Reserve physician, had been accused of “linking his efforts to obtain legislative funding for the Okeechobee School District … to retaliate or attempt to retaliate against an employee of the School District.” That employee was elementary school principal Tracy Maxwell Downing, the ex- sister-in-law of Pigman’s former secretary, Libby Maxwell, with whom he had been having an affair and to whom he is now married. In an unrelated move, Pigman stepped down Tuesday as chair of the House Health Quality Subcommittee, after being charged last week with drunk driving on Florida’s Turnpike.

HOUSE MARIJUANA BILL DRAWS SUPPORT FROM ANTI-MEDICAL MARIJUANA CROWD via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The House proposal to implement Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment cleared its first committee Tuesday by a 14-1 vote, drawing praise from some early critics of the amendment. “It is my concerned opinion that this bill should be advanced,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, a group funded by wealthy developer Mel Sembler, who has donated millions opposing medical marijuana constitutional amendments. She listed her worries about what implementation has looked like in other states and added “I want to see my state protected.” … (Ben Pollara) pointed to the bill’s backing by Drug Free America, which had vigorously opposed the amendment, as a clear indication that the bill is not what voters were looking for when they cast their ballots in favor of the amendment.

HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES WATERED-DOWN RECESS BILL via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – The Florida House K-12 Innovation Subcommittee passed a watered-down version of a bill to require recess in public schools … Lawmakers unanimously approved a committee substitute bill for the original proposal, HB 67, which would blend recess and physical education classes as part of Florida’s 50 minute per week requirement for physical education. The original proposal would have required school districts to provide a mandatory 20 minutes of recess each day when P.E. classes aren’t held — adding up to 100 minutes of recess time each week for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. That change to the bill is especially controversial among physical education experts, who say adding recess in addition to physical education has several benefits, including improving memory, attention and concentration.

DESPITE CITY AND COUNTY PROTESTS, VACATION RENTAL BILL GAINS GROUND via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Despite opposition from Miami and Miami-Dade and a group of beach communities, a Florida House subcommittee passed a bill that prevents cities and counties from passing any new ordinances that restrict vacation rentals of private homes. The 9 to 6 vote by the Careers & Competition Subcommittee sends the controversial bill to the 30-member Commerce Committee, which is top-heavy with lawmakers from South Florida where opposition to short-term vacation rentals has been most intense. The bill (HB 425), sponsored by Rep. Mike LaRosa prevents local governments from imposing new restrictions on vacation homes. Local ordinances that were in effect June 1, 2011, could remain, but restrictions adopted after that date, including laws based on a 2014 legislative compromise, would be declared “void and unenforceable” by the state and wiped off the books. “This industry has been under attack,” LaRosa testified. “Individuals’ private property rights have been violated.”

BILL JEOPARDIZING SFRTA FUNDING PASSES FIRST COMMITTEES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – An omnibus bill that in part dictates how the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority can be funded passed the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee. A provision in HB 865 would require the Department of Transportation to withhold funding for the SFTRA unless the transportation institution rescinds a $511 million contract it awarded earlier this year. An amendment was offered by Rep. Kristin Jacobs … that would have stripped the language in the bill relating to SFRTA funding. The amendment was initially adopted, but eventually failed after a second vote was taken.

COMMITTEE REJECTS BILL THAT WOULD STOP FUTURE EXPRESS LANES via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A bill seeking to end Florida’s practice of developing tolled express lanes was rejected by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. Various members of the committee cited some reasons why they would not want to see Florida stop developing special lanes that could give higher-speed options through typically congested areas to high-occupancy cars or drivers willing to pay tolls for that privilege, and House Bill 777 went down. Part of the debate centered on those who believe such tolled specialty lanes — dubbed HOT lanes, express lanes or Lexus lanes — are the only practical way to add capacity to crowded expressways, versus those who see them as unfair. But sponsor Rep. Matt Willhite argued that his bill was a safety measure, citing accident statistics and anecdotes suggesting that they’re a public safety hazard, more trouble than they’re worth.

FANTASY SPORTS BILL CLEARS FIRST PANEL via Florida Politics – With no debate, a bill to exempt fantasy sports play from state gambling regulation was OK’d by a House panel Tuesday. The measure (HB 149), sponsored by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur, cleared the Tourism and Gaming Subcommittee. It would clarify that fantasy contests “reflect the relative knowledge and skill of the participants” and are not games of chance and thus potentially illegal gambling. The legislation specifically includes games based on “athletes in the case of sports events.” A Senate version goes further, creating a separate office to oversee fantasy sports companies operating in the state.

— “Mid-Session thaw: Gaming bill is headed to conference” via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald

NETFLIX, HULU TAX EXEMPTION BILL PASSES FIRST SENATE COMMITTEE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Internet video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube would not be subject to taxation under the communications service tax, a bill (SB 1636) that passed unanimously the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee …  A staff analysis said some states and cities are starting to apply taxes to streaming video to make up for decreasing CST revenues. The bill “exempts internet video service from the definition of ‘communications services,’ and therefore from the communications services tax.” Bill sponsor Sen. Frank Artiles, said there is a “tremendous amount of confusion” over which companies should be collecting CST tax of streaming video.

HOUSE ADVANCESPILOT PROGRAM TO TREAT MENTAL HEALTH VERSUS JAIL via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A House committee voted unanimously in favor of a bill to begin the Forensic Hospital Diversion Pilot Program in the Panhandle’s Okaloosa County. Rep. Mel Ponder, who sponsored HB 1051, introduced the measure to the House Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee. The bill intends to alleviate overcrowding in the state’s prison corrections system with a significant percentage of individuals with mental health needs. Often, those individuals go ignored while incarcerated. Ponder cited fully one-quarter of Okaloosa’s inmates had some sort of mental health need, with the county ranking first in the region for such an issue. “When I heard we were the No. 1 county in northwest Florida, it just lit my fire even more,” he said.

HOUSE POISED TO REINSTATE FEDERAL RESIGN-TO-RUN REQUIREMENT via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – The state changed the law in 2007 when Gov. Charlie Crist, then a Republican, was in office and there was buzz that he could wind up seeking higher office. In essence the change meant that Crist or any other elected official didn’t have to resign from their current office if they planned to run for president, vice president, U.S. Senate or Congress. The argument at the time – which was when Marco Rubio was House speaker (but after Corcoran had left as his chief-of-staff) was that Florida should do what it could to help its rising stars seek higher office without forcing them to give up their existing posts. This is a practice common in many other states. … (The House) election bill doesn’t just stop there – it has a few other changes sure to draw fire, including a proposal to force cities to have their elections at set times instead of whenever the city wants to schedule it. The bill would also not allow someone to run as a independent candidate (technically NPA – no party affiliation) if they are actually registered with a party.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

‘RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES’ MEASURES DIVERGE, BUT ADVANCE via Kristen Clark and Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times – A fast-tracked bill in the Senate (SB 436) — one of President Joe Negron’s top priorities — passed its second and final committee Tuesday on a party-line vote, shortly before a House panel unanimously advanced its own version (HB 303). The House conversation was in stark contrast to the Senate’s discussions, where that chamber’s measure has polarized members. The bills were once identical, but the House Pre-K-12 Quality Subcommittee amended its bill to make it more narrow than the Senate’s — removing some of the more controversial elements, such as a requirement that school districts adopt a Florida Department of Education-crafted policy that “establishes a limited public forum for student speakers at any school event.” Such a provision would allow students of different faiths to, for example, pray at school assemblies.

SENATE PANEL OKS FORMALIZING NON-ABORTION PREGNANCY CENTERS INTO LAW via Amy Sherman of the Miami Herald – After a brief but divisive debate, the Senate Health Policy Committee advanced a bill that would enhance an existing state pregnancy services program that excludes abortion referrals. SB 1130, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean … would for the first time place into Florida statute a program that provides state funds to a network of pregnancy centers. The program has been operating since 2005 outside of statute, with funding provided on an annual basis during budget negotiations. The Pregnancy Support Services program has fielded 5,796 hotline calls and provided 120,929 services to 24,184 women and families, Bean testified. “In statutes, we can further direct the Department of Health to firmly establish the program rather than relying on a proviso that could be changed every year,” Bean testified.

HAPPENING TODAY – FSBA DAY AT THE CAPITOL — The Florida School Boards Association will host its 30th annual FSBA Day in the Legislature from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The annual event is meant to enhance the organization’s advocacy on education issues under consideration by the Florida Legislature, and includes legislative briefings, advocacy training and the opportunity for education leaders to meet with state lawmakers.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a round table to discuss economic development programs aimed at Florida’s military and defense communities at 2:15 p.m. at the Florida Army National Guard Building, 13433 Crossover Street in Jacksonville.

MUST-READ: DID FLORIDA DCF CREATE MEDIA FRENZY AFTER FOSTER CHILD’S SUICIDE TO DISTRACT FROM AGENCY ERRORS? via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Naika Venant’s mother vehemently refutes narratives by the state agency in a March 13 report, including suggestion she ‘allegedly’ commented on Facebook Live thread taunting daughter while watching and did nothing; lawyer says agencies ‘abysmally failed’ Naika. Gina Alexiswanted to clear the air on many issues she claimed were misreported in the press or by the agencies tasked with the safety and well-being of her daughter through the Department of Children and Families (DCF) – Our Kids of Miami-Dade Monroe and the Center for Family and Child Enrichment (CFCE). She was frank in discussing her daughter’s gravitation toward age-inappropriate sexual behavior, her attempts at trying to rid her daughter of poor behavior picked up in foster homes when reunited with Naika and the frustration of being re-admitted to a system that controlled their every move and set unrealistic expectations at times. And Alexis was beholden to Naika’s rebelliousness, she said, which included sometimes lying about abuse to authorities when she wouldn’t get her way or when she was punished because she knew her mother was deathly scared of DCF.

EYE SPECIALISTS ARE SECRETLY SELLING PATIENTS, CRITICS SAY via Richard Minter and Joseph Hammond of the American Media Institute – The dark side of patient co-management or share-care, which some ophthalmologists and optometrists describe as dangerously inadequate. Rather than just the practice of an optometrist referring a patient to an ophthalmologist for care, co-management is a fee-sharing arrangement where ophthalmologists perform surgeries and optometrists provide post-surgical care. Co-management means big money for optometrists, who are not medical doctors. “In most places in the U.S., cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure,” says Jaime Membreno, a Kissimmee-based ophthalmologist. “If you say out of 100,000 cataract surgeries (which cost can cost between $600-$2000), that 20 percent are co-managed, that’s generating something like $50 million per year.” While referrals are commonplace across medicine, giving a fee to a professional making a referral (co-management) is not common outside of eye care. The practice is largely confined to postoperative cataract care, where optometrists refer patients to eye surgeons in return for getting a fee for supervising the patient’s recovery. The problem is that non-doctors, such as optometrists, often cannot treat surgical complications as doctors can. Optometrists and ophthalmologists … said that due to Florida’s large elderly population co-management is rampant — and the fee-splitting is usually not disclosed to patients.

FLORIDA LOTTERY APPEALS CONTRACT CASE via Florida Politics – As expected, the Lottery filed a notice Tuesday that it was appealing a decision against it earlier this month that invalidated a $700 million contract for new equipment. A Tallahassee judge agreed with House Speaker Richard Corcoran that the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the deal last year. The multiple-year contract involved new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. The Lottery is booming — it sold more than $6.2 billion in tickets last year, records show. But Judge Karen Gievers said the deal broke state law by going “beyond (the Lottery’s) existing budget limitations.” She faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

MEANWHILE … VANNA WHITE TO APPEAR AT THE VILLAGES FOR NEW LOTTERY SCRATCH-OFF TICKET via Jerry Fallstrom of the Orlando Sentinel – White will pitch the lottery’s new $10 Wheel of Fortune ticket. She will be on hand from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Spanish Springs Town Square to sign autographs, pose for photos and answer questions from audience members. There also will be live entertainment and giveaways starting at 10 a.m.White — a “Wheel of Fortune” mainstay since 1982 — drew crowds of fans during an appearance a year ago on a rainy Saturday at Lake Sumter Landing to trumpet a $5 Wheel of Fortune scratch-off ticket.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

HOW BILL NELSON SHOOK UP THE GORSUCH NOMINATION FIGHT via Marc Caputo of Florida Politics –  By announcing on Monday his intention to filibuster Gorsuch, Nelson raised questions about the judge’s path to 60 votes and revealed newly shifted political fault lines in the confirmation fight. Faced with the prospect of a primary challenge in the event he didn’t filibuster and the likelihood of a tough general election campaign against Gov. Scott either way, Nelson chose to lock down his left flank. … Nelson’s announcement on Gorsuch — more than 10 days before he had a chance to vote — was widely praised by liberal and Democratic activists as well as his three potential opponents. Those who follow Nelson closely say they’re not surprised by his decision. The party is shifting left and so is he.

HAPPENING TODAY – MIKE HUCKABEE TO KEYNOTE LEGISLATIVE PRAYER BREAKFAST — The former Arkansas governor is scheduled to give the keynote address at the annual Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition/Concerned Women for America annual Legislative Prayer Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Huckabee will hold media availability at 7:15 a.m. outside Meeting Room C.

POLL SHOWS SUPPORT FOR OPEN PRIMARY ELECTIONS IN FLORIDA via Florida Politics – Robopolling from a coalition of groups that advocate creating an open primary system in Florida found strong support from voters having such an initiative on the ballot next year. The survey was conducted on behalf of three groups seeking an open primary system in Florida: Open Primaries, Tim Canova‘s Progress For All and Florida Fair and Open Primaries. It found 73 percent of respondents saying taxpayer-funded primaries should be open to all voters. Also, 72 percent support a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to individuals who have completed their sentences for nonviolent criminal offenses. The poll also found that 74 percent of Floridians want independent voters — 27 percent of the Florida electorate — included in primary elections.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS CONCERNED ABOUT CRC AHEAD OF FIRST MEETING IN ORLANDO via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – The League is a part of a coalition of groups along with Planned Parenthood, Equality Florida and others who “fear proposed rules and rushed meetings create roadblocks to meaningful public participation” and not that “The first public hearing of the CRC, set for Wednesday evening in Orlando, was scheduled with almost no public notice, without any coordination with commission members to determine their availability to attend, and before adoption of rules of procedure.” The first meeting of the CRC is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. at the University of Central Florida as part of its “Floridians Speak, We Listen” tour. Both Conservative and Progressive groups have been trying to mobilize supporters for a high turnout.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

KELLY MATHIS SEEKING REINSTATEMENT OF LICENSE, EXPUNGEMENT OF FLORIDA BAR DISCIPLINARY RECORD via Marilyn Young of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – Mathis’ record on The Florida Bar website shows the legal battle he has been in for four years. The word “suspended” is in blue type on the left side, while “Not Eligible to Practice Law in Florida” is in red on the right, directly above Mathis’ photo. Those declarations are the result of his October 2013 conviction in the Allied Veterans of the World case, in which prosecutors said he was the mastermind of a $3 million gambling ring. Mathis was sentenced to six years but allowed to remain free on bond pending his appeal. His conviction was overturned three years later by the 5th District Court of Appeal. This month, the Attorney General’s Office decided not to pursue a second trial. Brian Tannebaum, Mathis’ Bar attorney, filed documents last week to get his client’s law license back and his record expunged, the latter of which would be unusual. The Bar doesn’t object to either request.


David Ash, DLA Consulting Firm: Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council

Bill Rubin, Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Elite DNA Therapy Services

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Banyan House Condominium, Inc.

Jose Boscan, Boscan & Associated: Waste Management Inc of Florida

Sarah BuskAl CardenasStephen Shiver, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Florida Conference of Circuit Judges

Bryan Cherry, Adams Street Advocates: DataLogic Software, Inc.

Justin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc

Terry Deason, Radey Law Firm: Duke Energy Florida, Inc; Florida Power & Light Company; Tampa Electric Company

Rob Fields, Suskey Consulting: Optimum Software Solutions, Inc.

Gary Guzzo, Floridian Partners:  Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, Rob Johnson: The Mayernick Group: Arizona Facilities Supply, LLC

Jeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: Government Services Group, Inc

Kathleen Maus, Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Allison Mawhinney, GrayRobinson: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Mark Maxwell, SCG Governmental Affairs: DriversEd.com

John Stephen Menton, Rutledge Ecenia: HCA Healthcare

Heather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Elite DNA Therapy Services, National Busine

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Wednesday’s Governors Club buffet takes a Caribbean vibe with conch chowder soup; yucca salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; tomato salad; carne asada- beef; chicken a la plancha; BBQ grilled salmon; arroz con gandules and black beans.

ESPN WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS COMPLEX CELEBRATES 20 YEARS via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –Since it opened in 1997, the story of the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort has been written through the athletes who have competed on its fields, courts and diamonds. Each year the complex hosts more than 100 annual athletic events. It has become a place where athletes challenge themselves, push their limits and make their sports dreams come true.

IRON MAN STEALS THE SHOW IN ‘SPIDER MAN: HOMECOMING’ TRAILER – Our latest look at the webbed hero prominently features Robert Downey, Jr.’s veteran superhero, guiding and scolding the young Peter Parker (Tom Holland) who may be eager, but clearly has a lot to learn. If you ever wanted to see Spidey and Iron Man save the Staten Island Ferry together, you are very much in luck. The trailer also introduced us to Michael Keaton‘s Vulture/Adrian Toomes, who is wreaking havoc all over New York. Click on the image below to watch the trailer.

UNIVERSAL ANNOUNCES CONCERT LINE-UP FOR ROCK THE UNIVERSE via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising –  More than 14 Christian music artists will play Sept. 8 and 9 at Universal Orlando. This year’s line-up features GRAMMY award-winning singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin; two-time GRAMMY award-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae; and Casting Crowns, who’s held the position of Billboard’s top-selling Christian music act since 2007. The Coca-Cola Fan Zone returns with autograph sessions and opportunities to interact with Christian artists, such as Steve MalcolmHollyn and Kolby Koloff. Electronic Dance Music spins each night with GWAVI and DJ Promote. The event ends with a Saturday night candle lighting ceremony.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two great Floridians, Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge and lobbyist Louis Betz.

Sunburn for 3.28.17 – Disruption day in the Capitol; Bondi’s D.C. moves; Max Steele exits

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

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


With the House set to tackle legislation aimed at vacation rentals and the Senate taking up a bill focused on ride-booking services, it seems like 2017 might just be the year lawmakers embrace some of the technological advancements many Floridians use on a regular basis.

A recent survey from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research showed 41 percent of Floridians thought online platforms and technologies — like Airbnb, HomeAway, Uber and Lyft — helped Florida’s economy. Not surprising: 55 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds said they thought this technology was helpful to Florida’s economy.

While the proposals advancing through the Legislature could be seen as a boon for consumers (and the tech companies), local governments could end up on the losing end when it comes to their home-rule authority.

Take, for instance, a bill (HB 425) aimed at vacation rentals. If approved, the bill would roll back local ordinances and regulations of vacation rentals to ones on the books in 2011. Any ordinances passed after 2011 would be thrown out.

It’s clear there’s support for vacation rentals: The Mason-Dixon survey found 93 percent of Floridians said tourists should be able to rent accommodations other than hotels during their trips to Florida.

Supporters of the measure say the regulations can stifle the tourism industry. During a meeting earlier this month, Lori Killinger, a lobbyist for the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, said the vacation rental industry is a $31 billion a year industry, but that goes to one homeowner at a time.

Local governments are coming out in opposition to the bill, saying home rule authority should give them the right to decide for themselves what to do about vacation rentals.

The bill cleared its first House committee earlier this month, and is expected to be discussed during the 8 a.m. House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting today.

Elsewhere in the Capitol, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to discuss a bill (SB 340) that would regulate transportation network companies, like Uber and Lyft. The proposal creates minimum insurance requirements and requires background checks — and preempts any local ordinances and rules on these companies.

The proposal has the backing of Uber and Lyft, but local governments and the groups representing them are less than pleased.

The Senate bill will be discussed when Judiciary Committee meets at 3 p.m. today, while the House proposal (HB 221) is will get its first hearing on the House floor on Thursday.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

MIKE HUCKABEE REITERATES OPPOSITION TO 2018 RUN via Kelly Humphrey of the NWF Daily News — Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee made one thing perfectly clear during his speech Saturday at the Okaloosa County Republic Party’s annual Lincoln Dinner. He is not now, nor will he ever be interested in running for governor of Florida. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. “There may be somebody thinking about it, but let me be real clear — it ain’t me,” Huckabee told the packed house of more than 300 people. “There is a greater likelihood that I will have transgender surgery than I will run for the governor of any state, at any time, or anything, anywhere. It ain’t happening.”

IS PAM BONDI WHITE HOUSE BOUND? via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – In a sign she might be bound for the White House, Attorney General Pam Bondi made a special Monday trip to meet with President Donald Trump and two Cabinet secretaries to talk about children’s issues with fellow Floridians and former football greats Tony Dungy and Derrick Brooks in tow. Bondi’s visit, which included meetings with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, gave a small indication that she’s testing the waters for an as-yet-unnamed job in Trump’s White House before her term expires in 2019.

Saying she’s happy with her work in Florida, however, Bondi would not discuss her next move — despite months of speculation about whether or when she would leave.

STEVE BITTEL VISITS TALLAHASSEE TO RALLY DEMOCRATS TO ‘MOVE FORWARD NOW’ via Florida Politics – Florida Democratic Party Chairman Steve Bittel came to Tallahassee Monday to detail his efforts to rebuild following the November disaster. “It’s been a disheartening time,” Bittel said, but he urged members of the Leon County Democratic Party to transform their disappointment into action.  “We should be angry. We lost Florida, and we shouldn’t have lost Florida. I candidly say all over the state, that loss is on us. We could have done more. It was close. We all regret it. We can only move forward now. He sees a chance to pick up three seats in the state Senate next year, for 18 total in the 40-member body. (Rene Garcia will be term-limited out, and Frank Artiles and Dana Young seem gettable, he said.) He believes Bill Nelson will win re-election to the U.S. Senate. Especially if Donald Trump inspires a pro-Democratic wave election. “But there’s a lot to do,” he said.

STATE PAID LAW FIRM FOR MEETING WITH HOUSE SPEAKER via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – Newly-released billing records show that in October 2014 the firm of Broad and Cassel charged the state’s economic development agency ahead of a meeting between its affiliate, the state Division of Bond Finance, and Corcoran – putting the meeting in the crosshairs of a new review by the governor of potential conflicts of interest. At the time Corcoran was not speaker but he already was viewed as one of the most powerful members in the Legislature.

Corcoran, who has worked at Broad and Cassel since 2011 in its Tampa offices, told The Associated Press that he was unaware that his firm asked to be paid to prepare for the meeting with him. But he said he attended the 2014 meeting as a legislator and not because he was required to do it for his job. He said he and all legislators are routinely asked by friends and colleagues to meet with people to discuss issues and problems they have with state government. “Just because I work in a firm doesn’t mean I can’t do legislative aspects for people I know,” Corcoran said.

SEMINOLE TRIBE: JUDGE’S SLOTS RULING COULD COST STATE ‘MULTI-BILLIONS OF DOLLARS’ via Florida Politics – If it looks like a slot machine, and plays like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is telling state leaders. An order by a Tallahassee judge, first reported by FloridaPolitics.com, declared that certain slot machine-style entertainment devices aren’t slot machines under state law. The Tribe disagreed. It now says those games violate a deal between the Tribe and the state, known as the Seminole Compact. That could have “massive consequences costing the Tribe and the State to lose multi-billions of dollars,” according to the Tribe’s recent court filing. In a letter sent last Wednesday to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Tribal Chairman Marcellus Osceola said the games were “an expansion of gaming” and a “serious violation” of the compact, which guarantees the Tribe exclusive rights to slots outside of South Florida. If so, that would entitle the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

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HOUSE HEARS BILL TO ALLOW UTILITIES TO CHARGE FOR EXPLORATORY FRACKING via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The House Subcommittee on Energy and Utilities on Tuesday will hear the proposal sought by Florida Power & Light to allow the company to expand its rate base by charging customers for investments in natural gas fracking operations in other states. It’s the only bill on the agenda for the committee’s three-hour time slot and it’s sudden appearance on the committee calendar surprised even the committee’s chair, Rep. Kathleen Peters who had been told by House leaders that the bill was not going to get a hearing.

HOUSE PANEL VOTES TO ABOLISH PIP INSURANCE EFFECTIVE JAN. 1 via Florida Politics – A House committee voted overwhelmingly Monday to do away with personal injury protection, or PIP, insurance in Florida. The vote in the Insurance & Banking Subcommittee was 12-2, with Jay Fant and Blaise Ingoglia the holdouts. PCS/HB 1063 passed despite concerns by insurers that they need stronger protections against bad-faith lawsuits by people injured by their policyholders.  Medical providers, meanwhile, argued that requiring accident victims to file lawsuits would make it harder for them to get paid. Michael Grant, a Republican from Port Charlotte, summed up the mood among many committee members. “This isn’t a perfect bill,” he said. “But I can’t continue to vote for or sustain a PIP environment that is just completely broken.”

HOUSE TRAUMA CENTER BILL CLEARS FIRST HURDLE via Florida Politics – A limit on how many trauma centers can open in Florida would be erased under legislation that cleared its first committee Monday. The bill (HB 1077), sponsored by state Rep. Jay Trumbull, was OK’d on a 10-5 vote. Among other things, it also does away with the system of trauma service areas and regions, relieves the Florida Department of Health of setting standards for the centers, and would streamline the process for new ones to open. Trumbull, a Panama City Republican, told the panel a main reason for the bill was to cut down the many lawsuits against the department, which has to OK new centers.

HOUSE JUSTICE BUDGET PLAN CUTS $1.3M FROM ARAMIS AYALA’S OFFICE via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – The budget proposal released by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice takes a $1.3 million whack at the office of State Attorney Ayala, putting funding for 21 full-time staff members into a reserve under the state Justice Administrative Commission for “state attorneys with reassigned death penalty cases.” The proposal comes after Ayala has come under biting criticism from House Republicans — as well as praise from members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus — for her recent announcement that she would not seek the death penalty in any case, including the high-profile case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd.

LAWMAKERS MERGE TWO BILLS TO EXPAND MEDICAL SERVICES FOR ABUSED CHILDREN via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Both bills related to child protection issues. SB 1454, sponsored by Sen. Doug Broxson, and SB 1318, sponsored by Sen. Rene Garcia, were so similar in nature they decided to join them together in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. It gives doctors two years to comply. It adds the statewide medical director for child protection as an official who must be consulted in the screening, employment, and termination of child protection team medical director statewide. It requires the children’s medical services program within the Department of Health to convene a task force to develop a standardized protocol for forensic interviews of children suspected of being abused. It also changes service districts as service circuits, and district medical directors as child protection team medical directors. It would require that each child protection team medical director be a licensed physician and board-certified in specified specialty area.

SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE POSTPONES CONSIDERATION OF TESTING BILL via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times– Several members of the committee back Sen. Bill Montford’s SB 964, while the panel was slated to hear SB 926 by newly named member Sen. Anitere Flores. Just as the meeting ensued, Sen. David Simmons late-filed six amendments to the Flores bill, aimed at making it look more like Montford’s measure. They included: Ending the mandate on using value-added measures associated with test results to determine teacher evaluations; eliminating several high school end-of-course exams; allowing districts to use paper-pencil tests rather than electronic ones; and studying national alternatives to state high school language arts and math tests. Sen. Tom Lee, a co-sponsor of SB 964, called for the Flores bill to be temporarily postponed just as it came up for discussion. The committee voted 5-4 in favor, and moved on to a workshop on charter schools.

— “This is an abomination, senator says of proposed changes” via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald

BILL TO EXEMPT FLORIDA CREDIT UNIONS FROM REGULATIONS ADVANCES IN SENATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Senate Banking and Insurance Committee approved SB 1620 … filed by West Palm Beach Democrat Bobby Powell that would exempt credit unions from regulation under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. However, there were also discussions about rolling back federal consumer protections by Donald Trump, leading Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer to attempt a late-filed amendment. Farmer said common law fraud protects consumers only when someone makes an affirmative misrepresentation, and that recipient lies on that misrepresentation. If no statement is made or no question is asked, something still unfair to a consumer would not be actionable under common law fraud rules, he said. That’s what the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act is all about. After Powell had said he did not have enough time to review the proposal and called it an unfriendly amendment, Farmer withdrew it, adding that he hopes to consult further with Powell about it before it goes to its next committee.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

BATTLE OVER BUILDING CODE CHANGES COULD TAKE CENTER STAGE IN HOUSE, SENATE TODAY via Florida Politics — Lawmakers in both chambers are scheduled to consider legislation Tuesday that could change the way the Florida Building Code is updated; a move that could have a big impact on the construction and insurance industries. The proposals (HB 901 and SB 860) essentially flip the set of building codes the construction industry uses as its standard. The Senate provisions have garnered the support from some in the construction industry, but opponents have worried it could lead to a loss in federal funding or turning back the clock on the state’s building codes. Under current law, Florida uses the International Code, building regulations developed by the International Code Council and used across the country, as its baseline. The Florida Building Commission adopts the International Code, and then makes Florida-specific amendments and changes when it adopts the Florida Building Code. The Senate proposal removes the provision requiring the International Code be used as a baseline, and instead requires the “6th edition, and subsequent editions, of the Florida Building Code,” be used as the foundation for the development and updates to the state code. It also calls on the commission to review the Florida Building Code every three years “to consider whether it needs to be revised.”

CONSUMER PROTECTION COALITION LAUNCHES AD ON ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS CLAIMS via Florida Politics — The coalition launched a radio and television ad campaign Monday to warn homeowners of how Assignment of Benefits abuse could cause insurance rates to skyrocket in Florida. … “Today, Florida homeowners are being targeted by dishonest home repair vendors, roofers and water mitigation companies who team up with shady trial lawyers to take advantage of them,” said Logan McFaddin, regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association, a coalition member. “Because of this rampant AOB abuse in Florida, our coalition is warning Florida consumers about the negative impacts this unscrupulous activity can have on them.” … The animated video ad features a couple signing their insurance policy over to fix a leaky roof and says the practice will cause insurance rates to go up across the state. The ad then tells viewers to call their lawmaker and ask them to vote on SB 1038 and not to “be a victim of fraud and abuse.”

SMALL BIZ OWNER, STATE & LOCAL ASSOCIATIONS URGE SUPPORT FOR BEER GLASS BILL — The owner of Cabos Island Grill is calling on House members to support a measure (HB 853) sponsored by Rep. Tom Goodson that would all retailers to accept branded glassware at no cost from the beer industry. “Glassware is a significant cost driver to my small business, especially when taking breakage and theft into account; and, while I would like to be able to purchase the appropriate glassware to serve the different varieties of beer we have on premise to make my patrons visit more exciting and enjoyable, it is simply too costly,” said Mike Ferrara, owner of Tallahassee’s Cabos Island Grill and Bar, in a statement. Ferrara went on to say the bill would allow him to partner with the beer industry to receive “appropriate-style glassware, at no cost, to serve with the beers” he has available for his patrons. The proposal is also backed by the Tallahassee Bar & Hospitality Association, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, Associated Industries of Florida, and the Florida Retail Federation. The bill will be heard during the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee meeting at 8 a.m.

HAPPENING TODAY – CHILDREN’S ADVOCATES HOST EVENT TO DISCUSS HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF FLORIDA’S CHILDREN — CFO Jeff Atwater will be among the speakers at the 2017 Children’s Week address set to take place at noon on the steps of the Old Capitol. The focus of this year’s event is the health and well-being of Florida’s children. Surgeon General Celeste PhilipAlan Abramowitz, the executive director for the Florida Guardian ad Litem program; Wansley Walters, the chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet; Zackary Gibson, the chief child advocate and director of the Office of Adoption and Child Prevention; and the Rev. Wayne Wiatt, the senior pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church are also expected to speak.

HAPPENING TODAY – FGCU DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Wings up! It’s Florida Gulf Coast University Day at the Florida Capitol. The day-long event is meant to give visitors a chance to meet with students, faculty and alumni to learn more about the Southwest Florida state university, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Displays will be set up on the second floor rotunda from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

HAPPENING TODAY — COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will discuss a bill aimed at changing local governments ability to regulate vacation rentals when it meets at 8 a.m. in 212 Knott. The House Health Quality Subcommittee will discuss a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment when it meets at noon in 212 Knott. The House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a proposal that could revise testing requirements when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 102 House Office building. The Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that creates a framework for the BP settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when it meets at 9 .m. in 110 Senate Office building. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill dealing with changes to the Florida Building Code when it meets at 11 a.m. in the 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss a bill that would regulate ride-booking services like Uber and Lyft when it meets at 3 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here.***

FAMILY AFFAIR: FORMER EFI CHIEF CHRIS HART, FAMILY OPEN THE HARE & THE HART via Florida Politics — Hart, the former president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, and his wife, Amy, recently opened The Hare & The Hart, a home décor and design firm in Tallahassee. The family-owned company specializes in toile with a hometown twist. “As a tribute to the town I’ve called home for a good part of three decades, I have designed a toile that shows some of its iconic sites and scenes,” wrote Amy Hart on the company’s website. “Depicting venues running the gamut from the new amphitheater at Cascades Park to the 1600’s-era Mission San Luis, I’ve brought my sketches together in a design that tells the love story of a town full of history, canopy roads, magnolias, rolling hills, beautiful architecture, gardens, and hip new hangouts.” The Hare & The Hart debuted its toiles during the spring edition of French Country Flea Market. During an interview on ABC 27 earlier this month, Amy Hart said the toile was designed to “celebrate our town.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: MAX STEELE DEPARTS FLA. DEMOCRATIC PARTY via Florida PoliticsSteele, who has been Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party, announced via email he is leaving the organization. This is his last week. “It’s been great working with you all and I’m sure I will be in touch in the not too distant future,” he wrote in a message to reporters. Steele’s departure follows that of executive director Scott Arceneaux as newly-elected chairman Stephen Bittel reorganizes the party’s administrative staff. For now, Johanna Cervone will remain Deputy Communications Director and Hispanic Press Secretary.

APPOINTEDJoseph Brister and Robert Halman to the Immokalee Water and Sewer District of Collier County.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — As the healthcare bill blame game continues, Trimmel Gomes explores what’s next after the GOP’s failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Plus, the battle over local control intensifies as the Florida League of Mayors calls on state lawmakers to “back off.” Gomes interviews League of Mayors President, Carol McCormick of Palm Shores. Also, a special tribute to the life of Dr. Brian Dassler who served as the deputy chancellor of Florida’s Department of Education. Dassler recently passed away of apparent natural causes. Gomes interviews his friend and colleague, Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – It’s all-American day at the Governors Club with chicken & rice soup, corn salad, arugula salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, fried chicken, beef pot pie, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed yellow squash, and cauliflower au gratin.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our friend, Elliot Günther.

Sunburn for 3.27.17 – INFLUENCE Mag debuts; Cary Pigman blows bad; Justice League coming together

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

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


INFLUENCE Magazine is mostly about the governmental affairs professionals who shape The Process. But any story about The Process is incomplete without a recognition of the public affairs pros that are as integral as any lobbying shop.

This issue is dedicated to these “flaks,” as well as to the journalists with whom they interact — and occasionally spar.

Our twin cover stories are about two of the public affairs firms dominating legislative politics — Bascom Communications and Consulting and Hill+Knowlton Strategies.


I met both Sarah Bascom and Alia Faraj-Johnson seven years ago. Since that time, I’ve joined the rest of Tallahassee in watching them build two of the most respected brands in Florida politics. In this issue, you’ll read how these two remarkable women and their colleagues accomplished what they have. They truly are ‘Great Communicators’

I also invited veteran reporter Audrey Post to revisit her seminal look the Florida Capitol Press Corps. Much had changed from when she last took stock in 2013. If any single reporter embodies these changes, it’s POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, who works for an outlet that did not even exist in 2013, but today sets the pace for capital coverage. We also profile Tia Mitchell, the jack-of-all-trades reporter for the Florida Times-Union, who, when she’s not writing her must-read column or interviewing a political player on Facebook live, is breaking yet another story about the tenure of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

If you are talking about the ‘great communicators’ in the legislative process, two other names come to my find, albeit it for very different reasons. One is Katie Betta, the soft-spoken voice of the Florida Senate, who is universally admired for her poise and effectiveness. The other is political consultant Brian Hughes, consigliere to legislative leaders and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, and a bare-knuckled practitioner of the dark arts of public relations. It’s never a good thing to end up on the opposite side of Brian.

The truth is there is so much great talent in the public affairs sector that we literally ran out of space attempting to catalog all of it. From veterans like spokesman Craig Waters and reporter Rick Flagg to the tech whizzes at Sachs Media Group and spox-turned-blogger Brian Burgess, there is an entire section of this edition profiling the greatest of the great communicators.

We hope you notice this is our biggest issue yet, with almost thirty more pages in it than the last edition. There are just so many interesting aspects to this edition, including a very frank discussion with the state’s most outspoken lawmaker, Republican Jack Latvala. But there’s also great food writing, great travel writing — even a story about the intersection of influence and sports (written by reporter/bicycling enthusiast Alan Snel right before he was involved in a hit-and-run accident)!

A reminder that our once-every-two-years list of the most influential people in Florida politics — the INFLUENCE 100 — is being decided now and will be unveiled at the end of the year. We invite your nominations about who belongs on the list. Also, our choices for the “Golden Rotundas” — our annual awards for the governmental affairs industry — will be in the next edition.

Email your suggestions away!



Hours after state Rep. Cary Pigman bonded out of the St. Lucie County jail on a drunk driving charge, his Department of Damage Control weighed in with this half-baked, half-hearted, lame excuse for an apology:

“Last night I was pulled over by the Florida Highway Patrol on the Turnpike in St. Lucie County after a long drive back from Tallahassee. I was charged with driving under the influence. I want to apologize to my family, my constituents, and my colleagues in the Legislature, for the embarrassment this has caused me and them.”

Like everyone who ever cruised the Turnpike with a bottle of wine and a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit, Pigman’s first concern is the embarrassment “this” has caused “him,” and feels that the “long drive back from Tallahassee” is some kind of mitigating factor. Pigman didn’t think to thank the motorists who called 911 to report his erratic driving, possibly saving his life and the lives of others in his path.

As an emergency room physician, Pigman certainly has the credentials to be a respected part of the solution to Florida’s problems. As an Army reservist with three recent overseas tours of duty, he may well have seen things that would cause anyone to want a bar in the car.

In public life, Pigman gained notoriety as the Torquemada of Marijuana, and for an ethics charge wrapped in a stupid soap-opera beef wrapped in an extramarital affair.

Now, this.

Alcohol abuse resulting in arrest is God’s way of telling a doctor, “Physician, heal thyself.”

For his sake, and his family’s let’s hope he does.

BACKGROUND via Will Greenlee of TCPalm.com – Pigman was arrested early Friday morning on a DUI charge after a Florida Highway Patrol trooper spotted his Jeep drifting on Florida’s Turnpike late Thursday night, records show. The Republican lawmaker represents western St. Lucie County, as well as Glades, Highlands and Okeechobee counties. Breath tests measured Pigman’s blood alcohol content at 0.14 and 0.15 percent, which are above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. His arraignment is scheduled for March 31.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 6; NFL Draft – 31; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 37; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 37; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 159; Election Day 2017 – 224; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 262; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 286.

HEALTH CARE BILL DEFEAT A LOSS FOR RICK SCOTT via Ledyard King of USA TODAY – Florida’s maverick Republican governor has spent years decrying the Affordable Care Act. And ever since his pal Donald Trump was elected president … Scott has paid several visits to Washington hoping to convince Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. But House Speaker Paul Ryan’s words — “the bottom line is Obamacare right now remains the law of the land” – must have stung Scott … the governor’s office declined to say much after the defeat.

ICYMI: FLORIDA JOBLESS RATE FLAT EVEN THOUGH STATE LOST JOBS via The Associated Press – Florida lost 5,000 jobs in February while the state’s overall unemployment rate remains unchanged … the jobless rate remained 5 percent last month. That’s higher than the overall national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. After leading the nation in job growth in January, however, Florida lost jobs. Still, Florida’s overall job growth rate in the past year has been among the highest in the nation. Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.1 percent.

NAACP URGES SCOTT TO RETURN CASE TO PROSECUTOR via The Associated Press – NAACP Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze said that the group’s members don’t support Gov. Scott‘s decision to take the Markeith Loyd case away from State Attorney Aramis Ayala. Television station WKMG reports Nweze spoke at a news conference at the group’s quarterly meeting in Orlando. “The death penalty, killing people, is not the way that we end crime in this state,” said Leon Russell, the chairman of the NAACP national board of directors. “Criminal justice spending is outstripping education spending throughout the nation, so why don’t we focus on those things that are actually building our community?” said Ngozi Ndulue, the NAACP national senior director of criminal justice.

ZIKA ISN’T OVER. MIAMI-DADE HAS ANOTHER LOCALLY ACQUIRED INFECTION, STATE SAYS via Daniel Chang of the Miami Herald – Florida health officials reported one more locally acquired Zika infection in a person who felt no symptoms but who was tested for the virus in February. The person likely acquired Zika in Miami-Dade in 2016 after “multiple exposures” to areas where mosquitoes were spreading the virus, the Florida Department of Health reported, adding that the state had just received confirmation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, Florida reported four new travel-related Zika infections, raising the total number of cases for 2017 to 29 people, including one locally acquired case from Miami-Dade. Among the 29 cases reported in Florida this year are 13 pregnant women and two people whose source of infection is undetermined after a health department investigation.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with community leaders to discuss Zika preparedness ahead of the rainy season at 9:30 a.m. at the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, 1350 NW 14th Street in Miami. At 2 p.m., Scott will honor veterans with a ceremony at 2 p.m. at Louie C. Wadsworth Armory, 1416 11th Street Southwest in Live Oak.

ADAM PUTNAM AND THE POLITICAL COMMITTEE DISCLOSURE THAT FAILS TO DISCLOSE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Putnam has raised more than $9.4 million for a 2018 governor’s race he has yet to announce and, in the last two years, spent $1.8 million of it on a Lakeland-based political consulting firm that has failed to disclose how the expenses were paid … 70 percent of the $2.6 million spent by Putnam’s political committee, Florida Grown, went to Silloh Consulting, operated by Justin Hollis, the 36-year-old political consultant and real estate investor who manages Putnam’s political fund. Nearly $1.3 million in lump sum payments went for the purpose of political consulting, according to the reports. How much of that was used to compensate vendors, pollsters, fundraisers, advertisers, opposition researchers, media interests and others? His report doesn’t say, raising legal issues about whether the report is in compliance with state campaign finance law that requires all major expenditures to be reported, and federal tax law, which requires that political committees disclose the campaigns for which they are operating.

FIVE BUDGET FIGHTS TO WATCH AS SCOTT, LAWMAKERS COLLIDE ON SPENDING $83.5 BILLION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – 1. HIGHER EDUCATION … Senate President Joe Negron wants this to be the year that the state’s 12 universities get $1 billion in new money to help the flagship state schools move “from good to great.” Not likely. 2. TAX CUTS … This is a difficult year to be pushing tax cuts because the state has little extra money. 3. PUBLIC SCHOOLS … A major clash is looming over how to pay for a boost in spending in public schools. 4. EVERGLADES …  Calling the pollution of Florida waters a catastrophe, Negron wants the Legislature to acquire 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee for a reservoir to hold a massive amount of water. 5. STATE WORKERS … Employees have had just one across-the-board raise in the past decade, in 2013. With rampant turnover and dangerous staff shortages, a consensus has emerged to give correctional officers previously unheard-of raises of between 8.5 and 10 percent. Scott favors incentive bonuses for most state workers, not across-the-board raises.

HOUSE BUDGET VOTE TENTATIVELY SCHEDULED — The House announced last week it was tentatively scheduled to vote on its budget April 13. According to a report released Thursday, the Appropriations Committee will make budget documents available to members no later than 8 a.m. Friday. Members will then face a series of deadlines to submit amendments to the budget: Main amendments must be filed no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 3. All amendments to amendments and substitute amendments must be filed no later than noon on April 4. The committee is expected to file and publish the General Appropriations bill, the implementing bill and conforming legislation, as amended, no late than 4 p.m. April 6. Members will then have until 4 p.m. April 10 to file main amendments on the floor; amendments to the main amendments or substitute amendments for main floor amendments must be requested by noon on April 11. Second reading is tentatively scheduled for April 12, with third reading scheduled for April 13.

TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: @UncleLukereal1: I’m finally in agreement with Rick Scott Florida as a tourist destination and this psychopathic majority leader is ruining our state

LEGISLATURE COULD OK ‘GROVELAND FOUR’ APOLOGY, RICHARD CORCORAN SAYS via the Orlando Sentinel – A legislative apology to the “Groveland Four,” a quartet of African-American men accused of raping a white woman in 1949, could pass the Legislature this year, House Speaker Corcoran says. But he also said the matter might have to wait for similar action for the victims of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a shuttered Jackson County site where dozens of boys were abused decades ago. Corcoran said his priority would be taking action on something dealing with Dozier. “To the extent that we can move forward on both would be great,” he said.

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HAPPENING TODAY  COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Health Innovation Subcommittee will consider a bill (HB 1077) that would ease limits on the number of trauma centers in the state during its meeting at 12:30 p.m. in Mashburn Hall. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 1063) that would repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance law at 12:30 p.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill (HB 83) that would increase penalties for undocumented immigrants who commit types of violent crimes during a meeting at 12:30 p.m. in Morris Hall. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee will discuss a bill (SB 650) that would require many retailers and shopping centers to set aside parking spots for expectant mothers and provide breastfeeding areas at 1:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will take up a bill that would direct the Department Health’s Children’s Medical Services program to develop one or more sexual-abuse treatment programs at 1:30 p.m. 401 Senate Office Building. The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will discuss a bill to exempt credit unions from the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act at 4 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee will discuss a bill (SB 596) that would set statewide rules for wireless carriers on the installation of “small wireless facilities” used for new technology at 4 p.m. in 401 Senate Office Building.

FEDS SAY ‘STAY THE COURSE’ WITH EVERGLADES, REJECTING JOE NEGRON’S LAND BUY via Florida Politics – Many of those involved in Everglades restoration called for Florida to stay the course on federal restoration projects; many were critical of the Senate President’s plan to build a reservoir south of Lake O. At least two of them suggested using taxpayer money to buy land is not a priority. Marco Rubio said Negron’s plan would probably not get federal support “anytime soon.” Buying up land could devastate farming communities, the Florida senator added, possibly turning them into “ghost towns.” Congressman Tom Rooney, himself a longtime representative Treasure Coast representative … resists Negron’s plan … “Costly land buys from unwilling sellers have been unsuccessful.” Another call to stick with the current federal plan is the Army Corps of Engineers … Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the Corps’ Jacksonville district said: “I want to be clear that the South Florida Everglades restoration Integrated Delivery Schedule is the optimal sequence of projects moving forward.”

BATTLE OVER TRAUMA CENTERS CONTINUES WITH NEW LAWSUIT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Another high-profile court fight over new trauma centers opening in Florida has begun in Tallahassee … As a pre-emptive strike, Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach and St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach last week sued the Florida Department of Health in Leon County Circuit Civil Court. They both operate Level 1 trauma centers—the higher level of trauma care. At issue is an application from JFK Medical Center in Atlantis to open a new Level 2 trauma center. Both trauma levels require round-the-clock availability to surgeons, for instance, but a Level 2 doesn’t have to engage in research or offer a medical residency program. If JFK opens a center, that will “divert patients and revenue away” from the plaintiffs, the complaint said, leaving them “irreparably harmed.” They’re now seeking an injunction against the department, saying it doesn’t have the authority to consider the JFK application.

CANDIDATES HELPING VOTERS VOTE? LEGISLATOR PUSHES TO MAKE IT ILLEGAL via Alexandra Seltzer, Lulu Ramadan and Lawrence Mower of the Palm Beach Post – State Rep. Emily Slosberg has proposed legislation to make it illegal for candidates to go into people’s homes and help them fill out their vote-by-mail ballot … Slosberg cited The Post’s story when she proposed an amendment to make the practice a third-degree felony. But she withdrew the amendment for the time being at the recommendation of a colleague. The freshman legislator said she was alarmed by Post stories that revealed that Palm Beach County Commissioner Mack Bernard and state Rep. Al Jacquet, both Democrats, won their seats after entering people’s homes and helping them fill out vote-by-mail ballots. Although their behavior drew condemnation from experts who believe it’s an improper campaign tactic, Florida’s laws did not make it illegal. After reading the stories, Slosberg said she walked into the office of the Republican chairing the Public Integrity and Ethics Committee, of which she is a member, to find a way to ban the practice. Slosberg pointed to the Florida statute that bars someone from soliciting voters inside a polling place. “Why should a person’s home be different?” she said. “In fact, it should be more secure.”

REVENUE CONFERENCE PRICES SALES TAX EXEMPTION FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – HB 1397, by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues … would impose a number of restrictions on marijuana use — no smoking, vaping or edibles, for example, although a terminally ill patient could vape. The bill would take effect upon becoming law, and the state Revenue Estimating Conference concluded the state would have collected around $400,000 in pot taxes by that time. As more people become eligible to use marijuana to treat medical conditions, the cost to state revenues would hike up to $24.3 million by 2021. The Legislature could not use the money in the meantime to fund ongoing programs, although it would be available for one-time use each year, said Amy Baker, director of the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

SCHOOL RECESS BILL STILL ALIVE IN HOUSE … BUT CHANGES COMING via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – Next week would have been make-or-break for this year’s efforts by the Florida Legislature to implement mandatory daily recess in public elementary schools. While the Senate bill (SB 78) sailed through committees and awaits a floor vote, the House bill had yet to move — and next week is the last week policy subcommittees are expected to meet. But “recess moms” are in luck … Rep. Chris Latvala has scheduled the recess bill (HB 67) to be heard Tuesday morning in his House Pre-K-12 Innovation Subcommittee. However, Latvala’s committee is proposing some hefty changes, which might not leave all “recess moms” happy. The Innovation Subcommittee has filed a proposed amended bill that would … let schools count recess time toward physical education requirements for students in grades K-3 … and, would require district school boards to “provide free-play recess each week on days when physical education classes are not held” for grades K-3.

AUDREY BROWN: LONG-TERM CARE KEY TO QUALITY OF LIFE FOR FLORIDA MEDICAID SENIORS via Florida Politics – The fundamental strategy to allow Florida’s health plans to coordinate long-term care for our state’s most vulnerable and frail Medicaid beneficiaries was to enhance care in institutional settings, while simultaneously reducing the reliance on nursing homes by increasing the utilization of appropriate community-based alternatives. Since its implementation, the program has been successful, as the LTC program now works both in terms of achieving cost savings and expanding meaningful benefits. First and foremost, this program delivers the right amount and type of care to address individuals’ needs. Often this appropriate type of care is delivered through more cost-efficient, home-based care services, which not only offers a less-restrictive setting for those eligible, but has also resulted in more than $400 million in cost savings. Moreover, health plans have been able to leverage their resources to offer expanded benefits, such as support to transition to the community; emergency financial assistance; dental, hearing and vision services; transportation and many more. These expanded benefits were valued at $9.5 million in 2015 and are financed by the health plans — not taxpayers. Further demonstrating its success, 77.4 percent of Medicaid LTC recipients recently indicated in a survey that their quality of life has improved as a result of the SMMC LTC program.

DARRYL PAULSON: DO UNIVERSITIES DISCRIMINATE? THE ASSAULT ON FREE SPEECH via Florida Politics – Most universities recruit students by offering specialized curricula, top quality faculty and promising to expose students to diverse views which will stimulate creative thinking and prepare the student for life after their university experience. Universities may be partially successful on the first two items, but dramatically fail in exposing students to diverse viewpoints. It is hard to think of a more close-minded institution than the American university. Groupthink and ideological orthodoxy are the standard practices on campuses. There are many professors, both liberals and conservatives, who excel at awakening students to new ideas and who maintain neutrality in expressing those views. Too many professors, dominated by the political left, push their political agenda as the correct approach to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints.

LEGAL NOTICES SYSTEM STILL NEEDS TO BE REFORMED via Peter Schorsch for Florida Politics – Frankly, the newspaper business has yet to recover from what Craigslist did to it, although one has to wonder if newspaper executives could have prevented what happened by building a better mousetrap on their own websites … One thing is for certain here in Florida. A sin of omission like what occurred with Craigslist would not be repeated with other newspaper revenue streams. Case in point is the legal/public notices system. Under state law, legal and public notices must run in a newspaper … published at least once a week and is considered the publication of record in the county. Local governments need to run public notices to give the community heads up to all public meetings, including adopting the budget. They’re also used to give notice of judicial sales and zoning changes… But Legal notices should no longer be required to be published in print, especially since many of the outlets printing legal notices exists (and profit handsomely from) solely from publishing legal notices. The GOP-led Florida Legislature recognizes this. This year, a bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Stark (HB 897) and Sen. Linda Stewart (SB 1444) would have allowed cities and counties to end newspaper print and newspaper website notice of various actions (e.g., budget amendments, construction contracts, etc.) and in place of the newspaper notice post the notices on city or county websites.

MUST-READ – ONE DAY, 10 OVERDOSE DEATHS: DRUG EPIDEMIC STRAINS MORGUES via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – Broward saw 10 deaths in one day over the summer. “At first, we thought five a day was a lot,” said Dr. Craig Mallak, chief medical examiner for Broward. “Then it went to six, seven. Then we had 10.” Ultra-potent synthetic heroin is driving much of the death, according to research by Jim Hall, a drug abuse epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University. “These deaths really occur in clusters when a bad batch of drugs hits the street,” Hall said. “We are seeing poison being sold.” Medical examiners say they are struggling to keep up with all of the bodies, and although it appears the rate could be slowing so far this year as overdose reversal drugs become more widely available, health officials are still seeing alarming numbers of death.

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PERSONNEL NOTE: TREY PRICE TO HEAD FHFC via Florida Politics – Veteran lobbyist Harold “Trey” Price has been named executive director of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation. Price announced his hiring on social media Friday. He will take over from interim Executive Director Ken Reecy, who’s been in charge since the resignation of Steve Auger, the previous executive director. Price has his work cut out for him. Auger stepped down after a scathing audit of the organization, the steward of state and federal affordable housing money, disclosed lavish spending on events for lenders and board members.

JIM BOXOLD HIRED TO LOBBY FOR TRI-RAIL AUTHORITY HE BLASTED AS TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – Boxold has been hired as a lobbyist by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, the same agency he bashed just before leaving the state. Boxold joined … Capital City Consulting and will provide “strategic counsel” as the authority fights with the Scott administration and some in the Legislature over a more than $500 million contract to operate Tri-Rail, a commuter rail service it operates. “Part of what I’m trying to do is find resolution for them,” he [said]. The board voted 5-2 to transfer $90,000 to beef up its lobbying and communications teams as it continues its fight over the controversial contract. … The decision was opposed by board chairman Tim Ryan and Gerry O’Reilly, the region’s FDOT district secretary.


Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Orthodox Union

Brad Burleson, Ballard Partners: City Year

Jennings Lawton DePriest, Strategos Public Affairs: Crisis Prevention Institute

Michael HueyTy JacksonJessica LoveTodd Steibly, GrayRobinson: OneBlood

Ron LaFace, Capital Consulting: Whitaker Contracting Corporation

Sarah Niewold, Meenan PA: MetLife

Eli Nortelus, Nortelus Roberts Group: Florida Justice Association

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: International Code Council

APPOINTEDAlvaro “Al’ Hernandez and Col. Jeffrey Harrington to the Pasco-Hernando State College District board of trustees.

APPOINTEDKatie Cole to the St. Petersburg College District board of trustees.

APPOINTED: Frank Gernert, Donald Cuozzo, Carl Blow and Lynn Williams to the Florida Inland Navigation District.

MORE LEGISLATIVE HOPEFULS FILE TO RUN IN 2018 via Florida Politics — State election records show dozens of members of the House, Senate, and other legislative hopefuls have filed to run in 2018. Rep. Shevrin Jones filed to run for re-election in House District 101 in 2018. The 33-year-old West Park Democrat filed to run for re-election March 6. …  Rep. Roy Hardemon also filed to run for re-election in 2018.  The Miami Democrat was first elected to his District 108 seat in 2016, and filed to run for re-election on March 7. Ray Guillory is looking for a rematch in House District 2. Guillory filed to run against Rep. Frank White, a Pensacola Republican. Republican George Agovino is eyeing the seat currently held by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. …State records show Democrat Christopher Smutko, a teacher from the Tampa Bay area, filed to run against Rep. Jamie Grant. … A Democrat has jumped in the House District 71 race to replace Rep. Jim Boyd. Bradenton Democrat Randy Cooper filed to run for the seat on March 10. … Rubin Anderson is looking to give it another try, challenging Sen. Bobby Powell in Senate District 30 in 2018.

POLITICOS CELEBRATE AT TAMPA PRIDE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “When Carrie (West) said we want to bring the Pride Parade to Tampa, I said let’s roll!” yelled an exuberant Bob Buckhorn in kicking off the festivities. West and longtime partner Mark Bias are founding members of Tampa Pride and helped create the GaYBOR District Coalition in the aughts. He was inspired to bring the event back to Tampa after the Hillsborough County Commission repealed their infamous ban on gay pride events back in June 2013. While Senator Bill Nelson was not there, Digna Alvarez, his Tampa aide, read a statement from her boss … Luis Viera, the newest member of the Tampa City Council, said he looks at the issue of LGBT rights as a father. Councilman Guido Maniscalco was also there; he had recently introduced an ordinance banning conversion therapy in Tampa. That’s the controversial practice used to try to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

DISNEY CEO: ‘LAST JEDI’ NOT CHANGED DUE TO CARRIE FISHER’S DEATH via The Associated Press – Bob Iger says the upcoming “Star Wars” sequel has not been changed due to the death of Carrie Fisher. Fisher completed filming her role as Princess Leia in “The Last Jedi” before her death following a heart attack in December. Iger said in an interview at a University of Southern California tech conference Thursday that Fisher “appears throughout” the film and her performance “remains as it was.” Iger says Disney is discussing “what could be another decade and a half of Star Wars stories.”

JUSTICE LEAGUE TRAILER UNITES ZACK SNYDER’S SUPERGROUP via The Verge – In the first full trailer for Justice League, the world faces a new threat, and it’s up to Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince to bring together the various heroes to save the day.  In the trailer, Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne tells Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman that there’s a threat coming, and that they have to be ready. They bring together Aquaman (Jason Momoa) The Flash (Ezra Miller), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) for what looks a movie loaded with plenty of action. There’s also some glimpses of Amy Adam’s Lois Lane and J.K. Simmons’ Commissioner Gordon.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Joni James, CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership.

Sunburn for 3.24.17 – Death penalty politics; Red-lighting RLCs; Mickey’s taxes; Bob Cortes says ‘no’

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

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


In January, new Denver District Attorney Beth McCann reaffirmed her campaign promise on an extraordinary policy: There would be no death penalty cases in her district under her watch.

The reaction?

Virtually nothing.

“I think our community is a lot different from Orlando,” McCann said in an interview with FloridaPolitics.

Indeed, Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala became a political pariah a week ago when she made a similar pronouncement for her Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, with most Republicans and a few Democrats blasting her and many calling for her ouster.

Nationally, the latest annual tracking poll by Gallup, in late 2016, found that 60 percent of Americans support the death penalty and 37 percent oppose. That’s the closest gap since Richard Nixon‘s first term as president, but still a solid majority in support. A Pew tracking poll shows identical trend lines, though a much tighter gap in 2016 – 49 percent in favor and 42 percent opposed. But again, death penalty wins.

Yet region by region, state by state, sometimes even district by district, nothing suggests that the blowback Ayala is getting in Florida and Central Florida is at all common.

One key difference between Ayala and McCann – both Democrats – is that McCann campaigned on a no death penalty promise. But it wasn’t that hard for her to do. Two of three candidates took that position. There hasn’t been an execution in Colorado in 12 years, and statewide there are only three people on death row.

Even Aurora, Colo., movie theater mass murderer James Holmes – tried in the neighboring Arapahoe County – was given life without parole.

“I think it’s the climate in our state. In Denver, politically, the death penalty is not very popular,” McCann said. “So it’s a very different situation.”

Florida polling is all over the place. Polls by the Palm Beach Post and by Public Policy Polling both found majorities preferring life imprisonment without parole – Ayala’s position. But polls that have asked if people support the death penalty have shown majorities saying yes.

That leads Robert J. Smith, director of the Fair Punishment Project, a death penalty opposition group at Harvard, to argue that people do not support the death penalty as much as politicians.

The biggest indicator, Smith argues, is that the actual use of the death penalty has plummeted in the past two decades. At least in practice, prosecutors, judges, and, most importantly, juries, are just not that into it anymore, he suggested.

“In the 1990s, there were 315 death sentences in 1994 and 1996. Last year in America there were 30,” Smith said.

In Ayala’s circuit, under her predecessors Jeff Ashton and Lawson Lamar, there was one death sentence in Orange County and none in Osceola County between 2012 and 2016, Smith said.

“I think you’re going to see that politics is going to change… going to catch up to that,” he said.

— “This is about deception, not the death penalty” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times

— “The unlikely movement that could finally kill the death penalty in the U.S.” via Hanna Kozlowska of Quartz

MANY OFFER SUPPORT FOR AYALA DECISION ON DEATH PENALTY via Valerie Boey of Fox 35 News – Christine Henderson of Equal Justice USA says, “We stand with you State Attorney Ayala.” Rev Dr. Russell L Meyer of Florida Council of Churches says, “Justice is not about taking life. Justice is about helping life deflourish.” Organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Equal Justice USA and Florida Council of Churches, say Ayala was right not to seek the death penalty in the Markeith Loyd case. Investigators say Loyd killed his ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon, her unborn child and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton. Meyer says, “We want to say to every other State Attorney in the state of Florida, be just as brave in the name of God.”

BLACK LAWMAKERS BASH RICK SCOTT FOR REMOVING ARAMIS AYALA FROM MARKEITH LOYD CASE via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – “Governor Scott’s hasty response to State Attorney Ayala’s announcement set a dangerous precedent and is a slap in the face of the voters who carried her into office,” said Sen. Perry Thurston … chairman of the Black Caucus. “In this way, [his] order operates as little more than an unfettered and uninformed power grab by the governor’s office over a difference of opinion.” He asked Scott to rescind his order removing Ayala, the state’s first African-American state attorney. But the governor refused. “Governor Scott stands by his decision to assign State Attorney Brad King to prosecute Markeith Loyd after State Attorney Ayala refused to recuse herself,” Scott spokeswoman Kerri Wyland wrote in an email. “As Governor Scott has continued to say, these families deserve a state attorney who will aggressively prosecute Loyd to the fullest extent of the law and justice must be served.”

SEMINOLE CLERK EMPLOYEE FORCED OUT OVER ARAMIS AYALA ‘HUNG FROM A TREE’ COMMENTS via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – A Seminole County Clerk of Courts employee resigned after posting on social media that Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala “should be tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree.” … “Maybe SHE should get the death penalty,” Stan McCullars, the office’s assistant finance director, wrote in Facebook comments beneath an Orlando Sentinel story about Ayala’s decision not to seek the death penalty in capital murder cases. Grant Maloy, the Seminole County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller requested McCullars’ resignation after an investigation, and McCullars agreed to step down. He had been on administrative leave with pay since Monday.

RICK SCOTT DOUBLES DOWN ON DECISION TO REMOVE AYALA FROM MARKEITH LOYD’S CASE via Jason Kelly and Field Sutton of WFTV 9 ABC – Scott said he’s committed to fighting for the death penalty in murder suspect Loyd‘s case. “What doesn’t make sense to me is, one, that you should always fully prosecute the law,” he said. “That’s what all of us expect out of our elected officials.” Scott said that Loyd’s case is so egregious that it demanded his intervention. “This case in particular, it’s just horrible,” he said. As for other cases, Scott said he’s still looking into his options.

SPEAKER: SUSPEND PROSECUTOR WHO NIXES DEATH PENALTY via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – Richard Corcoran said that Orlando State Attorney Aramis Ayala was “violating the constitution” because she is not even considering the death penalty. Capital punishment is authorized under the Florida Constitution. Corcoran added that if Florida lawmakers had the power to impeach Ayala, they would already be doing so. Gov. Scott removed Ayala from a high-profile police murder case last week after she announced her decision against the death penalty. Ayala argues Scott has overstepped his bounds and filed a motion in response, asking a judge to let her present her argument in court.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce February jobs numbers at 10 a.m. at Bealls Inc. at E.R. Beall Center, 700 13 th Avenue East in Bradenton. From there, he’ll head to Pompano Beach where he’ll attend “A Rick Case Habitat Community” celebration at 12:30 p.m. at Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church.

SPEAKER: SCOTT’S FOCUS ON ENTERPRISE FLORIDA IS MISDIRECTED via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott should spend less time talking about Enterprise Florida, and more seeking reform of the workers compensation system and assignment of benefits abuse, if he really cares about protecting jobs, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Thursday.“We’re talking about a tremendous amount of bandwidth going to Enterprise Florida, going to Visit Florida,” Corcoran told reporters. … “If I was to give encouragement to the governor, I’d say: ‘Go keep traveling. Start talking about workers’ comp and assignment of benefits, which have far more effects than Enterprise/Visit Florida on jobs,” Corcoran said. “How can you just be silent on what really will hit jobs — really will cost people dramatic increases, homeowners and businesses? And he’s focused on $100 million that has little if not zero impact on jobs,” he said.

SHOT: “Carlos Beruff already playing calendar games with Constitution Revision Commission” via Peter Schorsch on Wednesday

CHASER: “…(W)hen you have such a once-in-20-year august body dealing with something that is of the highest impact, which is our Constitution, and you only have a limited number of members, 37, and immediately the first action is to disenfranchise one-sixth, I don’t think that’s a good start,” Speaker Corcoran on Thursday.

SPEAKER MOVES EYEBALL WARS CLOSER TO HOUSE FLOOR; DOCS SAY OPTOMETRIST TESTIMONY ‘PATENTLY FALSE’ via Florida Politics – Florida’s “Eyeball Wars” between ophthalmologists and optometrists could soon be spilling onto the House floor … Speaker Corcoran removed HB 1037 — a controversial bill to allow optometrists to perform surgery, among other things — off the agenda of the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee … one of 12 bills removed from Appropriations under Rule 7.18(c) because they had “no fiscal impact.” The move has raised the alarm of Adam Katz, president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, who felt the appropriations hearing would represent his organization’s best shot at defeating the bill. In the bill’s earlier stop — the House Health Quality Subcommittee — testimony did not sit well with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which makes Corcoran’s procedural move even more disturbing. Dr. Mark Michels, board member of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, pointed out several misleading and inaccurate accusation made during testimony from optometrists and their representatives. “I cannot stay silent when the process is used by others to perpetuate falsehoods, especially when those falsehoods could endanger patients.”

JOE NEGRON WOULD ‘PREFER’ TO USE GAMBLING MONEY IN BUDGET via Florida PoliticsSenate President Joe Negron wants to use gambling money sitting in the state’s treasury for spending next year, but said it won’t spell disaster if lawmakers can’t. The Stuart Republican, speaking to reporters after Thursday’s floor session, said he was “optimistic” that the Legislature will finally pass an omnibus gambling overhaul that includes a renewed blackjack agreement with the state’s Seminole Tribe. Despite ongoing litigation over its right to offer blackjack, the Tribe continues to pay gambling revenue share to the state, nearly $40 million for just the first two months of this year. That money (is) expected to total $306 million this year.  

NEGRON: ‘WE CAN STILL MOVE FORWARD’ ON RESERVOIR PROPOSAL via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – Negron said his proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir is making “tremendous progress” despite criticism from Marco Rubio whose backing would be key to gaining federal support. Negron’s proposal in Senate Bill 10 appears to be on life support after Rubio told the conservative Shark Tank blog that building the 60,000-acre reservoir would create “ghost towns” for farming communities. “I believe he is very committed to coming up with a solution to the issue,” Negron said. And he said he shares Rubio’s concerns about residents living south of the lake. “And as we are crafting this bill, we are certainly going to take those into account,” he said.

CUT TO CORPS COULD THROW COLD WATER ON EVERGLADES RESTORATION EFFORTS via Ledyard King of USA TODAY – Supporters of Everglades restoration are worried Trump’s proposal to slash $1 billion from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ budget next year could derail hard-fought progress on Florida’s massive, decadeslong water project. As part of a budget outline … the White House proposed an array of cuts designed mainly to help pay for a military buildup and a border wall with Mexico without raising taxes. Among the proposals is a 16 percent reduction to the Corps of Engineers. Its funding would drop from $6 billion this year to $5 billion in 2018. The proposal doesn’t offer any more details on what projects it would recommend preserving or eliminating. The administration is not expected to release more information until at least May.

HOUSE VOTES TO BAR USE OF RED LIGHT CAMERAS TO MONITOR INTERSECTIONS via Florida Politics – The Florida House voted Thursday to ban the use of red-light cameras to enforce traffic laws in the state. The vote on final passage went 91-22. Supporters argued the cameras don’t save lives and have become money-makers for vendors, some of them located out of state. “It has become less about public safety and more about revenue,” said Larry Ahern, the Seminole Republican who presented the bill. … Although the cameras had their defenders. South Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters noted a more than 50 percent decrease in accidents at intersections.

HOUSE VOTES TO STEER MOST BP OIL SPILL SETTLEMENT MONEY TO THE PANHANDLE via Florida Politics – The Florida House voted unanimously Thursday to direct two-thirds of the $400 million the state is due from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to the worst-affected counties in the Panhandle. HB 7077 requires 75 percent of all payments that Florida receives from the settlement agreement between the five gulf states and BP be transferred from the general fund to the Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund. “This disaster took money out of the hands of families and hard-working small businesses in the Panhandle,” said Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican who was one of a number of Panhandle House members who spoke in favor of the legislation. “I am excited today that we are now enduring this money will be put back in the hands of the people hurt most. The vote was 112-0.

RELIGION IN SCHOOL’ BILL MOVES PAST HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – A bill that would allow school administrators to pray in public schools throughout the state if students initiate those prayers … HB 303 … unanimously passed the House Education Committee … The measure would violate the decades-old federal provision separating church and state, and may likely be challenged at some point. The only concern from members of the committee seemed to come from Rep. Rene Plasencia, who wondered if there was a provision to prevent “satanic” groups from being allowed to express their rights. Plasencia is a former teacher. Rep. Kimberly Daniels, co-sponsor of the bill, said it didn’t, but cited that six other states in the country had passed such measures without incidents involving so-called satanic groups.

VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOTS FIX PASSES HOUSE via Florida Politics – A bill that would let voters fix mismatching signatures on their vote-by-mail ballots so they can be counted has passed the House of Representatives. The House approved the bill (HB 105), sponsored by House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa, by a unanimous vote of 113-0 on Thursday. It would require supervisors of elections and their staff to allow voters to turn in an affidavit to cure any signature discrepancies until 5 p.m. the day before an election. They would need to present a driver’s license or other state ID.

— “Bill banning teacher annual contract guarantees passes House education panel” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

— “Nursing education regulations sent to House floor” via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

— “Wilton Simspon, Richard Corcoran tell PSC it is of ‘utmost importance’ residents get to express concerns during proceedings” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

HOW WAL-MART’S DECISION TO LEAVE MIDTOWN PLAYED INTO A DARRYL ROUSON VOTE via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida Senate’s vote on the so-called “whiskey to Wheaties” bill was a tight one, narrowly passing 21-17. One of those no votes, Sen. Darryl Rouson …  proves that all politics really are local. On Jan. 20, Rouson called a late-afternoon hearing at his downtown St. Pete office to try to change the minds of Wal-Mart officials who chose to close its Midtown store. That store has been a linchpin in efforts to redevelop the low-income, predominantly black community. A troubled lease agreement convinced Wal-Mart officials to leave its location at the Tangerine Plaza in January. When Rouson found out that Wal-Mart was leaving, he was so upset, he said he wanted to vandalize the store. Instead, he asked Wal-Mart to stay during that Jan. 20 meeting. No dice. Fast forward to Thursday, when big box stores like Target and Wal-Mart were asking to sell liquor on their shelves next to beer and wine … He also doesn’t think making it easier to consume whiskey would help his constituents. But that it was Wal-Mart who could potentially benefit? Rouson said that would be hard for him to defend back home after the grocery store left Midtown.

BILL WILL HELP FOSTER CHILDREN GET DRIVER’S LICENSES via The Associated Press – Children in foster care would get help obtaining a driver’s license and auto insurance under a bill unanimously passed by the Senate. The bill would make permanent a pilot program that began in 2014. The program reimburses foster parents or children for driver’s education, license fees and insurance. The idea is to help children in state care become more independent. The cost of the program is $800,000. A House bill has cleared three committees with unanimous votes and is ready for a vote by the full chamber.

FLORIDA COASTAL COMMUNITIES COULD SOON BAN PLASTIC BAGS via Ana Ceballos of The Associated Press – The Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation gave the measure its first-round approval … gifting a small victory to those who have fought for similar legislation to pass since 2013. The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Gary Farmer, said coastal communities with fewer than 100,000 residents would be eligible to establish pilot programs between January 2018 and June 2020 to regulate or prohibit the use of disposable bags in their municipalities. If passed, the law would not allow local governments to add special taxes or fees to plastic bags, and it would require officials to track data on the regulation’s impact.

‘SAFETY VALVE’ WANTED FOR MANDATORY-MINIMUM DRUG LAW via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – According to a new policy brief by the James Madison Institute …  there are 2,310 inmates serving mandatory minimum prison terms in Florida for hydrocodone and oxycodone trafficking offenses. Not all of them are in for selling pills. Florida’s tough drug laws, passed in 1999, were meant to punish drug dealers. But mandatory sentencing for hydrocodone and oxycodone — ranging from three years to life in prison — can be triggered by as few as 27 hydrocodone pills, or 14 oxycodone pills … Under the law, illegal possession of small amounts of the pills is considered drug trafficking. A safety valve provision would allow judges to exercise discretion when sentencing individuals in cases where Florida’s mandatory sentences don’t fit the crimes. “Safety valve legislation neither eliminates the underlying mandatory minimum sentencing law, nor does it require judges to sentence offenders below the minimum term. It is a narrowly tailored exception for certain offenders and under certain circumstances,” the brief says.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

STATE SENATOR’S FRIENDS GOT $1M FROM FLORIDA, BUT THEIR FIRM FELL SHORT OF GOALS via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – State Sen. Aaron Bean helped Florida Psychological Associates, based in Fernandina Beach, receive $1 million hidden in the Florida State University College of Medicine budget after one of his friends who own the business discussed ways the lawmaker could help promote and expand the project to other states, emails and records show. Records from the Florida Department of State show the psychological evaluation business is owned by longtime Bean friends John and Catherine Drew. The Drews billed FSU’s medical school $590,193 from July to February after completing 6 percent of the screenings it had promised in exchange for the state money. As of February, the project, which checks young people for early signs of mental illness, screened 241 schoolchildren. It should have completed 3,800, according to a copy of a contract Florida Psychological Associates CEO Catherine Drew signed with FSU. Despite that performance, a questionnaire Drew completed for the Senate, to receive another $1 million in next year’s budget, made no mention of delays.

MICKEY VS. THE TAX MAN: DISNEY, UNIVERSAL FIGHT TAX BILLS via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – To cut tax bills in the tens of millions of dollars, the specialists at Orlando’s famous theme parks have employed methods from the creative — placing cows on undeveloped land and claiming an agricultural exemption — to the traditional — negotiating or appealing to a county board. Over the past couple of years, however, such tactics aren’t quite doing the job: Property assessments and taxes have jumped — and so has the number of lawsuits the theme parks and other businesses have filed against Orange County’s property appraiser. That’s Rick Singh, who was re-elected to a second four-year term last fall despite the thousands of dollars in donations park officials gave his opponent. In lawsuits filed last year, the theme parks said Singh’s office had failed to use proper appraisal methodology. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts issued a statement describing increased assessments on some of its properties for 2015 as “unreasonable and unjustified” … they have spoken loudly with their wallets. Groups affiliated with all three companies gave $19,000 to Singh’s Republican opponent. Singh, a Democrat, got only $5,000 from the groups.

WITH HELP FROM INVESTOR-RICK SCOTT, SABAL TRAIL NATURAL GAS PIPELINE LOOKS TO OPEN IN JUNE via Joseph Mann of FloridaBulldog.org – The $3.2-billion project, called Sabal Trail Transmission LLC, is a joint venture among Houston-based Spectra Energy Partners, a major owner of pipelines and storage facilities that is now part of Enbridge Inc., a Canadian energy firm; NextEra Energy (parent of Florida Power & Light) and Duke Energy. FPL and Duke plan to use Sabal Trail’s natural gas to generate electricity in their Florida power plants. Construction on Florida’s third major gas pipeline, which will run about 516 miles through Alabama, Georgia and Florida when completed, began in September 2016. The line also has two gas compression plants, one at each end, and plans to build three more by 2021 … the governor owned a stake in one of the pipeline partners, Spectra Energy, and that he apparently still owns shares in the company through a blind trust.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

DAVID RICHARDSON ASKS GOV. TO USE EMERGENCY POWER TO TAKE CONTROL OF WOMEN’S PRISON IN GADSDEN COUNTY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Warning that inmate health and safety is at risk at the state’s largest privately run women’s prison, Richardson asked Scott to use his emergency powers to replace the top officers and take state control of Gadsden Correctional Facility. In a letter … Richardson asked Scott “to direct the Florida Department of Corrections to install a temporary warden, chief of security, and other resources you deem necessary to restore order and reverse what I can only describe as a loss of institutional control.” Richardson, a Miami Beach Democrat and retired forensic auditor, has been on a one-man mission to force change in Florida’s troubled prison system. After several surprise inspections in the last month with investigators from the Department of Corrections and the state’s Office of the Chief Inspector General, he concluded the Gadsden prison faces “significant inmate health and safety concerns” and management has repeatedly retaliated “against inmates for discussing matters with me.”

FIVE CHILDREN USED CANDLE FOR ‘LIGHT AND HEAT’ AFTER CHILD WELFARE WORKER IGNORED CALLS FOR HELP via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A sub-contracted case manager with the Florida Department  of Children and Families was arrested for falsifying information in regard to the well-being of children living alone … Vanessa Arias, 33, was arrested for lying on safety reports. “The department has no tolerance for any individual compromising their integrity and, thereby, potentially jeopardizing the safety of a child,” said Jessica Sims, a spokeswoman for DCF “We immediately investigated Ms. Arias upon receiving these allegations and referred this case to law enforcement soon after.” Arias is accused of knowingly stating erroneous information in records she had visited the home of five children in Kissimmee, roughly 22 miles south of Orlando, when in reality she had not, and further, didn’t return more than a dozen phone calls made from one of the children trying to notify her of their plight.

GIRL IN FACEBOOK LIVE HANGING WAS PRESCRIBED DRUG WITH SUICIDE WARNING via Carol Marbin Miller, David Neal and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – When a Miami psychologist examined Naika Venant in June 2015, she found a “depressed, angry and fearful young girl” who thought often about death and dying. “She expects people to abandon and betray her,” the psychologist wrote. Terilee Wunderman diagnosed Naika with “significant depression,” and post-traumatic stress disorder, and recommended that she see a specially trained therapist to mend her broken psyche. Wunderman also warned against filling the 12-year-old with pills, because the medication she was taking “sometimes can cause the side-effect of depression.” During the next 18 months, however, Naika’s doctors reached for the prescription pad again and again, increasing the dose of an ADHD medication, and adding another drug, Zoloft, records indicate. The antidepressant comes with a critical warning: an increased risk of suicide in children. Naika had been prescribed both drugs when she took her own life Jan. 22, hanging herself in the bathroom of her foster home while streaming the suicide on Facebook Live. The Zoloft dose had been doubled Dec. 8, records show.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 9; NFL Draft – 34; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 41; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 41; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 162; Election Day 2017 – to 27; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 265; First Day of 2018 Legislative Session – 289.

INSIDER POLL: WILL CORCORAN RUN AGAINST SCOTT? FOR GOV? FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL? via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – How do these folks see Corcoran‘s future? A whopping 74 percent expect the Land O’Lakes Republican to run for governor in 2018, 14 percent expect he will wind up running for attorney general, 6 percent said senator and 4 percent predicted he will run for Senate. And Scott? Conventional wisdom among Florida’s political elites is virtually unanimous. Ninety-nine percent of our Insiders expect the 64-year-old governor to run for the Senate seat now held by Bill Nelson, and only one in four expect he would face a serious challenger.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Former Rep. Gwen Graham will address the Escambia County Democrats at their annual dinner at 6 p.m. at Skopelos at New World, 600 S. Palafox Street in Pensacola.

BOB CORTES PASSES ON RUN FOR CONGRESS SAYING ‘NOW IS NOT THE TIME’ via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer – Cortes announced that he would not be running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District in 2018, citing the work still needed to be done for the House 30 District he currently represents … Cortes slammed progressive politics that he says “over-promise and never deliver” and a big reason for the current troubles on the island of Puerto Rico, which has led to a major exodus of Puerto Ricans from the island to Central Florida. Cortes doesn’t forget about incumbent Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy in his remarks adding … “She has shown an immediate inclination to fall in lockstep with her caucus leadership in Washington instead of truly representing the people that elected her.”


APPOINTEDAntonett Munchalfen and Michelino Nibaldi to the Florida Barbers’ Board.

APPOINTEDRonald Lieberman to the Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

REAPPOINTEDVijay “Vic” Narang to the Board of Commissioners, South Broward Hospital District.


Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: Cisco Systems

Brian Bautista, Impact GR: NRG Energy

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: Gannett Media Group

Christopher Dudley, Southern Strategy Group: NRG Energy, Inc.

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: Pure Storage, Inc.

Cynthia Henderson, Cynergy Consulting: Multistate Assoc. Inc. o/b/o Consumer Technology Association

Ashley KalifehRon LaFace, Capital City Consulting: The Travelers Companies, Inc.

William RubinHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority; Insikt, Inc.

Larry Williams, Larry Williams Consulting: Flourish Now


Black Almanac with Dr. Ed James on WWSB, ABC 7 in Sarasota: Dr. Ed James will speak with Sarasota County Sherriff Tom Knight and Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year Al-Muta Hawks about the concept of rightful policing.

Facing South Florida on CBS Miami: Host Jim DeFede will bring on former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush to talk about the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: Guests on this week include 10 News’ Allison Kroph, FloridaPolitics.com’s Mitch Perry, Strategic Solutions of Tampa founder April Schiff and Tampa attorney and former Citizens Advisory Committee member Brian Willis.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Gary Yordon and Steve Vancore will chat with Bob McClure of Tallahassee-based think tank The James Madison Institute.

This Week in Jacksonville on Channel 4 WJXT: Host Kent Justice will talk with at-large Jacksonville City Council member Tommy Hazouri about pensions.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Jason Unger. Celebrating today is ace photog Brian Blanco, our friend Glen Gilzean, Karen Giorno, and Giancarlo Sopo. Early birthday wishes to two great women, Sara Clements and Brittany Dover.

Sunburn for 3.23.17 – Pepi’s sweet spot; Cruz’ talking points; whiskey & Wheaties coming together; Semblers spotted; Congrats Matt Hunter!

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

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


It’s that time: Heading toward the end of the Legislative Session’s third week, the Capitol cognoscenti like to handicap which bills are going to be part of the budget calculus.

No doubt one will be this year’s gambling legislation, ready for the floor in the Senate (SB 8) and heading to the Commerce Committee in the House (HB 7037). A hearing there hasn’t been scheduled.

Indeed, the issue of gambling is getting to be like abortion—no middle ground. The chambers are again at odds, the House looking to hold the line on games of chance, and the Senate in favor of expanding slots and card games.

Stuck in the middle is the Seminole Tribe of Florida. A new blackjack agreement depends on some form of legislation passing, with the state expecting $3 billion in revenue share over seven years.

Otherwise, the Tribe can offer cards till 2030 without having to pay the state a dime. (They are still paying the state a cut of the blackjack take each month, however, as a “sign of good faith.”)

The Tribe sent a letter to the Senate, objecting to its bill and saying it “would require higher payments … (and) would add numerous additional exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity while broadly expanding gaming in Florida.”

And an advisory letter from the federal government’s top Indian gambling regulator said the feds would be “hard-pressed” to approve the proposed new blackjack agreement as is.

Now House Commerce Committee chair Jose Felix Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican, is the man in the hot seat. The House’s point man on gambling said he’s been in “constant” but informal communications with the Tribe.

“They told me they were going to write a letter; I wasn’t blindsided by that,” he said in an interview after Wednesday’s floor session. “They do think our bill is a lot closer to where they’d like to end up. But it’s not perfect (for them). We don’t give them roulette or craps.”

With a plethora of competing interests pulling on both chambers, including the Tribe and the state’s pari-mutuels, Diaz admits “there is no sweet spot.”

Diaz also noted that under President Trump, there’s new leadership at the U.S. Department of Interior, which regulates Indian gambling. Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL, now is secretary.

“So there’s a new interpreter” of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, he said. “Now, I don’t know what the new (leadership) at Interior will accept or not accept, but I know what can and cannot pass the House, and that’s what I’m working on.”

But Diaz, keeping hope alive for a 2017 deal, says there’s “varying degrees of recalcitrance on gaming” in the Legislature. “There’s a lot of people in the middle. And they’ll vote based on what their gut tells them.”

But don’t expect a reckoning until the final week, he said.

“Gaming is one of those bills that’s left for the end,” Diaz said. “Even in a best case scenario, if there’s some reasonable middle ground, if it exists, and the Seminoles would sign off on it, it’s not going to pass next week. It’s too important to too many people, and it has too many repercussions for the budget. There’s a lot of money at stake.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 10; NFL Draft – 35; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 42; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 42; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 163; Election Day 2017 – 228; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 266.

RICK SCOTT CALLS OUT RICHARD CORCORAN, PINELLAS LAWMAKERS via Michael Van Sickler of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott‘s tour defending his key agencies, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, landed him at Allen Sports Center in Seminole, where 75 business officials greeted him. “It’s shocking to me that the House of Representatives and many of your local House members voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida and limit Visit Florida,” Scott said. “I mean, this is about people’s livelihood and their jobs.” … he read from a sheet of paper, where the names of the House members who voted against his agencies were written in black marker. The names that Scott mentioned: House Speaker Corcoran, and local Reps. Chris LatvalaChris SprowlsLarry Ahern … Jamie Grant … Amber Mariano and Danny Burgess.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a roundtable discussion with business, economic development and tourism leaders about Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida at 9 a.m. at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, 1842 Patterson Ave in DeLand. Scott will then highlight his K-12 education budget during a press conference at 2 p.m. at Coral Way K-8 Center, 1950 13th Ave in Miami.

— “Tourism advocates raise specter of Rick Scott’s veto in Visit Florida fight” via Florida Politics

CAUGHT IN CROSSFIRE BETWEEN SCOTT AND CORCORAN, GROUP FIGHTS FOR SURVIVAL via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – A 187-page bill passed by the Florida House earlier this month that kills two dozen tax credits includes a clause that wipes out the Florida Defense Alliance, a mostly volunteer advocacy group created in the 1990s to work with local communities to protect the state’s 20 remaining military installations, including MacDill Air Force Base. … The fact that the Alliance could be in jeopardy is surprising to Tim Ford, CEO of the Association of Defense Communities, a nonprofit that helps communities protect their bases. … Florida House spokesman Fred Piccolo said the Florida Defense Alliance is redundant. He said the House is leaving alone the Florida Defense Support Task Force, which gets $2 million a year from the state to help the state respond to needs of military installations. (Click on the link below to watch a video of Scott making a defense of the Defense Alliance.)

DEMOCRATIC TALKING POINTS: SIDING WITH CORCORAN TO ABOLISH ENTERPRISE FLORIDA IS GOOD POLITICS via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – House Democrats are circulating a new set of talking points making the case that it’s good politics to side with Corcoran in his feud with Gov. Scott over economic development … The new talking points make the explicit case that the vote will have implications for 2018 when Scott is expected to challenge U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat’s only statewide elected official. “A vote against HB 7005 is a vote for the governor’s agenda and hurts Senator Bill Nelson,” read the talking points. Minority Leader Janet Cruz… said that the talking points were created so members knew her position on the bill, not to pressure them to vote a specific way. “Decisions in the Democratic Caucus are not made from the top-down,” said Anders Croy, the communications director for the House Democratic Office, in a statement. “However, many members had questions about the conversation and underlying issues surrounding the vote on HB 7005 that they brought to Leader Cruz individually.

BUSINESS GROUPS JOIN FORCES TO OPPOSE SENATE TAX PROPOSAL via Florida Politics – Eight of the state’s leading business organizations — including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Florida United Business Association — sent a letter to Sen. Anitere Flores on Wednesday urging here to “support lowering the sales tax currently charged on all business leases without removing the insurance premium tax credit as proposed.” … (E)liminating the insurance premium tax credit as a way to reduce the business rent tax does not solve the problem. In fact, it will likely make the problem worse as insurance companies increase insurance premiums on all Florida insurance holders, including homeowners and business owners,” the letter reads. “In Senate Bill 378 you are effectively swapping a tax cut for a tax increase that will end up costing Floridians more in the end.”

SENATE BEGINS DISCUSSION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA IMPLEMENTING LEGISLATION via Florida Politics — Sen. Rob Bradley indicated he is willing to support opening up the medical marijuana market more than he first proposed, but continues to believe vertical integration is the right system for Florida. Bradley, an Orange Park Republican, filed one of five medical marijuana implementing bills this Legislative Session. His proposal (SB 406) would, among other things, allow for the growth of the industry once the number of registered patients hits certain thresholds. Bradley said he has come to believe his bill is “too restrictive based on the feedback (he) received.” Instead, he said he would support a measure that finds a balance between his proposal and one sponsored by Minority Leader Oscar Braynon. “We’re going to have a population group (where) there isn’t enough competition to make sure the pricing is reasonable,” said Bradley during a Senate Health Policy workshop on medical marijuana implementation bills.“The more people we have growing and selling, it provides different voices and ideas on how to treat things. One treatment center might have a specialty. That’s something that will develop organically.”

SPOTTED: Ambassador Mel and Betty Sembler, along with lobbyist Alan Suskey, visiting with several lawmakers on Wednesday on behalf of Drug Free America.

BY TWO VOTES, HOUSE ‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ BILL CLEARED FOR FLOOR via Florida Politics – In another squeaker, the House version of a bill to allow retailers to sell liquor in their main stores cleared its last committee by just two votes. The House Commerce Committee on Wednesday OK’d the legislation (HB 81) on a 15-13 vote. It’s now ready to be considered by the full House … “Any time you have an issue that revolves around alcohol, you’re bound to expect it to be somewhat controversial for some of the members,” bill sponsor Bryan Avila, a Hialeah Republican, told reporters after the hearing … Avila amended the bill to make it nearly identical with the Senate version (SB 106), which goes to a final vote in that chamber Thursday.

LAWMAKERS AIM TO CREATE JOBS BY CUTTING OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING RED-TAPE via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – If you want to earn money or start a business in dozens of job categories, Florida requires a state approved license – and they don’t come cheaply. A bill that would rollback red-tape for nearly two-dozen professions passed an important House appropriations subcommittee … The bill was approved with bipartisan support, 12-2. “We’re trying to lower barriers in order to create jobs,” said Rep. Halsey Beshears, the bill’s sponsor. The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, pegs Florida as the fourth most restrictive state in the country with respect to occupational licensing regulations. In a study called License to Work, it identified 45 of 102 low-and-moderate income jobs as having burdensome licensing requirements. “Occupational licenses, which are essentially permission slips from the government, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise,” the nonprofit firm says. “Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition.”

MOVE TO CURTAIL PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS ADVANCES via James Call of the Tallahassee Democrat – Rep. Scott Plakon’s HB 11 would almost certainly result in decertification of chapters of groups representing a wide range of workers from university professors to school bus drivers. Plakon said his bill is simple. Two pages long. And that it is about democracy. If fewer than 50 percent of eligible workers refuse to become dues-paying members then the union can no longer represent the workers in collective bargaining. A United Faculty of Florida chapter sent out an alert stating if the bill becomes law it would put academic freedom at risk and UFF would lose the ability “to ensure equity in terms of course work.” Frank Watson, the Florida Education Association lobbyist, pointed out what he saw as a flaw in Plakon’s logic. He noted that in 1980, Ronald Reagan claimed the presidency in a landslide with 60 percent of the vote. That actually translated into only 27 percent of eligible voters, said Watsons, whose union represents public school employees.

— “Bill banning steroids for greyhound headed to House” via Florida Politics

— “House committee sends pair of ethics bills to chamber floor” via Florida Politics

— “Linda Stewart pushing ‘Orlando United’ speciality license plate” via Florida Politics

— “Senate bill to increase Supreme Court reporting requirements clears second committee” via Florida Politics

— “Senate committee approves bills on beaches, plastic bags and Indian River Lagoonvia Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida

— “With little debate, Senate advances Greg Steube’s courthouse carry gun bill” via Florida Politics

JOE NEGRON ADDS TO COMMITTEES’ STRENGTH DURING DOROTHY HUKILL’S RECOVERY via Florida Politics – While Sen. Dorothy Hukill recovers from cervical cancer, Senate President Joe Negron has named additional members to committees on which she serves. In a memo dated Tuesday, Negron said Sen. Anitere Flores will help out in the Education Committee, which Hukill leads. “Sen. Hukill will remain the chair of the Committee on Education,” Negron aide Katie Betta said. “Under the Senate rules, the chair designates a senator on the committee to serve in her absence on a week by week basis.” Appropriations chairman Jack Latvala takes a seat on the budget Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto will serve on the Health Policy Committee. And Ben Galvano will sit on the Transportation Committee. The appointments take effect immediately, Negron said. “I appreciate your willingness to take on this additional responsibility on behalf of the Florida Senate,” he wrote. “Sen. Hukill is still on all of these committees,” Betta said.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Perry Thurston, the chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, will discuss State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision regarding the death penalty and Gov. Rick Scott’s interference with her prosecutorial independence during a press conference at 8:30 a.m. on the plaza level of the Florida Capitol.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

FLORIDA AMONG THE BIGGEST POPULATION GAINERS LAST YEAR via Mike Schneider of the Associated Press – Three metro areas in Florida were among the nation’s 10 biggest gainers in population last year, and another three Florida metro areas were in the top 10 for growth rates. Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday show that the Tampa area had the nation’s fifth highest population gain from July 2015 to July 2016, adding more than 58,000 residents.

South Florida, stretching from West Palm Beach to Miami, had the nation’s seventh highest gain, adding about 48,000 residents. The Orlando area added almost 47,000 residents, placing it at No. 8. The Villages retirement community northwest of Orlando had the nation’s highest growth rate last year at 4.3 percent.

Fort Myers had the fifth highest at 3.1 percent. Punta Gorda’s 3 percent rate placed it at No. 8.

STATE INVESTIGATING WHETHER GRAD RATES WERE MANIPULATED via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Commissioner Pam Stewart said that late last year the state began taking a closer look at students in 10 counties who were switching to alternative schools in their senior year but now the probe has been expanded statewide. The investigation will look at all students who were in the 12th grade but somehow weren’t included in data used to determine graduation rates. The disclosure of the investigation is unusual, especially since Florida leaders, including Gov. Scott, have continually touted the state’s rising graduation rates over the past few years. The state’s graduation rate was reported at 80.7 percent for the school year that ended in the summer of 2016. The rate was just over 59 percent in 2004 while Jeb Bush was governor and the state was pushing ahead with sweeping changes that ranked schools based on student performance.

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION SCHEDULES FOUR STOPS IN STATEWIDE TOUR – Chairman Carlos Beruff announced the committee would hit the road beginning next week for the first four stops in the commission’s “Floridians Speak, We Listen” tour. “I am proud to announce our ‘Floridians Speak, We Listen’ tour, where we will get input from Florida families on the issues that matter to them,” said Beruff in a statement. “This historic process gives Florida voters an opportunity to change the framework of our government and I encourage all interested Floridians to attend a public hearing and make their voices heard.” The commission will hold its first public hearing at 5 p.m.Wednesday at the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center at the University of Central Florida, 12676 Gemini Blvd. N in Orlando. Members will travel to the Frost Art Museum at Florida International University, 10975 SW 17th St in Miami for a public hearing at 5 p.m. on April 6. They’ll stay in South Florida, attending a public hearing at 9 a.m. on April 7 at the FAU Stadium Recruiting Room at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road in Boca Raton. A public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts at the University of West Florida, 82 Service Road in Pensacola on April 12.


Beruff, chair of the Constitution Revision Commission, the panel that will undertake rewrites of the state’s governing document, says the first hearings for public input will be next Wednesday in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County, and April 7 in Palm Beach County.

Did you catch it?

Let me give you a hint: Five of the commission’s members, including the House Speaker Pro Tempore, are current members of the Legislature. Many others are intricately involved in The Process.

And, well, we’re in the middle of the 2017 Legislative Session, which doesn’t end until May 5th.

So, does Beruff – the Manatee homebuilder who lost a U.S. Senate bid to Marco Rubio last year – expect the lawmaker members not to attend those early CRC hearings?

Or conversely, does he expect them to miss important meetings at the Capitol during session?

Here’s the more realistic answer: He hasn’t even considered any of that before he rushed to start setting up hearings.

Indeed, why the rush? Why not take the time to give ample notice to members of the public in those areas who might want to attend the hearings?

As one person told me, “Beruff is trying to run a railroad when he’s never even been a passenger on a public policy train.”

AT CHAMBER GATHERING, A VIGOROUS DEFENSE OF ECONOMIC INCENTIVES via Florida Politics – Florida is, too, open for business, representatives of the state’s economic development arm and business leaders insisted during a panel discussion organized by the Florida Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. “We’re a high performing business that’s open for business. We’ve just temporarily shut down the marketing and sales department. What we’re trying to do is make sure that’s not a permant situation,” said Mark Wilson, the Chamber’s president and CEO. … The mere debate has already served notice that Florida is withdrawing the welcome mat. Mike Grissom, interim director of Enterprise Florida, said the office recently lost a key prospect over fear of “instability in government.”

OP-ED – VISIT FLORIDA PUTS PANDHANDLE GEMS ON MAP via Adam Putnam for the Pensacola News-Journal – Agriculture and tourism have grown up together in our state. I guess you could say Ponce de Leon might’ve even been the first tourist when he set about looking for the Fountain of Youth. Tupelo honey, roadside stands, orange blossoms and world-class fishing continue to enchant visitors to Florida. So it shocks me that a move is afoot to end support of tourism promotion and the business it generates for all our local businesses. Last year, more than 112 million visitors came to Florida and spent $109 billion during their time in the Sunshine State. These dollars are spent at hotels, restaurants and attractions, among other Florida businesses, where more than 1.4 million Floridians are employed. This record was, in part, achieved by the reputation of our white, sandy beaches, family-friendly attractions and warm hospitality. But many of Florida’s destinations would have remained unknown without the advertising and promotions by the state’s tourism agency, Visit Florida, under the focused leadership of Governor Scott. Visit Florida has helped put the gems of Northwest Florida on the radar of curious tourists looking for lesser known places to explore and enjoy while recharging their batteries during their annual vacation. Places like the Perdido River Paddling Trail and Pensacola Beach Boardwalk don’t always come to mind when families are brainstorming where to go. These destinations are highlighted as go-to places by Visit Florida’s promotions, along with many other special, yet lesser known parts of Florida.

CHAMBER LAMENTS THE RISE OF TRIAL BAR’S INFLUENCE WITH LEGISLATURE via Florida Politics – The business community believes trial lawyers hold the upper hand in the Legislature for the first time in years. The business community is not happy about that. “Their bills are on rocket fuel and are moving through the process,” Mark Delegal, a partner at Holland & Knight, said during a panel discussion at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s annual Capitol Days symposium. … “This prejudgment interest bill symbolically represents the turning of the tide, and the ongoing march of the trial lawyers to decrease the already low, 44th, ranking we have in legal climate in the United States,” Quentin Kendall of CSX Transportation said.

DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE –  The FMA welcomed a diverse group of residents and fellows (physicians in training) from over a dozen different residency training programs to Tallahassee Wednesday. These young physicians talked to legislators about the importance of graduate medical education funding. They also addressed scope of practice issues and educated lawmakers on the extensive hands-on training they receive as opposed to lesser trained health care professionals.


***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

DOE ‘STAR’ BRIAN DASSLER MOURNED via Ryan Dailey of the Tallahassee Democrat – The death of 38-year-old Dassler in the early hours of Tuesday morning has many in the state department of education mourning the loss of a public education superstar who had an “unrivaled passion for students.” Dassler, DOE’s deputy chancellor of education, had dedicated his entire life to education, particularly on students’ progress. Tallahassee Police Department spokesman Officer David Northway said Dassler died of natural causes. At Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting, Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart spoke at length about her colleague and friend. Dassler was scheduled to be recognized at the meeting for logging 50 hours as a mentor to students in the last half of 2016. He had come to DOE from New Orleans, where he was the founding principal of a charter school and the chief academic officer for Louisiana’s Arts Conservancy.

ERIN ROCK NAMED INTERIM DMS SECRETARY via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott appointed Rock, currently chief of staff for the Department of Management Services (DMS), to serve as head of the department effective March 31 until a replacement is hired. Former Secretary Chad Poppell quit earlier this month “to pursue interests in the private sector,” the department said. “Erin has played an integral role in managing the daily operations of DMS and keeping the cost of government down for taxpayers … I am confident she will continue her great work as Interim Secretary,” Scott said in a statement. Before becoming chief of staff last May, she was Deputy Secretary for Business Operations. Rock has worked in state government since 2003.

MICHELLE SUSKAUER ELECTED PRESIDENT-ELECT DESIGNATE OF THE FLORIDA BAR via Florida Politics – West Palm Beach attorney Suskauer has been chosen as president-elect designate of The Florida Bar, according to a Wednesday press release. Suskauer, 50, is a criminal defense attorney in a two-lawyer office in West Palm Beach. She’s married to Judge Scott Suskauer of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach County. She prevailed over Lansing “Lanse” Scriven, of Tampa, receiving 12,993 votes to Scriven’s 10,188 votes in the first contested election for Bar president since 2011. Suskauer will be sworn in as president-elect at the Bar’s annual convention in Orlando on June 23, when current President-elect Michael J. Higer of Miami becomes president. Suskauer will begin her term as Bar president in June 2018.


Melissa AkesonMatthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Children First Specialty Plan

Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: CA Technologies; Conduent, Inc. and its Affiliates; Palm Beach County Tax Collector

Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: South Florida Regional Transportation Authority; Whitaker Contracting Corporation

Katie Flury, GrayRobinson: Target Corp.

Christopher Hagan: City of Lake Worth; Richard Woodward

Mike Haridopolos: Mutualink, Inc.; REFG

Nick IarossiAshley KalifehRon LaFace, Capital City Consulting: Indivior, Inc.

Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Pure Storage, Inc.

Lila Jaber, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart PA: Promise Healthcare, Inc

Jessica Janasiewicz, Mixon & Associates: Florida Academy of Physician Assistants; Independent Funeral Directors of Florida

Allison Mawhinney, GrayRobinson: Modern Canna Science, LLC

Bob Pritt, Roetzel & Andress: Glades Correction Development Corporation

JONATHAN KILMAN OF FOLEY & LARDNER ON FAILURE, REVENUES, AND HIS ADVICE TO ASPIRING LOBBYISTS via Patrick Slevin of SL7 Consulting — Kilman, the co-chair of Foley & Lardner’s Florida public affairs practice, sat down with Slevin on March 22. The two men talked about everything from attracting talent and growing the practice to what advice Kilman, a Harvard Law grad, would give to aspiring lobbyists. On failures: … “As I’ve learned to embrace my flaws and not be ashamed of them, my friendships and professional relationships have become stronger. I have no regrets because of the wisdom I’ve gained since that acceptance.” … On whether quarterly revenue rankings matter: “As a lobbying practice within a law firm, we generate significant revenue in ways unavailable to a lobbying boutique. It’s a different business model that gives our clients an integrated offering of government relations and legal services, which has been very successful for us. Using lobbying revenue reporting is a short-sighted benchmark that doesn’t make much sense in measuring our firm’s success.” … On advice to aspiring lobbyists: “(T)here is no one single path to success as a lobbyist. The character trait that matters most is grit. Luck can certainly play a role but I don’t know any great lobbyist who has succeeded for long on luck alone.”

GOVERNORS CLUB THURSDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Italian is the day’s lunch fare at the Governors Club Thursday with tomato basil soup; roasted eggplant salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; Caesar salad – hearts of romaine, parmesan cheese, Kalamata olives, Caesar dressing – shrimp bucatini Pomodoro; roasted garlic chicken; parmesan garlic risotto; cauliflower & plum tomatoes and eggplant parmesan.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Sen. Kelli Stargel. 

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 3.22.17

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

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

SESSION (2018) IS COMING — The Florida Senate released the dates of the 2018 Legislative Session on Tuesday. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to convene on Jan. 9 and will end on March 9. Gov. Rick Scott in 2016 signed into law a measure that would move the 2018 Legislative Session up to January, following the same timeline as the 2016 Legislative Session. The Florida Constitution requires the Legislature to begin on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March in even number years, but allows the Legislature to set the dates in even number years.


Are Sunshine State lawmakers hanging a “Gone Fishin’” sign on Florida’s economy?

It may seem silly, but the question of whether Florida is “closed for business” has dominated discussions during the first few weeks of — not to mention the weeks and months leading up to — the 2017 Legislative Session. And you can expect that question to drive the day at the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Capitol Days.

The second day of the conference kicks off at 9 a.m. with a panel discussion featuring Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Chamber; Eric Silagy, the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light; Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; and Mike Grissom, the interim president and CEO of Enterprise Florida. The topic: “Is Florida Closed for Business?”

The discussion will come on the heels of a presentation Monday from Jerry Parrish, the Chamber’s chief economist, who forecast the state will create 190,00 jobs in 2017, down from 244,400 jobs in 2016. While job creation peaked in April 2016, Parrish indicated uncertainty in the Legislature could be having an impact.

“The signals they’re sending to Florida businesses is that we’re not going to compete anymore,” he said during a presentation Monday. “Few recruiters and companies are looking at Florida because of the rhetoric right now. If you’re not investing private dollars in this state, you’re not going to create as many jobs.”

The state needs 800,000 net new jobs by 2020 and 2 million new jobs by 2030 to deal with the growing population, according to the Florida Scorecard. Parrish predicted it will become more difficult to create jobs in the coming years, and warned now was “not the time to abandon our proven economic development program.”

Expect experts to weigh in on how issues like insurance, legal and regulatory reform will impact job growth during panels scheduled throughout the day. The tourism industry’s impact on the state’s economy will be the topic of a panel discussion at 2:15 p.m. featuring Ken Lawson, the president and CEO of Visit Florida, and Carol Dover, the president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

And don’t think about sneaking out for an early happy hour: CFO Jeff Atwater, who is stepping down at the end of the 2017 Legislative Session, is scheduled to give a keynote address around 4 p.m.

— Trial lawyers are on the march’ and Florida Chamber’s ‘Capitol Days’ are more like ‘Dreary Days’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

FORECAST: FLORIDA JOB CREATION SLOWING DOWN THIS YEAR via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times – Jerry Parrish, the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s chief economist, forecasts that Florida will create 190,000 new jobs in 2017, down from the 244,400 jobs created last year. Parrish told a group during the chamber’s Capitol Days event in Tallahassee that job creation in Florida peaked in April 2016. But uncertainty in the Florida Legislature — including the shaky fate of the state’s economic development organization Enterprise Florida — is tipping the scales. “The signals they’re sending to Florida businesses is that we’re not going to compete anymore,” Parrish said during the reveal of the chamber’s 2017 Florida Scorecard, an annual review of business analysis for the state. “Few recruiters and companies are looking at Florida because of the rhetoric right now. If you’re not investing private dollars in this state, you’re not going to create as many jobs.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a round table with business owners, economic development leaders and tourism officials to discuss Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida at 9 a.m. at Allen Sports Center, 6585 Seminole Boulevard in Seminole.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

SMALL WORLD: ENTERPRISE FLORIDA AND RICHARD CORCORAN’S LAW FIRM via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Clearly, Enterprise Florida is no fan of Corcoran, so it may come as a surprise that the agency has repeatedly given legal work to Broad & Cassel, the law firm that employs the House speaker. Enterprise Florida has done about $235,000 in legal work with Broad & Cassel over the past three years, the agency said. “Enterprise Florida hires legal counsel on a case-by-case basis, depending on a wide range of factors,” spokesman Nate Edwards said. Edwards said the hiring of an outside law firm is a business decision made by EFI’s chief operating officer or vice president for administration, not by its board of political appointees, which is chaired by Gov. Scott, who for months has criticized Corcoran and other House members for wanting to destroy an agency that is critical to job creation. In a speech in Pensacola Friday, Corcoran called Enterprise Florida a “pay to play” operation where board members’ companies get incentive money.

SENATE TAX CUT PROPOSAL OK’D — WITH ONE BIG SWITCH via Florida Politics – A tax cut that would have helped a broader swath of Floridians, including the middle class and working poor, was changed Tuesday to instead benefit the state’s business owners. With no debate, the Senate’s Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee cleared the bill (SB 378) by a 4-0 vote. As initially proposed by Miami-Dade Republican Anitere Flores, it would have paid for a cut in the state’s communications services tax (CST) on mobile phone, satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers. The plan has been a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican. But the panel approved an amendment—brought by Kelli Stargel, the Lakeland Republican who chairs the panel—to reduce the tax that businesses pay on their commercial rents, a cut that Gov. Rick Scott has long called for. “She felt strongly about it,” Flores said later. “It’s her committee.”

REDISTRICTING-RELATED BILL OK’D BY SENATE via Florida Politics – The Florida Senate Tuesday passed a bill aimed at streamlining the handling of political redistricting court cases. The legislation (SB 352) was approved without debate 24-14, sending it to the House. Bill sponsor Travis Hutson, an Elkton Republican, has said the plan “locks the maps in place on qualification day,” giving clarity to candidates. It also “encourages” courts “to follow certain procedures to maintain public oversight when drafting a remedial redistricting plan,” according to a bill analysis. The bill is a response to court challenges over the state’s redrawn districts after the 2010 Census.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

HOUSE GAMBLING BILL CLEARS WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE ON 11-7 VOTE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – … for legislation that would extend Indian gambling in Florida but otherwise restrict the growth of the industry in Florida. Rep. Mike La Rosa … Argued the bill is key to negotiating a gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe. “I think they’re trying to get the best deal. That may mean other games or, of course, paying less revenue. At the end of the day, we’re representing our constituent base here in the state of Florida. We’re going to get the best deal for them,” La Rosa said. La Rosa chairs the Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee, which already OK’d the measure 10-5. The next stop is the Commerce Committee. The debate pitted members skeptical of gambling against those who see it as expanding jobs and the economy.

DUI IGNITION INTERLOCK BILL PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE via The Associated Press — A bill that would require an ignition interlock device on someone’s vehicle after their first drunken driving conviction has passed its first committee in the Florida House … HB 949 passed the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee … It must go through two more committees before reaching the House floor … The interlock device prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. The current law makes it mandatory for six months for a first offense if the person’s blood alcohol content is higher than 0.15 percent or a minor is in the vehicle. The devices are also mandatory for multiple DUIs. There are approximately 9,000 interlock devices active in Florida at any given time.

CRITICS: BILL TO IMPLEMENT SOLAR TAX BREAKS HAS BECOME A VEHICLE FOR SOLAR BARRIERS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The bill, HB 1351 by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, was passed unanimously by the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee … but only after several legislators expressed reservations and members of the solar industry warned that a long list of “consumer protections” in the bill will actually serve to keep legitimate companies from doing business in Florida. In addition to authorizing language that prohibits tax assessors from increasing the taxable value of a home or business because of a solar installation, Rodrigues added language he said he modeled off an Arizona law that he says will provide consumer safeguards against “bad actors” in the solar industry. He acknowledged that there are no problems with solar industry installations today in Florida but, because removing the tax barriers will result in “an uptick” in new solar expansion, “the time to do it is now rather than waiting until consumers are taken advantage of.”

BREEZING THROUGH COMMITTEE: WELFARE DRUG TESTING, DCF TAKES BACKSEAT IN WALTON COUNTY via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Among several bills heard by the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee were two dealing with applicants of temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) and child welfare investigations. Sen. Jack Latvala introduced SB 1392, a bill that would require applicants with felony drug convictions within 10 years from the time of the application would be made to submit to a drug screening before being approved for those benefits. The bill also would include individuals with a “history of arrests for drug-related offenses,” Latvala said. There was no opposition to the bill from the public or committee members. In a separate bill — SB 1092, Sen. George Gainer has proposed DCF to take a back seat to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office in all child welfare investigations. If voted on favorably on the Senate floor … Walton County would become only the seventh county out of Florida’s 67 to dish such serious responsibilities to a law enforcement agency.

— Physician assistants required to report to state under bill approved by House health care panel” via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida

SOME LAWMAKERS WORRY CHILDREN WILL SUFFER UNDER NEW FLORIDA WORK-FOR-WELFARE BILL via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A bill approved by a Florida House committee would increase penalties for Floridians receiving food stamps and cash aid that have not met obligations to find work. HB 23 would return those penalties to levels before the 2008 Great Recession. Cape Coral Republican Rep. Dane Eagle, who sponsored the bill, said he saw an advertisement on Craigslist “to sell a (food stamp) $100 card for $50 to buy drugs, alcohol, you name it.” For those individuals already on the edge and legitimately reliant on state assistance, the sudden loss of it can be a disaster, said committee member Rep. Daisy Baez, who previously worked in health care but now works as a social worker outside her role as a lawmaker. She asked Eagle what a family of four received in cash aid per month through the TANF program. The bill’s creator didn’t know.

ANDREW GILLUM: GOP PLAN TO RAISE FOOD STAMP ELIGIBILITY ‘INHUMANE’ via The Associated Press – The Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate is pushing House Republicans to drop an idea that could take away food stamps for about 229,000 Floridians. Gillum held a news conference and then dropped off a petition at House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s office that asks lawmakers to maintain current food stamp eligibility rather than making it harder to receive assistance. A House bill would limit food stamps to families that earn less than 130 percent of the federal poverty limit or $2,633 a month for a family of four. Families who earn twice the poverty limit are now eligible for food assistance. Gillum told reporters it would be “inhumane” to remove the assistance. He noted that his family relied on food stamps when he grew up.

— “The social gospel of Andrew Gillum” via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics

— “Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos endorse Andrew Gillum for governor” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “At gathering of progressives in Tampa, Andrew Gillum says Democrats won’t win in 2018 by being ‘Republican lite’” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

MOVEMENT TO ALLOW LIQUOR SALES IN GROCERY STORES GAINS TRACTION via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Senate Bill 106, known informally as the “whiskey and Wheaties” legislation, is scheduled for a floor vote … A companion measure in the House, HB 81, is scheduled for its final committee stop … The bills remove provisions in state law that require liquor to be sold in separate, standalone stores. “This is something that was put in well over 80 years ago at a time when things were very, very different,” state Sen. Anitere Flores … said, calling the existing law archaic and antiquated. “The question now becomes has this outlived its purpose.” The parent companies of Wal-Mart and Target stores are among the businesses backing the proposed legislation, saying it would create a convenience for modern shoppers. Publix Super Markets and the ABC Fine Wine & Spirits chain are opposed, saying it would create an unfair business advantage for big-box stores while also making alcohol more accessible to underage drinkers. The measure has received wider support in the Senate, where primary sponsor Flores is the second-in-command.

POLL: VOTERS GIVE SCOTT, LEGISLATURE POOR MARKS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA; WANT DISPENSARY LIMITS via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida – Scott and the Florida Legislature are getting poor marks from voters who believe the state has been too slow in implementing a new medical marijuana law overwhelmingly approved at the ballot box in November, according to a new poll. The survey of 800 Floridians who said they cast ballots in 2016 … also found that voters want medical marijuana dispensaries limited and are almost evenly divided on whether marijuana should be legalized outright. Among those who said they were among the 71.3 percent who voted for the medical marijuana constitutional amendment, there was support for limiting the medical marijuana centers — with 54 percent agreeing with the statement that they cast their yes vote based on the understanding that “the state would only allow a limited number of outlets or dispensaries where it is sold.” Only 30 percent said they wanted “an almost unlimited number” of medical marijuana dispensaries.

OP-ED – MEDICAL MARIJUANA IMPLEMENTATION FOR THE 29, 48 … OR 71 PERCENT? via Ben Pollara for Florida Politics – Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues claims to have polled Floridians on whether they want marijuana legalized. They do not. I have two questions that don’t necessitate public opinion research to answer: Who cares? Why are we even talking about this? Medical marijuana has now twice been before Florida voters. In 2014, it garnered a substantial majority of 58 percent, albeit not enough to pass. Two years later, 71 percent of Floridians voted “yes,” placing Article X, Section 29, “Use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions,” in our state’s constitution. In both campaigns, opponents argued that medical marijuana was merely a ruse – “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” was a favorite metaphor – for recreational marijuana. That cynical argument – that voters tricked into something they didn’t want – ultimately lost, and badly. Voters were smarter than opponents gave them credit for, and In November overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana. It is both a truism and cliche in politics that, “the only poll that matters is Election Day.” We had an election on medical marijuana. Two, actually. The “only poll that matters” came down firmly for medical marijuana.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

***Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, LLC, is a full-service consulting firm located just steps from the Capitol. The firm specializes in the development and implementation of successful advocacy strategies highly personalized for each client. Team Liberty is comprised of professionals with a track record of successful coalition-building, grassroots efforts and team coordination. The combination of a strong commitment to clients and practical government and private sector experience is why Fortune 500 companies and not-for-profits alike choose Liberty Partners of Tallahassee.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Florida League of Mayors President Carol McCormack will hold a press conference to discuss the League of Mayor’s priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session at 8:30 a.m. on the fourth floor of the Capitol.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: A bipartisan group of lawmakers will join animal protection groups to call for the passage of bills to outlaw the use of anabolic steroids in greyhound racing at 12:30 p.m. on the fourth floor Capitol Rotunda. Sen. Dana Young, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Rep. Alex Miller are expected to attend.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS — Anti-fracking advocates will hold a press conference to urge lawmakers to pass a statewide fracking ban at 10:30 a.m. at Waller Park (in front of the dolphins) at the Florida Capitol. Sen. Jack Latvala, Sen. Gary Farmer, and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen are among those expected to speak.

HAPPENING TODAY — KEEP FLORIDA BEAUTIFUL HOSTS OUTREACH DAY AT FLORIDA CAPITOL — Keep Florida Beautiful and its affiliates will be hosting an education outreach event at the Florida Capitol. The organization is one of the state’s largest volunteer-based organizations dedicated to improving the state through litter prevention, increased recycling and beautification programs. Keep Florida Beautiful and local affiliates will have displays on the plaza level from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.


Jason Allison, Foley & Lardner: Electronic Arts, Inc

Erin Daly BallasJack CoryKenya Cory Public Affairs Consultants: Natural Health Options of Florida; Natural Therapeutics of Florida, LLC

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Children First Specialty Plan; City of Miramar; Molina Healthcare

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: National Business Aviation Association

Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Flagler County

Nick IarossiAndrew KetchelChristopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Florida Optometric Association

Darrick McGhee, Johnson & Blanton: Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association

Corrine Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Osceola County School District

Sue Mullins, David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: City of Bradenton Beach

Ron Pierce, RSA Consulting: HomeAway

William Rubin, The Rubin Group: Florida Harbor Pilots Association

RICHARD BITER AMONG DOZENS APPLYING FOR STATE TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Biter is one of more than 80 applicants for the open position, created when former Secretary Jim Boxold resigned in January to join Tallahassee’s Capital City Consulting firm. It would be a homecoming for Biter: He’s a former assistant secretary of the department. But he may not be on the short list. The Florida Transportation Commission, the advisory board that will interview applicants and nominate three candidates for Gov. Scott’s consideration, recently extended the application deadline to May 1. Other applicants include Alexander Barr, the department’s Bicycle and Pedestrian coordinator for its Treasure Coast-South Florida district; and Phillip Gainer, its District Secretary for northwest Florida.

VOLUNTEER FLORIDA LAUNCHES #30UNDER30, HONORING EMERGING SERVICE LEADERS – April is Florida Volunteer Month and Volunteer Florida is launching #30Under30, a new initiative to recognize under-30 volunteers by highlighting one volunteer a day throughout the month. To nominate an outstanding volunteer, please email FVM@volunteerflorida.org with the following information: Volunteer’s name, address, a brief description of the way in which the volunteer serves (no more than one paragraph); a quote from the volunteer about why he or she volunteers; a quote from an employee or colleague who works with the volunteer on how he or she has impacted the organization/community; a high-resolution photo; and contact information about the organization with which the volunteer serves. The deadline for submissions is March 25.

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – Wednesday’s Governors Club buffet menu is a taste of the Caribbean with conch chowder soup, yucca salad, seasonal greens, three dressing sections, tomato salad, carne asada beef, chicken ala plancha, BBQ grilled salmon, arroz con gandules and black beans.

NO LINES FOR PANDORA’S NEW FAST-CASUAL RESTAURANT via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Satu’li Canteen in the new Pandora – The World of Avatar land at will be the first Disney World restaurant to use the resort’s new Mobile Order system. Mobile Order is the newest innovation to save guests from waiting in line, the biggest complaint Disney receives. It will allow diners to select their choices via the My Disney Experience app instead of waiting in line for a cashier at the quick service restaurant. When guests arrive at the restaurant they will tap an “I’m here” button in the app, which will notify the kitchen to prepare the meal. Once the meal is ready, the diner will be alerted to pick it up at a designated window. Additional fast-casual and quick-service restaurants will begin offering Mobile Order later this year, according to Pam Brandon, food writer for the Disney Blog.

UNIVERSAL PLANS NEW HOTEL FOR WET ‘N WILD PROPERTY via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Universal Orlando has filed plans to build a 4,000-room hotel … The theme park began demolishing the 13-acre water park last month amid speculation by industry insiders that Universal planned to replace it with a hotel. Documents filed with the City of Orlando show Universal plans to develop the entire 64-acres that is split by Universal Boulevard. In addition to the hotel rooms, the plans show three parking garages — one on the east parcel where the water park stood and two on the opposite end where guest parking was located. The new hotel follows Universal’s desire to add more hotels near its theme park.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to former Rep. Alan Williams, Sean Daly, Ash Mason, and Paul Mitchell.

Sunburn for 3.21.17 – Chamber’s Capitol Days; CRC kicks-off; A-dot-Bean’s accuser; Big poll on gambling; Happy b’day Chuck Hinson!

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

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

FIRST AND FOREMOST: Happy birthday to Tampa Electric’s Chuck Hinson. You’ll be shocked (get it, shocked?) to learn that he turns 65 years-old today.


When the Legislature is in session, everyone has a day for advocacy and action.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has claimed the next two.

The statewide business lobby kicks off its 2017 Capitol Days at the Turnbull Conference Center at Florida State University today. The two-day event gives members a chance to hear from Chamber officials, as well as legislative and business leaders. It’s also a chance for members to advocate on behalf of issues important to them.

“The Florida Chamber’s Capitol Days connects Florida’s business community with members of the Florida Legislature, and the governor and Cabinet to help make Florida more competitive,” said Syd Kitson, the chairman of the board, in a video.

Kitson is among those who will welcome attendees to the annual event when the conference begins at 1 p.m. Attendees will also hear from Mark Wilson, the Chamber’s president and CEO, and Jerry Parrish, the Chamber’s director of research, who is expected to give a presentation about Florida’s scorecard.

Attendees will also hear from the Chamber’s legislative experts, including Frank Walker, the vice president of government affairs; Christopher Emmanuel, the director of infrastructure & governance policy; Brittney Hunt, the director of talent, education & quality of life policy; and Carolyn Johnson, the director of business, economic development & innovation policy. The first day will wrap up with a trip to the Capitol, where attendees will hear from members of the Florida Legislature before getting a chance to act as citizen lobbyists.

The conference continues Wednesday, with a panel discussion called “Is Florida Closed for Business?,” featuring Eric Silagy, the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light; Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; and Mike Grissom, the interim president and CEO of Enterprise Florida.

Also on tap for Wednesday: A discussion on insurance and legal reform, a presentation about the Constitution Revision Commission, and a panel on regulatory reform. Ken Lawson, the president and CEO of Visit Florida, and Carol Dover, the president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, will also be on hand for a discussion called “Florida’s Tourism Industry: Sunshine or Rainy Days Ahead?”

The final day of the conference is expected to wrap up with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, but not before one last speech. CFO Jeff Atwater, who is leaving his post at the end of the 2017 Legislative Session (whenever that might be), is scheduled to give the keynote address around 4:05 p.m. Wednesday.


Floridians are down on the Koch brothers, but up on the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

They’re worried about healthcare and jobs, but are less concerned about immigration and global warming. They are so-so on President Donald Trump, split on Gov. Rick Scott and tepid on Sen. Bill Nelson.

Those are just some of the revelations of a new Chamber of Commerce statewide poll. The survey of 600 likely Florida voters was conducted from March 6 through March 14 by Cherry Communications. It has a margin of error of 4 percent.

The findings are expected to be presented to members of the Florida Chamber Political Institute when it meets at 9 a.m. today as part of  Capitol Days. Here’s 10 takeaways from the survey:

— Florida voters have mixed feelings about the new president. Overall, 43 percent of Florida voters said they have a favorable opinion of the New York Republican (and part-time Florida man), while 50 percent said they have an unfavorable opinion. Unsurprisingly, Republicans are giving him top marks with 79 percent saying they have a favorable opinion of him. The survey found 81 percent of Democrats have an unfavorable opinion of him.

— Half of Florida voters approve of the job Scott is doing as governor, with 42 percent of voters disapproving. The poll fond 76 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of independents think he’s doing a good job; while 77 percent of Democrats still give the Naples Republican a thumbs-down.

— Nelson fared about the same when it came to his approval numbers, with 47 percent of Florida voters saying they approve of the work he was doing on behalf of his constituents in the U.S. Senate.

— Florida voters seem to be pleased with the direction of the state. Nearly half of respondents (49%) said they believe Florida is heading in the right direction. Republicans and no party affiliation voters, according to the polling memo, were “especially optimistic” with 72 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of no party affiliation voters saying things are heading in the right direction.

— A majority (81%) of voters say they are “about the same or better off financially” than they were a year ago. According to the polling memo, “party identification has virtually no effect on the attitudes about Floridians financial situation.”

— When it comes to the top concerns for Floridians, healthcare and the economy are No. 1. The survey found “Healthcare/Obamacare” and “Jobs and the Economy” were tied with 14 percent, followed by education. Immigration and global warming are issues that “still concern Florida voters,” according to the polling memo. The survey found 8 percent said immigration was their No. 1 concern, while 7 percent selected global warming.

— Just 13 percent of likely Florida voters have a favorable opinion of the Koch brothers. One-third of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of the two men, who are tied to the conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. According to the survey, 20 percent of Republicans, 17 percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the two men.

— Personal injury lawyers don’t fare much better: 67 percent of Florida voters said trial attorneys benefit the most from a lawsuit, while 16 percent said the victim benefits the most. The survey found 72 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of independent voters believed trial attorneys saw the most benefit from a lawsuit.

— Here’s another hit for trial attorneys: 71 percent of Floridians think “making money is the driving force for personal injury trial lawyers,” according to the polling memo. The survey found 80 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of independents said they thought personal injury lawyers were “just in it for the money.”

— Wondering if there was any good news? If you’re the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the answer is heck yeah! The survey found 54 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the statewide business association, compared to 11 percent percent who have an unfavorable view of the group.

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CARLOS BERUFF: CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION WON’T WASTE TAXPAYERS’ MONEY OR TIME via Florida Politics – The newly-formed Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) won’t spend time on changes that can’t pass at the ballot box, its chairman said Monday. “If the public doesn’t feel overwhelmingly supportive of (a proposed amendment), then why do it?” said Beruff, the Manatee County homebuilder appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. The panel held an organizational meeting in the Capitol … The 37-member panel meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document, but its suggestions have to be approved by 60 percent of voters during the next statewide election. When asked if he’ll authorize polling to know what will make the cut and what won’t, he said, “That’ll probably be part of the plan but I’m not sure.”

RICHARD CORCORAN: ‘WE’RE READY’ FOR A SPECIAL SESSION via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – He made the remark to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club … in a luncheon speech about the House’s insistence that Enterprise Florida be abolished. He called EFI an “absolute cesspool” that’s “unreformable.” What’s needed, Corcoran said, is “a true and fair and just free market system,” a remark that brought applause from the audience of about 200 people. Here’s Corcoran, verbatim, on the need for a special session if necessary to abolish Enterprise Florida: “So last year, we zeroed them out. We said we’re not giving you any more incentive money and we thought that was the end of story. And this summer, we said OK, now that we’ve zeroed them out and we’ve said this is a horrendous program, why are we leaving the law on the books? Might as well delete that, too. And so we deleted that and now we’re in the current furor that you have. But I can assure you, they will be zeroed out again. And if we have to go to special session, we’re ready. Because we’re right.”

AFP-FL LAUNCHES DIRECT MAIL CAMPAIGN TO SUPPORT LAWMAKERS WHO BACKED BILL TO KILL ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Florida Politics — The statewide organization launched a direct mail campaign Monday in districts of state lawmakers who supported a proposal (HB 7005) Enterprise Florida and other economic incentive programs. The mailer, according to the organization, is meant to “educate citizens in the districts of legislators that voted to eliminate corporate welfare.” “Corporate welfare is the result of government, at any level, picking winners and losers by redistributing our hard-earned tax dollars to big business and special interests. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The leaders of the Florida House that have voted for H.B. 7005, vote to level the playing field for Florida’s small businesses and taxpayers,” said Chris Hudson, the organization’s state director, in a statement.

FIRST ON #FLAPOL – DOROTHY HUKILL CANCER-FREE, WILL MISS REMAINDER OF 2017 SESSION OUT OF ‘ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION’ via Florida Politics — In a letter to Senate President Joe Negron, the Port Orange Republican said her team of physicians informed her that “post treatment tests show no remaining cancer and they are optimistic of a cancer free full recovery.” While Hukill said she hoped that would signal the end of her treatment, her doctors recommended “one more round of radiation treatments in an abundance of caution.”… In her letter to Negron on Monday, she said additional radiation treatments will unfortunately mean she “will be unable to return to Tallahassee prior to the completion of the 2017 Regular Session. “During this time, I will continue to be part of the legislative process from the District and I look forward to returning to Tallahassee soon,” she wrote. … Negron said Hukill will continue to manager her “district offices, staff, bills, and committee responsibilities remotely during this time.”

KIM DANIELS ACCUSED OF USING CAMPAIGN FUNDS FOR PERSONAL EXPENSES via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – The allegations stem from 2015, when Daniels was running for re-election to the Jacksonville City Council. According to records obtained from the Elections Commission, an investigation was launched after a complaint was filed that year about a $4,000 expenditure listed on her campaign finance report. Daniels is accused of using the money to purchase a magazine advertisement promoting a book she wrote called “The Demon Dictionary.” The advertisement, published in Shofar Magazine alongside an article in which Daniels discussed Jacksonville politics, encouraged readers to purchase the book without any mention of her political campaign.

TWEET, TWEET: @AGGancarski: Campaign finance trouble bubbles up for Kim Daniels – This was “BREAKING NEWS” five days ago.

A LOOK AT AARON BEAN’S ACCUSER, CARLOS SLAY via Florida Politics – The Naples Daily News isn’t a usual go-to source on northeast Florida politics, but it dropped a blockbuster story about Sen. Bean … The claim: “Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year’s budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically.” But equally blockbuster is the source of the story … Carlos Slay, a self-styled “public advocate” who lost a contentious race to Drew last year.

In June, the office of Angela Corey deemed Slay’s narrative “inaccurate, generally without merit, or otherwise made with reckless disregard for the truth … a circuitous impermissible stacking of inferences and innuendo.”

Slay is also a man with serious anger management issues. Slay has some credibility issues, and some with anger management as well, as multiple injunctions for protection against domestic violence suggest. Slay got thumped in his race for Tax Collector. But at least in terms of an ephemeral March 2017 news cycle, he scored a pyrrhic victory. Meanwhile, when it comes to the charges being levied against Bean: consider the original source.

TWEET, TWEET: @NateMonroeTU: Interesting. Details about the SAO report seem relevant here, at least to this Tallahassee neophyte.

TOUGH COLUMN – CUTTING FOOD STAMPS SOUNDS GOOD TO THE GUYS WEARING GUCCI via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times – Let’s start with the tax savings. There are none. At least none that will affect Florida’s budget. Other than administrative costs, the entire food stamp program is funded by the federal government. So, in essence, we are paying taxes to the IRS in Washington, D.C., and telling the agency to keep the change. If you are ideologically pure, you could applaud the idea that Florida is rejecting its federal allowance and saving money for America as a whole. But, somehow, I don’t think the rest of America cares. The great majority of Floridians will never notice if this bill passes or fails. It will not reduce their taxes, and it will not change their lives for better or worse. he only people who will care are the politicians who see this as an ideological victory. And the hungry children and seniors left in their wake.

BILL EXEMPTING CREDIT UNIONS FROM DECEPTIVE PRACTICES LAWS PASSES PANEL via Florida Politics – The committee substitute for House Bill 1347, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones, would exempt state or federal credit unions from Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act under the assumption that credit unions get all the regulation and oversight they need from other, mostly federal banking laws and regulations. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee unanimously approved it, after no one expressed any opposition. “The current statute provides exemptions for most regulated Florida industries… based on the idea that regulated industries are properly governed by their respective regulatory authorities and their respective corrective actions from those regulatory authorities,” said Democratic state Rep. Richard Stark, who presented the bill to the committee in Jones’ absence.

— “Autism law enforcement training heads to Florida House floor” via Sascha Cordner of WFSU

“DON’T FEAR THE DEBATE?” – Anders Croy, the Communications Director for the House Democrats, update: “In the spirit of transparency, the House Democratic Caucus would like to provide you with a quick update on the breakdown of bills that have been heard in committee as we kick off Session tomorrow morning. We’ll be keeping a running count each week as we proceed through Session. As of Tuesday, 537 bills have been placed on the calendar in the Florida House. Of those, 429 are sponsored by Republicans, 73 are sponsored by Democrats, and 35 bills have bi-partisan prime co-sponsors. To put that in a percentage, 79.9% of the bills that have been heard are Republican bills, 13.6% are Democratic, and 6.5% are bipartisan.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

LATEST LAKE OKEECHOBEE ALGAE BLOOM HAS SCIENTISTS CRYING FOWL via Tyler Treadway of TCPalm – A small blue-green algae bloom sighted in southern Lake Okeechobee had scientists wondering if another nasty, algae-choked summer could lie ahead for the St. Lucie River. A photo of the bloom along a boat ramp at Pahokee on the lake’s southern shore by Barry Rosen, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, was shared via email by numerous environmental scientists. Toxic algae from a massive bloom in the lake was discharged into the St. Lucie last summer, resulting in thick mats of noxious goo in the water at Stuart. “(It) looks like the mild winter is favoring early bloom formation on Lake O … or maybe this was happening at this time last year to this degree and was not observed,” James “Jim” Riley, an environmental engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers, wrote in an email. “Would like to stay ahead of the news media on this situation.” Too late.

POLL: MOST VOTERS DOWN ON EXPANDING GAMBLING via Florida Politics – The vast majority of Florida voters—84 percent—“want to reduce or hold the line on gambling” and 60 percent also “are less likely to support a candidate … that votes to expand gambling,” a new poll released Monday shows. The latest Mason-Dixon poll included questions on gambling, according to a press release from No Casinos, Florida’s anti-gambling expansion group. The anti-expansion “feeling among Floridians carries across all regions of the state: North Florida (87 percent), Central Florida (92 percent), Tampa Bay (81 percent), Southwest Florida (84 percent), Southeast Florida (78 percent),” the release said.

TWEET, TWEET: @SLRoss528: this is an outlier from every credible poll I’ve seen in the last 7 years

HOUSE GAMBLING BILL SET FOR WAYS & MEANS TODAY via Florida Politics – The House of Representatives’ omnibus gambling bill will again be heard this Tuesday [today], records show. The bill (HB 7037) is on the agenda for the Ways & Means Committee, chaired by Bradenton Republican Jim Boyd, on Tuesday. Though it includes a renewed blackjack agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the legislation overall “freezes” the current ambit of gambling in the state, as Rep. Mike La Rosa has said. He chairs the Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee, which already OK’d the measure 10-5. The Senate’s gambling bill (SB 8) has cleared all its committees and awaits a hearing on the chamber floor.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill that would make changes to the state’s public assistance program when it meets at 8 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee will discuss a bill meant to crack down on “sanctuary cities” when it meets at 12:30 p.m. in 12 House Office Building. The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to discuss a bill that would get rid of an insurance industry tax credit to pay for a cut in the state’s communications services tax when it meets at 9 a.m. in 401 Senate Office Building. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee will discuss a bill preventing local governments from restricting the use of vacation rentals when it meets at 2 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee will discuss a proposal to require drug tests for public assistance applicants during its meeting at 4 p.m. in 401 Senate Office Building.

DOES AIRBNB DECREASE HOUSING VALUES, AS MIAMI BEACH MAYOR SAYS? via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact – Philip Levine went on a Facebook rant against Airbnb after a conservative publication criticized city officials for supporting fines against the short-term rental company. He said officials in New York, San Francisco and Miami also don’t support Airbnb. Why? “Because it destroys neighborhoods, buildings, decreases real estate values and increases costs for workforce housing!!!!!” he wrote in a March 2 Facebook comment … Some research and news articles have argued that Airbnb has decreased the rental supply and therefore is driving up prices, but it’s questionable whether all of those units can be described as “workforce housing” in already expensive areas with a lack of affordable housing. Levine did not point to evidence proving that Airbnb has decreased real estate values. It’s too soon to fully assess the impact of Airbnb on housing markets, and that’s difficult to do when it only represents a small fraction of the housing supply in any city or region. We rate this claim Mostly False.

PROPOSED ALL ABOARD FLORIDA REGULATIONS: DRIVEN BY SAFETY CONCERNS OR POLITICS? via Ed Dean of the Sunshine State News – State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, an opponent of the rail project, has introduced “The Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act.” Mayfield’s proposal would make high-speed rail companies pay for the installation of safety measures, including fencing along certain areas of the track that could be dangerous for pedestrians. Mayfield’s bill also makes train companies develop safety measures focused on train engineers and gate malfunctions. The bill is gaining traction in Tallahassee as it cleared the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously. Weighing in on the safety issue, Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE) Chairman Brent Hanlon says Mayfield’s bill will ensure people will be safer at high speed rail crossings across the state. “This legislation will address public safety concerns in any community across the state,” Hanlon insisted. But some question the merit of this legislation. “Is this bill really about safety or is it about politics?” Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish asked. Parrish, who supports AAF, added, “enough is enough.”

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SETTLEMENT REACHED IN GULF POWER’S BID FOR $106.8 MILLION BASE RATE INCREASE via Florida Politics – Gulf Power Co. will settle for nearly $62 million per year in increased rates for its customers in Northwest Florida, rather than the $106.8 million it had planned to seek from the Public Service Commission, environmental groups announced Monday. The deal would guarantee the utility a return on investment to Gulf Power’s stockholders averaging 10.25 percent — more than the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers before the PSC, had argued was justified. …  The monthly fixed charge on residential would have climbed from the existing $18 to nearly $50. According to the company, the average monthly bill will climb from $144 to $151. … PSC Chairwoman Julie Immanuel Brown said the commission would hear arguments on the merits of the agreement on April 4, and could vote on it then.

RICK SCOTT DEFENDS AYALA DECISION, STILL ‘LOOKING AT OPTIONS’ via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – “The first thing I did is I asked her to recuse herself, and I talked to her and she said she wasn’t going to so I moved the case to Brad King,” Scott told reporters in the Capitol. “Last week she said she was fine with that, today she’s changed her position. And so, the case has been assigned to Brad King and that was the right decision.” Some Central Florida lawmakers have called on Scott to suspend or remove Ayala from office because she declared she wouldn’t seek the death penalty. Scott, though, isn’t going that far yet, but he’s not ruling it out either. “With regard to her actions we’ll continue to look at our options. Right now I’m focused on Markeith Loyd,” Scott said.

BOB CORTES CALLS FOR SCOTT TO SUSPENDAYALA, REASSIGN ALL HER CAPITAL CASES via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Cortes, who was among the first critics of Ayala’s “no death penalty” policy announced last week, said in a letter to Scott that he has learned Ayala already is withdrawing death-penalty charges in other cases besides the one that has dominated news since her announcement that of alleged cop-killer Markeith Loyd. Among them, Cortes said, is that of Larry D. Perry, who faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse of his son in 2013. Cortes, whose District 30 includes Maitland and other parts of north Orange County in Ayala’s 9th Judicial Circuit, advised Scott that it is “obvious these cases will not be handled in the manner they should be by the current state attorney. “I respectfully ask that you suspend State Attorney Aramis Ayala from her position,” he wrote.

LAWMAKERS COULD CUT AYALA’S OFFICE BUDGET OVER DEATH PENALTY STANCE via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Rep. Scott Plakon, a member of the House Judicial Appropriations Subcommittee, had previously recommended a 10 percent cut to all 20 judicial districts across the state as part of a budget exercise. Now, they could slash the Ninth Circuit even more. “In light of recently reported events taking place in the State Attorney’s office of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, our team feels it prudent to revisit our recommendation to the committee as regards to their budget,” Plakon told the committee. “Previously, we used more or less an across the board approach and now believe a more targeted approach might be more appropriate.” Plakon would only say he wants to take another look at the budget recommendations, and said he hasn’t looked at the specifics of how much he would cut or where.

MORE THAN 100 JUSTICES, JUDGES, LAW PROFESSORS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR AYALA via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – They signed a letter to Gov. Scott expressing their support Orlando State Attorney Ayala‘s right to decide not to pursue death penalty cases and urging the governor to back off. The signatories include former chief justices of the Florida Supreme Court Harry Lee Anstead and Gerald Kogan joined with three dozen current or former judges and prosecutors and approximately 90 law professors. “We are deeply troubled by your effort to relieve State Attorney Aramis D. Ayala of her constitutional and statutory duties in the Markeith Loyd case. We believe that this effort to remove State Attorney Ayala infringes on the vitally important independence of prosecutors, exceeds your authority, undermines the right of residents in Orange and Osceola counties to the services of their elected leaders, and sets a dangerous precedent,” the letter declares.

SOME NOT BUYING STATE ATTORNEY REPORT CALLING MENTALLY ILL INMATE’S DEATH ACCIDENTAL via Sascha Cordner of WFSU – Back in 2014, then Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews promised he’d fire anyone involved in the death of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate at Dade Correctional Institution. Guards took Rainey to the showers after he’d smeared human waste all over himself. And, later, after multiple firings and resignations, Crews along with lawmakers spoke of the important need for reforms … now some five years after Rainey’s death, Miami Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has decided to close the investigation without filing any criminal charges. Fernandez-Rundle also deemed there was no malice or premeditated intent to kill on the part of the correctional officers. And, she further concluded the shower used in the Rainey incident has never proven to be unsafe, adding there were no burns on the body—according to the Medical Examiner. But, George Mallinckrodt calls that “flimsy.” The psychotherapist was a former mental health counselor at Dade CI. He says it also doesn’t add up—given reported accounts of some of the prison guards, medical personnel, and inmates who say Rainey’s skin was peeling off on contact.

COURT: FLORIDA DAIRY’S SKIM MILK IS SKIM MILK, NOT IMITATION via Brendan Farrington of The Associated Press – A small, all-natural dairy isn’t being deceptive when it calls it’s skim milk “skim milk,” a federal appeals court ruled in a victory for the creamery that’s fighting the state’s demand to label the product “imitation” because vitamins aren’t added to it. The ruling overturns a decision … when a federal judge sided with the Florida Department of Agriculture, which said the Ocheesee Creamery couldn’t label it’s skim milk “skim milk” because the state defines the product as skim milk with vitamin A added. The state instead said that if the creamery wanted to sell the product, it should label it as “imitation” skim milk. But that didn’t sit well with a dairy whose whole philosophy is not to add ingredients to natural products. So instead of complying, the creamery has dumped thousands of gallons of skim milk down the drain rather than label it as an imitation milk product. “The State was unable to show that forbidding the Creamery from using the term ‘skim milk’ was reasonable,” the three-judge, Jacksonville-based panel wrote in its ruling.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

APPOINTEDPatti Ketcham to the Florida Real Estate Commission.

CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE ANNOUNCES NEW HIRE – Jake Stofan will be an on-air reporter for Mike Vasilinda’s Capitol News Service, the company said Monday. Stofan, a Jacksonville native, graduated from the University of North Florida last year with a multimedia journalism degree. He went on to work at KVRR in Fargo, North Dakota before accepting a job at Capitol News Service, starting next month. The self-described political junkie said he’s “incredibly enthusiastic about the opportunity to cover legislative matters that are shaping the future of his home state.”

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — As Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s bold stand against the death penalty sparks outrage, Trimmel Gomes latest episode of The Rotunda features the man standing on both sides of the controversy, Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Ocoee. As Chairman of the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Bracy sponsored the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law requiring a unanimous jury for the death sentence. But Bracy also criticizes Florida’s death penalty process as inconsistent and inadequate. Gomes then discusses Sen. Aaron Bean’s secret budget appropriation for a friend as reported by Arek Sarkissian of Naples Daily News. Plus a recap of the “sometimes” annual Press Skits with FloridaPolitics.com publisher, Peter Schorsch.

MUST-READ OP-EDTSO CONCERT PAYS TRIBUTE TO TEREZÍN VICTIMS via Steve Uhlfelder for the Tallahassee Democrat – Next Saturday night, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, joined by FAMU Concert Choir, will tell the inspiring story of the historic performances by Nazi prisoners of Verdi’s “Requiem” at Terezín concentration camp. This event has special meaning to me, because Terezín is where my grandparents died. It was a terrible place where Jews from Europe were herded before being sent on to their death in other concentration camps. In Terezín itself, Jewish prisoners were killed or died of hunger, disease and despair. This place of genocide is located in a beautiful region of the Czech Republic, surrounded by green hills and quiet rivers. My grandparents were among the first group of Jews to be transported there from western Germany … I had been able to make the trip to Terezín that was too difficult for my father, and pay respects to his parents as he was never able to. My father would be comforted to know that the memory of his parents – and the lessons of the Holocaust – will never be forgotten.

SHARERS RATHER THAN AUTHORS MORE IMPORTANT ON SOCIAL MEDIA via David Bauder of The Associated Press – The person who shares a news story on social media is more important than the story’s actual source in determining whether readers believe it, a study by the Media Insight Project has found. In a previous study, consumers said they paid greater heed to where the story originated. But the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute, set up an experiment that found something different. News organizations are keenly interested in research that tracks consumer habits in a rapidly changing media world. Facebook was the top non-television source for election news cited by both supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in last fall’s presidential campaign, according to the Pew Research Center. Businesses grew to churn out false stories that people would share online.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here.***

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY LUNCH BUFFET MENU – It’s All-American day at the Governors Club with a Tuesday lunch buffet that includes KC steak soup; egg salad; macaroni salad; seasonal greens; three dressing sections; fried chicken; meatloaf with brown gravy; garlic Yukon mashed potatoes; glazed carrots and green beans.

AFTER NCAA BERTH, FLORIDA ST. TOP SCORERS WEIGH DECISIONS via Joe Reedy of The Associated Press – Florida State made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, but whether the Seminoles (26-9) can return next season will depend on the decisions of their three leading scorers. Dwayne BaconJonathan Isaac and Xavier Rathan-Mayes said after Saturday’s 91-66 loss to Xavier in the second round that they had not reached a decision and had no timetable. All three though are expected to put their names into consideration for the NBA draft. If all three depart, sophomore Terance Mann would be the leading returning scorer (8.4 points). Even with Bacon and Isaac, coach Leonard Hamilton extolled his team’s depth throughout the year as he used 12 players per game. Freshmen guards Trent Forrest and CJ Walker each averaged over 12 minutes per game and will be counted on more next season.

WHERE’S THE LINE? THEME PARKS AIMING TO ELIMINATE THEM via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – At Universal Orlando Resort’s new “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” ride, waiting in line has been replaced by lounging on couches and listening to a racy barber shop quartet sing until it’s time to enter the ride. Universal is leading the theme-park charge into “virtual lines” that give visitors options for exploring a park or watching live entertainment instead of the tedium of looking at someone’s back as you inch forward step by step to the thrill ride … Later this year, when Universal opens its new Volcano Bay water park in Orlando, visitors will be given wristbands that will alert them when it’s their turn to get on a ride. “I think it represents the future of what we’re going to be doing in themed entertainment,” [Universal creative director JasonSurrell said. “I kind of joke that this is the first step on a journey that will eventually lead us to a generation that doesn’t even know about theme park lines. It will be ‘What do you mean, wait in a queue? What’s that, Grandpa?'”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to future Speaker Paul Renner (wait, did we just say that aloud?). Also celebrating are great Floridians, Fran Haasch, Richard Gonzmart, Mary Repper and Ken Walters.

Sunburn for 3.20.17 – Budget realities; A-dot-Bean’s papers; Jeb vs. Charlie on Everglades; CRC’s first meeting today

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

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

BREAKING SUNDAY NIGHT – AIRBNB REACHES TAX DEAL WITH MIAMI-DADE COUNTY via Chabeli Herrera of the Miami Herald – Under the agreement, Airbnb will collect the 6 percent Miami-Dade resort tax from its hosts and remit that money to the county every month. If trends continue, that would amount to at least $8 million a year for the county, said Benjamin Breit, an Airbnb spokesman. The agreement largely excludes Miami Beach and Bal Harbour because each city has its own resort tax set at 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. However, Airbnb will begin collecting the 3 percent convention tax from hosts in Miami Beach as part of the county tax deal.


State economists say Florida’s economy is growing, but it won’t be enough to dissuade legislators from cutting state spending.

State officials met Friday to draw up new forecasts to predict how much the state will collect in taxes over the next few years. The forecasts will be used by state legislators to draw up this year’s budget.

Economists predict the state’s main budget account will grow by 4.4 percent during the fiscal year that ends in June. Those forecasts estimate growth of nearly 4 percent in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The changes are projected to add $115 million to state accounts.

But that’s a small adjustment given the size of the $82 billion state budget. Citing a potential shortfall over the next few years, House Republicans are planning to cut $1.4 billion.

— “Florida’s revenue picture improves a little — but not enough to really matter” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

“IF WE ARE GOING TO WIN THIS YEAR, IT’S BECAUSE OF JACK LATVALA.” via Gary Fineout of The Fine Print – It’s no secret that Latvala … now the Senate budget chief – has had up and down relationships with a lot of people in the political process, including the current governor. But Latvala … is now becoming more and more aligned with Scott in his ongoing feud with House Republicans over the fate of the state’s tourism marketing program and the state’s economic development agency. Latvala has already sounded off that he does not agree with the House approach – which is to completely eliminate Enterprise Florida and place tight restrictions on Visit Florida.

This ongoing disagreement threatens to prevent the GOP-controlled Legislature from passing a new state budget. But it was still a tad surprising to see Scott – caught on camera last week – showering Latvala with effusive praise …  “If we’re going to win this year, it’s because of Sen Jack Latvala,” Scott said. “He’s going to stand with us all the way through. And he’s going to take a lot of arrows for doing it. I’m going to tell you he’s got broad shoulders and he can do it.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will host a Fighting for Florida Jobs Roundtable with business owners, economic development leaders, tourism leaders, and community members to discuss the local economic impact of VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida. Roundtable begins 10:30 a.m. at Harbinger Sign, 5300 Shad Road in Jacksonville.

RICHARD CORCORAN DEFENDS LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES TO PENSACOLA GROUP via Joseph Baucum of the Pensacola News-Journal – “What they’re talking about is an unfair system where they get to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, and when that happens the entire marketplace loses,” Corcoran argued of Enterprise Florida proponents, while speaking to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club. As part of its functions, the agency recruits outside businesses to the state through administering and doling out incentives to companies such as tax breaks and funding. “Instead of picking winners and losers in the marketplace, which does more on its own to lift people out of poverty, they ought to be using that money for education, for infrastructure, for giving back taxes to the people or broad-based, fair tax cuts in the business marketplace, which is why people move here more than any other reason,” he continued.

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DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 13; NFL Draft – 38; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 45; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 45; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 166; Election Day 2017 – 231; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 269.

DOCUMENTS: AARON BEAN HELPED FRIEND WITH SECRET $1 MILLION STATE PAYMENT via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – A state senator helped a friend’s business obtain $1 million hidden in the state budget after the two discussed how the lawmaker would promote the business, budget documents and emails show. Sen. Aaron Bean helped secure a $1 million special appropriation in this year’s budget for an early mental health screening program run by Catherine Drew, the wife of Nassau County Tax Collector John Drew. Bean and John Drew have been friends for more than a decade and have supported each other politically. The Drews operate Florida Psychological Associates in Fernandina Beach in northeastern Florida. They used the state money to start a pilot program that conducts early mental health assessments for schoolchildren and criminal defendants. Part of the program includes the development of a web application named “Celphie.” Bean … initially asked legislative leaders to add nearly $700,000 as a line item in the state budget for the program, but that request was knocked down to $100,000 and eventually rejected by House members, records show.

>>>Couldn’t an alt headline for this story be, “Senator helps secure funding for program he supports”

Brian Burgess doesn’t think so; he blogs, “Bean needs to spill the beans.

SENATE TAX CUT PROPOSAL, AS IS, MAY BE ON THE ROPES via Florida Politics – A tax cut that’s a priority of Senate President Negron is running into resistance from his fellow senators. Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami-Dade Republican and Negron’s right hand in the chamber, is running the bill (SB 378) to pay for a cut in the state’s tax on mobile phone, satellite and cable TV service by repealing a tax break to insurers. On Friday evening, Flores said “there have been conversations” among some senators—she didn’t say whom—who want to  restructure the bill, still taking the tax credits from the insurance industry but instead applying them to another cost driver … When asked if a compromise could be struck, Flores said she wanted the legislation “to be a collaborative bill, so right now this is a work in progress.”

SOUTH FLORIDA JEWISH PROGRAMS COULD BE HIT BY BUDGET CUTS via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – A Jewish Family Services caretaking program for survivors in southeast Palm Beach County could lose $92,946 from its annual $2.5 million budget, while the Federation Transportation Services, which provides transportation for low-income seniors in Broward and Palm Beach counties, could lose $143,640 from its $922,000 budget. State Sen. Kevin Rader … who represents the area covered by the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, called the cuts “meshugganah,” meaning crazy. The money is part of a $20 million budget cut proposed by state Sen. Anitere Flores … the chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee. She did not respond to multiple interview requests. Rader is also on the committee.

WHY DO HOUSE REPUBLICANS KEEP DRIVING MONEY INTO THE WORLD GOLF HALL OF FAME? via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – The House voted March 10 by a 87-28 vote to kill 24 tax credits — but saved the one paid to the Hall of Fame. [The] hard line against incentives makes the golf museum a curious outlier. World Golf Hall of Fame president Jack Peter said the facility has never come close to hitting 300,000 in annual attendance, but it has increased marketing to attract golfers to Florida. The facility frequently advertises the Hall of Fame during PGA Tour events. He said the promotional value was $6.5 million just last year. Peter said he would like the attendance to grow, but insists the facility is still benefiting the state in promotional value. For every $1 the state invests in the Hall of Fame, it loses every dollar. And the state still incurs other costs, meaning for every dollar the state invests it gets nothing back and loses an additional 8 cents for every dollar invested. That translates to a loss of $4 million over the life of the 1998 agreement in addition to the $50 million the state paid in tax credits.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

JOE NEGRON MEETS WITH ABOUT 400 IN PAHOKEE via TCPalm.com –  Kamara Woodson, of Belle Glade, was one of about 400 in the audience during a discussion with Senate President Negron and other area politicians at Pahokee Middle/High School in Pahokee. Many Glades residents are upset by the proposal of Senate Bill 10, headed by Negron, that would take 60,000 acres out of production in order to minimize Lake Okeechobee water being discharged to the east and west. “Every community has a responsibility,” Negron told the crowd.

LAKE O LAND BUY WILL KILL JOBS, RUIN GLADES, RESIDENTS TELL STATE via Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post – Dozens of machinists union members wore black T-shirts emblazoned with “Save our Jobs” in white letters. Sugar cane and vegetable farmers bore green-and-white “Stop the land grab,” and “Hands off my tractor,” signs. Others hung toilet seats around their necks, stating, “Clean up your own septic mess,” a reference to the estimated 250,000 to 600,000 septic tanks draining into Lake Okeechobee from the north. The auditorium was filled to its capacity of 400, and several hundred people who quietly waited outside were turned away. Police estimated the total number of people who turned out at 1,000. “We cannot, do not and will not support SB 10 as it is today,” said Lynda Moss, a Pahokee resident whose family owns and operates Moss Towing and Trucking in South Bay. “The devastation from the loss of jobs is unimaginable at this point.” Years ago, farmers were mandated to clean up Lake Okeechobee and have exceeded their goals, Moss said.

SHOT: “Charlie Crist pushed for Everglades restoration plan he scrapped in 2008” via Sunshine State News

CHASER: “Charlie Crist stood in the way of Everglades restoration” via Jeb Bush for Sunshine State News

CHRIS SPROWLS SEEKS TO SAVE CHILDREN’S INSURANCE PLAN via Kathleen McGrory of the Tampa Bay Times – The plan, known as Sunshine Health Stars Plus, covered nearly 10,000 children across the state, some of whom had special needs and were unable to get coverage elsewhere. Despite its popularity, the plan was canceled last year, after the public-private organization Florida Healthy Kids said it had become too expensive to offer. Plan administrators blamed the Affordable Care Act, which ushered in regulations that mandated more benefits and abolished spending limits on essential health benefits for children. Last week, Sprowls sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, explaining what had happened to the Stars Plus plan. In the letter, he asked Price to consider exempting the plan from some of ACA’s requirements so that Healthy Kids could “continue to offer quality, affordable care to the children of Florida.”

LEGISLATORS FOCUS ON HOSPITAL COSTS, COMPETITION via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – The House speaker and the Governor have clashed often and early in this year’s legislative session. But they agree the certificate-of-need law that governs how many hospitals can be built should be repealed. This year, lawmakers in both chambers have introduced bills to repeal certificate-of-need laws for hospitals, nursing homes and hospices. The governor has publicly supported the concept. But many lawmakers think hospitals, which are under financial fire from all sides this year, are the biggest priority. If anything passes, it probably will be a modified version that excludes hospices and nursing homes, said Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Republican nurse and hospital administrator from Sebring. “I think the current discussion is being geared to focus on hospitals,” Grimsley said.

LAWMAKERS SHIFT COURSE ON IMMIGRATION POLICY via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Trump has realigned the state’s immigration debate and GOP lawmakers are moving in the opposition direction … The heated immigration rhetoric from the presidential campaign is echoing across Florida’s Capitol as state officials debate legislation designed to crack down on immigrants who do not have legal status. “At the end of the day Donald Trump won and he won on a strong immigration platform,” said state Rep. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who is sponsoring one of the immigration bills and co-sponsoring two others. “We’re a nation of laws and here in Florida we’re no different; people have to respect the rule of law.” GOP lawmakers are proposing harsher penalties for immigrants in the country illegally who commit violent crimes, punishing local governments that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, rolling back the college tuition benefit approved in 2014, forcing businesses to verify the legal status of their employees and a range of other immigration proposals.

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS DECRY BILL THAT WOULD LIMIT REGULATIONS via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel – A bill in the Legislature that would limit the authority of cities and counties to regulate businesses has Central Florida governments worried they could lose control over everything from noise restrictions to strip clubs. The legislation (HB 17) proposed by Rep. Randy Fine would prohibit local governments from imposing new regulations on businesses, professions or occupations unless the restrictions are specifically authorized by state law. Fine said his bill would help businesses thrive in Florida, by making regulations more consistent across the state. Currently, they can vary greatly from city to city and county to county. But city and county officials across the state argue the bill would upend Florida’s decades-old tradition of home rule, taking decisions away from the local politicians who know their communities best.

RAY RODRIGUES STANCE ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA ANGERS AMENDMENT 2 ADVOCATES via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Because polling in 2016 showed less than half of all Floridians want to legalize marijuana outright, Rodrigues believes he is doing the right thing by pushing regulations that ban people from smoking cannabis or using edible pot. “Here’s what we know … Amendment 2 passed with more than 70 percent of the vote. And for those of us who were polling this issue during the course of the campaign, support for medical marijuana was always over 70 percent. However, … The support for recreational marijuana was never anywhere near the passage rate. It was consistently under 50 percent. So what that told us was the people in Florida want to see patients have access to marijuana for medicinal reasons, but the support for recreational marijuana is not nearly at the same level of support.”

SENATE’S ‘WHISKEY & WHEATIES’ BILL TEED UP FOR FLOOR via Florida Politics – The “whiskey and Wheaties” legislation (SB 106) is on the special order calendar for Tuesday … Meantime, the House companion (HB 81) has been struggling, escaping its committees by one-vote margins twice. A version of the bill has been filed for four years running, aiming to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. The Senate’s bill would allow a phase-in period over several years, starting in 2018. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

HOUSE SEEKS TO END CONTROVERSIAL STATE EMPLOYEE CHARITY PROGRAM via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics –  A bill to end the Florida State Employees’ Charitable Campaign comes after a yearslong slump due partly to a drop in participation and controversy surrounding its management, according to a new bill proposed by a House lawmaker and unanimously favored in committee … The bill, CS/HB 1141, is sponsored by Rep. Clay Yarborough through the House Government Accountability Committee. The measure would end the FSECC, which offers a way for employees on Florida’s payroll to give to charities of their choice. If they choose to take part in the program, they are encouraged to authorize payroll deductions divided incrementally from their annual salary. The FSECC is the only authorized form of workplace solicitation of state employees permitted during work hours, according to the of the Florida Department of Management Services (DMS), which administers and channels the funds collected from employees to a third party for distribution to the actual charities. Participation in the program is voluntary.

HOUSE TO TAKE UP RED-LIGHT CAMERA REPEAL via The Associated Press – The bill (HB 6007), which has easily passed House committees and is slated for a Wednesday floor session, would repeal a law that allows cities and counties to install and use red-light cameras. The ban would take effect July 1, 2020 … But the issue has stalled this year in the Senate. A repeal bill (SB 178) failed to get approval last month from the Senate Transportation Committee, which deadlocked 2-2 on the heavily lobbied issue.

— “A week on the ground in Tallahassee with PolitiFact Florida” via Louis Jacobson of PolitiFact Florida

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DARRYL PAULSON: DO UNIVERSITIES DISCRIMINATE? THE ASSAULT ON FREE SPEECH via Florida Politics – Most universities recruit students by offering specialized curricula, top quality faculty and promising to expose students to diverse views which will stimulate creative thinking and prepare the student for life after their university experience. Universities may be partially successful on the first two items, but dramatically fail in exposing students to diverse viewpoints. It is hard to think of a more close-minded institution than the American university. Groupthink and ideological orthodoxy are the standard practices on campuses. There are many professors, both liberals and conservatives, who excel at awakening students to new ideas and who maintain neutrality in expressing those views. Too many professors, dominated by the political left, push their political agenda as the correct approach to the exclusion of alternative viewpoints. Students believe that speech that offends others should be punished. Who will judge what is offensive? Unpopular speech should be challenged, not censored.

AARON BEAN, JENNIFER SULLIVAN: FOSTER CARE PROGRAM FOR TEEN DRIVERS DESERVES SUPPORT via Florida Politics – Florida legislators unanimously passed the Keys to Independence Act, an innovative three-year pilot program funded by the Florida Department of Children and Families and managed by Community Based Care of Central Florida. The program, which launched in 2014, helps children as young as 15 get a learner’s permit by enrolling them in driver’s education courses and monitoring their progress until they earn a license … Keys to Independence has been a resounding success. In just a short time, the number of teens in foster care who have a driver’s license has almost tripled, and 1,035 participants are currently enrolled, including more than 330 in Tampa and Sarasota … why we are sponsoring a companion bill during the upcoming legislative session to make this program a permanent fixture for Florida’s youth. We urge our fellow lawmakers to once again give Keys to Independence their full support. We have seen how it has improved lives, and we look forward to its continued success far into the future.

GLENN BURHANS, JR.: #CASHMEOUTSIDE – ANOTHER FLORIDA POL TRIPPED UP BY CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS via Florida Politics – Former state Rep. Dwayne Taylor was recently indicted on nine counts of wire fraud stemming from the alleged embezzlement of campaign funds … also accused of submitting fraudulent campaign expenditure reports to cover up the alleged embezzlement. Here a few tips to avoid some common miscues: Contributions and expenditures can only be made for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election – do not use them for any other purpose. Campaign funds cannot be used for personal expenses, except for costs incurred by a candidate or family member for transportation, meals and lodging during campaign travel. When in doubt, ask your campaign attorney. Candidates should not serve as their own campaign treasurer; instead, appoint someone that is independent and experienced in campaign accounting, preferably a CPA. Keep campaign and personal accounts segregated. The law is complex and the cost of non-compliance can be significant. When in doubt, consult your friendly neighborhood campaign finance professional to avoid costly consequences.

SERVING UP BEER THE RIGHT WAY IN FLORIDA via Matt Thompson for Florida Politics – At the three local Tallahassee establishments I own, Madison Social, Township and Centrale, we serve more than 30 types of beer from breweries all across the country. But in my establishments, like most bars and restaurants, we sometimes don’t have access to one key element that would improve the beer-drinking experience for customers — the right glassware … This glassware serves a real purpose, because the glass a beer is served in can draw out that beer’s unique quality and flavor profile … the beer industry would often like to supply us with their branded glassware in an effort to elevate consumers’ experience as they enjoy their product. Yet, due to a current Florida law, the industry is prevented from giving retailers, including bars and restaurants, their appropriate branded glassware at no cost … House Bill 853, by Representative Goodson and Senate Bill 1040, by Senator Artiles, that would allow the industry to provide the appropriate glassware to accompany their beers to Florida bars and restaurants.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians. PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss a bill to broaden a law that makes it a crime for people that know they have an STD to have sex without informing their partners when it meets at noon in Morris Hall. The House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee will discuss a bill to require the education commissioner to post the tests that students have taken in previous years when it meets at noon in Reed Hall. The House Insurance & Banking Subcommittee will discuss legislation to exempt credit unions from regulations under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act when it meets at noon in 404 House Office Building. The House Children, Families & Seniors Subcommittee will discuss a bill to help children who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 12 House Office Building.

HAPPENING THIS WEEK — 2017 FLORIDA CHAMBER CAPITOL DAYS – The Florida Chamber of Commerce will host its 2017 Capitol Days this week at the Turnbull Conference Center at Florida State University. The two-day event kicks off on Tuesday, with welcome addresses from Syd Kitson, the chairman of the board; Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber; and Jerry Parrish, the organization’s chief economist and director of research. Attendees will also hear from the government affairs team, before heading over to the Capitol to meet with members of the Legislature. The conference continues Wednesday, with presentations on insurance reform, the Constitution Revision Commission, economic development and tourism. CFO Jeff Atwater is slated to give the keynote address on Wednesday, followed by a reception at the Governor’s Mansion.

SAVE THE DATEVance Aloupis is holding a fundraising reception Thursday, March 23, in his bid for House District 115. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Sachs Media Group offices, 114 S. Duval St. in Tallahassee. RSVP at rsvp@vancealoupis.com.

SAVE THE DATE: Gov. Scott is the special guest Thursday, March 23, at a fundraiser for James Buchanan in his bid for House District 71. Event begins 6 p.m. at the home of Col. John and Denise Saputo, 10 Lighthouse Point Dr. in Longboat Key. RSVP with Lea Buchanan (941) 685-1245 or info@BuchananForFlorida.com.

BOB BUESING CONTEMPLATES 2018 REMATCH VERSUS DANA YOUNG via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – One of the most bitter races in all of Florida politics last year took place in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18, where Democrat Buesing faced Republican state Rep. Dana Young and independent Joe Redner. With redistricting, half the state’s 40 Senate seats are up for re-election again next year, and Buesing said Friday he is considering another run against Young in 2018. “It’s not about me, it’s about what’s best for the community,” said the 63-year-old Buesing, a longtime attorney with the law firm of Trenam Kemker who before last year had never run for public office. “I’ll make a very reasoned decision, and once I talk to a lot of people, try to do what’s best for the community and if nobody else on the team is going to do this, and somebody needs to do [it], then I’ll think about it.” Buesing figures to improve his performance in 2018, especially if Redner is not part of the equation. “I met with Joe Redner and he looked me in the eye and said he’d be proud to endorse me,” Buesing said. “And said he’s not going to run.”

STRONG FEBRUARY PUT FRANCIS SUAREZ CAMPAIGN FOR MIAMI MAYOR OVER THE $2 MILLION MARK via David Smiley of the Miami Herald – Campaign records for February show that Suarez — who has yet to draw an opponent with a single dollar to his name — has cracked the $2 million mark. Despite the lack of moneyed competition, he says he’ll keep raising money, continuing with a $1,000-a-plate breakfast at the Riviera Country Club with Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. “We’re going to have a very strong March, a very strong April, and it’s looking like we’ll have a very strong May, as well,” he said.


Brian Bautista, Impact GR: American Compliance Technologies

Travis BlantonJon Johnson, Johnson & Blanton: American Council of Life Insurers

Taylor Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: ClickAClinic

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: The Martinique Club of Naples

Ron BookKelly Mallette, Ronald L. Book PA: City of Miami Gardens

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: Beach Towing Services; Tremont Towing

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: Olympus Insurance Company; Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Nicole GraganellaTrevor MaskKatherine Webb, Colodny Fass: Easter Seals South West Florida, Inc.

Nick IarossiAshley KallifehAndrew KetchelRon LaFaceScott RossChristopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: MiMedx Group

Fred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: Transamerica Life Insurance Company

Eli NortelusDavid Roberts, Nortelus Roberts Group: Florida Independent Spirits Association

Marlene Quintana, GrayRobinson: City of Hollywood

Margaret Timmins, Timmins Consulting: South Central Florida Express; Southern Gardens Citrus Groves Corporation; Southern Gardens Citrus Holding Corporation

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APPLY FOR SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION via Florida Transportation Commission – The deadline is now 5 p.m., Monday, May 1. The department seeks a replacement for Jim Boxold, who resigned in January to join the Capital City Consulting firm in Tallahassee. The department has over 6,000 employees and an annual budget of $10.8 billion. The commission will conduct interviews and nominate three candidates for submission to Gov. Scott. The next secretary will be appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the governor. Resumes can be sent to Jay Trumbull, Chairman of the Florida Transportation Commission, 605 Suwannee Street, M.S. 9; Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0450, by fax to (850) 414-4234 or e-mail <matthew.ubben@dot.state.fl.us>.

STATE STUDY PROPOSES HUGE REDUCTION OF DOWNTOWN OFFICE SPACE via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A report is calling for the state to sell off almost half of its buildings between the Capitol and Cascades Park – a move that would radically change downtown Tallahassee and create significant opportunities for private development. Many of those are landmark buildings that date back to the Hoover and Eisenhower administrations and include the headquarters for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Department of Corrections. The recommendations are part of a 258-page report from Savills Studley Occupational Services, commissioned by the Department of Management Services, to address the state’s long-range office space needs in Leon County, where the largest concentration of state employees live and work. The Legislature approved funding for the $772,655 study. Those strategies would open up sites for private sector development that could create jobs, infill urban blight and boost tax revenues, said Jay Revell, vice president of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. (Click on the image below to watch a video of the proposed renovations.)

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here.***

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION QUIETLY GEARS UP FOR ITS FIRST SESSION via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The group is scheduled to meet Monday between 2 and 4 p.m. in the Florida Senate chamber to go over ethics and adopt the group’s rules. It will then launch a series of public hearings around the state, said the group’s chairman Carlos Beruff. The outstanding question is what will the rules be? Word is they are using the rules adopted by the 1998 CRC as a starting point. Members of that commission credit the rules — which established effective procedures for building consensus in the political diverse group — as contributing to the successful passage of the recommended amendments by voters in 1998. Another question: will the practices of the notoriously open-records averse Governor rub off on the commission and Beruff? At least one member of the commission is an expert on the state’s Sunshine laws and the Governor’s views. Senate President Joe Negron‘s appointee, Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann, served briefly as Scott’s director of open government.

ABORTION, SCHOOL ISSUES COULD ROIL CONSTITUTION PANEL via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – … (P)rogressive activists are poised for potential fireworks this year over abortion and public schools. At the heart of the concern from progressive groups is the appointment of John Stemberger, a lawyer and president of the Orlando-based conservative activist group Florida Family Policy Council. He was named to the 37-member commission by Speaker Corcoran … Actually changing the constitution to give more legal standing to abortion restriction laws could be difficult to accomplish, he admits. The commission must agree to put it on the ballot, and 60 percent of voters must approve it for it to become law.

SANDY D’ALEMBERTE: CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION SHOULD OPERATE IN THE SUNSHINE via the Tallahassee Democrat – Just as we end national Sunshine Week, recognizing the importance of open government to a democracy, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission begins work with its first meeting … The Commission will examine the Florida Constitution and make recommendations to voters. In that examination, the Commission will understand there is much that is unique to the Florida Constitution – including the provision for the Commission itself. The Commission will begin adopting its own rules. Of particular interest is whether the Commission will operate according to the principles of openness that characterize Florida government. In addressing this issue, Commission members will want to look at the Constitution and consider the Declaration of Rights, which guarantees access to public meetings and public records. This provision also is unique to Florida.

FLORIDA INSURERS KEEP A GRADES AFTER CONSOLIDATION, DEMOTECH SAYS via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – Ratings agency Demotech Inc. said several Florida insurers kept A grades amid a flurry of moves to shore up their financial strength but warned future downgrades remain possible. Insurers under pressure added about $200 million in loss reserves and $155 million in capital contributions … The Ohio-based ratings company warned in the aftermath of 2016 storms and continuing problems with Florida claims where contractors and attorneys control benefits that it remains “likely that insurers may face downgrades in the future.” In February, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson urged U.S. Treasury officials to take any actions necessary to prevent a “disaster” if thousands of Florida homeowners go into default because Demotech lowered safety grades on several property insurers.

LOTTERY RAKES IN CASH BUT FEWER STUDENTS, PARTICULARLY POOR ONES, MAKE CUT FOR SCHOLARSHIPS via Kyra Gurney of the Miami Herald – Since the Florida Legislature started instituting tougher standards tied to higher test scores beginning in 2011, Miami-Dade schools with large populations of low-income and African-American and Hispanic students have seen a drastic decrease in the number of students who qualify for what has long been billed as the Lottery’s primary payout for education. When lawmakers changed the scholarship standards, they said the goal was to control spiraling costs in the wake of Florida’s foreclosure crisis and plummeting government revenue. Now, the economy is again humming, revenue has rebounded and the Florida Lottery has seen record-breaking sales for five years in a row, earning more than $6 billion last year. But the Bright Futures program last year dropped to the lowest level of funding since 2003. Money paid out for scholarships has been cut nearly in half over seven years and the number of incoming freshmen awarded last year was almost as low as when the program was created in 1997. And, along with hiking the standards, lawmakers have cut the size of the awards.

RISE OF THE (PRE-REVEAL) MACHINES: THE COMING BATTLE IN FLORIDA GAMBLING? via Florida Politics – A recent ruling by a Tallahassee judge could result in Florida being inundated by a slot machine-style entertainment device in bars, arcades and even dog and horse tracks. It’s also not yet clear whether the decision could trigger a violation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s exclusivity rights in its gambling “compact” with the state. That would entitle the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue. Circuit Judge John Cooper earlier this month issued a declaratory judgment that a specific kind of game, usually called a “pre-reveal” game, was “not an illegal slot machine or gambling device.” Cooper limited his opinion to a specific kind of game, “Version 67,” provided by Gator Coin II in Jacksonville. Other states, such as North Carolina, have found pre-reveal games to be illegal gambling, however. “I tried to rationalize to myself why people would play this game when they knew they were going to lose,” Cooper said in court, according to a transcript.

FOR YBOR CITY IN FLORIDA, A HISTORIC CIGAR TOWN FACES A CLOUDY FUTURE via Jason Wilson of The Washington Post – Yet even with all cigar connoisseurship happening up and down Seventh Avenue, it was hard to ignore that Ybor City — a National Historic Landmark District — had seen better days. In the early 20th century, Tampa had been the undisputed cigar capital of the world, outproducing even Havana. In its heyday, the city had more than 150 factories, employing about 10,000 workers and rolling more than 500 million cigars each year. Now, beyond the small storefront producers still rolling premium handmade cigars, only one large cigar factory remains. A major reason for the decline of the cigar business — and one largely unspoken in the telling of Ybor City’s history — is, of course, our society’s realization that smoking of any kind is not a healthy pastime. For decades, and for good reason, smoking has been targeted by the government. Premium cigars, however, have largely skirted the same kind of strict regulation faced by cigarettes because of the assumption that cigars are much less addictive, they’re not to be inhaled and, since good cigars are expensive, they are never marketed to kids and sold mostly in adults-only artisan shops. But several large cigar companies ruined this narrative by selling cheap flavored cigars — strawberry, vanilla, tropical fruit, chocolate, Irish cream, etc. — targeted at young consumers, and these products opened the door for a crackdown by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

ARAMIS AYALA’S ANTI-DEATH PENALTY STAND SURPRISES MANY via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Even some of Ayala‘s supporters said they were taken aback by her decision. Lawson Lamar, a former state attorney and sheriff, who backed her run for office, said: “Anyone who raises their hand and takes the oath to be state attorney must be able to go with the death penalty even if they feel it’s distasteful.” Ayala’s campaign was helped by a Washington-based political action committee with ties to liberal Hungarian-born U.S. billionaire George Soros. The committee gave Ayala’s campaign almost $1 million, as well as millions of dollars to candidates in local races around the nation. When asked if the donations influenced her decision, she said it did not. Florida has 381 inmates on death and shows no sign of slowing down future prosecutions. The other state attorneys in Florida issued a statement Friday saying they would continue to seek the death penalty.

REST OF FLORIDA PROSECUTORS VOW TO SEEK DEATH SENTENCES via the Palm Beach Post – A day after a newly elected prosecutor said she would not seek the death penalty in capital cases, the remainder of Florida’s 20 state attorneys affirmed Friday they intend to pursue death sentences when appropriate. The statement by the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association came as a number of African-American leaders declared their support for 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Ayala, who sparked an outcry from several of the state’s elected officials over her decision not to seek the death penalty in the case of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd — or in any other case. “Throughout 19 of the 20 circuits of Florida, the death penalty will continue to be sought in those cases which qualify for its implementation,” the association said in a statement … “The victims’ families of Florida deserve our dedication to implement all the laws of Florida. That is why the people of Florida have elected us.” What picture you which one Jesus Christ all doing what I can like two different things what points just frustrated I cannot see I’m having trouble my eyes today.

— “Aramis Ayala should follow law in death penalty case, not try to make it” via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics

— “Buddy Dyer: ‘What Markeith Loyd did deserves the death penalty’” via Jeff Weiner of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Julianne Holt expresses concerns about Rick Scott’s benching of Aramis Ayala” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Markeith Loyd: The ugly politics of life and death” via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel

— “Police union head John Rivera calls Aramis Ayala coward” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

PROSECUTORS: NO CRIME IN INMATE’S HOT-SHOWER DEATH via The Associated Press – Prosecutors in Florida have found no evidence of a crime in the death of a prison inmate left for nearly two hours in a hot shower, concluding that he died accidentally in part because of undiagnosed heart disease and suffered no burn injuries. The memo by the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle ends a lengthy criminal probe into the 2012 death of 50-year-old Darren Rainey, a mentally troubled man serving a two-year sentence on a cocaine charge. An attorney for Rainey’s family, Milton Grimes of Los Angeles, said in a statement that the family is “disappointed and heartbroken” no charges will be brought.

STATE DROPS CHARGES IN CASE THAT SHOOK FLORIDA POLITICS via The Associated Press – Florida is dropping charges against an attorney once accused of being at the center of a $300 million gambling ring that led to the 2013 resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis was convicted of 103 counts of racketeering, possessing slot machines and other charges and sentenced to six years in prison. But an appeals court last year ruled that Mathis deserved a new trial because his attorneys were not allowed to call witnesses that could have bolstered his defense against the charges. The Florida Supreme Court in February declined to take up the case. The legal setback meant Florida either had to start over with a new trial or drop the charges.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

TWEET, TWEET: @HalseyBeshears: What a shame FSU is knocked out this early with this much talent. No coaching. #hehastogo

EX-FLORIDA STATE DB MYRON ROLLE TO BEGIN HARVARD MEDICAL RESIDENCY via ESPN.com – Rolle, who was a Rhodes scholar and then enrolled in medical school, will begin a neurosurgery residency at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston …  Rolle, 30, played three seasons as a defensive back for the Seminoles, graduating early in 2008. He deferred an NFL career for a year to earn a master’s degree in medical anthropology at Oxford. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2010 but never played a regular-season game in the NFL. In 2013, he returned to Tallahassee and entered FSU’s medical school.

36 HOURS IN ST. PETE BEACH, FLA. (AND ENVIRONS) via Colleen Creamer of the New York Times — Not far from downtown St. Petersburg lies a string of barrier islands edged with a perfect seam of white sugar sand beaches. The main town of what is often referred to as the “Gulf beaches” is bustling St. Pete Beach. Neighboring communities like Indian Shores, Madeira Beach and Treasure Island are more “Mad Men” than “Miami Vice” — charming specimens of an older era, studded with midcentury gems like the Bon-Aire Resort Motelthe Algiers Beach Motel and the Postcard Inn. The pace is much calmer than, say, Miami Beach, or Fort Lauderdale. Early morning walks along the water can be blessedly solitary. The nights, however, are hopping. Each community has its own coterie of tiki and beach bars, often within a stroll of one another along the sand. … The beaches have more than enough activity to fill a few days; if possible, head inland to visit St. Petersburg, with its seven arts districts; the splendid Salvador Dalí Museum, which attracts visitors from around the globe; or Haslam’s Book Store, a mecca for book lovers and writers.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly Allison North Jones and Justin York. Celebrating today are Reps. Shawn Harrison and Larry Metz, as well as Jacob Engels, Bill Helmich, Sal Nuzzo, and Aakash Patel.

Sunburn for 3.17.17 – Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica and the Associated Press’ Mike Schneider.


The unusual and firm stance against capital punishment by State Attorney Aramis Ayala in Orlando surprised and angered many law enforcement officials, including the city’s police chief, who believed suspect Markeith Loyd should face the possibility of execution. Civil liberties groups, though, praised Ayala’s position.

Sending a clear signal that he wanted Loyd prosecuted in a capital case, Gov. Rick Scott signed an order to transfer Loyd’s first-degree murder to State Attorney Brad King in a neighboring district northwest of Orlando.

Loyd is charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.

Ayala said she would follow the Governor’s order.

Ayala said she made the decision after conducting a review and concluding that there is no evidence to show that imposing the death penalty improves public safety for citizens or law enforcement. She added that such cases are costly and drag on for years.

After Ayala announced her decision, Scott asked her to recuse herself from the case, but she refused. The reassignment applies only to Loyd’s case and not Ayala’s other duties since under Florida law, a governor can only suspend an elected official for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, incompetence, or permanent inability to perform official duties.”

Florida law allows a Governor to reassign a case for “good and sufficient” reasons.

“She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case,” Scott said in a statement.

Ayala’s decision ignited condemnation from some law enforcement leaders.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that he was “extremely upset.”

IN HER OWN WORDS: “At approximately 3:20pm today, I spoke to Governor Scott. I offered to have a full conversation with him regarding my decision about death penalty. He declined to explorer my reasoning. I have since learned he issued an Order removing my office from any cases related to Markeith Loyd. Upon receipt of any lawful order, my office will follow that Order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd.”

GET SMART FAST – Read Scott Powers’ stories on Ayala’s election: “Aramis Ayala’s 9th Judicial Circuit state attorney run could be historic”; “Aramis Ayala becomes first black state attorney in Florida’s history


Attorney General Pam Bondi: “State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision today sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area—furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer.”

Sen. Jack Latvala: “I think she ought to be thrown out of office.”

Florida Police Benevolent Association: “In life there are cowards, and then there are cowards with titles. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Ayala is a coward with a title.”

Florida Sheriffs Association: “The Florida Sheriffs will not stand idly by and watch as Lloyd is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law after executing a hero, Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, and murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis was also tragically killed during the manhunt.”

— “Jeff Ashton: Aramis Ayala may not have legal grounds to ban death penalties” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “Bob Cortes looking into possible violations following Aramis Ayala not seeking death penalty in Markeith Loyd case” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

— “Pinellas Sheriff: no death penalty for Markeith Loyd ‘reprehensible’” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times


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RICK SCOTT LAUNCES TV AD ATTACK IN FEUD WITH HOUSE via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – A new spot that will air statewide features Scott warning that “Tallahassee politicians don’t get it” and that the move will cost the state jobs.  “If the politicians in Tallahassee say they don’t want to market our state, and we lose tourists, then we’re gonna lose jobs,” said Scott in the ad. Let’s Get to Work has not disclosed how much will be spent on the ads, which will start airing next week. (Click on the image below to watch the ad.)

HOUSE DEMOCRATS DEMAND SCOTT SPEAK UP ON CBO’S SCORING OF GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN via Florida Politics – Since the Congressional Budget Office said the Republican health care plan would raise the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year earlier this week, Scott has been silent. Florida House Democrats now say it’s time for him to speak up. “Rather than acting as a leader, the Governor took the path of a typical politician and ducked the question entirely,” says House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. “If Governor Scott isn’t prepared to defend ‘Trumpcare,’ he at least owes Floridians an explanation about what exactly he’s been discussing with Republican leadership during his taxpayer funded trips to Washington DC” … “Trumpcare would rip the rug out from under the millions of Floridians who have gained access to quality, affordable health care under the ACA,” says Coral Gables Rep. Daisy Baez.

HOUSE SPENDNG REDUCTION TARGETS WOULD SPREAD PLENTY OF PAIN via Florida Politics – The House released its bad-case and worst-case scenarios for the next state budget Thursday. Neither is very pretty. Florida faces would pay hospital less to treat poor people. The state would build less affordable housing. There’d be fewer prosecutors and public defenders.  Museums, historical preservation and economic development would be slashed. … All told, the budget subcommittees were instructed to come up with “A” scenario and “B” scenario plans — the first involving cuts of about $1 billion; the latter, about $2 billon. Budget chairman Carlos Trujillo has also discussed a target of $1.4 billion in cuts. House leaders are worried about the prospect for more or less flat revenues during the new budget year. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference will meet Friday to update the forecast.

HOUSE COMMITTEE OK’S PROPOSAL TO KEEP BP OIL FUNDS IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA via Florida Politics – The House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast passed a proposed committee bill that, among other things, requires 75 percent of all payments that Florida receives from the settlement agreement between the five gulf states and BP be transferred from the general fund to the Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund. Under the proposal, Triumph can award funding for several things including: Public infrastructure projects to enhance economic recovery, diversification, and enhancement in the disproportionately affected counties; Grants to local governments in the counties to establish and maintain equipment and trained personnel for local action plans to respond to disasters; Early childhood development and educational programs; and Grants to support programs to prepare students for future occupations and careers at K-20 institutions that have campuses in the communities.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Speaker Corcoran is expected to speak at noon at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club, New World Landing, 600 South Palafox Street in Pensacola.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

DREAMING FONDLY OF PLAYTIMES (AND CRUSHES) PAST, SENATORS BACK MANDATORY RECESS via Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores would require each district school board to provide students between kindergarten and fifth grade with 20 minutes of daily recess. Some districts already do that, but others do not. This was the bill’s second committee stop. “Imagine being the teacher in charge of 25 7-year-olds sitting in the same chair for six hours,” Flores said. “That would be a challenge.” During the brief debate over the bill, Sen. Audrey Gibson … garnered chuckles with a reminiscence from her own school days. “I remember recess — it was when I developed a crush on many little boys,” she told the committee.

SENATE PANEL OKS BEER BILL — THAT BEER COMPANIES HATE via Florida Politics – A bill that—as one beer-company insider put it—could allow theme parks to “extort” advertising dollars out of them cleared a Senate panel this week. The legislation (SB 388), which would allow beer companies to advertise in theme parks, was OK’d unanimously by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with scant attention. It chips away at the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. And ironically, the companies don’t want the law changed.


DANA YOUNG TO BOB BUCKHORN: YOU SHOULD SUPPORT NEXT GENERATION UTILITY LEGISLATION via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Buckhorn and Young are waging a war of words over newly filed legislation allowing wireless equipment in public rights of way. Tampa’s Democratic mayor argues the measure removes local control of public spaces. No, says the South Tampa Republican senator, Buckhorn is completely off-base with his concerns on what the bill will actually do. In a recent op-ed … Buckhorn made his case: “Telecommunications companies are pushing SB 596 and HB 687, legislation that would allow them to place small refrigerator-sized equipment, and even towering poles, on public rights of way. If passed, local governments would have no control over where this communications equipment would be placed or how it would look.” Young says that the legislation only addresses wireless equipment that would be installed in “existing rights of way where utility infrastructure exists today … The bill does nothing to change a local government’s ability to preserve historic areas like our own Ybor City, nor does it affect the power of cities and counties to regulate siting of new infrastructure and equipment as they do now.”

EDUCATION GROUPS KNOCK ‘MISLEADING’ FEWER, BETTER TESTS LEGISLATION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News –  Florida lawmakers might be calling HB 773 the “Fewer, Better Tests” legislation, but parent groups say the bill’s title is totally misleading and isn’t actually doing anything to eliminate standardized testing in the Sunshine State. State Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr., and Chris Sprowls and Sen. Anitere Flores are all touting the legislation as a way to scale back standardized testing in Florida. Not so fast, parents say. “First of all, this [title] is a misnomer,” [said] Beth Overholt of education advocacy group Common Ground … composed of representatives from six education groups like Florida Stop Common Core Coalition and Fund Education Now. Overholt [said] the legislation doesn’t actually eliminate tests, but just alters how long students would be taking tests at the end of the school year — so the title, she said, is totally misleading. “They’re not fewer and they’re not better tests,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re thinking.”

FIX WATER QUALITY OR FLORIDA TOURISM WILL SUFFER, FISHING AND BOATING INDUSTRIES WARN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – The leaders of one of the nation’s largest outdoors companies, a major boat manufacturer, and tourism industry officials met with Gov. Scott and legislators Wednesday to make the case that urgent action is needed to end the toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee. They detailed how their industries suffered from the impact of the guacamole-looking toxic algae blooms and state of emergency last year. They offered statistics on how Florida is losing business to other states, warned about the social media buzz over Florida’s bad water and suggested that if things don’t turn now, it may take years to reverse. “If Florida is known as a destination of subpar water quality or bad water, it would absolutely crush our local economy,” said John Lai, representing the Lee County Development Association and the Sanibel/Captiva Chamber of Commerce. He said that one in five jobs in his region relies heavily on tourism but, in the last 30 years, he has watched “the complete degradation of Florida estuaries and water quality.”

ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Senate President Joe Negron and Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon will take part in a community discussion at 5 p.m. at Pahokee High School, 900 Larrimore Road.

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. Watch to learn more.***

TRI-RAIL DOESN’T DESERVE TALLAHASSEE’S TOUGH TACTICS via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The likely source of that Tallahassee controversy was companies that lost out in January on the $511-million, seven-year contract for all of Tri-Rail’s operations, maintenance and dispatch. Tri-Rail’s rules eliminated every bidder except one, Herzog Transit Services. As we said in an earlier editorial, however, there are good reasons why Tri-Rail bundled several contracts into one and chose the winner. Herzog was not the low bidder, but Tri-Rail asked for fixed contracts, to avoid change orders that could allow any low bidder to drive the cost much higher. Only Herzog submitted such a contract. Tri-Rail also based the contract on performance, not just price. A Broward County judge rejected a challenge from the losing companies. Tri-Rail is essential to South Florida’s transportation future. The Legislature should work with the agency, not against it.

SPEAKING OF TRI-RAIL — WHAT JEFF BRANDES SHOULD BE READING – Bombardier employee arrested, others questioned in Swedish bribery probe via CBC News – A Bombardier Transportation employee in Sweden has been arrested and others questioned by police in connection with contracts for a railway modernization project in Azerbaijan. Swedish prosecutor Thomas Forsberg said the employee who was arrested is a Russian national who works for Bombardier Transportation in Sweden. According to Forsberg, the investigation is based on allegations that bribes were given to Azerbaijan officials “in order to adapt a contract” to fit Bombardier.

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DMS SECRETARY CHAD POPPELL RESIGNS via the Tallahassee Democrat – … to pursue interests in the private sector, the DMS office said. Poppell has been the secretary since December 2014. His resignation will be effective March 31. “Chad Poppell has done an outstanding job as Secretary of DMS and I want to thank him for his hard work to improve efficiency and foster innovation in state government,” Scott said in a release. “Under his leadership, Florida has remained a leader in government efficiency and provided the critical support to our state agencies to ensure Florida families and businesses receive the services and support they need. Chad has been a valued member of my team since 2013 and I am proud of the great work he has done for Florida families.”

CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION TO HOLD FIRST MEETING via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission has launched a website and announced an organizational meeting next Monday. The meeting will be 2-4 p.m. in the Capitol’s Senate chamber, with a brief agenda of “Welcoming Remarks, Oath of Office, Rules of the Commission, Ethics Briefing.” Its newest hire is Meredith Beatrice, who was spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and is now the CRC’s “external affairs” director. The 37-member board is chaired by Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder and unsuccessful Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016. The panel, which convenes every 20 years, will review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document after holding public meetings across the state. The commission’s website address is here.

SUNSHINE WEEK: FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION GOES TO BAT FOR FLORIDA’S RIGHT TO KNOW via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – True to form, the First Amendment Foundation has been busy at the Florida Capitol battling to ensure the public’s right to know … helped restructure a bill this week that would have severely limited access to information if the government decided not to comply with public records laws. Florida’s “sunshine” law says that “it is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records shall at all times be open for a personal inspection by any person.” But the only real recourse against a government officer or agency that refuses to hand over public information is to challenge them in court. That can be expensive. As a safeguard, if a judge rules that the government violated public records laws, then the government must pay the record requester’s attorney’s fees. The mandatory provision “creates a level playing field for someone who can afford to pay for an attorney and those who cannot,” according to the First Amendment Foundation … a new bill would have made the mandatory fee provision optional. By changing the word “must” to “shall,” a judge could deny fees even if the court rules in favor of the citizen. The potential consequences are enormous.

SPOTTED AT THE GOVERNORS CLUB: THE LAST TROUBADOUR OF REAL FLORIDA via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Jeff Klinkenberg is not the kind of guy who does “luncheons,” but there he was at the Governors Club Tuesday, entertaining Friends of the First Amendment — some real, some fake — at the First Amendment Foundation’s annual fundraiser. He looked a lot more comfortable later that day at Sally Bradshaw’s bookstore, telling true tales about things that “make Florida unique” to an appreciative audience of people who like to choose their reading material in a venue that does not sell toilet paper and tampons. Klinkenberg coined the term Real Florida and cornered the knowledge market on everything worth knowing about people who do not need Disney to fire their imaginations or casinos to pump their adrenaline. To people genuinely committed to Florida, Klinkenberg is the Scheherazade of storytelling, revered by regular folks and by fellow A-list writers. One of them, FSU professor and National Book Award winner Bob Shacochis showed up at Klinkenberg’s book signing to pay his respects. It was like watching Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page trade licks.

TASK FORCE WANTS MONEY TO FIGHT ENCROACHMENT ON FLORIDA MILITARY BASES via Florida Politics – Florida would place its military installations at risk of commercial encroachment — and, possibly, closure — without adequate funding for land acquisition through the Florida Forever land acquisition program, a military support organization warned Thursday. Some $3 million from U.S. Department of Defense funds will be lost at the end of 2018 unless the state provides matching funds, said Bruce Grant, Enterprise Florida vice president for military programs, told the Florida Defense Support Task Force during a meeting in Tallahassee. …  “Most legislators may not connect (Florida Forever) with military land buffering,” Grant said. “But there is a connection.” … With the federal government expected to review bases for closure in 2019 or 2021, “now is not the time to pull back and pause,” said Kellie Jo Kilberg, of the Florida Defense Alliance.

DO UNIVERSITIES DISCRIMINATE IN HIRING? via Darryl Paulson for Florida Politics – Universities are touted as bastions of diversity whose prime role is to encourage students to engage in critical thinking, ask tough questions and expose themselves to a diversity of ideas and opinions. If that is the mission of the university, they have dismally failed. Diversity is respected, up to a point, as long as it doesn’t include ideological diversity. As liberal commentator Nicholas Kristof observed in a recent New York Times op-ed, “We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservative.” Welcome to the modern American university, where almost every type of diversity is encouraged, except for ideological diversity. Try challenging liberal dogma as a student or professor, and you will likely find yourself facing counseling and academic discipline.

MOM OF NAIKA VENANT: I THOUGHT HANGING MIGHT HAVE BEEN STUNT via Carol Marbin Miller and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – It is the dead of night in a parked car somewhere in the city of Miami, and Venant’s mother is awakened by a torrent of Facebook messages, indicating her daughter is committing suicide online. Gina Alexis calls a foster care caseworker, she says, and gets no answer. She calls the state’s child abuse hotline. She scans her daughter’s Facebook feed for any evidence of the unfathomable claims her friends are making. “Oh, my God,” one friend tells her. “Run to the bathroom. Your daughter. Your daughter, she’s hanging.” But the bathroom is miles away in a Miami Gardens foster home. However, in real time, the speculation online is that Naika is faking the suicide, and Alexis believed — or perhaps wanted to believe — that her actions were a stunt. In any event, it is possible Naika was already gone before Alexis began what she describes as a fruitless effort to save the girl.

***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***

HAPPENING SATURDAY – GILLUM TO ADDRESS DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS OF FLORIDA CAUCUS — The Tallahassee Democrat is scheduled to speak at the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida conference at noon at the Hillsborough Teachers Association, 3102 North Habana Ave.

SAVE THE DATEVance Aloupis is holding a fundraising reception Thursday, March 23, in his bid for House District 115. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Sachs Media Group offices, 114 S. Duval St. in Tallahassee. RSVP at rsvp@vancealoupis.com.


Brian BallardWansley Walters, Ballard Partners: The Pew Charitable Trusts

Dean CannonKirk PepperJoseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Town of Longboat Key

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Correct Care Solutions

Erin Lee Deady, Erin L. Deady PA: Renew Financial

Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society

Jeffrey Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Green Roads West

James Harries Jr., James E. Harris Jr: American Ambulance

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Bradford County School Board; Watershed Technologies, LLC

Todd Lewis, Lewis Consulting: Latin Chamber of Commerce of the United States

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: ClickAClinic

Stephanie Zauder, Ballard Partners: Bequest, Inc.

SPOTTED at the Red Dog Blue Dog charity celebrity bartender event in Tallahassee hosted by Sara ClementsJoe ClementsAngela DrzwieckiKate MacFallSandi Poreda and Erin VanSickleEvan Jenne (Blue Dog), Dana Young (Red Dog), Anna AlexopolousJosh AubuchonBryan AvilaMichael AyersAmy BiscegliaRob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, Caitlyn Brongel, Dave BrowningChristian CameraChris CarmodyErin and Matthey ChoyCarlecia CollinsRobert Coker (senior), Chris DawsonNick DuranMatt FarrarCesar FernandezChris FlackKatie FluryBill GalvanoBillie Anne GayCorey GuzzoJeff Hartley, Jack LatvalaSeth McKeelMike MillerThomas Philpot, Casey ReedMarc ReichelderferTara Reid, Andrea ReillySydney RidleyDavid RiveraSteve SchaleLeva SchmidtWilton SimpsonClark SmithStephanie Smith, Chris Spencer, and Cam Yarborough.


Florida This Week  on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: This week’s episode features moderator Rob Lorei discussing Florida issues with Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder, and USF St. Pete emeritus professor of government Darryl Paulson.

Political Connections on Bay News 9: The 11 a.m. Sunday show will feature an interview with U.S. Sen. Nelson.

Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The 11 am Sunday show will feature an interview with Democratic U.S. Sen. Nelson, followed by a ‘Common Grounds’ segment on the ongoing debate over whether Enterpise Florida and Visit Florida should get the axe. The show will also take a look at the Politifact Scott-o-Meter to see whether the second-term Republican governor has lived up to his campaign promise to push for the repeal of the ACA.

The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC):  Hosts Steve Vancore and Gary Yordon will chat with Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas and Florida politico emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte.

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to our good friend Eric Johnson, as well as Carey Baker, John French, Jan Gorrie, Mike Haridopolos, Chip LaMarca, Kristen McDonald, Alexander Pantinakis, and Joe Salzverg. Celebrating today is our dear friend Christian Minor, as well as Rep. Sean Shaw, Kelsey Frouge, St. Pete City Councilman Steve Kornell, and Rob Weissert.

RETAIL FEDERATION EXPECTS RECORD-BREAKING ST. PATRICK’S DAY SPENDING IN 2017 via Florida Politics — St. Patrick’s Day revelers won’t be the only one’s seeing green this year according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. The retail trade group estimates those celebrating the Irish holiday will spend $37.92 a piece this year, with total spending expected to top $5.3 billion — a significant jump from last year’s $4.4 billion and good enough for a record. “We continue to see spending on holidays and celebrations reaching or exceeding record highs, which reinforces the strength of our economy and the confidence that consumers feel,” said Florida Retail Federation President & CEO Scott Shalley. “Even though St. Patrick’s Day isn’t one of the bigger spending holidays, we still expect Florida retailers to see a nice bump in sales, particularly those who offer additional discounts and sales to attract customers.” Though St. Patrick is revered for driving all the snakes out of Ireland, his holiday is better known for bringing lots of people to bars. According to NRF, 27 percent of those polled will head to watering hole or restaurant, while 15 percent will head to a private party. The most popular way to celebrate the occasion, however, is wearing green. More than four-fifths of those polled said they plan to dress accordingly, while 31 percent said they would make a special dinner, such as corned beef and cabbage.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Hillsborough River goes green for Mayor’s River O’Green Fest Saturday starting 11 a.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (near Riverwalk), 600 N. Ashley Dr. in Tampa.

Sunburn for 3.16.17 – Everything is awesome!

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

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


Everything’s fine, Senate President Joe Negron said Wednesday. Nothing to see here, folks.

His signature tax cut this year, a reduction in the communications service tax to be paid for by removing a subsidy to the insurance industry, was abruptly pulled off the agenda earlier in the day of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax.

That decision was Kelli Stargel’s, the Lakeland Republican who chairs the panel. Only three of the five members showed up for the meeting. She had said it was too “weighty (a) subject” to be considered by a reduced contingent.  

Negron, a Stuart Republican, later said he agreed with that decision.

“Given that it’s a very significant tax issue, I think the chair felt that all five members should be present,” he said.

The bill (SB 378) repeals a $435 million tax credit for insurers to finance a nearly $231 million tax break on communications services.

“I think it’s important to constantly look at incentives we’ve created in the past,” Negron told reporters after the day’s floor session.

“Those funds would much be much better spent providing tax relief to Floridians, to businesses, rather than subsidizing the labor cost of one particular industry.”

For years, Negron has tried to get rid of the now 30-year-old tax break to insurance companies. The industry once again is fighting to keep its subsidy, a 15 percent tax credit on the salaries that insurers give their full-time workers here in the state.

But the plan is a linchpin of the Senate’s 2017 tax cut package. He was asked: Why not let the subcommittee hear the bill anyway, especially if it will be heard by the full Approps Committee later?

“That’s a decision that was made by the chair,” he said. “I wasn’t involved in that decision but I think it’s perfectly reasonable and I support (it).

“Every issue is important,” Negron added. “Some issues are more important than others.” No doubt, Mr. President.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Reach, the marketing platform of choice, connecting you to your target audience on TV, digital and mobile. With access to our powerful data and insights, solutions for every screen, and the best programming content on the top 50+ networks, we’ll help you reach the right customers for your business. SpectrumReach.com #NeverStopReaching***

DAYS UNTIL: Major League Baseball Opening Day – 17; NFL Draft – 42; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die (Maybe) – 49; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 49; FSU vs. Alabama football game – 170; Election Day 2017 – 235; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 273.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will hold a roundtable with business and economic development leaders to discuss the importance of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida at 9:30 a.m. at PropLogix, 1651 Whitfield Ave in Sarasota. From there, he’ll travel to Merritt Island where he will attend the groundbreaking for OneWeb Satellites’ new manufacturing facility at 2 p.m. at Space Florida’s Exploration Park, 505 Odyssey Way.

RICHARD CORCORAN GETS NOD FOR DEDICATION TO TERM LIMITS FROM U.S. TERM LIMITS via Florida Politics – U.S. Term Limits announced this week that it has presented Corcoran with the Champion of Term Limits Award … for his commitment to term limits and citizen government. “By supporting term limits, Speaker Corcoran has given a voice to Floridians who feel let down by corruption and careerism in government,” said Philip Blumel, the president of U.S. Term Limits. “People are tired of business as usual and term limits is the only way to change the status quo. We applaud Corcoran for his important work to get this done.” Corcoran has pushed to impose term limits on Florida’s Supreme Court and appellate judges, which the organization supports. The organization also applauded Corcoran for his support of legislative term limits, which have been in place since 1992.

BTW, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. SPEAKER! What do you get the legislative leader that wants to cut everything?

HOUSE LAWMAKERS COMPILE $2.7 BILLION WISHLIST FOR HOMETOWN PROJECTS via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Even in a year when the state has a tiny surplus and demands are as great as ever, the project wish lists remain massive, more than 1,200 in all, equal to 10 for every member of the House of Representatives. They would cost $2.7 billion, more than the entire annual budget of the Florida prison system, the third-largest in the United States. Lawmakers say it shows a growing need for services that the state and local governments can’t or won’t provide, for drug and alcohol abuse treatment, respite care for the elderly, the arts, roads, bridges, parks, drainage, sewer and wastewater improvements. The three biggest projects in Tampa Bay are $15 million for deferred maintenance on aging buildings at Hillsborough Community College; $15 million for a new highway interchange at I-75 and Overpass Road in Pasco County; and $10 million to remove sediment and restore Lake Seminole in Pinellas.

CARLOS TRUJILLO: HOUSE WANTS TO CUT $1.4 BILLION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida –  He highlighted the figure after a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, which got budget reduction presentations for each chair of the chamber’s budget subcommittees. At the beginning of session, Trujillo tasked them with to come up with and A and B budget cut scenario, with one cutting deeper than the other. “I think it is a road map,” said the Miami Republican. “Whether we decide to go down road A or Road B … it’s a road map for how we write our budget.”

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

SENATE PASSES FIX TO “STAND YOUR GROUND” LAW via Florida Politics The Florida Senate passed a change to the state’s “stand your ground” law that would make it easier for criminal defendants to claim self-defense. It was approved on a 23-15 vote during Wednesday’s floor session. Specifically, the bill would require prosecutors to prove “that a defendant is not immune from prosecution.” The bill (SB 128), sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, is in reaction to a state Supreme Court decision that put the onus on the defendant to show self-defense under the law, passed in 2005. The stand your ground law allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.

HOUSE GIVES OK TO BILL TO ALLOW UTILITIES TO IGNORE CITY DEVELOPMENT RULES via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The bill, HB 1055, by Rep. Clay Ingram … overturns a 3rd District Court of Appeal ruling last year on behalf of the City of Miami, which ruled that the governor and the Cabinet — acting as the state siting board, which oversees power plants — failed to consider the city of Miami’s development rules when it approved FPL’s plan to string 88 miles of line atop towers standing 80 to 150 feet high. The bill also clarifies that the Public Service Commission has exclusive authority to require that power lines be put underground. Just as occurred in the Senate committee … the vote for HB 1055 happened with no debate and little discussion. David Childs, lobbyist for the Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group, was the only person to testify. He said the bill provides “important clarifications to ensure that the Power Plant Siting Act will continue to apply as it has historically occurred in this state.”

HOUSE PANEL OKS BILL TO ALLOW OPTOMETRISTS TO PERFORM SURGERY via Christine Sexton of POLITICO Florida – Florida’s optometrists won their first skirmish with the state’s doctors and ophthalmologists after a House panel voted in favor of a bill to allow optometrists to perform certain types of eye surgery. But the vote was close and reflects that it could be an uphill struggle to win final passage. The House Health Quality Subcommittee spent nearly two hours hearing testimony over whether the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Manny Diaz (HB 1037) to allow optometrists to perform surgery would be dangerous for patients if it became law … supporters contend the legislation would help provide increased access to eye surgery to patients living in rural areas as well as poor patients because many ophthalmologists will not see Medicaid patients. But several ophthalmologists and several physicians questioned having optometrists perform any kind of surgery because optometrists do not go to medical school or go through the process of becoming a physician.

REDISTRICTING BILL ADVANCES via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics – SB 352 … intended to streamline the handling of redistricting cases in state courts, moved from the special order calendar to third reading. Hutson noted that the bill “locks the maps in place on qualification day,” giving clarity to candidates. The bill is intended to encourage judges to conduct redistricting actions in the sunshine, including public hearings involving potential district maps, keeping minutes of closed-door meetings on the plan, facilitating public comment on maps and plans, and complete records retention of all emails and documents.

VACATION RENTALS DE-REG BILL PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A bill that would roll back all local ordinances and regulations of vacation rental houses to 2011 codes got a split-vote approval from the House Agriculture & Property Rights Subcommittee. The issue was fashioned as one pitting property rights — those of people or companies that buy houses and convert them into short-term vacation rental properties, versus those of neighbors who don’t like having small hotels pop up in their neighborhoods. Senate Bill 425, presented by state Rep. Mike La Rosa would essentially ban cities and towns from treating vacation rental houses differently from any other houses in the neighborhoods. That was Florida law after a similar bill was signed in 2011, but much of that deregulation was rolled back in 2014 after cities and counties complained. The ensuing regulation has gotten out of hand, La Rosa argued.

— “Committee hearing delayed on Anitere Flores’ tax swap legislation” via Michael Moline of Florida Politics

— “Kamia Brown files bill to protect parents from abusive children” via Orlando Rising

— “Senate advances high school financial literacy bill” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Senate committee passes bill allowing free state park access to foster families” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics Florida Politics

***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. WATCH to learn more.***

ANDY MARLETTE CARTOONS FALSE ABOUT SUGAR, ALGAE FACTS via Judy Clayton Sanchez in the Pensacola News-Journal – We recently met with Pensacola News Journal editorial cartoonist Marlette and editor Lisa Nellessen-Lara. We provided state water quality and engineering data and pointed out flaws in the science behind Senate Bill 10: It ignores the system’s inability to send water south to the Everglades during wet periods; Only a relatively small volume of water could be stored in a reservoir south of the lake compared with the hundreds of billions of gallons discharged to the coastal estuaries; A reservoir deals with water quantity, not water quality — therefore, a small reservoir on sugarcane/vegetable land south of Lake Okeechobee would do nothing to prevent algae blooms in the coastal estuaries. Despite these discussions and that the state agency in charge of water management in South Florida has well documented these facts, Marlette continued his misleading drawings. U.S. Sugar and Florida Sugarcane Farmers proudly support all science-based efforts to stop the discharges. We do not support wasting tax dollars to buy land for projects that WILL NOT WORK.

WILLIAM LARGE: FLORIDA MUST END ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS ABUSE, SELF-SERVING WINDFALLS via Florida Politics – A state law that was originally intended to give individual policyholders special rights in disputes with their insurance companies is instead being used by some repair vendors and their lawyers to generate a self-serving windfall. The problem is serious and growing, and it’s driving insurance costs higher and higher. The so-called “one-way attorney fee” allows a policyholder to collect their legal fees from their insurer if they win a claims dispute. But, if the policyholder loses in court, they don’t have to pay the insurer’s legal fees. Some repair vendors, though, are tricking policyholders into signing an assignment of benefits or AOB. This allows the vendor to seize control of the policyholder’s special rights, file a claim and sue the insurer, often without the policyholder’s knowledge or consent. Now, this litigation-for-profit scheme has become an incentive for lawyers and their vendor clients — often water damage remediation firms, roofers, or auto glass shops with aggressive marketing schemes — to clog the courts with lawsuits and generate big paydays for themselves.

WHAT EDIE OUSLEY IS READING – FLORIDA’S TRIAL BAR HURRICANE via the Wall Street Journal – Sunshine State lawyers, in cahoots with local contractors, are crisscrossing the state encouraging homeowners to sign away their insurance rights, a practice known as “assignment of benefits,” or AOB. In exchange, the lawyers promise to handle property repairs and fight with the insurance company for settlement paydays. What the lawyers aren’t telling homeowners is what happens next. A 1950s-era Florida statute dictates that insurers are liable for all attorney’s fees if they lose in court or settle for an amount more than the insurer’s initial offer. So, the trial bar is filing inflated claims to coerce pre-emptive settlements from insurers that want to avoid even more expensive, protracted legal battles. This man-made fiscal hurricane is swirling even as Citizens has offloaded more than a million policies to private insurers and shrunk its market share over the past few years … legislative fixes have been thwarted in recent years by the state’s powerful plaintiffs-lawyer lobby, and competing bills would bless the trial bar’s practices. Florida homeowners already face risks from hurricanes, hail storms and other natural phenomena. Do they need to face the unnatural disaster known as plaintiffs’ attorneys too?

FLORIDA ADDED NEARLY 17K PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS IN FEBRUARY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Florida added 16,800 private sector jobs during the month of February, according to the ADP Regional Employment Report. An estimated 14,800 jobs were added in the service-producing sector while the rest were in the goods-producing sector. In February 2016, ADP estimated the state added 3,400 more jobs.

CITIZENS INSURANCE BUYING BACK $300 MILLION IN CATASTROPHIC COVERAGE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – The company’s board of governors voted unanimously to approve the move … Citizens, Florida’s property insurer of last resort, bought the coverage from Everglades Re II Ltd. in 2015. The company will repurchase catastrophic coverage at prices keyed to the new estimates of the threat, spokesman Michael Peltiersaid. “It allows us to go into the market with more flexibility,” he said. “It no longer makes sense for us to insure against that exposure level.”

PERSONNEL NOTE: STERLING IVEY JOINS FDLE via Florida Politics – Ivey, a veteran of state government communications teams, now has joined the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a communications coordinator. FDLE communications director Gretl Plessinger announced the move Tuesday. He’ll “serve as an FDLE spokesperson and will be responsible for coordinating news releases, interviews, press conferences and internal communications,” she said. Ivey, most recently vice president of corporate communications for SunTrust Banks, has nearly two decades of experience with state agencies. He was public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, then spent four years as communications director for the Department of Corrections. Ivey later was communications director for the Department of State before becoming Gov. Charlie Crist’s press secretary in 2008-11. After that, he was Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s press secretary, serving until 2011.


Brian BallardChris Dorworth, Ballard Partners: Florida Society of Ophthalmology

William Barrett, Sewell Point Group: Beach Towing Services, Inc.; Tremont Towing

Gregory BlackJames DaughtonPatricia GreeneWarren HusbandAllison Liby-SchoonoverAimee Diaz Lyon, Metz Husband & Daughton: AT&T

Bradley Burleson, Ballard Partners: Breakthrough Miami

Dean CannonRichard Reeves, GrayRobinson: Hindu Properties

Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: City of South Bay

Jorge Chamizo, Cory Guzzo, Teye Reeves, Floridian Partners: State Policy Network

Angela Drzewiecki, Peeples & Smith: Keys Energy Services

Ramon Maury, Maury Management Group: Chamber South; South Florida Free Beaches, Inc.

Frank MayernickTracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: Floridians for Access to Health Care Inc

Paul Mitchell, Southern Strategy Group: Solstice Benefits, Inc

Pat Mixon, Mixon & Associates: Florida Association of Kennel Clubs

Sue Mullins, Evan Power, David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District

Winn Peeples, The Peeples Group: Motorcycle Industry Council

William Rubin, The Rubin Group: Caregiver Services, Inc.; Patients for Fair Compensation, Inc.

Burt Saunders, GrayRobinson: Village of Estero

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

***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***

DISNEY REFUSES TO CUT ‘GAY MOMENT’ FROM BEAUTY AND THE BEAST via Terry Roen of Orlando Rising – Walt Disney World Company has refused to remove a scene involving a “gay moment” from its “Beauty and the Beast” release in Malaysia, a country that has laws against homosexuality. Instead, Disney has decided to withdraw the film from the Malaysian market, rather than censor the scene. Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board approved “Beauty and the Beast” for a “P13” rating after requesting cuts of about four and one-half minutes from the subplot with a “gay moment,” according to Film Board Chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid … Golden Screen Cinemas, Malaysia’s largest theater chain, posted on its website that patrons who purchased advance tickets will receive refunds. “The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” according to an email statement from Disney.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Audrey Gibson.

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