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Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics — 02.27.17

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

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

ABOUT LAST NIGHT…

It was one of the most awkward moments in the history of the Oscars, of television, in entertainment, heck maybe in American history.

And somehow Warren Beatty, Hollywood’s ultimate smooth leading man, was at the center of it, and the accounting firm that is responsible for the integrity of Oscar voting apologized and was vowing a full investigation.

The producers of “La La Land” were nearly done with their acceptance speeches for Best Picture, the Oscar broadcast’s credits sequence about to roll, when a stir of whispers began on stage. Moments later “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz returned to the microphone and said “Moonlight won Best Picture” and insisting that “this is not a joke.”

 The collective jaw of the crowd at the Dolby Theatre — and of America — remained dropped long after they became convinced it was no joke, but what academy historians later called an apparently unprecedented Oscar error. The accounting firm PwC, formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, said early Monday that Beatty and Dunaway had been given the wrong envelope.

“We sincerely apologize to ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land,’ Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture,” a statement from the firm said. “The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.”

The statement came several hours after the chaotic ending, which featured Beatty returning to the mic to explain that he had opened the envelope and he was confused when it read “Emma Stone, La La Land.” He had shown it to co-presenter Faye Dunaway briefly, as though he wanted her to read it, which she did, apparently assuming the Emma Stone part was off but the “La La” part correct.

NOW ON TO POLITICS: THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

With just one week until the gavel drops on 2017’s Legislative Session, it is — to use the shopworn expression — the calm before the storm.

No meetings, no committees, no talk; just a lull in the action before regular Session starts next Tuesday.

Before lawmakers assemble to do the people’s business, now would be a perfect opportunity to spend some time with the family, partake in a round (or two) of golf or cross a few things off the honey-do list. Maybe even fly a kite.

Since Spring Training began last week, supported by Florida’s perfect weather for such undertakings (spring is a relative term around here), nobody would fault the legislator who takes in a few ballgames before his or her re-emergence in Tallahassee.

Time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Of course, everyone involved will need this period of rest and relaxation before the inevitable 60-day fracas over issues such as business incentives, gambling legislation and the 2017-18 Florida budget (the Legislature’s one constitutionally-mandated job).

And for those keen observers of The Process — present company included — it is the one week where we might reasonably expect to catch our collective breaths.

That is unless something interesting pops up during the week — which, undoubtedly, it will.

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DONALD TRUMP’S JOB APPROVAL STANDS AT JUST 44 PERCENT AS PARTISAN SPLITS REIGN via Carrie Dann of NBC News – A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal: 44 percent approve of the job he’s doing, 48 percent disapprove … Trump begins his tenure in a dramatically less popular position than any of his predecessors. He is the only president in the history of modern polling to begin his first term with a net negative approval rating — and it’s not close. Compared to Trump’s net negative rating of -4 percent, Barack Obama began his presidency with a net positive 34 percent; George W. Bush and Bill Clinton enjoyed a similar advantage, and George H.W. Bush‘s score of popular goodwill pushed even higher to a net positive of 45 percent.

AFTER TRUMP’S IMMIGRATION ORDER, ANXIETY GROWS IN FLORIDA’S FARM FIELDS via Robert Samuels of The Washington Post – As Trump moves to turn the full force of the federal government toward deporting undocumented immigrants, a newfound fear of the future has already cast a pall over the tomato farms and strawberry fields in the largely undocumented migrant communities east of Tampa. Any day could be when deportations ramp up; that, to them, seemed certain. No one knew when or where. And so the community here is in a state of suspension. Children have stopped playing in parks and the streets and businesses have grown quieter, as many have receded into the background, where they feel safe. “It’s all gringos here,” said Maria Pimentel, owner of the community staple Taqueria El Sol, who said she had never heard so much English in her restaurant in her life. Business had plummeted, she said, because her Spanish-speaking customers were “scared to come out of their house.”

MUST-READ: HERE’S WHY IT’S SO DIFFICULT TO BE A SYRIAN REFUGEE IN SOUTH FLORIDA via Patricia Mazzei, Nicholas Nehamas and Kara Dapena of the Miami Herald – The number of Syrian refugees coming to Florida has spiked in recent years, as the U.S. has started to accept more people escaping the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. But resettling these newest immigrants has proven challenging for aid agencies, charities and volunteers who help the new arrivals. Syrians don’t have a large community of their countrymen awaiting them — or many Arabic speakers with whom they can communicate. “Life without language is very hard,” Kamar Byrkdar, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee who arrived in Broward County five months ago with her husband and two children, said through an interpreter. “We want to be able to improve our English so that we’re able to stand on our own two feet.” … it took three months, Byrkdar said, for anyone to show them how to enroll their kids in school. She and her husband didn’t know how to buy bus fare, much less how to navigate routes. Byrkdar learned where she could sign up for English classes only three weeks ago. Her children remain anxious around the police, whom they associate with war.

ANOTHER MUST-READ FROM THE HERALD: SLAIN SEAL’S DAD WANTS ANSWERS: ‘DON’T HIDE BEHIND MY SON’S DEATH’ via Julie Brown of the Miami Herald – When they brought William “Ryan” Owens home, the Navy SEAL was carried from a C-17 military plane in a flag-draped casket, onto the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base, as President Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and Owens’ family paid their respects. Owens’ father, Bill, had learned only a short time before the ceremony that Trump was coming … “I’m sorry, I don’t want to see him,’’ Owens recalled telling the chaplain who informed him that Trump was on his way from Washington. “I told them I don’t want to meet the president” … “I told them I didn’t want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn’t let me talk to him,” Owens said. “Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn’t even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?’’

TRUMP TALKS OBAMACARE OVER LUNCH WITH RICK SCOTT, SCOTT WALKER via Jordan Fabian of The Hill – The trio discussed “how best to solve the problems of ObamaCare, with a special emphasis on the states’ role in health care” … The two governors are in Washington for the National Governors Association winter meeting. The lunch was not listed on Trump’s public schedule and was closed to the press. What to do about Medicaid has emerged as a thorny issue in the debate over ObamaCare repeal.

RICK SCOTT: I’LL HELP TRUMP ON CUBA POLICY via Aidan Quigley of POLITICO Florida – “I’ve been very vocal that Raul Castro does not believe in democracy and freedom and things like that,” Scott said. “I don’t believe it’s good for our country to be coddling a dictator like that. So I’m going to work with the Trump administration on what’s the right policy.” Scott said he was hopeful Trump would soon renegotiate with Cuba and he sounded confident that Trump would make good on his word. However, the Florida governor didn’t want to specify what approach he would advise the Trump administration to take. “My impression is they’re working on what they are going to do, so I don’t want to second-guess what they’re going to do,” he said. “I want to be helpful.”

IT’S OFFICIAL: SCOTT SELECTED AS VICE CHAIR OF RGA via POLITICO Florida – Scott was chosen as the new vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, putting him in line to lead the organization during the crucial 2018 gubernatorial elections. The RGA’s 11-member executive committee voted Friday in Washington, D.C. to name the two-term governor to the post vacated by former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Scott is now the odds-on favorite to take over the chairmanship from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2018, when 36 governor’s mansions around the country are up for grabs.

MARCO RUBIO: I WON’T ATTEND TOWN HALLS FULL OF ‘LIBERAL ACTIVISTS’ via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The Florida Republican said that the much-ballyhooed events organized last week by Indivisible Miami, a group that opposes Trump, aren’t real forums to exchange ideas. “They are not town halls anymore,” Rubio told WFOR-CBS 4 … “And I wish they were, because I enjoy that process very much, going back to my time as [Florida] speaker of the House.” Indivisible Miami put together several “empty-chair” town halls for Rubio’s constituents last week. The senator was never expected to show up. “These are real people. They are real liberal activists, and I respect their right to do it,” Rubio said of the crowds who showed up to last week’s events, estimating that “80-90 percent” were liberal activists. “But it is not a productive exercise. It’s all designed to have news coverage at night.”

PROTESTERS: CONGRESSMAN BLEW RED LIGHT TO AVOID US via the Tallahassee Democrat – A video has surfaced that protesters say show Congressman Neal Dunn … ran a red light Thursday to avoid talking to them about health care. About 60 constituents had gathered outside of Dunn’s Tallahassee office seeking a meeting. Dunn declined an opportunity to talk to the group and instead left the office through an underground garage. Michael Nair-Collins, a professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine, and others ran to the garage to catch Dunn. They told the Democrat he left with an aide in the Chevy Tahoe caught on video.

BRIAN MAST GETS EARFUL AS HUNDREDS PACK TOWN HALL MEETING IN FORT PIERCE via Wayne Washington of the Palm Beach Post – Mast, a double amputee Army veteran … held the meeting to address the concerns of military veterans, but he got an earful on a host of other issues, particularly the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Most of those in the audience seemed intent on tearing into Mast, though the congressman had plenty of supporters among the nearly 500 people who showed up. Unlike some in his party who returned to their districts, Mast did not cancel the town hall meeting, nor did he lose his temper as angry audience members booed some of his answers or shouted at him in fury.

POTENTIAL GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES LAY OUT AGENDAS IN ORLANDO via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – … occasionally sparring over education and economic development agencies. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and House Speaker Richard Corcoran all outlined potential platforms in speeches to the Central Florida Urban League. Gillum … spoke at length about the importance of education, drawing on childhood memories of his grandmother telling him to go to school, pay attention, “and one day bring that education home” for the good of his family and community. Corcoran spoke at length about his “battle with the governor” over the Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida development agencies, a priority for Rick Scott. By contrast, Levine, a cruise industry entrepreneur, praised the importance of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida for the power they have to attract businesses and tourists to the state.

LISA EDGAR STEPS DOWN FROM STATE PARKS POST via Florida Politics – Edgar notified Gary Clark, the Department of Environmental Protection’s deputy secretary for land and recreation … “Gary. Thank you for the opportunity to work for you and the Florida Park Service. It has been an honor. Unfortunately, an immediate family emergency requires my full attention. As such, I regretfully must resign at this time,” Edgar wrote. Edgar, a three-term member of the state’s Public Service Commission, previously was deputy secretary of DEP. She decided not to seek another term on the PSC and was replaced by water use engineer Donald Polmann of Dunedin.

RICHARD CORCORAN SAYS PHILOSOPHY, FACTS DRIVE HIS EFI, VISIT FLORIDA AXE via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – “I’m telling you we’re right. We’re absolutely right,” Corcoran declared in a speech before the Central Florida Urban League. Corcoran described Enterprise Florida as an organization that serves the top 1 percent of companies and most of them did not deliver and belittled VISIT Florida for paying for Pitbull‘s video that he said essentially declared, “Come to Florida and have sex … Here is what we know about VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida. First, Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida didn’t exist in this state until the mid-90s. Guess what we had before that? I’m going to shock you. We had visitors. I’m going to shock you. We had businesses that came to this state.” He said he was not offended by Pitbull’s video, saying he went to the University of Florida for three years, “all of them freshmen … That’s not offensive to me. But it’s the philosophy behind that,” he added. “And all of that money that goes to those things that are gratuitous waste of money, is money that could go to education, that could go to infrastructure, or creating a fair and equitable tax structure.”

SENATE COULD VOTE ON HIGHER ED REFORMS DURING FIRST WEEK OF 2017 SESSION via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – The higher education package — formerly two bills now blended into one (SB 2) — includes a variety of reforms intended to elevate Florida’s State University System and its state colleges to a more competitive level, nationally and internationally. “We should be at the very top of our game in our state university and college system,” said Bradenton Republican Sen. Bill Galvano, the higher ed budget chairman who spearheaded the legislation. “We should raise expectations, and that’s what we’re doing.” SB 2 — dubbed the “Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017” — advanced unanimously out of the Senate’s full budget committee with some additional revisions … the bill will be among the first considered by the chamber during the first week of session next month.

ANITERE FLORES WANTS TO REPLACE ONE TAX CUT WITH ANOTHER via Florida Politics –Flores, the Senate President pro Tempore, said she was filing legislation (SB 378) to swap the insurance break for a 2 percent reduction in the state’s communications services tax (CST). The proposal is a priority of Senate President Joe Negron …  The move also aligns with Gov. Scott‘s and the Florida House’s appetite for continued tax relief. Flores’ proposal “could provide $300 million in recurring tax relief for families and businesses” … “Florida’s CST is one of the highest in the nation,” said Flores. “In 2015, we made great progress by permanently reducing Florida’s CST by 1.73 percent. This year, we can reduce this burdensome tax even further and provide additional monthly savings to every Floridian with a cellphone or cable or satellite TV.”

BOB CORTES, EX-TOWING COMPANY OWNER, PUSHES BILL TO HELP TOWING COMPANIES via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Cortes … said he doesn’t believe it’s a conflict of interest for him to sponsor HB 193 because he sold Cortes Towing Service last year. Yet, he still owns the property used by the company and receives rent from it. He also is a consultant for the company. “I’m no longer in the business of towing; I sold it last year,” Cortes said. Ben Wilcox, executive director of Integrity Florida, a Tallahassee-based ethics watchdog group, said the situation seems like a conflict, but under the letter of the law there is none because the bill doesn’t specifically benefit Cortes or his old company. The bill would nullify local governments’ fees, fines and penalties imposed on vehicle owners when tow truck companies haul away vehicles in relation to various infractions. In Winter Springs, for instance, the city issues a $550 fee on owners of vehicles impounded after they’ve been cited for 12 offenses ranging from prostitution to littering, but the fee can be reduced to $250 if owners waive their right to a hearing.

INSIDE ABC CEO’S STRATEGY FOR DEFEATING BOOZE IN GROCERY STORES via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Charles Bailes III is the CEO of Florida-based ABC Fine Wine & Spirits … His strategy for beating the so-called “whiskey to Wheaties” bill is a bit different: appeal to the heartstrings of moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. “I’ve been in the business for 41 years and we work really, really hard to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors,” Bailes said. Bailes points to a trove of articles he’s compiled into a well-cited document. A news report in the Oregonian blames Washington’s privatization on a spike in booster-related liquor sales, where professional shoplifters walk off with sometimes thousands of dollars’ worth of booze and sell it to others. “When I hear these arguments about grocery stores being well-trained in spotting theft, I would say they haven’t read these articles,” Bailes said.

REALTORS AND BUILDERS HAVE BUSY AGENDAS FOR LEGISLATIVE SESSION via Clifford Davis of the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record – Realtors and homebuilder associations are busy laying the foundation for the agendas they’ll promote. The chief concerns in the state’s real estate and construction industries focus on taxes, workforce and regulations. “Workers’ Comp. Workers’ Comp. Workers’ Comp,” said Douglas Buck, the director of governmental affairs for the Florida Home Builders Association. “Any insurance rate increases are a real, direct cost to everyone.” Since 2003, the construction industry has seen its workers’ compensation rates trend downward after the Legislature passed a bill to base lawyer fees in cases on the amount of the defendant’s award. But that changed after an April ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that awarded attorneys an hourly rate for their work.

WORKERS’ COMP JUDGE TOSSED FROM CASE OVER COMMENT CAUGHT ON OPEN MICROPHONE via Michael Moline of Florida Politics –Following a lengthy video teleconference hearing, the 1st District Court of Appeal said in its ruling, Judge Edward Almeyda turned to someone off camera and said, “Was I nice and sweet and patient to let the attorney talk on and on and on ad nauseam?” The attorney overheard the remark and sought to have the judge disqualified. In an unsigned opinion, the court said the motion was “legally insufficient” because the judge “did not specifically single out petitioner’s attorney as the loquacious one.” However, the court pulled the judge from the case anyway, based on an objection the Office of Judge of Compensation Claims filed refuting the motion “by asserting — without any record support — that JCC ‘did not interrupt or raise his voice to counsel’ and that he ‘allowed both sides to fully make their arguments, resulting in what would normally be a five to 10-minute hearing lasting over an hour.”

PRIVATE PRISON DEPRIVED INMATES OF HEAT AND HOT WATER FOR MONTHS, DAVID RICHARDSON FINDS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The 284 women housed in C-dorm at Gadsden Correctional Facility lived for months without hot water or heat, faced flooded bathrooms daily and endured water rations when the septic tanks were jammed with food waste. After state Rep. Richardson demanded action following a series of surprise visits over the past 18 months, the private prison operator that runs the facility — Management Training Corp. of Centerville, Utah — received approval from the state to repair and replace the water heater, at a cost to taxpayers of nearly $10,000. But Warden Shelly Sonberg never authorized the work. Richardson … announced another inspection this month, this time with Chad Poppell, the head of the Department of Management Services, the state agency that oversees private prisons, and two other state legislators. In the two days before they arrived, four work crews descended on the prison and made many of the repairs.

CHILD ABUSE DEATH REVIEW COMMITTEE TO EXAMINE FATALITY EMERGENCY CALLS via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A total of 931 combined child deaths were reported in Florida in both 2015 and 2016, according to the state’s Child Abuse Death Review Committee (CADR), which met in Tampa to discuss the issue. Broken down, 474 of those reviewable fatalities were in 2015, with another 457 reviewable notifications made in 2016. More than 200 of those are still open cases — 29 from 2015 and 175 from 2016, per graphs compiled in documents by the committee … Among the 20 circuit districts the judicial courts and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) offices fall under across the Sunshine State, only three had completed, and closed, all of their investigations in 2015:  Circuits 3, 7 and 18. One, Miami’s 16th Circuit Court, had not completed or closed a single investigation into the deaths of minors, as said in a CADR review.

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— REGIONAL READS —

LENNY CURRY BACKS ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Florida Politics — Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Friday that while he recognized that “reforms” of Enterprise Florida were being discussed in Tallahassee, state economic incentives have been good for the city. “We use incentives — local incentives and state incentives through Enterprise Florida — and we use them successfully … Without the state funding, we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed … We use our tax dollars in a way that’s responsible to taxpayers, and we’ve been able to use the state incentives the same way. I hope they can figure out a way to continue to give us the opportunity to have access to state incentives.”

AFTER LIFE ON ORLANDO STREETS, ALOMA CHARTER HIGH GIVES TEEN RENEWED FOCUS via Larry Griffin of Florida Politics – Six months ago, 18-year-old Joseph Tello was homeless and living without much thought or hope for his future. But after finally finding a friend willing to provide him a stable residence and being referred to Aloma Charter High School, his hope is being restored and he is getting back on track to earning a high school diploma and accomplishing aspirations of going on to college. “I would talk to people about my life, and they’d try to provide help,” Tello said. “Someone took me in and gave me shelter, they care about my education and goals.” Aloma High is helping him out in ways his previous schools just couldn’t— a more personal style which suits him. Traditional high school, by contrast (and design), could not accommodate the pressure and stress of Tello’s home life the way Aloma High does. “At Aloma, everyone helps you plan to get somewhere with your education. It’s changed my view on charter schools.”

THE GRIMM TRUTH ABOUT ALBERTO CARVALHO’S ASSAULT ON WLRN via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Friends of the First Amendment have their hands full with the War in the White House Pressroom. That may explain why Miami Dade School Superintendent Alberto (Rico Suave) Carvalho thought his attempted hostile takeover of the highly respected and ferociously independent WLRN newsroom might pass unnoticed. Thankfully, fans of the free press have taken notice, and are rallying to the support of the high-quality journalism this public radio station produces with a small staff and a tight budget. The Miami Herald’s veteran columnist, Fred Grimm, explains that “Reporters who’ve dealt with the notoriously prickly Miami-Dade School District … [learned] Carvalho and company can hardly abide critical stories [such as the recent] series of stories exploring problems with the school district’s alternative school for suspended students.”

FROM THE SHADOW OF PILL MILLS, A NEW DRUG CRISIS EMERGES IN TAMPA BAY via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times – We are six years past the peak of the pill mill epidemic, and Pinellas County is going through another killer drug crisis. The statistics are still preliminary but the number of fatal overdoses in Pinellas jumped at least 53 percent from 2015 to 2016. There were 274 confirmed overdoses and, with seven cases still pending, the final tally could eclipse the 280 deaths in 2010 when oxycodone abuse was rampant. This time around, it is being driven by a combination of heroin and fentanyl. The potency is higher and the cost cheaper, and so the results are tragically familiar. “It astonishes me that people are shocked by this,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “We cannot, and we will never, solve this problem at the law enforcement level. This needs to be treated as an addiction problem, a mental health problem. We may have had great success beating back the pill mills, but all that meant is we were going to see a switch to different drugs and different dealers.”

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SENATOR SEEKS PROBE INTO WHETHER LOBBYIST LISA MILLER POSED AS ‘CONCERNED CITIZEN’ DURING CALL via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Sen. Kevin Rader is asking Gov. Scott to investigate whether Tallahassee lobbyist Lisa Miller posed as a “concerned citizen” to mislead participants in a conference call with a company that rates Florida insurers. “I know you understand that matters such as these must be completely in the sunshine and all principals must play by the rules. This is crucial to the integrity and transparency of the insurance market,” Rader wrote in a letter … “The citizens of our state have had a difficult time with their insurance matters over the last decade and they deserve to have a full accounting of this incident. We are talking about peoples’ homes, and it is absolutely critical to get to the bottom of this. Insurers and their rating companies must play by the rules and not orchestrate false or misleading presentations with impersonations of ‘concerned citizens’ intended to deceive government officials and the public.” Miller denied posing as someone named Mary Beth Wilson to praise Ohio-based Demotech Inc. during the call Feb. 10.

PERSONNEL NOTE: SUSKEY CONSULTING HIRES ROB FIELDS FOR GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS VP – Fields joins Suskey as a Florida government veteran with over 20 years of public and private sector experience. He most recently served as a government affairs consultant representing Fortune 500 and other various technology companies before the Legislature and various Florida agencies. Fields served as the Chief Information Officer of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which has primary responsibility for the state’s Medicaid program, the licensure of 48,000 health care facilities, and sharing health care data. Fields then became Chief Information Officer with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles where he oversaw technology operations for the Florida Highway Patrol and the State Driver’s License and Motor Vehicle Registration divisions.

WHERE GEEK MEETS GAIT: ALL CALL FOR LOBBYISTS WITH FITBITS – Sachs Media Group is looking for volunteers who wear Fitbits to participate in a “steps in the day of a Florida lobbyist” data collection project during a typical week of session. Results will be featured in the “Geek Out” section in Sixty Days. For more details, email karen@sachsmedia.com by Friday.

TRIPADVISOR: 7 OF TOP 10 BEACHES ARE IN FLORIDA via The Associated Press – The sand at Siesta Key outside Sarasota was the best rated beach in the nation. St. Pete Beach was No. 3, followed by Clearwater Beach and Panama City Beach. Hollywood’s beach in South Florida was ranked sixth, followed by Pensacola Beach and St. Augustine Beach near Jacksonville. TripAdvisor says the rankings were based on the number and quality of the traveler reviews written on its website.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to Joel Brown, Ballard Partners’ Ana Cruz, POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon, former Rep. Jerry Paul, Samantha Jane Sachs, editor of Capitol Soup, and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto. Celebrating today is our very own Logan McFaddin, Mitch Perry, Rep. Kathleen Peters, Kathleen Haughney Rohrer,

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics – 2.24.17

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

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

TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK

Even if Gov. Rick Scott reached out and poked him in the chest, Richard Corcoran “would take it 10 out of 10 times.”

Yes, those words did come out of the House Speaker’s mouth.

The Land O’ Lakes Republican, seemingly showing signs of fatigue less than two weeks before the start of Session, spoke with reporters Thursday.

That was after Scott’s political committee beat him up in a new video over the Speaker’s attack on Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA and business incentives.

That video, which refers to him as “Rich Corcoran,” labels him a “career politician” who trades in “fake news” and “waste(s) your money.”

Of course, that was prompted by Corcoran’s own staff-produced video that slammed Scott for failures of business incentive projects that (whoops) began before his time in office.

When asked about the latest video, Corcoran turned on his trademark grin and told a story of how Scott and his wife Ann helped him after his “cataclysmically” unsuccessful 2007 run for a state Senate seat.

The future governor hired Corcoran, an attorney, to do legal work for the Solantic walk-in urgent care centers he then owned.

“There’s too many people in this world who forget what (other) people have done for them” Corcoran said. “Gov. Scott, Ann Scott, I met with them in their house in Naples and they helped contribute to my ability to make money and feed my family.

“To those around him, or their political committees, I would say, for lack of a better phrase, if Gov. Scott poked me in the chest, or whatever, I would take it 10 out of 10 times,” he said. “He’s been a very good man to me and my family.

“That said, we have a position on an issue and we believe in that position and we’ll fight for it,” Corcoran added. “We’ll try to do it as civilly and honorably as we can.”

That must not apply to his film crew. But hey, that’s what surrogates—and staff—are for.

CONCILIATORY RICHARD CORCORAN ANNOUNCES ‘WE’LL GET THERE’ ON A JOINT RULE WITH SENATE ON BUDGET PROCESS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Corcoran said he is open to compromise with the state Senate on his hardline new rules aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the budget process. Senate President Joe Negron has resisted Corcoran’s rules, last week even threatening to sue the House over what he considers an unconstitutional attempt to control the Senate, an independent coequal branch of government. Negron defused the potential legal battle when he said the Senate would not sue but instead would work out their differences over the House rules in closed-door negotiations to come up with a joint rule.

Corcoran believes the rules, which have the support of both the Democrat and Republican caucuses in the House, “have revolutionized the budget process.” Although he taunted the Senate last week, urging them to “sue us,” he sounded more conciliatory this week. “The concepts of transparency and accountability and not hiding things in the budget, if we could get that in a joint rule, absolutely we’ll compromise,” Corcoran told the Herald/Times in a pre-session interview.

— “So I guess Twitter is Florida’s new field of honor” via John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will be in Washington, D.C. to take part in POLITICO’s 7th annual State Solutions Conference. He’ll be taking part in the afternoon session, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m.

RICK SCOTT THE HEAVY FAVORITE TO BE NEXT RGA CHAIR via Kevin Robillard of POLITICO – Scott is the heavy favorite to be the new vice chair of the Republican Governors Association, putting him in line to lead the organization during the crucial 2018 gubernatorial elections. The RGA’s 11-member executive committee will vote on a new vice chair Friday in Washington, D.C., according to two sources with knowledge of the executive committee’s thinking.

SCOTT TO COURT: THROW OUT LOTTERY LAWSUIT via Associated Press Scott’s administration is asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by Speaker Corcoran. A Leon County circuit judge held a brief hearing Thursday over Corcoran’s lawsuit that maintains the Florida Lottery broke the law when it approved a more than $700-million contract with IGT Global Solutions to help run lottery games. Corcoran’s lawsuit contends the contract is illegal because it exceeds the department’s authorized budget.

SCOTT COULD BE BIG LOSER IN FIGHT OVER ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times – All the “So’s your old lady!” bickering between Scott and House Speaker Corcoran makes for lousy government. But it sure is fun watching this Tallahassee pie fight between politically ambitious egos. Sensing perhaps that Scott’s lame duck light is beginning to flicker more brightly, Corcoran is challenging Scott over his pet projects, Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida … The speaker sees them as needless, wasteful expenditures of precious taxpayer dollars. This has royally peeved the state’s official hologram. Scott, who would rather bestow public money on swells rather than peasants in need of Medicaid coverage, has flitted about the state trying to save his legacy bureaucracies, most notably by attacking fellow Republicans. Say, there’s a brilliant strategy on the part of a politician who just might need GOP support in 2018 in an expected race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

AMID REPUBLICAN ROW, SOME HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOICE DISAPPROVAL OF ENTERPRISE FLORIDA via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – Several House Democrats joined their Republican counterparts in voicing displeasure with Enterprise Florida. House Minority Leader Janet Cruz even broke ranks and voted with the GOP, although she was the only Democrat to do so … The shared criticism signals an area of bipartisan agreement at the outset of a legislative process that’s sure to entail a contentious and drawn-out process of argument and amendment. Rep. David Richardson was perhaps the most vocal opponent of the taxpayer-funded business assistance organization during a House Appropriations Committee hearing … “I have very little good to say about Enterprise Florida and the way it has been conducted in the past,” he said. The rub, however, is that eliminating Enterprise Florida also would include reducing Visit Florida’s budget to pre-2009 levels under the substitute approved this week, something Richardson said he wasn’t prepared to do. “But if you pull out Enterprise Florida … I’d be happy to kill it for you,” he said.

HOUSE GAMBLING BILL GETS THUMBS UP ON FIRST LOOK via Florida Politics – With its chair saying he wants to “freeze” gambling in the state, a House gambling panel on Thursday cleared that chamber’s overhaul bill, including a renewed blackjack agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee OK’d the measure on a 10-5 party-line vote. But the bill, which isn’t yet assigned to another committee, differs greatly from the Senate’s gambling legislation. Its proposal now is cleared for consideration by the full chamber after a 14-2 vote in the Appropriations Committee, also Thursday.

***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.***

DISMAYED, DCF HEAD MIKE CARROLL EXPLAINS FRAGMENTS OF FACEBOOK LIVE SUICIDE CASE via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Standing before the members of the Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee Thursday, Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll admitted Naika Venant had been in out of foster care since 2009. Naika, 14, closed her chapter on this planet through suicide, hanging herself, shockingly, on Facebook Live’s video feature. “Can you imagine? And to have hundreds of friends watching, but only one friend would call to do anything,” Carroll asked committee members. “We became involved with Naika at a young age.” Carroll conceded this case was not like others, and it was likely to take longer than normal, which drew specific questions from committee member Rep. Kionne McGhee and Chairwoman Gayle Harrell about what date, exactly, they could expect a copy of the investigative report on Naika’s death.

FEDERALISM MESSAGE ECHOED BY HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS via Erin Clark of FloridaWatchdog.org – The House Health Innovation Subcommittee approved sending a memorial to Congress asking lawmakers to consider giving Medicaid funding to the states in the form of block grants. “As you know, Medicaid is supposed to be a partnership. In reality, the federal government is in control,” said state Rep. Frank White who introduced the memorial at the hearing. He argued that the states need flexibility to design programs tailored to their specific demographic and geographic needs. In the public testimony on the memorial, speakers offered a mix of caution and enthusiastic support. “In the redesign of health care, would you like to be in charge, as the state Legislature? Or would you like a bunch of people in Washington to be in charge, dictating terms, creating more requirements, limiting your ability to manage the utilization of your own Medicaid program?” asked U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.

FLORIDA TO LEGISLATE FREE SPEECH ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES? via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Florida House Subcommittee on Post-Secondary Education heard from conservative academic Stanley Kurtz about the Campus Free Speech Act, a piece of proposed legislation that he says would defend free speech in Florida universities. “When protesters disrupt speakers or break in on meetings and take them over to list demands, administrators tend to look the other way,” Kurtz told committee members as he began his 16-minute address. “Students have come to take it for granted that they will face no discipline for such disruptions, administrators themselves often disinvite controversial speakers and limit the exercise of liberty to narrow and highly regulated so-called free speech zones. University boards and trustees rarely act to curb these administrative abuses.”

HOUSE PANEL VOTES TO RAISE THE BAR FOR PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS via Florida Politics – A lively debate on governing principles broke out Thursday as a House committee voted unanimously to ask the voters to raise the threshold for amending the Florida Constitution. HJR 321 would require approval by 66 2/3 percent of the voters to change the state’s foundational document. At present, that requires 60 percent approval. Sponsor Rick Roth … acknowledge his proposal would make it harder to change Florida’s basic law. “I watch politics very closely, and have for 30 years, and it seems like it’s becoming, more and more, who has the money to put something on the ballot,” he said  following the 14-0 vote by the Oversight, Transparency, & Administration Subcommittee.

HOUSE PANEL WOULD ALLOW INTEREST PAYMENTS ON NONECONOMIC VERDICTS via Florida Politics – Insurance interests are up in arms about a House committee’s approval of a bill that would allow plaintiffs to recover prejudgment interest on noneconomic claims, including pain and suffering. HB 469 says that plaintiffs who prevail in lawsuits could collect interest — at a rate now set a 4.9 percent, but varying with inflation — from the date of a loss. They could collect against attorney fees and costs, too. … Sponsor Shawn Harrison, an attorney from Tampa, said plaintiffs could not collect interest on punitive damages. … “A person who is damaged by a tortfeasor is just as damaged regardless of whether they have an action in contract or in tort,” Harrison said. “Why should there be a difference?”

***Smart employers know an inclusive workforce makes good business sense and helps secure Florida’s future. Only 30% of Floridians with disabilities are working. Explore the talent in the untapped 70%. Find out how at AbleTrust.org***

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND – GOP LAWMAKERS HOSTING ANNUAL ‘MARDI GRAS’ FUNDRAISER via Florida Politics – Ever wanted to ask Senate President Negron what he’d do to earn some Mardi Gras beads? Well, you’ll have the chance to do just that if you take part in a “Mardi Gras Celebration” at Universal Studios in Orlando where Negron, Speaker Corcoran, Senate Presidents-to-be Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson and House Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls and other legislative leaders will come together for a fundraiser this weekend … the Republican lawmakers will take part in a full schedule of activities, including VIP tours. There will be a lunch and dinner, followed by a VIP viewing of a Mardi Gras Celebration Parade & Concert. Funds raised at the event will benefit House Majority 2018, one of the campaign arms of the Republican Party of Florida.

HAPPENING THIS WEEKEND:

HAPPENING NEXT WEEK:

BRING ON THE ORANGE JUICE: DENISE GRIMSLEY SCHEDULES BREAKFAST FUNDRAISER FOR MARCH 7 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Grimsley is scheduled to hold a fundraising reception for her 2018 bid for Agriculture Commissioner at 7:30 a.m. on March 7 at Florida Finance Strategies, 111-B East College Avenue in Tallahassee. The reception … is hosted by Sens. Aaron BeanDennis BaxleyRob BradleyAnitere FloresGeorge GainerBill GalvanoRene Garcia, Jack LatvalaTom LeeDebbie MayfieldDavid SimmonsWilton SimpsonKelli Stargel and Greg Steube. The breakfast fundraiser comes just hours before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

>>>Interesting that Steube is on the host committee; there has been some reporting he too wanted to run for Ag. Commissioner. Guess he’s staying in the Senate?

ANDREW GILLUM TO MAKE CASE FOR GUBERNATORIAL BID IN ORLANDO SPEECH via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Gillum will all but announce his 2018 bid for governor today, hoping to become the first African-American to win an office that Democrats haven’t held in two decades. Gillum won’t commit outright to running for governor – at least not yet. But his speech this morning to the Central Florida Urban League in Orlando has all the trappings of a campaign stemwinder, replete with biographical references, policy positions and shots at Republican President Donald Trump, according to excerpts shared with POLITICO Florida.

PHILIP LEVINE LAUNCHES POLITICAL COMMITTEE, HIRES MATTHEW VAN NAME via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Levine launched All About Florida and has hired Matthew Van Name to work for the political committee. Van Name recently served as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s campaign manager and was formerly the Florida political director of the Service Employees International Union. The news of Van Name’s hiring comes just one day before Levine is scheduled to deliver remarks at the annual Cornerstone Award Breakfast sponsored by the Central Florida Urban League. Levine is expected to discuss his vision for Florida’s future. He is expected to make an announcement this spring about “his plans for continued public service.”

SURPRISE (OR NOT): MICHELLE REHWINKEL VASILINDA JOINS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY via Florida Politics – The former state representative for Tallahassee, who quit the Democratic Party and became an independent shortly before being term limited out of office last year, now has officially become a Republican. Rehwinkel Vasilinda, 56, officially announced the switch at the 2017 Leon GOP Lincoln Day Dinner held in Tallahassee … “We are excited to welcome former Representative Michelle Rewinkle Vasilinda into the Republican Party,” said Leon County GOP chairman Evan Power. “Her switch really shows how the protest and identity politics from the left is driving people from the Democratic party.”

***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.***

AS DONALD TRUMP REVOKES TRANSGENDER STUDENT PROTECTION, FLORIDA LGBTQ COMMUNITY WONDERS WHAT’S NEXT? via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – Michael Jones, a well-known entertainer and drag whose stage name is “Meagan Towers,” was in street clothes, sipping on a drink at Pepperz Cabaret in Gulfport … “I think what they’re doing is wrong,” Jones, who works mostly in Naples, said. “I know too, too many trans people that this could affect if (Trump) takes this further.” He and a couple of friends worried whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress were poised to do much more, like rescind the right for those in the LGBTQ communities to legally marry. Jones said Trump used to support “the LGBTQ team,” but since becoming president, the shifting winds of politics had taken hold. “Apparently, he’s making it known to all minorities and us that he doesn’t give a damn,” he said, irked.

SPECIAL REPORT: IN HARM’S WAY via Kathleen McGrory and Connie Humburg of the Tampa Bay Times — Gun injuries are a growing problem for Florida’s children, rising along with the increasing availability of firearms across the state, the Tampa Bay Times has found. To determine how many kids are shot each year — accidentally, intentionally or during the commission of a crime — the Times looked at millions of hospital discharge records for patients across Florida, as well as data collected by the state’s 24 medical examiners. The analysis found that, between 2010 and 2015, nearly 3,200 kids 17 and younger were killed or injured by firearms. Put another way, a child in Florida was shot, on average, every 17 hours. From 2010 through 2015, the number of kids killed in gun-related incidents rose nearly 20 percent. Injuries from guns jumped 26 percent from 2014 to 2015 alone.

SOLARCITY’S QUESTIONABLE BUSINESS PRACTICES A WARNING FOR FLORIDA SOLAR DEBATE? via Florida Politics – A recent New York Times article exposes some of the “diminutive” players in Florida’s solar industry for what they really are – billion-dollar, for-profit corporations which engage in highly questionable business practices to lure consumers. SolarCity, the nation’s leading installer of rooftop solar panels – and a favorite in the renewable energy sector – promotes itself to investors with a single idea; a 20-year lease for those signing up for its solar panels. Reporters found dozens of homeowners who, over the last three years, entered such long-term solar panel agreements shortly before (and sometimes after) defaulting on mortgages. More than a dozen homeowners were already in default, or with other liens on the property, by the time SolarCity submitted paperwork to the government … in the past few years, SolarCity lowered its requirements for entry into the program – using a 650 FICO score cutoff, considered by many to be only “fair” credit. But that credit score is assessed months before solar panels are installed, and can fluctuate considerably based upon financial situations.

WHAT WILL WEATHERFORD IS READING – FLORIDA CHAMBER CEO DELIVERS UNEXPECTED MESSAGE via Janelle O’Dea of the Bradenton Herald – Mark Wilson delivered a somewhat unexpected message to a room of 75 businesses leaders and government officials. “I’m positive that when some of you got the invite for today you asked, ‘What’s the chamber doing looking at poverty?’” he said. Wilson took attendees through a presentation showing how business leaders and their attitudes need to adjust to solve the problems associated with generational poverty. “Generational poverty means you were born into it,” Wilson said. “It is not your fault. If you’re born into poverty, you don’t know anything else.” He recognized that this concept may be foreign to some, especially business leaders who thrive on the idea that if one works hard enough, they can ascend the throes of a life in poverty. It’s not that easy, Wilson explained.

***Sen. Jack Latvala is 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 you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at protectflbusiness.com.***

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Melissa Akeson, The Rubin Group:  Friends of the Underline; Orthodox Union

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Broward County Property Appraiser; Florida East Coast Industries LLC.; Friends of the Underline

Travis Blanton, Jon JohnsonDarrick McGhee Sr., Johnson & Blanton: Transdev North America, Inc.

Michael Bronstein, Bronstein Consulting LLC: American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Region X of the Appraisal Institute

Lynne Elizabeth Grinsell, Capital City Consulting: Zurich American Insurance Company

Travis Mitchell, Louis Betz & Associates Inc.: 3 Bees Corp

Timothy Parson, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee: Wexford Health Sources

William RubinHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Friends of the Underline

Ryan Sacco, The Rubin Group: Broward County Property Appraiser; Dosal Tobacco Corporation; Florida East Coast Industries LLC; Florida Taxi Cab Association; Friends of the Underline

Lane Stephens, SCG Governmental Affairs: Florida Airboat Association

SPOTTED on American Association of Political Consultants’ 40 Under 40 lists: Tim Saler, the vice president of Grassroots Targeting former deputy campaign manager of Rick Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign, and the former deputy executive director for political strategy at the Republican, and Christian Ulvert, president and founder of EDGE Communications.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Jessica Ellerman, Matt Farrar, and Susan Goldstein. Belated wishes to my longtime friend, Joel Silver.

Sunburn for 2.23.17 – Scott’s sky-high approval ratings; Corcoran says ‘hell no’; Bill Nelson targeted

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

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

STORY MORE IMPORTANT THAN POLITICS: 7 EARTH-SIZE WORLDS FOUND ORBITING STAR; COULD HOLD LIFE

For the first time ever, astronomers have discovered seven Earth-size planets orbiting a nearby star — and these new worlds could hold life.

This cluster of planets is less than 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius, according to NASA and the Belgian-led research team who announced the discovery Wednesday.

The planets circle tightly around a dim dwarf star called Trappist-1, barely the size of Jupiter. Three are in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water and, possibly life, might exist. The others are right on the doorstep.

Scientists said they need to study the atmospheres before determining whether these rocky, terrestrial planets could support some sort of life. But it already shows just how many Earth-size planets could be out there — especially in a star’s sweet spot, ripe for extraterrestrial life.

The takeaway from all this is, “we’ve made a crucial step toward finding if there is life out there,” said the University of Cambridge’s Amaury Triaud, one of the researchers. The potential for more Earth-size planets in our Milky Way galaxy is mind-boggling.

Now, back to politics on Planet Earth…

FLORIDA REPUBLICAN HAVE A GREAT FEELING ABOUT THE HOME TEAM

Gov. Scott is enjoying sky-high approval ratings, while Attorney General Pam Bondi continues to be a rock star. And Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam may have a future in this business.

With just a few weeks until the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, Associated Industries of Florida surveyed 800 likely Republican primary voters. The survey looked the direction of the state, the approval ratings of statewide elected officials, and took at stab at gauging public consensus on a couple of key policy debates.

And of course, no survey would be complete without mulling a hypothetical 2018 gubernatorial match-up.

So, what did AIF find? Here’s five takeaways from the February 2017 report:

Scott’s approval rating soars

Being the middle of a high-profile feud with the Florida House might suit Scott. The survey, conducted by phone from Feb. 14 through Feb. 17, showed 81 percent of likely Republican primary voters polled said they approved of the job the Governor was doing.

According to the polling memo, 41 percent of those surveyed said they strongly approved of the job he was doing. “In essence,” the memo reads, “the Governor enters his second to last session with the highest marks from Republicans that we have tracked during his term.”

Bondi is a rock star

As Attorney General, Bondi has received top marks for most of her time in office. And, according to the polling memo, that makes total sense, considering the “among of earned media she has received over her time on the Cabinet.

But after a few months of bad headlines, the news that 54 percent of the Republican base approve of the job she’s doing as Florida’s attorney general must have come as a relief. In fact, Bondi had the third highest job approval rating, behind only Scott and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Speaking of Cabinet members, 38 percent of GOP primary voters said they approved of the job Putnam was doing as agriculture commissioner. AIF didn’t include CFO Jeff Atwater in image testing, since he’s leaving his post at the end of session.

Too early for 2018

We may love covering the horserace, but Republican voters don’t appear ready to start thinking about 2018.

Associated Industries of Florida tested hypothetical ballot tests for Governor and the Cabinet and, according to the polling memo, “low name ID’s are obviously forcing ballots that are largely undecided.”

In a hypothetical four-way race between Putnam, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala and businessman (and alligator ‘wrassler’Ron Bergerson, 71 percent said they would be undecided. Putnam, however, had an 18-point lead over Corcoran, 22 percent to 4 percent.

No love for land buy 

GOP voters aren’t thrilled about the idea of the state buying private land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

Sixty-four present of respondents said they disagreed with the statement “The state should continue to buy private farmland for environmental purposes and take it out of production, even if that means the state must borrow the money to purchase bonds.”

The poll found 65 percent did not believe the state should use eminent domain to buy privately owned lands for environmental uses.

Under a bill (SB 10) moving through the Senate, the South Florida Water Management District would have until the end of 2017 to find a willing seller of 60,000 acres of land, upon which the state could build one or more water storage reservoirs.

If the water management district can’t find a willing center, the state can decide to buy 153,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar, under an existing option in a contract signed by the state and company in 2010. The bill, however, does not propose use eminent domain to acquire land.

Incentive debate just too darn complicated

AIF tried to ask voters about the ongoing debate over whether to dismantle economic incentive programs and tourism marketing arm Visit Florida, but concluded the issue was too complicated for voters to comprehend.

“Overall awareness on these debates is low in this survey, regardless of how the question is tested,” said Ryan Tyson, AIF’s Vice President of Political Operations. “Furthermore, the nuances of the policy points used to better describe ‘incentives for job growth’ vs. ‘corporate welfare’ are far too complex for decisive support for either position in this survey.”

AIF said no matter the phrasing, the results for the incentives debate were contradictory “and talking points can easily get a voter to one side of the argument or the other.

RICK SCOTT’S PAC SLAMS HOUSE SPEAKER RICHARD CORCORAN AS “CAREER POLITICIAN” IN NEW VIDEO via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s the latest in the back and forth policy battle between the two Republican leaders over the future of state job incentive programs and the state’s tourism marketing agency. Last week, Corcoran used a closed-door meeting with Republicans to release a video slamming Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida as agencies that waste tax dollars. That video specifically highlight two job incentive projects – Sanford Burnham and Digital Domain – approved by previous governors that have since failed, but the ad did not explain that they came before Scott took office in 2011. The Let’s Get to Work video specifically takes on that point, criticizing the video as misleading and saying both projects occurred under then-Gov. Charlie Crist. But that also isn’t accurate. The Sanford Burnham project was approved when Gov. Jeb Bush was still in office in 2006.

ON SCHOOL SPENDING, RICHARD CORCORAN HAS TWO WORDS FOR RICK SCOTT, FLORIDA SENATE: ‘HELL NO’ via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran says he won’t compromise on the question of whether the Legislature should write a budget that includes nearly $500 million more in local property taxes from Florida homeowners to hit Scott‘s target of a K-12 spending increase, under a program known as required local effort. Scott and Senate President Negron don’t consider that a tax increase because the property tax rate would stay the same. The extra money would come from rising property values paid by homeowners and businesses. “The governor has in his budget a $450-plus million property tax increase,” Corcoran [said]. “That’s a hell no. That’s a hell no. We’re not raising property taxes to fund government waste. We’re not raising taxes on property owners to give it to business owners. It’s a non-starter. It’s nonsensical.”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

BILL WOULD EXTEND TIME TO SUE ABORTION DOCTORS via Gary Fineout of The Associated Press – Women who have abortions in Florida would find it easier to sue the doctors who performed the procedure, under a contentious bill now moving through the House. But it’s unclear if the legislation … opposed by some Republicans … will become law since there’s no companion measure moving through the Senate. A House panel narrowly approved a bill that would give women more time to sue physicians for physical or emotional injuries stemming from abortions. Most legal claims arising from medical procedures must be filed within four years, but the bill would allow lawsuits to be filed for up to 10 years following the abortion. But the legislation is opposed by those who support abortion rights as well as groups that represent Florida doctors.

STAND YOUR GROUND BILL PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – Even before the House took a single vote on the bill, which would put the burden of proof on prosecutors to refute defendants’ self-defense claims, 42 members had signed on as primary or co-sponsors. That represents more than two-thirds of the votes needed to pass a bill in that chamber. “The bill places the burden of proof where it belongs, on the prosecution, and is consistent with the foundation of our criminal law that a person is innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Rep. Bobby Payne … one of a trio of Northeast Florida lawmakers serving as the main sponsors of this legislation.

SENATE FINANCE & TAX APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE OK’S ‘TAMPON TAX’ EXEMPTION via Florida Politics — The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee approved a proposal (SB 176) to make feminine hygiene products, like tampons, exempt from state sales and use tax. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, now heads to the full Appropriations Committee. … If approved, the Revenue Estimating Conference estimates the exemption would reduce general revenue receipts by $3.8 million in fiscal 2017-18 and by $8.9 million on a recurring basis. It would reduce local revenue by $1 million in fiscal 2017-18, and then by $2.3 million each year after.

BILL WOULD STRIP TRI-RAIL OF FUNDING, CONTRACTING AUTHORITY via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – The Bay County Republican’s Senate Bill 1118 … would force the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority to decide between the ten-year, $511 million operations and maintenance contract it is awarding to a sole qualified bidder, or the $42 million in state funding it expects each year. The bill also would require state approval for any future SFRTA contracts for the South Florida commuter rail system that would be paid for with state money. Tri-Rail provides commuter rail service through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority provisions are buried in what is a much broader transportation bill from Gainer that covers everything from bridge inspections to natural gas vehicle regulations.

CRAFT BEER DEBATE INCLUDES … CHANCE THE RAPPER? via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The Senate Regulated Industries Committee cleared the measure (SB 554) on a 6-3 vote. The measure would allow smaller craft brewers to distribute their own beer. It would create an exception to Florida’s “three-tier system” born after Prohibition, which requires separation of alcoholic beverage manufacturers, distributors and retailers to avoid price-fixing. [OscarBraynon explained that Chance, who won three Grammy Awards this year, first independently distributed his own music before getting “multimillion-dollar offers for distribution deals.” The bill “would allow small brewers to do just what Chance the Rapper did,” Braynon said. “So, I’m going to give this (bill) a chance—thanks to Chance the Rapper.”

HOME RULE FIGHT BREAKS OUT AS PANEL APPROVES REGULATION REFORM BILL via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The bill, HB 17, is sponsored by Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine, and would not allow local governments to regulate issues that are not already allowed under state statute … He says it comes down to a philosophical approach: increased regulations hurt businesses and job creation. “Regulations, which smother businesses, should be hard to create,” he said. Democrats on the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee were joined by Rep. Shawn Harrison … in opposing the bill. They argued it took too much control away from the elected officials closest to the people and would require any regulatory change to go before the Legislature, which meets far less than local governments. “I think this is simply a bridge too far,” said Harrison, who represents a Democratic-leaning seat.

HOUSE TRANSPORTATION AND TOURISM PANEL BEGINS VETTING MEMBER PROJECTS via Florida Politics – The House Transportation and Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee began voting on nearly $500 million in member project bills Wednesday, as its chairman warned that the panel’s approval does not guarantee a project will make it into the final House budget bill. “Our point here is to try to vet these to the extent we can in the time that we have,” Rep. Clay Ingram told committee members. … Ingram said he had sidelined some projects that he knew just wouldn’t fly.

HOUSE WON’T CHANGE NURSING HOME REIMBURSEMENT FORMULA THIS YEAR via Florida Politics – The House won’t pursue a proposal to change the way the state reimburses nursing homes caring for Medicaid patients — at least, not this year. … “Although we like the idea of a prospective payment system … perhaps the calculations that were done in that study don’t meet all the needs,” Jason Brodeur, chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee, told members Wednesday. A plan by Navigant Consulting Inc. … would pay nursing homes using a per diem rate calculated based on four components. “One of the things I think we could probably do as a committee is maybe commit ourselves to a more intellectually disciplined approach,” Brodeur said.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUDGET CHAIR FAVORS VOCATIONAL TRAINING AS VOTING BEGINS via Florida Politics – The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee OK’d eight member requests for state funds Wednesday, including programs boosting technical training … and a veterinary lab at the University of Florida. … Chairman Larry Ahern is particularly interested in vocational projects — apprenticeships, internships, other forms of nonacademic training. … For example, the panel approved $200,000 for a partnership with car dealers to train young people for relatively high-paying jobs in auto shops. … “There is a demand for those jobs, but they’re not able to train enough young adults to fill these jobs,” Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., said.

JURY UNANIMITY BILL PASSES HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – Bills that would require juries to be unanimous in recommending the death penalty [come] on the heels of a Florida Supreme Court decision came in that lifted a hold on current death penalty cases. HB 527 by Rep. Chris Sprowls passed the House Judiciary Committee 17-1 and will be discussed on the House floor. Sen. Randolph Bracy’s SB 280 was unanimously vetted by the Senate Rules Committee and is now ready to be heard by the full Senate.

LAWMAKERS TARGET CRIMINAL UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS, DESPITE CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald –  A controversial plan to impose more prison time on undocumented immigrants who commit severe violent crimes in Florida narrowly passed its second Senate committee … but it’s unlikely to advance much further without buy-in from the House. The measure (SB 120) has drawn a litany of criticism and questions about its constitutionality from Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocacy groups, because it would impose harsher penalties on undocumented immigrants than U.S. citizens or legal residents would otherwise face for the same offenses. “What is it about their immigration status that makes the crime more heinous?” asked Sen. Jeff Clemens … “The fact that somebody is here without papers, how does that make the rape or the murder worse?”

PROPERTY TAX CAP SAILS THROUGH FIRST COMMITTEES via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools –HJR 21, put forth by Rep. Colleen Burton … would permanently instate a 10 percent cap on non-homestead property assessment increases, a constitutional regulation set to expire in 2019. The bill passed the House Ways & Means Committee 16-1 and has one more committee stop. A similar Senate version (SJR 76) by Sen. Tom Lee … passed unanimously Wednesday in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. The cap would not apply to property taxes levied by school districts under the two bills.

STADIUM FUNDING BILL PASSES FIRST HOUSE COMMITTEE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – HB 77, which would prevent sports teams from building or renovating stadiums on public land, passed the House Government Accountability Committee 14-5 … The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bryan Avila, said the bill “protects taxpayer funds from being used to subsidize already successful businesses.” The bill would also require a stipulation in future contracts between sports franchises and state and local governments that compels franchises to pay any outstanding debt the state acquired for construction on sports facilities if the franchise permanently leaves the facility. Rep. Joseph Abruzzo, who voted against the bill, questioned whether the bill would impede the overall economic boost sports teams create.

— “Senate moves ahead with changes to ‘estoppel’ certificate standards” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida

***Smart employers know an inclusive workforce makes good business sense and helps secure Florida’s future. Only 30% of Floridians with disabilities are working. Explore the talent in the untapped 70%. Find out how at AbleTrust.org***

ANITERE FLORES PROPOSES COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP FOR 50 CHILDREN OF FARMWORKERS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The amendment to SB 2, the Senate’s higher education reform bill which will be up for a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee, authorizes children of migrant workers who meet the criteria of the award, including meeting the state’s residency requirements, to receive the scholarship annually. The scholarship would be administered by the Florida Department of Education and students would be required to have a 3.5 weighted grade-point average, have at least a 90 percent attendance rate and complete at least 30 hours of community service. Flores, who as a House member helped establish the First-Generation Matching Grant program a decade ago, expects the annual cost will be about $1 million.

SENATE ADDS BINGO, DOPING, ADW TO ITS 2017 GAMBLING BILL via Florida Politics – On a first read, the strike-all’s most significant changes are: A new bingo provision for charitable organizations. A provision that appears to outlaw a form of gambling called advance-deposit wagering (ADW), “in which the bettor must fund his account before being allowed to place bets,” according to Investopedia, adding “racetrack owners, horse trainers and state governments sometimes receive a cut of ADW revenues.” The amendment makes a third-degree felony out of accepting such a wager, but only “on horseraces,” not dog races. Toughening testing standards for race animal “doping,” the giving of performance-enhancing drugs to a racehorse or greyhound. In other sections, the strike-all also changes the proposed “Office of Amusements” that would regulate fantasy sports to an “Office of Contest Amusements.”

SHOULD LOCAL GOVERNMENTS HAVE LESS POWER? SOME STATE LAWMAKERS THINK SO via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Lawmakers are pushing a bill (HB 17) that would prohibit cities, counties and other arms of local government from passing any regulations on businesses unless they have been given specific permission from the state Legislature. The same proposal would repeal existing rules governing businesses in 2020. The stated goal: eliminating confusion for people trying to start a business in multiple cities or counties. “Imagine being someone who wants to try to build their business and doesn’t want to hire lawyers and doesn’t want to hire lobbyists,” said Rep. Randy Fine. “The intention of this bill is to try to make it easier for those folks to do that.” But local elected officials, Republican and Democrat alike, see it as an attack that would limit their power and harm their residents. “Why don’t they just abolish local government?” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn … “This is by a group of allegedly conservative people who during campaigns will say less government is better and the government closest to the people governs best, and that’s local government.”

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee will consider its proposed committee bill when it meets at 9:30 a.m. in 212 Knott. The House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee will discuss a bill that revises the list of documents lenders can use as an admission of bankruptcy by defendants in mortgage foreclosures when it meets at 9:30 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Post-Secondary Education Subcommittee will get a presentation about free speech on college campuses when it meets at 10 a.m. in 306 House Office Building. The House won’t be the only chamber rolling the dice on gambling Thursday. The Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to discuss its wide-sweeping gambling bill during its meeting at 9 a.m. in 412 Knott. In addition to the gambling bill, the committee is also scheduled to hear his “Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Anitere Flores and Rep. Rene Plasencia will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. outside the Senate Chamber on the 4th floor of the Capitol to discuss the public school recess bills. They will be joined by representatives of the Florida PTA and “recess moms.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The James Madison Institute will hold a press call to release its study regarding current proposals being considered by the Florida legislature surrounding the Everglades Agricultural Area. Call is 9:30 a.m., 800-371-9219/PIN: 9714346.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) at cqrcengage.com/ahcafl/CONProcess.***

HAPPENING TODAY – LAWMAKERS HOST FUNDRAISERS ACROSS TALLAHASSEE — House Majority, the fundraising arm of the House Republicans, will hold a fundraiser for Reps. Danny Burgess and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen at 11:30 a.m. at Clyde’s and Costello’s, 210 South Adams Street. Members of the Senate are also getting in on the fundraising action: Sen. Debbie Mayfield will hold a fundraiser for her Senate District 17 re-election campaign at the Governors Club Boardroom, 202 ½ S. Adams Street; while Sen. Travis Hutson will hold a fundraiser at 5 p.m. at the Governors Club Library. Both fundraisers are scheduled for 5 p.m.

HAPPENING TONIGHT:

***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.***

AGENCY FOR STATE TECHNOLOGY AUDIT SCRUTINIZED BY HOUSE PANEL via AG Gancarski of Florida Politics – The House Government Operations & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee discussed a January Auditor General report about the Agency for State Technology and State Data Center operations. Despite the findings of that report, which included issues with user access privileges, accounts kept active despite being unused, and other such seemingly-exploitable security glitches, the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee showed little interest in the kind of specific, drill-down inquiry about remedies for these issues one might have expected … in the House was a different matter. Arthur Hart, audit manager for Information Technology Audits in the Office of Auditor General, addressed the audit. “I think there is reason for some concern about some findings in the audit,” Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said by way of introducing Hart.

— “DCF files roundup: Tony Dungy, adoption, false reports and a new trend – falling asleep in cars, high and with kids” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics

HOW FLORIDA’S WELL-CONNECTED MEDICAL MARIJUANA CHIEF GOT HIS JOB, DESPITE LITTLE EXPERIENCE via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida – In July 2015, former Surgeon General John Armstrong signed off on a memo from current Surgeon General (then deputy health secretary) Celeste Philip asking that the department not advertise the open job for director of the Office of Compassionate Use on the basis that Christian Bax was “the best candidate for the position,” making the assertion that he had “several years of experience in navigating medical marijuana regulations.” But it turns out Bax was the only candidate who applied for the position, and on his job application he claimed to have only about 15 months experience working part-time as a consultant in Boston doing application work for medical cannabis firms in Washington and Nevada. Department spokeswoman Mara Gambinerirefused to address the contradiction. She insists that “based on Mr. Bax’s policy and rulemaking knowledge and experience, the department determined he was the best candidate for the position” — even though Bax was the sole candidate to apply. Soon after Bax was hired in July 2015 as the director of OCU, his office was beset by legal disputes alleging the method for awarding medical marijuana licenses was arbitrary. Now the office is plagued by a growing pile of legal bills.

VISIT FLORIDA’S BREAKUP WITH PITBULL ALMOST COMPLETE via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – But when new Visit Florida leader Ken Lawson stood before a Florida Senate committee earlier this week there was a strong acknowledgement that the highly controversial (and for the longest time secret) $1 million contract with Pitbull to promote state beaches will never happen again on his watch. “A great Floridian who’s made his way,” Lawson said of Miami music start Pitbull. “But anytime we use a celebrity or any person, we need to make sure it fits the brand.” Lawson said in the future any use of celebrities would have to “fit our program” and require “commonsense.”

WE TOLD YOU SO; EYEBALL WARS SET TO BEGIN ANEW via Florida Politics – Nearly four years have passed since the truce was called in the decades-long “eyeballs war” between Florida optometrists and ophthalmologists … that fragile peace seems all but finished. Optometrists are seemingly going back on their word, working behind the scenes to file legislation to allow them to perform surgery … the FOA and associated parties have given more than $2.1 million to committees and candidates statewide — and is bolstering its Tallahassee lobbying roster, specifically through Michael Corcoran, brother of Speaker Corcoran. And in his 2016 Legislative Update, FOA chair Dr. Ken Lawson issued the clarion call. “Our ability to be heard in the Florida Legislature could not be more paramount to the success or failure of our profession than in this very moment in time … I can assure you the 2017 legislative session will be a pivotal point in the future of Florida Optometry.”

***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***

ONE NATION LAUNCHES AD CALLING FOR REPEAL OF OBAMACARE — The political organization launched 30-second spots in nine states, including Florida, Wednesday calling on federal lawmakers to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The advertisements are part of a $3 million ad campaign to take place over three weeks in 11 states, and will be followed by radio, digital, print and mail campaigns. In Florida, the ad calls Obamacare a “failed mess created by Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote” and urges Floridians to “tell Sen. Bill Nelson he was wrong to vote for Obamacare.”


NRSC OUT WITH DIGITAL AD COMPARING BILL NELSON TO ELIZABETH WARREN — The National Republican Senatorial Committee debuted a new digital ad campaign Wednesday to “inform Florida voters of Nelson’s liberal record in Washington to that of the new face of the far left, Elizabeth Warren.” The ads will run on Facebook and are part of a national campaign targeting Senate Democrats in states won by President Donald Trump. “Bill Nelson has positioned himself squarely on the left, voting with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren 92% of the time,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson may try to pose as a moderate as the election approaches, but his record shows that he has more in common with Washington liberals than with Florida voters.”

STORY YOU WON’T READ IN SUNBURN – “With N-word sign, Florida man tries to scuttle Tampa mayor’s gubernatorial hopes — but there’s a twist” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida. It’s not that this isn’t a story sure to drive clicks and it’s one that Caputo tells well, but anyone who has been to downtown Tampa has seen these ridiculous, offensive signs. Local media has rightly chosen to ignore this gadfly. Unfortunately, with Caputo’s article, he now has a national platform.

TOM GRADY EYES AG, CFO NOW THAT FGCU PRESIDENT IS OUT via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – No longer in the running to be Florida Gulf Coast University’s president, former Naples’ state representative Grady is eyeing state Attorney General and maybe even the state’s chief financial officer position. And to get either office, he might rely on the help of a friend, his neighbor and former constituent Gov. Scott, who could find himself appointing interim officials to both positions soon. “I speak with the governor often about many things, especially where I have some expertise and can be helpful,” Grady said. He declined to disclose his private conversations with the governor. Grady was not among the finalists announced last week for the FGCU position. The university’s board is in the process of selecting a new president from four finalists.

***Sen. Jack Latvala is 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 you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at protectflbusiness.com.***

FIRMS RANDOMLY PICKED FOR LOBBYING COMPENSATION AUDITS via Florida Politics  Even as some lawmakers have questioned its necessity, legislative and executive branch lobbying firms were again randomly selected Wednesday for audits of their compensation reports. The firms picked for legislative lobbying audits are: Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, Buigas & Associates, David R. Custin & Associates, Ericks Consultants, Hopping Green & Sams, Lewis Longman & Walker, Lisa Aaron Consulting, Luis E. Rojas, McGee & Mason, Redfish Consulting, Ronald R. Richmond, Shumaker Loop & Kendrick, Smith & Smith, The Labrador Co. The ones picked for executive lobbying are: Andrew J. Liles, Calhoun Management & Consulting, Capitol Insight, Carr Allison, Champion Consultants, Janet Llewellyn, Lester Abberger, Lindstrom Consulting, Pruitt & Associates, T.B. Consultants, TC Wolfe, Wilson & Associates. 

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Albert Balido, Anfield Consulting: National Council of La Raza

Douglas Bell, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Preserve Vision Florida

Wayne Bertsch Jr., Civility Management LLC: Examination Board of Professional Home Inspectors

Charles Cliburn, New Capitol IT LLC: Gentis Solutions DBA Interlink

Jon Costello, Rutledge Ecenia: Citizens for Judicial Process; Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, Inc.; Pinnacle Housing Group, LLC

Eduardo Gonzalez, Sun City Strategies: Miami Children’s Health System

Jim Horne, Strategos Public Affairs LLC: Academica

Andrew Ketchel, Capital City Consulting LLC: Sebastian Ferrero Foundation

Gary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Citizens for Judicial Process; Pinnacle Housing Group, LLC

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Florida Association of Health Plans; Florida East Coast Industries LLC; Florida East Coast Railway, LLC

Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Southern Company Gas

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of our besties, Amanda Taylor.

Sunburn for 2.22.17 – Session is coming; Lyft & Uber bill heads to floor; Negron’s nice CRC picks; press conferences galore

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 IS AWESOME!

With two more weeks till the 2017 Legislative Session, the battle lines already are being drawn between Richard Corcoran’s House of Representatives and Gov. Rick Scott.

Whoops, there we go again. The press does this every year: Gin up a compelling narrative to lead into the session. Shocker, it usually involves some type of conflict.

Like … Despite the governor’s best attempt to publicly shame lawmakers who support the measure, a House effort to kill Enterprise Florida and many business incentive programs, and strip VISIT FLORIDA down to its financial birthday suit was voted out of Appropriations Tuesday.

The other side of the rotunda signaled it doesn’t want to play along, with Jeff Brandes in the Senate emerging as a voice of reason.

He filed legislation to provide more oversight to the controversial public-private economic development organization, focus on small business, and include the $85 million Scott has requested for incentives.

So where’s the middle ground? Is there any? (See, that’s high-minded concern for compromise and progress.)

“Not that I’m aware of,” House budget chair Carlos Trujillo told the press corps, keeping to his script. “I think philosophically we’re opposed to the notion of the state [cliché alert!] picking winners and losers in economic development.”

Does that mean, heaven forbid, that the chambers and Scott are in “collision course” mode on incentives, with a possibility of “blowing up” Session, to combine another two of the Capitol’s favorite but tired expressions?

“If we pass a bill and the Senate doesn’t pass the bill, then obviously it’s a non-starter,” Trujillo said. “If both chambers agree to pass some substantive legislation, then it goes to the governor’s office and he can make a decision as to the merits.”

Yes, that is the way the system works, in a Schoolhouse Rock sort of way. But c’mon Carlos, ratchet up the drama! We need a story! Should we, say, gird for a special ‘veto override’ session this year? Eagerly awaiting an answer…

SESSION IS COMING — As if we weren’t already thinking the 2017 Legislative Session was going to be interesting enough, the House released a new video Tuesday previewing the upcoming 2017 Legislative Session. The 60-second spot is reminiscent of a “Game of Thrones” advertisement, with ominous music, stormy skies of the Old Capitol and snippets of Speaker Corcoran’s swearing-in speech. Click on the image below to watch the video.

CLICK AND READ THE ENTIRE BLOG POST – HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL TWO WEEKS BEFORE SESSION via Gary Fineout for his blog, The Fine Print – On a nice night in northeast Tallahassee, Florida’s two legislative leaders appeared before a modest-sized crowd at Holy Comforter Episcopal School to give their thoughts on the upcoming 2017 session. … While he cracked jokes about his escalating feud with Gov. Scott over the fate of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, Corcoran and Negron did not contradict each other or dismiss each other’s ideas. Corcoran stressed that education – not the demise of economic development programs such as Enterprise Florida – was the “number one priority” for the House this year.

Corcoran, while noting that the “details” may prove challenging, also agreed with Negron that something should be done to reduce the discharges from Lake Okeechobee that led to toxic algae blooms along Florida’s coast. This is noteworthy since the agricultural community and sugar growers are exerting considerable pressure to defeat Negron’s bill to acquire land south of the lake in order to store water. In the past Corcoran had questioned the plan because of its cost and its reliance on borrowing by issuing bonds for the land purchase.

… Negron for his part said he remains an “optimist” that he and other Republicans can set aside their differences in the weeks ahead. He said there were a lot of “large issues”  to sort out and that he thought the instant back-and-forth played out on social media was a disruptive force But he also noted that the three most powerful men in Florida – Scott, Corcoran and Negron – are all lawyers. “We all realize there’s a time and place for debate, there’s a time and place for trying to make your point in a colorful persuasive way, and then there’s a time to get the job done, a time to do what the people sent us here to do,” Negron said.

SPOTTED at Holy Comforter for the panel: Slater Bayliss, Mike Harrell, Paul Hawkes, Emory Mayfield, Paul Mitchell, Adam Potts, Jay Smith

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

BILL TO KILL BUSINESS INCENTIVES, ENTERPRISE FLORIDA CLEARED FOR HOUSE FLOOR via Florida Politics – A House bill that would abolish the Enterprise Florida economic development organization, eliminate a throng of business incentive programs, and strip the VISIT FLORIDA tourism marketing agency down to a barebones $25 million budget cleared its second and final panel Tuesday. That means the measure (HB 7005), OK’d by the House Appropriations Committee on an 18-12 vote, is ready to be considered by the full House when the 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7. The vote was another hit to Gov. Scott, an advocate of both agencies and economic incentives, which he says create jobs for Floridians … (But the bill) could well be dead on arrival in the Senate. State Sen. Jeff Brandes … filed his own economic development legislation Tuesday. It would leave VISIT FLORIDA alone, and overhaul but not get rid of Enterprise Florida and incentive programs.

UBER-FRIENDLY RULES IN FLORIDA CLEAR ANOTHER HURDLE via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – The House Government and Accountability Committee voted favorably 21-1 on House Bill 221 by Reps. Jamie Grant and Chris Sprowls … . The proposed rules include level one background checks that don’t require a driver’s fingerprints. Uber and Lyft have both objected to fingerprint background checks. Instead, drivers would have to undergo a background check analyzing multistate/multijurisdictional criminal records, the national sex offender database and a complete driving history.

JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS, DEATH PENALTY BILLS CLEAR FINAL HOUSE COMMITTEE VOTES via Florida Politics – Bills that would require unanimous jury votes to impose the death penalty, and ask voters whether to impose term limits on appellate judges, were headed to the House floor following their approval Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. … The committee also approved HB 65, which would allow victims of terrorist acts to sue perpetrators and their enablers in state court; and HB 301, requiring the Florida Supreme Court to report each year to the the governor, attorney general, and legislative leaders the number of cases still pending 180 days after oral argument.

FLOOD INSURANCE, HMO LIABILITY LEGISLATION CLEAR SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics -A Senate committee approved bills Tuesday that would encourage Florida insurers to write flood insurance as an alternative to expensive federal coverage, and would allow patients to sue HMOs for declining to cover doctors’ treatment recommendations in bad faith. “Why shouldn’t the HMOs be held liable for the decisions they make and the doctors aren’t making, and people are dying?” said Sen. Greg Steube, the Sarasota Republican behind SB 262. … Sen. Jeff Brandes sponsored the flood insurance bill — SB 420. “We want more admitted carriers to write,” Brandes said following the 7-1 vote in favor his his bill.

IN MAJOR TALLAHASSEE REVERSAL, MANDATORY SENTENCES CALLED A WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – The Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee … voted unanimously for SB 290 that would end minimum mandatory sentences for non-violent offenses like Powell’s. The massive shift in the tough-on-crime bills of the last two decades that filled prisons and created what both liberals and conservatives now believe has been a subclass of lifers in jail and a waste of tax money. The “prison diversion bill” will save the state $131 million in avoided costs and put 1,001 fewer people in jail, said Sen. Darryl Rouson, the bill’s sponsor. The measure allows judges to depart from the 118 minimum mandatory sentences in Florida law but excludes drug traffickers. It restores the Florida Sentencing Commission, which existed from 1982 to 1997, but limits its scope to determining the severity ranking that adds points to an offenders’ record based on certain offenses. Anyone who commits a violence offense, is not eligible for the court’s leniency.

HOUSE LOBBYING BAN EXTENSION CLEARED FOR FLOOR via Florida Politics – A measure to increase the ban from two years to six years on former lawmakers and statewide elected officers lobbying their colleagues after leaving office is now cleared to be considered by the full House of Representatives. The House Rules and Policy Committee OK’d the measure (HJR 7001) unanimously on Tuesday. As its second and final review panel, it’s now available to be discussed on the House floor when the 2017 Legislative Session begins March 7. Extending the lobbying ban is a plank of Speaker Corcoran‘s program to create a “culture of transparency” in state government.

IMPASSIONED MOMS GATHER IN TALLAHASSEE TO RAIL AGAINST GUN BILLS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Some of the bills passing through this year’s legislative session would lift “gun-free” zones for concealed carry permit holders and allow them to carry their weapons in places like airports and public schools. Other bills would allow CCW permit holders to bring their firearms to public meetings and on college campuses and another would shift the burden of proof in “Stand Your Ground” cases. Moms Demand Action, a wing of the Everytown organization founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, intends to send a message to state lawmakers and big time gun lobbyists that these laws could have dire consequences on public safety. “The gun lobby has never encountered opposition in Florida like they’re encountering now and they don’t know how to react to it,” said Florida chapter leader Michelle Gajda. “They don’t know how to react to real citizens standing up and demanding that they operate in the sunlight.” Florida gun groups criticized the group for their statements, calling Everytown’s attempt to assume the mantle of a grassroots organization taking “hypocrisy to new heights.”

— “’Arnold Palmer Expressway’ designation gets committee nod” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics

— “Bill to make Miami-Dade County Sheriff an elected position advances in Florida Senate” via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics

— “Funding for St. Johns River, Keystone lakes gets initial nod in the Senate” via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union

— “Linda Stewart bill would extend homeowner protections from bad drywall projects” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer

— “Senate committee OK’s 3 bills: job protection, veteran IDs, emergency management” via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics

SHOULD FOOD STAMPS BE USED TO BUY SODA AND CANDY? A TAMPA BAY LAWMAKER SAYS NO via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo of Lecanto … an industrial engineer and a dermatologist, says that something has to be done about the rising rates of obesity in the U.S., especially among children. “The fact that we’re allowing junk food as the most common purchased item leads to non-nutritional states and disease,” Massullo said … “I don’t want the government to get into the nitty-gritty of our lives, but I also don’t want government making us sick.” Massullo filed House Bill 593, which would add soft drinks and candy to the list of items that cannot be bought with electronic benefit transfer cards issued as part of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, along with alcohol, gambling, slot machines, commercial bingo halls and adult entertainment. It’s a public health issue but it’s also about the extent to which conservative, free-market Republicans want to control behavior.

TOUGH QUESTIONS FOR POLITICIANS BLOCKING TOUGHER TEXTING & DRIVING LAWS via Noah Pransky of WTSP – With public support overwhelmingly in support of tougher texting-while-driving laws … 10Investigates took tough questions to Florida’s leading lawmakers, including those described by Tallahassee insiders as “roadblocks” to toughening the state’s weak texting laws. House Speaker Richard Corcoran and State Sen. Jeff Brandes both listed a litany of reasons Floridians probably shouldn’t expect any changes to the texting law in 2017, but three themes stood out: 1) Concern that texting bans may not make roads safer; 2) Concern over civil liberties; 2) Concern over civil liberties. When asked why it was any different from the state’s seat belt ban, Brandes had trouble explaining. “The major difference…is people (get pulled over for not) putting on their seat belt. But (with texting),” Brandes said, “(officers) can just pull you over because they see you have a phone in your hand.”

***Sen. Jack Latvala is 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 you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at protectflbusiness.com.***

PREPARING FOR AN EFFECTIVE CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION via Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte for the Tampa Bay Times – If the legislative leadership is interested in having a productive commission process, they can do three things: Appoint a diverse commission, free from instructions and able to listen to suggestions from the public. Provide adequate resources for the commission to operate and communicate. Use the Legislature’s joint resolution power to clean up useless and outdated language in the Constitution even before the commission makes its proposals. Finally, the Legislature can begin cleaning up the Constitution before the commission meets. Over the years, the document has accumulated numerous outdated sections and much useless language. In three articles, the Constitution allows the two chambers to eliminate useless language by adopting a joint resolution, requiring no action by the governor or the electorate. This can begin with the 2017 Legislative Session.

WITH ‘NICE’ PICKS TO CONSTITUTION COMMISSION, DID JOE NEGRON JUST HAND RICHARD CORCORAN AN OPPORTUNITY? via Florida Politics – This will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels. Of the nine picks, former Senate President Don Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are the most notable. Undoubtedly, the great orator Gaetz will be one of the loudest voices on the CRC. Yet, for the most part, Negron’s selections were greeted with shrugged shoulders by most of the capital crowd. ‘Who?’ was asked more than once as the names were read out … But, as has been proven this year by the Speaker’s willingness to filet any number of Tallahassee sacred cows, it’s likely Corcoran has more radical ideas for the CRC. And because Negron did not put on the CRC a full slate of loyalists – Don Gaetz’ loyalty lies with Don Gaetz; Chris Smith is a Democrat – Corcoran should appoint a block of like-minded thinkers, including himself.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Criminal Justice Subcommittee will discuss legislation to shift the burden of proof to the state in “Stand Your Ground” cases when it meets at 8:30 a.m. in 404 House Office Building. The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will discuss legislation that could change local government’s ability to regulate businesses during its 1:15 p.m. meeting in 212 Knott; while the House Health Innovation Subcommittee will consider a proposed committee bill on “Medicaid Block Grants” when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 306 House Office Building. The Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss ending the so-called “tampon tax” during its meeting at 10 a.m. in 401 Senate Office Building. Craft beer — and how it is distributed — is on the agenda when the Senate Regulated Industries Committee meets at 12:30 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building; and the Senate Rules Committee will take up the unanimous jury decisions when it meets at 3:30 p.m. in 110 Senate Office Building.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: About 100 cancer survivors, patients and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) volunteers will hold a brief rally at 9 a.m. at the Florida Heritage Fountain at Waller Park on the west side of the Florida State Capitol to kick off ACS CAN’s annual Advocacy Day event.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Chamber of Commerce will host a conference call at 10:30 a.m. to announce the launch of Floridians for Ridesharing, a coalition advocating for a consistent statewide framework for ridesharing services. The conference call will include David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce; Kim Galban-Countryman, executive director of Lighthouse of the Big Bend; Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Bob Rohrlack, president and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. The conference call line is 888-392-4560, and the access code is 1005794.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Audrey Gibson and Rep. David Santiago will take part in a news conference in which the United Way will release a report about the number of people who earn more than the federal poverty level but have a hard time affording necessities. Availability begins 12:15 p.m., fourth-floor rotunda of the Florida Capitol.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Ramon Alexander and Rep. Shevrin Jones will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. outside the House chambers on the 4th floor to discuss their efforts to “Ban the Box.” Both men have proposed legislation that would ban employers from inquiring about criminal histories on an initial employment application.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Congressman Matt Gaetz and members of the Florida Legislature will hold media availability at 3 p.m. in House Room 333 to discuss health care reform and block grants.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Rep. Matt Caldwell and U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney will hold media availability around 4:30 p.m. in House Room 333 to answer questions about Everglades restoration and the continuing state and federal partnership. Both Caldwell and Rooney are scheduled to testify during the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee meeting at 3:30 p.m. in 12 House Office Building.

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HAPPENING TODAY — LAWMAKERS HOLD FUNDRAISERS ACROSS TALLAHASSEE — The House Majority, the fundraising arm of House Republicans, will host a fundraising reception for Alex MillerGrallCyndi StevensonAmber Mariano, and Jackie Toledo at 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street. Miller and Toledo will be back at the Governors Club for another event a 5 p.m.; while Reps. Dane Eagle, Mike La Rosa, and David Santiago will hold a fundraiser at their residence, 419 East Georgia Street, at the same time. A fundraiser is scheduled for Rep. Jay Fant at the Florida Realtors starting at starting at 5:30 p.m.; while Rep. Jay Trumbull will be raising money at the same time at The Governor’s Inn. Democrats are also getting in on the fundraising action, Sen. Vic Torres and Reps Richard Stark, Joe Geller and Amy Mercado hosting a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at the Florida Realtors Association.

HAPPENING TODAY – SOLAR INDUSTRY DAY AT THE CAPITOL — Solar industry advocates and stakeholders will be at the Capitol all day to tout the 1,700 new solar jobs created in 2016 and to raise awareness about Senate Bill 90, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, which implements Amendment 4. The day-long event is hosted by the Solar Energy Industries Association, FlaSEIA, Advances Energy Economy, and Vote Solar. Tesla is also expected to participate, and will have two Teslas available from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Capitol Courtyard for test drives by legislators, staff and other enthusiasts.

SAVE THE DATE: The 3rd annual Red Dog Blue Dog Celebrity Bartender Benefit is scheduled for 6 p.m. on March 15 at Madison Social in Tallahassee. Sen. Dana Young will sling drinks for the Red Team and Rep. Evan Jenne will pour them for Team Blue. The bipartisan event combines dogs, politics and friendly competition to raise money for the Tallahassee Animal Shelter Foundation, Last Hope Rescue, and the Leon County Humane Society. Last year, Red Dog Blue Dog celebrity bartenders raised nearly $4,000.

UBER, VOLUNTEER FLORIDA TEAM UP TO PROVIDE #SUITSFORSESSION FOR NEEDY – #SuitsForSession  asks well-dressed denizens of the Florida Capitol – members of the Legislature, lobbyists, the private sector, local nonprofits, state agencies and more – to drop off new or gently worn suits, dresses and shoes Wednesday, March 15, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the Third-Floor Rotunda. Volunteer Florida will donate the clothing to nonprofits that serve job-seekers: Chapman Partnership in Miami, Dress for Success Tampa Bay, ECHO Outreach Ministries in Tallahassee, Bridges of America in Orlando, and the Florida State University Unconquered Scholars program. For those unable to make it to the Capitol, donors in Leon County can open the Uber app between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. that day and select the GIVE option at the bottom of the screen. Uber will pick up clothing donations for free and deliver them to Volunteer Florida all day.

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STATE ECONOMISTS SEE TOURISM GROWTH CANCELING OUT LAGGING HOUSING STARTS via Florida Politics – Nothing emerged during a numbers-crunching exercise by state economists to change the economic picture the Legislature will confront this year — growth in tourism and slack housing starts will offset each other as overall growth produces about $31 billion in general revenues. “Those are going to compensate for each other. So, overall, you end up about where you were, on the same path where we were heading,” said Amy Baker, coordinator for the state Office of Economic and Demographic Research. Multifamily housing starts ought to be growing faster than they are, Baker said — particularly given young people’s penchant to cluster in rental apartments in cities. The economists suspected a lag time to put together construction deals. Or perhaps builders were awaiting the results of the presidential election. Overall, construction “is growing with population growth, because our population is growing. But the amount it grows per new person is pretty steady,” Baker said.

RDOP IN FLORIDA HOME OWNERSHIP BUT GAINS IN FORT MYERS AREA via Mike Schneider of The Associated Press – Figures by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the home ownership rate in Florida dropped from 64.8 percent in 2015 to 64.3 percent last year. However, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area had the nation’s third biggest gain in the homeownership rate of major metro areas, going from 62.9 percent to 66.5 percent. At the same time, the Sarasota-Bradenton area had the nation’s second-biggest drop in the homeownership vacancy rate. It went from 3.3 percent to 1.2 percent. Miami had Florida’s lowest homeownership rate at 58 percent. Sarasota had the highest at 73 percent.

‘WE CHOOSE LIFE,’ SAY CHURCHES CALLING TO STOP EXECUTIONS via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – Members of the Florida Council of Churches and representatives from the AME and Catholic denominations called on lawmakers to pass a moratorium on executions, citing high cost of death penalty appeals, the possibility of wrongful convictions and the impact on victims’ families being forced to relive their loved one’s murder repeatedly in court. “Even if we pass unanimous juries, we still haven’t solved the economic issues and we still haven’t solved the fact that families keep being dragged through this trauma over and over again,” said Rev. Russell Meyer, a Lutheran pastor from Tampa and executive director of the Florida Council of Churches. What’s more, they say, there is a moral problem with the state killing people – even the most depraved criminals. “The church has come today on the issue of life and death,” said AME Rev. James Golden. “We choose life.”

BAR EXAM BOARD NOW SEEKING PUBLIC MEMBERS via Florida Politics – The board responsible for writing the state’s bar examination is looking for two more volunteer members. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners now is seeking “two public members” for three-year terms each, it announced in a Tuesday press release. “A public member volunteer should possess education or work-related experience such as educational testing, accounting, statistical analysis, medicine, psychology or related sciences,” the release said. “A bachelor’s degree is required. Lawyers are not eligible.”

CHILD WELFARE INVESTIGATOR, MOTHER ARRESTED FOR COCAINE, HEROIN IN HOME via Les Neuhaus of Florida Politics – A recently-fired employee of the Florida Department of Children and Families, who had worked as a child protection investigator since 2015, was taken into custody by sheriff’s deputies on drug trafficking charges after a warrant was issued for her arrest … Laymeshia Hicks, 25 … and her boyfriend, Xzaiveous Scott, 31, are each facing charges of trafficking in heroin, trafficking in cocaine, possession of a structure to traffic drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. Deputies found the drugs in the master bedroom when they responded to an armed home-invasion call … Scott’s nephews, ages 16 and 18, were there when two intruders forced their way inside and ransacked the house Feb. 17, she said. Investigators found 68 grams of heroin and 288 grams of cocaine with an estimated street value of about $35,000 … Sheriff Grady Judd said Hicks’ 3-year-old child was living in the house. Sheriff Grady Judd said Hick’s 3-year-old child was living in the house.

DISABLED TEEN STUCK IN BROWARD JAIL PURGATORY MAY GET TREATMENT via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – Last week, Broward Circuit Juvenile Judge Michael Orlando ordered the Department of Juvenile Justice not to discuss the teen, 17-year-old Keishan Ross, with the staff of psychiatric hospitals or drug treatment centers who might be considering admitting him. DJJ said the order was just broad enough that it feared a staffing — a discussion with other agencies to go over treatment options — might violate it. The agency asked Orlando to lift the order so administrators could meet in the afternoon with other agency heads. Orlando declined to lift the gag order. The judge signed the order following a hearing last week in which Keishan’s lawyers at the Broward Public Defender’s Office accused a DJJ probation officer of sabotaging an agreement they had reached with a Fort Lauderdale psychiatric hospital. The hospital was going to admit Keishan for a battery of tests to determine his intellectual capacities and the severity of his mental illness. But hospital administrators changed their minds, the lawyers said, after DJJ disparaged the youth and described him as violent and remorseless.

— BEYOND THE CAPITAL —

WITH POLL, PROGRESSIVE GROUP PRESSES BILL NELSON TO OPPOSE NEIL GORSUCH via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The left-leaning Progressive Change Campaign Committee tried several arguments against Gorsuch in the poll, conducted in seven key states by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. The one that worked best: characterizing Gorsuch as favoring Wall Street over Main Street … In Florida, 64 percent of poll respondents opposed or strongly opposed Gorsuch when the pollster said the judge “sided with big insurance companies, sided with employers who denied wages and retirement benefits to employees, and generally protected big corporations from accountability.” Twenty-three percent said they would support Gorsuch given that description, and 13 percent said it had no impact on their opinion. The message particularly resonated with Democrats, though less so with independents and Republicans.

LIBERAL ACTIVISTS PLAN ‘EMPTY CHAIR’ TOWN HALL FOR MARCO RUBIO IN TAMPA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – “Join fellow Tampa Bay constituents as our invited (yet unconfirmed) guest Senator Marco Rubio hears and responds to constituent questions, concerns and issues brought forth in a format of an organized Q&A style evening,” reads a Facebook notice from Indivisible Tampa. Rubio won’t be anywhere near Tampa, Miami or Washington. He’s in Europe this week. A Rubio spokesman last week was dismissive of the tactics and said staff had met with “dozens of these liberal activists.”

HAPPENING TODAY: U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast and Tom Rooney will attend an event with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II interactive cockpit demonstrator beginning 1 p.m. at the Pratt & Whitney West Palm Beach Engine Center, 17900 Bee Line Highway in Jupiter.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) here.***

— “Known unknowns: Trying to divine the real numbers in the lobbying compensation reports” via Peter Schorsch of Florida Politics

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

 Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc.

Gregory BlackJames DaughtonPatricia GreeneWarren HusbandAllison Liby-SchoonoverAimee Diaz LyonAndrew Palmer, Metz Husband & Daughton: Florida Creditors Bar Association, Inc.

Joanna Lee Clary Bonfanti, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Florida Public Utilities Co

Sarah BuskJustin Day, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners LLC: The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, NEMA

Martha Chumbler, Carlton Fields Jordan Burt: The Villages

Brittany Dover, Hopping Green & Sams: Shuler Limited Partnership

Christopher FinkbeinerWilliam RubinHeather Turnbull, The Rubin Group: Western Governors University

Lauren Jackson, Ericks Consultants: Handy, Inc.

Scott Ross, Capital City Consulting: OBS Real Estate Holdings, LLC DBA Ocala Gainesville Poker and Jai Alai

Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: American Civil Liberties Union of Florida

PERSONNEL NOTE: FRANCISCO GONZALEZ LEAVES JAMES MADISON INSTITUTE via Florida Politics – Gonzalez, formerly vice president of Advancement, has left the organization after nine years. He’s been named the Director of Philanthropy for the National Review Institute, the parent organization of National Review magazine, founded by William F. Buckley, Jr. Gonzalez, who will continue to reside in Orlando, starts Feb. 27, He’ll further NRI’s mission with supporters across the country.

PERSONNEL NOTE: MATT GALKA DEPARTS FOR PHOENIX via Florida PoliticsGalka, an on-air reporter for Mike Vasilinda‘s Capitol News Service, has left Tallahassee to join the FOX affiliate in Phoenix. Galka, a member of the SaintPetersblog “30 Under 30” Class of 2015, will be a general assignment reporter at KSAZ starting Monday, Feb. 27, according to FOX spokeswoman Claudia Russo … “I want to be the same person on TV that you could talk to at a bar,” Galka said in a 2015 interview.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Southern Strategy Group’s Nelson Diaz.

Sunburn for 2.21.17 – Hot takes galore; the Speaker’s olive branch; Bill Nelson undaunted; Beth Matuga signing up with Gwen?; the 19 year-old-House candidate

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

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

OPINIONS GALORE

Here’s something you might not know about FloridaPolitics.com: We have a lot of opinions around here.

OK, you probably did know that. But, did you know some of the state’s top opinion writers call FloridaPolitics.com home? Over the last few years, we’ve taken pride in building relationships with well-known opinion writers throughout the state, giving them a place to sound off on the issues at hand — and giving Floridians a one-stop site to check them out.

Looking for a good read? Martin Dyckman, the Tampa Bay Times’ retired editorial writer, has a piece up on how the Brits seems to be doing this ‘democratic government’ thing better than we are.

If comparisons to the U.K. aren’t your jam, check out Adam Weinstein’s latest. An expert Trump provocateur on Twitter, Weinstein writes on The Donald as “high priest of the American id.” Sticking on the Donald Trump train, our publisher, Peter Schorschexplores the possibility of the president as a Russian mole.

Darryl Paulson, always the wisest guy in the room talking state politics, is using his space to give a unique take on the firing of National Security adviser Mike Flynn; while Florence Snyder, our own recovering attorney (admit it, everyone knows one) opines sharply on how Florida deals with political refugees.

And remember Joe Henderson, the metro columnist for the Tampa Tribune? When the dearly departed Tampa paper closed up shop last year, Henderson joined our ranks. And this week, Henderson notes how the Enterprise Florida logo uncomfortably reminds him of the one for Enron, the failed energy behemoth.

And if you want to hear more about Enterprise Florida, you can also find Gov. Rick Scott’s latest op-ed slamming the Florida House over its plan to kill Enterprise Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.

Want more? Just click on the “Opinions” link at the top of the homepage.

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IN OP-ED, RICK SCOTT STILL SWINGING AGAINST GOP OPPOSITION TO INCENTIVES via Florida Politics – “They say that they don’t want government intrusion in the free market. Of course, there is government financing in the areas of health care, transportation, education, housing and social services. But, they have decided to try to totally eliminate funding for the one area where we can easily show a major return on the investment of your tax dollars – jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state and our tourism industry has recruited a record-breaking number of visitors over the last few years. Even more absurd, the politicians in the Florida House who already voted for this bill say they don’t necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a “conversation” …meaning they voted for something they don’t support. This is hypocrisy at its best and these are the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change.”

POLITIFACT FLORIDA: SCOTT’S DEFENSE OF AGENCIES OFF THE MARK via Allison Graves of the Tampa Bay Times – At a stop of the “Fighting for Florida’s Jobs” tour in Flagler Beach, Scott targeted the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Renner … “Your politicians in Tallahassee today are saying, in your area, that they don’t need any more jobs,” Scott said Feb. 13 to business leaders and constituents at Vessel Sandwich Co. “That is exactly what Rep. Paul Renner said.” His attack against Renner misrepresents Renner’s view. There is no record of Renner saying exactly that his area doesn’t need more jobs. Renner doesn’t see the legislation as a crusade against jobs. He jokingly offered $100 to anyone who heard those words come out of his mouth.

RICHARD CORCORAN’S OFFER: KEEP VISIT FLORIDA, SLASH BUDGET TO $25 MILLION, END BONUSES, FREEZE BENEFITS, CUT TRAVEL via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Scott‘s office responded by calling a “67 percent cut to tourism marketing” unacceptable, and said: “More than a million Florida families rely on jobs in our tourism industry and are threatened with this massive cut.” Scott’s office said he supports transparency and accountability at Visit Florida and has proved it with “changes (and) new leadership at Visit Florida.” A Corcoran-crafted amendment to an incentives bill (HB 7005) to be offered by Rep. Renner in the House Appropriations Committee would require Visit Florida to agree to a series of restrictions as conditions for getting a $25 million a year from the Legislature.

‘A TOUGH SPOT’: 20 MORE HOUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN SCOTT AND CORCORAN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – It’s robo-call time for 20 … GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee who are set to vote on one of Corcoran‘s top priorities: a bill dismantling Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida (HB 7005). Eleven of the 20 GOP members on Appropriations are from South Florida or Tampa Bay, including Reps. George MoraitisHolly RascheinLarry Ahern; Rep. Carlos Trujillo; and Jose Felix “Pepi” Diaz, who said [the] vote will simply keep the debate going. “We’re not even in session,” Diaz said. “For somebody to vote in the affirmative does not mean that they support the bill wholeheartedly. It just means that they want to continue the conversation, and I don’t think anyone has ever lost an election for continuing a conversation.”

CAROL DOVER STILL FIGHTING FOR TOURISM MARKETING MONEY via Florida Politics – When it comes to supporting the state’s hospitality industry, Dover won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Despite the House’s opposition to spending money on tourism marketing in the state budget, her Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is seeking $1 million to do just that. And the funding request is being sponsored by GOP state Rep. Jay Trumbull of Panama City, who already voted for a bill to kill VISIT FLORIDA, the public-private tourism marketing agency.

***Smart employers know an inclusive workforce makes good business sense and helps secure Florida’s future. Only 30% of Floridians with disabilities are working. Explore the talent in the untapped 70%. Find out how at AbleTrust.org***

DECLARE OPIOID CRISIS A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY, SENATE DEMOCRATS TELL GOV via Kristen Clark of the Miami Herald – “No longer confined to small urban enclaves, heroin and fentanyl have become the scourge of communities throughout Florida, wreaking widespread devastation not only from the ravages of addiction, but the resurgence of deadly diseases associated with drug abuse,” Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, of Miami Gardens, wrote in a letter to Scott. “There is no family, no race, no ethnicity, no income level this epidemic cannot touch — and no effective state bulwark in place to stop it,” Braynon added.

CLUSTER OF GUN BILLS FACE SCRUTINY FROM MOMS ACROSS STATE via Emerald Morrow of WTSP – A  series of gun bills proposed in the Florida legislature designed to make it easier for firearm owners to carry weapons in places where there are current restrictions has drawn ire from activists who urge lawmakers to take a more “common sense” approach to gun laws. Volunteers with the group “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America” will take their concerns to the Capitol at 11 a.m., hoping legislators will support their cause. State Senator Greg Steube has worked on many of these bills, and says, “Those who have gone through the necessary background checks for concealed carry permits should be able to protect themselves regardless of where they are. Those with Moms Demand Action strongly disagree.

HOUSE TRIUMPH PROPOSAL NOT POPULAR WITH LOCAL LEADERS via Tom McLaughlin of the Northwest Florida Daily News – Senate President Don Gaetz sponsored a bill in 2011 designed to create an entity untethered by political entanglements that could focus solely on spending Northwest Florida’s share of BP legal settlement dollars on regional economic development. A newly drafted state House proposal for overseeing and controlling how the $300 million first installment of the so-called Triumph money is spent appears to do exactly the opposite of that. It proposes requiring any projects conceived by the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors board to be approved not only by the governor, but by a committee made up of state senators and House members, and seems to ignore the concept of economic development. “The House bill removes all references to economic development. I’m concerned about that,” said former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense, who will chair the five-member Triumph Gulf Coast board when it is funded.

TWEET, TWEET:

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The House Governmental Accountability Committee is scheduled to take up several high-profile issues, including money for sports facilities and a bill to regulate ride-sharing companies, during its meeting at 10 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. The panel is scheduled to take up a bill (HB 77) by Rep. Bryan Avila, which would, among other things, prohibit professional sports franchises from building or renovating stadiums on leased public land. It will also hear a bill (HB 221) by Rep. Chris Sprowls that would set statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies, like Uber and Lyft. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to discuss a bill (HB 7005) that would eliminate Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and a slew of other economic incentive program during its meeting. The meeting kicks off at 1 p.m. in 212 Knott, but you might want to get there early if you want to grab a seat. Over in the Senate, the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to get a presentation about the state of Florida’s citrus industry and the Department of Citrus during its meeting in 301 Senate Office Building. Kickball (and tug of war, hopscotch and tag) will be the topic du jour when the Senate Education Committee discusses a bill during its 9 a.m. meeting in 412 Knott. The bill (SB 78), sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, requires schools to have 20 minutes of recess each day. At 12:30 p.m., the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will discuss a series of bills, including a proposal (SB 420) by Sen. Jeff Brandes, requiring the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology to revise flood loss-projection models at least once every four years.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the Everytown Survivor Network will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in the Florida Capitol Rotunda to urge lawmakers to oppose a series of gun bills.

HAPPENING TONIGHT:

HAPPENING TODAY — HOUSE MAJORITY HOSTS FUNDRAISERS FOR HOUSE MEMBERS — The House Majority, the fundraising arm for House Republicans, will host a fundraiser for Reps. Chuck Clemons and Bobby Payne at noon at The Governor’s Inn, 209 S. Adams Street. At 5 p.m., there is a fundraiser for Reps. Danny BurgessBob Rommel, and Erin Grall at The Edison, 470 Suwannee Street. Across town, there is a fundraiser for Rep. MaryLynn Magar at 5:30 p.m. at The Florida Realtors, 200 S. Monroe Street.

HAPPENING THURSDAY – Polk County Commissioner Melony Bell will hold a campaign kick-off announcement in front of Fort Meade City Hall at 4:30 pm. Bell served as both a commissioner and Mayor for the City of Fort Meade before being elected to two terms as a County Commissioner.  At the kick-off, Bell will touch on a few of the key issues she will campaign on for House District 56 in the upcoming 2018 election.

BILL NELSON SEEMS UNDAUNTED BY PROSPECT OF PRIMARY CHALLENGERS via Florida Politics – Is Nelson up for a contested Democratic primary in his re-election bid next year? “You want to do a contest on pullups or pushups?” Nelson replied to a reporter … News reports have mentioned Tim Canova, who tried and failed to replace Debbie Wasserman Schultz in Congress, former U.S. Senate candidate Pam Keith, and state Sen. Randolph Bracy as primary challengers to Nelson, 74, widely seen as a moderate at a time when his party is enflamed by anti-Donald Trump fervor. Nelson pointed to 2000, when Republicans lured state House Democratic leader Willie Logan into an independent race, hoping to divert enough African-American votes to throw the election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Connie Mack to their candidate. “With about five candidates in the race, he got something like 1 percent of the vote,” Nelson said.

RUMOR DU JOUR #1: Gwen Graham is giving serious consideration to hiring Beth Matuga to run her expected gubernatorial campaign.

RUMOR DU JOUR #2: Winter Park businessman Chris King‘s gubernatorial campaign will be helmed by Zack Lerner.

HAPPENING TOMORROW: U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast and Tom Rooney will attend an event with Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II interactive cockpit demonstrator beginning 1 p.m. at the Pratt & Whitney West Palm Beach Engine Center, 17900 Bee Line Highway in Jupiter.

ADAM PUTNAM’S PAC ADDS ANOTHER $500K IN FEBRUARY via Florida Politics – The committee, Florida Grown, brought in about $200,000 of its $538,000 haul from the Associated Industries of Florida and one of its related political committees. Another $100,000 came from Vero Beach businessman Robert Stork, and Disney chipped in another $50,000 Feb. 1. February’s running total has already eclipsed January’s numbers, which saw the Polk County Republican add just over $400,000 to its coffers. Those numbers were boosted by a $250,000 check from Florida Power and Light and $100,000 from Disney.

ANDREW GILLUM ON 2018: NO ‘SUICIDE MISSION’ via Jeff Burlew of the Tallahassee Democrat – Gillum, in an interview with Ebony Magazine … talked about his #DefendLocal initiative and the broader battle between GOP governors and Democratic mayors. He also took a question about the possibility he’ll run for governor. “We’ve obviously had folks raising the prospect of a statewide run,” he told the magazine. “I believe in being courageous, but I don’t believe in suicide missions. I think there has to be a relevant place to make a difference and a pathway to get there.” Gillum noted a petition that surfaced last year by college students trying to recruit him to run. “And I have responded to them by appreciating them for the thought and admitting that I am considering what 2018 looks like,” he said. “I have a lot of considerations that have to be made.”

19-YEAR-OLD DEVIN PEREZ FILES FOR HOUSE 28 AS DEMOCRAT via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Saying he is deeply concerned about social inequality … Perez has filed to run in 2018 as a Democrat for a seat which is opening up with the term-limiting of Republican incumbent state Rep. Jason Brodeur. “There’s no room right now for social inequality,” he said. “We’re being lied to. We need to establish a level equal playing field for everyone. And I feel like the best way to bring about that change is to be the change.” Perez, who lives in Oviedo, is an online student at the University of Florida studying criminology and pre-law. He was raised in Miami, with Puerto Rican and Vietnamese ancestry.

DID FLORIDA’S POT CZAR PAD HIS RESUME? via Bob Norman of Local 10 News – When Gov. Scott appointed Christian Bax as Florida’s “Pot Czar” — the director of the Office of Compassionate Use, which is now overseeing what is expected to soon be a $2 billion medical cannabis industry — a state-issued news release touted the business experience Bax had dealing with medical cannabis. “Previously Bax co-founded CBK Consulting, a company with expertise navigating medical marijuana regulations in Nevada and Washington,” the Department of Health proclaimed of Bax. The company, according to Bax’s resume, had been in business for three years, had locations in three cities and secured six medical-cannabis licenses for its clients “despite an extremely competitive bid process.” There are, however, problems with the claims of Bax and the state in its news release: for one, the CBK Consulting firm never officially existed. A check of numerous states’ corporate records shows that CBK Consulting was never incorporated as a business, meaning it didn’t exist in an official capacity.

LOTTERY SAYS IT’S GENERATED $1 BILLION FOR EDUCATION THIS YEAR via Florida Politics – The Florida Lottery, now being sued by House Speaker Corcoran, Monday said it had reached “another record – $1 billion in contributions to education for the 15th consecutive year.” On Friday, Corcoran – a Land O’ Lakes Republican – filed suit against the state agency for “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a multiyear, $700 million deal for new equipment. The Lottery reports to Gov. Scott. … It said it had “reached the $1 billion mark for this fiscal year earlier than any other year in Florida Lottery history. This brings the Lottery’s life-to-date education contributions to more than $31 billion.” The state’s fiscal year runs July 1-June 30. Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

PROSECUTORS CAN SEEK DEATH PENALTY DESPITE QUESTIONS via The Associated Press – Florida prosecutors can seek the death penalty in ongoing cases despite a state Supreme Court ruling that found a new death penalty law unconstitutional. The court ruled that the death penalty can be applied as long as there is a unanimous jury recommendation. It ruled October that a new state law requiring at least a 10-2 jury recommendation is unconstitutional. But justices said other aspects of the law are constitutional and prosecutors can proceed in capital punishment cases. Prosecutors had been in limbo wondering whether the death penalty could be applied. Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the court to clarify.

DISABLED TEEN RAGES, POUNDS ON CELL DOOR AND CONFOUNDS FLORIDA JUVENILE JUSTICE via Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald – At least 13 times in the past six years, psychologists and psychiatrists have declared Keishan Ross too intellectually disabled or mentally ill to be judged for the one-child wrecking crew he has become. He’s 17 now, and reads at the level of a first- or second-grader. The doctors have consistently said that Keishan should not be incarcerated, but housed in a secure residential facility … But beds at residential facilities for children like Keishan can cost more than $130,000 each year, the state says. And Florida doesn’t have nearly enough of them. So Keishan is returned to the lockup, again and again and again and again. And he rages there. Juvenile lockups and correctional programs long ago became warehouses for children with developmental disabilities and mental illness, just as prisons are home to thousands of disabled adults. The “maladaptive behavior” that is a key symptom of mental retardation also can lead to delinquency at an early age.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) at cqrcengage.com/ahcafl/CONProcess.***

MARTY FIORENTINO HEADS TO D.C. via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union  Fiorentino is working in Washington as a consultant for new Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Chao was appointed by Trump, and shortly after her Senate confirmation she asked Fiorentino to come to Washington for a meeting. He agreed to help her transition. The two are friends who met nearly three decades ago when he was working at the Federal Railroad Administration and she was deputy Secretary of Transportation. Fiorentino expects to spend a couple of months helping Chao in her new role before returning to his lobbying work in Florida.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Andrew Bolin, Beytin, McLaughlin, et al:  Florida Justice Reform Institute

Jim Boxold, Captial City Consulting: George Hackney, Inc d/b/a Trulieve; Majestic Realty Co.

Jon CostelloGary Rutledge, Rutledge Escenia PA: Professional Claimants Representation Association, Inc

Thomas Dukes, McEwan Martinez & Dukes: Florida Justice Reform Institute

Todd Josko, Ballard Partners: NAIOP Tampa Bay; TruGreen

Julia Juarez, JEJ & Associates: Leon County Board of County Commissioners

Stephanie Kunkel, Stephanie Kunkel: Florida Education Association

Nicholas Matthews, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Jewish Federations

Alex Miranda, Flagler Strategies: Retail Services & Systems, Inc

APPOINTEDAnthony Lopresto, Herman White and Frederick Barthlow to Florida Building Code Administrators and Inspectors Board. James SampeyMark Harden and Rocky McPherson to Florida is for Veterans, Inc.

— “Eric Eisnaugle applying for vacant judicial post” via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida

FPL TO BUILD 8 NEW FLORIDA SOLAR ENERGY PLANTS, ADD 2.5M PANELS BY 2018 via Florida Politics – FPL, currently the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, will build eight new universal solar power plants by early 2018 – boosting its production with more than 2.5 million solar panels. “We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar,” said FPL President/CEO Eric Silagy, “so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers.” Each of the planned eight new solar plants – located throughout Florida — will have a capacity of 74.5 megawatts, producing nearly 600 megawatts total – enough to power nearly 120,000 homes. The additional facilities will be in addition to the three previously announced locations in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Reps. Katie Edwards and Jay Trumbull and our friend Dorothy Famiano.

“TAKE THE T” TO LUNCH IN TALLAHASSEE – The City of Tallahassee has kicked off a free lunchtime trolley service with three routes from downtown to eateries in Midtown, Cascades Park and College Town. “The T” runs Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. All three routes connect in downtown; stops will be marked with custom route signs featuring a pop-art T. Trolleys will run in a continuous loop, coming to each stop every 20 minutes. Trolleys will be displayed in real time on the map, their location refreshed every 30 seconds. Riders are invited to enjoy the scenery — and free Wi-Fi. And for those seeking a little night life, the trolley also runs during evening hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. For more information and a map of the stops, visit Talgov.com/TrolleyStay up to date by liking the official Facebook page at Facebook.com/TaketheTrolley.

Sunburn for 2.20.17 – A month of Trump; Trey Radel’s campaign advice; Jeff Greene for Gov.? Happy President’s Day

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

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

SUPPORTERS, PROTESTERS COME OUT IN DROVES FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FLORIDA VISIT

When Air Force One flew just a few hundred feet over a massive line of supporters of President Donald Trump on Saturday waiting to get into the hangar where he would speak minutes later at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport in Florida, making for a dramatic entrance by the American leader, hundreds of other protesters nearby were just gearing up.

Reports had the count of supporters inside the hangar around 9,000, while hundreds of protesters – possibly more than 1,000 – showed up.

Whether they were for him or against him, there was no shortage of opinion about the job Pres. Trump was doing so far, especially with regard to the last week.

“The whole thing screams insecurity,” Jessica Blair, 37, who was there to protest the president, told Florida Politics on Saturday from the rally. “It’s all smoke and mirrors, but people need to take this seriously. It can’t go on.”

Trump’s week included everything from a press conference in which he deflected questions about policy, speaking instead about his electoral college numbers from the November national election, to blasting the media, troubles with his cabinet picks (including the resignation of retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn as the country’s national security advisor) and even the revelation by intelligence agencies that members of Trump’s campaign team had been communicating with Russian officials prior to the election. The event in Florida – held before he spending the rest of the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort south of the rally, was an attempt to put a positive spin on a bumpy few days. But at the rally on Saturdayhis supporters didn’t seem to care about the negativity and voiced their loyalty to his leadership, saying the media were the ones created the problem.

Bridget Foley, who voiced her discontent against the protesters, said Trump was doing exactly what she wanted him to do.

“He’s the best president we’ve had in years and these people out here who don’t like him just have their heads in the sand – they are probably paid to be here and don’t have anything useful to do because they don’t have jobs,” Foley said, as law enforcement officials moved in to try and separate a growing crowd of supporters and protesters. “The media – you guys – keep trying to demonize him with inaccurate lies.”

Minutes before inside, Trump capped a speech replete with points taken straight from his campaign stumping platform – jobs are coming, the wall along the border with Mexico will be built, the media is the enemy, etc. The same songs were played before and after the event that were played at every stop during his campaign. He took a moment to even mock the protesters outside the hangar.

Still, his supporters loved it, hanging on every word of his ‘Make America Great Again’ rally.

“I am here because I want to be among my friends and among the people,” Trump said, according to CNN.com. “This was a great movement, a movement like has never been seen before in our country or before anywhere else, this was a truly great movement and I want to be here with you and I will always be with you.”

His approval rating is currently at 40 percent, 21 points lower than the average for presidents in the February of their first term, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. It’s 11 points lower than Bill Clinton’s, who had held the previous low on record since Gallup began taking the polls after one month in office, with an approval rating of 51 percent, Gallup reported.

With all that the president has on his plate, it will be interesting to see how things play out over the next few weeks.

HOW TRUMP’S MELBOURNE VISIT PLAYED – FLORIDA TODAY9,000 hear President Trump’s game plan for transforming America – “During his wide-ranging speech … Trump promised that, within the next several weeks, he will introduce ‘a great health care plan that’s going to take the place of the disaster Obamacare.’” Palm Beach PostTrump in Palm Beach: Another golf club visit, national security adviser interviews – “He’s planning to speak with at least four candidates for national security adviser … Army strategist Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, former United Nations ambassador John Bolton, acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg, West Point superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen and ‘potentially more.’” Lakeland LedgerTrump hits the road, hoping rally speeches overcome troubles – “… the campaign-style rally, resurrecting the buoyant jobs promises that powered his election victory and pledging to ‘unleash the power of the American spirit.’” Miami HeraldTrump rallies supporters by renewing old promises, insults – “Trump … clearly relished being back in front of his supporters, welcoming the cheers and letting one supporter up on stage to offer praise for the president.” Palm Beach Post, Trump returns to campaign mode, brings Boynton man on stage – “Trump also threw in a few new elements — including bringing a Boynton Beach man … on stage with him after seeing TV reports that [he] arrived … at 4 a.m. to be first in line for the scheduled 5 p.m. rally.” Tampa Bay TimesFact-checking President Donald Trump’s speech in Florida – “Trump takes [ThomasJefferson out of context … misleads on saving the F-35 contract … wrong on vetting refugees … spins polls on optimism … spins immigration ban ties to Obama.”

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A MONTH OF TRUMP, BY THE NUMBERS via The Associated Press

A by-the-numbers look at some of Donald Trump’s early activity as president:

—24: Executive orders and memoranda signed. That includes orders to withdraw the United States from Trans-Pacific trade deal, impose a federal hiring freeze and reduce regulations related to the health care law enacted under former President Barack Obama.

—1: Executive orders blocked. An order to ban travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations was blocked by federal judges. Trump is expected to issue a new order next week.

—4: Bills signed into law. They include a bill to halt regulation blocking coal mining debris from being dumped in nearby streams.

—6: The average number of tweets per day from personal account @realDonaldTrump.

—25.1 million. Twitter followers for @realDonaldTrump.

—15.5 million. Twitter followers for official account @POTUS.

—4: Visits from foreign leaders. (Britain, Japan, Canada, Israel.)

—1: Cancelled visit from foreign leader. (Mexico.)

—1: Supreme Court nomination. Judge Neil Gorsuch.

—2: Failed personnel choices. Andrew Puzder withdrew as the nominee for labor secretary; Michael Flynn was ousted as national security adviser.

—14: Cabinet-level nominations approved, out of 24 total.

—39: Percent of respondents who approve of Trump’s job performance in Pew Research Center poll conducted Feb. 7-12.

—3: Weekend trips to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.

MORE TRUMP READS

— “Good job, Mr. Trump (There, we said it!) — Alex Acosta is a great cabinet pick” via the Miami Herald

— “What you need to know about the enemies of the American people the president warned you about” via Mike Wilson of the Dallas Morning News

TRUMP’S FLORIDA VISITS PUTS SMALL AIRPORT IN TAILSPIN via Terry Spencer of The Associated Press – … his frequent Mar-a-Lago visits have flight schools and other companies at a nearby airport in a financial nosedive. The Secret Service closed Lantana Airport Friday for the third straight weekend because of the president’s return to his Palm Beach resort, meaning its maintenance companies, a banner-flying business and another two dozen businesses are also shuttered, costing them thousands of dollars at the year’s busiest time. The banner-flying company says it has lost more than $40,000 in contracts already. The airport, which handles only small, propeller-driven planes and helicopters, is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago, well within the 10-mile circle around the resort that’s closed to most private planes when he’s in town. Trump flies into Palm Beach International Airport, which is 2.5 miles from Mar-a-Lago, and remains opens as it handles commercial flights. The Lantana owners are pushing compromises they say will ensure Trump’s security while keeping their businesses open.

TRUMP’S ORDER SPARKS FEARS IN SW FLORIDA THAT EVEN TRAFFIC OFFENDERS MAY BE DEPORTED via Alexi Cardona and Patrick Riley of the Naples Daily News – Trump‘s deportation priorities define a “removable alien” as someone who has been charged with “any criminal offense,” even if he or she has not been convicted, or someone who has committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense. Trump’s executive order “opens the door for almost anyone to be considered a priority,” said Judy Rabinovitz, deputy director for the American Civil Liberty Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s very broad,” she said. “Anything goes. So, I think that’s what’s so scary.”

TRUMP IN HIGH SPIRITS AT DANA-FARBER GALA via Shannon Donnelly of the Pam Beach Daily News – So what if his executive order on immigration is creating a backlash among the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s medical professionals, who are urging organizers to find a less politically charged venue for the event. It’s a party, and POTUS and his FLOTUS — she dressed in eye-catching magenta — were both in high spirits, having just returned from a triumphant rally in Melbourne and what pundits are describing as the first political rally of the 2020 campaign.

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ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Sen. Bill Nelson is kick off a day-long swing through the capital city at 1 p.m. at the Frederick S. Humphries Science Research Museum at Florida A&M University, 151 S. Martin Luther King Blvd, where he is expected to speak to students about the future of the space program, the importance of STEM education, and his experience aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. He will hold media availability at 1:45 p.m. outside the Frederick S. Humphries Science Research Center, before traveling to the Florida Capitol. Nelson will hold media availability at 3 p.m. on the 4th Floor Rotunda, before attending a 3:30 meeting with the Senate Democratic Caucus in 200 Senate Office Building. Nelson will meet with the House Democratic Caucus at 4 p.m. in 316 Capitol Building.

MARCO RUBIO ‘CONFIDENT’ RUSSIA PROBE WILL BE THOROUGH via Ledyard King of USA TODAY – “I am now very confident Senate Intel Comm I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of #Putin interference and influence” the Florida Republican tweeted … Trump’s critics, among them some conservatives, hope Rubio is indeed committed to delving deeply into claims by numerous U.S. intelligence officials that Moscow played an integral part in helping the real estate mogul ascend to the Oval Office. But some of those critics have also been dismayed that Rubio has not taken a tougher stance against Trump, specifically when he had the chance to torpedo Rex Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state. Despite being troubled by Tillerson’s close ties to Putin, Rubio voted for the former ExxonMobil CEO out of “deference” to the tradition that presidents should be able to name their top advisers.

TOM ROONEY WANTS CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL TO EASE RUSSIA SANCTIONS via Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune – Rooney firmly believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a bad guy.” He co-sponsored bipartisan legislation filed last week that requires Congress to be notified if the president intends to rollback certain sanctions against Russia and establishes a review period, during which Congress could block the proposal. The bill is viewed as an effort to rein in President Trump, who has taken a much more conciliatory approach than many in Congress toward Russia. The forced resignation last week of Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, has added more intrigue to the questions surrounding Russia’s relationship with the Trump administration. Flynn came under scrutiny over a series of pre-inauguration communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

680 CUBANS RETURNED HOME SINCE END OF ‘WET FOOT, DRY FOOT’ via The Associated Press – Cuba’s government had long sought the repeal of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which it said encouraged Cubans to risk dangerous voyages and drained the country of professionals. The Jan. 12 decision by Washington to end it followed months of negotiations focused in part on getting Havana to agree to take back people who had arrived in the U.S. Cuban state television said that the returnees came from countries including the United States, Mexico and the Bahamas, and were sent back to the island between Jan. 12 and Feb. 17. It did not break down which countries the 680 were sent back from.

IMMIGRANT HAVEN OF MIAMI-DADE VOTES AGAINST SANCTUARY STATUS via Adriana Gomez Licon of The Associated Press – County commissioners in immigrant-rich Miami-Dade voted to uphold their Cuban-born mayor’s order to cooperate with federal immigration officials, drawing shouts of “shame on you” from those hoping to make their community a sanctuary city. The commissioners, voting 9-3, backed the order of Mayor Carlos Gimenez that was delivered after Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from the so-called sanctuary cities. “This is a country that opened arms to everyone, allowed opportunities to everyone. But this is also a country of law,” county commissioner Rebeca Sosa, also of Cuban descent, said before the vote taken in a special public session. “I am so sad to see that people are afraid of something that has nothing to do with immigration. This was just a financial decision.”

EX-US REP. TREY RADEL OFFERS CAMPAIGN ADVICE via Thyrie Bland of the News-Press.com – Radel was a speaker at a workshop for people who are running for office or have political aspirations … “The harshest reality of running for office, and I believe this applies to everybody … it’s money,” Radel said. “Money, money, money.” Radel took questions from the roughly 30 people in attendance, but he stayed away from discussing specifics about his downfall. “Democrazy: A True Story of Weird Politics, Money, Madness and Finger Food,” Radel’s book on his political experience, is set to come out March 28. Radel said candidates need money to market and brand themselves. He said the sources to get money from are friends, family, believers in your campaign and people who want something.

JEFF GREENE FOR GOVERNOR? via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “I’ve been approached by a lot of people, and I’ve had conversations with people that have approached me,” said Greene, who lost the 2010 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to Kendrick Meek after spending about $23 million of his own money. Though we hear Greene has been talking to political consultants about a potential run, Greene downplayed his interest … and said he is not actively looking at it.

VOTERS SHOULD PREPARE FOR LONG LIST OF AMENDMENTS IN 2018 via Dan Sweeney of the South Florida Sun Sentinel – That’s because the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, the membership of which is just taking shape, will meet this year and conduct listening tours throughout the state. The members will then propose changes to the state constitution that would go on the ballot. To go into effect, 60 percent of Florida voters would have to approve the changes. Some of the amendments already being considered: Changing how Florida draws its legislative districts, expanding school choice and making it easier for felons to regain voting rights. The commission meets every 20 years. It met in 1977-78 after its creation, and then again in 1997-98. The first commission proposed eight amendments to the Constitution, while the next proposed nine.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Bill Montford, Rep. Loranne Ausley, and other local elected officials will join in a 2017 Legislative Session preview at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 21), Holy Comforter Episcopal Schoolin the school’s Student Center, 2001 Fleischmann Road in Tallahassee. The event is free and open to the public.

SPEAKER SUES FLORIDA LOTTERY OVER ‘IMPROPER SPENDING’ via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – … saying it was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” for signing a $700 million deal for new equipment. The legal action caps off weeks of tension and sniping between the Republican governor and Corcoran’s GOP House majority after the speaker said he was out to kill state government’s business incentives programs, what he calls “corporate welfare.” Gov. Scott says they help create jobs. The suit is what’s known as a “quo warranto” writ, filed against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action … he was suing the Lottery “for signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.”

THE NINE LITTLE WORDS THAT COULD CAUSE A LEGISLATIVE TRAIN WRECK via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Negron [says] he and Corcoran are making progress, but stumbling blocks remain, including a standoff over nine words in House Rule 5.14: “An appropriations project bill may only request nonrecurring funds.” That’s a cornerstone of Corcoran’s plan to transform and add transparency to how individual lawmakers’ spending priorities work their way into the budget every year. But it’s a non-starter in the Senate. Recurring money is generally used for fixed annual costs, such as paying state workers’ salaries. Nonrecurring or one-time money, from a lawsuit settlement or an unexpected uptick in lottery ticket sales, is like a salary bonus and generally pays for one-time expenditures like water projects. Corcoran insists on using nonrecurring money for appropriations projects so that they have to be justified every session by every Legislature. Negron disagrees. “Projects that are put forward by members of the Legislature should not be given short shrift and disadvantaged,” he said. “It seems self-defeating.”

EX-ENTERPRISE FLORIDA HEAD SAYS HOUSE GOP VIDEO MISLEADING via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – A propaganda video that Speaker Corcoran is using to build support for killing Enterprise Florida includes a heavily manipulated quote that makes it appear that even the former head of the agency has turned on it, when he hasn’t … former CEO of Enterprise Florida Gray Swoope appears to say “Enterprise Florida may have lost its way.” But the quote is a trimmed version of the sentence he actually said and takes him out of context, Swoope [said]  The quote is taken from a television interview from 2013 in which Swoope actually makes the case that Enterprise Florida was getting the job done and deserved credit for helping the state rebound economically. Swoope said in the context of the interview it was clear he was talking about the agency losing its way before Scott hired him in 2011 to help change the organization. “I, 100 percent, believe in the model,” Swoope said of what he thinks about Enterprise Florida now.

LOCAL OFFICIALS CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE AS GOVERNOR, HOUSE DEBATE INCENTIVES via Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union – While Gov. Scott and the Florida House feud over whether economic incentives and tourism marketing are working in Florida, business leaders in Jacksonville and elsewhere are quietly working to find middle ground. On principle, they agree with Scott. “The issue, in my opinion, is jobs,” JAX Chamber President Daniel Davis said. “And when we bring thousands of jobs to Northeast Florida, it affects every single worker in this community. Whether they live on the Southside or in the Northwest community, they are going to be affected positively by the deals that we are going to bring into this community.” Where Davis and Scott disagree is on strategy … the governor has criticized Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of HB 7005 and accused Speaker Corcoran of pushing the controversial proposal because of his own personal ambitions after his term ends in 2018.

SHAWN HARRISON STUCK BETWEEN TALLAHASSEE POWERS via William March of the Tampa Bay Times – Harrison is “caught between a rock and a hard place,” as Mayor Bob Buckhorn put it, in the internecine GOP feud over business incentives and tourism marketing. That probably makes prospects dim for Harrison to push through appropriations he wanted for University of South Florida, and projects for New Tampa and the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority. The rock: Gov. Scott, who wants to continue funding the Enterprise Florida Inc. and Visit Florida and has the option of vetoing appropriations requested by legislators who don’t go along. The hard place: Speaker Corcoran, who adamantly opposes Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and can squash any House member’s legislative initiatives … legislators are saying privately that Scott has threatened to veto their appropriation requests if they don’t vote his way on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida … Harrison said he’s taking his stance against Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida purely on the merits and hasn’t felt political pressure from either direction. He said he hopes negotiations will lead to a compromise, which would ease the squeeze.

TAX BREAKS FOR ‘HIGH CRIME’ UNIVERSAL? GET REAL via Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel – Four years ago … Universal Orlando — a theme-park company booming with the success of Harry Potter — had taken more than $2 million in tax breaks intended for impoverished “high-crime” neighborhoods. It was ridiculous … Universal was taking advantage of an incentive plan designed to encourage businesses to invest in failing, crime-plagued neighborhoods and using it to pad its $150 million in annual profits — all with the blessing of Florida politicians. Well, after the news broke, citizens fumed. And legislators, who fear fuming voters, quickly talked of reforming this obviously flawed system. But if you had been holding your breath for reform … legislators didn’t do squat. And now, Universal and its hotel partners have sucked up another $5-plus million in incentives … all for running high-end hotels and high-tech rides in an area once designated as “high crime.” This, my friends, is why citizens hate the incentives game.

***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.***

HOUSE REPUBLICANS WRITING HEALTH CARE PLAN AHEAD OF ANY FEDERAL CHANGES via Alexandra Glorioso of the Naples Daily News – Florida legislators are capitalizing on the uncertain fate of “Obamacare” to resurrect a controversial overhaul of Florida’s health care system nicknamed “CorcoranCare.” Named for Speaker Corcoran, the Republican proposal first surfaced four years ago, and would change the way Florida’s health care is delivered. The proposal would create a private prepaid plan for all patients to see primary-care doctors and would redirect Medicaid money to help subsidize private health insurance for poor people. Republicans in Congress say they plan to change Medicaid — the federal-state health program for the poor — and scrap “Obamacare” over the next year.But their colleagues who run the Florida Legislature say they’re moving ahead now with their own reforms. “We’re not waiting for the feds to act,” said state Senate President Joe Negron.

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE EAGER TO BRING IN HIGH-PERFORMING CHARTER SCHOOLS via Erin Clark of FloridaWatchdog.org – As representatives from some of the nation’s top-performing charter schools discussed how their programs were successfully closing student achievement gaps, members of the House PreK-12 Innovation Subcommittee had a different “how” question in mind: How can we get you to come to Florida? The subcommittee heard this week from representatives of three out-of-state charter networks … Daniel Fishman, vice president of growth for IDEA public schools based in Texas … said that IDEA was also in the middle of making 2020 plans, but wasn’t leaning toward Florida. “I would say currently Florida is not a top contender because of some of the policy conditions, but I would say that we’d very much like to consider it strongly … if the conditions are such that we think we can successfully open schools,” Fishman said. “If there was reform, change in the state, could those dates be moved up?” [State Rep. MelPonder asked. “Florida’s really looking to make some positive change and embrace the vision to accelerate the charter program. Could that change?”

LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN SENATE WOULD TIGHTEN PROTECTIONS AGAINST AOBS via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Legislation sought by regulators, insurance, and business interests to reform assignment of benefits agreements finally dropped — and the first thing it would do is bar attorney fee awards to contractors who use those contracts to sue insurers. “Notwithstanding any other law, as to suits based on claims arising under property insurance policies, attorney fees may not be awarded … in favor of any person or entity seeking relief against the insurer pursuant to an assignment agreement,” the bill says. The measure also contains provisions shielding policyholders from abuse. For example, they could rescind any such agreement within seven days and would be shielded from liens by contractors seeking the difference between what the insurer pays and the cost of repairs.

DAN RAULERSON AND DENNIS BAXLEY SAY “LET THEM EAT STEAK” via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – In 10 years as head of the Florida Housing Finance Corporation (FHFC), Stephen Auger didn’t do much to solve the chronic, critical problems of people who work hard, play by the rules, and still can’t afford a decent place to live. But he won the hearts and minds of millionaire senators like Baxley and Raulerson, who think that buying steak dinners for people who do business with FHFC is a good use of taxpayer money. If government was really “run like a business,” Auger would have been gone years ago, when a Tampa Bay Times reporting team [found] an embarrassing pile of misfeasance and nonfeasance.  But Auger held on to his $183,000 job until December, when the legislature’s own auditors weighed in on FHFC’s miasma of mismanagement. Highlights include $443,000 in criteria-free staff bonus payments and a $52,000 “lender appreciation” dinner which featured broiled lobster tails, filet mignon and a nice “display” of tasty “imported and domestic cheeses.” Raulerson and Baxley delivered a depressing and not terribly subtle warning. It may be a cold day in Florida before we see another “nitpicking” audit of public officials like Auger who party like Marie Antoinette.

— “Decoupling aids gambling” via Paul Seago for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

— “Florida may stop approving new hospital beds. Will that mean unequal access for rich and poor?” via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) will hold a media roundtable to discuss its priorities for the upcoming legislative session, including Certificate of Need, Managed Care and Prospective Payment System legislation. Event begins 10:30 a.m. at the Florida Health Care Association, 307 W. Park Ave. in Tallahassee.

HEROIN CRISIS: COUNTY COMMISSIONER “DISAPPOINTED” BY GOVERNOR’S LACK OF “URGENCY” via Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post – A week after asking Gov. Scott to declare a public health emergency over the opioid crisis, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said she was “pretty disappointed” with the response she received from Scott’s office earlier this week. While in Tallahassee, McKinlay met with staff members of the Scott’s to discuss her letter, which cited statistics from The Palm Beach Post and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement about the sharp rise in overdoses, deaths and hospital costs. “I was pretty disappointed. They didn’t think a declaration was necessary,’’ she said.

FLA. INSURANCE CHIEF RESPONDS ON POST NO-FAULT STORY via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – The state’s insurance commissioner, David Altmaier, expanded on earlier remarks that cautioned against excessive expectations for driver savings. Some context that helps explain the alphabet soup: An actuarial study last fall found state drivers could save an average of $81 per car, or close to $1 billion a year, if Florida killed its requirement that drivers buy $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection coverage — even after assuming premiums for other coverage such as bodily-injury liability went up. A spokeswoman for the insurance commissioner said in a statement: “ if PIP were repealed, most of the costs would transfer to other auto insurance coverages and cause increases for those coverages. Then there are those costs that would be covered by mechanisms outside of the auto insurance market, such as by health care practitioners, health insurance and by the injured claimant and there would likely be a delay for reimbursements since it would now fall under a tort system and fault would have to be determined.”

FWC CONSIDERING 78-DAY RED SNAPPER SEASON via the Panama City News-Herald –  The commission approved a draft rule that would open the recreational season continuously starting the Saturday before Memorial Day through the Sunday after July 4. In addition, the season would be open Saturdays and Sundays starting in May and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October, plus Labor Day. If the plan is approved in April, it would be identical to the one approved at the outset of the last year’s season. The 78-day season would apply only to recreational state waters, which cover from the shoreline to 9 nautical miles out. The seasons for for-hire vessels with federal licenses and anglers who want to fish deeper has yet to be announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

TROUBLED FLORIDA SCHOOL DISTRICT TO USE CHARTER SCHOOLS via The Associated Press – A small rural county in Florida’s Panhandle is going to become the first district in the state to have all of its students attend a charter school. The State Board of Education voted to approve a turnaround plan for Jefferson County schools that calls for turning over day-to-day operations to a charter school management company in the fall of 2017. Jefferson County schools have struggled with declining enrollment, budget troubles and students being held back. State officials have demanded plans to address its problems. Under the proposal, two schools with less than 800 students total would be consolidated into one charter school.

***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***

BUSY WEEK FOR FUNDRAISING AHEAD OF SESSION

There’s one committee week left until the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, and you can bet lawmakers will be doing more than just debating the merits of their bills during their time in the capital city this week.

House Majority, the campaign arm of the Florida GOP, will host fundraisers for several House Republicans, all of which are running for re-election, this week.

On Feb. 21, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Chuck Clemons and Bobby Payne at noon at The Governor’s Inn, 209 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

That same day, there is a fundraiser for Reps. Danny BurgessBob Rommel, and Erin Grall at 5 p.m. at The Edison, 470 Suwannee Street in Tallahassee. Across town, there will be a fundraiser for Rep. MaryLynn Magar at 5:30 p.m. at The Florida Realtors, 200 S. Monroe Street.

On Feb. 22, there is a fundraising reception for Reps. Alex MillerGrallCyndi StevensonAmber Mariano, and Jackie Toledo. The event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

Miller and Toledo will be back at the Governors Club for a 5 p.m. fundraiser on Feb. 22. A few blocks away, there is a fundraiser for Rep. Jay Fant at The Florida Realtors starting at 5:30 p.m. It is also scheduled to host an event for Rep. Jay Trumbull at The Governor’s Inn at the same time.

House Majority is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Burgess and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen at 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 23 at Clyde’s and Costello’s, 210 South Adams St. in Tallahassee.

All of the events are hosted by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Rep. Jose Oliva, and Rep. Chris Sprowls.

Democrats are also getting in on the fundraising action, Sen. Vic Torres and Reps Richard Stark, Joe Geller and Amy Mercado hosting a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. at the Florida Realtors Association on Feb. 22.

House members aren’t the only ones raising cash before the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off next month. Sen. Debbie Mayfield is scheduled to hold a fundraiser for her Senate District 17 re-election campaign at 5 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Governors Club Boardroom, 202 ½ S. Adams Street in Tallahassee.

DID FSU PRESIDENT JOHN THRASHER VIOLATE LOBBY BAN? via Arek Sarkissian of the Naples Daily News – Thrasher‘s push for a special law school appropriation includes a 2015 form with Thrasher named as the requester and dated before the former senator’s ban on lobbying expired, records show. Thrasher denies he unlawfully lobbied the Legislature for the $1 million a year, and said he’s been careful to follow the rules as FSU president. But one gun rights group accused him of violating the ban during last year’s legislative session when Thrasher opposed a failed plan to allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry handguns on campus. The $1 million, tucked away secretly in this year’s $82.3 billion state budget, is among the special lawmaker requests that have surfaced in a battle between House and Senate leaders over how to write the spending plan. Thrasher’s name also was on another secret appropriation for the engineering college

JASON ALLISON TO JOIN FOLEY & LARDNER via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – Allison, Florida’s Chief Information Officer, has told Gov. Scott he is resigning. “My years directing the Agency … and my prior service as your Technology Policy Coordinator have been some of the best in my life,” he wrote. “I cannot thank you enough for all of the opportunities and experiences you have provided me during my time in your administration.” Allison’s letter says he is resigning effective March 7 – the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session. A news release from Foley & Lardner says he is starting with the law firm the next day as a “director of public affairs in the Tallahassee office.”

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

Lester Abberger, Florida Lobby Associates: City of Winter Haven

David Ash, DLA Consulting: Transdev North America

Josh Aubuchon, Holland & Knight: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Fred BaggettGus CorbellaHayden DempseyFred Karlinsky, Greenberg Traurig: GrowHealthy Holdings, LLC (GrowHealthy)

Slater Bayliss,The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: LiveNova PLC

Patrick Bell, Capitol Solutions: Gilchrist County School District; SEIU Local 1991; UFMDC (United Faculty of Miami Dade College)

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Florida Association of Student Educational Tours

Ron Book, Ronald L. Book PA: Well Child

Jim Boxold, Capital City Consulting: CitiBank

David BrowningJerry Lee McDanielJim McFaddin, Southern Strategy Group: Strategic Health Services LLC

French Brown IVDavid ChildsBrittany Dover, Hopping Green & Sams: Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners

Matt BryanJeff Hartley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers

Emily Buckly, Jones Walker: Ingenios Health Co.

Dean Cannon, GrayRobinson: JPMorgan Chase Holdings LLC

David Catania, Greenberg Traurig: Starship Technologies

Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: Miami Dade County Fair and Exposition

Christopher Chaney, The Advocacy Group at Cardenas Partners: LiveNova PLC; GVDB Holdings

Paula CobbJeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: Kyra Solutions

Lawrence Curtin, Holland & Knight: Tampa Electric Company

David Daniel, Smith Bryan & Myers: Microsoft Corporation; City of Pembroke Pines

Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: Park Place Behavioral Healthcare

Angela Dempsey, PooleMcKinley: Port Everglades Pilots Association

Chris Dudley, Allyce Heflin, Southern Strategy Group: Strategic Health Services LLC, Public Consulting Group c/o MultiState Associates

Leslie Dughi, Greenberg Traurig: GrowHealthy Holdings, LLC (GrowHealthy), Bankers Life Insurance Company

Nicole Fried, Colodny Fass: Florida Independent Spirits Association

Gary Guzzo, Cory Guzzo, Floridian Partners: Herzog Transit Services

Thomas Griffin, Smith Bryan & Myers: Microsoft Corporation

Kenneth Granger, Capital City Consulting: Planet Technologies

Michael Harrell, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: State Farm Insurance Co.

Jeff Hartley, Smith Bryan & Myers: City of Pembroke Pines

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Pinch A Penny; State Farm Florida Insurance Co.; Conference of County Court Judges

William Helmich, Helmich Consulting: Florida Workers’ Advocates

Lisa Hurley, Smith Bryan & Myers: Microsoft Corporation, Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers.

Lila Jaber, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Florida Public Utilities Co.; Southern Company Gas

Rob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: State Farm Florida Insurance Co.; State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

Dean Izzo, Capital City Consulting: Memory Garden

Jim Magill, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Vertical Bridge Holdings, LLC

Allison Mawhinney, GrayRobinson: U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Georgia McKeown, GA McKeown & Associates: Adam Taylor; Florida Alliance of Information & Referral Services

Drew Messer, Vineyard Partners: Florida for Care

Alex Miranda, Flagler Strategies: City of Sweetwater; Florida Crystals Corporations, Organization for Safe Cannabis Regulation; AT&T; Miami Children’s Health System

Michael Murtha, Murtha & Associates: Regional General Hospital

Jim Naff, Smith Bryan & Myers: City of Okeechobee; Glades County Board of Commissioners

Keith Poliakoff, Arnstein & Lehr: MedicFP

Douglas Russell, D. Russell & Associates: Marifirst Wellness Solutions LLC

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: Chapters Health Systems

Robert Shave, Capitol Energy Florida: Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy for the benefit of All Star Children’s Home; Englewood Event Center; Common Rights, Inc.

Linda Loomis Shelley, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: State Farm Florida Insurance Co.

John Wayne Smith, Peebles & Smith: Ecology and Environment Inc.

Timothy Stanfield, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Pinch A Penny; State Farm Florida Insurance Co.

Lane Stephens, SCG Governmental Affairs: Florida Dog Hunters and Sportsmen’s Association; Southeastern Dog Hunters Association

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: ARES Security

Jason Unger: GrayRobinson: Government Payment Service, Inc.

Jennifer Ungru, Jones Walker: Florida House Experience

Thornton Williams, Williams Law Group: Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group

APPOINTED: Dr. Ernest Hewett and Kenneth Hancock to the DeSoto County Hospital Board. Barbara Clowdus to Early Learning Coalition of Indian River, Martin and Okeechobee Counties, Inc.

PERSONNEL NOTE: AT&T NAMES DAN POLLOCK REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS via Florida Politics – In his new role, Pollock will work closely with leaders in Orange, Brevard, Seminole, Lake, Sumter and Marion counties on AT&T legislative and community efforts. He will be based in Orlando. Before joining AT&T, Pollock was president of Pollock & Associates, a Florida public affairs firm. His previous experience includes: Co-founder of TargetVote.com, executive director of the Florida Greyhound Tracks Association and chief Senate aide to former Sen. Tom Rossin.

SPOTTED at the 12th annual ForEverglades benefit for the Everglades Foundation: Jimmy Buffet, Derek Cooper, Charlie Crist, Tonya and Eric Eikenberg, Andrew Kethchel and fiancee MacKenzie, Connie and Jack Latvala, Mike Sole, Ann and CB Upton.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at www.capcityconsult.com.***

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER BACK IN LAUNCH BUSINESS — THIS TIME FOR BUSINESS via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off into space from historic Launch Complex 39A … the first launch from Kennedy since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. This was a business launch in almost every sense, except in purpose. The Dragon capsule sent into orbit by the rocket is full of 5,500 pounds of equipment and goods for the International Space Station. SpaceX is trucking the goods into space on a NASA contract, and it began the mission from a NASA-owned launch pad, but this is a private business that has leased the launch pad and which is hauling the goods entirely for business. The rocket launch appeared perfect, blasting upward and into cloudy sky, disappearing 10 seconds after liftoff. “And liftoff of the Falcon 9 to the space station, on the first commercial launch from Kennedy Space Center’s historic pad 39!” announcer George Diller declared.

PRESIDENT’S DAY: THE GRAB BAG HOLIDAY THAT TOO FEW PEOPLE CELEBRATE via Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker — February 22 used to be Washington’s Birthday. It still is, of course, and that’s still its official name, but we no longer call it that, so we no longer have a holiday devoted exclusively to remembering the Father of His Country, a very great man. … Presidents Day is a solution to a bureaucratic problem. The problem is, or was, that February 12 is Lincoln’s birthday, and that used to be a holiday in many states (still is in some). Plus, a few recalcitrant states celebrated the birthdays of Jefferson Davis and/or Robert E. Lee. Anyhow, we ended up with too many holidays in February, which is bad for the Gross Domestic Product. So they all got smooshed together, and department store advertisers gave it its name. The horrible result is that we have a holiday that nominally honors, among others, Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, and Richard M. Nixon.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to our friend in Las Vegas, Andy Abboud, WFSU’s Lynn Hatter, and CoreMessage’s Michael Williams. Celebrating today is Rep. Cyndi Stevenson.

Sunburn for 2.17.17 – Twin delivery; GOP family feud; Another Scott agency head departing; Bob Buckhorn … still thinking

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

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

WELCOME TO THE WORLD two beautiful babies, the son and daughter of state Sen. Lauren Book. Kennedy Grace and Hudson Lee were born just three minutes apart. Babies are healthy. Mom and dad are doing great, I am told.

Now, on to politics…

REPUBLICAN FAMILY FEUD

We’ll let our colleague, Gary Fineout of the Associated Press, lead off Sunburn today:

What started out as a disagreement over taxpayers footing the bill for a version of Pitbull‘s “Sexy Beaches” video is now turning into a full-blown public relations war between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP-controlled Florida House.

The two sides are at odds over whether Florida should spend money on tourism marketing and luring businesses to the state. In the past week, their feud has continued to escalate. The House is currently moving a bill that would shutter the two agencies that receive millions to pay for these efforts.

Scott in the last few days has barnstormed the state where he has called out GOP House members by name for supporting the legislative proposal. On Thursday, he also announced that the Sunshine State attracted a record number of nearly 113 million tourists last year despite two hurricanes, the outbreak of the Zika virus and the Pulse nightclub attack.

“I don’t understand how anyone can look at Florida’s booming tourism industry, and the more than 1.4 million jobs it supports, and vote to kill it,” said Scott in a statement. “The legislation the Florida House is pushing puts more than 1.4 million jobs at risk and we cannot let that happen.”

Scott’s political committee Let’s Get to Work in the last few days has also paid for phone calls telling voters in a handful of GOP districts that their legislator was in favor of a bill that would “destroy our economy and lead to higher taxes.”

The Florida House has responded by releasing a scathing new video to YouTube that trashes Visit Florida, the agency that promotes tourism, and Enterprise Florida, the economic development organization that uses taxpayer money to offer incentives to companies that move to the state or expand their operations.

The video mentions the secret $1 million deal Visit Florida signed with rap star Pitbull which included him filming a new video of his “Sexy Beaches” song that included footage of Florida hotels and beaches. The House video also criticizes several economic development deals that went bust included the high-profile bankruptcy of Digital Domain, a visual effects studio that received $20 million of support. The Digital Domain deal was approved before Scott become governor.

The video includes captions that say “no more foolish spending,” ”no more handouts” and “no more corruption.”

GOP House members first saw the video Wednesday night during a closed meeting at a Tallahassee restaurant. House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues initially said the meeting would be strictly social and that no policy would be discussed.

Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, defended the meeting. He said it did not violate state laws that block legislators from meeting privately to discuss pending legislation. The private meeting was paid for the Republican Party of Florida. Over the last two years Scott has refused to raise money for the party.

The dispute over money for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida threatens to derail this year’s legislative session, which starts in March. Top Senate Republicans say they oppose House GOP efforts to eliminate the programs. Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and Senate budget chief, said Thursday on Twitter that the “investment in Visit Florida is obviously working. No time to take our foot off the gas now.”

— “Richard Corcoran takes his fight with Rick Scott behind closed doors” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will highlight 2016 tourism numbers at Sun Harvest Citrus in Fort Myers. Event begins 8:30 a.m., 14601 6 Mile Cypress Pkwy.

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HOUSE DEMOCRATS CALL OUT REPUBLICANS’ CLOSED-DOOR MEETING via Michael Auslen and Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – House Minority Leader Janet Cruz responded to (the) closed-door caucus meeting held by Republicans. … “Transparency when conducting the people’s business is of the utmost importance and that’s why our caucus room is always open to the public,” Cruz said in a statement.

MARK WILSON CALLS HOUSE PUSH TO ELIMINATE ENTERPRISE FLORIDA ‘A POLITICAL CONVERSATION ABOUT IDEOLOGY’ via Florida Politics – Addressing what he called the “obvious elephant in the room,” Florida Chamber President Wilson criticized Florida House members who backed an effort to end economic incentive programs, calling the move political. “I want to be blunt for a few minutes,” said Wilson. “This is not a Legislature trying to seek how to diversify the economy and how to grow trade. This is a political conversation about an ideology that frankly is silly.” Wilson made his comments during the 2017 International Days hosted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce … The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week voted 10-5 to approve a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization; Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, and a slew of economic incentive programs. “The Florida Chamber scores votes by legislators,” he said. “We are scoring every one of the votes in the Legislature and it will be factored into endorsements. That doesn’t make a lot of friends, but (we’re) fighting for free enterprise.”

— “One more plea to spare Visit Florida” via Nancy Smith of Sunshine State News

SENATE KEEPS DC LAW FIRM HIRED TO FIGHT REDISTRICTING—TO FIGHT THE FLORIDA HOUSE via Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald – Why would Florida’s Senate president spend $71,600 on a Washington D.C.-based legal firm with no offices in Florida to represent them in legal battles with the Florida House? That’s the obvious question for Senate President Joe Negron, who has signed two contracts, and assumed a third, from former Senate President Andy Gardiner, with Sidley Austin, a mega-firm in D.C. with offices across the globe — except Florida. “This is a very unique area of the law given that it is unprecedented for one chamber to promulgate rules that would purportedly control the actions of another chamber,” Negron told the Herald/Times said. “Those are issues we can look to precedence from the United States Supreme Court and to Florida courts.” He said he has authorized Sidley Austin to advise the Senate on the House rule relating to the appropriations process and it is “looking at the legal relationship and separation of powers.”

TRI-RAIL DEFENDS ITS $500M CONTRACT BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE via Florida Politics – The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority took its best shot at defending its decisions to throw out five proposals and accept the remaining one for a $511 million contract, a move that has drawn stern criticism from several state leaders including Gov. Scott. Among the biggest critics has been state Sen. Jeff Brandes, and authority Executive Director Jack Stephens came before Brandes’ Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development to argue that his agency did exactly what it was legally and ethically supposed to do. His bottom line: the process left SFRTA with just one qualified proposal to consider; and the proposal was deemed acceptable; and the contract was awarded; even though the five rejected proposals all appeared to be for less money, as much as $115 million less over 10 years. The key is the rejected proposals’ bottom lines did not appear solid.

HOUSE GAMBLING BILL TEED UP FOR NEXT WEEK via Florida Politics – As expected, the 81-page bill (PCB TGC 17-01) includes a renewed blackjack deal, or “compact,” between the state and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as first struck by Gov. Scott. But the House already is at odds with the Senate’s 112-page measure (SB 8), which is set for its second and last committee hearing next week before the Appropriations panel. In one significant example, the House bill outlaws designated-player card games, but the Senate would let “all cardroom operators … offer designated player games.” In banked card games, players bet against the “house,” or the casino, and not each other. In traditional poker, people play against each other for a pot of money. Designated-player games are a hybrid, where the bank is supposed to revolve among the players.

TWEET, TWEET: @NoCasinos: #WhatToLikeAboutHouseGamblingBill Bans non-tribal slots outside Miami-Dade & Broward 

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE VOTES TO PULL FLORIDA FROM FEDERAL REFUGEE PROGRAM via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The House’s Children, Families and Seniors Subcommittee voted 9-5 along party lines for legislation (HB 427) to pull out of the refugee program. Similar legislation has not been filed in the Senate, indicating it may have limited possibility to become law. With refugees at the center of national debate on President Trump’s travel ban, pulling out of the program has been called a political move. Doing so would not end the flow of refugees to the state. Rather than state officials coordinating a $250 million federal program in Florida, the feds would partner with nonprofits in the state.

HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES LEGISLATION FOR COMPETITION IN HEALTH INDUSTRY via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House is bringing a little more free market to Florida’s health care system. HB 145, which unanimously passed the House Innovation Subcommittee, increases how long a patient can stay at an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) to 24 hours. ASCs, which mainly provide elective surgeries, currently cannot keep patients overnight. It also creates “recovery care centers” for post-surgical nursing care to handle uncomplicated cases not needing hospitalization, and keep patients 72 hours. Also approved was HB 7, repealing the so-called “certificate of need” requirement. Right now, Florida must determine a need before any health facilities can be constructed or expand. HB 7 passed on 11-5 party-line vote.

CRITICS SAY BILL WOULD ‘OBLITERATE’ SUNSHINE LAW via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A bill filed this week by Rep. Byron Donalds of Naples would allow two members of any board or commission with five or more members to meet in private to discuss business and policy issues before their board. The idea for HB 843 came from attending a legislative training session in the fall when Donalds learned the Legislature operates by different rules than local public officials … Sen. Dennis Baxley filed a companion bill in the Senate … “To be frank, local officials should have the same flexibility as legislators,” Donalds said. Current law prevents two members of a board or commission from meeting and discussing board business. Any time two or more members get together it is considered a meeting under current law and must be properly noticed. If adopted, HB 843 would seriously undermine the state’s sunshine law, said Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation. “To say this obliterates our right to oversee government and hold it accountable is an understatement,” Petersen said. “This would allow daisy chaining by members of a board.”

NEW LAW WOULD GIVE THOUSANDS OF FOSTER CARE TEENS BIG BOOST IN ACQUIRING DRIVER’S PRIVILEGES via Florida Politics – Teens in the Florida foster care system will get a little taste of autonomy. Lawmakers unanimously approved “Keys to Independence” – a three-year pilot project to give, by helping them obtain driver’s licenses. HB 217, sponsored by state Reps. Ben Albritton and Jennifer Sullivan, removes some of the obstacles facing foster care children: allows them to get into driver’s ed classes (even when full), and reimburse them for fees for learners and driver’s licenses, testing, substance abuse courses, monthly insurance premiums and deductibles.

JASON FISCHER CO-SPONSORS BILL OBJECTING TO U.N. CONDEMNATION OF ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS via Florida Politics – Fischer joined an ever-growing list of sponsors of House Bill 231, a bill filed in January objecting to a 2016 United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. The Florida House bill demands a repeal or an edit of the U.N. Security Council resolution — an unlikely outcome. That U.N. resolution proved especially controversial stateside, as the United States abstained from the vote — a move widely seen as one last tweak from the Obama White House to Israeli P.M. Benjamin NetanyahuSamantha Power, on behalf of the U.S., asserted that the American abstention was rooted in the resolution being focused too narrowly on settlements, even as she noted President Ronald Reagan‘s assertion that further settlements were not necessary for Israeli security.

GOP LAWMAKERS DEFEND FLORIDA HOUSING FINANCE CORP.’S EXPENSES via Florida Politics – The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee formally heard … the audit of the Florida Housing Finance Corp. (FHFC), steward of both state and federal affordable housing money, was released in December. Lawmakers focused on lavish events thrown for lenders and board members, including a $52,000 dinner with broiled lobster and filet mignon, and another that featured a $420 Spanish charcuterie station. State audit manager Christi Alexander told the panel such expenses “did not appear to be clearly necessary” to the function of the agency. But state Rep. Dan Raulerson, the panel’s vice chair and a CPA, said the first event was partly funded by corporate sponsorships, bringing its actual cost down to $36,000. “I want us to make sure … we’re using common sense and good judgment,” said Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, but added that the dinners were to show appreciation for those helping the agency and furthering its affordable housing mission.”

NO REPORTS OF INCIDENTS WITHIN HOUSE PAGE PROGRAM via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat – With the man who oversees hundreds of teens in the Florida House page program each Legislative Session accused of soliciting a minor online, state officials say they have no indication anything nefarious happened within the halls of the Capitol. Michael Chmielewski, who was Civics Program Coordinator with the state House of Representatives Page Program, faces one count of using a computer to solicit a minor and one count of traveling to meet a minor after he was arrested in connection to a law enforcement sting. After he was fired Monday, he was banned from the Capitol grounds … Chmielewski, 37, ran the House’s page and messenger program, which attracts up to 300 teenagers, ages 13 to 18, every legislative session. He had served in that role since 2012 … there have been no reports that Chmielewski acted inappropriately in his capacity as the page program manager.

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FLORIDA ABORTION WAITING PERIOD LAW TEMPORARILY BLOCKED via The Associated Press – A state Supreme Court order blocking enforcement of Florida’s 24-hour abortion waiting period will remain in place while a lower court determines whether the law is constitutional. The court said there’s a strong likelihood that a lower court will determine the law is unconstitutional and the state provided no evidence that the law addresses a compelling state interest.

DOCTORS CAN ASK PATIENTS ABOUT GUNS via Curt Anderson of The Associated Press – A federal appeals court ruled that Florida doctors can talk to patients about gun safety, declaring a law aimed at restricting such discussions a violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the law does not trespass on patients’ Second Amendment rights to own guns and noted a patient who doesn’t want to be questioned about that can easily find another doctor. “The Second Amendment right to own and possess firearms does not preclude questions about, commentary on, or criticism for the exercise of that right,” wrote Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan in one of two majority opinions covering 90 pages. “There is no actual conflict between the First Amendment rights of doctors and medical professionals and the Second Amendment rights of patients.” The law was passed in 2011 and signed by Gov. Scott with strong support from the National Rifle Association. It was the only one of its kind in the nation, although similar laws have been considered in other states.

SUPREME COURT LIMITS INFORMATION INSURERS MAY DEMAND UNDER PIP POLICIES via Florida Politics – The Florida Supreme Court has taken a narrow view of the amount of evidence hospitals and other health care providers are obliged to turn over to insurance companies concerning the reasonableness of personal injury protection claims. In a unanimous ruling, the court sided with the 1st District Court of Appeal over the 4th District Court of Appeal, which had issued conflicting interpretations of Florida’s PIP statute. “We conclude that discovery is limited to the production of a written report of the history, condition, treatment, dates, and costs of such treatment of the injured person and why the items identified by the insurer were reasonable in amount and medically necessary, together with a sworn statement, as well as the production, inspection and copying of records regarding such history, condition, treatment, dates and costs of treatment,” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga wrote. “Furthermore, we agree that (the statute) provides limited pre-litigation discovery into specified information about the treatment and charges for treatment provided to an injured party, and that the discovery tools found in the rules of civil procedure … are not triggered until litigation over the reasonableness of those charges has ensued.”

APPEALS COURT RULES FOR PERRY THURSTON IN MATCHING FUNDS CASE via Florida Politics – State Sen. Thurston won the latest round in a court battle over state matching funds for his failed 2014 Attorney General campaign. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach reversed the decision of the Florida Division of Election denying Thurston matching funds for the race. Thurston applied to the Election Campaign Financing Trust Fund, but “some of the documents—photocopies of checks—because necessary information contained on the face of the documents could not be read.” After his primary loss, Thurston submitted new, legible documents, which the Division declined to review. The state now must “determine whether Thurston met the threshold for distribution of matching funds. If so, the Division shall distribute the funds.”

FIRST IN SUNBURN – STATE’S CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICER LEAVING FOR LOBBYING JOB via Florida Politics – Sources tell us Jason Allison, head of the Agency for State Technology, is leaving state government for a government consulting gig with the Foley & Lardner law firm. He’s now the second appointee of Gov. Scott to jump ship for Foley this year: Jon Steverson, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, quit last month to join the firm. Another Foley alum, Jesse Panuccio, just took a job in the Donald Trump administration. All told, Allison’s departure to Foley is another sign that Foley continues to position itself as the ‘expertise firm’ on Adams Street.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will be in Polk County to tour the Hwy. 630 fire, which burned approximately 2,000 acres in the Indian Lakes Estates area. Media availability begins 9:30 a.m. at the Indian Lake Estates Golf & Country Club, 95 Red Grange Blvd.

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HAPPENING THIS WKND – DONALD TRUMP HOLDING CAMPAIGN RALLY IN FLORIDA via Julie Bykowicz of The Associated Press – Trump is holding a campaign rally Saturday in politically strategic Florida — 1,354 days before the 2020 election. The unusually early politicking follows a pattern: Trump filed his paperwork for re-election Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. By comparison, President Barack Obama didn’t make his re-election bid official with the Federal Election Commission until April 2011.

TRUMP SAYS HIS CUBA VIEWS ARE ‘VERY SIMILAR’ TO MARCO RUBIO’S via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – “We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way, lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba, because we have very similar views on Cuba,” Trump told journalists. “Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the Cuban people, Americans,” he added in reference to the support of Cuban American voters. Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and first lady Melania … after the president received Lilian Tintori, the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Tintori.

PRO-TRUMP SUPER PAC CHAIRED BY RICK SCOTT DEALING WITH FEC ON REPORTING ISSUES via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Rebuilding America Now, Scott’s Super PAC that was established to elect Trump, is being scrutinized by the Federal Elections Commission for inadequate reporting in the third quarter of last year. On Jan. 11, the FEC sent a Request for Additional Information (RFAI) regarding two items for that October quarterly report. One of the items noted is the listing of a negative entry for $10,800 for return of a list rental fee to Castleblack, Ltd in Alexandria, Virginia. “This method of reporting would clarify for the public record the total amount of receipts and more accurately disclose the cash-on-hand amount,” reads the letter written by the FEC’s Kaitlin Seufert, Senior campaign Finance & Reviewing Analyst in the Reports Analysis Division. The other item noted by the FEC was an expenditure of $1,344,000 to Multi Media Services Corporation, a political media planning and buying agency in Alexandria, Virginia.

WH DISMISSES CAROLINE WILES, FIVE STAFFERS FOR FAILING BACKGROUND CHECKS via Lisa Hagan of The Hill – Staffers were escorted from the building after they didn’t pass Form SF86, the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions.” A successful response to the form is required for a security clearance. One of the dismissed staffers includes Caroline Wiles, director of scheduling, the daughter of President Trump’s Florida campaign manager. She will instead get a job at the Treasury Department.

BRIAN BALLARD SIGNS FOUR MORE CLIENTS via POLITICO Influence Ballard Partners, the Trump-connected firm that added 10 new clients earlier this week, has signed four more: American Airlines, Dish Network, Leon Medical Centers and Univision Management Co. 

***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***

WILL BOB BUCKHORN RUN FOR FLORIDA GOVERNOR? DOUBTS GROWING via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – “I’ve got to figure out if it’s something I want,” Buckhorn, 58, told the Tampa Bay Times. “If I don’t want to be the governor as much as I wanted to be mayor, I’m not going to run.” Close friends believe Buckhorn genuinely has not made up his mind. As a popular, high-profile mayor in Florida’s biggest media market, he has more flexibility than other would-be candidates in deciding when to seriously start building a statewide campaign. “In doing my job every day, I have a pulpit and a profile that no one else in this race has,” Buckhorn said. “Some of the others in this race don’t even have a job.” The clock is ticking fast.

FLASHBACK: “Bob Buckhorn is on the clock” via Peter Schorsch on January 3, 2017; “If he wants to run of governor, Bob Buckhorn’s opening is now” via Peter Schorsch on January 22, 2017.

FIRST IN SUNBURN – EX-DAVID JOLLY STAFFER PRESTON RUDIE NOW CONSULTING FOR JACK LATVALA via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – The Clearwater lawmaker is the most high-profile client for Rudie since he’s gone into the consulting business. He says that with the Catalyst Communications Group, he’ll be working with both private companies and elected officials. Rudie was an award-winning television reporter with more than 20 Emmy’s and 6 Edward R. Murrow awards to his name while working at WTSP 10 News from 2002-2014. Rudie left journalism to serve as Jolly’s communications director, working in both Pinellas County and Washington D.C. Latvala is also singing his praises … “Preston Rudie is the top communications professional in the Tampa Bay Area. I am proud to add him to our team.”

RE-UPPING – JD ALEXANDER HOSTING FUNDRAISER TODAY FOR DENISE GRIMSLEY via Florida Politics – Not only is Alexander not running for Commissioner of Agriculture, he’s thrown his support behind state Sen. Denise Grimsley‘s bid for the office. Alexander, who was term limited out of the Florida Senate in 2012, is even hosting a “fundraising reception” for Grimsley at his Lake Wales home. The longtime lawmaker who spearheaded the creation of Florida Polytechnic University had been the subject of rumors that industry heads were pushing him to consider running for the statewide office. “I have been honored by several calls from agriculture leaders, but I am very happy spending time with my family and business associates,” said Alexander.

TWEET, TWEET: @AllisonNielsen: FL CFO news: Possible candidate Tom Grady passed up for @fgcu presidency. Now he’s got an open path to CFO-dom

PERSONNEL NOTE: CHELSEA MURPHY GETS “RIGHT ON CRIME” via Florida Politics – Murphy has been named Florida State Director for The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice, “Right on Crime.” The Right on Crime initiative is in its seventh year “working to reform America’s criminal justice system state-to-state and across the country,” a press release said. It’s backed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, Right on Crime has been a part of reforms being implemented in over 40 states. Murphy has advocated on issues from aerospace, local government, to criminal justice and most recently was an associate with Adams St. Advocates where she focused on health care, technology, and trade associations. She will remain in Tallahassee.

LOBBYIST’S BLOG POST GETS TONGUES FLAPPING AMONG TALLAHASSEE’S LOBBYIST SET via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – A blog post by a widely-respected lobbyist accused a lobbyist for Demotech Inc. of posing as that “concerned citizen” to praise the ratings agency during a conference call. The post said “most industry professionals” believe the caller was Lisa Miller, of Lisa Miller & Associates, who flatly denied it. … “Let me assure you that if this occurred, no one at Demotech coordinated it or scripted it,” Demotech president Joe Petrelli said by email. Did Demotech organize any such thing? “No,” Petrelli said. Jeff Grady, president and CEO of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, posted the blog … he described Demotech as “practically the only ratings agency that matters to many insurers and banks that fuel residential real estate lending in our state.” But he added that problems attending a recent conference call to discuss the prospect that the agency would downgrade some Florida insurers demonstrated that “Demotech isn’t quite ready for the big leagues.” One reason was a comment by that concerned citizen, who identified herself as “Mary Beth Wilson” on the call, and praised Demotech and Petrelli.… a comment by that concerned citizen, who identified herself as “Mary Beth Wilson” on the call, and praised Demotech and Petrelli. “Although no official record of the call is available, it is practically undeniable that Mary Beth Wilson is not who she said she was,” Grady wrote.

SPOTTED at the FCTA open house at its newly renovated office on E. 6th Avenue: Jim Boxold, Dominic Calabro, Tom DiGiacomo, J.C. Flores, Marva Johnson, Adam Roberts, Liz Shawen, Justin Thames. And, of course, Brad Swanson.

Sunburn for 2.16.17 – Beacoup lobbying $$$; Newest House video debuts; No bucks for Bucs; Trump to Fla. this wknd.

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 NICE WORK … IF YOU CAN GET IT

Call it déjà vu all over again … and again … and again … and again.

The Top 5 earners in registered legislative lobbying during the fourth quarter of 2016 were Ballard PartnersSouthern Strategy GroupRonald BookCapital City Consulting, and Greenberg Traurig.

If the list looks familiar, there’s a reason for that. Each of firms were ranked were among the Top 5 firms each quarter in 2016. And according to our friends at LobbyTools Legislative IQ, it appears the pentad of firms ended the year in the same spot on the earners’ list as where they started.

Ballard Partners and Southern Strategy Group led the pack in fourth quarter of 2016, reporting in median earnings of more than $2.2 million and $1.6 million respectively.

Book’s reported median earnings of more than $1.5 million, while Capital City Consulting posted median earnings of more than $1.4 million. Greenberg Traurig rounded out the Top 5 with reported median earnings of more than $1.1 million.

GrayRobinson, which reported earning $935,000; Corcoran & Johnston, which reported earning $862,000; The Rubin Group, which reported earning $846,000; Johnson & Blanton, which reported earning $780,000; and Metz Husband & Daughton, which reported earning $640,000 rounded out the list of Top 10 earners during the final three months of the year.

According to LobbyTools, those five firms rounded out the Top 10 list during the first quarter of 2016. However, unlike the Top 5 earners, those firms were ranked in a different order at the beginning of the year.

All told, legislative lobbying firms reported total median earnings of $31.75 million during the fourth quarter of 2016. That was on par with what they reported during the third quarter, and down from the median earnings of $35.7 million they reported during the first quarter of the year.

The Top 5 principals in terms of median payment were: AT&T at $250,000; United States Sugar Corp. at $219,000; Florida Power & Light at $165,000; Automated Healthcare Solutions at $155,000; and Dosal Tobacco Corp. at $150,000.

SPOTTED: Brian Ballard in POLITICO Influence about registering on behalf of Amazon, according to federal lobbying reports. Florida records show Ballard is registered to represent Amazon.com before the Legislature.

— “Pro-Trump lobbyists lands big clients for new D.C. office” via Fredrik Schouten of USA Today

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THE SILENT TREATMENT BETWEEN RICK SCOTT AND RICHARD CORCORAN via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – In the heated battle over job incentives and tourism money … are these two strong-willed Republicans actually talking to each other? No, and that’s rarely a good sign in Tallahassee. Corcoran spokesman Fred Piccolo said the speaker called Scott‘s cellphone late last week before the governor launched a statewide tour in which he has publicly criticized two GOP House members in their districts, Reps. Paul Renner … and Jay Trumbull, for supporting the elimination of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “The speaker had reached out to the governor in the past week before the governor’s state tour,” Piccolo said. A phone conversation wouldn’t change either man’s mind, but the deepening rancor over incentives and tourism could easily spread to other policy areas, such as the budget, tax cuts and education. Scott’s office did not deny that he got the call from Corcoran, and spokeswoman Jackie Schutz did not directly address the question of Scott giving him the brush-off.

SCOTT TALKS EFI, VISIT FLORIDA IN RIVIERA BEACH via Florida Politics – Scott’s office Wednesday sent out a video of him chatting with “business, tourism and community leaders” in the north Palm Beach County city. Scott brought his “Fighting for Florida Jobs Roundtable” to town “to discuss the local economic impact of VISIT FLORIDA and Enterprise Florida and the need to fight job killing legislation in the Florida House.”

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will announce 2016 tourism numbers at 10 a.m. at the Brevard Zoo, 8225 N Wickham Road in Melbourne. From there, he’ll head to St. Cloud where he’ll hold a roundtable discussion with business owners, and economic development and tourism leaders at 2:30 p.m. at The Catfish Place, 2324 13th Street.

RANDY FINE WARNS SCOTT ABOUT HIS TACTICS via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – Fine … said he knows Scott is heading to his area soon because he is one of 9 Republicans on the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee that voted for the bill. But Fine isn’t worried. Instead he sent a preemptive letter to the governor warning him against making enemies and encouraging him to speak with him in person, rather than taking shots at him in the media. “Economic development is not a concept to me, it’s something I’ve spent my career doing … But in my business, I always found the best outcomes come by sitting down in person and finding common ground. Rather than us talking at each other in the media, I’d prefer to talk to you in person.”

FLORIDA HOUSE SLAMS ENTERPRISE FLORIDA IN NEW VIDEO via Florida Politics – In a new three-and-a-half minute video, the House scorches the state’s beleaguered public-private economic development organization, using phrases like “no more corruption” and “no more taking taxpayers for granted.” The video starts by highlighting the Sanford Burnham debacle, continues with the Digital Domain failure, and brings up the $1 million secret deal for Miami rapper Pitbull to promote state tourism – all funded with public money. It also mentions the high salaries, bonuses and lavish expenses ushered in by former CEO Bill Johnson. It ends with a clip of President Ronald Reagan addressing Congress in 1981: “There are a number of subsidies to business … that I believe are unnecessary, not because the activities being subsidized aren’t of value, but because the marketplace contains incentives enough to warrant continuing these activities without a government subsidy.”

ASSESSING VISIT FLORIDA BENEFICIARIES’ ASSERTIONS, PREDICTIONS AND ANECDOTES via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – As the debate over whether to fund or eliminate Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida escalates at the Florida Capitol, it’s important to consider that those who directly benefit from the mostly taxpayer-funded organizations are among their most vocal supporters. It’s natural, and predictable. It’s also entirely appropriate that incentives and tourism marketing recipients have the opportunity to make their case for continued funding. But their appeals shouldn’t always be taken at face value. Take Amy Lukasik, director of tourism marketing for the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners. She was one of dozens of individuals who implored House lawmakers last week not to eliminate Visit Florida or its $76 million annual appropriation. Ken Lawson, Visit Florida’s recently appointed president and CEO, made rousing statements against the plan to kill his public-private corporation. Chris Hart, president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, did the same in his own way. What else were they going to say?

MARK WILSON CALLS HOUSE PUSH TO ELIMINATE ENTERPRISE FLORIDA ‘A POLITICAL CONVERSATION ABOUT IDEOLOGY’ via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Addressing what he called the “obvious elephant in the room,” Florida Chamber President Wilson criticized House members who backed an effort to end economic incentive programs, calling the move political. “I want to be blunt for a few minutes,” said Wilson. “This is not a Legislature trying to seek how to diversify the economy and how to grow trade. This is a political conversation about an ideology that frankly is silly.” Wilson made his comments during the 2017 International Days hosted by the Florida Chamber of Commerce … The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee last week voted 10-5 to approve a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development organization; Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency, and a slew of economic incentive programs. “The Florida Chamber scores votes by legislators,” he said. “We are scoring every one of the votes in the Legislature and it will be factored into endorsements. That doesn’t make a lot of friends, but (we’re) fighting for free enterprise.”

***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***

IMMINENT ARRIVAL – Sen. Lauren Book had to miss Wednesday’s meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. She was getting ready to give birth. “She’s having twins, and she’s scheduled to have them tomorrow morning,” committee chairwoman Anitere Flores said. “But she’ll be back up here by the time session starts.” Book, a Broward County Democrat, wrote to Flores in January explaining that her doctors had restricted her travel.

DON GAETZ, CHRIS SMITH AMONG JOE NEGRON’S CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW PANEL PICKS via Florida Politics – Former Florida Senate President Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Smith are among those tapped by current Senate President Negron to sit on the state’s Constitution Revision Commission. Negron … announced his list in a press release. Gaetz, a Niceville Republican in the Senate 2006-16, and Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who served 2008-16, were selected along with seven others. Under the constitution, Negron gets nine picks as the president of the state Senate. Besides Gaetz and Smith, they are: Anna Marie Hernandez GamezPatricia LevesqueSherry PlymaleWilliam “Bill” Schifino Jr., Bob SolariJacqui Thurlow-LippischCarolyn Timmann … former Florida Bar President Hank Coxe; former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner; and former federal prosecutor Roberto Martinez.

SENATE MAY BALK AT SCOTT’S PLAN TO HIT HOSPITALS OVER CHARITY CARE via Florida Politics – Scott’s proposal to cut Medicaid reimbursement payments to profitable hospitals that stint on charity care may run into trouble in the Senate. During hearings Wednesday before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, members including chairwoman Anitere Flores raised objections. “The governor’s office has made some assumptions, based on the fact that some hospitals are very profitable, that they can afford a cut,” Flores said … “I’m hearing very different things from our local hospitals,” she said. “I think you heard from other members that they have some concerns, as well.” Scott’s $83.4 billion spending plan would save $298 million “by eliminating arbitrary and inconsistent supplemental payments for hospitals that provide less charity.”

FLA. HOUSE PAGE PROGRAM MANAGER ARRESTED IN SOLICITATION STING via Karl Etters of the Tallahassee Democrat – The coordinator for the Florida House of Representatives page program was arrested after he allegedly left his 10-year-old son home alone to meet and have sex with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl. Michael Chmielewski, who was Civics Program Coordinator with the state House of Representatives Page Program, faces one count of using a computer to solicit a minor and one count of traveling to meet a minor. After he was fired … he was banned from the Capitol grounds … Chmielewski, 37, ran the House’s page and messenger program, which attracts up to 300 teenagers, ages 13 to 18 every legislative session. He had served in that role since 2012. He was arrested after responding to an ad posted by an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old girl.

“WHISKEY AND WHEATIES” BILL SQUEAKS OUT OF HOUSE PANEL via Florida Politics – House members served up a sour version of the “whiskey and Wheaties” bill Wednesday as it barely cleared its first committee. The Careers and Competition Subcommittee cleared the legislation (HB 81) by a vote of 8-7, with the panel’s chair, Monticello Republican Halsey Beshears, voting against it. This is the fourth year a version of the bill has been filed. It aims to repeal the Prohibition-era state law requiring businesses, such as grocery chains and big-box retailers, to have separate stores to sell liquor. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in Florida.

MOVE TESTING TO END OF SCHOOL YEAR, LAWMAKERS SAY via Leslie Postal and Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – To minimize class disruptions, Florida students should take the state’s standardized tests during the final three weeks of the school year, a trio of state lawmakers said … Their legislation would end Florida’s current testing season, which starts at the end of February, runs for a week, picks up again in early April and then runs through mid-May. Many educators have complained that schedule interrupts too many classes and unfairly tests students before they’ve been taught a year’s worth of lessons. The bills (HB 773, SB 926) would not eliminate any state exams, as some educators have urged, however. “Teachers are frustrated. They feel like they’re having to cram for a test, they’re having to teach to a test,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, the Senate sponsor.

HOUSE HEALTH PANEL SUBMITS TELEHEALTH, NURSE AUTHORITY PROPOSALS via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools – The House Health Quality Subcommittee submitted a proposed committee bill (PCB HQS 17-01) to address the shortage of health professionals through telehealth regulation and scope of practice changes for advanced nurses and physician assistants … The bill would authorize advanced nurses who meet certain criteria to practice independently, without the supervision of a physician … authorizes physician assistants to perform certain examinations that APRNs are authorized to perform under current law, such as those to detect child abuse, to file death registrations and certify a cause of death and to participate in the Public-School Volunteer Health Care Practitioner Program … A second component of the bill regulates telehealth …  It also allows out-of-state professionals to use telehealth, one sticking point in previous sessions.

UNANIMOUS JURY BILL UNANIMOUSLY OK’D IN HOUSE via Florida Politics A bill requiring a unanimous jury recommendation for a death sentence was unanimously cleared by a House panel Wednesday. The Criminal Justice Subcommittee OK’d the bill (HB 527) by Rep. Chris Sprowls. But the approval was after several public comments that the legislation didn’t go far enough to truly overhaul the state’s capital punishment system.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) here.***

BILL BLOCKING PUBLIC RELEASE OF DEATH RECORDINGS A SLIPPERY SLOPE FOR TRANSPARENCY, TRUTH via Joe Henderson of Florida Politics – I will give state Rep. Chris Latvala the benefit of the doubt that he believes he is doing the right thing by filing HB 661 – a measure that prohibits the public release of video and audio recordings of someone’s death. His reasoning: such video inspires terrorists … You know what else is harmful to the public? When governments aren’t accountable to the people they allegedly serve. That is particularly true, as we have seen in recent years, with officer-involved shootings. Would the person who took the video be liable for felony prosecution, which would be the penalty under this proposal, if they posted the video they shot on social media? Without contradicting video, we might just have to take the officer’s word for it that he or she felt their life was in danger. It’s an important check and balance. As far as the video inspiring terrorists, I think Latvala is using fear as a rationale to pull the covers a little tighter over transparency.

BILL WOULD ALLOW TWO OFFICIALS OF SAME BOARD TO MEET IN PRIVATE via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – Members of the same city council or local board would be able to have lunch or attend a ballgame together without worrying about violating the state’s open meetings law under a bill filed this week by Sen. Dennis Baxley … “This needs discretion, instead of zero tolerance,” Baxley said. “This is the Pop-Tart gun bill for public officials. It’s being interpreted beyond reason.” Baxley was referring to a 2014 law that prohibits schools from punishing children who play with fake weapons, passed after a Maryland 8-year-old was arrested for chewing a pop tart into the shape of a gun. If adopted, SB 914 would redefine a “meeting” as any discussion of public business between two or more members of the same board or commission. Current law defines a meeting as any discussion between two members of the same board.

LAWYERS FOR THE STATE TELL SENATE COMMITTEE THEY NEED PAY RAISES, TOO via Florida Politics – State attorneys and public defenders face off in court, but they agreed on one thing during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice: Their staff attorneys need pay raises. Trouble is, committee chairman Aaron Bean isn’t convinced there’ll be enough money to pay for that, as much as he sympathizes. “The secret is that there’s just not going to be enough money to cover everybody’s requests,” Bean said following the hearing. “That’s why we triage.” Representatives of an array of state agencies that field attorneys begged the panel for pay raises. Other than state attorneys and public defenders, the committee heard from regional conflict counsel, the statewide guardian ad litem office, and capital collateral representative offices. Additional public-safety agencies also requested increases, including higher salaries.

SPEAKER SAYS “ZERO” CHANCE BUCS GET STATE SUBSIDIES THIS YEAR via Shadow of the Stadium – Speaker Corcoran, told me last week that there was “zero” chance the (Tampa Bay) Buccaneers get the roughly $10 million in state subsidies they’re seeking for their ongoing Raymond James Stadium renovations, even though they are the only professional team seeking money from the state this year … The “scheme” he’s referring to made it easier for pro sports teams to get multi-million-dollar tax breaks. Ironically, a conservative legislature has still denied the funding every year since the law changed. 2017 looks to be no different, thanks to Corcoran and some like-minded counterparts of his in the Senate.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On: Teri Cariota, formerly an aide to former Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, is now a legislative assistant to Miami Democratic Rep. Roy Hardemon.

On: Venusmia Lovely, formerly an aide to Sen. Dwight Bullard, is also a district assistant for Hardemon.

HAPPENING TODAY – COMMITTEE MEETINGS TO WATCH — The Civil Justice & Claims Subcommittee could take up a bill that would repeal the limit on the amount of money tobacco companies have to put up as appellate bonds during its meeting at 9 a.m. in 404 House Office Building; meanwhile the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee will consider a bill that would allow voters to submit affidavits before the election to resolve discrepancies if the signatures on their vote-by-mail ballot doesn’t match the signature on record when it meets at 9 a.m. in 17 House Office Building. Over in the Senate, the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee will hear a presentation from the Florida State University Office of Urban and Regional Planning about autonomous vehicles and the environment when it meets at 9 a.m. in 110 Senate Office Building. The Joint Legislative Audition Committee will meet at 1 p.m. in 301 Senate Office Building to consider a request for an OPPAGA study of the Florida Municipal Power Agency.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Environment Florida Research & Policy Center will release a report at 8 a.m. addressing Florida’s efforts to protect kids from lead in school drinking water.

RATINGS FIRM: INSURERS FACE LOWER GRADES, LENDER EFFECT UNKNOWN via Charles Elmore of the Palm Beach Post – Ratings firm Demotech says its guidance on 57 Florida-based property insurers is under review in the wake of the 2016 storms and continuing water-claims problems. But officials are not saying publicly how many how many companies are likely to get lower financial safety grades in March. Ohio-based Demotech plays a key role in rating Florida-based insurers for mortgage lenders, including smaller insurance companies not necessarily rated by older, traditional agencies.

— ONE TOP SENATE STAFFER EMAILS – “This is huge. The rating could be lowered for as many as 17 of the 57 insurers in Florida … and many others will teeter on the brink of a downgrade. If they are downgraded, they can’t insure federally backed mortgages, so they effectively can’t participate in the homeowners’ insurance market. The entire reason for this is added cost of Assignment of Benefits on insurers. This will result in an increase in premiums this year across the board by most, if not all, of the 57 domestic admitted carriers in the state. If there wasn’t enough pressure to do something on AOB this year, this is making the issue something that can’t be ignored.”

DRIVE FOR ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS REFORM PICKS UP STEAM via Florida Politics – The prospect that a national rating firm might downgrade Florida insurance companies because of rising costs linked to assignment of benefits agreements has lit a fire under advocates of reforming those contracts. “This issue is having a real effect on the pocketbooks of working Floridians and it’s time we take steps to clean up the process,” state Rep. Ben Diamond said in a written statement … “Homeowners deserve a real, consumer-driven solution that ensures that legitimate claims are paid while putting a stop to the bad actors who are driving up the cost of property insurance for all Floridians.” He pointed to a report in the Miami Herald that Demotech Inc. was about to downgrade as many of 15 of the 57 Florida insurers it rates from “A” to “B” on financial stability. The move could put mortgages at risk for thousands of homeowner because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac require “A” ratings on insurance carried by its borrowers.

NEW GROUP SEEKS TO STEER MEDICAL MARIJUANA BETWEEN CONTROL, FREE MARKET via Florida Politics – Smart Medicine For Florida will be pushing for regulations that would assure quality, safety, and security while also seeking a market open enough to assure fair pricing and the voices of patients and doctors, said the new group’s leader, Brian Hughes. The new group will be emerging in coming weeks with details as the Florida Legislature begins in ernest to transition from the very limited, low-THC marijuana medicine production and distribution program that began in 2016 to the much broader one authorized when voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 2 in November, essentially legalizing all forms of medicines derived from marijuana. That legislative debate could Ping-Pong between interests that still want to regulate medical marijuana into non-existence, to rising advocacy for a free-market.

TRI-RAIL STICKING WITH, DEFENDING, CONTROVERSIAL $500M, ONE-BID CONTRACT via Florida Politics – “Right now, we’re moving forward. We followed a process, and we put the process in place,” said C. Mikel Oglesby, deputy executive director of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. That process has Gov. Scott, the Florida Department of Transportation and state Sen. Jeff Brandes, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, all threatening to cut Tri-Rail’s money. Their concerns are over how and why the regional transportation authority disqualified five lower bids before awarding the contract to Herzog Transit Services for $511 million for 10 years … all that’s at risk as the Authority goes forward with what Oglesby said was the fair, appropriate and legal outcome of a bidding process in which all the bidders but one failed to follow the rules. “We think that once they hear from us tomorrow, they’ll see that we followed the rules. I think they’ll have a better understanding about what we did and why we did it,” Oglesby said.

FRANK ARTILES OP-ED: A REVIEW OF THE FACTS — SFRTA GETS IT RIGHT for Florida Politics – Over the last few weeks, South Florida has seen criticism regarding the process used by the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) to award a contract to operate and maintain the South Florida Tri-Rail commuter rail system to Herzog Transit Services, Inc. … I made it my personal mission to delve into the details surrounding the process and draw my own conclusion on the integrity of the process. What I found was that the attacks on the process are not consistent with the facts surrounding this issue and do not divulge the entire story. The reality is that no other bid contemplates the full and complete cost of running the system, no other bid includes the fundamental cost components that will keep the trains running on time, and no other bid ensures that thousands of Tri-Rail passengers will get to and from work or their other destinations every day, as Herzog Transit Services did … after looking at the details surrounding this instance, I have full confidence that SFRTA acted with due diligence and correctly awarded the bid.

THE WORST STORY YOU’LL READ TODAY – ER DOCTOR CALLS LOXAHATCHEE TOT’S STARVATION DEATH WORST HE’S SEEN via Olivia Hitchcock and Hannah Winston of the Palm Beach Post – “My baby girl died,” Alejandro Aleman whispered into a cellphone outside a Palms West Hospital emergency room, according to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office records. “This is why people throw their babies in dumpsters. … They harass you like this when accidents happen.” The ER doctor who tried to revive 13-month-old Tayla Aleman called her’s the worst starvation case he had ever seen … Tayla starved to death weighing barely 7 pounds, sheriff’s office records state. She was born weighing 9. Those recently released files in the death-penalty cases against Tayla’s parents, Aleman and Kristen Meyer-Aleman, describe the young girl’s lifeless body lying on a gurney in the emergency room, surrounded by the medical equipment doctors futilely used to revive her. A pink, animal-print onesie from Carter’s was underneath her, sheriff’s office records state. The onesie was sized for a 3-month-old.

BAD NEWS FOR OYSTERS, FISHING via Jeff Schweers of the Tallahassee Democrat – A special master’s recommendation in the ongoing tristate water war could spell ecological and economic disaster costing billions of dollars for Florida’s panhandle, Apalachicola Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire said. “If Georgia has no cap and will continue to withhold and draw more water out of the basin then we have a dead end,” he said. But this Apalachicola apocalypse can be avoided if the Army Corps of Engineers starts considering the water needs of North Florida as well as Georgia, he said. The fight is over how water is allocated from Lake Lanier to the Apalachicola Bay and affects three rivers and their basins — the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint. Special Master Ralph Lancaster, appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court, found that Florida failed to show a need for a consumption cap in Georgia. Florida’s lawyers should have included the Corps in the lawsuit, Tonsmeire said. “If the Corps had been in the suit it would have been able to change the flow to help make that remedy,” he said after reading parts of the order.

HURDLES TO SCHOOL CHOICE REMAIN DESPITE FLORIDA’S OPEN ENROLLMENT LAW via Erin Clark of FloridaWatchdog.org – Florida has one of the most robust school choice programs nationwide, with 45 percent of pre-K-12 students in the state having exercised some type of choice option in the 2015-16 school year. A new law seems poised to amplify that even more … Under HB 7029, public schools are required to allow students to transfer in from anywhere else in the state, as long as they have the capacity to take them. Still, parents in counties across the state are finding out that getting children into a school that suits them is more complicated than one would expect of an open enrollment policy. In Seminole County, 1,000 elementary school students are being rezoned in August due to growing enrollment … parents in Seminole County have been told that district schools are at capacity next year and that no intra-district transfers will be allowed, except for diversity reasons. Next year the capacity at Keeth could shrink by 100 spots, leaving little availability to parents who want to stay put.

MANATEE COMMISSION VOTES TO APPROVE MOSAIC’S MINING REQUEST via Claire Aronson of the Bradenton Herald – Despite the majority of public comments voiced in opposition during the hearings, the commission, in two 5-2 votes, approved both a request to rezone 3,596 acres of Mosaic’s Wingate East property for mining, as well as the Master Mining Plan. The mining at Wingate East will be completed around 2034, with reclamation ending around 2042. “I don’t like mining,” said Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac, who voted in favor of Mosaic’s proposal. “The fact of the matter is they have property rights. Mining is a specific listed property right.” In addition to Benac, voting in favor were commissioners Vanessa BaughSteve JonssonPriscilla Whisenant Trace and Carol Whitmore. Commissioners Robin DiSabatino and Charles Smith cast the dissenting votes.

***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: Start of 2017 Legislative Session – 19; Florida Capitol Press Corps Press Skits – 26; 2017 Legislative Session Sine Die – 78; FSU vs. Alabama – when 98; Election Day 2017 – 260; Star Wars: Episode VIII/The Last Jedi opens – 301.

DONALD TRUMP TO RALLY IN MELBOURNE ON SATURDAY via Dave Berman of FLORIDA TODAY – He will appear at a rally that begins at 5 p.m. Saturday in the AeroMod International hangar at Orlando Melbourne International Airport. Doors will open at 3 p.m. People seeking the free tickets are asked to provide their name, cellphone number, email address, state of residence and ZIP code. There is a limit of two tickets per cellphone number.

POLL: DONALD TRUMP TRAILS GENERIC DEMOCRAT, BUT NOT ELIZABETH WARREN, IN 2020 via Jake Sherman of POLITICO – Roughly a quarter of voters think he is the worst president in the past three-quarters of a century. Forty-three percent of voters are ready to vote for a nameless Democrat in 2020, while just over a third say they’ll vote for Trump. In the fourth week of Trump’s presidency, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that Democrats could be in trouble — and Trump could triumph — if they continue their lurch to the left. Despite the public’s increasing misgivings about Trump’s behavior and tactics in the White House, he still beats Sen. Elizabeth Warren… in a hypothetical matchup, 42 percent to 36 percent — a fairly impressive margin for a less-than-popular president against the prominent senator.

MEET THE WILDLY POPULAR BLOGGER CHRONICLING TRUMP ONE DAY AT A TIME via Melody Kramer of Poynter.org — Matt Kiser worked in news for many years, and now he works as a product manager at an algorithm startup in Seattle. But every day, Matt spends upwards of six hours working by hand on his single-subject blog, which launched in January. The concept of his blog was pretty simple: Matt simply wanted to log what he called “the daily shock and awe in Trump’s America” and make it easy for others to consume. Over the past three weeks, What the F*ck Just Happened Today? has grown immensely popular. Matt now has more than 48,000 newsletter subscribers (and an enviable open rate over 50 percent) and is on pace to receive more than 2.5 million page views in February.

AMBASSADOR JEFFREY LORIA? via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald – The New York Post reports that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is being floated by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as the next U.S. ambassador to France. “So far, Priebus has pushed — and won signoffs — for Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria to head to France, GOP activist Georgette Mosbacher to Luxembourg, financier Lew Eisenberg to Italy and hedge funder Duke Buchan to Spain,” the Post reports.

BILL NELSON AGAIN TALKING THE ‘CENTRIST’ TALK REGARDING SUPREME COURT NOMINEE via Bob Sparks of Florida Politics – Nelson does a good job of talking the moderate, bipartisan approach in the U.S. Senate. In the end, he nearly always votes with the liberals in his party … Nelson, who is up for re-election in 2018, has a high-profile vote coming his way … the Senate will conduct hearings involving Judge Neil Gorsuch … Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court … Nelson and some of his colleagues will want to know where the judge stands on certain issues. He mentions voter suppression and “unlimited money in campaigns” as two issues most important to him. Bewilderment over the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in the Hobby Lobby case, in which Gorsuch participated, clouds Nelson’s opinion of the judge. As usual, he is saying the right things. Nelson telegraphed his intentions when asked whether he supported a filibuster against the nomination. “You bet I do,” he said. “The filibuster has always forced the political extremes to come to the middle to build consensus.” There is that “centrist” dialogue masking a liberal position again.

WILFREDO FERRER OUT AS SOUTHERN DISTRICT U.S. ATTORNEY – Ferrer announced Wednesday that he will step down as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida effective March 3. “There has been no greater honor than to serve and protect the same community that opened its arms to my parents when they immigrated to this country,” said Ferrer in a statement,” said Ferrer, a Hialeah native who has held the post since he was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2010. During his 7 years on the job, Ferrer’s office has indicted more than 11,000 cases and charged more than 18,000 criminal defendants. Prosecutor Ben Greenberg will take over until President Donald Trump picks Ferrer’s successor. Candidates eying the job include former federal prosecutors Roy AltmanJohn CourielDaniel FridmanJon Sale and Carlos Castillo.

CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION VOWS TO TACKLE FLORIDA’S MANY WATER ISSUES via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s congressional delegation, which stretches from the far left to the far right, has successfully joined together to fight oil drilling efforts. Now the lawmakers are seeking common cause on a broader array of water quality issues facing the state. “Let’s get the politics out of this and make a difference,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan … co-chairman of the delegation. “We should be doing all we can to preserve the natural beauty of our state’s beaches and waterways. Coasts, lakes and rivers are key contributors to Florida’s thriving economy and serve as a vital habitat for plants and wildlife.” Attending the meeting was Buchanan, Neal DunnGus Bilirakis, Darren SotoJohn RutherfordFrancis RooneyCharlie CristAl LawsonTed YohoDebbie Wasserman SchultzFrederica WilsonBrian Mast and Lois Frankel.

REPUBLICANS MOCK CHARLIE CRIST AS A BOOZER via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – The big-hearted folks at the National Republican Congressional Committee today delivered a gift box to Crist … It included a bottle of Finlandia vodka – a reference to Politico report that he was spotted drinking Finlandia and OJ on an afternoon flight to Washington earlier this month – and a stop watch – since he missed one of his first votes this year because he mistimed his walk to the House floor. It’s a light-hearted attack … but Crist allies best hope he does not become better known for guzzling booze than those Red Bulls for which he is best known. Crist’s office responded cheerfully, sending out a photo of positive press clips apparently tacked to the gift box: “Team Crist appreciates the poster board material. And there’s nothing better than fresh Florida OJ. Cheers!”

FLORIDA INSIDER POLL: JOHN MORGAN WOULD BE STRONGEST DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Here’s how the largely Republican group of Florida Insiders, including fundraisers, campaign professionals, lobbyists, academics and activists, came down on the question of the strongest Democratic nominee: John Morgan: 36 percent; Gwen Graham: 33 percent; Bob Buckhorn: 18 percent; Philip Levine: 6 percent; Andrew Gillum 5 percent; Other: 3 percent.

AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY LINING UP BEHIND DENISE GRIMSLEY FOR AG COMMISSIONER via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – Grimsley is scheduled to hold a fundraising reception Florida’s Natural Grove House in Lake Wales Feb. 28. While the invitation notes a host committee is still being formed, the backers listed on the invitations reads like a who’s who of the Central Florida agriculture and political leaders. Among Grimsley’s supporters: Bob Behr, the former commissioner and CEO of Florida Natural; Ben Hill Griffin III, an industry leader and a member of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame; Ellis Hunt, the current chair of the Florida Citrus Commission; Marty McKenna, the former president of Florida Citrus Mutual; and John Barben, the current preside of Florida Citrus Mutual. The invite also lists Florida Citrus Mutual PAC, Florida Cow PAC, Polk County Farm PAC, and Southeast Milk, Inc. as backers.

GOP OFFICIAL QUITS AFTER RACIST FACEBOOK POST AND ‘DEATH PANEL’ UPROAR via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times – Bill Akins said he resigned as secretary of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee because he spoke out of turn during a Saturday congressional town hall meeting by insisting the Affordable Care Act has “death panels”… But it wasn’t his comments about Obamacare that drew national scorn … He became the subject of widespread ridicule only after The Washington Post revealed his Facebook posts contained racist and fake news stories and memes. Pasco Party Chairman Randy Evans and Committeeman Bill Bunting said no one with the GOP asked him to resign, but they said it was those Facebook posts that likely contributed to his departure.

SAVE THE DATE:

PERSONNEL NOTE: KELLY QUINTERO JOINS LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS via Florida Politics – Quintero will be the organization’s registered lobbyist for the 2017 Legislative Session. She’s a native Floridian and is graduate of the University of Central Florida with a degree in political science. She has worked at the Orange County Tax Collector’s office, most recently as Deputy Communications Director. Quintero spearheaded bilingual media relations, digital media and community relations. She also served as Central Florida Political Director during the 2016 presidential campaign, coordinating activities throughout 11 Central Florida counties.

SOUTH FLORIDA BUSINESS JOURNAL NAMES VETERAN JOURNALIST JUDY MILLER AS MANAGING EDITOR via Brian Bandell of the South Florida Business Journal – In her role as managing editor, Miller will oversee newsroom operations under the direction of Editor-in-Chief Mel Meléndez. Her responsibilities include supervising and editing reporters, and the distribution of crucial business news across various publishing platforms such as online, mobile, email, print and social media. Miller worked at the Miami Herald from 1992 to 2006, starting as an assistant city editor in Broward County and rising to investigations editor and then managing editor. She led the team of Herald journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for exposing voter fraud in the Miami mayoral election. She also co-led the Herald team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Elián González raid. She was part of Pulitzer Prize finalist teams with the Herald for two other stories: the Columbia shuttle explosion and electrical flaws in South Florida bus shelters.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Dan Daley. And his hair.

Sunburn for 2.15.17 – AFP Florida to the rescue; Budget raids; Times’ fake news; Trump to dine with Rubio; John Kennedy’s new gig

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

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

AFP COMES TO THE RESCUE

For days, Gov. Rick Scott has toured the state, holding round table discussions with business, tourism and community leaders about Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. Every stop has been in the district of a House member who voted for a bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida and a slew of other economic incentive programs.

At each stop, he’s blasted House members for voting to kill the programs, and has racked up plenty of free press along the way, much of which included soundbites of him condemning members of his own party.

Now, Americans for Prosperity-Florida is fighting back, launching a direct mail this week in the districts of all of the Republican and Democratic members of the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee that voted in favor of eliminating the incentive program.

The campaign is meant to educate Floridians which members are standing on “Principles Over Politics,” and encourages residents to call their state representatives to “thank them for fighting against a rigged system.”

Residents living districts represented by Reps. Halsey Beshears, Dane Eagle, Randy Fine, Julio Gonzalez, Roy Hardemon, Shawn Harrison, Mike La Rosa, Alexandra Miller, Paul Renner, and Jay Trumbull should expect to see the advertisement in the coming days.

This likely won’t be the last time Florida voters hear from Americans for Prosperity-Florida as the debate over economic incentives and Visit Florida heats up. It has been vocal in its support of the House proposals, and encouraged supporters to sign a petition asking their representatives to support the bill so “we can finally stop corporate welfare in Florida.”

The conservative organization played a key role during the 2016 Legislative session in blocking Scott’s request for $250 million for economic incentives. Last year the group regularly sent mailers telling Floridians to call their representative to tell them to “keep holding strong.”

In one of those mailers to residents in then-Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran’s district, AFP-Florida encouraged voters to call the Land O’Lakes Republican and tell him “to keep saying NO to special interests and YES to fighting for taxpayers.”

They probably won’t need to send that mailer again this year. As Speaker of the House, Corcoran has equated economic incentives to corporate welfare.

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RICK SCOTT CONDEMNS JAY TRUMBULL ON VISIT FLORIDA AND EFI VOTE AT BAY COUNTY ROUNDTABLE via Tiffany Jackson of MyPanhandle.com – Scott was in town hosting a roundtable with local business owners, economic development leaders, tourism leaders, and community members. “This is about making sure everybody in this community has a job. In Tallahassee, there’s some politicians that don’t understand the importance of a job. I am shocked that Representative Jay Trumbull voted to abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. I appreciate Senator Gainer for his complete support of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida because it’s about jobs for Florida families,” said Scott.

— “Alex Miller: Vote against Enterprise Florida protects tax dollars” via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

BOB BUCKHORN MEETS WITH SCOTT OVER JOB INCENTIVES via Jeremy Wallace of the Tampa Bay Times – A day after attending a rally with Gov. Scott, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was in Tallahassee on Tuesday meeting with the governor yet again. Buckhorn and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, both Democrats, said they met with the governor to offer their help in protecting Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “I’d be more than happy to go anywhere and speak to anyone about the importance of these incentives for us to be able to grow our economy,” Buckhorn said after his meeting with Scott.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Gov. Scott will continue to hold round table with discussions with business, community and tourism leaders about the economic impact of Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida today. He’ll start the day at 10 a.m.with a round table discussion at Process Map, 1450 W. Sunrise Blvd., #160 in Sunrise. He’ll then head to Riviera Beach, where he’ll hold a round table at 1:45 p.m. at Sancilio & Co., 3874 Fiscal Court.

JIM BOYD CALLS SCOTT’S $618 MILLION IN TAX CUTS ‘A LITTLE BIT AMBITIOUS’ via Florida Politics – Gov. Scott may be overreaching with his plan to cut state taxes by $618.4 million, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said Tuesday. “I would consider it a little bit ambitious, in light of our current financial situation,” chairman Jim Boyd told reporters. “We certainly share the goal of trying to cut as much as we can in taxes and keep the money in the taxpayers’ pockets,” the Bradenton Republican said. “Six hundred million dollars is pretty strong. … I’d love for his number to be correct, because that means we’re in better shape than we think we are in terms of the money that’s be available to us.”

SCOTT’S BUDGET WOULD RAID AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUNDS via Florida Politics – Scott’s proposed budget would shift nearly 77 percent of the $293.4 million earmarked for low-income housing next year to other state priorities. That works out to $224 million from state and local housing trust funds that won’t go for their intended purpose. “The governor has not been supportive of local and state trust funds in any of his budgets,” said Jaimie Ross, president and CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition and facilitator for the Sadowski Coalition, comprising an array of housing advocacy organizations. Last year, Scott wanted to sweep $237.5 million from the trust funds, of the nearly $276.6 million then available. The Legislature pared back his request, providing around $200 million for housing.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) here.***

ANITERE FLORES: ANYTHING SHORT OF FRACKING BAN DOA IN SENATE via Jim Ash of WFSU – This year, Flores is Senate Pro Temp – No. 2 in the political pecking order — and she’s co-sponsoring a statewide ban. She says the message should be clear — any call for further studies, or strict regulations, is dead in her chamber. “This is a bit of a black-and-white issue. And so I don’t really see a majority of the Senate moving backward from anything beyond a ban.” Republican Senator Dana Young, who served as House majority leader last year, is sponsoring the ban. But even though a Republican is sponsoring the House companion, Flores expects a tough fight.

DEMOCRATS TO RICHARD CORCORAN: TERRORISTS IN FLORIDA? PROVE IT via Allison Nielsen of Sunshine State News – House Democratic Leader Pro Tempore Bobby DuBose … sent the House Speaker a letter Tuesday demanding Corcoran release information proving the people of Florida were at risk. DuBose also had concerns over the comments since state lawmakers are scheduled to hear a bill withdrawing Florida from the refugee program this week. “The timely release of this information is vitally important as it could influence how members vote on HB 427,” DuBose wrote. Corcoran’s comments came during a weekend interview with CBS4’s Jim DeFede, who asked Corcoran if he believed some of the 1,200 Syrian refugees escaping to Florida last year were “harboring terrorist views.”

HOUSE PANEL TAKES ON IMPEACHMENT POWER, LOCAL GOVERNMENT ETHICS REFORMS via Florida Politics – The Public Integrity and Ethics Commitee, chaired by Yalaha Republican Larry Metz, OK’d proposals that would increase local officials’ financial disclosure, clamp down on potential conflicts of interest and create a Local Government Lobbyist Registration Trust Fund. Moreover, the committee continues to show an interest in the House possibly exercising its constitutionally-granted impeachment power. Metz had revealed last month he was looking into articles of impeachment against a Jacksonville judge before he quit the bench. His committee also on Tuesday heard a case study of a trial judge under investigation for three years for alleged attorney-ethical lapses before he became a judge. That’s despite a rule of judicial administration that encourages matters to be resolved within 180 days.

BILL FILED TO BAR ACCESS TO RECORDINGS OF PULSE-LIKE ATTACKS via Gray Rohrer of the Orlando Sentinel – Public access to video and audio recordings of someone’s death would be banned under a bill filed in the Legislature, attracting concerns from open government and transparency advocates who say it would squelch oversight of law enforcement. Rep. Chris Latvala … filed HB 661 last week. The bill cites the Pulse nightclub and Fort Lauderdale airport shootings as evidence the law needs to be changed. “The Legislature is gravely concerned and saddened by the horrific mass killings perpetrated at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Legislature is concerned that, if these photographs and recordings are released, terrorists will use them to inspire others to perpetrate killings, attract followers, and bring attention to their causes,” the bill reads. The bill also is retroactive, meaning the future release of existing records would be banned.

SHARK-FIN TRADE IN FLORIDA TARGETED IN SENATE BILL via the Orlando Sentinel – A Northeast Florida senator has filed a bill that would crack down on the sale and possession of shark fins and shark tails, considered a delicacy in parts of Asia. The measure (SB 884), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson … would make it a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida to trade or offer for sale shark fins or shark tails. Commercial and recreational fishers found in violation would face a suspension or loss of their licenses or permits. The bill says sharks are critical to the health of the ocean’s ecosystems and calls Florida a market for shark fins.

LAWMAKERS TO UNVEIL TESTING LEGISLATION via Jeffrey Solochek of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida Senate president pro tem Anitere Flores, Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee chairman Rep. Manny Diaz, and House Judiciary committee chairman Rep. Chris Sprowls have announced plans to introduce a bill aimed at scaling back state-mandated student testing … The three are calling the bill the “Fewer, Better Tests” act, a nod to the direction of Jeb Bush‘s Foundation for Excellence in Education has taken since Florida’s parents have started fighting back against the state’s high-stakes testing model that Bush promoted while governor … the lawmakers’ goals are to: Improve and enhance state tests; move the exams to later in the year (a goal superintendents set forth weeks ago); Provide better student score reports (something the Department of Education said it did a year ago) and ensure teachers get results from local assessments early enough to inform their instruction (note it’s local, not state, results).

FLORIDA BAR WILL OPPOSE LEGISLATIVE “OVERRIDE” PROPOSALS viaFlorida Politics – The Board of Governors adopted the stance … It also disapproved a companion measure aimed at federal judges who interpret state laws. State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, filed the two pieces of legislation (HJR 121, HM 125) in December. Neither has had a hearing in the committee weeks that serve as a run-up to the 2017 Legislative Session that opens March 7. One would create a constitutional amendment to be approved by voters that allows the Legislature to review judicial rulings that declare legislative acts void. That means that if “the Supreme Court, (any) district court of appeal, circuit court or county court” overturns a law, the Legislature could salvage it with a two-thirds vote within five years of the ruling. The second measure urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to “deem a law that has been declared void by certain federal courts active and operational.” Such measures, if passed, are non-binding.

LOBBYIST MUSCLE WILL BE MAJOR FORCE IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA FIGHT via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – More than 150 lobbyists are registered to represent more than 100 different interest groups, according to lobbying disclosure data published for the first time this year by the Florida House … that means the loudest voices in setting cannabis policy are likely to be those of lobbyists and the groups they represent. Chief among them, six of the seven nurseries that currently hold licenses to grow and sell cannabis in Florida have lined up significant lobbying muscle. The dollar figures of these contracts are not yet available but expect big money to be spent lobbying the implementation of Amendment 2. This list does not include the many other interests at play: Patient groups, organizations for doctors and other medical professionals, cities and counties that want zoning and regulatory power under the new laws, and plenty of growers, dispensaries and testing facilities that lost out in the existing system.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Florida Society of Clinical Oncology will host a Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer Luncheon at 11 a.m.Wednesday on the 22nd floor of the Capitol. The event will include treatment and care-focused presentations from various cancer specialists from the Mayo Clinic Florida, Florida Cancer Specialists, and Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center.

LEGISLATIVE STAFFING MERRY-GO-ROUND via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools

On and off: Tiffany Harrington has replaced Heather Williamson as House staff director of the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining.

On: Natron Curtis is the new district secretary for Gainesville Democratic Rep. Clovis Watson.

Off: Melissa Ullery is no longer legislative assistant for Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer.

Off and on: George Fossett is the new legislative assistant for Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Oscar Braynon. Previously, Fossett served as district secretary for sunrise Democratic Rep. Katie Edwards.

Off and on: Patrick Steele replaced Riley Baldree as legislative assistant for Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield.

On: Marilyn Barnes returned from retirement to become legislative assistant for Tallahassee Democratic Sen. Bill Montford.

On: Debra Booth is the new legislative assistant for Kissimmee Democratic Sen. Victor Torres.

On: Paula Rigoli is now district secretary for Delray Beach Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.

On: Luis Callejas, previously district secretary, is now legislative assistant for Miami Democratic Rep. David Richardson.

On: Lindsay Graham is now district secretary for Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller.

On: Sharon Stewart is the new district secretary for Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall.

On: Nadie Charles is now legislative assistant and Elizabeth Casimir is district secretary for Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Patricia Williams.

On and on: Rebecca McLaughlin is legislative assistant and Kathy Johnson, who was previously district secretary, is now legislative assistant for Orlando Republican Rep. Eric Eisnaugle.

Off and on: Charles Smith, who was previously district secretary, is now legislative assistant for Fort Lauderdale Republican Rep. George Moraitis.

On: Dennis Ragosta is the new district secretary for Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone.

On: Mikhail Scott is now legislative assistant for Cutler Bay Democratic Rep. Kionne McGhee.

On: Nancy Bowers is the new district secretary for The Villages Republican Rep. Don Hahnfeldt.

On: Rebecca Zizzo is district secretary for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

On: Jack Harrington is legislative assistant for Miami Republican Rep. Michael Bileca.

Off: Janine Kiray is no longer legislative assistant to Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.

Off: Constance Baker is no longer district secretary for Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels.

On: Leota Wilkinson is district secretary for Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne.

Off and on: John Love has stepped down as House administrative assistant for the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining. Lisa Larson is replacing love.

Off and on: Lindsey Locke is replacing Michelle McCloskey as House administrative assistant for the Joint Committee on Public Counsel Oversight.

Off and on: Patricia Gosney is replacing Joel Ramos as legislative assistant in the Tallahassee district office for Democratic pro tem leader Sen. Lauren Book.

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AIF WORKERS’ COMP FIX WOULD MAKE EMPLOYEES PAY THEIR OWN ATTORNEY FEES via Michael Moline of Florida Politics – Associated Industries of Florida released its fix for rising workers’ compensation rates … proposed legislation would make injured employees responsible for their own attorney fees. The draft bill stipulates that “a claimant is responsible for payment of her or his own attorney fees” for litigation arising from a claim. “A judge of compensation claims may not award attorney fees payable by any carrier or employer,” the draft says. Compensation judges would have power to approve such fee agreements “as consistent with the Florida Bar’s rules of professional conduct … if any party should prevail in any proceedings before a judge or compensation claims or court, there shall be taxed against the nonprevailing party the reasonable costs of such proceedings, not to include attorney fees” … “This legislation will allow Floridians to avoid unnecessary, costly and time consuming litigation and to get benefits into the hands of injured workers as soon as possible,” AIF president and CEO Tom Feeney said.

FLORIDA LOSES APPEAL IN WATER WARS FIGHT – DESPITE SPENDING $98 MILLION ON LAWYERS via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – A special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Florida and in favor of Georgia in the 16-year water war over water rights to the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint River Basin. The ruling by Ralph Lancaster, Jr., a civil attorney from Portland, Maine, concluded that Florida failed to prove that new limits on Georgia’s water consumption were needed. He made the ruling after five weeks of hearings last summer and more than $98 million in attorney’s fees spent on the case by the state of Florida. The Florida House … has called into question the cost of the litigation as authorized by Gov. Scott, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Office of the Attorney General. It found that in the last two years, after Florida asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and the court appointed a special master to resolve the dispute, the state spent $54.4 million on legal help from four law firms.

TAMPA BAY TIMES ACKNOWLEDGES ITS RECENT STORIES ON MOSAIC SPILL ARE INACCURATE via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Don Rice and Mary Hrenda told the Times that a full year before the incident, monitoring wells around the stack showed a sinkhole was developing, and that both Mosaic and the DEP should have been aware of the sinkhole at the time. The information was also presented at a news conference with environmental groups in Manatee County. “They should have seen this 2016 sinkhole coming,” Rice told the Times. “Alarm bells should have been going off — danger, danger!” Now the Times acknowledges that Rice and Hrenda have retracted their statements. “News organizations routinely cover disputes between two credible sides, and that’s what we did in our original story,” says Jennifer Orsi, managing editor of the Times, in an email. “Mosaic, which declined to discuss the allegations for that story, responded the next day, and we covered that as well. Now, the hydrologists quoted in our original story have retracted their findings and expressed regret, which we will cover in a story on the front page of Wednesday’s Tampa Bay Times. Stories evolve, and we routinely cover those steps as they happen.”

PROPUBLICA HIT PIECE WILL DELIVER ‘INACCURATE, UNTRUTHFUL’ ATTACK ON ORLANDO CHARTER SCHOOL via Florida Politics – One such target of journalistic bias is Accelerated Learning Solutions (ALS), an Orlando charter school program servicing at-risk Orange County students who have, for a variety of reasons, fallen off‐track for graduation … the ALS-run Sunshine High School … has found itself in the crosshairs of ProPublica, the New York-based investigative newsroom that seeks to produce deep-dive journalism in what they proclaim as the “public interest.” in the instance of Sunshine — which has been both transparent and forthcoming with ProPublica reporter Heather Vogell — such public interest may have fallen by the wayside, traded for a decidedly anti-charter agenda. A Jan. 26 letter from ALS President Angela Whitford-Narine lays it out in no uncertain terms. “Based on lines of questioning and statements to us and to Orange County District staff … we are expecting her story to be an inaccurate and inappropriate reflection of our schools and of our relationship with Orange County Public Schools … I am particularly disturbed that Ms. Vogell has totally misrepresented what the students said to her … that she failed to seek parental consent in speaking with and quoting minor students and refused to inquire about the success the students were having at our schools.” Feedback from 10 students interviewed by Vogell shows several factual inaccuracies, including one where the reporter cites a student by which no record exists showing neither enrollment nor attendance.

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) here.***

DOUBTS AMONG DEMOCRATS BEDEVIL BILL NELSON AGAINST SCOTT IN 2018 via Marc Caputo of POLITICO – Democratic concerns about 2018 — which Nelson backers dismiss as fanciful and ridiculous — can be heard among grassroots activists as well as during candid moments with Democratic insiders from Miami to Tallahassee to Washington. Nationally, Democrats are relying on Nelson to hold his own in the expensive state as they defend 23 seats in a narrowly divided Senate that Republicans barely control. Not only are Democrats worried that the 74-year-old Nelson might be out of step with the times, they fear the low-key centrist won’t be able to fire up progressives and grassroots activists if he ends up facing Gov. Scott and the tens of millions of dollars the independently wealthy Republican will spend if he runs. A faction of the Democratic Party … have become increasingly vocal about the need to campaign on more liberal values. But they haven’t yet been successful. … “Democrats are now using the tea party playbook and, yes, it worked for Republicans,” said Democratic consultant Eric Johnson, who advised Murphy in his Senate race. “But what Republicans did was primary their members and pull the GOP to the right. That would bring the house down if it happens on our side. What it will do is get rid of the people who want to get along.” Democratic fundraiser Ben Pollara, who ran a 2012 super PAC backing Nelson, said it’s “insane” that Democrats would want to challenge a tested incumbent in a year when they need to save their money and fight Republicans in open-seat Florida races for governor, attorney general, state chief financial officer and agriculture commissioner.

— “Florida Democrats announce Janet Reno Grant panel” via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times

FLORIDIANS DELIVER VALENTINE’S DAY CARD TO MARCO RUBIO CALLING ON HIM TO DEFEND OBAMACARE — Central Floridians signed and delivered a card to Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday with the message “Republicans are red, Democrats are blue, we all support ACA, and so should you.” The Valentine’s Day card was meant to encourage the Miami Republican to hold town hall meetings about the Affordable Care Act and hear from his constitutes on the issue. Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

TONIGHT, RUBIO, DONALD TRUMP DINE AT WHITE HOUSE via the Palm Beach Post – Trump and first lady Melania Trump will host Rubio and his wife, Jeanette Rubio, for dinner at the White House tonight. The official White House schedule released Tuesday night says the dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Blue Room.

TRUMP’S VISITS TO FLORIDA COSTING SHERIFF $1.5 MILLION IN OT via The Associated Press – Trump‘s visits to his South Florida estate since he was elected president have cost the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department $1.5 million in overtime costs. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw is confident the money his department has spent while assisting the Secret Service will be reimbursed by the federal government. “I do hope he is correct,” said Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker. The county sent letters to federal officials in December seeking reimbursement for the overtime security costs from Trump’s five-day visit to the estate called Mar-a-lago in November. Those costs were originally estimated at $250,000, but Bradshaw said the total will be closer to $300,000. Based on the revised number, the sheriff said told the newspaper the security costs are amounting to about $60,000 a day during Trump’s visits to the county.

A TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY RIGHT HERE? IT’LL BE THE BEST. BELIEVE ME. via Frank Cerabino of the Palm Beach Post – The long-awaited Donald J. Trump Presidential Library opened today on the former site of the Palm Beach Jai-Alia fronton in Mangonia Park … Construction had been slowed for years due to work stoppages by unpaid contractors, the lack of willing labor after years of deportation sweeps in Florida, and a lawsuit by Trump against Palm Beach County over the flight path of planes over the museum. The 82-year-old former president, flanked by his fourth wife, Svetlana, a 25-year-old former supermodel from Uzbekistan, was on hand for the ribbon cutting. “People are telling me that this is the best presidential library in the history of presidential libraries,” the former president said. “That’s what I’m hearing.” Historians, architects and pundits already have had much to say about the Trump library, which features a removable roof, a Hall of Tweets, and an entire wing of courtroom depositions.

— “Jason Chaffetz wants Trump to answer questions about Mar-a-Lago security” via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times

TRUMP TAPS THREE PALM BEACHERS FOR AMBASSADORSHIPS via Jose Lambiet of Gossip Extra — President Donald Trump has offered ambassadorships to at least three friends from Palm Beach … Robin Bernstein, a long-time Trump friend whose Palm Beach-based insurance agency has done business with the billionaire for years without suing him; Patrick Park, the heir of an Ohio fortune who bankrolls several black-tie fundraising galas a year; and Brian Burns, another philanthropist who has hosted the Palm Beach Police Foundation Ball at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. Bernstein is said to be getting the Dominican Republic job while Park told friends he’s getting Austria and Burns is first in line for the Ireland gig.

IVANKA TRUMP POSTS PHOTO OF HERSELF BEHIND OVAL OFFICE DESK via The Associated Press – Ivanka is getting a strong reaction online after posting a photo of herself seated at the Oval Office desk while her father, President Donald Trump, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stood on either side of her. The first daughter posted the picture on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the message, “A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table!” While the picture earned Trump plenty of kudos from supporters of her father on social media, others said she hadn’t earned the right to sit behind the desk.

ON MSNBC, DAVID JOLLY WONDERS HOW SERIOUS DONALD TRUMP IS TAKING THE PRESIDENCY via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – On his latest appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word (with guest host Joy Reid), the former (and possibly future?) congressman from Florida’s 13th District called Trump’s first month in office “his JV moment,” specifically referring to Stephen Miller’s performance on the Sunday morning shows. Miller is the 31-year old senior adviser to Trump who is reported to be working alongside Steve Bannon in crafting the president’s messaging. “The first month of the Trump administration has been his JV (junior varsity) moment,” Jolly said on MSNBC. “Get the 31-year-old sweaty kid off the TV, and bring in the steady senior hand” … “We will see turnover, and frankly, this 31-year old should not have been the voice of the president on Sunday morning TV when we’re in such a pivotal moment,” Jolly said.

UNIONS, OTHERS URGING DISNEY CHAIR BOB IGER TO QUIT TRUMP via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Organizers, who include Disney’s UNITE HERE union Locals 737 and 362 and Organize Florida, will announce the presentation of a petition with more than 300,000 signatures calling for Iger to step away from the White House and renounce immigration policies announced by Trump, said Local 737 President Jeremy Cruz-Haicken. The groups are part of a national campaign targeting the policy forum members. “This is an initial step in asking, along with the community, for Iger to do the right thing for the values of cast members, the values of the community and the values of the company,” Cruz-Haicken said.

STATE WIPES OUT INDEPENDENT PARTY OF FLORIDA via Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel – The Independent Party of Florida, founded in 1992, was stripped of its official status because it didn’t use a certified public accountant to audit its finances in 2014. Ernie Bach, chair of the party based in Largo, vowed to reapply with the state Division of Elections and have its status returned. But even if that happens, the party will have to rebuild its base of more than 260,000 members entirely from scratch. The Independent Party of Florida, which originally grew out of Ross Perot’s run for president in 1992, is a “middle of the road” party, Bach said. It most recently made headlines in Florida by trying to get Evan McMullin, an independent conservative presidential candidate, on the ballot in Florida. Gov. Scott denied McMullin a spot, leading the party to ultimately endorse Hillary Clinton based on a survey of its members.

FLORIDA INSIDER POLL: AND THE NEXT CFO IS… via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – Who will Scott appoint as chief financial officer to succeed Jeff Atwater as he steps down … Results of the unscientific survey (Rounded to nearest whole number): Pat Neal, 22 percent; Carlos Lopez-Cantera, 15 percent; Tom Grady, 15 percent; Joe Gruters, 12 percent; Tom Lee, 11 percent; Other: 8 percent; Lenny Curry, 7 percent; Jack Latvala, 6 percent; Will Weatherford, 4 percent; Jeff Brandes, 1 percent and Teresa Jacobs, 1 percent.

***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***

APPOINTEDPeter Matthew Brigham to the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTEDJames Ferrara to the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Court.

APPOINTEDFabienne Fahnestock and Yael Gamm to the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court.

NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS

John Ariale, Ariale Strategy: Turbocombustor Technology, Inc. d/b/a Paradigm Precision

Brian BallardSylvester LukisMonica Rodriguez, Ballard Partners: Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD

Keith Bell Jr., Clark Partington Hart Larry Bond & Stackhouse: Peaden Brothers Distillery of Florida

Marsha Bowen, Robert Levy & Associates: Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce; Rails to Trails Conservancy

James Boxold, Capital City Consulting: Martin County; Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Kevin Cabrera, Southern Strategy Group: Florida Association of Court Clerks & Comptrollers; Town of Medley

David Custin, David R. Custin & Associates: Kaycha Holdings, LLC

Christopher Dawson, GrayRobinson: Florida Distillers Guild, Inc

Mark Delegal, Holland & Knight: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Nelson Diaz, Southern Strategy Group: Well Child

Davison Frey Dunlap III, Dunlap & Shipman: Brandt Information Services, Inc

Thomas Griffin, Smith Bryan & Myers: MorphoTrust USA

Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Vertical Bridge Holdings, LLC

Nick IarossiAndrew KetchelChristopher Schoonover, Capital City Consulting: Spinal Associates d/b/a Michael W. Reed, MD, P.A.

Frank Mayernick, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group: International Franchise Association

Jeff Littlejohn, Littlejohn Mann & Associates: Florida Drycleaners Coalition

Jim Magill, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: National Strategies, LLC on behalf of American Kratom Association

James McFaddin III, Southern Strategy Group: Concordia Care dba Concordia Behavioral Health

Mark Timothy Pruitt, The P5 Group: Charlotte Behavioral Health Care; Florida Association of Local Housing Finance Authorities; Florida Atlantic University Foundation, Inc.; Florida Crystals Corporation; Jupiter Medical Center, Inc.

Mary Ann Stiles, Quintairos Prieto Wood & Boyer: AmTrust Financial Services; AmTrust North America of Florida, Inc.; AmTrust North America of Florida, Inc.

Alan Suskey, Suskey Consulting: Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers

Jennifer Wilson, Adams and Reese: American Coatings Association

PERSONNEL NOTE: JOHN KENNEDY NOW WITH FLORIDA CHANNEL via Florida Politics – More evidence that you can’t keep a good man down: Kennedy, formerly The Palm Beach Post’s capital correspondentis now The FLORIDA Channel‘s newest on-air reporter. “We are very pleased that John’s solid, well-tested reporting skills will continue to help Floridians understand the workings of state government and the decisions made in Tallahassee,” Beth Switzer, its executive director, said Tuesday. Kennedy started this week.

PERSONNEL NOTE – MERCURY HIRES BRIAN SWENSEN AS SENIOR VP via Florida Politics – Swensen comes to the firm following his role as deputy campaign manager for the successful re-election of Sen. Marco Rubio, the latest in a series of key political victories in Florida and Louisiana … In his new role, Swensen will bring extensive experience in the political arena to provide solutions and winning strategies for the firm’s clients. He will be based in Mercury’s Miami office. Mercury Florida, now in its fourth year of operation, is led by partner Ashley Walker. Previously, Swensen managed the successful campaign of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which helped set the tone for Florida Republicans in the 2016 cycle. Mercury provides a suite of services including federal government relations, international affairs, digital influence, public opinion research, media strategy and a bipartisan grassroots mobilization network in all 50 states.

HAPPENING THURSDAY – FCTA HOSTS OPEN HOUSE — The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. at its newly renovated office, 246 E. 6th Avenue in Tallahassee. RSVP to marthaj@fcta.com.

HERALD TRIBUNE SERIES FINALIST FOR SELDEN RING AWARD via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — The Herald-Tribune’s December investigative series “Bias on the Bench” was a finalist for the 2017 Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism. … “Bias on the Bench,” which has sparked proposed state legislation, found judges throughout Florida sentence black defendants to harsher punishments than whites charged with the same crimes under similar circumstances. In recognizing the Herald-Tribune as a finalist, the Selden Ring judges wrote, “The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, for ‘Bias on the Bench,’ a data-driven series proving what many have always suspected — that race figures heavily in sentencing in Florida criminal courts, keeping African Americans behind bars for substantially longer than whites who commit similar crimes.” … Judges included Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times; Robin Fields, managing editor of ProPublica; Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post; Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of ESPN’s The Undefeated; and 2015 Selden Ring winners Audra D.S. Burch and Carol Marbin of The Miami Herald.

ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF THE ROTUNDA — On Trimmel Gomes’ latest episode of The Rotunda, the bitter feud among top Republican lawmakers is already threatening to derail the upcoming legislative session. At the center of all the controversy is House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O’Lakes. Gomes talks Florida Times-Union Statehouse bureau chief Tia Mitchell about her exclusive interview with Corcoran, and his intentions of shaking up the way business is done in Tallahassee. Gomes also talks with Senator Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, about his plan to run for Governor in 2018.

GOVERNORS CLUB WEDNESDAY MENU – Wednesday’s Governors Club buffet menu comes from the Pacific Northwest with Washington State salmon bisque; Washington trio apple salad; spinach pear salad; seasonal green salad; Oregon herb rubbed tri-tip beef; California drunken chicken; potatoes & wild mushroom au gratin; lime asparagus; broccoli & cauliflower au beurre and peach cobbler for dessert.

Sunburn for 2.14.17 – Happy Valentine’s Day

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

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

HOW VALENTINE’S DAY BEGAN

The story goes that the Roman Emperor Claudius II imposed a ban on marriages in order to boost his army. Only single men had to enter the army, and too many men were dodging the draft by getting married. Valentinus, though, in an effort to protect the sacramentality of Christian marriage, performed secret marriages, and when he got caught he was sentenced to death. While he awaited execution, he was showered with notes from young couples extolling the virtues of love over war. (Looks like John Lennon didn’t invent the slogan “Make love not war” after all.) These notes, if they ever existed at all, were supposedly the first Valentines. Poor old Valentinus was executed in February 14th, 269, a bloody end for the saint of love.

I, of course, have two valentines: My wonderful wife, Michelle, and my happy, healthy and beautiful daughter, Ella. I love you both.

For those of you in the capital, the number for florist Elinor Doyle is (850) 222-1298.

VALENTINE’S DAY REMAINS A DAY OF DREAD FOR MANY AMERICANS via Rasmussen Reports – A Rasmussen Reports survey finds that just five percent of American adults consider Valentine’s Day one of the nation’s most important holidays. Most (59%) rank it among the least important holidays, while 33% say it’s somewhere in between. Twenty-one percent dread Valentine’s Day. Twenty-eight percent still say they look forward to it, showing no change from last year.  For half of Americans (49%), Valentine’s Day is a day they neither look forward to nor dread.

VALENTINE’S DAY FOR FLORIDA MAN – MAN TRIES TO RUN WOMAN OFF ROAD, THROWS DOG AT HER SO HE CAN TALK TO HER via Madison Fantozzi of the Lakeland Ledger – A Frostproof man is facing charges after trying to run a woman off the road to “talk with her at any cost” … Howard Van Sweringen, 41, is accused of pursuing 35-year-old Kristina Fuller, apparently ramming her vehicle several times and, at one point, throwing his dog at her. He was arrested at Lakeland High. “This is something you see in the movies or on TV,” Fuller said. “Now, it has happened to me.”

VALENTINE’S DAY NOT AS SWEET FOR FLORIDA RETAILERS; SPENDING EXPECTED TO DECREASE via Terry Roen of Florida Politics – For the first time in a decade, according to an annual consumer survey … Consumers plan to keep their budgets in check as they spend $10 less on gifts. Also, fewer people say they will celebrate the holiday this year. “The slight decrease in spending is understandable given the record-breaking pace Valentine’s Day spending had reached the previous 10 years,” said Randy Miller, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation … “This day is still expected to mean significant revenues for Florida’s retailers as consumers shower their loved ones with gifts, flowers, candy, tickets to events and dinners at local restaurants.” The average consumer will spend $136.57 on gifts, down from last year’s record high of $146.84 but total spending nationally is still expected to reach a robust $18.2 billion, according to the National Retail Federation‘s annual survey.

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IF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP WROTE V-DAY CARDS via CNN:

HAPPENING OVERNIGHT – MICHAEL FLYNN, FIRED ONCE BY A PRESIDENT, NOW RESIGNS TO ANOTHER via the Associated Press – President Trump had been weighing the fate of his national security adviser, a hard-charging, feather-ruffling retired lieutenant general who just three weeks into the new administration had put himself in the center of a controversy. Flynn resigned late Monday. At issue was Flynn’s contact with Moscow’s ambassador to the United States. Flynn and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak appear to have discussed U.S. sanctions late last year, raising questions about whether he was freelancing on foreign policy while President Barack Obama was still in office and whether he misled Trump officials about the calls.

AT MAR-A-LAGO, THE FESTIVITIES CARRIED ON AS TRUMP DEALT WITH NORTH KOREA via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile, its first challenge to international rules since Trump was sworn in three weeks ago. The launch, which wasn’t expected, presented Trump with one of the first breaking national security incidents of his presidency. It also noisily disrupted what was meant to be an easygoing weekend of high-level male bonding with the more sobering aspects of global diplomacy. Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he’d spent most of the day golfing, Trump took the call on a mobile phone at his table, which was set squarely in the middle of the private club’s dining area. As Mar-a-Lago’s wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe’s evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN.

PATRICK PARK MAY GET TO REALIZE DREAM AS AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR via Shannon Donnelly of the Palm Beach Daily News – Park is an avid fan of “The Sound of Music.” You might say he’s obsessed with it. “Really, I’ve seen it like 75 times,” the concert pianist/industrialist said. “I know every single word and song by heart. I’ve always wanted to live in the Von Trapp house.” Well, if he can’t live there, at least he’ll be close enough to visit. Park has received unofficial word from President Trump — well, as unofficial as a handwritten note saying “on to your next chapter, Ambassador!” Can be — that he is the president’s choice to be U.S. ambassador to Austria. The president said he thought it would be a good match for Park because it is steeped in musical culture … Park said he’s already started boning up in order to be ready if and when the call comes. “I had a chance to talk to the Swiss and Hungarian ambassadors at the Red Cross Ball and at the diplomats’ dinner the night before,” he said. “They want me to visit them in Washington, and the Austrian ambassador in Washington said he wants us to go for lunch. See? I’m already working!” First thing on his unofficial to-do list? “I’m flying to Vienna to check out the embassy, and then I’m going to Salzburg to see if the Von Trapp house is for rent,” he said, laughing. “And then I’m going to learn to like schnitzel and sachertorte.”

ICE SAYS IT DIDN’T CARRY OUT IMMIGRATION RAID IN PLANT CITY LAST WEEK via Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times – A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said there was no activity, despite immigrant advocates saying otherwise — comments that were reflected in numerous news reports … “The incident the media reports are likely referring to was earlier this month and was part of a criminal search warrant,” ICE spokeswoman Tamara Spicer [said] … “As it is part of a criminal investigation pending federal prosecution, we cannot release further details.” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said ICE conducted sweeps in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, San Antonio and New York City and arrested more than 680 individuals who “pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.” It’s possible the search warrant Spicer mentioned was conflated with the raids in Los Angeles, etc., but reports of blanket raids in Florida appear to be false.

MARCO RUBIO TOPS IN DONATIONS FROM TRUMP CABINET via Ledyard King of FLORIDA TODAY – No senator has received more of a campaign boost from Trump‘s cabinet nominees than Rubio, according to a watchdog group that tracks political donations. The Florida Republican and PACs supporting his candidacies for president and Senate have collectively received nearly $503,000 in financial contributions, an analysis from the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics shows. The vast majority of that came from newly installed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick. They have given $426,000 – $400,000 of that to the Conservative Solutions PAC that was backing Rubio’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for president last year.

RUBIO, NOT ELIZABETH WARREN, IS A FREE SPEECH HERO via John Hart of Forbes magazine – Yet, in the midst of the McConnell versus Warren drama another senator, Rubio, delivered a floor speech for the ages that dealt directly with the real issues at stake in this fight: “[T]he question here is one of the reasons I ran for this body to begin with. Maybe it is because of my background; I am surrounded by people who have lost freedoms in places where they are not allowed to speak. One of the great traditions of our Nation is the ability to come forward and have debates …” In his speech, Rubio was standing on the shoulders of giants. He clearly and brilliantly expressed our founder’s design for the Senate as a place where a free people could come up with the best solutions to the nation’s challenges. This sounds quaint today but our founders longed for a forum where policymakers could pursue truth or an understanding of “what works” beyond mere ideology or partisanship. Our founders were inspired by 2,500 years of political history.

TWEET, TWEET:

KATHY CASTOR CALLS SOME OF TRUMP’S ACTIONS ‘BENEATH THE DIGNITY OF THE OFFICE’ via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – “President Trump is simply unprecedented,” the Tampa Democrat said to reporters following a news conference held at the USF College of Nursing George & Marian Miller Center for Virtual Learning. “His actions and demeanor are really beneath the dignity of the office. And I worry about young people and kids seeing that as an example of their president and Commander in Chief. Hopefully he’ll rein that in.” Castor says that the nature of Trump’s attempted ban on refugees and his “playing footsie” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin are actions that “really undermine our national security” … “So there are a lot of very serious issues, and you can’t blame our neighbors for being on edge, upset and wanting to be engaged,” she surmised.

DAVID JOLLY: ‘STOP COMPLAINING AND DO YOUR JOB’ via Rebecca Savransky of The Hill – David Jolly is urging President Trump to stop complaining and focus instead on serving the country. “He needs to stop complaining and do your job. Stop taking on fake news, stop taking on the judiciary, stop taking on senators, John McCain. Do your job,” Jolly said on CNN’s “New Day” … “You asked for this job. Stop complaining. Do your job, because Republicans should be proud to have a Republican president.”

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RICK SCOTT PLAYING BUDGET HARDBALL OVER REPEAL OF ETI, VISIT, MEMBERS SAY via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – The governor’s office says the notion that it is tying the fate of House members’ pet projects to how they vote on legislation that would shutter Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida is “absolutely false.” … “The word ‘threat’ was not used, but the message was clear,” said a House member lobbied on the economic development reform bill. “It’s a pretty hardline approach so early in the process. If they want the House to work with them [governor’s office] in the future, they might want to rethink it.” For veteran political observers, a governor using his line-item veto pen as leverage to muscle policy priorities out of the Legislature is nothing new. But this year, it’s happening a month before legislative session even begins. It’s another in a growing list of palpable signs that the 2017 legislative session will be tense and filled with fights fueled by both philosophical disagreements and the political ambitions of powerful state politicians from the same party.

SCOTT VISITS TAMPA TO DEFEND ECONOMIC INCENTIVES, TOURISM PROGRAMS via Justine Griffin of the Tampa Bay Times – While Scott’s rallying cries were well supported by the many in the hospitality and economic development communities in Tampa Bay who showed up to listen … his message did not do much to soothe the fears many of them have about a future without Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. “Now is the time to call your representatives and senators and tell them how you feel,” Scott said to several dozen people who participated in a roundtable discussion at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. “I can veto a bill, but if they put no funding forward (for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida), I can’t help.”

— “Scott talks Enterprise Florida, visit Florida with SWFL business, community leaders” via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics

TWEET, TWEET: @Fineout: P.C. @The_News_Herald says in editorial Visit Fla. needs guidance “not gutting.” & hmm @jaytrumbull tells paper VF may not need to be killed … So @jaytrumbull – w @FLGovScott coming into his back yard to bash him and other House R’s – is now rethinking his vote to kill Visit Fla. … .@jaytrumbull is one of 5 House R’s who last yr voted for econ development bill who then voted to kill those same programs last week

JEFF ATWATER TALKS LEGACY via A.G. Gancarski of Florida PoliticsIn Jacksonville on Monday, CFO Jeff Atwater talked about the decision he made last week to step down later this year … Was he leaving too soon? Any ‘apprehension … second thoughts … or misgivings’ Atwater feels about leaving, he said, only has to do with … timing of the departure. ‘I hope I can leave a legacy,’ Atwater said. With challenges around the corner, expect that the governor will want someone as dedicated to ‘fiscal discipline’ as Atwater in the role. The question soon enough will become who that person is.

FIRST ON FLA. POLITICS – CHRIS KING MULLING RUN FOR GOVERNOR via Scott Powers – Winter Park businessman Chris King is mulling a 2018 Democratic run for governor in Florida, sources close to him said Monday. While not highly active in Central Florida political circles, King, president and CEO of Elevation Financial Group in Winter Park has been exploring prospects, with national consultants based in Washington D.C., of an outsider’s run with a mixture of liberal social and business-oriented views. The son of Marilyn and David King, the latter the Orlando lawyer who represented the League of Women Voters in its successful Fair Districts Amendments legal fights with Florida that forced the state to redistrict Senate and congressional seats, T. Christopher King, 38, runs a company that invests in and manages real estate.

PAUL PAULSON SEEDS STATE AG COMMISSIONER CAMPAIGN WITH $120K via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Paulson, a state committeeman with the Orange County Republican Party and 2015 candidate for Orlando mayor, entered the agriculture commissioner race in late December … New campaign finance reports posted by the Florida Division of Elections show he leanded  his campaign $120,000 in January. He also spent $32,000, with $18,000 of that going to BEAG Inc. political consulting in Maryland and the rest to J.M. Design of Winter Garden for printing. He did not report raising any other money. However, Paulson said he has hired a fundraiser and is using his personal money to get the infrastructure set up for a statewide campaign. “I don’t mind putting my money where my mouth is,” Paulson said.

JD ALEXANDER SUPPORTING DENISE GRIMSLEY’S BID FOR AG COMMISSIONER via Florida Politics – Not only is Alexander not running for Commissioner of Agriculture, he’s thrown his support behind state Sen. Denise Grimsley‘s bid for the office. Alexander, who was term limited out of the Florida Senate in 2012, is even hosting a “fundraising reception” for Grimsley at his Lake Wales home. The longtime lawmaker who spearheaded the creation of Florida Polytechnic University had been the subject of rumors that industry heads were pushing him to consider running for the statewide office. “I have been honored by several calls from agriculture leaders, but I am very happy spending time with my family and business associates,” said Alexander.

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RICHARD CORCORAN’S NEW TARGET: FLORIDA LOTTERY via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times – Corcoran plans to file a lawsuit against the Florida Lottery for signing a long-term contract for online games, including a new smartphone app, that costs nearly $700 million but would bind future legislatures, which Corcoran considers a violation of state law. … Because the Lottery is a state agency, a lawsuit will be seen as another frontal assault by Corcoran on Scott, who appoints the Lottery director. Here’s the news release saying the Lottery inked a contract through 2031 with International Game Technology (IGT) to provide games for a 13-year period through 2031.

STATE HOUSE DEMS ‘ENCOURAGED’ BY RICHARD CORCORAN’S PLEDGE TO INCREASE EDUCATION FUNDING via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – On SundayCorcoran told CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede the state could expect to see an increase in education funding. State Reps. Larry Lee, Jr. … and Shevrin Jones … issued a joint statement saying they were pleased Corcoran was making the commitment to teachers and the state education system. Lee serves as the Democratic ranking member on the House Pre K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and Jones serves as Democratic Ranking Member on the Education Committee. “Ensuring every child has access to a quality public education has been neglected for too long when it should always be a top priority of this legislature,” they said. ” Now that the Speaker has made this commitment, I am hopeful that our committees will move away from looking at ways to cut education funding & instead begin to focus on giving our hardworking teachers a raise & increasing per-pupil funding to actually historic levels that take into account inflation.”

BILL WOULD SHAKE UP STATE WORKER HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS via Florida Politics – “Our current plan offers limited choices and lacks the price transparency needed for employees and their families to make cost-effective health care purchases,” bill sponsor Tom Lee said … “This bill incorporates modern, innovative models for delivering high-quality health care at lower costs that will empower state employees to decide what benefits make the most sense for them” … SB 900 would allow state workers to choose between bronze, silver, gold or platinum plans, depending on how many benefits they’d like to pay for. If a plan costs less than the state’s share of a worker’s monthly premium, the worker could stash the extra money in a flexible savings or health savings account, or buy extra benefits — or take the extra money as a pay increase. The measure would take effect in 2020.

BILL WOULD LET HOUSE IMPEACH PROSECUTORS, PUBLIC DEFENDERS via Florida Politics – State Sen. Greg Steube wants to add prosecutors and public defenders to the list of officials that the House of Representatives can impeach. The Sarasota Republican’s measure (SJR 904), filed Monday, would require a constitutional amendment that has to be passed by 60 percent of voters statewide. The state constitution now authorizes the House to impeach the “governor, lieutenant governor, members of the cabinet, justices of the supreme court, judges of district courts of appeal, judges of circuit courts, and judges of county courts” for any “misdemeanor in office.” Steube’s proposal would add “state attorneys and public defenders.”

RIDESHARING BILLS COULD PAVE THE WAY FOR TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGES via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – On the same day an Uber- and Lyft-friendly ridesharing bill passed its first committee stop in the Florida House, state Sen. Jeff Brandes was presenting his vision of where he believes the transportation industry is headed. “We’re in a generational shift from the horse and buggy to the Model-T,” Brandes said at the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee. The St. Petersburg Republican was the main presenter at a public event focusing on emerging transportation technologies. He’s also sponsoring legislation similar to the House ridesharing bill. If successful, the measures would create uniform insurance and background check requirements for participating drivers, and prevent local governments from issuing conflicting regulations. The reforms could be a first-step in a much larger sequence of changes. “The industry is evolving,” Brandes said. “Auto manufacturers, tech companies and all kinds of groups are working hard to get into this space.”

***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***

REPORT POINTS TO PROBLEMS WITH AOBS, AND A WAY AROUND ONE PROPOSED FIX via Florida Politics – As the Legislature debates restricting attorney fees in insurance litigation involving assignment-of-benefits agreements, a tort-reform group has identified a way to circumvent that fix.  Attorneys could convince policyholders to file suit in their own name. A report, “Restoring Balance in Insurance Litigation,” released Monday by the Florida Justice Reform Institute, discusses that possibility in the context of what it called abuse of assignment-of-benefits, or AOB agreements, and of Florida’s one-way attorney fee statute. … The report that found 11 attorneys filed nearly 25 percent of all AOB cases between 2013 and 2016. … The report notes that Florida’s population increased by 26 percent between 2000 and 2016, but litigation against insurance companies grew by 280 percent.

UPHILL CHALLENGE AS FLORIDA RANCH OWNERS PUSH FOR EASEMENT FUNDING via Bruce Ritchie of POLITICO Florida – Driving through his family’s 8,000-acre ranch in southern Hardee County, David M. “Lefty” Durando points to where he expects bobwhite quail to be flourishing in the spring after the winter rains cause a green carpet of grass to grow among the palmetto bushes … Without financial incentives from the state to keep the land intact, Durando says houses — instead of trees, cattle and grass— would be growing there, or on his 12,000-acre ranch near the Kissimmee River. His Limestone Ranch along the Peace River in Hardee County previously was owned by Doyle Carlton Jr., son of the late Gov. Doyle Carlton. Durando is chairman of the Florida Conservation Group, which includes landowners pushing for the state and federal governments to provide more funding for “conservation easements,” which are payments to landowners to conserve their land rather than allowing development. And his group wants the legislature to provide $200 million for conservation easements, split equally between programs at the state agriculture department and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. But the group’s request appears to face an uphill challenge. Neither Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam nor Gov. Scott have requested as much as the groups want.

FLORIDA’S DRUG LAWS ARE GIVING ME A PAIN IN THE ASS via Darryl Paulson for Florida Politics – Changes in the Florida drug laws now require patients to see a certified pain specialist monthly in order to receive prescriptions for pain meds. Where 98 out of the top 100 doctors prescribing oxycodone resided in Florida in 2010, that number was zero in 2013. Florida had great success in closing the pill mills and eliminating much of the drug abuse that existed. So, what’s the problem? The problem is that individuals with chronic pain have a very difficult time getting their pain meds in a timely fashion. Pain specialists can write a prescription for a 30-day supply of pain meds. You can’t have your next prescription filled before you use your 30-day supply. The problem is that pharmacies, at least 25 percent of the time, do not have pain meds in stock. I visited my pain specialist last week and received my script for a 30-day supply to be filled Feb. 13. I went to five different pharmacies before finding one that would fill my prescription. It took almost two hours and driving over 25 miles in order to get the meds I was entitled to receive. There is enough stress with chronic pain; I do not need the additional stress of trying to find a pharmacy that will fill my prescription.

ORANGE COUNTY MOLESTATION CONVICTIONS OVERTURNED AFTER PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics –A split appellate court panel has thrown out the molestation convictions of an Orlando-area man, saying he was the victim of “egregious prosecutorial misconduct.” In a 2-1 opinion, a three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal last week vacated Marco Antonio Rodriguez’s convictions and remanded the case back to the Orange County Circuit court for retrial. He is now serving an 18-year sentence, records show. Judges James A. Edwards and Richard B. Orfinger also said Rodriguez’s case was compounded by his defense attorney’s “unexplained failure to object.” They admitted “the jury may have reached the proper verdict, given the evidence in this case,” but nonetheless found he was “denied a fair trial.” … “Appellant’s retrial is not just a ‘do over,’” they wrote. “The alleged victim, a child, will once again have to tell her story of familial sexual molestation to a judge and a second jury, while (Rodriguez) will once again be publicly accused and tried for sexually molesting a 5-year-old.

WEALTHY MIAMI BEACH EXECUTIVE CHARGED ANEW WITH BRIBING STATE HEALTH CARE REGULATORS via Jay Weaver of the Miami Herald – Philip Esformes … prosecutors say, gave $5,000 to his right-hand man to be used to bribe a regulator to learn what the state knew about his vast network of skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities. Unbeknown to Esformes, the exchange of cash for inside information was videotaped by Esformes’ once-trusted friend, Gabriel Delgado. He had agreed along with his brother, Guillermo, to help investigators target the executive in the summer of 2015 after the brothers got into serious trouble with the feds themselves. Esformes, 48, the main defendant in a colossal $1 billion Medicare fraud case, has been held behind bars since July at the Miami Federal Detention Center as he awaits trial in federal court. Esformes’ defense attorney downplayed the latest allegation, maintaining his client is innocent and that the Delgado brothers, who pleaded guilty, are the real criminals.

***Sen. Jack Latvala is 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 you support him and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at protectflbusiness.com.***

MORE LEGISLATIVE HOPEFULS FILE TO RUN IN 2018, 2020 via Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster of Florida Politics – State elections records show dozens of members of the state House and Senate have filed to run for re-election in 2018, and several more are looking ahead to 2020. Sen. Dorothy Hukill … filed to run for re-election … Rep. Ben Albritton filed … to run to replace Sen. Denise Grimsley … who announced she’s running for Agriculture commission … House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nunez has filed to run for Senate District 39 in 2020 … Sen. Victor Torres … Sen. Perry Thurston … Rep. Halsey Beshears … Democratic Reps. Clovis Watson Jr., Ben Diamond, and Matt Willhite have also filed to run for re-election.

SPOTTED at the Beer Industry of Florida’s fundraiser for Dana Young: Sen. Wilton Simpson, Slater Bayliss, Anthony DiMarco, Chris Hansen, Jeff Hartley, Fred Karlinsky, Seth McKeel, Marc Reichelderfer, Sydney Ridley, Stephen Shiver.

DESPITE RACIST FACEBOOK POST, PASCO GOP’S BILL AKINS WON’T RESIGN via CT Bowen of the Tampa Bay Times – Facebook cleansed his social media page after The Washington Post revealed his postings to be filled with racist and erroneous stories and memes. One compared African-Americans to monkeys. Another repeated the conspiracy theory of passenger jet airlines spraying toxins. Akins, the secretary of the Pasco Republican Executive Committee, offered multple mea culpas in an interview … He is not sorry that he went to U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis’ town hall meeting in New Port Richey … nor that he tried to make a point about the Independent Payment Advisory Board he characterized as a “death panel’’ in the Affordable Health Care Act. “I’m sorry if I offended anyone’s sensibilities, but we need to sit down and act like adults and work for solutions rather than booing, jeering and catcalling,’’ he said about calling most of the 250 people in the room children. And the Facebook posts? “If I offended anybody by anything that they may have read, I’m sorry, but I am entitled to my opinion just as anyone else is.’’

***The quality of nursing home care is better in states like Florida that use a certificate of need process. You can help protect Florida’s most frail seniors by urging legislators to keep CON for Florida’s outstanding skilled nursing centers. Learn more from the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) here.***

GOVERNORS CLUB TUESDAY BUFFET MENU – Tuesday is Southern Day at the Governors Club with she-crab soup; remoulade slaw; seasonal green salad; traditional potato salad with bacon; fried chicken with whiskey BBQ sauce; herb roasted pork loin; macaroni & cheese; mashed potatoes; succotash; broccoli & cauliflower casserole, finished with a chef’s choice dessert.

A HEARING TEST FOR A BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN via the Tampa Bay Times – SeaWorld Orlando’s Animal Rescue Team has been caring for a rescued male bottlenose dolphin … The animal was brought to the SeaWorld Orlando Rehabilitation Center after being found stranded in Sanibel. Last week, SeaWorld’s veterinary team assisted a representative from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with a hearing test on the dolphin. NOAA conducts hearing tests on all stranded cetaceans to confirm their ability to hear and echolocate. Dolphins use echolocation to help them find food, navigate through their environment and socialize with other dolphins. The use of echolocation is crucial for their survival in the wild. The hearing test is a critical step toward the ultimate goal of returning him to the wild. The test showed the dolphin can hear and the team remains hopeful he will continue to improve. Since his arrival the dolphin has been eating on his own and has shown a steady increase in weight, important steps in the total rehabilitation process.

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